3.27.2006

peeve

Last time I blogged about something that annoyed me, many of you thought I was seriously angry. So I'll begin by saying that the only things that make me seriously angry have serious consequences: war, injustice, discrimination, child abuse, environmental destruction. (Not an exhaustive list, but that's the idea.) Everything else is simple annoyance. Pet peeves. Just stuff I don't like.

So let's agree that I'm not seething, steam is not coming out of my ears, and this is not a rant. This is just something I don't care for.

I dislike when bloggers ask for donations.

I first noticed this a couple of years ago, while visiting a popular female blogger who I won't name. With time to kill on my old weekend job in New York, I dropped her a line to ask what exactly her readers were being asked to contribute to. I mean, she's using Blogger, the software is free. She appeared to be writing just like the rest of us, not performing any special activism or offering a service. I didn't say any of this, I didn't express my opinion. I only asked. She never replied.

Since then, an increasing number of bloggers have started asking for donations. The blog-ad usually says "Donate to this Blog". Maybe I'm wrong, but isn't that another say of saying "Give me some money?"

Some blogs put a real emphasis on donations, the bloggy equivalent of running a pledge drive. I find this a tad self-important. If you choose to put a lot of time and money into your blog, that's a perfectly reasonable choice, like any other hobby or interest. But why should you expect your readers pay for it? If it costs too much to maintain the kind of blog you have in mind, scale back.

The bottom line, for me, is that none of us are doing anything that wouldn't be done just as well without us. If any of our favourite bloggers called it quits, we might miss them, but our lives would be unchanged. We'd find the information elsewhere. We'd find something else to read, and probably something just as good.

I'm not saying the blogosphere isn't important. It's an incredible tool for building community and sharing information. But we're all doing that. We choose to do this, on our own time. People who try to use blogging as a form of employment accept advertising and try to re-sell stories. But they shouldn't, in my opinion, ask their readers to pay for their choice.

My main gripe with "donate to this blog" is that it's not actually a donation, in the sense of contributing to some greater good. Giving money to a blogger will not help save one acre of rainforest or one harp seal, or help end black-box voting, or get a progressive elected, or keep abortion safe and legal, or find a cure for AIDS. It's just giving your own money to another person, for no reason. You may choose to be this generous. But I think it's dishonest of bloggers to ask.

20 comments:

James said...

Giving money to a blogger will not help save one acre of rainforest or one harp seal, or help end black-box voting, or get a progressive elected, or keep abortion safe and legal, or find a cure for AIDS.

I don't think this is completely accurate. Donating to an influential weblog won't help solve any physical problems, but can help with things like ending black-box voting, getting a progressive elected, or keeping abortion safe or legal, because it can keep a source of information up and available. (Some) weblogs are a great example of "knowledge is power", and that kind of thing needs to be encouraged.

That said, there's a huge difference between large, influencial political weblogs and hobby blogs running on free services.

It's just giving your own money to another person, for no reason.

Not quite for no reason -- because you don't want them to have to stop.

There's a similar phenomenon in web comics -- a lot of prominent web comic writers & artists have, over the past couple of years, quit their day jobs and moved to doing their strips full-time, living off income from merchandise and donations. Fans of the strips like them enough to think they're worth sending in a few bucks to keep them coming.

Things are a little different for most of those webcomics than for Blogger weblogs, though -- most are on pay services, and having a readership big enough that you can live off their donations also means having a readership big enough that the monthly traffic costs are substantial.

I don't think a tip jar is inappropriate -- though a pledge drive for a hobby site running on a free service is a little over the top. :)

Amateur said...

Yes, I think James makes an important distinction. Some blogs do cost money to operate.

In some sense the 'donation' being requested is like the 'donation' you might make if you go to a local amateur theatre production. "The show is free, but if you would like to contribute something to help support the company's future efforts, then please do so." In other words, if you think that what we're doing here is worthwhile, give us some money so that we can keep doing it.

I can agree that the word 'donation' is misleading, though, especially if your blog doesn't cost anything more than your spare time.

L-girl said...

(Some) weblogs are a great example of "knowledge is power", and that kind of thing needs to be encouraged.

I absolutely agree. I think they should be encouraged with readership. But IMO it's up to each of us to fund our own activism.

That said, there's a huge difference between large, influencial political weblogs and hobby blogs running on free services.

I think so. I'm thinking of just plain blogger folks. Maybe I'll update the post to make that clearer.

L-girl said...

In some sense the 'donation' being requested is like the 'donation' you might make if you go to a local amateur theatre production.

I imagine that's what bloggers who ask for donations are thinking of. However, theatre costs money to produce. Blogging does not.

I'm thinking of just plain blogger folks. Maybe I'll update the post to make that clearer.

Well, I went back and re-read, and I think I'll stay with: scale back. :)

Granny said...

I thought you were talking about just plain bloggers. I haven't seen it except in a couple of requests to help with a marathon fund raiser or some such for good causes.

I do see a lot of it with the large political blogs.

James said...

However, theatre costs money to produce. Blogging does not.

Blogging costs time, and for some, it's time that they might be otherwise spending earning more income. It really depends on the blog and the situation. As with the web comics, it's not unusual to have a "I do this for fun, but money's tight and bills are due, and if I can't recoup something for the time I spend on this, I just can't afford to do this anymore" situation.

Another analogy is shareware. Programming, for the most part, costs nothing but time and effort, and programmers often develop shareware as a hobby. But the time spent programming on the hobby is often time that they could have spent programming for pay. The programmer then decides if he wants to release the program for free, or for donations, or for a fee.

lucie said...

i never wanted to ask for money or help, but then my cat got sick and needed surgery... and even then, i didn't think of asking for anything but some friends (people i've met through my blogs and have been long-time friends now, we've even met several times in real life) told me that they wanted to help me because they loved my "cat stories" on my blog. i said "this is not a child dying of AIDS or of hunger, this is not a life/death situation, you're crazy" (i actually wrote several posts about all this on my blog because to me, it was crazy to ask for money like this) but in the end, and because of distances (most of my friends are in europe), i agreed to set a paypal account. the response has been amazing and people who had never left a comment on my blog sent money, sometimes only $5 or $10, but they said they enjoyed my blog very much and liked my cat too, and wanted to thank me for it. it was an incredible experience. i never thought i'd get this kind of response. i think that i didn't ask EVERYONE to help, and i did have a (almost good) reason. people who felt like giving were happy to do so and didn't feel pressured. i still feel uncomfortable about it though... but thanks to all these people my cat will have her surgery.

L-girl said...

Blogging costs time, and for some, it's time that they might be otherwise spending earning more income.

That's what I mean by it's their choice. We each choose what to spend our time on. I don't think we should ask other people to kick in for those choices.

Scott M. said...

That's what I mean by it's their choice. We each choose what to spend our time on. I don't think we should ask other people to kick in for those choices.

Depends. If you believe the blog to be a genuine community service, there may be a precedent. For example, Scout groups raise money to allow their leaders to join without paying dues. Yes, the leaders choose to spend the time, but the thought is that they shouldn't have to spend their own money as well to volunteer. (Though I admit, as a Scout leader I've put out thousands of my own dollars over the last 11 years, normally helping those cubs who can't afford things).

orc said...

I get the strong feeling that a lot of webloggers put up the Donate! button not so much for the money they make, but because money == approval. I don't read that many weblogs, but it seems like most of the donate buttons I've seen are on American weblogs, which would fit fairly well with the pathological worship of the marketplace here.

L-girl said...

Orc, that's an interesting take.

One thing I've learned as a writer, essential to preserving my own happiness and integrity, has been to separate success from financial gain. To re-define success, based on my own writing goals.

I know many musicians, artists, photographers (etc) who've done the same, and been much happier for it.

[Which is not to say I don't like being paid for writing, but it's not my primary motivation, my measure of worth, or my reason for writing.]

I hadn't thought about blogging in those terms, but I'd bet you're right - that some bloggers are equating $$ with success.

David Cho said...

I have yet to run into a blogger who asks for donations. And I agree with you. It just seems odd. With about a dozen or so regular readers, I am just grateful to have them, and feel like I should paying them :-)

orc said...

My curiosity was tickled, so I did some checking to see how many of the websites I link to from tsfr have tip jars (or other ways of begging for money). Out of 97 sites (67 American), 19 sites (19 American) have tipjars.

I don't find the tipjars that obnoxious, because they are usually separated from the editorial content (Arthur Silber is an exception here, but he's dirt poor.) The self-promotion that annoys me is the Koufax (and, to a lesser extent, the wizbang) award process, because most of the weblogs I read promote themselves heavily when Koufax time rolls around, almost all editorially (where I can't easily ignore it.) Sour grapes? Eh, maybe, but the loop of we get popularity awards because we're popular seems somewhat pointless to me when the way I discover weblogs is via the traditional routine of following a via link and I won't even see the annoying Koufax badges until I get there.

But I digress. The reason I hunted through my bookmarks was to see if my thesis of money == approval was a strictly American thing, and judging from my survey, I'd have to say Mmmmmaybe. I keep offering the occasional rightwing kook the opportunity to underwrite my emigration to Canada, but perhaps I'm making a mistake by not putting a little paypal Give me US$25,000 and I'll not darken your electronic doorway any more button.

L-girl said...

The self-promotion that annoys me is the Koufax (and, to a lesser extent, the wizbang) award process, because most of the weblogs I read promote themselves heavily when Koufax time rolls around, almost all editorially (where I can't easily ignore it.)

Guilty as charged.

It was the Koufaxes that brought on this post. They ran (IMO) an incessant pledge drive, asking readers to contribute to the cost of holding the Koufax Awards. I just don't see that as something we should be asked to donate to. It's someone's hobby. While it's a nice way to bring people together, we all managed to find good blogs and create community without a promotional contest. I found the repeated pleas for funds unwarranted and annoying - I wanted to say, If you can't afford to do this contest, don't do it, we'll all manage without you.

I'd rather see the Koufax people ask their readers to donate to peace groups, or environmental groups, or whatever their primary concerns are.

Just my personal preference, ymmv.

L-girl said...

I keep offering the occasional rightwing kook the opportunity to underwrite my emigration to Canada,

Before we moved, I kept hearing from wingnuts who said they'd help me pack. We were waiting for them to show up with boxes and bubble wrap. Wouldn't you know it, not a one did. Shirkers.

Kyahgirl said...

This is an interesting discussion l-girl. Good points made all around.

I tend to feel like the call for donations is like panhandling. I'm a bit prejudiced against blogs that do that actually.

L-girl said...

I'm a bit prejudiced against blogs that do that actually.

Lauras are so smart. ;-)

L-girl said...

Uh-oh, Kyahgirl, I've lost track of your new blog address. Can you send it to me so I can update my links?

Kyahgirl said...

um, yeah, Laura's are so smart LOL :-)

www.kyahgirl.com

sorry, couldn't resist a little tease.

Nerdbeard said...

This looks like an excellent thread to slip in a little plug for a friend's effort: http://www.blogathon.org/ where they DO do something useful and important with the donations. I understand they are looking for bloggers who think they can make a blog entry ever 30 (?) minutes for 24 (?) hours for charity.