Tom Slee’s Self-Assessment

by Henry on January 7, 2013

Tom Slee

The first half of that 15 years was spent writing and studying/researching No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart. Whimsley started off as an attempt to promote the book, but soon moved into technology & politics, where it has stayed ever since. The total cost of this writing project to me and my family is now well into six figures in foregone income: several years ago I “negotiated” a four-day working week, largely to pursue this project. On the other hand, it has to coexist with a nearly-full-time job, which means that although much of what I write has a pseudo-academic bent, I doubt that I’m in a position to obtain qualifications relevant to what I write about. … That is not a picture of success, and given the generous support I have received, the responsibility for remaining mistakes clearly lies, as they say, with the author. My major reward from blogging has been to discover a small but select group of very smart people who have continued to read this blog, promote it from time to time, and engage in conversation. Thanks to each of you.

… writing to have an impact at the age of 53 feels very different from writing at the age of 38, and the numbers make it clear that it’s not working. To reinforce that feeling, the traffic for an individual post at the blog depends hugely on whether some of a small number of individuals link to it: I am still dependent, that is to say, on patronage and on chance, and I have not managed to build an audience of my own to sustain significant interest. I write slowly and infrequently, and usually long pieces. Clearly the style and content of my writing has failed to build a significant audience. … I have no credentials behind what I write, I’m terrible at self-promotion, my networks related to my writing are minimal, and although some pieces have been provocative I am uncomfortable in the culture of quickfire debate that drives much political writing. None of those things is likely to change. If anything, the effort has emphasized to me the importance of credentials

Three ways to respond to this. The first is to say that there’s a bit of a Velvet Underground phenomenon going on here. If Tom Slee only has a small number of readers, there are some very interesting people among them – he’s a technology thinker’s technology thinker. Notably, he gets a lot of respect from people whom he has sharp disagreements with, and who strongly disagree with him (e.g. Clay Shirky and Steven Berlin Johnson, whose basic take appears to be that if the critics they had to engage with with were all as intelligent as Tom, they would be in a far happier world). The second would be to draw the broader sociological lesson that he hints at Russell-Jacoby-like – that it is ever more difficult for people outside the academy to make a living as thinkers. When I think about the six or seven writers in the North American sub-continent who are on my shortlist to be declared National Treasures if I ever assume dictatorial powers, four of them are in different versions of the Jacoby situation – Tom himself, George Scialabba, Doug Henwood and our own Scott McLemee. There is a new marketplace for ideas emerging, linked with TED, corporate talk giving and the like, but it is, for very obvious reasons, not a marketplace that a specifically anti-big-corporations writer like Tom Slee would ever do well in.

The third is more practical. I’ve touted Tom’s No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart before, and will doubtless do so again. It’s a book that everyone should read, and furthermore give to their annoying niece/nephew/cousin/acquaintance who has taken Econ 101 and think that it explains the world. Buy it from Powells, Barnes and Noble or Amazon. I ordered a copy myself for Megan McArdle back in the day (I can’t say that it has taken – but then that’s a particularly tough nut to crack). Building on a suggestion by Cosma Shalizi on pinboard – if you teach a large (or small) undergraduate course that touches at all on markets, society, collective choice, politics or similar, strongly consider assigning it as a text. It is highly intelligent, lucidly written, and will give your students an excellent practical understanding of collective choice and behavior (as well as inoculating them against various lamentable and pernicious myths that are near ubiquitous in modern society). If you are a publisher with an eye for a good text, consider buying out the copyright and commissioning Tom to write a second edition, with blurbs on the back from famous economists. Also, solicit a proposal for his Wikibollocks book, which is certain to be excellent. Tom may be right that he is a rotten self-publicist, but he has many people – including myself – who will cheerfully and shamelessly do all that publicizing stuff for him. If you run a leftwing magazine with an empirical bent, commission pieces from him, and indeed make him a contributing editor. You won’t regret it. Finally, CT readers should really go to some of the earlier posts he links to in the piece I excerpt above. I suspect that he is radically undercounting his readership (readership on infrequently updated blogs tends to happen via RSS aggregators such as Google Reader, which don’t necessarily show up in hit counts), but more readers (and measurable readers) always feel good. And Happy New Year!

{ 80 comments… read them below or add one }

1

Zamfir 01.07.13 at 6:30 pm

I admire the courage to make such an assessment public. Also, deeply surprised that the book sold so few copies. Buying it now.

2

Zamfir 01.07.13 at 6:36 pm

I can only find used copies that don’t seem to ship affordably to Europe. Is there a good option? An ebook version perhaps?

3

Henry 01.07.13 at 6:40 pm

Hesitant to recommend Amazon given Tom’s work, but its .uk and .de versions have copies for sale

4

Ken Houghton 01.07.13 at 6:53 pm

Looks like a case for Kickstarter.

5

Doctor Memory 01.07.13 at 7:09 pm

If it’s out of print at the publisher and Slee holds the copyright, there are multiple avenues for self-publishing the ebook; I’d be delighted to hand over actual money in return for a pdf or epub rather than purchasing a used student copy (as offered by Powells) with nothing going to the author.

6

et 01.07.13 at 7:37 pm

Several copies at http://www.abebooks.com in both NA and Europe.

7

Rich Puchalsky 01.07.13 at 7:49 pm

The source text for this situation is John Emerson, Les Erudits Maudits.

“Historically culture-producers were monks, gentlemen of leisure, military aristocrats, lackeys and retainers of the aristocracy and the church, and déclassé riffraff. Only in the nineteenth century did scholarship come to be defined as a job at a university [...] Vestiges of the bohemian tradition still remain among poets and novelists, so that all that is required is for this model to be extended to nonfiction writing about history, philosophy, and literature.”

Tom Slee’s dream is recognizably a general dream that died. Look back at, say, the first post in The Valve all the way back in 2005. Then look at Adam Roberts’ farewell post in 2012. “If the sort of thing I write is worth paying for then I’m a mug to give it away for free; and if it isn’t worth paying for (of course a great deal of online writing isn’t) then I’m wasting everyone’s time, including my own, carrying on.” I think of all of the Valve publishing projects in which people rediscovered that, even with contemporary technology, publishing is work, publicizing is work, and that space didn’t open up when the Internet let its magically distributive powers go to work.

8

Zamfir 01.07.13 at 7:55 pm

Nope, amazon UK and de are sold out. They do haves those third party sellers, but I have bad experience with those. I’ll look at abebooks.

Ironically, I’d really want a kindle version. So easy…

9

LFC 01.07.13 at 8:05 pm

I haven’t regularly read Tom Slee’s blog because I am not that interested in technology issues, which is mainly what he writes about. I have less of an excuse for not having read his Walmart book, however, since I gather that is more along the lines of critique-of-contemporary-corporate-capitalism than it is about technology per se.

I read his self-assessment and I tend to think he is overestimating the importance of credentials, if by that he means academic credentials. Having advanced degrees is not, by itself, necessarily going to get his writing a bigger audience, I wouldn’t think. The possession of a PhD, esp. if without an academic job to go along with it, is unlikely to impress all that many people (which is one reason I don’t frequently publicize my own degree on my blog). Hundreds of thousands of people, indeed probably millions by this time, have PhDs or other comparable advanced degrees. It’s no longer, by itself, that much of a distinction. I suppose in certain cases it could make some difference on the margins in terms of book sales or blog traffic, but I’m skeptical.

As for self-promotion in blogging, it’s a tricky issue I think, partly because there are trade-offs involved re time etc. I’m not on Twitter or Facebook, for example, unlike many bloggers who use those platforms to try to drum up interest in what they write. I’m just not willing, so far, to spend the time that that would entail. But I’m a bit surprised that Slee, who blogs under his full name, has a clear focus of interest, and a clear reason for writing (i.e., to have a practical impact on specific issues) hasn’t developed a somewhat bigger audience. Part of it, perhaps, is what he says about his style and pace of writing; I’m not sure. (For the record, I’ll add that his 100 hits a day is *considerably* more traffic than my own blog receives, but that’s neither here nor there.)

10

Barry 01.07.13 at 8:19 pm

Try your library and interlibrary loan (the latter, particularly). You might want to call the library and talk with a librarian.

11

merian 01.07.13 at 8:36 pm

The book looks like a prime candidate for a self-distributed ebook to me. This could be worthwhile financially for Tom Slee as well as serve a reader pool that appears to be not attractive enough for commercial presses.

12

Doug K 01.07.13 at 8:41 pm

I too was astonished to see only 2000 copies of the book sold..
note that Powell’s only has a used copy, from which the author will presumably not derive any revenues, so I bought it from B&N instead.

13

Francis Spufford 01.07.13 at 9:41 pm

‘Obtaining qualifications’ for your hard-gained expertise matters if you’re in Tom Slee’s situation not just for the sake of becoming credentialed as such, but because it is through the door barred to the uncredentialled that there lies the prospect of a university’s patronage in the form of employment – the lovely secure kind of employment where you are paid to be something rather than to do something, in a narrowly-defined, payment-by-results kind of a way. At least in Europe you don’t have to worry about health insurance, while you try to be an untenured intellectual.

14

Hidari 01.07.13 at 9:47 pm

This thread should be read in conjunction with the Clay Shirky thread below. Because this thread shows the reality behind the Utopian techno-babble “hey won’t it be great when everything is available for free on the internet” type chatter.

15

ponce 01.07.13 at 10:16 pm

“None of those things is likely to change. If anything, the effort has emphasized to me the importance of credentials”

I flipped on Meet the Press for the first time in years after giving up on it and whose enormous head do I find bloviating on important matters on my TV?

Newt F**king Gingrich.

Jesus.

16

rf 01.07.13 at 10:23 pm

“I’d be delighted to hand over actual money in return for a pdf or epub rather than purchasing a used student copy “

Yeah same here, if Tom Slee was able to make that facility available. (Id pay rrp aswell) I’ve wanted to read this after the reviews its gotten.

17

LFC 01.07.13 at 10:28 pm

@Francis Spufford

I don’t know Tom Slee personally and I certainly don’t know enough about his situation to make a judgment — perhaps, given his already acquired expertise, getting credentialled would indeed give him “the lovely…kind of employment” to which you refer.

What I do know however is that possessing such a credential is no guarantee of such employment, at least in the field(s) I am familiar with and in the country I most familiar with, and moreover that the “barred door” is not so barred once someone becomes well-known enough. (At least in the U.S., there are plenty of examples of well-known writers and journalists who have university affiliations of one sort or another without possessing advanced degrees, but “well known” or “famous” is a key here.)

18

LFC 01.07.13 at 10:31 pm

correction: “country I am most familiar with”

19

Francis Spufford 01.07.13 at 10:37 pm

I’m guessing about Mr Slee’s situation myself, quite possibly wrongly. And I do know about the possibilities for slipping through said doorway on the basis of reputation rather than credentials – I have a fractional academic job myself in London, on exactly that basis – but there is all the same a problem I recognise in the gaining, at cost, of knowledge which you then don’t possess in a credential-shaped package. It isn’t convertible the way that a doctorate is, unless you’re lucky.

20

Metatone 01.07.13 at 11:03 pm

I think a wider discussion of less than famous thinkers trying to get by outside of academia would be an important thread. It’s really a big question as various universities are cutting back on staff.

However, it would be a disservice to Tom to derail this thread. His book definitely deserves to be more widely read. I think it’s also worth discussing that not only politics gets in the way of a TED-style career, but also personality. One could imagine Tom with a regular Guardian column and speaking at various left-of-centre events. Not TED money, but a living… but you do need a particular personality to make it work.

21

Phil 01.07.13 at 11:10 pm

the lovely secure kind of employment where you are paid to be something rather than to do something, in a narrowly-defined, payment-by-results kind of a way

I’ve been a freelance writer & an hourly-paid lecturer, and am now on a permanent (albeit fractional) academic contract, so I do know what you mean. But bear in mind that the “something” you’re being paid to be isn’t necessarily “scholar” – it’s more likely to be “teacher of what needs teaching this year”.

I feel a lot of sympathy with Tom, as well as a lot of respect – his Long Tail series parallelled a blogging idea I had early on, except that he did it ten times better – and, I confess, a touch of envy. I too have a slowish, longish-form blog; over the Christmas break I wrote about two academic papers’ worth of posts on my current interest, legal theory (don’t all rush at once). I think I write some pretty good stuff on there; the traffic it gets is minimal, micro-milli-minimal, nano-minimal. (14 views today.) I’ve made a bigger splash, in terms of reader numbers, by starting a separate blog about beer. I too have a book out, for generous values of ‘out'; it was reviewed on CT, as it happens. It’s an academic hardback and I don’t think it’s sold as many as 200. (Contact me about conference rates, if you think you may have seen me at a conference in the last few years.) And I too feel the lack of recognition, citations, invitations to do stuff.

What I can do from my academic perch is read academic journals and get conference attendance fees paid, which gives me a head start in terms of putting myself about on the academic scene. But you can be putting yourself out on the academic scene for an awful long time before you earn as much respect as Tom has – or get your work in front of as many people as have copies of No one makes you shop at Wal-Mart.

Apart from that, I think Hidari @14 nails it. Poetry used to be the only field with more writers than readers – now journalism has gone the same way, taking essays and belles lettres with it.

22

merian 01.07.13 at 11:19 pm

The book is in stock and for sale directly at the publisher’s site: http://www.btlbooks.com/book/no-one-makes-you-shop-at-wal-mart .

23

The Raven 01.07.13 at 11:48 pm

For heaven’s sake, there should be an ebook. Take it from a publisher (a very small publisher, but a publisher); any book of smallish readership and international interest will get a bigger audience if it’s available as an ebook, because international shipping is so bloody expensive.

24

UnlearningEcon 01.08.13 at 1:07 am

Slee’s review of Adapt was one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read. It convinced me to buy his book, which is also excellent.

Shame he hasn’t done better.

25

x.trapnel 01.08.13 at 1:08 am

Yeah, I just emailed the publisher about ebook availability. I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry about “Canadian Copyright: A Citizen’s Guide,” just to list the most egregious example, being published in paperback format only.

26

Mitchell Freedman 01.08.13 at 1:24 am

I wish to say to Tom, “I know the feeling, man.” The truth is we both should have pursued the PhD, not other things, like a professional degree (as I did). Having a moderately successful or well-critiqued book is not enough to get anywhere in terms of academic credentialing. I know, I’ve had the conversations, too…

If Tom was an early entrant into the blogging world, he might have achieved more economic success, but it did not do much for say Bob Somerby, a blogger who correctly diagnosed in real time the pattern of attacks on Al Gore, circa 2000.

As I say, I know what Tom’s feeling, and I don’t think the answer as to what to do next can come from anyone else but Tom, and perhaps Tom’s spouse or family.

On the other hand, while I subscribe to the Jacoby thesis, I also know that being a thinker/writer is rarely sustainable and people tend to write for the desk drawer, as the legendary Victor Serge wrote a few years before his early death, which came from exhaustion and poor health, not drugs/alcohol or the usual things that kill rock stars.

27

Clay Shirky 01.08.13 at 1:42 am

” Notably, he gets a lot of respect from people whom he has sharp disagreements with, and who strongly disagree with him (e.g. Clay Shirky and Steven Berlin Johnson, whose basic take appears to be that if the critics they had to engage with with were all as intelligent as Tom, they would be in a far happier world)”

I just want to second this from a first-person perspective: there are several people, such as Nick Carr, on that list, but Slee is primus inter pares (and I’ll heartily second the value of the Wal-Mart book as well.)

28

Dave 01.08.13 at 3:29 am

I write slowly and infrequently, and usually long pieces.

I’m terrible at self-promotion, my networks related to my writing are minimal

Well yeah, there’s your problem, right there. smh. Those things are not hard to fix and are Internet 101 issues. smdh.

29

garymar 01.08.13 at 3:44 am

But if he had worked on getting his credentials first, by the end of that credentialing process, would he still have had any ideas worth sharing?

30

RPM 01.08.13 at 6:34 am

Half.com and Alibris are other places where you can buy the book without dealing with Amazon, and there’s a copy being offered for sale on eBay by a UK buyer:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/No-One-Makes-You-Shop-at-Wal-Mart-The-Surprising-Deceptions-of-Individual-Choic-/360550420129?pt=Non_Fiction&hash=item53f27acea1

31

Alex Gregory 01.08.13 at 7:19 am

I think the short answer to those struggling to find the book is bookbutler.com – apparently even WHSmiths stock it.

Like others, I really enjoyed the Walmart book. I’m also very surprised by the low sales figures, though I do wonder if the title puts off some potential readers – especially those outside of the States – who might think it is a book about the evils of Walmart.

32

Harald Korneliussen 01.08.13 at 7:50 am

that space didn’t open up when the Internet let its magically distributive powers go to work.

It didn’t open up enough, I’d rather say. We just haven’t build good enough online institutions that can allocate attention and money efficiently. But there’s no reason to think news aggregators and Kickstarter are the last word.

33

Phil 01.08.13 at 7:51 am

I do wonder if the title puts off some potential readers – especially those outside of the States – who might think it is a book about the evils of Walmart.

Or indeed read the title literally and think it’s a Libertarian screed in defence of Wal-Mart (as a friend who saw it on my desk did once).

Book titles are hard – at least, they’re easy to get wrong. The title and the jacket image of my book are both unusual, memorable and directly relevant to what’s inside. Unfortunately, the title doesn’t relate to the jacket image; neither the title nor the image is referred to in the table of contents, so the reader effectively has to read the entire book to find out what they refer to; and (most relevantly to Tom’s example) the title on its own is an enormous downer, the kind of idea you instinctively don’t want in your head. Looking at my publisher’s catalogue now, I’m quite struck by how many authors have given their academic monographs titles with inspiring, upbeat overtones: “Days of wonder”, “Chords of freedom”, “Architects of the resurrection”. “Days of wonder” or “More work! Less pay!” – it’s not a tough choice.

34

Harald Korneliussen 01.08.13 at 7:59 am

When I google the title of this book, it says “A book that combines a first-person account of life on a psychiatric ward with a critical analysis of the psychiatric system.” What on earth, Google?

That in turn is a phrase which seems to turn up in a lot of blog spam when I google it. Probably, getting your own domain name would be a good idea on the self-promotion front, Tom Slee.

35

Harald Korneliussen 01.08.13 at 8:12 am

There is a link to a book related to this phrase on tslee, but not the slightest explanation for why, what it has to do with Tom Slee and his book. That reminds me uncomfortably about certain SEO spammers who buy up expired domains, re-host the content that was there but add links to their own stuff to boost their Google ranking.

If it is something like that, I suppose it shows that even Google has a way to go with this “allocating attention fairly” thing.

It’s possible I’m on a wild goose chase here, and there’s a perfectly sensible reason why the N-oMYS@W page has a link to this author. If so, I’m sorry about that! But it seems really strange to me.

36

x.trapnel 01.08.13 at 8:41 am

Phil, your book’s title is great. The problem is that, to a first approximation, no one except a university library purchasing agent, or an academic with a very generous budget that can only be spent on books, is going to buy an $85 250-page monograph. (Even the vast majority of academics in the right fields, I suspect, would at best ask their library to order it, and at worst figure that if it’s good it’ll come out in an affordable paperback version.) Your publisher has priced it for obscurity, which is a shame, because I’d like to read it, and I expect others would, too.

37

x.trapnel 01.08.13 at 8:58 am

That probably came out as more snippy than I meant it to. I’m certainly not saying Phil is to blame for the pricing MUP decided upon for his book, any more than Tom Slee is for the lack of an ebook; both cases, however, demonstrate little ways in which the broader ecosystem for getting knowledge out there once it has been produced fail, and fail badly. As it happens, I’ve just requested a copy of MW!LP! to be sent to me via InterLibraryLoan, across a state border, a mountain range, and 550 miles, but it would have been nice to be able to just pay MUP $10 for a pdf or epub file.

There’s no tragedy in my not reading Phil’s book, especially since I don’t actually contribute in any meaningful way to the broader public sphere, but it is a problem that those who do are also extremely unlikely to encounter it. When the serious writing that ought to be getting serious attention is hard to find and expensive, while the carelessly written fluff is ubiquitous and cheap, the public as a whole suffers.

38

Phil 01.08.13 at 9:08 am

x.trapnel – you’re right about the price. Still, I’ve got a “50% off” flyer which comes out at conferences, and even that’s only shifted a couple of copies. I’m not a big believer in nominative determinism (I imagine you’re not either!), but I do think some purchasing decisions involve a semi-conscious part of the mind saying to itself “mmm, Harry Potter and the ’58 Stutz Bearcat – like the taste of that!” The title of my book and (to a lesser extent) Tom’s don’t really pass that test.

Then again, a band called Coldplay can do all right, so what do I know.

39

James Wimberley 01.08.13 at 2:12 pm

Tom Slee should set up or join a group blog of reasonably like-minded peers, at least one of whom should like one-liners. To keep readers, you need a new post every day. This is difficult for an individual who holds a day job, and impossible for one who likes to write long pieces. The blog that lets me post for it has about 3,000 readers a day. My writing is certainly not 30 times better than his.

40

Rich Puchalsky 01.08.13 at 2:31 pm

“We just haven’t build good enough online institutions that can allocate attention and money efficiently. “

Insofar as I understand what you mean from a short comment, this seems to me to be all wrong. Tom Slee’s work has been allocated quite efficiently within the terms of our current system — you either agree with that or you condescend to his self-critique. What we need is inefficiency.

I see this within local poetry groups all the time. Let’s say you get together 20 people who write poetry. Do they all have the ability to gain a wide audience? Do any of them? Probably not. Is their work valuable nonetheless? Of course. The answer is to have a society in which people can create work for a small audience and still be socially supported in some fashion for doing so. Winner-take-all attention economies are certainly efficient, but they’re destructive.

The people responding here have in the main responded in a more or less meritocratic fashion, paraphrased as “Tom Slee really does deserve the worldwide attention to his work that he somehow hasn’t gotten so far.” Perhaps he does. But all that that means is that the next group of people almost as good as Tom Slee at writing about what he writes about — by whatever measure you’re using — won’t get that attention. It’s particularly difficult to communicate this on CT, because the supposed leftism of people here tends to be blinded by their meritocratic success within a limited sphere. But it’s an example of trying to help someone that does no general good, and in fact reinforces a general harm.

Society should pay Tom Slee and all like him whatever money / resources he needs to continue to write about what he wants to write about without starving, and he should write for whatever small audience is interested in his work. So should everyone else who wants to do this. We have the resources as a society to do that.

41

Hidari 01.08.13 at 2:39 pm

” It’s particularly difficult to communicate this on CT, because the supposed leftism of people here tends to be blinded by their meritocratic success within a limited sphere”.

It can’t be pointed out enough that when Micheal Young created that word he meant it as a bad thing. Obviously we don’t live in a meritocracy or anything like it. But that’s not the point. It’s not even anything to aim at.

42

Hidari 01.08.13 at 2:39 pm

” It’s particularly difficult to communicate this on CT, because the supposed leftism of people here tends to be blinded by their meritocratic success within a limited sphere”.

It can’t be pointed out enough that when Micheal Young created that word he meant it as a bad thing. Obviously we don’t live in a meritocracy or anything like it. But that’s not the point. It’s not even anything to aim at.

43

UnlearningEcon 01.08.13 at 3:04 pm

Not to be too presumptuous, but I’m curious as to why someone like Slee was never invited to CT. Seems he would have fitted in well.

44

Rich Puchalsky 01.08.13 at 3:06 pm

I mean it as a bad thing too. But when Henry writes “When I think about the six or seven writers in the North American sub-continent who are on my shortlist to be declared National Treasures”, that’s what he’s writing about. Good for those six or seven, bad for everyone else.

45

rf 01.08.13 at 3:15 pm

“Good for those six or seven, bad for everyone else.”

Sure it’s only a personal opinion, like a best books of 2012 list or what not. I only had two (idiot) regulars at my old blog, and was happy for them. Didnt make it on Henrys national treasures list either, but what can you do?

46

Henry 01.08.13 at 3:28 pm

I’d have thought that the bit about “assuming dictatorial powers” would have been a wee bit of a hint that the “National Treasures” comment was a rhetorical device intended to suggest how much I, personally, value the writing of Tom Slee and a few other people. But then, I was reckoning without the awe-inspiring ability of Rich Puchalsky, the Only Pure Leftist Remaining In A Fallen World, to find some imagined cause for offense in even the most innocuous of sentiments.

47

Rich Puchalsky 01.08.13 at 3:41 pm

Far be it from me to pay attention to your rhetoric, or to the suggested range of solutions here. As usual, you feel free to insult people who disagree with you while threatening to ban them if they reply in kind.

48

Chip Daniels 01.08.13 at 4:13 pm

We see this same dynamic played out in the arts community. Artists want to be freee to create art of their own choosing, yet also want to be compensated for it financially in the marketplace.
Of course, they discover that in the marketplace, you are obliged to create only what the public wants to purchase.

So the arts community exists in that strange place where they straddle both commerce and charity- making assertions of public value that deserves support, while also making claims to commercial value that deserves investment.

What it seems like to me is that the arts community, broadly speaking, is unwilling to acknowledge the implicit bargain in both public funding and commerce- that the funders provide support only in exchange for what they like or acknowledge as good. And this necessarily reduces the autonomy and agency of the artist.

49

Henry 01.08.13 at 4:37 pm

I rather think that you’ve written about me in more pungent terms than that in the past, Rich. But, if you prefer, I am happy to modify your soubriquet into The Only Pure Leftist Remaining In A Fallen World, Struggling To Boot Against The Forces Of Blogospheric Suppression Who Just Can’t Handle His Bold Truth-Telling. Or OPLRIAFWSTBATFOBSWJCHHBTT for convenience’ sake …

50

Rich Puchalsky 01.08.13 at 4:56 pm

I’ve written about you more pungently in the past? Find it.

But even though you’re eager to personalize this into you vs a commenter, the larger issue that Chip Daniels writes about above remains. If the compensation is supposed to come from the marketplace, then the marketplace implicitly wants to allocate its money to what people want to buy. Even if the compensation isn’t through a marketplace per se — if arts funding comes from a nonprofit board funded by government support, say — it is still usually meritocratic in the sense that people want to allocate resources efficiently in terms of quality. That’s what the rhetoric about National Treasures is about — not that you have the ability to declare someone a National Treasure, which wasn’t in question, but that you’re mobilizing your cultural capital to say that Tom Slee is actually someone worth supporting. “It’s a book that everyone should read”, and so on.

To continue with the example I used before, no one is saying that you can’t make aesthetic judgements — that you have to hold some kind of farcical position in which all poetry is just as good as all other poetry. But there is a distinction between how good something is and how it should be supported. If Tom Slee should be a winner in the attention economy because he’s a good writer, then that’s a meritocratic position whether you think it is or not. And it would be good for Tom Slee, bad for anyone else who doesn’t write as well by whatever criteria you use.

There is one of many possible alternatives that says “support Tom Slee because he’s part of the CT community (and he’s good)”.

51

LFC 01.08.13 at 5:28 pm

Rich Puchalsky:
the supposed leftism of people here tends to be blinded by their meritocratic success within a limited sphere
I wouldn’t make assumptions about people you don’t know. You don’t know me and therefore don’t know whether I’ve had any “meritocratic success” or not. And your suggestion that society should pay anyone who wants to write to do so seems rather unhelpfully, yes, utopian, esp. in the context of this thread, though if someone wanted to pay me to blog I would happily accept the money, of course.

Then there’s James Wimberley @39, simultaneously condescending and naive:

Tom Slee should set up or join a group blog of reasonably like-minded peers, at least one of whom should like one-liners. To keep readers, you need a new post every day. … The blog that lets me post for it has about 3,000 readers a day. My writing is certainly not 30 times better than his.

First, the self-assured, imperative phrasing is offensive: Slee should do such-and-such. I know Wimberly means to make what he sees as a helpful suggestion but it comes across as a command. Second, the assertion that to keep readers you need a new post every day is at best only half-true. Crooked Timber keeps readers and it doesn’t have a new post every day. Once a blog has an established audience it doesn’t matter what it does b.c people come to the blog to interact and talk with each other as much as with the posters. CT maintains a pretty high quality of posts but if it didn’t its audience would continue to be large b.c the commenters would just come to talk to each other. A poster at LGM can put up a two-line post and get 100 comments, b.c. the blog has an established readership. So the statement that you need a new post every day to keep readers is at best a half-truth and at worst displays ignorance of the ecology of the blogosphere.

52

politicalfootball 01.08.13 at 5:33 pm

There is one of many possible alternatives that says “support Tom Slee because he’s part of the CT community (and he’s good)”.

Rich, this may be a question that’s too broad to answer in this context, but I’m unable to picture the improvement to society that you’re proposing here. I enjoy reading CT and comment here every now and then, but I don’t really identify myself as part of a “CT community”. I’m guessing that you don’t, either. Why should either of us care if Mr. Slee is part of the CT community?

You say “no one is saying that you can’t make aesthetic judgements,” but it seems to me that you are at least saying that aesthetic judgments – and other judgments of merit – are less important than other considerations. No?

I have to say that even if I did more strongly identify with CT, I wouldn’t consider an appeal to “community” compelling in regards to a work of art or scholarship. I identify with a lot of communities – I’m a Democrat, for instance – but I’d consider it unpersuasive to be told that “Democrats should read this book.”

I mean, if my brother wrote a book, it would be awful but I’d probably buy it and read it. That’s about the limit of my sense of blind loyalty to a “community.” Should I broaden my non-meritocratic horizons? Why?

53

Henry Farrell 01.08.13 at 5:35 pm

The bit where you suggested that I was one of the “pansies” and “whiners” “who present every policy disagreement as if it is about traffic tickets”? The terms had been used by another commenter already, but are certainly tolerably insulting (your earlier crack in the same thread about my “incredible, laughable self-flattery” that I was a “a free thinker, capable of appreciating wisdom wherever it may be found” seem to me to be roughly equivalent to my crack above). If we banned people for this level of offensiveness, you’d have gotten the bum’s rush a long time ago. When you did get a 72 hour suspension was when you tried to derail a thread by suggesting that a guest-poster’s job was literally to figure out justifications for war. You’ve been left alone e.g. when you got onto your No-One Who Wasn’t There Like Me Is Entitled To Say Anything About Occupy, And Boy, The Things I’d Say About My Fellow Commenters If Only I Wasn’t Likely To Be Censored By The Man Here At CT hobbyhorse a few weeks ago. We’re prepared to tolerate some degree of obnoxiousness (although you do certainly push it a bit), and you do seem to thrive on publicly suggesting that you’re being persecuted.

And if you want to get into the merits as you suggest, your argument is my bum. I happen to think that Tom Slee is an excellent and under-rated writer, one whom I disagree with about lots of things, but one who I always learn from reading. Therefore, I suggest to readers that they should read him, editors that they should look at his stuff and so on. If suggesting that I like someone’s work, and people should (if they want to) see if they like his stuff too, and want to buy it or (if they’re in that position) publish it, is an argument stinking of dubious politics, then we’re in a sad old world altogether, and it’s hard to see how it could ever get any better, except through quite radical measures indeed. Book reviewers who have the impudence to suggest in print that they like this book, but that one, not so much: to the tumbrils with ‘em! Scientific journals, with editors who use their cultural capital to accept some manuscripts and reject others, on the basis of their apparent merits as reported through peer review: off with their heads! Perhaps Citizen Puchalsky might care to expand on how this draconian regime will apply to closet meritocrats who tell their mates that Bridesmaids 3 wasn’t great, and they should really save their money …

54

LFC 01.08.13 at 5:40 pm

R. Puchalsky:
but that you’re [Henry] mobilizing your cultural capital to say that Tom Slee is actually someone worth supporting. “It’s a book that everyone should read”, and so on.

Of course that’s what Henry is doing, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Everyone who ever buys any cultural commodity — a book, a CD, a magazine — makes ‘meritocratic’ judgments all the time. No one can read everything. Henry has every right to use his blog to say “I think you should read X” just as I have every right to do that on my blog (my ‘cultural capital’ (read audience) being minimal, the recommendation wouldn’t have much impact, but that’s not the point).

55

LFC 01.08.13 at 5:43 pm

I posted my 54 before seeing Henry’s 53.

56

Rich Puchalsky 01.08.13 at 6:22 pm

Aesthetic judgements can be of primary importance if you’re recommending what works people should pay attention to. If someone wants to say that you should read Tolstoy rather than Dan Brown, fine — and in that case it will neither help Tolstoy nor hurt Dan Brown. The problem comes when attention translates into success for a living person as opposed to a work — not artistic success, but the kind of success that determines whether someone can continue to write or not. The Internet supposedly lowers the barriers to entry for people who want to write new works, but it also can lead to a winner-take-all situation in which the people at the top get rewarded lavishly and the others not at all. Read, um, Tom Slee I guess, about this.

I’m not surprised that Henry doesn’t seem to understand this. For him it’s apparently simply how the world is, and it would be a sad old world otherwise. Certainly there’s nothing political at all about it, and any attempt to say so is Just Not Done, any more than it’s done to blame one of Henry’s friends for advocating for the Libyan War that he did in fact advocate for.

57

AcademicLurker 01.08.13 at 6:29 pm

The Internet supposedly lowers the barriers to entry for people who want to write new works, but it also can lead to a winner-take-all situation in which the people at the top get rewarded lavishly and the others not at all.

So much Twilight fan fiction, but only one Fifty Shades of Gray……

58

Henry 01.08.13 at 6:33 pm

Rich – your argument is so flagrantly, so wonderfully, and so extravagantly silly (hint: it’s actually OK to make personal recommendations based on your tastes, even when some people will do better and some worse as a result; second hint: “Henry Farrell” ≉ “The Internets” ) that I can’t imagine that even you would make it if you didn’t dislike me so much.

59

Kevin McDonough 01.08.13 at 6:35 pm

@56:”The problem comes when attention translates into success for a living person as opposed to a work — not artistic success, but the kind of success that determines whether someone can continue to write or not.”

Everyone: Stop giving attention to anyone living. Now.

60

Suzanne 01.08.13 at 6:50 pm

“Second, the assertion that to keep readers you need a new post every day is at best only half-true. Crooked Timber keeps readers and it doesn’t have a new post every day. Once a blog has an established audience it doesn’t matter what it does b.c people come to the blog to interact and talk with each other as much as with the posters. CT maintains a pretty high quality of posts but if it didn’t its audience would continue to be large b.c the commenters would just come to talk to each other.”

The key phrase being “once a blog has an established audience.” There are people who constantly check for new posts and have limited attention spans and unless you’re a blogger with a name established by writing somewhere else it does seem to be necessary to cater to such people to get that established audience – frequent posts, and not too many that are very long.

If CT went for too long without new material it would probably start to lose people. The pressure on a solo blogger like Slee to keep posting new stuff is considerable (and what sometimes happens is that the original blogger brings in people who aren’t nearly as good, apparently just to assuage the Internet appetite for new posts and keep people checking the page).

61

Rich Puchalsky 01.08.13 at 8:08 pm

I’m trying to find an alternate way to support Tom Slee — and other people like him — that doesn’t require that he, and everyone else, win the attention sweepstakes.

That doesn’t mean that people can’t recommend living people, no. It does mean that a way should be found to support people without having to make a case that they’re one of the best.

I have more to say about community support, probably a bit later.

62

AcademicLurker 01.08.13 at 8:15 pm

Joking in 57 aside I’m wondering whether fan fiction communities have any lessons in this regard. In terms of readership, an awful lot of stuff does seem to get read by reasonable (but not huge) numbers of people.

I suppose the fact that there’s no money involved limits what can be learned from them if “support” means “support in paying the rent”.

63

Rich Puchalsky 01.08.13 at 10:06 pm

“Rich, this may be a question that’s too broad to answer in this context, but I’m unable to picture the improvement to society that you’re proposing here.”

You might want to look at Tom Slee’s Online Monoculture and the End of the Niche. A quote: “Even word of mouth recommendations such as blogging links may exert a homogenizing pressure and lead to an online culture that is less democratic and less equitable, than offline culture.” Yes, even the activity that Henry presents as the most natural and most harmless apolitical thing in the world.

One way to protect these niches — if you decide that that is what you want to do — is to appeal to a community model of support rather than a meritocratic one. Actually there’s a whole lot of this that goes on already. If you want to get a grant from the local arts council, you have to live in the town or the state, and no one makes any pretense that you’re a better artist than all of the people living elsewhere. Within universities, the sciences try to keep up the idea that only the most promising research gets funded, no matter where it’s from, but most departments, including the humanities, more or less have a large entrance-to-the-community requirement after which you get funded no matter what. Even within areas dominated by the market, such as pop music, there’s often an attempt to appeal to people who like a local sound.

politicalfootball, you write that “I enjoy reading CT and comment here every now and then, but I don’t really identify myself as part of a “CT community”.” I suggest that there’s some aspect of your own behavior that doesn’t really fit. You’re clearly not on a hunt for the best stuff written, ever: if so, no one would read any blog. Perhaps there’s some aspect of topical chat that you’re interested in that doesn’t come under the same category as reading the best works ever? Sure, but in that case, it’s a preference that you’ve had for many years — at least, I remember comments of yours from years back — so you have an interest in “the kinds of things discussed at CT”, perhaps “in the manner discussed at CT”. How many years does this go before you say, hey, maybe I’m in a community? However defined.

Ideally, I’d like for everyone to get a guaranteed minimum wage, pretty much no matter what they do. This is nowhere near as utopian, outside the U.S., as prevailing U.S. opinion would make it seem. Then people could choose to write whatever they want if they could live on that minimum and not have to be concerned with winning the market. Failing that, I think an appeal to community support will sometimes work better than an appeal to meritocratic judgement. But this is getting too long now.

64

PM 01.08.13 at 10:28 pm

I read, but don’t post here a lot, but I have to say that Rich Pulchasky’s comments are among the most astounding exercises in self-parodying leftism that I’ve ever seen.

FWIW, I had not heard of Tom Slee before now (obviously I’ve been reading CT less attentively than I should have) but am eagerly reading through his archives. I haven’t eagerly read through anyone’s blog archives since “idiotarian” was a thing.

65

Witt 01.09.13 at 2:07 am

Or indeed read the title literally and think it’s a Libertarian screed in defence of Wal-Mart

FWIW, I had done exactly that until this thread.

66

LFC 01.09.13 at 3:52 am

a way should be found to support people without having to make a case that they’re one of the best

I think I agree with this particular statement of Puchalsky’s. And it’s true, as he says, that there are local arts councils that exist to fund local artists, not “the best” ones, etc.

But I’m not sure ‘community support’ vs. ‘meritocratic’ approaches has to be an either-or. Maybe there’s a place for both in different spheres. Reviewers of books, movies, and all manner of other cultural artifacts (for lack of a better word) are going to continue to use meritocratic, albeit often highly subjective, yardsticks and language. But there are serious writers and artists who manage to survive, whether in the market or outside it, without ever ‘winning’ the attention/meritocratic ‘game’.

The relation of art, broadly construed, to the market has been a vexed subject for a very long time, and I’m sympathetic to efforts to attenuate the degree to which the market has suffused the cultural/intellectual world. I remember reading, many years ago, of a novelist (don’t recall the name) who published a number of well-reviewed books but hadn’t been able to support himself and family on what he earned, and consequently committed suicide. I’ve remembered that because it seemed very sad.

67

tomslee 01.09.13 at 3:58 am

Decisiveness not being my long suit, I wrote a self assessment as a goad to New Year resolve; an attempt to deliver a needed kick up my own backside while being as realistic as subjectively possible. The gratifying response and concrete suggestions here have been much more effective goads to action. Many thanks to all, and particularly Henry for the post. I will try not to take away the message that whingeing in public is a good way to go.

The interaction between credentials and blogging seems complex. For me, just to clarify, I’m lucky to have a regular job that pays pretty well, so I’m not looking for credentials towards a career, more to gain some “platform” from which to reach wider audience. So I suspect my issues are different from those who have tried to use blogging and public writing as part of an effort to move up the academic ladder. It seems to me that credentials gained outside can translate into blogging audience, but the reverse is more rare because a blog has to be spectacularly successful, and verifiably so, to be something you can point to as an achievement. Aside: in the recent essay collection “The Reputation Society” – about how online reputation systems may make formal systems obsolete – each of the authors listed their formal academic or business credentials in their bio.

Between The Lines have got the digital rights to the book, as of last year, and I believe are moving as quickly as a small outfit can into that side of publishing. I’ve asked them for current purchasing information. I’ll post here if I hear back from them.

68

clew 01.09.13 at 4:16 am

The Assignation

Fame singing in the highways, and trifling as she sang, with sordid adventurers, passed the poet by.

And still the poet made for her little chaplets of song, to deck her forehead in the courts of Time: and still she wore instead the worthless garlands, that boisterous citizens flung to her in the ways, made out of perishable things.

And after a while whenever these garlands died the poet came to her with his chaplets of song; and still she laughed at him and wore the worthless wreaths, though they always died at evening.

And one day in his bitterness the poet rebuked her, and said to her: “Lovely Fame, even in the highways and the byways you have not foreborne to laugh and shout and jest with worthless men, and I have toiled for you and dreamed of you and you mock me and pass me by.”

And Fame turned her back on him and walked away, but in departing she looked over her shoulder and smiled at him as she had not smiled before, and, almost speaking in a whisper, said:

“I will meet you in the graveyard at the back of the Workhouse in a hundred years.”

(A. C. Swinburne)

69

clew 01.09.13 at 4:17 am

Note that Swinburne was nutty, and I hope for a more cheerful worldly strategy for tomslee.

70

LFC 01.09.13 at 4:53 am

tomslee @67
It seems to me that credentials gained outside can translate into blogging audience

That is precisely the supposition about which I expressed skepticism in my comment @9. However, I could be wrong and Tom Slee could be right, and it is probably hard to generalize about this. Might partly depend on what the credential is, where it’s from, etc. Might not. I just don’t know.

Occasionally in the short, rather unrevealing personal profile attached to my blog I’ve mentioned credentials, but usually I haven’t. However, mostly as a result of this thread I’ve added a mention of credential to the profile again. Of course my case is also different b.c I don’t blog under my full name (and, unlike T. Slee, I haven’t published a book). Also, I don’t esp. think the credential thing should make a difference and maybe that is coloring my perspective on whether it actually does.

71

politicalfootball 01.09.13 at 9:09 pm

Rich @63:

I recognize the problem that you’re describing here. I’m just unclear on your proposed solution. You’re describing a collective action problem, but you seem to fall prey to it yourself. After all, the post from Tom Slee was interesting and illuminating. Couldn’t you have picked something less effective and more obscure to illustrate your point?*

On other issues:

-The communities you describe are geography-based, and thus exist in the form you describe only because of natural barriers in the physical world. Each of those communities would prefer to have the Museum of Modern Art, but failing that, they still aim for meritocracy as best as they can manage. Midland City still tries to get Rabo Karabekian and Kilgore Trout to come to their arts festival. And let’s face it, Midland City sucks.

You’re clearly not on a hunt for the best stuff written, ever: if so, no one would read any blog.

“Best” is a more complicated concept than you allow here. A peer-reviewed scientific journal is “better” than a popular science tract, but I am often going to get more benefit from the latter. I bet I could easily come up with 10 different axes on which to measure the value of reading material.

Also, I’m not grasping the nature of your beef with Henry, who seems to be doing the exact thing here that you recommend. Surely there are more brilliant works available than Tom Slee’s, and there are definitely more mainstream works. Slee and Henry, however, are a part of the same internet community, and thus Slee’s work comes to Henry’s attention. When Mr. Slee becomes an international sensation, then I think you can lament his stardom. Maybe then you can accuse him of selling out, man, and tell people that you knew him when …**

*I know that reads like snark, but I think I’m being serious.
**Okay, that’s just snark.

72

uffy 01.10.13 at 3:56 am

There appears to be some good stuff bubbling under the surface here despite Mr. Slee’s less-than-ideal situation and the bickering comments. Namely, Say’s already nonsensical yet broadly (politically) applied law is becoming ever more problematic. Service sector labor, especially of the creative or even artistic variety, is dependent on demand conditions to an almost complete degree. Knowing ahead of time what particular creative output will prove to be valued by consumers of one sort or another is difficult or impossible and “productivity” can only be achieved if and when an appropriate market is found; there is not even a useless widget or a mis-tooled factory at the end of the day. These issues were an unfortunate but minor problem because creative and service labor had been such a small percent of the economy until fairly recently. Now it is within the realm of possibility that these types of labor will be all that remains beyond reach of eventual technological automation.

Basically, Mr. Slee’s “writing and studying/researching” appears to have failed in both the marketplace and even the so-called “marketplace” of ideas to a great degree but by no real fault of his own and in spite of an obvious talent/skill/knowledge/creativity. This predicament will increasingly befall members of our societies and we have not-many plans to ameliorate it. That he sees an academic post as his only real hope of making “it” work is telling and ominous.

If increases in productivity and wealth had been broadly shared among the participants in the economy then perhaps there would be a larger and more robust market for these types of creative labor. Over-borrowing for housing and education are symptoms of the same disease as well, as is the reliance of financial firms on government guarantees/subsidies. It’s not a pretty picture.

(My only solace is that health care is an issue that has more or less been figured out in the rest of the world so at least we are not in the dark on that one.)

73

Tom West 01.10.13 at 4:46 am

I think its important to understand that while pursuing credentials may increase the chance of becoming well-recognized for one’s efforts by a factor of ten, that’s changing the odds from 1 in 1000 to 1 in 100.

Like most things on the Internet (and ever more so off), the Power law of popularity and recognition holds sway. If you have 10 regular readers, you’re probably already well above the 50th percentile of blog popularity, 100 puts one easily in the top 1% and probably the top 0.1%. The trouble is that one is not semi-widely recognizable in any real sense until one is part of the top 0.001%

And yes, Tom Slee’s blog is excellent. I’ve added it to my reading list.

74

The Raven 01.10.13 at 7:35 am

somewhere upthread someone was commenting on how few copies No-one Makes You… has sold. Having done a bit of poking around, I can say that the book just hasn’t gotten distribution and marketing, and I think that, had a major publisher picked it up, it might have done better. This is a pitfall of small press publication; small publishers just can’t get the distribution.

I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t say more than that, but to judge by the comments and reviews, it’s a good book and deserves better.

Kraw…Tom, is there any hope that your publisher could do an ebook edition? If the book were in every major online market, I think you’d sell more copies, and your international sales would be better.

75

Phil 01.10.13 at 9:34 am

Like most things on the Internet (and ever more so off), the Power law of popularity and recognition holds sway.

When I was new to blogging and interested in stats, I started a series of blog posts dedicated to showing that

(a) when you graph blog popularity a power law distribution isn’t actually what you get

(b) or a “long tail” (it’s more of a “gappy fence”)

and more generally
(c) a chart showing a series of values in rank order is an incredibly simplistic representation of data and about the least informative way of doing it – although it does focus lots of attention on the “head” end of the chart, which is good for people who like cheering the winners.

I got about three posts in, then discovered that somebody had already done it better and at much greater length. Somebody being Tom Slee.

76

Rich Puchalsky 01.10.13 at 2:49 pm

“Also, I’m not grasping the nature of your beef with Henry”

The part of my comments that people objected to came after a reference to “efficiency”. If there are people who should be (rhetorically, of course) national treasures who instead labor in obscurity, that’s an efficiency problem in the sense that resources are being misallocated. Without any other reason for reallocation other than “this person is good”, it means a reshuffling of people within the pyramid: the good writer rises, some other less-good person falls.

OK, normally if someone wants to recommend someone in this way, who cares. But this is a thread about Tom Slee. Henry replied with exactly that unreflective this-is-how-it-is incredulity that people always reply with when they haven’t thought about this at all.

If you read through something like Tom Slee’s critique of _The Long Tail_, you see (as you put it): “The communities you describe are geography-based, and thus exist in the form you describe only because of natural barriers in the physical world.” There’s a bit about house music in Chicago, if I remember rightly. All right then, how to make an online community more like a physical community? The removal of those physical barriers is what the Internet is about. Maybe it can’t be done, and some other strategy is needed. But if it’s going to be done absent some technical change, it will presumably start rhetorically, with people bringing up the idea of communities and of support for people within them.

That is a model for influence, at least in the arts, and sometimes for intellectual communities as well. A group of people come together in some kind of discernible movement. Within the movement, people sort each other out by merit, of course, but there are a lot of movements, and thus more chances to be near the top of something. And people are much more disposed to support someone merely for their longstanding presence than they are in general society. Finally, some of the movements take off, either because they are suited to the zeitgeist or because of individually brilliant people within them, and everyone in the movement suddenly gets much more social influence than they’d otherwise have.

This isn’t rocket science. Poke around on most large blogs and you’ll eventually see an appeal of the form “Longstanding commenter / poster / fellow blogger X needs help”. How would this work on CT? Well, CT thinks of itself as being a meritocratic place where the best ideas are discussed, so there are some class barriers. AcademicLurker, upthread, found no objection to referring to fanfic communities, but of course that’s not for us, right? We’re engaged in the public sphere, not some kind of community, even through the range of things we talk about compared to the range of discourse is probably about the same as the people going on about Twilight.

In a purely meritocratic sense, I have my doubts about whether Tom Slee is ever going to get more than those 2000 readers. A book heavy on game theory, within a genre famed for its glib shallowness? Good luck. But if he became a signature writer that people who were “interested in things discussed on CT” often read, more and more of the links that happen from CT to elsewhere would include some kind of influence from his ideas. Right now DeLong linked to this with his Noted for January 10, 2013. (Just as my earlier mention of Les Erudits Maudits became a DeLong link, I think). But what if his ideas became part of CT’s style? Which it has, of course.

Henry’s original post hints at this with “CT readers should really go to some of the earlier posts he links to in the piece I excerpt above”. But it could be brought out a lot more explicitly. Do you like reading “the kinds of things discussed on CT”? Then you should read Tom Slee. Then you should come back here and discuss Tom Slee, and support him because our community supports him.

77

LFC 01.10.13 at 5:23 pm

uffy @72
That he [Slee] sees an academic post as his only real hope of making “it” work is telling and ominous.

Slee specifically said in his comment at 67 that he is not interested in an academic post, or at least that is not the main reason he is thinking about getting credentialed. Slee wrote at 67: “For me, just to clarify, I’m lucky to have a regular job that pays pretty well, so I’m not looking for credentials towards a career, more to gain some “platform” from which to reach a wider audience.”

78

The Raven 01.10.13 at 11:46 pm

tomslee@67: “…Between The Lines have got the digital rights to the book, as of last year…”

Shoulda kept my beak shut. Good luck with the electronic edition.

79

Guido Nius 01.11.13 at 9:00 am

@67: respect.

80

tomslee 01.19.13 at 12:37 pm

I received this information from Between The Lines Press:

As the originating publisher of Tom Slee’s book, we’d like to assure everyone that the book is very much in copyright, and should be available. Where it does show as unavailable to purchase new (i.e. Amazon.com) this is the result of data issues on which we are currently working. Such is the reality of being a small politically-oriented publisher working with behemoth online retailers.

In the US: the book is available new at B&N (though it displays an old cover we assure you it is the correct edition). Or, you can contact our office directly (info (at) btlbooks.com or 1-800-718-7201) and we’ll ship you a copy anywhere within North America.

Purchasers in the UK and Europe can order new copies directly through our UK distributor, Central Books (and support an independent distributor of books and magazines).

An ebook edition is being worked on and should soon be available. If you would like to be notified when it is available, please contact our office info (at) btlbooks.com or 1-800-718-7201. Thanks for your interest in No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart.

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