May 31, 2017

Why Fiverr Sucks

I thought I was finished announcing changes and updates for a while, but I guess I was wrong. Earlier this week, I received an email from my sales platform - Fiverr - that my best-selling Tarot gig had been denied because it was deemed offensive and outside Fiverr's editorial focus. And you know, that's okay - their website is their lair, and it's their choice how to maintain that space. If I had started a gig on Fiverr and they had denied it within the first few months, it wouldn't bother me - their house, their rules. If I don't like their rules, I'll just find a new house.

But what does bother me is when I've been using their sales platform for longer than two years; have been consistently ranked in the top 10 sellers for my category and sometimes as the #1 seller in my category; have pushed my clients to do business with me on Fiverr even when they wanted to pay me directly; built a portfolio of more than 1,800 positive reviews and over 2,000 sales; been a significant contributor to the community forum by writing extensive tutorials on marketing and sales; and have given at least $4,000 of my gross sales in exchange for help marketing, a unified sales and message system, and easy sales processing, and they show me the door without so much as a, "So long, and thanks for all the fish."

Because if I had known that the service I'm offering is outside their editorial focus and that they feel like it's offensive, I wouldn't have spent more than two years of my time building my entire self-employed income around Fiverr. Yes, yes - isn't it funny that the psychic didn't see this coming? Call me gullible and naive if you will, but judging by my long string of success - and the vast number of other readers working on Fiverr - it didn't occur to me that I should be worried about my job security.

So you can imagine my surprise when my gig got denied. After much back and forth with customer support to ask why this decision was made, here's the answer I got:

If Sam's response has left you scratching your head, you're not the only one. I mean, seriously: if Customer Support is unable to advise sellers on editorial rules and guidelines that could get their gig denied and in my case literally years of work thrown out with the trash, you'd think this is a good thing for sellers to know, right?

Well, you'd be wrong, and the reason is because Fiverr can't decide what it wants to be when it grows up. Is Fiverr a fun and friendly destination for budget-services and weird, quirky digital gifts? Or is it a sales portal for self-marketed professionals who enjoy the convenience of a unified sales, message, order, and accounting system?

Fiverr is currently running a marketing campaign to recruit sellers to its marketplace and is using the slogan, "In doers we trust:"

And you know, that's a motivating slogan: if you're somebody who doesn't waste time on shallow words and empty dreams but who actually gets shit done, then Fiverr is the place for you! I know it was sure the place for me. By linking my Fiverr seller profile to all my marketing efforts - my blog, my YouTube channel and videos, my social media profiles, and my mailing list - I was able to drive all my clients to process sales through Fiverr. But the reality I discovered is that Fiverr does not, in fact, trust doers. Not even a teensy little bit. Unlike several other freelance portals I could name, Fiverr is seriously paranoid about letting buyers and sellers have direct contact with each other. 

Consider the inbox messaging system: every single message sent on Fiverr is filtered for links and blacklisted words. If you send the wrong kind of link - or sometimes, any links at all - or use the wrong word, Fiverr's messaging filters will scoop up the message and hold it for review. Hey, nothing like having your inbox slowed down by a snooping nanny to help work get done quickly! 

Or consider the guidelines for creating a gig. Suppose you have a service that requires your buyer's telephone number? According to customer support - whom I asked about this very thing - you can only collect your client's telephone number if you say in the title of your gig and in your gig description that you require that kind of personal information, and additionally you can only collect that information on the page for an active order. Same for email addresses - you can't ask for that information if you don't specify that you require it, and if a buyer gives it to you without being asked, Fiverr can still punish the seller for breaking the terms of service.

And consider the terms of service! Fiverr includes in its terms of service that gigs can be denied if they're deemed to be offensive in nature or outside Fiverr's editorial focus. Naturally, you might ask yourself, "So, what exactly constitutes an offensive service, and what is Fiverr's editorial focus?" The answer is, Nobody Knows! Not even customer support, who - as I mentioned above - are unable to advise sellers on the editorial teams rules and guidelines.

After Fiverr denied the gig I'd spent two years building and all the reviews attached to it, they kindly informed me that I was welcome to create new gigs. How generous of them! I'll admit that part of me thinks I should just shrug off this experience and just create a new gig, but the larger part of me thinks that I can't afford to place my financial security in the hands of an editorial team that won't even tell their customer support what their guidelines are for what's allowed. I've got bills to pay, groceries to buy, and other people who depend on my paycheck. Considering the repurcussions that are happening in my life right now as a result of Fiverr's opaque and inconsistent policies on the kind of services they want on their website, I think it'd be foolish to start down that road again.

So from here on out, I'm marketing for my own website and am processing all my own sales. My business mailing list contains a few devoted clients for whose continued support and patronage I'm deeply grateful, but they don't add up to all the people I steered to Fiverr. I'm effectively starting over, and if history is my guide it's probably going to take 6 months to recover half my income.

But it'll be worth it, because I'll be in control of my business - not Fiverr's capricious editorial team - and I alone will be able to say how I'm allowed to work.

All of which is just a long way of saying:


May 24, 2017

Alien = Rapey Penis Monster

One of the greatest things about the Alien franchise is how it's totally perverse.

You can Google the Alien franchise to learn more about how it was designed to terrify the white, male psyche with a story about male rape committed by giant penis-headed monsters, but isn't it obvious how grotesque it really is? 

I mean, seriously: they hatch from eggs laid by the one alien that's ever female at a given time: an indomitable woman who reproduces asexually and who has no need for a cock, and nothing ever fucks her. And what hatches from the eggs look like a pair of hands with a giant, mouth-raping penis and a rope-looking, throat-choking tail. 

So after you get face-raped and forced to swallow the fat load forced down your throat, you get to live with the shame of what happened before a slimy, black, penis-headed monster explodes out of your chest who then grows to enormous size and proceeds to run around with its cum-drippy, foreskin-looking mouth-inside-a-mouth gluing anybody it can find into a jizzy, vaginy, bondage cocoon where you get to wait helplessly for a face-raping cock-spider to force a load down your unwilling throat and start the process all over again.

The first and the third Alien movies remembered this truth, and this theme was present if you cared to look for it. But the other Alien movies largely bypassed the FACE RAPEY THROAT CHOKEY SHAME INDUCING CUM DRIPPY BLACK BONDAGE PENIS MONSTER and instead focused on good-old fashioned Hollywood shoot-em-up sci-fi action. Which is fine - directors and studios gotta make money, and if audiences want to see space aliens get blown up, then they're welcome to it.

But the Alien franchise is rooted in sexual terror, and while I can appreciate the direction Ridley Scott took with Prometheus and Covenant for the sake of having broader conversations, I feel like this sacrifices much of what made the Alien franchise terrifying and compelling in the first place. There are plenty of other science-fiction movies which explore the themes present in Prometheus and Covenant, but without the sexual tension in which the Alien franchise was born, the latest additions to the franchise fade into the background.

May 13, 2017

Regarding Covens

I ran across this today: a fellow asking, "What defines a coven?" Yes, yes - I know that this isn't to do with Satanism or even written by a Satanist - but so much of what I learn about myself is through parallel comparison to other people and traditions. Differences define the indivudual, don't you think? If you want to read all the questions he poses, then you'll have to click through and read his writing - I think it's rather unfair to copy/paste his writing here and deny his fairly earned traffic - so I'll jump straight to my commentary.

I'm going to file this one in the category of, "problems that will never bother a Satanist." I can appreciate that from the author's Wiccan perspective, these are important questions, but from a Satanic perspective I'm confounded. It's been a very long time since I've been anywhere near Wicca - about 11 years, but who's counting? - but these questions combined with my admittedly poor experience give me the impression that for the author who wrote this, community and keeping-people-together are both a means and an end. When I read the questions and the pattern that emerges from them, I get the distinct impression that a coven is a whole bunch of people figuratively locked hand to hand and gathering at set intervals for the sake of gathering.

I mean, If you're going to create a format for the purpose of meeting and worshiping with co-religionists, why would you put the needs of the format (a coven) above the needs of the people who compose it? What little I know or remember from my past dabbles with Wicca over a decade ago, a Wiccan coven isn't just a kind of congregation led by a high mugwump - it's also a working group with specific roles that need to be filled in order for work to be done. And yes, the work to be done depends on the ritual, and yes, the ritual can be changed to require more or less people, but perhaps my clearest take-away from the time I spent in Wicca is that covens are groups who do things as a group and stay together as a group to do group stuff. Did I mention the group? 

What I observed while trying Wicca on for size is that the general air of importance given to the coven format and the need for assigned roles irritated more people than it served. It often resulted in the high mugwump doing nearly all of the work to coordinate coven work, petty in-fighting among those assigned to set coven roles, and simmering resentment among those for whom there simply wasn't room to advance. Throw in the fact that even as pedestrian as Wicca has become, it's still quite difficult to find enough people to form a coven, and you get microscopic autocracies where there's little room to move up, and nothing but a wasteland if you move out. And for people who value unity for the sake of unity, there's not much else that's more terrifying than a wasteland. 

Satanists, on the other hand, have been doing their thing solo virtuoso for decades. In fact, going by the Satanic Bible published in 1969, solitary ritual is the norm - not the exception! So for me, when I read a list of questions like what the author wrote, I'm genuinely confounded. My world view has changed so much over the last 10 years that I can't help but think, Why does anybody need a coven? Why can't individuals who share common interests simply agree to meet together for the pursuit of those common interests? As usual, I'm willing to admit that I may not have eyes to see, so if I'm not seeing this correctly, then you're welcome to leave a comment and tell me why, but this list of questions has been culture shock for me. I had a glimpse into an alien world, and I didn't understand it.

May 01, 2017

Tarot Blog Hop: Do I combine Tarot with other methods of divination?

For this round of the Tarot Blog Hop, our host Ms. Arwen Lynch asks the question, "Do you combine Tarot with other methods of divination?" The short answer is, no. The long answer is, kinda-sorta yes. Stay with me on this and I promise you'll understand what I mean by the end of the essay!

So, here's a story about myself: When I was in high school, I found that I really enjoyed language classes. I thrived in the English class, but I also enjoyed foreign languages and took a semester of German plus the equivalent of six semesters of Spanish. I say the equivalent because I went on a three-week exchange trip to Costa Rica after I finished Spanish 1-2. When I came back for Spanish 3-4, my fluency was so far beyond what was being taught at that level that I skipped to Spanish 5-6. At this time, I was also looking ahead to life after high school and had enlisted in the Marine Corps where I received a year of intensive language instruction in Russian, and later I dabbled in Latin and also achieved some fluency in Esperanto.

So, yes... I'm a language nerd. And I'm not telling you that to brag - I'm guessing you probably don't care - but it's important to this essay because my experience learning and speaking languages at a really formative time in my life when I was really just beginning to develop a world-view shaped how I understand the things and people around me. 

What I found is that languages are games played according to their rules. Some games have a lot of special rules and exceptions to the rules - English and French come to mind. Other games are highly regular, or even if they have a lot of rules, they follow their rules consistently - Esperanto and Russian come to mind. Learning to speak different languages required me to learn lots of different rules, and as an extension of that, learn how the rules go together. Russian is Russian because it follows Russian rules. English is English because it follows English rules. Russian and English don't go together - the word order is different, their case systems operate differently, there are three genders in Russian (and none in English), and so on. You can't mix the languages - the Russian square doesn't fit into the English circle, do you get it? 

English, Russian, Spanish, German, Latin, and any other language you can name works because it follows its own rules, and its rules exist for a reason: to communicate meaningfully and with precision. Just like some languages don't translate well from one into the other or have words that simply don't exist in other languages, I think that some methods of divination just don't work together and are stronger when used individually. That's one reason why I don't use anything except Tarot - I don't want to have to speak two different languages in divination and try to translate one into the other.

But getting back to the discussion about rules: me being who I am and the experiences that I've had, I look to find the rules of whoever and whatever I'm working with. Consistency is important to me, and while I can surely appreciate that a person or thing might play by rules which incorporate a certain amount of chaos, that's okay as long as I understand that the chaos is part of the rules. But if you think that I'm an advocate for universal orthodoxy, then you'd be wrong. Or at least, partly wrong: I'm an advocate for personal orthodoxy. I think that every fortune-teller should choose for him or herself the rules which govern his or her language and be passionately committed to following those rules until such time as he or she decides to re-write the rules.

More specifically, what this means to me is that if you want to use just Tarot, then you're welcome to it. Or if you want to use Tarot, numerology, astrology, tea leaves, palmistry, bones, and pendulum dowsing - you should do it. Or at least, you should do it so long as the combination of different systems produces answers that are both meaningful and precise. Or if you prefer answers that are vague and mysterious, that's okay too - if that's what you're trying to achieve. I don't like to combine methods of divination because I find that their rules disagree and it's more trouble than it's worth to try and translate bones into numerology, or astrology into pendulum dowsing. And so on.

But that doesn't mean that they can't be combined at all! Speaking for myself, Tarot is the only method of divination that I use, but it's not just Tarot. I've created for myself my own method of reading the cards which incorporates numerology informed by the 9 Satanic Statements, astrological lessons from the 12 houses of the Zodiac, and elemental dignities to show waxing, full, and waning properties as well as how each card either acts or is acted upon. I'm very orthodox in my divination - I use what works for me and I don't use anything else - but the system that I'm using is itself syncretized from multiple other systems.

I don't use any other methods of divination not just because I think that they're incompatible languages with contradictory rules, but also because I feel like I can get all the meaningful and precise answers that I need with the language that I've created for myself. I understand that different kinds of answers can be produced by different methods of divination when used in their entirety as they're intended to be used, but for the kind of needs I have both as a sitter and as a fortune-teller - the Tarot does it all. So this is what I meant when I said at the start of this essay "no" and "kinda-sorta yes:" I'm using principles found in other methods of divination, but I'm not actually using any of those other methods themselves.

Which is all just a long way of saying that Tarot is my love, my angle. I don't treat it like potato.