I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. - Groucho Marx
November 2nd of this year will mark 11 years blogging. I’d break it down thusly:
- 2003 – 2007: Strictly as a hobby / diversion / outlet. Never any designs on being full time, having an extraordinarily popular presence, or influence. I didn’t even open up commenting for about the first year. It went from about zero visits to 10-20,000 visits per month in that time.
- 2008 – 2012: Paleo happened. Low Carb happened. Food Blogging happened. No Soap / Shampoo happened. I became poop-u-lar. Got invited to speak places. Got implicitly held to standards external to me for both decorum and confirmation bias of accepted dogma. It went to about 80-100,000 visits per month during this time.
- 2013 – 2014: Dumped all that shit and returned to blogging whatever I want, without a care in the world to anyone’s expectations of me. In terms of dietary dogma, I think for myself, consider everything, assume we’re all still wrong, but strive to be less wrong each cycle.
That last one rubs some the wrong way, results in bunched panties, etc. I was admonished the other day in an email, the same day I got tagged in a tweet by someone with 18 followers notifying me that I was irrelevant:
Make a list of the most interesting / meaningful / fun / engaging / smart people in your life over the last 5 to 10 years. Then ask yourself if those people are moving closer to you or if those people are moving further away from you.
And if they’re moving away from you, you might want to stop and ask yourself why.
It’s actually an excellent question and nobody ought shy away from it. But for me, it’s a really complex deal. My life has changed so radically in ways apart from the blog. So, let me limit it to the general paleosphere for purposes of this post.
As for making a list, that’s simple enough. I pretty much rubbed shoulders with all of the who’s who in Paleo back in those heady days of 2009 – 2012, culminating in the high water mark that was the inaugural Ancestral Health Symposium, 2011, where I was one of the anointed speakers. I spoke at 2012 as well—just barely, thanks to Melissa McEwen and Seth Roberts’ persuasion, on the heals of ‘cuntgate’—but my caché amongst the tried and true was unmistakably waning.
But here’s where some measure of begging the question (assuming the premise) arises in that admonition, above. It’s both. There’s no doubt many of the great who’s who have distanced themselves from me. It’s pretty simple (and shallow) to chalk it all up to using the c-word, being labelled a misogynist in reams of out of context stuff, or inebriated blogging and social engagement for fun.
I think I get some credit for distancing my own self, too. The simple fact is, I just don’t operate like most other people in this realm. From my perspective, I see the vast, vast majority of them asking the same limited questions, advancing the same romantic Paleo Myths, “debunking” the same stuff in exactly the same way, and striving to confirm the same set of assumptions and biases. Add to that endless whoring maneuvers to make lots of money off Paleo (and some have made pretty enormous sums). Need I go into it? Endless gimmicks, same books, affiliate programs, summit launches. Mountains of paleo treats, dubious recipes, and baked goods in packages available for order.
I think everybody is always all wrong, including myself. But I strive to be less wrong tomorrow, so that I can look back and laf at how fucktarded I was today. By implication, I’m calling a lot of who’s who fucktards, and they’re perceptive enough to know that.
They don’t like it, and including myself is no comfort. They hate being wrong. I love and adore being wrong. There are exceptions. So far, I have a list of about 4 prominent who’s who personalities, for whom this doesn’t apply and have been more than willing to question everything. There’s probably more.
The other fallacy in the admonition is that if indeed it’s true that I’m distanced from all these great folk from the past, that it’s a net loss to me.
- If these are the sorts of people not continually questioning their assumptions and integrating every new piece of relevant data, how can it be my loss to no longer be tightly affiliated, in no way beholden or sensitive to their feelings?
- How about the new set of “most interesting / meaningful / fun / engaging / smart people in [my] life?”
It’s true I was being quite a pill on-blog in the 2012 timeframe. A lot of that was due to off-blog issues like closing down a business that I hated—but that also provided significant income over a long time. Pictures were changing rapidly for me on all fronts and I didn’t always handle it in the best ways.
But more importantly, other things happened too, that converged.
- I’d come to reject the LC/Paleo fantasy that “calories don’t matter.” No, a “calorie is NOT a calorie,” but calories count. The idea that so long as it’s LC/Paleo, one can be a glutton (first of all, supermarkets 5-min away are not “Paleo”) struck me increasingly like snake-oil schtick.
- The “Potato Hack” clearly demonstrated to me that all of this is way more complicated than “carbs drive insulin drives fat storage.” More snake-oil schtick.
- I found the trend towards chronic states of deep [“nutritional”] ketosis by means of less and less carbohydrate, protein restriction, and eating sticks of butter alarming. I was miffed that many of the who’s who were going right along with it.
- I noted that while lip service was being given to the burgeoning science of the gut microbiome, it was limited to confirming Paleo bias and almost never new data that calls many Paleo assumptions into serious question.
- New science on C4 plant sources, and the recognition that it was starchy sedge tubers that were being eaten (and that baboons still eat in great quantity to this day) turns the entire Paleofantasy on its head in terms of man the animal and fat hunter. It’s getting little to no coverage (except here), all while the who’s who still think we should be talking about ketones.
Now it’s history. The potato hack led to resistant starch and a host of gut-bug stuff. Now it’s all over the place. I have more links from other websites to the more than 100 posts on resistant starch over the last 18 months, than links in the previous 5 years combined. The science on the gut biome is more Paleo than “paleo,” and overshadows it. It’s where all the news and science is, now. Microbes have been evolving for billions of years. Paleo is a blip on that map—a comparison often used to illustrate the puny Neolithic, compared to the rest of hominoid evolution.
So surely, my falling out of favor with many of the great who’s who must have come with significant consequences in terms of success with the blog, right? Well let’s look at the numbers.
- Previous 12 months (Oct ’12 – Oct ’13) visits and page views: 1 million visits / 1.7 million page views.
- Last 12 months (Oct ’13 – Oct ’14): 1.4 million visits (40% increase) / 2.5 million page views (47% increase).
- Unique visits increased from 600k to 700k over the same period (17% increase).
- I don’t have an exact count, but since the gut biome / resistant starch explosion, I’ve done well over a dozen podcast and print interviews, as many or more than the previous years combined.
How about the money?
Well, I started off misguided. The blog had never been about money, though I thought about various ways along the way. Once I closed the business, I was faced with lots of options and turning the blog into some sort of income stream was one of them. So, I joined a bunch of affiliate programs, participated in a couple of those “book bundle” deals where for only $39.95, you get 40 books you don’t need, a “$2,500.00 Value!”
All of that put too bad of a taste in my mouth, so I decided it would be a combination of Google Ads and Amazon Associates, or nothing. Why?
- Google primarily serves up ads according to your cookies. Accordingly, it’s pitching you stuff you’re likely to already have some need or interest in. The ads you see are not the ads others see.
- People primarily buy stuff from Amazon they want or need. In terms of me pitching stuff explicitly, everything is stuff I use myself and recommend. It costs nothing. Amazon pays me out of their cut.
So how’s it going?
Revenue from Google ads is more than triple (up 210%) over the last 12 months compared with the previous 12-month period. That’s dwarfed by Amazon. I’ll use screen clippings, otherwise you’re not likely to believe me. Number of items shipped went from 1,009 to 11,144 (1,045% increase) and retail revenue went from $16K to $285K (1,673% increase).
Oct 2012 – Oct 2013
Oct 2013 – Oct 2014
So, while some part of me does lament that I’m not quite part of the in-crowd club as I once was, I feel pretty decent about what I’ve accomplished. I also feel pretty decent about some of the new alliances and affiliations I’ve formed, with people more inclined to question what they know, over searching for bias-confirming “facts.”
Moving on in life is part of life itself. C’est la vie. Evolve or die. For this and all of the forgoing reasons, I must conclude that I generally know what the fuck I’m doing.
Self-accounting complete, for this round. Ongoing, always.
Update 11/7/2014: It’s come to my attention that some people think I made $285K from Amazon last year. To clarify, this was the gross revenue to Amazon for the items shipped. Associates get a percentage of that, generally 6-8.5% depending on the item, as well as sales volume during the month. I believe my take was roughly $22K.