A Brief History

For Amanda and Swistle and anyone else who’s curious what’s going on in my head.

A couple of years ago I decided it would be OK to be paid for my writing on this site, and started using google ads. At first it was great — I made a month’s hosting fees in a single day (admittedly my hosting costs are very low). (And actually, that might have been when I was still on blogger, but in that case just call it domain registration fees.) But after the ads had been there for a while, people stopped clicking on them. Google’s advertisers were getting my readers’ eyes but I was getting no cash in exchange. Bullshit, I thought, so I took them down. I think I had them up for close to a year.

At some point I was contacted by the Crazy Hip Blog Mamas webring folks with an offer: $25 a month for a few text links. I took it, though I have to tell you I am pretty sure it destroyed my google page rank. The price seemed fair, though, and I don’t regret it at all. (Seriously, what do I need a page rank for?) That lasted about a year, too.

I signed up with BlogHer ads. I’d heard they were great and paid well, and I’d found an assessment tool on their site (which I can’t find now) that estimated how much my site would make. It said $175-250 per month, which sounded amazing. I assumed it would be about half that, because it was based on hits and I’m sure a lot of those are really robots, which wouldn’t be counted. Still sounded amazing. But I was really disappointed in the payout and the way it’s set up (though I have to say the people running it are some of the nicest ever, and it does seem to work for a lot of folks). I stuck with it because I liked meeting new people through the headlines feature and even $30 a month was helping.

But here’s the thing: I am worth more than a dollar a day, and I don’t feel like giving away advertising for that little. I’d rather do this for free because I love it (and I do) than undervalue myself. So I’m paying for my own hosting fees — there was a time not long ago that everyone did that. And I am not done with advertising for good, I am just done with advertising right now. (I left up the “ads” for my friends’ stores and causes. Those were put up originally because I wanted to offset how dirty I felt for having ads in the first place, but I think they’ll stay — though I reserve the right to start rotating them to take up less space.)

Besides, I don’t want to treat blogging as a business, and making money off it sometimes made it feel like a business. If I am going to run a business, this isn’t it. This is my online living room.

I’ve put up a donate button, but you know. It’s optional. I don’t charge people to come over.

I am not a brand.

I’m not so down with the labels. I’m not affiliated with a political party (though this post is not about politics); I’m not a member of any subculture, not matter how much I enjoy their music; and I don’t consider this a mommy blog, or any other kind of blog besides the personal kind.

About two years ago I started to notice people talking about “building [their] brand.” This is a marketing term and it is my opinion that it should stay in marketing. Your brand is what you’re known for, and is what makes you recognizable. There are a lot of people for whom it makes sense — actors, for example. But I am sick and tired of hearing all about it in blogland.

Maybe this is asshole-y of me, but I think the mommy bloggers are to blame. Have a kid, feel disenfranchised, find a way to feel important again: building your brand! Or, I don’t know, anyone could have started it. Doesn’t matter. The fact is that people see blogs like Dooce making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and they want it to happen to them, so they follow all these guides that are out there (written, by the way, by people who are not making hundreds of thousands of dollars from their blogs) advising you to build your brand and find a focus and market yourself to advertisers.

I have advertising on this blog. You want to know what it pays? Less than a dollar a day. I am seriously considering taking it down tomorrow, only then I’d have to pay hosting and domain registrar fees out of pocket again, and I have very shallow pockets. It’s conceivable that if I found a singular focus for this blog and worked on building my brand, I’d make more money. But you know, fuck that. I’d like to make money doing something I’m good at, not pretending to be something I’m not. (I am not and have never been even the tiniest bit focused.)

I wrote this morning on Twitter:

I’m just going to say it: I don’t have a brand and I don’t want a brand. If this means I’ll never be an internet superstar, THANK GOD.

My friend Jonathan (who is an actor, and therefore one of the folks for whom I think branding makes some sense) replied:

um, hate to tell you, you are a brand. And a very good one.

Which is kind, but I disagree. I don’t want to market myself. I am a person, not a product. But I do think I am a pretty good one.

Technical Troubles

Argh. So my iBook’s battery has not held a charge for about a year, making it about as useful as a desktop since it has to be plugged in all the time, but I’ve been too lazy to do anything about it (and too poor to buy a replacement if AppleCare won’t replace it and too scared to find out).

As of today the AC adapter only charges the battery when the computer is closed — when it’s open, I get an error that there is no juice and the computer is going to sleep, BYEEE! So basically my computer is good for three minutes at a time, not even long enough to back it up.

YAY!

All this is by way of saying that I can’t write the post I planned on writing today. But, um, it turns out this one is longer anyway. So never mind. (Don’t you hate when people post just to tell you they can’t post? SO ANNOYING!)

I’ll be back, hopefully. If I don’t get eaten alive by angry iPhone customers at the Apple Store.

Reading Comprehension in Trolls at All-Time Low!

Hi. My finger is fine. Didn’t even bleed much! I even managed to wash it WITH SOAP to get any veggie burger residue out, then slapped on some calendula and a bandage and have even done some knitting. Will came home early, which was nice and kept the nervous break-downs at bay. Good husband, he is. You should all get one.

But I really just wanted to tell you about this lovely “anonymous” comment on my finger-slicing post:

Hello, Shitbag! I have not approved your comment because I was so worried that it would get lost in the shuffle of comments from people not too chickenshit to use their real names and email addresses. Instead, I am sharing it here so EVERYONE can see it.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with me! I just love the internet. Everyone can say anything they like to people, even nasty shit they would never dream of saying in someone’s home (and really, what is this if not my virtual living room?), with no fear of discovery of their secret identity.

So the first thing I would like to ask is whether your employers, the International Cinematographers Guild, know how you are spending your time? You really ought to be more careful when you post from a dedicated IP address. I literally only had to click once (with my injured finger, so you know it was easy) to find out who you are.

But onto the bulk of your comment. First, it is wise of you to establish that you have “worked” with children. Awesome! So have I! In fact, I started babysitting when I was 12, which was 18 years ago. I’ve been a nanny for two different families and have taken care of countless other children. I also … what was that other thing I did? … OH YEAH, I also am a mother. Which it turns out is NOTHING like “working” with children at all. It is a thousand times better, and also a thousand times harder. So congratulations on having a job most of us have had, call me again when you know what the hell you’re talking about.

Second, and most important, I wanted to discuss your misconception that I told my son to “fuck off.” That is ludicrous. If you had actually read my post, you would know that I told him to “leave me the fuck alone.” I said this while crying and trying to keep my finger from falling off (exaggeration! It is merely a flesh wound!) and I absolutely meant it. If my charming, funny, intelligent kid turns into a shitbag because I once told him to leave me alone, then the entire human race is doomed and there is nothing I can do about it.

So thanks for playing, but I’ll be banning your IP address from commenting here. You should have read my comment policy.

Is this thing on?

I don’t want to be one of those whiny attention whores who complains about lack of comments, etc., but holy crap! My readers have HALVED. I think I am going to have to take it personally. WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME ANYMORE?

(Please note: at this point in the post I inadvertantly hit ‘Publish’ instead of ‘Save’ and it went to feed readers. What an ass I must have looked like. I made it private so I could finish it.)

OK, I exaggerate. But I am getting significantly fewer page views, my feed subscribers are dropping in numbers, and I rarely get more than a comment or three per post, often from the same people. My ads are making half what they made last month, and that was barely enough to cover hosting.

This isn’t a big deal (except the ad thing, because I don’t want to run any ads at all if they aren’t profitable), but I am baffled. Especially when combined with the drastic drop in Twitter followers this week. It sure feels personal.

Is anyone reading anymore? It doesn’t feel like it sometimes. The risk you run being a J-List Internets celebrity is that when you slide down to Q-List status it feels like a slap in the face. I have enough self esteem problems, you know? I’m being flip again, but lack of feedback makes blogging feel like a chore.

I have no conclusion. I just needed to complain.

I normally avoid blogging about my dreams…

…but this one is pretty damn funny.

A blog troll (sadly not an actual troll but just a female human) was riding her bike past my house (I lived in a house!) and told me that I’m not the worst mom in the mommyblog-o-sphere. That honor goes, according to her, to Maggie Mason. So I’m there in my dream, wondering what the heck Maggie has done that is so awful (I don’t know her but she seems to like her son and not be psycho or anything), and the troll tells me it’s because she traipses all over the planet with him.

If I had a rolling laugh icon I’d put it here. What the heck, subconscious? Why would a troll that my brain made up focus on something I think is awesome as the pinnacle of Bad Mothering?

My theory is that deep down I think I am just a mommy blogger. Which–you know, there’s nothing wrong with being a mommy blogger, but if I am one then what about the four years I was blogging before Sam came into my life? Do they just not count?

A little business.

RSS readers, please click through! I have questions for you.

First order of business: gorgeous new (well, altered) template. Vicki at Swank Web Style is my girl. Everything that is good about my website is because of Vicki. (Well, the content is me. But it’s questionable whether that is any good.)

Second: these damn feeds. I am considering switching to full feeds. I still think they are a terrible idea if you care about copyright, but if I can find a way to do full feeds minus images I am willing to consider it. Does anyone have any suggestions? Thoughts? Opinions? Are you more or less likely to read my posts if I have full feeds? Do you click through regardless? I want to know! Lay it on me.

Is anyone else having a problem on post pages with the subscribe info being way down at the bottom of the page? Has anyone used the subscribe thingy? Does it work? (I am automatically subscribed to every entry, so I wouldn’t know.)

Is it annoying or good to have the sidebars on the post pages? (They’re staying, but I want to know anyway.)

I am about $7 away from a check from google adsense. If I put the ads back up, will you click on them so I can get the check and do away with them for good? I have BlogHer ads now and I am just waiting for my account to be matched with an advertiser. And then the money should flow in. (I hope you will all join me in picturing a slow but steady leak of pennies dripping in.) BlogHer ads do not require clicks but go by page impressions.

If I put the Amazon widgets back up (assuming they don’t slow down the page load too much) will you guys buy through them?

Would it be TOTALLY TACKY of me to put up a Paypal tip jar? I am only vaguely considering it, and just until I can get some sewing done for my etsy store, so it is OK to tell me not to do this. It’s just that we are so broke I am worried about where groceries are going to come from this week.

Edited to add: the new template uses some awesome plugins. Here’s a quick list: CommentLuv, Subscribe to Comments, Do Follow, Feedburner Feedsmith.

OK, I think that’s enough to lay on you for one day. You deserve a reward for reading! Here is a beautiful picture of some dog poop Sam and I saw on the way to vote yesterday.

IMG_3023

Real post coming soon, I promise.

Interview: DaveX of Startling Moniker

DaveXI signed up for Neilochka’s Great Interview Experiment after reading about it at Be The Boy. DaveX signed up after me (complimenting my dots in the process!) and I got to work checking out his blog, Startling Moniker. It was an exciting and somewhat daunting endeavor, because he and I have very little in common on the bloggy surface. Startling Moniker focuses primarily on music I don’t listen to, so my first question was very nearly my only question. (I exaggerate, of course.) Luckily he has a very helpful section of favorite posts, which I read, and those posts led me to other posts, and those led me to even more posts, and frankly I am still reading because there is so much good stuff in there.

You write mostly about experimental music. Can you give a quick primer for someone like me who is not terribly adventurous in that arena? Mike Patton is as experimental as my music collection gets. Where’s a good place to start?

“Experimental music” is music that can be categorized by process, rather than the outcome. You’d have to hear the end result before you could say whether two guitarists and a drummer were playing rock, country, blues, etc… However, experimental works can be classified by the experimental process itself– progressing towards an unknown result, creating/approaching sound in an experimental way, etc.

In my opinion, there’s no better place to start than with the works of John Cage. Recordings of his compositions are more easily available than most. They are also highly interesting from the start, but are still capable of leaving listeners with lasting ideas to consider. Cage’s notorious 4’33” is an excellent example, in which the performer(s) are instructed to NOT play their instruments. There is actually a film recording of this [here].

What or who inspired you to start blogging?

That’s an easy question! I have long been a big fan of Harold Schellinx’s “SoundBlog“; which features commentary on his sound art, found cassettes, and fascinating musings on the nature of recording.

I had been tossing around the idea of adding my own voice to the blogosphere, but didn’t have much luck with blogging software. In late 2006, a friend of mine began writing “Of Sound Mind,” using the WordPress engine– it was exactly what I was looking for, and I was writing STARTLING MONIKER very soon after.

You’re a DJ, so obviously music is a big part of your life. What led you to start a blog focused on it?

Part of what makes a good DJ is the general inability to shut up about music. Don’t be fooled! Real DJs are passionate, obsessive individuals who will take every opportunity to tell you about some new sounds. Unfortunately, for those of us involved with not-for-profit community radio stations, we have to share the airwaves with dozens of other similarly-uninhibited folks. In short, I get about three hours a week in which to cram 120 hours of music. If I didn’t blog, I might injure myself somehow.

You do post about your family, etc., occasionally – how do you decide what’s blog material?

If my memory serves, my daughter (DJ Mo) was the first family member mentioned at STARTLING MONIKER, at least in any meaningful way. She occasionally hosts “It’s Too Damn Early” with me, which I liveblog… so it was only natural that she be part of the blog entry. I ended up expanding this by letting her guest blog a companion entry about the same show. Once I had introduced her to whoever was reading, I figured the odd DJ Mo-related entry wouldn’t be out of line. I’m not about to go all Mommyblogger, though, so nobody needs to get worried.

Tell me about a few of your favorite blogs.

Obviously, the previously-mentioned “SoundBlog” and “Of Sound Mind” are among my favorites. I also highly enjoy “Mutant Sounds,” a music-sharing blog which features some seriously-obscure recordings. Caleb Dupree’s “Classical-Drone” is a well-written and thoughtful look at many aspects of avant-garde and experimental music. I’ve also been enjoying “A Guide to All Things Tacky Fabulous in Orlando,” which pretty much describes itself; “Where Are the Naked Pictures?“, which doesn’t; and “Sister Novena’s PortaPulpit.” BoingBoing used to be a favorite, but I’ve recently had serious disagreements with their somewhat hypocritical stance on commenting, so I no longer frequent the site.

You’re a vegetarian (me too!). What are some of your favorite meals?

I’m all for a good vegetarian pizza. I can cook my own, but nothing beats Marcello’s Pizza in Chester, Illinois. If you’re ever in the area, it’s absolutely fantastic. I take mine with spinach (what else in Popeye’s hometown?), green and black olives, onions, tomato, mushrooms, and garlic butter.

Do you find it is hard to get a decent meal away from home? What are the best and worst experiences you’ve had (whether at restaurants or other peoples’ homes)?

I don’t have too difficult a time eating away from home, but this is probably due to the fact that I don’t eat many of the strange things often associated with being a vegetarian. A number of restaurants are adding vegetarian meals to their menu, even here in Southern Illinois. In my opinion, the worst restaurant for vegetarians (aside from the obvious steakhouses, BBQ joints, etc) is Applebee’s. They have about a million things on their menu, but virtually nothing without meat in it. Unless you want to pay $10 for a salad (and tell them “hold the meat”), there’s nothing for non-meateaters but Coke and beer.

So far my favorite Startling Moniker posts are your photo booth finds. What’s your all-time favorite photo strip?

I’ve got one from me and my wife’s second road trip to California that is my favorite, but I’m not posting it!

What’s the best thing about being a blogger? The worst?

The best thing is being able to connect with random people throughout the world who share your interests, so you can bounce good ideas back and forth. “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.”

The worst is having some ass, probably still rocking a dialup connection, who becomes convinced that you Photoshopped your new favorite photo. For the record, these are REAL, and they were taken of the sky near Metropolis Illinois.

Thanks again, Dave! And for the record, the photos look real to me.

Collaborative Blogging

I’m suffering from a touch of Ihatemyblogitis. Every time I throw up a post that’s just a few words and some mediocre pictures I feel like I am either boring or bragging or both. In short, I feel like a fraud. I’m sure I’ll get my blogging mojo back, probably within an hour of posting this (isn’t that always the way?) but while I am busy trying to figure out whether this is a mommy blog, a craft blog, a writing blog, or something else entirely, I hope you will enjoy these inspiring sites:

3191. Two bloggers 3,191 miles apart, take a photograph a day to share with each other. The first year was “A Year Of Mornings” and they are now two weeks into “A Year Of Evenings.” Really gorgeous, inspiring imagery and a lovely peek into their lives. The first year’s photographs will be published as a book.

Six One Way. I just found this site. Two bloggers who have six boys between them post once a week, each sharing three photographs that sum up their week. There is also a Flickr group where other folks can share their images, and I will definitely be joining.

And of course there is Mason-Dixon Knitting, which I think may be the original collaborative blog of this sort.

I have been thinking about trying something on these lines, but haven’t come up with the right idea yet. Maybe I just lack the right blogging partner. Maybe I am creatively bereft. Meh.