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About twenty years to write and about four minutes to read.

For years and years, I had too little in my Amazon account to qualify for a payout. Fifty cents here and ten cents there just was not adding up to the minimum payout threshold.

I got my first very small payout a few months back. It seemed likely to me that it was a consequence of Project Bike Rack adding enough money to my balance to put me over the payout threshold.

I also had the impression that the bike racks I was seeing in town and not entirely happy with were not living up to my vision in part because probably someone had bought whatever was readily available through Amazon and I suspected it was likely they did so in part to find some means to kick a few bucks my way.

It's generally easier to get money out of people by directing them to affiliate links than by some other means, so you get a lot of garbage websites doing fake "reviews" that are really thinly disguised ads because that's a means to make money online.

Clearly, I need to eat but I don't want my work to boil down to scamming people to line my pockets. I want to do certain things with my websites and also find some way to thereby support myself.

Project Bike Rack grows out of several years of hard work on my part to try to figure out what is going on in my town, develop a subreddit for the town and so forth. I think it's a good idea for the region and I think it did put a few bucks in my pocket, but I ended up temporarily taking down my affiliate links for a couple of reasons:
  1. I got a notification that I was legally required to prominently display language notifying people I have affiliate links on the site. So I took them down while I sorted out how I felt about that and how I might best do that if I wished to proceed.
  2. I didn't want to use Amazon affiliate links if it was going to actively degrade the quality of the resulting built environment due to people thinking to themselves that this was a means to pay me and social justice was more important than the type and color of rack they bought.
A few days ago I wrote an update titled Getting the Most Out of Project Bike Rack to clarify a few details in hopes of more effectively communicating the standards and best practices previously outlined. Today I put those affiliate links back in and I put the required notification language in big lettering at the bottom followed by a note:
So after about twenty years of wrestling with such questions, I think I finally have an answer that makes more sense for how to use affiliate links -- at least to me and for my work.

Instead of concluding that the only way people will pay you is to trick them out of money via affiliate links and ethics be damned, respect the fact that some folks actually will want to support your work and then educate them about how to best do that such that you can actually accomplish the thing you really want done and also have some hope of making a buck without throwing the baby out with the bath water in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

Footnote

The title of this piece was inspired by this great remark by Don Henley about one of his songs: "It took about twenty years to write and four minutes to sing."

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