Emulating God On A Budget

Dave Winer says: “…all creative people must have some right to the work they create, or else, truly, the incentive to create will disappear. ”
Now, I have no dogs in the fight, as they say, when it comes to copyright and the creative commons and Lessigophilia and all that revenue-generating jazz. I have no creative works, despite decades of making things because it amused me, either of words or pixels or pencil and ink or the ongoing ballet of the moments of my life, that are making me any money at all. More’s the pity, I guess.
And I must admit that I have little but contempt for the law. I live the way I choose according to the dictates of my conscience, and where my choices conflict with the laws in a place I’m currently living, I make as an informed a decision as I am able as to whether conforming to the law in a given situation is something that it’s more sensible to do from a strictly utilitarian perspective. Jail sucks. I know. I’ve been there. Ironically, it wasn’t for breaking any laws, though.
For the most part, I am a law-abiding citizen, but not because I have any innate respect for the laws, or for those who made or enforce them. Where my choices do not conflict with the laws of the land, no worries. That’s the way things usually are, because many laws, if not most, are relatively sensible. I understand some may find this kind of stance offensive, or sophomoric. I am unconcerned, if respectful of their opinions.
I regularly break laws by downloading copyrighted material. I have my reasons.
My argument with the phrase I’ve quoted from Dave above, finally, the one that a fortuitous combination of a good sleep and strong coffee has roused me from my customary lethargy to make, is this: I believe what he said is only correct if we alter ‘the incentive to create will disappear’ to ‘the incentive to create things for money will disappear’. I risk going all broken-record, here, I know. But this fits mortise-and-tenon with some of the things I’ve been saying recently, about money, about monetization, and about what some (most?) have been doing in this textspace of ours.
At the risk of committing the unpardonable sin of accidental synecdoche, I think that the phenomenon of weblogging, and the ways in which it has changed in the past couple of years as The Stupid Money rushed in to coca-colonize the new frontier, gives us our perfect example. Of the hundreds of thousands — millions, if Technorati tells us the truth — of people who have jumped all over this, and who are using the tools to do any of the heartcasting human constellation of different activities that we’ve drawn together under the ‘weblogging’ umbrella, only very recently have more than a tiny handful of them done it for the bucks.
Some are retrofitting revenue streams, sure. That’s their prerogative, of course. Some people wear clothes with company logos plastered all over their chests, unironically, for free. They aren’t as stupid as they are greedy and clueless, in my humble, but that’s just me being a playa-hata, or whatever it is the kids are saying these days.
See, what I’m saying here is that most of these people had no ‘incentive to create’ other than the burning gods inside their foreheads, clawing to get out. Or merely the mundane urge to share photos of their cute kitties. Or their travel anecdotes. Or their code. Or their jokes or dreams or fantasies and half-baked ideas. Or links the neat websites they’ve found. They did it out of loneliness, or love of craft, or anger, or the carefully buried ludic urge we all share. Out of a desire to emulate their god. Because they wanted to.
I challenge you to think about the creative output of artists and artisans whose work has touched you. Think of your favorite books, your favorite paintings. That piece of handmade furniture or that gloriously handtooled little application. The music you listen to or the writers-on-the-web you read because they get into your heart and fill you with the ineffable, simple joy of being alive and having a mind. I wonder how many of them would have done their work whether or not they eventually got paid for it. My guess is ‘most’.
I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be paid. Hell, if I could get paid for making the things I make because there’s something inside me that impels me to do it, I’d be thrilled. It’d be a dream come true, by crikey. But I do it, regardless. And so do you, probably, if you’re reading this.
Money is a very useful thing, but then, so is defecation. Or, if you prefer ‘How anal sex got to be THE ticket to blogging fame and fortune I don’t fully understand…
Take away the money, and you will still have people who are driven to create. This is what it is to be human. And, I’d submit, we’d have a lot less soulless sticky media poop clogging our minds and our souls if all of the hacks out there who oxymoronically ennoble their paid efforts by calling them ‘creative product’ would just do something useful instead for those sweet dollars. This is why I am in love with the idea of the ‘mass amateurization of nearly everything‘, and it’s why I push back against those who are snapping like bloody-snouted hyenas at the weblogging carcass in their unseemly urge to Get Noticed and Go Pro.
If you make money by selling the things that you are compelled to create — writing or music or design or code or ceramic ashtrays or whatever it may be — then good on ya. I’m genuinely happy for you. But if you would stop merely because you couldn’t make a buck at it, well, tough shit. We don’t need you. This is probably an unpopular opinion. Ah well.
The incentive to create will never disappear. But I would hail the departure of a world in which the incentive to create (for some) is predicated solely on one’s ability to sell those creations, sure I would. When those who were left standing were there because they did it out of love, maybe they’d get a few more bones thrown their way.
And that’s all I have to say about that, for the moment.
[Update: OK, that’s not entirely all. This is interesting, and most definitely on-topic.]


I’m just about ready to stop flogging this whole blog-advertising ex-horse, but I thought rather than my normal negative nattering, I’d do something positive for a change, and, you know, like, reclaim the streets, or re-frame the conversation, or some damn thing. How? Well, some free advertising for people I know and love, to one degree or another, in my overlapping weblog neighbourhoods. Why flog what you can merely blog?
Here are some of the people that I like to read, and here are some of the books and things they’ve made. I’ve probably missed more than a few folks, what with my advanced beeriform encephalitis, but if you happen to be one of the ones I have missed, or you think of someone, then I entreat you to leave a quick comment, and I’ll pop you (or them) on to the list.
I’m breaking one of my personal rules about linking to Amazon, here, but I don’t have one of those bogus affiliate ID things, so I won’t make a dime off the deal if you buy any of the books or music here. The idea, see, is that the people who created the things will. What do I get out of it? A bathwater-warm wash of moral superiority, of course, that will no doubt make me more obnoxious than ever. And perhaps a smidgeon or two of goodwill, which I still believe has some value in our mercantilized metaverse of blogtribes.

So who have I forgotten in the local tribes? Drop a note in the comments if you think of someone, and I’ll happily advertise for them, too! No charge, no commission, just the sweet sound of barn-raising!

This has been another public service from the friendly people at wonderchicken Industries™.

Whoring For Fun and Profit

I have thought, like so many seem to be doing lately, about slapping up some ads on the ‘bottle. I’ve called those who do so ‘blogwhores’, of course, and told them, in my inimitable and charming way, to ‘f–k off’, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t seriously considered pasting a couple of ads for Viagra on my own nubile butt and hustling a few johns down on blogstreet. I don’t claim to be consistent, except in the byzantine recesses of what’s left of my mind.
I still agree with Dave Rogers when he says that the much-abused blunt instrument ‘authenticity’ is the difference between speaking the truth, and trying to sell it, though. And I still think that money, lovely and fleeting and delicious and sexy as it is, turns everything to sh-t.
I even, all a-chuckle, submitted the ‘bottle’s URL to Google’s adsense program, expecting all the while the response I eventually received: “You’re a dirty dirty man, and you use dirty words, and tell filthy, violent, scatological stories about yourself and certain venerated public figures, and you’re just generally not the sort of person who writes the sort of happy bibblebibble that we want to encourage, because we don’t do evil, you dirty sh-theel.” That may be mildly paraphrased, but you get the picture.
I was thinking at the time — despairing that I wouldn’t be able to scrape up the dosh for another year’s hosting and positively trembling with horror at the prospect of depriving you all of the magnificence of my maunderings — that I might pop those googleads into my archive pages, where nobody in their right mind deliberately goes beyond a week or two after posting, anyway. I could even get fancy and whack ’em into divs that wouldn’t display unless a certain period since posting had elapsed. If, of course, Google inexplicably decided that I was clean enough to make the grade. Which, of course, they didn’t.
But it struck me today, after ruminating a bit about Shelley Powers‘ recent decision to throw up ads (which I’ll never see, because I block ads as a matter of course), that we’re looking at the advertising Ouroboros here. Google eating its own tail. Or sucking its own dick, but that doesn’t let me use clever mythological allusions, now, does it?
I would estimate that 99% of all of the hits that my individual archive pages receive, once they fall off the front page, are from searches, generally for such tried and tested combinations as ‘bottle f–k’ or ‘korea f–k’ or even ‘beer chicken f–k’ (don’t ask). The vast majority of these arrive from Google itself, or from one of the search sites that license the googlengine. If I threw up Google ads on those pages, the only people that would see them would be googlenauts, who’d presumably launch themselves back out into googlespace riding the googlead booster rockets, lured by the promise of bottlef–king or whatever they were in search of in the first place. Google is creating its own customers for a service that it sells.
Does his remind you of anything bubbly and evanescent and doomed? It does me. It’s either pure brilliance or utter chicanery. Maybe both. *scratches chin contemplatively while gazing off into the middle distance*
Look, I’m not one to turn up my nose at FREE!! CASH!!, but I’m still on the fence about this ad thing, and if I can find another way of doing it that doesn’t support and encourage advertising scum (have I made that clear yet, that I think, Hicks-like, that advertisers are the sh-tstreaked tapeworms of commerce?), I will. My recent Dreamhost signup drive was quite a success, for example — more than 40 people got cheap, kickass hosting for 10 measly bucks, I made $60 out of it, and if half of them stay on for another year at Dreamhost, I’ll make enough to pay for my own hosting next year. Win-win, all around, and there’s no whoring of anyone, for anything, involved.
Then again, whoring sounds like such fun sometimes. I like fun.
Update : Jonathon says some interesting things, and well, as always.
Update 2: See also Google transforming ads into ‘content’. Evil, I’m tellin’ you. [via]
Update 3: boingboing, ka-ching ka ching.

Beavering Away

It is true that I haven’t been writing much of anything of late, but I have been beavering away at various other projects; slapping together code and design ideas in my own haphazard, ill-organized and only occasionally successful style. Throw it against the screen and see what sticks!
I have these phases, when my beer-battered brain (mmm, beer batter) produces more squirts of pleasure-juice when it’s kept busy writing code as opposed to deathless prose. There are also times, of course, when the my brain is happier just sitting there in my brainpan marinating. Those times actually tend to outnumber my brief flurries of productivity. So it goes. My brain is my second favorite organ, like Woody said, and I willingly aquiesce to its frequent outlandish demands and coddle it after its temper tantrums.
I’ve got a couple of projects of my own that I’m fiddle-farting around with, including a redesign of the ancillary pages here at the ‘bottle, a separate Korea-centric site, and an all-singing, all-dancing Wonderchicken Industries™ Portal site as a free service to all those who just can’t seem to get enough of all things miraculous and fouwl.
Just off the presses, though, is a showcase site I built for ‘drinking buddy J’, my American friend and neighbour, who I’ve mentioned a few times here. Though no longer my neighbour — he’s girded his loins and left the comfortable Employment Womb that is Korea Inc, while remaining in Korea — we still enjoy sinking a few litres of beer together, even if it has to be virtually, via Skype. Did it last night, in fact. My head hurts.
So, anyway, J is an outdoorsman of great enthusiasm and no small erudition, and the set of foreign, English-speaking flora and fauna experts in Korea is a very tiny one indeed. It would probably be no exaggeration to say he’s one of, if not the, English-speaking authority on freshwater fishing in Korea. If you’re into that sort of thing, he’s setting up a guiding service as part of his new, self-employed life, and I recommend him wholeheartedly, even if I’m not personally all that big on the whole ‘fishing’ part of fishing.
He’s also a freelance writer, with a long and respectable series of publications to his credit, something I envy enormously. Of course, I am far too lazy and insecure about my skills to try to emulate that with any real diligence.
Wonderchicken Industries™: Waiting For The World To Beat A Path To The Door Since 2001.
So go visit him, have a look around. There are still a few rough edges and nailheads sticking out here and there, but I’m quite pleased with how the site came out. If you’re into fishing in Korea at all, well, drop him a line. Even better, if you work for a print publication that might be interested in buying some writing on the Korean outdoors, he’s your man.
Of course, if you work for a print publication that might be interested in buying some writing on pretty much anything else Korean, well, I work cheap. *nudge* And I’m usually unruffled by editorial excision of 90% of my uses of the word ‘f–k’. Usually.


The move to the new server is underway, and although DNS propagation is a bit sketchy, everything seems to be working pretty well, with one exception.
I used the very cool Typemover plugin to speed things along, and although it did its job, somehow trackbacks have become decoupled from their associated entries. I can see the entry list fine, and the trackback list is still there, but it looks like the key field between the tables has gone kablooie, since no entries have the associated trackbacks against them.
Does anyone have any ideas how to fix it? If it involves messing with the database, I’m prepared to do so, but my SQL is rusty at best.
[Update : OK, so what I think I need is an Update statement that will fix the ‘trackback_entry_id’ field in the ‘mt_trackback’ table (which begins with 413 and ranges upward) to match up with the ‘entry_id’ fields in the ‘mt_entry’ table (which begins at 1 and ranges upward), if that is indeed the correct key relationship. Unfortunately, I don’t know what if any other dependencies may exist, so I’m hesitant to go in and try it myself. It’s probably just that, but if there’s anyone out there with a more detailed knowledge of the data structure, I love some guidance. Also, like I said, my SQL syntax is rustier than hell. Anyone?]
Any suggestions would be appreciated, as would any reports of general site-move weirdness.
[Update the second: the move seems to have gone off without a hitch, other than the trackbacks issue. I’m in codemode at the moment, messing around under the hood and designing the sites for some new projects, so please let me know if something’s broken here. Thanks again.]
[Updated update: I’ve switched over to the very cool Feedburner for my XMLery. It should just work seamlessly; I’ve updated the autodiscovery code and am redirecting requests for the old Atom, RSS 1.0 and 2.0 feeds. This post will be the last one that updates those files, so you may need to switch if the ol’ bottle starts to seem even quieter than usual. This is the feed URI now if you want to hop on to that manually.
Bloglines is the only service that seems to have hiccupped so far, near as I can tell, but that may just be temporary. I’ll be feedburnerizing the Coasters sidebar linkblog too, soon. [Update to the updated update: done! I also redesigned the index page, finally]. As always, bug reports are welcomed.]