Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

Blogging for the Hell of It

Yesterday, in a class on “Blogging” that she was teaching as part of a course my company produced, Erika Napoletano said something to the effect that, “Nobody blogs just for the hell of it.”

My first response was: “Actually, I blog just for the hell of it.”

“This blog—an ill-organized assortment of essays, reviews, aphorisms and ephemera—serves no purpose,” I wanted to say.

But then, as I thought about it, I knew that this was mere posturing. My blog serves a very specific and, for me, crucial purpose as a space that I “own,” one where I can post and publish my views, my thoughts, and my philosophy.

In fact, I frequently motivate myself to add to this collection new thoughts, or at least newly formed revisions of old thoughts, by saying to myself, “If you really have something to say, something to teach the world, some wisdom to impart, comfort or guidance for the lost or wounded, aid and counsel to the youth, a truth that must be spoken and known, etc., you’d better put it somewhere where it might endure and, from time to time, be discovered.”

That somewhere is here.

For the Hell of it.

This Post Has No Value

Philosophy simply puts everything before us, and neither explains nor deduces anything. – Ludwig Wittgenstein

“Epistemology pays no bills,” Martin remarked drily. – Charles Stross, “The Singularity Sky”

48586290_55059a732a_mWhen I wrote about the “database of intentions” and linked that concept to my own longstanding view of the web as the “database of human consciousness,” and thus the fulfillment or actualization of Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit, I was not trying to make a business point; I was trying to make a philosophical point.

By making a distinction between the two, however, I do not mean to elevate the latter (philosophy) above the former (business). In fact, I was mildly chagrined that my arcane references to a long-dead philosopher and the equally deliquescent tradition of German Idealism with which he is associated bore so few immediately practical fruits. A few kindly souls actually took the time to read the post, so where was the pay off?

While I would like to say that “philosophy is it’s own pay off,” I actually believe that philosophy’s pay off is always and necessarily extra-philosophical. As the  the epigram to this post suggests, by “putting things before us” philosophy’s product amounts to “a perspective on things,” rather than any “thing” in particular. Wittgenstein put it this way: “One might also give the name ‘philosophy’ to what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions.”

Heidegger too insisted on the “no-thing-ness” of philosophical thought. To him, thinking was unique as an human activity because it did not truck with beings, but solely with Being (Sein), which he called “essentially the same as Nothingness” (wesenslgeich mit dem Nichts, or something like that).

But the case of Heidegger reminds us that philosophy’s product – a perspective on things – while not belonging properly to the order of things  can nevertheless have a tangible impact. A philosophical perspective not only shows what is there, but what is possible and, in some cases, what is necessary. When these things, possibilities, and necessities get organized into practices, philosophy has its pay off and that pay off could take the form of a religion, a political system, a life-style, or even a business.

Of course, in all these just-mentioned cases the work of organizing is what produces the real value, not the work’s philosophical underpinnings. The value of philosophy is always mediated. In the absence of this mediation, philosophy is as bereft as the coin of a vanished realm or lyric poetry in a dead and forgotten language.

Image Source: danbri.

Two Thoughts on the Link Economy

This Sunday past, Richard MacManus published an article on entitled, “Content Farms: Why Media, Blogs & Google Should Be Worried.”

MacManus believes that Google et al. should be worried because ranking algorithms use in-bound links as an indicator of authority but, due to the rise of “content farms” such as Demand Media and, which can effectively generate links to their own content at scale, the number of in-bound links may indicate little more than the ability for an organization to generate in-bound links.

A conversation that I had with two SEO jedi back in October at the MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer caused a similar thought to haunt the darkened corridors of my tortured mind. That is, it became clear to this novice that building links is, in part, merely a question of resources and effort. If, like the one jedi claimed, you have “guys in India” who can help by Digg-ing content and taking care of directory submissions, you’re gonna rank. If not, good luck.

Thought #1: If link-building is primarily a question of effort, then search results in Google primarily reflect this effort, rather than some quasi-meritocratic invisible hand.

In other words, the problem with this aspect of the link economy is that, in effect, people can print their own money. Now I ask you, how many “real world” economies could survive that kind of devaluation of its currency?

Still curious about the link economy, I hit the Googles and discovered a raging conversation about the value of links being waged from the content producer side. This dispute started with an article by Arnon Mishkin on “The Fallacy of the Link Economy” in which he argued, in effect, that links ARE content so that link aggregators should be paying the sources for these links.

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It’s Not About Money

Better a debtor than pay with a coin that does not bear our image!
– Friedrich Nietzsche

3236020116_9af37066a0_mI’ve never been motivated by money.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I have been motivated by money to the extent that having money, or a relatively constant source of it, was necessitated by the need for food, shelter, and a modicum of creature comforts.

More precisely put, I’ve never been motivated to undertake a particular course of action or engage in a particular pursuit because it could potentially or even reasonably result in the acquisition and/or accumulation of wealth. I’ve just never cared that much about having money or having the more luxurious and extravagant things the enjoyment of which money so famously facilitates.

Rightly or wrongly, I’ve always viewed money as kind of hassle, albeit the kind of hassle that you have to deal with because, eventually, you run into other, bigger hassles that require money for their ultimate or timely alleviation. Put another way, money is the “ur-hassle” (which may be the source of money’s status as the root of all evil).

The strange thing about money, of course, is that it isn’t really anything. It has the kind of being that the philosophers and theologians refer to as “contingent.” Money, which in this era of floating exchange rates and electronic funds transfer has even lost its traditionally material substance and standard, depends on a host of non-financial entities to retain the appearance of value and fungibility. In the absence of these entities – rule of law, a functioning state, an implicit social contract, etc. –  money is quite literally not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Now, you will frequently hear folks say, “Money is the only way we have of measuring value.” While I tend to bridle at the simple equation of money and value, I get the point. If someone is willing to give you money for a good or service, you know it is worth something, as opposed to nothing. If, on the other hand, they would take it if it were free but pass it by if they had to pay, we can safely say that whatever value they may ascribe to it is so capricious as to be negligible.

Closer to the truth is something a CEO I once knew used to say, “For businesses, money is like oxygen: oxygen isn’t the point of life, but without oxygen, no life.” This fits my own notion that the most basic goal of any business is to stay in business. Money can help you achieve that goal, which is why people frequently confuse it with the goal, but it is not the goal.

This sentiment was reiterated by the Joker in The Dark Knight when he said, as he set a towering stack of bills alight, “It’s not about money; it’s about sending a message.” This spoke to me because I’ve always valued the currency of language, thought, and sentiment above all else and have thus been drawn to prize the achievements, or at least the efforts, of writers and musicians, thinkers and teachers, firebrands and demagogues.

To my cost.

Image Courtesy of jondresner.