To Blog or Not To Blog

By Cam Mather

Many months ago someone asked me where he could buy precious metals in Ottawa. I didn’t know off the top of my head, so I surfed around looking for a coin store. Afterwards, no matter where I surfed on the internet, ads for stores in Ottawa who want to buy my gold and silver would pop up! So the creepy following technology is kind of good, but not perfect. It’s in the ballpark.

Then about a month ago I decided to purchase a chainsaw grinder/sharpener and I wanted to research my options. While I was researching I found a very cool battery-powered electric chainsaw from Oregon. I was quite excited because about half of my woodcutting is now done with an electric chainsaw, but I don’t have an extension cord long enough to follow me into our 150 acres. I might be able to rig up a battery and inverter on a sled, but it sounds like a lot of work. And if this December is any indication of our future thanks to climate change, there may not be much snow on the ground to drag a sled around.

Now wherever I go on the internet I see ads for the Oregon battery-powered chainsaw. It doesn’t matter what site I’m on, if there are ads, they are usually for that product. It’s kind of amazing and kind of creepy. Like this chainsaw is stalking me! Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we put the brainpower that we invest in things like internet data mining into solving climate change.

I used to sell advertising so I get the whole “ads pay for content” concept. And I’m actually impressed to see how many news agencies are starting to move to an internet model that charges for their content. I’m not sure that there are any sites out there that I’d be willing to pay for a subscription to on an ongoing basis, but it’s something I will have to look at as some of my favorite sites shut me out.

I use Wikipedia quite often as a starting point when I am researching something. While I realize that you cannot completely trust their sources, I usually go there to find links to find good sources. During their recent campaign to stay ad free and independent we gave them a few bucks. It only seemed fair. Hopefully someone is working there to make sure the information is reasonably impartial and people like the comedy writers on “30 Rock” aren’t just putting up goofy stuff.

This brings me back to our blog. I began writing blogs as a way to direct traffic to our website and publicize our books, but it has grown from there. It is a great outlet for my inner demons and serves as a cheap therapist. “And how did that make you feel Cam?” “Well here, let me tell you about the idiots and morons who…” That sort of thing …

We have acquired a wonderful community of blog readers and subscribers. We get lots of comments and feedback and I have often used the information that others have shared with us over the years. We recently offered our books at a special price and some of our readers responded with orders. Thank you again to everyone who has purchased our books and DVDs over the years. We are truly grateful.

We are starting to toy with adding advertising to the blog. We know it’s crass and commercial but these blogs can take a surprising amount of time. I write them, Michelle edits them to make them more coherent and then she posts them on 4 different locations. We often take the time to add photos too. We pay for domain renewals and hosting for 2 of these sites. We’ve held off on using advertising on our blog for a few reasons. Many blogs are covered in so many ads that they are distracting and annoying. Also, it’s hard to have control over what shows up in the ads and I’d be worried that someone might think that I was recommending the product being advertised.

I’d appreciate hearing your thoughts on advertising on blogs.  Or you can pretend I’m one of those people on PBS during pledge week and you can show your support by making a donation. There’s a Donation button along the right-hand side of cammather.com. If you enjoy our content please consider making a donation, big or small. You can consider it a “Vote” against putting ads on the blog. And now we’ll get right back to our special PBS “Upstairs Downstairs Masterpiece Theater Moody Blues Concert” that we only show when we’re asking for donations.

In the meantime I wish everyone the best of the season. We will be celebrating the winter solstice here on Sunflower Farm. When you power your home with the sun, reaching the solstice when the days start to get longer, is a pretty big deal. I am greatly looking forward to having my daughters and my future son-in-law home over the holidays. It’s hard to not to be in a funk right now, from the craziness in Connecticut to the lack of wintry weather. We are experiencing the warmest December on record here with no snow in site. Most days it is above zero. The little precipitation we get comes as rain and it’s gross. I guess this shouldn’t be surprised since 2012 will go down as the warmest year on record. Sigh.

Shortly I will begin trying to escape from this reality with excessive quantities of way too decadent food including much whipped cream, which I shouldn’t eat, but I will anyway! I’ll distract myself by sharpening some chainsaw chains with my awesome new electric chainsaw sharpener. You know … the one I am hoping to get. Yea, that’s it. The one that I hope is in that big box at the back of the tree. The kind of gift the guy in the red suit often brings, from him to me. Oh, I can only hope I get that this year! But it may not happen. It’s just wrong to buy yourself gifts, even if they are incredibly practical and will pay for themselves many times over. Nope, not me, I’d never do that.

Xmas 2011

Photo from Christmas 2011

Happy Holidays from Sunflower Farm!

15 Responses to “To Blog or Not To Blog”

  • […] and getting a bargain. I guess I was the worst for getting new stuff. As discussed in a previous blog post, there were two main items on my wish list. I’m confident that they were both purchased at a 50% […]

  • Dear Cam

    I don’t mind the adds at all – but I agree with some of the comments above – please select judiciously – I have bought some books from pop up adds but then I am an addicted book buyer. Someetimes ads will create a curiosity in me and I will start to explore related topics on the web.

    I will keep on reading yours and Michelle’s blogs

  • Merry Christmas to you and your family
    I enjoyed the work party at the warehouse and have ten wonderful books for holiday gifts.
    I’m grateful for all of your dedication in blogging,,I look forward to reading each one of them.
    I’m not in with the advertising adds,,I find them very intrusive and annoying,,
    I do understand that you must do what is needed to move forward.
    I don’t know if I would continue to receive the blog with the pop up adds?
    I can’t make a donation at this time but I will do my best to budget in a little something in the new year.
    God Bless You and Merry Christmas

  • Renny:

    Ads won’t bother me, but you should ultimately have veto power over their content…you know which ones I mean. Merry Christmas! What, no skates for the dog?

  • I think ads make sense. Your readers don’t seem to object. People come for the blog posts. Some ads are not going to hurt anything. You could also feature a different book or product of your own each month to call attention to them. As a long time reader, I already know about them – but many people who just stumble onto the site through luck or google searches won’t realize you have them.

  • Lorna:

    Happy Holidays, Cam and Michelle!

    I agree about the weather funk; this is our first year back ‘north’ and we were so hoping for a white Christmas. Instead, we have plenty of green grass???? And though we’re not used to these temps anymore and are running around all bundled up, I’ve seen people out and about in shirt-sleeves. Perhaps this is our new normal? My fingers are crossed 2013 brings real action and change on the global warming front.

  • Debbie E.:

    I voted with the button also, but I won’t go if you need to do ads. As a writer also, I know how much goes into writing an article, blog, etc, so you have my complete and empathetic understanding. Merry Christmas and blessings for a wonderful New Year~

  • Hi Dave!
    Yes, we did receive your emails about the books and we did respond a few times but never heard back. When I didn’t hear back I went ahead and sent a PayPal request on November 30 but did not hear back from that either. I will resend the PayPal request so keep an eye out for it. Perhaps the previous one went into your SPAM box. Sorry about that! Email is great, except when they go missing…..

  • Dave W:

    Cam,

    It’s your blog. It’s your call. I’ll still keep reading.

    BTW, I sent two emails asking about books. Little House off the Grid was one and there was another. Check your spam filters please

  • william:

    Hey Cam I have an electric chain sharpener that I bought at TSC about 8 months ago.I could not understand the instructions to set it up,so never used it.It was on sale at half price about $100.00
    I would be happy to give it to you if you like as I am going to buy the hand one that Lee Valley sells.We are not far apart and I would be happy to drop off in T.O on my next trip there.I will always have my files on hand for back up though.Billy

  • Rita:

    Ads don’t bother me too much. I am pretty focused on what I came to a site for. I agree there are sites which have too many ads and those are distracting. I have never bought something from an ad I saw on a website. My purchases result from my own searches, so I am not a good candidate for the stalking ads. By the time they know I like “product A”, I have either already bought it or decided not to. So the ads are moot. I understand your need for compensation for something that takes a significant portion of your time. If you are writing for free, that is lost time for farming and providing for you and your fam. I have several of your books and dvds and I have donated in the past when I was more flush. But this year I do not have any extra funds to share. I am sorry. So, if ads on your site will allow me to continue to live on your farm vicariously…then please gets some ads! :)I look forward to your emails telling me there is another chapter ready to read. Please keep them coming! Oh and if you continue to have such a mild winter, remember that you will probably get a plague of insects come summer. Good luck with that. Thank you again for sharing your joys and struggles!! Happy Holidays.

  • I use a mail server with my own domain but often not long after I am corresponding with someone who has a gmail address about a topic that involves buying something (bed linens being a recent example) suddenly ads for that type of thing start appearing on web sites I visit. “It” is clearly harvesting email accounts for info and then, even more creepy, not only forcing adds on the person with the gmail account but also the other correspondent too! How this is technically possible I do not know.

    Well, I heard CBC Radio2 has an application in to the CRTC to allow limited ads on its morning and/or afternoon drive shows, so I guess you have every right to as well. Either that or maybe you should develop your own paid area… you know, priviledged access to Cam’s inner mind, preferences and opinions not fit to share with the broader public audience 😉

    From my blog to yours, Merry Christmas!

  • Neil B. Orleans:

    Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you, Cam, Michelle and family.
    I had a small injury (fell off my roof after putting up Christmas lights) which gave me time to finally read “Little House off the Grid”. What a GREAT story of your lives and very practical information about living off the grid.
    You and Michelle are an inspiration to all of us on living sustainably.
    Following your example, the way I live my own life now is so different (which is a good thing) compared to a few years ago. Obviously I use less water and hydro but even simple things like using less or no paper towels to dry my hands (pants work great) and less toilet paper, don’t flush every time, riding a bike more, a lot less shopping and doing my own repairs (such as a new roof on my house going from R15 to R50). Do half my heating with wood now, grow some of our own food and do a little expansion each year.
    So in this time of negative news, you both are positive inspirations.

    From the bottom of my heart,
    THANK YOU!!
    P.S. I will be voting with the button on the side.

  • Dave V:

    I think you should go for the ads. I’ll keep coming around! Most of my favorite blogs have ads. The way I figure it, who can spend time making wonderful blog posts if they see no benefit!

  • Gerrit Botha:

    Cam and Michelle

    I made a small donation, but you should do with the ads what you think is best. I won’t mind the ads. Best wishes to you and yours. Happy Holidays!

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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