Saturday, August 25, 2007

Internet Begging

This has been eating at me for a while.

The blogging world has a weird relationship with monetary exchange. A few years ago everyone was convinced that micropayments would change the world. We all know how that went. There are a few bloggers who manage to make an independent living (which I distinguish from using recreational blogging as a springboard to a paid position), but the vast majority are lucky to get a few bucks from CafePress or GoogleAds. At the same time, many bloggers are clearly putting out product that we wouldn't think twice about paying for, if it appeared as magazine or newspaper columns. We, have, however, become accustomed to getting great stuff for free.

At the same time, there have been several prominent episodes of online begging, with true and false sob stories attached. Many of these pleas are viewed contemptuously, although the blogosphere is capable of pulling together to help in some instances. Tone is important; an entitled twenty-something asking for help with her credit card debt is going to come off poorly. Paying bandwidth costs is generally looked upon as legitimate grounds for a donation drive. A single instance of misfortune can result in a surprising outpouring of generosity. I've chipped in to such campaigns on occasion and do all of my general-purpose charitable giving online.

I can't, however, bring myself to give to some people, even if I enjoy their writing, even if they seem like good sorts, and even if they are no less deserving than others I do help. These are the chronic sufferers. Their problems are constant and overwhelming; no amount of reader assistance ever seems to push them back from the precipice. Instead of a constantly present but unassuming tip jar or an occasional, businesslike donation drive, we are bombarded with incessant posts on their fragile state of affairs and long litanies of woe. They squat at the edge of the information superhighway, bandages rolled back to expose their leprous sores. It is not that their problems are not grave or that they do not deserve something (charity, or at least recompense for the writings they produce). It is merely that the unseemliness of it all induces repugnance.

There's little or no wisdom in repugnance, so I am open to being convinced that I should root out these feelings.
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