As I walked down an aisle, overwhelmed by the number of choices that lay before me, a clerk walked by shaking her head and mumbling, "Too much stuff!" We laughed together, and there before us was a table full of items wearing big yellow tags indicating mark downs. Amid the disarray was a large pink clock. Showing the hours and minutes, two shapely legs in striped stockings and feet in high heeled shoes completed the best crazy Santa gift ever. I couldn't believe my luck.
I have often written about web sites that I enjoy: delanceyplace.com, about.com, grammargirl.com, and visualthesaurus.com among many. (Just discovered whatis.com.) I've written about them as trustworthy places where you can find answers, information, newsletters, articles, puzzles - but sites that routinely stick to their purpose of concise and interesting information about something, variability being the watchword, but once-a-day variability being the practice. Imagine my surprise, to open about.com and be met with box after box of paths I could enter, not unlike rabbit holes I soon found out.
This is the new about.com page1
and page 2,
followed by four more pages of boxes with an index on the last page. Each row of boxes seems to have a stated theme, i.e., HOME, TRAVEL, FOOD, etc.
The next day about.com looked exactly like the day before. I don't know when the topics change.
These pages replace what looked like this just a few short days before.
I can't figure out if somebody just blindly walked into the idea that "if you show enough stuff, somebody will buy (or read) something," based loosely on a further claim that "if you have enough stuff, somebody will find something they want to buy," encouraging impulse buying. It seems to me that the opposite is most likely true, "if you have a limited supply of stuff, somebody with a need will buy something for that need," because they won't be overwhelmed by 'too much stuff.'
There are other factors that enter the logic, but mainly we have in this country a society that believes more is better. Some folks have tried to change that to 'less is more,' but I don't think that has caught on in merchandising.
I grant you that I would love to look at more about Downton Abbey. We have to wait until January for the new season. I wouldn't mind looking at how to phase plastic out of my kitchen. But as they say, 'that's not what a search was made for,' and to be precise, that's not what I was searching for. If I look up wars for some general article or definition of war, I might hope to find about.com in the list of hits, but instead I found wikipedia, starwars, facebook and lego - multiple entries for each one and no entry for about.com.
Authority for these boxes? Here's an incomplete list: walking expert, comedians expert, home cooking expert, bathrooms expert, United States travel expert, chemistry expert, rugs and carpets expert, color expert, (that one for Downton Abbey,) gardening expert, green living expert, candy expert, fish and seafood cooking expert, local foods expert, American foods expert, high blood pressure expert, colds and flu expert, and healthy aging expert. There were many more experts.
I googled a few of the experts. It seems that medical articles must be written or reviewed by a licensed physician, but that reviewer isn't named. The one doctor listed was a DO or Doctor of Osteopathy. Patrick Bromley, the comedians expert has written, performed and reported on comedians since the 90's. Peggy Trowbridge Philipone has been writing and consulting on cooking for over twenty years. Marian Caldwell who is the 'money-in-your-twenties expert' worked at a bank and has been writing about money for many years, primarily for young people. One of the references she uses has a number of disclaimers and is put out by Newsmax, an American conservative news organization, and I couldn't see a connection in the piece she referenced. The chemistry expert has a PhD in Chemistry.
Most of the 'experts' named for about.com have credentials that reflect their claim as experts. I do continue to look for a relevant educational background for those whose advice I consider, but I believe also that extensive experience can be a strong qualification. It's a tricky subject.
For the Future
I want to get back to some simplicity. I like all my cyber toys, but they do too much. There's a bully in there somewhere dumping all manner of stuff on us. On the other hand, I've been known to spend whole days going down one rabbit hole after another, and those are usually happy days.