If you have "no place to go," come here!


[Welcome, Susie Madrak readers! Welcome, Reclusive Leftist readers! As danps says, "We are the media!" And whether Corrente is sustainable depends on what we do; and funding is a part of that. Welcome, BLCKDGRD readers! Adding,though normally I'm secretive about my movements, that one thing I'd like to be able to do is attend #OccupyWallStreet and report on it. So, Can long-form blogs without party affiliation survive? That remains to be seen.... Welcome, Confluence readers. "I hate to admit it...." Haw! And the coveted Avedon endorsement--lambert]

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Readers, this is my annual report to you, wherein I sing for my supper. Corrente is supported entirely by contributions from you; you, Readers, keep the hamsters in kibble, and also enable me to make Corrente somewhat more (and not, I hope, less) than a labor of love; but love alone, and alas, doesn't pay the fuel bill or prevent me from losing the house! This year's report breaks down three ways: Corrente content and Corrente's ability to influence; Corrente's recent technical improvements for readers; and a few thoughts for the future. [Before I forget, the PayPal buttons are to your right! Please donate or subscribe! And consider what a year's worth of content, moderation, technical support, and software development would be worth were you to hire a professional to do it. [And, because WASPs hate, hate, hate to talk about money, but still I have to make the ask... More than three figures when all is said and done, right?] --lambert]

First, though, normally I stumble into the fundraiser in the third week of September, and this year, I'm late. That's true partly because my RL got a lot more complicated, in a good way, over the summer; and partly because it seemed to me that with the occupations going on, it was churlish to bleg. Then again, Corrente, by luck or skill, has been punching way about its weight in occupation coverage ("If you have no place to go...."). More importantly, if there is ever to be a system of news reporting and commentary that's independent of our famously free press, the components of that system have to be funded one way or another; il faut manger. The occupations are in it for the long haul; and I hope that emergent media like Corrente can be in it for the long haul, too. So while the immediate needs of the occupations are important, infrastructure matters too. And soon I turn on the boiler.

One small part of Corrente's mission: We serve as a lifeboat for readers who need one ("If you have no place to go..."). Not just me, though I will be forever grateful for the readers who saved me from ruin when my main waste pipe broke in a January cold snap, or when a financial disaster hit me this summer. Others too! To those helped out: I'm not saying "Pay what you owe!" (Matthew 18:28). Rather, I'm saying that there's merit in both giving help and asking for it. We're creating an increasingly dense network of mutual assistance (and see below at "Buy me a beer"!). This also goes for the blogs whose fundraisers we link to.

A larger part: As it turns out, last year we were 42 on the power curve of political bloggers; this year, our "Blogospheric Authority Index" is up 4 points to a combined 38.* That means, Correntians, that your work is read. Now, for the A listers, Corrente may be "a guilty pleasure", so from political bloggers, we don't get the links -- "the blog that everybody hates and nobody reads" -- but we we do get read. (Oddly, or not, from the econbloggers, who are both more old school and not owned by the Ds, we do get links.)
So, Corrente's ability to influence:

And in even larger part: Retrospectively, it's clear how our coverage of both Tahrir Square and Events in Europe prefigured the Occupations. Moreover, all of that coverage was framed, and linked, and documented in terms of Gene Sharp's 198 Methods of Non-Violent Protest and Persuasion. Therefore, I believe that Corrente and Correntians, alone among the long-form political blogs, are extremely, perhaps even uniquely, well-positioned to cover the Occupations in this country. And perhaps our track record ("If you have no place to go...") explains why we're getting so many excellent reports from the ground: New York, Austin, Sacramento, San Francisco. More like this, please!

Finally, I'm very, very grateful to twig and the other creators of Plantidote of the Day, whose images are so gorgeous and soothing, as well jjmtacoma for Cheap Eats, Hugh for decoding the BLS statistics, and the Corrente Review of Games, as well as those who make and respond to Common Household Remedy Requests. Not only is the content uniformly excellent, as one would expect at Corrente, but each series in its own way exemplifies an ethic of mutual assistance.

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Now, to Corrente's technical improvements for Readers. (To be crass, drupal wizards get paid a good deal of money in RL for this kind of work, for requirements gathering, coding, and handling the flak feedback after the changes are made). Normally, I like to complete any changes before I launch into my fund raising aria, but this year I've just had too much on my plate, and so some of the changes are works in progress.

To PC readers:

If you were shocked and distressed when I broke out the new ("Mac") theme, I'm sorry; I'll explain the reasons for doing do in a moment, but alI I can say is that I tested the exact same technical approach on other live sites, on all platforms, without any problems at all, which is why I had a sense of misplaced confidence in the changes. Oopsie. My bad. Now, I've revised the new (Mac) theme based on your feedback, and I hope you'll give it a shot. The light blue links are back in the text, and the body font is toned down from Goudy (no curlicue ampersands).


Now. The old Corrente theme (the PC theme) was created by a fellow blogger and professional web designer, and has stood us in good stead for several years. However, under the hood, the old theme is no longer maintainable. The Drupal world has moved on, and more importantly, media have moved on. These days, for example, cell phones and pads should be supported, and the old theme (the PC theme) can't do that.

More importantly, the old theme (the PC theme) has some bugs in it that aren't worth tracking down. The most critical one: The old theme (the PC theme) does not display user profiles correctly. There are options that you, readers, do not have with the old theme (the PC theme) that you do have with the new theme (the Mac theme). And improvements #1 and #1 below depend on the proper display of user profiles.

So, after the wind up, here are the improvements. For logged in users:

1. "Buy me a beer!" Readers can now add a link to their posts that says "Buy me a beer!" (or "Buy me a book!" or whatever), and clicking that link will go to their PayPal account, if they have one, where a contribution can be made. For awhile, I've been trying to figure out how to spread the Corrente wealth -- BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! -- around a little bit more collectively, and this micropayment system seems like a good approach. This would be one obvious way, for example, for people who report on the occupations to raise a little money for them. NOTE: There's no centralized tracking or anything; "Buy me a beer!" is a link, no more.

2. Curated tweets. Some sites offer images of tweets, but images can't be searched for or linked into. Moreover, twitter doesn't make its archives available to the public, so after a few months, links to tweets break. So, I created a drupal module that enables tweets to be displayed as they appear on twitter, and to be permanently archived; all you have to do is paste in the URL (see documentation at link below).

3. An editor for posts and comments that has a Word-like toolbar with cute icons is now available. Personally, I prefer typing in the HTML tags because, believe it or not, it's more productive, but I realize that raw HTML can be intimidating and geeky, and so now there is this new option.

4. Block configuration If any of the fancier blocks, like the twitter block, are bringing your computer's CPU to its knees, you can turn those blocks off now.

5. Theme switching. Now users can set their own default theme. (I've called the themes "PC" and "Mac" because the problems seemed to come on the PC platform. Ultimately, hopefully soon, the theme will work on both platforms acceptably, at which point the temporary expedient of the drop down at top right will go away.) However, a user who mostly reads on their mobile or their pad should be able to set their own default theme, and this is now permitted.**

Rather than clutter this post with the technical documentation for all these changes, I'll consolidate them here.

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Finally, a word about the future. For some time, we've been to find what the MBAs call a sustainable business model. This April, when a financial disaster hit me, I tried Shop Left, and it didn't really launch. I think part of the problem was technical, in that the payment system wasn't set up right. I'm going to adapt the "Buy Me a Beer!" module to Shop Left and make the purchasing process much more simple. That leaves the issue of driving traffic and sales; maybe somebody can contact me about how to do that. I'm amenable to anything, at this point, and I also think that enabling people to sell what they make online is a form of mutual assistance.

Also, too, a site on non-violence that I've built, but is not ready for launch. Stay tuned...

The PayPal buttons are to your right!

P.S. Also, I'd love to visit and report on #ows or #stopthemach2011. But right now, I can't.

NOTE * "The Blogosphere Authority Index (BAI) is a new system for tracking online influence. The index combines four measures of authority to produce comparative rankings of the elite blogs." BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!

NOTE ** A simplified, and much narrower, theme for mobile phones is still under construction; it should be readable now, but I could use some feedback on it, since I don't actually have a mobile phone and have to rely on simulators.

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DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Corrente is really an outstanding blog. That community that has been created here is like no other in blogosphere. There is a spirit of cooperation here that I do not see anywhere else. I really like the fact that everyone here is a front pager and there is no comment rating system. Makes for better discussion.

lambert is our gracious host, not our leader. This blog may be his, but it is not about lambert. This blog is a place to discuss that problems of our time and see what we can do to make it better.

Now lambert needs our help to keep wheels turning at the mighty Corrente building. For anyone in a position to give, please give generously. If you are not in a position to contribute materially, please link to this post for your blog, or Tweet it or link it from your Facebook wall. lambert helps us every day, now we need to help him.

Submitted by lambert on

"Let me be clear..." Well, let me not be clear, but blunt.

Corrente is sustained by contributions from readers. That not only keeps the hamsters in kibble, it funds a more-than-full-time staff person who posts a lot, especially when stories are breaking, who brings in the hits, approves the accounts, provides technical support, installs (and sometimes writes) the software, and manages the content and the threads, seven days a week, during waking hours. That staff person would be me, lambert.

Now, "blog and grow rich" was never the plan. And I've been blogging since 2003, and the experience has been enriching beyond measure, in friends made, wisdom shared, and great writing.

But so far this fundraiser is a bust -- not sustainable, running far behind past years; not even four figures yet, where past fundraisers were well beyond that (WASPs hate to talk about money). I don't think in terms of an hourly rate for the work already done, because I couldn't begin to add the hours up and there's a lot of love in the labor anyhow. I do think in terms of cash flow: This fundraiser, at this time, helps with the fuel bill as the Maine winter approaches, and also helps me pay the town. This fundraiser is a substantial part of my tiny personal economy. One way or another, I imagine I'll muddle through, but I think we all know the feeling of having hopes or expectations dissolve, and then the anticipation of an ensuing scramble, and the feeling is not a good one.

So, readers, if the message here is that Corrente is not sustainable in its current form, then I have to listen to that message (have no alternative but to listen). Maybe the Occupations are where the discretionary funding is going, and if that's so, more power to them; maybe people are tapped out because they already helped out once in April, and that's fine; maybe the message is a leading indicator of a double dip recession; maybe it takes tribal or party affiliation to survive (see all the blogs ranked higher than Corrente's #38); maybe lambert's been an asshole one too many times; maybe I've run out of things to say that people want to hear; maybe the world is moving on from the long-form blog.

And it's a shame, too, since for the first time in years, with the Occupations, I'm feeling real hope. But I also have to listen to the numbers, pay that fuel bill, and hang on to the house, which helps others as well as me. Opportunity costs!

Valhalla's picture
Submitted by Valhalla on

I've often thought, but never said, how very much I appreciate the technical sophistication of Corrente and how much work Lambert puts into it. From being able to search the archives without crashing my browser, to the cool interactive globe, to the new Twitter archive (so thoughtful!), you just don't get all that anywhere else -- not even at the big $ sites. Easy to use, easy to read, easy to contribute to the discussion. Quality substance and quality format all in one place!

Plus what everyone else said!