Saturday, March 22, 2008

How We Select Topics

I want to pull away the curtain a bit today and discuss the process of topic selection here at

At any given moment we have 30 or so topics under consideration, with long lists of subjects of interest on file. On any given day, our multitude of well-informed correspondents send in story links and commentaries which add to the list.

Then we gather round the editorial desk and ask: is there a topic we really add something new to, something that hasn't been covered elsewhere? Is there a topic we can add some humor to, or one where we can offer some unique insight?

The answer soon becomes clear: no, there isn't. Despite this, we pick a topic anyway, usually based on pure whim and who on staff has the strength to attempt semi-coherence.

And that's a tough call, as the other office projects--scraping up a miserable meager sum of cash to survive, losing money in the stock market, writing books no one wants to read, opening rejection letters from literary agents and publishers, helping friends and family because, well, that's what friends and family are for, doing stuff for nothing, answering voluminous email and pondering our hate mail, wondering why we don't hide behind a nice I.D. like Cantankerous-Old-Crazy-Hippie--require quite a bit of time.

We then set aside a few moments for navel-gazing, during which we ask ourselves why we're so stupid and idiotic that we persist in posting drivel for free, when others are posting drivel about their cute kids and dogs and raking in vast sums of advertising money.

We conclude, sadly, for the zillionth time, that nobody is dumb enough to advertise on this site, and our readers are too astute to click on ads anyway, so it was a hopeless line of thinking.
Another moment is spent agonizing over why we're so stupid that we can't think of a brilliant concept like our friend Aaron Krowne, creator of the wonderfully viral Implode-o-Meter sites. (See right sidebar for links.) But alas, we remain poor and dumb and without inspiration.

Then we wonder why we have this foolish urge to be contrarian, and why we don't post platitudes and pablum about Mom's apple pie and the wonderfulness of things, topics which would inspire warm fuzzy feelings in grateful readers tired of all those doom-and-gloom blogs. After all, to get rich is glorious, and the easy thing to do. But our timing is always off, and we're always opposite where we should be.

Despite innumerable reasons to give up and pull the plug, some idiot volunteers to write an entry, and staff gathers round to post an erudite quote from a reader which says whatever we hoped to say much better than we could.

Wondering once more why we bother, we post the entry and then turn off the computer, recalling Sartre's dictim than "man is a useless passion" (he meant humankind, Ladies, not just males, though you can certainly argue for the stricter interpretation).

So that's how it works here behind the computer screen, folks; kind of like making sausage only cleaner and much less profitable--and it's trans-fat free.

Meanwhile, other bloggers are raising millions in venture capital (Thanks to correspondent Michael S. for the story): More Bloggers Raising Money. Here Come The Politics. And Here Comes My Rant.

Good Golly, Molly, why can't I find someone to give a couple of mil? I know the answer: they get nothing in return except smart-aleck commentaries. It's just an idiotically poor investment--almost as dumb as owning stock in Bear Stearns.

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