Ask Humorix: Financial Independence

Feature written by James Baughn on Monday, April 12, 1999

from the not-quite-the-wall-street-journal dept.

Anonymous Coward Jr. writes, "I'm a college student struggling to make ends meet. I'm a Linux nerd. I visit Slashdot several times a day. Is there any way I can use my Linux hacking skills to make some money on the side?"

The Humorix Oracle replies:

Dear Anonymous Supplicant:

Indeed! Many niches and opportunities await you in the free software market, including:

  • Linux convention ticket scalping. I would venture to guess (I am omnipotent, after all) that there's quite a few CS majors at your university that are interested in Linux. They'd probably like to attend a big Linux exposition but don't have the any way to obtain tickets or transportation.

    You can capitalize on this situation. Slashdot and LinuxToday (among others) have advertised free passes to Linux Expo for people who send in a snail mail request. It might be too late to obtain Linux Expo tickets, but free tickets to future conferences will be readily available. Simply have your friends and family send in a bunch of ticket requests from their home addresses. You should be able to amass a large collection of free tickets -- which you can scalp to others at a nice premium.

    In addition, you could make travel arrangements for a whole group of fellow students (whom you've sold the "free" tickets to). Rent a bus, make reservations at the cheapest motel you can find... soon you'll be a bona fide Linux travel agent.

  • Starting a Linux meta-portal. We're in the midst of a gold rush. Venture capitalists and opportunists are scrambling to create "Linux portal" websites. It should be quite obvious that, with the number of Linux portals increasing daily (if not hourly), the best opportunity is to launch a Linux meta-portal.

    Don't mess around with creating a mere portal site. Anybody armed with the Daily Update script can do that. The real money is in meta-portals, ad-filled websites that conglomerate information from and about other portals.

    Start out with your focus set on Slashdot. Write articles about the latest articles on Slashdot. Quote Slashdot comments indiscriminantly without regard for copyright law. Write articles about articles posted to other publications about Slashdot articles and comments. Ziff-Davis, Wired, Salon Dot Com Or Whatever It's Called Today, and even the New York Times have published stories about the response of the Slashdot "community" to some news item.

    It's a golden opportunity. Just cut-n-paste comments from Slashdot (don't worry too much about taking them out of context) and write superficial blurbs about them. You'll attract an audience of people who don't have the time to wade through all the comments themselves. They'll direct their eyeballs at your banner advertisements and cheesy marketing tie-ins -- instead of Slashdot's -- even though most of your meta-portal's "content" isn't original.

    There's nothing sinister about this scheme. After all, the Kernel Traffic newsletter is nothing more than a meta-portal for the linux-kernel mailing list. In fact, I think that a Linux meta-portal is such a good idea that I'm tempted to start one of my own. I can see it now: "MetaDot: News from Slashdot. Stuff that's Stolen." If only I wasn't a non-corporeal being...

  • Selling "pirated" Linux CDs. You can legally copy and burn your own CDs of Linux distributions. However, most consumers don't know that. If you don't mind playing fast and loose with the truth, you should get into the Linux piracy business. Sell so-called "pirated" Linux CDs on the black market. People will pay a premium for "illegal" software. You won't ever need to lie about the legality of your "warez", just say, "I'll sell you this full [wink, wink] version of the Linux operating system for $19.95 [wink, wink]. It doesn't come with any manuals or a [wink, wink] Certificate of Authenticity, but I think you can manage..."

    If the police ever question you, just wave a copy of the GNU GPL in their faces. It would be quite ironic if they tried to arrest you for lying about the illegality of your merchandise.

  • Marketing "Y2K-compliant" merchandise. Slap the label "Y2K-compliant" on something, and people will buy it on impulse... even if it's not computer related. Now is the perfect opportunity to capitalize on the Y2K-frenzy by selling a line of "Y2K-Compliant" merchandise that has nothing to do with computers.

    Print up a bunch of T-shirts with the text "This T-Shirt Is Y2K Compliant. Is yours?" and sell them at outrageous prices via the Web. Don't stop there. Mouse pads, baseball caps, books, Tux Penguin stuffed toys, pencils, abacusses, slide-rules, and rotary telephones are all ripe targets to be slapped with a "Y2K-Compliant" marketing label. In fact, you should name your company "Y2K-Compliant, Inc."

    You'll want to offer a meaningless warrantee. "If our products fail to work after January 1, 2000, we'll give you your money back, guaranteed. [Guarantee not valid if our bank's computer system is offline.]"

For more information about any of these business opportunities, please send US$100 to:

Humorix Oracle
(c/o Humorix World Domination, Inc.)
P.O. Box 256
Suckersville, KY 42000-6969

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