One of my favourite photography writers (and photographer) Blake Andrews recently published a post philosophising on popularity of content online - why some (most!) content sinks but some swims...and swims and swims and swims. You know, the big spike in page visits due to a particularly popular post. The spike some bloggers and Tumblrers crave:
Popularity! I've joined the cool kids temporarily. Now if only I could figure out what I've done. I've mixed the formula but with no recipe, and I can't repeat it. In a few days the buzz will die and the hump will pass left, leaving a curve something like this. (read the rest of his post)
The humble images below are an example of that effect - the top one keeps on getting "liked" and "reposted". Is it any marker or quality? Nope. The other two I also like, but they have not reached the same number of "likes" or "reposts". Why? Meh. Who cares.
I realise I'm not exactly in the stratospheric of interweb popularity (and I write this blog mainly for the gratification of hearing my mechanical keyboard clatter), but it does raise an interesting point. Is popularity a decent measure of anything? Why is it that so many artists, musicians, writers etc complain their most popular or well known work is far from their best?
Would (insert famous pre-internet artist/celebrity here) have been a success today? What happens if the next Beatles were out there right now but decided against using YouTube? Does that mean Justin Bieber has subsumed the next Beatles? Or is this sophomoric and ultimately unknowable line of questioning like a 1960s op-ed writer asking "would the Beatles have been a success if they had decided against using electricity?". Perhaps. Maybe.