Excuse me while I duck and cover
Google is gamed, Facebook is gamed, Twitter is gamed. YouTube refuses to take down a video posted by a neo-nazi group in which the members shout, "Death to [Jews]," as the Daily Beast's Kelly Weill reports in a February 26, 2018, article. The two dominant features of the modern internet are greed and hate.
You can't make a living on the internet unless you first pay the big, monopoly platforms. I refuse to pay the big, monopoly platforms. Therefore, in the great Aristotelian, syllogistic tradition, I can't make a living on the internet.
Most writers work for peanuts
Nearly four years on, this experiment in one-person journalism has received four donations from two individuals -- both great friends of mine -- totalling in the mid-double digits. If I spent an average of 400 hours a year working on the blog, that comes to a pay rate of about three cents per hour. Right now, panhandlers across the globe are having a big laugh at my expense.
(Full disclosure: I do make a living, of sorts, as a contract technical writer for a cloud computing company.)
I'm not the only writer who struggles to make ends meet. In a September 15, 2017, article on the Authors Guild, Douglas Preston cites a survey conducted by the organization that found the average salary of a full-time author fell 30 percent from 2009 to 2015: from $25,000 per year to $17,500 per year.
It's worse for part-time authors, whose earnings fell 38 percent in the period, from an average of $7,250 to $4,500. Full-time writers with more than 25 years of experience saw their salaries plummet 67 percent in those six years, from an average of $28,750 to $9,500.
As Preston states, this isn't just a problem, or even merely a crisis. It's a catastrophe -- not just for the writers who find themselves out of a job. No writing means no expression of new ideas, no art, and no sharing of information.
Preston puts most of the blame for the decimation of the writer's craft on two companies: Google (or Alphabet, to be accurate) and Amazon.
Compounding the problem is that writers are terrible at organizing. We're a bunch of loners who have almost no capacity for collective action. (Preston's plug for the Authors Guild is completely understandable.) Conversely, Jane Friedman, the former publisher of Writer's Digest and now a teacher at the University of Virginia, blames writers themselves for their lack of imagination in marketing themselves. In a January 19, 2018, article in Publishers Weekly, Friedman claims that writers need to "stop complaining that writing is being devalued."
"Many writers meet disappointment when they’re only one or two books into a career and find themselves constantly giving their work away because no readership has been developed yet and there is no demand for the work. At such a time, it can feel natural for them to blame readers and believe that their work isn’t valued. The truth most likely is that the work doesn’t yet hold any market value, or that the author hasn’t found the package or context that would offer value worth paying for."
There it is. No market value. Haven't found the right "package or context." I have failed to "think through what readers value in terms of experience or access." Guilty as charged.
No commercial potential
Friedman claims that I shouldn't feel bad about giving away my work for free. She suggests that I attempt to "capture value" via "tips and donations, subrights and licensing, advertising, compilations and bundles, and (of course) traditional print sales." Well, Jane, tips and donations haven't worked, I refuse to participate in the crooked online-ad racket, and nobody's knocking down my door for subrights, licenses, compilations, bundles, or print sales.
So, bye-bye, Jane!
A modest proposal: Dump the internet
The internet has become a 21st century war zone, and misinformation is the weapon of choice.
It has also become a "corporate playground," as the New York Times' Farhad Manjoo writes in a November 11, 2017, article. The internet now belongs to a handful of companies. The demise of network neutrality will cement their control of the network. Oh, sure. You'll still use your computers, phones, televisions, and other internet-connected devices the same way you do now. But that's not the internet as it was conceived a handful of decades ago.
As Manjoo puts it, "a vibrant network doesn't die all at once. It takes time and neglect. It grows weaker by the day, but imperceptibly."
Years ago, I reviewed travel books and posted the reviews to a website. A Lonely Planet guidebook to Guatemala described in great detail the horrendous effects of tourism on the indigenous cultures of the area, which were cashless until the "adventurers" arrived. The irony of a travel book warning travelers away from an area was not lost on me. Of course, travelers will put an asterisk next to those untrammeled regions to designate them as must-see destinations.
The guidebooks I was promoting were part of the problem, not part of the solution. I dumped the site not long afterwards and turned my "sites" on promoting the web itself as the greatest invention since the invention of inventions. Now I find myself in the exact same situation I was in with the travel books. The internet is not just a part of the problem, it is the source of more trouble than it's worth.
To paraphrase Bob Dylan, all the lies in the world add up to one big truth. The internet has become completely and utterly untrustworthy. Nothing you see or read on the internet can be considered legitimate in and of itself. Every digital statement must be authenticated by corroboration from three, four, five, maybe more independent sources. The Russians in particular -- but not solely -- have corrupted the network beyond all repair.
So, see ya!