Essays on Technology and Culture

More Than Half a Life Making Stuff for the Internet

I’ve been making stuff on the Internet for more than half my life, in one way or another. As soon as I got online in seventh grade, I picked up a copy of HTML for Dummies: Quick Reference, and taught myself how to make a web page. My first web site was a fan page for Mystery Science Theater 3000, an early example of what Merlin Mann and John Gruber later defined as Obsession Times Voice. This was 1997, and I had no pretensions that my goofy fan site, with its Animated GIFs, embedded MIDI files, and hosted for free, would accomplish much of anything.

Over my teenage years, I dropped the MST3k site, and established a series of more general personal sites on a friend’s private server. Somewhere in there, I also started a web comic that was terrible enough to warrant notice by Something Awful. By the time I graduated high school, blogging was in vogue, and for my graduation present—and with my friend’s server offline—I asked my parents to pay for a domain and a year of web hosting. I set up GreyMatter, and was born. This was 2002. Twelve years ago. For the absolutely curious, you can find a lot of the old content from pre–2010 through I don’t recommend it. For the most part, the first six years of Sanspoint are little more than an anti-social LiveJournal.

I decided to take my writing seriously in 2010, which is when the current incarnation of begins. Though I didn’t pick up steam for another three years, those years were spent both trying to find my obsession and voice as a writer. I feel as though I’ve found my voice, and have a good lead on an obsession, or at least a group of obsessions that I can put in one place without it seeming too disparate. Between 2010 and now, I also started other projects, some of which limped along like Crush On Radio, others that never took off, like Above The Runway. That’s not even counting the ones that never left the “scrawled on a note card” stage.

At age 30—almost 31—I’ve now spent more than half my life making and putting stuff on the Internet, largely out of love. It can’t be for money, because I’ve made a net profit from all my online endeavors of an estimated negative $2,000. That’s factoring in twelve-plus years of hosting, domain registration, and buying a nice microphone for Crush On Radio. Pocket change, when you think about it. What I’ve gained from my years of putting stuff, more so in recent years, are connections to smart, funny, and supportive Internet friends. And a job. If I couldn’t point to my years of writing, web design, social media, podcasting, and the like, I would never have landed the startup job that gave me at least a sense of direction.

So, it’s not been a waste. I’d keep churning out multiple paragraphs of too-turgid prose about technology, creative work, culture, and all those other crazy things I think way too much about, even if I didn’t get the occasional backpat from people I admire. I wish things had moved faster—it was hard enough making time to make the clackity noise when I worked a 52-hour week, and it’s still pretty hard with a 40-hour one. It’s certainly doable. If Myke Hurley can run a podcast network while working 9–5, I can manage a blog. It would be amazing if I could turn making the clackity noise into my job. At this point, I’d settle for breaking even and a little bit of beer money. As great as the last couple years have been in terms of the stuff I put out, and the reception, I have a ways to go. Patrick Rhone has been doing it longer, (though my site is older), and he didn’t make any money until 2011. [1]

If I’m going to make a go at breaking even—writing off that two grand from the last twelve years—I’ll need to focus on the main thing as much as I can. Part of why Sanspoint as an endeavor has been so long, and so spotty, has been the difficulty of making the time commitment. Various side projects, like Crush On Radio, aren’t helping. (The situation around Crush On Radio deserves its own post, but I’ll fall on my own sword for the bulk of it.) Instead of splitting my ideas and obsessions into different silos, better I bring them under one banner, and focus on making the best entity called Sanspoint there is. One that reflects my obsession and my voice, while giving my small audience reason to keep being involved and supporting me. In time, maybe that audience will grow, and I can make Sanspoint my career. If not, that’s the breaks. I’ve already earned plenty in less tangible currency.

  1. Buy the eBook version of that post, by the way. It’s been very helpful to me.  ↩