A look back at my most contentious piece, "Neocities and a Lack of Passion".
It's safe to say my essays on nostalgiamining and passion on Neocities stirred up the hive. They moved some people to rethink the way their sites looked and, indeed, to start new ones, while others bitterly gnashed at it. They're pieces that have reached outside my normal sphere of influence and have largely gotten me the boost in traffic I've seen since I returned from my summer cooldown.
I don't think they're the best things I've ever written; they still have a lot of sharp edges for sure. I think they get the point across, though. I stand by them.
I'd like to move through five thoughts I have about the reaction both of those pieces got, clarify things, and elaborate on others. Yes, not all, before you ask. I'm addressing specific points I have heard from community members. If it doesn't sound like it applies to you, it probably doesn't.
1. Passion and "interesting people"
Some souls seemed to take umbrage with the "interesting people" line, as if I was speaking for all interesting people on this site. How egotistical!
To define what I mean by "interesting", I mean someone who can hold long, in-depth conversations about fandom minutia, or bugs, or guitar tones, or whatever. People with a craft and a ton of pride in it, usually. Maybe even someone with some crazy experiences and wisdom, something you can learn from them. Someone with that energy that you can play off, that energy that I live for.
And by and large, the people who agreed with me fit that description. And often, the people who disagree with me have the empty sites, are normie as fuck, obsess over nothing—the exact people I'm calling out. They can't stand that someone sees them for what they are. "Interesting people" is the most effective honeypot I've ever seen on this site.
Keep in mind, and I said this in my piece—there's nothing wrong with being normie as fuck.
Now, listen. You're probably a fine person. You probably have friends, and they probably like you. You have hobbies, and maybe talents even. You can safely go about your life without anyone giving you a second or fifth glance. Congratulations.
Did we all just skip this paragraph? Nothing wrong at all with being normie as fuck.
The especially bitter tend to then claim that I'm not that interesting. Trust me, if I wasn't, you wouldn't be talking about me.
2. Passion means "no fun allowed"
A common rebuttal to my piece was the idea that "just making a site for fun is okay".
A platitude. How nice.
Let's get the base sentiment out of the way. Is Neocities that serious? No. Should you be here to have fun? Absolutely. Not everything on my site is serious business; my music reviews are a fun way to share what I've been listening to with all of you, and I even have a fansite for one of my favorite bands on the backburner. I like playing with layouts and talking music and writing an awful lot and this is a great way to share what I love with you.
Yes, this is what I do for fun. It should be what you do for fun, too. It's why you're here.
The fact is though, making a site is content creation. Content has an audience by its nature. If that audience is someone who isn't you, how are you reaching them? If that audience is you and only you, why put it online? By posting and updating a site, there's an implication that you want people to see your site, but why should they see it, necessarily?
This was the heart of the passion essay, and I might not have communicated it right. How are you making your site fun for someone else to look at?
It seems incredibly disingenuous to make a site, post it, claim it as being something you only made "for fun", but get uncomfortable when someone says it's terrible. Which is it? Is it simple fun and you shouldn't care what I think, or is it something you want people to like and therefore should put effort into? You can have fun and have standards, guys. They're not mutually exclusive.
And in reference to the people who say "it's for fun, so it's allowed to be terrible": are you saying that you can't be both fun and interesting at the same time? How are you this okay with mediocrity? How much contempt do you have for the people of this site that you're okay with shitty sites infesting this brilliant creative platform because "it's just for fun"?
Why should we encourage people like you in the fucking slightest?
3. Passion is (slightly) less of a problem than I originally thought
I still think Neocities has a passion problem, but something that's occurred to me since I started working on Districts is that the site is a lot more varied than you see on the surface. Of course, new accounts are only presented with a mire of nostalgiaminers and Lain shit, and so that's all anyone ever pays attention to.
Yet, Districts has shown me the fansites for bands I clamored for, the artists I wanted exhibited, and the writers I called forth. They're here...and yet, no one knows about them. They get like six followers, while fauux gets another twenty. No one sings their praises, and then we wonder why we all look the same.
My hope with Districts is to spotlight good sites with strange focuses and encourage more of it. We absolutely do need more of it, but the least I can do, now that I run the site, is to spotlight the good ones already here.
And how come the people who so vehemently disagree with my essays could barely name five of these sites? If Neocities is so full of passion, you could not be a stubborn cunt and point me to it, thanks.
4. Passion means taking a risk (or why good people make bad sites)
I remember a conversation I had with an international friend of mine who intentionally shied away from writing in his native language because no one would be able to read it. Stuff like that ends up a chicken-egg scenario, where our site stagnates because we get caught in the mindset that no one would read it. Now, the language barrier is certainly heavier than the strange interest barrier, but the general idea still applies.
Your passion for a topic is ultimately what'll attract people to it. If you have the ability to take something I've never heard of or never looked into and introduce me to the finer points of it and engage me throughout, that is what we need more of. Here, I'll give a quick example: beetletee!
beetletee got caught up in a comment thread where Nekojiru called out one of my essays. I stepped in to clarify my stance, and upon looking through his site, I found this little page summarizing different mental illnesses. An interesting topic for sure, and I made sure to encourage it when we talked elsewhere. Obviously, it's not very long just yet, but I'd be interested in reading more.
I have no clue why "share what you love and make us love it too" was so contentious. Wait, I know...
5. "That meanie old Flareon"
I write to disquiet. The passion essay came out of a longtime frustration that Neocities, at least on the surface, looks like a bunch of boring kids recreating a time on the internet they've never seen and using it to say nothing. I called on people to put the bizarre, uncommon things they love to the forefront of their sites, or their sites be damned. And yes, part of that involved telling people to kill off their sites if they couldn't.
What people who didn't like the essay seemed to get hung up on is the concept that someone would write something intentionally to piss them off. It's a thinkpiece. I'm putting forth an idea, and I'm putting it in a way that gets your attention. If you felt attacked, that's the piece doing its job—not because you're necessarily someone to be attacked, but because it got your attention.
People seem to take that essay to be representative of my normal speaking style. If you've actually talked to me one-on-one, you'd know that I'm pretty reasonable in explaining my views and actively invite and encourage conversation. Yes, that means occasionally disagreeing with me! Most of the negative reaction I got to either essay consisted of whiny profile posts or Discord logs. You don't understand how much I wished for a proper, thought out reaction from someone who wasn't just mad on the internet.
As a specific example, jeremyredhead announced a response to my essays at one point, a response I was actively looking forward to, and said as much the day I saw it. He sounded bothered, of course, but someone out to address my points? Absolutely, please do! Opening a dialogue about what Neocities should be? Hell yes.
Jeremy's yet to deliver, but it's reactions like these that I wish we had more of. People barely get challenged nowadays. They get skittish and anxious. They take it personally and turn into bitter jelly when it happens. Thus, when I see someone stepping up to respond, to discuss? I like it. I want more of it. Yes, even if it's a total refutation of everything I say.
Passion means strong opinions. Differing opinions. People willing to voice them. People willing to say "fuck off, this is my vision". People willing to write long scrawls about their vision, even if it's just a vision for garish rainbow text in every home.
Does no one on here have a vision?
And folks, how do you get that bothered about a thinkpiece...and then prove the thinkpiece correct in every way?
I'm dropping my Discord tag here at the end: mariteaux#1020. If you had a problem with that piece, I'd love to hear it from you in person. We can chat about things and understand each other better. Maybe we'll be friends. It's not the first or even second time it's happened.
To reiterate what I said in the passion essay: what you love, share it with us. Yes, even if it's weird, or you're terrible at it, or you don't think you'll be received well. You'd be surprised.