Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Quality of Reality.

SmhrbwebWhile we argue about reality nature just gets on with it at Lough Derg.

I recently found myself in a spot of bother with a lady in America recently via the good offices of Linkedin. Now Linkedin is a strange creature that would pretend to be a little above the dreaded Facebook but is probably just as devious in data mining and the surveillance of its members which is one good reason why I can’t take it too seriously and avoid putting too much of myself on there. However, on this occasion I was tempted to disrupt the suffocating smog of niceness that usually wreaths the discussions by objecting to the pretence that a photographic exhibition entitled ‘Vagina’ was not about sex. Oh no, not at all, apparently.

I’m not going to go over the finer points of the argument but I am still of the view that should the photographer concerned have wished the visitor to not prejudge the viewing and entered into the room with an open mind to explore the psychological relationship that women have with their reproductive organs then a less inflammatory title should have been chosen and there was no need for a sex therapist or a ‘sex nerd’ to be present as claimed on the website. But anyway, the disagreement highlighted the very different views each of us have on what is  true or real in life. We have all come across person  A. insisting that person B. ‘get real’ or ‘get a dose of reality’, but just who’s reality and is there a common reality that we all share?

In the situation described above my sense of reality informed me that the exhibition was relying to a certain extent upon the appeal of sex to sell itself. The photographer insisted that it didn’t, which is fair enough, but unfortunately there is no one great absolute truth by which the argument can be judged for it all depends upon the protagonists  past experience and previous consideration of similar occurrences.

This train of thought has led me to think a little more deeply about the effect of modern media for it seems that if we choose a reality that we like then then we can more easily assimilate evidence to support our contentions. That is to say we are now more able to build our own little worlds in which to exist in a manner we were never generally able to do before. I guess this has already been espoused by others over the centuries and books were once condemned for offering an escape from the present but today the barriers between the imagined world and the ‘real’ world are so much more vague, we call it virtual reality and generally applaud its advance.

At first glance this may not appear to be important but it certainly can be. Take money for instance, does it actually exist? Sure, we have its physical expression through the presence of notes and coins but economists would argue that money only comes into existence through the creation of a debt and a tenner is an aberration in the mathematical concept of fixing a value upon things. So where does that leave us? It certainly suggests that a person with more money has a greater ability to satisfy a debt, money is power, but why should some individuals end up with greater power of this sort than others? It’s a puzzle that has been nagging at me for some time now.

Perhaps its an age thing. As the years pass the old certainties start to crumble, the fabric of  beliefs once never questioned now appear frail and vulnerable, nothing can be taken for granted anymore and so we turn to what we know is immutable, what is immovable and steadfast and that is nature, the physical world, the enduring knowledge that the sun will rise tomorrow and that the seasons will follow their course. That is what is real and this answer was reinforced recently when I found myself once more by one of Ireland’s loughs, Lough Derg in this case, and in the spring sunshine, flowering gorse with the birdsong and scents of life awakening I found myself once more anchored firmly in a reality that we all can share.

Perhaps my antagonist should find somewhere similar and take a moment out to relax, for with the contentment that may envelope her may also come the realisation that it really doesn’t matter a hoot to her, or me, or anyone else if we differ in our perception of the reality of her exhibition, life is just too darn short.

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Selling Yourself on the Web

Rear-imagewbAn image shown to impress editors of travel or bike touring magazines!

The World Wide Web is a fairly narcissistic sort of environment. Should you be looking for anything to do with the internet then simply using the word ‘web’ as a search term will see you drowned under a deluge of information of variable reliability and origin. The poor old arachnids hardly get a look in and yet they have been around for well over 400 million years and will still be here 400 million years after humanity has managed to wipe itself out. So, how do they keep plugging away in a remarkably successful fashion whereas many internet based enterprises flame and die within fractions of millisecond in comparison? The secret is in the words evolution and specialisation.

The internet is an incredible piece of engineering, designed first to help the military and then academia but now is supposed to serve us all. If only! My view is that it has morphed into an intelligence gathering operation on behalf of commerce rather than a source of enlightenment, education and communication. It is absolutely no surprise that the spooks have tapped into this rich vein of data and will continue to do so whatever our protests so we must use it with care and be aware that it belongs to all it’s users and not just global megacorps who would wish to channel us into methods of using it that suits them rather than you or me.

Along with the rise of social media sites there has been a decline in the importance of individual websites to small businesses. Large company’s and specialist online retailers will need an expansive and expensive web presence but their goals and the methods are completely different to a small enterprise without the resources or ambition to compete. Certainly in Ireland a website may indicate nothing more than you probably exist, but even that is not certain and most of your business will come by recommendation or reputation anyway. It is a feature of the culture here and I’ve no doubt many other close communities around the world, yet we are constantly bombarded by  demands that we adopt marketing methods developed mainly in the States for an American way of life as if this one size will fit all, a rather blunt approach.

A few years back I taught myself a bit of HTML to build my own site and then did the same for some others but this petered out as CMS sites (templates) became more accessible, social media took off and, here’s the crunch,  people started to question the need for a site altogether. For many people around here it adds very little to their client base and I can count on one hand the number of new customers my site brought me over the years. SEO is now a joke unless you can afford it so new ways have to be found to use the internet.

The first step is a complete change of mindset, visitors are not going to come to you via a search engine unless you are lucky and they are very specific and thorough in their search,  we now have to go and attract them in. Don’t worry,  I’m not going to run through the usual off the peg list of what can be done in this regard, but what I will do is draw your attention to the fact that your web hosting package should be able to supply visitor statistics, if not, consider changing it to one that does. These figures can tell you when your site was visited, how often, which pages were viewed and so on. How can a sales strategy be developed without this sort of feedback? Does Facebook provide it?

Last month I had 285 unique visitors to my site, a big improvement on February, It sounds pathetic I know, but if just 1% of those were editors of magazines that are relevant to what I can produce then that’s three potential customers looking at my stall, a big number in this game. I can put links to my site in various places and then assess the response by looking at the stats and I’ll even get some idea of how many people looked at this blog, although I don’t know who, which is as it should be from a privacy point of view. With this data to hand I can start to formulate some sort of plan for the website itself, making it more relevant and attractive to those I want to impress.  Identifying and specialising in a niche is starting to show some return, as any spider will understand.

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