January 11, 2013 at 9:43 PM by Dr. Drang
In the most recent Crossover episode, Dan Benjamin and Christina Warren ganged up on poor Brett Terpstra and sort of berated him for not charging people to use all of his scripts and services. I didn’t think it was fair for them to force Brett to explain himself when all he’s doing is what lots of people all over the web are doing: sharing what they know. Since that’s a decent chunk of what I do here, I felt I should join in Brett’s defense.
As I said in my recent conversation with Gabe Weatherhead on his Generational podcast1, Brett and I differ in that he tends to provide software tools for people in downloadable packages whereas I typically just show how I make my own tools and explain my reasons for building them. Both of these approaches are useful and both have a long tradition in the open source software community. And for the most part, both Brett’s scripts and mine are the sorts of things that are commonly given away.
It’s that tradition of sharing, in addition to the enjoyment I get from explaining things, that motivates me to post my scripts here and on GitHub. I’ve learned an awful lot from the code and articles posted by others; it would feel wrong not to give some of that back.
This isn’t to say I’m opposed to making money here and there from ANIAT. The links to Amazon, the iTunes Store, and the Mac App Store are affiliate links, so I (and my daughter, who gets the Amazon referral earnings) do pick up a little pocket change. I don’t go out of my way to link to products, though, because that would change the tone of the blog.
You may remember that for a few months at the end of 2011, I ran Google Ads over in the sidebar. I made enough to pay for 2-3 years of hosting, but I stopped running them about this time last year because the small ads didn’t generate any money and I didn’t like the look of the big ads—which didn’t generate much money, either, but were distinctly more successful than the small ones. I won’t pretend to be pure of heart here. If the ads had been more lucrative, they’d probably still be here. But I don’t miss them or the nagging feeling that I should change my writing to create more traffic and clicks.
Oddly enough, at about the time I was starting to mess around with Google Ads, I got an email from Marcelo Somers, inviting me to be a part of what would later become The Syndicate, the RSS feed ad service. I didn’t know who Marcelo was at the time, so I blew him off—figuring out if he was on the up-and-up seemed like too much trouble, and I had other things to worry about at the time. The Syndicate has gone on to be a successful service, so that may not have been the wisest decision I ever made.
On the other hand, one of the things that bothered me about RSS feed sponsorships was the way the ads appeared in the voice of the blogger, so I might never have been happy with The Syndicate. While a lot of people I respect use RSS sponsorships, and I don’t think anyone confuses the sponsorship posts with the “real” ones, I’m not sure I’d have ever gotten comfortable with someone else’s writing appearing in this slot. It just seems qualitatively different from an ad appearing in a sidebar or—as The Atlantic does with James Fallows’s blog—in a distinct spot at the bottom of a feed entry.
Luckily, I have a day job and I’m not trying to be a professional blogger or a professional scripter. I can continue like this for as long as I like. If I ever do go back to using ads—and this is not a warning that I will—I’ll try to keep them tasteful.
I just realized that I didn’t promote that episode here, which was unintentionally rude of me. If the loss of John Siracusa and Marco Arment from the podcasting ranks has you casting about for new shows to listen to, you should give Gabe’s a try. The roundtable discussion of music services with Myke Hurley, TJ Luoma, and Federico Viticci, for example, was invaluable to me because it told me none of usual suspects—Rdio, Spotify, and Pandora—would satisfy me. And I’ve already discussed how helpful the show with Walton Jones was. ↩