Tuesday, May 14, 2013
What it's like to go Viral
This was a new experience for me. Over the last 7 1/2 years I had had big spikes in traffic, usually when I had guest bloggers like Aaron Sorkin or my daughter, Annie, but never had I received one million page views – not even for my Traci Lords rant.
Now that the craziness has died down and I’m once again forgotten, I can reflect back and share the experience.
It's insane to think that some nimrod can sit at a computer and bang out a point-of-view essay and over a million people read it. This is Cliff Clavin's ultimate dream -- even more than getting a joke on the TONIGHT SHOW.
The best part was being exposed to so many new readers. The worst part was how many of them never came back. Hey, what did I do? That’s perfectly normal in the blogosphere and I have picked up some new followers (and for that I’m very grateful. Not grateful enough to give you VERONICA MARS T-shirts but still.). But it’s a huge ego boost to see all that traffic and incredibly humbling when your numbers drop worse than week two of 1600 PENN.
The viral post in question was my rant against Zach Braff using Kickstarter to fund his movie. If I had my druthers and could choose which of my articles I would have preferred got a million hits it would probably be my tribute to Larry Gelbart, something strictly funny, or a plug for my book so I could make some damn money. But hey, I’ll take it. From time to time articles I write get linked from other sites, but that’s never in my thinking when I write them. And I’m usually surprised by the ones they pick. Getting an MRI generated big interest. Casting Tom Hanks – meh.
I figured the Zach Braff piece would result in some controversy. I’m no stranger to that. Roseanne Barr savaged me in her blog (which I consider a badge of honor), Diana DeGarmo’s mother had to be restrained, Traci Lordds tweeted that I was an a-hole, any time I say something even remotely political like Sarah Palin is an idiot I get grief, and worst of all is the hate I receive whenever I say anything nice about Patty Heaton.
But all that was nothing compared to this. I checked on Thursday and when I Googled “Zach Braff Ken Levine” there were seventeen complete pages of articles and discussions. Yikes! The ones that got me were those with headlines like KEN LEVINE IS WRONG, as if anyone in the world knew who the hell I am.
That brings up another issue – lots of articles and commenters confused me with the other Ken Levine, the far-more-successful creator of Bioshock. On the day the piece ran he tweeted: “Dear Internet, I am not the guy who hates Zachary Braff, that is tv writer and sportscaster Ken Levine. Met him once, nice guy but not me.”
But in addition to all the comments on my blog, a lot of bloggers and websites did their own articles reacting to my happy little essay. A thousand sites I had never heard of with names like Buzzo and Trendstop and Waaznew? I am thrilled and relieved to say that in the articles and the comments, even those who disagreed with me did so in a very respectful way. (I once wrote an offhanded joke about a certain shock jock morning team and received a thousand death threats, all misspelled.) In the best sense of the word, what we had here was a debate. Some arguments against my position were forceful but not personal. No one said I should “be in a plain crash and DIE!” (And there’s no such thing as an “Oozy.”)
On the other hand, there is a new trend on the net that if you disagree with someone you are labeled a hater. Your points are summarily dismissed and you're just a hater. Or a troll. Mr. Braff himself paints his naysayers with this one brush so I guess I'm a hater, despite saying nice things about him and promising to praise his next movie if I like it.
From what I hear there was a lot of discussion about this topic around town so it took everyone’s mind off Justin Bieber’s Anne Frank comment for two days. And some newspapers ran it. Imagine if I had done something really noteworthy!
Ultimately, I have no idea the percentage of people who agreed or disagreed with me, but I stand by my position. And I wish everyone success who has a project on Kickstarter. Even Melissa Joan Hart. (Please follow me on Twitter, Melissa. PLEASE?)
As of this writing, I have not heard personally from Zach Braff, Rob Thomas, nor Melissa but I don’t expect to. I’m sure I’ll bump into each of them at parties or at the very least on the next WGA picket line and it will be real awkward.
The interesting phenomenon, that I alluded to earlier, is that as fast these things go viral, they disappear almost as fast. But every day or two some other site will pick it up and there’s a renewal of comments calling me ill-informed and naive so I still have that to cling to. Only fourteen of my fifteen minutes are up.
So I’ll happily go back down under the zeitgeist radar where my readers can get a laugh and won’t be confused when I discuss comedy writing. Why would a major video gamer discuss seltzer bottles? It’s nice and comfortable and manageable enough that we can all get to know each other. And if I want another spike in traffic I’ll just ask Annie to guest-blog for a day.