Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Blog Death

There is this thing called Sitemeter which many people who write blogs or otherwise run websites use, to get a hit count of how many people are coming to the site. It even tells you what time zone and domain visitors are connecting from.

No, it does not tell you the exact IP address. No, there is no way to find out who specifically connected. So relax.

But I can make guesses. I have a pal in Eastern Europe and in England. I have a pal on the East Coast. I have a pal in Hawaii. I have a pal in New Zealand. I infer when these people connect, and they have been my most consistent readers.

Sitemeter even has a feature that shows you the referring URL, that is, the page the person came from to get to yours. For example, if someone came to your site because it was listed on another site, that referring URL shows up. Several times a week I will see referring URLs from a search engine, because someone misspelled a word in their search terms, and I also happened to misspell it in the same way in my blog. Or from time to time people will be searching for information about multiple sclerosis. Or muscles. One person was apparently searching for some material they could crib for a student paper they had to write about the book Tuesdays with Morrie, which I mentioned but have not read. And probably won’t. Oddly, few people reach me because they are searching for info about ALS. That’s probably because ALS is so rare, and kills so quickly. Or maybe it’s because I spell everything wrong.

And by the way, you can stop panicking, because the referring URL does not tell me what page you were on before you selected this blog from your favorites menu. So, I won’t know that you came straight here after looking at porn. (Though I am, really, honored.)

Anyway, since Friday the only hits I have gotten were hits from people searching, or my own hits (generated while writing the blog). This caps a long, steady decline in blog visits that began just about the time I hit my one-month diagnosis anniversary.

I can totally understand that, and I am not trying to make you folks feel bad. You have busy lives. Kids. Jobs. Affairs. I am honored that so many of you have read so much of my blog. Really. The glass is full.

I have tried to write every single day, and have managed to come pretty close to doing so. Writing every day, even when you don’t have much to say, is a crowd-pleaser. Or at least, it pleases me when I follow other peoples’ blogs.

My philosophy of writing every day is derived from the online hobby around the game Diplomacy, where the smart player’s credo is Write Every Day, and Respond To Every Email. It’s a fun hobby and now that I am ‘dying’ I may just get back into it.

So many other fun things to do also, though.

While writing the blog, I have picked up a few new friends, and a few loyal readers who I’ve never met. I’d like to give another big shout out to Bushra, and Anna-who-I-don’t-know, and whoever that person is in the UK national health service, and lastly to Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. By the way, these people at BBN sound really hot. They’re the kind of people I would want to be. I wish I had that kind of technical skill and impact. But of course, I would also want to remain as poetic and sexy as I am. You can’t have it all. So I’ll just stay sexy.

I guess that I appreciate the unsolicited fans best. They are the only ones left, though.

Once again to my dear friends in the known world ... I am not trying to make you feel bad, or guilty, for not reading my blog. And I know that a lot of you check in from time to time, once a week or every few weeks. That’s all good. You have no duty to read this blog, and I am grateful that you ever did.

Which gets me to my motivation. Why did I start this blog? My motivation was to gather my own thoughts, and to connect to my friends. At this point, I feel well-connected to my friends. And I have certainly gathered my thoughts. I also love to write, and the blog provided ample reason to resume doing that. But now I have some other writing that I would like to do.

So the blog has fulfilled its mission, for now.

It has also taught me something about my own writing and personality. There are some people who admire me devotedly, in an almost scary, fan-like way. These are few in number. Most other people find me unappealing, in a cold, arrogant, nerdish, distant, unsympathetic dork kind of way. Thus we come to the Grand Unified Theory of my Personality and Writing. It goes like this... See, when I was in college, I had a column in the newspaper, much like this blog, in which I could write about anything I wanted. I poured my creativity into it and tried to make it funny and compelling. It was. People in the newsroom loved it, and various friends and acquaintances would stop me in streets and walkways and tell me how much they’d like this one or that one.

But I got almost no mail. Meanwhile, my funny and equally gifted fellow columnist was getting bags and bags of mail. OK, two or three letters a day. (This was all before the age of email by the way). I began to wonder why she got all the mail and I got almost none. I worked out a theory over the years that it all came down to my personality. My writing reflects my personality. And one thing I am, as a person, is just very darned confident and sure of myself. I have it all figured out. Don’t get me wrong, I can be vulnerable and confused ... but even then I know that I am vulnerable and confused, and I usually recognize it and go with the flow. When I am off-center, I make a point to go easy on myself that day. “Do not fight the Chi.”

Anyway, what this all amounts to is a guy who doesn’t seem to need anybody. No rescue required.

Even when he’s got a fatal, incurable disease, it all seems good to him. “Workin’ on the house today,” he crows, “Good to be alive!”

Most human bonding is about comforting others and being comforted. I have a strong motivation to help and comfort other people. But even they, and certainly the average person blogging by, sense that there is not much I need in return.

So if you don’t seem to need anything from them, most people don’t bond with you. Hence the reaction my my column and my blog.

Life can throw a lot of confusion and pain at a person. Two things:

One, I have been lucky to be born in such fortunate circumstances. (No, I am not rich. But in all other respects my life has been charmed). Even getting ALS is lucky, if you are in the market for a fatal, incurable disease. No dementia! No chemo! Not much pain! Oh thank you, thank you!

Two, I guess I suffered enough as a kid, and was smart enough, and poetic enough, and introspective enough, and read so many books, that I gradually came to a state of, let’s not call it enlightenment, but functional consciousness and quotidian spirituality. I became able to appreciate what life has to offer and endure what it inflicts. Even the diagnosis of ALS did not change my philosophy. Life is precious. It has limits.

I may continue to use the metrics feature of this blog to track my stats, because I find it convenient. I may even blog from time to time, or resume blogging regularly. But for right now, the lights are out...

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