Friday, October 21, 2005

All Over the World

Go to a science fiction convention, have your words and deeds spread to every continent.

Now, I'm not new to the Internet. I got my first dialup account and made my first meager Web page in 1995 (the one I have still is pretty meager). Viewership of my online content was few and far between, rarely extending outside family and a few friends.

Another first in my life changed all that.

The first expansion of my tiny readership came when I started reading the blognovel Simon of Space, published in serial format, the author writing it on-the-fly. Readers could (and boy did we) comment at any time on our thoughts about the story's progress, the characters foibles and hopes, or on the weird word verifications we were getting when posting comments. We formed an online community, although admittedly it had help from the folks who already had formed one around Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster. Some of us now read each other's blogs, and eagerly await the book's "dead-tree" version, coming soon.

Fast-forward to October 16, 2005, when for the first time I attended a science fiction-related convention. It was not a Star Trek convention, nor was it for any specific entertainment franchise. It was the Dallas Comic Con, a gathering of comic book artists, sci-fi and horror movie stars, and -- this is the part you can't believe until you see it -- lots of people in costumes. A Klingon had us form a line that didn't block traffic. We did exactly what he said. Here's more detail on the convention itself, if you want.

Attending this event was an actor whose movie was still in theaters. Still is as I write this. It is called Serenity, and it's one heck of a flick, based on a great TV series called "Firefly." Like so many quality programs on TV these days, it was cancelled after its first season back in 2002. The movie was second at the box office on its opening weekend, behind Jodie Foster's Flight Plan.

The actor's name is Adam Baldwin (no relation), and he plays a hilarious character who speaks precious few lines in the movie. Such is the way of movies versus television. He appeared in an open Q&A session at the convention. Anybody who paid their $5 for that day, or who had special passes for more money, could raise their hand and ask that burning question that had been plaguing their mind since the first time they saw "Firefly" on TV. "Did you really have a crush on Inara?" was one such mind-boggling query.

I never saw a rule prohibiting video cameras, so I toted my trusty miniDV Handycam along with me. I taped some of Baldwin's session, mainly just to show I was there, but also to test my video camera's capabilities. After it was all over and I got home, I decided to edit the video a little and create a web page linking to my pictures, video, and blog post of the event. I posted a link on the message board and left it at that.

Shortly after, all manner of heck broke loose. I was getting hits from all over the world, and when I looked at my stats, I saw that they were coming from other forums of which I had never heard, and from other fans' own blogs. On that first day I got about 1200 hits. By the next day, that number exploded to more than 9,000. They downloaded the 12MB video more than 1300 times, and the shorter clips more than 1600 times combined. My photos on Fotki got their fair share of views, too.

Visitors came from countries including Germany, France, Australia, Malaysia, USA (just about every state), Canada, New Zealand, Russia, Italy, England, Spain, Africa, and many others. I don't drop these names to impress anyone -- just to share my amazement at how communication has changed in the past 10 years. Before the Internet, the average individual would rarely reach a group that large, much less that widespread.

Now, for any major Web site, this number of hits is no big deal. For me, though, it has been a wild ride. The last time I've had that many people see or read anything I produced was when I worked as a reporter/photographer. It was nice to be "out there" again. The hits have slowed considerably now that the link is no longer in those sites' latest entries. Good thing, too, as I got halfway to my bandwidth limit in two days.

Just today, I found another site that had posted a link to my site on October 18. One of the members asked if anybody had contact information for the guy who shot the video of Adam Baldwin. I contacted them and now I have another acquaintance.

This weekend? I'm going cycling with a guy I met online when I posted a comment that rubbed him the wrong way. Tune in later to see how that went.


Simon said...

The smallification of the world is an amazing thing isn't it?

I'm flying to Toronto in December to hang out with a group of friends I've gotten to know via my favourite author's website. THAT still strikes me as a little strange! (Not CBB, it's Guy Gavriel Kay.) It doesn't hurt that I get to hang out with the author himself either!

Mark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark said...

It is a great thing, especially for someone like me who does not come into contact with a very diverse group of people on a daily basis. Texas is big, but the area where I live and work is cookie-cutter suburb.