After the recent biannual Nuffnang blog awards, an Aussie mummy blogger I had previously not heard of pretty much vilified the winner of Most Influential Blog and Region's Best Blog, Xiaxue, and Nuffnang for awarding her. Something about lousy writing but with 40,000 hits a day it had to be "only about money". But comments on mummy blogger's own blog, initially supportive, then turned ugly, especially after Xiaxue's So Many Angry Australians post - mummy blogger started getting comments how she'd probably done the hate post for traffic, she's a mother how can she do that, sore loser who can't make money from her blog bla bla bla until she disabled her comment function. Like, 349 comments later. (Well, not all 349 were bad...)
Now, I have a Nuffnang widget on my blog, but I actually didn't manage to do many sponsored posts for Nuffnang events except for I think an SPCA one, mostly because I'M LAZY. I quit my original job to spend time with Rockstar and so God forbid something else took me away from him <sheepish - I've "only" been at home over a year and a half, and Rockstar's already 4 and gonna be away even more hours at school soon - basically I can never get back his early years so sometimes I "over-compensate">.
My "attitude" then got worse when, newly pregnant, I started puking my guts out. And when I caught a cough/ cold which could've easily been wiped out by Decolgen from Watson's but for one teeny thing. After too many nights of coughing my lungs out, desperate and contemplating a life devoid of several innards, I turned to the internet - and what I read just filled me with hatred:
Unknown people on pseudonyms with "Dr- something" would callously say things like "as with all medication, the benefits to the mother have to be weighed against the detriment to the baby." Doesn't this just make you want to pummel them into the ground - like it isn't bad enough you feel crap and they don't, they have to post their drivel from what I imagine must be a nice quiet beach resort (with good wifi!), while being served alcoholic (Hate them!) drinks with little umbrellas sticking out of them - and make you feel like you're sacrificing the health of your baby for your own comfort?
(I hate them, I hate them, I hate them. It's their stupid fault I feel like crap and can't bring myself to take any drugs to fix it. Even after our family GP said Piriton is probably the safest if you have to take something.... BUT..... of course try not to... Seriously - SHUT UP. "Piriton is probably the safest -" THEN SHUT UP. So anyway not going out anywhere anyone might sneeze. That should solve it. Buahaha.)
Ok sorry got distracted. Oh btw this is Xiaxue:
Actually no, sorry. That's her pet bunny. She is sick. Shame on her. Bunnies have self esteem too. This one got so upset it fell asleep during a costume change.
Okok this is Xiaxue:
Some random pic I took off her blog along with the bunny one, I think she was endorsing a Nokia phone.......... Shame on her? I think she mentioned that an advertorial she writes is like, SGD 1,800 (though she was fighting with some guy and his fake girlfriend on Twitter at the time so who knows. But still... don't you think ka-ching?) Well certainly Dooce makes a bundle, New York Times ran an article about blogging money ages ago (you can see how well I paid attention.)
In case you're wondering why I put those pics up it's because it's a good visual. You wouldn't think that pink hair sells phones. Or that pictures of bunnies win awards. But, newsflash. I've always thought she was extremely smart, the way she's driven traffic to her blog and made a career of it. She is an entertainer. Maybe not one to do with Shakespeare, but awardable stuff comes in various forms.
(But since I brought up Shakespeare - did anyone notice some of his stuff is actually quite R-rated? Hamlet had a thing for his mother (Oedipal guilt is to Hamlet like Shakespeare is to English Literature). And today school kids study the stuff. See, Shakespeare wrote to entertain too. And sex and social no-nos were entertaining, even back in the day.)
Anyway, in Aussie mummy blogger v Xiaxue, AMB said, "Nuffnang, it really is only about money, isn't it?" and then Xiaxue passionately defended Nuffnang (though I didn't quite find a rhetoric) saying her win shouldn't be an excuse to attack the company.
Finally, I got to my point: From the start I didn't see what was wrong with it being about money and why people got so upset about that. (Fine, "only" about the money may be a little worse). But I don't see any shame in it being about money. People write for different reasons. Confessions of a Shopaholic is not exactly Shakespeare either (and btw I follow the Shopaholic series because the author was once a banker/ financial advisor.)
Here's the thing: Nuffnang's, among others, a blog advertising company. Why wouldn't it be about money and crazy fans? That is their rice bowl. They have bills to pay. They have paychecks to write. (If they hid the fact they were about making money from advertising, then ok, that's another story.) It's a free world, by all means condemn them if you must. But. You don't get to secretly want what their top bloggers have. (Well I suppose you could, but I don't know how you reconcile that with your whole reviling of it being about money thing.)
We are all material girls. Or guys. We would love to see our kids running around in a palace with their own pool and private lessons. We all have bills to pay. We hope for a job we love with no a-hole colleagues and bosses. It's our pricing point that differs: What you would or wouldn't do for money. What you would or wouldn't say for money. And how much of it.
Some people would lie or kill someone in the office just for the pleasure of watching them die so let's put their "price level" at a dollar. A HKD. For others you'd have to kidnap their kids for a USD 5mil ransom. It's. Still. A. Price. It is never easy to accept God giveth, God taketh away. It's what makes us human. It's what makes Abraham's readiness to sacrifice Isaac so extraordinary it's immortalized for centuries in perhaps the biggest best-seller of all time.
On one of those documentaries about the financial crises, I vaguely remember something like an estimated third of the more brilliant regulators ended up getting hired by the investment banks (what, this is our unwind tv over dinner - fine, if it really bothers you I'll dig up the DVD and check the exact statistic). It's just another way the world is broken - As long as it pays more to be a crook than a regulator, you will get first rate crooks and second rate regulators. Which is why of course now the solution is to make it too "expensive" to be a crook. But, I digress...
As for what sells, some writings are praised. Others are read. Which do you think advertisers pay for?
At dinner parties when we met new people, it sometimes amused them that I described one of my old job responsibilities as "giving guys with Kings' job a hard time." (It's why we avoided each other in the markets haha not good for the marriage.) Part of my job used to be to make sure my i-bank sales counterpart could not take too much spread (ie profit) when they dealt with me. For every investment risk there is a corresponding return on your investment, as priced in by market conditions at the time. The problem when too much spread is taken out, is that you are left with an investment product that carries the same risk, but for a diminished return - the return is less commensurate. More than that, if I want to recommend the client roll the money into something else, it's harder for me to get a good unwind price since the product has to work that much harder to get past an elephant bid-offer spread.
(I should probably not leave that hanging though this is just getting loooong - The "honorable i-banker solution" for want of a better phrase and un-raging pregnancy hormones is of course to come up with opportunistic products that take advantage of current market conditions with the view the market will move in the client's favor after the trade - thereby making up for any elephant spread you aspired to take out of the derivative structure. A simple example would be to identify that say, futures of a particular underlying asset class are pricing something very different from what historically the asset class always trades at and see if the price (and therefore hedge) can be put to something useful for all.
The problem is greed and stupidity - every i-banker wants to take a spread but not every i-banker is smart enough to come up with an actual derivative product that takes advantage of market conditions to allow it to be done "responsibly." They settle for just being able to get away with a spread. Pile on complication in the structure so the pricing is less transparent.
Anyway. It's why I didn't let the i-bank sales covering me take too much spread. Better stop. I blather on about "responsible sale of derivatives" in this market and someone's gonna go "Har har har and I suppose you also believe in Santa.")
I learned that if my I-bank Sales didn't make enough for the trade to be worthwhile to them, they wouldn't do it. Or my RM/ RM's client would get crappy service. When there's a new market opportunity, we would not be the first private bank they call, they'd give it to someone else. I wouldn't even have a trade. You have to pay for stuff. They might be the nicest people in the world who would love to, but they still can't do it for you for free. They'd get fired. Then I'd be stuck with their replacements who'd probably be sharks. That's the way the world is. So why so hot and bothered - because people didn't try harder to pretend it wasn't about money? It's the hypocrites that I would've thought you should watch out for. I like how Dooce.com put it:
"Last night........we sat around the table and talked about our days. .....not because we love our children and want them to have warm memories. No. We do this so that I can write about it here and exploit the idea of parenthood for cash! Whee!"
But that said, it doesn't mean you can't try to make the world a better place. After you pay the bills to keep the power on. This is why on the plane they tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before attempting to help anyone else. You're in no position to help anyone else if you can't take care of yourself. Wouldn't you like to change the world the Bill Gates way?
Well what's a blog advertising universe equivalent of trying to contribute, how about training courses and mixers for bloggers to improve their content and traffic, promote community unity and what-not..... Have a bunch of bloggers write for a cause to raise awareness, the same way they would have written for an advertising client, except for free? Oh wait, I think Nuffnang already does that?
Ok, so what more do you want, demanding people not be as money motivated or self-serving can also be asking to be lied to. People are gonna be that way whether they admit it or not.
Think it shouldn't have been about money/ crazy passionate fans taking the time to vote over and over (I suppose advertisers must surely love that dedication though)? Think the finer points of blogging without selling should be the ones really encouraged? I think it's very admirable. I would certainly strive for an award from something like that. Just one question:
Who's going to pay for it?
(I'm aware there are non-profit sites who set up to catalogue and provide commentary on blogs, and I guess encourage the finer points of blogging. What they're doing is admirable. But I also think without the money element, it's tough to keep up. Some of the blogs they've favorably rated.... had like, 2 or 3 entries for the year and mostly newborn baby pics. The number of blogs that sprout up every day is massive. The number that go inactive, veer in a completely different direction etc, lagi massive. Where are you going to find the time for that, especially if you still need to get paid at your real job? For the recent Nuffnang awards, I heard the number of entries numbered in the tens of thousands. Who's going to happily read and coordinate judging and yes, pay for the finalists' air tickets and accommodation and the dinner and.............)
Ps: I've said it a few times on the blog, but anyway here goes again - Kings at one point had a pet project to build his own blogging platform. It's how I started blogging. Money-wise I had reached a point where, given a certain level of savings, the cost of Rockstar growing up raised (poorly) by various helpers was far greater than any additional money benefit I could make at my job.
Like it or not, we place a "price" on "everything". Would I like to make tons of my money off my blog one day? Sure. But never, ever at the price of raising my child the best way I aspire to. That means NOT writing certain controversial things that I know would possibly shoot my traffic through the roof in terms of Hk readership - but at the expense of my family's well-being. In fact, I prefer not to have HK readership (but well if wishing made it so).
That is the real reason I linked my blog to Xiaxue's. Hers is a reminder of what my blog is not, should not, can never be. (But darn, who doesn't love a cute bunny?) She attracts some very visceral haters. (Who doesn't love a cute bunny?!) Her notoriety has cost her some freedom in the way she makes her choices. Hence what I call the Paradox of the Mummy Blog. I believe you can't do a lot of the things other blogs can, if you're writing about your kids.
(Though Dooce is doing super well, still, not without occupational hazards - she got fired from her job, not to mention her family had huge problems with what she'd written about her faith). Too bad that's what I wanna write about. It's still something for the Rockstar. Thank God for now we are blessed enough for me to have that choice.
Then Kings invested in the new Nuffnang HK/ China. I'd rather disclose this than not. Just as if I needed the money I'd go for more blogging events and say so. (On another note, it's why I keep a large chunk of my own savings in cash and buy a more volatile asset class with just 20% of the cash to make up for crappy rates... Volatile Asset's appreciation has been something like 120%, yes more than double, so it helps me accept crappy interest rates... If you asked us how we'd do it all differently, I'd say equity flow derivatives or the outright stock market.)
Kings' investment means I can't seriously compete for the much-talked-about Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards to begin with. I could never win it, even if I could actually win it. (i.e. people would talk.) (Though I was happy to be nominated because I wondered where the blog stood among the thousands of others - and one can always hope for a cool widget to prettify one's own blog :P)
So, Nuffnang: You guys should make more cool widgets <self-righteous sniff>
My work here is done.