5.12.2005

Still Waiting for "Lifeskipper"

One of the distinguishing characteristics of a successful blog is that it provides an extremely efficient way for readers to waste time. Efficient waste may seem like a paradox, but it's at the heart of what drives most blog traffic. Certainly there is a significant percentage of any high-volume blog's audience that reads for vocational or avocational reasons, but the vast majority are killing downtime or procrastinating. This kind of audience is automatically drawn to diverse, funny, colorful, idiosyncratic, digestible, novel, and frequently updated content. Standard blog boilerplate. What's more rarely acknowledged and even more rarely achieved is that the ideal blog on any subject represents a perfect alloy of refined wit and extreme stupidity.

Not that there's anything wrong with that! GM blogs (among others) make hay on this premise by wedding intelligent, literate bloggers with lowbrow subjects. Sure, it's a bit elitist, but it's a redemptive kind of elitism. The message is that, just like their readers, the GM bloggers embrace the tawdry and the foolish, and they really do mock because they love (to mock [to love] (etc.)]). The only thing better than seeing Paris Hilton accidentally expose her cooter is to read a good line about how we're all disgusted with ourselves for being titillated by same (as long as we do actually get to see her cooter). The punishment fits the crime, but it hurts so good. This kind of thing dominates the GM gossip blogs like Gawker and Defamer, but it pops up on Screenhead or Fleshbot when a link is particularly horrible and disgusting and funny-bad. There are even gems to be found on the product/service blogs like Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Kotaku, and Gridskipper, where the bloggers visibly perk up when they get to post about something inane or ridiculous rather than another review or industry rumor.

Which allows us to finally excavate our lede: Lifehacker is the exception that proves the rule, while simultaneously taking the efficient-waste contradiction to a whole new level. The subject is self-improvement in the most general sense, and it's geared to almost any agenda or interest the reader may have in that vein (work, home, sex, tech, fun, etc.). There is very little if any sarcasm, mockery, or condescension; instead, Lifehacker adopts a positive hey-whatever-works-for-you attitude that suits the material. In other words, there is no catering to readers' wishes to indulge in relishing the stupid.

There is, however, a darker imperative at work: this nonstop buffet of efficiency tricks is presented in the same efficiency-destroying fashion as other GM blogs, and it has the power to make you feel just as bad about yourself -- without the guilty pleasure payoff. It's a more pure and ascetic masochism. We can't stop reading Lifehacker, and yet we have implemented none of its suggestions. Zero. It's not as ego-destroying as a can-do superheroine like Martha Stewart, as that actually lets you off the hook. You could never be Martha, after all, so why bother trying? These are just a few ideas from different sources all over the place. Just take the ones you like, the easy ones requiring little hassle. You can handle that, right? Maybe just one idea? Well, don't sweat it. Go see if they've posted any more nipple slips on Defamer. Come back in a few hours, maybe by then you'll have wasted enough time to actually accomplish something.