I got a message on my phone from an unknown number. In a soft alto female voice the message said:
We’re sorry, an application error has occurred. Goodbye.
I was reading an article the other day about Facebook’s brazen attempt to spend another competitor into the grave. In this case the competitor is Substack.com, which is a platform that allows writers to create “newsletters” and have their fans subscribe for actual dollars. Substack, of course, takes a slice of those dollars for themselves.
But Facebook thought that was a pretty cool idea, and decided to launch their own clone of the service, but (at first) they will not take a cut of the writers’ subscription fees. So, they’re dong it for free, but the writers creating these “newsletters” don’t have to give up a slice of their pie.
From The Washington Post article:
Asked for comment on Facebook Bulletin, Substack spokeswoman Lulu Cheng Meservey said, “The nice shiny rings from Sauron were also ‘free.’ ”
I put “newsletter” in quotes because these are blogs. Bloggedy blog blogs. These are platforms to allow bloggers to make money.
And… hang on a second… I’m a blogger!
So after reading this, and deciding instantly that I would not be participating in the Facebook thing, I was still left with the thought… maybe I could make money by blogging.
Fear not, good reader(s), Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas will not be disappearing behind a paywall. Be assured that this is not out of any altruistic impulse, but is rooted in the calm belief that MR&HBI is fundamentally unmarketable. If you don’t believe that now, just wait for the next episode.
To be one of those blogs that people read, there must be a theme. I can’t just spew whatever nonsense crosses my mind and expect people to pay for it; I have to wrap that nonsense in a central theme, and have that nonsense resonate with people who have never actually met me. There has to be a connecting point.
Like maybe an overweight greybeard trying to climb a mountain on a bicycle. That might sell, if the “newsletter” built a larger story about goals and effort and self-loathing and it was written well enough that people who read one installment would look forward to the next. There might be a formula for the episodes — some logistics, some details of ride to the base of the mountain, then getting to the grind of the climb with a juicy piece of crazy thought that went through oxygen-starved brain, then the discomfort and pathetic fear of a timid descent. Some background, here and there, about the world, about life, about whether pursuing happiness is an oxymoron.
I think I could do that.
I also think that because I am completely hopeless at marketing, that the “newsletters” will die in obscurity. But is that any reason not to do it? It’s an autobiography, and Lord knows I do like talking about me. It’s a story, but unlike serial fiction each episode is built on my latest run at the mountain. “I got this” one week turns into “I don’t got this” the next. There might be discussion of bicycle infrastructure. Or blimps.
But my two subscribers will be pushing me forward, lifting me, and when I get to the top of that damn mountain, our roar will be heard all the way to next door.
Tonight I have seen ads from two entirely distinct restaurant chains offering a free sandwich in exchange for your personal information.
I’m all right with that. Your info is yours to sell. Just be sure you understand the transaction. And here at least, you can establish a concrete value for your personal information. One sandwich.
So every time you give your information out, ask yourself: Am I at least getting a sandwich?
When you fill out an online quiz, are you getting a sandwich? When you sign up for notifications, are you getting a sandwich? When you send email to someone with a gmail address, are you getting a sandwich? If you use a gmail email account, are you getting a sandwich for every email you send or receive?
Google gives no sandwiches. Google pays you nothing for your personal data, and despite legislation in Europe and California, is skating around your ability to force them to delete your data. Facebook, also. All the social media assholes. They make three sandwiches of profit off you, but give you no sandwiches.
What is called for is a data marketplace, where your information is yours to sell, and you can negotiate terms. The cornerstone of that is that your personal information is NOT something someone else can sell.
I haven’t been getting much writing done lately, and an important way to break out of that slump is to make sure I spend more time reading. So this afternoon I was poking around the ol’ virtual bookstore looking for one of those free “first taste” novels intended to get one hooked on a series.
Today I found a book by Morgan Rice, the first of eight installments (and, presumably, counting.) That many installments in the story can be a red flag; the world does not need another Robert Jordan fumbling his way though an epic he knew how to start but not how to finish. As each book of Wheel of Time got longer, the amount that actually happened went down.
That notwithstanding, if each installment of the saga can show vestiges of a beginning, a middle, and an end, it could be a fun read.
There is one thing that annoyed me right off the bat, however. This is the first sentence of the blurb:
17 year old Ceres, a beautiful, poor girl in the Empire city of Delos, lives the harsh and unforgiving life of a commoner.
Beautiful. Not “resourceful”, not “paranoid schizophrenic”, not even “headstrong” (which is awful for different reasons). From that sentence, I am left to believe that her primary tool for escaping poverty will be her beauty. That’s the least-interesting tool imaginable.
And come on, she’s the hero in a pulp drama. There is no way anyone on this side of the blurb even considered the possibility that she might not be beautiful, or that the most worthwhile men she meets won’t also be beautiful. I get it; the beauty is part of a fantasy shared by the primary audience of this story. But the first high-impact word in the blurb — arguably the most import word in the whole description, the one word that will influence the success of the novel more than any other single word — is a throwaway.
She’s beautiful. Big fuckin’ deal.
Today on the radio I heard an ad from McDonalds. It went like this: slow down from your hectic life and take a few minutes to wolf down a breakfast at our fast food chain.
To emphasize, we have the flag bearer of food with speed realizing that people aren’t slowing down enough to eat their breakfasts. So now they’re saying, “Hey, slow down, bud! Cut twelve minutes out of your day to have a McGriddle!”
If you haven’t already figured this out by the thousands of radio stations firing off memes on Facebook, let me spell it out for you. “Likes” are worth money. Here’s the part maybe you didn’t know: Likes can be sold.
My Facebook news feed is clogged with shit like, “LIKE AND SHARE IF YOU DON’T THINK CHILDREN SHOULD BE BEHEADED AND LEFT FOR THE VULTURES.” Or maybe “LITTLE CINDY-LOU IS DYING OF CANCER, LIKE AND SHARE SO SHE CAN SEE SHE IS LOVED ALL OVER THE WORLD. ONLY 2% WILL LIKE AND SHARE. ARE YOU ONE OF THEM?”
It’s always 2%.
Perhaps you say to yourself, “gee, I’m actually kind of against beheading children.” You like and share. Otherwise, you’re implicitly in favor of juvenile decapitation, right?
A few weeks later you get an item in your feed about vacations in Mexico. Not a sponsored item, mind, but a notification from a page you liked. “The heck?” you think to yourself. “I don’t remember liking anything about travel in Mexico.”
And in fact you didn’t. The Travel site bought your like from the child-beheadding page.
Well, to be more exact, they bought the page itself, likes and all, then just switched in their own content. People are making a sound business out of creating pages, getting likes any way possible, then selling the page.
These days, I block almost every item in my Facebook feed thingie that says “like and share”. When you look at the name of the source page, it’s amazing how often page name and content don’t match. Even when they do, I block. Don’t tell me what to like, Chumley, and I share only the good stuff. Which is maybe one thing a month.
I was thinking about the movie Repo Man the other day, and a song got stuck in my head. I mean, really wedged in there.
“It could be worse,” I hear you all say. “The soundtrack to Repo Man is epic.” And it is. I could have “TV Party” running circles in my brain, or “Pablo Picasso”. But no, the song that keeps popping back up in my head is not on the soundtrack, even though it is an integral part of one scene. Someone even gets beat up for singing it.
Yep, I’m Feeling 7-up.
I’ve got a bold new venture in serial fiction kicking up, and I’m facing the simple reality that pictures sell. I can’t draw worth a lick, but I do take pictures and could possibly even shoot video. The thing is, I’m completely stumped about how to take pictures that support the particular story I’ll be flogging. I suppose I could put friends in costume and head out to the woods for a shoot, and then photoshop the crap out of the results to make it look less photographic, but…
There’s got to be a better way! As someone who claims to be creative, I have to admit I’m totally stumped by this one. Maybe I’ll just put the fish-eye lens on the camera and take close-ups of my little dog. Nothing to do with the story, but people love that stuff.
The Internet is filled with banana stickers. Little bits of feel-good validation that ultimately have no value. One site gave me a sticker for filling out my profile. MapMyRide gives me little trophies for my fourth best ride (out of four). My phone gives me banana stickers. LoseIt.com had me going for a while; some of the stickers they throw around are utterly meaningless, but others are not trivial to earn. So banana stickers don’t all have the same value. Someday I’ll get a sticker on Strava.
For the Web sites that offer these stickers, the reward is more tangible: return visitors. Getting banana stickers make you come back for more banana stickers.
The other day my allergies were kicking in and I pulled out the Flonase. I went to their site to review the instructions, and when I was done, a little window popped up that said something like:
“Achievement unlocked! You have read the Flonase instructions!”
There’s one for the resume.