Patreon Saints

27 September 2019

I have wanted to write this post for quite a while. A lot has changed on this site over the past few years, and not all for the better. You readers deserve to know some of the reasons why, particularly those of you who have been supporting the site on Patreon.

There are a couple of reasons why this post has taken so long. To begin with, I’m not generally one to talk about my personal life beyond broad strokes, and the issues around this site are very personal. There is also the fact that there are certain things I was not allowed to discuss until very recently due to my position with RIT.

This website was born out of discussions on Google+. It was an active community at the time, and I built a following there rather quickly. But knowing Google as we do, I wanted a place for all the stuff I was writing. A website that I controlled. Insurance for the fateful day when the Great Gazoo decided to delete G+. Webhosting wasn’t cheap at the time, so I started a Patreon page to help cover costs. The deal was that if many of you supported the site, there would be about a post a day, a podcast, and maybe even some videos. All went well for a time, until the website started getting some real hits. It started drawing the attention of my dear old university.

Having a popular blog as an academic can be an odd thing. Many universities are still trying to figure out this whole social media thing. Some have embraced science outreach. They provide opportunities for faculty to learn and grow, and encourage them to engage with the public. Others push back against it hard. In a few cases faculty have been denied tenure and promotion because of their blog. RIT fell in the middle of these two extremes. They liked when blogs or articles brought attention their way, but they hated that they couldn’t put their own spin on it. So at times I would get praise for the blog and other outreach work, at other times I would get complaints about it.

The podcast marked the real turning point. It started out of a request from my department chair that I use my platform to help encourage other RIT faculty to do science outreach. RIT agreed to let me use my office space to record episodes, and I agreed to have interested RIT faculty on the podcast. The podcast ran weekly episodes for about half a year, and started to build a following. But for reasons I still don’t fully understand, certain members of the RIT administration did not want the podcast to continue. Word came down the chain of command that I should stop making episodes. A colleague who was working on the podcast was told that continued work on it would put his job at risk. So we stopped.

After that, the complaints about my website grew. Complaints that the site was quoted on a popular website. Complaints that I didn’t feature RIT research enough. Complaints that I got asked to be on a radio program rather than a more esteemed faculty member who thinks talking to the general public is beneath them. What had started as a side hobby had become an increasingly toxic burden. It got to the point where I grew tired of it all. I basically stopped writing posts because sitting at the keyboard filled me with dread rather than joy. It had become clear that either I needed to leave RIT, or I needed to stop writing.

So this Summer I left RIT.

Now that I’m not subject to the whims of my old institution, what now? I’m still trying to figure that out. Whatever I decide, it will have implications for those of you supporting the site on Patreon.

For those who have stopped supporting the site, I also want to thank you. You helped get this site on its feet. To those who have kept supporting me on Patreon, I want to say thank you. I don’t deserve it. For the past couple years I clearly haven’t been holding up my side of the bargin. I don’t write blog posts almost every day, and there is currently no podcast. It’s clear that the goals and levels on Patreon need to change, but what should they be? What would you like to see me create? I’d really like to hear your thoughts.

So now you know why the site has been long on the decline. The past few years have been rather difficult for me, but often that’s what it takes to bring long-needed change. Watch this space.