Now while of course flattered and gratified by having Alex say exactly the kind of things I would want said about my writing the most important thing largely is that he has absolutely nothing to gain by saying it.
In this sense it’s pure generosity, and I have to say that in my experience of online life and interactions I think the internet is a superb facilitator of the generous impulse.
Certainly some people look on blogs or sites as steps in a career-ladder, a kind of generalized home based internship, but equally of course for many people the internet has allowed a reconfiguration of their social worlds, connecting up with people who they would otherwise never have met in order to share ideas. Fundamentally it has also allowed them to give.
As an example, I illegally download a huge amount of music and of course watch a vast number of films and videos on youtube, yet I myself, shamefully, have never uploaded anything. I know it’s all someone else’s hard work that they/we are stealing but still, there are people out there who take the time and effort to upload stuff, with no financial reward and a pretty minimal bit of ego gratification, yet hundreds of thousands of people do it. There isn’t even the arguable narcissism of Facebook or blogging to consider here, just a desire, a human-wide compulsion to give gifts to others, to all and sundry, to anonymously contribute, to use your spare time to do so. This impulse is a kind of generic desire to seek out and make happy or provide for some other who on one level is like yourself.
This, it seems to me is the utopian dimension to the internet in that much of what goes on here goes against rational self-interest, even on the basis of some kind of unconscious social contract: can the anonymous Canadian guy who has made literally hundred of brilliant films available on youtube really be doing so out of the self-interested idea that if he does this other people will upload stuff he wants to see and that therefore ultimately he will benefit: perhaps he is, but then you would have to question how rational his perceived rational self interest really is.
* It's kind of important to have other poeple in mind when writing and to write for them, innit? I have to confess that when I was writing Classless I pretty much thought to myself ahhh... I'm going to write something that will entertain Owen (who is himself a very generous soul).