The Homeless Guy writes about MeFi post August 28, 2003 3:01 PM   Subscribe

The Homeless Guy has listed the posting of his link at MetaFilter as the main reason for his site's ultimate take-off in popularity. It's an interesting account of the effect that a little link on MeFi can have on an individual blogger: This posting on Metafilter generated some 900 visits to my blog that day. The following day an online magazine in the UK mentioned my blog (apparently after someone read about it on Metafilter) and my site received 1200 visits. The following day brought 3200 visits. The next day, Yahoo listed my blog on its list of "New and Notable" web sites, and it received over 15,000 visits. Go, MeTa.
posted by onlyconnect to MetaFilter-Related at 3:01 PM (33 comments total)

(Go us, indeed. But shouldn't that be "Go MeFi?")

The Homeless Guy's site has been quite a phenomenon. I'm glad we helped draw attention to it.
posted by me3dia at 3:06 PM on August 28, 2003

(Mi bad.)
posted by onlyconnect at 3:16 PM on August 28, 2003

a few months later: "and then my hosting company said that if I didn't pay for all this bandwidth I was sudddenly using they'd sue me into the ground, the stress from the ensuing legal battles combined with the usual dangers of living on the streets has brought my internet celebrity career, and my life, to a tragic end. Thanks, MeFi. Thanks a lot"
posted by Space Coyote at 3:38 PM on August 28, 2003

He might be someone who deserves one of them invite-only Metafilter usernames, eh?
posted by PrinceValium at 3:44 PM on August 28, 2003

I'd be interested in how his PayPal account benefited from his notoriety. This guys a professional victim with a new an improved way of panhandling, it's a shame he didn't parlay his newfound popularity and his media attention into something a little more tangible than a sob story. I'm not without empathy for the homeless, but Kev just doesn't seem to be trying very hard.

All he says about donations is, "Though for a while the donations were steady in coming, they provided me only with the ability to take care of my own needs, without having to depend on other charity." Gee, you mean, just like the rest of the world?

Then he goes on to badmouth some poor sucker that gave him a grand. Kevin doesn't seem like a very nice guy, but he is certainly clever. He's managed to turn being homeless into a profession, but rather than getting all wet and cold panhandling out in the rain he goes to the library or coffeeshop and updates his weblog. Gotta give him credit, there are worse ways to spend a day than lounging around a library checking your PayPal balance while crowning yourself "Royalty of the Internet" ... you know, things like work.

I agree that it would be great to see Kevin with a MeFi account. This site is great at debunking... er, bunk. It's not that I doubt his honesty (I'm quite sure he's exactly who and what he says he is) but rather I doubt his desire for change. He has made being homeless (and he really isn't, he's got the regular mission place, a hotel when his PayPal account or the mysterious Mr. Cheng is good to him and a bank account) a choice. I'd find his weblog much more compelling if it was a story about growth rather than the same tired ego driven "Pity me, I'm homeless, but really literate and deserving" crap.

I find it unfathomable that after all this, no one has offered him reasonably priced housing and employment. Hell, I have an extra apartment or two and would be more than happy to front him a few months rent in exchange for some minor repairs and painting. I'd even and hook him up with a decent job. I just don't think he'd be interested.
posted by cedar at 6:41 PM on August 28, 2003

Bear in mind that he is, admittedly, not 100% together. Maybe whatever mental problems he has preclude his landing a steady job?
posted by jonson at 7:04 PM on August 28, 2003

Wow, cedar, you must be one of those Compassionate Conservatives I've heard so much about.
posted by bshort at 7:17 PM on August 28, 2003

Nope, just have this silly concept that someone who tells of spending his life in front of a computer should consider other ways to spend his time... especially if that person is weblogging about how bad his circumstances are.

It doesn't take much more work to maintain an active weblog and forums than it does to work an entry level job. No doubt the guy has a few problems, but I have a hard time accepting that as an excuse when I see a great many people with varying disabilities (mental, substance abuse related or physical) busting their asses at crappy jobs trying to gain a measure of independence.

In the last decade the world has become a very unfriendly place for those who need a hand up. But, and it's a big one, there is help available if one is resourceful enough to seek it out. This guy is clearly smart enough to know that and I'm afraid all I can see by way of explanation is that he doesn't want to improve his condition.

You may see it as callous, I see it as reserving what little extra I have for those who are unable to fend for themselves and navigate a very cold system, not those who choose not to.
posted by cedar at 7:39 PM on August 28, 2003

Despite the fact that "the homeless guy" does write like a bit of a wanker (blogging started by professionals and journalists? hardly) , I don't see your point, cedar. As human beings, we are born on this earth to live as we please. Some people get office jobs. Some people become farmers. Some people try to be self-sufficient and grow their own food in their back yard, and try to avoid taking part in the wider capitalist system. These last people aren't bludging off the system, but they still haven't "got a job", so are you angry at them too?

And, of course, some people are homeless. Rarely by choice, but if one makes the decision to live their life like that, who are you to diss them for refusing to be a cog in the machine like the rest of us? People are sending him money voluntarily, presumably because at the end of the day he does have a product to offer. It's not like he's mugging people, or apparently even ripping off the welfare system. No-one's asking you to send him any money, and I'm sure he's fine with that as well.
posted by Jimbob at 10:20 PM on August 28, 2003

It doesn't take much more work to maintain an active weblog and forums than it does to work an entry level job
It's not a zero sum game.
posted by holloway at 10:29 PM on August 28, 2003

Jimbob: "Rarely by choice, but if one makes the decision to live their life like that, who are you to diss them for refusing to be a cog in the machine like the rest of us?"

That's a real good question and one I don't have ready answer for. I don't suppose my saying, I just don't like the guy, is good enough? But, if I want to get all introspective and shit that is probably the best I can come up with. I won't do the living off the taxpayers dime bit, because I imagine most of his support system is privately funded. I won't do the lazy lowlife bum routine, because there is nothing easy about scheduling your life around mission hours and soup kitchens.

What I will say is that this guy is nothing like a farmer living off the grid. I'm looking that way myself. I work, but the bulk of my income goes directly towards trying to get to the point where I no longer have to. I don't need much so hopefully I won't have to work very long. I don't carry debt and live very simply. And yes, I grow a great deal of my own food and will be quite upset if I don't get a deer or three this fall.

I guess the reason I don't like the guy is because I don't like takers. I tend to take a dislike to people who withdraw from the commons over a period of years all the while putting nothing back. By the way, your entirely right, it's none of my business and I'm foolish for pursuing something that only upsets me. There is no reward here, only stress.

If anything I think there is something tragic about a man, seemingly intelligent, who has chosen to devote so much energy to rationalizing a lifestyle that even if everything goes perfectly, will get him little more than a better bed at the mission and the 'good' computer at the library. He reminds me of habitual offenders who spend so much time and energy thinking of ways to get over and plotting new schemes that they never have time to realize that there are better ways to live.
posted by cedar at 11:48 PM on August 28, 2003

cedar: I agree with a lot of what you say, but surely this is a systemic problem. "The homeless guy" is symptomatic of a purely material culture: a populace largely distracted from any of self-worth by the flashenblinkenlights and by infinitely subtle degrees of disconnection from the real business of living and breathing. I can't find it in me to blame the symptoms for the disease. Sounds like you have a plan though. Good luck with it.
posted by walrus at 1:17 AM on August 29, 2003

"sense of". Coffee now.
posted by walrus at 1:18 AM on August 29, 2003

I think in addition to the exposure metafilter gave to this guy's site is the fact that he represents a choice stereotype that journalists are attracted to. I mean, a homeless guy with a computer weblog is 3rd rate journalistic gold. Lots of us get all kinds of exposure here on mefi, and it hasn't turned into any extremely great amount of traffic, at least on my sites, that I can tell. More of a trickle than a deluge.

I'd be interested (but not so interested in exploring his site enough) to know whether he's been able to maintain that level of hits. Lots of us get exposure

(off topic) I've been toying about starting a weblog myself. What blogging software is currently the best to start out with right now?
posted by crunchland at 5:43 AM on August 29, 2003

I like Blosxom.
posted by timeistight at 9:34 AM on August 29, 2003

Skallas, are you thinking of Modest Needs?
posted by Skot at 10:00 AM on August 29, 2003

crunchland: I'd go with MT. There is a reason for it's popularity... it may seem a little feature rich at first, but to me it makes more sense to start with something powerful rather than having to add hacks down the road as your weblog evolves. Just because something seems like overkill now, doesn't mean it will look that way six months down the road.

I've also been playing with WordPress some and am enjoying it thouroughly. If your comfortable with PHP it's cake to hack. Related to WordPress is Dean Allens Textpattern. Textpattern is wicked elegant and if you like Deans minimalist sensibility it may be worth a look.

Bloxsom I like (particularly the file structure) but for me it was a little too geekified. Perl terrifies me :)

For myself, I never even considered a hosted solution. I'm way too much of a control freak to be dependent on someone elses server.
posted by cedar at 10:48 AM on August 29, 2003

I just got an email for The Homeless Guy, asking me to pass on the following message:
A blog is not a clear representation of a person, but only a glimpse into what the blogger thinks about himself and his world. To believe you know the whole of a person, by reading his blog, is to deceive yourself.

I've read enough from my detractors to now know the common threads among them. Invariably, they all attribute certain characteristics to me that I do not possess. When asked specifically what gives them such ideas about me, they only scoff. They have preconceived notions about homeless people which clouds their perception. We all see through a glass darkly, whether in trying to see ourselves or others accurately. But this very human trait is a foible they cannot admit to. To them, their perception is always accurate - never obscured by personal prejudices. And they believe they give greater support for their position by posting copious amounts of rhetoric. As Wm Shakespeare once said, "methinks they protest too much."
Matt, perhaps we could give the guy an account so as to defend/explain himself directly, rather than through a mediator?
posted by me3dia at 11:20 AM on August 29, 2003

I hunted around his site some for answers to questions raised here about Paypal and Kevin's disabilities, if any. He talks about Social Anxiety Disorder here, and his PayPal account here: ("On other sites the PayPal donation button is considered a tip jar, but on my site it's considered panhandling?").

Re questions of "why doesn't he just get a job" and "does he want to be homeless?", Kevin blogs about the particular difficulties of getting a job when homeless here. (In fact, he's had many part time jobs over the years.) They include coordinating job and job search with needs for hygiene, clean clothes, housing, etc. He gives a specific example of someone trying and failing to get all this together here.

It doesn't sound to me like Kevin wants to be homeless (although it's an interesting question whether the popularity of his weblog was actually counterproductive in making homelessness more "authentic" and attractive for him). From the way he describes his experiences it seems like he gets to a certain point with success and just messes up, and then has no safety net or community to fall back on.

crunchland, I think your suspicions are correct and his hit level went way down after an initial surge of popularity (less than a month after the surge he was down to 500 per day, and I'm sure it's way down from that now, a year later). And I think you're right that his hits were due to his public interest story (3d rate stereotype or not).

I can't really understand some of the vitriol here, beyond the fact that many people have a hard time of it and aren't getting the exposure Kevin received for a time. The thing is, I don't see many entries where he's begging for pity, seems like he just asking for understanding and trying to educate -- and cedar, I do think that in itself is "giving something back."

But, okay. Whatever. I did think MetaFilter's part in it was interesting.

On preview: It would be cool if Kevin could participate in this discussion himself.
posted by onlyconnect at 11:51 AM on August 29, 2003

So should we give Arnold and George W. memberships so they can participate in the discussions about them? We talk about a lot of people here; this particular discussion is a blip that will be gone by next week, but membership is forever. (Well, unless you're [deleted] or [deleted], of course.)

On the other hand, if we're opening the rolls, I've got some deserving candidates.

crunchland: MT is great; I've been much, much happier since transferring Languagehat from Blogger.
posted by languagehat at 12:16 PM on August 29, 2003

You'd turn down Bush or Schwarzenegger for membership because you know some people who can't get in? Man, think of the MetaTalk threads they'd generate!

I'd vote for giving the Homeless Guy and anyone else who's been discussed at length here memberships.
posted by timeistight at 12:41 PM on August 29, 2003

Judging the guy on a moral level, is he professional victim or a guy with bad breaks, is pointless because there's no way to know one way or the other for certain what his real situation is. It could all be a kaycee hoax.
His site makes for great reading. Reason enough to be impressed with the effort.

Hell yeah get the man a membership.
posted by dong_resin at 1:31 PM on August 29, 2003

I've got to know a couple of really intelligent homeless fellows. I never could figure why Stan was homeless. He panhandled during the day, sold the Homeless Grapevine newspaper in Cleveland, and slept under a bridge at night. But he was so damn smart. I quit working downtown before I got his story out of him. But Stan is one of the most polite, well-spoken, intelligent fellows I've ever met.

The other fellow, Dave, gave me the whole lowdown, though, on a long drive from Ann Arbor to Ohio (he was hitching, I picked him up). It's not the first time someone I hardly knew told me personal things out of the blue. And his story checked out with his behavior (he offered certain services for money, which fits the profile. Yes, I certainly declined.)

Anyway, he told me he'd been molested repeatedly as a child. Like, before he was 5 yrs old. By multiple people, family and not-family. Now he would occasionally get a job thru a temp service in a factory. But, sooner or later, someone would pick on him or there would be some type of conflict or trouble (as that's just how these type of jobs are). And his mind told him, irrationally, yes, but firmly, that they were picking on him because they knew about his childhood. Obviously he had an immense amount of shame and guilt, not to mention just horrific memories, that made their way to the surface on these occasions. So, he'd freak out, quit his job and wander again.

Dave told me about his dreams. He wanted a regular job he could keep, an apartment, and enough money for food. As in, everything I had and took for granted, Dave dreamt of someday achieving.

I drove Dave to a shelter and picked him up some McDonald's food on the way. Ever try giving something to someone like this? They can't believe there's no strings. But I just talked to him with respect, and asserted that other people had helped me when I had needed it. It wasn't much, but a tiny bit of respect goes a long way. It was all I could do.

Now, I'm not saying all homeless people are like Dave. There are hustlers out there, sure. But, when an obviously intelligent person is homeless, quite often there are reasons...
posted by Shane at 1:48 PM on August 29, 2003

But, when an obviously intelligent person is homeless, quite often there are reasons...

replace intelligent with honest and i'm on board with ya
posted by poopy at 5:33 PM on August 29, 2003

Shane: thanks for the perspective and the reminder that there are people out there paying attention and casually being kind to others.
posted by namespan at 9:05 PM on August 29, 2003

homeless guy fits into the category of mentally ill / alky and is brainy with it .
He's one of those egotistical ones (arent we all ?) that believe themselves to be just that wee bit cleverer than you and carries that air of a spiritual teacher about him .
His purpose in starting this blog is that he wants to have people under him to teach.

i vote no for a membership , i cant be bothered with the 'look at me i'm homeless' attention seeking thing quite frankly and it's really boring to discuss it with one of these preachy types who has basically turned their life into one long troll against humanity.

i say we don't take the bait.
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:43 AM on August 30, 2003

I vote no for a membership because I'd rather see him strive for a job than become yet another MeFi addict.
posted by Dark Messiah at 4:47 AM on August 30, 2003

who's to say a job cures anything ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 1:30 PM on August 30, 2003

There is no cure. Once an addict, always an addict. But a job can help you control your addiction.

That, and lots of time w/o a phone line
posted by weston at 3:16 PM on August 30, 2003

there is a cure actually , the word recovered appears quite clearly at the start of the big book.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:52 PM on August 30, 2003

I vote 'no' on the membership because every time he posts or comments the same boring superior-sounding comments will crop up again and again about homelessness.

Perhaps I'll just secretly give him my password instead and retire.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:46 AM on August 31, 2003 of these preachy types who has basically turned their life into one long troll against humanity.

Well screw you too, sarge!

Oh. You were talking about the homeless guy, not me? Nevermind.
posted by Shane at 10:01 AM on August 31, 2003

i tried to hit this guy with a double cheesewhopper at 60 mph, but i missed and killed a mailbox.
posted by quonsar at 12:01 PM on August 31, 2003

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