The Power of the Bikini

The Power of the BikiniAs some of you may have noticed I ran a blog on Saturday about a lawsuit associated with social media sharing. The cover picture was an attractive young woman in a bikini. You can read the entire story here but it’s not what I’m going to talk about today. Today is the idea that sex sells.

I write sword and sorcery fantasy novels. I write blog posts frequently. After yesterday I must ask myself if I am going about the business of doing it poorly. My books have sold very few copies, of late my blog attracts about twenty viewers a day and I’ve accumulated over 700 followers. That’s a pretty low number in the big scheme of things although certainly not awful.

Prior to yesterday my single best day was 81 views with the exception of my Freshly Pressed article about the St. Louis Cardinals and how being a fan was an important part of my life. Freshly Pressed means WordPress puts the blog on their front page for a couple of days. I had 440 views on the day I was Freshly Pressed.

Yesterday, with an attractive, fit seventeen year old girl in a bikini on my blog page I got 138 views which represents about a 41% increase on my (not Freshly Pressed aided) best day. Should I write about bikinis more often? Should my Sword and Sorcery novels take a turn to the vampire and zombie realms?

The main topic of my post on Saturday was Social Media and privacy. I got one comment. The vast majority of viewers came simply to look at the picture of the young woman and likely did not even read the story.

As a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialist I know that to some degree it’s a numbers game. Higher views of my blog translates to more clicks on the links to my books. Click on the links to my books translates to sales of my books. Do I want more sales? More views? My course is obvious … more bikinis.

However, what if my books and this blog are about my Libertarian Ideals. Ways I think the world, the United States, the state of Missouri, the city of University City, and the people who read this blog and my books can improve the quality of their life. I hope to impart ideas to people to make them think, to help them make better decisions, to make everything around them better. If this is my goal then bikini pictures are irrelevant.

I’d be lying if I said every blog post I make doesn’t have an eye toward viewers. I often pick sensationalist stories that are big news on that day. I read all sorts of articles on various news outlets looking for ideas. When I posted yesterday I calculated using Chelsea Chaney’s name in the blog title to help SEO, I put in the bikini picture knowing it would attract attention. It was not random chance.

Where is the line between holding onto idealism and selling-out so that my efforts have a better chance to be seen? Where do I cross-over into sensationalism and leave behind the noble goal?

If no one buys my books, if no one reads my blog then all my idealism is pointless. If I stray from my beliefs and write zombie/vampire/bikini blogs and books then I’ve destroyed the very message I set out to impart.

What’s a boy to do?

I’m happy with my compromise so far. I write my blogs with an eye towards publicity. My novels, they are about Randian Objectivism and Sword and Sorcery Adventure, that I will not change. Ever.

It’s an interesting question that I imagine all of us have to face not just in the world of art. Idealism and pragmatism. Both have their value in the real world. At work, at home, in the car, and just about everywhere else. Have you battled with those concepts? What was your resolution?

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery novels with a Libertarian Twist
Current Release: The Sword of Water (No bikinis but Jon Gray is one handsome and heroic fellow and Eleniak, the Dancing Flame, yeah, she’s a hottie)
Next Release: The Spear of the Hunt

Open Source

Most of you probably haven’t heard of the Open Source movement. Boiled down, Open Source is a philosophy that promotes free redistribution and access to an end product’s design and implementation details. On the surface is it inimical with capitalism and therefore something I’ve always viewed with strong suspicion.

Today I aim to look at it with a critical eye. To be honest, even as I’m sitting here writing this article I’m not sure of my conclusion. I might have some misconceptions and hopefully in doing my diligent research I’ll come to objective answers.

The reason Open Source comes at the conclusion of Internet Week is that the concept has its strongest backing in the software world and I benefit greatly from it. As do many people, likely you. As some of you may have gathered from reading my posts over the last couple of months I’m somewhat (read completely) nerdy. I play role-playing games like Pathfinder. As adults we find it increasingly difficult to get people together physically. Well, a group of fellows got together and created an Open Source Virtual Table where my friends and I can gather from all over the world (on the computers sitting at our desks) and play. It’s called MapTool and it’s free. Free. We talk to each other using Skype. Also free.

This idea goes far back in time as Wikipedia states when it suggests that cookie recipes have been shared (thank goodness) since people first started baking the delicious treats. Mmmm, cookie.

This Open Source model helped DARPA create the internet which I spoke about earlier in the week. Benefit from that much? Anyone who uses the Linux operating system is benefitting from the model. WordPress where you read this blog is Open Source as is a computer language called php. A piece of circuit board called Arduino powers hobbyists electronic equipment. It’s free. OpenCola is a soda dispensary system where the formula is freely available. Wikipedia is free and open to the public to contribute to its pages. Open Source education includes instructive videos on YouTube and the Khan Academy. The people who produce these type of things do so on their own time for the pleasure of it. They largely work collaboratively with many thousands of ideas being suggested to improve the product. I spoke about this concept earlier in the week as well.

Here is the question though. These Open Source projects clearly benefit the consumer but do they actually help capitalism as well? It seems an impossible proposition that a free product could stimulate economies and certainly those opposed to Open Source agree. But there is another argument. Let’s get back to my role-playing games. In order to play the games we do not only need to get together but must also have material by which to play, rule sets, adventures, background material, etc. If we didn’t play, because we cannot physically get together, then there is no need to purchase these items. But, with MapTool we do get together and this stimulates the other purchases. OpenCola gives the recipe away but equipment and ingredients still must be purchased.

The other benefit is that the creators of the items get to use their creation. These types of projects are often labors of love trying to fill something that is currently missing from their experience in life. They see something they would like to have and, with the help of thousands or millions of others, make it.

So, I think in the end, Open Source is a wonderful idea although I’m certainly not suggesting that people should stop trying to make money. It’s an interesting topic and we’ll see the reality of it played out in ever greater instances over the coming years.

Tell me what you think in the comments and share away!

Tom Liberman
Sword and Sorcery fantasy with a Libertarian Twist