Awkward

I want to be really clear that this post is not me passive-aggressively asking you, Dear Reader, for money. This is a post about asking people for money.

Lately I’ve been trying to focus more on finding additional bits of funding for some of my projects. The obvious idea—and a suggestion I often get—is to directly ask people. Yes, ask them politely, appeal to their good nature, be clear, and don’t bury the ask. But it’s still straight-up asking: “Hey can you give me some money?” I’ve always resisted doing that, but I’ve never been able to express why I’ve been resisting. Until today.

Here are some reasons why I think it’s not appropriate to ask. I’m not claiming these are the only reasons not to ask. I’m also not claiming there are no reasons to ask. All I’m doing here is teasing out a few strands from the knot that is my muddled understanding of what’s going on with my resistance to saying, “can you give me some money?”

First, a lot of what I do—in fact, all the stuff that I do for which I’ve recently been trying to find some funding—is put out free for the taking or use. These are all things people can read, listen to, or use without my having said up front, “here’s a price tag.” That means I’m being passive-aggressive about asking for that money afterwards. I made a thing. They used the thing. Then I said, “can you give me some money?” while I’m making a little pouting face implying they really should pay me for that thing. When in fact, the whole situation didn’t look like a transaction when they started considering that thing I made. Transactions are fine, and money and accounting are fine. But my trying to change, (or even appearing to try,) the nature of the interaction afterwards is not fine.

Second, many people don’t have spare cash burning a hole in their pocket, and most people don’t value the thing I made. (They were on board when I said “here, it’s free,” but they’d have walked by, disinterested if I’d put a price tag on it.) I’m not being whiny here, just stating facts. We’ve all walked through markets and felt the prices were fair, but we don’t buy things simply because the price is right. So a lot of people are going to be on the “no” side when I ask. And every one of those people now has to either ghost me, (say “no” via ignoring my request,) or they have to actually say “no”. (And forcing people into that awkward situation is actually a sale tactic!) All of which is to say: I believe too many people are going to feel awkward about it when I ask. Well, that’s a second thing that I don’t like—I don’t need to be making anyone feel awkward.

Side trip about lovers’ triangles: If I have to get a 3rd party to pay me, so I can give this thing to you for free, that’s always going to be me exploiting you. What does that advertiser want? At best they just want your attention, (but it can be much worse.) In essence, I’m turning you into the product. Ick! So to me, advertising is never the right answer.

What does work? I’m not certain. Recall I started by saying this post is just me picking out a few threads. What I’m trying these days is to have clear asks that are visible from the start. Rather than shuffling up to someone later, with my hat in hand, to ask for some money. I’m trying to be sure that everyone’s aware, from the start, of how things work. I’m trying to deploy earlier, more messaging like, “this project is made possible by a few generous patrons,” and “please support my work so I can do more of it.” Then the magic that I bring to the table is: How much can I accomplish with the resources I’m given?

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Uniquely American

That answer is that each American should be able to decide for himself, with extremely rare exceptions. But each person should also be able to decide what kinds of speech are permitted on their property. And that applies to media corporations no less than individuals. Thus, I should be able to advocate virtually any viewpoint I want. But Fox News and the New York Times should be equally free to refuse to broadcast or publish my views.

~ Ilya Somin from, https://reason.com/volokh/2021/07/08/the-case-against-imposing-common-carrier-restrictions-on-social-media-sites/

Yes in-deedy Judy! (As I’m often wont to say.) The ideas of personal property, and of freedom of speech, are of special importance to this great American experiment.

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Silent majority

The great biographer Robert Caro once said, “Power doesn’t always corrupt, but power always reveals.” Perhaps the same is true of the most powerful networks in human history.

Social media has not corrupted us, it’s merely revealed who we always were.

~ Mark Manson from, https://markmanson.net/social-media-isnt-the-problem

There’s a lot of good—writing, concepts, anecdote, data—in this article. But the thing that leapt out at me was something I’d already known, but seem to have forgotten… or, if not fully forgotten, I’d failed to connect it to other things in my model of the world: The idea of the silent majority.

About 90% of the people participating on social networks, are not even participating. They’re simply observing. It turns out that the other 10% are the people with extreme views; not “blow stuff up” extreme, but simply more towards the opposing ends of whatever spectrum of views you care to consider.

Two things to consider: First, boy howdy guilty as charged! I’m on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn— but the only content I post is related to my projects. I don’t engage with anything, reshare… or even, really, participate unless it’s related to a project. *face palm* Woa! I’m literally a member of the silent majority. Perhaps you are to? If 10 of you are reading, then 9 of you are just like me.

Second, because math! If you look at the stream we all like to say, “it’s endless!” Right. There must be thousands of posts, right? I’ll pause while you do math… right. If there are only thousands of posts for me to see, I’m clearly not seeing all the activity from the millions of people. Sure, some of that is the platform filtering, but I have the feeling that the numbers hold true: If everyone posted a lot we’d have thousands of times more stuff flying around.

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The end is nigh

There is only the thinnest veneer separating our society from chaos. Some cell towers have enough fuel for 8 hours of service if the power goes out. Many do not. And that crazy driver? …one pothole separates us all from a cascade crash. It rained 6 inches. The next day I passed 100 broken down, abandoned, cars along the highways. At one point I slowed to a crawl, on an interstate, and slowly drove around three cars, abandoned in the highway… no cops, no people, no tow trucks, just cars lying randomly in what must have been flooded. I passed miles and miles of traffic jams… the kind where people stuck in traffic run out of gas and the jams get complicated to clear. New York City simply closed… all non-emergency travel forbidden. The next day, no trains were running into the city.

Meanwhile, the drivers were their usual rude and rushing selves.

All the world is but a stage…

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That’s a problem

How much energy do we need? Just to give everyone in the world the per-capita energy consumption of Europe (which is only half that of the US), we would need to more than triple world energy production

~ Jason Crawford from, https://rootsofprogress.org/devanney-on-the-nuclear-flop

The nature of the problem: Insufficient total, global energy.

How insufficient? Even if the United States magically cut its energy use in half, and then magically distributed that saved energy to some other countries… the world would still be far short of the energy we need to lift everyone up to even the EU’s per-capita energy level. When you factor in continued population growth, the problem—the amount of new energy we need to find—only gets bigger.

Set aside what you know about how, or where, we might get additional energy. The problem currently faced by the human race is not: How do we reduce our per-capita energy consumption? The problem is not: How do we change equal units of energy from old sources to new, or even renewable, sources.

The problem we face is…

How do we INCREASE the available energy for the entire planet by a factor of 4, or possibly even 5?

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slip:4a123.

Right or wrong

Then the only proper response for me to make is this: You are much mistaken, my friend, if you think that any man worth his salt cares about the risk of death and doesn’t concentrate on this alone: whether what he’s doing is right or wrong, and his behavior a good man’s or a bad one’s.

~ Marcus Aurelius

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Digital minimalism

To be a digital minimalist, in other words, means you accept the idea that new communication technologies have the potential to massively improve your life, but also recognize that realizing this potential is hard work.

~ Cal Newport, from https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2016/12/18/on-digital-minimalism/

That’s the most succinct description I can recall ever seeing.

“Realizing this potential is hard work,” is a sublime understatement. Tracy asked me for a password to something and we ended up in a deep rabbit hole of having to also share the security questions, and it’s tied to my cell phone and actually I don’t know what the password is because I forgot to store it (in my little password management tool) even though my browser had it remembered so I’d been logging in for . . . Complicated.

Obviously in the case of the password, it was worth the effort. But then, next minute, we’re faced with the newest social service, and this software and that software and on and on. Choosing the default of engaging with each thing is an already-lost war.

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Deeply held beliefs

This book is complicated and ambitious. But there’s one thread in particular that I think is worth underscoring. Crawford notes that the real problem with the current distracted state of our culture is not the prevalence of new distracting technologies. These are simply a reaction to a more fundamental reality: “[W]e are agnostic on the question of what is worth paying attention to — that is, what to value.” In the absence of strongly-held answers to this question our attention remains adrift and unclaimed — we cannot, therefore, be surprised that app-peddlers and sticky websites swooped in to aggressively feast on this abundant resource.

~ Cal Newport, from https://www.calnewport.com/blog/2016/07/15/from-descartes-to-pokemon-matthew-crawfords-quest-to-reclaim-our-attention/

Turns out Crawford was interviewed by Brett McKay, another person I’ve often quoted here. I’ve not yet listened but the episode is Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction.

Originally I thought “social media” itself was the problem. Eventually it became clear to me that social media is the symptom. People want to be fed saccharine lives through their phones because they’ve never been taught that they need to consciously make decisions about what’s important to them.

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Epidemiology and economics

It is increasingly clear that neither of these assumptions is correct. Despite the claims of epidemiologists, our best efforts have never been able to reduce the number of newly reported COVID-19 cases for the world as a whole for any significant period of time. In fact, the latest week seems to be the highest week so far.

~ Gail Tverberg from, https://ourfiniteworld.com/2020/09/23/reaching-the-end-of-early-stimulus-whats-ahead/

It’s not meant as a doom-and-gloom quote. The article goes on to talk about how our economies really work and what’s really going on.

I’ve a tag for Tverberg for a reason. You should read everything she’s ever written—which would be hard because you’d have to also wade through the amazing, museum-piece that is The Oil Drum. I use that site as a litmus test for anyone who ever mentions “energy”—”Have you heard of The Oil Drum site?” If they have, then I’m really listening.

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