Jason Kottke’s year of blogging supported by reader donations has concluded. He raised $39,900 (most of it in the initial fund drive), wound up treating the blog as a 9-to-5 job rather than as a startup, and concluded that the model wasn’t sustainable for him. His site/blog will go on the back burner for a while. The reaction from some quarters, perhaps unsurpringly I suppose, has been a bit negative.

I’ve posted some of my thoughts to the metafilter thread, and they seem to me to be worthy of wider distribution. (The irony that comments in the metafilter thread will be seen by at least an order of magnitude more people than posts here, notwithstanding my intuitive sense that the Lab is “wider distribution,” is not lost on me.) Here are the relevant ones:

I donated. I was disappointed that the free-time-to-blog that the donations bought Jason didn’t result in more of a leap in what he was able to do with his site. I don’t feel betrayed; I don’t feel upset at him. He’s a profoundly decent guy who put honest and honorable effort into his blog; it just didn’t work out.

Bloggers, like whales, take their sustenance from what they swim through. Free time can undercut the freshness of a blog just as much as the lack of free time can. Either way, the fruitful combination of fresh thoughts and reflections on those thoughts doesn’t exist. (It’s no surprise that so many genuinely successful bloggers are journalists and academics — both groups whose ‘day jobs’ expose them to new facts and ideas constantly.) Jason’s quirkiness couldn’t flourish as well without the influx of inspiration. His analyses of weblogs were useful, but in the end they weren’t thinks that only he could have done.

I took some time “off” once, largely on my own dime, in the hopes I’d become a more productive writer and have more time to concentrate. The opposite happened; indeed, it nearly killed my blog for good. I donated in the hopes that Jason would do better. He did, to some extent — in the micropatron year was better than what it had been. I liked some of what he posted, found some uninteresting, some wrongheaded. But his heart wasn’t really in it, in a way that it appears he realized during the year and is quite apparent in his end-of-micropatronage announcement.

I, for one, wish him well in whatever comes next, and hope it involves something new and interesting to do with blogging.

And when it comes to the sense that Jason Kottke isn’t good enough, interesting enough, productive enough, original enough, or what-have-you enough when compared with others to deserve $39,000 in donations to blog for a year …

He’s the one who tried it. We won’t ever know how he’d stack up with others in a head-to-head fundraising competition, because almost no one else tried what he tried. Anyone could have drawn a moustache on the Mona Lisa; Marcel Duchamp did. JK was entrepreneurial enough to try a micropatronage year. Good for him.

And if it really had worked out fabulously and been the obvious proof that the model worked and could be repeated, well, then, his micropatronage wouldn’t be crowding out anyone else’s, and many of those more putatively deserving folks would be doing exactly the same thing too. In that it worked for him for the year, but not sustainably so, he wasn’t really taking anything from any of them.

Some of the posts in this thread share a subtext that: “We, the Internet community, were extracting X posts/day from Kottke, of average quality Y before he stuck out the tin cup. All of you who gave $30 gut suckered, because he produced X’ posts/day of average quality Y’ afterwards, where X and X’ are nearly equal and Y and Y’ are nearly equal.” That may be, but bloggers aren’t just stones to be squeezed for maximum productivity.

As against a baseline of nottke (nothing at all), I was happy to pay the $30 for a year of kottke. My contribution was one part thanks for what he’d done in the past, one part encouragement for him to do the same for another year, and one part encouragement for his plan to do more. On that view, perhaps, I didn’t get so much out of the last $10, but the $20 before that was money well spent.

The experiment was a very nice attempt at finding a model in which the monetary support for what he was doing did not commoditize the blogging. There are social issues with straight-up paying for content and with receiving content accompanied by ads. The former can make every post implicitly a bit of a sale; the latter can create the sense that the creator is beholden to the advertisers. The experiment was an interesting attempt to frame the support in a way that made both what he did and we did feel like freely-given gifts. That it didn’t work out is a bit of sad news for everyone hoping that noncommercialized parts of the new information society can be supported without propertization.