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Joining forces with Chris

Thursday, October 2, 2008, 8:18 PM

Dear Chris Martenson fans,

I recently joined forces with Chris Martenson to help him continue publishing free educational information about the American economy on PeakProsperity.com. I’m writing today to introduce myself and to explain the role I’ll be playing, helping Chris grow the site and the video and live education programs.


Introduction

My name is Erik Townsend. I was an entrepreneur in the software industry, and was one of the lucky guys who got out in the late ‘90s when the getting was still good. Not having to work full-time isn’t as glamorous as it probably sounds. I’ve had the luxury of time to explore quite a few issues of concern to our nation, and Chris’ work stands out as the best example I’ve found of someone explaining complex issues in plain English so that anyone can learn about them.

When I discovered and watched the Crash Course a few months ago, only the first ¾ of the course was completed. I learned that Chris had been funding the site’s hosting and technical services expenses out of his own pocket. The revenue he was receiving from paid site subscriptions only partially defrayed his operating expenses.

Chris has a personal passion for making the message of the Crash Course free to everyone. In fact, he was so concerned about not being perceived as self-serving that he has resisted the temptation to put revenue-generating advertising on the site. But traffic counts have grown exponentially and the site outgrew its bargain-basement hosting plan almost overnight. One of the main reasons the completion of the Crash Course had been delayed was that Chris was running out of money and couldn’t afford to subsidize the project out of his own pocket any longer.


Why I got involved

I felt a duty to act. I thought, here’s this guy who has committed his life to educating the rest of us about what’s really going on in the economy. I was so impressed by Chris’ altruism that I sent him a $5,000 donation to help fund the completion of the Crash Course. I’m proud to feel that I personally made the completion of this great work (the Crash Course) possible, and have no regrets about the contribution. I later learned that Chris has never dared to ask his loyal readers for donations because he didn’t want to seem self-serving. But unexpectedly, after I mentioned my own donation in passing on a blog comment page, another kind reader was inspired to send Chris a $2,000 donation. Perhaps a trend is starting on its own? If you can afford to help, Chris really needs more donations or subscriptions. He’ll never come out and ask for them directly. That’s not his style. But I’m less bashful, so please help us out if you can afford to!

Chris has basically pulled off this entire project single-handedly. It’s an amazing feat, but he’s been spread too thin. My schedule as a private investor leaves me plenty of spare time, so I decided to sign up to help Chris grow the business and put in place a sustainable economic model. I’ll be using my skills as a former CEO to help free Chris’ time and attention up so he can focus on the content he is so passionate about, while I put a sustainable business model in place. I’m doing this as a volunteer, and will have no financial interest in the site.


What I plan to do

My first managerial act will be to put advertising on the site to help recover operating expenses. Folks, everyone has enjoyed a free ride thus far. Chris gives away all this great content for free, and actually pays money out of his own pocket for the privilege of making it free to you on an expensive high-performance server. We can all see that’s just not sustainable in the long term.

I realize that some of you might find advertising bothersome or unwelcome. If anyone has strong feelings about this, I’ll be happy to discuss any other ideas you might have about how to do this some other way.


What you can do

We are all in this together. I am thankful for what Chris has done and now I’m throwing my hat in the ring. If you feel, as I do, that you’ve received something important from this site/work, the question for you is, what can you offer? This could come in many forms. Are you an internet marketing expert who feels we could be doing more and would like to donate your thoughts? Do you have a high volume site with which to make an exchange link? Do you have time, money, contacts, or skills that could help here? Do you see something glaringly obvious that we are overlooking? If you want to become more involved in some way, large or small, please contact me to discuss how and when this will happen. This is a grassroots effort, and I really need to connect with more passionate Americans who care about these issues and the importance of raising public awareness about them.


Future improvements

I’ll also be making more announcements in coming weeks to keep interested readers informed of my efforts in the following areas:

  • Updates on completion of the Crash Course, including Ch. 20 and a new “Chapter Zero” video introduction by Chris, which will overview the content of the Crash Course
  • Plans for new video, audio, and blog offerings
  • Introduction of a donations program and honor roll for major donors
  • New Live Speaking Tour program
  • Monthly Conference Call Program for subscribers
  • Development of a viral marketing strategy to promote the free content on the site
  • Plans to repackage the Crash Course and weekend seminar materials as courseware for a semester university course on practical economics. The courseware will be made available to professors of accredited universities and other institutions on a discretionary basis


One more thing…

I’d like to ask regular readers to take to heart that Chris has been working phenomenal hours for the last several weeks, and is swamped keeping up with the bailout, the new site and related migration issues, and getting Chapter 20 finished and online. Your patience and understanding will be appreciated if Chris cannot personally answer every e-mail as he’s done in the past. We need to keep focus on our key strategic priorities, and the only way for everyone to enjoy the quality of the Blog content and still see Ch. 20 on time is to scale back the amount of time Chris spends personally attending to all his fans. You can blame me for this, too, but I’m sure you’ll understand why it’s necessary. Recent blog comments have indicated that you’d like to see more of Chris’ objective content, so that’s what I’m going to work on bringing you.

I’ll be starting some conversations in the online forums on this site, soliciting your feedback, suggestions, and ideas about the future direction of the site and related video, audio and blog products.

I look forward to working with you to help Chris serve everyone with more top-quality free content pertaining to the American economy in plain English that Main Street can understand.

It’s the most important challenge of our time. If you can help me spread the word, you’ll be doing a great thing for our country.

If you need to contact me, don’t hesitate to e-mail me directly at Erik@PeakProsperity.com.

Erik Townsend
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Related content

93 Comments

suppdude's picture
suppdude
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: May 20 2008
Posts: 2
stay focused

Erik, I was a little turned off by your introduction and the instant idea of money and advertising.  I’m sure every subscriber knows the value of this content and will tell you Chris should not have to pay a single dime out of his pocket while he should absolutely generate income in a “natural” way without undermining the integrity of the message.

Advertising can scare away initial skeptics before they even get to the crash course.  I was a little skeptical even after taking the course, but I hung around for a few weeks reading every link on Chris’ site.  After I got to “know” Chris and his message, you could tell his intentions were clearly altruistic so I became a paid subscriber.  EVERYDAY I look forward to visiting the site to get a behind the scene glimpse on what is really unfolding.

As I scan down the recent articles and the amount of hits, I do not understand why basic subscription revenues are not covering the costs and then some.

My Recommendations:

Keep the crash course and at least one daily commentary free of charge with no sign-up obligation. Paid subscriptions are needed for access to reports, how to act articles, and any additional daily commentaries.  Absolutely keep all internet advertising off of the site and instead put a donation link as another subscriber suggested.

I think it’s imperative that Chris focus his energy and time on what is going on right now and not have to deal with this administrative overhead.  Erik, thanks for helping and taking the initiative to free Chris to do what he does best.  Please keep your intentions selfless so the integrity of the site is maintained.  Please let us know when the PayPal donation link is active.

And lastly, Chris, thanks for an excellent website.  The content is invaluable and I frequently send links to your articles to friends, family, and co-workers in hopes they can prepare for what is coming.

crash_watcher's picture
crash_watcher
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 12 2008
Posts: 146
Webinar

Personally I will be less inclined to come here if there are ads popping up and scrolling all over the place.   I see Chris as mainly a teacher, and, I think through his teaching is the best way to pay for the site.    For instance, Chris is presenting a weekend conference in Feb 2009.  But, let's face it, how many of use are going to go to Rowe MA in February (sorry Chris). Why not do a parallel "webinar" presentation of the conference online?   Erik, I raised this with Chris via email sometime ago.  He thought it was a good idea, but he is probably too busy to act on it. One of the webinar hosting companies I suggested to Chris (I have no affiliation) advertises that: "one flat fee lets you present unlimited Webinars with up to 1,000 attendees each." It looks like that flat fee is $99 for one month.   I would be very surprised if you couldn't find 1000 people willing to sign up for the conference via webinar for the same price charged to those attending in person.   Chris is going to present the course anyways—so for not much extra work and money, this would be an easy way to multiple income.  Plus, those who can't travel to the conference benefit as well.   

gsti's picture
gsti
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 21 2008
Posts: 60
Please expand a little more

Please expand a little more on that idea Matt. Is sounds promising

Thanks

Gary

P.S. - Erik, you need to get a saleable product. I don't see that at the moment, the crash course IS FANTASTIC,  sell it and it will be on every torrent site in a week.  Get a product and then ask us for money.

And as an 'IT guy' you know hosting is peanuts these days, so stop with the 'hosting costs'  you are giving the site a bad name.

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1232
Good points!

Tesseractal,

Thanks for making several excellent comments. Some brief reactions:

Advertising: We're going to have to experiment with it to see what works. The advertising people all tell me the "trick" is to embed the ads in the middle of the content. I find that offensive, and would rather go with the approach you suggest - puttingthe ads in a well-marked corner and disclaim any affiliation. But I'm told that cuts the effective ad revenue in half when you do that.

Another idea would be to set it up so the ads go away when you log in as a paid subscriber. That would make it better for the paid subscribers, and frankly it would make it easier for me to justify really loading up the "free version" of the site with lots of ads. I don't feel so bad about littering up the site with "lots of adversitisng" if there is a path that allows users who have chosen to support the site through subscription to be immune to any adverse effect of advertising.

In short, we're going to have to see how it goes, and we'll continue to welcome feedback from you.

Better access to chapters: I think our best way to solve that problem will be to offer a DVD version of the Crash Course for purchase. It's "on the list", I promise!

Non-American content: Good point. Actually, close to 40% of the web site traffic is from outside the USA. That makes sense - a lot of the core messages of the CC are really independent of nationality. We have finite resources on this planet regardless of where you call home, for instance. I'll talk to Chris about your suggestions. I can tell you right now that he would personally love to be publishing broader articles about the impact of American economics on the rest of the global economy. But I'm sure you can understand that there's only one of him, and a lot of demand. For now, we need to stay focused on getting the Crash Course completed and ramp up our promotion efforts around it. It'll be a while before we can look at completely new projects.

Forums: We're definitely keeping the forums. Chris and I agree that it's essential to have a place for people to discuss this material. However, I have asked Chris to stop reading and personally responding to the forum posts. Chris would love to continue reading and responding to every forum thread, but if he did so we'd never see Ch. 20. You can blame me for this if you like, but I've asked Chris to stop thinking of the forums as something he should be obliged to read and respond do. We need his time and attention focused in other areas. I hope everyone will understand this.

Erik

 

srobinson's picture
srobinson
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 1 2008
Posts: 1
welcome, Eric
  1. Welcome, Erik. I’m glad Chris has someone to help him. Your motives sound perfectly simple to me. Sometimes people just volunteer to help something they think is good.
  2. I never understood why registration for a free site would be required and I usually just go away when they want my info. Your explanation, support of grant applications, makes good sense. If you do require registration, could you put a short explanation of that reason on the ‘register here’ screen?
  3. A mini-membership would be a great option.
  4. I agree with jrf 29 and affter’s caveats about advertising (‘perhaps’ and advertising in general’) and the appearance of financial interest. If ads, then neutral content ads, please.
  5. On the other hand, many thanks for Chris’s personal recommendations such as those for 3 gold dealers in his article about buying precious metals. (http://www.peakprosperity.com/buying_gold)
  6. I second ike and joe2baba’s suggestions about community building opportunities.
  7. Although the color scheme is a bit hot-doggy, I don't come back and back to this site because it’s cute or flashy. Its simplicity is a virtue if 512k is a blazing fast connection.
Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1232
More than hosting costs...

gsti,

You're correct: Although the hosting cost did go up considerably with the recent upgrade, it's still not the major expense item.

We use a technical consultant (who is excellent, by the way) to run the site, and although his hourly consulting fees are reasonable, they add up fast. When I've described the cost of running site, I'm referring to both the hosting fee and the technical consulting fees Chris has to pay to make this all happen. It really is significant.

Erik

 

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1232
I'm a volunteer, plain and simple

spinone,

As I said earlier in reply to another comment you posted, I'm here as a volunteer. My only financial connection with this project is as a donor, and I have no profit motive. As another reply to your comment points out, that was disclosed openly in my original letter.

I don't take offense, and as I said elsewhere in this thread, I think a little healthy skepticism can be a good thing. But please, let's get this over and done with and move on. If you have more questions about my intentions, feel free to fire away, but please do so respectfully.

Erik

 

jrf29's picture
jrf29
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 18 2008
Posts: 444
That sounds

like an excellent idea!  There's one absolutely perfect way to raise money without damaging the credibility of the message.

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1232
I'm really shocked by all these replies...

Ok folks, as I work through all the replies I must say I'm a bit shocked by some of your reactions.

In another comment, a reader demanded that I disclose my financial interest in the project, despite the fact that I had already clearly said in my letter that I'm here as a volunteer and have no financial interest or profit motive.

Now you seem adamant in wanting to "reject absolutely any suggestion that any part of the Crash Course be subscription based.", despite the fact that I've said clearly that we are committed to keeping the Crash Course free for everyone.

I must also respectfully disagree with your appraisal that "this appears to be taking place at the worst possible time, when we should be focused on the content of the site". You got the right issue, but came to the wrong conclusion. Now, more than ever, Chris needs to be able to focus all of his time on content. This is a very critical time for the economy to be certain. But as the site traffic was growing exponentially, this server upgrade became a necessity. Chris has been stretched a dozen different ways, and there's only one of him. The pivotal event that caused me to sign up for this mission, for what it's worth, was when Chris called me a few weeks ago saying he was reaching his personal stress limit with so many things breaking loose at once. I felt it was critical for someone to step up and help take some of the burden off Chris' shoulders.

I didn't get the memo on introduction ettiquette, so sorry if we didn't do that to everyone's satisfaction. Chris did read and approve of my into letter. He offered to post it or let me post it myself. I figured learning to do it myself was the best way to start taking burden off Chris' shoulders.

Erik 

gsti's picture
gsti
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 21 2008
Posts: 60
More than hosting costs...

Thank you for replying Eirk,

I would resectfully suggest a better plan then.  This site should be costing nothing in hosting, almost nothing in tech support, obviously building does cost.  The tech consultant, who i don't doubt is good, should be helping steer you guys on setting very specifc goals for the site.  After that, if he is good, he will admit that you will very rarely need him.

There should be no, running of the site other than comment moderation and of course Chris's articles.  Thats a spererate topic though. 

 

regards

Gary

Te4t0n's picture
Te4t0n
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 28 2008
Posts: 6
Costs

I don't see why the hosting is a major cost either.... I have purchased hosting for friend's companies that have unlimted capacity and very high bandwidth for such low prices. They are always so shock at how cheap it is.

[quote] P.S. - Erik, you need to get a saleable product. I don't see that at the moment, the crash course IS FANTASTIC,  sell it and it will be on every torrent site in a week.  Get a product and then ask us for money. [/quote]

It is already possible to download the slideshow, just using firefox. You can right click next to a slide go 'Page info', Media tab, look for the embedded file and save as.....

I think advertising is a good choice for income, just don't bloat out the sitr with them.

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1232
Thanks for your candor

Suppdude,

I appreciate your candor and excellent suggestions. I'm sorry that my letter offended you, but I really don't understand your logic. You say that you're sure Chris should never have to pay a dime out of his pocket to put this message out, but you seem offended by the obvious solution that we need to change the business model so that Chris doesn't have do subsidize the site any longer. That is, inherently, a conversation about money and advertising. I don't know any way around that.

The idea of a PayPal link button is excellent, and I've already asked our Web site consultant to look into setting that up. If it generates enough income that we can forget about advertising, I'd love that.

Erik

 

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1232
It's on the list!

crash_watcher,

Thanks for the excellent suggestion. Live Webinars (or conference calls with Chris) were already on my list.

The initial thinking was that we would offer these FREE to paid subscribers. That would give everyone a regular opportunity to actually PARTICIPATE in an event with Chris, ask questions, etc. My thought was that we would then make the audio recording (meaning no opportunity to ask questions) available to registered non-subscribers a week or so later. The idea being that anybody who's interested can listen in for free, but if you want the right to participate, you have to sign up as a paid subscriber to the site.

I'll be starting a discussion in the forums about how to best structure this, and welcome any and all feedback.

Erik

 

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1232
Thanks

I never thought about the number of registered users thing being important either, until recently when Chris and I had a con call with the person in charge of grants for a major foundation. It really is something they take seriously.

After reading all these comments, I'm starting to think that what we really need is a "Help The Cause" button that takes you to a screen where several things are explained in plain language:

  1. We welcome everyone and are committed to keeping the online crash course free
  2. We really need your help, so if you can afford to donate, please use this PayPal button to do so.
  3. It really helps us when you register (include explanation about grants). Please do so here now... We promise not to abuse your privacy.
  4. We need YOUR help passing the word about the Crash Course. Please make a conscious effort to tell all your friends about what's available here. The good news is it will always be free. The bad news is because of that, we don't have money to advertise the Crash Course, so we need your help spreading the word.

I'll start working toward that end.

Your comments about "neutral content ads" were taken to heart. However, as you allude yourself, there is a conundrum here. Take your own example of buying Gold. Chris sincerely believes that everyone concerned with these issues should consider gold as a dollar-proof investment. The idea of making a high quality "how to buy gold" video has already been discussed. And yes, some gold dealers have stepped up and offered to fund such a project if their services are mentioned. That's the rub.

Chris is completely capable of staying objective and not allowing commercial interests to bias his statements. But frankly, you'd have to know Chris in order to believe that. The appearance of an ulterior motive would be way too strong. This is a really frustrating issue for me. We really should welcome financial support from anyone, including commercial interests who have a profit motive. The key is to remain objective and unbiased and not allow the commercial interests to derail the objective quality of the message. I can't figure out how to do this without creating all the wrong appearances. (And don't worry, we won't do that!). Suggestions welcome...

Erik

rkopf's picture
rkopf
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 4 2008
Posts: 29
non-US content, europe, germany, anywhere

Hello Chris and Eric,


im following this site since some weeks, and the Crash Course quite changed my views and my awareness. Chris, you did a great job. The media of online videos, and the way you did them, provide the required objectiveness and urgency of the problems.

I agree to the grass roots approach that is required for the society to wake up. Im from Germany, and as I see it, our society has quite similar problems, that are described in the Crash Course (deep debt, unrealizable promises to future retirees, reliance on foreign fossile energy sources,..) Nevertheless, government and media still calm the peoples, and politicians on both political sides, (socialist and conservative) suggest that we can continue increasing government spending and our excessive lifestyle by ever more economic growth.

I think we need someone like Chris here in Germany/Europe. It would be great to have the Crash Course in other languages as well, even though it is actually easy to understand for non-native english viewers.

With Chris`permission, some chapters, could simply get translated, since they are universal, others should be re- or newly written,to cover the special national/european context(s). Otherwise they will say its an american problem, as politicians tried to state here the last days.


My question: is there anyone with the ability and dedication to start this? I can contribute, but im just a poor computer artist, and dont have deep knowledge about finances and economics, and of course absolutely zero reputation in this area. I COULD help with translation (not 100% professional), video/graphics, and maybe help finding a narrator. Maybe we could discuss this in a forum thread.

 

Robert

Matt Holbert's picture
Matt Holbert
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 3 2008
Posts: 43
Expansion

Gary-

More of my thoughts can be found at my online journal: http://integraljournal.typepad.com/ .

Due to a combination of various types of capital, Chris and Erik are in a position where they can launch something that will really make a difference.  However, the extrapolation of the work done so far will not make a difference.

I envision a world where we would not spend our lives sitting in front of a screen -- regardless of whether it is for work or pleasure.  The amount of energy devoted to online activities is overwhelming.  There are far more enjoyable things that most of us could be doing.  The good news is that due to the energy crisis many of us will have to grow food.  The bad news is that we will not be doing it on our own terms unless we come up with a different model.  We need to shift the current model of banking from credit to equity.  Most of those with 401ks are going to lose everything that they think they have since what they have is paper.  A prudent investor would want to have his assets secured by something that is real.  You can't get more real than land that can grow food.

One of my models is exclusiveresorts.com .  Wealthy people do not own the various multi-million dollar properties that they have access to.  In return for a membership deposit and dues, they have access to dozens of properties.  My idea is to expand the concept to modest living quarters on organic farms.  The structure would be run as a university since the original university -- prior to training specialists -- was the foundation of the renaissance.

Since it appears that we have delayed the collapse of the market for a few days or maybe even a few years, serious discussion of an alternative by a majority will be delayed until that 401k statement reads $0.  Now is the time to pay the penalty and shift assets to something that has long term value. 

gsti's picture
gsti
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 21 2008
Posts: 60
Thanks Matt

I am going to check out your site and get back to you if thats ok.

Thanks again.

 

 

pov56's picture
pov56
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 26 2008
Posts: 14
Enhancements & Advertising

If you are going to do this then I'd prefer to have two sites, one "free" site with advertisements and the other without for subscribers.   This I believe is a better model because having subscribers means a steady stream of revenue while advertisements do not.  Especially since online advertisement revenues in general are falling.

http://www.adweek.com/aw/content_display/news/digital/e3i7ac9ecf0f97619aa47dce20743c57f7d

For many people this site is a major source of news and opinions and for me the less clutter (blinking ads) the better.  And I am willing to pay for that.

 

 

Xflies's picture
Xflies
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 19 2008
Posts: 157
This is a very interesting idea ...it has a few logistical
issues but it does sound like the starts of a grassroots movement.  I totally agree with your point of having too many venues to vent our frustrations on, instead of using that energy to get out there and take action.  The biggest logistical problem I see is for investors who want to participate but can't get access to product because you're dealing with shipping produce and perishable goods.  Organic produce also doesn't ship as well (blemished product normally fine for consumption rots easier than in other product which is blemish free but is coated with pesticides).  I like the resorts idea, I have often dreamed of setting up an educational/interest itinerary for communities such as this who want to learn for the enjoyment of learning.  Ideally it would be a collection of members who have become experts in their area or bringing in lecturers or speakers on useful topics ... the great thing would be that this is held within a structured, well thought out program yet is not bound by the requirement of degrees or useless exams.  I am an ex-hedge fund manager that would be more than happy to lecture on topics of capital markets, the truth behind alternative strategies, the search for alpha and real market neutral strategies.  Anyways, I'll read up on your website but it's good to know there are others out there who have this sort of idea in mind.
northernsoul's picture
northernsoul
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 16 2008
Posts: 16
Non US Content - European Perspective

Robert Hi

Like you, I have been following this site for a number of months now and it is excellent. I live in the UK and have been happy to privately translate the US perspective into a British one. 

I think there might be mileage in your suggestion of creating a European subgroup. The issues are very similar to the US but there is a need for European perspective building on Chris's excellent work. 

 I used to be a Senior manager in Marketing with Bank of Scotland/ no HBOS /no LLoyds TSB, - how quickly the dominos fall! but a change of direction resulted in me becoming a Science Teacher. No, it was not a mid life crisis more a considered decision re quality of life, communitariasm etc

I have, on an adhoc basis, been sending Chris links to websites/ articles that I thought would be of interest from this side of the Atlantic.

 Not quite sure where to take this now, what are your initial thoughts? 

Any forum would absolutley need to maintain and respect Chris's brand identiy

 

Knd Rgds

Northern Soul 

Xflies's picture
Xflies
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 19 2008
Posts: 157
One other thought I would like you to comment on
is the thought of attracting younger families to this cause where we try and live a good life without making an impact on the world we live in (materials wise, hopefully we'll make a positive impact!).  The problem with younger families which includes me is that the kids require education but if there are other families in the same situation then we can share education costs have benefit from much smaller class sizes.  Home schooling programs are out there and kids can take standardized tests in any region that parents would want them to have access to in the future.
Susan's picture
Susan
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 22 2008
Posts: 14
Spreading The Word is Easy

I have been following along as the chapters are completed for a while now and when you got the last chapter done I sent this out to my entire e-mail list urging my friends to educate themselves.  My husband also passed it to a few work associates.  The response was very positive.  The credit crisis seems to have caused many people to begin looking for answers.  Your course is a wonderful tool for getting the dialog going.  Thank-You!

Also, I find it easy when leaving a thoughtful comment on an online newspaper article to leave a link to one of your chapters as well.  Anyone can do this and it is one small way to broaden the audience and get new members.

elsur's picture
elsur
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 10 2008
Posts: 48
Please, no advertising...

This is a great site, and has a high degree of integrity.

Please do not put advertising on it. If this site had advertising on it, we would not have originally become subscibers. I don't trust sites with advertising. Ads completely change the character and feel of a website. Readers have come up with a number of different ideas on how to increase income without introducing ads. Here's another thought.

Much info is given for free here. What if the Crash Course and other general info was free, but only the first paragraph or two of the udates was visible. To read the whole article folks would need to register - supplying only their email address with the assurance that it would not be shared. After a free trial period (of say, one month or so) their free trial runs out and they can either join with a paid subscription or not. But if they don't subscribe, they don't have full access to the updates.

Two elements are important here. First, it is completely appropriate that Chris make a fair wage for his time and effort. Second, the site needs to stay Chris'. What I mean by that is that his approach, attitude and perspective should not be altered. There are many ways to run a business. It is my hope that this business/site does not change course too dramatically.


One more point against ads is that for those of us still on dial-up, ads slow things way down.

Thanks!

 

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Tesseractal
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 18 2008
Posts: 25
Advertising and forums

Hi Erik, thanks for the response.

Yes the advertising people would say the "trick" is to embed.  They are in the business of working for their clients - the advertisers. May I suggest that the considerations are how to stay true to the vision while securing revenue and recognising the profile of the visiting pubic; and just how much revenue is required!

 e.g. 1000 people who visit 3 times a week for 6 months @ 1 unit a visit will generate 78,000 units of revenue; while 15000 people who visit just once every couple of months @ 2 units per visit will generate 90,000 units of revenue in the same period.  

Looks better for the advertiser and as business but I suggest it won't be in keeping with the core "business" of the site and long term sustainability will be an issue. 

Personally I would rapidly reduce visitation rates with embedded advertisements because they empose a cost on me in terms of time, distraction from the message, and actual download costs.  As a new visitor I would probably not get as far as assessing the site in terms of subscribing to eliminate the adds - largely its a case of add, ten second scan, get out of town and find somewhere with similar content that isn't disrupted by adds.

Regarding the forums -not suggesting that they be removed - just that viewing be limited to registerd users - maybe even people that have done the course - so that the discussion even if extreme at times is not based on uninformed opinion and casual visitors are not given a false impression.  Similarly, I don't think Chris should, or possibly even wants to, respond to every post.  Forums gain a life of their own and have merit as such but there needs to be a clear demarcation of "owner" content and that of "subscribers"

 

catfink's picture
catfink
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 9 2008
Posts: 1
Why

Erik,

Probably most who visit this site agree that Chris has extraordinary analytical and communication skills.  He also seems to be very altruistic as he has given up high-profile work to live a simpler, more fullfilling life and to share his knowledge - basically, for free.

I believe that Chris has worked and maintained this site for as long as he has because it is something he thinks is important and enjoys doing. As for spending his own money - well, people have varying hobbies for which they spend varying amounts because it is something they like or want to do.

Did Chris request you to join him because he needs to earn more money?

This site already a mechanism in place for earning revenue: subscriptions. Want to earn more?  Sell more subscriptions, raise the prices, or do both.

If not working full-time isn't as glamorous as you like, you could do something altruistic too (not figuring out ways to make money from others) such as, maintaining the Website and server in order to free Chris to study and create new site content.

Pandabonium's picture
Pandabonium
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 30 2008
Posts: 61
Welcome

Welcome aboard, Erik. I'm glad that Chris is getting some assistence. You may feel like Rodney Dangerfield after some the comments, but there seems to be plenty of positive suggestions too.

 I would like it you could avoid advertising too, but do what you've got to do.  

 Thank you for all your efforts. 

 

jrf29's picture
jrf29
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 18 2008
Posts: 444
Now let's be fair
Erik has stated on several occasions that he is not working for hire, and that he has no profit-sharing agreements.  He is acting altruistically, or at the very least charitably.  Questioning the particular type of help which a person offers is fundamentally unfair and incurably hostile.  I can't imagine how you can visualize something positive resulting from such a comment.
SteveS's picture
SteveS
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 6 2008
Posts: 358
Thoughts on revenue

This site is great and I've learned a lot. However through my life I generally find that when someone wants to help me with financial advice it ends up costing me and rather dearly at times. I'm sure I'm not alone so it should not be surprising that people are skeptical about what looks like very good, but free advice. Truthfully I have been waiting for the shoe to drop. When the site was upgraded recently and I tried to view it, it asked me for a logon name. The one I had used before didn't work, and suddenely I thought "Well they finally decided to make it a pay-only site, and just before bringing out the anticipated final chapter in the Crash Course". Thankfully it must have been some start-up glitch. But we need to have skepticism when our money and futures are at risk. You are asking us to be skeptical (thank you!) of Wall Street and Goverment. So please don't take it personally, try to see it from our perspective. If you were handing out $100 bills on the street you'll find some people wondering "what's the catch?".

 I am against ads. How will you vet them?  Do we assume every ad is endorsed by the site? For a site like this I think an ad carries an implied endorsement by the site.

 I am interested in the subscription, but I think it has not been sold very well. It's not clear what extra good it would do for me for the asked for price. Maybe you are giving too much away for free.

 I think a donation button is a great idea. I do donate to sites that I find are helpful to me. I imagine there is data out there as to how well it works (or not).

If a company wants to help with an issue (say on buying gold) then I have no problem with a sponorship message, IF Chris knows they are reputable.

 

 

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1232
Really, folks, this is getting silly now

Listen folks, this discussion is getting ridiculous. I've been tolerant of the misguided criticisms so far, and have pretty thick skin. But these comments are frankly pretty insulting, and I don't deserve them.

Catfink, I am doing something altruistic myself. I've found a cause I really believe in (Chris' work), and I've volunteered my time and money to help spread the word.

Catfink, after I saw the Crash Course, I sent Chris a $5,000 donation. You didn't.

Yes, Chris called me and told me he didn't know how he could continue doing this on his own. I responded by dropping what I was doing and volunteering my time, at least half-time, probably closer to full time this week, to help with the cause. For free, because I believe in it. You didn't.

Catfink, if you want me to take your baseless condescending criticisms seriously, please do the following:

1. Send Chris a $10,000 donation to show up my $5k donation. Make me look like the small time guy you seem to want me to be

2. Sign up to spend at least 20 hrs/week of your own time working for free to help with this cause.

When you've done those two things, I'll start taking your feelings about my motivations seriously.Until then, we have work to do getting the word out about the crash course to all of America, and I don't have time to waste on your insults.

Erik 

 

 

jeanius2's picture
jeanius2
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: May 23 2008
Posts: 14
TED nomination

Erik, how about nominating Chris for a TED (http://www.ted.com/index.php/nominate/speaker) appearance? It would seem to be an ideal forum for Chris. Incidentally, notice how TED has a few major sponsors? Maybe that would be a possible revenue model for the Crash Course?

Also on fund-raising, how about an Amazon.com book link area? Like many I am put off by advertising, but book suggestions are ok in my book (sorry - bad pun).

RNcarl's picture
RNcarl
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: May 13 2008
Posts: 357
Its really too bad

Erik,

 

Its really too bad. Your intro letter reads like a MLM marketer.

I am not often at a loss for words... however, I find myself speechless on how to comment on your "joining forces with Chris".

Gee, if I "donate" say $10K to Chris' cause, can I have unfettered access to him and help him decide on which direction to take his site? That would be twice the investment you have admittedly made.

Now I look at the site and its content as just another internet money making scheme.

Sadly submitted - C.

jeanius2's picture
jeanius2
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: May 23 2008
Posts: 14
Think global
[quote=ErikTownsend]

we have work to do getting the word out about the crash course to all of America

Erik 

 

[/quote]

 

Sorry Erik, this thing has gone global! I know I'm not the only Aussie here (I live near the Perth Mint!), and there are several who have stated they're in Europe or wherever, so please keep us all in mind!

WendyT's picture
WendyT
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 26 2008
Posts: 39
Thank you, Erik.

Erik,

I want to thank you for your tremendous contribution of $5,000 to Chris' effort and for volunteering

[quote]

to help recover operating expenses.

[/quote]

I've been surprised by some of the commentary and questions regarding your purposes and motives. Seems to me you laid them out clearly in your introductory letter, which, by the way, I thought was very nice; I really appreciated it.

In case readers haven't seen your note yet, here are your answers to some of those key questions:

[quote=ErikTownsend]

One of the main reasons the completion of the Crash Course had been delayed was that Chris was running out of money and couldn’t afford to subsidize the project out of his own pocket any longer.

...

Why I got involved

I felt a duty to act. I thought, here’s this guy who has committed his life to educating the rest of us about what’s really going on in the economy. I was so impressed by Chris’ altruism that I sent him a $5,000 donation to help fund the completion of the Crash Course.

...

Chris has basically pulled off this entire project single-handedly. It’s an amazing feat, but he’s been spread too thin. My schedule as a private investor leaves me plenty of spare time, so I decided to sign up to help Chris grow the business and put in place a sustainable economic model. I’ll be using my skills as a former CEO to help free Chris’ time and attention up so he can focus on the content he is so passionate about, while I put a sustainable business model in place. I’m doing this as a volunteer, and will have no financial interest in the site. (Emphasis added)

[/quote]

 

I'm delighted you're volunteering. What a gift! With your background and skills, Chris' aspirations are bound to be advanced. For those who are new to the website, those aspirations are essentially to help more people (hopefully a LOT more people):

* understand key forces that are driving massive changes that will profoundly affect us all, and

* take appropriate actions to, as he puts it, secure our future.

As another reader wrote, it's understandable that some people might have some concerns for the integrity of the site as new people such as yourself get involved, but I feel we can be confident in Chris' judgement about the people he invites to assist him.

I've been a friend and "fan" of Chris' since 2005. I've attended several of his workshops, participated in local community meetings he initiated, worked with him briefly in researching relocalizing economies, and avidly followed the development of his Crash Course and website. Why such enthusiasm? Because Chris does something precious few do: he explains crucially important but complex economic factors and dynamics in crisp, down-to-earth, eminently understandable terms. Then he connects the dots so that ordinary people can easily see the implications for their lives. And he does so in a way that is pretty much free of ideological bias, and hyperbole. His analysis is data driven. He's a scientist. As he says, he lets the data tell the story. And then he makes it so much fun to read because he's got such a great sense of humor! Even with the scariest stuff!

Chris has worked incredibly hard for years with unrelenting devotion to the truth, to illuminate, educate and empower ordinary people. He's tried numerous avenues to get the knowledge into more people's hands (minds), at considerable financial cost to himself; always wrestling with the issue of putting a price on his products (workshops, reports, etc.); not wanting to exclude those with little means.

A lot of folks have expressed their appreciation here (throughout the website) for Chris' generosity in providing the Crash Course and other materials on this site for free. Indeed he has earned our gratitude and deserves our support as well, financially, from those for whom that is possible.

There are some really good ideas here for ways of supporting Chris' work --which is for all of us-- financially. The discussion regarding whether and how to advertise is an important one. While I have absolutely no doubt that Chris could and would maintain reporting and editorial independence from advertising interests, as has been pointed out by a reader, the mere appearance of possibly compromised objectivity is an important concern. I trust that the financing issues will be worked out.

We're already seeing positive changes to the site! Within a short time of suggestions that discussion threads be better organized, that was accomplished with the Forum containing separate topic folders. Great!

Let's applaud the good, respectfully propose improvements and express concerns, and work together to learn, teach and disseminate this great information and analysis!

 

Regards,

Wendy Thomson

 

P.S. I've been a registered reader since the site was launched, but recently changed email addresses; hence the "Joined: 2008-09." At present my income doesn't cover my very modest expenses, so I'm not a paying member, although I'd like to be. I'm happy to be able to read all that is available for free!

spinone's picture
spinone
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 12 2008
Posts: 49
My apologies.
If my candor offended you.  I believe you.  what can I do to help?
CPD's picture
CPD
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 31 2008
Posts: 2
criticisms...

I was nearly surprised that anyone would bother to critisize or object in any way for support that comes towards this site. I say "nearly" because I have personally been involved in a few altruistic ventures in which funding for time, energy and expenditure became contentious issues. It was as though that the idea of getting funding abused some sacred trust or authenticity - well it certainly does for people who are unable to understand that people need to eat...

You have provided a wonderful service and obvously worked like a maniac to provide it and to top it off you've allowed free access for so many people. 

Ignore all criticism (except constructive) and take compliments with a grain of salt. Your site deserves to succeed and you deserve to be rewarded for providing a valuable educational service - the likes of which I have not seen elsewhere.

I hope that you get more and more funding that wil enable you to continue.

 

Warm regards, Christopher 

 

 

Brangdon's picture
Brangdon
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 29 2008
Posts: 1
Mini-membership

I want to echo the mini-membership idea. My experience was this: I needed to see the Crash Course for free and without registering in order to decide whether there was any value here. (I'm still half-wondering whether Chapter 20 will be some crazy conspiracy theory, "come and join our cult", or similar.) Having seen the value, I was prepared to register and contribute, but the full subscription of $300/pa was too much. It's not that I'm poor, it's just more than I'm willing to send to a website. People are very sceptical, paranoid even, about sending money.

 I would definitely like to see a way for people to contribute cash, and hopefully gain benefits, at a lower level (more like $30/pa or less). You might even find you made more money by pitching the full subscription at that level.

mainecooncat's picture
mainecooncat
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 7 2008
Posts: 488
Let the drama soon be past

As I sit here and read through all of these comments, I can only think to myself, "What a sad development." The coming-out of Chris' new partner/helper, Erik Townsend, and the reaction by the site's readers sound like a discussion more fit for a high school cafeteria than one taking place on the website I've visited for the last couple of months. And the fact that his introduction is one of the most read articles of the last several by a factor of many and that this introduction has elicited far more reader comments than most substantive posts is the sad part. Gossip and melodrama on www.PeakProsperity.com? I guess so.  

Without taking sides, though I must admit that I'm inclined to be reflexively leery of someone like Mr. Townsend, I proffer the following questions:

 1. Many readers of this site appear to be capitalists/investors, so why the uproar over advertisements or any other money-making aspect of the site?

 2. Why didn't Chris Martenson introduce or inform his readers of this new development himself?

 3. Was this coming-out, as I've called it, by Erik Townsend really even necessary? Why not simply do it behind the scenes in the way that most administrative procedures would take place. I don't need to know who he is, how much money he donates, and/or speculate about his ulterior motives. After all, I have absolutely no idea who Chris Martenson is beyond a biographical blurb. There seems to be more than an even generous pinch of ego in all of this for Mr. Townsend. But quite a forgivable transgression I must add.

(Never forget that one reads and grows to trust someone/some source not because they are inherently trustworthy but because they make sense and/or compare favorably to other people and sources that analyze the same topic over time. I don't like Chris' work or think that he's insightful because he's a PhD. or because he lives in New England or because he looks like my brother. In fact many of the world's leading apologists and advocates for wrong-headed economic and military policies are Ph.D's. If Mr. Townsend somehow ends up corrupting the site and Chris' purpose, I trust that most of us will be able to see this quite readily.)

 4. Do people really believe that the material gathered and presented here is new or original or truly groundbreaking? Contoversial thoughts, I know, but even Chris points this out in the Crash Course. He's simply the information's assimilator and arranger. I don't mean to appear flippant here but to only sound a very fundamental truth, which leads to question 5.

 5. Is the information here really valuable enough to be paid for, as Mr. Townsend is positing? He says at one point that "everyone has enjoyed a free ride thus far." This is one of two unfortunate comments he makes. FIrst, his choice of cliches is poor. I'm sure for most readers that Chris Martenson's work is just one arrow in an informational quiver packed with a diverse array of sources. If this website were to suddenly not exist, I'm sure every reader would be disappointed but that we'd all make it through the night. We wouldn't shrivel up and die in a day or two because our "free ride" was now over.

Regarding Mr. Townsend's second unfortunate statement: "Not having to work full-time isn’t as glamorous as it probably sounds." Maybe if he volunteered/worked at Taco Bell or hung drywall for fifty hours a week for the next year or so his current position would be a bit more appealing instead of not "as glamorous as it probably sounds." Such a work stint may serve to reinvigorate the great appreciation he should have for his current standing.

I've been fortunate enough in my own life to have periods of months off at a time due to the fact that I'm a builder and am often paid in large sums of money and experience slow periods in between larger projects. For me these periods have always been revelatory. I read more, write more, hobby more, exercise more, hike more, spend more time with my family, and in general enjoy life more.

As far as photographs go, Mr. Townsend looks like an amicable enough fellow, and I invite him to transform this superficial reaction into a substantive one.

gyrogearloose's picture
gyrogearloose
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 8 2008
Posts: 480
  To answer by

 

To answer by numbers

1  Because change is scary...       ( actually I just hate the distraction and never click on them anyway )

2 Covered In earlier posts in this section.

3  Necessary ? Well that comes down to opinion. Chris likes to be very clear between facts, beliefs and opinions. ;-) Looks to me like a declaration of having no secrets to me than negative connotations, but that as they say is just my opinion. You cant please everyone all the time.

4 Kudos to him for making clear he is standing on the shoulders of others.  What I loved about his course is that it presented the information in a way that others can "get it "  I had being trying friends to ""get it" for a while and only got ridicule, but I show them the crash course they started to get it. That is what you get from  a good teacher.

 Cheers

 

Erik T.'s picture
Erik T.
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 5 2008
Posts: 1232
Excellent suggestion! Thanks...

That's a fantastic idea. I've not yet attended TED myself but would love to. You have to sign up a year plus in advance last I heard.

The immediate priorities will be on the site, the completion of the crash course, and a plan to create a grass-roots movement to spread the word about the crash course across America. We're also looking at PR opportunities, such as cable TV interview opportunities to promote Chris. I've put your idea about TED in my notes. The nomination online is only the first step - my guess is we'd have to get to someone at TED and get them to actually watch a chapter of the crash course. Someone on their program committee would need to see it first hand, so the challenge is getting to them and getting them to watch it.

Thanks again for a great suggestion.

Erik

 

yoshhash's picture
yoshhash
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 20 2008
Posts: 271
get the word out!!!!

Welcome Erik,

I for one appreciate your involvement, I welcome advertising or any other auxilliary source of income. it is not fair or sustainable to expect this to run entirely on Chris's dime.

And of course, a deep bow of gratitude to Chris- I can't express the magnitude of my appreciation. For decades I've tried unsuccessfully to understand the economy, I only regret that I didn't discover this site earlier.

Unfortunately, I am a poor master's student, can only afford the basic package- no membership until I join the working crowd!

In the meantime, I think there is a lot we can do as participants. As jeanius2 and Susan and others have already mentioned, it is easy and free to get the word out. Tell your friends, if you haven't already, post it on other boards, your local newspaper, etc:

As suggested by jeanius2, I will repeat the TED address-

http://www.ted.com/index.php/nominate/speaker

and add a few other blog sites with relevant readership-

reddit.com

digg.com

treehugger.com

neatorama.com

http://buzz.yahoo.com/

http://www.stumbleupon.com

etc.

I personally cannot believe the gall of some of the criticisms being leveled on this board. Please, everybody, what is the big deal about advertising? Catfink, I agree with Erik, if you don't like it, ante up.

USMoonAny1's picture
USMoonAny1
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 5 2008
Posts: 5
Thick skin?

I read through most of the comments here and found a wide spectrum for you to work with. In sales, ALL respondants are opportunities and IMHO the toughest ones, ie most critical, are the best! One should NEVER argue with a potential paying customer, especially not in on an open blog, it's just bad form.

As to what someone like me will pay for and not pay for? The Crash Course, as it is (without Chapter 20 posted) provides the type of overview convenient to send along to those less-aquainted with economics. Not knowing yet the quality of the 'action plan' part of the presentation would make it difficult to want to invest now, especially without knowing what if any success Mr. Martenson has had with applying the strategy. 

With that said- I don't mind being on the ground floor of a thing, in fact its preferred, but some indication of what's to come is essential. For instance will there be an actual method of say... trading commodities, looking for mineral or other specific energy investment opportunities, or how about actual honest coin/bullion dealers for group/club investing at discounts or at the very least fair values with clear explanations and terms as to why the spread is what it is? 

One has to be very careful about giving personal and financial information on the internet. Trusting the host is a huge part of making that decision. Handling objections is the only way to establish trust and prove ones ability to earn opportunities.

The bottom line- To get the thing moving along I agree that the Paypal donation would be optimal. People give what they think a thing is worth and once that develops, which it will if it's a good place to be, then more strategic membership packages could be intertwined along with the donation level participants. Let's face it, young folks who are less-acquainted with economics need this more than anyone and their resources are limited.

JMHO

horstfam's picture
horstfam
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 6 2008
Posts: 71
Speed is of the essence

Hi, Erik,

Two things that would be helpful RIGHT NOW:

1) The Crash Course on DVD. Can you make them for $.50 and sell them for a dollar (or whatever numbers)? I'll take 100 to hand out to friends and family, NOW.

2) Cheaper variation of #1; plain, white business cards with "www.PeakProsperity.com" on them. I'll take 1,000 of these and drop them from my plane!

Should you guys produce these items? Or, do you care if we "folks in the field" do? Maybe put a sample card online for us to print out and have a local printer print- or a link to an online printer, even better. I know these are "old school", last century contact tools, but many opportunities need these- folks without Internet, small groups like churches with no Internet connection, etc. They would be helpful and fill the gap.

Many thanks for your efforts!

-Tim 

 

 

 

Matt Holbert's picture
Matt Holbert
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 3 2008
Posts: 43
Younger families

Xflies-  As someone who does not have kids, I have not given a great deal of thought to how kids would fit into the picture.  A few points though...  I was lucky growing up -- although I didn't think so at the time -- in that my family had a business and I was able to use my hands and build something.  Many people have not had this opportunity and therefore can only envision themselves sitting behind a desk.  There will probably not be a large demand for desk jockeys in the world to come.  Secondly, my father was an out-of-the-box thinker.  Possibly the only one in our small community.  It would have been helpful if there were a handful of other free thinkers around.  Finally, home schooling may produce better individuals in many respects, but it seems to mainly be based on a religious -- in some cases fundamentalist -- foundation.  We have to be honest when we ask how we got in the mess we are in.  Some would say that religion enabled the money/growth model that we have today.  This is one reason why I believe that the foundation of our communities -- big or small -- should be the university. (Again, I am talking about the renaissance model or the whole model as opposed to the specialist model of today that trains individuals to fit into the growth model.)  It is remarkable that a majority of college students are plugged into a many-book environment for four or more years and then graduate and spend the rest of their lives in a one-book mindset.  Part of the problem is that the curriculum does not encourage students to explore.

Young people should have a place to go where all types of ideas are being tossed about -- not just doctrine and dogma.  My father used to repeatedly say that those who can do and those that can't teach.  We need to create an institution that encompasses doing and teaching.   

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