Broke? Here’s how to make some extra money

This is probably not going to work for people who find themselves unable to get any kind of bank account. Those people can get Amazon gift cards through Mechanical Turk, or just use the balance on Amazon. Did you know Amazon has a grocery section (affiliate link)? Save up $25, get some non-perishables without a shipping cost, and save a lot of money over the ripoff grocery stores you’re stuck with. You can get 96 ounces of crunchy peanut butter for 15 cents an ounce. That’s a loaf of peanut butter sandwiches for the payout from an average 1-5 minute task on Mechanical Turk. Run out the 5 year clock banks make you suffer through, then follow this guide.

For everyone else, get Mint and link your bank account. Mint is how I got my own finances and spending habits in order, and I don’t think I could have done it otherwise. I did eventually get the habits fixed and could do without it, but why would I? It’s helpful to have someone else processing and charting my spending and earning so I know where I am at a glance. And it’s free. They make their money with upsells for savings and investment accounts.

Get going on Mechanical Turk. Get in the habit of working each day, even if it’s just one job. You’ll have to do one job a day for ten days before Amazon will pay you. You can pull your money out in increments of $1, but I recommend building it to $10 before transferring it to your bank account. Sometimes I’ll go and earn a dollar or two real quick if I want to get something at the grocery store and I’m near the end of the month’s budget.

There are important tools and resources that make Mechanical Turk work and you need to know about them or you will ruin your chances. I linked my guide to Mechanical Turk earlier (twice!), but these are the essential elements: Get Turkopticon, then bookmark /r/HITsWorthTurkingFor.

Set a target of earning $5 a day on Mechanical Turk. It’s ok to miss it, even frequently. Work more when you feel like it. Work less when you don’t. This is a marathon, not a race.

Set a savings goal of $500 in Mint. This is arbitrary, but it’s a good target. It gives you a $40/month budget for a full year for whatever you want to do. If you get to working and find you can’t keep up the $5/day pace, lower your daily target. If you get to working and find it’s too slow for you, aim higher.

So now you have a way to make some extra money even if you don’t have much spare time. Have fun.

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MailChimp and affiliate marketing

I’ve seen quite a few people around the blagosphere mention that MailChimp doesn’t allow affiliate links in e-mails, so I e-mailed the company for clarification.

Comments from MailChimp Compliance aren’t direct quotes, but should retain the original meaning.

You should read their Terms of Service and e-mail them on anything you’re not 100% sure about. Also a good idea for any company you’re using in a professional capacity.

We can support affiliate content if the following is in place:

  • All email addresses are confirmed through a double opt-in process that the recipient initiates. ┬áPermission can’t be assumed.
  • The affiliate content is placed to compliment traditional newsletter content. ┬áThe affiliate content can’t be the sole focus, or drive the sole focus, of the message.

We exchanged a few more e-mails to clarify some things.

Q: By double opt-in, do you mean using the subscribe form and confirming
with the link in the confirmation e-mail?

A: This is correct.

Q: I’d be sending out content series and information about upcoming posts. Are you making a distinction between content and affiliate marketing?

For example, sending a guide on WordPress theme frameworks, and including a (marked) affiliate link to a few I’ve seen in use.

A: This sounds fine as well, noting the focus is on newsletter content and complimented by the affiliate reference.

So affiliate marketing seems to be fine as long as it’s not the central purpose of the e-mail. And this is a good case where e-mailing for clarification is good. If you’re able to stick to MailChimp’s guidelines, then you can build a significant list without expense. Very useful for a new blog.

Internet killed the author

There’s a concept in literary criticism: death of the author. It roughly means your own words don’t mean what you think they mean. The dismantling and reconstruction of your creation begins the moment you tell someone about it.

Social media turned the lumbering beast of criticism into a rocket headed to new and unexplored worlds. There’s no longer a gap between creation and merciless reinterpretation. It’s instant.

Let’s take a look at a real-world, recent, and ongoing example.

Penny Arcade published The Sixth Slave. You see a guy who suffers a daily ritual of abuse, then you see the so-called hero who refuses to help because he’s met the quest’s requirements. We’re meant to see the hero as a jerk and feel bad for the slave.

The villain in this story is the hypothetical creator of that imaginary but plausible quest. The reader is the protagonist, and is expected to think long and hard on the next save-this-many-and-no-more quest.

People without the author’s knowledge of MMORPG quests mistook it for a comic that mocked the very victim it expects you to empathize with. Some of those people were mean.

They bullied the artist based on their interpretation. And he reacted the way he reacted to bullies, which was the tone and manner that built his web comic empire. It’s the same way he dealt with Jack Thompson and DRM and people who don’t bother to edit their forum posts.

People then mistook this for, get this, mocking victims. Over his reaction to the abusive reaction to a comic meant to garner sympathy with a fictional abuse victim!

Okay let’s settle down.

Yes, the author died the moment the work went public. Some people read it one way. Others another. The Internet amplified the effect to apocalyptic proportions and it led to a years-long cold war between social justice warriors and the author.

Let me give a different take on the work, and the corpus of action and reaction. I say corpus because we’re talking about some academic stuff and it feels appropriate. Stuff is the yin to that yang.

Penny Arcade’s artist and I both grew up in an era where there were no anti-bullying campaigns. You were expected to suck it up and learn to deal, and some people found less than stellar ways to do that.

So he saw bullies attacking him. Many of them were bullies, but a few people had something worthwhile to say. Some learning happened.

Now he’s posted this resolution. Maybe there’s something to this author instakill we see with the emergence of social media.

It’s too hostile at the moment. We need to slow down and try to understand the author’s intent before killing them and tearing their work apart.

Why I don’t play competitive games

I love the idea of competitive games. I love competition. I love to clobber my best friends in a game and have a good laugh about the silly mistakes we all made. But there’s always that one guy who sees it as deadly serious. He pisses and moans about how we all screwed up and are bad and should feel bad.

This happened with an MMO I used to play. It’s a silly game with silly sprites, so no one really took it seriously. But I met this one guy who couldn’t just have fun. We’d get our butts handed to us in the game’s main competitive event and then go hang out with the people we just got done fighting. We laughed and had fun. Good times. Then that guy dropped in. We already knew what mistakes we made and were busy having a good time with them, but he felt compelled to elucidate. I didn’t disagree with the message, but he missed the point. Most of us were content to focus on just having fun. It was a game that didn’t really punish you for losing, so goofing off was more rewarding than getting good at the “correct” strategies.

This came back to me when trying League of Legends (LoL). It seems like a lot of fun! I want to play it. But the game’s reputation precedes it. I tried one co-op game against bots and had a great time. Skill levels in the team ranged from the low elo scrub (hi) to the experienced player making a new champion. The latter was nice. He said he’d carry the team if we did poorly, and offered polite suggestions like “don’t hug the laser when you run out of minions.”

I even made a thread on the LoL forums to share this experience. But I was told unanimously that this was an outlier. Most of my experiences would be bad. I’ve heard that even playing with friends leads to bad things, since they’re pushed to be harshly competitive by the game’s structure, which punishes you harshly for every failure.

I haven’t launched LoL in three months because of all this combined with my bad experiences with competitive games. I probably won’t try any of the MOBAs that are launched or on the way, even if the concept appeals to me.

That’s not my power fantasy

There’s a problem with objectification of women in the media. I get it. And any time an instance is brought up, there’s always someone pointing out that the musclebound hero is also harmful objectification. And others are quick to remind them that the musclebound hero is a power fantasy and thus positive.

Well let me tell you, that’s no such thing to me. I find what you call a power fantasy completely unappealing and bordering on offensive. There was a time when I felt bad seeing these, because I knew I’d never live up to it. I don’t know who finds appeal in burly men mindlessly beating the crap out of everything that moves.

Just as many women enjoy what you call harmful objectification, many men find what you call a power fantasy completely unappealing. Some even find it diminishing. It’s what they’re told is the ideal growing up, and they’re encouraged to feel bad by the culture around them for not wanting to live up to it.

So what do I see as a power fantasy? It has nothing to do with brute strength. Strength may be an element, but it’s secondary at best. It would be depicted as a last resort, when diversion and diplomacy fail. It’s only a first resort when well-justified within the story. Picard rarely took time to consider talking to the Borg before attacking them after the first disastrous encounter.

I see Batman, user of detective work and stealth, as a power fantasy. I see Link, user of tools and his environment, as a power fantasy. The idea that one person can overcome a hostile dungeon or several very angry brutes with cunning and skill is profoundly empowering to me. The idea that they have a higher ambition than a nice piece of tail is appealing to me.

Link is saving the world, and that asshole Ganon kidnapped that cool person you met at the castle. Let’s go rescue her and kick his ass together. Yes, this isn’t how it goes in the game. That needs to change. I want to be able to play a co-op Zelda game with my niece by the time she’s old enough.

Batman is trying to avenge the death of Bruce Wayne’s parents by locking up all the criminals. Bruce Wayne occasionally dates someone to fit the young billionaire stereotype, but that’s not his ambition.

There’s a dearth of representation of perspectives outside the mainstream. Batman and Link are the easiest examples of non-traditional (and meaningful) male empowerment I can think of. Past that, it takes some mental parkour. Picard is cunning, but he also commands the immensely powerful flagship of the Federation. Jack O’Neill is buried in basic cable science fiction obscurity where he’s only a potential role model for a few million people.

The situation isn’t good for anyone.