This is a continuation of my previous post on the story of Mindwafers.com, a website that me and four other friends created and subsequently forgot to write for. Eventually, I’m sure that the story will be picked up by a major movie studio and turned into a steamy summer blockbuster with Bradley Cooper, full of backstabbing, whispery dialogue and other skullduggery. But for now, it’ll have to live through my lil website that hasn’t cracked 10 visitors yet (any day now!)
So we were off and running, posting at least an article a day, but many times more than that. We started the website on Weebly because none of us really knew much about HTML, Dreamweaver, WordPress or anything else related to making a website. Weebly seemed the easiest and it was free. Easy decision, considering we were all broke.
We all developed our own styles. Adam, or “Angry Artie” would rant about sports, misspellings and bad grammar intact. Mike was the thoughtful stoner, someone who would take 2,000 words to unwind the intricacies of why elderly people shouldn’t be able to drive. Reece was the funniest, always on point with the one liners, while slipping interesting points between the humor. Erik became more of the programmer later on, as he wasn’t as interested in the writing, although he contributed here and there.
I feel like out of the group, I had the least recognizable style, mainly because I was writing as so many different characters. The most common character, Bobby James, was an unapologetic leftist/socialist, who often posted underreported stories and enjoyed criticizing the media’s treatment of certain events. In those years of cubicle living, I had become obsessed with reading news on the internet, at that point still a recent innovation. Every morning I would read the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and a small progressive news aggregator called Common Dreams. I graduated with a degree in journalism in college and always wanted to work for one of these papers after college. After graduating I realized that the competition was more fierce than anything I could ever deal with. At the same time, newspapers were going byebye and news was mainly read for free on the internet (myself included). So Mindwafers seemed the closest I would get to writing about important topics for an audience, so I took it seriously…maybe too seriously. And with reading all these publications everyday, there soon were too many topics to be covered without quitting my job and writing full-time, a regular fantasy of mine.
Mindwafers hit a high point in 2010 when we introduced the March Fatness competition. March Fatness was a bracket-like tournament that set various fatty, greasy snack foods against each other to determine the ultimate snack. We set up the site with a poll for voting so that our website visitors could determine the winner. We wrote short capsule reviews of each matchup, putting in our 2 cents as to who should be the winner.
With March Fatness, we learned our first lesson to having a successful website or blog: make it as interactive as you can. Soon after we opened up the competition for voting, we doubled our daily visitor count, at one point eclipsing 1,000 hits per day. Not bad considering we did very little to promote the site (We were still getting the hang of Facebook at the time and Twitter wasn’t even in our vocabulary).
It was no surprise that pizza won the March Fatness competition, destroying everything in its path. Another lesson we learned: Pizza wins everytime. We launched March Fatness the next year to equally popular reception. Except this time, we would make the competition between different types of food. Thai would battle Japanese, Italian duking it out with Chinese. The third year we introduced restaurants into the mix. It was easily the most popular thing and even gave Minwafers some credibility online. We became a name people knew, even if they didn’t know the people who were behind it.
The reach of our audience allowed us to organize some charity events which were successful beyond anything we could have predicted. We threw the first “Mustache Ball” in November. We would collect money throughout the night and donate it to the Greater Boston Food Bank. We all grew mustaches for the event and encouraged other to do so. As a bonus, this was before Movember and the greater mustache movement had gained steam in the US (FYI: Movember was created in Australia). In the end we were able to raise nearly $3,000 for the food bank. It felt great, being able to use our little bit of influence to do some good for the world. At the same time, we felt like we were mastering the whole “viral” concept and understanding how to spread your message in the internet age.
Things were going well. So why did we stop?
We’re past 800 words here so I’m going to have to roll this over to part 3. Note to self: Be more succinct