Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011: A Year in Review

A belated happy birthday to Greg's Gourmet contributor A. Pawar and an early happy birthday to contributor Addie Talley!  Best wishes to both of you.  And a special shoutout thanks to the Bone Crusher who presented me with a refurbished computer!  I can't say enough how much I appreciate that as well as Bone Crusher's contributions and support of The Gourmet.  Additionally, she also provided me with enough chocolate to turn my face into one massive zit, so big thanks there as well!

2011 has been an interesting year.  I know it's also been a tough year for a lot of people out there including a bunch of my readers.  We've got a Congress that's more inept than Rick Perry's epic dislike-to-like ratio on his YouTube videos, a state government that makes this guy look like Stephen Hawking's smarter twin brother, and an economy that makes Jared Fogle's pornography business look like a conglomerate giant (yes, I am going to keep bringing that up because it's just so funny).

A Rule Britannia of eggs/tomatoes/bacon, potatoes, and toast

I don't even know what the hell a Rule Britannia is, but that's what it looks like.  Pretty good stuff from Cafe 976 in Pacific Beach, CA while meeting with relatives.  Thought I'd start you off with some food before going into a thoughtful post.

I've been blogging steadily for the entire year, something I haven't done since the Myspace days and Xanga prior to that (for which I was eventually banned for having too much to say).  I've been fortunate to develop an awesome following of readers and fans of the blog, something I take very seriously.  It's immensely pleasing when someone talks about the blog or says they forwarded it onto someone or set it as their homepage.  Okay, I made that last part up, but the rest is true.  The development and marketing of the blog has been part of an experiment to dive into the realms of social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., etc.).  First of all - YouTube.  I'd like to start a vlog or some kind of semi-regular video feature.  This would naturally include regular contributors and me partaking in feats of epic proportions, eating weird or gross things, or filming unusual food items.  I'm still not sure how it would work and I'm not sure what I'll use for a camera (I've got an old Canon that uses tape but has a fried battery and I've got my Nano but I'm not sure if I can edit that video on a PC).  So stay tuned for that in 2012.

Facebook is an enigma.  I like how you can connect with anyone but at the same time don't like how it devalues friendship.  How many people are on your Facebook that you have absolutely no communication with but were otherwise friendly or even friends with at some point?  It's like making that online connection means you're free of all obligations to actually "stay in contact".  This is true with Greg's Gourmet, because I post my bi-weekly updates on there and have a good idea of who looks at it and who doesn't, and I find it interesting to discover who doesn't check this blog out at all.  I'm not mad, I just genuinely find it interesting because I believe it's part of that whole phenomena of making that online connection but then seizing to actually continuing the friendship.  And if you're reading this then obviously I'm not talking about you.  Even if you visit every once in a while I'm not talking about you.  I'm talking about people I considered or may still think of as good friends who never look at the site or wouldn't know that Greg's Gourmet exists.  The thing is, though - Facebook is such a tiny fraction of my total viewership.  So much of my traffic now comes from other sources but you still wonder why certain people seemingly refuse to look at the site of a so-called friend.  It's interesting and that's the phenomena that it creates.  Of course with Facebook you can be friends with people you otherwise wouldn't be friends with so it can go both ways.

Social media is kind of like a relationship in the sense that you've gotta give some to receive some, and I'm always happy to oblige.  I have a whole page here dedicated to other people's websites and whenever I mention someone I include a link to their stuff (unless I have reason to think they don't want it included.  If I have made a mistake in assuming one way or the other, do let me know).  I seriously find it all fascinating because in a way, social media helps you figure out who your real friends are.  Back in 2003 if you'd launch a blog it was a big deal and everyone would flock to it to see what you were up to.  I don't know when that mentality changed because I've seen people launch blogs this year and then tell me "nobody's looking at it."  I find it strangely perplexing that you have to market your blog to people on your Facebook, but as I previously mentioned, that's the world we've created with all of this technology.  It's no longer "oh, my friend created this, I'm gonna check it out", but rather, you've gotta pitch yourself to earn those views.  At least that's what I think.

Above all else, the site serves as a reflection of myself and, really, a portfolio of what I can do.  It's not just really brilliant writing that reaches a wide audience, but it's the marketing and advertising without being annoying, demonstrated principles of photography, use of Flash, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver, utilization of HTML and CSS coding, ActionScript coding, and even frickin' retail!  But you look even deeper and you'll find other things I do, including a portfolio of my screenwriting, my ability to leave critical feedback without being a jerk, examples of video editing and proper framing.  I'm not saying this to boast, but to just bring to attention because I'm applying for jobs where these skills can come in handy and a blog is a perfect way to show them off.  Last year I wouldn't have been able to say any of this because so many of those skills and programs were foreign to me.

Egg Salad from the Mt. Soledad Market and Deli

It's also interesting that certain companies and other brands reach out to celebrity bloggers such as myself and others turn the other cheek.  This is where Twitter comes in handy and why I should really update it more even though I think it's ridiculously stupid.  The reality is though - every time I write a post I'm advertising someone for free.  And considering that my readership has been growing all year, that's huge.  Companies like Cafepress, YoCrunch, and Rangoli to name a few have reached out, whether it be through Twitter or e-mail or some other medium.  That kind of connection is huge.  Likewise, other companies sometimes choose to act like jerks, such as Vons, Jack Link's Beef Jerky, or Lake Murray Cafe.  By the way - every time I mention those goof companies in a post they move one notch up in the search engines.  See what happens when you have poor customer service?

Since starting Greg's Gourmet I've expanded my horizon with what kind of food I eat, namely seafood.  You couldn't get me near seafood for the longest time, but since creating this site dedicated to food, I've learned to appreciate all different kinds of gourmet, above and below sea level and from all over the world.  I don't make fun of vegans as much as I used to, though I still do trash people who go to McDonald's looking for a healthy lunch (and then getting a salad and drenching it in ranch dressing.  Cool story, bro).  If this is you then please stop reading this blog.  I can't even stand to look at you.

I've had a lot of fun updating this site throughout the year with my gourmet adventures.  Everything from junk food to fast food to fine dining to health food to disgusting crap to childhood stories to road trips.  Everything from pigs lips to fried octopus to the In-N-Out 4x4 to eating in a ghost town to the Gatorade Mafia.  Even though certain subjects tend to garner more reads than others, I think it's good to have a broad range of different features and stories centered around food.

One of my goals for the new year is to still aim for a million views.  It's hard, especially since blogs get far less views than videos on YouTube and I started this from scratch, but I think it's a doable aspiration.  I also plan to continue to update the design and interface of the site as I further develop my skills in web coding.  I'm not going to do anything stupid like Facebook's new Timeline feature (seriously, do they have a bunch of 5 year olds working there?), but I want to gradually add more color and design to give it life.  And Top 5 Tuesday.  Maybe actually aim to update it every Tuesday.  Or just change it to Top 5 Whenever.

If you're considering starting a blog of your own I'd say go for it.  However, unless it's a simple "here's what's going on in my life" personal blog, you'll find that it's a lot more challenging to maintain than you'd think but it's worth it.  Views can be hard to come by but you have to just keep marketing it around.  Keep updating it and keep getting your stuff out there.  I know it can be nerve wracking to post stuff for the world to see, but if you can hold someone's attention while they're on your page and keep them coming back for more then you're doing something right.  Your own confidence can rub off on people for the better.  The first thing I ever posted on the Internet was a script back in 2003 or 2004.  I put it on a professional screenwriting site for feedback and it got a hole ripped in it bigger than the one in Rick Santorum's foreign policy.  But you bounce back.  I don't like cliches...actually, wait, I love cliches - and in an attempt to quote Rocky: "It's not how hard you can throw a punch but how hard you can take a punch."

It's been a terrific first year for Greg's Gourmet and there's gonna be tons more exciting, mouth-watering things to come.  At any time if you have pictures of really good food that you've eaten, I'd love to see them.  Recommendations?  Yes please.  Challenges to eat really disgusting things?  Sure, bring it on.

Hope you're having a terrific holiday season and have a remarkable New Year!

It felt appropriate to end this post with a steak

Thanks for reading!