So, last Wednesday was crazy. Shortly after waking up I found myself dealing with something and someone — Shaun Usher — I didn’t think I’d need to.
In early February I wrote a humble little blog post to adorn my new personal site. It was about content aggregators and how they’re not creating anything new and/or, in my opinion, anything of value. I expressed my frustration that many writers can’t get jobs writing but that they could probably get jobs working as and for aggregators.
Along the way I stumbled upon Shaun Usher, whose blog Letters of Note I’d come across a few times. I took issue with what he was doing, writing this, most specifically:
If I understand it correctly, Usher has, over time, found and collected interesting letters that famous/interesting people have written and sent somewhere. He’s put these letters up, online, so that people will read them. And now he’s taking those letters — all of this content written by other people — and putting them in a book which will — I’d think — have his name and the name of his project/website all over it. I’m pretty sure he’s going to reap significant financial rewards from this project, and, even if they’re not significant, he’s still going to make money for not writing.
I’ve thought about this, seriously, for a few hours, and every few minutes I arrive at the same place: How the fuck is this okay?
That was the first bit of what I was writing. I was actually taking a shot at how journalism is dying. I don’t think aggregation is journalism; I don’t think that it helps that sites like the Huffington Post are pulling “stories” off of sites like Usher’s Letters of Note because to me, they’re not doing anything of value. Do I really give a fuck about a 16-year-old letter that Nick Cave wrote to MTV (that’s been reposted on the internet for years now)? No. I don’t. And if you do I think you ought to ask for more from news sites including but not limited to HuffPo.
Five weeks (or so) after my original post, Usher apparently saw it, and immediately started tweeting about it.
And then “defending” himself.
I was dumb. I thought this person wanted to actually have a discussion about, you know, smart people things. That’s why I replied the way I did. I said I had laid out my thoughts in the blog post. I responded to some of his words like this, and this, and this.
I had a hospital appointment to keep, so I went. Usher kept on going, so, while I was in the cab, I tried to articulate my viewpoint(s), but quickly realized that all this guy wanted to do was make a case for what he was doing in as shrill a way as possible. Moreover, he expected me to respond to every single one of his points in 140-less-his-handle characters. As if I had any interest in bickering with an idiot.
Anyway, to put things plainly, I want to say two things:
1. I still think all the same things I thought about aggregation, Letters of Note, and Shaun Usher.
2. Shaun, do whatever you want. I wish you the best. And hopefully, one day, you’ll make something.