Monday, May 30, 2016

Size Matters


In the past few weeks, there has been an inexplicable spike in my blog readership. What used to look like a small village summary of page views has become a New York City skyline (see photo). The usual 60 to 100 readers daily has jumped to 400 to 600. What’s going on?

Someone suggest that “bots” have hooked into the system. I don’t exactly understand it, but I think that these are some robotic search engines looking for certain key words to report back to Google or some such thing. So even my most inspired writing will mean nothing to their narrow minds and cold hearts. I have a little plan (keep reading) to see if that’s the case.

But meanwhile, I’ve noticed how things were in danger of shifting inside me thinking that 600 people are reading instead of 60. I became a little self-conscious and started wondering what they might want to hear and what might offend them. I became, just for a moment, concerned about keeping my readership instead of simply saying whatever was on my mind. And that’s death to a writer or a musician or an artist. In the end, it hasn’t actually changed what I write or how I think about writing it, but it was interesting to consider that attending to the god of ambition, the one who defines success with numbers, is a dangerous path.

I’ve always felt like a microscopic dot in the landscape of national discourse and confident that my thoughts and experiences can contribute something of value, have longed for an expanded audience. And I still do. “Be careful what you wish for” rings true here and truth be told, the intimacy of my audiences is clearly part of my path and something quite lovely. My classes with kids range from 10 to 20, summer courses for teachers 20 to 30, one-day workshops 30 to 60, conferences 60 to 160, Keynote speeches between 100 and 1,000. My largest conference class was in Texas (where else?) with 750 people, the smallest course in Northwest Spain with 4. Jazz performances have mostly been in house concerts, small clubs, intimate rented halls.

In short, almost all of my work takes place in small, intimate settings. And intimacy is something I value. It’s not wholly connected to numbers—Keith Jarrett’s solo playing in Davies Symphony Hall can have that quality and someone told me that Stevie Wonder’s sold-out show to tens of thousands felt like you were in his living room. But there is a critical mass, a line you cross from the warmth of intimacy to the noise of spectacle. The shift from the jazz club to the symphony-size crowds (Keith Jarrett notwithstanding) loses something in the translation. Likewise, the Orff workshop. Size matters. And small is beautiful.

Okay, here’s my plan determining the weird change in my blog readership. If the 500 new readers are actual breathing humans, take a moment today or tomorrow and go to my TEDx talk. It’s on my website (www.douggoodkin.com) or you can just Google my name with TEDx. If I suddenly see a spike in page views, I’ll have a clue that this is real. The talk is 15 minutes long and if you’re reading these blogs, you theoretically should be interested. But even if you watch for 30 seconds, I think it still counts as a page view.

Another strategy is to see if the bots have grabbed hold of the title and skyrocketed the blog to the millions out there looking for sex on the Internet.

In any case, I’ll simply keep doing what I’m doing, no matter who or how many are on the other end. Happy reading!

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