An Open Letter to Other Pagan Writers on the Internet
I’m that anti-capitalist polytheist guy. You may have heard of me, maybe not. No big deal either way–I’m really just some guy who writes about stuff. Some people read me. Some people don’t.
Maybe I read you? Maybe I don’t. Depends on what you write, I guess.
In fact, that’s usually how people decide whether or not they read you, y’know? There exist a few writers I’ll dog to the gates of Annwn, they’re so good. Many of ’em don’t write online, some do. Some post something and I almost fall out of my chair I’m so excited. Others–I might read ’em once in awhile when people I like and trust start telling me that they wrote something awesome.
It can be a little confusing, writing on the internet. It’s sometimes hard to figure out why something you wrote and thought was awesome got read by like, no-body, while something you wrote drunk in a couple of minutes got read by 5000 people. It’s weird, hard to tell, and definitely will drive you a bit mad if you try to discern the pattern there, or maybe even make you an alcoholic if you try to write drunk all the time because it worked that one time.
Mostly, I stopped giving attention to the matter. You might have, too, or maybe you’ve decided to get a little…help. Maybe you’ve invoked an entity with a contract in exchange for some insights, an entity promising you a glimpse into the secrets of the reader’s soul, and maybe a little taste of power-over.
I’m not talking about daemons, of course. Rather, I’m speaking of Google Analytics. Or Livefyre. Or Opentracker.
They go by many names, and promise you the same things. With their help, you’ll be able to know what your readers are doing, where they’re coming from, what they click on, how much time they spend on your site, and how often they visit. They offer you knowledge, and power, a glimpse into a realm that you cannot see, and obviously, you’re probably hoping that their proffered tools will make you a better writer, perhaps more popular, perhaps even one day a wealthy writer.
Lots of you are doing it, I know. And I’m sure you’ve got your reasons.
But I’m wondering–you know you’re selling your readers, right?
Maybe you understand how they work; maybe not. But they may not work the way you think they do.
The bargain you make with these entities, like any other Faustian negotiation, is actually this. You grant them access to all the activity occurring on your website, permission to track your readers (without them knowing, unless they’re tech-literate), and in return, they give you a glimpse of what they collect.
We tend to think, with most ‘services’ that corporations offer, that we are the agent and they are the servant. But you know that’s not true, any more than it is in many witch negotiations. “Commanding” a corporation is as self-deceptive as ‘commanding’ a god or spirit–you’re flesh and blood, they are not. They’re big, you’re tiny (no matter how cool people think you are).
And besides, the looking-glass they offer you is distorted. An algorithm can’t tell you if what you wrote had meaning to people. 5000 ‘hits’ on an essay doesn’t translate into transformation, any more than 100 views means your writing’s a piece of shit. That cloudy mirror isn’t gonna tell you what you actually want to know.
So hey–stop selling your readers. You can’t possibly think that the browsing activity of your readers is more important than their privacy or what you actually wrote, because you would have gone into marketing, instead.
And if you think I’m wrong, that’s fine, too. But tell your readers you’re using it, and why, otherwise you’re being deceptive. They deserve to know you’re selling their activity in return for a glimpse at that data, too.
Be well, and write well.