It started with a piece of advice posted by the store’s webmaster. This is not an individual working for the store like me, but a hosting company. They suggested submitting your URL to the directories every month, a piece of advice that struck me as very stupid. In order to make sure that this wasn’t just my ignorance, I asked around among the SEO people. They explained kindly, in short sentences with easy words, that my webmaster was stupid. I had a little correspondence with the webmaster about this, and he assured me that he went to seminars on best SEO practices every month and was making sure our catalog was following those best practices. He also told me that he had typed in “Arizona teacher store” at Google and hadn’t found us. I did mention in my response that we were not in Arizona, but didn’t point out that our catalog had been a PR 2 with 3 visitors a day when I met it, so he might as well give up claiming “best practices.”

Then I wrote about the local bakery for myzip, and had to ask five people before I got permission to take a picture. It was the handsome baker who gave permission, and he was also the first one who had understood the concept of local search. I had barely been able to restrain myself from crying out, “I’m offering you a link!” If someone walked into our store (and I have been trying to think which faithful customer I could direct toward myzip in that zip code, let me tell you) and offered us a link, I’d have let them take pictures, no question. I’d have brought the dog out to meet them and given them a cup of coffee.

At that point, I realized that there was something odd going on.

You know those quiz-like lists “You know you play too much WoW when… you fail at something IRL and blame it on lag.” There could be one for people who spend so much time plying The Dark Art that they begin to think that links are objects of actual value in the real world, or that everyone should know about SEO if they work with computers.

It reminded me of a conversation in the bell choir, when we were discussing the fact that we no longer know what people do in their jobs. Miss B does sequencing. I use the word “sequencing” in my work, too. It means things like this:

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When Miss B does sequencing, it looks like a line graph; a boring but multicolored line graph, in fact. She sequences DNA. And then prints it out on papers. I still don’t know why, but she did some for The Chemist who works, I believe, with spinach.

Obviously, I don’t really know what The Chemist does, either.

And they don’t know what I do, except for the parts that are easily conceptualized. And of course that is what I tend to mention: curriculum design, workshops, and then I finish up with “and I take care of the online store.”

Last night I went to observe one of Janalisa’s cooking shows. She has been doing them for 13 years, and I was able to pick up some useful gen by being her observer. Naturally, a number of the guests knew me from the store. My store, the one where I had a physical presence, has been closed for almost a full year now, and I still can’t leave my house without being identified by it. Janalisa was surprised. “It’s like you’re some kind of celebrity,” she said.

She was meeting people whose pool parties and bridal showers she had done, so we were even.

But one of the guests asked, as people often do, if I minded the commute to the new store. “I’m not usually there,” I said. “I mostly take care of the online store.” And she immediately thought about packing and shipping orders. I don’t do that at all. I didn’t go on to explain that I create content, troll for links, and submit my URL. There is no point to it. It made more sense to leave her with the mental image of me showing her picture books that conveyed the concept of opportunity cost. I still do that, but not for individuals in the real world. Just for spiders, in search of link juice and traffic.

Today, having gotten up at 4:00 a.m. to see #2 son off to the Fed challenge, I will be going up to the store to dabble in real world activity. I am doing a workshop, and then have a rehearsal with the choirlet tonight. Somewhere along in here I need to clean house and plan what to cook for Easter.

It is good that I do cooking shows and knit and feed my family. It keeps me from disappearing entirely into the virtual world.