Sunday, April 27, 2014

Blogging: The Transaction Vibe, and What's Wrong With It

So, I was just on Blogchat, unsuccessfully trying to express an opinion in 140 characters. And thought I'd try to express it here.

There are business interactions where the customer is well aware of the nature of the transaction, and are perfectly comfortable with it. When you enter a store, or eat in a restaurant, or get your shoes shined, you are quite aware that the interaction is a transaction. It's about money. It's about you getting value for your money and the business getting value for their products or services.

But there are other interactions that aren't that way. When you go to a movie, for example, you're well aware that it's a transaction from the point of view of the theater--you buy your ticket, you pay money for your popcorn, and so on. But the movie is not supposed to be a transaction. It may be packed to the gills with product placements, but that fact is supposed to be invisible to the viewer.

The same is true of television, and books, and newspapers. You're aware that the whole experience is framed with money--you see the commercials, you paid for the books, you see the ads in the newspapers. But you expect the core of the experience to be business-free, to be just for you, without any "But what about us?" vibe from the business.

And sometimes, the same can be true of the earlier things that I mentioned--the store, the restaurant, and so on. When you go to a Michelin-starred restaurant and spring for the tasting menu, you expect the subsequent experience to be free of further financial/business/transaction elements. That tiny piece of foie gras should look like no other size would do, rather than looking like the restauranter calculated just the right size to make a profit.

But the customer experience in (most) stores, and fast food restaurants, and groceries, and most other businesses, is soaked in the transaction vibe from beginning to end. You supersize things, you hand over your coupons, you walk past big blazing sale signs.

I think that some for-profit bloggers think that they're like the grocery store, and that since they're in business to make money, there's no harm in looking like they're in business to make money.

But there is, because readers don't want the transaction vibe. They're not at the blog to help the blogger make money, any more than a movie viewer is at the movie to help the studio to make money. The intrusion of that transaction vibe reduces the reader's enjoyment, and makes them more likely to wander off and find another blog that doesn't have that vibe.

Most of the really successful  for-profit blogs are, I believe, aware of this, even if they wouldn't put it quite that way. But many, many less successful ones are not, and I suspect that that's part of why they're not successful.



140 characters just doesn't cut it.

Picture: None. Oh, my God, no picture! The freedom of a non-profit blog.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Budget Of a Dozen Change Purses

I owe the squirrel four dollars.

I had to type that. Because I could.

See, I'm playing budgeting games. Part of the plan is to give myself a monthly allowance of pocket money, in cash, so that every casual penny I spend feels real. I can't spend cash online, of course, so when I spend money online or use a credit card I move the same amount of cash out of my wallet and into a little leather change purse decorated with a squirrel. Isn't he cute? The squirrel money, of course, belongs to the bank account that will eventually pay the credit card. Since the bank account also produces the pocket money, it will just be the starting point of next month's supply. Whee!

Then there's jellybean money. No, I don't have a purse decorated with jelly beans; the jellybean purse is decorated with odd little rolling hills.  The term comes from a Dagwood comic strip in which Dagwood came home with his paycheck and handed out the allowances and the grocery money and filled the envelopes for all the bills, and had enough left for a bag of jelly beans for himself.

So it's for fun things. I won't be buying jelly beans. I'll be buying perfume. Among other things.

Jellybean money is an older convention for me than the pocket money or the squirrel. It comes from a variety of sources, mostly unexpected modest windfalls. ("I never cashed that check from selling my bike at the bike sale two years ago? You're sending me a new one? Cool!") And gifts. Larger windfalls (tax refunds, say, or if I had the type of employer inclined to give bonuses) mostly go into savings or proper un-jellybean expenses, but I tend to kick a percentage into jellybean money. And now any leftover monthly pocket money will also go in the jellybean purse.

Jellybean money is like a little prison with flexible walls--if it's too small I'll just burst out of it and spend regular money on fun expenses; if it's too big it negates the goal of saving more. All my jellybean funds are in cash, because, again, cash feels real. I rather doubt that I'll save enough to get to a "wow, that's a lot of cash to keep in the house" situation. There are too many perfumes out there. And scarves. And books. And fabric. And patterns.

This is, yes, one of those diary-like posts where I babble about things that have no particular use to the reader. It also gives me a post to link to when I say things like, "...I spent half the jellybean money..."

An added budget rule is that I'm only allowed to spend jellybean money on Last Saturday. (See? Linking!) Otherwise, it will always be there to rescue me from mismanagement of pocket money.

I was thinking of requiring that jellybean funds follow a rule that I've occasionally seen for children's allowances--a rule where they have to save a certain percentage of their allowances and then spend that saved money only on purchases above a certain value. I think that the idea is to ensure that they get the experience of saving up, rather than spending their entire childhood frittering every dime on candy the instant they get their hands on it. But, really, how many little frittering purchases can I make in one day a month? I'll think this one over.

Of course, today is last Saturday, so any new rules will be applied next month. I already bought three short cuts of gaudy silk that I hope to successfully make into scarves with the serger. We'll see how that goes.


That seems to be all.

Photos: Mine.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Rambling: Weekend (In which I engage in self-absorbed burbling, without even a picture.)

I'm taking Friday off. So it's the weekend. Now. Woohoo!

I've been experiencing stress stupidity--stuff just dropping out of my head and letting the rest of my mind deal with the hole. A three-day weekend of no obligations should spackle over all that. I hope.

In fact, I can tell that I'm already settling down because I started, earlier in the day, to develop a migraine, complete with nausea. Whee! This is normal for me--when I've been rushing around trying to fulfill demands for a sustained period, and then suddenly get to relax, the migraine comes. I believe it's called a "stress letdown migraine." I have a tradition of consuming plenty of caffeine on the first day of a vacation or the first day after a project is done and delivered, to reduce the odds of it coming on full force. That works beautifully if I've been limiting caffeine, but not so much if I haven't; today's headache just giggled at the Coke that I tried to pour on it. So I just smacked it with Excedrin Tension Headache. That'll teach it. No, this is not a product placement; I only take the stuff as a last-ditch sort of measure, and firmly intend to cut down on the caffeine so that ordinary caffeinated beverages become the nuclear option. If you see what I mean.

I'm sounding like one of those elderly people that discuss their health quirks in excruciating detail. At least you don't have to maintain eye contact and an interested expression. And I promise I won't tell you to stop mumbling.


That is all.