You know the origin of the word Spam, don’t you? It comes from a Monty Python comedy sketch from 1970 where diners in a café in suburban London are presented with a menu that includes Spam in every dish.
The references to Spam (a brand of tinned ham: SPiced hAM, hence SPAM) become increasingly repetitive and eventually take over the entire menu and so perfectly describe the unsolicited bulk messages we all know and hate.
On watching this skit again for the first time in many years, I marvel over how wonderfully absurd it is! Not only for the preponderance of spam in a menu, where it can be present two or three times in the same dish. That’s sort of weird. But also, the couple are seen levitating into and out of their chairs at the beginning and end of the sketch and there are Vikings in a café in 1970s London!
This got me thinking, what would the modern day equivalent of the Spam sketch be? Not just the absurdity of it but the lack of seriousness in the presentation – where would you find that nowadays?
I couldn’t come up with an answer. And then something struck me about the modern consumption of media.
The rise of the WWW
I witnessed the mass-adoption of the internet both in professional and domestic settings. When I first started to use the internet I was awestruck by the potential. Knowledge and information went from being hard to come by to being overwhelming, almost overnight.
The internet in the 1990s was a very different animal. It was amateur and quirky – stuff could be difficult to find but then, when you did find it, you felt so special.
It was in these days that the internet, literally, changed my life. It lead to an interest in NLP, Buddhism and meditation; meeting new friends; learning new guitar chords; it facilitated travel; helped me stay still; introduced me to new music, authors, ideas …
The rise of Google
Then one day I found out about this search engine that seemed to get slightly better results than Yahoo! Amazingly, the reason I started to use Google over its search rivals was because its minimal home page loaded quicker – that tells you all you need to know about 28.8k dial-up modems!
As its search results improved, so did Google’s ubiquity on the web. It was around this time that I started creating websites.
- I learned that page titles were important and that they should describe the article’s content rather than being humorous or flippant.
- I learned that my websites should be relevant to one niche so I resisted to the urge to talk about personal development issues on this blog and stuck to design and marketing.
- I learned how to structure and mark-up content in the way that Google wanted.
- I learned to follow and interact with other players in my niche so as to create an authorship profile that informed Google that I was interested in design and marketing and nothing else.
Well, I sometimes think I was a little too quick to get into bed with the dominant search engine of the time.
The problem with Google
Google loves relevance. Google wants one website to link to another in a logical way. A link from one blog to another is worth more if they are in the same niche than if they are not.
Google’s position is understandable. They have their bottom line. Everything they do must be seen against this backdrop.
But human beings aren’t computers. They are confusing, emotional and chaotic. One day they might want to write and great blog post on Search Engine Optimization, the next day they may want to indulge themselves by posting up videos of progressive rock groups.
But, bloggers don’t do that anymore. Compulsive, irrelevant and off-the-wall creativity is avoided because we want people to visit our sites and we think it pays to get in Google’s good books.
What you can do
Don’t listen to me, for one! But don’t be a slave to Google, either. Don’t worry too much about relevance. Be human and show your instantaneous, chaotic and complicated side.
Here’s a picture of a savoy cabbage for no other reason than it’s a very nice vegetable.