fbpx
Introducing Deleuze vs. Heidegger on Technology, Enslavement,
 and Escape

That’s the title of an online course I’m developing with Johannes Niederhauser. You may remember Johannes from his widely admired appearance on Other Life: “Heidegger, Ecstatic Time, and the Community of Mortals” (livestream, podcast).

Our plan is to produce about 8 hours of content, mostly traditional lectures and a couple of discussions. There is no firm date set for the release — whenever it’s ready — but it shouldn’t take more than a couple months or so.

We’ll be doing a livestream introducing the course project this Sunday. The watch page is here. Subscribe and click the bell to get a notification when we go live.

Advancing to Level 2

I’ve now been on Patreon for one year. It's been good, but I think I need to level up. Would you like to help? If so, I have a new flashy object with your name on it. Read on.

Review and Projections

First, a little review of my Level 1 experience thus far. Patreon growth rates seem healthy enough, as you can see below. No particularly spectacular hockey-stick trajectory, but slow and steady seems good to me.

Other Life Patrons

According to my Youtube metrics on Socialblade.com, I’m currently on track to have 11k subscribers by this time next year, and more than 1 million views. In 5 years, I’m on track to have 143k subscribers and more than 14 million views.

As far as I can tell from piecing together podcast market data, the Other Life podcast is somewhere around the 80th percentile globally. Not bad, but I think I can do better.

Thus far, I've done almost everything — livestreams, videos, and podcasts — with just two pieces of cheap, basic gear: The Blue Yeti mic and the Logitech c920 webcam. Each one was about 100 bucks.

Leveling Up

Now that my audience seems to be growing consistently — especially in the past few months — I think right now is the time for some long overdue upgrades. Especially the audio on my livestreams and podcasts — I really want to give listeners a noticeably more enjoyable experience. When my wife and I took a little road trip a few months ago, it was the first time I drove a car in many years. After listening to some random True Crime podcast for hours at a time, I really changed my mind about the importance of audio quality for podcasts. Professional audio quality is like an ear massage. Professional audio quality won’t make you interested in a podcast, but if you are interested in a podcast, then professional quality dramatically expands how long and deeply you will listen. On that drive, I sadly realized that very, very few people would ever choose to listen to my podcast for several hours on a long road trip. Nobody can listen to anything for that long, unless it includes a free ear massage. I am sure that haphazard audio also decreases word-of-mouth recommendations.

And now that I'm even livestreaming / podcasting with other people in a shared physical space — and potentially with guests passing through town as well — we really can't all sit around one USB microphone anymore.

So the time has come for a basic but adequate, entry-level-professional setup. A few dynamic mics, possibly two cameras, and some solution for mixing multiple mics into livestreams, videos, and/or podcasts.

This will get expensive, so for the next two weeks I’m going to conduct a light but frank campaign to boost my Patreon numbers. I promise not to do this again, at least for another year (one short and sweet annual campaign seems reasonable for "content creators").

In the past year, a lot of people have told me about their plans and intentions to eventually become a patron. If you're one of these people, I’m writing this post to remind you. If you've been meaning to become a patron, just do it now.

If you're a fan of my stuff and you'd personally enjoy higher production quality — perhaps you wish my podcast was audibly pleasing enough for long drives — then become a patron now. Or if you're already a patron, consider bumping your pledge temporarily as I level up.

A Special Gift (possibly — probably? — worth millions one day...)

If you become a patron before September 18, you’ll be grandfathered into the official class of Other Life OGs. After September 18, you can still become a patron of course — but you’ll never be able to say you were with me from the beginning. C’mon, you want to tell your future kids that you supported me before I blew up…

To recognize and appreciate the official class of Other Life OGs, I’m introducing the very first piece of Other Life “merch" to ever exist. Here’s a preview.

It’s just a little sticker, but hey — a $2k baseball card is just a little piece of cardboard. Nobody in the world has this sticker yet, and nobody ever will — unless you’re an active patron of mine on September 18, 2019. It’ll be priced at cost, about 2 bucks.

If you decide to become a patron now, thank you.

If you boycott Patreon for political reasons, you can help fund my work through other channels: Donorbox, Paypal, crypto, etc.

Within a few weeks, as you start to notice better production qualities, you can take all the credit...

Progress report for first book project

I launched a pre-order form for Based Deleuze a little more than a month ago (June 20, 2019). I committed to publishing a short book of about 20k words by September 20 at the latest.

I currently have 15.9k words, so the writing itself has been proceeding smoothly. That’s great, but the financial viability of the project comes down to its total earnings and the total amount of time it will have required from me.

Let’s start with the time costs. I’ve always tracked my time, but since leaving academia I’ve been doing so with extra rigor. This is because my time-use data will be crucial for evaluating the return-on-investment of all the particular activities and projects within the Other Life ecosystem. Without this information, it would be nearly impossible to iterate my system toward long-term financial viability.

So far I’ve spent 52 hours and 22 minutes working on this project, including the product design and setup. This number is slightly biased downward, however, because I did have somewhere around 3k words worth of notes and fragments on my hard drive before starting the project. It’s also worth noting that I already spent a large amount of time reading toward this, over many years before now. Obviously, if I wanted to produce such a book on something I hadn’t already read a lot about, the time costs would be far greater. So extrapolations from this data assume future projects where I can again draw on pre-established reserves of my own past reading and ideas. Fortunately those reserves are large (one of the reasons I felt like I’d have a fighting chance defecting).

You might be curious to know where that 52 hours has gone, exactly. Here is the breakdown. I use the free time-tracking browser-extension by Toggl, and conveniently there is an R package connecting to the Toggl API, which allowed me to rapidly produce the table and graph below.

Task ~Time
writing 29h
citations/notes 8hr
reading 5hr
online audience research/outreach 4hr
product design/landing page 4hr
newsletter & patreon post introducing the pre-order 2hr
customer service 1hr
ebook tablet mockup 16min

Visually, it's easy to see that just sitting down and writing has been the lion’s share of the work. I should say, by the way, that these time estimates reflect only focused work. So "writing" means writing, not all the time I spent at the café where I went to "write."

Finally, we need to know how much the book is on track to earn. It’s currently guaranteed to sell a bare minimum of 96 copies for a total of $537.50. The graph below shows my royalties.

If I see zero additional pre-orders, then I’m currently getting paid about $10/hour, though that would probably become more like $6/hour given the work that remains to be done. Data from other projects I’ve seen around suggests that I’m likely to come somewhere near doubling this in the few days after the final publication. If we figure the book earns $1000 total, and the book will take me 80 hours all in, then my writing for this book will have earned me about $13/hour.

If your first thought is “that’s pretty bad,” then you are just a sad person! I am quite content with this midterm data, for a few reasons. A big question I’m eager to see the answer to is: How many sales can I expect, on average, each month after the publication hype is over? Even if it’s only 2 additional copies each month, on average, if I live to be 90 then that’s another $6,840 the book will have earned. Then I will have made about $98/hour for my fringe theoretical writing this summer. That’s pretty close to my current market worth, and more than I was making as an academic.

Another reason why I’m more than happy with the results so far is that it’s my first time producing a rather new kind of book, in a whole new kind of market. I don’t want to overhype my pioneer cred, but I’m the first academic I know who has quit a comfortable academic position expressly to convert all my work to independent web-based equivalents. Given the novelty and uncertainty factors, I have been very realistically braced for my first few experiments to fail or underachieve. Thus, from my point of view, these numbers are looking good as far as I’m concerned.

Also, presumably I’m going to learn a lot from this process, and I am connecting with more readers than I was connected with before, so it’s almost certain that future projects will do better than this one (on average). Especially if I deliver an excellent book that people find valuable, and they tell people, etc. "Growth mindset," baby.

Executive summary: So far, so good, in my opinion. There are tons of people right now, this minute, working for $13/hour or less. I consider it an early success to have established this as my guaranteed lowest-possible floor on my very first book — while writing exactly what I please, from wherever I want…

And of course, if you haven't already, pre-order Based Deleuze here.

An automated system for delivering high volumes of exclusive content to patrons

This took a lot of tinkering, but I think I've finally figured out the best currently available way to manage and deliver a wide variety of exclusive items to patrons.

Optimizing and automating the links between research, production, and dissemination will probably be one of the main edges that internet intellectuals have over institutionalized intellectuals — so I am working hard to maximize this edge.

I shared this with patrons a few weeks ago, now I’m sharing it here in case other internet producers find it useful.

What wasn’t working

Periodically uploading stuff to a Dropbox and giving patrons a link — as I had been doing — was not great. It wasn't easily or effectively searchable, and patrons didn't have any way of knowing if something new was posted.

I was going to give patrons access to my Evernote archive — I got this idea from Gwern, who seems to live near the cutting edge of internet production efficiency. In fact, I became a patron of his just to get access to his Evernote, to see how he does it... With ~50,000 notes, his archive was almost completely impenetrable for me (I do have a 2013 MacBook Air, admittedly, but it's still lightning quick for pretty much everything I do.) The web version was unable to load or scroll or search fully, and when I tried importing his shared notebook to my desktop Evernote app, the app was unusable for a whole day (stopping sync and exiting and logging in and out wasn't even enough to fix it; I figured it out later.).

I’ve also been trying to figure out how to give my patrons advanced access to podcasts as well. Patreon has a facility to provide patrons with an RSS feed for podcasts, but they don't have a posting API so it would become yet another manual task for me. It might sound like no big deal, but I need to be ruthless about minimizing manual tasks, or I'll never get any serious work done.

What I finally decided on

Patrons at $5/month now receive one exclusive, searchable archive of pretty much everything I’m working on, before any of it gets published: Not-yet-published writings, all my reading highlights as I clip them, pre-release podcasts and transcripts, pre-release videos, raw materials with no destination yet, cut material with no destination yet. Plus 3 separate RSS feeds to help them follow along in a way that works for them.

1.) There is one master, high-volume RSS feed of any and all new updates to the drive. That one is a bit messy since it reflects a wide variety of new items. Subscribe and follow along to see what's brewing, but I can't promise this will be particularly pleasurable reading on a daily basis.

2.) A separate, clean, always-readable RSS feed of web reading highlights from the news and blogs I read (and whatever pre-1923 books I’m reading from web archives).

3.) And then a separate audio RSS feed for all of my podcasts before they publish, and any other miscellaneous audio content I might be working on or playing with. This one can be added to podcast apps.

An extra benefit: Unedited podcast transcripts are also included, and they're searchable. These will not be edited for the foreseeable future, so they won't be usefully or enjoyably readable. But if you heard something cool in one of my old podcasts, and you can't remember what it was, or which one it was, a search of the hard drive has a decent chance of turning it up. The day might come when it will be feasible for me to have these edited, but that's not on the development roadmap at present.

If you're not already a patron, you could join just to get the links, and then peace out. Or ask around. I don't really care, I'm generally pro-pirating.

I want to create a system, a community, and such great work that those who can spare the cash want to do so — even if it's easily pirated. And if people honestly can't afford to pay for things, then I want them to have it.

How I set it up

The system is not terribly sophisticated. I just wired a few web services together. Below I’ll just describe the setup generically. If you’d like to see exactly how I set this stuff up, let me know. I could do a post on it, but won’t waste my time if nobody’s too interested in this stuff.

The best service for hosting a patron-only hard drive turned out to be Google Drive. Its API seems more flexible than Dropbox and its various Docs and Sheets and so on allow me to slot my various items into the Drive in a way that's efficient and tidy. Finally, it has fast and reliable search across the whole shared drive. It seems that the search function even covers words inside of images (such as screenshots), thanks presumably to Google's built-in OCR. So patrons are given a shared link to this master drive. As I said above, I’m not worried about policing the link.

Then I used Zapier to create a few automations that route my everyday reading and working activities into the Google Drive, sending different types of media into a few different folders. The final RSS feeds themselves are generated by Zapier, too. The RSS feeds are linked to particular subdirectories in the drive, and they leverage some filters, which is how I can ensure that the reading highlights RSS and the audio RSS will only contain the correct content types.

For all the news and blogs and web pages I read, I’ve always used Feedly. Any web page I decide to read gets sent to Read Later on Feedly, via the Feedly browser extension for Chrome. Feedly has nice highlighting with an API, so everything I highlight gets automatically logged into a spreadsheet in the Google Drive. That logs the URL and the date. Then the highlighted text gets sent to the reading highlights RSS. (If the snippet is less than ~200 characters, it also gets tweeted with the URL).

I read epubs and Kindle books and PDFs on my iPad. For text highlights I use some scripts to generate tidy PDFs of my highlights into the Drive when I’m done with something.

A Tidy PDF of Book Highlights (Example)

A Tidy PDF of Book Highlights (Example) A Tidy PDF of My Personal Highlights From a Book (Example) — get one here.

For graphs or tables or anything that’s not highlightable, I take a screenshot and send it to the Drive. That’s robust and snappy via the iOS share menu. Non-standard stuff like screenshots will get picked up in the master RSS feed. Screenshots actually display nicely. Patrons last week could have followed along with all the graphs I clipped from Norris and Inglehart’s new Cultural Backlash. See, for instance, how this screenshotted graph would appear in your RSS reader (in this case, Feedly):

For my one-man podcast operation, I use Auphonic for automated editing. Auphonic lets you export to multiple destinations at once. In addition to exporting to Libsyn, where I will schedule podcast releases into the future (to spread them out), I set Auphonic to post every new edited podcast into the Google Drive. These automatically get pushed to the exclusive podcast feed immediately, so as soon as something is edited then patrons can hear it.

Also, anything added to Evernote gets pushed to the Drive as well. The benefit of this is that Evernote has the best web clipper I know of, and integrates with nearly everything. The drawback is that Evernote itself is slow and clunky, and when Zapier exports Evernotes into my Google Drive, they are somewhat unpredictable and not always very good looking or ideally formatted. But it works and the exported content shows up in Goole Drive search, which is the main point. (Nobody will be going into the Drive to enjoy or use anything there, but to find and take it.)

For anything else, I just have to drag and drop into the Google Drive web page. But that manual task is much easier than posting anything whatsoever into Patreon’s website. And no doubt I’ll figure out ways to automate more processes.

As I made clear to my patrons, this system is still in “beta.” I’m sure there are some bugs, and I’ve asked patrons to let me know of them. But I did test this system rather extensively, and it seems to be the richest possible system for patrons to observe and explore what I’m brewing — while decreasing, rather than increasing, the amount of time it takes me to share work-in-progress with them.

How I'm Successfully Digitizing Another Professorial Function: Paid Intellectual Consulting

As loyal readers will know, I'm on a mission to transition all of my traditional professorial functions into their digital equivalents — to constitute a financially successful and radically independent model of the intellectual life outside of all currently existing institutions.

I am occasionally asked for advice on different types of intellectual projects. Sometimes it's: "Can you read this and give me your thoughts?" Sometimes I'm asked about how to succeed in academia/grad school, and sometimes people ask me practical stuff about blogging and workflows, etc. I've always been happy to help, but when I was a career academic it would take me several weeks at best before I could respond to anyone. Ironically, now that I'm not a career academic, these kinds of requests have been increasing — I suppose because I seem more available or closer to the ground or something. Anyway, now I really do have time to help, advise, or collaborate on different things, except now I have to hustle to build a financially sustainable model.

The obvious solution is to invite payment for various types of requests. I initially had no idea how this would work out — I was quite prepared for people to say “no nevermind, and screw you, exploitative asshole.” In fact, the opposite happened. People have seemed relieved to receive the offer: I think people feel guilty asking for dedicated attention from someone they don't know, and for that reason they don't ask for everything they would like to. Every time I've invited payment so far, almost everyone was immediately warm to the idea. Of course some people don't follow through, but that's the case in all things. Nobody got upset or or objected or anything like that. And a few people have taken me up on it, so now I’m happy to report that I have a small handful of... I don’t even know what to call them. I guess I could call some of them digital students. Others are similar to me in age and intelligence, so I would never call them students. "Intellectual consulting clients" is clunky, but gets the point across.

Suddenly, this work is earning me an income roughly equal to what I'm getting from Patreon. I was not anticipating this, but it's an interesting and satisfying kind of work, so I'm quite open to developing it further. It's forcing me to make explicit a lot of my experiences and observations about intellectual processes and internet production processes. Without realizing it, in the past two years, I have probably rushed my way into the upper percentiles of knowledge about a whole new niche, which in some sense doesn't even exist yet (hence my difficulty naming it above). I'm not going to bother coining some fancy phrase right now, because I don't want or need to — this would feel like taking the bait of going the self-help-guru route, promoting myself with some kind of trademarked self-improvement concept. I'm not interested in doing any of that, but I am interested in developing the knowledge and sharing it and helping people, if people ask me for it. If you want to book time with me, there's now a way to do that. Feel free.

One of my ultimate goals is to break historical ground by achieving a new kind of model: a model for a serious, independent, disinterested, financially sustainable, and life-long intellectual career. Many before me have achieved a few of these things outside of academia, but nobody has yet achieved them all in such a way as to establish and leave behind a self-conscious and reproducible model. But to truly achieve this goal, in a way that is different and better and truly groundbreaking, relative to all the people who have already made decent little fortunes selling information products — my value proposition cannot be yet another variation on "I will teach you how I made $1 million on the Internet," (namely, by promising others they can make $1 million on the Internet, by promising others...). Most of the people who come closest to succeeding as full-time internet intellectuals are typically trafficking in something with the structure of a multilevel marketing scheme. I'm not even knocking that hustle necessarily, but it's not a true intellectual life, and it can't be, because the insights and energies of the author are subordinated to an instrumental objective that stands over and above their thinking and speaking, which they are never ultimately honest about.

I will only succeed in truly breaking ground if I'm able to achieve financial sustainability and long-term cultural impact through my capacities and commitments to transparent, disinterested research and expression. That's perhaps the key criteria dividing authentic independent intellectuals from self-help gurus.

If it happens that anyone sees me as a valuable or reliable personal guide or support of any kind, then of course I am happy to make this one item in my portfolio of efforts. It is essentially just the ancient teaching function, which has always been rightfully linked with the research function.

If I'm being honest, I guess through trial and error and strategizing, I really have learned a lot over the past few years about how to win competitive institutional games while also sustaining a radically uncompromised voice; how to not mind mobs of haters; how to game institutional and public perceptions; how to use a variety of web technologies for the optimization of intellectual production; how to convert previously institutionalized academic functions into stuff that people want to pay for; and how to automate most of it. It's only now that people are asking me for advice on these various things, which is actually teaching me how much I know, and how little of it is currently available anywhere. It's a privilege really, to be asked for advice, so I'm reflecting a lot, and archiving my reflections as I go. I will probably share some of these reflections here and there, moving forward.

Anyway, for now, this stuff is not my primary focus, so I'm not investing a lot of energy thinking about how to brand or package or offer this kind of stuff.

I am more or less working on a "pay what you want" model, within reason of course. On the low end, I have an undergraduate student with severe mental health challenges who has asked for some dedicated guidance. I've agreed to give them 30 minute sessions here and there for just 15 bucks a pop. On the higher end, I'm working with one person who has a high-paying job but really wants to make serious intellectual contributions. To them I give regularly structured support and feedback, reading all their work, and we have multiple calls a month, typically on advanced topics, so we have iterated toward a more intensive retainer model for $500 a month.

Frankly, I would only need a couple more clients on the higher-end to fully replace my former income as an academic. I'm only in my first few months with my higher-end client and he seems quite happy. And I'm delighted to learn for myself that I'm quite good at providing this kind of support.

My monthly seminar is kind of a distributed, social way of providing the same kind of support but to larger numbers of people, on a much cheaper basis — just 25 bucks a month, per person. With two-hour sessions, and the 6-person-per-session cap I've set, that turns out to be $75 an hour for me (though not accounting for the costs of acquisition, etc.)

I just wanted to set down these reflections now, while all of this is still new to me.

If you think there's something I can help you with, there's no harm in just . My current method for doing this is just to consider the idea, or request and I'll bounce back to you a proposal for some way of doing it that is worth my time and that you can afford. There may or may not exist an equilibrium there, and if not then no hard feelings either way!

Sometime in the next few months, I'll try to post some of the common questions I receive, and some of the general answers I tend to give, in these consulting sessions.

Introducing monthly seminars

For the past two months, I've been hosting private online seminars for patrons supporting me at $25/month or more. The first one was good, but the second session really took off. Participants became comfortable sharing their projects, raising questions and constructive criticisms with each other, and the whole thing seemed to find its rhythm. After working out some kinks, I'm now opening up the seminar to anyone interested. If you'd like to join, you can now sign up with me directly rather than going through Patreon (although you can still do that). For the moment, I'm only asking for $25/month, which is a steal compared to any other currently existing structure of this kind. (If I get many subscribers I might have to increase this later.) You won't be charged until after your first seminar, so if you don't like the experience you are encouraged to cancel your subscription before it charges. Obviously I am looking to make money, but I'm trying to be as transparent, generous, and generally non-grubby as possible. I don't want your money unless you are genuinely happy with whatever I'm offering you...

So I made a nice splashy landing page that introduces the basic idea and provides an easy, secure payment checkout.

The main rationale behind this experiment is that 90% of the value derived from grad school is just structure, social accountability, and support from someone with a PhD. I know many people who spent a lot of money on a one-year MA program when the honest truth is that they really just didn't know what to do with their life. They needed help finding intellectual motivation, and/or they just needed someone to force them to complete a meaningful project. Those are perfectly normal needs, but it's kind of crazy that so many people enter expensive institutional degree programs just for those things! Obviously I offer no accreditation or degrees, so it's a very bad grad school — but for a certain type of person, I can give 90% of what grad school gives for literally less than .1% of the price. By making groups of no more than 6 participants, participants get a cozy, focused seminar experience akin to what they would get in grad school, and  I can earn a decent hourly rate (less than average consulting rates for PhDs, but enough to make me happy for now!).

Academics privately talk about how guilty they feel even teaching on some MA programs, knowing full well they are cash-cows for universities but of dubious value to students. But we do it anyway, just because if you're an academic it's part of the job. But as I'm increasingly estranged from my moorings in the Academy,  I'm more and more inclined to call bullshit on stuff like this, and at least try — in my own typically experimental DIY fashion — to start building minimalist, independent, digital alternatives. It's already running and working for one group of 6, so it's not unrealistic. The only question is how many other people might like to join. I'm curious to learn. What do you think? If you have questions, critiques, or suggestions, leave a reply below or feel free to email me. And remember if you want to try a session for free, all you have to do is subscribe and cancel your subscription after your first seminar.

For more information and testimonials, check out the seminar landing page. If this is something you know you'd like to try, you are welcome to sign up right now.

The content of this website is licensed under a CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION 4.0 INTERNATIONAL LICENSE. The Privacy Policy can be found here. This site participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram