06 September 2012

Everything is Moneys

What do you do for fun?

Do you drive a motorcycle? Do you draw? Are you crafty? Play piano? You like knitting sweaters? Weird sex stuff?

That's great. Good for you. Everyone needs a hobby.

Let's travel back in time. Try to picture the world of 30 years ago. Forty years ago. Used to was, a man would get home from a long day at the quarry, slide down the tail of a brontosaurus and pedal himself home on a penny farthing bicycle. He's excited. Today is Friday and that means tomorrow is the Week-End. After several hours of reciting Bible verses and listening to dramedies on his gigantic wooden radio, he's got some leisure time. Time to himself. Time enough to pursue his interests!

He's received a mail-order build-your-own-airplane kit from the back of Popular Mechanics which, in this time period, is a relevant publication that does not suck. He's excited to build his aeroplane, as manned flight has only recently been proven possible by the Wright Brothers, and so he goes about his business with an anachronistic assortment of corded power tools and a whole mess of chisels and mallets.

For whom does he build the plane?

Is it for his wife, who spends her time practicing watercolor in the parlor?

Is it for his children, who do not speak unless spoken to? And also work in a coal mine factory?

Perhaps he does it for the rest of the world, fantastically connected via expensive international operator-assisted telephone calls by a snaking network of undersea cables.

No. He builds the plane for himself, because he enjoys it. It provides a diversion from the worries of his day: Cubans and Prussians and The Bomb and so forth. He builds the plane to forget about whiling the day away on a stone slide-rule and dictating memos to his secretary. Who, while a lady, is also a bird that takes notes.

After several moon-phases come and go he completes his kit plane. It's tremendous! It has all the hallmarks of a pet project from a purposefully vague era: goodness, effort, heart, passion and enjoyment. The man is satisfied; his family is satisfied. The neighbors, who secretly hate him, are not satisfied but tell him that they are.

And that's it. When the air isn't thick with dirigibles and Pan-Am jetliners, he takes his airplane out for a spin. He feels pride.

Now let's take off our time-travel derbys and do it again, today.

The man order the kit plane from the back of Popular Mechanics which sucks now. Also the kit plane order form is under an ad for penile enlargement and above an ad for a free-energy device.

The man bought the kit plane because he though it would be fun. But is fun is the end -- does it justify the means? Does fun justify the money spent on shipping and the time spent building?

A tiny doubt begins to gnaw at his brain.

He thinks that it would be a shame to keep this kit plane build to himself so he starts a blog. And the first thing he does after naming the blog and picking his color scheme is attaching AdSense to it.

'Cause hell, if you can make some money off that blog then why not?

And then he starts following people on Twitter like mad, hoping that they'll follow him back. He blasts build updates out to his followers or even more frequently, no one at all. He's just yelling at strangers.
His twitter cross posts to Facebook where he announces new blog posts because even though the plane is kind of fun, the idea of making money is even more fun.

He films weekly build summaries and posts them to the YouTube channel he just started. He wants eyes on those ads and the only way to get them there is to drive people to his blog.

He know about cultivating an online presence and building his personal brand. These are things he's sure he's read about, and they were important things.

He start an Instructable on building kit-planes and posts it with detailed information linked to his build blog. Which now includes podcasts, because those are things that people have.

The money starts to roll in. Ten dollars. Then ten more.

He joins kit-plane enthusiast sites to let them know what he's doing. He sends tips to blogs in an effort to get featured. His twitter timeline is filled with inane updates.

The build is complete. His kit-plane sits unused in his steel storage shed as he desperately tries to cultivate his tiny online empire. The checks won't be cut until his AdSense revenue hits $100 and he's not quite there yet.

He opens a cafepress shop with "I HEART KIT PLANES!" t-shirts, coffee mugs, Frisbees and panties. They are overpriced and do not bring him any revenue.

He grows to resent the kit-plane. To him it symbolizes failure and he can't stand to look at it. He covers it with a tarp to protect it from the elements but also to protect himself from it.

The kit plane has done nothing for him. He has not recouped the cost of the materials. He was not compensated for his time. He did not gain even fifteen minutes of fame for all of his efforts. He wasted his evenings trying to promote and sell something that no one wanted to buy. Not even a little. He's not proud of what he's done because he feels no joy.

He has sucked all of the fun out of it and created a second, shittier job for himself. Shittier than the shitty one he was trying to escape in the first place.

(Metaphors, dog.)

The kit-plane could have been a guitar. Or a new camera. Or a set of oil paint. The plane could have been anything. 

There's nothing inherently wrong with maintaining a journal of events - video, audio or otherwise. And if you choose to share that journal with others then that demonstrates a certain confidence in what you've chronicled. 

It's so easy to take something we love and see other people making money (fame) off of that very same pursuit. This guy's doing it too and he's on the front page! This asshole can barely sing and they're on TV.

So we fail to do the things we love for fun and instead try to monetize them. We find a hobby and right after we figure out how it works we try to figure out how to make money off of it.

It's bullshit, so stop. Learn how to love things that people will never see, that will never earn you a dime.


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