Monday, December 31, 2007

Thank You, Contributors!

December 31, 2007 / January 1, 2008

To my great astonishment, 215 of you have donated money to this site since I began accepting contributions last March. Only two of you are old friends; 30 of you chose to honor the site with multiple donations. 45 of you generously donated $50 or more. The $6,000 contributed by you, readers, has made a huge difference in this poor dumb writer's daily existence.

This number far exceeded my modest expectations, as I reckoned a few dozen brave souls might respond and then the number of contributors would quickly drop to zero. Instead, you have continued to step up and donate throughout the year. This has been unexpected, humbling, and supremely encouraging. The site takes a lot of time, and I get hundreds of emails from readers which I try to answer in a timely fashion. (Illness and family business put me behind; please accept my apologies.)

Thank you, readers, for your support. Thanks to you, it has been an amazing year here at The "two minds" are yours and mine; together they create this site.

A number of things differentiate this site from the millions of other blogs and sites on the World Wide Web. Together, they have attracted an extremely thoughtful, experienced and erudite audience of contributors and readers which has grown from 14,000 unique visitors a month in January 2007 to 40-50,000 per month by year end.

1. The site has a diversity of voices and readers. According to the site logs, visitors from 101 nations have visited; perhaps more importantly, many essayists live elsewhere than the U.S.: John Kinsella (France), UKC and Mega (England) and Vera K. (Canada) to name a few. Within the U.S., comments come from Maine to Arizona to Texas to Florida and everywhere in between. Many of us have learned from the comments and charts provided by Harun I.

2. Readers provide key content: topics, critiques and commentaries. If a reader takes issue with some statement I've made, his or her comment is welcomed in Readers Journal. Many topics covered here are suggested by readers.

3. The focus is on writing, ideas, data and diversity of opinion. Good solid writing isn't a preserve of professional journalists; the quality of the writing posted here in Readers Journal is equal to or better than that found on any site. Read any essay by Michael Goodfellow or Protagoras or a dozen other contributors and you will be impressed. I know I am.

Your humble editor (me) has been a professional free-lance writer for major newspapers and other publications for 20 years. I strive to share the diversity of opinions and experience offered by you, the readers and contributors, and to write as sharply and entertainingly as I can about the wide range of topics you suggest.

Any reader who writes cogently on a topic is encouraged to share his/her work. Attacks, blind ideology, swearing and views unsupported by experience and/or data don't make it on the site. My guiding philosophy is simple: we all benefit from editing, and few of us have time to plow through 188 daily comments per blog (for example), most of which are repetitive or lacking in substance/value. I strive to be respectful of opposing views and I try to edit with a light hand, working from the notion that you'd rather read a few well-written comments and critiques in a few minutes than scan dozens of anonymous threads.

Though poetry is largely ignored/has zero influence in American culture, I am proud to provide a forum for poetry, from Haiku by UKC or Jed H. to creative, thoughtful works long and short by Protagoras and Verona U.

4. You are spared the clutter and mindlessness of advertising. Given that the site has attracted almost 900,000 visits this year, I suppose it could generate some decent ad revenue, but I prefer the honesty of asking for donations to the constant barrage of marketing of products and services I mostly detest--and you probably do, too.

5. This is an experiment in what I call Open Source Journalism. Open source software is freely available for anyone who is not using it commercially. In this sense, the blogosphere and indeed the Web is "open source" except for those sites which charge subscriptions for "premium content."

In other words, this site is free to you, and all data is sourced according to journalistic standards. Every commentator's email is known to me, though you are free to choose a name here for your comments which protects your own identity. There are no anonymous comments.

Put another way: financial contributors to this site are supporting a free, responsible form of journalism and commentary which is supported not by faceless corporate advertisers but by actual individuals like yourself. Once you contribute money, topics or comments, you join/support this outpost of Open Source Journalism.

What I love about this model is its complete democracy. Anyone is free to launch a blog, but attracting readers requires providing some content compelling enough for readers to invest precious time reading the content.

I also think what separates from other sites is the dynamic of readers being commentators. Other sites have "the usual suspects" (other journalists and academics) as commentators, but here anyone can be a featured commentator if they take a few moments to compose their thoughts/analysis cogently. I am unimpressed by credentials, as no doubt you are, too; what impresses me is a thoughtful presentation which draws upon either data or experience unique to the commentator. (I think of contributor Nurse Dorothy, who brings a frontline point of view to healthcare topics.)

6. This site is not a link-farm; the content and many of the charts are original (and copyrighted). Take, for instance, this chart I made a few months ago. It tells a very different story than the one hyped by the financial and mainstream press, i.e. "the credit crisis is limited to subprime mortgages." Not so fast--take a look at the data first. (You won't find this chart anywhere else, though the data is readily available.)

7. The site seeks to surprise you with topics and ideas beyond the mainstream media and blogosphere. I'm as interested as the next bloke in finance, the stock market and the housing bubble, but every topic gets tiresome day after day. Hence, this site also covers films, literature, urban planning, nutrition, politics, history, energy, and a host of occasionally zany topics whose purpose is to enliven your day with the unexpected.

8. It's free--and it's all "premium content;" for better or for worse, it's my best work and the best of readers' work.

Here is my craven pitch:

There are no ads on this site to annoy you, except the fake ones I design for your amusement. (Please google 'Zombiestra'.)
A 95-minute movie with 10 minutes of ads and a popcorn costs $15. If you enjoyed this site for at least 2 hours this year, and you donate $15, you already received more entertainment than you did from the movie. The other 100+ hours of enjoyment you receive here is FREE (and lead-free and trans-fat free, too).
You have the immense moral satisfaction of aiding a poor dumb writer who seeks to inform, entertain and amuse you.
Donate $50 or more and I'll send you a signed copy of my completely ignored novel I-State Lines which is perfect for stabilizing wobbly tables and desks.
Donate $100 and I promise not to send you the book.
{/end craven pitch}

NOTE: contributions are humbly acknowledged in the order received.

Thank you, Andrew J. ($20), for your generous support of this humble site. I am greatly honored by your readership. All contributors are listed below in acknowledgement of my gratitude.

If you would like to contribute, please go to the main site

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