Thinking You’re Doing Something Original

Site note: to potentially get some commenting going on, you can now leave a comment without needing to fill-in an e-mail address. What’s that sound? Why, it’s the sound of accountability going out the window!

Hmmph. I never thought we’d be “pioneers” in this little internet endeavor, but I did think that, at the minimum, we’d bring something new to the table in some capacity. Well, now that we’re about two-and-a-half months into its existence, I’ve found that, no, we’re not even bringing anything new to the table.

Tis true
It’s true.

The story goes something like this:
Nate’s friend Pete submits this very website into a “community-driven links database” called digg.com. The way it works is anyone can submit a link and its description, then the “community” rates and sort of reviews it. No, digg.com isn’t the source of the frustration; it’s not a “reviews” site by any stretch of the imagination. It provides a framework for categorizing and ranking links that usually have to do with technology, computers, science, etc.; that’s about it. Looking at what Nate’s friend submitted to digg, we see that four people “digg-ed” it and two people thought they had something worthwhile to add to the discussion. Mr. “schwit,” playing the typical “internet”-role, informed everyone (in the form of a question, of course) that this link (our site) has nothing to do with technology, while a second commenter, “JohnH,” trotted out the straw that finally broke the camel’s back, explaining that although “[we’re] ok, [I] thought Lore did it better though: http://bookofratings.com.”

Please everyone, click that link, and just like me, die a little inside.

I had mentioned the existence of the “Lore”-person’s site to archives, and saw a very disturbing link to “buy the print version.” This led to the following e-mail to Nate and Adam on 1/1/06 (please note, I’m hilarious all the time, not just when writing reviews):

(Adam, this is a follow-up to a conversation about the below topic that I had with Nate” I’m sure you can follow without needing to have the conversation explained to you.)

Here’s the digg.com link.

This is the website: http://www.bookofratings.com/ It looks like he might’ve stopped updating in 2003.

It looks like this Lore person (he’s from San Francisco apparently) managed to actually publish a book of his reviews.

I’d wager that the “Editorial Review” was written by the author, but I won’t hold that against him. What I will hold against him is that fact that he’s practically completely beaten us to the punch and even (potentially/probably) made some money off of it. He even reviewed the seven deadly sins one by one (you can see it in the “look inside this book” on the amazon site).

I’m okay with the concept of someone else doing a “wacky, random, etc'” reviews website, but looking through the Amazon reader reviews I see: “Now a lot of you “simple minded” folk out there might not be interested due to Lore’s advanced and half made up vocabulary.” Now that’s just plain old reverse gimmick infringement. It doesn’t look like he reviews abstract concepts (“The Hype Surrounding This Week’s Trading Spouses,” Verbally Harassing Horses,” etc.”) but that’s probably just because I haven’t looked closely enough through his archives. The “Old Trading Cards I Bought at a Shop in San Francisco [Parts 1-3]” really seals our fates as imitators. Looking at the left of his reviews page, he has a list of other sites/projects. I’m afraid to click on them as I’m sure that one of them retells the story of his production of an action movie about Ben Franklin in 1999.

Now more than ever, we suck.

At the risk of simply repeating the rather straightforward e-mail…that’s right, reverse gimmick infringement. That way, we can blame him for copying us before we even did it. It doesn’t make much sense but it helps me sleep at night.

His reviews are all much shorter than ours, and it seems he likes reviewing things in list form (such as those baseball cards or “Aspects of Santa part 2”), but he always brings the funny. The reviews aren’t the most insightful, but that’s not his goal. For example, when reviewing “Stuff in the Airline Catalog,” one of the many items evaluated is an Authentic Pachinko Machine about which he says, “I’m just glad it’s authentic, because once I ordered a pachinko game and I forgot to check the “authentic” box and they sent me one of those little Cracker Jack toys where you have the get the little bee-bees on the puppy’s eyes or something and it lacked that authentic pachinko experience that I was hoping for.” To get an impression on the general length of his reviews, that’s the whole thing for the “pachinko machine,” but it was one of the six items in the “airline catalog” review. Disturbingly, it sounds just like something Nate or I would say, except this guy said it sometime before 2003, a good 3 years ago.

Nate mentioned that many of the reviews are focused on “internet-popular things,” and we usually avoid that stuff, but to be fair for each “Dungeons and Dragons“-related review, he has one like “Types of Band-Aids.” Because some none of you are looking to mesh his reviews with ours, he uses a traditional letter grading, making his “A+” equivalent to our….oh, nevermind.

½

Thinking You’re Doing Something Original receives half of one star due to the fact that not only is the internet unfathomably huge, it’s been huge for quite some time, and is getting, uh, huger, and that combination means that the likelihood of anyone doing something original dwindles each day. I mean, that’s fine, it’s progress and all, and don’t worry, we’re not going to be like Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State and being wacky/weird/random for the sake of originality, but I can’t help but think I won’t be at least a bit self-conscious about making sure I don’t review things that are already reviewed by our more trailblazing precursors. I’m sure that most people (meaning: our readership) probably don’t consider this to be too big a deal, but the amount of time it takes to write a what-we-hope-to-be-good review, much less maintain the website, it’s frustrating to see it sort of in someone else’s “been there, done that” category. Yeah, yeah, we know that we choose to spend the time writing, maintaining, etc., and we know that we’re only “busy” for the amount of time that we choose to spend, but still, it’s the principle of it. We get the half-star because our reviews aren’t one-trick ponies and we do evaluate serious things every now and then, something Mr. Lore seems to be too good for.

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