There is a movie and a theory that says If You Build It They Will Come. As any number of ball clubs, office park builders, and web site developers have discovered, this theory has its distressing exceptions. Distressing, that is, to the developers and those unfortunates who have invested in their blighted dreams. Nobody else cares.Still there is something to the theory. If you build a web site and it has something to offer, people will find it. So it is with this site. People are finding it. How is another matter. There are institutional sites which offer offical pablum to the masses. This site is not one of them – it is one of those eccentric personal sites that people put up for the perplexity of friends, family, and bemused strangers.
As such I did not expect any large readership. But, as the movie proclaims, they are coming. The paths whereby they come are intriguing (to me, anyway.) There are things I understand. I have a more or less authoritative page on the Piltdown Man hoax. Between my copy and the mirrored copies, it gets about 10,000 hits a year. This is understandable; it is a reference. Sites link to it; search engines turn it up when people look for information on this topic. Such pages are the kind of thing that the web is supposed to be good for.
So much for scholarly resources. There are literally hundreds of pages here. The bulk of it is collected nattering of mine, essays, fiction, poetry, ficciones, and things too strange to mention. The remainder is a collection of reprinted rubbish, mostly humor. It is not the sort of stuff that scholarship is made of. That isn’t quite right. There are informative resources scattered here and there. There is also a rumor that a Psychiatric Institute is using it for a study in depth.
The natural path of propogation that I would expect for this sort of thing is that my friends and family would read it from time to time. And so they do, or so I am told. Then there is the ordinary word of mouth, one person mentioning a particular page to another.
There are, however, other ways that the word gets around. Recently NESFA (The New England Science Fiction Association) listed my website in their monthly newsletter. There was a prompt jump in the number of page hits in response. All quite understandable. There are, however, individual pages that get flurries of hits that are somewhat mysterious.
Recently my page on horse back riding was getting 100-200 hits a day. This I managed to track down – a popular site, http://www.thedaily.com/menagerie.html, had picked it as an interesting page. Ghu knows how they found it, but said site is used as a home page by a number of companies. My dinosaur page received almost no traffic for a year. All of a sudden it is getting large numbers of hits (well large by my standards). The humor page is getting 500-600 hits a month. This is comprehensible. What is mysterious is that my recipe for whole stuffed camel is currently getting a comparable number of hits. (Added in proof: apparently the recipe was mentioned in a talk show and people find it by doing a web search.) I don’t want to know why The Dancing Slave Girls of Gor is getting so many hits. I think somebody is badly confused.  No doubt these current flurries will end; I expect that new ones will happen as people stumble into my little junk shop of the mind.
In my last editorial I mentioned that I would add the recipe for Thompson’s Turkey to my recipes page. It turned out that I couldn’t find a copy either in my impressively disorganized library or on the web. However a kind correspondent produced it for me. (Another correspondent insists that I should include the recipe for a turkey in a tin vat – if anyone has it I would appreciate hearing about it.) This got me to thinking.
The web is, in effect, the Encyclopedia of Humanity. All manner of information and intellectual resources may be found there. I have within reach an Encyclopedia Brittanica and shelves of reference works. None of these, however, has a recipe for Thompson’s Turkey or any other manner of odds and ends that I might want to look up from time to time. There is, however, the web wherein may be found all manner of trivia.
Or not, as the case may be. Until I posted it, said recipe was not available anywhere on the web. The web may be humanities universal encyclopedia but it is curiously spotty. If there are immense amounts of trivia that can be found there, equally well there are immense amounts that cannot. Moreover as an encyclopedia it has certain defects.
There are requirements for a good reference. The information therein should meet standards of reliability and of scholarship. The web does not meet these standards. Anybody can put up anything and everybody does. A good reference has a provenance, a specification of where the information came from and how it was gathered. A web page does not, even if it says it does. If I give a reference to a book or a journal article you can go look at that book or journal article and confirm that it says what I claimed it said. Web pages, however, are ephemera written on the sands of time. They come, they go, and they are altered without warning.
And yet they are convenient and give the appearance of authenticity. One foresees a future of endlessly reconstructed “truth” as scholarship is relentlessly replaced by pseudoscholarship.
 I managed to track down the reason for the
mysterious popularity of The Dancing Slave Girls of Gor. I did
an Alta Vista search on “slave girls” and the Gorettes popped up as
number 6 out of a thousand or so hits. Since the description reads
“Description: ???????????” the hapless searchers for kinky sex have
no clue that said page is not just to their taste. I had thought of
amending the description to warn the preverts that the page was not
what they were looking for and then I said “No way – into each life
a little rain must fall and I shall be the cloudmaster.” By the by,
if you do a search on “slave girls” you turn up some very interesting
This page was last updated December 29, 1997.