Bad Hair Days


Screenshot of wordpress.com showing my post featured in the freshly pressed section

My promo box on the WordPress.com homepage

Excuse me for a moment while I put this lampshade back where it goes, and clean this chips off the couch.

OK. Exhale. Hey! How are you? Looks like pretty much everybody’s gone. I think it’s just us here again.

So regular readers may have noticed something was up the past few days. Even if you didn’t happen to notice how much traffic the blog’s been getting, you might have caught that there were a ridiculous number of comments being posted.

Here, then, is the story of my 15 minutes of bad-hair fame.

I got up Friday morning, and had an e-mail with the latest writing prompt from Plinky.com — “Show a picture of your worst-ever haircut.” I’ve written answers to a small handful of Plinky prompts, and even though this one wasn’t technically a writing prompt, it did relate to a story I’d told recently, so I figured I would write it up.

I got out my senior-year high school yearbook, snapped a quick picture of my senior portrait, and wrote up the story, and then posted it on my blog. No big deal. A bit later, I started working on my “real” post I planned for the day, following up on my trip to Disney World.

Heather and I both noticed that something was unusual around the same time. I noticed that I was getting a high number of comments about the post. and she noticed that my traffic counter was shooting up ridiculously quickly. I went into my stats page to try to figure out what was going on — A lot of the traffic was coming from WordPress.com. Was I getting visitors because of one of the tags on the post? Were that many people checking out the “mullet” tag?

And then we saw — I was “Freshly Pressed.” Of a half-million new blog posts, mine had been chosen to be featured on the front page of WordPress.com. There, for the viewing pleasure of thousands, was my embarrassing high-school senior portrait.

On Friday, I received 3,515 visits to my blog. For point of reference, my previous one-day record was 159. The bar graph showing my daily visits became useless, because every other day for the last month essentially became too small to measure.

On Saturday, it kept going, with 3,482 visits that day. On Sunday, 3,434. On Monday, I logged over 1,200 visits before they finally replaced my post on the front page of WordPress.

To put that in perspective, about half of the traffic my blog as received since I launched it in January 2009, almost two years ago, came in that 72-hour period.

And then there’s the post itself. We watched as the post surpassed my other top posts. There was a moment, not knowing how long it would stay on Freshly Pressed, where we wondered whether it would surpass the previous most-popular single post, One More Bite of the Apple. In a bit of understatement, it did. The previous most-viewed record, for that post, was 540 visitors. My haircut post has received almost 8,000. More people have viewed it than have viewed my blog homepage in the entire time my blog has been up.

So, thoughts about it …

It’s cool. It’s a huge honor. A lot of the comments I received were congratulating me on being Freshly Pressed. It generated a lot of traffic, not just for that one post, but for the site as a whole. About a third of the page views during those 72 hours were for things other than that one post. So there’s that part of it.

It feels a little random. There are posts I like, posts I feel good about. That post was just a diversion I was writing to answer a prompt for the fun of it. I didn’t give it a second thought. I had no idea that it would be paid any attention at all. Also, I never had any goal to be Freshly Pressed. It’s a big honor, but not one that I sought.

It’s a little weird that that’s what has been the defining characteristic of my blog. One third of my blog traffic has been that one post. Half of my blog traffic has been caused by that one post. My blog is now basically, historically, “David’s Bad Hair and Other Stories.” It’s like the band that has a huge hit with their quirky one-off song that’s utterly unlike their sound. If I could have picked a post to get that sort of response, it wouldn’t have been that one. I hoped someday to write a post that would get better response than my previous one-day high. I’m pretty sure I’ll never top this level.

I’m annoyed with myself that, yeah, on Saturday and Sunday, I actually spent time thinking, OK, what do I write next? If I get any residual traffic, what would I want them to read next? It may have even had a small effect.

A lot of people commended me for being brave enough to share the old photo. A lot of people saying they were jealous of the response, but wouldn’t have been brave enough to share a photo like that. Me, I’m an improv actor. I get paid to make a fool of myself publicly all the time. I didn’t give it a second thought. Nice that it “paid” this time, too.

That said, I wasn’t sure what I thought about the reaction. A lot of the early comments were basically laughing at my hair, if deservedly so? Was that the only reason I was picked, was because I had a funny picture? It was nice when an increasing number of comments talked positively about the humor and storytelling. Hopefully there’s more to me than just bad hair, and the feedback was very very very nice.

The big question I have is, what happens next? Is there any long-term benefit to this, or was it just a funny thing that happened one weekend? Will any of those people come back? Will my Google reach increase because of the increased traffic? Are there other areas of impact that I’m not anticipating?

So, all in all, it was kind of weird. And, yeah, I was totally taken in, constantly checking my stats during the weekend to old records be beaten and then new milestones be reached.

But I’m very grateful. Grateful for being picked, grateful for the traffic, grateful for the comments, very grateful for the compliments. Grateful for the people who read other things and said it spoke to them, grateful for the opportunity to share those things. To WordPress, a huge thank you, and thank you as well to everyone who stopped by.

And if any of the weekend guests are still here, feel free to stick around and have fun with us.

View My Worst-Ever Haircut and Mull It


From a Plinky prompt: Show a picture of your worst-ever haircut.

david hitt high school photo mullet

My high school senior yearbook portrait

It wasn’t intentional, I promise.

To be sure, I went through a series of bad hair styles in late high school and through college, and, to a lesser extent, thereafter. Somewhere, there are probably worse pictures of the style in this picture, but it was the worst one I had handy.

In my defense, for what little defense it provides, I didn’t realize I was rocking a mullet.

I blame Jeremy Wells. Jeremy, you see, was my high school newspaper editor my sophomore year, and he was, to my young mind, awesome. He excelled at everything I wanted to excel at and more. And while he was a good writer, his main strength as editor was his design and graphics ability, proving that you could become a school newspaper editor on the skills I had instead of the skills I didn’t.

I wanted to be Jeremy Wells.

And that imitation extended to hair. I wanted long hair like Jeremy’s. So I decided to start growing it out.

Now, I did not want a mullet. To be honest, at that point, I didn’t even know what a mullet was. In fact, it wasn’t until probably a decade after high school that I really realized that I’d had one.

What did I want? Awesome long hair. Like hippie or rock star hair, but clean cut and respectable. That’s totally better than a mullet. Look, I was in high school, whadda you want? Shut up.

What I got was a mullet. That I kept for way too long.

And the irony was this. I was telling this story to someone recently, how I didn’t know I had a mullet and that’s not what I was aiming for, I just wanted awesome long hair like Jeremy’s. I pulled out the yearbook to show his picture to explain what I’d actually wanted.

And in that picture, looking at it again for the first time in almost 20 years, it turns out Jeremy Wells was totally rocking a mullet.

Sigh.

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