R-Squared Lite

After hearing numerous suggestions and kicking around the options, I have decided not to completely close shop. However, I will do things a bit differently from here on. I don’t plan to spend more than about 2 hours a week on the blog, and I am taking the following steps in order to more effectively manage my time.

I will only write and post essays when I have time that is truly “free.” That is limited for the most part to Saturday and Sunday morning, when I usually wake up at 5 or 6 and have a couple of hours before anyone else wakes up. I will either post a substanive essay, or do a quick review of the week’s interesting energy developments. Once the rest of the family starts to wake up, I will stop what I am doing. My intent is for my activities to be completely invisible to my family and my employer, and to take no time away from either.

I am going to leave comments on. Enough people have told me that they can ignore the trolls, and I want this to be a forum where people can discuss energy issues. I have also learned a lot from comments, and there needs to be a forum for people to challenge points or offer corrections. However, I don’t generally plan to respond to comments. On my Saturday/Sunday morning “check-ins” I will skim comments and see if one really requires a response.

Once a week I will come through and do maintenance, getting rid of trash. What is trash? Comments that are designed to be inflammatory; comments that are unproductive (e.g., links to off-topic information), and any comment that attempts to identify my employer. I can’t make it clear enough: What I am doing here has nothing to do with my employer, and I have been asked by them to make that clear. I do not speak for them, even when my position is consistent with the official company position. That should be clear enough, so don’t complain if you violate those guidelines and your comment is deleted.

I am leaving my e-mail address offline, but if you really need to get in touch (and don’t already have my e-mail address), then post something in the comments and I should eventually see it.

I will post substantive essays on perhaps a monthly basis. It just depends on how long it takes me to work one up. I have a number of excerpts that I can pull out from the ethanol FAQ (still a work in progress), and I have a lot of material from the renewable diesel essay that I recently worked on.

If I stick to this regimen, I think I can manage the rest of the things in my life. If not, then I will have to quit this. But I spent the past week away from the blog, rarely checking in and making no comments, just to see if I could do it. And it really wasn’t all that hard. 🙂

32 thoughts on “R-Squared Lite”

  1. in a way this is really good news. Family and work are far more important than the Internet, or, in my case, open-source software. Unless somebody’s paying you to do it, do something that’s more valuable to yourself.

    as for myself, I think this is the last or next to last blog I leave comments on. I probably won’t comment anymore, anywhere, because I’ve come to the conclusion that comments really don’t matter. In their current form and structure, they are more an excise of ego rather than having any real value.

    yes, I am fully aware that this comment fulfills all of the characteristics about comments defined within. 🙂

    I wish you a good life. In fact, I wish all the other readers as well as myself a good life.

    — country mouse

  2. Sounds like a good plan Robert.

    Besides, there is more important stuff than blogging – Sooner football! (Time to test out your Slingbox.)

    North Texas comes to Oklahoma Memorial Stadium on TV (Fox Sports SW) Saturday 9/1 at 6pm CDT (midnight your time). Then we have OSU at UGA on ESPN2.

    Watch football on the Sling while blogging, then you can sleep in.

    My alma mater is on the road at Auburn on ESPN-HD also Saturday night. The wife (OU alumnae) has already informed me that it is possible to watch 2 games at the same time.

    Gotta love that!

  3. Sounds good to me too, Robert. And not to rush you toward it, but one subtext of “The Black Swan” is that we can simply skip daily news … hard to explain why in a few words … maybe it’s just too hard, and too much a waste of energy, to constantly judge what is signal and what is noise.

    I haven’t totally followed that advice myself. I enjoy my 64 feeds at bloglines, but I’m more conscious that it’s the long-term trends that matter.

  4. Robert:

    I think blogging is best treated like drinking. And moderation, although it is ideal, is almost unknown. Good luck with your resolution, but if you decide that it is too hard to keep — Feel free to quit.

    P.S. If you can you should disallow anonymous comments.

  5. I’m glad to hear that you’re prioritizing the really important things, and that you’re doing so without shutting down the blog. This is one of the real gems of the energy blogosphere.

  6. Robert … you should spend Saturday and Sunday thinking about other things rather than the oil industry.

    Do you lack imagination?

    What’s the problem with you, Robert, is there nothing else to do in Scotland?

    I am certain that if you looked you would find a better use for your time on a weekend morning.

    I mean … there’s a whole universe out there. Why don’t you enjoy the beauty that surrounds you rather than devote your free time to the industry which is destroying every beautiful thin?

    David Mathews
    David Mathews’ Home Page

  7. Well, I don’t know if I agree with the other comments. I think there is money to be made at this blogging, if you develop a site which becomes recognized.
    Treehugger sold for $12 mil. It has a lot of links and info to products, hence its commercial value.
    What if R Squared revved up with a few bloggers, with the idea of explaining technolgies or energy trends, and then added, how you make money. An energy investment blog, with credibility, if you will.
    The goal is to sell in two years at $1 mil or whatever. I think it can be done.

  8. Remember that Treehugger is a shopper-oriented site. It attracts people with an interest not only in the environment, but also in products they can buy to help the environment, to improve their footprint.

    Treehugger was worth money for that readership.

    Anyone else who wishes their blog to be sold someday has to imagine the value for the purchaser. Are the visitors to the site carrying money? If so, for what purpose? Shopping? Investment? Travel?

    How is the purchaser ultimately going to profit?

  9. Odograph-

    Well, as I said, we make R-Squared into “R-Squared: Investing in Energy.” (Did you read my post?)

    We track energy stocks, make outlooks on energy markets, look at alternative fuels and technologies, compile lots of links to recent articles.

    We attract a high net worth readership of people who want to know about energy for investment purposes. Who knows? After a while we go toe-to-toe with CERA in some regards.

    I think CERA may be vulnerable. They have gone out on a limb suggesting oil produciton will go up in next several years. It seems that, due to boobery in nearly all oil-producing nations, oil production may flatline instead.

    Also, widely missed by nearly everybody is that at more than $60 a barrel, we may be seeing Peak Demand or something close to it. World demand grew by 0.7 percent last year. Some suggest this year may be higher, but I wonder. Some weeks we are seeing US gasoline demand almost flat with last year, while Europe’s consumption of liquid fuels is going down, not up.

    RR has done great, great work to bring the site this far forward. But he is going to walk away from it.

    Too bad, as the stuff which consumed much of his time — responding to loonies – need not have happened. RR said he was spending 60 hrs a week on the blog. With help, maybe he could cut that down to 10 productive hours, but due to other contributors and a webmaster, boost the site’s size and profile.

    RR! I think you are passing up a sterling opportunity here!

    By all means, ramp down hours blogging. Family comes first (I have four-year-old). But don’t cut your site’s engines. Add some more engines!

    Who knows? If oil stays a hot commodity, perhaps in two years we can align with a major brokerage house, or sell the site, for real money. If your wife is like my wife or like any wife on planet Earth, that will make her happy!


  10. David Matthews…
    Blaming the drug producer for his habit. I don’t think oil companies would be out there “destroying” everything if people weren’t demanding their products now, would they?

  11. Good plan.

    I still hope you’re watching health: people who tend to get over-committed *need* to do that, while they still think they’re invulnerable, not after they learn otherwise.

    Also, from your favorite books, if you haven’t read, you might consider:
    William Ruddiman, “Plows, Plagues & Petroleum” [akin to Guns, Germs, Steel]

    and if you like Singularity tales, and haven’t read Vernor Vinge:

    True names
    Rainbow’s End
    Marooned in RealTime

    illustrate various stages pre- and post- Singularity. If you like those:

    www-rohan.sdsu.edu/faculty/vinge and
    are worth examining – he did a nice talk for us at Hot Chips; I have bugged him to think about peak Oil vs Singularities.

    Good luck.

  12. I didn’t disagree with you Benjamin, I just shifted the emphasis a bit, to emphasize the business case for the purchaser.

    In your later post you describe all the “redesigns” you would have Robert do to create an investment oriented business case.

    I guess that reinforces the point yet again.

  13. Hey Robert, get out and enjoy Scotland. Head for the hills at least once a month, whatever the weather. I would If I lived there, great to clear your head.

  14. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but haven’t commented yet. Thank you for continuing to put effort into this blog, and as a son raised with a father who was never there, even when physically in the room, thank you even more for reprioritizing your family. I hope that you can do a good job with both, even if we’ll get less of you.

  15. Odograph-

    Oh, come on Odograph, get of your high horse!

    Hey, I didn’t say for Robert to do all the work. In fact, I am advising he cut back to 10 hours a week. I would be happy to hunt down a webmaster and three more bloggers. I have 20 years in as a financial journalist, so I know a few guys.
    I have a four-year-old too. I am human. In fact, as a journalist (read ink-stained wretch with no money, but who got lucky and ran a factory for a while, which he bought, though I still have no money) I am vey human, as in with lots of flaws.
    But! There is gold in thar hills!
    I see no website out there devoted to investing in energy and alternatives. You have wackos preaching doom, and the greenies (I am green, by the way, but I know people also have to make money, and that people in productive enterprises are never the enemy).
    But no one saying “This biofuel venture will flop. You might want to short the stock.’ Or, “This outfit is getting smart VC money. Maybe it will make it.”
    Or, “World demand for oil is flatter than anticipated. What does it mean? “
    The level of reporting is amateurish out there, even from the Wall Street Journal. They actually reported that world demand in 2007 might be up 5 percent for crude. This is after 2006, when it was up 0.7 percent. (BP stats).
    In short, there is no serious website exploring energy markets from an investor viewpoint.
    RR can make a ton of money, overseeing the blog. At 10 hours a week.

  16. “comments that are unproductive (e.g., links to off-topic information)”

    I hope you didn’t consider my linking Jeff Well’s blog to be off-topic Robert. His work on conspiracy and high-weirdness is top-quality commentary.

    Btw Robert, what do you consider off-topic?

  17. (My last attempt had a dangling tag, trying again)

    Speaking from my high horse, of course, tell me …

    How many investment oriented blogs are there out there right now, and how many of them sold this year for “big bux?”

    I’ve long held that an explosion of content means an explosion of “ephemera.” Certainly there will be many winners, but with the 100.8 million blogs that Technorati shows today, there might be long odds.

    Personally I embrace the ephemera, and don’t kid myself that a $10M blog is a slam-dunk.

    (This comment is ephemera.)

  18. I love the long tail, but it is more the company who provides access to the millions of authors “in it” than the guy with a few subscribers who scores the big bux.

    It is analogous to Nassim Taleb’s discussion of whether it is better to be a publisher or a writer. Some few writers may score hits, many more will score nothing, dragging down the “average return.”

    The publisher is at an advantage in that he only needs some hits and not to have every book a hit.

    Or to bring it back to blogs, compare the average income of a Google AdSense partner (“69% of bloggers surveyed earn less than $20 per month”) to the income of Google itself.

    Google benefits from the long tail, but most bloggers do not.

  19. I was on the Internet from the pre-commercial days, back when it was research only. I had an early cerf.net account, used Gofer and WAIS before there was a Web.

    I saw Ted Nelson’s book back when it was in the bookstores, when Xanadu was a contender.

    I’ve shaken hands with men on the day they became “billionaires in a day.”

    I didn’t do quite so well myself 😉

  20. I didn’t do quite so well myself 😉

    Thus your comments are sexully-loaded admissions of an inability to solve problems. That’s how I see it. Good luck homeboy.

  21. Odograph-

    I was hoping more for a $1 million payday, split among five bloggers, and the big share for the founder RR.
    Yeah, there are blogs a-plenty. Maybe it is a lost cause. Still, name for me one serious energy-investing blog.
    Why is syn diesel ticked off at you?

  22. I don’t know why Syn is mad. I’m just trying to share what I’ve seen and my perspective.

    And I recognize that I might pull the wrong story from my history, and draw the wrong lesson.

    Ah well, there are blog tools out there. You can play with them and see what the rank is for various blogs. Doing a simple “technorati” search will do that, on the right hand side. They give “treehugger.com” a rank of 16, which might explain why it is on the left side of a “long tail” graph, and worth some money.

    Certainly one can push up to the left, but as with any business it’s a balance between best, worst, and average outcomes.

  23. I woke up about an hour early this morning, so I have time for some very quick comments.

    KingofKaty, the games are set up to record.

    Dave Mathews, if you think a couple of hours on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when the rest of the family is sleeping, will keep me from enjoying Scotland, you need some time management training. I have already been all over Scotland, and presently have half a dozen outings in various stages of planning. Now, that will truly be the last time I ever respond to you, and the last comment you will ever be allowed to post here because of your past indiscretions.

    Benjamin, I am happy to post any guest essays you want to write. We can see how it goes from there. E-mail them to me, and I will post them.

    Syndiesel, “off-topic” generally refers to comments like “Nice blog. Click on this link for a free legal consultation.” Also, long chains of comments like “sexully-loaded admissions of an inability to solve problems” would be considered off-topic. For future reference. 🙂

    Odograph, I started The Black Swan. I really like Taleb’s writing style.

    The topics for this weekend will be CTL, ethanol, and wind power. That’s what I currently have down. I am going to include a lot of material, but links at the top that will take you straight to specific essays (as I did in the ethanol FAQ).

    Cheers, Robert

  24. I have an idea for your new blog. Since you will have much more time to do research, perhaps you could comment on the various high profile studies on biofuel potential, such as:

    DOE/DOA “Billion Ton Vision”
    UT’s “Economic and
    Agricultural Impacts of
    Ethanol and Biiodiesel

  25. RR–

    I do not have your personal e-mail. I also have a college professor and professional money manager who wants to write about energy stocks. I will handle more the NYMEX angle, plus crude markets in general. As you may rceall, my general outlook is that fossil crude demand is going to be a lot lower than projected, at more than $60 a barrel, and that has ramifications.

    We need a couple more bloggers, one who follows innovations of all kinds which reduce energy consumption and which will be profitable for investors to back. We probably need one mor blogger nut I am not sure for what. Maybe you know.

    my e-mail is sevencontinents@mindspring.com

  26. Robert – It looks like college football weekend here too!

    I will be interested in your CTL thoughts. Through a transfer out I just picked up BD responsibilities for CTL from Burke’s group. We are looking at a number of projects, but it is not our first choice solution for monetizing reserves. There is one very interesting opportunity though.

  27. I, for one, find this blog to be very informative and am glad to hear you’ll be keeping it up Robert. Thanks.

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