gapingvoid is interested in start-up culture, because changing business for the better is what we’re about; that’s what Social Object Factory is about. We live and breathe it; we help everyone from lone entrepreneurs, to mid-sizers, to Fortune 500’s do the same. Check out our work here.
We create art that helps companies kick ass, end of story.
The big Web story last week was about how Instagram just removed its API from Twitter. My old friend, Dave Winer (he is also one of the great web pioneers of the last decade or so) wrote a great post about it. I drew the cartoon above in response to Dave (“Commons” refers to the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, in this case, the Internet. It’s also where people grazed their sheep in the old days).
Then yesterday, another blogging buddy from the old days, Anil Dash wrote this great blog post, “The Web We Lost”, about how much the web has changed in the last 5 – 10 years, along similar lines.
In the early days of the social web, there was a broad expectation that regular people might own their own identities by having their own websites, instead of being dependent on a few big sites to host their online identity. In this vision, you would own your own domain name and have complete control over its contents, rather than having a handle tacked on to the end of a huge company’s site. This was a sensible reaction to the realization that big sites rise and fall in popularity, but that regular people need an identity that persists longer than those sites do.
When I think about the era Anil speaks of, I feel like an old hippy talking about how great the ‘sixties were, but he does have a point. The early-blogging seemed a much more fun, edgy, interesting, giving and independent place back then. And then the big boys came along and took over, sucking in all OUR content like a big ol’ industrial turbine. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.
I’m not saying everything was better back then, a lot of things we far harder and slower. But I do miss that indie, “We’re on the verge of something important and wonderful” feeling that permeated the air. It’s not nearly as palpable as it once was. I hope we can one day get that feeling back.
In this era of everybody talking about the latest shiny app or the latest shiny billionaire, I decided to write a book about blogging, and why it matters: “Freedom Is Blogging In Your Underwear”.
[From the intro:]
In May of last year, my blog, gapingvoid.com, turned ten years old.
Having a blog, a voice, having my own media, utterly changed my life. Suddenly my career as a cartoonist wasn’t dependent on other people: the “gatekeepers” — publishers, editors, Hollywood executives, etc., etc.
Suddenly I had direct contact with my audience. They had direct contact with me. I could just do my thing, without having to wait for somebody else to give me the “green light,” somebody else to write a check. I didn’t have to wait around for somebody else to deem me “worthy” …
This gave me the freedom I spent most of my adult life searching for, the same freedom I believe we’re ALL searching for, in one way or another.
Careerwise, blogging gave me everything. Even in the early days, the benefits of blogging were so glaringly obvious to me that I couldn’t understand why more people weren’t doing it. Ten years later, I still can’t. So I decided to write a book about it; maybe I could help other people find this freedom, too.
Like I said, I’m a cartoonist. I don’t consider myself a “blogging professional.” I don’t consider myself a “social media authority.” That being said, I believe my experience as one of the very early visual artists to totally establish their careers via this wonderful new medium might help folks understand not only how powerful blogging is, but WHY it’s powerful and WHY it matters. And once you can understand this, I believe, your life will be quickly transformed, same as mine was.
I remember my first really big Internet “A-Ha!” moment like it was yesterday.
It was about a decade ago, just after the DotCom crash, around the same time I first heard about blogging.
I had just heard from somewhere that Salon.com, one of the first big-time magazines to launch exclusively online (that was still a big deal in those days) had blown through $60 million setting itself up, before the crash. Was it ever expected to make back its investors’ money? Of course not.
Then I heard from somewhere that Arts & Letters Daily, a blog that appealed to the same kind of reader as Salon, had been set up for a couple of grand; I think $10K was the number.
People would tell me at the time that yeah, of course Salon was more expensive. It had an office in San Francisco and a big staff of proper journalists. It had all the overhead of conventional magazines, minus the paper and printing press. A&L Daily was just an aggregator blog that pointed to interesting bits and pieces across the web.
Yes, that was true, but as a random, semi-educated dude looking for a place that offered me something interesting to read on a regular basis, I preferred A&L Daily to Salon.
As far as I could see, A&L Daily was not only a better product, it was offering its better product for ONE SIX-THOUSANDTH the cost of Salon. For 0.0166% the overheads.
The idea that media could now be viably made for not just pennies on the dollar, but MICRO-PENNIES, hit me like train. BAM!
So I started blogging. The rest is history.
Ten years later, my only disconnect would be, with this amazing opportunity that hyper-cheap media offers us, why are so many of us squandering it?
While others Twitter or Facebook or Foursquare for hours on end about what hipster food truck they’ve just been to or what dumb TV show they just watched, my young cartoonist friend, Austin Kleon is using social media to transform his life and career (and the lives and careers of others).
This is a totally different league of Internet use I’m talking about. And Austin is just one example. So am I. So is John T Unger or Willo O’Brien of Willotoons fame. I could give hundreds of others.
The Internet has given you a HUGE, life-changing opportunity that simply didn’t exist a generation ago. Don’t waste it. A life just surfing the net for hipster-friendly dumbass stuff is no less a waste of a life than sitting in front of the television.
The way to use the Internet is to be more like Austin or Willo or John. Use it seriously.
People think that blogging has changed a lot in the last few years, far from the heady early blogging days of 2000 – 2005 etc etc.
Hmmm. Maybe. Certainly having things like Twitter and Facebook make it easier for people to natter to each other without having to write continual blog posts first… the latter is certainly time consuming, and people are already way too busy.
Actually, the business model for gapingvoid hasn’t changed very much over time. I can only handle so many projects at one time– a dozen at the most. So as a way of generating business, I only need enough readers to attract one new possible collaborator every so often.
Which works out to be how much? Maybe one out of ten thousand readers. Or something.
Whatever the final numbers might be, compared to the ad-driven blogs like Gawker or Techcrunch, they’re relatively small ones. And Thank God for that, “Audience” is a bitch.
And then there is the fun of drawing and posting cartoons on the blog. In business terms, that really can’t be measured. All that can do is create good karma. But I enjoy it immensely so what the hell… same is true for the daily newsletter cartoons.
I keep hearing the same complaint a lot these days. That blogging isn’t as much fun or as interesting as it used to be. It used to be subversive. It used to be cutting edge. Now it’s mainstream and boring. That kinda thing.
To my jaded veteran blogger friends: Get over yourselves. Blogging hasn’t changed, you have. What’s happening on the Internet isn’t important; What’s important is that the world knows how you intend to change it. Right here. Right now.
I believe that both our economic and spiritual future, good or bad, is directly related to our ability to unlock the latent creativity within us.
There. I’ve said it.
It’s been six years since I first started blogging what would eventually end up being my first book, Ignore Everybody.
The book didn’t really start off with a plan. Like I said at the very beginning,
“So you want to be more creative, in art, in business, whatever. Here are some tips that have worked for me over the years.”
That was it. One person’s ramblings. No big, authoritative volume with lots of practical how-to’s, case studies and academic citations.
Some people didn’t care for that. “I paid $23.00 for a hardback edition and I expect RESULTS, dammit!”
Ah. But I never said anything about results. There was no plan, you see. That’s because there is no plan. There never is.
Writing about creativity is a messy business because creativity is a messy business.
Even using the word “creativity” in conversation is going to get you in trouble from some quarters. Stick your head above the parapet for just a few seconds and watch the arrows start flying at you.
Yet somewhere in the back of our minds, we all know it’s too important a subject to ignore, too important a reality not to confront.
Why? Because when I first started writing Ignore Everybody, I was coming at it from a very personal angle. Confronting one’s existential need to be “creative”, to express oneself etc. Which is why the book did so well with teenagers, college students and young adults just starting out in the working world. That’s the time of life to be thinking about all that.
But now, six years later I’m a bit older and bit more experienced. Maybe a lot more.
And time and experience has led me to conclude that even if we hate the word “creativity”, even if it’s a nasty, annoying, sophomoric, hipster-dipster, New Age gagfest that really should have no place among the serious, results-orientated world of equally serious, result-orientated grownups…
It’s where all meaningful growth is going to come from, both internal and external, whether we like it or not.
I don’t believe creativity can be taught, not really, but I do believe:
That with a bit of prodding in the right places, individuals can train themselves to be more creative.
That with a bit of prodding in the right places, individuals working as a team can train themselves to be more creative.
That with a bit of prodding in the right places, companies and organizations can train themselves to be more creative.
That with a bit of prodding in the right places, societies can train themselves to be more creative.
And that if they can do this, the value they create will be off the scale.
I’ll say it again: I believe that both our economic and spiritual future, good or bad, is directly related to our ability to unlock the latent creativity within us.