On the Future of this Blog

A snapshot from the reader survey. This is you, folks.


I started The Scholar’s Stage in 2008. n thee pages I have hosted debates on population centric counterinsurgency, ancient Chinese philosophy, antebellum American history, the ideology of the Communist Party of China, modern American culture wars, and just about everything in between. Based off of the results of last year’s reader survey, these essays have a diverse readership. You are divided almost exactly between left and right, young and old, and between those who read this blog for its take on international affairs, those who read it for the posts on history, and those who read it for the posts on culture and literature. I am glad to have you all (except the Chinese nationalist who once tried to flame-spam every single post I’ve written; that guy is not welcome).

Many of you have had kind things to say about the little essays and research briefs I post here. Many of you have shared them enthusiastically. I am grateful for that.

But I will be honest: Writing these essays is not easy. Even the short posts here take hours of preparation. Fact checking my data, writing proper citations, drafting and redrafting paragraphs until their prose reaches an acceptable clarity and verve—well, it all takes an enormous amount of time. This frustrates me: for every essay I type out there are three or four I never have the time to write. Here are just a few of the posts I have drafted out (either in paper or merely in my thoughts), but have not finished, because I cannot justify devoting the hours needed to finishing them:

  • An argument that Vietnam will be more geopolitically and economically important than Japan by 2050
  • A detailed description, complete with PDFs and powerpoints of class materials and homework, of how I successfully taught the Iliad to a group of apathetic teenagers
  • A strong, literature-fluent critique of personality based (e.g., big 5, Haidt’s moral foundations, “system justification”) theories of political preference
  • A translation and analysis of a speech Xi Jinping gave that answers the question “what does ‘communism’ mean to China’s modern communists?”
  • Observations on how the language we use to discuss evolutionary psychology distracts from evopsych’s actual findings
  • A description of how warfare worked in ancient China, and how this knowledge should change how we understand the Sunzi’s Art of War
  • An analysis of how culture wars are won and lost (with reference to some interesting historical examples), along with an argument that conservatives still can win over Western countries to their cause if they are willing to play a long game
  • Notes on gender norms in China, and what these norms might suggest about that country’s future
  • An elegant proposal for balancing the “prepare them for work” and “help them explore the mysteries” of life aspects of a university education
  • A response to this debate with actual experiences and data from an animist culture (Cambodia)
  • A review of Cecilia Heyes’ book, Cognitive Gadgets
  • A (viciously critical) review of Alex Rosenberg’s book, How History Gets Things Wrong
  • A review of Andrew Yang’s book, War on Normal People
  • Reflections on Shakespeare’s plays (I have read all of the comedies this year, and am currently half way through the histories)

To these more or less fleshed out essays I have the germs of another two dozen in the deeper folds of my brain. But this is a fine list as it is. There is no point adding anything else to it. I will have difficulty writing even a fraction of it.

When I started the Stage more than ten years ago, things were easier. I had fewer responsibilities then than I do now. Many readers have pressed me to write more, as I once did. It is now difficult to devote so much time writing essays when I could be spending a proportionate amount of time doing things that have real financial or emotional rewards (this second category would include hobbies like spending time studying languages, or training in Muay Thai). I want to make this blog a sustainable project. I might be able to do this. But I will need your help to do it.

Yep, I’ve created a Patreon page. I do not expect to make great money from this page—hopefully just enough to make it easier to write more often than I can now. In last year’s reader survey, a fair number of you reported that you would be willing to put aside $5 a month—about the price of two cups of coffee–in recognition of the quality experience you have had reading the Scholar’s Stage. You can read the Patreon page for the full details, but those willing to contribute this sum are the first tier of this blog’s support. In addition to my gratitude, they will be automatically signed up in a e-mail newsletter that will update them every time a new post is published.

Those willing to contribute more will get an extra perk: once a month or so I will compose a “Notes From All Over” post that collects the most compelling essays, worthy news items, insightful studies in social/behavioral science, and most fascinating interviews and podcast episodes I encountered that month (for examples of what this looks like, see here and here). For those of you who are missing my presence on Twitter, this might be partial compensation. Most of the material I used to post on Twitter (including my brief comments on the links included) will now be put in these posts.

If you do not have spare money at the present moment, please share the posts you like as widely as possible. I encourage you to sign up for the newsletter on right hand side of this page. Many people have asked for a way to follow this blog outside of Twitter. This is it. starting in May I will send out alerts once a month or so with links to everything I have written for this blog (and other publications) inside it.

For many bloggers, monetizing content is the beginning of the end. They go full commercial. Each post takes the blog further away from its origins as the host of great, original content towards a new future as a treadmill of banal self-promotion. I commit to you that this will not be the case with the Scholar’s Stage. This is about sustainability (I will admit the grim truth: writing these essays takes up so much time I actually lose money writing them) and opening up possibilities to myself and my readers that were not there before.

Consider this something of an experiment. If it works well, and a robust supporter base is established, then I will be able to spend increasingly large amounts of time writing here. I might even be able to set aside the time to set up a podcast focused on Asian military and political history, as many of my readers have urged me to do. But that sort of expansion is predicated on first making the Scholar’s Stage a more sustainable enterprise.

I am glad and grateful for all you do to make this blog possible.



POST-SCRIPT: If you wish to contribute through some other method, or have fruitful ideas on how to grow the readership of the Scholar’s Stage, feel free to send me an e-mail. I cannot promise I will have time to respond to everything I get, but you can be assured that I will read everything I get.

Leave a Comment


Having followed your Twitter account (unofficially, without an account) until you (sort of) quit, I would love an essay on Twitter and its threat to the Republic and civil discourse.

At the end of the first paragraph I think you've got some extra copypasted text, beginning with "hilosophy, antebellum… based off the results".

Just like to express my appreciation for your efforts, yours is one of the best blogs in any field. The variety of your readers is a testament to the quality of your efforts. The calm tone also helps.

You might be interested in this post from Razib Khan.

The relative genetic uniformity of China proper is a striking feature of its history. A result of the geography inhibiting significant inflows of population. The contrast with other main civilisational areas of Eurasia/North Africa is striking.