About a year ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Sebastian Prooth. An accidental Skype search dropped me in the middle of a conversation between him and mr David Gray. An accidental encounter that would have farfetched repercussions for my personal website and pod-casting adventures.
You can talk to anyone.
The one thing I immediately liked about Sebastian , was the fact that he had Go-Getting attitude that could only be described as being very "american". At first I was a bit taken aback by this strange mentality difference between the skeptical timid Belgian and the "No rules Barred " super ambitious American. I have followed Sebastians adventures on the internet , seen his accomplishments and stood in awe at the way he managed to get in touch with the most amazing people. Where I stood star-struck behind the sidelines, Seb was sending emails or even chatting on Skype with people that I still consider to be "Giants" in cyberspace today. Those who where heroes to me ( Like for example Patrick Norton or Leo Laporte) Sebastian approached in a candid and charming matter. One thing I quickly learned from Sebastian is that people are just people , and you can talk to all of your heroes. One just needed balls
You can do anything you want to do.
If Sebastian is one thing : it is talented. As a pod-caster he has a great voice, he knows how to write and has the balls to step up to just about any challenge and give it a try. Wether its writing, producing audio or video, or even directing a little movie : Seb will give it a crack and claim the trade. For a Belgian like me it was weird to hear somebody call himself a producer, writer, blogger, director and pod-caster over the period of a few months. This go-getter attitude did not only get him quite a few great interviews on his website , he even got an article printed in a national computer magazine. We Belgians don't claim a trade that quickly, Even I don't call myself a pod-caster .. but thats just me. The way Americans go after the "American dream" is fascinating to watch when you are not an American.
You can't beat being popular.
But the fascinating part of all this was watching Sebasting chase fortune and glory. Being the one man self-promoting marching band that he was , Sebastains accomplishments where quite frequently the only topics of Sebastians conversations. This would of course open up a lot of doors for him, and he never passed up an opportunity to inform us of his state of affairs. Wether it where the amount of hits on his blog, how much his "blog was worth", where and by who he got mentioned and so forth. The popularity of his accomplishments where paramount, the statistics his god. At some point I was so intimidated by this flow of numbers I started believing I was doing something fundamentally wrong with the knightwise.com website and the podcast. It made me reconsider the personal nature of the content I produced in favor of something that would appeal to "the masses" I somehow started to believe that perhaps ONLY numbers mattered. Seb's quest for popularity quickly influenced not only his focus (writing / podcasting / directing ) , but also the content he produced stood in favor of all of this. He even moved from Blogging to Podcasting to Producing movies in rapid succession because somehow the short-term-popularity-return was not enough. Sebasting wanted to be popular : The sooner the better. When his first Skype article was sufficiently spectacular to be noticed by the Digg crowd : Sebs site got Dugg and in my eyes things went downhill after that.
How digg takes down the bloggers.
And perhaps Sebastian can be taken as sad example as a victim to the digg-effect : a quest for popularity. Through social bookmarking sites like DIGG bloggers look only for the holy grail of hits. Popularity is all that counts and to some extent I also believed this. But the truth is that the "DIGG EFFECT" is bad news for bloggers. Look at it this way : We all have access to this incredible medium of the internet. Wether you are a blogger , pod-caster, vidcaster or amateur Porn Star , we all have the same chance of putting our own unique message out there. But the quest for popularity effects many. It has them turn their unique content into something that might just be liked by the masses. Twisting peaces of unique personal content into something with a catchy title and a sensational content. Like junkies they crave the high ratings. Forget the uniqueness and talent they have and cross promote themselves into pulp-oblivion, desperately trying to get noticed. Ironically it is their uniqueness that got them noticed in the first place.
And where will it end ? Will the quest for popularity turn all of them into internet paparazzi ? Making every blogpost a screaming headline ? Have Bloggers spend more time driving their own propaganda machine then actually writing something worth reading ? I have seen one of my friends fall prey to the digg effect. A painful example was his latest Skype post where a misleading title lured visitors in but where the content flirted with the edges of being downright wrong. All in favor of popularity ? A quick Google shows us that this brilliant blogger has fallen pray to this digg-effect. Posting EVERY article on digg and other services , desperately trying to get noticed. And burying his credibility in the process. Using metatags in such multitude they almost outsize the post itself… It is sad to see. Because this quest for popularity undermines his integrity, his talent, his uniqueness and turns this good friend into "just another blogger". Chasing the ball. Running after the quick-hit-fix in despite his own brilliant talent.
But in the end I'm even mad at myself. For believing, for even a second, that hits mattered. That one should bend his content in order to be more popular. For thinking about turning my website into the next mc donnalds "bun" instead of the French croissant it is. For getting DUGG is takes no talent. A catchy title, ONE killer post : No problem whatsoever. It is staying true to ones initial talent that is the hard part. Even if that integrity means writing 20 posts that don't have mainstream appeal. Because we all have our unique talent. Its when we betray our integrity in favor of popularity that Digg is bad for bloggers.
Epilogue : Why this post ?
I hear you ask : Why this post ? To flame my friend ? No , I like Sebastian very much. I hope this is a wake up call not only for him but for many bloggers. Content creators who are deleting the wonderful post about their walk in the park in favor of a writeup about an article they found featuring Britney's Breasts. For going for hits and sensationalism in favor of journalism or even art. For depriving the internet of their unique talent and personality in favor of yet another digg.