Saturday, March 11, 2017

Finding And Nurturing Things We Love

Reply to thread: Cloudforest plant board.Gone. Its back.


The other day on Flickr I was trying to remember the username of one of the members that I follow. So I sorted all my contacts by the date that they last uploaded photos. I realized that it has been a really long time since most of my contacts have uploaded any photos.

For sure part of it is because of Instagram and Facebook and similar sites. But for me the main issue is figuring out my own responsibility in nurturing other people's beneficial behavior.

I have a garden and it's clearly my responsibility to nurture my plants. If they fail to grow and thrive it's probably because I dropped the ball. I failed to give a plant adequate drainage and/or light and/or food and/or protection from cold/heat/pests.

Tom, for example, isn't a plant in my garden! :) But I definitely derive enjoyment from his blog entries, forum posts and videos. So isn't it my responsibility to nurture him? Admittedly that does sound kinda funny!

But what are the alternatives?

A. It's not my responsibility to nurture Tom
B. Tom doesn't need to be nurtured
C. Tom is adequately nurtured

Tom doesn't need to be nurtured? This would seem to imply that he takes the time and makes the effort to share plant info entirely for his own benefit. That doesn't seem very likely. Clearly he can derive benefit from the act of sharing... but it's gotta be based somehow on the idea that others are going to benefit to some degree from his sharing.

Tom is adequately nurtured? Only Tom can know this! But what if he feels like he isn't being adequately nurtured? "Hey guys, I'm really not feeling enough love!" Is he going to say that?

Imagine if your plants could text you if they weren't feeling adequately nurtured! I think I'd be receiving a lot of texts right about now! Tomorrow I really need to water.

In no case are we mind-readers! As far as plants are concerned, all of us are good at interpreting the clues. If a plant looks wilty, we can reasonably guess that it doesn't have enough water. Obviously plants can't verbally communicate with us but they can certainly nonverbally communicate with us.

Despite the fact that we aren't mind-readers... most of us don't quite feel comfortable communicating that we aren't feeling adequately nurtured. Well... at least not in this context. If we aren't feeling adequately nurtured then we either suck it up... or spend our time doing other things. I think "suck it up" is a military expression? I'm drawing a blank for the non-military equivalent.

I don't quite perceive that it's Tom's responsibility to communicate that he isn't feeling adequately nurtured. I feel like it's my responsibility to communicate my enjoyment of what he's taken the time and made the effort to share. And sometimes I do so.... but I really don't do so all the time. Sometimes I don't have the time or energy to provide some decent positive feedback. Yet, I don't usually feel comfortable simply replying with "That's really great!" It just seems too inadequate. So I settle for nothing.

On Reddit (orchids group) you can vote people's posts up... or down. And for sure a vote up is better than nothing. Yet, if you really enjoyed a post, then a vote up is very inadequate.

On Flickr you can "vote" for a photo simply by clicking the star button. I've "voted" for a lot of photos! In some cases a "vote" was adequate. But in plenty of cases a "vote" was woefully inadequate.

Clearly you're not supposed to bite the hand that feeds you. This is a no-brainer. But there does seem to be a bit of confusion regarding rewarding the hand that feeds you. Of course everybody loves a free lunch! Yet...

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. - Adam Smith

We expect plant people to give their valuable time and energy and expertise away for free... and clearly some people are willing to do so in various degrees. But the supply can only truly be optimal when it reflects the demand. So... what's the demand? I'm the only one who knows my demand for Tom's info. Stan doesn't know my demand for Tom's info and vice versa.

I'm pretty sure that it should be really easy to communicate our demand for each other's threads. For most people though this is an uncomfortable concept. We all have absolutely no problem spending our money on plants. Most of us have absolutely no problem spending our money on plant books. Yet, when it comes to spending our money on plant threads... there seems to be an issue.

Why spend your limited money on something that people are willing to give away? Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? But if we feel like the supply of milk is inadequate... and we're not actually paying for milk... then... do we really need to call Sherlock Holmes? Sounds more like a case for Adam Smith!

The other day I joined a new forum. It's not a plant forum. When I joined I made a $10 dollar donation and became a VIP! I didn't do it for the VIP or because I wanted to support the forum. I simply wanted to use the $10 dollars to communicate my valuation of the threads. Well... I really didn't find many threads that were worth my money. So I created some! I created a thread for Adam Smith's book... The Wealth of Nations. And then I allocated half of my donation to my thread. It's a tricky concept because the money didn't go back into my pocket. I simply used it to communicate my valuation of Smith's book. Then I created a thread for Mill's book... On Liberty... and spent $3 dollars on it. These books are available online for free. It was the first time that I had spent any money on them.

And clearly I really wasn't trying to nurture Smith or Mill! Even though they can't see my demand for their books... other people can see my demand for their books. So I was trying to nurture the topic.

Today I was trying to explain this idea to a friend and I was doing a terrible job. A few hours later he e-mailed me a link and asked if that was what I was trying to describe. The link is to a page on the libertarian party (LP) website. To be clear, I'm not a libertarian and I'm definitely not trying to promote their agenda. But on that page, the LP explains that they are trying to...

1. Raise money
2. Choose a theme for their 2018 convention

They essentially combine these two things. People who are interested in a theme can spend as much money as they want on it. If you scroll down the page you can see how much money has been donated for the various themes. So it's essentially a survey, but voting has been replaced with donating. Participants essentially kill two birds with one stone. They donate money to the LP and use their donation to communicate their demand for a specific theme.

For politics it's often argued that buying influence subverts the will of the people. But if somebody donates money to a plant forum, does it subvert anybody's will if the donor uses their contribution to communicate their demand for specific threads?

From my perspective, it should be easier, rather than harder, to find and nurture things we love.