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Eric: On the Snarking of Snarking

So, the question has come up more than once of how to save Websnark.

No, there's no danger of it going away. Barring catastrophic server failure or the like Websnark's going to keep chugging along. But the point has been raised more than once that it's not exactly what it was last October. There aren't as many thumbnails, and snarks of individual strips. The pace sometimes drops to almost nil, then spins way back up to frenetic. One person asked if it was about to end -- if Gossamer Commons had consumed me. Another mentioned that it was about to leave their daily trawl, but the April Fools post pulled them back. Still another made mention of my rather... emphatic writing style.

And it's a fair question. See, we passed a milestone last Friday. One by definition I didn't mention, but one that bears mentioning, given some of the recent commentary.

When Wednesday came on board, one of the stated advantages was that I wouldn't necessarily need to write something every day now. She could cover. That's not why she came on board, mind. She came on board for the simple reason that I like to read what she writes. I like her essay style. I like her sense of humor. I like her perspective. I still do. I get excited when a [w] tagged post comes through. And... well, it's my stage, so I get to have someone I like to watch perform perform on it.

But there are advantages. I can go to Ithaca and know that whether or not I make it to a web browser, something will appear here. And yet, despite that safety net, I've still written something every day. Even if it's just a "I don't have a post for today" post. Of the past 672 posts, I've written 630 of them.

Friday, Wednesday posted. A meaty post about Cookie Monster, and the fact that it's not the end of the world that he's advocating healthy eating. It was a response to... well, a lot of livejournal comments and the latest PvP sequence. (And for those who think we here at Websnark never say bad stuff about PvP -- I'm with her on it. I thought Kurtz's strip was funny, but I also think it's an overreaction, and the followup strip broadened that reaction further.)

It was a good post. And it was the only post for Friday. For the first time since August 20 of 2004, I didn't post anything at all on Websnark.

Which is a Hell of a record, if you think about it. Exhausted? I still put up an "I'm exhausted" post. And most days (I know, it's hard to believe it sometimes) I put up something with content in it. I mentioned three quarters of a million words over on post 666, and that's true.

And that's a ton of writing. It really is. That's roughly 3,200 words a day, on average, for two hundred and thirty days. In the old, now mostly outdated formula of "250 words per typewritten page," that's 3000 pages. That's three quarters of the total output I produced for Superguy, back in the day, and it took me eight years to do that.

I'm self conscious about Websnark, it's worth noting. The whole "Eric's Piroing out thing" Weds did kind of stuck in my craw, because... well, I don't think I am. I don't think my writing's terrible or that somehow I'm not a writer because I don't manage to write a home run essay or three every day. I think there are days when I suck, because there are. There are days you suck too. There are all days we suck. And now, a small number of people are saying "hey, wait a minute. He's not writing about webcomics as much as he used to. Where are the snarks on individual strips? Where are the biscuits? What's losing him? This isn't what I signed up for." And so I worry about that. How do I give them what they want?

At the same time, comments have skyrocketed. The Philosophical Snarks category's gotten a workout over the past couple of weeks -- this snark's in that category, too -- and I'm getting a monumental number of comments on those posts. With limited exceptions, those comments have been insightful, turning and debating and discussing. I can't think that Websnark's failing, because we're generating tremendous interest.

And on the other side of all of this is the original purpose of this blog, which is to give me a place to write about what catches my eye, and move on. Does it defeat that purpose if I start scrutinizing the daily trawls to find strips I can snark to meet the expectations of others?

I don't know. I honestly don't know what's the best thing for me to do on here. I know I want to keep doing it. But does that mean altering the directions it's evolved into to meet expectations others have? Or not? Certainly the comments I've heard have had meaty criticisms -- ones worth acknowledging and incorporating. (And clearly I need to put a moratorium on italics for a while.)

And the question has to be asked -- given that it's the philosophical snarks that get the most comments, have I subconsciously started biasing towards them because I crave that feedback, even though people would prefer to see webcomics/individual strip-oriented stuff?

For the record, by the by, in the last twenty-five days I've snarked 20 different strips. It's nowhere near the four a day I was doing when I started out, but it's almost not exactly disappeared, either.

(And it's also worth noting -- after 230 days, it's almost certain that people are going to start writing about how you've lost your way, no matter what you're doing. I'm no longer new, or unique, or shiny. It becomes easier to see the flaws in your car after you've driven it for six months and it no longer feels all 'new car-ish.' You might still like said car, but you're not gushing about it any more.)

I haven't provided links to the offsite essays or identified them. In part, this is because I don't particularly want people going and arguing with the people who made those comments. What I want is for folks to discuss and debate these things right here, separate from the personalities who made the comments. The opinions folks have count, and the direction Websnark goes in should be discussed here, I think.

At the same time, what promises can I make, except to try to keep things in mind as I go along? If I read through a week's worth of strips and nothing jumps out as particularly noteworthy, how can I invent note or worth?

I don't know. But maybe you guys do. So think it over.

In the meantime, the current record for days without missing is 230. That day of just not worrying about it felt nice, though. We're now up to day two of the second run. Place your bets now.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at April 10, 2005 12:57 PM

Comments

Comment from: Phil Kahn posted at April 10, 2005 2:02 PM

I think the most interesting direction for you to take on Websnark would be however you goddamned feel like it. I think this is where you need to take the Randy approach.

Personally, I'd like to see more comic Snarkings. But as I'm now Snarking as well, I notice how some days, there's just nothing worth Snarking.

Comment from: daveMill posted at April 10, 2005 2:08 PM

Hey Eric,

This is one of the reasons why I read you. You respond to criticism with thoughtful reflection and requests for feedback.

I've been reading you ever since your snark on Chocolypse Now showed up on my sitemeter, which has been quite awhile. And I've enjoyed it ever since. You've introduced me to a lot of webcomics I wasn't even aware of.

So sure, I love it when you snark on comics. But I enjoy it when you snark on other stuff as well. Your essay on Pages is a great example. I don't even own a mac, but I enjoyed it.

Simply put. I come here to read you. Would I like it if you snarked a bit more on comics than you have lately? Sure, but only if that's what excites you. If you're doing it without feeling it, I've a feeling I wouldn't enjoy reading it.

Your blog is "websnark" not "webcomicssnark". You've made it clear many times before, this space is for you to talk about whatever the heck you want to talk about. Mostly, that's been webcomics, and I imagine it will continue to be so, cause that seems to be where your heart is, and we always come back to what we love the most.

cheers

Comment from: Tabitha posted at April 10, 2005 2:16 PM

i agree with these fine people. websnark is for you to write about what intrests you. honestly, i enjoy reading whatever you put out. your comic snarks have introduced me to a lot of new reading material and i trust your opinions on what i read. i also like reading your other snarks though. i'm interested in your opinion and will continue reading whatever you post here, and i'm sure the others will as well. i don't think that you should shape what you put on websnark on what the readers want. you began websnark as a site for you and i think you should continue that.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at April 10, 2005 2:18 PM

Given my druthers, I'd like to see more webcomic snarks, for it was those that made me fall in love with you. On the other hand, honestly I hadn't really noticed the lack. The gripping hand is, I'm one of those who's just started commenting in the last four or six weeks. Make of this what you will.

If it were me (and since I went through this when my fanfiction cartoons were converted from scanned pen drawings to MSPaint stick figures, it has been me, so I know whereof I speak), I don't think I'd pay the critics even as much mind as you have (but of course by nature blogging is more self-referential than comics are). Though I'd warn them good-naturedly that I wasn't.

Comment from: theusual posted at April 10, 2005 2:21 PM

Eric,

I've been reading Websnark since Lore linked to you so many months ago. Before that point, I honestly didn't care about webcomics. I read maybe one for a short period of time. But your writing was entertaining and I kept reading.

Thanks to you I now read three webcomics regularly and a couple more sporadically. But even if I didn't read those, I'd still read Websnark. Even if you didn't talk about comics anymore, period. Even if you talked exclusively about farming techniques in Reformation-Era Prussia... okay, that might be pushing it. Too obscure. It might be fun for a couple days, though. What I'm saying is that you should keep doing whatever it is you're doing, even if that means slightly less with the webcomic snarks.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at April 10, 2005 2:36 PM

Hey, don't go dissing the three-field rotation farming system, man. We'll have to throw down.

Comment from: TheNintenGenius posted at April 10, 2005 2:41 PM

I hadn't really noticed the lack of webcomic snarks, perhaps because of the snarks that ended up getting scads of comments on them lately. I've found almost everything you've written about to be interesting and well-put, so really whatever you write about, I'm fine with.

Comment from: Connor Moran posted at April 10, 2005 2:47 PM

Though it doesn't feel like it, I think that 230 days (or whatever it is now) is far too early to say "you've changed, man" to anything. That's still the "finding your voice" stage as far as I'm concerned and it's to be expected that the form is going to be in flux for some time. At this point I would be more worried if you were still doing the same thing as you were in August.

The simple snarks were good, the long essays are good. Whatever comes next may be good, or it may not be. But better that you be experimenting than you stagnate. I don't think you're eligible to jump the shark (or perhaps the snark?) just yet. Give it time.

Comment from: Merus posted at April 10, 2005 3:00 PM

I'd like to share a story from my college dorm days. (Except they were uni college days. Bikini Suicide Frisbee days. Whatever you want to call them.) This may sound like a clumsy, barely disguised parable, but this actually happened to me.

One day, I though it'd be fun to start sticking jokes up on my dorm door. (Single rooms in this dorm.) I'd print out a pithy one-liner from a joke site and stick it up, and change it every few days when it stopped bringing a smile to my face when I opened the door. It amused the hell out of me, and I stuck with it because of that. I didn't really care what anyone else thought about my sense of humour.

After a few months, people started noticing, and some people I knew kind of well but not really commented on how much they appreciated the jokes on my door. It was nice, and it bolstered my confidence. I had an audience! I kept at it, now, because not only was it fun for me, I got the warm fuzzy feeling from knowing I was amusing other people too. I even got an award at some silly function, a chalkboard. For a reasonably reclusive compsci student, this was pretty good.

And one day I found this website I found hilarious. Name escapes me at the moment, but it's reasonably well-known. People submit IRC logs to it, and they get rated, and the top 50 have their own link on the front page, and I was on the floor as the distilled wit and sarcasm of the Internet was served up all on one page. I copied the choicest jokes into a Word file and printed them out. It came to 6 pages, all told, but it was comedy gold!

But when I put it up on my door, then the trouble started. People were seeking me out and letting me know that they didn't find it funny at all. Actually seeking me out. I had 6 pages of the things, and the whole thing stopped being so fun around page 2. They got binned, and I stopped putting jokes up on my door.

As a kid, I was an individual - not a non-conformist, you understand; I didn't define my behaviours on the behaviours of others just so I could not do them, I honest to god did my own thing and didn't really notice what other people thought. But having people come up to me and tell me that they thought I wasn't amusing them any more took the fun out of it, despite it being fun for me. The audience stole my fun, and it ran against pretty much everything I thought I was. They shouldn't have been able to, but they did.

I've been kicking around a goofy little idea for a while now for a webcomic, which sort of grew out of the concept of a Trekkie sort of character actually being dropped into their fantasy world and discovering that their fantasy world isn't actually all that fun to live in, and a sort of railing against the dream of Tyler Durden in Fight Club where he romanticises getting back to nature amidst the ruins of civilisation, while conveniently forgetting to mention that everyone has to work hard and they'll probably die anyway. But I'm rather scared that I might get an audience, and then that audience will take over and steal the fun of exploring those ideas from me, so it's sat there as a plot outline, some unfinished scripts and some character designs.

I have no solution. Still. I dread having to face Eric's predicament, and can only hope that he finds a better solution than I have thus far, and is prepared to share it.

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at April 10, 2005 3:13 PM

I think you should write about whatever the hell you feel like writing about, otherwise you'll stop feeling like doing it. It's not like we are paying money for it or anything. Hell, even if we WERE paying money for it.

Comment from: e-monk posted at April 10, 2005 3:59 PM

People have been saying you should write "whatever the fhsk you feel like." I feel that should be qualified. I think you should write whatever it is makes this site what you want it to be. That is, if you want this to be a webcomics critical blog, write webcomics criticisms, and if you want this to be a blog about whatever, write whatever. I personally would keep reading your blog either way, because you write well and you form opinions well. And I don't think you stand to lose a lot of other readers. What you do stand to lose is (a) your relevancy in the webcomics community and (b) your influence in that community (and I don't mean influence in the sense of political power, but rather I mean the benefitial, constructive influence you had on the field). What is stood to be lost is the tallest watch tower affording perspective on the growing playing fields of webcomics.

People are basiclally right, though. You shouldn't go on with something you don't feel up to. I, personally, am going to comment on each comic snark from now on to help Pavlov you back into criticism :).

Comment from: DBM posted at April 10, 2005 4:16 PM

There are a couple of reasons why I think that the philosophical snarks should be encouraged. The traditional snarking should stick around, but the philosophical snarks are where something more important than just ¤I like this strip, but don╠t like that oneË are happening.

Personally, I think that an important part of understanding anything is to examine it from many different angles. The single strip reviews and distribution of biscuits is a means of expressing an opinion on what a strip did, or how it did it, but doesn╠t lend itself well to explaining why what it did was good or bad.
Webcomics currently lack a defined convention, and right now they are borrowing conventions from related visual fields such as the newspaper comics page, or cartoons. Most everyone understands these conventions, and most everyone operates within them. There╠s nothing wrong with that, but webcomics are not a static piece of paper, and they aren╠t a television or movie screen. They are different, and can interact with the audience.
The infinite frame idea, the ability to click through, have a character interact with the actions of the viewer, the ability to create an individual experience which is unique for every reader. The possibilities for differentiating a webcomic from a traditional comic are significant and will result in dramatic changes over time. Presenting arguments about what works and what doesn╠t, and why it works, or why it doesn╠t, is what will allow creators to create new conventions, and to break new conventions in ways that will just work. The snark about the infinite canvas concept, though ¤just your opinionË was still well written and a contribution to building a convention about how the infinite canvas should be used. This, and the resulting dialogue, is a tremendous service to people who are creating, or want to create, webcomics.

The second reason why I think you should continue philosophizing is because you are creating a webcomic, you are a writer, and by continuing these types of articles, you are providing not only insight into your own creative process, but also the tools that are available, whether they╠re terrible word-processing applications, or the concept of the falling bank safe. That is, in and of itself, interesting.

Sure, it may not be as gratifying for individual creators as seeing their work linked, but four-a-day reviews can really only be sustained when there are four truly exceptional strips each day. Go with what interests you, otherwise you╠ll bore yourself and, by extension, anyone reading your work.

Comment from: Kneefers posted at April 10, 2005 4:17 PM

OK, so Howard Tayler, in one of his newsposts, mentions that Shlock Mercenary had gotten nominated for some Shortbreads on Websnark.

"Shortbreads?" I think. "What in the name of all things holy is a Shortbread?"

So I follow the link. And I find Websnark. After reading half of the first post (I think it was about Something Positive) I put it in my bookmarks because I new that I had found gold (even though I didn't read SP then and still don't read now, your writing style just grabbed me.) Somebody who actually blogged about webcomics! I was euphoric.

And so I read the entire Shortbread list and loved it, started reading some of the strips you reccommended and loved them, and I was stuck on Websnark from then on in.

And the funny thing is that I don't always agree with your evaluation of comics. Your tastes don't always fit mine. And also, I origionally came just for the comic snarks, and left the rest of it alone.

But the thing is... you're a funny guy, Eric. You have a great writing style. And so many of the non-comic snarks that you write, I like.

When you rant about comics is my first love, but this morning I read the snark about Apple Pages and chuckled like a madman.

I love the comic snarks. But as long as you keep making them once in a while, then I'll keep coming. Because I'm stuck on Websnark now, and leaving simply wouldn't be easy.

Comment from: Slick posted at April 10, 2005 4:59 PM

On the whole, I've been enjoying the blog. It does get rather wordy sometimes, but wordy is okay, it just means I can't sit down and read the day's posts before bed like I used to. If you haven't been already, I'd suggest you read Sam and Fuzzy regularly like you said you'd been meaning to awhile back. Sam Logan's really been putting out some good stuff lately. Home Invasion Gear.

Comment from: dreamshade posted at April 10, 2005 5:01 PM

In the end, it is a "blog." I'm fairly sure the people reading it would know that the contents are going to be random and subject to the whim of the author, just as any other blog, which adds to the fun a bit.

Comment from: Amanda W posted at April 10, 2005 5:03 PM

Whatever you do, don't change what you enjoy most to please your audience.

There has to be a balance. If you just do what you want without regard for anyone else, it's not likely you'll keep any readers, and it takes a pretty strong sense of self to keep going after that point. If you just do what your readers want, what will this turn into? Will you even keep up with it if you aren't doing what you enjoy anymore?

Obviously you're confused on the balance. I think what you've been doing is great. Don't force yourself to write when you don't think you have anything to write about, even if readers are complaining. It doesn't work.

Comment from: Bob Stevenson posted at April 10, 2005 5:04 PM

I'm sticking with what I said in my own snark-the-snark a couple months back (http://www.journeyintohistory.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=183&Itemid=29).

Websnark is simply the best webcomics commentary on the internet, well-written and well-reasoned.

As for where the whole thing's headed and how we get there, I'll leave that up to Eric and try to remember to thank him once in a while along the way.

Comment from: Darren Bleuel posted at April 10, 2005 5:18 PM

I agree with not posting links to Websnarksnarkers because otherwise, everyone's going to start doing it just for the link back. ;)

I won't repeat the stuff I just posted in my forum, because it's too lengthy, but I did want to mention that it's not that I disapprove of the non-webcomic posts, which people have been defending in these comments. It's just the webcomic posts that I miss. I also don't think we should hold you up the the same manic proliferation of content as you have thus far provided, especially if there really is nothing of note in the webcomics world.

But even though we argue that both webcomics and websnarks should be done "for yourself," that's not really 100% true, is it? If it were only for yourself, we wouldn't put it on the web. You do have to consider the audience. And in this case, there may simply be a confusion on the actual purpose of the site. Is it just a blog of Eric's thoughts on everything? If so, what is Wednesday doing here? Is it a webcomics review site? Will others be adding reviews and commentary, then?

I'm not dissing Wednesday in any of this, BTW. But by bringing her in, you've turned the site into something other than just "Eric's Blog." With the recent lack of webcomics, perhaps I'm simply becoming more confused as to that direction.

Many would argue that sites like this need no direction, so long as people like them and return to read every day. I have no answer to that.

To be honest, I have my own definition of "Cerebus Syndrome" which is a lot closer to your "First and Ten." I loved Cerebus when he went far beyond the simple "aardvark barbarian" plotline. But I stopped reading when I had to... well... start reading.

Does that mean I'm too lazy to read and I like comics because the funny pictures are easier than them fancy, brain-hurtin' words? No, of course not. I've read Ayn Rand novels before, haven't I? But I have a certain expectation of Cerebus, and I didn't come to it to read a book. I came to read a comic. When the comic became all words, I stopped reading. I understand it "got better" later, and everyone almost universally phrases it to me exactly that way: got better.

That means almost no one I've met wanted to pick up a Cerebus comic and start reading just words. It's not that the words were bad, but it's not what they came there for.

It may be pigeon-holing, but I think inevitably, it's what happens to a popular medium. I never saw "First and Ten," but maybe what it became wasn't so bad had it always been that way. Anyway, my point is, Eric, that I think the site has grown to the point where you're hitting a "point of definition" that people will expect from you for the rest of time. Artists of all types (writers, cartoonists, actors...) hate it, but it happens anyway. I think it may be time to consider which direction you're going.

The word "webcomic" doesn't appear in your "Mission Statement" at all. I probably should have taken that as an indication.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at April 10, 2005 5:27 PM

There is a truth to that, Signore Bleuel, and it's one well worth considering.

I'm heartened by peoples' supportive comments, of course, but the reason for the snark, in the end, is to get some meat into the discussion of where Websnark's going. I think I do need to put some effort into getting more individual-strip-snark-stuff into the daily mix. The question is how to do that with integrity. I never want to snark something just because I need to snark something, after all.

And Wednesday's bits are always going to be... well, Wednesday's bits. I don't exercise editorial control over them. But they do add a layer of texture to the whole that can't be ignored.

Someone, as I said, asked me if Gossamer Commons meant Websnark was ending. The answer to that is an emphatic no -- I believe wholeheartedly in staying with the girl you came to the dance with. But the question becomes what sort of songs do you dance to.

Alternately, that may be a stupid, stupid analogy. In my defense, I've just eaten corn.

(Look, when you have no legitimate defense, confuse the Hell out of them.)

Comment from: Joseph White posted at April 10, 2005 5:40 PM

Mr. Burns, I love your blog. One of the things that has made it a "must-read" for me was the uniqueness. When I started reading, I said, hey, this guy's talking about Questionable Content and PvP and Something Positive! Nobody else is doing that!

I don't mind the occasional navel-gazing, but that's not why I come here. Of course, you shouldn't feel that in any way you are beholden to your audience. I hate it when audiences demand things from the artist, especially when he's just giving it away. So you go on and be your bad self, and do whatever the hell you feel like.

But if the comics postings drift on down to one every other day, or one a week, then...well, it won't be Websnark anymore. The draw will be gone. It'll be just another blog.

And that will be sad.

Comment from: strangestman posted at April 10, 2005 5:57 PM

I hit upon Websnark fairly early after its inception and have stuck with it ever since, probably will for some time to come. Registered specifically to put in my two bits for this post, though.

The way I view it, Websnark from the start was intended to be not just a blog - as is mentioned above - but a blog about a specific topic, namely webcomics. Proceeding from that viewpoint, methinks that should remain its central topic. Most assuredly I don't want to imply by writing 'should' that some random reader (i.e. me) has the 'right' to dictate to an author what his or her writing ought to be about.

However, if that author feels contrained by his previously assumed referential constraints, perhaps that author should start a new blog to accomodate those writings that don't fall within these constraints.

I really, really like Eric's writing style, choice of subjects, general eloquence and half a dozen other things about Websnark. However, I visit this site first and foremost to read about webcomics. The incidental more general 'philosophy snark' is much appreciated, but not my main reason for coming here. Through this site I discovered quite a few new webcomics, lost quite a bit of time that might have been more productively spent - though likely not as enjoyable - and frankly, I'd like for that to go on.

Should Eric start another blog, specifically for the non-webcomic subject, chances are I'll read that equally fervently, but at least I won't be at least slightly disappointed to find out that the subject matter once again isn't a specific webcomic. Perhaps that's trite consumerism, giving the visitors what they expect - then again, there might be a reason why that's such a strongly held general tenet.

As to the question, how to continue in the original vein without losing integrity: quite frankly I don't see how you can lose integrity by doing what you set out to do, originally. If you feel forced snarking strips that are already on your daily trawls - either because you don't see any you want to snark or because you don't want to do what's expected - snark new webcomics (there seem to be thousands) or don't snark at all. Neither really enters into the integrity question.

On a final note, is it possible that precisely because you've spent so much time continuously snarking, that you've felt the need to either do something different or just not as much on the snarking front in recent days? The new car analogy works both ways - it's always most enjoyable when you just have it, but in the end it's just one machine to operate amongst many. It would be sad if you let the 'philosophy snarks' be your new car, leading to neglect of that already grand classic.

Whichever choices you'll make, I'll be most interested to read the results. And since this is likely my last post in a long while, allow me to say I think you've done a tremendous thing here in these past 230 days. I, for one of many, am enjoying your efforts greatly.

Comment from: elvedril posted at April 10, 2005 5:58 PM

Well I originally came here for webcomic commentary, and that's still what I always look forward to. Still, what always grabs me is that you're good at turning emotion and thought into words and ideas. So to answer your question, I would say that you should write about what you're excited and interested in. I'll probably enjoy reading it as long as you enjoy writing it.

I think the idea of having a strong theme for the topics of your posts isn't a bad one, especially if that theme happens to be webcomics, but I don't think it's really necessary. I get a smile when you write about Garfield, Apple, Coffee, or PvP. So as long as you don't turn this into a blog on politics or the exciting world of astronomy I'll keep reading or enjoying.

Thanks for keeping the website going and for keeping us updated on (and involved in) your thought processes about the direction of websnark.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at April 10, 2005 6:02 PM

In my defense, I've just eaten corn.

At long last, I know someone who has never, ever seen part two of Boku no Sexual Harassment. And now I may have to spoil that in order to explain why that defense pains me to read it. *shudder*

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at April 10, 2005 6:02 PM

Come for the webcomics commentary, stay for the tea.

(Hm, must get toy tea set to use as an accessory for Robosnarky.)

Comment from: KevDude posted at April 10, 2005 6:23 PM

While we're constructively criticizing here, may I suggest that you and Weds differenciate your posts a little bit more? I mean, I know you put the little [w] at the beginning of Wenesday's posts, but you two have INCREDIBLY different styles, so maybe you should go a bit further with like, different font colors or something. Or just put an [e] at the start of Eric's posts.

Comment from: Relja D. posted at April 10, 2005 6:58 PM

I do believe that here we have a case of spoiled readership. I mean, here you are, posting amazing amounts of quality thoughts each day, and even though you said it yourself that Websnark is not all about webcomics, there are people who find it strange that you haven't written about them for more than a week.

Of course you'll never be able to completely satisfy everyone. However, forcing yourself to write on a certain topic because some demand it even if you don't really want to will only alienate more people, as you probably wouldn't write as well as when you're writting about what you feel like at the moment.

Me and my long sentences... :)

My honest advice is to stick to your current modus operandi. Don't be afraid to write about whatever captures your thoughts at the moment, I can guarantee that there will always be plenty of people who will read your snarks and disscuss them, and isn't that what you've always wanted? Just be honest and true to yourself, as you've always been.

As for comments on your style... Well, as I said, you can't please them all; your writting rocks (5th grade punk-rock style :), so just keep up the great work and don't worry 'bout it.

Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at April 10, 2005 7:55 PM

I'm a relative newb around here so I hand over the salt celler before I even make my comments.. ^_^

I think Websnark is straining at the seams right now and you're busting over the current system. I, too, would suggest a switching to a forums. Instead of "comment" at the bottom going to truetype, I'd suggest it go to a forum thread. So many potentially wonderful conversations end because they disappear off the end of the blog and some fantastically whimsical ones never start because there's only so much even *I* will hijack a thread. (No, really!)

While I don't always *get* Wednesday or her references, I enjoy reading her writing as much as I do Eric's.. and she did bring a whole new depth to Websnark. I'm glad you added her. ^_^

Even if sometimes you guys remind me Statler And Waldorf. ^_^ (Don't hurt me!)

Comment from: Wednesday posted at April 10, 2005 8:13 PM

Augh. Augh augh augh augh forum no. Forum very no. No. No no no no.

No.

No.

Do not make me safeword. Do not make me call override B-1. No.

Also, am Garth, not Muppet. ^^

Comment from: Doc posted at April 10, 2005 8:24 PM

Just another fan piping in (is that a phrase?): I've noticed the decrease in webcomics commentary lately, and it kind of phased me. At the same time I'm still enjoying what is here and while there hasn't been a whole lot on comics themselves there has been quite a bit on the webcomic community, which to me is just as interesting (and it certainly seems to generate the most comments).


Maybe a solution would be to section stuff off a bit more strictly than the topics in the sidebar, so one page for comic snarks, one page for other stuff etc. It would just mean that maybe there wouldn't be a comic snark every day and people would have to deal with it.


Personally this wouldn't be my ideal solution, since I enjoy coming here and just seeing what Eric and Weds have chosen to snark about today, but it might be better for those who want their specific content.


Shadowydreamer, that Statler and Waldorf line is gold, I'm going to have the image in my head all day.

Comment from: Kneefers posted at April 10, 2005 8:25 PM

Actually, though it would completely suck to CHANGE this to a forum, setting up a seperate Websnark forum just about webcomics and websnark in general would be incredibly cool.

*Hint*

Comment from: ANT Link posted at April 10, 2005 8:28 PM

"You can't please everybody."

"In that case, why not just please yourself?"

"Because Mom won't let me move to Madagascar."

-- Calvin and Hobbes

Questions of Madagascar aside, I think our friends here have a point. There's no right or best way to decide on an issue like this if your goal is to keep people reading. If you follow your gut and only snark comics when you feel like it, you will lose a some readers who came here initially for the comic commentary. If you make a deliberate attempt to snark comics because you think it's what the readers want, your writing quality may suffer, readers will leave, and probably worse, doing Websnark may start to feel like a chore. There may be other scenarios beyond these, but I believe this is what it essentially boils down to.

In the end, you know that none of us can decide for you. We can offer advice, thoughts, suggestions, threats, and our own personal "You had me and you lost me" essays, but in the end, it's you who decides where Websnark where go and where it won't go, and it's only up to us to decide if we follow you or if we find another writer we like. To me, it seems clear that the utilitarian decision is to keep writing about what moves you to write. You could conceivably even make an effort for new comic-based material to write about, but if it's not there, it's not there. No need to think about it beyond that.

My unpopular opinion: I don't care for Wednesday's writing. I have nothing against Wednesday herself, but I find myself skipping whatever she writes because it just doesn't interest me. Honestly, I preferred Websnark back when it was Eric-only, but that's me and neither Eric nor Wednesday should reconsider what they're doing just to please me. Not that I think they will.

My popular opinion: I will keep reading either way. You've been one of my favorite online writers for some months now, and I don't see that changing no matter what you choose to write about.

Philosophy, word processors, politics or webcomics; no matter what it is, I'll still be here. And I'm not the only one.

Comment from: Miles Gloriosus posted at April 10, 2005 8:41 PM

Well, I don't reckon there's so much to say that is breathtakingly original here, but here's how I feel about it.


I recall the piece you wrote this January for "Down the Rabbit Hole Day." I quote:


"""

Writing wasn't painful to me and it wasn't a compulsion. While I try to work within an aesthetic I also write some pure drivel and I know it. And the bestselling author argument was a mug's game. One out of every thousand writers makes any money at all, and only one out of every thousand of them makes enough that they don't have to do anything else. And when they do hit that point, then it really is their job.


And everyone resents their job.

"""


See, there's lots of stuff that can make something a 'job' other than money. There may be no money on the line, but there is a reputation. The knowledge that not posting will let down God only knows how many eager little starry-eyed little tykes in pajamas waiting for their daily snark like the one christmas present they never recieved is a formidable obligation. That's a burden that you simply weren't saddled with from the start.

When you started and there was no such obligation, you had no difficulty in finding interesting stuff to snark. It popped out at you during your daily trawl. You didn't have to hunt for it. If you posted more frequently then than you have been recently, that's probably random chance at work. Nothing's grabbed you recently. So be it. and most of the philisophical snarks I've seen recently have been the result of controversies that were quite grabby indeed.


I think things are going just as they should, and you have no reason to worry. I'm not going to say "write whatever you feel like," since I don't think that was the point from the start, but I will say, "write what you ought to be writing to do what you set out to do, and your audience be damned." You're in the driver's seat of this car, new or old as it may be. We're along for the ride. Don't let us become back-seat drivers. Get us where you think we need to go, not where we say we want to go.


That being said, you definitley ought to take a left up ahead. And slow down, for God's sake. You want to get us all killed?

Comment from: Julio Dvulture posted at April 10, 2005 9:27 PM

I find interesting that even thought you are true to your mission statement, people like Darren Bleuel think you should be true to their expectations: I mean you never set out to be the parameter to unbiased, outsider webcomics comentary, did you? I mean is nice that became such a celebrity, but at the same time you weren't trying to be this celebrity. Just keep up with the nice writings: the webcomic scene has been rather dull lately anyway.

Comment from: Mordi posted at April 10, 2005 9:28 PM

Personally, this is your blog, so write whatever you want to write.



I came here from links from PvP a while back, liked what I read and stayed. I've enjoyed some of the webcomics I've come to thanks to your snarks (I owe you for QC alone).



I get a bit frustrated with the lack of snarks on comics now as opposed to when I first started reading, but I'm free to stop reading at any point if it bothers me that much. Just as you're free to write about whatever you want to.



Having an audience is a great thing, but I wouldn't let worry over pleasing your audience interfere with your enjoyment of your writing. If you want to write about a comic today, write about it. If you don't, then don't. Just make sure to enjoy what you're doing.



You'll attract an audience as long as you do that... the type of audience will probably shift as what you write about shifts, but that's just evolution.



It's not like you get paid to do this... as you've pointed out about various webcomics artists: Until it's your job you don't owe anyone anything. At the point you quit your job and start doing Websnark full time, then you owe your readers.

Comment from: gwalla posted at April 10, 2005 9:48 PM

That thing on Sesame Street was prompted by a PVP strip? I don't read PVP regularly, and the snark made no mention of PVP, so you could've fooled me.

Obviously, Eric and Weds can do whatever they feel like with Websnark (more so in Eric's case), but I think most of the readership *is* here for the webcomic reviews. That's Websnark's niche█it's the big fish in that small pond, but a pretty small fish in the huge "blogs about whatever the hell I feel like" ocean.

Comment from: Chris Bishop posted at April 10, 2005 10:30 PM

I support you in writing whatever you want AND I will continue to visit daily BUT...

I am most interested in the individual comic snarks. I don't read as many web comics as I'd like to so I appreciate when you point out when an artist is doing something interesting or controversial or blah blah blah.

I am ESPECIALLY interested when you write about HER! [GIRL VS PIG] ;)

Keep up the good work!

Comment from: Shadowydreamer posted at April 10, 2005 10:39 PM

The two were independant reactions to the Cookie monster thing. ^_^

Comment from: Fu-Child posted at April 10, 2005 10:54 PM

I came for the web comics reviews.

I stayed because the way Eric constructs and delivers his snarks (on any topic) not only serves to present an opinion in an entertaining way, but also serves to help me think and evaluate in different ways.

I imagine you have read Paper Eleven at some point. The artists style always catches my eye. It intrigues me, its different and I, like the proverbial sponge, soak this funk up.

This is why you can continue to Snark on your Snarks and how you Snark and I will STILL come back, because of your eloquent prose.

Wednesday is another great addition to the WebSnark, with imagination catching posts that I enjoy just as much as Eric's.

Even the comments serve to entertain me a great deal.

I can only see the WebSnark getting bigger. Im here for the ride.

And I brought Cupcakes of delectability

Comment from: kirabug posted at April 11, 2005 12:00 AM

So, the question has come up more than once of how to save Websnark.

What, so we can collect the whole set? (Save the whales! Trade them in for valuable prizes!)

Let's see, I've been an interested reader, avid reader, fangirl reader, loudmouth who knows more than the writers reader, somewhat disillusioned to find out the writers are human reader, very disillusioned to find out i'm human reader, too busy to read right now be back later reader, posting every two minutes 'cause work is boring as hell reader, hey someday if I hang out here long enough he'll snark my strip but probably not but it'd be cool if it happened reader, I have to do something while Comcast has me on hold for the next hour reader, and an I should've been in bed an hour ago and even my dog's asleep but I didn't check Websnark and I have to before I go to bed reader. (That last one's the hat I'm wearing right now.)

You guys could probably post your shopping lists and I'd stop by to read them, and probably comment on them too.

That being said, I could use some new comics to add to my daily trawl (especially Sundays - why do so few comics update on Sundays?) so I like when you post about comics. But if you're posting on other cool stuff, I'll be here for that too. Especially if it's something that updates on Sundays. And Tuesdays, my tuesdays are pretty empty too.

Save the Snark! Command-click and choose "Save Page As..."

Comment from: Doc posted at April 11, 2005 12:20 AM

Probably the most repeated phrase on this page is 'write what you want' but I'm not sure I agree. I think I am not alone in the fact that this phrase just gives me a little twinge of worry, knowing that on the internet when people just write what they want what you end up with is LJ's. Personally I don't read many LJ's.


Since Eric (and indeed Wednesday) seem to do their best (or at least most interesting) writing when they are passionate about something I'd like to offer a small ammendment: Write what needs to be written about.


Whether its webcomics or rediscovering your love of Billy Joel (see the first archived post) I've always enjoyed Websnark the most when Eric is writing about something that he obviously feels just needs to be communicated, even if the most coherent he can be is a thumbnail with 'Dude!' next to it.


Summary: Doing what you want might get a bit too introverted, but do what you think needs to be done and you'll keep me, at least, for life.



Fu: Cupcakes of delectability sound awesome. And make me think of 'A Lesson is Learned' for some reason.

Comment from: Grumblin posted at April 11, 2005 4:31 AM

Hmmm... start out to write about what you like, become popular, or at least well read, and get people who start clamouring that you don't write what they want.

Then again, this sort of fanboyism is a "compliment" in and of itself in the world of webcomics. So maybe it's the next step.. ;)

What I really don't get is why on earth people complain about Eric starting Gossamer Commons.

Here's Eric Burns, who snarks webcomics. In his Snarks he clarifies some of the bare essentials of the art of ...executing... a webcomic. You might or might not agree with his definition of "the Funny", but his critiques are based on a coherent set of guidelines for the running and execution of plot, running of a comic site, and all the things hidden behind the couple of panels you see, pointing out where people do it right, and where people go wrong.

He does this so well he attracts a pretty large audience, of which quite a few webcomic artists themselves.

Now this Eric Burns gets it into his head to run a webcomic himself, full well knowing there's a wolf pack hidden in the trees somewhere, waiting for him to slip up.

That takes balls.

That, in my eyes, deserves a roll of Biscuits.

As for direction.. It's not the subject, but the quality of the Snark that makes Websnark worth a read.
Clearly written critiques, without the polysyllabic obfuscation and obscure insider references that "flavours" the work of other critics.

Comment from: 32_footsteps posted at April 11, 2005 10:40 AM

The problem is that while you do have to write for yourself, you also have to write for your audience. Otherwise, this would just be a LiveJournal (IIRC, Eric has one of those) that you have mostly for your friends list.

I mean, I'd love to do webcomics discussion on my own column, but I signed up to write about video games, and thus I stick with that. Of course, I love them, but occasionally I would like to do something different (or at least not constantly look through the prism of video games). But again, I walked into it eyes open, so I work with the limitations I have.

I do have one suggestion, but it's more stylistic than content-oriented. The philosophical/essay posts are fine, but they eat up *way* too much real estate. I hate having to hit Page Down a dozen times just to skip down to a snark with comments I'm interested in following. A couple of paragraphs on the front with a cutaway to the complete piece would make for a cleaner page.

(For the curious, the right nav bar doesn't load properly while I'm at work, keeping me from just using that to jump down.)

You dance with them that brought you... just remember that them that brought you want to do more than just the slow dances. Besides, I've been waiting to start a rip-roaring debate over Questionable Content (a strip that I tried for 6 months on the suggestion of my wife and just failed for me). And I very well can't do that unless you snark a QC strip in the first place.

Comment from: Zaq posted at April 11, 2005 10:41 AM

Well, to be honest, I don't know what Eric's talking about half the time anyway (by which I mean I'm unfamiliar with the subject material, not that I can't follow his train of thought. Far from it.). A Mac? Don't have one. RPGs? Pass. Comic Books? I've read maybe a dozen in my lifetime. Even the webcomics he snarks about are usually not ones I read (Sure, I read Something Positive, and Questionable Content, and Queen of Wands, and PVP, and maybe 15 or 20 more, but more often than not when a snark is posted about a webcomic, it's not from one I usually read). It's the sheer quality of the writing that makes me come back. It's a very similar situation to when people ask me why I listen to music in languages I can't understand, and my reply is pretty much the same: You don't have to know what it's actually about in order to recognize and enjoy some damn good work. Sure, the spark of recognition makes many things more enjoyable, but simply because you don't happen to fully know what something's talking about doesn't mean you can't enjoy it.

So long as your writing remains as good as it has been, Eric, I'll keep coming back. It doesn't matter what you're talking about... you can hear Eric behind anything he writes, and the quality is recognizable. That's what I'm here for, at least.

(Now, of course, exceptions do exist. It's fantastic when you offer a new perspective on something with which I thought I was familiar already. But that's not the point, because after all, if you wrote about the kind of things I want to talk about every day, your readership would drop considerably.)

Comment from: JoeFF85 posted at April 11, 2005 11:24 AM

I also came through Scott Kurtz's linkage of your... I believe it was the Jade/Miranda snark, but I don't think I stuck around untill I came back when he linked the Max Power's snark.

I've liked everything I've read here. I like when you snark webcomics, because thats what I primarily come here for. But then you write snarks about Robert Heinlein, and my heart leaps. Or you snark Astronomy Pic of the Day, and I tell my dad to come look.

I've doubled the sive of my 'Comics" bookmark list, possibly tripled it, since I started reading here. I now read more than thirty comics over the week.

And I like your opinions. I'm a Sluggite of the middle school. 2002 vintage, and I still remember which strip was the daily when I finished the archive. I like to come here because I got jaded and left the Sluggy Related Chat portion of the Sluggy.net site and I cant stand the speculation from the kids these days blah blah blah, but your opinions are intelligent, and so are those of the komment krew here. (Except me. I'm a verified "I agree with what he said" type. No origionality.)

I say snark what you will. I came for the WebcomicsSnarks, but I stuck for the Eric Burns style, and added bonus of Wednesday White has sealed the deal.

Comment from: shadowbourne posted at April 11, 2005 2:09 PM

Eric wrote: (Look, when you have no legitimate defense, confuse the Hell out of them.)

That depends. If it was white corn, it's a legitimate defense. If it was yellow corn, then not. However, if it was white corn with a little bit of cheese melted onto it that excuses everything.

Comment from: larksilver posted at April 11, 2005 4:04 PM

It's amazing how quickly the brain goes from "Cool Comic! heheh very funny" to "I wonder if they'll talk about this on Websnark? I know Eric reads this strip." In the few short months I've been reading websnark daily (sometimes even checking it twice a day, just in case there's something new), my brain has developed this quirk. I find myself enjoying a comic not just on its own merits, but also in anticipation of the snarkysnack for my brain which it might spawn!

Of course the comics are The Big Thing. Duh.

But seriously, dude. If you read your trawl and the day leaves you with a "meh," but you pick up the Previews and discover that DC has lost its FRIGGIN MIND, tell us about it.

Even if your usual favorites are rocking along in their usual excellent manner (and boy oh boy they are!).. how many times do you really have to say "Yay! Narbonic rules!" before people start bitching about you talking about Shaenon's fabulosity too much?

I see the people above posting a lot of "write what you feel," and that's great. To a point.

If I were to plug into the Eric brain and give it direction (don't try THAT at home), it would be this: Write what excites you. What gets you worked all up. But remember, say, a couple of times a week, to see if there's not something that excites you about webcomics.

You're That Guy, you see. That Guy is the one who always knows the coolest new spots, the one who finds the Stuff Worth Seeing. I often don't like what you like, but it's always worth taking a look at. I would miss it if you stopped pointing those cool spots out for us altogether.

By the way: Wednesday, even though I usually have to pretend I've had waaaaaaaaaay too much coffee to understand her, rocks. She's terrific. And sometimes, she sends me off on whole tangents of discovery by the stuff (non-webcomic, even) she mentions. So that's cool too.

I guess my point is this: Just because comics are The Big Thing at websnark.com, they don't have to be The Only Thing.

I don't think websnark needs "saving." "Saving" to me implies a company on its last legs, waiting for Max Powers to come in.. wait. uhm.

I just think it needs to discover its balance, and I for one am excited to watch it grow and change over time.

Comment from: quiller posted at April 11, 2005 5:51 PM

Umm, so my weird perspective. I came here from somewhere, maybe Questionable Content. I stuck around because it provided me something that I didn't have elsewhere at the moment, thoughtful discussion of webcomics. (Mind you I didn't start discussing right away, but vicariously through yours and other people's discussions.)

You don't always comment on the things I want to talk about, but then again sometimes you talk about things that get me looking at new comics or ideas, so it evens out.

I guess my perspective is that I prefer your webcomic snarks, but your writing style is generally a fun read, regardless of what you are talking about. My own thought about what to do when nothing is particularly snarkable is to talk about a comic in the longterm view. I imagine there are some comics out there that haven't had any one day worth snarking but as a whole are snarkable. Profiling a comic here and there that way would be something I'd be interested in seeing, but then again, I wouldn't be the one writing it!

Comment from: the_iron_troll posted at April 12, 2005 12:50 AM

Man, let me get this out of the way right off the bat. You don't need 'saving'. I may not enjoy every single thing you've put out, but I honestly can't remember disliking anything you've posted. You seem to post things which I am interested in, and I will agree with larksilver - it has to do with your eloquence in the midst of your excitement. Just keep doing that, and all will be awesome.

This is the first site I've found that delivers writing which is sometimes informative, sometimes useful and always entertaining. To be perfectly frank, most writing on the internet sucks - rarely do I find decent essays, for example. You've given me one almost every single day for, what, the 4 months I've been reading. You rock so hard I have to go look for my socks.

Comment from: Harukami posted at April 12, 2005 1:20 PM

Eric:

You remember how back in the day, when websnark just started up (Wow, was it that long ago?) I told you I didn't read it, and why?

You lost me, but then you got me.

Why? It stopped being what you'd originally billed it as: Snark. Snark is an impolite thing. Snark isn't saying "You had me but you lost me", it's saying "You had me, but then I realized what a (insult here) (ad hominem attack here), (insult here) it was!". Snark is a combination of sarcasm and attack.

Websnark lost the snark part of it a long time ago. In fact, you're slowly changing the meaning of the word snark on he internet, which I can only approve of.

So I started to read. I often skim, because, er, I'm often busy, but I do read. I enjoy the posts the way I enjoy any other blog (I'll admit that this being a themed blog doesn't make me like it any more or less than anybody else's opinion blog) and whether you're talking about webcomics or something else, I always feel as if you've got something to say, based on things you've spent time thinking about, and you have no intense need to be right or wrong: You've turned things over and are saying your opinion. I feel I learn something from websnark, even if it's just "Huh, Eric's opinion is (this). I disagree, but he stated it really well."

You may be losing people with how websnark changes. That's what happens as people's styles evolve; It's the same way with fiction, really. But you are also gaining people. It's just that the people you gain tend to be less vocal -- or stand out less -- than the people you lose.

In the end, do what you want, and what you feel fits websnark, and remember: This isn't your job, where you pander to your audience. This is your opinion blog, where you write the things you want to make an opinion about. (And Weds, of course). There is nobody who can 'make' websnark about something. They may be saddened that it's *not* about something else, but that doesn't mean you're doing it wrong. It means that their personal tastes and preferences lie elsewhere.

And now I go to an exam of HATE AND DEATH arrgh arrgh arrgh.

(....but first. Weds? ARRGH BOKU NO SEXUAL HARRASSMENT CORN REFERENCE ARRGH FOUL TIME OUT, TIME, TIME!)

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