Friday, August 2, 2013

Help Wanted: Writers!

If you're a writer, there are a lot of places you can go if all you care about is seeing your name on a byline.  But I personally don't understand why anyone would go to most of those places.  I mean, if you're looking for a writer, but you're not offering any money, how is that actually an offer?  What is it that you're offering?

This may come as a shock, but I'm not a charity.  Neither, I don't think, are most writers.  And even if I was, odds are that I wouldn't choose to support your website with my time or money.  I mean, that's crazy, right?  There are starving kids out there, kids that need shoes and clothes and school supplies and new jackets and such.  Most websites are for profit businesses.  You want money?  Raise ad revenue or charge a subscription.

Look, the fact is that my time is worth something.  Even when I'm wasting it, I am deriving some value from it.  That downtime is still valuable to me.  You're asking me to spend time working for you, then you need to explain to me why that's better for me than my spending an hour playing Angry Birds would be.

And no, exposure is not an answer.  If your website was generating all that much traffic, you'd be paying and hiring better, and more well-known, writers.

No, I'm not insulted.  Anyone would do that.

Bottom line, anyone anywhere can have a blog.  I have a blog.  Lots of people have blogs.  I have mine because I like to write, and I need a place to put my ramblings.  Granted, not everything I write (or think about) makes it up here, but still...  Folks read it, or they don't; that's not really the point.  I mean, yeah, I like it when folks read what I write and connect with me, but that's gravy.  The point is that writing is an obsession, and this place is an outlet.  That concept is pretty simple.

What I need from you is some reason why I'm better off putting anything that I write up onto your site rather than my own.  This blog isn't raking in the dough, but it is still a for-profit enterprise, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  Watching the bottom line at least keeps me a little focused on reality.  Plus, when I write something here, it's mine.  But when I write something for you, well...  It actually costs me to give it away.

Honestly, there are so many places out there looking for free work, it's unbelievable.  And what's even more unbelievable is that people are volunteering to give it to them.  Maybe I'm selfish, but I don't get it.  I want to know what's in it for me, and I don't see why everyone in America isn't asking themselves the same question.  Asking, "Why am I doing this?" is not a waste of time or energy.


Speaking of being a professional, I am now officially a professional blogger.  As of yesterday, Google owes me $12.40 in ad revenue from the ads on this site.  That might sound like chicken feed, and it is, but it's still an accomplishment, at least to me.

Why is this important?  I'll give you three reasons:
  1. It makes my spending related to blogging a legitimate business expense.  Granted, it's not an overly successful business, but my blog shows a real profit, which I can't wait to report.
  2. How do you know when you're good at your hobby?  One obvious benchmark is that you can use it to make a little money.  Check.
  3. As you might've guessed from the write-up above, the idea that someone might be making money on my work without cutting me in on my share drives me crazy.  Google's minimum profit before they'll cut you a check for your share of the ad revenue that your site generates is $10.  Which means that I've felt morally obligated to hit $10 ever since I decided to put ads up on the blog.  I didn't think much of the decision to put up ads at the time that I made it, but as it happens, that profit sharing has been a Hell of a motivator for me.
I had to go up to Albany yesterday, and while I was driving back, they had a lawyer on there talking about the Federal Whistle Blower Protection Act and how it applies--or fails to apply--to newly-made temporary Russian asylum-grantee Edward Snowden.

To those unfamiliar with the statute, the Act is supposed to protect Federal Whistle Blowers from governmental retaliation when they report what they believe is waste, fraud, abuse, or gross mismanagement, and I don't think it's hard to see how such an act might apply to Snowden.  Of course, the law specifically exempts national security whistle-blowers, meaning that what Snowden did was specifically not protected by Congress when it passed this Act, but it's still an interesting case that's probably worth at least a little discussion.  I mean, according to NPR, 55% of registered voters think Snowden was a whistle-blower--and should presumably be exempt from prosecution as a result.

Here's the problem with that: regardless of whether or not Snowden was acting in good faith and legitimately trying to protect American liberties--versus simply seeking international notoriety--the cold reality is that what he's exposing was specifically legal governmental conduct.  You can disagree with it, and a lot of people do, but Congress passed the appropriate laws and was briefed on the relevant details to provide oversight, and judicial oversight was put in place as a check on the Executive Branch.  Which means that all three branches of government agreed, the required checks-and-balances were executed, and no laws were broken.  We can disagree about whether the law was right or just or appropriate, but as a matter or reality, it did exist.  These surveillance programs were the law.  

So, strictly speaking, there was nothing there on which anyone needed to blow the whistle.  There was no misconduct.

However, it seems clear that Snowden either didn't have enough information to realize the extent of the oversight, or he thought--incorrectly--that oversight he didn't agree with made the law either incorrect or unconstitutional.  So, bottom line, he probably thought that he was blowing the whistle in good faith.  It just so happens that his conclusion wasn't supported by the full weight of the facts.

It strikes me that this is a common peril for whistle-blowers.  And yeah, we need folks to speak truth to power--boy, do we ever--but there's a balance between working within the system to effect positive change and going for glory in the press.

Anyway, Snowden's moves here were obviously well calculated in advance, and as such, I doubt we've heard the last of this story.  In the long run, I'll be quite surprised if he doesn't somehow wind up in a Super-Max prison at some point in the next decade.  

In the meantime, I can't bring myself to believe all that crap about how these revelations have damaged national security because, bottom line, if you live in the modern, digital world, there are just too many ways that folks--Google, the government, what have you--can monitor what you're doing.  That's the reality of the modern age.  Accept it or don't, but if you don't, you need to realize that it'll take a Hell of a lot to truly get off the grid.

I hope you guys have a good weekend.  

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