How the Internet Has Changed for Halloweeners
As I said, It's been 3 years since I first published a blog post on this site. Since then, the online world for a Halloween lover has evolved into an entirely different creature. And at least my blog, if not my entire site, has changed along with it. I wonder how many of you can relate.
Computer years are like dog years. One year equals the equivalent of 7 human years.
The story actually starts closer to 4 years ago, since I spent months getting the site ready before it launched. I met a boy who built websites. Real websites. And he said he'd build one for me and teach me how to use it (remember, things like Google's version of Blogger were still in Beta in 2006. They had just figured out how to let people post photos on their blogs, but it still wasn't user-friendly for newbies and non-tech folk like it is now. Unless you were into computers, you likely didn't even know about it).
I'd recently discovered various Haunter forums on the web (who were still in many ways fledglings at the time too). I was hungry for more Halloween resources. And I was still frustrated.
I couldn't find comprehensive lists of links to resources that someone like me could use and learn from. Something beyond cutting out silhouette bats; sites that would bridge the gap between the large scale props of the forums and the Halloween sites with happy homemaker crafty projects - like putting dried corn husks in a wreath or making ghosts who have googly eyes.
To make the process more frustrating, I found that many of the Halloween websites were flash-based eyesores that would crash my browser every 15 minutes of searching with their pop-up ads or horrible clip art bat that swooped across the page.
So I thought I'd take the useful links I'd harvested over the years and make a website where I could share them, filtering out the absolute crap and computer deathtraps. I'd list them and offer useful how-to project pages of my own for people who don't wear frilly aprons when they make Halloween crafts. In between, I would chat about interesting tidbits I'd found online that were horror or Halloween related.
If I wasn't adding to my own site, I was rubbing shoulders with fellow haunters on the forums. Sure, I didn't haunt my yard, but we certainly shared the same passion for creating and love of the season. And their creativity inspired my creativity, even if it didn't lead to the same end result.
Moving into 2008
It seems we jumped eons ahead in that single year.
Haunters and Halloween enthusiasts slowly discovered there were free, ready-made websites where they too could have their own blog. It looked professional, unlike the nightmarish cut-and-paste-flash-ridden-Frankenstein-monsters people were putting together with website building kits and online editors. Even better, it was fairly easy to learn how to use it, and you could easily find people who shared your interest, who also had a blog. The population was small, but it was growing. Fast.
My attention then turned to finding Canadian content (seems we were slow to the technological table compared to our American neighbours - mainly because in terms of numbers, they had more Halloween fans than we had Canadian citizens), and that was my big goal for the year. It was the gaping hole for me on this information highway, and I wanted to fill it. Or at least build a bridge. It was all I thought about in terms of the site, because I wanted to know where my fellow Creepy Canadians were. If I found them, I might not feel so isolated.
Yes, I love me some American haunters, but I can't just drive over to their houses for a make and take, or visit their conventions easily, or see their haunts in person, or hell I couldn't even shop at most of the same places they were shopping.
And none of them understood when I said I got my orange lights using Canadian Tire money.
Having an online community is wonderful, but it doesn't appease the want for real life interactions. Or at least an online community that's closer.
And Then of Course, 2009
It was simple to share my large props on the forums. The problem was my new projects. I began to realize the little creatures I was making just didn't have a proper place on the haunter forums. There was no category for it. And few people were into the tiny details (I didn't want to make something that only looked good in dark light from 20 feet away).
At the same time, during my intense Canadian Halloween searches the previous year, I was discovering local craft and art shows. Artists, eh? They make small things. Maybe that's where I fit in.
And my world changed again.
Rarely did I visit the forums anymore, though I still have an affection for them. I had utilized a blog reader, and went directly to people's websites. I commented there, and often they commented on my site. Thus, a whole new community emerged, and my online family of fellow freaks felt a bit smaller, more intimate.
There was less searching, and more information. Now information came to me, I didn't even have to look for it. Either it was posted on the blogs I subscribed to, or the automated searches I had set up, or emails! OH the emails! And I would spend an hour or so answering each one as thoughtfully as I could, and then another few hours commenting on blogs, and another hour checking out Google Analytics which was also a great way to find new related content.
And then twitter popped up on my radar.
It was on twitter where I found fellow Halloween hybrids, if you will. People who didn't neatly fall into the category of artist, or haunter, or Halloween fan. People who were mixtures of these. And they were sharing links of information faster than I could read them. Useful info. And very different from what I was finding elsewhere.
Once I established a solid list of people to follow (and seriously people, that's the secret to using twitter) - people who, like me, wanted to exchange information quickly with like-minded folk - I could literally have a hundred links to useful articles and blog posts and videos on various topics on the screen all at one time.
Which Leads Us Into 2010
And then more people realized twitter was here.
And then many people realized twitter wasn't like Facebook or the forums, and it wasn't purely made to be a live-action version of your rss feed. It wasn't meant as a means to have long online chats. Some people self-imploded without the constant feedback they were now accustomed to or they couldn't see the value to making an effort to share information if their printed word only had a 24 hour lifespan at best (15 minutes is really the window of exposure you should expect for a tweet), and many eventually abandoned their accounts.
My point? Suddenly I was all about twitter. It was like an I.V. jacked into my veins.
So how did this change my website? I'm still sharing Halloween and horror content that I find, but I do it mainly on twitter. Instead of sharing a single resource once a day, sometimes I share anywhere from 2 to even 20 links in a morning (it's just so much simpler...and faster).
Besides, generally speaking, people can easily find Halloween resources online now. Websites are cleaner. Magazines and major corporations realized that homemade decorations did not have to include googly eyes. The crafty person is more like an aspiring artist as opposed to just being a mom of a 4 year-old. There's less of a need for me to find resources that I didn't write, that aren't original, because Halloween is everywhere now.
Since I've been making smaller items, I seem to have more content for the blog about things I'm making. Waves of finished projects. And announcements of upcoming shows, or reports of past shows.
Instructional posts are less about corpsing a skull, and more about tips for artists attending their first show.
The blog posts are more about...well...me. My work. What I'm doing. For better or worse, that's how it's all changed.
I've been having trouble keeping up with emails, and there are many still waiting to be written. My next blog post will actually address some of them directly.
Oh, and while people still leave comments here, people tend to comment directly through whatever platform they saw the post through instead of on the site. Which is interesting.
Personally, I find there is more of an exchange of ideas between Haunters and Halloween fans online, rather than resources. We're talking about experiences, even theories, rather than just results. We're also less likely to recycle the same information, and more likely to only mention it if there's been an improvement or we solved a problem. We were doing it before to some extent sure but now it seems we do it faster, and it's instant, and consistent, and I've stumbled into groups of people who are living a creative lifestyle, and growing as artists (even if they don't call themselves artists). It's really amazing.
The new site (which won't be built until next year I bet) will still have a similar feel to what you see now, and probably get a block that shows non-twitter users the links I'm posting over there.
Speaking of Links, my Links section will get a total overhaul (it has to be reorganized at the very least, and so many important people aren't mentioned).
But that's 2011. And by then, perhaps I'll just have a webcam attached to my head, and people can tune in whenever they like.