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Eric: Also, as far as I know I get to have sugar free lemon pound cake today. It's better than it sounds

On August 20, 2004, in the midst of a contentious political season, I got it in the back of my head that I should take another run at online journaling, which was now called blogging, which is a word that seems very strange given how entirely normal it sounds now.

The idea was simple. I would continue to use my Livejournal to stay in contact with the twenty or thirty people who had an interest, but I'd cut out the quarter-ton of dross I found on the internet. Instead, I'd do up a silly little Movable Type blog where I'd throw quizzes and funny pictures of dogs and webcomics that I found funny and other silly water cooler type shit.

My thought had been to call it stripping-the-web.com, because all the good comics names were taken, and I used to like Bloom County. (I've been rereading it for quite some time now, in various places, and to be honest it doesn't age as well as I'd expect. Not that there aren't still gems in amongst the not... so... gems. Um... I lost my metaphor. Sue me.) As a pure lark, however, I thought to check if 'Websnark.com' had been taken. It had struck me while I was in the process of filling out the registration form, and seemed like a good idea.

I was a little stunned to learn it hadn't been taken. It seemed purely obvious to me, after all. So, with a bit of a mental shrug (and recognizing 'Stripping-the-Web' would have been a terrible name) I went with that instead.

Now it's four years later. There is another contentious political season going on. There have been literally millions of words written on this blog, by myself, Wednesday and well over a thousand discrete commenters. I have had a moderate amount of Internet fame. For a while, we had sixty thousand readers a day. At least one of the posts on this blog incurred one point two million pageviews, all by itself. I have made friends, had arguments, caused and fueled drama, hopefully helped settle some, been called a dick, been called a genius, started a couple of webcomics of my own, worked with talented people, had people I deeply respect say they liked my shit, received the occasional death threat, and gotten myself the best damn wife on the planet.

And, you know, I also managed to lose most of that reader base thanks to a combination of my own burnout and the natural life cycle of internet attraction, but that I have no qualms about. That's how these things work, most of the time.

I can't tell you what the future will hold. I go through waves. Someone (Morgan Wick, really) made mention in my last post that the structure of it "took him back to 2004 or 2005," and that's about right, really. Somewhere along the way I stopped doing six minute "Jesus, look at the cool Achewood strip" posts, and right now I can't say why. Probably I lost sight of who I came to the dance with in the first place and decided that everything I wrote had to be meaningful. It's a damnable trap, it is.

On the other side of the equation, I think I've written some damn good things on this site... but part of the problem is repetition. How many times can I say Shaenon Garrity is fucking brilliant and not sound like a broken record? How many times can I throw out terms like Cerebus Syndrome or Bringing the Funny and not just sound like self-satire. You reach a point where you're writing what you think people want you to write and you're aping yourself. And honestly, who the fuck wants that? Not me, and I'm sure not any of you.

So things slowed down, but they never really stopped. And God, I hope they never do.

There's still something like a thousand plus pageviews a day, even at the end of the six and a half weeks I didn't write on here. And yeah, that's not sixty thousand, but it's also not six. I've said before that it didn't matter if you had three readers, thirty readers or thirty thousand readers -- you have readers, and for a writer there's no better thing in the world.

I'm four years older now. I'm a married man. I am, to be blunt, middle aged now. And while there are ways I feel like I've just started Websnark and I'm exactly the same person now as I was then, the truth is I'm not. In so many ways I'm not. The big ways, like the beautiful woman who's in the kitchen as I type this (I'm writing it well ahead of its post time) making bread from scratch. The small ways, like the strands of grey in my beard. My attitudes on a lot of things have changed along with all of that. And the attitudes of the world have shifted a bit too -- there's damn little "gorsh, there's comics on the web now! Bang zap boom!" going on these days. Fewer and fewer of the people just starting out in comics even intend to try to get in the newspaper -- there's just so little reason. More and more webcartoonists make their living off their cartoons, and there's reproducible models for success now. You don't have to be Scott Kurtz or the Penny Arcade folks to quit your day job.

And Jesus. Look at what some folks have done in the past four years. Penny Arcade's got a multi-million dollar charity that gets yearly national television coverage. They also have two yearly gaming conventions, and more and more game companies are treating their Expo as the must-attend con of the year. E3-Shmee3. Phil and Kaja Foglio dropped out of pamphlet style comics, focusing instead on graphic novels and the web, and from all appearances are prospering. Rich Stevens inked a sweetheart deal where he got to do Diesel Sweeties on the web and have it appear in newspapers, while retaining his merchandising rights and his ownership of the strip... and decided after a while that it was too much work, so he dropped the newspaper strip in lieu of devoting more time to the real moneymaker. The Revolution is over, kids. We won. Everything else is sour grapes (on either side and sometimes both).

When I started Websnark, I was lucky as shit. I got some high profile links early on, and while I wasn't the first person online talking about webcomics, it was still a novel concept. That helped me get traction and establish a voice at a time where you didn't need a megaphone to be heard over the din. Today, there are... [does some quick calculations] ...a fuck-ton of blogs about webcomics. Blogs that make fun of them. Blogs that tear into them. Blogs that kiss webcartoonist ass. Blogs that report webcomics news as straight as they can. Dude, there are at least two blogs entirely devoted to Superosity right now.

Oh, which reminds me. Not only has the Keenspot Gang of Four become a full on family run business, with Gav Bleuel completely separated from the online syndicate... but Chris and Bobby Crosby have done hit the jackpot, with one of their joint webcomics projects being adapted for a full length live action movie -- from all accounts, really being adapted instead. Across the border into Canada, where the winters are could and french fries are covered in gravy and cheese curds, Ryan Sohmer's apparently got a full Teletoon-sponsored version of his comic heading to Canadian television. Webcomics are rapidly becoming just another breeding ground for the ravenous beast that is the Entertainment Industry.

So what does that mean?

Well, for one thing, it means we can all stop taking things so fucking seriously all the time. I gave up drama a while back, and I've mostly stuck to that, and I've found I enjoy things a lot more than I used to. It means that the chances that Websnark -- or any largely webcomics related blog -- can claw up to almost six figures of readership again are pretty damn low. There's too much out there, which means there's too little need to congregate at one writer's doorstep. It means that there's no need to do this kind of thing... except of course if you enjoy doing this kind of thing.

Which amusingly enough means that Websnark's best case for moving forward... is exactly the same as when it was started. There's always a place for a writer to write about shit he finds interesting or amusing on the web. No pressure, no expectations, just "look at the funny picture of a dog! It's funny." At the time, I was hopeful thirty people would read it. Right now, on a good day there's still a few thousand who do. Either way, it's heartening, and I hope people still have fun.

How long will this phase go? I dunno. Maybe two days, maybe another full year. And then what will the next look like? I still don't know.

I just know this -- I still like to write, and I still like to find amusing things, and I still have a lot of opinions about shit, and I'm still not shy about combining all of those things into a delicious paste.

Here's to four years. Here's hoping there's four more.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at August 20, 2008 12:00 AM


Comment from: MasonK [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 1:06 AM

So many sugar-free things taste better than one would think. Especially when you're virtually forbidden the sugary equivalents long enough that your taste buds have replaced themselves and no longer remember the real taste.

Or maybe that's just me.

Oh, and yay 4 years!

Comment from: RedArrogantKnight [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 1:37 AM

It's good to have you back. I had a whole sentimental speech lined up about how, thanks to Websnark, I discovered that webcomics could be sophisticated and interesting and blah de blah de blah, but really, the biggest thing here is that after four years, I JUST NOW managed to get TypeKey to let me post a gorramn comment.

Things're looking good.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 2:40 AM

That's pretty much the way I've always handled it. Publish when you want, and when you don't want, don't publish.

I never hit 60,000 viewers in one day, but I never felt like I was hurting for audience either.

Comment from: Thomas Blight [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 3:03 AM

Speaking of still posting and writing, do you have any plans to revive Banter Latte in any capacity? I dig your fiction stuff.

Comment from: Ben G. [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 3:18 AM

"So, with a bit of a mental shrug (and recognizing 'Stripping-the-Web' would have been a terrible name) I went with that instead."

Two roads diverged in a woods and I
chose the domain name of lesser size,
and that has made all the difference.

Comment from: Aulayan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 5:16 AM

Reading this filled me with a premonition that you were going to say you were done with this site.

I wasn't quite one of the thousand pageviews a day people during your downtime, but I did check at least a couple of times a week.

I am completely glad you are continuing this, and hope it lasts for much longer than 2 days. Welcome back even though you truly never left.

Comment from: Jonny G [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 6:14 AM

I think so far, my favorite post has been the one titled "Threshold". I keep coming back to it. I relate to it so much.

In your first post about your surgery, you mention that 260 pounds lost would take you close to your goal weight. By the time of Threshold, you'd lost 200 pounds. I haven't seen an update in quite some time though...

But going back to your "6 days" post? You mentioned you'd learn to dance. Have you kept your promise, Mr Burns-White?

Comment from: Channing [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 6:40 AM

Ay, sir. To four more and then some.

Comment from: Cornan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 7:01 AM

Happy birthday to Websnark and me!

I didn't get in on the ground floor (started with the Kurtz post of "Websnark GETS me.") but once I got hear I read everything in the archives and I haven't missed a post since.

While I wasn't one of those pageviews while you were silent I do monitor the RSS feed daily. You're on the "short list" of websites that I check every couple of hours while I'm on the computer. I have a toolbar in my browser dedicated to just letting me mouse over these links.

Long winded way of saying thanks for all the writing you've done and all the writing you will be doing. I greatly enjoy reading it.

Comment from: Cornan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 7:02 AM

Here! I meant here.

This is why you always proofread, kids.

Comment from: Elizabeth McCoy [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 7:43 AM

Indeed -- whilst counting the pageviews, don't forget to count the RSS feed on livejournal. I don't always click-through on that, but I do rather tend to read it unless my concentration and time are totally fractured.

Hey, enjoy that married life, yah?

Comment from: Prodigal [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 8:58 AM

Thanks for the update, and I hope the bread is deliciously moist, and not a lie.

Comment from: Eric Burns-White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 9:05 AM

The bread was awesome. And still is, since we still have most of the loaf left.

Comment from: LurkerWithout [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 9:50 AM

Congrats on the bloggaversary. And to the burst of writing. Hope it continues. If not, there will always be some of us still here waiting. Because just like Kurtz picking fights with people on the internet for being critics, SOMETHINGS don't change...

Comment from: Eric Burns-White [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 1:29 PM

We actually track the RSS feed as part of the pageviews. Well, for our purposes. Project Wonderful doesn't track RSS but, y'know. It is what it is.

Comment from: Sean Duggan [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 2:08 PM

I think I was one of the people who predicted a while ago that traffic would sharply fall off and you'd be somewhat forgotten when you took the hiatus, due to the acceleration of Internet time, but I have to say that I'm sorry I proved as right as I did. I have always enjoyed reading your work. I hope to continue reading it.

Heh... as regards other comic sites, I recently plugged Websnark into Google just to see if others were blogging about your absence or if anyone had heard from you lately such that we know that you didn't get eaten by a Canadian Trapdoor Alligator during one of your visits. One of the early search matches was an article mentioning Websnark and the then-newcomer Your Webcomic is Bad and You Should Feel Bad. And I got to re-reading that and remembering just what a jerk the writer was. And yet, he had some good points among the vitriol, and I don't think he could have expressed them without the foundation that Websnark laid for webcomic criticism. You have established a legacy, one that I do not think will be easily forgotten.

I do find it kind of interesting that you cite Penny Arcade as one of the great success stories. To me, it resonating interestingly with your earlier quotation of "The Road Not Taken". Much like you, they were a pioneer, now imitated widely by others. As best I can tell from earlier posts, Websnark has literally been your bread and butter before, making you enough money to make a (meager) living at it. And I can't help but wonder if there's a part of you wondering if you'd been able to similarly stay the course, if you might not have wound up with the same degree of success. And, of course, rationally, you realize that the situations are different, as they always are, but you find yourself wondering if maybe you should have taken that other road and, like you said before, you just don't get a chance to take it again.

Personally, I take great comfort in that inherent complexity of the universe. As long as there's that infinity of choices and of the interaction with the choice and chance of others and the environment, one can never truly know if things might have been better. Maybe if you'd gotten ground-level stock in that company, you'd be a millionaire. Maybe if you hadn't broken up with your childhood sweetheart, the two of you would be happily married with 2.3 kids and a dog. Then again, maybe making that seemingly better choice would have resulted in you getting hit by a cement truck as you stepped off of the curb the next day. Ultimately, you just have to accept that you can't know and that you live and work with what you have. And you watch out for cement trucks before crossing the road.

Comment from: Chris Crosby [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 20, 2008 2:49 PM

Happy birthday, Websnark!

Comment from: Paul A. [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at August 22, 2008 8:35 AM

Happy anniversary!

(I was kind of surprised that it's only been four years. In a way - a good way - it feels like Websnark has been around forever.)

Comment from: roninkakuhito [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at September 21, 2008 9:16 PM

Hey Eric, congratulations and welcome back (I know I'm late to the party, but I just moved and I haven't bothered with internet at my new place and right before I moved my "cobbled together because I'm too leet to use a packaged copy version of portable firefox" got fubared, and I'm slowly catching up on all of the cool things out there as I use the "it actually works dumbass" copy from portable apps to rejoin the internet. I have loved the new posts so far. Webcomics or no, this is why I read you.

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