A Fictional Story About a Webathon and Its Contestants

The 1998 eleven-year webathon contenders hovered around the start line. Text was smugly stretching her “run-on” legs. Her faithful friend Font was looking at his reflection in a window, conscious of his need to appear impressive. Graphic was popping up and down around the gathered crowd with virtual flexibility and a smiley face. Photo showed up with his Digital Mode-Runners Team.

“On your mark…”

The competitors scrambled to get a spot close to the “go” clock. Ready to embark on the Mac (ie, track – forgive the product reference; the rhyme was too good to ignore), they maintained good relationships with each other, confident they would again be together in upgrading class when the race was over. Actually, the spirit of friendship wasn’t shared by all. Plodding toward the back of the group, quietly shuffling her hefty body with her lens looking downwards to avoid mocking comments, was Video.

“Get set…”

Then – oops – Video stumbled over Text’s limb stretched as wide as a sentence with a few semi-colons. She quickly reset her focus, but shuttered behind her now red-balanced face.

“You silly Video!” yelled Text. “You can’t even stand on your own! Fall a few more times, and you’ll be out of the race for good!”

“I thought you already were history,” Font chimed in. “Look at you: still wearing Beta-vintage clothes!”

Graphic and Photo and the latter’s teammates chuckled quietly. Working with their friends Software and Pixel (cheering from the sidelines), they were the featured contenders in popular magazine articles. Secretly they believed that the title of Champion belonged to one of them, that the best days of Text and Font lay on the PC (Pre-Computer runway) behind them.


The runners took off. For the first five and a half years of the race, Text’s scrolling strides put her out in front, an example to the spectators of the importance of, well, text. Font was like a Courier racing right behind, sometimes feeling like an ancient, strong Roman in this New Time, and at other intervals running on feet as numb as that cartoon mermaid Arial. Graphic and Photo and team started more slowly, but at each year marker their supporters cheered them on with new updates that increased their speed and thus attitude, which revved up their popularity in the press still being printed.

And then there was Video. Not sure during the entire first half of the webathon why she had agreed to participate, she nonetheless succumbed to the challenge and opened herself to the opportunity of change. While Text and Font were preoccupied with their tunnel-vision view of the course and Graphic, Photo and friends basked in modest fame, Video shed her heavy frame, refitting herself in digital clothes. She concocted innovative ways to transition between the various running stages, and she turned her enhanced-vision lens upwards, determined, at the very least, to never fall over anyone again.

“June 2003 – Half-way Mark!” called the race administrator as the first of the contestants ran by.

It was Graphic in the lead now, animated with the energy of early success and Flash-ing smiles of pride. Photo and the Digital Mode-Runners Club were right behind, agreeing to a resolution to stay as a pack though some would understandably emerge as the mega leaders. And next in line, much to the surprise of commentators, was none other than Video, better dressed and more viewer-friendly than ever before.

As might have been expected under the circumstances, the servers went wild, one after another preparing for the next leg of the web(athon).  Indeed, they were so consumed that they failed to resuscitate Text, whose flowing sentences became paralyzed when Video overtook her. Fortunately, ever-loyal Font snapped his friend back into the race, insisting that words still had meaning, or that they must have meaning, else the great designer Font would be left purposeless, which Text was too thoughtful to tolerate. (Inside, of course, Font was devastated. Video’s new figurative glass slippers and pumpkin-drawn wagon admittedly outdid Font’s wardrobe. Moreover, these trappings did not go away when the clock struck midnight on any evening in 2003 or 2004.)

The race course marker at Year 2005 was sponsored by Youtube. No: Google. The information was no longer given in characters. Small photos of each of the contestants were inlaid onto a huge graphically designed frame. Within its borders was a large electronic screen, out of which boomed digitally enhanced sound and moving images of the race and the leader that had by then irretrievably surpassed her webathon contenders: Video.

Text and Font listlessly limped through the next few years while website designers advised their clients that pages should lose the scroll function and use only words absolutely necessary to enable a browser to understand a point. The heyday for creative writing was over; indeed, full sentences rarely had a role in this new wwworld. As for Graphic and Photo and Team, they still had fans cheering for them as they made their way to 2009, though the print materials that had once adorned their images had largely disappeared. When Video scooted past them at the end of 2005, they came up with a plan to ride on her coattails, explaining to her that they would enhance her image. Never having read “The Little Red Hen,” Video agreed, and the partnership continues to this day.

Winning the first place trophy, Video was rewarded with a dream list of professional opportunities. She studied them all, ultimately deciding the best fit was with Voices & Visions Productions (www.voicesandvisions.com), a video production company headquartered in Montclair, NJ with a satellite office in Los Angeles. V&V produces corporate and industrial videos for marketing, investor relations, HR, documentaries, nonprofit needs, and Video’s favorite: web clips.

Part of the happy ending of this story is that Video doesn’t hold grudges. She recognizes that some observers out there still want to read (if you’ve gotten this far, you are one of them!), and she defers to her friends Text and Font whenever such a situation arises.

But it doesn’t happen too much anymore. Video (aided by her friends Graphic and Photo and the Digital Mode-Runners) stole the written word show.

8 Responses to “A Fictional Story About a Webathon and Its Contestants”

  1. Video Production Florida Says:

    Great writing, “Video doesn’t hold grudges”. And with Internet2 coming in soon, video will never look back.

  2. Mirjam Says:

    Hi Ellen
    Found you on linkedin (Q&A section on work and drive), goodness me you are quite the writer! Really enjoyed reading it, well done.
    Have a great weekend

    • ellenfriedland Says:

      Thx — I also had a great time writing the little story! I would be grateful if you would pass on the link to your friends who might be interested. And I like your blog too — especially the colors that make me feel like I’m in the middle of what we call a “blood” orange!

  3. Elizabeth L Says:

    Brilliant! Will pass it along…

  4. fuzz Says:

    “Can’t we all just get along?”
    Good Writing trumps Bad Video, but Good Video is King.
    And Voices and Visions is (are?) Good Video

  5. Jared Says:

    This is awesome and VERY creative!

    Great job!

  6. Holly Rotman-Zaid Says:

    I love this story adn the analogy that it makes! I will push it one step further:
    Video shouldn’t forget its good friend “Promotional Product” who can emphasize and reinforce the visual messages that it sends! What a perfect couple they make–one makes their point using images and time (video), the other using the function of touch and feel to reinforce the images over an even longer period of time–maybe even leading folks to the video for that perfectly combined experience (Promotional Products)!
    Video and Promotional Products could very well be partners in this great race for attention.

  7. Alan P Simon Says:

    I echo the comments of “great writing.” But you know, on a cold winter’s eve sitting next to the fireplace reading a great story trumps the same setting watching a flickering video screen.

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