Posted: December 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

The overarching theme of my blog is “random thoughts,” so on the TED Talks page I searched for “random.” And, in a meta-twist of (random) serendipity, some of the links that resulted were for talks about creativity — a topic also close to my heart — so then, in random fashion, I searched for “creativity” and found these interesting talks (which also mention the term “random“):

An unexpected benefit from this exercise was finding the TED Playlists page, which then led to finding these lists of fascinating links:

Comparison and contrast of the talks

All three of these talks (Amy Tan, Jarrett K, and Julie Burstein), discuss the lives of creative people. However, while Jarrett speaks only from the perspective of his personal experiences, both Amy Tan and Julie address universal creativity and the common threads found in creative people’s lives. Jarrett’s description of his life arc shows how he encountered and grew from the kinds of threads that Amy Tan and Julie identify.

Amy Tan — who, like Jarrett, focused (mostly) on her life experiences — identifies these common threads of creativity:

  • something in our nature, something innate, that causes a muse-like effect
  • a sense of identity crisis
  • having a little childhood trauma
  • having a notion of death (i.e. loss)
  • looking at associations in practically anything in life (i.e. paying attention)
  • creative people are multidimensional
  • a coincidence, a serendipity, in which (creative people) are getting help from the universe
  • tension
  • how creativity happens has to do with the feeling

Julie Burstein talks about her own life but also uses interviews with several artists to illustrate the common threads she identifies as being essential to creativity:

  • tension between “what I can control” and “what I have to let go”
  • (creativity grows out of) everyday experiences
  • paying attention to the world around us
  • powerful work comes out of the parts of life that are most difficult (e.g. childhood trauma per Amy Tan)
  • pushing up against the limits of what they can do, sometimes pushing into what they can’t do, helps artists focus on finding their own voice
  • embracing loss
  • standing in that space between what we see in the world and what we hope for

Which talk did I find most interesting and why?

Although all three of these talks intrigue and appeal to me a lot, I think the most interesting talk is Jarrett’s, because he presents a chronological series of anecdotes from his own life that illustrate IRL the more theoretical or conceptual ideas that Amy Tan and Julie Burstein discuss.

With Jarrett’s talk, you see the growth of a young child who, with the support of important mentors all through school, becomes an adult who is able to fulfill the innate creative nature he was born with.

What have I learned from this favorite talk and why?

The most important lesson I take away from Jarrett’s talk is that despite — and because of — the trauma and tension in our lives, if we hang in there and keep our creative spirit alive, we can accomplish the things we are meant to do.



Posted: December 6, 2013 in Uncategorized
First, a disclaimer: I find this whole idea of “monetizing” a blog to be fairly obscene.

I think the whole idea of “getting paid for (almost) nothing” is a part of the Big American Lie. In my opinion, not everybody is cut out to be an entrepreneur, or a salesperson.

And I really, really object to this idea that a blog can be (or should be) an easy money-maker. This is even more socially distasteful to me than the idea that “you can make thousands of dollars at home stuffing envelopes.”

This scheme of “monetizing” blogs just shoves consumerism into our faces more and more; it pushes this idea that everybody is a hustler, a schmoozer, out to make a few cents here and there off of any interpersonal transaction.

It’s kind of like having a “friend” who invites you to a “party” at their house and, when you go, you discover that the “friend” is an Amway salesperson and the “party” is a sales presentation. “Monetizing” gives me the same bad aftertaste.

I do not read blogs in a search for some way to spend my money (or be tricked out of my money, or be cajoled into buying something because someone else convinces me I need/want it), and I certainly don’t want people to be reading whatever I post just because I see them as a potential source of income for me.

I consider blogs to be a means of sharing those intangible things known as IDEAS.

Review of Monetizing Articles/Blogs

OK, now having said that, I can give my thoughts about the content of the following “monetizing” articles.

Wikipedia entry, “Affiliate Marketing”

This is a good place to start when educating oneself about “monetizing.” My biggest take-away from this entry is the ways in which humans’ greedy nature tainted the implementation of Affiliate Marketing.

  1. “Cost per click was more common in the early days of affiliate marketing, but has diminished in use over time due to click fraud issues.”
  2. “Uncontrolled affiliate programs aid rogue affiliates, who use spamming, trademark infringement, false advertising, cookie stuffing, typosquatting, and other unethical methods that have given affiliate marketing a negative reputation.”
  3. ” … the use of (browser) calls to external domains to track user actions … and to serve up content … to the user … adds time and is generally a nuisance to the casual web-surfer and is seen as visual clutter. “
  4. ” … ‘Cookie Stuffing ‘ … generates fraudulent affiliate sales, but also has the potential to overwrite other affiliates’ cookies, essentially stealing their legitimately earned commissions.”

These are all examples of distasteful practices associated with Affiliate Marketing.

How You Can Monetize Your Blogging Efforts by John Swartz

Swartz’s Blog is a skim-over-the-top puff piece that links to four other pages related to monetizing blogs. And two of those pages are sponsored by his own host, Technorati.

I wonder if he’s an affiliate marketer for them, earning pennies for each person who uses the link on his page to sign up for the Technorati “social advertising service”?

Pages that Swartz Links to:

How Early Should You Monetize Your New Blog? by Darren Rowse

Wow, this blog post is so thin on substance that it’s an embarrassment.

I think a more meaningful post would have been one that explored the question “Should You Monetize Your New Blog?

Rowse’s justification for starting monetization on Day 1 is that shops, newspapers, businesses, and gyms start sales on Day 1, so blogs should, too.

The fundamental flaw in this logic, as I see it, is that the only business type he cites that even resembles a blog is a newspaper. People don’t read newspapers so they can see what’s for sale: Advertising is a necessary evil that pays for the publishing costs of newspapers. The PURPOSE of a newspaper is to inform, and I believe that the purpose of a blog is also to inform.

If the purpose of your blog is to sell your own products, as Rowse states, — well, then, I don’t think what you have is a blog, it’s a marketing document. It’s not meant to inform or educate, it’s meant to be an advertising vehicle.

Ecommerce Basics: 10 Questions to Ask When Creating an Online Store by Kim Lachance Shandrow

Now, this is a practical and useful article. It starts with the premise that you have a product to sell and you want to know the best way to do that online. That is a very legitimate concern, and I think the author has laid out many of the important concerns and provided reasonable answers.

Of course, anyone reading this article would need to go beyond the information offered here and do more research in order to become adequately educated, but the author has done a reasonable job of outlining the questions to be pursued.

One answer, however, seems to be really uninformed — if a person is taking photos for an ONLINE catalog of their products, it does not make sense, given the current state of the art, to be taking 16 Megapixel photos that are going to be displayed online!

Technorati Media / Publishers

This page is an advertisement that entices people to sign up for the Technorati (affiliate marketing) Network.

Technorati Media / Influencer Outreach Program

This page is a form for people to apply to participate in the Technorati Influencer Outreach Program, a type of affiliate marketing where the blogger writes posts to influence people to buy products or services.

Six Myths About Affiliate Marketing by Amanda DiSilvestro

This article covers six preconceptions about affiliate marketing, from the perspective of someone who wants to “break into” this “career” (a “career” where one has no product, service, or intellectual property to offer, but rather serves as a middle man who skims a little off the transaction between a Customer and a Provider).

Unfortunately, although the author spells out six “myths,” the extent of rebutting these myths falls in the realm of simple denial.

Myth #1: It’s Difficult to Get Involved with Affiliate Marketing
Rebuttal #1: Anyone can do it. You just have to want to do it, and not be stupid.

Myth #2: Affiliate Websites Don’t Require Much Management
Rebuttal #2: Yes they do. Your website has to be good (“quality”), and you have to work on it.

Myth #3: You Should Always Choose the Niche that is the Most Profitable
Rebuttal #3: You have to know what you’re doing.

Myth #4: You Only Need One Good Affiliate Program to be Successful
Rebuttal #4: Nuh-Uh.

Myth #5: Consumers Don’t Like Affiliate Marketing
Rebuttal #5: “… they actually want to visit your website.”

Myth #6: Affiliate Marketing Won’t Last Much Longer
Rebuttal #6: “… surely (it) won’t (fade away) for a long time to come.”

This article is so shallow and reality-denying that I’m almost speechless.

I think this writer would have provided a much more valuable service by examining each of these “myths” in depth, acknowledging that they describe realistic aspects of affiliate marketing, and generally deal with the topic in a much deeper and analytical method.

But, perhaps the shallowness of this article reflects the readers, too, who don’t want to invest much time or effort in reading or thinking…

Affiliate Marketing Basics for Bloggers by Irwin Lagman

I continue to be amazed. This article is definitely basic, and it never rises above that level.

Here are the most salient nuggets of wisdom I found in this post:

(*)(This is a) simple look at how affiliate marketing works.

(*) “… being an affiliate will allow you to create passive income. That should allow you to work less and enjoy your life more.

(*) “… if you’re interested in affiliate marketing but … don’t want to go through a long period of learning everything first (just keep reading).

(*) A paraphrase of the section “Choosing products to promote and sell” — “Find out what everybody else is doing then plan to do the same thing.

(*) “You don’t need to be technical to build your site …” — in other words, you don’t need to know what you are doing.

(*) “Write articles (or simply outsource them) …” — in other words, you don’t even need to know enough about what you’re doing to write your own material; you can just pay someone else to do that.

(*) “You can ask someone who knows web design to give your website a nice look …” — in other words, you don’t even need to know how to make your website look good; you can just pay someone else to do that.

So, to wrap this all up:

It’s really easy,
you don’t need to do any work,
you don’t need to know what you’re doing,
just pay someone else,
and then you can rake in the dough…

Just the perfect thing for the Laziest Generation, right?


The first link on this compilation page is to “How to Improve Writing Skills In 7 Easy Ways,” which I’ll cover in a minute…

But first, this is directly from the “About Blogging Tips” section at the bottom of this compilation page:

Thank you for taking the time to visit the “About Blogging Tips” page. Blogging Tips was created for you, the reader and to become an authority blog that’s acts as a community for both bloggers, writers and readers to connect with each other.

OK, let’s look at this again:

… was created for you, the reader and to become an authority blog that’s acts as a community …

Wait, what? That’s not even clear English.

.. for both bloggers, writers and readers to connect …

Ummm, “both” means two; “bloggers, writers and readers” is three.

Dude (Zac Johnson), if you can’t write correctly, DON’T PUBLISH!

. . .

OK, so I’ve gone in and read several of Zac Johnson’s blog posts on BloggingTips.com. All I can say is, Please, Please, Make it Stop!!!

I figured Zac Johnson was a high-schooler, at most, based on the sophistication of his writing, but he actually appears to be in his 30s or 40s (based on his photo at the bottom of the pages). His writing is riddled with errors, and this long-time editor is going NUTS reading his stuff without being able to attack it with a red pen!

Even the guest posts on BloggingTips.com have blatant errors. Who is editing this stuff???

It’s really hard for me to take a piece of writing seriously when it is filled with glaring errors! Is this a generational thing? I hope not!!!

And about that “How to Improve Writing Skills In 7 Easy Ways” blog post? Well, it’s sophomorically simplistic, filled with errors, logically inconsistent. What more do I need to say?

4 Steps to Monetize Your Blog Through Affiliate Marketing by Leyl Master Black

Finally, a practical, realistic, non-superficial discussion of monetizing blogs. The author interviewed several subject-matter experts rather than just posting one point of view. This was a refreshing read!

4 Easy Ways to Monetize Your Blog by Elaine Pofeldt

This is another reality-based article, discussing both the negative and (potentially) positive aspects of monetizing a blog. The author points out such things as:

(*) “Getting a return on your investment can be challenging.”

(*) “Of course, you have to produce high-quality content—and have sufficient traffic—to make it worthwhile for an advertiser to want to sponsor a single post or series of posts.”


So, there it is — my impressions of these articles on the topic of “monetizing” blogs.  I think this monetizing is a bad idea, for several reasons I’ve already stated in the initial disclaimer.

Also, I think the less-than-mediocre quality of the writing and logic in many of these blog posts is symptomatic of a big problem — just because “Anybody can write a blog” does not mean they should!  The same goes for “marketing” products via blogs!


If you were trying to explain what blogging was and how to monetize it to a friend of yours who may not have any knowledge of blogging, what 5 steps (minimum) would you tell them to do to start a blog and begin to monetize it?

Explain each of these 5 steps with at least 3 sentences describing why this is a good choice and how you might advise them to go about it.

Step 1: Get informed.

  • First, start reading some blogs to get an idea of what a “web log” is.
  • Ask some friends to recommend blogs to you.
  • Read at least three blog posts by each of at least four different bloggers.

Step 2: Then, to start a blog:

  • Use either Lynda.com or the WordPress website Help to read up on how to start a WordPress blog/website.
  • Create your own WordPress account.
  • Start your own blog/website, beginning at the WordPress Start page.
  • Pick a general topic you want to write about, because it is something you care about.

Step 3: Write your blog posts.

  • Get in the habit of writing for your blog at least twice a week.
  • Write each of your blog posts off-line, then when it is finished (and has been thoroughly copy-read and edited!!!), paste it into a new blog post.
  • Never write your blog post online.

Step 4: About Monetizing

  • Some people use their blogs as a source of income.
  • They do this by directing their readers to a company’s website, where the readers then purchase something.
  • A percentage of that purchase price is returned back to the blogger (kind of like a kick-back).
  • This process of sending readers to a company’s website is known as “affiliate marketing” and the process of earning money through such affiliate marketing schemes is known as “monetizing the blog.”

Step 5: Monetizing Your Blog

  • I cannot in good conscience urge anyone to monetize their blog, because I believe that monetizing is not an appropriate or ethical aspect of blogging.


Posted: November 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

(20 Nov)

This week we consider some confounding questions…

1. What Does Tech Want?

Back in the old times, in the 20th century BT (Before Television), Americans would get their news and information from the radio. President FDR delivered his weekly Fireside Chats, informing the nation of the state of the war, the economy, our cultural challenges (“We have nothing to fear but FEAR itself!”).

And the people listened, and learned. Children sprawled on the floor on Sunday mornings while some far-away adult read the Sunday comics to them over the radio…

How do you feel about the evolution of technology and the humans who create it? Is it ultimately good or evil?

Is the evolution of technology always driven by humans or could it be driven by a larger force of nature?

Make a connection with natural vs. unnatural in this argument.

To what extent can inanimate things make decisions based on emotion? Is it even possible? 


2. Cyber Quiz for Parents of Online Kids

Even though you may not be a parent, what thoughts did you have on the Cyber Quiz in relation to how children are growing up in an immersive digital world today?

(Still Under Construction)

3. Death and Social Media

(Article by Jacquie Cheng)

This article brings up some interesting questions about preserving the writings and social-media postings of a person after s/he has died.

The topic emphasizes how much we have become creatures of electronic media. Instead of writing letters (by hand) and mailing them to others, or writing in a physical journal, we have migrated to performing these tasks online.

  • The good thing about this migration is that more people are putting their ideas into words to be shared with others.
  • The not-so-good thing about this migration is that the writings have become more ephemeral.

Rather than a shoe-box of hand-written (or even typed!) letters to be gone through after the writer has moved on to different shores, what remains are bits and bytes residing on some corporate server.

Rather than a stack of journals filled with musings and doodles, the writer has left behind a blog, perhaps, or a website: again, these are housed somewhere in cyberspace.

And so some corporate third party has entered the picture…


4. Blogging and Social Media

How can you see social media benefiting a blogger?
How can you see social media hindering a blogger?
Do you plan on using social media tools on your blog? Why? Why not?

(Still Under Construction)