Books written by Ray Sullivan

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Time To Monetise Your Life?

If you are a regular visitor to this blog you will know that I don't have adverts flashing in the wings.  Of course I do have promotional links to my various websites and, by extension, I'm promoting my books in what I hope is a fairly passive way.  If you wander onto my websites you'll find that they are ad free too.  This is in large part a deliberate choice.

I have looked at the options, mainly through Google who host this blog for free despite me constantly being mean to them over their lack of tax payments.  At least they don't seem to hold a grudge.  To 'monetise', in the awful modern terminology that Google and the rest of the internet world seem to use, my blog and/or webpages would require me to jump through some basic hoops that include abiding to some vague rules about the content.  As far as I can tell I can't use the blog to promote bad language or to promote evil things - shit, B L O'Feld wouldn't like that at all.

But the main reason I've resisted the opportunity to 'monetise' the blog is that I really get irritated by those flashing adverts that spring up on virtually every webpage I visit that tries to convince me I really ought to buy life insurance - I have plenty, thanks - or tries to convince me to hook up with ladies of my age group - I'm not sure the wife would be too happy about that.  Other adverts, clearly targeted, try to get me to visit Disney establishments - now there's one Micky Mouse outfit, and others try to get me to buy everything from a new car to double glazing. 

There's nothing wrong with people selling stuff.  I buy stuff, most days, definitely every week, often the same stuff that I bought last week.  I'm a sucker for semi-skimmed milk and salad, but both seem to last less than a week.  I do buy cars now and then, rarely new ones, but I'm unlikely to buy one after seeing a web page advert for a model.  I had double glazing fitted two years ago by a local firm I found by carrying out basic research that didn't involve the internet (I asked a neighbour).  I'm not anticipating renewing it for some time.

Now it's possible that I get these adverts because I'm a bit tight with my personal data.  I wrote about this a little while ago - What Does Your Data Say About You?  - and following my rationalisation of the data I allow Facebook and Twitter to access I found the adverts that hit my computer were way more generic than before I culled it.

However there is an opposing view on the subject, and not just from Google or Facebook, who obviously should have an opposing view.  It's from a guy who is named Jaron Lanier and although I hadn't heard of him before - he probably follows this blog and my advice - he's quite famous in his own house.  He's listed in no other than the Encyclopaedia Britannica as one of the top 300 greatest inventors of all time.  I'm not sure which edition lists him in that way - I stopped buying the books in the mid 90s when they went over to CD - it looks way less impressive on the bookshelf.  He is the guy who coined the term Virtual Reality and by all accounts designed the world's first immersive avatar.  No, I don't know what that means, either.  An Avatar that can swim?

Whatever, Mr Lanier has written a new book and in it he questions not whether we should be hiding our data but selling it instead.  In his opinion the difference between us and the owners of Google, Amazon and Facebook - apart from several trillion dollars - is that they make money from our freely provided data and we don't.  He makes the point that we should have a value planted on all of our data and every time it is used we should get a royalty payment.  Part of his rationale is that if the data isn't truly free then organisations and governments - yup, he wants them to play this game too - will be more cautious about when they use our data.

He's got a point.  When there is no cost or penalty for using something there is no barrier to doing so.  Why not run that data through thousands of databases, make it work a million times, if there's no cost involved.  But if every time you use the fact that I bought such and such a book on a Sunday afternoon wirelessly cost you a notional amount of money, even if it's just a cent, you'll consider the impact of that activity and only use the data you need to.

We won't get rich on the proceeds - no matter how much we charge for our data - but it may be used more thoughtfully.

I just don't know how this process could be policed and even if it could, what chance have we got of getting the likes of Google and Amazon to pay us our dues when the British government is struggling to get them to pay their taxes? And even if they did pay, would I be able to get my royalties out of the US without paying the US government 30% withholding tax?  In fact, policing the process suddenly seems the easier part of the problem!


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