Jun 10, 2017

Patreon Crowdfunding - Why I Created My Page

As some readers may already know, I recently made a Patreon page to support my work creating free high-quality philosophy content online.  The resources I've created - videos, blog posts, articles, handouts, even free courses, among others - have helped tens of thousands of people all over the world understand difficult philosophical ideas, thinkers, and texts.

That work demands considerable time, energy, and thought on my part - and I've been happy to devote all three of those over the last six years, not least because I see (and in many cases, read) how much of an impact resources I've developed and offered to the public for free have had on so many people's grades, minds, and even lives.

Actually, I can't take most of the credit for this impact on learners.  What allows me to create materials explaining philosophy to others is precisely the existence of those brilliant philosophers and rich texts that I focus upon!  Provided I do my own job well, it is really Plato, or Hegel, or Epictetus who is doing the heavy lifting  (as I've discussed in another post here).

Viewers, subscribers, and social media followers have been expressing gratitude for the work that I do, and some of them have been suggesting that I create a Patreon page to allow them to support that ongoing work in tangible ways.  So that's precisely what I've done - you can check it out here, or watch my video about it here.   If you enjoy my work or find it useful - and you want to give something back - or if you recognize the value it brings to many other people - and you want to help me continue and expand it - then you should consider becoming one of my Patreon supporters!

My Philosophy Videos and Their Impact

At this point in time, my main YouTube channel contains over 1,000 philosophy videos that I have produced over the last six years.  These include over 100 videos on Aristotle, nearly 100 more on the Stoics, more than 80 videos on Plato, and 180 videos at this point in the Half Hour Hegel series.  There are videos on Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Cicero, Epicurus, Thomas Aquinas, Rene Descartes. . .  the list could go on and on . . . .

All told, those videos have been viewed more than 3.7 million - that's right, MILLION - times.  There are over 37,000 regular subscribers to that channel.  Going from when YouTube actually started keeping track of this (in 2012), 36 million minutes of my videos have been watched.  The video that has been watched the most has drawn nearly 1 million minutes (and has been viewed over 80 times)

Each month, on average, I add 20-30 new videos to the main channel - and I do all of the planning, lecturing, shooting, editing, and data-entry for them.  Generally, I'm adding another 8-10 hours or so of new philosophy video content each month on a variety of texts and thinkers.

I spend some time nearly every day responding to comments on those videos - and there are a lot of them! (Mostly positive, or looking for some sort of additional clarification).  There are over 23,000 comments on the videos in my main channel.  Probably a good 7,000-8,000 of those are actually my own responses to viewers' comments.

I also have two other philosophy channels.  One of them - which I started some time back, and haven't built out as I originally intended - is my Critical Thinking, Logic, and Argumentation channel.  The other - where I have been uploading some other new material - is my History of Ideas channel.

There's no way to easily measure how much of an exact impact these videos that I've created  - and keep on creating - have had on their viewers.  Suffice it to say, it is quite a lot! Not only do I get countless comments and emails from students saying things like "I couldn't understand this philosopher, and my professor wasn't much help - but your videos helped me make sense of it" - there are also a lot of people who cannot afford to go to college who write to thank me for putting all that video content out there!  Working professionals tell me that the videos prove helpful for them.  I even get quite a few (usually younger) professors who write to thank me for helping them prepare for their own classes, or to develop their teaching style, or just that they enjoyed the way I presented someone who they consider interesting or important.

My videos have even been used as educational resources outside of the internet.  Just for one example, several years back, the 2Enable organization - which brings higher quality education to poor, rural areas in South Africa - asked for permission to download and use my videos offline to teach philosophy to disadvantaged students.  I granted it, and they have been taking those philosophy videos out into impoverished schools on USB drives.

My Additional Work And Resources

I suspect that many of my viewers and readers don't actually know that I don't have a regular faculty position at any academic institution.  I do occasionally teach a course online as an adjunct, and I also give talks and provide workshops at colleges and universities.  I left full-time traditional academia six years ago, and I earn a living for myself and my family working outside of that space.

A good portion of how I do that - earn an income that I and those who depend upon me can live upon - derives from the business that I (and my better half, Andi) have built up - ReasonIO.  There are quite a few different aspects to that - and since readers may be interested in learning more about them, I'll list and link those aspects here.  Here's what I do:

I also spend much of my time doing entirely uncompensated work putting philosophy out there in the public - and that's what I'd like to try to support through Patreon crowdsourcing.

Since Spring of 2016, I have been the editor of Stoicism Today - one of the main online sites for the growing modern Stoic movement.  As editor, I solicit, provide feedback, edit, schedule. .  . and sometimes even write pieces for the blog.  I also serve on the steering committee for the entire Modern Stoicism non-profit organization, helping to organize, publicize, and support activities such as Stoic Week and Stoicon.  I am also one of the founders of the MKE Stoic Fellowship group, and serve as a committee member in the greater Stoic Fellowship.

I provide a number of my talks and workshops as a public service - for free - often partnering with local libraries and other public-good institutions.  At this point, the number of free talks for the general public in my local community ranges from 20-25 per year.

In Academia.edu, I have uploaded not only most of my academic writings (can't do that with my entire book, Reason Fulfilled By Revelation, of course!) but also over 100 handouts developed for my own students in my classes.  All of those materials are available for download anywhere in the world where the internet exists.

I write fairly regularly online, not only here, but also in my two other active blogs - Half Hour Hegel and Heavy Metal Philosopher.  I also write for several other online venues - The Partially Examined Life and Policy Of Truth (so far).

You'll also find me going on other people's podcasts, video channels, and shows - either giving an interview or appearing as a guest.  If you'd like to see a listing of some of my appearances, you can click here.

What I'll Do With Your Support

If you go to my Patreon site, and click on the Goals on the lefthand side, you'll see activities that I pledge to do once I reach certain given levels of monthly financial support.  Here's what they are:
  • hold my first AMA (Ask Me Anything) online session for fans
  • begin holding monthly AMA online sessions for fans.
  • begin creating one extra video per month on a topic or thinker suggested and voted upon by my Patreon supporters
  • make all of the YouTube videos in my main channel ad-free
  • invest in new recording equipment to improve the sound and visual quality of videos.
  • start creating new videos for the Critical Thinking, Logic, and Argumentation Channel.
  • begin converting and editing my videos into MP3s, offering them as podcasts to the public worldwide.
  • begin an extensive new video series focused on classic thinkers and texts of social and political theory.
  • start holding a monthly online discussion forum on key ideas in social and political theory.
  • begin podcasting about key topics, thinkers, and texts in philosophy, and making the podcast series available for the public.
  • create an extensive new online class and offer it free to the online public 
One of the other dividends is that - because Patreon support offers a fairly reliable monthly income for content creators - it frees up more of my time, and even more importantly, my mental space.  That makes it possible for me to create even better - as well as more - content.

There are a lot of cool perks or rewards that I offer as way to show my gratitude to those who become Patreon supporters (or who engage in "patreonage", as one of them coined the term!).  You can see all of those on the page.  

Even more important than those, I think, is the motive of wanting to do one's part to help bring engaging, well-informed philosophy content to the public - by chipping in a bit to help one guy who remains definitely committed to that seemingly endless task!

So if that is how you feel, I strongly encourage you to visit the page, and become a supporter.  Even if you commit just at the $1 level, enough people doing that makes a huge difference and a massive impact - that's how crowdfunding works.  Let me thank any and all readers in advance who do become supporters, helping to bring philosophy to the public on the internet!