(pic of mixwit.com, the new mixtape site with a great cassette-style interface)
Since I started the blog in February 08 I’ve been thinking a lot about this stuff. I wasn’t really sure what joshgranger.com was going to be when I bought the domain. Then while getting ready to start the blog proper, wordpress (whose software powers this site) had a little exercise before you start blogging where you write down what you plan to do, who the audience is, how often you’ll blog, etc., in an effort to make sure you know what you’re getting into.
My little written bit basically amounted to sharing anything I found online that I thought was cool — music, video, linkage — much like my favorite blogs. I’ve come to think of it as an extension of the mixtape, which is an artform I’ve loved since I was taping off the radio in 1982. In college my mixtaping reached a alltime high level: I was using the media lab to tape things off of VHS videocassettes; I had inherited my dad’s old cassette player that could control the level in (yes! no more loud to soft transitions); I was part of a group of fellow mixtapologists who took it very seriously (report cards were made for each mix, a fanzine was published (I show up on page 13)); I was able to scour the college radio station for b-sides and weird rarities, or record myself doing "long-distance dedications"; ETC.
Post college, I was lucky enough to have a father who loved cutting-edge tech, so I could offer people CD mixes when it was still a novelty. When I decided to try DJ’ing, I did a lot of research before deciding to go with CD decks (more flexibility, don’t have to buy records all the damn time). I could run the decks into my computer and record the mixes, then split them into tracks with other software.
Part of the joy of the mix (both making and receiving) was getting/hearing something that made you say "where did THAT come from?!" And of course, the mixtape merely offered you the track name. There wasn’t really any context, so a really obscure track (I remember putting a Crooked Fingers track on a tape for Dan R before Eric B had even become Crooked Fingers…coup!!) could have an air of mystery about it that really added to the fun, and prompted attempts at one-upmanship.
The same is true of forwarding links to your friends — you just send the youtube link, not usually where you got it from. And this keeps that sense of mystery, that great feeling of "where did they find THAT?!"
But once you start blogging, it seems that the protocol is to reference where you got your article links, your weird remixes, your youtube links. The mystery is gone, you can see the wizard of Oz behind the curtain, it becomes clear that the main asset a blogger has is simply time. Time to search these things out. And this is true of a lot of blogs, right? I read waxy and it becomes clear that he’s sometimes getting links from fimoculous, so I start to read that too. And then I see that he’s getting links from metafilter, so I add that as well. Now when I read fimoculous, half the time I’m thinking "bah, that’s just a metafilter link, I’ve already seen that."
Of course there are a bunch of blogs generating content, and there are a lot that balance linking plus generating (I feel I err on the side of linking), but it’s weird, every time I have to credit what blog I’ve linked from, I feel like a bit of the magic is taken out of whatever it is I’m forwarding. Though it seems like it would be rude to not credit them, right? After all, I’m capitalizing on someone else’s time when I post about a link they’ve found (or that they’ve found on a blog that’s found, ad infinitum). But this never worried me when I took a track from someone’s mixtape and put it on a tape I myself was making. On the contrary, it made it feel like the tape was stronger having pulled from these various sources. But I know I have to credit the links.
I think this is similar to the fallout that recording artists are feeling from the internet’s ability to free information (read, music). Admittedly, it’s a lot slighter — I’m not losing money on this, after all, just CRED — but the idea that now you no longer have to come to me to ask "hey, where did you get that amazing Beck Hanukkah song?" seems related. You are now free to follow that link to its source, you are now free to see how I’m finding stuff, you are now free to make your own mixtape (blog) that is as rich and varied as this one. After all, a mixtape is not about making music, but selecting. And in today’s DJ culture/blog world, the selecting itself can be an artform, I suppose. It feels like it is.
A lot of this is stemming from my fear. My fear that since you can follow the links and see the man behind the curtain, you too will look at my blog and say "well he just got that link from fimoculous, and that one from analoggiant, and that one from warrenellis, it’s all unoriginal rubbish." Last week (two weeks ago?) I saw three posts that played on this fear too:
– one was a blog post that had designed a graphic showing how you find out about stuff. Starting with blogs of original content, it then moved out to "big dog blogs" like boingboing or gawker, then to "other blogs", then "conventional media" and finally "your mom". I guess it really is that transparent.
– two was a blog post by someone who early in the week "made a prediction that before the week is up you will see footage of a golden eagle killing a mountain goat". Amazingly, I had already seen that video. The blogger later blogged about how right he was, linking to links to that footage by fimoculous, waxy, etc. as proof that you would have seen it. I had forwarded it on myself, and so was again sort of amazed at how transparent it all is. (To be fair, the video is amazing)
– three was kfan (old college aquaintence Kevin Fanning, whose tumblr I love) sounding off about the weak state of blogs, and writing about what it’s like when one of the "big dogs" links to you…this was the first mention I’d seen of someone dropping fimoculous like it was boingboing — I had no idea! Thought it was one of "my" blogs, you know? Like a secret that only a few of us knew…
But move past the fear and anxiety that this creates (for some reason), and there is something great there. A couple of things…
First, we are lucky that the internet is such an extremely massive repository of information and artistic effort that those of us who enjoy finding things and sharing them (a la mixtapes) have such a massive pool to pull from. One could make a conscious decision not to link to anything the "big dogs" link to (I have sworn off boingboing, and get bummed whenever I link to a metafilter link that later shows up on fimoculous) and still have more than enough interesting and worthwhile stuff to share. And it’s all about the sharing, right?
Second, I know that there is a certain community of people (welcome, patrons of jjosh!) who come here and may not have the time/inclination to check metafilter, listmaker, kottke, etc. Instead, they welcome the additional filter that my particular taste provides (more muppets!).
Third, it is a big motivator to create more. To write more (I loved what kfan was/is doing with his blog, whygodwhy), to put more films together (snow of truth, ash fetish), to finish more mixes (coming soon, I swear!), to really try the VJ’ing I’ve always wanted to do, to link to friends’ bands, photography, etc.
Information. Community. Creation. Sounds like a severe corporate mission statement, but I’m digging it somehow.