I have to be honest with you. The title of my post here is pretty much a bait-and-switch. I don’t think Capitalism sucks. At all. I love making money. Money is good. Money lets me buy stuff, and I like having stuff. Money lets me do things like take my son to GenCon or join thousands of insane geeks like myself for Dragon*Con in Atlanta. Money lets me purchase memberships to Dungeons and Dragons Insider and spend hours upon hours trying to re-capture my childhood. I’m a materialistic fool who doesn’t wanna share and capitalism is the way to go for me.
That being said, there are things about Capitalism that make me very sad in our current times. Some of that, of course, focuses around the health care debate. This post is NOT about the health care debate, but I feel this is worth mentioning at least in passing. As much as I think he does more harm than good in regards to being the public face of liberalism, I do have to agree with Bill Maher when he says that there are certain things that simply should not be profit driven. Health care is one of those things. A system in which you are worth more if you are sick and dying is a broken system.
But, no. This post is not about health care. This post is really about something that has a much bigger impact on my daily life.
This post is about the internet and about how a bunch of greedy, lazy people are fucking it up.
I make no secret about the fact that one of the main reasons I started ShrinkGeek was to make money. Allow me to re-direct you to the opening paragraph of this post. I like money, and the idea of making money while helping people and writing is just delicious to me. The thing is, we made a commitment when we put ShrinkGeek together that we weren’t going to sell our souls in order to turn a profit. We want people to click on our advertisements. We want people to click on our affiliate links. We want to be attractive to advertisers so they give us lots of money to put their banners up on our site. We’re not going to get there, though, by tricking people. We’re genuinely trying to offer a valuable service to our readers. We’re not doing article swaps or posting fake reviews that are supplied to us by PR firms. We’re not using automated programs to get thousands of followers on our Twitter account. We’re not trying to game the system.
As a result we’re also not making much money at this point, and there is frankly no guarantee we’ll ever end up doing so before we decide the effort is not worth the investment.
What has me thinking about this recently is the absolute proliferation of bots and marketers on Twitter. It’s getting to the point where it is difficult to sift through the noise in order to decipher the signal, and that depresses me. Twitter is an amazing tool, but at the rate the garbage is filling the stream it isn’t going to be long before people who genuinely want to use the service to connect with others are going to move on and all you’re going to have left are people who are trying to sell you something. The same thing is happening with a lot of blogs these days. What started as a genuine movement is rapidly devolving into everyone and their brother attempting to get rich quick by either recycling content that was written by someone else or tricking Google to visit your web site instead of Amazon.com.
And I get it…I really do. I get the desire to make money without doing any real work. I’d love to get rich for doing next to nothing. I really would. But on the flip side it makes me really, really sad to see so much potential in the form of communication getting lost in a sea of…shit. There really isn’t any other way to put it. The internet is becoming more and more polluted, and eventually I fear we’re going to get to a point where the only way you’re able to find real content is by paying a third party to filter through the shit for you.
Premium internet – where nothing of quality is available unless you’re paying for it.
Maybe that’s the plan. I know the big media companies would really love for all of us to be paying to get to their content. All I know is that more and more it seems like Twitter, in particular, is predominantly dominated by a bunch of Marketers trying to sell Marketing techniques to…well..other Marketers. They aren’t offering anything new at all, but instead continue to re-package the same “10 sure fire ways to make money on the internet” and sell them to someone else, who is just going to try and re-package that information and try to sell it to someone else. In the mean time these people set up spam bots trying to trick folks into clicking their links and start to scare away some of the people who are genuinely trying to use Twitter as a means of building networks and/or communicating with their Fan Base (folks like Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day, both of whom have complained about this recently).
I see so much potential out there. We’re standing on the brink of a revolution that has the potential to fundamentally change the way we look at entertainment and information, but that potential is being watered down by sloth and greed.
I know that there is this ideal image of capitalism in which people who work hard and have good ideas are rewarded financially for that, but I don’t see that happening so much these days – especially when it comes to the internet. That is why, in this regard, I kinda think capitalism sucks.