Letters of Life

If You Like Randomness, Click Here

Behind a curtain of leaves on a Saturday afternoon.“If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” — Woody Allen

The iconic film maker-screenwriter Mr Allen hit the nail on the head with this quote, probably more insightful than it is funny. But today, it fits my mood.

It all began a couple of months ago when I started subscribing to a marketing blog. It said that journal blogs (“A funny thing happened to me on the way to work” kind) are on their way out and that if you want to stay relevant in the chaotic and (predominantly American) world of online social media, you might want to think about how to ‘monetize’ your blog. Ramp it up with content that is useful, highlight solutions readers are searching for, craft content that meets their needs and wants, not just your own.

In other words, teach.

Teaching sells. When the stockmarket tumbles and economies lose steam, this marketing blog says teaching never goes out of style. Or business. These blogs must be right because their posts land in the inboxes of 136,627 subscribers worldwide, and their tweets are read by 64,148 followers. Of course, they also stress the importance of SEO (search engine optimization) which is THE number one Internet marketing strategy to increase traffic to your site.

You do this by editing your website’s content and HTML so that your site’s visibility will rank highly on search engines like Google, and as everyone knows, visibility is everything in the sometimes foggy labyrinths of cyberspace. Yes, that is a retro-sounding word in the trendy world of networks and online social media, but I love it. It reminds me of Space 1999.

I began thinking about improving my content. If I wasn’t going to write about a visit to the pedicurist or the joys of long distance running, I had to switch my perspective and think about what readers wanted to read about in my space. Unfortunately, I had been trained to be a generalist: A jack of all trades, master of none. The last 10 posts here range from appreciating photographs to whether Christians can celebrate Halloween to a discussion about Facebook’s reality.

In the search to provide “useful content,” I started posting less frequently, less spontaneously which, any blogger knows, is like giving your blog the kiss of death. No longer did I merrily post pictures or whimsical theories about human relationships, or misguided overanalyses. Instead, I started second-guessing what readers would *want* to read. With shock, I found myself getting writer’s block. I took a straw poll to find out what my friends wanted to read about. The poll gleaned thin anecdotal information I couldn’t build a chicken coop on, much less line a chicken coop with.

The one message I kept hearing was: “I like the randomness of it all. Whatever it is I read here, it brings a smile to my face.”

I got glum. This wasn’t helping. Then it hit me that, maybe, that’s why Facebook has gone at lightspeed into the deep, wide upper reaches of cyberspace, leaving My Space flotsaming in its light-yeared wake. Facebook, in essence, is an entertainment medium, with customized and randomized daily news feeds. These often run in the high hundreds at any given time that you visit your Facebook home page. Feeds that range from family photos to who’s eating what to who’s friending whom. Little drummer babies on Youtube, breaking news and top stories from established and obscure media sites (I was going to say news sites, but that’s no longer an accurate description), and what’s hot/what’s not.

Mostly, though, Facebook is propped up by the thoughts, rants, raves, and snarky comments of friends and users, and this is what keeps us coming back day after day, or hour after hour, if it is your poison. Facebook celebrates and elevates randomness. Whether it’s deep or trivial will be for another post. Like life itself, randomness means you never know what you’re gonna get, and that keeps us coming back. Facebook offers easy customizability (hide what/who you’re not interested in, remove Farmville posts, group your friends into cliques) within a broad real-time structure where you never know what any of your 789 friends are going to post.

So if randomness is part of the algorithm behind Facebook’s current and future success, I can use that too. I will decide to celebrate the weird, the wonderful, the arbitrariness of life in this space.

Oh, my straw poll came back with one other thing. You’re funny, they said.

And I was happy.

Thoughts about randomness? Questions? Did I miss out anything?

4 Responses »

  1. This random post about randomness is one of the most enjoyable ones i have come across. Let’s celebrate randomness!

    Looking forward to more random-stuff@featherglass.

  2. You write very well Yu Ming. It gives hope to those who reviled conformity and flowing the the tide. You did not do the right thing but you did things right 🙂 This link has some good inspiration on randomness – some Gumption wisdom from the past 🙂


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