Roundup of Russia Stuff

I’m writing this from an Internet café in Seattle, so I’ll be brief.

(1) Congratulations to SWSPires – the winner of the promised $25 Amazon gift certificate for participating in The Russia Debate during its first month! Incidentally, he was only the sixth member to be drawn by lot from the members pool; it’s just that the others had no posts (as of yet) to their names. And to be in the running, you needed to have made at least one post, in addition to registering.

(2) If you are a Russia expert (or just curious), please feel free to join the 2013 World Russia Forum in Washington DC this June 11th. It will be located at The Russian Cultural Center:

1825 Phelps Place Northwest
Washington, DC 20008

The theme for this year will be “the role of NGOs, Public Diplomacy, and Media in formulating the agenda for US – Russia political, educational and cultural cooperation.” That is, soft power, which we’ve discussed here of late. The Russian Spectrum ties in with this well and will be the main focus of my representation.

(3) Speaking of The Russian Spectrum – I’m on a “working holiday” of sorts, so I will not be doing any translations until I return on June 25.

I’m now quite happy with the site as it exists and functions, and I’m sure its “base” is now firm enough to support significant scaling up. That is not, however, within the capabilities of one person. It needs at least one more editor and regular contributors for it to start offering something resembling comprehensive coverage, from all slivers of the spectrum. And for that it needs financing.

That is going to be my priority orientation for the next weeks and months.

The Russian Spectrum: An Inosmi In English

You’ve had to wait too long for this.

But it is finally here. The Russian Spectrum – translating everything worth translating from the Russian media.

russian-spectrum-screenshot

I’ll keep it brief.

(1) We need translators! If you can proficiently translate from Russian into English, I will be very happy to have you on board.

First, the bad news:

  • You’re not getting paid, as I’m currently running the site out of my own pockets and spare time.

Ouch! That’s pretty bad. What’s the good news, then?

  • Each post has the translator’s name attached to it, allowing you to quickly build up an online portfolio of your work (e.g. here’s mine).
  • Hundreds of daily readers from the get go! Vast publicity! Or at least more publicity than they’d get if you post your translations in various discussion threads with hundreds of comments. (you know who you are…)))
  • As I’m not paying the piper, you get to call the tune: Translate what you like, when you like, however often you want to.
  • Let the world know about the diversity of the Russian media, and points of view that are ignored in the Western media.
  • Get paid after all! Well, as soon as I get funding, which I honestly think is more likely than not. Loyal, reliable, and competent volunteers will get first dibs on any paid positions.

If you are interested, please contact me and I will make you a Contributor account at The Russian Spectrum. You’ll be ready to go in no time.

(2) Explore the site! There are already 36 translations of the site. Some of them you will be familiar with from here, but almost half are unique to The Russian Spectrum. Furthermore, my aim is to add at least two translations a day, with output set to expand if volunteers join in.

(3) While I don’t like to beg, and usually don’t – at least not on my regular blogs – I will make an exception for The Russian Spectrum. To ensure the reliability and security needed to foster its smooth growth and development, I decided to go with the best hosts and software for a small media organization. Total projected costs for a year at its present scale are on the order of $400.

So to cut to the chase, yes, I’d appreciate some change. Thank you.

The English Inosmi: The Russophere vs. The Russian Spectrum

Another day, another Internet project.

Or more specifically, reviving an old project – the “English Inosmi” concept of translating articles and blog posts from the Russian media for a Western audience. The only problem was that I was perpetually dissatisfied, even if at a subconscious level, with the name: RossPress*. An elementary problem which I had somehow overlooked was that the double “s” is simply incorrect. And “RosPress.com” is already taken.

But apart from that, I was focusing my efforts not so much on translation, as on getting funding. Which isn’t all that easy for some random guy with a blog. It’s much easier if you also have a random NGO, but setting up said NGO is quite a lengthy procedure. So while that’s in process I thought I might as well restart work on the site and even offer a few translations. At the least, it would tie in well with The Russia Debate**.

russian-spectrum-poll

But I still need a good name for it.

The RussoSphere: Solid, distinctive name – less than 2,000 Google hits on it, amazingly. Logo can be of a “sphere” with images of Russian newspaper front pages wrapped around it.

The Russian Spectrum: Another solid name that sounds respectable as a newspaper name, while at the same time alluding to its mission – translations from a wide variety of ideological viewpoints***.

Right now I’m slightly leaning towards The RussoSphere.

* Sorry Craig.

** You don’t know what is The Russia Debate? It’s a forum for discussing Russian politics and history. Come, comment, conquer!

*** Unlike the recent “Interpreter mag,” which as Nils van der Vegte rightly points out might as well call itself “The Interpreter of Novaya Gazeta.”

The Russia Debate – The New Forum For Russia Watchers

I submit that the Russia watching community has no shortage of opinionated blogs, mercenary “information projects,” and warring factions of “CIA jackals” and “Kremlin bots.” What it greatly lacks, however, is a neutral, well-moderated meeting ground where a diversity of voices could engage in free and vigorous debates about all aspects of Russian politics, economics, and history.

In other words, it needs a forum, and as nobody else seems willing, I am happy to step step up to the plate with The Russia Debate.

RD-ForumSnapshot

Getting a forum going isn’t the easiest thing in the world, so just in case the excitement of political debate and settling in virgin online territory isn’t enough for you, anybody who makes at least one post at The Russian Debate throughout the rest of this month will be placed in a random drawing for the following prizes:

  1. A $25 Amazon gift certificate.
  2. Five separate vouchers for a free copy – in print or digital – of my upcoming book THE DARK LORD OF THE KREMLIN (scheduled for publication this October).

So, go ahead, check it out, create an account, and start populating the boards with your arguments and ideas. There are already ongoing active discussions about the Israeli strike on Syria and the May 6th rally. Looking forwards to seeing you there!

 

DLotK Progress: The Chapters

Just to confirm that progress on DARK LORD OF THE KREMLIN is in full swing, with about 40% of the first draft done. I am aiming for publication around October.

Here are the chapter titles to whet your appetites – as you can see, I spare no tired trope when writing about the Putin kleptocracy. 🙂 If it’s 40% done, that also means four of the ten chapters. Try to guess which ones.

Intro: “If It’s About Russia, It’s True”
1. The KGB Colonel
2. Mafia State
3. Kremlin Media
4. Potemkin Russia
5. Caviar Roads
6. The Dying Bear
7. Neo-Soviet Revanchism
8. Stalin Worship
9. Crimes of the Regime
10. Russia and the West

PS. It will also need a front cover. I’m thinking of something flippant like Putin riding a shark Nazgul steed in front of the Kremlin. If you have graphic design moxie please feel free to contact me, we can discuss price.

Book Review: Matt Forney – Confessions of an Online Hustler

Confessions of an Online Hustler by Matt Forney, published in 2013. See the Amazon version of this review. Rating: 4/5.

confessions-of-an-online-hustler-matt-forneyLet’s get one thing straight right off the bat: This book isn’t for the casual reader. Despite the title, it’s not a “life interest” story with a morass of prurient and scandalous details, nor is it a deep social or philosophical commentary. It is very specifically written for those who want to grind a living from online writing and punditry (especially those who write on controversial subjects like HBD and feminism, as does Matt Forney). If that doesn’t describe you, I can’t in good conscience recommend you buy this book. On the other hand, if you enjoy writing and wish to make a living as an iconoclastic blogger, then this book will definitely add much value and save you a lot of trouble.

Much of the book is taken up with the technical details of setting up a WordPress blog and publicizing it. As someone who has been blogging for 5 years and counting, I can testify that this book has an accurate and succinct summary of all the most important things you need to bear in mind. You can find the same information for free elsewhere, but the problem is that the Internet has a low signal to noise ratio – it will take time, and may well lead you down dead ends. Why not fork up the equivalent of an hour’s worth of a minimum wage job and spend a single evening’s reading time to avoid going through all that?

But at least to me the most interesting and original part was Matt’s (well, not entirely his, but he refined it) concept of “tiered blogging.” I have come to much the same conclusions on my own, if via annoying and costly errors, but it was great to see it so lucidly formulated and systematized. Here’s the lowdown. A Tier-3 blog is an everything-that-interests-me kind of blog, where you post whatever the fuck you feel like. The problem is that unless you develop a cult of personality, like Tucker Max, then you’re not going to get massive amounts of traffic (or money) through that alone. But you will notice that some posts of yours are going to get a much better response than others. Say, to take my own example, while most readers couldn’t care less for my ramblings on Human Biodiversty and dog pictures at AKarlin, a great many of them are interested in reading my ramblings on Russia. So I create a far more narrowly specialized Tier-2 blog like Da Russophile that is specifically about Russia just for them. This audience is much more homogeneous than my AKarlin audience – they, at least, are all interested in Russia at a minimum, whereas the AKarlin folks may be interested in HBD, dog pictures, professionally trolling me, and any combination thereof.

Once you get your Tier-2 hustle going, you can start thinking of making money. But it’s not as simple as putting up a ton of ads and retiring with your laptop to the Caribbean; unless you manage to become a “superstar” blogger, it is extremely unlikely that you will ever make any significant money from running ads. It’s virtually impossible if you are an original thinker and would rather cut off your hands than engage in the vacuous vapidity that passes for mainstream commentary. Getting money through donations and affiliate marketing can be more profitable, but they will (realistically) only get you a modest secondary income – and an unstable one at that. Selling information products is where the real game is at: DVD’s, software, music, and, of course, books. This is Tier-1, the “summit of hustle mountain.” Almost every “professional” pundit does that: Liberals like Glenn Greenwald and conservatives like Steve Sailer, players like Roosh Vorek and “online hustlers” like Matt Forney himself. And for that matter I too will soon be joining their ranks with my upcoming book The Dark Lord of the Kremlin about the Western media’s war against Putin’s Russia.

But at this point, I have to make my own confession. I lied to you back there. In reality, I got the whole “tiered blogging” thing ass backwards. I started out writing at Da Russophile, but did not have the discipline to keep it confined to Russia period, and started mixing it up with unrelated things like peak oil and my shifting political ideologies. That drove away a lot of people. Only gradually over several years did I realize the vital importance of compartmentalizing my interests – which can be fickle as well as controversial – away from “hustles” with dedicated but easily alienated audiences. To illustrate the concept, say my Da Russophile audience consists of 100 liberals, 100 conservatives, and 100 people who care nothing for anything not Russia related. Now suppose that for every post about Russia there I were to also write a post defending gun rights and a post on global warming. I would alienate both the liberals and the conservatives, bore the hardcore Russia watchers, and create three times the work for myself to boot. It’s raving lunacy!

But unfortunately, that’s only obvious in retrospect. I could have saved myself a lot of time and disillusioned readers had I practiced “tiered blogging” from the very start.

This does not mean I agree with everything here. I think Forney’s attitude to regular blogging is too strict and disciplinarian, and may well be part of the reason that writing a new blog post now brings him about as “as much joy as a crack whore sucking off another dirtbag behind the club dumpster.” While there’s no disputing that discipline in blogging is a good thing, is it really worth it if it sucks all the joy and passion from what should really be a hobby? If that’s how you look at it, then how is it any different from your bog-standard, soul-crushing 9-5 job then?

I appreciate Forney’s nods to the Cracked school of writing that intersperses bouts of flippant levity in between paragraphs of actual information. This makes it much more readable than your standard, dry as a nun’s nasty self-help book. (See what I did there?). For all that, perhaps the reader could have done with a couple less allusions to pasty-faced virgins and homosexual orgies, Matt.

The one very substantial issue I disagree with him is on optimal book pricing, especially as applied to e-books. He claims that $10 is an entirely normal price for a Kindle book, and that charging less can even hurt your total sales because customers have learned to associate low prices with poor quality. A nice and plausible enough theory, with only one problem: Actual data doesn’t support it. The “sweet spot” for Kindle books in terms of maximizing revenue has been convincingly demonstrated to be $3-$4 (with a 40% markup if said book is non-fiction).

Self-improvement is a roadmap, not a guided tour. There can be no guarantees of success – as Matt himself, unlike the vast majority of self-help gurus, is honest enough to admit. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that reading this book will appreciably improve your chances of success. And considering that a hell of a lot of money can depend on this – maybe even a new career – this book way more than pays for itself in terms of the additional positive expected value it generates for you. If you wish to make serious money through blogging – well, through writing books and propagandizing them on your blog – then you could do a lot worse than getting hold of Matt Forney’s literary debut and spending a couple of hours digesting the hard-won wisdom in its 120 pages.

At the very least, as Matt himself might say, it would be “healthier than some of the other things people do in their spare time, like going to furry conventions.”

FINAL POLL: Russia Voices Or RossPress?

For background see here, here.

Russia Voices is good because it powerfully hints at what the project is all about: Giving the Anglo-sphere some sense of what Russians from all sides of the political spectrum are saying. But downside is it’s similar to Voice of Russia (a radio station), and besides, the more “intuitive” RussianVoices.com has already been taken.

RossPress is succinct and powerful; my innumerable thanks to the glorious Craig J. Willy for suggesting it. Only downside is that many Westerners don’t know that Russia, in Russian, is Rossiya.

I can’t say I’m 100% happy with either choice but c’est la vie. This issue should be gotten out of the way sooner rather than later.

RossPress (RossPress.com) 24
Russia Voices (RussiaVoices.com) 17
Other 3

Only vote “Other” if you really hate both of them (preferably provide an alternative in that case). Thank you all for your participation.

Finally, I’d like to note that today I have translated the first two articles ever specifically for RV/RP. They are:

I have chosen to translate liberals because to date I have mostly only translated “patriots”, conservatives, and Putin supporters. This is to demonstrate and affirm that the site will be a non-partisan affair to the maximum feasible extent possible.

Edit 2013/2/2: As there is strong support for both options, I will test them out via Google Adwords and come to a decision by next week (which is when I plan to launch the site anyway).

Vote On The Name For The “English Inosmi”

As long-term readers will be aware, I am working on two big projects: A book on myths about Russia, and a website specializing in translating articles from the Russian press into English.

(The idea being that even if it does nothing else, Western institutions will no longer be able to credibly say Russia’s level of media freedoms are on par with Zimbabwe’s).

While the preliminary name I’m going with before the site is unveiled is “Russia Voices”, this is far from set in stone. First, it would sound better as “Russian Voices.” Second, a Voice of Russia already exists. Maybe there is a better alternative? I would appreciate it if you could vote on and provide feedback on other possible names for this site.

Update: Guess there’s no longer a need to keep the poll running. It’s already clear that Russia Voices is the only one of the original suggestions with any support. The majority of you think that it needs to be something else.

Russia Voices (russiavoices.com) 4
Russian Points of View (russpovs.com) 2
Press of Russian Federation (pressrf.com) 1
Other 12

Please feel free to make your own suggestions. Note that the .com hyperlink has to be available for a name to be seriously considered. Thanks.

Da Russophile Is Now Five Years Old

I have recently been cleaning up my old posts.

When I moved from Sublime Oblivion to here, the pictures remained hosted at the old site (there were too many of them to auto-import). So I’ve been going through ancient posts, manually reattaching pictures (so that they are now hosted at wordpress.com) and making the categories and tags system more comprehensive.

This allowed me the opportunity to reread (or rather, skim) many of my older posts. I summarize the experience here.

In short, the original Da Russophile at blogger was… too Russophile. Unreasonably so.

The Sublime Oblivion of 2009-2010 in its Russia coverage was characterized by a “bizarre fusion” of eco-leftism, Stratforian realism, and Spenglerian mysticism. As in 2008 there were many good articles, but overall it was patchy and frequently ideologized… and falling far short of the punchy, trope-breaking spirit that characterizes it today, and which it should have always aspired to.

In 2011 I moderated, the Russian coverage at S/O reached its peak, and I got into journalism. The pharma hack of early 2012 that crippled S/O was, in retrospect, a blessing in disguise: It allowed me to finally partition the Russia stuff and the everything else stuff into different domains.

As of today, I objectively believe my blog has never been better – and there are ambitious plans for a new translation website and ongoing work on the book Dark Lord of the Kremlin.

Since I started in January 9, 2008, Da Russophile (first in blogger; then as part of Sublime Oblivion; and finally, as now, as its own WordPress.com site) has been visited a total of nearly one million times. Thank you all for reading.

Five Years Of Blogging

It all began on January 9, 2008.

It began, as it is now, as Da Russophile over at blogger. And I was a Russophile then, perhaps unreasonably so. That said I did do some useful work back then. I am most proud of the demographic models by which I predicted:

  1. Russia will see positive population growth starting from 2010 at the latest.
  2. Natural population increase will occur starting from 2013 at the latest.

Bullseye!

I was not nearly so accurate on the economy. The severe recession in 2009 forced me to readjust my expectations.

At the end of the year, I moved my blog to WordPress and renamed it to Sublime Oblivion. From now on I would no longer write exclusively about Russia.

Around 2009, I also started having a major ideological shift that in retrospect was regrettable and wrong. It was a weird fusion of eco-leftism, Stratforian realism, and even mysticism (remember the “belief matrices“?). Back then my ideological/political arguments were not firewalled from my Russia stuff – as they are today with the Da Russophile / AKarlin division – and as such there appeared many downright bizarre articles like thisthis, and this. Despite a few gems, foremost of which was perhaps the translation of the infamous “Stalinist” textbook, this was a year best forgotten.

This pattern continued into 2010. Recall Green Communism and the Collapse Party? By the way, it’s not like I abandoned my views on Limits to Growth/unsustainability and the necessity of radical solutions. I just stopped caring about them.

I also initiated a series of interviews with leading Russia watchers back then, taking over from Andy Young of Siberian Light. But I didn’t keep it up.

2011 was a very productive year. I dropped a lot of the ideological nonsense in favor of practicalities, wrote a great series comparing the US/UK/Russia, and tilted my Russia coverage away from the unalloyed Russophilia of 2008 and the weird splashes of Spenglerian mysticism and obsession with geopolitics that marred it in 2009-10. It also marked my outbreak into mainstream journalism with me appearing on RT and starting to write op-eds for Al Jazeera.

The most interesting and critical year so far was 2012. It began ingloriously with a pharma hack of my blog. This destroyed my SEO ratings, but also presented an excellent opportunity to start over. I split the blog into Da Russophile (Russia stuff) and AKarlin aka this one (everything else).

Up to that time, my blog had enjoyed almost 800,000 visits. Since then, AKarlin.com has hosted a further 178,347 visits, and Da Russophile a further 164,745.

The Russia stuff continued on its upwards ascent. I continued with op-eds for Al Jazeera, wrote the classic 5 Types of Russian American, and started writing short pieces for the US-Russia.com Experts Panel (now regularly translated and republished at Voice of Russia).

The everything else part tilted into a sharply controversial direction. This was defined by my definitive embrace of Human Biodiversity theory with all the inevitable attendant consequences stemming from that decision (before I had avoided explicitly engaging with it by talking in terms of “human capital”). And if I’m going to openly write about HBD then I might as well openly write about game. I lost some regular readers, including a few who have since developed a visceral hatred for me, but I see that as no big loss. On the plus side I got many new ones thanks to associations with the HBDsphere. More importantly, I would not have to tiptoe around topics that I felt were important and highly relevant (by way of their explanatory power) to the world around us.

But then I had a few problems. The blog went into limbo for a few months.

This is not a permanent death and never will be if I can possibly help it. The aforementioned “problems” have now been solved, so regular blogging will return here in the near future – hopefully by the beginning of February.

As 2013 dawns on us, and I am finally free of the RL time constraints that held me back in previous years, there are five main directions to my work:

  • Continuing what I’m doing at Da Russophile.
  • Writing the book Dark Lord of the Kremlin.
  • The “Russian Inosmi” project called Russia Voices.
  • More journalism at Al Jazeera and Voice of Russia.
  • Resuming regular posting at AKarlin.com.

So please continue checking back here on this blog too. There will soon be a fun piece on my trip to Las Vegas.