Monetizing Belikeme

What blogger wouldn’t love to magically get paid for blogging? For $100 per post, I would post every workday. At 20 posts per month, that’s an annual gross of $24,000. I could halfway live on that. Hardly anybody makes even that kind of money blogging, though. If I toiled at monetization, I might occasionally find sponsors for posts on given subjects. Or I could embrace ads, although that seems scammy and is hateful. In this optimistic fantasy scenario, I might gross a thousand dollars a year, although a thousand pennies seems more likely. I would make much less than $15 per hour, enjoying only the few moments that actually involved writing. Sloth and abhorrence keep me from looking further into it, although I suppose I should do so if I want to entertain more than fantasy.

An alternative to magical pay-per-post is indirect revenue. What could I offer here that would attract someone to pay me for something else? I’m planning an algae-farming website that I hope to monetize, directly and as a consulting portal, so maybe belikeme could drive traffic there. Authors Charlie Stross and John Scalzi seem to use their blogs as indirect advertising. But the algae website should stand on its own, and as I write about mostly non-algae topics here, I envision trivial revenue at best from that approach. I might put together an algae-farming MOOC, but again, that’s an unrelated project, so any revenue provided by driving traffic there with belikeme would also likely be trivial. I could exploit the punnery in the title, and create videos in which I didactically demonstrate an eclectic mix of entertaining practicalities, exhorting viewers to be like me, but again, the probability of making a living getting paid to make videos seems low.

Riffing on that last bit, however, suggests some possibilities. Instead of just blogging, create e-art (ebooks, music, videos, images) that could be streamed for a fee or sold. Perhaps I could even create sellable physical objects. I need to overcome my sloth on this and do some research into how people who do make money with “blogging plus” actually manage that. Crowdfunding. App stores. Clearinghouses. A lot of these sites and approaches seem to charge too much and assume motivations and compliance on the parts of their desired clientele only distantly adjacent to my own expectations. Any work plan involving that ecosystem will assume such utilization is a stepping stone, supporting me until I devise my own money-bringing processes.

First, though, I would need to increase my blog traffic. While I have my own ideas for this project, I need to consult the oracle to gather more, and then actually implement some of them. I would start with the least time-consuming ones first. If my experience is any guide, any effort that succeeds will require increasing repetitions of that effort until the sigmoidal curve of reward v. effort flattens out. At this point in belikeme’s history, any success increasing traffic will seem exponential. Even trivial success will engender a sense of fulfillment, likely leading to complacency, vain hope and then disappointment, followed by more incremental effort.

Ultimately, I will need assurance that all this monetizing actually advances my goals. Granted, if I could gross $60K from part-time home-office blog-related toil I would ride that train, damn the humanity. With the likelihood of that scenario nil, until I stumble across an approach that works I’ll simply abandon any monetization effort that provides neither humanitarian payoff nor personal enjoyment. And, knowing myself, I will still hope for magic.

Carbon Footprints

Prolepsis: Global warming (GW) is real system response to the ongoing increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration, and is caused by human activity. If you suppose that you disagree, there’s plenty of internet real estate for you to express that feeling on; knock yourself out! Ocean acidification (OA) is another system response to increasing anthropogenic carbon loading. If you “believe” in OA but not GW, again: you can express those emotions on that same internet territory; you’ll probably get a lot of likes from the deluded yokel community. If you accept the overwhelming physical evidence that GW and OA are real and caused by human behavior, yet discount or deny the harm that will be the outcome of this particular example of humanity’s profligate socializing of environmental costs, or even make excuses about how bad some past natural disasters were (thus: so what!), let’s simply never bother to attempt any sort of communication with each other on this topic.

That said, we are embedded in a civilization that is currently dependent on burning excess fossil carbon. One reliable way to avoid being a totally shitty person in such a horrific environment is to simply strive to be better than our times. In the GW/OA context this means working to decrease our carbon footprint. If the amount of carbon burned on behalf of my lifestyle is lower than the global mean, then I am at least helping to move things in the right direction, especially if (as I am) I am a resident of a high-carbon-footprint country. If, further, as the legatee of considerable privilege, I spend some of that privilege helping move society in general towards reduced fossil carbon burning, then I am almost a hero (I say this ironically, knowing it is likely to be misinterpreted)! If you are privileged and are at least doing the first bit, thank you! If you are privileged and not doing either bit, well, fuck poor [sic] you and your hard [sic] life. Poor baby, your portfolio is so important. If you lack privilege and are doing either of the bits, bless you (if not, I get it: you deal with a lot of suck, more than I can know in both quality and quantity; plus you’re likely already on the lower end of the carbon footprint scale)!

Here’s what I’m doing. I haven’t owned a car for two years, while I’ve been living in Germany, where I bike to work, walk to shop, and rent a car for a few weeks a year when I really need it. Alas, I’ll be moving back to the US soon, to a city that is actively bicycle/pedestrian hostile. Fortunately (privilege warning) my wife is retired and we can probably get by with the one (compact) car. Even when we both had cars our total driving was much less than the US mean. I try to eat only a small amount of meat, mostly poultry and fish. I’ve blogged already about how I don’t like vegetables. This is a weakness I fully acknowledge, but I used to eat lots more meat, so I am improving. We keep our house pretty cool in the winter and don’t use air conditioning in the summer (except for installing a window unit in the spare bedroom when we have guests). I don’t have a job that I commute to daily (I have had them in the past and have done that). Instead of burning the planet to maintain my portfolio, I am attempting to help give birth to sustainable practices (I’ve blogged about this, too) that will swallow some carbon and make agriculture more carbon neutral or even carbon negative. What are you doing or not doing?

Lean, Clean Dean

Evidently, I lucked into good health, due in part to an advantageous genotype and salubrious development that have provided me with innate and learned abilities to be somewhat diligent in my diet, exercise, and hygiene. I don’t have chronic medical afflictions (well, since I moved to the US Mid-Atlantic from the Pacific Northwest I’ve suffered from a persistent mild nasal congestion). I grew up drinking fluoridated water and eating a relatively healthy diet. In my early teens (due to the influence of a certain aunt) I read the book Sugar Blues by William Dufty and wrote sweets out of my life for many years. I still don’t consume much sugary food, although I do live a little – occasional sweet pastries, ice cream, holiday cookies and pie, gourmet sodas.

I’ve always been somewhat active, often taking long walks around town, and enjoying frequent day hikes in the woods and mountains. For years, winter’s end triggered a season of multi-day backpacking excursions, usually in the Olympics or Cascades. However, I am not athletic. As a nerd I was picked on in PE class and school hallways by the jocks and cowboys, from sixth grade through high school. Consequently, I have avoided all team sports, and just being inside a sports facility, whether stadium, fitness center, or simple gym, provokes a strong sense of alienation. My fitness activities are thus essentially solo, or in groups of essentially solo participants. I strive to do some basic calisthenics five days a week, and in Germany I biked to work. Even when hiking in a group, I seek to lose myself in the experience – becoming “one in nature” rather than “one with nature”. For a while I attempted to pursue rock climbing. I enjoyed the technical challenge and the exhilaration, but the constant attentiveness required is incompatible with what I actually seek from outdoor activities.

For my diet, I strive to eat nutrient-dense foods whose production and transport have minimal negative environmental impacts (I’ve got to do a bit more studying on this but I do fancy that buying at the local farmers’ market is usually better from a carbon footprint standpoint, and is certainly great from a variety standpoint). Unfortunately, what I most enjoy eating, beef with potatoes and gravy, doesn’t really align with my aspiration. I thus must consciously strive to eat mainly plants, although I dislike most fruits and vegetables. This situation has required me to become a worthy cook. Worthy cookery demands substantial preparation and cleanup in order to convert ingredients I don’t crave into meals I look forward to eating. For day-to-day dining my approach is to produce a freezerful of tasty meat sauce portions, using those as a seasoning for carbs and vegetables in a stew-like concoction I call “glop”, in honor of my wife’s family’s dining traditions. Don’t bother me with fad diets such as Atkins and Paleo; instead, I practice a form of intermittent fasting. I exploit sources like Cook’s Illustrated, Good Eats, and Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking to guide my choice of ingredients and techniques. I feel somewhat guilty that I don’t buy organic as often as I might.

I floss, but didn’t use to. I usually take the stairs rather than the elevator. When walking to the store, I often take the long way rather than the more direct route. I may be slightly overweight (I also quite enjoy Oregon-style craft ales), nevertheless in my fifth decade I feel more fit than I did in my previous four. I continue to increase, on average, the reps and intensity of my exercises, and have even slightly reduced my beer consumption. If only I had started being so prudent in my twenties!

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland

It’s been two years since I started my two-year contract as a visiting scientist here in Germany, so I will be leaving soon. I have mixed feelings about this, but ultimately my family situation would have made it very difficult for me to continue with another contract, although I would have welcomed one. I would have preferred that my wife move here with me permanently, with occasional trips back to the US, but her friends and family are almost all in the US, and she has the opposite of social anxiety – she would do much worse “all alone” here than I have. The second-best solution, for her to spend half her time here, likely wouldn’t have worked either, due to various additional life complications that needn’t be related here. Finally, when I visited the US over Christmas, I realized that I hadn’t realized how much I missed various aspects of life with family and friends. Once I had self-quarantined and tested negative, I was within my “pod”, which I haven’t had in Germany. One major pleasure was the fact that the ingredients I most like to cook with were easily available in a way they are not in Germany. I gained substantial weight, more than half of which probably came from dishes that I didn’t really have the wherewithal to easily put together here.

As much as I love living in what I judge to be a much more civilized locale – I really do have almost entirely positive feelings for the local Germany-Netherlands-Belgium region – the day-to-day difficulties of language, combined with my already-blogged-about social anxiety and other weaknesses, do leave me feeling quite lonely and adrift. I certainly can live with that to some extent; as a loner-nerd some aspects of Covid-19 lockdown feel like they were made for me, although I would guess that most self-described loners no longer quite feel as much at-one with their asociality as they may have at the beginning of the pandemic. Returning to Germany after Christmas this year felt much less like coming home than it did last year (in fact, it was a slog I may blog about some day). Now that my fate is sealed, part of me can’t wait to finish tying things up here and getting back to Baltimore. Another part, of course, wishes I could have the best of both worlds. If I were wealthy, I could maintain my apartment here and simply use it as a base for annual travel.

Ultimately, I feel this is a positive development, or I can create that impression in my mind, or at least it’s not totally negative (as I said, I have mixed feelings; perhaps in some language there is a word that means “mixed, weird, mostly positive but with some negative, feelings” (Seltsamgutschlechtgefühl?)). I think my effectiveness at my chosen humanitarian effort was hampered by a mismatch between my abilities and responsibilities. Fortunately, I have some current projects ongoing that I will be able to increase my involvement with, and I am developing a specific project that I think I will be able to pull off, even with my acknowledged deficiencies. I think there is a good chance that here in Germany I have “seeded” a project that will be ongoing, which was at least my minimum goal, and I have learned (or confirmed) much about myself. My German, while still terrible, is much improved. I can often get the gist of paragraphs that I read. When listening to news in slow German I often understand many of the words, and sometimes recognize words that I know I don’t know the meaning of. I hope to continue my German studies: it will help keep my brain more plastic, which is desirable; I will not be giving up on the German studies I began in high school and briefly continued in college, giving me a sense of fulfillment; I hope my wife and I will be able to again indulge in our every-few-years European travel, likely with some part of that in Germany.