Monday, February 13, 2012

Too Many Perfume Bloggers? A Response to Responders

There have been quite a few comments about my Friday post "Are There Too Many Perfume Bloggers?" Some have shown up as comments on other blogs, too, particularly I guess there are quite a few annoyed new bloggers out there! Many more than I knew.

I think the question comes down to this: What Is A Blog?

I’ve been online since ’93, and a computer user since the late 70’s. I think back to things like Mainframes, Arapahoe, CERN, Archie/Veronica, Mosaic, Netscape, Mindspring, Earthlink, Real Player, Windows Media Player, Compuserve, Yahoo, and…well, the list goes on and on. But remember bulletin boards? I spent time on those but there was just too much strife on them. Flame wars, they were called. At one time it seemed as though the Internet was populated by a bunch of pissed off basement-boys who had appointed themselves authorities on this, that or the other thing — or everything. Of course, it’s not like that now. It’s an engaging world where we can have interesting dialog with each other. Right?

Here’s what set me off. Not too long ago, “Pere de Pierre” wrote:  “Alright, I'm not turning 80 anytime soon...but lately, things have been annoying me. The perfume world has been overcome by crap new releases, crap niche brands, crap marketing, and worst of all, crap "bloggers". Fact is, it takes a long time to learn something as complex as the world of fragrance, and now it seems every Sally-come-lately is trying to teach lessons on something they know nothing of. I'd give examples, but I don't want to point fingers (I will say this - iris in perfume isn't "floral"). I'm not saying I'm a professor by any means, and I'm happy to share the Internet, but please do a bit of reading before you teach a lesson...and I'm not talking about The Guide.”

Well, anybody can have a bad day. I ignored this, for awhile. But it stuck around the back of my mind.
I suppose the writer considers himself to be an authority on perfume. So, what makes one an authority on perfume, someone who can "teach a lesson"?

Is it that you’ve smelled a lot of perfume? Is it that you know famous perfumers personally? Is it that your musings have been published on paper somewhere? Or that you live in one of the perfume capitals, Paris or New York? Or that your calls get returned? Or that your opinions have been around the blogosphere longer than somebody else’s? 

To me, an expert on perfume is someone who is a perfumer, who has trained as a perfumer, who works as a perfumer or who used to work as a perfumer. The rest of us, however enthusiastic we may be, however much perfume we may have smelled, however seriously our writings are taken by the fragrance industry, are enthusiasts. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. After all, I’m one. 

Ratings came to my party when a fellow blogger, Avery Gilbert, began keeping track of how the perfume blogs were doing on the Alexa scale a couple of years ago. Who was up, who was down. I began to wonder how pervasive these scales were, so I did what I always do: took a seminar.  The facilitator of this one, a local media figure and blogger, was telling the attendants that we must optimize our SEO’s, otherwise why bother to write? She sounded like a carnival barker. Step right up! Only an idiot wouldn’t optimize! I thought, well, she’s a columnist, a single mother with a child to raise, who has tasted a little bit of fame and wants more and assumes that we all want book and movie deals and backstage passes and free stuff and that's why we're blogging.

If that’s you, it's probably best to try to optimize your own SEO’s, rather than complain about the competition. Take a workshop on SEO, it's complicated. Or find somebody to help you — you could barter something, uh…how about perfume? We have all those half-used bottles sitting around….

I originally came to this teeny corner of the internet because I was researching particular scents. Most of the blogs back then were of the informational type, and that was fine — I was looking for information. I think that anyone can tell pretty quickly who the authorities are. But there are now many other perfume blogs that delve into the emotional, the intellectual, the life-enhancing aspects of fragrance; these are the ones recently called “Sally-come-lately” — meaning that the writers aren’t authorities and therefore have no business writing about perfume.

Self-appointed authorities set my b.s. detector off, just as they did way back in the internet’s Paleolithic — 1993 or so. If your blog is, to you, a voice of authority, it’s really better not to call yourself that: wait for somebody else to do it. (Hey, that's just nice manners, y'all.) If you just love fragrance and want to write about how it affects you…go ahead. And never forget: question authority!

There’s room for everybody.

The image is a publicity still from the film "Young Frankstein." 


Elisa said...

I just left a comment to this effect on Feminine Things, but I'll reiterate here.

I saw that comment on Pere de Pierre, and it bothered me too. It came right after someone on this here Internet told me there was no such thing as a "woody amber" and he/she would know because he/she was working with a company to develop a perfume.

I think this type of competitive streak is misguided, as though perfume were a perfect science and you could actually know everything about it. The perception and description of perfumes and even single materials is very fuzzy and open-ended. You might never smell something in a perfume until you hear someone describe it in a certain way, then it you see a whole new facet of it.

Some people have a kind of authority that comes from years of training/experience, but some regular old amateurs just have a knack for picking up interesting facets of a scent and describing perfumes in compelling ways. And those people usually make good bloggers, too.

olenska said...

The impression I get is that certain bloggers are operating out of a "scarcity mindset"-- i.e., there are only so many perfumes, topics, opinions, readers, comments, etc. out there-- and if they don't defend their slice, however finite, the entire pie will be lost. This famine economy theory is sad to me, because I believe abundance is a better system. Like you, I'm fully of the opinion that there is plenty of room for everyone in blogland. It belongs to all of us. We can make it, consume it, tear it down, recreate it, and sow it with anything and EVERYTHING we want to grow in it. To tell a little sprout that it might be a weed before it's even had a chance to unfurl its first leaf to the sunlight... oy gevalt.

DWR said...

Oh great point on the scarcity mindset Olenska! That's part of what has been bugging me -- the zero sum theory-ness of it all. As though room on the internet can be a scarce resource.

We can make it, consume it, tear it down, recreate it, and sow it with anything and EVERYTHING we want to grow in it.

My sentiments exactly.

Anonymous said...

Long time lurker, first time poster here :) First, I love your blog and visit it several times a week, usually. My feeling about perfume bloggers is, we can't have too many! Why? Because as a hard core perfumista, I literally cannot read enough about my perfume of the moment, or whatever aspect of perfumery I'm thinking about.

Perfume is my passion and every blogger has something to offer as far as I'm concerned. That said, I DO have favorites, some of whom are not bloggers, but posters over at Basenotes.

Anonymous said...

Lurker again - one final thought - its possible to misinterpret readers' use of sites. I read to extend my knowledge of perfumery, but equally to read more about fragrances I'm already testing out on my own.

One wouldn't say there are too many movie reviewerss, right? And even if there are, chances are you rely most on reviewers who have tastes similar to your own :)

Olfacta said...

Hi Elisa -- Well, I think there IS such a thing as woody amber.

Olfacta said...

Hi Olenska and Diana -- The scarcity mindset you're talking about is becoming pervasive in general, don't you think? It's hard to ignore the media drumbeat of outsourcing, joblessness, the market, etc. When there's not enough to go around, or that is perceived, people do get nastier and the environment becomes more jungle-like.

Olfacta said...

Hi Anonymous -- Welcome! I've been known to call perfume writing "fumeporn," kind of like cooking shows are "foodporn." Like anything else, if you love it you love reading about it.

Critics run the gamut from blurb-generating rhapsodizing toadies "loving" whatever dreck is coming out to thoughtful and erudite, but I feel for the ones who have to try to review Hollywood Product. There are only so many ways you can describe an explosion, or a series of them.

olenska said...

Olfacta, re: the pervasiveness of the mindset due to current economic conditions - too sad and too true. The dog-eat-dog rules of survival hold sway even in areas of life where you least expect to find them. And simple interactions that ought to be clear-cut and easy turn on a dime into duke-'em-outs. And though I hate to contribute to it, my comments on the subject will probably spawn more strife & trouble than wished for. If peace is possible, then I'd wish for that over all.

Anonymous said...

Olfacta- I love your blog.' There is room for everyone' is my view. I am a long term Basenoter . :)

Olfacta said...

Thanks, Anonymous! I'm around on BN whenever I find the time.

Martha said...

I've been ranting for months... OK, maybe years, about the obsession with SEO and ranking and readership and blah blah blah among bloggers. I'm the sort of person that wants to read about and talk about what I'm doing, so I've tried to read various forums about blogging, but they're almost entirely focused on the blah blah blah instead of the actual blogging.

Perfume blogging has generally been delightfully free of this stuff - some blogs have ads, some don't, and of course lots of bloggers are excited to get more comments and more interaction as a sign that they're pleasing more people, but I've never seen the slightest trace of the dreary focus on statistics over content in the perfume blog world.

And I'm confident, or choosing to be confident :), that it's going to stay that way. Even the folks who are insisting that people should stay respectfully silent until they have sufficient expertise seem to be doing so out of a (misguided) love for their subject rather than a nursery-school "MINE!!! MINE!!!!" fight over readers.

Blogging should a pursuit followed by for the joy of it, totally free of prerequisites. And so far, there seems to still be plenty of room for that kind of blogging.

Olfacta said...

Hi Chickenfreak -- Agree. I found the seminar I took to be pretty horrifying. No one mentioned content -- it was all about how to use your blog as a ladder to "bigger" things. Sell sell sell -- I try to keep part of my life a sales-free zone.

Samual James said...

Great point on scarcity mindset, I see this post as a place to share my reflections and hear your thoughts as well. Perfume is a luxury, and given the current economic climate, I want to make sure my pleasures are never guilty and that my dollar is spent wisely. When looking for a perfume that offers good value for my money