Tag: Patreon

We give nothing so generously as our advice

Thanks François de La Rochefoucauld, but despite the above title coming from you (c.1678) , this post is actually inspired by Warren Ellis. I subscribe to many, many newsletters, and one of my favourites is Ellis’ Orbital Operations, which goes out every Sunday.

Recently, Ellis talked about the development of his newsletter, over the course of a four-part ‘blogchain‘. I’ve been meaning to write up how Thought Shrapnel has evolved recently, so I’m going to use this as a prompt to do so.

Patreon page for Thought Shrapnel
Patreon page for Thought Shrapnel

First up, Thought Shrapnel is now primarily a website with an email roundup. It’s not any more, strictly speaking, a ‘newsletter’. There’s around 1,500 people who subscribe to the email that I send out every Sunday, and 56 of those support its continued existence via Patreon.

This site uses WordPress with a number of plugins. I host it via a Digital Ocean droplet and pay for Jetpack to get automatic daily backups and better statistics. I schedule posts every weekday which are immediately accessible to supporters, and then available on the open web a week later.

Here’s three plugins that really help with my new workflow:

  • Add widget after comment — allows me to add automatically after a post anything I’d usually add to a sidebar. I use it to encourage people to become supporters.
  • MailPoet — I use this to automatically send out each post to supporters and to curate the weekly round-up to both supporters and subscribers.
  • tao-schedule-update — means I can schedule updates to already published posts, changing categories, visibility, etc.

Over the years, I’ve experimented with Instapaper, social bookmarking sites, Evernote, and all sorts of things for saving things over the years. Right now, I’m using Pocket to rediscover things I come across that I’d like to read later. That means that when I sit down to write, I find something interesting and then look for something else I could link it with. Eventually, I come up with six links that in some way go together and then I write something based on those.

In terms of the title for my articles, I’ve started using quotations. These tend to come from Kindle highlights or dead-tree books I’ve read. Sometimes they just come from Goodreads. Either way, I’ve got a bunch of drafts with just the title and the attribution ready to go.

Images to accompany articles used to come almost exclusively from Unsplash, but I’ve recently added Pixabay into the mix to add a bit of variety. Neither sites require attribution.

Chart showing visitors to thoughtshrapnel.com during May 2019

It’s interesting to me to see the cadence of visitors to Thought Shrapnel over the course of a week. It’s pretty obvious to see which day is Sunday, as that’s when I send out the round-up email!

What I really like about my current setup is that everything is now controlled by me. I spend about £10/month on Digital Ocean, Jetpack is £33/year, and MailPoet is free up to 2,000 users. The domain name is about £16/year. All in all, for about £15/month I’ve got a secure, fast-loading site of which I’m in complete control.

Some people use the idea of a Commonplace book to describe what they do. Warren Ellis talks of a ‘Republic of Newsletters’ to evoke a modern-day equivalent of the so-called Republic of Letters amongst the 17th and 18th century intellectual community. Me? I’m just happy to create something that I enjoy writing and from which other people seem to gain value!


PS for those wondering, the excellent Thought Shrapnel logo is courtesy of Bryan Mathers and is available as a sticker for $3/month supporters!

Simple sustainable stories

Some people are easy to follow online. They have one social media account to which they post regularly, and back that up with a single website where they expand on those points.

Stowe Boyd, whose work I’ve followed (or attempted to follow) for a few years now, is not one of these people. In fact, the number of platforms he tried earlier this year prompted me to get in touch with him to ask just how many platforms now had his subscribers’ email addresses.

Ironically, it was only last week that I decided to support Stowe’s latest venture via Substack. However, in a post yesterday he explains that he’s going ‘back to square one’:

I won’t recapitulate the many transitions that have gone on in my search for the ‘right’ newsletter/subscription technologies over the past year. But I have come to the conclusion that I am more interested in growing the community of Work Futures readers than I am in trying to make cash flow from it.

The thing I’ve learned about posting things to the internet over the last twenty years is that nobody cares. People support things that reflect who they believe themselves to be right now. That changes over time.

So if you’re putting things online, you have to make sure it works for you. Even the most fun jobs imaginable can become… something else if you focus too much on what a fickle audience wants.

As I said, I am motivated to take these steps in part by the desire to simplify my daily activities, and shelve work patterns that suck time. But I am equally motivated by making the discourse around these topics more open, while encouraging people to support Work Futures, but in that order of importance.

Openness always wins. You can support Stowe’s work via donations, and my work via Patreon.

Source: Work Futures

Paywalls and Patreon

I was part of the discussion that led to this post about Medium’s paywall. Richard Bartlett, whose work with Enspiral, Loomio, and decentralised organising I have huge respect for, has been experimenting with different options to support his work:

Last year I wrote about my dilemma: I have an ethical commitment to the commons, and I want to make a living from my writing. I want to publish all my creative work for free, and I am at my most creative when I have a reliable income. In that story I shared my long history of writing on the web, and my desire to free up time for more ambitious writing projects. Since then I have made a bunch of experiments with different ways of making money from my writing, including Patreon, the Medium Partner Program and LeanPub.

Patreon, which I’ve started to use for Thought Shrapnel, seems to be working out well for Bartlett, however:

To earn a full salary from Patreon, I would need many more supporters, requiring a marketing effort that starts to feel like begging. The gift economy is lovely in theory, especially because there’s no coercion: contributions are voluntary, and there is no punishment for readers who choose to not contribute. But when I interrogate these dynamics at a deeper level, I’m less satisifed.

In my point of view, social capital is subject to the same accumulative and alienating dynamics as financial capital. It’s even more dangerous in some senses, as the transactions are impossible to track, so it is much harder to redistribute accumulations of wealth.

Personally I redistribute 10% of my income to other Patreon creators who I think are doing more important and less fundable work than me: street poet David Merritt and anarchist authors William Gillis and Emmi Bevensee. At least this is a gesture to remind myself that the social capitalist is no more woke than the financial capitalist.

Frankly, as a producer, the clean transaction of buyer and seller just feels better to me. It feels good to produce something of value and have that value acknowledged by somebody purchasing it.

It’s a post worth reading in its entirety, and I don’t want to include any more than three quotations here. Suffice to say that Bartlett has found Medium’s paywall approach useful for discovery but actually find Leanpub the best option:

So, the trickle of income from Patreon feels nice, but I don’t want to self-promote more than I already am. Medium’s paywall is a promising income stream, but I risk losing the audience I care most about. So far it feels like publishing on LeanPub hits the sweet spot between revenue and ethics. So I’m considering that my next experiment could be to package up my existing blog posts into a kind of “best of” ebook that people can buy if they want to support my writing.

I’d suggest that a ‘paywall’ is always going to be problematic. The reason I allow people to support my work is that some people just have more spare money than other people (for whatever reason) and/or some people like supporting things they value financially.

At the moment, I release microcasts as a supporter-only perk. However, given that Patreon allows ‘early access’ another approach would be to set everything on a delay. I’m still, like Bartlett, weighing up all of this, but for now Patreon seems like a great option.

Source: Richard D. Bartlett

Alternatives to all of Facebook’s main features

Over on a microcast at Patreon (subscribers only, I’m afraid) I referenced an email conversation I’ve been having about getting people off Facebook.

WIRED has a handy list of apps that replicate the functionality of the platform. It’s important to bear in mind that no other platform has the same feature set as Facebook. Of course it doesn’t, because no other platform has the dollars and support of the military-industrial complex quite like Facebook.

Nevertheless, here’s what WIRED suggests:

(Note: I haven’t included ‘birthday reminders’ as that would have involved linking to a Facebook help page, and I don’t link to Facebook. Full stop.)

I’ve used, and like, all of the apps on that list, with the exception of Paperless Post, which looks like it’s iOS-only.

OK, so it’s not easy getting people off a site that provides so much functionality, but it’s certainly possible. Lead by example, people.

Source: WIRED

Support Thought Shrapnel on Patreon

For almost a year, I’ve been building up supporters for Thought Shrapnel through a semi-automated workflow that involved Gumroad. I still think that’s an excellent platform but, this week, I emailed the ~50 current supporters of Thought Shrapnel to let them know I’ll be transitioning to a Patreon page I’ve set up.

The most economically powerful thing you can do is to buy something for your own enjoyment that also improves the world. This has always been the value proposition of journalism and art. It’s a nonexclusive good that’s best enjoyed nonexclusively. (kottke.org)

If you value Thought Shrapnel, then please do consider backing it on Patreon. You can do so from as little as $1 per month. The first goal I’ve identified is to reach 100 supporters, as it really encourages me to keep on going with this endeavour!

As part of the transition, I’ll be moving Microcasts over to Patreon too. That’s for three reasons:

  1. They didn’t quite fit in with being part of the feed here on the Thought Shrapnel blog.
  2. I find that having them as fully public means I self-censor a bit, something I don’t have to do when I know I’m talking to people who better understand my context.
  3. Supporters on Patreon can get access to a private RSS feed they can add to their favourite podcast client.

The final bonus of the move is that it’s more likely to lead to interactions with the community around Thought Shrapnel. I’m already enjoying interacting with those who I support on Patreon, and look forward to doing similarly with you!

Become a Patron!

Thanks in advance 👍