13 Months of Empty Bookshelf Reviews

Though this was meant to correspond with Nate’s review of the first 100 reviews, schedules and, uh, not-feeling-like-it-at-the-moment-because-it’s-a-bit-daunting-of-a-task-itis, has delayed this “One Year Anniversary” review and pushed it into 13/14 months, but that’s fine by me.

WARNING: Intense self-congratulation ahead.

Nate’s recap covered things in a time-based manner, in fact you could almost call it a “temporal” recap. (HA!), so I’ll look at things a step back or so.

Basically, this chart says that aside from people that randomly come across the site via search engines, a large portion of our readership seems to check back pretty regularly.

When I had run the idea of a website by Nate, it was presented simply in a “wouldn’t it be funny if we reviewed anything-and-everything.” How often do people assign star rankings to things that aren’t arts or consumables? (Consumer Reports gives star ratings to lots of stuff, though it’s always physical items available for purchase). We never officially decided on what constitutes “reviewable”, but being that we’ve reviewed Pluto’s demotion (those bastards) and thrown an ambitious amount of words towards reviewing the hype surrounding various media properties, we’re definitely keeping our options open.

From the beginning, we’ve dreaded the dirty “B” word. Our site looks like many, many sites associated with the “movement” associated with the B word; our site runs the same software that is one of the most popular B word platforms, and the fact that we usually indignantly explain “it’s a website, not one of those” when people refer to it as our “BLOG” just serves to establish how much like a blog it is. Well, though we’re wont to admit it, at the end of the day, we’re really not too far removed from the “blogosphere” – we just avoid the “I feel bad today because” style rampant in most blogs. Likewise, it’s rare that we read a random article online then say, “I think I’m going to review that” the way that many people who have blogs write snippets of “I read this article and I think this about it.”

Nate did a good job wrapping up the first batch of reviews we did. Though the writing in those first reviews had “voice”, the big picture aspects of the site were still up in the air. My first review (about a really long baseball game) didn’t really accomplish much, though it did help to establish the implicit theme of our reviews and how we think we’d like aim to separate from the “blogosphere”: as everyone who writes anything on the internet, we think that we offer something new and interesting that is unique to our site. You could find people talking about how long that baseball game was and how great it was, but no one saying “well, actually, the game wasn’t any good.” This led into our future reviews, where we’re pretty much the only people writing about the topics (verbally harassing horses, recaps of great football injuries, the myth of the Christmas season coming earlier every year [as opposed to the complaint that it does or doesn’t come earlier every year] etc.) That’s not to say we didn’t write about things that were more straight-forward as needed. When I had bad luck with Vonage and when Nate’s long distance provider didn’t see that anything was out of the ordinary when his long distance bill went up somewhere in the 900%+ range, reviews were written. There, the goal was to try to make our bad experiences in consumerism known and hopefully somewhat entertaining.

After we had established the criteria for whether or not something was considered reviewable, we looked toward more “touchy-feely” sort of goals. Well, at least I did. I’m not sure what Nate’s goals have been. The shear size of the internet makes it so any schmuck can make any website about any thing. That’s widely understood, and that’s fine, but it also gives space for incredibly, well, passionate (for better or for worse) defenses or critiques of topics that go (rightly) ignored in the mainstream print media. Heck, even a devoted sneaker magazine such as Sole Collector probably wouldn’t devote 1600 words to the Oakley Twitch. Likewise, Entertainment Weekly would never run 3500 words about Scrubs (and rightly so). One of the first websites that took advantage of this freedom afforded by the internet was the movie news/rumors site Ain’t It Cool News; it didn’t create the mold, but it had a lot to do with shaping what people expect from the internet. Ain’t It Cool News still “works” as a website almost 10 years after its creation, but it would never work as a traditional magazine or even newspaper. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe in the community “power” of the internet, but I will stand behind the sense of community that it can create. Ain’t It Cool News is famous for its rumors and news, but what sets it apart from, say, Variety or Entertainment Weekly are the actual movie reviews. Needless to say, read Harry Knowles’ review of Clerks 2, then read the Variety review. They’re both positive, but the limitations of “traditional journalism” are evident. Sure, Knowles’ review is a bit fanboy-ish, but there’s something to be said about liking a movie, then seeing someone else on the internet go out of his way explaining how and why it is that good. Oddly, it’s re-affirming in some way to see that someone is as over-the-top positive for a movie (or CD, or pair of sneakers, or a Star Wars promo video).

What brings it all back is that my goal has been to write reviews that people who already like something end up liking it more after they’ve read it. I guess that’s sort of a pretentious if not presumptuous opinion of my own work, but that’s my goal. As always, there have been humorous reviews sprinkled in within the more serious (the Chinese basketball game, verbally harassing horses, etc.), but by-and-large I yearn to educate. So, here’s a recap.

I like how every single review (well except Nate’s U2/Green Day one) has a picture and funny caption. Nate’s Saving Silverman review has a good one, and I’m still fond of my “Nate Hates Christmas” when we were feuding over whether Christmas comes early every year or earlier every year. I like how pop-ins created an entirely new dynamic within the articles, allowing for jokes that are completely removed from the review itself (such as “HE HAD THE HIGH GROUND” in my Star Wars review. In terms of stuff liked enough to call out…

Of my reviews, I think the “When Your Reach Exceeds Your Grasp” is probably the strongest: it doesn’t meander, it includes that self-deprecating humor found in all of the emptybookshelf reviews that the ladies claim to love. Of course, here we (I) are (am) writing about how great we are, but still… Anyway, I’d stand behind Verbally Harassing Horses, Oakley Twitch, Outsourcing Phone Support to India, The Last 200 Years of Human Creative Output, the 3 part Current TV Landscape (meandering as the reviews do), and the Roger Ebert’s Take on Video Games.

I’ve enjoyed how I very infrequently actually follow-up on things I claim I will review in the future: my Pirates Magazine series ended up being just one review, and as you read that review, you can sense my feeling of having any point in reviewing further aspects of it go out the window. I’ve never reviewed the Daily Show, and heck, of the original topics I listed in the first review, well, let’s take a look.

  • electricity – nope
  • Columbus Day – nope
  • sandwiches – hmm…Nate reviewed something from Quizno’s and I reviewed Super Bowl food
  • Adam’s Smug Sense of Self-Worth – actually, I think I ended up covering this in “Knocking the Wind Out of Adam
  • Arby’s – MIA
  • Dell 2005FPW monitor – Yes
  • scissors – Nope
  • Verizon Online DSL – Uhh, That’d be exciting
  • The Streets’ A Grand Don’t Come for Free – Yep

4,851 visitors (this actually isn’t very many considering that we’re indexed by Google and these are not necessarily unique visitors. For example, every time I turn my cable modem off then back on, I’m tallied as a “new visitor”)

The most visited reviews since October 12 of 2005 are the following:

  1. Nate’s LOST Season 2 review
  2. My review of “the internet
  3. The Cinemax/Star Wars promo review (this has been the third most read review and has been up only about a month so far)
  4. Roger Ebert’s Take on Video Games
  5. Nate’s Other People Stealing Your Ideas Without Having Met You or Even Knowing They Stole Something
  6. My assault on the underaged and pantsless in the review of the Cure4Cole “Ad” campaign


13 Months of Empty Bookshelf gets four-and-a-half big stars due to the fact that, as Nate had covered in his 100 Review review, we managed to keep everything going even though we thought we had a good chance of running out of steam after only a few months. It’s a side project/hobby-type thing, but we’ve both moved into “grown up” type jobs and manage to provide (arguably) quality content on a regular basis. Of course “regular basis” has become much less regular as sometimes after spending all day in front of a computer does not leave one wanting to spend more time in there at home, so that somewhat lack of productivity is responsible for that minus half a star. We’re going to be pretty busy in the coming weeks leading into the movie premiere on December 23, but I’m sure we’ll still have stuff to post.

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