This is my individual page for composition. Finished product and group integration is over here -> StuffWhitePeopleLike

On StuffWhitePeopleLike, ZacharyBurke—Still to do: Description of other pages, description of non-clamber contributors.

Overall Site Description


Layout


The “Stuff White People Like” website, like most weblogs, is divided into four main sections: The Header spans the top of the page, the center of the page is vertically divided into one wide Content area containing the posts and a narrower Sidebar area (on the right-hand side in this case) containing a variety of navigation tools and advertisements. The Footer spans the bottom of the page.

In this particular template, it consists only of the words “Blog at WordPress.com. | Theme: Mistylook by Sadish.” which link to Wordpress and its themes archive respectively, followed by a tiny, centered image resembling a smiley face. There is nothing else about it to describe.
Header

The header of this blog consists of a few distinct sections. From the top down, we see a series of “tabs” labeled “Home,” “About,” “Book” and “Full List of Stuff White People Like” from left to right. The tab corresponding to the current page is highlighted, and they each highlight on mouseover. Immediately to the right of this tab is a text input box and a button labeled “Search.” Beneath this is the page title, “Stuff White People Like,” underlined by a gray subtitle which simply reads “This blog is devoted to stuff that white people like.” On the right-hand side of the page, parallel to the title, we have a bold bit of text saying “Feed on” and two links, “Posts” and “Comments.” On the left-hand side of each of these links is the square, orange RSS image, sized to match the font.

The header is concluded by a wide, page-spanning banner image twice the height of everything previously described. The banner is divided into four perfectly square images: A close-up of some sushi, two dogs relaxing on a carpet, a person on a seashore-rock in the distance, and a medium shot of some green, yellow and red bell peppers for sale. The largest text on the page is actually in this image. In white, superimposed on the bottom of the sushi and dogs images, are the words “Stuff White People Like” in bold serif font.

Content (Posts)

Each post invariably contains a title followed by a small gray date and the name of the poster, which is most often (but not always) “clander.” Another consistency with every post is the grayed text at the bottom, stating which category the post has been made under (most often “Uncategorized”) and the number of comments. Both the title of the post and the number of comments are links to the post’s individual page, in which all comments are expanded and visible, unless there are so many that they must be divided into more than one page. On the “Home” page, comments are not shown, and a number of posts appear in reverse chronological order separated by white space and dotted horizontal rules.

In general, posts are one of two types: Posts contributing to the “Stuff White People Like” project itself, and news posts. The former follow certain conventions, such as having a title (beginning with an incrementing number) that states the subject of the post, and featuring at least one picture of this subject. (For example, the most recent post is a project post entitled “#122 Moleskine Notebooks”—It immediately features a two-by-two-inch image of a moleskine notebook, along with text.) After the main text of project posts, there is usually an italicized line of text saying: “Photo by contributor” and linking to the site from which the image was borrowed.

The latter sort of posts, those relating to news, are much more varied. In general, they can be characterized as concise (information is given in as few words as possible), sometimes stating the entire purpose of the post in the title and giving details in the body. These news posts include images when relevant; for example, in the post entitled “All T-Shirt Proceeds to Benefit Children of the Night,” two side-by-side images of the T-shirts in question appear immediately, followed by the post’s text of less than 75 words. While all are concise, not all news posts are short. However, their tone is distinctly informative, in sharp contrast to the tone of the project posts.

Project Posts

In the Dec. 3rd, 2008 project post (#117 Political Prisoners), clander writes “For the most part, this list has offered ways to befriend white people one at a time.” This description is certainly in-line with the tone of the project posts. The language used is very similar to that of a pamphlet or how-to guide; the posts are written from the point of view of an omniscient narrator and address you, the reader, who are implied to be seeking advice on how to get along with a group of white people. Much of each post, especially near the beginning and end, mimics the authoritative, unselfconscious and straightforward style of a guidebook and uses anthropological language. Humorous quips which ignore this style are scattered throughout.

Every project post is very often sarcastic and ironic, using the authoritative guidebook tone to make blatantly false claims, focusing that irony on white people. For example, in project post #117: “...political prisoners do not exist until a famous white person has drawn attention to them. Until that point, any person who has been locked up for their beliefs is just a regular prisoner and subsequently not worthy of graffiti stencils.” Each post will often suggest things that the reader ought to say to their white friends and/or include sample dialog with a white person. Furthermore, each project post is conscious of previous posts, sometimes linking to them in-text, but more often referencing them as though they were previous chapters in a handbook.

Project posts are typically over six paragraphs long, with an upper range of around ten and a lower range of none (this is an anomaly: “#114 America” was posted on November 4th, 2008 and contains one larger-than-average photo of the Obamas and Bidens. It has almost 2,000 comments!). Each paragraph contains a half-dozen sentences or so. In general, these posts stick to an informational essay’s structure. Posts are made every ten days or so, on average; there is no regular schedule nor clear situational exigence for posting (Besides the Nov. 4 post, of course.).

Comments

Comments are very diverse in length and content. Some are short reactions to the post or to other comments, while others are long and traditionally-composed essays reacting to either the post or the current topic of conversation. Notably, comments are nested, allowing side-conversations to erupt from each comment, sub-comment, and sub-sub-comment. Also, commenters are not required to log-in and can manually enter their username. Furthermore, comments are not screened, so anything goes. There are a few "known" commenters who throw in their hats multiple times, sometimes dozens of times, per post. Because usernames are manually entered, people occasionally impersonate other regular commenters, and there are frequently arguments about who is the "real" commenter. The primary rhetor, clanders, never posts comments or interacts with the commenters. <! Some of the most persistent commenters are fervent white supremacists.>

Sidebar

The sidebar is divided into gray-backed sections, each separated from the others by a little white space, and each with a rounded upper-left hand corner. The first of these sections contains an empty text entry field and, below it, a button labeled “Search.” Notably, this is placed immediately beneath the other search form in the header; the two are separated only by the RSS links and banner image. The second section in the header contains a square image of a book with a green sticker-like image which (though barely visible) reads “Available Now!” Beneath this book image are the words: “Stuff White People Like” in bold and green, which are a link to the same “Book” page the header tab would direct to, followed by “Available Now!” in black. Beneath is an advertisement for the SWPL shirts (described later).

Following this are five additional sections containing widgets (the sidebar search section is one of these as well). These widgets include a link to subscribe to e-mail updates, the number of hits to the site (“56,912,387 hits” as of this writing), an archive listing linked months and years (eg. “February 2009, January 2009, etc.”), a contact info section simply listing an e-mail address with the @ symbol substituted with “[at]” (stuffwhitepeoplelike[at]gmail.com), and finally a section entitled “Top Posts” which list links to individual posts and pages (incl. the “About” and “Full List of...” pages).

Colors & Styles


This page’s content areas are white on an off-white background. The body of the text is black, with links appearing in dark green. On mouseover, a red underline appears beneath most links. Gray is used as an accent. The body of each post and most non-title links use a medium-sized (around 11-12 point) sans-serif font. Titles appear in a thick (bold?), serif font and the main page title is in all-caps.

Images


The images on this site are mostly photographs. These can be characterized as colorful (high saturation) and some appear to be sensible to the conventions of photography (in terms of brightness, contrast, focus, etc.) while others are less so. A few images are graphically designed: Namely, the covers of the books “Stuff White People Like” and “Stuff Environmentalists Like.” One advertisement on the site is a combination of graphic design and photography. It’s an advertisement for “SWPL Shirts” showing two superimposed photos of the shirts.


Analysis


Rhetorical Patterns


The Product, Advertising
A very direct way in which this blog (beyond the posts alone) can be considered a rhetorical message is because there is a product on the line: “Clander” wants to sell the book, “Stuff White People Like, and the T-shirts as well. Certain rhetorical choices reflect this clearly. For example, there are prominently-placed advertisements for the book and the shirts on the main page. Only in sub-pages do sponsored Google ads for other products appear.
It’s significant that the majority of the rhetor’s discussion of the project, namely the Q&A which begins with the question of how the blog got started in the first place, is located on the “Book” page rather than the “About” page.

Guidebook Authority
One rhetorical pattern apparent in the text of each post which is reinforced by the design of the blog is its authoritative tone. Every image on the site appears professionally taken (in terms of composition and photographic sensibilities) and appear to be drawn from a variety of Internet sources, rather than taken by the rhetor personally.
The color scheme and layout chosen by the rhetor also reinforce this. Though he had limited options due to the restrictions leveled by Wordpress, “clander” chose a theme called “MistyLook” which touts (compared to other options) a “A two-column white theme with top-level page navigation and large custom header.” There were options available for much less colorful themes with even more focus on the text, and plenty which more stylistically wild. “Clander” chose one with a traditional layout and easy-to-read text, but with a definite color scheme and consistent stylistic choices (eg. rounded corners on menu items, different background colors, and some subtle images in addition to a prominent header).
The “Full List of Stuff White People Like” also plays into the guidebook-style, serving as a table of contents and a method of organization. Interestingly, “clander” uses a page for this setup, but does not make any use of Wordpress’ post categorization system, even to differentiate between news and project posts. This is one of few places where the blog’s inherent restrictions and the rhetor’s needs seem to be at odds.
However, overall, the rhetor chose the blog’s style options and photographs which augment the authoritative tone of his posts.

Internet Fame (Author Visibility)
The author considers himself “Internet Famous.” Many of the rhetorical choices made on this website reinforce this. For example, his sidebar shows advertisements for his own product, a link to subscribe to the blog, and a site counter displaying the blog’s 57,710,055 hits. There is a “Top Posts” listing here as well, implying that many posts are so popular that people would be happy to use a widget to access them more quickly.
The Q&A in the “Book” page contains the following:


You have over 30 million hits, did you ever think it would be this popular?
No. I started it with the hopes that maybe 10 of my friends would read it. I never expected it to be read by this many people.

And later…


Any advice for people who want to be internet famous?
Don’t try. People can smell desperation, you have to create something that you like and you honestly cannot set out hoping for success - it’s your first step to failure.

It might be worth considering how the rhetor’s recognition of his fame ties in to choices made about feedback.

Despite e-fame, the rhetor keeps a low profile. The ‘About’ page gives no direct information about the rhetor, instead listing a few links to media coverage of the blog, and an unlabeled picture of a smiling white woman in a tye-dyed skirt carrying a black child on her back, presumably in a developing nation. The author does not provide the contextually expected page of personal information here.
In fact, the rhetor’s presence on his own website is negligible, especially when compared with what would be expected from a personal or even another topic blog. Nowhere on the site does he post personal information beyond an e-mail address.

User Feedback
There are a few obvious choices made about user feedback. This is a choice very intimately connected with Wordpress’ backend and the options available to the rhetor were limited. He could block all comments, moderate comments, restrict comments to blog ‘users,’ or allow unlimited, uncensored commenting. He chose the latter. Every single post, with the exception of some news and announcement posts for which he chose to disable comments, has received hundreds of replies.
The only concrete choice the rhetor made about interacting with his readers via comment is simply to have nothing to do with it. There is not a trace of “clander” in any comment thread. This is certainly a part of the rhetor’s choice to remain mostly invisible. The questions answered on the “Book” page seem to reflect and clear up common misconceptions and concerns found in the comments (eg. “Are you racist against white people?”). Furthermore, he doesn’t ask for comments or directly address his audience to ask for their opinion. One noted exception to this is in the December 26, 2008 post, “Finalists for Non-Profit Search,” in which he opened a poll in order to decide to which charity the proceeds from merchandise sales should go.






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