This document was last updated on July 29, 2017. I’ll update it periodically to ensure it remains up-to-date.
A number of writers have proactively disclosed information about their sources of income and other factors that might influence their objectivity. I think this is a good idea for everyone who writes about topics of public concern, whether they’re professional journalists or people writing about these topics in their free time. So here is my disclosure statement.
My brother, Andrew Lee, created a startup called Firebase that was acquired by Google in 2014. Firebase is now a brand Google uses for cloud computing products, and Andrew is a manager in Google’s cloud computing division. I generally disclose this relationship in articles about Google, and I avoid writing about Firebase and Google’s other cloud computing products.
Sources of income
Below is a list of all sources of financial support I have received since the beginning of 2008, starting with the organizations that have provided me with significant support most recently.
Ars Technica is a web-based publication owned by Condé Nast. I’m a reporter there.
- 2017: I began a full-time job at Ars in July and expect them to be my primary income source for the remainder of 2017.
- 2013: Ars accounted for about a quarter of my income.
- 2012: Ars accounted for the majority of my income.
- 2011: Starting in June, I spent the majority of my time writing for Ars, accounting for about half of my income.
- 2010: I earned less than $1000 from Ars.
- 2009: Ars accounted for less than 10 percent of my income.
- 2008: I was a regular contributor to Ars until August, accounting for about 20 percent of my income.
Vox Media is the parent company of Vox.com, the news site I helped launch in April 2014. I worked there from March 2014 to July 2017, and Vox was my only significant source of income during this period.
From 2008 to 2011, I was a graduate student in computer science at Princeton.
- 2017: I received an honorarium for moderating a panel at Princeton’s Fung Global Forum in Berlin. I donated the money to two charities.
- 2011: For the 2010-11 school year my work was supported by a grant from Public.resource.org, a non-profit organization run by Carl Malamud that promotes web-enabled government transparency. Princeton accounted for about a third of my income in 2011.
- 2010: For the 2009-10 school year I was paid by the computer science department to assist with teaching an introductory computer science course. Princeton accounted for about half my income in 2010.
- 2009: For the 2008-09 school year I received a fellowship that the computer science department offers to all first-year graduate students. Princeton accounted for about half my income in 2009.
- 2008: Princeton accounted for about 20 percent of my income.
My brother, Andrew Lee, co-founded a startup called Firebase, which was acquired by Google in October 2014. He generously shared a portion of the proceeds with members of his family, including me.
The Washington Post
The Washington Post is a newspaper based in Washington DC. I was a reporter there from May 2013 to February 2014, and the Post was my only significant source of income during this period.
Forbes is a print magazine that also runs an excellent website. I wrote a blog for them from 2011 to 2013.
- 2013: Forbes accounted for less than 10 percent of my income.
- 2012: Forbes accounted for less than 20 percent of my income.
- 2011: Forbes accounted for about 10 percent of my income.
The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank that employed me as a writer from 2003 to 2005. After I left full-time employment there, they named me an adjunct scholar, a position I held until 2013.
- 2013: I received a $1000 honorarium for contributing to Cato Unbound.
- 2010: I received a $1000 honorarium for contributing to Cato Unbound.
- 2008: I did two major writing projects that accounted for about 30 percent of my income.
The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is a free-market think tank.
- 2012: I was asked to contribute a chapter for a forthcoming Mercatus book on copyright policy that accounted for less than 10 percent of my income.
- 2011: Mercatus paid me less than $1000 to provide comments on a forthcoming paper.
National Affairs is a “quarterly journal of essays about domestic policy, political economy, society, culture, and political thought.” I wrote this piece on broadband competition for them.
- 2012: National Affairs accounted for less than 10 percent of my income.
The Templeton Foundation
The Templeton Foundation says that it “serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.”
- 2012: I was invited to contribute to Templeton’s “Big Questions Online” site, accounting for less than 10 percent of my income.
During the summer of 2009, I did web development work for Dancing Mammoth, the firm that hosts this blog.
- 2012: DM paid me less than $1000 to write an essay for them.
- 2009: DM accounted for about 25 percent of my income.
During the summer of 2010 I did a paid internship at Google. It was an engineering internship, so I was paid to write code, not to write about public policy. Google accounted for around half my income in 2010.
The Institute for Humane Studies
The Institute for Humane Studies is a libertarian-leaning academic organization that awards Humane Studies Fellowship to grad students. The awards are made via a competitive application process.
- 2010: I was awarded a fellowship that accounted for about less than 10 percent of my income. This award was funded through the generosity of the Searle Freedom Trust.
- 2009: I was awarded a fellowship that accounted for about 10 percent of my income. This award was funded through the generosity of the Searle Freedom Trust.
- 2008: I was awarded a fellowship that accounted for less than 10 percent of my income.
In 2008-09 I was a regular, paid contributor to the Techdirt blog. I also made a few hundred dollars participating in the Techdirt Insight Community. Techdirt is published by Floor 64, a company which specializes in providing strategic advice to businesses.
- 2009: I wrote a handful of posts and received less than $1000.
- 2008: Techdirt accounted for about 20 percent of my income.
Other Sources ($1000 or less)
- 2014: In November I earned $1500 as a driver for Lyft. I donated this sum to DC Central Kitchen.
- 2013: Al Jazeera paid me an honorarium for appearing on one of their programs.
- 2012: I did paid writing for the New America Foundation, and the Daily.
- 2011: ETS paid me for the rights to include an excerpt of my work in standardized tests. I also wrote articles for National Review, GOOD magazine, and Slate.
- 2009: A textbook publisher paid me to license one of my blog posts. In December 2009 I received an honorarium from a firm called “Qualitative Insights” to participate in a half-hour interview about my views on “Internet infrastructure.” Although they wouldn’t tell me who the client was, it became clear from the questions being asked that that the client was VeriSign. Most of the questions concerned the upcoming renewal of Verisign’s contract to administer the .com and .net domains.
- 2008: I received an honorarium for attending a Liberty Fund event. Slate and Reason paid me for articles I wrote for them. And the Fraser Institute paid me to review and comment on a forthcoming study.
My friend PJ Doland is generously hosting this site free of charge. PJ is the president of Dancing Mammoth, a web consulting firm. I believe he’s hosting my site partly as a personal favor, and partly as a way of promoting his firm. And, frankly, they do great work, so I encourage you to check them out if you’re in need to get some custom web design or development work done. (Yes, that’s a conflict of interest, but I think it’s an innocuous one!)
As far as I know, PJ’s firm doesn’t have any specific financial interests in the issues I write about.