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I write on a fairly low traffic blog. One thing I've been seeing some of around the internet are blog posts which use meme pictures(example picture. It seems like an interesting approach to me. I'm a programmer and write about technical topics. Sometimes topics are pretty dry and it's difficult to make them interesting. So, I recently decided to try out this style. I'm not for sure how much I like it. In some cases, it just makes bad writing less... bad. And in others, it can take a very dry and boring topic and make it hold my attention.

What is everyone's thoughts? What are the bad points to using memes (or other funny/not-diagram) pictures in writing about a topic?

Also, for reference, this is the blog post I wrote using this style(it's very technical)

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Maybe I'm misreading your post, or maybe a new definition of "meme" is coming into vogue. But my dictionary defines meme as "A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another," and that's pretty much how I've heard it used in the past. –  Jay Jan 17 '13 at 16:01

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Downsides:

  • It's unprofessional. They are usually teenager level style.
  • Most of them are repeated ad nauseam. Reposting an old meme is boooring.
  • Trying to fit them in for the sake of having them in is a really pathetic attempt at being hip.

Upsides:

  • It can liven up a text.
  • It can be really memorable and funny if done right.
  • It can really drive a point home.

Do NOT use generic memes for generic purposes. Use of rage faces to express opinions is practically bound to be a failure. Using a meme in role of lorem ipsum (or any other generic sample subjected to given process) is bound to feel pathetic. Using it where a common expression would suffice is awkward.

On the other hand, hand-modifying a meme to make it a perfect fit for a given situation, something that would be hard to put in words to give it enough impact, can really make the impact.

I can imagine you describe a particular compiler directive that really badly breaks the resulting binary directly in opposition to what it should protect against, then you put Scumbag Steve's hat on it. It's hard to describe in words how utterly assinine the compiler behavior becomes, but the picture is worth a 1000 words.

Or there's a case where given system running in a virtual machine runs an emulator under which a virtual machine runs an interpreter that executes a simulation. XZibit made it.

Or there's a simple typo in a script that triggers a small routing bug and brings down an entire data center bringing a whole city offline.

Don't overthink it. Only use simplest variations. Think of the memes as punctuation marks similar to ! or ? except expressing somewhat more complex emotions, and it can be fine. If you abuse them, though, you lose all benefits. That would be like abusing punctuation, wouldn't it!!!?!!

edit:

oops I didn't notice the example page you linked to. I see you commit a serious crime: using memes without understanding them.

The first meme: "1st world problems". It's used in context of mocking a trivial problem. ALWAYS with sarcasm. In this case it would imply you're supporting long names and mocking ire caused by them. This is not what you claim in your text. You abused a meme badly, used something strictly cynical in a direct, non-cynical way.

Second: Sudden Clarity Clarence. It's to express epiphany, either truly or mockingly. A minor advice does not quite qualify there. It should be either really surprising or really trivial, not something from the spectrum between.

Third: Success kid: It's a marginally known meme about a minor serendipity. Is the achieved improvement of code just effect of blind luck? What do you want to convey through showing the amount of joy it's supposed to cause? The message is unclear, and the fact you used a little known advice animal doesn't help at all.

In essence, know the meaning of the meme before using it, or you risk making an ass of yourself, say, by inserting your own serious opinion into a frame of mockery. Memes are a minefield, and you really need to know what you're doing.

ps.

Concerning number of pictures per blog post, what others address: Use as many as you want, but providing you use them right and make them genuinely funny.

I doubt you'd find enough context in a post of the size you have linked to ever fit three memes in a meaningful and original way. There's maybe enough material for one. If you're a genius, you might squeeze three out of it. Are you?

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1  
Hmm, interesting. Thanks for the critique. I'll admit I'm a bit less knowing about memes than most people on the internet. Didn't really understand that I misused them quite that badly though. I'll probably move that post back to my private-drafts and clean it up a bit and repost it when I'm more confident with it then –  Earlz Jan 17 '13 at 21:42
    
Also, do you know of any example of good blog posts that do make light useage of memes where it is beneficial? –  Earlz Jan 17 '13 at 21:44
    
@Earlz: professional - no, but I don't follow that many closely really. If you want to observe usage of memes in their "natural environment" (as opposed to collections etc), I suggest you visit some of topical SFW boards of 4chan, like /k/ (weapons), /sci/ (science), or /ck/ (cooking). You'll notice there's maybe one meme per 100 posts, but where they are used, they make an impact. –  SF. Jan 18 '13 at 2:22

In addition to S.F.'s excellent answer, "Less is more." The post you linked to could have one of those meme photos, but not all three. Having said that, using one of the meme photos does liven it up a bit and make it less dry. So they are not a bad thing by definition, but they are easy to overdo.

Use them judiciously and when appropriate, not in every post.

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switch(NumberOfMemes){
case 1:
result="This might liven a dull post.";
break;
case 2:
result="If the first one did not work, take it out.";
break;
default:
result="If you want a picture gallery, stop calling it a blog.";
}
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AAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA I wish I could +10 this just for the cleverness of the format. :D –  Lauren Ipsum Jan 17 '13 at 14:04
1  
Just trying to match the genre to the intended audience. –  Fortiter Jan 18 '13 at 3:37

IMHO, this is a clever idea that has been beaten to death. Whoever first thought of it: genius. The 10 bazillion people who copied him: not so much. Like anything, I suppose if done well it can still be cute. But I definitely would not do it on the theory that an unoriginal idea can be made interesting by combining it with an unoriginal gimmick. I'm not saying your ideas are unoriginal. I don't know what your ideas are. I'm just saying that if they ARE unoriginal, you're not going to save them by use of a gimmick.

It's like those slogan that go around. Like, someone quoted Einstein as saying "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results." I don't know if Einstein really said that or not. Whoever first said it: good point. The first few people to quote it in a different context: clever. Now I hear it so often that anytime I hear someone say the first few words of it I want to scream before they're finished.

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