Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just. Shut. Up. (Part I)

Let’s face it. You take one look at the title above, and you figure the Catholic Writer Chick is probably hacked off about…something. Well, yes and no. :-) Fact is, something did fry my bacon this week, but that issue will be dealt with in another post. This, however, is simply a quick and dirty complaint. Or maybe…shall we say…a suggestion? Please… PleasepleasePLEASE… If you are putting together a blog, website, or other online station where I’m likely to land and stay awhile to read, please resist the urge to use the “playlist” feature to piggyback music onto the reading experience. PLEASE. I don’t mean to sound like a curmudgeon here. Heck, I’m a musician. You’d think I’d love to sample the music that other bloggers enjoy, and listen while I read...right? Well, actually, not so much. Here’s why. The first, and most obvious, reason is that my tastes in music and yours are probably not the same. In some cases, I wouldn’t be caught dead listening to the music I find on blogs. So the blog itself—the writing—is often compelling, witty, entertaining, or otherwise extremely enjoyable…but I can’t enjoy it because in my face is some rattly noise that sets my teeth on edge. This does not encourage me to stay and page through your blog; it encourages me to get away, and fast. To be blunt, creating a setting that makes people want to escape…is rather counterproductive to the idea of blogging in the first place. The second reason—one more specific to me—is that unlike many writer/readers, apparently, I am not wired to be able to write or read with music playing in the background, especially very active music. Even music I enjoy—actually, even more so, with music I enjoy—I simply cannot do those two things at once. I can edit with music in the background, as long as it’s fairly quiet and fairly subtle: think classical here, or the most subdued Celtic folk. But trying to create something? Or trying to read things I’ve never read before? Let’s put it this way. My hearing is extremely sensitive, to the point where if there’s music playing around me, no matter how quietly, my brain gravitates to it like a cat to canned tuna. I have bought not one, but two, “white noise” machines in the past several years, just for the purpose of blocking out external sounds while I’m trying to concentrate. They work, I relax, and the brain stays clear. But I can’t plug in my white noise machine when I’m surfing the Net…especially not when your music completely takes me by surprise. No doubt some of you are muttering, “Well, you dolt, just mute the stuff.” Easier said than done; in every blogging/playlist platform, the ways to do this can vary slightly. So making your readers hunt for which link is the “magic key” is, to say the least, inconveniencing them. Some of you add insult to injury in this matter as well: one particular blogger (who shall remain nameless) didn’t help matters by tossing off a remark about “those of you who are too stupid to figure out how to turn off the sound.” Lemme get this straight, then; not only am I subjected to your taste in music just by clicking on your link—but should I find it tricky to escape having this stuff shoved at me, then I’m stupid, too? Yeah, that makes me want to come back! The late, great Uncle Bobby at WGN Radio used to say, “It’s easier to stay out than to get out.” He was referring to trouble, of course—in all its varied forms. But in this case, that “proverb” seems to apply equally well. Want to avoid irritating your readers, inconveniencing them, or giving them an excuse not to read your blog? Simple. Keep it simple, keep it straightforward…and keep it quiet. Many, many, many of us will thank you for it. Thoughts? Janny


Deb said...

Oh, man! I never thought of this. Now to go add music to my blog & my newly redesigned website, in hopes of honking people off...

There's a "global mute" button on your monitor, to turn the sound off on your entire PC. Use it. I turned mine off long ago 'cause I couldn't stand those little cheery burps the PC would give me when it decided to follow my command. You know the ones.

7 weeks 'til ACFW conference & counting. The house is sitting here at my back begging to be cleaned, so must go write something.

Janny said...

Ahhh...the global mute button.
Yeah, that's a possibility, and yeah, I have used it at times...but only when I was so frustrated at not being able to find the particular mute/stop link on a blog that I gave up. I hate to turn my sound off, for several reasons, one of which is that I spent so long with computers that had no sound cards in them at all that it's kind to have it.

I must confess, too, that there are times when I've got my sound on (to streaming classical music, of course) while editing something, decide I need a few minutes' break or get a link from someone on a cool site to check out, click on something else, and...BLAM. Here comes heavy metal in my ears at the same time the poor classical music is trying (without much success) to soothe me. You see the dilemma.

I think that people may misunderstand the spirit of this entry, too. While there are times when the music itself is irritating because I don't like it, more often than not it's just exactly the opposite problem: the music is cool, I'm groovin' along...and I read a sentence three times without comprehending any of it. To me, that defeats the purpose of writing a blog in the first place--which is to communicate in writing.

Or am I missing something here?

Relax. You're almost on vacation. Go clean your house, or hire someone else to do it, and pack your laptop for writing en vacance!


Donna Alice said...

I have no idea if I have music on my blog or not. I didn't add any--but if it comes automatically, I'll never know. My speakers are always OFF unless the boys are playing a game. In fact, most of the time I hide my speakers. So let me know if mine has any annoying sounds.

Am just now figuring out how to add a blog list. You are on it so hope that is okay.