I Think I'd Be Particularly Susceptible to the Marketing Practices of Crack Dealers
If you haven't seen it elsewhere yet, our pal, Marc Kerstein, has released a free effect that allows you to reveal someone's star sign without asking any questions and without them writing it down or seemingly indicating it in any way at all. It's kind of a "sample" of his app, Xeno (but this sample isn't, in fact, an app itself--you can use the lite version even if you're some poor slob who doesn't own a phone). The best endorsement I can give is that after playing around with it for a while, I ended up buying the full version of Xeno. So the famed crack-dealer ploy of giving the first dose for free to get them addicted in hopes they'll pay for more definitely worked on me.
The Jerx Can't Be Bought
The preceding was not a paid advertisement.
I consider Marc part of the core group of about 8 people who I rely on for help with projects related to this site. And yet, even with him, it took me three months to mention his newest app. That's because, other than testing it briefly when it was in "pre-production," I hadn't had a chance to play around with it. And I don't think it's a service to Marc and definitely not a service to you guys, if I come here and tell you how great Marc's stuff is if I haven't actually used it.
I'm making my way around to a point here, and it's this...
Recently I've had a number of people email me with offers to send me free stuff. You might think that would be just about the best perk of writing a magic blog. In fact, you might think, "Hey, I think I'll start a blog. It will become popular. And people will send me free stuff too!" And yeah, that seems like a great plan. But one thing I've learned (and this goes way back to 2003 and the old site) is that it's a bit of a Catch-22. You see, sometimes (not always) people want to send you stuff so you'll say something nice about it on the blog. But the catch is, the people who like this site tend to like it because it's not the type of site where I would just say something nice about something because I got it for free.
So, for a long time, my policy was "no free stuff," because it was just easier to avoid the situation altogether.
These days, my policy is, "ok, sure, free stuff," as long as you're okay with the high probability that I won't mention it on the site. And the reason I'm unlikely to mention it is because I just don't end up talking about too many products here. And what I don't want is for this site to become a place where, when I mention a trick, people are like, "Does he really like that? Or did he get it for free and he feels obligated to say something nice." (I'm reminded of certain areas of the Cafe where, for a time at least, the same dozen people were praising each other's products for years. Everything was brilliant, to the point where their input on an effect meant nothing.)
Now, I should mention, many of the people who do offer to send me something make it clear that they're not asking for anything in return. So, what I'm saying here doesn't go for everyone.
So if you want to send me something, I'm happy to receive it. Send me an email and I'll get you the PO Box where you can get things to me. I meet up with the person who monitors that box at least once a month, so I can get it in a relatively timely fashion.
At the same time, no one needs to send me free stuff. I don't mind paying for magic. It's a harmless vice (unlike my pending crack addiction).
Bulking and Cutting
Since this site began two and a half years ago, it's been featured on Boing Boing about a dozen times. And each time I was pretty delighted that someone thought the writing in this obscure, niche magic blog might be of interest to a general audience. (That "someone," in this case, being Cory Doctorow)
I've never advertised this site. I've never linked it on a message board. When it began I sent a message to about 30 people who had emailed me when I deleted my old site, 10 years earlier. That was the extent of the promotion I did for it. And despite that, it's only grown month after month.
However, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, the future of this site is dependent on the devoted readers, not the casual ones. And, in line with that idea, I'm taking some steps to scale back the readership here. (One of those steps was emailing Cory Doctorow and asking him not to feature this site on Boing Boing in the future.)
I realize that seems like a bad idea for a site that is reader-supported. But it's only a bad idea if the goal is to have the widest audience. And that's not my goal. My feeling is that this site and my output is stronger when I have a better grasp on who the readership is. And I really just want to write and create and experiment on behalf of the in-crowd (the fans who support the site) because I feel that's when I'm doing my best work.
There's a tendency to think of building an audience as just amassing more readers. I can do that if I want. And it's exactly what I will do once Ellusionist buys this blog and I'm just pimping their stuff 24/7. But I feel that's how you go about building a flabby audience. Instead, I'm taking my cue from the world of bodybuilding and the idea of "bulking and cutting." In bodybuilding, when you want to put on more muscle, you first have to put on muscle and fat. That's the bulk phase. Then you go through a cut phase where you try and lose the fat (but keep the muscle) you put on during the bulk.
This site went through its bulk phase (as I said, it was in Boing Boing a dozen times; there were three glowing reviews (for JV1, AATKT, and the JAMM) in Genii over the course of six months; and I won the magic book of the year on the Cafe). That brought a lot of new readers here. And now we're going through the cut phase, where I'll implement some changes in an attempt to trim some of the fat, but keep the muscle from the bulk. Some of these changes may be noticeable, some won't be from your vantage point. But just know that the end goal is to create the best version of this site.