Preface: over dinner of Buffalo burgers, my girlfriend and I talk internet and art, like we apparently sometimes do. I only get to write down this conversation because I (very non-surreptitiously) recorded it on my marvelous new toy, the Zoom H2. It was kinda fun. I leave you to your own conclusions.
L: It’s gonna be really weird if LiveJournal goes away. At the same time that I don’t use it a lot anymore, I do use it for my BPAL stuff. I’ll have to figure out a new system for that. But more importantly, I don’t know who I’d really be right now if I didn’t have LiveJournal. I made four, five entries a day, for years.
O: If you look at the web as an ecology, when a niche becomes vacant, something comes in to replace it.
O: I did. I did.
L: But this is kind of like… it’s kinda like if your mostest favoritest author died, or if… no it’s like if your hometown closed up shop and everybody left, and all the houses got torn down, even though you hadn’t been there in years. It’s kinda like that to me. The idea of not having LiveJournal to come back to…
O: You know what I was thinking about yesterday? I was actually thinking about dominant art forms—and the idea that there can be a dominant art form. You know, we had renaissance painters in the 1600s, and that was really new, that was the thing. The late 1800s, Victorians, poets were the rock stars. For most of the 20th century, since the 20s, movies have been the dominant art form. Absolutely. We build these huge monuments to them in every town, sometimes ten to a town. We have millions and millions of dollars of our economy tied up in this art form. The people who are involved—actors, directors—they’re huge celebrities, important role models for the rest of the culture. But I was thinking, you know, that particular dominant art form is getting a little played out at this point. The “golden age” was what, 60 years ago? What would be the next dominant art form? It would probably be somewhere on the web. I said, hmm… well, Flickr‘s certainly an art form. Twitter‘s kind of an art form, 140 characters worth…
L: I don’t think it’s an “art.” But, yeah.
O: It certainly is; it’s a form of expression. I don’t think you can paint it otherwise. It’s something humans make that’s different from one other.
L: Not everybody who Twitters is doing it for art, though. That’s what I was trying to say.
O: Whether you do it for “art” or not isn’t really important. I don’t think that Hollywood does it for aaaart. They do it for money a lotta the time. That doesn’t mean it’s not an artistic expression in itself. And I think one of the big things that’s new really is programming. It’s not even… not necessarily what is made, not the art that people do, not the actual pictures on Flickr, or the entries on LiveJournal, it’s how you can actually make that. It’s the website itself. It’s designing that kind of community. It’s designing the interaction. Are websites then going to be the dominant art form? Are programmers going to be our poets? (Is code poetry?)
L: Well, that’s the thing. When you think about LiveJournal, it’s not anything without the software. That’s why LiveJournal isn’t as good now is because they changed their junk. I don’t know if that’s the “software,” but… the… program.
O: That’s right.
L: If we didn’t have the feature where we could friend other people, or see who’s friended you, for example, how would that change the community? How would it change the community if there weren’t communities where everybody could post?
O: When Etsy changes something and you now have a new feature that you never had before, that changes how everyone interacts.
L: So… you get that we have stats on our shops now, right?
O: I get it, I don’t get why it’s important.
L: That’s a big huge deal. You know where your shoppers are coming from. You actually know what markets you should be targeting. Before that… let’s say I put advertising on Modish. Even though I can use my (outdated) Shorty thing, and then I can see how many people clicked on that link… after they click on the link, I don’t know where they went in my shop, I don’t know what they looked at. I don’t know who those people are. For anybody who not using it, they can put up advertising and have no idea how many people are coming from that ad. They can say, “I put an ad on Etsy and my hearts went up 10% that month,” but that’s all they know. And they can’t necessarily correlate that with say, bringing in 50 new visitors, and getting 25 new hearts, and say therefore “this is a good ad.”
O: You can say, everybody who clicked on this ad stayed here about 30 seconds, everybody who clicked on this ad stayed two minutes. This ad’s better.
L: Right. It’s really quite… amazing. Remember I was just talking about having the shop link on Panopoly.org. It’s just so much better. Doing Google searches to see who links to your Etsy shop is incredibly difficult. You’d have to do a search for every single item in your shop.
O: There’s this idea in web media that you wanna build the “best of brand.” Ok, well Etsy has a lot of people. But because of the nature of the internet, you can probably keep the software secret but if the idea behind it actually works you can’t keep that a secret. You could describe Etsy in a paragraph, pay some smart people, and in maybe a month you could have a website that functioned quite the same. You could copy it. So why should these people stick with Etsy, why is this the best? What makes one movie better than another movie in the same genre? The art of it.