There are times when the perfect turn of phrase or startling brilliant metaphor just isn't happening. Some turn to drink. Some to caffeine. Even more of us likely turn to computer solitaire or mahjong.
Is there something that could stretch our writing muscles while we wait for our muse to slap us upside the head?
In honor of Leap Year, let's talk about our favorite yet valuable time-wasters.
Read through the following interview and prepare to comment on this post for a chance to win an exclusive Novel Journey contest.
The rules: the winning comment will likely be high in creativity. The coveted prize may also go to the comment containing a link to something fun and educational. Sucking-up never hurts.
The prize: The lucky winner will receive the dubious honor of an award created for them and entered at Falsipedia. The writers of said entry will use much sarcasm when titling the award and creating the honor and the link will appear in the next Novel Journey newsletter.
Ready? Go to it. This chance might only come around every four years.
NJ: What is Falsipedia?
Falsipedia is primarily a humor site that presents itself in the framework of an online encyclopedic container of knowledge. There are a few other sites out there that have a similar concept, however, under guidance of the founding members of Falsipedia, our site will highlight a sense of humor that is a little drier and much less ham-handed than other sites.
The entries of Falsipedia may include anything from ridiculous nonsense to subtle manipulations of fact and many will contain both of these and any number of other variations.
The key to an entry working and meeting our standards is that it is funny. If an entry is not funny, we might edit the piece, delete it or mock the person who wrote it. We think part of the fun of a monitored community project like this is the "critique" process. Of course, the final say lies with the founding members and anyone we elevate to similar position.
NJ: How long have you been brewing this idea and how did you begin the process of putting it into concrete, er cyber?
Well, that depends on how you want to count it. If you are asking how long have I been making stuff up to confuse others for my own amusement, that'd be almost three decades. If you are asking how long has Falsipedia specifically been floating through my head, that's been since mid-October of 2007. Several people in my office at ToolBarn.com were discussing things we could do with ToolBarn to attract new customers and build more of a buzz around the brand. Being a bit sarcastic, I suggested doing really incorrect how-to articles or something similar. The idea kind of grew out of that idea, which is obviously not something we would do with ToolBarn.com, nor would the higher-ups allow us to do so. The discussion was obviously sidetracked and shortly thereafter I was registering domain names with a fairly solid idea in mind.
It took until the beginning of December for us to determine the best framework for our site and to start posting articles. We ended up picking the free and open source MediaWiki engine for the site, as it does a good job of presenting data in a readable way for search engines and as a wiki, there are a large number of people who are familiar with working with wikis. Plus the number of tools and extensions that are compatible with MediaWiki is a benefit and overall it is pretty easy to maintain.
Obviously, the biggest challenges we are facing are being funny, adding content regularly and finding our audience. So far, we laugh at what we write, as do most of our guinea pigs so the first is looking ok. The second is a bit harder, but like almost all writing if you just keep those keys (or that pen) moving eventually you will produce something that will work, though it may not be what you planned. The third part is really all about putting up quality content and getting it in front of people.
NJ: How are you marketing Falsipedia? Is there anything you want to try but haven't yet? Have you found anything that has worked better than you expected? Something you'd avoid doing because of disappointing response?
Right now, we are working through word of mouth. Of course, we know some people with big mouths, and we are involving them as it becomes appropriate. Currently, I still consider us in the early stages of building the site. We're sitting at just about thirty articles (not counting things that are still funny, but not the primary focus of the site, like our disclaimer, events catalog or all the brief introductory text on the letters and category pages), which means there is about umpteen million things we haven't even come close to writing about. Once we come up on about 250 quality articles, then we'll start making a concerted push to get incoming links and work towards organic rankings in the major search engines.
The core people involved in the site all have varying levels of experience in marketing websites, or marketing in general. Right now, with this currently being an expense rather than a money making venture, it's all about the content. If the site is funny enough, people will start sending links to their friends and eventually people will link stuff in their blogs or vote for an article on sites like Digg. We think we can build a market by making a people laugh and want to read more. If we become profitable someday, we'll work on ways to reward contributors, but that is still quite a ways off.
As far as what to avoid in marketing a site like this really comes down to making sure that anything you invest in (whether it is a financial or energy investment) will turn in to momentum for the site. It does very little good to write great content if the framework of your site makes it harder for search engines or visitors to find the content. You don't want to buy pay-per-click advertising if your site won't engage the visitors you attract. A real rule of thumb to keep in mind is "how does what I am doing make my site of more value to my customers?"
NJ: What can writers gain from your website?
I think the greatest thing writers can gain from contributing to Falsipedia is practice, both in writing and using your imagination in new ways. Beyond practice there are other benefits... as a community effort there is the opportunity to see what direction other people might take your writing. If an article gets the axe or goes off in an entirely different direction, it could be an indication that you aren't communicating your ideas effectively. A clever or good writer could also quite easily pick up new fans. As a reader, there may be inspiration as you see new and unusual writing styles and subtle differences in the way people provide humor. You could come across a turn of phrase or a rough concept that could turn into a character motivation in other writing. In short, exposure, inspiration and engagement.
NJ: Your ultimate goal? ( You can't use taking over the world, it's been done to death.)
My personal goal for Falsipedia is to find out that someone referenced the site in a report or scholarly paper without realizing the information was suspect. I would find that extremely satisfying.
Other than things that would make me laugh maniacally, I would like Falsipedia to become a place where really funny people provide their take on all of human knowledge. I'd like it to be relatively tasteful, but primarily hilarious. I'd like to entertain a large audience of clever people. Hopefully that would allow us to have a revenue stream capable of sustaining the site, giving a little back to both the founding members and other valuable contributors. Eventually, the idea of publishing a collection of the "greatest hits" or quasi-text book parodies would be fantastic as well.
NJ: How can our readers get involved with Falsipedia? And should they?
Answering the second part of the question first... If you have a sense of humor and can write, we'd love to have you as part of our community. If you have a sense of humor and can't write, check us out anyway! If you have no sense of humor, can't write and are otherwise unpleasant, I'd really rather you spend your time somewhere else... no offense. Lawyers who sue at the drop of a hat are honorary members of that last group.
If you want to get involved go to Falsipedia, use the link in the top right corner to register for an account, and then edit existing pages or add new pages as you see fit. Be sure to read our disclaimer and About Falsipedia and be sure you are ok with the idea that what you write on the site becomes the property of Falsipedia. Since this is a community effort and there could be dozens of changes made to an article by different contributors, this is the only approach we feel is workable... we're not going to go out and publish one article to make a buck off our contributors' work.
Matt Griffith is 36 years old. He spends his day hours as the Director of Information Technology for ToolBarn.com, Inc, an Internet Retailer Top 500 Company and an Inc 500 Fastest Growing Privately Held Company. Matt has been with ToolBarn.com since 2001 and has worked to help the company grow from obscurity to being a multi-million dollar online retailer. Past activities which might be worth mentioning include "singing" vocals for a punk band called Pope Mahone, having a small indie rock record label LandPhil Records and a brief stint in a professional wrestling school. He has been known to tell stories about how he broke his toe making toast and how he has almost lost his eye six times (Flaming Marshmallow, Exploding Potato, Cat, Cat, Glasses Shot Out by Brother, Sledding Accident).