SAN FRANCISCO — They work long hours, often to exhaustion. Many are paid by the piece — not garments, but blog posts. This is the digital-era sweatshop. You may know it by a different name: home.
A growing work force of home-office laborers and entrepreneurs, armed with computers and smartphones and wired to the hilt, are toiling under great physical and emotional stress created by the around-the-clock Internet economy that demands a constant stream of news and comment.
Yes, let us pity these hapless souls who work at home, get creative satisfaction in their job, reach thousands of readers every day, make their own hours, can blog naked and smelly if they want and need not worry about bosses looking over their shoulder. Cue the violin.
I will admit that I'm glad I'm not a professional blogger. I'm happy being an amateur blogger, because if this became my job, then it would be, well, a job. Then I would have a responsibility to produce. I could not ignore this blog for days at a time as I occasionally do.
I won't even put a tip jar on this blog. It's not that there is anything wrong with blegging (ghastly neologism, that). Asking for contributions is perfectly moral. But it changes everything. With money received from readers comes an implicit trade agreement: for money received the blogger will continue to produce content. I don't want any obligations to anyone. I'm sitting here tapping away on my keyboard because I enjoy it. If it ever becomes a job, I'll shut it down. I already have a job, thank you.
Of course, it's easy for me to dismiss professional blogging because this blog is peanuts and it always will be. I started this blog on November 19, 2005 with no readers. As I write sitemeter says I average 93 visits a day, and I am grateful for every last one of them. I communicate to readers not just in America and Canada, but in faraway places such Germany, India and Brazil. I could not have reached those 93 readers a day before the internet; considering that I get to do this for free, the whole deal is sweet to me!
I could never be a big-time blogger. If you write about politics, you should be a pure partisan like Right Wing News or Daily Kos to get the kind of numbers you need to go pro. As an Objectivist and a radical for capitalism I don't fit either party. Also my focus is too diffuse for this blog to prosper. I write about whatever grabs my interest. Most readers want a narrow focus; they go to, say, a Lakers blog to read about the Lakers. Fortunately, there are at least 93 people in the world who have active minds and enjoy reading about a variety of topics.
UPDATE: I should clarify that I'm not saying there is anything wrong with making money. Money does not make an activity "impure." My point is not Platonic. In fact, there is other writing I do, such as playwriting, that is more important to me than blogging -- and I do aspire to get paid for it. This blog, however, is a form of recreation. Take it for what it is.