"Earthman"

All Posts by Ben Hunt
My job is to look at the world and wonder... "How can we make things better?"

Veganic Agriculture, is it Sustainable and Viable?

Published last month - 1 Comment

In a recent online discussion, someone claimed that “farms everywhere are turning veganic” (i.e. growing food without using any domesticated animals or animal products like manure, blood, or bonemeal.)

He directed me to this video by vlogger “Mic. the Vegan” as proof that veganic farming is both economically viable and sustainable. I agreed to check it out, because I’m interested to know how a veganic model can possibly compare to the best organic, no-till systems that incorporate animals. I’ll post my analysis below. More…

Conventional Agriculture Will Kill Us

Published a couple of months ago - 0 Comments

So-called “conventional” agriculture is literally destroying the basis of human life – which is the soil beneath our feet. I believe this constitutes the greatest single threat to the survival of today’s civilisations, and addressing it should be humanity’s #1 concern.

Look at the two photos I took today of a field near me. It is the 23rd of April, springtime in England, and everywhere life is literally bursting out… everywhere, that is, except for fields like this.

You can easily see the boundary between the living and dead zones

No visible life. No plants, no animals, this land is rapidly turning into desert.

There are practically zero visible signs of life in this field! And this is the norm. This is what we call “conventional”. This is what we’re told will continue to feed 8+-billion people. It will not! More…

Fact-Checking Moby’s Vegan Propaganda

Published a few months ago - 4 Comments

This piece of vegan propaganda came up on my Facebook feed today, via Moby, the awesome music producer and well-known advocate of veganism.

(Side note: I actually tried going vegan while working away in Sydney, Australia, after reading the sleeve notes on Moby’s CD “Play”. I lasted about 48 hours.)

The post immediately looked suspicious to me, so I thought I’d fact-check it, or at least offer some alternative information to help people make up their own minds.

More…

You Don’t Eat Enough

Published a few months ago - 9 Comments

I’ll tell you what’s wrong with you: You don’t eat enough!

This is totally an opinion piece. I’m no nutritionist, I’m just fascinated with food and thinking about how we can feed the world without further screwing everything up beyond all recognition.

We all know something’s terribly wrong with the Western diet. Most of us are overweight, many are obese. We have type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, lactose/gluten intolerance, addictions, behavioural problems… blah di blah di bloody blah.

All this creates a wonderful environment for nutritionists, dieticians, and healthy living writers to make a good living out of telling us what to eat next. One month it’s Atkins or keto, then it’s juicing, then it’s plant-based, vegan, raw-vegan, then paleo, then seaweed, then quinoa, and that’s not even mentioning the Harry Potter realm of “superfoods”.

Surely life isn’t meant to be so complicated. Our ancestors were fitter, stronger, and healthier than we are. Yes, they were. And before anyone starts arguing, “You know, people 500 years ago were lucky to live to 35!” let’s just say this:

We in the West are not living longer, we’re dying longer.

Who wants a life that’s mostly defined by stress? We worry about money, debt, bills, life, love, career, whether we’re living our potential, whether we’re being a good enough parent, whether our parents were good enough parents… all fuelled by endless advertisements showing us new ways that beautiful people are having a great time.

And, of course, on top of all that, we worry about our food. What food will give us vitality, what food won’t kill us, what food will make us better in bed, what food is carcinogenic, what food is killing the planet… AAAAAAGH!!!

If our hunter-gatherer ancestors were perfectly healthy (until they got killed by something with scary teeth), and we, with all our books and Internet and technology and labelling, can’t manage it, where did we go wrong and – more importantly – how can we put it right? More…

Animal Rights Activism’s Blind Spot

Published a few months ago - 24 Comments

As part of my interest in ethical and sustainable food systems, I have spent a bit of time around animal rights groups on Facebook recently. Usually driven by the quite extreme vegan agenda, there are groups of people out there who genuinely believe that they need to “rescue” animals from human slavery (see e.g. Direct Action Everywhere).

I believe these are all nice, mainly middle class folk who are genuinely passionate and motivated to do what’s best for animals… but I’d like to explain why I also think they’re also misguided. There are several arguments, which I’ll address in turn.

Ultimately, I hope to show not only that the idea of “rescuing” large animals from the food chain has practically zero benefit, but also that it distracts us from a far more serious crime against the animal kingdom being perpetrated by humanity. If animal rights activists are genuinely concerned with protecting animal lives, I believe the meat industry is the wrong area to focus their efforts. More…

Stories from People Who Have Given up Vegan Diets

Published a few months ago - 2 Comments

This is as much a bookmark page for my own reference as anything else. It will help to counter the frequent claim that “Everyone can thrive on a vegan diet.” My intention is not to bash anyone for their life choice, but to show up that universal claim as untrue.

I’m sure that some people do okay on a whole plant-based diet, at least for a while. Some may even thrive! But I’ve been coming across too many testimonies from people who’ve felt literally driven by their own bodies to go back to a more natural omnivore diet that they cannot all be dismissed as just being bad or failed vegans.

After all, if a vegan diet were natural for homo sapiens, it ought to be really difficult to mess it up, even in the long term! More…

Should We Eat Meat?

Published a few months ago - 6 Comments

Over the past few years since I got the food and soil bug, I guess I’ve been pondering one big, central, hairy-arsed question:

How can we feed 8 billion (or 10 billion, etc.) people in a way that’s sustainable, healthy, and ethical?

And it seems to keep coming back to one equally big, difficult, and hairy crux question…

Should we eat meat?

I thought I’d publish one post that summarises the arguments on all sides, and where I currently stand.

In an attempt to make the issue easier to tackle, we can probably agree it all comes down to three criteria:

3 Criteria

  1. What’s healthy (and natural) for humans?
  2. What’s good for animals?
  3. What’s good for the environment?

More…

How NOT to Handle a Groupon Promotion, According to Peter Drucker

Published 11 months ago - 10 Comments

I recently had an experience with a Groupon promotion run by a local hotel, which I think makes a great example of how NOT to do customer service.

Briefly, here’s how it went…

In May I signed up for a Groupon promotion by the Buxton Palace Hotel for “£59 for a leisure day with two treatments, cream tea and a glass of Prosecco for two”. I got a message saying they were already booked several weeks ahead, so I left it a while.

Yesterday (August 9), I looked up my Groupon account to check the promo was still valid. Yes, great!

So it’s still listed as “Available”, with “21 days left!”. I sent off an email to the hotel, excited to make my booking.

This morning, I was surprised to receive…

I enquired what they proposed to do next.

Only to be told…

OK, what’s so wrong with this “Customer Service”?

I can accept that I missed the window and I can say goodbye to my £59. My issue here is that the Buxton Palace Hotel seem to have missed an opportunity.

Let’s start by examining the whole point of running group-buying promotions like Groupon. As I explain on this post in Open-Source Marketing, the single biggest reason for doing these promos is to build your customer base.

The legend Peter Drucker

The legendary economist Peter Drucker wrote in his famous book “The Practice of Management” that…

…there is only one purpose of a business: to create a customer.

Businesses that don’t build a customer base don’t stay businesses for very long.

Now, I have to say that businesses can often lose money in the short-term with a Groupon campaign. That’s absolutely kosher marketing strategy (called a “loss-leader”): you sacrifice short-term revenues specifically in order to build your customer base.

It is worth noting that small businesses in particular should be aware there is a very real risk of bleeding themselves dry by running too successful a loss-leader campaign (so I hope that Groupon & Living Social etc. counsel their clients carefully before they let them take on too big a promotion).

(I’m sure I remember reading another quote by Drucker that most fundamental rule of business is, “Don’t run out of cash!”)

So, Buxton Palace ran this promo in order to build their local customer base. (Remember that, it comes up again.)

The model is straightforward:

  • you offer an attractive discount (on a product that should be a repeat buy),
  • then do everything it takes to delight your customers,
  • and hopefully they’ll come back many times,
  • so you make your money back manyfold in the long-run through repeat business

How they totally screwed it up

Here, the hotel has managed to screw up that simple process in style. They fell at the first hurdle, because they failed to get me and my wife through the doors.

Even IF they had to lose a bit of money by honouring the offer, they would still have the chance of making a new regular customer. I am actually actively looking for a spa that we can visit regularly for a monthly wind-down!

Plus, by showing good grace, I would also feel an automatic sense of goodwill or indebtedness, making me actually more likely to become a frequent flier.

Tip: Always be the first to give, and the last to give.

So they missed out on the opportunity to delight me and Mrs Hunt, and they lost the chance to get our regular spend.

And to fall back on, “It says in the small-print that we don’t have to honour this” is basically giving your prospect the bird. Sure, it’s legally fine, but it’s a terrible way to do business!

And now a message from Buxton Palace Hotel and Spa

What they could have done

First, never, ever, insult your potential customers! (Did I just have to say that?)

(Feel free to disappoint those who will never be your customers, but take care whom you insult, because the market is a fuzzy, rich soup and word gets around.)

Here’s what I would have preferred to see…

  1. Any kind of taking responsibility or apology. Even saying, “I’m so sorry, but the promotion actually closed on {x}.” (Signing off “Sincere apologies” does not count!)
  2. Any kind of alternative offer. “While I cannot honour that voucher, we would love to see you, so here’s what I can do. I’m sending you a £15 voucher for…”

The point is not that they are obliged to give me £59 of value. I’m a reasonable person and understand how these deals work. I have missed the window on group buying deals before and was not 100% confident I would still be able to claim this one.

But manners cost nothing, and even a token offering of alternative compensation has significance, because it respects the business-customer relationship.

As things stand, Buxton Palace Hotel has lost any chance of this previous customer’s business, not just in 2017, but for ever, which is a great shame.

Peter Drucker would not be happy.

I am Selling Web Design From Scratch (SOLD)

Published last year - 0 Comments

Update: WDFS is up for Auction on Flippa, ends August 24, 2017

Okay, I have finally taken the plunge and have decided to sell WebDesignFromScratch.com.

I know it could do a lot of good for some people out there. I know that because, when I was in the web design business, that site generated all the leads I could handle. I was able to run a six figure web agency with very little marketing effort or spend.

The truth is, this site really was one of the first tutorial sites in the industry, and has been very influential for a lot of people. But my interests and business have moved on from “web design” into broader marketing and green issues, so sadly I have not found very much to talk about around that topic.

This is an incredible resource, and it would be a huge shame to see it go to waste, so I’m looking for someone who will be able to profit from the site.

Traffic Erosion

The result is that, lacking fresh new content, the traffic has very slowly died off over the years.

WDFS traffic erosion over nine years

For several years, while I was more active, WDFS was getting 100,000 monthly visits or more, hitting a peak of 229,000 in September 2011. Now, we’re looking at just 20,000 visits each month.

That can be reversed! All it needs is someone who cares and is active in the web design space. Could that be you?

Massive Ranking Potential

The site still has plenty of page-1 rankings, and will have a MASSIVE ability to rank for any new terms related to web design.

Here’s today’s Open Site Explorer snapshot, showing the very respectable domain authority of 54!

OSE summary

Here’s a summary from Analytics of the most popular search terms (2017).

Top search terms

Aside from HTML/CSS reference terms, I still have pages ranking very highly for phrases around “best websites in the world”, which is clearly a massive opportunity for anyone in the website delivery business (designers, producers, or theme vendors).

And clearly anyone who wants to sell courses in website production (HTML / CSS) will find it very easy with the traffic this site gets (197,046 visits from organic search terms that include “HTML” since January 1st).

What’s the Offer?

I’m open to selling the domain and all the website content. (If it’s feasible, I can even transfer the Moz Pro property, so you can use the historical data.) I don’t have a price, will probably take the best offer I get in the next two weeks.

Alternatively, you may prefer to lease the site! If so, just let me know.

In addition to individuals or businesses, perhaps you may like to go into a coalition with others? If so, I’ve set up a temporary Facebook group where you can post your ideas and invitations, or look for other people who might have compatible goals.

Who Should Be Excited Right Now?

I have some ideas for who the ideal new owner of WDFS might be. These include…

  • Web designers / agencies (I ran my whole 6-figure business for years on the leads I skimmed off WDFS)
  • Theme vendors
  • Course vendors
  • SEOs who specialise in the web sector (the outbound link value of this content is terrific)
  • Entrepreneurs who want to run a blog or magazine to build an audience
  • Affiliate marketers who sell web/marketing related products
  • …or whatever you do, perhaps?

If you’re interested, please feel free to comment here, or email me (ben@benhunt.com) with any thoughts, suggestions, or offers. But my advice is to move fast! Even if you don’t have a firm offer, let me know if you’re interested, as I don’t want you to be disappointed.

The WDFS Facebook page is also included, obviously. It currently has 2770 likes.

Also feel free to ask me if you’d like any more data from Analytics, list building etc.

Thanks,
Ben

A Marketing Lesson from Land Fertility

Published last year - 15 Comments

If you know anything about me, you probably know that I think a lot about land, soil, the way we live, and where our food comes from.

One of the reasons for my fascination with dirt is that it’s extremely important. (Soil erosion may be the single biggest threat to humanity there is, as it’s happening at a predictable and frightening rate.)

But I also love to learn lessons about life, business, and marketing from meditating on dirt. It’s increasingly clear to me that everything follows the same natural laws, which are as beautiful as they are complex.

Here are some thoughts about how the life in our soil could relate to marketing.

The same patch of dirt could be abundant with life, or it could be practically dead.

You can change soil from being fertile to infertile very quickly. You can also make infertile soil fertile again, but it takes longer.

If you take too much from your soil, and put too little back, it becomes impoverished.

Strip away the dirt’s natural protective “skin” of decaying matter, leave it bare and open to the elements, and it will become parched and dry. When the rain comes, the precious topsoil will be washed away into watercourses, rivers, and eventually oceans.

So short-term thinking can be catastrophic for the land. When we take Nature for granted and think that we can take and take and take, without a care for her natural balance, the net effect is rapid impoverishment.

But when we work with Nature, revering the soil and caring for it, it will remain productive indefinitely. That approach is simply more profitable over time.

How does this apply to your business?

There’s a saying in gardening that I love…

Don’t feed your plants. Feed your soil; let your soil feed your plants.

I see two distinct approaches to business and marketing:

  • One common approach is to consider only what you can get or take from a market.
  • A second is to view one’s business and one’s markets as interdependent.

The first way is a kind of parasitic or cancerous behaviour. As Alastair Smith put so well in this interview before his passing, a cancer cell has “broken the sacred covenant with Life” in its quest for endless resources.

Ultimately, of course, cancers or parasites can destroy their hosts. Sometimes they are able to jump to new hosts. In marketing terms, that means taking so much that you constantly have to find new customers.

The second way is more symbiotic. Your business is not there only to take resources, but to enrich its environment, in the knowledge that, when we build up our ecology, everyone benefits.

The first approach seems to be short-term and separate; the second is longer-term and integral.

What would a symbiotic marketing approach look like? Some initial ideas might include…

  • Creating valuable free content (not sales material in disguise)
  • Pro bono work for good causes
  • Mentoring, speaking, or coaching without demanding direct reward
  • Freely sharing your experience on social media or forums
  • Promoting others without compensation

Which way is the right way?

Is there a right way?

Does it all come down to how one defines success? Do we measure success as short-term profits, long-term profits, value created, or through other, softer factors?

And does it really matter if we set out to take what we can? Life is short, so why not take everything it has to give? If there’s always a big enough market to sustain everyone who wants to take, can caveat emptor (buyer beware) provide all the cover we need?

It’s certainly clear that it’s possible to take the parasitic approach, bleed customers dry, cut corners, bend the truth, and “win” — at least through the measure of making good profits. I know plenty of people doing this.

And there is also plenty of evidence to support the idea that, when we give value with no expectation of reciprocation, that that value can come back to us in complex, fuzzy ways at some later time. (I’ve had people who have followed my work for years who suddenly pop up with a proposal or join a course etc.)

One way to answer the question would seem to be to choose a time scale. If we work quarterly, then long-term benefits may not factor. This seems to me a reductionist approach.

On the other hand, if we aren’t counting our returns and assigning them to specific actions (with associated costs), can we actually prove a return on investment from a more symbiotic approach?

This is anti-reductionism. We would actually have to let go of the notion that all returns are, or should be, measurable.

What’s true? Ultimately, it comes down to your world view.

Just like morality, ethics, politics, or spirituality, the way you see the world is a framework that you use to gather feedback. There is no right or wrong, only your truth.

Me, I see the world as one huge, messy, lovely, interconnected, symbiotic mess. To me, my market is like my soil. I have a duty of care to create value that I can’t measure, and that echoes beyond my lifetime.

The life I enjoy today is not my own. It is the result of the gifts of past generations, my parents, my educators, the peers who invited me to their conferences, the bloggers and podcasters who shared their wisdom, the crazy folk who let me interview them. So who am I to hold back my knowledge or gifts as “my own”?

Those are my values, and I really don’t care if they’re yours. You are free to judge me by your values, and I will judge you by mine. That’s the freedom we enjoy.

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