Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for January, 2009

tbnl Magazine – Inaugural

Posted by shannonclark on January 29, 2009

A few days ago I ran into a good friend of mine on the streets of San Francisco, he was walking home, I was waiting for a bus. We got to talking about tbnl Magazine and I noted that my intention was to pick a topic for each issue then to publish a mix of fiction & non-fiction which relates to that topic. 

I may still also publish a wide range of other stories and content but at least for the first issue I have picked a broad topic, appropriate for Issue #1.

Inaugural 

So if you are interested in being in the first issue submit or propose a story related Inaugural. It could be your first love, a first contact with aliens, presidential politics or a tale of your first business. It doesn’t have to be a personal story, it can be reporting, but as you submit, include a brief explanation of how what you submit relates to Inaugural. 

And please be creative.

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Posted in geeks, personal, reading, tbnl | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Losing our humanity – homeless & internet elites

Posted by shannonclark on January 29, 2009

Homeless sleeping on the sidewalk

photo by Flickr user Franco Folini taken Aug 3rd, 2006 in San Francisco

I have lived in big cities for roughly the past two decades, since I left the comfort of the Village of Oak Park to go to college at the University of Chicago in 1991. In Oak Park there is great economic diversity, families on welfare and families who buy every child a Rolls Royce as a 16th birthday present, but while there is some homelessness it is relatively speaking quite limited and for the most part unseen.

Since moving to the big city, however, every single day of my life since I have been solicited for a handout at least once, usually many more times than that. Sure, the occasional day I never venture forth is an exception, but it all averages out, other days I’ll be asked for change a dozen times in a few blocks.

Here in San Francisco there is a vastly larger, more visible homeless population than in Chicago. Chicago has many homeless, however the sheer brutality of Chicago’s winters as well as the stifling heat of the worst of Chicago’s summers combine to limit the numbers of year round homeless in Chicago, though there are many and they find ways to survive. In San Francisco, however, it seems that most doorways in the relatively flatter parts of the city are claimed by a homeless person, plus there are encampments (I’ve been told) in many of the parks and water reclaimation districts. In part this is probably due to the relatively better weather in San Francisco, sleeping outside here while certainly not pleasant is less lifethreatening than in Chicago.

But this post is not about the problem of homelessness – though it is serious problem – for that I encourage anyone in San Francisco who can make it to attend Homeless Connect Camp on Feb 11th, 2009 at the Billy Graham Auditorium here in San Francisco, if I’m in town I’m going to try to attend to lend my support and help.

Rather this post is about how the impact of pervasive homeless on city streets has an impact on everyone walking by which parallels how people interact with others online.

Observing myself the constant presence of homeless has made me colder, less open to engaging with a stranger in conversation, my eyes and body try to avoid contact, I seek to minimize confrontation in countless small ways as I walk down the street and when I am confronted, when I am approached I turn cynical, cold and being brutally honest with myself rude. I make gestures, look away, walk away, try to disengage.

This does not make me proud, in my better moments I try to check myself, to make eye contact, to see my fellow humans, to at a minimum smile, nod, acknowledge their presence and existance, to show regret that I can’t give money, to give what I can when I can (leftovers, food, money if I can spare it). But with often dozens of encounters in just a few short minutes of walking through San Francisco, these are exceptions.

Many days I walk 3-5 miles or more over the course of my day, like the homeless my walks tend to avoid the many hills of San Francisco, so I likely see even more homeless than many here in SF.

Online this week there has been a lot of discussions about behavior, behaviors which have gone beyond crass comments or snarky posts. Michael Arrington has announced he will be taking a month off from blogging. The reactions have been mixed and in many cases include some attacks on Michael (couched at times in the form of advice).

I met Michael not long after I moved to San Francisco in 2006 (may have actually met him in the fall of 2005, I’m not exactly sure). Though we are not extremely close, I consider him a friend. In fact since moving to San Francisco I have gotten to know many of the people who are considered “a-listers” online in an offline capacity, though I may not always agree with them, I consider most of them friends, have and would invite them over for dinner.

Not because I want to pitch them, but because I like them as people and value their intellect and conversation.

But for far, far too many of us, the “a-listers” online, from Michael Arrington at TechCrunch to Dave Winer, become akin to the homeless, they become “the other” whose humanity we find all too easy to ignore, whose individuality we forget, whose personal feelings we don’t consider as we go about our actions online.

I have been blogging for a long time, since mid-2002, but for the most part my blog is little read, primarily by people who know me who read my recent posts and a bit over 50% of my daily traffic who come here to read a couple of my posts which rank highly on Google and other search engines as solutions to some common tech problems. But on occasion I have left a comment on a thread at a more popular blog, such as TechCrunch and there I have gotten a very small taste of what it must be like to be Michael Arrington or another a-lister.

I was once told “Shannon has her panties in a twist” (hint – I’m male, but assumptions about my gender have happened to me all of my life) and the thread degraded from there.

This week as well Jason Calacanis sent out an email about the end of Empathy, his alternative to blogging though he has now also posted it to his site. In it he too discusses the loss of empathy which seemingly occurs with ease online. It terms of “Internet Auspergers Syndrome” as a way of defining it, the hyper focus on getting ahead, on winning, on seeing everyone else online as objects not other humans which makes it all too easy to write posts putting people down, to leave trolling comments, to lower the standards of decency.

I would argue that there is some relationship between our modern world where most of us walk past but do not see our homeless brothers and sisters and the online world where far too many of us treat life online as seperate from offline and with the worst aspects of a game.

I do not know what can be done about either problem, but I do know that every small act of human connection – offline and online – helps. It helps the other to whom we reach out, but it also as importantly helps to defrost our own heart, to warm us up a bit, to remind us to engage positively with others, to seek out the good, to help not to hurt.

Posted in geeks, internet, personal, San Francisco | 1 Comment »

I am a “non-believer”

Posted by shannonclark on January 21, 2009

Yesterday in the midst of a historic Inauguration, President Obama included the phrase “and nonbelievers” in his Inaugural Address.

Many of my friends commenting live at the time via Twitter echoed my personal sentiments “finally I/we are being included” but many more via online email lists and blog posts have uttered a sentiment that this phrase was somehow not the right one. That something else such as “people of other beliefs” or “other-believers” would have been preferred.

Not by me.

I am a non-believer. I do not believe in any supernatural beings or forces, I have no “spiritual” practices.

Culturally I do consider myself Jewish, it is the ancestry of my mother’s family for as many generations back as we can trace (to at least the 14th century via one branch) and it is along ethnic and cultural identity which I accept and deeply appreciate. But I was not raised attending synagogue and since I do not believe in God that does somewhat pose a problem to be “religious”.

My father is a highly devout Catholic, very active in his church. How he reconciles the modern Catholic Church with his Democratic voting record and strong science and engineering degrees I don’t entirely get, but he comes from a large, Irish-Catholic family and grew up in the Church attending mostly Catholic schools and college. Though he did get his PhD from the University of California Berkeley in the late 1960’s, he wasn’t exactly a hippie by any stretch of the imagination (he tells stories of wearing a suit and tie to a Jefferson Airplane concert).

Growing up we went to mass every Sunday and on all the Catholic holidays. When we moved to Oak Park from New York I attended a local Catholic elementary school for 3 1/2 years until I was able to get my parents to send me to the local junior high which had a far better and more rigorous academic courseload. This meant that I had to take Catholic religion classes in elementary school and received a few of the Catholic sacraments (first communion etc).

So I have had at least some “formal” religious schooling and have read the vast majority of the Catholic bible.

However even at a very early age my doubt and questions were evident. In, I think the 3rd grade, I recieved my only non-A grade throughout all of my elementary schooling in an assignment for Religion class. The nun who was our teacher had asked every child to draw a picture of God.

I turned in a blank page – explaining that if I had a picture of God at all it was not the expected old, white man with a long flowing beard but rather a sense of nothingness. She wasn’t amused and failed me for that assignment.

But another memory for me stands out too about my childhood, I remember very distinctly having the perception that everyone in the world was a Catholic.

And yes, intellectually I knew that my own mother and my grandmother, grandfather, his wife, my aunt, uncle, and cousin to name just a few immediate family members were all Jewish. But having been immersed in the bubble of a Catholic elementary school my perceptions were that everyone was Catholic, that the world and everyone I would meet and knew were Catholic.

That realization that my worldview was seriously distorted was one of the many reasons I insisted my parents allow me to switch to the public junior high.

And I should also note here that I was very young, when we moved from New York to Oak Park, I had been in the 2nd grade at one of the top school districts in the entire country in New York, in Oak Park they skipped me ahead to 3rd grade claiming that I would be “just average” there and already knew everything they would be teaching in the 2nd grade. Instead I was fairly rapidly at the top of the class academically (though most definitely not socially) and was barely challenged intellectually until finally getting into the public schools in the 7th grade. But as a result throughout all of my schooling I was always by far the youngest person in every one of my classes.

Once in the public junior high I no longer had religion classes in school. In high school I actively chose not to get the Catholic sacrament of Confirmation which is the formal marking of joining the Catholic Church as an adult member. I refused to publicly swear that I believed in God and in the Catholic Church and that I would both be an adult member and eventually marry and raise my children in the Catholic Church.

My father was not exactly pleased, my mother I think was more pleased and I’m sure my very anti-religious grandmother was pleased.

I have studied a great deal of philosophy and as a medieval near-eastern history major in college my studies included a lot of study of the history of religion especially in the Middle East. But in my own life I see no need and indeed would find it to be a negative force to call upon any supernatural force or “holy book” as the inspiration for how I act or make moral decisions.

I am an Existentialist which I take to mean that I give preminancy to the personal responsibility for decisions and actions.

Philosophically I come down firmly on the side of free will and personal choice as the determinant of our actions – I refuse to take what I see as the easy way out of looking towards external factors (environment or a supernatural being) as the underlying cause of things rather I place the final responsibility firmly on myself for my own actions.

I am, however, reluctant to judge others or to impose my own philosophy upon them. I see the appeal of being able to say things like “the booze made me do it” or “it must have been God’s will” and there is always a very human desire to create order out of chaos and randomness, to create a story that explains why things (both good and especially bad) happen.

In my own life my philosophy is fundamentally why I have never been drunk, rarely drink, avoid all drugs and quite seriously have a philosophical debate with myself over my consumption of caffeine. But these decisions about how I choose to live my life, which arise out of a choice to avoid (mostly) anything which would impair my mental capacity (which probably should include getting better sleep and more exercise) are not taken to meet the rules as set forth in some holy book or to meet the expectations of some supernatural being, rather I have taken them because I would feel the full burden of responsibility for my actions while impaired in anyway – and rather than do so I preemptively chose and choose to avoid being impaired in the first place.

Perhaps my social life would have been better if I did not make these decisions about how to live my life back when I was about 17, but once I make a decision I (generally) stick to it.

All this said, I very much take what I say, what publicly swear (or affirm) to very seriously. I will not swear an oath “to God” or make a statement that I believe in God, even if in so doing I might obtain some social advantage. I certainly don’t think I would be going to “Hell” if I did so, but I would feel the full moral responsibility for my lie.

In many ways my Existentialism is not and has not been an easy choice. It does not give me the comfort or the ease of having some firm set of rules to live by, or some external force to turn towards to seek solace or an explanation for life’s complexities and randomness. Nor has it, for the most part, granted me the social benefits of inclusion in a group or the marking of time which comes from weekly, monthly and yearly rituals common to nearly all religions.

So I am proud to be a non-believer and proud to that finally, for the first time in my lifetime (and perhaps ever) the President of the United States of America has acknowledged that non-believers alongside of believers of all faiths are and can be full citizens of the USA.

Last night I twittered that I thought it impossible for any national politician to be an Atheist and indeed for the majority of my adult life this has been the case, but upon further research I learned that in late 2007 one member of the House of Representatives, Peter Stark publicly acknowledged that he is an Atheist. And indeed he is from a part of the SF Bay Area.

So that gives me some small hope that writing posts such as this one (or the many others in my archives where I have mentioned my lack of beliefs) may not entirely make any future political career impossible. Though I somehow also suspect it won’t be in my lifetime that there is an atheist as President, though I would love to be proven wrong (and some might argue that we may have had one historically in the past, back when as a nation we took the separation of Church and State a bit more seriously).

And on a personal front one good and very positive (for me at least) aspect of Twitter has been that I have seen echoes of my own views in the messages of many of my friends. So I have hope that there are smart, attractive, non-Christian (and perhaps even fellow atheist) women also living here in the bay area and that it is possible I could meet one in 2009…

Posted in personal, politics, San Francisco | 3 Comments »

tbnl Magazine – more on types of stories we want

Posted by shannonclark on January 16, 2009

Earlier this week I posted a long post on the first thoughts on submissions, subscriptions and advertising on tbnl Magazine. In this post I will outline more about the types of work I will publish in tbnl Magazine and, I hope, will inspire submissions (or proposals).

tbnl Magazine is about great stories, stories that took time to write and time to read

That said, tbnl is also intended as a magazine for readers. In many ways I am thinking of each issue of tbnl as a small book. Since every issue of the magazine will remain available (via print-on-demand and digital sales at a minimum) for a year or longer, the goal is to only publish stories which will remain of interest and relevant even years after they were published.

There are at least three main types of writing I expect to publish in tbnl that fit this criteria.

  1. Great fiction. I define great fiction as being great stories – not as being limited to a specific genre. Specifically I do not like the majority of the fiction in The New Yorker and I will be very open to publishing great science fiction, fantasy, mystery and perhaps even romance. I’m also open to being surprised by a work with features of other genres. I expect to also publish non-genre fiction but I will be biased towards stories that engage me, that have a plot, strong characters as well as great writing. We may also publish some poetry.
  2. The “new” non-fiction. Non-fiction with a strong voice, often with some of the features of fiction writing. Think “This American Life” or the collection of writings in “The New Kings of Nonfiction” edited by Ira Glass. Many of the stories, though not all, in The Atlantic and in The New Yorker fall into this style of writing (Malcolm Gladwell’s stories for example). Writing where the voice of the author is strongly present, where the focus may be on a personal story, or it may be on more traditional reporting. But it is also writing which is passionate about the topic – far more than just reporting on the “facts” – and a style rarely found in newspapers these days. I’m open to an extremely wide range of topics – in fact one sign of great writing of this form is that it can take a topic I wouldn’t normally think I’m interested in (indeed may have never thought about or may be actively negative towards) and make it engaging, draw me into the the story about it and show me a new perspective.
  3. Academic writing for non-academics. In every issue I intend on publishing at least one piece of great writing by (or on) serious academic topics. Again these may be wide ranging – a deep history of pop music in one issue, a new theory of the universe in the next. Here think of the content of the talks at TED – wide ranging, serious, yet intended for a non-academic audience. An important criteria for these works is that they should be written for a non-academic audience, yet should also meet all the usual academic rigor and requirements. Indeed we may do peer review for articles which cover emerging areas of research and we expect to link to and publish on the web many additional resources for each issue’s papers. Given my own personal interests may of these works may include research around the study of Networks. I will also be strongly biased towards reporting on (and supporting) research which is interdisciplinary in nature. The authors will be paid for these works (or equivalent amounts donated to their institution or the organization(s) they select). We will seek to strike a balance with these works between being highly readable by a lay audience and with adhering to a given academic field’s standards which differ from field to field.

Initially my intention is to publish about 35,000-40,000 words in a typical issue of tbnl Magazine though the exact amount will depend on the final typography, page count (anticipated to be 80 pages for the first few issues) and other factors. This includes an expectation of including at least one, or more if they add value images with each story (photographs or illustrations).

Roughly this will probably mean the following range of works in each issue:

  • short fiction stories totaling about 15,000 words (typically 2-3 stories of roughly equal length and rarely any works over 7000 words)
  • one or two academic reports on research totaling about 7,000 words (typically one long and one or two shorter reports)
  • five or six works of the new non-fiction which are relatively short form (so totaling about 7500-10,000 words)
  • one or two long form works of the new non-fiction (also totaling about 10,000 words)

In any given issue one of the above categories will be shorter to make the page count, the plan is to publish about 10-12 different authors in each issue. Some stories may be <1000 words and we will edit everything to ensure that it is highly readable and focused – but that said we will err on the side of more writing vs less.

We are still working out the rates and minimums (and perhaps maximums) which we will pay and the pay for a story is for the words & related images (so may be split amongst multiple people). Roughly we will look at the number of pages as an important criteria. We also will be working towards being able to meet the definition of “professional” market (as determined by various writer’s unions/groups).

For non-fiction works of over 5000 words we will probably accept proposals and may occasionally include some expenses in our pay – but at least initially we won’t be “assigning” stories. We may work to match up artists and authors.

This is all still in flux – and I’m open to proposals of works that are not in the categories above. But note that the goal is always to publish works which are timeless – so reviews, time-sensative reporting, “exclusives” etc are unlikely to be published.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, personal, reading, San Francisco, tbnl | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

tbnl Magazine – call for submissions, subscribers & advertisers

Posted by shannonclark on January 14, 2009

Over the weekend I posted about the magazine – to be named later – I’m thinking about starting. Now having gathered feedback from many folks – in response to my blog post, to email exchanges, and personal conversations I’m ready to announce the next steps and to issue a call for submissions, and  pledges to subscribe or advertise. 

First a simple announcement – until someone suggests a better name (and pending various trademark & domain searches) my working name for the magazine is, in fact: tbnl Magazine. And yes, that stands for “to be named later” and yes, my intention is to refer to it in the lowercase form at least for now.

I wrote a lot about my impetus behind starting tbnl in my first post, having now talked with many people here is a quick summary of the types of works I’m looking for, as well as my intentions around the scale of the magazine (at least initially).

Size: My target, primarily due to practical matters of the technology of magazine printing (multiples of 16 pages offer advantages as most magazine printing presses print 16 pages at a time) is for an 80 page magazine + cover, on a relatively heavy, recycled paper stock (ideally with green inks etc) probably with full color inside and out. The physical size will be close to 8 1/2″ x 11″ (slightly smaller when printed on demand), saddle stitched (i.e. staples not perfect binding). Inside I plan on running advertising (more on that below) with a target of 12-16 pages worth of ads (some will be partial page ala New Yorker small format ads) and will keep the housekeeping pages (table of contents, colophon, staff, writers & artists bios) to a minimum. That leaves around 60 pages for content each issue. The design I’m leaning towards will take inspiration from The New Yorker and the redesigned Atlantic Monthly with somewhat more images (and likely heavier paper) than The New Yorker and probably somewhat (but not by much) less overt design than the new Atlantic Monthly.  Very roughly this means around 35,000-40,000 words per issue (depending on ratio of images to text, final font & font size decisions and other factors). 

In turn this means that published pieces will likely range between 1000 to 5000 words, probably a bit longer for the one or two fiction pieces in each issue (at least one of which will likely be a ‘genre” piece – probably Science Fiction or Fantasy but I’m open to great mysteries or even romance if done very well, probably still less than 10,000 words however). 

In researching current rates in the market, it appears (not entirely surprisingly) that rates for most markets are quite, quite low. Lower than I expected. For fiction it appears that higher than $0.05/word is considered quite “high paying” with $0.07 being considered a premium rate. Non-fiction rates are harder to view publicly but I know many writers in various genres so I will be checking with them to determine what would be good and more than fair rates.

My intention is to be a “high” paying market, I want to get the best possible work from the best writers I can find. While I don’t expect what we pay will (at least for the first few years) be high enough to be lifechanging or a significent income, I do want it to be more than just the cost of a nice dinner out somewhere. 

Submissions:

Initally they will be EMAIL ONLY.  

For the first issue(s) I will start with an OPEN submissions policy. However I reserve the right to publish works from people I as for pieces and we may close or somewhat restrict submissions in the future to manage the flow.  A few guidelines

  • Submissions MUST be original, complete, unpublished works. This means no previously published pieces (which includes blog/web published works). Complete means no parts of longer works (i.e. part of a novel for example). See “proposing a story” below for guidelines if you have a nonfiction story you want to propose writing vs. have in a completed form.
  • Submissions MUST be in a standard format. This means: in the email text (with clearly marked beginning and end), as a txt attachment, or as a well formated PDF attachment (well formatted means 12 point font, double spaced, with page #, title & author on every page). An estimated word count should be included, along with a SHORT author’s bio & website link(s)
  • Submissions of nonfiction should, if possible, also include related illustrations. Every story in tbnl will include at least one, in most cases more than one, related images. For nonfiction where possible these should be photographic (or relevant illustrations). For fiction these will be either carefully selected photographs or art. If you submit artwork you MUST have the rights to those works (or show that they are Public Domain works). Creative Commons licensed works which allow for COMMERCIAL USE will be considered. 
  • The payment for a work will in most cases be for the BUNDLED written work and related images. Thus if you do not own the images (i.e. you took your own photos) a split payment will be negotiated between the writer and the photographer or artist for that particular piece. 
  • tbnl will be buying “FIRST PUBLICATION” rights. This means that you are free to sell or publish the work in a collection after it has been published in tbnl. NOTE that issues of tbnl will remain in “print” via Print-on-demand for at least a year and likely longer. Also tbnl will have a “digital” edition for sale to ebook readers which also will remain in “print” for at least a year. tbnl will be purchasing these related digital rights (for first publication) and the right to keep the issue in “print” via Print-on-demand. The intention is to keep every issue in print for as long as possible – but also after some threshhold has been met to pay additional royalties to all contributors to an issue. The specifics of this are to be determined, if you are uncomfortable with this level of uncertainty, do not submit a work for publication in our first few issues. 
  • Deadlines for the first few issues will be announced, with a limited amount of grace period around each (but since submissions are initially “email only” the expectation is that deadlines should be met. Works submitted after the deadline for a given issue MAY be considered for future issues – but a note will be sent (likely autogenerated) noting the missed deadline. Requests to not consider the work will be honored.
  • tbnl will NOT accept simultanous submissions. This is to keep our process as simple as possible for the first few issues. In the future, especially for fiction submissions we likely will change this guideline. This means that if you are submitting a work to tbnl you do NOT currently have the same work being read at another publication.
  • tbnl encourages but does not require CC licenses for the works we publish. Done well we think that CC licenses make a lot of sense for most authors and allow for works to see wider distribution & creative reuse. 
  • The type of writing being submitted MUST be clearly defined. The best way to do this is to include a short (as in one paragraph) introduction to the work. Clearly noting if it is FICTION or NONFICTION. 
  • For a good example of the type of nonfiction tbnl is seeking see the book The New Kings of Nonfiction edited by Ira Glass. Also listen to the stories told on This American Life or on stage at shows like Fray or The Moth. This means a strong, personal voice and point of view, a wide range of topics, and strong writing which can incorporate some of the techniques of fiction writing. 
  • Authors who do not wish to be paid will have options to reallocate their pay. Some writers may not wish to be paid for work they submit. Options will be available to reallocate these payments – likely ranging from donations made in the name of the author to one of a select group of charities or to raising the rates for the other authors and artists in that particular issue. 

tbnl is NOT a forum for “breaking news” or for time-sensative reviews. The print schedule for tbnl is still being determined, at least quarterly though the plan is to go to bi-monthly or monthly as soon as possible.  While we may publish some long form non-fiction which is not in a “personal” voice it will always be with the focus on writing which will be relevant and worth reading for many years so reviews of a new movie, restaurant, play, book, album or product will likely not make the cut. Nor will discussions of topics “in the news” (pending elections, business moves etc). 

tbnl is a forum for great, timeless stories. 

Topics.

In no particular order the following are some (and by no means the only) topics we expect to publish in the first year of tbnl:

  • Serious food – especially looking at “Slow Food” and being a foodie/locavore
  • Hacking – in the original, positive sense of exploring the limits of technology and of creative ways to do things
  • Serious design – especially of the worldchanging variety 
  • Networks – I am the founder of MeshForum, a conference on the study of Networks so not surprisingly I expect to publish works exploring a range of network related topics in tbnl
  • Art – especially emerging art including digital art. Also ways to view and “read” art that illustrates the power of great art
  • Music – not reviews of new albums but rather stories of and about music – about a personal history around music, about the art of making music, about the history behind specific works. Especially of interest is writing that crosses musical boundries – I’m personally a fan of Opera as well as Mashups, Folk music as well as Electronica. 
  • Economics and “smart” business – timeless, great writing about Economics or business are rare and difficult to do, but tbnl will look for great, engaging stories
  • Games – again not reviews of particular games but stories about games, about the game industry, about game design or the mindset of game playing. Everything from computer games to chess to live action role playing games are welcome
  • Much, much more.

The primary focus of tbnl is timeless, great stories presented in a highly reader friendly form. “Great” is of course subject to debate but the goal will be to publish a magazine which you read cover to cover and which introduces every reader to a new perspective, to a way of engaging with topics they might not think are of interest. 

I am a geek – but a geek with a very eclectic and quite wide ranging set of interests tbnl will reflect this eclecticism. 

Subscribers

Pledges to subscribe are being sought now. Exact costs will depend on the number of issues we decide to publish in the first year and we are exploring a tiered model as well as a range of publishing options. tbnl Magazine is intended primarily as a labor of love, as such it hasn’t yet been decided if the underly organization will be non-profit or for-profit. In either case tbnl will be run as a business seeking to generate sufficient revenues to pay all parties and contributors and to put out the highest quality publication possible. 

Here are some, very rough, initial thoughts:

1st year (at least 4 issues) subscriptions: $50-75 (less for US subscribers, more for overseas). The planned print-on-demand rate will be between $15-20 + shipping per issue. The retail price, if copies of the initial print runs are sold at retail at all, is likely going to be $15 at least for the first few issues (will probably be lower when/if we move to a more frequent publishing schedule). 

1st year SUPPORTER subscriptions: $150, includes some range of bonus/special features to be determined. This level (or higher) will mostly be supporting the existence and formation of tbnl Magazine. The plan will be to have a range of ways of thanking supporters – this will likely include special events w/author readings, limited editions of art, bonus items and more. It will also include public (unless the supporter wishes to remain anonymous) thanks on the tbnl website.

1st year DIGITAL ONLY subscriptions: $30. Probably around half of the print subscription rate. Individual eBook copies of each issue will also probably be available, likely at around a rate of $10/issue (though exact pricing will be decided based on feedback, costs incurred via the ebook sales partners etc)

Print-on-Demand.  The plan is to make each issue of tbnl Magazine available on a print-on-demand basis. Most likely via MagCloud for a price of between $15-20 an issue. This is, however, limited to US orders only until MagCloud exits beta. As such, the plan is to have a small, limited edition print run for each issue for subscribers (including non-US subscribers) prior to the release via print-on-demand.

Advertising:

From the beginning tbnl Magazine will accept advertising. The initial design allocates around a total of 12-16 pages for advertising out of the expected 80 + cover pages. The full page cover inside & back will be highest priced ad pages. Interior ads will be accepted in full page, (half or 1/3 page – depending on if we settle on a two or three collumn layout), 1/4 or 1/8 page ads (think the ad formats found inside of The New Yorker for examples). 

All ads will be included in all editions of tbnl Magazine including digital editions. If we decide to make some or all of the content of tbnl Magazine available on our website this will include advertising from a given issue so advertisers are requested to include a target URL for those ads.

Like the other content of tbnl Magazine advertising in the magazine should be Timeless in nature. That is, it should remain relevant to readers for at least the next year and preferably the next two years from the date of publication. Thus advertising for brands and ongoing ventures is preferred to the promotion of specific events (i.e. a movie studio vs. a new movie, a publisher vs a specific book). 

The audience of tbnl Magazine is obviously still being determined, but the expectation is that it will be a diverse, highly literate, and deeply engaged audience. Likely small, but also influential and passionate.

Advertising Rates:

These are very much still being determined and to a degree will depend on the initial print runs. But here are some, very rough and subject to change, estimates. Discounts for prepayment and multiple issue committments will be made and agency fees may be extra. Discounts for some types of advertisers may also be made (non-profits, publishers, startups, galleries etc). These are also all based on expectations of relatively low print numbers (<10,000 per issue) when/if demand raises and/or retail distribution is determined these rates may go up. And remember that in addition to the subscriber only print run, the ads will run for 1-2 years (or longer) in the print-on-demand and ebook editions. 

  • Cover (inside, back and inside of back) – $5000/issue. This may be glossy, will definitely be color
  • Full Page – $3000/issue
  • 1/2 page (or one column if a three column layout) – $1500/issue
  • 1/4 page – $1000/issue
  • 1/8 page – $500/issue

As I noted – these are just initial, rough estimates. And they are negotiable. Priority will be given to advertisers who are willing to preebuy and to presupport for the full 1st year of issues (which ensures that those issues will be published).

Email me at shannon DOT clark AT gmail DOT com with submissions or advertising inquieries. Please include tbnl in your subject in all such emails!


Posted in advertising, Entrepreneurship, geeks, networks, personal, reading, San Francisco, tbnl | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Idea for a new magazine – to be named later

Posted by shannonclark on January 10, 2009

I recently learned about a very interesting new service, MagCloud, which prints magazines on demand and handles all subscription features (mailing, payment etc).  They are currently in limited Beta and have some limitations (the biggest of which is the cost for buyers – $0.20/page though the publisher can set the price for any given issue at a higher rate to make some profit. 

For a long time I have been thinking about creating a media outlet of some form and at the moment I am serious leaning towards a magazine of some form. This post is an exploration of those ideas, it is a stake in the ground as to the shape of this new publication. It is also a call for submissions and volunteers.

The Name – to be named later

My working name for the publication was going to be Mesh (or The Mesh) but it turns out that there was a MeshSF magazine here in SF a while back (appears to be out of print now) and there is another Mesh magazine in Jacksonville Florida. Thus to be named later – the name has to be highly inclusive and evocative of the range of topics to be covered, while also not being too long or hard to remember or use (and yes this includes requiring that there is a good domain available). 

The Format

My thinking is that to be named later will be more akin to a series of books than a monthly (or more frequent) magazine, though over time it may evolve into a more frequent publication. Thus I am torn about a number of physical formats – leaning between a book like size such as that used by Granta (or many University literary magazines), a slightly larger format such as that used by Foriegn Affairs, or a more traditional magazine size such as The New Yorker or Monocle (which is more booklike in format). 

That said, while a perfect bound format (glued edge) creates a more booklike publication, I personally find that format less conducive to reading – as quite literally it makes it harder to read the publication (since you can fold the magazine to only view one page at a time as you can with a traditional magazine). That said, it does create a more archival publication which has some advantages. 

Years ago when I was the editor of a literary magazine (in high school, we won an award) we decided to go with a half size format which had some advantages especially for the publication of poetry as it created a highly readable format (if small).

However for to be named later my goal is to have a publication which stays in print for a long time (so “back issues” remain available for a long period of time), which eventually (and as soon as possible) pays highly competitive rates for photos, art and articles, which supports a lot of very interesting writing, and most critically is a publication which I want to read myself. 

The Guidelines

  1. Articles must have a point of view, but may not be purely opinions.
  2. Every article will have illustrations – photos or art
  3. Every article will be bylined
  4. A very wide range of topics and types of articles will be accepted – no subject is out of bounds IF the writing is good, consise, and well written.
  5. Serious as well as non-serious writing is welcome and encouraged, including in most issues at least a few articles that meet peer-reviewed academic writing standards (footnotes and all)
  6. The physical form & design matters.
  7. Every issue will have at least one work of fiction (clearly identified) – genre writing not just welcome but encouraged (Science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance etc).
  8. Every issue will be meant to be relevant for at least a year, usually longer. Thus timely articles will not be printed, nor will reviews which are timelimited (i.e. of a limited run of a show – though movies which will eventually be on DVD may be accepted)
  9. While the focus may include regional and city interests – underlying to be named later will be a global perspective (though initially at least all articles will be in English)
  10. CC-licenses for the content will be encouraged (though not mandated) and while to be named later will retain a right to keep each issue “in print” for a long duration, authors & artists will have the right to sell their work for other publications (i.e. they retain all rights – but to be named later has the right to keep an issue “in print”, including via print-on-demand for a long duration – ideally perpetual). Much of to be named later (perhaps all) will be published online as well as in physical form – though the PRINT edition is the primary focus.

So what do those 10 somewhat random points mean?

First I am imagining a publication which will have a seriously broad range of articles – from writing about food, to serious academic exploration of economics, to science fiction stories, to photographic coverage of art and hacking. 

That said, the focus of to be named later will also be on timeless writing, on writing which is first and foremost eminently readable and engaging – which you want to turn back to and could pick up anytime after it is published and enjoy (i.e. this will not be a publication trying to cover breaking news or trying to get “exclusives” or scoops). 

to be named later will have advertising

Even if to be named later is wildly successful in generating interest and subscribers it will include commercial content from the beginning. Advertisers who welcome the timeless nature of to be named later and want to support the publication of high quality, challenging, intelligent writing covering a wide range of issues with a high focus on being enjoyable to read and experience. 

My tastes are wide ranging and eclectic – a magazine I publish will reflect these interests – and thus, I hope, will be of interest to an audiance that share some traits with me. In turn, I hope that there are (and I believe there are many) advertisers who want to reach this audience. Some may be local, some national, some global. All will be welcome (with some limited exceptions) specifically political or advocacy advertising will probably not be accepted as it would be discordant with the tone and focus of the magazine (which is inclusive not exclusive). 

Curation will be key. 

I may technically be the publisher, may also be an editor, but first and foremost I will be the Curator of to be named later – it will be my tastes and decisions (or my choices on delegation) which will determine the content of the magazine. 

Topics to be covered

  • Food – especially from a Slow Food and serious foodie perspective
  • Local businesses – not reviews persay but stories about local businesses but with a global perspective
  • Hacking – especially from an Arts perspective
  • Science Fiction – both via publishing great stories (including perhaps Fantasy or other genres) and also articles about the field & genre
  • Science – especially reports from the frontiers of research
  • Business – if written about in a highly engaging manner and in a timeless manner
  • Non-fiction storytelling – think This American Life style stories – which can cover any topic imaginable but are written with a point of view and story to tell
  • Design – especially highlighting intentional design applied in innovative ways.

Topics which will not, mostly, be covered:

  • Breaking news – i.e. current events, pop culture etc
  • Politics – while great stories about campaigns might be published, “stories” which are more manifestos will not
  • Activism – I am a CENTRIST. I am neither “left” nor “right” and my magazine will reflect this. While we may, occasionally, take (and publish and clearly label) an opinion on important matters, my magazine will not be a forum for activism, nor will it mirror the articles found in most Free weekly newspapers around the country (indeed in spirit we will likely be more capitalistic)
  • Time sensative reviews – stories about the arts (movies, theater, music, books, gallery shows or events) will definitely be published, but reviews of specific events or limited availability content will not
  • Product reviews – the focus of the magazine will be on stuff people want to and will enjoy reading, reviews of products rarely meet this criteria – nor do they usually meet the criteria of remaining relevant for years to come (since most products today are only sold for a limited time and replaced later with newer/better/cheaper/faster versions)

I intent to be named later to be eclectic, to be personal, to probably not be for everyone. That said, for those to whom it resonates I want it to be a publication which is read cover to cover. The focus will be on being reader friendly first – high design second (we will not be akin to Wired magazine in terms of design aesthetic)

All of this is tentative – now I am looking for:

  • Submissions: email submissions or ideas for articles/stories to shannon DOT clark AT gmail DOT com, please use a SUBJECT line of “Submission for to be named later”. Include a short bio of yourself, as well as the publication history (if any) of the article (preference is for unpublished writing). For the first issue(s) payment will depend on advertiser and subscriber targets so be prepared to only get a token initial payment (but the goal is to reach “professional” levels as quickly as we can. If you will only sell the story for a specific ammount include that, but realize that may impact our ability to accept the article/story for the first few issues
  • Volunteers: while in the future all staff will be paid (if only small amounts initially) to get going will be a labor of love, not money (unless we obtain financing or serious advertisers/sponsors quickly). Copyediting, “slush pile” reading, and pre-press layout help are initial core needs. Quickly as well help with advertising sales, distribution and more will also be needed.
  • Advertisers: From the first issue the plan is to have advertising. Rates almost certainly will go up as we grow the audiance, but the advertisers in the first few issues will be set – even as those issues remain (as is the plan) in print for at least a year, likely longer. So the first few advertisers will, we hope, get a bargain over the long term. There will be a limited number of full page ad opportunities, as well as a handful of partial page opportunities (think New Yorker style part of page ads). The back of the front cover as well as the back pages will be the highest cost ads. Rates are still to be determined, preference will be given for advertisers who are willing to commit to a full year of issues (at least 4 but the goal is to get to probably monthly). Advertisers will also be part of the online presense as well as the print publication – so should include a URL to link their ad to online. As a new publication ALL aspects of the readership are yet to be determined (including the size, demographics etc) so early advertisers must be interested in the mission of to be named later and willing to support it. Exact dollars are hard to determine (and to a point go up as the number of copies printed go up) but my initial “gut” guess is that for the first 4 issues something close to $100,000 is needed to pay all writers & artists, to physically print the magazine, and to pay staff (even just a token amount). So a target of about $25,000/issue is the goal though more may be needed for the very first issue.
  • Investors – My plan is to bootstrap. Even in the absense of all the advertising support I might like, the goal is to use a service such as MagCloud to enable us to put out a first issue (or two) and build up the audiance over time. To learn by doing and to thus incur as little costs upfront as possible. But if the right investor or sponsor/grantmaker were to offer I would listen. My goal is first to get great stories published, secondly to make money doing so (mostly I want to build something which is self supporting at a minimum). I also want to test my theories about how a new media publication could more than just made do but also prosper even in the Web 2.0, “the media is dying” world. 

So that is the idea – very rough, may not happen, but I hope it will. Please leave a comment, blog about this, link to this or at least contact me if you are interested!

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, internet, personal, photos, reading, tbnl, working | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »