To be honest with you I’m not s stickler for anniversaries, I was told to always remember my wedding anniversary whenever I decide to take that plunge, but for now I remember one of the most important days of my life, the day I started my blog – if you look at the countless interviews and things written about me and my blog you undoubtedly piece together its beginnings, but it’s always nice to thank those involved and to write about the evolution of this animal known as Frum Satire.
Unlike most bloggers, I had never heard of the term blogging prior to starting one, I had never read any blogs and quite frankly my time spent online was mainly to look for girls to date and places to mountain bike, with occasional forays into the Craigslist Rants & Raves section – where I actually got my start. During the spring of 2006 I was living in Albany and doing an internship at the New York State Legislature, it was budget season and despite having nothing to actually do I had to stay in the office until the lawmakers were done debating into the wee hours of the evening. When I tired of sitting in the Assembly chambers listening to their bickering, I decided to start writing these long winded rants. mostly about being judged in the frum community and post them in the NY Craigslist Rants and Raves section. At about the same time I made a trip to attend my friends wedding in Toronto where I was to be introduced to the wide world of blogging.
My buddy Sruly may claim the fame of having gotten married the weekend of June 25th 2006, but the real impetus was friend Sarah Zeldman who was an active blogger and encouraged me to start a blog, that way I could share it with my friends easily and it would look cool as well (at this point I didn’t actually think anyone would read it) So on Saturday June 25th 2006 I founded Frum Satire and the adventures began, they didn’t really begin until people I didn’t know would quote what I had written or said, but I was on my way to adventures which have been many.
I didn’t start my blog for any reason in particular, you have to remember that I really had no idea that anyone would read it, so in truth it was just me ranting and my friends reading it. I’m not sure how I figured it out, but I remember finding out how to look at how many people were reading it and saw that I had 50-80 views a day (wordpress calculates views – so wordpress stats such as the ones you may see on Bad For Shidduchim are inherently flawed and can usually be divided by 3 to get the number of visitors) which to me was insane, I wondered who these people were, but had no way to communicate with them so I just kept ranting away and writing random long winded Kerouacian essays about wandering around the hinterlands of upstate NY by foot, car and bike.
Slowly traffic crept up and then suddenly one day it skyrocketed, (this is the post that helped make me big)I was at 500 views a day and wondered why, one of my more technilogically inclined friends explained that I was probably linked by another blog, which of course introduced me to the fact that there were other Jewish blogs and that links from blogs were very important. Then I committed one of the worst cardinal sins of blogging, I decided to emails other blogs and ask to be placed on their blogroll, surprisingly a lot of them agreed to exchange links and suddenly traffic started going up slowly.
I was still anonymous at this point, but in 2007 friends of mine encouraged me to start making You Tube videos and those went over really well. It wasn’t like I made one video that got 240,000 views and then everyone forgot about me, I made hundreds of videos with several thousand views a piece and people started coming up to me in the most random places and saying “you’re that frum satire guy”
It was all still a hobby for me, it wasn’t like I thought much would come out of, then once I came out of the blogging closet by making a Facebook account with my real name and introducing myself as Heshy Fried on You Tube videos I started getting a bit more attention. No offense to Dov Bear or other anonymous bloggers, but I’ve always felt a certain freedom at being able to be me wherever I went and not live a double life – I’m not married with kids and I’ve got no fears of being kicked out of my community – but I always felt like readers would gravitate more towards someone they actually knew. Granted, only the very astute readers know much about me, but I still put a lot out there. Enough that the folks behind last weeks cease and desist letter told me that knew everything about me, it took them a shocking 2 hours, but smart folks could ahve had that information in 10 minutes.
I think my biggest mistake was in not buying the .com extension of Frum Satire, when I began thinking of buying a realk domain name I saw that I couldn;t just buy the .com name, I noticed that the company who owned it wanted $500 at the time I thought that to be a terrible waste of money for a site that had less than a thousand hits a day. So I bought frumsatire.net and watched as the price for frumsatire.com kept going up. The last time I checked, one year ago, the company wanted a whopping $65,000 – for obvious reasons – no less than 200 people a day on average type in any combination of frumsatire to find my site.
The purpose of the site began evolving, as I evolved as a person, I felt for some time as one of the only frum sites (not by frum standards, but by regular Jewish standards) where both frum and non-frum folks would come and debate topics that were actually important. Sure, I was always a pot stirrer and wanted to argue for the sake of intellectual curiosity and to see all sides of the story, but it was also fun to make fun of everything. I always felt that Jews were so strong because we’ve learned to laugh through our miserable history.
I have no idea why I called the blog frum satire, I didn’t actually write any full blown satire until 2009, but it was sprinkled with satire, cynicism and heresy – but I liked the ring of frum satire, better than frum cynic and at the time that I started the blog I was still under the spell of big tent orthodoxy and had hardly ventured beyond the campus chabad in my windy path of skepticism.
I cannot say I remember the first time someone came up to me and showered me with praise, but I do admit that I was flattered. It was even more flattering when girls started asking me out, people started buying me dinner and random folks extended invitations to come stay at their houses. It all got pretty crazy at one point, more in the last couple of years, when rabbis of shuls will come up to me and chassidim in Williamsburg would stop me when I was walking down the street or other random folks I would never expect to read the blog.
The goodness that has come out of this blog has been immeasurable, the free food, donations, praise and general awesome sauce that has been dropped into my life because of it is just so insane to think that it’s all just because I write whatever the hell I’m thinking and share it with the world. When I think about the fact that hundreds of thousands of folks have actually read this rag, it’s pretty ridiculous. 75,000 people last month alone visited this site, if only each of those people gave me a buck.
Every job that I have held in the past 4 years has been as a direct result of blogging, lots of friends have been made (some may have been lost – I’m not sure) I do know that I have enemies, I figure I must right? I have been violently defriended on Facebook? by some folks who didn’t agree with what I wrote – I don’t agree with much of what I write.
When I first started getting a little recognition is when I got the most hate mail and criticism, I think that a lot of what I wrote was so true, but that people couldn’t get over the fact I was writing it, but still frum. I think they expected the people writing such stuff about their community would be anti-frum and this sparked some pretty heated emails. Unfortunately, most of the hate mail has stopped and I think I straddle the line pretty well. I always get a kick out of emails from well known and respected rabbonim who appreciated or agreed with something I wrote, but told me that I shouldn’t tell anyone that they read my blog for obvious reasons.
So nu what’s next?
I have been told that blogging is on its way out, I’m not so sure. I’m sure that the conversation has taken on different forms. Every post I used to write during the 08,09,10 got lots of comments, but now the conversation has gone to twitter and facebook. People share it everywhere, but commenting has become quite barren, people are mostly on mobile devices and don’t to be bothered with commenting. A lot of people assume that if there are no comments there’s no point, but from the inside I can tell it’s not true, I get tons of emails about posts which may get no comments at all and people still discuss this. I was particularly amused that kids in one of my fans yeshivas were printing out my posts to read on shabbos. I’ve always wanted to write a book a nd have started several times, but life is too busy for book writing, I would love a ghost writer if anyone wants to do it. Or someone to compile my best posts and turn it into a book of essays.
Two of my goals for the blog have been to make money and get girls, both have definitely proven to be somewhat futile, but all that may change soon. In late summer I will be starting to blog for one of the largest Jewish websites and I have a lovely lady in my life I have met through blogging of course. Donations for the entire life of the blog have been less than $1500 and my ads bring in enough to pay for half of my rent. What I really need are some wealthy sponsors, a thousand bucks a month would be super swank.
The absolute worst complaints are when there are people who want me to write like I’m 24 again and that will never happen. I started this blog when I lived in Albany, since then I have lived in Monsey, Far Rockaway, Dallas and finally the Bay Area and you can be damned sure that I am completely different from when I lived in Albany. I’m still a crazy mountain biker and an outdoors nut who seeks solitude, I still hate cell phones and putting on a suit and I still like women who can pee in the woods, but I will never write like I used to write, I don’t think anyone would be reading me if I was still making this immature assumptions about how shadchans perceived me. I never wanted to be a one trick pony and one of these days when I get married, I’m sure the blogging will evolved again.
I have received a lot of advice over the years, a lot of people warned me that I should keep my blog clean and free of foul language, but I decided that wasn’t who I was, I decided that I would censor myself if I felt it necessary, but in general I would write freely and damn all those that had a problem. Someone once told me that I should write as much as possible and more people read it, I went through a period of 3-5 postings a day, but I’ve cut back to 1-2 a day, sometimes long periods of scheduled guest post and others stuff when I’m away or the weather is nice.
Since moving to California I have removed myself from mainstream Judaism, my community in San Jose and the Bay Area at large is far from mainstream and being in the west has removed the hatred from within me, now the problems facing orthodoxy don’t effect me much, I look at Judaism in much broader terms, the orthodox being one piece of a pie, rather than the only piece. Luckily for me, I have a large non-orthodox and even non-Jewish contingency so it has allowed me to broaden my knowledge beyond orthodoxy – which is not really possible when you live in New York. On the west coast Jews are much more free flowing and less community andf affiliation based than back east. Of course losing hatred makes me have to try harder to find things to write about and I have to push the boundaries. I just don’t care about a lot of things that used to unnerve me, so much so that random trips to Far Rockaway have given me amazing entertainment because I’m more of a tourist than active participant now.
Ok, I’m going to stop talking about my cool self for now, I am wondering what you think I should do in honor. To be honest I was going to post a couple of classics, maybe some links, maybe whole posts and call it a done deal. But, if you folks have any good ideas do tell me.