Browse Source

Moar links

master
David Larlet 11 months ago
parent
commit
9e809036ff
No known key found for this signature in database

+ 128
- 0
cache/2020/3fc386b9b57aa937db0a1883502b9ab8/index.html View File

@@ -0,0 +1,128 @@
<!doctype html><!-- This is a valid HTML5 document. -->
<!-- Screen readers, SEO, extensions and so on. -->
<html lang="fr">
<!-- Has to be within the first 1024 bytes, hence before the <title>
See: https://www.w3.org/TR/2012/CR-html5-20121217/document-metadata.html#charset -->
<meta charset="utf-8">
<!-- Why no `X-UA-Compatible` meta: https://stackoverflow.com/a/6771584 -->
<!-- The viewport meta is quite crowded and we are responsible for that.
See: https://codepen.io/tigt/post/meta-viewport-for-2015 -->
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width,initial-scale=1">
<!-- Required to make a valid HTML5 document. -->
<title>Splendid isolation: how I stopped time by sitting in a forest for 24 hours (archive) — David Larlet</title>
<!-- Generated from https://realfavicongenerator.net/ such a mess. -->
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="180x180" href="/static/david/icons2/apple-touch-icon.png">
<link rel="icon" type="image/png" sizes="32x32" href="/static/david/icons2/favicon-32x32.png">
<link rel="icon" type="image/png" sizes="16x16" href="/static/david/icons2/favicon-16x16.png">
<link rel="manifest" href="/static/david/icons2/site.webmanifest">
<link rel="mask-icon" href="/static/david/icons2/safari-pinned-tab.svg" color="#07486c">
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/static/david/icons2/favicon.ico">
<meta name="msapplication-TileColor" content="#f0f0ea">
<meta name="msapplication-config" content="/static/david/icons2/browserconfig.xml">
<meta name="theme-color" content="#f0f0ea">
<!-- Thank you Florens! -->
<link rel="stylesheet" href="/static/david/css/style_2020-02-18.css">
<!-- See https://www.zachleat.com/web/comprehensive-webfonts/ for the trade-off. -->
<link rel="preload" href="/static/david/css/fonts/triplicate_t4_poly_regular.woff2" as="font" type="font/woff2" crossorigin>
<link rel="preload" href="/static/david/css/fonts/triplicate_t4_poly_bold.woff2" as="font" type="font/woff2" crossorigin>
<link rel="preload" href="/static/david/css/fonts/triplicate_t4_poly_italic.woff2" as="font" type="font/woff2" crossorigin>

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">
<meta content="origin-when-cross-origin" name="referrer">
<!-- Canonical URL for SEO purposes -->
<link rel="canonical" href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/jan/24/wilderness-solo-splendid-isolation-stopped-time-sitting-in-a-forest-24-hours">

<body class="remarkdown h1-underline h2-underline hr-center ul-star pre-tick">

<article>
<h1>Splendid isolation: how I stopped time by sitting in a forest for 24 hours</h1>
<h2><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/jan/24/wilderness-solo-splendid-isolation-stopped-time-sitting-in-a-forest-24-hours">Source originale du contenu</a></h2>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">I</span></span>t was early summer, and I was on the verge of turning 40. I found myself entertaining a recurring daydream of escaping from time. I would be hustling my son out the door to get him to school, or walking briskly to work on the day of a deadline, or castigating myself for being online when I should have been methodically and efficiently putting words on paper, and I would have this vision of myself as a character in a video game discovering a secret level. This vision was informed by the platform games I loved as a child – Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog and so on – in which the character you controlled moved across the screen from left to right through a scrolling landscape, encountering obstacles and adversaries as you progressed to the end of the level. In this daydream, I would see myself pushing against a wall or lowering myself down the yawning mouth of a pipe, and thereby discovering this secret level, this hidden chamber where I could exist for a time outside of time, where the clock was not forever running down to zero.</p>

<p>My relationship with time had always been characterised by a certain baleful anxiety, but as I approached the start of the decade in which I would have no choice but to think of myself as middle-aged, this anxiety intensified. I was always in the middle of some calculation or quantification with respect to time, and such thoughts were always predicated on an understanding of it as a precious and limited resource. What time was it right now? How much time was left for me to do the thing I was doing, and when would I have to stop doing it to do the next thing?</p>

<p>This resource being as limited as it was, should I not be doing something better with it, something more urgent or interesting or authentic? At some point in my late 30s, I recognised the paradoxical source of this anxiety: that every single thing in life took much longer than I expected it to, except for life itself, which went much faster, and would be over before I knew where I was.</p>

<p>Much of this had to do with being a parent. Having two young children had radically altered my relationship with the days and hours of my life. Almost every moment was accounted for in a way that it had never been before. But it was also the sheer velocity of change, the state of growth and flux in which my children existed, and the constant small adjustments that were necessary to accommodate these changes. I would realise that my son no longer mispronounced a particular word in that adorable way he once had, or that his baby sister had stopped doing that thing of nodding very seriously and emphatically when she heard a song she liked – that she was, in fact, no longer a baby at all – and that those eras had now passed for good, along with countless others that would pass unnoticed and unremembered, and I would feel sad and remorseful about not having lived more fully in those moments, not having stopped or at least slowed the flow of time. And when I felt this way, I would succumb to the daydream of the video game, the secret level, the escape from time itself.</p>

<p>My son turned six around then, itself a significant milestone in that he was, for the first time, at an age I myself could dimly remember being. And with this new phase of parenthood, I began to think how strange it was, given how precious those early years now seemed to me, that I spent so little time thinking about my own childhood, the lost civilisation on which my adult self now stood. The motion of the video game unfurled rightward, and I had no choice but to follow its motion towards the future, towards the completion of the game itself.</p>

<p>And then one day, about a week and a half before I turned 40, I found myself alone in a forest in Devon, where I discovered this secret level of my daydreams.</p>

<p><hr class="section-rule"/>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">H</span></span>ere is how I did it: I came to a clearing in a forest by a riverbank in Dartmoor national park, far enough from any trail that it seemed unlikely I would encounter anyone while I was there. I gathered some loose branches and stones and arranged them in a circle of about 10 metres in diameter, and then I walked into the circle and did not leave it until the same time the following day.</p>
<p>The short version of this story is that nothing happened in that time: that I did nothing and witnessed nothing, experienced only the passage of the hours and minutes, and the languid dynamics of my own boredom. The long version isn’t exactly The Iliad, either, but in that version something could be said to have happened. Because by the time I walked out of that circle the following afternoon, I’d had an entirely unexpected and intensely cathartic encounter with the passage of time, and with my own mortality.</p>
<p>This is a practice commonly referred to as a “wilderness solo”. The basic principle is that you go out into nature, the wilder and more remote the better, and confine yourself to one very small area for a set period – a day, two days, three days, sometimes longer. During this period, you forego anything that might come between yourself and your own solitude. No phone. No books or other reading material. You don’t build a fire, because building a fire is a way to keep yourself busy, watching the dance of its flames a primitive entertainment. Most participants choose not to bring food, because when you have got nothing to do for a day and a night, the prospect of eating a sandwich can easily become an all-encompassing preoccupation, undermining the entire project of unmediated communion with nature. After that period of immersion, you step outside of your circle, and you re-enter the world.</p>
<p>Until fairly recently, I was not a person who had a lot of time for nature. I wished it well in all its dealings, and was glad to take its side in any quarrel with the forces arrayed against it, but my regard for it was essentially abstract, and I would just as soon have left it to its own devices. Nature was something I encountered as scenery, an experience to be consumed before getting back in the car and continuing on my way. But about the middle of 2016, amid the endlessly unfurling horrors of that year’s news, I became increasingly preoccupied with how this darkening political reality seemed to foreshadow a near future defined by a permanent state of climate emergency. And these things felt connected in some way that resisted easy definition: the speed and efficiency with which technology was gutting democracy and alienating us from the reality of human suffering, and the increasing extremity of our estrangement from the natural world. I was thinking all the time about climate change, about the future my children would be forced to live in, about what we had done and were continuing to do to the world. But at some point it dawned on me that I didn’t know the first thing about that world. What I knew was the great indoors in which I lived my life: the insides of buildings, the insides of books, the interlocking interiors of the internet and my own mind. When I talked about nature, I didn’t know what I meant. In a way that was somehow both vague and urgent, I felt that it was time to go outside.</p></p>
<p>I came across an organisation called Way of Nature UK that arranged group wilderness retreats, and I signed up for a trip. This was how, in the spring of 2017, I ended up spending a week with a group of about 20 other people in a remote wilderness reserve called Alladale in the Scottish Highlands, towards the end of which everyone went off to various locations and did a solo. How did I feel about sitting by a river for 24 hours and doing absolutely nothing, aside from looking at grass and clouds and water and so on? I felt slightly intimidated. I felt uncomfortable. I felt, above all, reflexively cynical, in the way that I was reflexively cynical about pretty much anything that felt new-agey or hippyish or otherwise overly earnest to me. But over the course of that week, and in particular the 24 hours I spent alone by the river, that brittle carapace of cynicism began to give way. What affected me most deeply about that time alone in nature was the aspect of it I had initially been most daunted by. The experience of the solo is the experience of time itself, in its rawest and most unmediated form.</p>

<p>When I stepped into that ad-hoc ceremonial circle in Devon last summer, it had been over a year since I had performed the ritual, and I found myself craving the solitude and immersion it provided.</p>

<p>Andres Roberts, Way of Nature’s co-founder, picked me up that morning outside my hotel in Bristol, near where he lives. I had got to know him pretty well on the two previous trips I had done with him, and my new enthusiasm for spending time alone in nature had been informed by his quietly ecstatic way of talking about the wilderness. As we drove south along the M5 through intermittent downpours of rain, he spoke about his work, and the ideas underpinning it. If there was a single word that encapsulated the value he was trying to incubate, that word was “slowness”. There was an extraordinary transformative power, he insisted, in the practice of sitting and doing nothing, and thereby slowing your mind and body to a meditative rhythm in nature.</p>

<p>One of Roberts’s major themes was the idea that our particular civilisation, at our particular time, was unusual in not having as part of its cultural repertoire some ritual whereby during periods of change or upheaval people went out alone into nature. When he talked about the practice of the wilderness solo, he talked about it in such terms – as a ritual whereby you stepped out of the flux of the world, in order to gain some perspective on the flux, and your place within it.</p>

<p>A word he used a lot in talking about his work, and in describing the experience and value of the nature solo, was “re-enchantment”. He was of the opinion that most people, most of the time, lived life in a state of disenchantment. What he wanted to do, above all, was to help people strip away the layers of hard rationalism that accrued around the adult mind, so that they could return to a more childlike engagement with the world. And in reaching this state, he said, this place of re-enchantment, we could come to see ourselves not as separate from and in control of nature, but as part of it.</p>

<p><hr class="section-rule"/>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">I</span></span>t was harder than anticipated, finding a solo spot. We had settled on Dartmoor for its proximity to Bristol and its relatively humane weather outlook, but it was not a place with which Roberrts was particularly familiar. We followed at first a northward trail, planning to cross a footbridge into deeper forest on the far side of the river, but when we eventually found it, the gate to the footbridge was firmly padlocked.</p>
<p>Further along the trail we met a man out for a walk with his dog. Early 70s, bearded, wax jacketed, he wore the dog’s lead draped athwart himself shoulder to hip in the manner of a mayoral sash. Roberts asked him whether there was a bridge we could cross further on. He shook his head and courteously informed us, in a Devonshire accent as soft and mulchy as the ground beneath our feet, that we were on land privately owned by one of his neighbours, and that the more densely forested territory across the river was private, too, and that we technically required a permit to walk this trail.</p>
<p>We turned and strolled back with him toward the road, and as he chatted to us about the cottage he and his wife had recently renovated, and their troubles with the local conservation society who disapproved of their alterations to the property, I was struck by how easily the concept of private land ownership could be made to feel absurd. It seemed perfectly rational in towns and cities, in housing estates and apartment buildings, for people to own their little portions of the world. But here, on the flourishing banks of a torrential river, the thought that this place was the sole property of some mere person – that that person could own the deeds to a river bank or a forest – seemed deeply and disorientingly counterintuitive, in a way that threatened to undermine the whole spirit of our enterprise. It felt impossible, as I put it to Roberts after we parted company with the man, to pursue the kind of immersive experience of a place we were after when you worried you might be trespassing.</p></p>
<p>“Yes,” he said. “Although this is England. Literally half of the land in this country is owned by less than <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/19/who-owns-england-secretive-companies-hoarding-land" title="" data-link-name="in body link" class="u-underline in-body-link--immersive">1% of the population</a>. A handful of aristocrats and corporations.”</p>

<p>He reassured me, though, that we would find a suitable place for my solo, on commonly owned land where I wouldn’t have to worry about some local squire coming along and telling me I had no business having an immersive experience with his privately owned nature.</p>

<p>We found another trail, running northward along the River Dart. Roberts lowered his voice to not much more than a whisper, eventually stopping talking altogether, and slowed his pace so that I was walking well ahead of him. I understood this deliberate minimisation of his own presence to mean that we had entered a kind of buffer zone between the outside world and the solo space. This was one of the great charms of how he worked; without his having seemed to do anything very specific, you were made to understand that some ritual was underway, that you were somehow in the midst of the sacred.</p>

<p><hr class="section-rule"/>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">T</span></span>he point of being here is to be here. An hour or two into my time in the forest, I wrote these words in my notebook, and drew a box around them to emphasise their authority and self-sufficiency. And then I stopped writing words in my notebook altogether, because writing words is my work, and I was wary of taking an utilitarian approach to the solo. The point of being there, after all, was to be there. (The cynical reader might argue that the point of being there was to <em>write</em> about being there – an argument the cynical writer will, on balance, concede, if only to avoid getting bogged down in the ontological complexities of the whole relationship between experiencing things and writing about them.)</p>
<p>And what did I do, while I was being there, in the forest, by the river? Nothing, more or less. The first half hour or so, there was a certain amount of housekeeping to attend to. I had to find exactly the right spot: not too damp; flat enough to pitch a tent once night began to fall; sheltered from the elements, but not so sheltered as to obscure the view of the river and the far bank. I had to mark out the circle, of course. I had to gather flat stones and sticks and bits of branches, and arrange them around a beech tree I had chosen as the central feature of my location. It could, I suppose, have been an oak tree, or an elm, or some other type of lofty deciduous of which I, being no Robert MacFarlane, had no prior knowledge.</p>
<p>But once all that was out of the way, I had to confront that fact of having nothing to do. In theory, I should have greeted this experience with open arms. I had, in fact, been looking forward to it for weeks – to having no tasks to attend to, no places to go, no obligations to meet. Here I was with nothing to do but inhabit the spaciousness of every passing moment, to bathe at leisure in the pooled flow of time itself. In theory, it was the dream. In practice, if I could have taken out my phone and gone on Twitter I surely would have. (Thankfully, this possibility was foreclosed to me by the fact of having no mobile coverage. In any case, I’d stowed my phone in my backpack in order to stop myself violating the spirit of the wilderness solo by spending the whole time looking through photos of my children, or opening up the New Yorker app and immersing myself not in nature, but in back issues of a magazine I never had the time to read, for reasons gestured at above.)</p>
<p>When you’re actually in it, the reality of the solo is, at least at first, one of total boredom. I cannot stress enough how little there is to do when you have confined yourself to the inside of a small circle of stones and sticks in a forest. But it is an instructive kind of boredom, insofar as boredom is the raw and unmediated experience of time. It is considered best practice not to have a watch, and to turn off your phone and keep it somewhere in the bottom of a bag so as to avoid the temptation to constantly check how long you’ve been out and how long you have left. And as you become untethered from your accustomed orientation in time – from always knowing what time it is, how long you have to do the thing you’re doing, when you have to stop doing it to do the next thing – you begin to glimpse a new perspective on the anxiety that arises from that orientation. Because this anxiety, which amounts to a sort of cost-benefit analysis of every passing moment, is a quintessentially modern predicament.</p></p>
<p>As weirdly counterintuitive as it feels to acknowledge, human beings are not naturally predisposed to think of life in terms of seconds and hours, of how they might be optimised. The development of mechanical clocks during the middle ages and, later, the advent of widespread precision timekeeping that facilitated the industrial revolution, fundamentally changed the way in which the human animal related to the world. Time became both an abstraction and a commodity, a raw material to be bought and sold, saved or squandered.</p>

<p>The mass adoption of this new conception of time, abstract and removed from the organic context of nature, was central to the rise of capitalism, and to the accelerating mechanisation of life. “Beginning in the 14th century,” as the American cultural critic Neil Postman put it, “the clock made us into time-keepers, and then time-savers, and now time-servers. In the process, we have learned irreverence toward the sun and the seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded.” To sit by a river for a day and a night is to experience the reinstatement, if only temporarily, of that authority.</p>

<p>What did I do, sitting in that forest? I drank a lot of water, because I had brought a lot of water, and drinking it was, if only in the most basic of senses, something to do. And because I drank a lot of water, I took a great many resulting pisses around the far side of the tree, and this too presented something to do, however minor. I would occasionally treat myself to a bit of a stand, or even a little stroll around my circle, but mostly I was content to sit propped against my backpack with my legs spread before me on the soft carpet of leaves. I spent a lot of time looking at those leaves: holding them up to the light, observing the delicate webbings, the desiccated veins, crumbling them slowly between my fingers. This, I admit, was only slightly more interesting than doing nothing at all.</p>

<p>The tree, in time, became a central object of my attention. I can’t say how long I spent standing in front of its trunk, staring at its covering of bright green moss, its gnarled protuberances of bark, but it must have been at least an hour. The moss was leafy, and felt both delicate and spongily resilient beneath my hand, and the longer I stared at it, the more I came to feel that I was gazing downward from a great height at a forest, that the moss was a canopy of leaves and the bark the ground beneath. The surface of the tree was its own ecosystem, expansive and intricate, and when I looked closely enough I saw that there were tiny insects everywhere, spiders and other many-legged creatures, whom I imagined living out their days aware of no other world than that little vastness, that forest within a forest.</p>

<p>My own incapacity to give this tree a name seemed suddenly strange to me, and slightly sad. In the ordinary run of things, if I were curious enough about what kind of tree I was looking at, I would have just gone on Google, or downloaded one of those tree-recognising apps, but this option was not available to me. Then it occurred to me that there was something about the not knowing that was somehow right. Not having a human name to give the tree, a category in which to put it, made the tree more real and present to me than it otherwise would have, or so I allowed myself to believe.</p>

<p>At some point it came to my attention that I was no longer bored, and that I had not been bored for some time. This is not to say that I was in a state of high mental stimulation, but that the hours of inactivity had induced in me a kind of meditative stupor, whereby I was receptive to the information of the environment – to the ceaseless clamour of the river, the chattering of the birds overhead, the urgent whisperings of the leaves in the breeze, the modulations of temperature and light – but uninclined to think much about this information, or anything else. I had, I realised, become attuned to the frequencies of the forest. I had found the secret level.</p>

<p>This is a thing that has happened to me whenever I have been alone in nature for an extended period: there occurs, some hours in, a subtle but profound modulation in consciousness whereby I come to experience myself as part of the place I am in, as an organism among organisms. This is a state of mind in which I can watch a small spider crawl along my arm for many minutes, feeling a kind of sentimental fellowship with this busy, delicate creature, whom in the normal run of things I would not hesitate to brush off in irritation or disgust.</p>

<p>In these moments, I find myself thinking of the place itself as somehow conscious of my presence. To be alone in a forest, and to be thinking of the forest as somehow aware of you: I will acknowledge that this sounds like the very substance of nightmare, but, in fact, it is a strangely beautiful and quietly moving experience, and I think it must be what people mean when they talk about intuiting the presence of God.</p>

<p>The word that comes to mind is immanence – a term I learned as a philosophy undergraduate and which I did not remotely understand until I began to have these experiences of being alone in nature. In his 1836 essay Nature, American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson identifies precisely this sublime phenomenon. “The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister,” he writes, “is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them.” It’s a phenomenon that he views as both an apprehension of the divine and a return to the child’s perception of the world. “In the woods,” he writes, “a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child.”</p>

<p><hr class="section-rule"/>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">I</span></span> am struck now by how strongly these lines of Emerson – these ideas of casting off years, of attaining the spirit of early childhood – resonate with the strangest and most unsettling and, in the end, most wonderful aspect of my experience in the woods. While I was there, I didn’t spend much time thinking about reaching 40, and whatever lay beyond. What I thought about was the distant past of my own childhood, which I spent in the countryside, in a house beside a small wood with a little stream running through it: a tamely arcadian surrounding which provided the setting for countless imagined adventures, battles and voyages. Something about sitting alone among the trees, looking at the river, put me in mind of that period of my life. The fact of having all this time now, and nothing to do with it; the slow process by which intense boredom had given way to a kind of absent-minded and playful immersion: these were things I associated with my own childhood. I remembered what Andres Roberts had said about re-enchantment, about time in nature as a means of returning to a more childlike engagement with the world.</p>
<p>And then for a long time I thought about my son, of how he existed in a thin space between reality and fantasy. I thought of how attached he was to his favourite toy, a small brown rabbit he carried everywhere with him, clutched in the crook of an arm, of how real and alive that rabbit was to him. This was in my mind because the previous evening, as I had unpacked at my hotel, I saw that my wife had slipped among my camping things a stuffed rabbit I myself had been deeply attached to when I was small. She had found it on a recent visit to my parents’ house, where it had been lying around for years in my childhood bedroom. That rabbit, with its floppy long limbs and its black button eyes and its faded blue dungarees, had been as real to me, as invested with surplus love, as my son’s stuffed rabbit now was to him. I thought of how soon – a year from now, or maybe less – my son’s rabbit would stop being real to him, how soon his world would lose the magic he himself had breathed into it.</p>
<p>And I thought with a pang of how I was always hurrying him – to get dressed, to get out the door for school, to finish his dinner, to get ready for bed – and of how heedlessly I was inflicting upon him my own anxious awareness of time as an oppressive force. How before he knew where he was, his own childhood would have receded into the past, and he too would be out of the secret level of childhood and into the laterally scrolling world of adulthood.</p>
<p>As the sun was going down in Dartmoor, I put up my tent and, in the dwindling light of the forest, rummaged in my backpack for my head-mounted torch. Inside the backpack, my hand encountered again the familiar softness of the stuffed rabbit. I held the toy a moment, smiled again at this touching and witty gesture of my wife’s, and then decided to take a photo of it to send to her when I had mobile coverage the following day. I propped the rabbit against the outer lining of the tent and turned away to rummage again in my bag for my phone, and when I turned back I was overcome by a shock of recognition. I was seeing the rabbit not as I had seen it a moment before, as an intriguing relic of the submerged civilisation of my childhood, but as I had seen it as a small boy.</p>
<p>The rabbit was entirely alive to me in that moment. It was as though all the love I had invested in this object in those days was still contained within it, within him, and the experience of its sudden animation was overwhelming. I was looking at the rabbit, and the rabbit was looking at me, and it was seeing me, and I was both myself and the child I had once been. Whatever complex of emotions I was feeling was neither sentimental nor nostalgic in character, but powerfully existential. I felt simultaneously closer to myself as a child than I had in all the years of adulthood, and yet that sudden closeness came as an experience of loss, of immeasurable distance. It was as though time had folded in on itself, and the present was touching the past. There I was, as close to 40 as made no difference, alone in a forest on a moonless night and weeping with cathartic abandon at the sight of a threadbare stuffed animal. I was mourning my childhood, and the mourning felt long overdue.</p>
<hr class="section-rule"/>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">I</span></span> woke early, and lay still for a time listening to water dropping from the branches and leaves onto the outer layer of my tent. I had slept more soundly than I had expected, given the hard ground beneath me and the mummifying strictures of the sleeping bag. The absolute darkness and solitude had aroused neither loneliness nor unease. I had felt strangely at home with the sounds and silences of the forest at night.</p>
<p>Until very recently, the idea of spending a rainy morning alone in a forest would have been a profoundly unattractive one, but I found myself relishing the prospect of these last hours. The restlessness I had experienced the previous day, in that last stretch of the solo, was entirely absent now, the question of what to do with myself for several hours having come to seem nowhere near as pressing. The idea of such a question felt, in fact, somehow absurd. I went to the edge of my circle and sat down, and looked at the river.</p>
<p>You would have thought that I’d have been more or less done with looking at the river by now, but in fact I was eager to get stuck into it again after the long night-time hours of not looking at the river. In terms of the diversions that were presently available to me, looking at the river was the hottest ticket in town. And so I sat there at the edge of my little circle on the riverbank and binge-watched the river. There is, it turns out, a lot going on at any one time in a river, especially if you’ve got nothing else to be looking at.</p>
<p>There were birds coming and going all the time, skimming low over the water and landing on the banks. There was the occasional ambiguous shape flitting on the periphery of my vision that may well have been some kind of leaping fish. I attended in particular to a bit of river directly in front of me where the water plunged low into a sort of miniature waterfall, immediately after which it appeared to run backward into itself, a phenomenon I couldn’t begin to try to account for, but for which the most likely culprit seemed to be gravity. I stared at this spectacle for so long that a kind of optical illusion began to assert itself, whereby when I glanced up at the opposite bank, the long grass and drooping ferns seemed themselves to be engaged in sympathetic movements, swirling impossibly before my eyes. It could have been the effect of hours of meditative inactivity, or it could just have been hunger, but there was something mildly trippy about the experience.</p>
<p>Around noon, I heard a gently insistent bird call coming from a little way upriver. I turned toward it, and saw Roberts standing not far off with his back against a tree trunk, making an owl sound with his hands cupped to his mouth. I gathered my things, and we walked in silence out of the forest, him keeping several paces behind me. This seemed both entirely deliberate and entirely natural, and its effect was to preserve a measure of my solitude as I gradually emerged from the circle, out of the secret level and back into time.</p></p>
</article>


<hr>

<footer>
<p>
<a href="/david/" title="Aller à l’accueil">🏠</a> •
<a href="/david/log/" title="Accès au flux RSS">🤖</a> •
<a href="http://larlet.com" title="Go to my English profile" data-instant>🇨🇦</a> •
<a href="mailto:david%40larlet.fr" title="Envoyer un courriel">📮</a> •
<abbr title="Hébergeur : Alwaysdata, 62 rue Tiquetonne 75002 Paris, +33184162340">🧚</abbr>
</p>
</footer>
<script src="/static/david/js/instantpage-3.0.0.min.js" type="module" defer></script>
</body>
</html>

+ 56
- 0
cache/2020/3fc386b9b57aa937db0a1883502b9ab8/index.md View File

@@ -0,0 +1,56 @@
title: Splendid isolation: how I stopped time by sitting in a forest for 24 hours
url: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/jan/24/wilderness-solo-splendid-isolation-stopped-time-sitting-in-a-forest-24-hours
hash_url: 3fc386b9b57aa937db0a1883502b9ab8

<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">I</span></span>t was early summer, and I was on the verge of turning 40. I found myself entertaining a recurring daydream of escaping from time. I would be hustling my son out the door to get him to school, or walking briskly to work on the day of a deadline, or castigating myself for being online when I should have been methodically and efficiently putting words on paper, and I would have this vision of myself as a character in a video game discovering a secret level. This vision was informed by the platform games I loved as a child – Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog and so on – in which the character you controlled moved across the screen from left to right through a scrolling landscape, encountering obstacles and adversaries as you progressed to the end of the level. In this daydream, I would see myself pushing against a wall or lowering myself down the yawning mouth of a pipe, and thereby discovering this secret level, this hidden chamber where I could exist for a time outside of time, where the clock was not forever running down to zero.</p>
<p>My relationship with time had always been characterised by a certain baleful anxiety, but as I approached the start of the decade in which I would have no choice but to think of myself as middle-aged, this anxiety intensified. I was always in the middle of some calculation or quantification with respect to time, and such thoughts were always predicated on an understanding of it as a precious and limited resource. What time was it right now? How much time was left for me to do the thing I was doing, and when would I have to stop doing it to do the next thing?</p>
<p>This resource being as limited as it was, should I not be doing something better with it, something more urgent or interesting or authentic? At some point in my late 30s, I recognised the paradoxical source of this anxiety: that every single thing in life took much longer than I expected it to, except for life itself, which went much faster, and would be over before I knew where I was.</p>
<p>Much of this had to do with being a parent. Having two young children had radically altered my relationship with the days and hours of my life. Almost every moment was accounted for in a way that it had never been before. But it was also the sheer velocity of change, the state of growth and flux in which my children existed, and the constant small adjustments that were necessary to accommodate these changes. I would realise that my son no longer mispronounced a particular word in that adorable way he once had, or that his baby sister had stopped doing that thing of nodding very seriously and emphatically when she heard a song she liked – that she was, in fact, no longer a baby at all – and that those eras had now passed for good, along with countless others that would pass unnoticed and unremembered, and I would feel sad and remorseful about not having lived more fully in those moments, not having stopped or at least slowed the flow of time. And when I felt this way, I would succumb to the daydream of the video game, the secret level, the escape from time itself.</p>
<p>My son turned six around then, itself a significant milestone in that he was, for the first time, at an age I myself could dimly remember being. And with this new phase of parenthood, I began to think how strange it was, given how precious those early years now seemed to me, that I spent so little time thinking about my own childhood, the lost civilisation on which my adult self now stood. The motion of the video game unfurled rightward, and I had no choice but to follow its motion towards the future, towards the completion of the game itself.</p>
<p>And then one day, about a week and a half before I turned 40, I found myself alone in a forest in Devon, where I discovered this secret level of my daydreams.</p>
<hr class="section-rule"/>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">H</span></span>ere is how I did it: I came to a clearing in a forest by a riverbank in Dartmoor national park, far enough from any trail that it seemed unlikely I would encounter anyone while I was there. I gathered some loose branches and stones and arranged them in a circle of about 10 metres in diameter, and then I walked into the circle and did not leave it until the same time the following day.</p>
<p>The short version of this story is that nothing happened in that time: that I did nothing and witnessed nothing, experienced only the passage of the hours and minutes, and the languid dynamics of my own boredom. The long version isn’t exactly The Iliad, either, but in that version something could be said to have happened. Because by the time I walked out of that circle the following afternoon, I’d had an entirely unexpected and intensely cathartic encounter with the passage of time, and with my own mortality.</p>
<p>This is a practice commonly referred to as a “wilderness solo”. The basic principle is that you go out into nature, the wilder and more remote the better, and confine yourself to one very small area for a set period – a day, two days, three days, sometimes longer. During this period, you forego anything that might come between yourself and your own solitude. No phone. No books or other reading material. You don’t build a fire, because building a fire is a way to keep yourself busy, watching the dance of its flames a primitive entertainment. Most participants choose not to bring food, because when you have got nothing to do for a day and a night, the prospect of eating a sandwich can easily become an all-encompassing preoccupation, undermining the entire project of unmediated communion with nature. After that period of immersion, you step outside of your circle, and you re-enter the world.</p>
<p>Until fairly recently, I was not a person who had a lot of time for nature. I wished it well in all its dealings, and was glad to take its side in any quarrel with the forces arrayed against it, but my regard for it was essentially abstract, and I would just as soon have left it to its own devices. Nature was something I encountered as scenery, an experience to be consumed before getting back in the car and continuing on my way. But about the middle of 2016, amid the endlessly unfurling horrors of that year’s news, I became increasingly preoccupied with how this darkening political reality seemed to foreshadow a near future defined by a permanent state of climate emergency. And these things felt connected in some way that resisted easy definition: the speed and efficiency with which technology was gutting democracy and alienating us from the reality of human suffering, and the increasing extremity of our estrangement from the natural world. I was thinking all the time about climate change, about the future my children would be forced to live in, about what we had done and were continuing to do to the world. But at some point it dawned on me that I didn’t know the first thing about that world. What I knew was the great indoors in which I lived my life: the insides of buildings, the insides of books, the interlocking interiors of the internet and my own mind. When I talked about nature, I didn’t know what I meant. In a way that was somehow both vague and urgent, I felt that it was time to go outside.</p>

<p>I came across an organisation called Way of Nature UK that arranged group wilderness retreats, and I signed up for a trip. This was how, in the spring of 2017, I ended up spending a week with a group of about 20 other people in a remote wilderness reserve called Alladale in the Scottish Highlands, towards the end of which everyone went off to various locations and did a solo. How did I feel about sitting by a river for 24 hours and doing absolutely nothing, aside from looking at grass and clouds and water and so on? I felt slightly intimidated. I felt uncomfortable. I felt, above all, reflexively cynical, in the way that I was reflexively cynical about pretty much anything that felt new-agey or hippyish or otherwise overly earnest to me. But over the course of that week, and in particular the 24 hours I spent alone by the river, that brittle carapace of cynicism began to give way. What affected me most deeply about that time alone in nature was the aspect of it I had initially been most daunted by. The experience of the solo is the experience of time itself, in its rawest and most unmediated form.</p>
<p>When I stepped into that ad-hoc ceremonial circle in Devon last summer, it had been over a year since I had performed the ritual, and I found myself craving the solitude and immersion it provided.</p>
<p>Andres Roberts, Way of Nature’s co-founder, picked me up that morning outside my hotel in Bristol, near where he lives. I had got to know him pretty well on the two previous trips I had done with him, and my new enthusiasm for spending time alone in nature had been informed by his quietly ecstatic way of talking about the wilderness. As we drove south along the M5 through intermittent downpours of rain, he spoke about his work, and the ideas underpinning it. If there was a single word that encapsulated the value he was trying to incubate, that word was “slowness”. There was an extraordinary transformative power, he insisted, in the practice of sitting and doing nothing, and thereby slowing your mind and body to a meditative rhythm in nature.</p>
<p>One of Roberts’s major themes was the idea that our particular civilisation, at our particular time, was unusual in not having as part of its cultural repertoire some ritual whereby during periods of change or upheaval people went out alone into nature. When he talked about the practice of the wilderness solo, he talked about it in such terms – as a ritual whereby you stepped out of the flux of the world, in order to gain some perspective on the flux, and your place within it.</p>
<p>A word he used a lot in talking about his work, and in describing the experience and value of the nature solo, was “re-enchantment”. He was of the opinion that most people, most of the time, lived life in a state of disenchantment. What he wanted to do, above all, was to help people strip away the layers of hard rationalism that accrued around the adult mind, so that they could return to a more childlike engagement with the world. And in reaching this state, he said, this place of re-enchantment, we could come to see ourselves not as separate from and in control of nature, but as part of it.</p>
<hr class="section-rule"/>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">I</span></span>t was harder than anticipated, finding a solo spot. We had settled on Dartmoor for its proximity to Bristol and its relatively humane weather outlook, but it was not a place with which Roberrts was particularly familiar. We followed at first a northward trail, planning to cross a footbridge into deeper forest on the far side of the river, but when we eventually found it, the gate to the footbridge was firmly padlocked.</p>
<p>Further along the trail we met a man out for a walk with his dog. Early 70s, bearded, wax jacketed, he wore the dog’s lead draped athwart himself shoulder to hip in the manner of a mayoral sash. Roberts asked him whether there was a bridge we could cross further on. He shook his head and courteously informed us, in a Devonshire accent as soft and mulchy as the ground beneath our feet, that we were on land privately owned by one of his neighbours, and that the more densely forested territory across the river was private, too, and that we technically required a permit to walk this trail.</p>
<p>We turned and strolled back with him toward the road, and as he chatted to us about the cottage he and his wife had recently renovated, and their troubles with the local conservation society who disapproved of their alterations to the property, I was struck by how easily the concept of private land ownership could be made to feel absurd. It seemed perfectly rational in towns and cities, in housing estates and apartment buildings, for people to own their little portions of the world. But here, on the flourishing banks of a torrential river, the thought that this place was the sole property of some mere person – that that person could own the deeds to a river bank or a forest – seemed deeply and disorientingly counterintuitive, in a way that threatened to undermine the whole spirit of our enterprise. It felt impossible, as I put it to Roberts after we parted company with the man, to pursue the kind of immersive experience of a place we were after when you worried you might be trespassing.</p>

<p>“Yes,” he said. “Although this is England. Literally half of the land in this country is owned by less than <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/19/who-owns-england-secretive-companies-hoarding-land" title="" data-link-name="in body link" class="u-underline in-body-link--immersive">1% of the population</a>. A handful of aristocrats and corporations.”</p>
<p>He reassured me, though, that we would find a suitable place for my solo, on commonly owned land where I wouldn’t have to worry about some local squire coming along and telling me I had no business having an immersive experience with his privately owned nature.</p>
<p>We found another trail, running northward along the River Dart. Roberts lowered his voice to not much more than a whisper, eventually stopping talking altogether, and slowed his pace so that I was walking well ahead of him. I understood this deliberate minimisation of his own presence to mean that we had entered a kind of buffer zone between the outside world and the solo space. This was one of the great charms of how he worked; without his having seemed to do anything very specific, you were made to understand that some ritual was underway, that you were somehow in the midst of the sacred.</p>
<hr class="section-rule"/>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">T</span></span>he point of being here is to be here. An hour or two into my time in the forest, I wrote these words in my notebook, and drew a box around them to emphasise their authority and self-sufficiency. And then I stopped writing words in my notebook altogether, because writing words is my work, and I was wary of taking an utilitarian approach to the solo. The point of being there, after all, was to be there. (The cynical reader might argue that the point of being there was to <em>write</em> about being there – an argument the cynical writer will, on balance, concede, if only to avoid getting bogged down in the ontological complexities of the whole relationship between experiencing things and writing about them.)</p>
<p>And what did I do, while I was being there, in the forest, by the river? Nothing, more or less. The first half hour or so, there was a certain amount of housekeeping to attend to. I had to find exactly the right spot: not too damp; flat enough to pitch a tent once night began to fall; sheltered from the elements, but not so sheltered as to obscure the view of the river and the far bank. I had to mark out the circle, of course. I had to gather flat stones and sticks and bits of branches, and arrange them around a beech tree I had chosen as the central feature of my location. It could, I suppose, have been an oak tree, or an elm, or some other type of lofty deciduous of which I, being no Robert MacFarlane, had no prior knowledge.</p>
<p>But once all that was out of the way, I had to confront that fact of having nothing to do. In theory, I should have greeted this experience with open arms. I had, in fact, been looking forward to it for weeks – to having no tasks to attend to, no places to go, no obligations to meet. Here I was with nothing to do but inhabit the spaciousness of every passing moment, to bathe at leisure in the pooled flow of time itself. In theory, it was the dream. In practice, if I could have taken out my phone and gone on Twitter I surely would have. (Thankfully, this possibility was foreclosed to me by the fact of having no mobile coverage. In any case, I’d stowed my phone in my backpack in order to stop myself violating the spirit of the wilderness solo by spending the whole time looking through photos of my children, or opening up the New Yorker app and immersing myself not in nature, but in back issues of a magazine I never had the time to read, for reasons gestured at above.)</p>
<p>When you’re actually in it, the reality of the solo is, at least at first, one of total boredom. I cannot stress enough how little there is to do when you have confined yourself to the inside of a small circle of stones and sticks in a forest. But it is an instructive kind of boredom, insofar as boredom is the raw and unmediated experience of time. It is considered best practice not to have a watch, and to turn off your phone and keep it somewhere in the bottom of a bag so as to avoid the temptation to constantly check how long you’ve been out and how long you have left. And as you become untethered from your accustomed orientation in time – from always knowing what time it is, how long you have to do the thing you’re doing, when you have to stop doing it to do the next thing – you begin to glimpse a new perspective on the anxiety that arises from that orientation. Because this anxiety, which amounts to a sort of cost-benefit analysis of every passing moment, is a quintessentially modern predicament.</p>

<p>As weirdly counterintuitive as it feels to acknowledge, human beings are not naturally predisposed to think of life in terms of seconds and hours, of how they might be optimised. The development of mechanical clocks during the middle ages and, later, the advent of widespread precision timekeeping that facilitated the industrial revolution, fundamentally changed the way in which the human animal related to the world. Time became both an abstraction and a commodity, a raw material to be bought and sold, saved or squandered.</p>
<p>The mass adoption of this new conception of time, abstract and removed from the organic context of nature, was central to the rise of capitalism, and to the accelerating mechanisation of life. “Beginning in the 14th century,” as the American cultural critic Neil Postman put it, “the clock made us into time-keepers, and then time-savers, and now time-servers. In the process, we have learned irreverence toward the sun and the seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded.” To sit by a river for a day and a night is to experience the reinstatement, if only temporarily, of that authority.</p>
<p>What did I do, sitting in that forest? I drank a lot of water, because I had brought a lot of water, and drinking it was, if only in the most basic of senses, something to do. And because I drank a lot of water, I took a great many resulting pisses around the far side of the tree, and this too presented something to do, however minor. I would occasionally treat myself to a bit of a stand, or even a little stroll around my circle, but mostly I was content to sit propped against my backpack with my legs spread before me on the soft carpet of leaves. I spent a lot of time looking at those leaves: holding them up to the light, observing the delicate webbings, the desiccated veins, crumbling them slowly between my fingers. This, I admit, was only slightly more interesting than doing nothing at all.</p>
<p>The tree, in time, became a central object of my attention. I can’t say how long I spent standing in front of its trunk, staring at its covering of bright green moss, its gnarled protuberances of bark, but it must have been at least an hour. The moss was leafy, and felt both delicate and spongily resilient beneath my hand, and the longer I stared at it, the more I came to feel that I was gazing downward from a great height at a forest, that the moss was a canopy of leaves and the bark the ground beneath. The surface of the tree was its own ecosystem, expansive and intricate, and when I looked closely enough I saw that there were tiny insects everywhere, spiders and other many-legged creatures, whom I imagined living out their days aware of no other world than that little vastness, that forest within a forest.</p>
<p>My own incapacity to give this tree a name seemed suddenly strange to me, and slightly sad. In the ordinary run of things, if I were curious enough about what kind of tree I was looking at, I would have just gone on Google, or downloaded one of those tree-recognising apps, but this option was not available to me. Then it occurred to me that there was something about the not knowing that was somehow right. Not having a human name to give the tree, a category in which to put it, made the tree more real and present to me than it otherwise would have, or so I allowed myself to believe.</p>
<p>At some point it came to my attention that I was no longer bored, and that I had not been bored for some time. This is not to say that I was in a state of high mental stimulation, but that the hours of inactivity had induced in me a kind of meditative stupor, whereby I was receptive to the information of the environment – to the ceaseless clamour of the river, the chattering of the birds overhead, the urgent whisperings of the leaves in the breeze, the modulations of temperature and light – but uninclined to think much about this information, or anything else. I had, I realised, become attuned to the frequencies of the forest. I had found the secret level.</p>
<p>This is a thing that has happened to me whenever I have been alone in nature for an extended period: there occurs, some hours in, a subtle but profound modulation in consciousness whereby I come to experience myself as part of the place I am in, as an organism among organisms. This is a state of mind in which I can watch a small spider crawl along my arm for many minutes, feeling a kind of sentimental fellowship with this busy, delicate creature, whom in the normal run of things I would not hesitate to brush off in irritation or disgust.</p>
<p>In these moments, I find myself thinking of the place itself as somehow conscious of my presence. To be alone in a forest, and to be thinking of the forest as somehow aware of you: I will acknowledge that this sounds like the very substance of nightmare, but, in fact, it is a strangely beautiful and quietly moving experience, and I think it must be what people mean when they talk about intuiting the presence of God.</p>
<p>The word that comes to mind is immanence – a term I learned as a philosophy undergraduate and which I did not remotely understand until I began to have these experiences of being alone in nature. In his 1836 essay Nature, American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson identifies precisely this sublime phenomenon. “The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister,” he writes, “is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them.” It’s a phenomenon that he views as both an apprehension of the divine and a return to the child’s perception of the world. “In the woods,” he writes, “a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child.”</p>
<hr class="section-rule"/>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">I</span></span> am struck now by how strongly these lines of Emerson – these ideas of casting off years, of attaining the spirit of early childhood – resonate with the strangest and most unsettling and, in the end, most wonderful aspect of my experience in the woods. While I was there, I didn’t spend much time thinking about reaching 40, and whatever lay beyond. What I thought about was the distant past of my own childhood, which I spent in the countryside, in a house beside a small wood with a little stream running through it: a tamely arcadian surrounding which provided the setting for countless imagined adventures, battles and voyages. Something about sitting alone among the trees, looking at the river, put me in mind of that period of my life. The fact of having all this time now, and nothing to do with it; the slow process by which intense boredom had given way to a kind of absent-minded and playful immersion: these were things I associated with my own childhood. I remembered what Andres Roberts had said about re-enchantment, about time in nature as a means of returning to a more childlike engagement with the world.</p>
<p>And then for a long time I thought about my son, of how he existed in a thin space between reality and fantasy. I thought of how attached he was to his favourite toy, a small brown rabbit he carried everywhere with him, clutched in the crook of an arm, of how real and alive that rabbit was to him. This was in my mind because the previous evening, as I had unpacked at my hotel, I saw that my wife had slipped among my camping things a stuffed rabbit I myself had been deeply attached to when I was small. She had found it on a recent visit to my parents’ house, where it had been lying around for years in my childhood bedroom. That rabbit, with its floppy long limbs and its black button eyes and its faded blue dungarees, had been as real to me, as invested with surplus love, as my son’s stuffed rabbit now was to him. I thought of how soon – a year from now, or maybe less – my son’s rabbit would stop being real to him, how soon his world would lose the magic he himself had breathed into it.</p>
<p>And I thought with a pang of how I was always hurrying him – to get dressed, to get out the door for school, to finish his dinner, to get ready for bed – and of how heedlessly I was inflicting upon him my own anxious awareness of time as an oppressive force. How before he knew where he was, his own childhood would have receded into the past, and he too would be out of the secret level of childhood and into the laterally scrolling world of adulthood.</p>
<p>As the sun was going down in Dartmoor, I put up my tent and, in the dwindling light of the forest, rummaged in my backpack for my head-mounted torch. Inside the backpack, my hand encountered again the familiar softness of the stuffed rabbit. I held the toy a moment, smiled again at this touching and witty gesture of my wife’s, and then decided to take a photo of it to send to her when I had mobile coverage the following day. I propped the rabbit against the outer lining of the tent and turned away to rummage again in my bag for my phone, and when I turned back I was overcome by a shock of recognition. I was seeing the rabbit not as I had seen it a moment before, as an intriguing relic of the submerged civilisation of my childhood, but as I had seen it as a small boy.</p>
<p>The rabbit was entirely alive to me in that moment. It was as though all the love I had invested in this object in those days was still contained within it, within him, and the experience of its sudden animation was overwhelming. I was looking at the rabbit, and the rabbit was looking at me, and it was seeing me, and I was both myself and the child I had once been. Whatever complex of emotions I was feeling was neither sentimental nor nostalgic in character, but powerfully existential. I felt simultaneously closer to myself as a child than I had in all the years of adulthood, and yet that sudden closeness came as an experience of loss, of immeasurable distance. It was as though time had folded in on itself, and the present was touching the past. There I was, as close to 40 as made no difference, alone in a forest on a moonless night and weeping with cathartic abandon at the sight of a threadbare stuffed animal. I was mourning my childhood, and the mourning felt long overdue.</p>
<hr class="section-rule"/>
<p><span class="drop-cap"><span class="drop-cap__inner">I</span></span> woke early, and lay still for a time listening to water dropping from the branches and leaves onto the outer layer of my tent. I had slept more soundly than I had expected, given the hard ground beneath me and the mummifying strictures of the sleeping bag. The absolute darkness and solitude had aroused neither loneliness nor unease. I had felt strangely at home with the sounds and silences of the forest at night.</p>
<p>Until very recently, the idea of spending a rainy morning alone in a forest would have been a profoundly unattractive one, but I found myself relishing the prospect of these last hours. The restlessness I had experienced the previous day, in that last stretch of the solo, was entirely absent now, the question of what to do with myself for several hours having come to seem nowhere near as pressing. The idea of such a question felt, in fact, somehow absurd. I went to the edge of my circle and sat down, and looked at the river.</p>
<p>You would have thought that I’d have been more or less done with looking at the river by now, but in fact I was eager to get stuck into it again after the long night-time hours of not looking at the river. In terms of the diversions that were presently available to me, looking at the river was the hottest ticket in town. And so I sat there at the edge of my little circle on the riverbank and binge-watched the river. There is, it turns out, a lot going on at any one time in a river, especially if you’ve got nothing else to be looking at.</p>
<p>There were birds coming and going all the time, skimming low over the water and landing on the banks. There was the occasional ambiguous shape flitting on the periphery of my vision that may well have been some kind of leaping fish. I attended in particular to a bit of river directly in front of me where the water plunged low into a sort of miniature waterfall, immediately after which it appeared to run backward into itself, a phenomenon I couldn’t begin to try to account for, but for which the most likely culprit seemed to be gravity. I stared at this spectacle for so long that a kind of optical illusion began to assert itself, whereby when I glanced up at the opposite bank, the long grass and drooping ferns seemed themselves to be engaged in sympathetic movements, swirling impossibly before my eyes. It could have been the effect of hours of meditative inactivity, or it could just have been hunger, but there was something mildly trippy about the experience.</p>
<p>Around noon, I heard a gently insistent bird call coming from a little way upriver. I turned toward it, and saw Roberts standing not far off with his back against a tree trunk, making an owl sound with his hands cupped to his mouth. I gathered my things, and we walked in silence out of the forest, him keeping several paces behind me. This seemed both entirely deliberate and entirely natural, and its effect was to preserve a measure of my solitude as I gradually emerged from the circle, out of the secret level and back into time.</p>

+ 417
- 0
cache/2020/4c5cc5e59531ef04e068c883a1a0e166/index.html View File

@@ -0,0 +1,417 @@
<!doctype html><!-- This is a valid HTML5 document. -->
<!-- Screen readers, SEO, extensions and so on. -->
<html lang="fr">
<!-- Has to be within the first 1024 bytes, hence before the <title>
See: https://www.w3.org/TR/2012/CR-html5-20121217/document-metadata.html#charset -->
<meta charset="utf-8">
<!-- Why no `X-UA-Compatible` meta: https://stackoverflow.com/a/6771584 -->
<!-- The viewport meta is quite crowded and we are responsible for that.
See: https://codepen.io/tigt/post/meta-viewport-for-2015 -->
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width,initial-scale=1">
<!-- Required to make a valid HTML5 document. -->
<title>Running a Paid Membership Program (archive) — David Larlet</title>
<!-- Generated from https://realfavicongenerator.net/ such a mess. -->
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" sizes="180x180" href="/static/david/icons2/apple-touch-icon.png">
<link rel="icon" type="image/png" sizes="32x32" href="/static/david/icons2/favicon-32x32.png">
<link rel="icon" type="image/png" sizes="16x16" href="/static/david/icons2/favicon-16x16.png">
<link rel="manifest" href="/static/david/icons2/site.webmanifest">
<link rel="mask-icon" href="/static/david/icons2/safari-pinned-tab.svg" color="#07486c">
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/static/david/icons2/favicon.ico">
<meta name="msapplication-TileColor" content="#f0f0ea">
<meta name="msapplication-config" content="/static/david/icons2/browserconfig.xml">
<meta name="theme-color" content="#f0f0ea">
<!-- Thank you Florens! -->
<link rel="stylesheet" href="/static/david/css/style_2020-02-18.css">
<!-- See https://www.zachleat.com/web/comprehensive-webfonts/ for the trade-off. -->
<link rel="preload" href="/static/david/css/fonts/triplicate_t4_poly_regular.woff2" as="font" type="font/woff2" crossorigin>
<link rel="preload" href="/static/david/css/fonts/triplicate_t4_poly_bold.woff2" as="font" type="font/woff2" crossorigin>
<link rel="preload" href="/static/david/css/fonts/triplicate_t4_poly_italic.woff2" as="font" type="font/woff2" crossorigin>

<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">
<meta content="origin-when-cross-origin" name="referrer">
<!-- Canonical URL for SEO purposes -->
<link rel="canonical" href="https://craigmod.com/essays/membership_programs/">

<body class="remarkdown h1-underline h2-underline hr-center ul-star pre-tick">

<article>
<h1>Running a Paid Membership Program</h1>
<h2><a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/membership_programs/">Source originale du contenu</a></h2>
<p>When I launched my <em>Explorers Club</em> <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership/">membership program</a> in January of 2019, I did so with crippling trepidation. So much trepidation that I never once announced it on Twitter or Instagram out of a certain shame. I only announced it in my newsletters, and even then, did so with considerable hemming and hawing.</p>

<p>The reasons for this were many: The program didn’t have super clear deliverables, I didn’t know if I would be able to produce anything of value (so said the tiny voice in my head), and I didn’t know if the program would provide spiritual lift or become wholly burdensome. Impostor syndrome is real!</p>

<p>So I spent the first few months one-foot-in-one-foot-out. But then I began to produce, proved (to myself) I could publish on schedule, and the year took on a momentum all its own. Words begat walks and images which begat essays which begat more thinking about walks which begat the scheduling of <em>bigger</em> walks which begat <em>bigger</em> essays and articles and books and so on and so forth in an ever-forward tumbling, snowballing way.</p>

<p>In the end, launching a paid membership program is maybe the smartest thing I’ve done: <strong>2019 was the most <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership/#2019">productive and creatively engaged</a> year of my life</strong>. And I owe the brunt of that to the <em>Explorers Club</em>. A rapturous THANK YOU to everyone who joined. It has not been “easy,” or effortless. In fact, 2019 was the year I worked harder and with more question marks lingering over my head than ever. But the membership program created a formality and from that formality I divined a permission — both financially and spiritually (my members are incredibly supportive) — to work deeply on topics I find interesting and important.</p>

<p>Everyone’s needs are different. I can’t explicitly recommend every writer or photographer or YouTuber to start their own membership program. What I can do is tell you about my experience, and hope that it’s instructive to those readers out there who might, too, be membership-curious.</p>

<hr />

<div class="toc">

<h3>Contents</h3>
<ul>
<li><a href="#why-start-a-membership-program">Why start a membership program?</a></li>
<li><a href="#finances">Finances</a></li>
<li><a href="#launching">Launching</a></li>
<li><a href="#pricing">Pricing</a></li>
<li><a href="#member-acquisition">Member Acquisition </a></li>
<li><a href="#technical-gobbledygook">Technical Gobbledygook</a></li>
<li><a href="#conclusions">Conclusions</a></li>
</ul>

</div>

<hr />

<h3 id="why-start-a-membership-program">Why start a membership program?</h3>

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/membership/img/explorers_club_2020-header.jpg" alt="ec_2020" style="margin-top: 1em;" /></p>

<p>I started the <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership"><em>Explorers Club</em></a> out of a desire for greater creative autonomy.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:testing"><a href="#fn:testing">1</a></sup> I wanted to go deep on: the <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/009/">literature</a> and <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/049/">phenomenology</a> of walking, the <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/055/">anthropology and cultural geography</a> of old pilgrimage routes in Japan, Shinto and Buddhist syncretic histories, <a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/sms_publishing/">publishing experiments</a>, digital tool-building, <a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/media_accounting/">our relationship with technology</a>, et cetera, without the need for a &ldquo;gatekeeper&rdquo; to grant permission. In truth, I had spent a big chunk of 2018 pitching magazines and largely failing to publish around those topics. I was frustrated.</p>

<p>And yet! I had been <a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/">publishing</a> essays, articles, and newsletters for over a decade, building up a not-inconsiderable base of readers. I thought a membership program might help to do two things:</p>

<ol>
<li>Formalize my relationship with some of my most fervent readers, and</li>
<li>Give me an even more robust and sustainable publishing platform.</li>
</ol>

<p>It worked.</p>

<hr />

<p>Even though I had a built-in base of supporters, I didn&rsquo;t start the <em>Explorers Club</em> lightheartedly.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:conversion"><a href="#fn:conversion">2</a></sup> I gave extended thought to going in-house at a publication. I flew to New York, met with editors. I spent close to two months deliberating if a membership program really was the best way to achieve my goals as a writer, photographer, and technologist. I planned out what a membership year could look like, built assets, tested software, arranged dozens of coffee meetings in person and on skype with friends (thank you patient friends) to solicit feedback (strategic and pragmatic) in trying to figure out how to frame my value to my audience.</p>

<p>In the end, my conclusion was that given my existing audience and the clear set of topics that I wanted to investigate, I would be remiss to <em>not</em> try and go the membership route. Worst case scenario: Nobody joins and I close up shop, tail between my legs.</p>

<hr />

<h3 id="finances">Finances</h3>

<p>As of year one, I am sad to report: I cannot yet retire or purchase a yacht. I am delighted, however, to report that the <em>Explorers Club</em> covers my base costs of living. I live fairly simply so these costs are perhaps lower than yours. That said, I don’t live like a hermit, have a comfortable studio / home, big enough to frequently host other artists and writers, and like to cook with fancy butter.</p>

<p>For the first year of a membership program, having costs of living (food, rent, membership-related travel expenses (hotels, trains) and equipment (hiking gear, recording equipment, et cetera)) covered feels like a huge milestone. And if growth continues as it has these past six months, then by year three the program should essentially allow me to work in perpetuity on whatever I want without fear of &ldquo;market viability” or the need to take on the occasional non-membership-related consulting project. This is the ultimate goal, and aligns with Kevin Kelly’s <a href="https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/">oft-referenced</a> &ldquo;1000 true fans&rdquo; theory of creator independence.</p>

<hr />

<h3 id="launching">Launching</h3>

<p>Although year one was good, it wasn’t as great as it could have been. I believe there are a number of ways in which I could have more smartly launched the <em>Explorers Club</em>.</p>

<p>By far, my biggest screw-up was launching the <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/"><em>Ridgeline</em></a> newsletter weeks <em>before</em> the membership program. I should have launched it in tandem with memberships.</p>

<p>A few weeks after I launched my program, <a href="https://twitter.com/tcarmody">Tim Carmody</a> launched his <a href="https://twitter.com/amazonchron"><em>Amazon Chronicles</em></a> newsletter, and included a <em>very</em> smart feature: If he crested a certain number of paid subscribers, the newsletter was “unlocked” for all readers. He called it <a href="https://www.niemanlab.org/2019/01/unlocking-the-commons/">“unlocking the commons.”</a> Tim’s a genius. I only wish he had been smart enough to launch before me so I could have copied him. ;)</p>

<p>Because: The <em>Ridgeline</em> newsletter proved to be far more popular than I expected. I had thousands of signups in the first day alone. I suspect if I had made it a paid benefit of the membership program, and if I had set an “unlock” number, we would have hit that number quickly. As is also the case with <a href="https://craigmod.com/journal/kickstartup/">Kickstarter projects</a>, would-be paying supporters are motivated by goals (“stretch goals!!”), and goals that benefit all are (I think?) extra enticing. The tandem launch would have also “focused” the membership program — <em>Ridgeline</em> could have been a banner benefit. I suspect it would have boosted launch signups, and unlocked itself in the process effectively allowing for simultaneous cake having and eating.</p>

<p>This highlights a specific case of a more general problem I was wrestling with: For years I had been producing a lot of “free content,” and wanted to keep doing that, but to do it with more focus and the rigor of a full-time job. I didn’t want to artificially throw a bunch of my work behind a paywall and say: OK, now pay me. The reasons for keeping the bulk of my work free were philosophically and morally grounded. I believe (however Pollyannaish the thought may be) in the base-ethos of the web as a platform for information <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intertwingularity">“intertwingularity”</a> and as an academic space for sharing ideas. I’ve benefited from countless freely-shared online essays. And I wanted to (and want to) pay back into that system.</p>

<p>So the thrust of my membership pitch was something like:</p>

<blockquote>
<p>Consider this program a mini-NPR. And consider your membership a way of saying: <em>Craig, ya weird bird, I wanna see more of your work in the world.</em></p>
</blockquote>

<p>Which is fine, but perhaps unrefined, as a pitch. Folks want something for a buck beyond feeling good. This is, undoubtably, why NPR has so many <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/how-npr-tote-bags-became-a-thing/390657/">tote bag giveaways</a> — the number of folks (and average donation) rises significantly thanks to a sweet tote.</p>

<p>Still! I didn’t give away nothing. In becoming a member you got some smartphone wallpapers, PDFs of my books, and discount codes to buy physical copies. But, really, you had to be a super fan to even find that on the membership page.</p>

<!--Most of all, what I lacked in my launch was confidence. I didn’t know if I could produce or deliver on my promises. I felt sheepish about asking for money for stuff I had been doing for free for years. It felt lame and in some ways made me feel like a failure. And yet: These were all self-created demons. (I’m being a tad overly-honest here because I think it may be useful for pattern matching among you readers out there looking to start your own membership programs.)-->

<hr />

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/essays/images/membership_programs/2020_landing.png" alt="Explorers Club landing page, 2020" /></p>

<p>I recently relaunched for year two, and while the pitch is still far from perfect, I think I learned from some of my mistakes. The membership page is much clearer and the first screen immediately answers three critical questions:</p>

<ol>
<li>What is being made?</li>
<li>What do members get?</li>
<li>How do you become a member?</li>
</ol>

<p>The rest of the page is dedicated to digging more deeply into #1 and #2.</p>

<hr />

<p>Most important to note here is the confidence. This is a far more confident page than my original launch page. Largely free from any weird verbal hedging. And the reason for this confidence was 2019 itself — the vast treasure of things I was able to produce thanks to the membership program. All of my sheepishness has been sanded away, replaced with: <strong>Good lord, membership programs can be <em>EXCELLENT</em> and in fact, this is what the <em>Explorers Club</em> produced. Let’s keep this going! </strong></p>

<p>I can now also offer genuinely “exclusive” content to members. I have a year of <em>Inside Explorers</em> members-only newsletters, and have started to produce “Pop-Up” walks. By joining you get immediate access to these archives. How do I square this members-only content with my above free-for-all philosophy? Non-members get a Pop-Up Walk highlights reel, and any ideas worth exploring exclusive to the membership program make their way into my free newsletters. Members essentially get extra-beta access to upcoming essays.</p>

<hr />

<p>The members-only content also has a (password protected) home on my website, making it easier for members to see what they have access to:</p>

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/essays/images/membership_programs/members-only1.png" class="sixcol" />
<img src="https://craigmod.com/essays/images/membership_programs/members-only2.png" class="sixcol last" style="margin-bottom: 1em;" /></p>

<p>This includes:</p>

<ul>
<li>Discount codes on books</li>
<li>PDF downloads</li>
<li>12 walking-in-Japan phone wallpapers</li>
<li>Archives of members-only newsletters</li>
<li>Archives of full-length Pop-up Walk videos</li>
<li>Access to the <a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/sms_publishing/">SMS Project</a> archive</li>
</ul>

<hr />

<p>In 2019 members have gotten tickets to sold out talks, early access to retreats I&rsquo;ve co-run, and in January 2020 I gave away two tickets (~$300/each) to members to a sold-out conference in San Francisco.</p>

<p>Starting this year I&rsquo;m launching &ldquo;office hours,&rdquo; both local and virtual. Slowly but surely I&rsquo;m finding ways that align with my own creative impulses (as opposed to &ldquo;membership busywork&rdquo;) to generate more and more value for members.</p>

<hr />

<h3 id="pricing">Pricing</h3>

<p>I find simplicity is critical.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:tiers"><a href="#fn:tiers">3</a></sup> Assume every additional option you add to your program will at least double the amount of work on your end (in updating pages, updating perks, providing refunds, helping people &ldquo;upgrade&rdquo; or &ldquo;downgrade&rdquo;, et cetera). I believe member tiers — much like on <a href="https://craigmod.com/journal/kickstartup/">Kickstarter</a> — quickly become overly complex. The only option I offer for the <em>Explorers Club</em> is frequency of payment — monthly, yearly, or lifetime. Everyone gets the same stuff. (Essentially, folks are voting on how long they think I can keep doing this.)</p>

<hr />

<p>I like my pricing model. $10/mo or $100/yr feels about right. $10/mo might seem like a lot, but I’d rather try and stretch to “provide that value” than lower the cost of the tiers.</p>

<p>It goes unspoken, but <em>Explorers Club</em> members get priority in my inbox. This is somewhat inevitable. Even exchanging just $1 changes the nature of a relationship. So I’d rather sell that priority for a price that feels commensurate to my time — which is (I hope!) worth a lot more than a couple bucks a month.</p>

<p>Related: Each time someone joins the program I respond with a simple thank you letter. I’ve never had anyone, ever, send me a personalized “thank you for joining” letter for any of the other membership programs I’ve joined. This seems bonkers. It takes all of 5 seconds to send the “thank you” and immediately increases the intimacy of the membership-relationship. 99% of the time the response to my thank you is, “Thank <em>you</em>!! I’ve been a fan since PROJECT-X or BOOK-Y.” It feels great to get that response and gives me (valuable) context around who is becoming a member.</p>

<hr />

<p>I added the $1000/Lifetime tier as a lark. I should have made it more expensive. The very first member to join was a Lifetime member. I’ve had roughly a billion billion more Lifetime members join than I expected. I still haven’t done anything specifically for these lifetimers,<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:lifetimers"><a href="#fn:lifetimers">4</a></sup> but I intend to offer some gifts and special deals later this year.</p>

<p>The biggest surprise of Lifetimers is how much of a psychological boost they provide. Often, they’re people I deeply respect, have a tremendous fondness for, and yet! to whom I have no personal connection. A one-two shock. One: Wow, <em>you</em> know my work? and Two: You like it enough to throw me a thousand bucks?</p>

<hr />

<p>The biggest push-back I had on launching the program was from people for whom $10/mo was too much. $10USD is a weird number — an absolute nothing for some people, and the difference between paying or missing rent or a meal for others. The most angry or upset or sad emails were from super-fans who wanted to join but couldn&rsquo;t afford to do so. It broke their heart (and mine). I have tried to hammer home that the bulk of the membership program is to support work that is free and available to non-members. And that simply being a reader and sharing my work is an <em>exceedingly valuable</em> form of support.</p>

<p>I don&rsquo;t have a good solution to this issue — but because so much of what I produce is not behind a paywall, I don&rsquo;t think I need one. Other membership programs — like <em>Stratechery</em> and <em>The New Consumer</em> — have gotten around this by publishing one free article each week.</p>

<p>For a limited time I had a $3/mo tier that was in part for folks for whom $10 was too much, and also for students. It had slightly different perks, and ultimately I found it created too much complexity. I&rsquo;ve since stopped offering the tier. I’d rather have fewer members paying in at a higher rate than more paying less.</p>

<p>As for students,<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:students"><a href="#fn:students">5</a></sup> I now offer a free tier. They just have to email me to be added: <a href="mailto:explorers@craigmod.com">explorers@craigmod.com</a>.</p>

<hr />

<p>To conclude on pricing, let me just reiterate a point that may have been lost above: I believe it&rsquo;s better to charge more and figure out how to &ldquo;reach&rdquo; that value than to charge less. Considering the amount of work a membership program requires, I&rsquo;d strongly reconsider launching with anything less than $10/mo or $100/year. And depending on your audience, I believe you can charge significantly more. Don&rsquo;t undervalue yourself. (Also: It&rsquo;s always easier to lower prices later.)</p>

<hr />

<h3 id="member-acquisition">Member Acquisition</h3>

<p>Over the course of the first year I had three main member &ldquo;acquisition moments.&rdquo;</p>

<p>The first was during launch week, which by far and away produced the most number of new members. Sadly, you only get to launch once. That said, I consider last year a &ldquo;soft&rdquo; launch and am attempting a &ldquo;hard&rdquo; launch in February 2020 with this very essay.</p>

<p>It took me a year to figure things out and I only now feel confident in providing $100/year in value to my members. So I&rsquo;ll be blasting links to this essay and my <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership/">membership page</a> from the rooftops. We&rsquo;ll see how it goes. I&rsquo;ll report back next year.</p>

<hr />

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/essays/images/membership_programs/shutup.png" /></p>

<p>The second large acquisition moment was when I ran a <a href="https://craigmod.com/roden/024/#explorers-club-members">&ldquo;Core 300&rdquo;</a> campaign in February to get us over the 300 member mark. I made a graph on the membership page to show real-time progress, and ran an <a href="https://craigmod.com/roden/025/#a-b-empathy-membershipping">A/B &ldquo;empathy&rdquo; test</a> to see what kind of target phraseology would generate the most conversions.</p>

<p>The variants were: &ldquo;Core Explorers,&rdquo; &ldquo;Holy Shit 300,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Please Shut Up Craig 300.&rdquo; The winner at 8% conversion was &ldquo;Please Shut Up&rdquo; which speaks to the power of … uhm … self-deprecation?</p>

<hr />

<p>The third big bump came in October. I asked members what they wanted more of. The overwhelming response: More behind-the-scenes stuff. From that came the idea for <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/047/">Pop-Up Walk 001</a>, which I was able to announce to my newsletters as a members-only experience. This spontaneous campaign accounted for 15% of all subscribers last year. Mainly, it speaks to the power of tying a direct benefit / boost to becoming a member.</p>

<p>But more importantly it pushed me to explore doing something like a &ldquo;Pop-Up Walk&rdquo; — which itself was, as <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/050/">I wrote later</a>, a &ldquo;revelation:&rdquo;</p>

<blockquote>
<p>The whole experience was a bit of a revelation. We took over a secret Instagram account, and used the Stories feature as a a semi-realtime distribution vector. It worked pretty well, aside from the fact we butted against the 100 story limit (and therefore most folks didn’t get to see the whole walk). This is why I ended up throwing the entire day of videos (2hrs+) up on a secret YouTube URL — so folks could catch what they missed.</p>

<p>I keep writing “we” above because it felt like that — like a we. There were backchannel DM conversations going on with a few dozen folks. It felt like there was an intimate crew alongside me as I walked through the countryside and up and down the mountains. I really enjoyed it and the morning after Pop-Up 001, the first few hours felt a little strange, a little thin, a little lonely. The impulse was to narrate — to share what I was seeing and the beauty and weirdness past which I was walking. But then I realized this is what apps like Instagram train us to do — to be “on,” constantly. To always be on the lookout for something to broadcast. And after a few hours, I felt and good and comfortable back inside my head, all alone.</p>
</blockquote>

<p>Which speaks to one of the best ancillary benefits of running a membership program — in figuring out ways to add value for members (and thereby induce so-called &ldquo;acquisition moments&rdquo;), you uncover new modes of production and creativity for yourself.</p>

<hr />

<h3 id="technical-gobbledygook">Technical Gobbledygook</h3>

<p>I am (<a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/fast_software/">not so</a>?) secretly a mega geek, and have spent most of my life from age eight onwards living in some variant of unix-like command line dorkery. So — caveats! My choices are probably not the best choices for you. Still, in the spirit of sharing and learning, here are the technical underpinnings of the <em>Explorers Club</em>.</p>

<hr />

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/essays/images/membership_programs/technical.png" /></p>

<p>I run my own website using the <a href="https://gohugo.io/">Hugo</a> static-site generation tool. It’s hosted on a <a href="https://m.do.co/c/3917158b4140">Digital Ocean</a> VPS (if you sign up with that link you get $100 in free credit (and I get a sweet $25, too)). I use <a href="https://memberful.com/">Memberful</a> as my membership program backend. I like Memberful because it’s minimal and allows me to control the look and feel of much of the program on my site. <a href="https://kottke.org/members/"><em>Kottke</em></a>, <a href="https://stratechery.com/membership/"><em>Stratechery</em></a>, <a href="https://newconsumer.com/"><em>The New Consumer</em></a>, and other membership program poster-children also use Memberful.</p>

<p>Memberful is owned by Patreon. I didn’t launch on Patreon because I didn’t see the need for any of Patreon’s additional features, and didn’t like having to send readers / would-be members to a URL I didn’t “own.”</p>

<p>Memberful plugs into <a href="https://www.campaignmonitor.com/">Campaign Monitor</a>, my email / newsletter provider. Memberful automatically adds and removes members from members-only Campaign Monitor newsletters as folks sign up, upgrade, or cancel their memberships. (MailChimp has similar integration.) Inside of Campaign Monitor I setup welcome email logic called “Automated Journeys” and use Campaign Monitor for all email / newsletter related correspondence.</p>

<p>Memberful is plugged into <a href="https://stripe.com/">Stripe</a> for handling payments and payouts. Stripe pays out to an <em>Explorers Club</em> bank account every few days. My bank account is automated to split the payments into &ldquo;Explorers savings&rdquo; (for funding research), checking (for covering rent, et cetera), and retirement accounts (~5%, for always building on the habit of long-term savings, however small) so I feel confident all of the money that arrives via the membership program is being put to clear, well-defined, and easily traceable uses.</p>

<hr />

<p>If your only intent is to run a single (1) paid newsletter, then this stack could be drastically simplified by using a tool like <a href="https://buttondown.email/">Buttondown</a> or <a href="http://substack.com/">Substack</a>, both of which offer free / paid subscription functionality.</p>

<p>Again, I prefer the flexibility of my setup: I run three distinct newsletters via Campaign Monitor and can send to various tiers of the membership base as needed. By running my own website I have total control over design and speed. I think my website is pretty fast and work to make it faster over time. I like being able to publish essays on my own domain, use it as an archive for published-elsewhere essays, and create media-specific versions of pages for things like photo galleries or books.</p>

<hr />

<p>Another option appeared in the middle of 2019 — <a href="https://ghost.org/members/">Ghost</a>. It&rsquo;s an intriguing option, and not only is the pricing model reasonable, but the <a href="https://ghost.org/about/">company ethos is admirable</a>. Open source, focused on sustainability. If I were starting from scratch today, I&rsquo;d strongly consider running my membership program and newsletters on Ghost. <em>Stratechery</em> published a worthwhile and <a href="https://stratechery.com/2019/ghost-3-0-an-interview-with-ghost-ceo-john-onolan/">extensive interview</a> with CEO John O&rsquo;Nolan.</p>

<hr />

<p>Still: The cost of running all of this is not inconsiderable!</p>

<p>As of February 2020, here are my base costs:</p>

<table>
<thead>
<tr>
<td scope="col">Service</td>
<td scope="col">Cost/mo</td>
<td scope="col">Notes</td>
</tr>
</thead>
<tbody>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://m.do.co/c/3917158b4140">Digital Ocean Server</a></td>
<td class="cost">$36.00</td>
<td>Hosting for craigmod.com, walkkumano.com, etc</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://cloudflare.com">Cloudflare</a></td>
<td class="cost">$25.25</td>
<td>Domain caching, protection, CDN</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://memberful.com">Memberful</a></td>
<td class="cost">$25.00</td>
<td>Managing memberships themselves (tiers, signups)</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://campaignmonitor.com">Campaign Monitor</a></td>
<td class="cost">$200.00</td>
<td>Running <em>Ridgeline</em> / <em>Roden</em> / <em>Explorers Club</em> newsletters</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://www.mailmunch.com/">Mailmunch</a></td>
<td class="cost">$12.00</td>
<td>Newsletter acquisition helper</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Quicken</td>
<td class="cost">$5.00</td>
<td>Accounting Software</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://libsyn.com/">Libsyn Podcast Hosting</a></td>
<td class="cost">$17.00</td>
<td><em>On Margins</em> hosting / publishing</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://gumroad.com/">Gumroad</a></td>
<td class="cost">$10.00</td>
<td>Selling books / digital goods / hosting membership perks</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Google Apps</td>
<td class="cost">$6.38</td>
<td>craigmod.com email</td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>

<p>Which is about $340/mo, or $4000/year in recurring costs.</p>

<p>Memberful charges 4.9% per transaction. Stripe charges an additional 2.9% (+$0.30) credit card processing fee. Together, this represents an additional running cost of 7.8% of all membership sales.</p>

<p>Gumroad charges a very reasonable 3.5% (+$0.30) for each sale (I sell <a href="https://shop.craigmod.com/">my books</a> on it) on its platform. This price includes CC processing.</p>

<hr />

<p>Because I have over 15,000 subscribers on my newsletters, the largest recurring monthly cost is Campaign Monitor (the cost would be similar on MailChimp). There are <a href="https://www.phplist.org/">geekier</a> (and thereby more complex, finicky) but less expensive ways to run newsletters for this many subscribers, but I find using a service like Campaign Monitor is worth the cost for several reasons:</p>

<ol>
<li>Increased deliverability (less chance of ending up in spam) since they’re a trusted sender</li>
<li>Direct integration with Memberful</li>
<li>Powerful “journeys” that allow for automation</li>
<li>Simplicity of interface / it just works</li>
</ol>

<p>Used well to promote my events / workshops / books, those newsletters easily recoup the cost of Campaign Monitor’s fees. As an author/photographer, the newsletters are by far my most valuable asset. If I could only keep one thing in the whole stack it would be the newsletters. They’re that powerful. They were my superpower in starting the membership program. The membership program is like a hyper-distillation of the newsletters — a collection of mega fans, the newsletter base annealed.</p>

<p>So while $200/mo may seem high, it’s actually quite reasonable in perspective. Especially so considering Campaign Monitor isn’t reading my emails, isn’t selling my subscriber information, isn’t performing some dark-pattern of business model judo, swapping an easily understandable <a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/media_accounting/">contract</a> for something opaque and morally dubious. So I’m happy to pay for a service from an easy-to-understand business. Paying fairly for something is, as they say, why we can have nice things in the world.</p>

<hr />

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/membership/img/walking_2020-2.jpg" /></p>

<h3 id="conclusion">Conclusion</h3>

<p>Fifteen months ago I didn&rsquo;t know if running a membership program would crush my soul, burden me into the ground, and drain my finances. I didn&rsquo;t know if my readers would go screaming into the night, come back with pitchforks, stab me, drink my blood, become stronger in my new absence. I certainly didn&rsquo;t know if I&rsquo;d finish 2019 with anything I was proud of.</p>

<p>It turns out: Starting the <em>Explorers Club</em> was a fine idea. <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership/#2019">The list of what the membership program enabled</a> is impressive. I am in awe of what was produced and the support of my readers. And I&rsquo;m energized and excited about what we&rsquo;re going to do in 2020.</p>

<p>Churn rate for the <em>Explorers Club</em> has held at less than 5% for the first year. I take that as a sign that the perception of what members thought they would get and what they&rsquo;re actually getting is aligned. I had one person ask for a refund, but it was clear they had completely misunderstood what they had purchased. I assume they were drunk.</p>

<p>I am <em>tremendously</em> grateful to everyone who has joined. I realize not everyone can afford to join, and I realize we’re all a bit bombarded by “memberships” and “subscriptions” these days. But ultimately — this is a good thing! A scant ten years ago this ecosystem barely existed. Now it’s ever-more normalized. This feels healthy. Directly supporting writers, artists, musicians, software developers, et cetera, feels like the final remaining puzzle piece of the last 30 years of independent creation. Computers democratized design in the ’80s/’90s, the web democratized publishing in the ’00s, and now proper payments infrastructure is democratizing creative sustainability.</p>

<hr />

<p>So, after all <em>that</em>, if you&rsquo;re still intent on starting a membership program, here are my final tips:</p>

<ol>
<li>Start writing / making videos / producing what it is you intend to produce for members today, build up that muscle, and do it, ideally, for years before launching the program</li>
<li>Have clear goals<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:goals"><a href="#fn:goals">6</a></sup> — writing targets, publishing targets, et cetera — that you can articulate to yourself</li>
<li>Exhaust / investigate other possible ways to achieve those goals</li>
<li>Spend a month or two iterating on your plan before launching</li>
<li>Be willing to commit for (at least) a full year, since it seems that a year of work is required to build momentum and finally understand what you and the program are capable of</li>
</ol>

<p>Good luck! And if you have any questions, email <a href="mailto:me@craigmod.com">me@craigmod.com</a>. Oh, and, you know, please consider joining the <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership/"><em>Explorers Club</em></a>. Thanks.</p>

<p>— <a href="https://craigmod.com/about">Craig</a></p>

<p><span class="tiny">p.s., I did a little <a href="https://craigmod.com/roden/035/#membership-questions">Q&amp;A with my mailing list</a> about running this program, in case the above 5,000 words aren&rsquo;t enough.</span></p>

<hr />

<h3 id="noted">Noted:</h3>

<div class="footnotes">

<hr />

<ol>
<li id="fn:testing">I also think it&rsquo;s a fascinating time to be involved with independent publishing on the web. As more stuff gets shoved into silos, and less content is built on open platforms, a little bit of the founding spirit of this place is lost. I wrote a piece for <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/future-book-is-here-but-not-what-we-expected/">WIRED</a> at the end of 2018 about the state of publishing. In it, I wrote about membership programs. This got me thinking: How tricky is it, really, to run one? The best way to understand an ecosystem is to fully immerse yourself within its gnarled tendrils. So that, too, was part of the impulse: To better understand the tools available to run a program like this, to be able to write about them like I am here.
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:testing">↩︎</a></li>
<li id="fn:conversion">An audience is often (but not always!) a prerequisite for the success of these things. But “an audience” is often a proxy for you having &ldquo;done the work.&rdquo; Which is to say, I do not recommend starting a membership program unless you’ve already spent years doing what you plan on doing for the program. If you’ve done that, and have been smart about regularly reaching out to others in your community, then you should, in theory, have (at the very least!) the seed of an audience. So, in a way it’s a non-issue: If you haven&rsquo;t been working to build an audience, then you’re probably not ready to launch a membership program. <!--And in fact, conversion rates were lower than anticipated (way under 10%), in part because of reasons as enumerated in the above essay (i.e., never talking about it on Twitter or Instagram). So simply having an audience of x-thousand fans does not always mean quick bucks. I don't just feel — I know — I've worked harder for each *Explorers Club* dollar than any other dollar I've earned in my life. But, as I explain above, the financial component is only one of many benefits of running a membership program. -->
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:conversion">↩︎</a></li>
<li id="fn:tiers">Both from the perspective of potential members, and sanity-of-creator point of view. The more tiers you make, and the more unique their offerings, the more you have to think about how to slice up what you&rsquo;re doing for each tier.
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:tiers">↩︎</a></li>
<li id="fn:lifetimers">I suspect lifetimers might even be &ldquo;upset&rdquo; if I did anything specifically for them since the thrust of their support is: This is good, this is right, keep going. Not: Gimme special perks. This only makes their support all the more powerful.
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:lifetimers">↩︎</a></li>
<li id="fn:students">This is such a weird distinction, I know, the &ldquo;student&rdquo; discount. Why students? Who is a student? What constitutes student? Aren&rsquo;t we all students? Why not an &ldquo;unemployed&rdquo; discount? I don&rsquo;t know! But what I do know is I like this idea: A period of time in life where you don&rsquo;t (usually) have a lot of excess cash, and your mind is fertile and fresh and open to new ideas, and you have some time to <em>think</em> about who and what you want to be in the world. And, really, what kind of world you want to live in. You&rsquo;ve yet to make any real &ldquo;binding decisions&rdquo; that otherwise burden folks in their late 20s and 30s and beyond. In an ideal scenario, this period tends to fall during college / university, early 20s, before you enter into or push back against the workforce. I think if you want to have an impact on the next generation and their sense of optionality, opportunities, and positive archetypes, then offering them an inside glimpse into creative processes and &ldquo;non-standard&rdquo; ways of investigating the world is critical, and in some ways maybe even a moral duty. When I was 20, I wish I had had better access to what I know now. It would have made me feel a hell of a lot less lonely and crazy. So, I suppose my free student tier is my ham-handed attempt to pay that forward.
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:students">↩︎</a></li>
<li id="fn:goals">Goals are different than deliverables, though they may be connected. Even though my personal goals were clear, my ability to deliver on them wasn&rsquo;t (in my mind, at least). Hence the trepidation at launch, the lack of confidence in pushing the program out into the world.
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:goals">↩︎</a></li>
</ol>
</div>
</article>


<hr>

<footer>
<p>
<a href="/david/" title="Aller à l’accueil">🏠</a> •
<a href="/david/log/" title="Accès au flux RSS">🤖</a> •
<a href="http://larlet.com" title="Go to my English profile" data-instant>🇨🇦</a> •
<a href="mailto:david%40larlet.fr" title="Envoyer un courriel">📮</a> •
<abbr title="Hébergeur : Alwaysdata, 62 rue Tiquetonne 75002 Paris, +33184162340">🧚</abbr>
</p>
</footer>
<script src="/static/david/js/instantpage-3.0.0.min.js" type="module" defer></script>
</body>
</html>

+ 364
- 0
cache/2020/4c5cc5e59531ef04e068c883a1a0e166/index.md View File

@@ -0,0 +1,364 @@
title: Running a Paid Membership Program
url: https://craigmod.com/essays/membership_programs/
hash_url: 4c5cc5e59531ef04e068c883a1a0e166

<p>When I launched my <em>Explorers Club</em> <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership/">membership program</a> in January of 2019, I did so with crippling trepidation. So much trepidation that I never once announced it on Twitter or Instagram out of a certain shame. I only announced it in my newsletters, and even then, did so with considerable hemming and hawing.</p>

<p>The reasons for this were many: The program didn’t have super clear deliverables, I didn’t know if I would be able to produce anything of value (so said the tiny voice in my head), and I didn’t know if the program would provide spiritual lift or become wholly burdensome. Impostor syndrome is real!</p>

<p>So I spent the first few months one-foot-in-one-foot-out. But then I began to produce, proved (to myself) I could publish on schedule, and the year took on a momentum all its own. Words begat walks and images which begat essays which begat more thinking about walks which begat the scheduling of <em>bigger</em> walks which begat <em>bigger</em> essays and articles and books and so on and so forth in an ever-forward tumbling, snowballing way.</p>

<p>In the end, launching a paid membership program is maybe the smartest thing I’ve done: <strong>2019 was the most <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership/#2019">productive and creatively engaged</a> year of my life</strong>. And I owe the brunt of that to the <em>Explorers Club</em>. A rapturous THANK YOU to everyone who joined. It has not been “easy,” or effortless. In fact, 2019 was the year I worked harder and with more question marks lingering over my head than ever. But the membership program created a formality and from that formality I divined a permission — both financially and spiritually (my members are incredibly supportive) — to work deeply on topics I find interesting and important.</p>

<p>Everyone’s needs are different. I can’t explicitly recommend every writer or photographer or YouTuber to start their own membership program. What I can do is tell you about my experience, and hope that it’s instructive to those readers out there who might, too, be membership-curious.</p>

<hr />

<div class="toc">

<h3>Contents</h3>
<ul>
<li><a href="#why-start-a-membership-program">Why start a membership program?</a></li>
<li><a href="#finances">Finances</a></li>
<li><a href="#launching">Launching</a></li>
<li><a href="#pricing">Pricing</a></li>
<li><a href="#member-acquisition">Member Acquisition </a></li>
<li><a href="#technical-gobbledygook">Technical Gobbledygook</a></li>
<li><a href="#conclusions">Conclusions</a></li>
</ul>

</div>

<hr />

<h3 id="why-start-a-membership-program">Why start a membership program?</h3>

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/membership/img/explorers_club_2020-header.jpg" alt="ec_2020" style="margin-top: 1em;" /></p>

<p>I started the <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership"><em>Explorers Club</em></a> out of a desire for greater creative autonomy.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:testing"><a href="#fn:testing">1</a></sup> I wanted to go deep on: the <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/009/">literature</a> and <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/049/">phenomenology</a> of walking, the <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/055/">anthropology and cultural geography</a> of old pilgrimage routes in Japan, Shinto and Buddhist syncretic histories, <a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/sms_publishing/">publishing experiments</a>, digital tool-building, <a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/media_accounting/">our relationship with technology</a>, et cetera, without the need for a &ldquo;gatekeeper&rdquo; to grant permission. In truth, I had spent a big chunk of 2018 pitching magazines and largely failing to publish around those topics. I was frustrated.</p>

<p>And yet! I had been <a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/">publishing</a> essays, articles, and newsletters for over a decade, building up a not-inconsiderable base of readers. I thought a membership program might help to do two things:</p>

<ol>
<li>Formalize my relationship with some of my most fervent readers, and</li>
<li>Give me an even more robust and sustainable publishing platform.</li>
</ol>

<p>It worked.</p>

<hr />

<p>Even though I had a built-in base of supporters, I didn&rsquo;t start the <em>Explorers Club</em> lightheartedly.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:conversion"><a href="#fn:conversion">2</a></sup> I gave extended thought to going in-house at a publication. I flew to New York, met with editors. I spent close to two months deliberating if a membership program really was the best way to achieve my goals as a writer, photographer, and technologist. I planned out what a membership year could look like, built assets, tested software, arranged dozens of coffee meetings in person and on skype with friends (thank you patient friends) to solicit feedback (strategic and pragmatic) in trying to figure out how to frame my value to my audience.</p>

<p>In the end, my conclusion was that given my existing audience and the clear set of topics that I wanted to investigate, I would be remiss to <em>not</em> try and go the membership route. Worst case scenario: Nobody joins and I close up shop, tail between my legs.</p>

<hr />

<h3 id="finances">Finances</h3>

<p>As of year one, I am sad to report: I cannot yet retire or purchase a yacht. I am delighted, however, to report that the <em>Explorers Club</em> covers my base costs of living. I live fairly simply so these costs are perhaps lower than yours. That said, I don’t live like a hermit, have a comfortable studio / home, big enough to frequently host other artists and writers, and like to cook with fancy butter.</p>

<p>For the first year of a membership program, having costs of living (food, rent, membership-related travel expenses (hotels, trains) and equipment (hiking gear, recording equipment, et cetera)) covered feels like a huge milestone. And if growth continues as it has these past six months, then by year three the program should essentially allow me to work in perpetuity on whatever I want without fear of &ldquo;market viability” or the need to take on the occasional non-membership-related consulting project. This is the ultimate goal, and aligns with Kevin Kelly’s <a href="https://kk.org/thetechnium/1000-true-fans/">oft-referenced</a> &ldquo;1000 true fans&rdquo; theory of creator independence.</p>

<hr />

<h3 id="launching">Launching</h3>

<p>Although year one was good, it wasn’t as great as it could have been. I believe there are a number of ways in which I could have more smartly launched the <em>Explorers Club</em>.</p>

<p>By far, my biggest screw-up was launching the <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/"><em>Ridgeline</em></a> newsletter weeks <em>before</em> the membership program. I should have launched it in tandem with memberships.</p>

<p>A few weeks after I launched my program, <a href="https://twitter.com/tcarmody">Tim Carmody</a> launched his <a href="https://twitter.com/amazonchron"><em>Amazon Chronicles</em></a> newsletter, and included a <em>very</em> smart feature: If he crested a certain number of paid subscribers, the newsletter was “unlocked” for all readers. He called it <a href="https://www.niemanlab.org/2019/01/unlocking-the-commons/">“unlocking the commons.”</a> Tim’s a genius. I only wish he had been smart enough to launch before me so I could have copied him. ;)</p>

<p>Because: The <em>Ridgeline</em> newsletter proved to be far more popular than I expected. I had thousands of signups in the first day alone. I suspect if I had made it a paid benefit of the membership program, and if I had set an “unlock” number, we would have hit that number quickly. As is also the case with <a href="https://craigmod.com/journal/kickstartup/">Kickstarter projects</a>, would-be paying supporters are motivated by goals (“stretch goals!!”), and goals that benefit all are (I think?) extra enticing. The tandem launch would have also “focused” the membership program — <em>Ridgeline</em> could have been a banner benefit. I suspect it would have boosted launch signups, and unlocked itself in the process effectively allowing for simultaneous cake having and eating.</p>

<p>This highlights a specific case of a more general problem I was wrestling with: For years I had been producing a lot of “free content,” and wanted to keep doing that, but to do it with more focus and the rigor of a full-time job. I didn’t want to artificially throw a bunch of my work behind a paywall and say: OK, now pay me. The reasons for keeping the bulk of my work free were philosophically and morally grounded. I believe (however Pollyannaish the thought may be) in the base-ethos of the web as a platform for information <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intertwingularity">“intertwingularity”</a> and as an academic space for sharing ideas. I’ve benefited from countless freely-shared online essays. And I wanted to (and want to) pay back into that system.</p>

<p>So the thrust of my membership pitch was something like:</p>

<blockquote>
<p>Consider this program a mini-NPR. And consider your membership a way of saying: <em>Craig, ya weird bird, I wanna see more of your work in the world.</em></p>
</blockquote>

<p>Which is fine, but perhaps unrefined, as a pitch. Folks want something for a buck beyond feeling good. This is, undoubtably, why NPR has so many <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/04/how-npr-tote-bags-became-a-thing/390657/">tote bag giveaways</a> — the number of folks (and average donation) rises significantly thanks to a sweet tote.</p>

<p>Still! I didn’t give away nothing. In becoming a member you got some smartphone wallpapers, PDFs of my books, and discount codes to buy physical copies. But, really, you had to be a super fan to even find that on the membership page.</p>

<!--Most of all, what I lacked in my launch was confidence. I didn’t know if I could produce or deliver on my promises. I felt sheepish about asking for money for stuff I had been doing for free for years. It felt lame and in some ways made me feel like a failure. And yet: These were all self-created demons. (I’m being a tad overly-honest here because I think it may be useful for pattern matching among you readers out there looking to start your own membership programs.)-->

<hr />

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/essays/images/membership_programs/2020_landing.png" alt="Explorers Club landing page, 2020" /></p>

<p>I recently relaunched for year two, and while the pitch is still far from perfect, I think I learned from some of my mistakes. The membership page is much clearer and the first screen immediately answers three critical questions:</p>

<ol>
<li>What is being made?</li>
<li>What do members get?</li>
<li>How do you become a member?</li>
</ol>

<p>The rest of the page is dedicated to digging more deeply into #1 and #2.</p>

<hr />

<p>Most important to note here is the confidence. This is a far more confident page than my original launch page. Largely free from any weird verbal hedging. And the reason for this confidence was 2019 itself — the vast treasure of things I was able to produce thanks to the membership program. All of my sheepishness has been sanded away, replaced with: <strong>Good lord, membership programs can be <em>EXCELLENT</em> and in fact, this is what the <em>Explorers Club</em> produced. Let’s keep this going! </strong></p>

<p>I can now also offer genuinely “exclusive” content to members. I have a year of <em>Inside Explorers</em> members-only newsletters, and have started to produce “Pop-Up” walks. By joining you get immediate access to these archives. How do I square this members-only content with my above free-for-all philosophy? Non-members get a Pop-Up Walk highlights reel, and any ideas worth exploring exclusive to the membership program make their way into my free newsletters. Members essentially get extra-beta access to upcoming essays.</p>

<hr />

<p>The members-only content also has a (password protected) home on my website, making it easier for members to see what they have access to:</p>

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/essays/images/membership_programs/members-only1.png" class="sixcol" />
<img src="https://craigmod.com/essays/images/membership_programs/members-only2.png" class="sixcol last" style="margin-bottom: 1em;" /></p>

<p>This includes:</p>

<ul>
<li>Discount codes on books</li>
<li>PDF downloads</li>
<li>12 walking-in-Japan phone wallpapers</li>
<li>Archives of members-only newsletters</li>
<li>Archives of full-length Pop-up Walk videos</li>
<li>Access to the <a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/sms_publishing/">SMS Project</a> archive</li>
</ul>

<hr />

<p>In 2019 members have gotten tickets to sold out talks, early access to retreats I&rsquo;ve co-run, and in January 2020 I gave away two tickets (~$300/each) to members to a sold-out conference in San Francisco.</p>

<p>Starting this year I&rsquo;m launching &ldquo;office hours,&rdquo; both local and virtual. Slowly but surely I&rsquo;m finding ways that align with my own creative impulses (as opposed to &ldquo;membership busywork&rdquo;) to generate more and more value for members.</p>

<hr />

<h3 id="pricing">Pricing</h3>

<p>I find simplicity is critical.<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:tiers"><a href="#fn:tiers">3</a></sup> Assume every additional option you add to your program will at least double the amount of work on your end (in updating pages, updating perks, providing refunds, helping people &ldquo;upgrade&rdquo; or &ldquo;downgrade&rdquo;, et cetera). I believe member tiers — much like on <a href="https://craigmod.com/journal/kickstartup/">Kickstarter</a> — quickly become overly complex. The only option I offer for the <em>Explorers Club</em> is frequency of payment — monthly, yearly, or lifetime. Everyone gets the same stuff. (Essentially, folks are voting on how long they think I can keep doing this.)</p>

<hr />

<p>I like my pricing model. $10/mo or $100/yr feels about right. $10/mo might seem like a lot, but I’d rather try and stretch to “provide that value” than lower the cost of the tiers.</p>

<p>It goes unspoken, but <em>Explorers Club</em> members get priority in my inbox. This is somewhat inevitable. Even exchanging just $1 changes the nature of a relationship. So I’d rather sell that priority for a price that feels commensurate to my time — which is (I hope!) worth a lot more than a couple bucks a month.</p>

<p>Related: Each time someone joins the program I respond with a simple thank you letter. I’ve never had anyone, ever, send me a personalized “thank you for joining” letter for any of the other membership programs I’ve joined. This seems bonkers. It takes all of 5 seconds to send the “thank you” and immediately increases the intimacy of the membership-relationship. 99% of the time the response to my thank you is, “Thank <em>you</em>!! I’ve been a fan since PROJECT-X or BOOK-Y.” It feels great to get that response and gives me (valuable) context around who is becoming a member.</p>

<hr />

<p>I added the $1000/Lifetime tier as a lark. I should have made it more expensive. The very first member to join was a Lifetime member. I’ve had roughly a billion billion more Lifetime members join than I expected. I still haven’t done anything specifically for these lifetimers,<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:lifetimers"><a href="#fn:lifetimers">4</a></sup> but I intend to offer some gifts and special deals later this year.</p>

<p>The biggest surprise of Lifetimers is how much of a psychological boost they provide. Often, they’re people I deeply respect, have a tremendous fondness for, and yet! to whom I have no personal connection. A one-two shock. One: Wow, <em>you</em> know my work? and Two: You like it enough to throw me a thousand bucks?</p>

<hr />

<p>The biggest push-back I had on launching the program was from people for whom $10/mo was too much. $10USD is a weird number — an absolute nothing for some people, and the difference between paying or missing rent or a meal for others. The most angry or upset or sad emails were from super-fans who wanted to join but couldn&rsquo;t afford to do so. It broke their heart (and mine). I have tried to hammer home that the bulk of the membership program is to support work that is free and available to non-members. And that simply being a reader and sharing my work is an <em>exceedingly valuable</em> form of support.</p>

<p>I don&rsquo;t have a good solution to this issue — but because so much of what I produce is not behind a paywall, I don&rsquo;t think I need one. Other membership programs — like <em>Stratechery</em> and <em>The New Consumer</em> — have gotten around this by publishing one free article each week.</p>

<p>For a limited time I had a $3/mo tier that was in part for folks for whom $10 was too much, and also for students. It had slightly different perks, and ultimately I found it created too much complexity. I&rsquo;ve since stopped offering the tier. I’d rather have fewer members paying in at a higher rate than more paying less.</p>

<p>As for students,<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:students"><a href="#fn:students">5</a></sup> I now offer a free tier. They just have to email me to be added: <a href="mailto:explorers@craigmod.com">explorers@craigmod.com</a>.</p>

<hr />

<p>To conclude on pricing, let me just reiterate a point that may have been lost above: I believe it&rsquo;s better to charge more and figure out how to &ldquo;reach&rdquo; that value than to charge less. Considering the amount of work a membership program requires, I&rsquo;d strongly reconsider launching with anything less than $10/mo or $100/year. And depending on your audience, I believe you can charge significantly more. Don&rsquo;t undervalue yourself. (Also: It&rsquo;s always easier to lower prices later.)</p>

<hr />

<h3 id="member-acquisition">Member Acquisition</h3>

<p>Over the course of the first year I had three main member &ldquo;acquisition moments.&rdquo;</p>

<p>The first was during launch week, which by far and away produced the most number of new members. Sadly, you only get to launch once. That said, I consider last year a &ldquo;soft&rdquo; launch and am attempting a &ldquo;hard&rdquo; launch in February 2020 with this very essay.</p>

<p>It took me a year to figure things out and I only now feel confident in providing $100/year in value to my members. So I&rsquo;ll be blasting links to this essay and my <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership/">membership page</a> from the rooftops. We&rsquo;ll see how it goes. I&rsquo;ll report back next year.</p>

<hr />

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/essays/images/membership_programs/shutup.png" /></p>

<p>The second large acquisition moment was when I ran a <a href="https://craigmod.com/roden/024/#explorers-club-members">&ldquo;Core 300&rdquo;</a> campaign in February to get us over the 300 member mark. I made a graph on the membership page to show real-time progress, and ran an <a href="https://craigmod.com/roden/025/#a-b-empathy-membershipping">A/B &ldquo;empathy&rdquo; test</a> to see what kind of target phraseology would generate the most conversions.</p>

<p>The variants were: &ldquo;Core Explorers,&rdquo; &ldquo;Holy Shit 300,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Please Shut Up Craig 300.&rdquo; The winner at 8% conversion was &ldquo;Please Shut Up&rdquo; which speaks to the power of … uhm … self-deprecation?</p>

<hr />

<p>The third big bump came in October. I asked members what they wanted more of. The overwhelming response: More behind-the-scenes stuff. From that came the idea for <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/047/">Pop-Up Walk 001</a>, which I was able to announce to my newsletters as a members-only experience. This spontaneous campaign accounted for 15% of all subscribers last year. Mainly, it speaks to the power of tying a direct benefit / boost to becoming a member.</p>

<p>But more importantly it pushed me to explore doing something like a &ldquo;Pop-Up Walk&rdquo; — which itself was, as <a href="https://craigmod.com/ridgeline/050/">I wrote later</a>, a &ldquo;revelation:&rdquo;</p>

<blockquote>
<p>The whole experience was a bit of a revelation. We took over a secret Instagram account, and used the Stories feature as a a semi-realtime distribution vector. It worked pretty well, aside from the fact we butted against the 100 story limit (and therefore most folks didn’t get to see the whole walk). This is why I ended up throwing the entire day of videos (2hrs+) up on a secret YouTube URL — so folks could catch what they missed.</p>

<p>I keep writing “we” above because it felt like that — like a we. There were backchannel DM conversations going on with a few dozen folks. It felt like there was an intimate crew alongside me as I walked through the countryside and up and down the mountains. I really enjoyed it and the morning after Pop-Up 001, the first few hours felt a little strange, a little thin, a little lonely. The impulse was to narrate — to share what I was seeing and the beauty and weirdness past which I was walking. But then I realized this is what apps like Instagram train us to do — to be “on,” constantly. To always be on the lookout for something to broadcast. And after a few hours, I felt and good and comfortable back inside my head, all alone.</p>
</blockquote>

<p>Which speaks to one of the best ancillary benefits of running a membership program — in figuring out ways to add value for members (and thereby induce so-called &ldquo;acquisition moments&rdquo;), you uncover new modes of production and creativity for yourself.</p>

<hr />

<h3 id="technical-gobbledygook">Technical Gobbledygook</h3>

<p>I am (<a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/fast_software/">not so</a>?) secretly a mega geek, and have spent most of my life from age eight onwards living in some variant of unix-like command line dorkery. So — caveats! My choices are probably not the best choices for you. Still, in the spirit of sharing and learning, here are the technical underpinnings of the <em>Explorers Club</em>.</p>

<hr />

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/essays/images/membership_programs/technical.png" /></p>

<p>I run my own website using the <a href="https://gohugo.io/">Hugo</a> static-site generation tool. It’s hosted on a <a href="https://m.do.co/c/3917158b4140">Digital Ocean</a> VPS (if you sign up with that link you get $100 in free credit (and I get a sweet $25, too)). I use <a href="https://memberful.com/">Memberful</a> as my membership program backend. I like Memberful because it’s minimal and allows me to control the look and feel of much of the program on my site. <a href="https://kottke.org/members/"><em>Kottke</em></a>, <a href="https://stratechery.com/membership/"><em>Stratechery</em></a>, <a href="https://newconsumer.com/"><em>The New Consumer</em></a>, and other membership program poster-children also use Memberful.</p>

<p>Memberful is owned by Patreon. I didn’t launch on Patreon because I didn’t see the need for any of Patreon’s additional features, and didn’t like having to send readers / would-be members to a URL I didn’t “own.”</p>

<p>Memberful plugs into <a href="https://www.campaignmonitor.com/">Campaign Monitor</a>, my email / newsletter provider. Memberful automatically adds and removes members from members-only Campaign Monitor newsletters as folks sign up, upgrade, or cancel their memberships. (MailChimp has similar integration.) Inside of Campaign Monitor I setup welcome email logic called “Automated Journeys” and use Campaign Monitor for all email / newsletter related correspondence.</p>

<p>Memberful is plugged into <a href="https://stripe.com/">Stripe</a> for handling payments and payouts. Stripe pays out to an <em>Explorers Club</em> bank account every few days. My bank account is automated to split the payments into &ldquo;Explorers savings&rdquo; (for funding research), checking (for covering rent, et cetera), and retirement accounts (~5%, for always building on the habit of long-term savings, however small) so I feel confident all of the money that arrives via the membership program is being put to clear, well-defined, and easily traceable uses.</p>

<hr />

<p>If your only intent is to run a single (1) paid newsletter, then this stack could be drastically simplified by using a tool like <a href="https://buttondown.email/">Buttondown</a> or <a href="http://substack.com/">Substack</a>, both of which offer free / paid subscription functionality.</p>

<p>Again, I prefer the flexibility of my setup: I run three distinct newsletters via Campaign Monitor and can send to various tiers of the membership base as needed. By running my own website I have total control over design and speed. I think my website is pretty fast and work to make it faster over time. I like being able to publish essays on my own domain, use it as an archive for published-elsewhere essays, and create media-specific versions of pages for things like photo galleries or books.</p>

<hr />

<p>Another option appeared in the middle of 2019 — <a href="https://ghost.org/members/">Ghost</a>. It&rsquo;s an intriguing option, and not only is the pricing model reasonable, but the <a href="https://ghost.org/about/">company ethos is admirable</a>. Open source, focused on sustainability. If I were starting from scratch today, I&rsquo;d strongly consider running my membership program and newsletters on Ghost. <em>Stratechery</em> published a worthwhile and <a href="https://stratechery.com/2019/ghost-3-0-an-interview-with-ghost-ceo-john-onolan/">extensive interview</a> with CEO John O&rsquo;Nolan.</p>

<hr />

<p>Still: The cost of running all of this is not inconsiderable!</p>

<p>As of February 2020, here are my base costs:</p>

<table>
<thead>
<tr>
<td scope="col">Service</td>
<td scope="col">Cost/mo</td>
<td scope="col">Notes</td>
</tr>
</thead>
<tbody>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://m.do.co/c/3917158b4140">Digital Ocean Server</a></td>
<td class="cost">$36.00</td>
<td>Hosting for craigmod.com, walkkumano.com, etc</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://cloudflare.com">Cloudflare</a></td>
<td class="cost">$25.25</td>
<td>Domain caching, protection, CDN</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://memberful.com">Memberful</a></td>
<td class="cost">$25.00</td>
<td>Managing memberships themselves (tiers, signups)</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://campaignmonitor.com">Campaign Monitor</a></td>
<td class="cost">$200.00</td>
<td>Running <em>Ridgeline</em> / <em>Roden</em> / <em>Explorers Club</em> newsletters</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://www.mailmunch.com/">Mailmunch</a></td>
<td class="cost">$12.00</td>
<td>Newsletter acquisition helper</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Quicken</td>
<td class="cost">$5.00</td>
<td>Accounting Software</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://libsyn.com/">Libsyn Podcast Hosting</a></td>
<td class="cost">$17.00</td>
<td><em>On Margins</em> hosting / publishing</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td><a href="https://gumroad.com/">Gumroad</a></td>
<td class="cost">$10.00</td>
<td>Selling books / digital goods / hosting membership perks</td>
</tr>
<tr>
<td>Google Apps</td>
<td class="cost">$6.38</td>
<td>craigmod.com email</td>
</tr>
</tbody>
</table>

<p>Which is about $340/mo, or $4000/year in recurring costs.</p>

<p>Memberful charges 4.9% per transaction. Stripe charges an additional 2.9% (+$0.30) credit card processing fee. Together, this represents an additional running cost of 7.8% of all membership sales.</p>

<p>Gumroad charges a very reasonable 3.5% (+$0.30) for each sale (I sell <a href="https://shop.craigmod.com/">my books</a> on it) on its platform. This price includes CC processing.</p>

<hr />

<p>Because I have over 15,000 subscribers on my newsletters, the largest recurring monthly cost is Campaign Monitor (the cost would be similar on MailChimp). There are <a href="https://www.phplist.org/">geekier</a> (and thereby more complex, finicky) but less expensive ways to run newsletters for this many subscribers, but I find using a service like Campaign Monitor is worth the cost for several reasons:</p>

<ol>
<li>Increased deliverability (less chance of ending up in spam) since they’re a trusted sender</li>
<li>Direct integration with Memberful</li>
<li>Powerful “journeys” that allow for automation</li>
<li>Simplicity of interface / it just works</li>
</ol>

<p>Used well to promote my events / workshops / books, those newsletters easily recoup the cost of Campaign Monitor’s fees. As an author/photographer, the newsletters are by far my most valuable asset. If I could only keep one thing in the whole stack it would be the newsletters. They’re that powerful. They were my superpower in starting the membership program. The membership program is like a hyper-distillation of the newsletters — a collection of mega fans, the newsletter base annealed.</p>

<p>So while $200/mo may seem high, it’s actually quite reasonable in perspective. Especially so considering Campaign Monitor isn’t reading my emails, isn’t selling my subscriber information, isn’t performing some dark-pattern of business model judo, swapping an easily understandable <a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/media_accounting/">contract</a> for something opaque and morally dubious. So I’m happy to pay for a service from an easy-to-understand business. Paying fairly for something is, as they say, why we can have nice things in the world.</p>

<hr />

<p><img src="https://craigmod.com/membership/img/walking_2020-2.jpg" /></p>

<h3 id="conclusion">Conclusion</h3>

<p>Fifteen months ago I didn&rsquo;t know if running a membership program would crush my soul, burden me into the ground, and drain my finances. I didn&rsquo;t know if my readers would go screaming into the night, come back with pitchforks, stab me, drink my blood, become stronger in my new absence. I certainly didn&rsquo;t know if I&rsquo;d finish 2019 with anything I was proud of.</p>

<p>It turns out: Starting the <em>Explorers Club</em> was a fine idea. <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership/#2019">The list of what the membership program enabled</a> is impressive. I am in awe of what was produced and the support of my readers. And I&rsquo;m energized and excited about what we&rsquo;re going to do in 2020.</p>

<p>Churn rate for the <em>Explorers Club</em> has held at less than 5% for the first year. I take that as a sign that the perception of what members thought they would get and what they&rsquo;re actually getting is aligned. I had one person ask for a refund, but it was clear they had completely misunderstood what they had purchased. I assume they were drunk.</p>

<p>I am <em>tremendously</em> grateful to everyone who has joined. I realize not everyone can afford to join, and I realize we’re all a bit bombarded by “memberships” and “subscriptions” these days. But ultimately — this is a good thing! A scant ten years ago this ecosystem barely existed. Now it’s ever-more normalized. This feels healthy. Directly supporting writers, artists, musicians, software developers, et cetera, feels like the final remaining puzzle piece of the last 30 years of independent creation. Computers democratized design in the ’80s/’90s, the web democratized publishing in the ’00s, and now proper payments infrastructure is democratizing creative sustainability.</p>

<hr />

<p>So, after all <em>that</em>, if you&rsquo;re still intent on starting a membership program, here are my final tips:</p>

<ol>
<li>Start writing / making videos / producing what it is you intend to produce for members today, build up that muscle, and do it, ideally, for years before launching the program</li>
<li>Have clear goals<sup class="footnote-ref" id="fnref:goals"><a href="#fn:goals">6</a></sup> — writing targets, publishing targets, et cetera — that you can articulate to yourself</li>
<li>Exhaust / investigate other possible ways to achieve those goals</li>
<li>Spend a month or two iterating on your plan before launching</li>
<li>Be willing to commit for (at least) a full year, since it seems that a year of work is required to build momentum and finally understand what you and the program are capable of</li>
</ol>

<p>Good luck! And if you have any questions, email <a href="mailto:me@craigmod.com">me@craigmod.com</a>. Oh, and, you know, please consider joining the <a href="https://craigmod.com/membership/"><em>Explorers Club</em></a>. Thanks.</p>

<p>— <a href="https://craigmod.com/about">Craig</a></p>

<p><span class="tiny">p.s., I did a little <a href="https://craigmod.com/roden/035/#membership-questions">Q&amp;A with my mailing list</a> about running this program, in case the above 5,000 words aren&rsquo;t enough.</span></p>

<hr />

<h3 id="noted">Noted:</h3>
<div class="footnotes">

<hr />

<ol>
<li id="fn:testing">I also think it&rsquo;s a fascinating time to be involved with independent publishing on the web. As more stuff gets shoved into silos, and less content is built on open platforms, a little bit of the founding spirit of this place is lost. I wrote a piece for <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/future-book-is-here-but-not-what-we-expected/">WIRED</a> at the end of 2018 about the state of publishing. In it, I wrote about membership programs. This got me thinking: How tricky is it, really, to run one? The best way to understand an ecosystem is to fully immerse yourself within its gnarled tendrils. So that, too, was part of the impulse: To better understand the tools available to run a program like this, to be able to write about them like I am here.
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:testing">↩︎</a></li>
<li id="fn:conversion">An audience is often (but not always!) a prerequisite for the success of these things. But “an audience” is often a proxy for you having &ldquo;done the work.&rdquo; Which is to say, I do not recommend starting a membership program unless you’ve already spent years doing what you plan on doing for the program. If you’ve done that, and have been smart about regularly reaching out to others in your community, then you should, in theory, have (at the very least!) the seed of an audience. So, in a way it’s a non-issue: If you haven&rsquo;t been working to build an audience, then you’re probably not ready to launch a membership program. <!--And in fact, conversion rates were lower than anticipated (way under 10%), in part because of reasons as enumerated in the above essay (i.e., never talking about it on Twitter or Instagram). So simply having an audience of x-thousand fans does not always mean quick bucks. I don't just feel — I know — I've worked harder for each *Explorers Club* dollar than any other dollar I've earned in my life. But, as I explain above, the financial component is only one of many benefits of running a membership program. -->
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:conversion">↩︎</a></li>
<li id="fn:tiers">Both from the perspective of potential members, and sanity-of-creator point of view. The more tiers you make, and the more unique their offerings, the more you have to think about how to slice up what you&rsquo;re doing for each tier.
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:tiers">↩︎</a></li>
<li id="fn:lifetimers">I suspect lifetimers might even be &ldquo;upset&rdquo; if I did anything specifically for them since the thrust of their support is: This is good, this is right, keep going. Not: Gimme special perks. This only makes their support all the more powerful.
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:lifetimers">↩︎</a></li>
<li id="fn:students">This is such a weird distinction, I know, the &ldquo;student&rdquo; discount. Why students? Who is a student? What constitutes student? Aren&rsquo;t we all students? Why not an &ldquo;unemployed&rdquo; discount? I don&rsquo;t know! But what I do know is I like this idea: A period of time in life where you don&rsquo;t (usually) have a lot of excess cash, and your mind is fertile and fresh and open to new ideas, and you have some time to <em>think</em> about who and what you want to be in the world. And, really, what kind of world you want to live in. You&rsquo;ve yet to make any real &ldquo;binding decisions&rdquo; that otherwise burden folks in their late 20s and 30s and beyond. In an ideal scenario, this period tends to fall during college / university, early 20s, before you enter into or push back against the workforce. I think if you want to have an impact on the next generation and their sense of optionality, opportunities, and positive archetypes, then offering them an inside glimpse into creative processes and &ldquo;non-standard&rdquo; ways of investigating the world is critical, and in some ways maybe even a moral duty. When I was 20, I wish I had had better access to what I know now. It would have made me feel a hell of a lot less lonely and crazy. So, I suppose my free student tier is my ham-handed attempt to pay that forward.
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:students">↩︎</a></li>
<li id="fn:goals">Goals are different than deliverables, though they may be connected. Even though my personal goals were clear, my ability to deliver on them wasn&rsquo;t (in my mind, at least). Hence the trepidation at launch, the lack of confidence in pushing the program out into the world.
<a class="footnote-return" href="#fnref:goals">↩︎</a></li>
</ol>
</div>

+ 4
- 0
cache/2020/index.html View File

@@ -81,6 +81,8 @@
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/5abb317f078fc9f585712bfa3f772504/" title="Accès à l'article caché">Exclusive: Apple dropped plan for encrypting backups after FBI complained - sources</a> (<a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-apple-fbi-icloud-exclusive-idUSKBN1ZK1CT" title="Accès à l'article original">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/3fc386b9b57aa937db0a1883502b9ab8/" title="Accès à l'article caché">Splendid isolation: how I stopped time by sitting in a forest for 24 hours</a> (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/jan/24/wilderness-solo-splendid-isolation-stopped-time-sitting-in-a-forest-24-hours" title="Accès à l'article original">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/542585b2d85213911f91b498a643e010/" title="Accès à l'article caché">The Tyranny of Stuctureless</a> (<a href="https://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm" title="Accès à l'article original">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/47f2c0c2984a00e8a6041232f4e87e1f/" title="Accès à l'article caché">L’humain du futur</a> (<a href="https://www.hypothermia.fr/2020/01/lhumain-du-futur/" title="Accès à l'article original">original</a>)</li>
@@ -99,6 +101,8 @@
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/42b02cc81a7fface539dfb3397f0a464/" title="Accès à l'article caché">How to Fake a Traffic Jam on Google Maps</a> (<a href="https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/9393w7/this-man-created-traffic-jams-on-google-maps-using-a-red-wagon-full-of-phones" title="Accès à l'article original">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/4c5cc5e59531ef04e068c883a1a0e166/" title="Accès à l'article caché">Running a Paid Membership Program</a> (<a href="https://craigmod.com/essays/membership_programs/" title="Accès à l'article original">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/bfce8545a2d7c8d51d3af19f61208134/" title="Accès à l'article caché">On Pair Programming</a> (<a href="https://martinfowler.com/articles/on-pair-programming.html" title="Accès à l'article original">original</a>)</li>
<li><a href="/david/cache/2020/59dac1925636ebf6358c3a598bf834f9/" title="Accès à l'article caché">Un pédophile est un client Apple comme les autres.</a> (<a href="https://www.affordance.info/mon_weblog/2020/01/pedophile-client-apple.html" title="Accès à l'article original">original</a>)</li>

Loading…
Cancel
Save