AIRING LAUNDRY

The refrain of “don’t air your dirty laundry in public” might be passe in modern America. We’ve moved beyond talk shows into reality shows where instead of sitting on a stage talking about their problems, people invite cameras into their homes to get high def footage of the dirtiest of dirty laundry. I am not a fan of talk shows which serve only to parade guests’ dysfunctions or reality shows where the most outrageously messed up examples of humanity are the most popular. Certainly some of my distaste for such programing is the deep sense of privacy and propriety I was brought up to model.

But not all airing of dirty laundry is created equal.

As I have been thinking about being more honest as a writer, I have been thinking about things like gossip and the airing of laundry in public. It does not get more public than the internet, does it?

I happen to know, during the time I spent in Seattle in 2010 recovering from events which ultimately changed every facet of my life, my situation was discussed, literally, coast to coast. For the most part, the participants cared about me and my happiness. I understand what I went through and the decisions I made as a result weren’t always easy to watch from the outside. It was doubly hard from the inside and I removed myself from the “public” life I have cultivated on the internet as a result, no doubt adding to fuel to the flames.

I don’t hold it against anyone who may have had something to say during those troubled times, but I do wish more of the conversations had been with me rather than about me.

The experience does make my mission to write honestly a bit scary.

One of the influences I didn’t mention in my last post might be the most important in all my determination to blog more intimately about my life. The Mental Illness Happy Hour podcast hosted by Paul Gilmartin has both entertained and fasionated me since I discovered it in late 2011. I went back and listened to every single episode. Each one features Paul interviewing someone – mostly creative folks – about their lives, hangups, addictions, and fears. Sometimes I nod as I listen and sometimes I think “whoa, I’m pretty normal compared to that hot mess” – most often during the same interview. I cannot say enough good about the podcast for anyone who’s interested in mental illness and creativity.

One thing Paul always makes clear as he and his guests talk about their pasts is they aren’t out to blame anyone, that most people in their lives haven’t been malicious, but have done they best they could. We all have family, teachers, friends, romantic partners, doctors, classmates, bosses and all kinds of people who affect us in ways both good, bad and, worst of all, complicated. The other person doesn’t matter, really, but examining the relationship does matter in figuring out where to go from the point of saying, “I have some issues.” After listening to 50-odd episodes of Mental Pod, I’ve come to see how my fear of “airing dirty laundry” has severally curtailed my ability to write about my life.

While I’m pretty awesome, I’m also get tangled up in patterns of thinking that started long before I was aware of, well, anything. Getting untangled is why I’m driven to write and why it’s the first thing I go back to when something bad happens. For a change, I’m in control because my life is freaking fantastic. Not perfect, but oh so good. I’m still me, there are some knots to fuss with, and I’d rather do it here than in a therapist’s office.

One thing I know for sure is dirty laundry needs to be aired in some form or it will fester, mold, mildew and ruin lives.

Balancing truth vs. privacy vs. not throwing people under buses is something I’m going to have to learn as I go along. I do not even think my life and past is all that scandalous, but it is the foundation of who I am. Nor is every post I’ve been too afraid to write primarily about my life. I have never been much for commenting on political or social issues on my blog because I do not want to stir the pot. As someone who does care about the world at large, I have opinions I’m passionate about. I admire people – agree with them or not – who are willing to state their beliefs publicly. Discourse is important.

My voice is important, or at least as important as every other yahoo with a modem, and my fear of being judged for thinking one way or another isn’t nearly as important. I know, deep down, what Dr. Suess says is true, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind”

ON MAKING MONEY BLOGGING

My history with blogging is almost as long as my history writing paid content on the various blogs I’ve owned. My original motivation wasn’t to make money or even become part of a community. I simply wanted a place to “journal” as a writing exercise. It was 2006. MySpace was the popular social network and I began blogging there. Around the same time, I saw a magazine article about Ted Murphy‘s wild idea: PayPerPost.

PayPerPost succeeded, eventually evolving into one service of many offered by social media marketing company Izea. Anyone interested in monetizing a blog would do well to start with Izea, but I am not here to write about how to make money blogging. For one thing, I am no expert.

I have come a long way since that first MySpace blog. Nerdbliss is the third home of my personal blog. I used to have a blog about “internet, blogging and tech” stuff. I just recently began seriously blogging again after a long dry spell and have launched OgleFood.

What I tell those non-bloggers in my life who ask, I’ve never made enough money blogging to make it worth doing if I wouldn’t do it for free. It’s true. I’d always said, my only goal was to make enough to pay for hosting. For a while I made a steady if modest sum. The assignments kept me going because it made me feel like blogging was important. And, hey, money helps.

Since killing my last blog, I haven’t made a dime. I’d hardly blogged. I thought about canceling my hosting plan, giving up once and for all. Instead, I waited out my writer’s block and appear to have found my blogging mojo. I’m blogging for the reasons I am most motivated by: saying my piece, having a “home” on the web, and getting feedback on my writing.

Astute readers may have noticed the beginning of some sponsored content appearing. I’m thrilled. I do, however, worry about the “lack of integrity” argument I’ve seen over the years from some bloggers who would not accept sponsorship or even products to review. I read plenty of those bloggers and respect their choice. Most of those concerns are covered in my disclosure policy, but I do feel it necessary to talk about why I do what I do.

The investment of time in blogging, not just writing but updating technical do-dads and networking to build readership, is substantial. I hope to provide something of value. I want to not just write, but be read. In order to continue investing, I do feel treating my blogging as a business is the best option. It’s like a weirdly egotistical magazine which revolves around me and publishes my writing almost exclusively. No one balks at print or digital magazines and newspapers having ads. Others may be motivated in other ways, but for me, it’s the dream I had as long as I can remember to be a “real” writer which keeps me going. I may never be published in a physical format and am unlikely to ever be able to quit my day job. Still, I’m happy with knowing I’m putting myself out there in a creative way. The return on investment sweetens the pot.

I worry a little that readers and friends will be put off by sponsored content. I don’t care for banner ads and visual clutter, so I’ll try to keep that kind of thing to a minimum. Inserting links with keywords or writing about a product or website is my preference. I try to keep it interesting and as much like my “regular” content as possible.

I hope anyone reading this post sticks with me as I attempted to keep my mojo trucking along.

DEFENDING NETFLIX

The internet is all a Twitter with criticism for Netflix. Yesterday in a post on the company blog from CEO Reed Hastings, the company announced it’s plan to split streaming and DVD offerings into two distinct brands with separate websites and billing. Customers received the news, including an apology for poor communication preceding pricing and plan structure changes two months ago, via e-mail.

Both changes are being widely criticized across the social web. On the severing of streaming and DVD services, I’m neutral. I suspect the company has researched enough before the announcement to be confident the benefits will outweigh the risks over the long haul. I was ringside for a similar rebranding and name change when social media advertizing company Izea. The change from PayPerPost as both product and corporation to Izea the corporation as the umbrella for explained services including PayPerPost, SocialSpark and SponsoredTweets wasn’t popular with bloggers who worked for them. The company forum was filled with impassioned discussion of how foolish it was to change it. Flash forward, and Izea has gone public, acquired a competing Twitter advertizing service and landed many nationally known brands. Obviously, founder and CEO Ted Murphy knew what he was doing.

There is also a matter of audience. I know a few people living in too rural an area to benefit from streaming service who how don’t want to pay for service they cannot use. I hope they sign up under the Qwikster brand. It’s a great service, better than video stores or Redbox, but not as good as streaming. I would propose the new brand’s users aren’t as social media savvy as the streaming centric, so their voices are not being heard.

I didn’t find the price increase in July unreasonable. The basic package went from $9.99 for unlimited streaming plus unlimited DVDs, one out at a time to $7.99 for unlimited streaming with separate plans available for DVDs starting at $7.99 for unlimited DVDs, one out at a time.

At the time, I was too happy about all five Star Trek series being offered streaming to complain about what they need to charge to provide exactly what I want to watch.

Even with the heady pleasure of watching endless hours of Star Trek leveling off, I still find the prices reasonable. It is easy to do the math on how much the price increased.

($7.99 + $7.99) > ($9.99)

We are still talking, I humbly submit, about peanuts for the entertainment offered. Peanuts!

Since October when I canceled cable, Netflix has been our major sort of programing. Chris brought Hulu Plus when he moved in with me in March, but it is seldom used compared to daily Netflix usage. My Big Bang Theory fix comes from CBS.com where they post new episodes a couple days after original air date. We could cancel both DVD service with Netflix and Hulu Plus, even give away every DVD in the house, and never run out of things we really want to watch.

The outrage I’m seeing but not feeling towards Netflix has a simple source: Comparing what Netflix charges not to what they have charged in the past rather than the cost of services Netflix replaces.

Is there cable or satellite plan under $50 or $60 dollars a month.

Buying DVDs, around $15 a pop, and BluRay, around $25.

Remember renting DVDs at Blockbuster a decade ago? It was around five bucks for a new release and better take out a loan if you didn’t return the thing on time.

No one can convince me Netflix is less than the best entertainment value available. I suspect when the grumbling is over, most customers will stick around for lack of something better. Dollar for dollar, hour for hour of use, it’s fantastic.

*Not a sponsored post. I simply love me some Netflix.