A Long Overdue Update
As some of you probably noticed, I've been pretty absent for nearly a month. I apologize for that. First we had a move that ended up sucking a lot more time than expected. That was the main time suck, but closely after that several other personal events happened and it really just drained me for time. I had actually been planning this blog post before everything started demanding my attention so it fell by the wayside, but now that things are slowly starting to get back to normal, I figure this would be a great way to resume things. A while back, I stated that I would be relegating The New Oil to a slightly less important role in my life due to a sheer lack of time constraints. That is still the case, but I've made a number of significant changes in that regard that I wanted to clue supporters into.
Note: this blog post is one of those “behind the scenes” updates. If you're here for reviews or general privacy stuff, feel free to skip this one and tune in next weekend.
Let's start with the most important change: I've made a few big changes to the site. Namely, I've added recommendations for both search engines and data removal services. For search engines, there seems to be a plethora of options available these days – pros and cons to each, as with most things – and I've long wanted to more formalize my recommendations and thoughts on those. The data removal table is entirely new. In the past, I've been a huge fan of manually removing your data, but that was a recommendation I had back when I was a freelancer and I could easily just decide to clear a week of my schedule to do that. Now that I work a more traditional 9-5 job, I realize how laughably ridiculous that is to ask of the average person. Of course, manual is still the most effective way, but there's plenty of valid room for using an automated service. (As usual, I cover all of this nuance on the site.) Here's where I could use some community support however: I don't actually have criteria for either of these new tables, and I want to. Criteria helps me keep the site as objective as possible and fair to the services that I do and don't list. I'm having a hard time figuring out what my criteria should be for both of these categories. If you have any idea for objective criteria I can add to help keep these recommendations trustworthy, objective, and in-keeping with the vision of this site, please reach out and suggest them.
The second change may or may not be live by the time you're reading this, but I hope to have it up this week, no later then then end of the month: translations. Many of you have long volunteered to help me translate the site. In the past I've struggled with the most effective way to do so. After watching Privacy Guide's use of Crowdin – and investigating it myself – I have decided this is probably the best way forward. (For those who are about to contact me asking “have you heard of Weblate?” my response is “have you actually used Weblate?” It's very user-unfriendly.) So for those of you who are bilingual and wish to help translate TNO into your native tongue, your help would be very appreciated! If the language you're looking to translate to isn't available, just contact me and I can add it.
Okay, let's talk about the other big changes, mainly around monetization efforts. As I've stated many times before, I would love to do The New Oil full time (so long as I can do so ethically without selling out my values or the vision of the site). After seeking some reader feedback a while ago, here's what I've settled on for ways to do so:
Normally I try to stay at least somewhat professional when I write these posts, but I'm afraid I'm going to get a little biased for just this section: Odysee is a terrible platform. From top to bottom, whether it's spreading disinformation or simply the imbalanced ratio of hateful, vitriolic comments, Odysee is pure toxic waste. I have received dozens of angry, negative comments on Odysee about my appearance over the years, while I've gotten maybe 10% of that same amount on YouTube. There's a reason most people are on Odysee: they got rightfully kicked off YouTube for being extremist assholes. If you're one of the 10% of people who's genuinely there because you like shitcoins or hate YouTube, congratulations! You're a tiny minority swimming in a deep brown sea! I encourage you to find a new home before you wake up one day and go “oh, I'm being grouped in with the worst people the internet has to offer and I'm not actually like that.” This is not a unique take, either. Techlore recently nuked comments for his channel for the same reason, The Linux Experiment actually straight-up left Odysee this weekend on account of it being a shithole, and even reputable sources have documented Odysee's problematic (to put it diplomatically) audience. I've personally met many a creator who say they only mirror to Odysee as a backup, and honestly I only started mirroring because many of my fans were asking for it and I didn't really know anything about it at the time. If I knew then what I know now, I never would've signed up. (And just to be clear for those wondering, no, I don't really care what you think of my appearance, but when the spread of your video comments is literally 50/50 between “here's my thoughts on your actual content – good or bad” and “bruh what the fuck is wrong with your ears?” – usually peppered in with a healthy dose of sexism, racism, or just general hate – you just get sick of hearing it.)
All that to say: I have made comments on Odysee a paid feature. Do I actually want you to pay for it? Not really. I'd rather you get off Odysee and go somewhere else, like our official PeerTube instance (just for one example). But here's my logic: first off, requiring trolls to pay to insult me is a win-win. Either they can pay me $5 to make fun of my piercings, or they can shut the hell up. Either way I benefit. Second, it's still free to contact me with your feedback, it just takes 3 extra clicks: 1) go down to the video description and click the link to TheNewOil.org, 2) click “Links,” 3) click your preferred email address and it'll open right up for you to send me whatever's on your mind. I read every single email and even this extra 5 seconds of effort has already filtered out every single one of these comments. Apparently even the most vitriolic of haters don't care enough to make this minimal effort (not that I'm complaining). And finally, third: to be 100% honest, I don't want to hear from people who aren't invested in my project. If I may digress for a moment, this is not a new policy, though I've never really publicly disclosed it before.
You see, a couple years ago, when The New Oil experienced our first big popularity boost, I noticed a sudden shift in the kinds of replies I was getting on Mastodon and Twitter. Whereas before it had been thoughtful commentary on the articles being posted, it had now grown to include two types of other responses: noise and invalid criticims. Noise would be – to be totally frank – pretty much anything I don't care about. This generally means comments that are dumb, without nuance, pointless, or overly negative (and for the record, I'm a very cynical person. If I'm calling something “overly negative,” that's really saying something). I regularly saw comments like “Windows/Mac is spyware,” “lol anyone who uses [service/product that just got hacked] deserves to be hacked,” and “I quit using [insert invasive service like Facebook] years ago.” The middle comment is just hateful and inconsiderate toward the uneducated, like blaming a toddler for not having learned math yet. The last comment, while technically okay, is just draining. Good for you, but nobody cares. The first comment, while rooted in some truth, is without nuance or forgiveness and hyperbolic to the point of making me physically sigh just thinking about it. To put it simply, all these comments add up and get purely exhausting. It literally becomes exhausting to read dozens of posts like these. It's like listening to your small child talk incessantly all day: you're tired, you need a shower, and you just don't care what they have to say. It's irrelevant anyways. The second category of posts – invalid criticisms – concerned people who would endlessly nitpick my work no matter what I did. One person I've since muted used to endlessly harangue me for listing DuckDuckGo as a search option and would routinely link a single old Lemmy post with a bunch of circumstantial, “personal opinion” arguments for why DDG was a bad company. (Note: I have since come around to stop recommending DuckDuckGo for reasons unrelated to that post or person.) Another was upset I allowed the use of the word “hacker” in headlines. Initially I agreed with them, but they still complained after I left the word unchanged when talking about state-sponsored hackers, as if I should be the arbiter of which governments are and aren't acting illegally. To go back to what I said earlier: it gets exhausting. I am by no means perfect. I have changed content on the site many times when presented with new information or persuasive arguments and will no doubt do so in the future. But these are people who will not be happy until I've decided only to list their obscure onion-only search engine that nobody's ever heard of or until I'm pushing their narrative. And then one day, I realized that neither of these people even followed my account. So I solved the problem with two clicks: on both platforms, I went into the settings and clicked the button to only get notifications from people who follow my account.
This was years ago, but the effect was immediate and lingers to this day: from then on, the vast majority of responses I got were more similar to the original responses I used to get: thoughtful, topical, and engaging. And before you ask, no. Not all of the people who follow me are brown-nosers, and that's not what I want. I still get people calling me out for posting questionable content or being wrong. That's great! I want that! But those are people who are following the project, and clearly have even the slightest interest in making The New Oil better, seeing it improve, and helping it become the best version of itself it could possibly be. That's what made the difference. To this day I still get “noise” comments, but they're far fewer and they're easier to digest when I know it comes from people who are genuinely interested in the project and not just “reply-guy”ing to whatever they happened to stumble upon on the internet. And this brings us back to Odysee: I want all kinds of comments, not just ones that affirm me or stroke my ego. Yes, the encouraging ones are great. They're wonderful and they keep me motivated. But the gentle corrections are also necessary and I want those, too. Even my haters have made good points once or twice. But I cannot – and will not – stand the noise or the vitriol of those who are not invested in seeing this project succeed in massive volumes, and unfortunately that's what Odysee has been for me non-stop: an unusually high amount of people who come to nitpick irrelevant things because they apparently have no hobbies. Everyone is entitled to their opinion – even if that opinion is wanting to see me fail or express how dumb you think I look – but that doesn't mean I have to sit there and listen to the abuse. Go cry to someone else. This is why I have made comments a paid feature on Odysee: to filter out the people who are not invested in helping me succeed. I know this was not a popular decision. So far nobody has taken me up on it. That's fine. As I said earlier, I don't expect you to and honestly I'd rather you not give Odysee your money. My emails are always open. But at least I got the drive-by vitriol to stop, and that has freed up massive swaths of my emotional and mental health to focus on other things that are actually useful and helping people (aka “all my other work at TNO when not reading hateful comments written by morons”). It's really hard to impress upon you, dear reader, how much these types of comments and responses really weigh a person down, even at my tiny level. Even the miniscule amount of attention I get is exhausting when it's a constant barrage of noise and invalid criticisms. If you want to leave Odysee comments, show me that your comments are coming from a place of “I want to see you get better.”
Or better yet, just email me and pick a different platform for support, cause honestly finding out The Linux Experiment left Odysee has dramatically moved the needle for me toward the “fuck it and walk away with both middle fingers in the air” end of the spectrum. And again, if you're one of the tiny minority who's not a dirtbag on Odysee for some unrelated reason, then my comments were not aimed at you. But seriously, reconsider.
Okay, back to my usual self and thanks for those who stuck with me: I have also implemented a paid subscription feature for YouTube. Unlike Odysee, I cannot force all comments on YouTube to require payment. I'm not sure if I even would, to be honest. I don't suffer from nearly the same level of ad-hominem attacks and noise on YouTube that I did on Odysee and Mastodon/Twitter. However, I always want to give supporters the opportunity to easily support me if they want to. It's important to me that people don't feel pressured to support me – which is why I never paywall content – but I do want to make it easy for those who wish to do so. And that's why I've rolled out this new membership on YouTube. Right now I have two tiers: a $3 tier that gives you a special badge in the comments, and a $5 tier that gives you early access to videos (more on that in the Patreon section). Again, truthfully this is not something I expect viewers to take advantage of, but as stated I wanted to offer a frictionless way for those who may already be using the YouTube support ecosystem to lend me some support if they feel so inclined. (Truth be told, it's weird how many people replied to my “I'm enabling monetization” video with “I already pay for YouTube Red.” So this is kind of more for those people.)
This is perhaps the biggest change: I've added a Patreon. This was something I've agonized over quit a bit. I don't like Patreon. I think they're a garbage company who makes poor decisions – like charging fans the transaction fees instead of the creators or firing their entire security team – but unfortunately I searched high and low did not find any comparable platform or way to easily recreate the experience. If you know of a more privacy-respecting alternative – that's not overrun by reality-deniers and white supremacists (not looking for another Odysee experience, thanks) – please let me know. Otherwise this is the only choice I have at the moment. Once again, I want to impress upon readers that I don't expect people to give me money, but I think I've made this one pretty compelling actually. For starters, my Patreon only charges you when I actually release paid content. This is huge to me. As stated in previous blog posts, the demands on my time have simply become too great and I can't commit to putting out two or even one video(s) consistently per month. That's actually why I never offered an “early access” perk before: more often than not, I was staying up late Monday night to put the finishing touches on my videos before publishing them at midnight – and often still not getting them out until Tuesday evening (or sometimes later). With such limited time, it was unreasonable to promise people early access. But now that I'm putting out content when I'm able, I can promise early access – but I also needed to be sure that I wasn't charging patrons on months when I was overwhelmed and slow to put out content. So this seems like a perfect solution. You only get charged when I put out content, and you get early access. I also offer Discord benefits like a special badge and Patron room, plus discounts on merch, so you're really getting more than you're paying for. On some months, there will be no content at all, but I hope those will be rare going forward. On the most productive months, I can't imagine putting out more than 3 videos. I'd like to aim for 2, but realistically even that will probably be rare. If I can get to regularly doing one video per month, I'd call that a win. Aside from the problems with Patreon as a company, personally I think this is really the ideal situation. And – since I'm already offering early access to YouTube members – I will be accomplishing my early access videos via PeerTube, so you can still somewhat respect your privacy on that front without having to use YouTube.
This is a recent development (but predates this blog post), but I have two blogs: write.as and Substack (linked above). The Substack was added at the request of a few readers – admittedly hesitantly, largely influenced by my experiences with Odysee, but so far Substack has not proved to be a drain on myself – mentally or emotionally – or my time commitments. It's actually surprisingly smooth, though I do have to manually crosspost. At the moment, I charge for comments on Substack – mostly as a preemptive repeat of my Twitter/Mastodon/Odysee philosophy – and posts become paywalled after two weeks (they are forever free over at write.as, so don't worry, you'll always have access to them). After giving it some thought, I'm going to start reversing this trend: posts will be paywalled at first for early access, then made public and shared on write.as. This is basically the same take on the “early video access” thing, but for blog posts. I know I've been a bit slacking on blog posts lately, largely because of the move but admittedly not entirely because of that. Moving forward, it should be relatively easy for me to have a post out a day or two early on Substack, so this should be a worthwhile subscription with consistent content. Again, it's important to me that you get what you're paying for.
What Stayed The Same
And finally, just to reassure people: nothing has gone away that was existing before this update. The merch store still exists – and I'm currently adding more accurate shipping rates on a per-country basis. If there's a type of merch you'd like to see, please let me know. Open Collective is here to stay, as is Liberapay. I recently added PayPal. I know it's not great for privacy but it may be more user-friendly for newcomers. Bitcoin and Monero are still options, as is tipping with Brave. And believe it or not, we actually accept almost every form of cryptocurrency via Now Payments. Finally, we still have our affiliate links in case you want to sign up for a service we recommend and still support us in the process: a win-win for both of us. We've recently added Nitrokey, so you can buy things like pre-flashed Graphene phones, pre-installed Qubes devices (which I personally will be buying going forward cause god am I tired of trying to get Qubes to play nice with various devices), and more.
TL;DR: I've added a ton of ways to help support The New Oil using whatever mechanism is easiest for you and most aligns with what you want out of a support method. If you think I've missed something – a platform or a perk – feel free to suggest it. I may not be able to accommodate, but it's also possible I just haven't thought of it. And of course, free methods of support are still – as always – highly valued and appreciated: watching videos, reading blog posts, sharing with friends, leaving comments, and leaving feedback to help me improve. The New Oil has grown tremendously and all your feedback really does help make it better. I'm only one person.
Oh and one last note for anyone who missed the memo: our Twitter is no longer monitored. I don't even log in. It plainly says so in the bio. Twitter and Odysee are in the same boat in terms of types of feedback I have to wade through (although Twitter has provably been limiting my reach ever since Musk took over and started adjusting the algorithms) and I have better things to expend my mental energy on. Connect with us elsewhere.
Thanks for all the support thus far. Expect a new blog post next weekend and new videos hopefully later this month.