July 20, 2009

My new subscription-driven blog and forums

Basic rationale: Starting next week, I'll be posting on the highest-traffic day -- Monday -- only at a companion blog that will be run by a $5 per month subscription. (I'll post here too, but not early in the week when demand is high.) These new posts will be the ones that I put the most effort into -- not where I recount how it went at the teen dance club, but where I present something that no one's found out before, or where I popularize something that few know about.

To give newer readers a feel of the original stuff I've done before, I've given examples in the section below, but I've already decided what the inaugural post is about -- turnover rates in many genres of popular music. Basically, I went through the Billboard charts as far back as they go for the genre, and asked, "For a given week, how many weeks was the #1 song at the top of the charts?" and plotted this over time. Some periods show lots of turnover, while others are marked by stasis. Are there any patterns, and does genre make a difference? Subscribe and find out.

Aside from a weekly top-notch post each Monday, the blog will host forums of sorts throughout the week. The way the blogosphere works now, a comment section largely turns into a discussion board, but the momentum is always halted due to the commenters having to run from one day's comment section to the next's. At the other blog, there will simply be an open thread for the entire week where commenters can go nuts within the same post. There will be one open thread per topic of interest -- race, gender / sex, generational topics, technology, health / nutrition, or whatever else interests the subscribers.

More about the blog posts

First, there will be no ads of any kind, and comments will NOT be moderated. Everyone knows how annoying it is to participate in a comment section with moderated comments -- you can't help but feel insulted by "your message is being held and will appear when the writer approves it," and it slows the discussion down, when all you want is a quick and steady fix. But when access to the site is free, retards and flamers will inevitably show up, as bums flock to crowded malls, so that ownership and control of a comment section is needed to keep it from turning into worthless chaos. Only by restricting access can these rules be loosened up, just as law-abiding children don't need a curfew.

I'm choosing Monday because that is always the highest-traffic day. If you subscribe, you'll get your fix when you want it most, while there will be only a teaser link here to start the week off.

Although blogging doesn't eat up a lot of time, the more data-intensive posts do. This is not something that most bloggers do -- most are linkers or gasbags, with some entertaining and others boring. I actually do a bit of investigation, provide data, and put it into an easy-to-read visual. Not everyone will agree with my interpretation of what I've found, but at least I've done lots of homework that others will benefit from, and that's something you find at very few places on the internet, especially if it's a new finding.

As such, it only makes sense that I get something out of it. For those entries that don't require lots of time, I'll continue to post them here for free. But if they are more original and time-draining, I need better motivation than merely having a gigantic internet following.

However, since the other site will be by subscription, I'll be much more open to reader requests. Right now, I ignore them because if I'm researching and writing something up for free, the only thing that counts is what I'm curious about. But if I'm being remunerated, I'll look into just about anything. If there are topics you're interested in, or parts of posts I've written that you wish I'd looked into more, just say so, and you'll have a bright and resourceful numbers guy on top of it. We all know how pathetic most journalism is -- if what you read isn't covering it, I will, where feasible.

Otherwise, I'll focus on the same issues I do here -- race, generational changes, health and nutrition, sex and gender, technology, video games, pop culture, and so on.

Examples of previous original and data-intensive work I've done:

The death of silly academic theories such as Marxism, psychoanalysis, and even postmodernism, using JSTOR archives. This story was picked up by the Toronto Globe and Mail, Arts and Letters Daily, and a few others I'm forgetting. (Here's a follow-up.)

How different social classes react to adolescent sex, using the GSS, and proposing a life history account of these differences.

How much different generations enjoy various music genres, using the GSS. This provides pretty clear data that you imprint on the popular music from when you were about 15 and stay that way for the rest of your life.

How the American diet has changed over the 20th C., using pretty fine-grained data such as red meat, fish, poultry, etc., rather than just "meat." There's also data showing that heart disease and obesity has only gotten worse as we've switched to a more carboholic diet since the 1970s.

How the blondness of Playboy Playmates has changed over time, as well as some speculation about why it changes the way it does.

The stagnating pace of revolutionary technological innovation, linking it to the decline in monopolistic bodies like AT&T's Bell Labs or the Defense Department.

And there's plenty more where that came from. Just browse my archives here, or search GNXP.com for "agnostic." Stuff you won't read anywhere else. To reiterate, next week's post will look at the dynamics of pop culture by using Billboard chart-topping data. Soon after that (perhaps the next week, unless there's subscriber demand for something else), I'll present data on whether or not there has been a "decline in formality" over the 20th C, or if that is even possible. You know -- jeans and tennis shoes replacing jackets and ties.

More about the forums

While part of the reason that people read blogs is to see what the writer has to say, an even larger part is to join in or listen to the ensuing discussion. At a given blog, there are a handful of topics that people are most interested in, and comment sections inevitably become discussion boards about these topics. But by being split up over multiple posts, the momentum of the discussion will be killed because there's a new post today and a new comment section to migrate to.

By having a single open thread on some topic (women, race, science, video games, whatever), commenters will be able to go at it to their heart's content and not have to worry about lost momentum. Should things slow down, I'll pop in often enough to stir the pot -- maybe something little like posting a link to a conversation-starting news story. Again, I'll start off with an initial group of threads, but if enough people want an open thread on a new topic, I'll start it up right away. Each Sunday, I'll post a new set of open threads, since this type of yakking has a weekly (not daily) rhythm: the momentum always dies over the weekend anyway.

Another huge benefit from this format is that you can engage in discussions on a variety of topics each day, all day. The way things are now, you talk about sex when there's a post about sex, or affirmative action when there's a post on that. I know that you all want to talk about lots of things every day, so this will allow you to do that. You could follow a bunch of free discussion boards, but by bringing everyone together under a single umbrella site, it will be closer-knit and you'll know that you have much more in common than just one interest. Plus you all sort of know each other already.

It'll be a regular Algonquin Roundtable, and you'll be able to relate ideas from various areas together. It'll be as participatory as a discussion board, but as broadly focused and free-ranging in content as the comment sections of your favorite blogs.

And again, comments will not be moderated, so there will be a much more natural pace to the discussion. Quite simply, if someone acts like a classic flamer, I will remove them without giving a refund, and they won't be allowed to re-join the site. Every meeting place that could attract losers needs a bouncer -- and lord knows that includes an internet comment section. By the same token, nightclubs that cost money to get into are generally better than those that don't charge -- it weeds out those with bad attitudes.

How to join

There is a "Subscribe" button at the top of this blog. You will need a PayPal account, and PayPal automates everything, billing you $5 every month. (You can cancel anytime via PayPal, although I won't refund money that you've already paid.) You will also need a Google account -- they're free, and you just provide them with an email address. When you subscribe, leave me a message via PayPal with the email address associated with your Google account. I need this to invite you to the blog. If you don't say so, I'll assume it's the one attached to your PayPal account. If you forget to mention it, you can always send me a correction through your PayPal account.

Once I invite you, you'll get an email that has a "join this blog" link that you click on. And with that, you're all set. You will need to be signed into your Google account, but you can stay signed in forever. I've already put up some open threads, so you can get going right away.

I expect that most subscribers will not be trolls or flamers -- they want to harass people for free -- but again, if you exhibit classical flamer behavior, you'll be kicked out with no refund. It just takes a couple people like that to ruin the vibe, so I'll be strict about that.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here or email me at icanfeelmyheartbeat at the hotmail-ish site.


  1. I hope you are doing this as some sort of experiment related to your ideas about free stuff making it hard for non-free stuff to compete. If you seriously think there is enough interest in your output to make a venture like this successful (i.e. have forums with more than a half dozen posters), you are tragically deluded. On the other hand if you're just looking for ammunition to make the case that free is making non-free unviable... I imagine you'll have some soon enough.

  2. They're not substitutes, with one being free and the other being by subscription. There are no unmoderated forums here, and the content will be different -- more original and data-rich over there, less so here.

    Google Analytics says that I have roughly 400 unique visitors, and surely more who read what I put up on GNXP. So there's enough interest.

    Even if it's only 5 people who want to keep up with information that they won't read elsewhere, that's still an extra $25 per month of spending money for a grad student. It beats working for nothing!

  3. Have you ever considered just rigging up a donation button with paypal or amazon wish list?

    Do those entities take a big bite if one does so?

  4. Sad to hear I'll be missing out on your best posts. Who do you think you are, Steve Sailer's smarter brother Mycroft?

    Are you in grad school for psych? I thought you said something along those lines.

  5. You'd probably do better making the posts about teenage girls subscription and keeping the data-intensive stuff free.

  6. ^^ I agree ^^

  7. You'd probably make more money by creating a paid request-an-article service in which people pay you $10 or so to write a little analysis about a topic of their choosing. To be honest I don't see anyone paying $5 a month ($1.25 per article, assuming you post once a week) when there are tons of free blogs out there.

    Agnostic wrote:

    "Google Analytics says that I have roughly 400 unique visitors, and surely more who read what I put up on GNXP. So there's enough interest."

    Ah. But how many of those unique visitors are die-hard fans who are willing to pay money for your posts?

  8. Only 400 unique visitors?

    You'll be lucky to get one subscription. The request-an-article service mentioned above would probably do better.


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