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Battle Red Bag Vol. 23: Pop In To Pop-Up Video

If there is one thing the internet needs, it is (ANGELA LANSBURY) more pop-ups. Plus, your questions answered!

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of great uses for pop-ups. In fact, I may be the world's only Kevin Nealon fan (I know who he is) based on his funny (grating) SNL schtick (only talent) as Subliminal Message Guy (boy, as he looked 17 at the time).

But it troubles me that internet culture has shifted to the point where we are now urging you to share things.

I am a writer of some fame. Some people tell me that I'm a good writer, and I believe them because it gives me an excuse to stay home and not find a real job. When someone shares one of my posts, or links to it and says they enjoy it, it's a great feeling. But it's a great feeling not because you, the individual reader, shared it. But because it moved you enough to share it.

But, for instance, Grantland -- who I single out not to besmirch them, but because they're one of the few sites that I would let get away with this and still visit -- has begun blacking out their entire screen on entry to let you know that, hey, you can share this on Facebook or Twitter. This seems entirely self-defeating to me, though I'm sure that it must be a good strategy at some instance because there are some very smart people working at Grantland.

I often struggle with the idea of marketing myself because I tend to save the things that I share to a very small trickle. For example, I don't go back and retweet (or In Case You Missed It) my posts, because my feeling is that if I matter to you, you'll find it. (Not to mention, you know, I hate clogging timelines with old shit.)

The more things you share, in my mind, the less important they individually become. Marketing through word of mouth is a very powerful thing -- if a reader or fan trusts someone to steer them to a good thing, be it a YouTube or a blog post, they are much more likely to consume the ultimate product. I don't want to make this out to be a case of sharing-shaming, but I am inherently much less likely to trust someone I follow to deliver something good to me if they share twenty things a day. I'm sure there's a certain break-even point where the web hits become worth it even if the people sharing things are sharing a lot, but I can't really follow that to a logical conclusion because your endorsement means less and less to me if it comes buried in other endorsements.

Now the share on Facebook and Twitter buttons? Those are fine with me. Nothing wrong with making it easier to share something. But blacking out the entire screen before the article is even read? That is a little presumptuous, no? To me, that's like assuming a woman wants to sleep with me because she twirled her hair when I was near her once. Just because I clicked through to something doesn't mean I'm so in on the game that I'm ready to share it too. And the fact that you made me waste a click to get past this screen? I'm not thrilled. Now that you've pointed out that I can share something in a manner that assumes I'm a complete fucking idiot, I'm much less likely to follow though on it even if I think it's worthy of being shared.

But hey, what do I know? Those guys probably have studies (hitzzzz) that tell them this makes sense (advertiser money) and tested it (haha!) before switching to it full-time (until enough people complain).


Calvinball writes:

If you could assign one fiction and one non-fiction book as required reading for us loyal readers, what would you choose?

Rivers is a pretty cool first name, what's the story behind why your parents named you that?

You played Pokemon back in the day, right? What started(r?) did you choose and which legendary bird was your favorite?

Can you give us a breakdown of your typical day working for Football Outsiders? I've read a lot of what you've written for them, but are you involved in the process of studying tape and gathering data as well?

1) Fiction: CivilWarLand In Bad Decline, George Saunders. It's funny, it's dark, and Saunders has the most elegant prose out there today. It's so short and curt that some of the sentences actually surprise me, and that's rare.
Non-Fiction: Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott. If you have any interest in writing anything at all, this book will help you more than any writing class.

2) This was actually explained in Volume 16, but Rivers is my middle name, and it's a family name. My dad's middle name, his dad's first name, and so on. I go by it because a) it's a much more fitting name for a writer and b) there are enough Chris' in the world.

3) I did not. Actually, despite being culturally aware of Pokemon, I've probably spent less than an entire day of my life playing the card or video games, thinking, or watching the show. It just never appealed to me all that strongly. However, I did collect all of the JoKamel!

4) During the season, I work six days a week. The bulk of Monday and Tuesday are spent researching, compiling, and writing Any Given Sunday. Almost all of Sunday is spent compiling Audibles for Monday morning. Asides from that, on a typical day I'll have somewhere between three or four other pieces to edit and layout (that's fancy talk for slap ads on), search for quotes for The Week In Quotes, answer reader mail, chart games, delete spam comments, and generally assist with site maintenance. In the offseason, things are a lot less structured because most of our writers are contract workers, so we'll usually run less and I'll usually become a more complete human being. At least until the book run starts.

Nick writes:

Thanks for all the greatness ... on battleredblog, I don't know what I'd do out here in San Diego if I couldn't read someones expert opinion that isn't either a chargers fan or a "flavor of the month" fan out here. Living outside of H-Town now I get to see how quickly people's opinion of us changes, and like you I tell them just wait for January and not to base everything off the two Texans games you happened to watch on TV this year. My Question:Its a bit of a future one, next year Connor Barwin will be a free agent. I have not been a huge fan of Bradie James nor Tim Dobbins, as both have one specialty and the opposing offense can more easily guess what is going to happen just by looking at which one of them is in the game. What do you think of moving Barwin (with the strength, long arms and jumping) to ILB alongside Brian Cushing and having Brooks Reed and Whitney Mercilus on the outside as our starting linebackers next year? This is presuming we resing Barwin who's price may now be affordable since his stats have not been phenomenal this year. I think Wade could transform Barwin in to a great Inside Linebacker. If we don't resign Barwin and if Wade doesn't use my idea (why wouldn't he? i'm really good at Madden.), are you comfortable with the Dobbins/James/Sharpton rotation alongside CUSH? This may be too long for a spot on the blog but I'd like your insight on the future of our inside backers and/or if your pleased with the inside backers at the moment.

Let's eliminate the fodder first, okay? Okay. Bradie James has contributed little to the Texans this year, and if he is playing meaningful snaps next season, it's a bad sign. Barrett Ruud is the linebacker you call when the rest of your linebackers get hurt.

Tim Dobbins: I've always been a big Dobbins fan as a pure run stuffer -- I don't think he's great shakes or anything, but I always felt he could hold his own for a few snaps a game. I think he's much better on special teams, and if anyone dared to make the case that Joe Marciano actually deserves to keep his job, it probably starts with the fact that Dobbins wasn't allowed to purely focus on specials this year. I believe he's a free agent again after signing a one-year deal, so

Daryl Sharpton: Hard for me to get a good read on him this season. Prior to his injury, I thought he was trending up in pass coverage and brought the thunder when he tackled -- even if I wasn't completely sold on his ability to find the right run fits. This year, I think, I'm just going to write off completely. I'm not sure he should be playing off the quadriceps, and the Texans had every reason to rush him back due to desperation at the position. He has not played well at all from my broad view. (I don't chart the Texans so much any more because I'll be writing about the NFC North in FOA 2013.) I think he's nice depth at the position, and someone who could be a good player, but I don't necessarily know that you want to entrust him with a starting job coming into camp.

Brian Cushing: This one is fascinating to me. He's got two years of excellent play, and then his 2010 was cut short by steroids (allegedly) and I didn't think he was playing that well before he tore his ACL. He's a terrific player, but has the Mario Williams issue of always being banged up and having to play hurt. So coming off the injury, do the Texans approach him about an extension in an attempt to buy low? Do they let him play out the contract and see what his market is in free agency? What happens if he still wants top-five linebacker money in negotiations this offseason? Middle linebacker is more important in the Phillips system than in most 3-4 defenses, but it's also not a position that is valued quite as highly in today's NFL. There are very good middle linebackers available in the middle rounds of the NFL draft each year. Obviously he's penciled in as the starter for 2013. After that, it's anyone's guess at this point. I'm not saying he's next in line to get Mario'ed, I'm just saying it wouldn't totally surprise me...

I do think the Texans will spend a draft pick on a middle linebacker this season. The void of uncertainty going forward at the position is too much to ignore. How high of a pick it is will tell you how concerned they are about Cushing and Sharpton.

As for Connor Barwin at middle linebacker: it's not going to happen. Theoretically, Barwin could spend an offseason learning how to do it and working on his coverage skills. Realistically, Barwin is a free agent, pass rushers are valued much more highly than middle linebackers, and there will be plenty of teams that want to pay him to try to replicate his 2011 season if the Texans don't.

MDC writes:

Having written on the internet for about six years now, I find that my reaction to critics has changed quite a bit. Years ago, I felt like I needed to respond to anyone who was critical of me or my writing. These days, unless someone says something that I consider constructive criticism worth addressing, I try to pretty much ignore the run-of-the-mill dumb shit that we all get from time to time. (I don't always succeed, but I try, damn it!)

So, two-part question: 1. What is your preferred course of action in this situation? 2. Does your answer change depending on where your written material is posted and being criticized (i.e. do you respond to critics at FO but not at BRB)?

I absolutely feel like I've taken that same path, but I think the reasoning behind that goes a little deeper than what you are implying. When I was just cutting my teeth in writing, I couldn't believe that anybody would ever consider my point of view wrong. It's almost a personal affront to my senses. "Morlon Greenwood isn't good? You, sir, are full of shit." And so on. But the more you do it, the less surprised you get, and then you stop really caring about the run-of-the-mill jerk responses and only answer those that really challenge your thinking. And even then, I only do it if I'm inclined or have the time.

I think I identify with my critics more than I used to. I believe my therapist was the one that told me "the fact that they commented at all is proof that they're invested in you," which is something to think on. What I would say to you if you actually are a critic of mine (or MDC's, or whoever) is to try to imagine your writer at work. We are humans just like you are. If material isn't readily available or easy to find, or research looks like it will take three days rather than three hours, it is much less likely to get done. There's a certain amount of investment required to drag an idea into writing, and the simple fact is that most of the constructive criticism I get involves a level of investment that I just can't put into that project. When it comes to Any Given Sunday, for instance, I can't chart the entire game and break it down play by play. There's a finite amount of time I can spend on something before I just have to let it go, and though I have high standards for my own quality, sacrifices are made. If I can't research something in a relatively quick span of time, it's going to get relegated to the backburner -- and most of the things that get sent there are going to be ashes by the time I get there. It's not that I don't care. In fact, in some cases I heartily agree with the criticism I get. But there's not much to be done with it. If you'd like to be my football assistant and go dig up (information X) for me and put it in (easily presentable format Z) for me for free, I'm more than happy to accept it. But if you're going to do that, odds are you've probably got enough ambition to do better than using your time to help me. Much easier for me to take the six-to-eight hours of my own time writing something enjoyable and for you to spend the three minutes laughing at me for not considering (random variable X) and move on.

I feel like the criticism chain of command goes e-mail > twitter > comment on website. I am way more likely to take the criticism seriously if someone goes out of their way to find my haunts. I'd actually be fairly more likely to take criticism from BRB seriously though, because I know the community better. I've eaten Lone Spot's tailgate food and I've had drinks with Jordann and papabear and so on. I've never met an FO commenter before.

And speaking of criticism, that was all we got. Three goddamn questions. (You can't say goddamn on the air.) Don't worry, nobody's reading.