The two muses, by Kokeshi
Most people reading blogs are doing it for dramatic pleasure. My friends and family may like to see pictures of me happy, but casual visitors are more interested if I’m getting my ass kicked, fighting with Morquendi, or not getting laid. My most tangible memories of this site are fights, flamewars and general disasters. This isn’t a choice as much as a natural property of human attention. Drama has evolved to exploit the bends of human attention, and its lessons apply just as much online. Drama is, essentially, an artificial representation of life such that you can fit it in an amphitheatre. Modern technology, however, makes it possible to watch life itself – hence the popularity of Reality TV, blogs, etc. The stories are a bit messier, but they still succeed or fail as dramas.
The stories that do the best take the classic forms – tragedy, comedy, and satyrs. Whether you like it or not, your life is part of a drama on your blog. Kottu makes things even weirder cause you suddenly get a cast of characters interacting with each other. Those characters can be angry, miserable, fornicating, cheating or feuding viciously, that’s all good drama. Things only slow down if everyone is happy.
The most obvious example of the communicative power of tragedy is the tsunami.
The scene as I know it started with the tsunami. As you can see in the graph above, this site went from like 3,000 monthly visitors to 10,000 and stabilized there. I wasn’t even blogging much during the time cause I was working with Sarvodaya, which Apple and Google linked to from their main pages. That site was doing 20,000 a day. All of a sudden blogs went from a trivial hobby to the only source of life or death information. Morquendi and Mahangu’s reporting, in particular, was exemplary. Those were awful, sleepless times, but it gave birth to the entire blogosphere. Like TV news, Internet traffic is driven by death, conflict, and sex. Those are also the elements of a good drama. It kinda sucks to be in the middle of it, but it’s all good for traffic.
The best and most popular bloggers are funny. Dooce, for example, is hilarious and self-deprecating about everything from family to farting in the gym. Some stuff doesn’t rise to the level of tragedy, but if you’re willing to make an ass of yourself it can be very funny. I almost enjoy non-deadly stuff happening cause it makes for a good story. I’ve literally lost my pants and caused about a lakh in general property damage this month, but I got some decent writing out of it.
The amusing effect of the play did not depend so much on the action itself, as was the case in comedy, but rather on the relation of the chorus to that action. That relation was in keeping with the wanton, saucy, and insolent, and at the same time cowardly, nature of the satyrs. The number of persons in the chorus is not known, although there were probably either twelve or fifteen, as in tragedy. In accordance with the popular notions about the satyrs, their costume consisted of the skin of a goat, deer, or panther, thrown over the naked body, and besides this a hideous mask and bristling hair.
Padashow has a chorus of about 12-15 people that he generally offends with his coarseness and bristling bile. He also gets the added benefit that Hi exploits, namely, that if you simply mention someone’s name their 18,000 friends and family will come to see what’s up. If you trash them you get an even wider response. The satyr may be gross and offensive, but that’s kinda the point. The chorus can take it seriously or not, actually, it’s better if they do. It’s all part of the drama, and it’s all good for traffic.