Searching for the Moon

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

Archive for the ‘networks’ Category

SXSWi Nate Silver Keynote and other thoughts

Posted by shannonclark on March 15, 2009

I am at SXSWi this week. I have gone every year since my first time in 2007 and it is always among the very best tech conferences of the year. My blogging (and for that matter time spent in front of my computer) will be and has been quite light, though on the very plus side, this is both one of the largest tech conferences in the world – scattered throughout a very large conference center – and has some of the fastest and most reliable WIFI I have ever seen at a tech conference – knock on wood but so far I have no problems at all connecting – and once connected have found the speed to be quite good (very high in fact).

At the moment I am listening to Nate Silver talk about his recent history starting the site FiveThirtyEight.com – best quote “If you know you are going to be wrong, keep working on your fucking model”

I hope to ask him a question or two – though I suspect I won’t be alone in trying – my first question – “Will you be changing your site name when the new Representatives from DC & Utah are seated”

Posted in geeks, internet, networks, politics | Leave a Comment »

Sessions and Keynotes to attend at Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco

Posted by shannonclark on March 10, 2009

I generally attend only a few sessions at most conferences – especially most multi-track conferences with many keynotes and speakers, conferences such as SXSWi and Web 2.0 Ezpo. Instead my usually way of “working” such a conference is to spend most of my time talking with people in the hallways or in blogger or press lounges – attending the occasional “big” keynote, a friend’s panel (or less often a panel or session with a speaker I really want to meet). 

In part this is because most of the time I could be a speaker at such events – and often I have as much (or more) experience as most of the speakers, not to mention in many cases the speakers are friends and will be talking about topics we likely have gone over privately months earlier.

But this is not uniformly the case and this year I am looking forward a number of the sessions at Web 2.0 Expo here in San Francisco. Here is a short list of a few of the sessions I personally find of interest – these are in no particular order and by no means are complete – as new sessions and tracks continue to be announced my actual plans will definitely change. 

And a reminder – Use code websf09trt12 at online registration for 30% off any registration package!

Technical Sessions:

Drizzle – rethinking mySQL for the web – 1:30 pm on Thursday April 2nd. Brian Aker from mySQL will talk about Drizzle which is a fork of mySQL designed for multi-core, cloud computing applications. Since I am both thinking of and working on a number of cloud based applications myself as well as advising companies who may also, this is of a great deal of interest to me. Both to see if it may help as I design my own solutions – but equally to be well informed about an emerging development in a core component of much application development – the database, which has not seen a great deal of innovation to keep up with the pace of changing applications and use cases (i.e. web 2.0, web services based, cloud deployed applications). I’m also curious if and how they are solving for the needs of applications which have to scale very highly very quickly (i.e. in response to a Twitter, Digg or other rapid spike in interest and users)

Visualizing a web of data 11:00am on Thursday April 2nd. Michal Migurski of Stamen Design will talk about approaches to visualise the torrent of data available on the Internet (and as a result of the Internet). I am always interested in hearing (and seeing) the latest visualizations of large quanities of data. In my own conference organizing I have always had speakers who spoke about various visualization efforts around showing large, complex datasets. While I am not a designer myself, I am deeply interseted in the challenge of visualizing data in ways that are both accurate and which can assist in making sense of that data, ways which help see patterns, trends and potential issues. All while keeping an eye out for issues of scale or hidden assumptions which might make false patterns or cause people to draw errant conclusions. 

From AD-versity comes Opportunity 2;40pm Wednesday April 1st. My friend Scott Rafer of Lookery and Ted Cadogan of OpenX will speak about the current state of the online advertising market. Since my main project for the past year has been working on getting an Ad network started (slowly and fitfully at times) this is a topic of great interest to me.

Meet the New Boss – The FCC, Net Neutrality and Web 2.0 1:30pm on Thursday April 2nd. Unfortunately scheduled againzt another session I want to also attend (which happens often) but this is a chance to hear from Bill Maher of Morrison & Foerester [full disclosure – MoFo is a past client of mine] talk about the changes at the FCC and what recent rulings and new ground rules have been established which impact many Web 2.0 businesses. This is the type of detailed and vital discussion which I really enjoy hearing at conferences – not sexy and perhaps at times a bit dull, but done well it is a chance to hear a real, up to date expert distill a lot of information into a consise and digestible form – and then a chance to ask follow up questions to explore issues which are raised. 

And finally pretty much the entire Marketing and Community track  which is a chance to hear from a mix of many of my friends as well as many others whom I know of but haven’t yet met in person speak about the current state of marketing and community online. Since this is an area I spend a great deal of time working in and thinking about – indeed much of my own consulting practice today is related to advising startups around Social Media related issues, this is a track of sessions which interest me greatly. Plus unlike many recent conferences this is a series of talks by friends of mine which I haven’t actually heard before – Scott Monty of Ford Motors talking about their brand engagement, Tara Hunt talking about Wuffie (and her new book & job at Intuit) and much much more. If I had to pick, I think this may be the strongest track at Web 2.0 – and it will definitely be my default track during timeslots I don’t otherwise have a session I want to attend. 

And a few other parts of Web 2.0 Expo I will be attending:

The Heather Gold Show keynote on Friday April 3rd morning at 8:55am. My friend Heather Gold’s shows are always interesting and engaging – each is different but each is also a chance to hear great, diverse guests peak in a casual almost Oprah like manner and format. 

Douglass Rushkoff’s Keynote on Thursday April 2nd at 8:55am. Douglass is another friend of mine and his talks are always engaging and interesting. He and I don’t always agree on everything – but he is one speaker I will block out time to listen to, confident it will be engaging and challenging – even if I don’t agree with him on every point. 

Jeff Veen’s Keynote on Friday Aptil 3rd at 10:15am. Jeff Veen is a highly respected designer, formerly of Google, and someone whom I have met many times here in San Francisco, however I have actually never had a chance to hear him talk about his work – I’m looking forward to this opportunity to hear what he is thinking about these days post-Google. 

Ignite at DNA Lounge on Wednesday April 1st at 7:30pm. This year, for the first time I will even try to submit my own talk in time to potentially be among the speakers at Ignite. Past Ignite events have been among my favorite evening networking/tech events ever – the format forces people to distill their talks down, removing the cruft and getting to the heart of the story and point they want to make – in nearly every case the result is a better, more engaging talk. However in past years I have been negligent in submitting my own talks to Ignite – this year i hope to make up for that and will be submitting my own talk.

And of course I’ll wander through the booths, attend (and perhaps host) the Birds of  Feather sessions in the evenings, as well as the many parties – official and unofficial. There will be a bunch of other things that I will almost certainly attend – but this is the rough outline of the talks and sessions which most interest me at the moment – and which I feel are particular highlights of this year’s show – which is, I think, a highly impressive show schedule indeed!

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, internet, networks, San Francisco, web2.0 | 2 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 »

a business idea – radio schedules 2.0

Posted by shannonclark on December 1, 2008

I’m old enough, just barely, to recall a time when local radio schedules were printed in the local newspaper. As a kid I used this to track down “old time” radio shows and Dr. Demento. Today almost no schedules here in the US are available in any form, individual stations may publish them somewhere on their website, and a few specific shows publish a schedule of when their show may be syndicated, but there is nothing (at least that I have found – if there is please leave a comment) as good as the extremely well done The Radio Times in the UK.

So a thought for a modern 21st century twist on a very old idea – simple, location & timezone aware radio schedules – probably driven via a community powered wiki like tool (with options for “official” schedules from any station interested). Schedules which would be published in many formats – with full, open API’s to access them (as well as iCal subscription links and probably RSS feeds including search driven feeds).

I’m thinking a website and likely iPhone app (probably for other devices as well). And it should be platform neutral so have options to also display Internet radio stations, streams, satellite radio and also podcast links for shows which have them (many commercial as well as non-commercial shows do).

And ideally there could be many interfaces to this data – time & day & location being just one.

Not neglecting very basic data would be key here – call letters but also the actual dial location (or locations) & URL’s etc. Best case also some estimate of reception for a given geo location – though this is wildly hard.

And don’t neglect AM and non-English stations (heck don’t limit this to US stations).

I suspect I am far from the only person who has moved to a new city and now has no dial sense – ie I don’t know where to find radio stations which I might be interested in or specific shows on those stations.

Anyway a thought for a service which I’d love to see – and a reminder that factual data isn’t copyrightable (so while show descriptions might be the fact that a show starts at a given time on a specific station is not) plus I suspect anything which helps rebuild audiances/build them will be welcome.

Consider this idea cc-atribution licensed. Feel free to turn it into a commercial project – though if you do I’d love to be involved and even if not, would appreciate some attribution. 

Done well I think such a schedule could seriously help terrestrial, online, and satelitte radio. It could also include other “scheduled” audio (and perhaps video) content – so might also include the expected release schedules for podcasts, video series, online shows and more. 

A bit of my background, for many years I worked on and build calendaring systems and served on the IETF iCalendar working group, including a brief stint as an editor of the RFC for iCalendar. I’ve been thinking about calendaring issues for many, many years. I’ve also been a lifelong radio and audio entertainment fan. I even did audio sound effects for a college production of the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, internet, iTunes, mobile, networks, podcasts, time, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Reinventing Newspapers – ideas for Knight Foundation News Challenge

Posted by shannonclark on October 30, 2008

UPDATE – I did not end up submitting this but am interested in pursuing these ideas further with anyone who is interested, leave a comment or contact me directly

I grew up reading multiple newspapers nearly every day of my life. In our home in Oak Park, IL the two papers we subscribed to were the local Chicago Tribune and the national Wall Street Journal. Even as a young child I would read both papers, scanning some sections, reading nearly every article of others and following certain favorite collumns. In particular I loved the irreverence of the center collumn of the Wall Street Journal front page (which is a feature they did away with, to the paper’s detriment I think, many years ago). I also read the opinion pages of the journal avidly – if rarely with much agreement. 

In our household however old papers piled up, my dad would generally read the papers first (though when he wasn’t home – i.e. away on a business trip my mom would usually get to the paper first) but neither paper left the house to be recycled until both my parents (and often my sister and I) had had a chance to at least skim every section. 

When i left home for college and then was living on my own in Chicago (and then a few years ago here in San Francisco) I have occasionally subscribed to a newspaper, but at the moment i do not. Just a few months ago I did have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal but I was finding myself with weeks of papers piled up and little if any interest in reading them. The news, even the business news, I usually had already seen online hours or sometimes days before and the opinion sections (which has grown to be three pages if you don’t count the rest of the paper which is increasingly highly partisan as well) while longer seem of a lowered quality and of less impact – more partisan, less thoughtful. 

And in place of the once a day random but usually well written collumn the WSJ now has a weekend section and an occasional magazine which do cover cultural issues (and the weekend edition is actually pretty well written) but in isolation they seem less interesting – and fewer stories are just well written stories about a curiousity, instead they cover the same set of movies, shows etc as so many others cover. (the great wine collumn being perhaps a rare exception)

In Chicago as well I for years had a weekly habit (which my now ex-girlfriend occasionally accused me of taking a bit too seriously) of reading the Chicago Reader every single week. Mostly for the long form, often investigative articles which made up the front page main story. I also read it for the other, shorter stories in most issues, the great weekly collumnists, and the actually useful classifieds, movie listings (this was pre-iPhone) and occasionally the other sections. Most weeks I would also read the New City Journal which was Chicago’s other free weekly, a bit of a smaller paper but one which also ran great and serious journalism, though was a bit smaller and had much less useful classifieds. 

On moving to the Bay Area I tried to find a local equivelent for the Chicago Reader but have been immensely disappointed with the many local free weekly papers – all of which seem to have horrible writing, terrible reviewers, have insane and highly partisan politics (indeed I find myself looking at the Gaurdian’s endorsements and usually voting against them). Online or offline they local papers are pretty awful (and the San Francisco Chronicle in terms of the “serious” papers – or the SF Examiner are also both pretty bad). 

So why all of this background?

I am thinking about local news and hybrid models a great deal at the moment and have, I think, come up with a business model and approach which I think could address many of the issues facing local newspapers (both dailies and weeklies), be scaleable – so could be started small and grow, and could work for the microlocal and then relatively large geogrphic region (perhaps even on a national or international level but that would require some modifications). Importantly my ideas are based on some major changes from “how things are done” online and offline today.

I am posting here to solicit feedback – first from a group of people who have been invited to comment – and then shortly (and when this post is made public) from anyone. I may end up working on this idea somewhere myself – but I am also looking to share these ideas widely and I hope inspire many people to adopt these ideas, modify them a bit, and launch many great sites and papers. 

  1. Pay writers professional rates – but also demand serious work. I’m looking for exact figures but for the majority of writers for this project I plan on paying them at a rate a writer’s union would deem professional. But also asking that they incorporate multiple mediums into their work – original photographs often, audio recordings of interviews, video of events or interviews when possible, and scans or copies of sources they refer to in the course of an article. The articles themselves will be serious writing – whether opinion pieces such as reviews or long form investigative journalism and see below, will include working with editors. 
  2. Post edited copy only – which means nothing is posted as an article that has not been reviewed. We may have a side collection of blogs for posts about inprogress work and likely will have some comments from readers (or perhaps more likely an active set of letters to the editors). And feedback well could come in via many means – including video and audio comments. But the emphasis here is quality over quanity or speed
  3. As a general rule nothing which would be available via a wire service will be posted on the site. That is, nothing which is a rewriting of a press release or a rehash of a wire story. The one possible exception might be a story which the site writes and then syndicates out to the wire services. 
  4. Though the project will start from the web and will be highly webbased, there will be a print component as well. Depending on the community served this may be a monthly, glossy publication (think Monocle magazine but focused tightly on a given geopgraphic area), a weekly magazine (with some color) or a weekly or even more frequent newsprint edition – probably of a quality that could handle some color at least on some pages. Initially however this print component may only be available via subscription, expanding slowly to local businessses and newstands. 
  5. Topics will be chosen in large part by the passion of writers and the emphsis will be in quality storytelling and documentation over dry, non-partisan reporting. Though initially this may be a bit chaotic my expectation that the passions of the writers and the readers will converge with regular contributers covering a wide range of local issues and local topics, ideally from a variety of perspectives and points of view. The projects I would hope to be personally involved in would accept contributions from across a wide range of political opinions and I would seek to encourage a diversity of views.
  6. Advertising and commercial content would be a 1st level type of content – always fully and clearly disclosed, likely also clearly of a different type, but distributed in much the same manner as any other content. Online this means that ads (more on what these would look like below) would show up as objects in RSS feeds right after and between other articles. Offline this means that some pages or some parts of many pages (depending on the type of print) would include what are clearly commercial content. A likely majority of the advertising would be locally based and focused but national ads would also be accepted. Political ads or messages might not be accepted and ads with an adult target would be up to the publishers and their local community’s interests (here in San Francisco for example ads from a local business such as Good vibrations would probably not be particularly scandlous). The advertisers would NOT have a choice about whether or not an ad runs online or in the print editions – if they buy one, they buy the other and the ads would run in both and would be a part of the permanent record of that edition (which should make the online ads a very good value – though perhaps the links of the ads themselves would only persist for a limited duration the copy itself would be part of the archive). The logistics of this would be addressed with an eye to keeping in good standing with the online community and businesses such as Google – and the paid ads would have to me highly vetted – as would the destination of where they link to for the duration of there being an active link. Ideally where the ad links to would also be archived and part of the records of the publication. 
  7. Curration and editing is the primary focus, based on starting from working with great writers but building on them and enforcing a ethos of it is better to make fewer but higher quality recommendations over many but lower quality. So while the emphasis may be mostly on articles, to the degree that the publication also has event listings or reviews whether of local businesses, artists, or items of national interest such as books or movies the focus would be on being selective (and yes opinionated) instead of being comprehensive.

This last point emphasizing currating over being comprehensive is one key area where my vision is highly different from many other approaches I see online. Instead of focusing on the infinite space of the web, on the ability to have something for everyone (but all to often not attracting anyone) my vision is to be opinionated, to be focused, and to have a point of view (or points of view). Combined with a high degree of basic quality of writing (grammar, structure and form etc) as well as a good design and look and feel my thinking is that being focused ADDS value today. As a reader I have many sources online for looking up everything – all the movies ever made, all the music, all the books, but opinions I can test and grow to trust are rare and valuable. And in turn that value is translated into attention and also value to the sponsors that bring to me as a reader the content I value.

A bit more about the types of ads I would see running. In many local weeklies (and daily newspapers as well) a large and useful category of ads are ads from local venues promoting upcoming events and shows. Some of these are purchased by individual venues, others by local promoters, others by national promoters, and still others by national brands (i.e. a beer company presents the following shows…). This type of content rich commercial message is exactly the type of content I think would make a lot of sense for this type of project – on the web and off the web. 

And there are many other types of local advertisers whose content would resonate with a locally focused set of content – and my goal would be to focus highly on a local base of advertisers supplemented by the occasional national brand or advertiser (movies or books for example, national car brands etc). The focus, however, would NOT be on hypertargeting – the messages would not vary from reader to reader – instead they would be deeply integrated into the flow and design of the site itself – as content not as something isolated (and thus blocked) – but also always clearly disclosed (likely visually colored differently online). Probably pricing would be set initially at local free weekly rates and might approach local daily paper rates as distribution and reach grows.

That is the idea in a nutshell – lots of details to be worked out – from the technical to the rate settings but the above are the highlights. 

In terms of technology much of what i envision could be done via wordpress (or perhapd though I’m less of a fan via Drupal) with careful use of tags, categories, multiple authors, multimedia posts and a very clean design set of choices. A given batch of posts and content would then be collected and formatted for the print edition (perhaps rendered also as a PDF file for the archives as well). 

From a business standpoint the content producers (writers who might also create photos or video or photographers and/or videographers) would initially mostly likely be freelancers but paid at a fair and professional rate. A limited amount of expenses would also be covered (limited in part due to the geogrpahic focus – one reason this model might not work as well on a national or international scale) and ideally most writers would be covered by some group benefits and given press creditials (in both cases probably after meeting some writer’s union type set of requirements in those areas with writer’s unions). The editor(s) would probably be saleried and full time and would work with a range of writers – initially there might only be one editor – but as the range of topics and volume of content expands there would rapidly need to be multiple editors. A separate set of editors and salespeople would handle the commercial content and sales relationshiops. And likely there would be a small set of technical staff (some of whom might be on a contact basis to start) to handle the initial and ongoing web configuration as well as the preprint production work. 

My thinking also is that with the emphasis on telling great stories (non-fiction mostly though fiction stories would be a natural addition to this type of publication) some number of pieces written initially for this publication could have an additional life in other publications – via syndication or reprint/repurposing (This American Life for example). My initial thought would be that the writers would retain these rights (though the publication would have the right to keep the works online, probably freely available – though in some cases perhaps only for subscribers) and when the publication is the source of the additional sale (for example via syndication agreements) a portion of the syndication fees might flow back to the publication (though this would be based on the publication’s needs and the numbers involved – with the overall emphssis being on cultivating and supporting great writers and journalists. 

So what questions do I have / what I am seeking from readers who make it this far?

  1. What are professional rates for writers? (per article or per word, for reviews vs. for long form articles)
  2. What are fair rates for photography/video work? (note the goal here is not to use stock photography but to use photos which add to the story and are original to the author – see Monocle or FiveThirtyEight for two great examples)
  3. What would be likely sunk costs for such a venture (laptops, very very small office space, other fixed yearly costs)?
  4. What would be likely print costs per print run for each type of publication (Glossy color magazine, lower quality magazine sized publication, color newsprint publication) and at what printrun sizes do the per unit costs decrease? (i.e. what are the fixed and what are the variable and when do the lower considerably)
  5. What would be the likely distribution costs (mostly local mail, local non-mail distribution to individuals, mostly local distribution to businesses)
  6. Initially I’m thinking about this as a local (i.e. San Francisco/Bay Area venture) but am happy to see it in other cities and countries – what specific CA/Bay Area complications should I anticipate? (local Unions – though I want to be friendly to unions etc)
  7. What are some examples of magazines or newspapers which are adopting something akin to this already (especially in terms of good online integration of offline ads and an emphasis on long form, quality writing over quantity of writing via including pool/wire stories)

It should also be noted that what I am proposing is NOT a blog or indeed not very bloglike. Though it might use blog software as an underpinning, the idea here is to tell great stories – some of which may be very “small” others of which might be very pressing and important (investigative journalism) – but to do so with an emphasis on the quality of the writing vs the timeliness of posts.

Also and perhaps a more subtle point my thinking is that these publications would trade one tool of today’s journalists away (anonymous sources) in favor of only using deeply documented sources and providing those documents for public review and oversight. And yes, this means these publications might not be able to tell some stories initially (though via tools such as Freedom of Information Act requests and careful use of public spaces and rapid documentation this could be assuaged to a degree) I think the reliance on providing the sources directly would result in overall a very high quality of articles – and many attempts to say misquote someone would be addressed and resolved quickly.

I would also suggest that the publications be quick to address serious (or even relatively minor) complaints – such as about misquoting – and if articles are published online before they are published in a print edition (which would depend on the timing of the print edition – which would likely be weekly or monthly so articles likely would be published online first) major errors should be corrected before they are put in print. Using a wikilike publishing platform might make it very easy to show the history of any such changes (wikilike in that past editions would be viewable – but not wikilike in that people would not be able to edit posts)

So that is the idea – I welcome feedback and suggestions and I’m planning on pulling this into a formal proposal for the Knight Foundation by the Nov 1st deadline and perhaps also into a short business summary/pitch to select investors. I think some of these ideas could work for a new, greenfield publication OR could work for an existing publication looking to revamp.

Posted in advertising, digital bedouin, geeks, internet, networks, reading, reviews, San Francisco, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Mixing online & offline advertising – seeking examples

Posted by shannonclark on October 27, 2008

I have been following the move online of offline publications for over a decade (I’ve been on the Internet since 1991, went to my first websites via Gopher search) but something I have been wondering about since the mid-90’s and still almost never see is why so many publications who have offline publications (magazines or newspapers of any frequency) do not include their print advertisers as 1st level content in their online presenses.

And, in many cases have entirely different advertisers online vs. offline with little overlap and very limited even acknowledgement in the online presense of the offline advertisers at all.

Now there are 1000’s of publications around the world and I only read a few of them offline or online, so perhaps there are some great examples I have missed – please leave comments w/links to examples, especially those that do it very well.

And sure, I know there are objections from some that “ads” are not content (I’d argue that they most certainly are content) or that people would just ignore them online (though I’d ask if they have ever really be tested). To address the content question – there are entire magazines offline which are almost entirely based around the “content” of ads (the many highly profitable Vogue magazines for example) and other magazines such as The New Yorker where the ads make up a key part of the look and feel of the magazine (especially the small format ads) but in both cases the offline advertisers seem to have no part at all of the online presense.

I have been thinking about this as I have been looking at magazine and newspaper websites in preparation for thinking about a submission to the Knight Foundation’s $5M News Challenge (deadline is Nov 1st). Now I am at a slight disadvantage as many of the judges are friends of mine (so will have to recuse themselves while evaluating me) but I hope that the idea I have, whether I implement it or not may inspire many people to copy it in the future (it is geographically specific so I’m happy to see many people copy it in cities around the world – and even in the same cities as I think there is plenty of room for many).

But one part of my idea (among many) is to build relationships that extend from the online world to the offline aspects of my idea (which is not only online – it includes a print publication – working out the exact details) and not just the articles, reviews, calendar listings etc but also the content from the advertisers.

So as part of my research I’m looking for counterexamples, publications which are doing a good job of including their financial supporters (sponsors as well as more traditional advertisers) into all aspects of the publication – online and offline.

Posted in advertising, economics, geeks, networks, web2.0 | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Connectivity, Hackerspaces, and influential people

Posted by shannonclark on September 29, 2008

In the past few days a half-dozen or so of people I knew back in high school have connected with me via Facebook, as we have been catching up on nearly 20 years of our lives it is amazing both how much and how little has changed. In nearly all cases i immediately could recognize them from their posted photos and so far at least i haven’t been overly surprised by their choices of careers or educations. I suspect that via Facebook as it continues to grow I’ll reconnect with even more of my oldest friends.

On the front of making new friends I learned about a very cool new project here in San Francisco, Noisebridge which has just (as in earlier today) signed a lease on a commercial space here in San Francisco where they will be opening up an open HackerSpace for everyone to enjoy and use as a base from which to build and create amazing hacks. While I don’t know if I’ll be active enough to pay a large monthly fee to support the space, I plan on doing what I can to support them – and hopefully as a result may finally get around to doing far more hacking than I have of late. Including perhaps exploring how to hack my largish collections of conference schwag and old electronics into something more interesting and useful (or at least fun).

On a more serious note I hope to participate in more hackerish spaces and events to expand my personal network in still further directions. In the past few days I have been thinking a great deal about who I know, what I do with my friends (or more accurately don’t do) and what I really would like to be spending more time (and to the extent I have it money) on doing.

A few of the things that I realized I am not doing to the extent that I would really like, and to the extent that they are in fact important to me, is I have not been anywhere nearly as active in an arts and literary scene as I would like. I want to get out to art galleries and openings, start to the extent that I can afford it to collect art, to make more of my own (for example finally print my best photos of the past years). I want to attend live theater and other shows, go to even more literary events and readings and in short spend more time around others who share my tastes and cultural interests.

Sure, i am a geek and like technology, but I am a geek about many different fields. In high school besides all my honors science and math classes I took as many (perhaps more) honors history and english classes and I was an editor of the school literary magazine (which I’m proud to say won a national award that year for design). In college I did performance art, attended tons of live theater and shows, hung out in amazing art scene cafes and bookstores, wrote poetry and had a great time – and had friends with whom to share those interests and explorations. But in the past decade or so I have not had friends with whom to share my loves of art, design, poetry (of some forms), writing, theater and other arts.

My tastes are complex, I like certain types of literary writing – This American Life for example and related works of literary non-fiction. But I generally do not like the fiction of the New Yorker (read it each week hoping that I will like the story but rarely do) and though I feel I should, I haven’t every really gotten entirely into McSweeney’s though I love the physical design of each issue. Sure I’m a huge science fiction and fantasy fan, but I love many other genres and my own writing (and interest in writing) tends towards the fairly serious – if with more plot than most “mainstream” fiction.

In terms of art I tend to like certain types of design driven art – I prefer art that is physically pretty vs. art that is only confrontational. I have collected a lot of small works of art – art books for example, though I don’t yet have a good way to display them. If I had the money I would love to collect a lot of visual arts and perhaps select sculptures. At the highest end probably my favorite artist is Juan Miro. When I was in chicago I attended serious art fairs a few times each year – by serious I mean the types of fairs where you could have bought a large, original Juan Miro if you happened to have had a spare $1.5M or for less works by many living artists.

Also this week i am amused by the release of the BusinessWeek 25 Most Influential People on the Web a list on which I know nearly half of the members, have been to parties at some of their homes in fact. And even the people I don’t know personally, I know that in nearly every case friends of mine do, in fact, know them (and work for/have worked with/invested in them). A simple reminder of why I moved to the Bay Area.

This could be one of the most critical weeks in American (and world) history in terms of the financial markets, I plan on spending this week working on what I can do to weather the storm – how I can generate revenues for my advertising network and/or other revenue streams to support myself and projects i am working on in the potentially turbulent times ahead.

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, geeks, internet, networks, personal, San Francisco, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

What are you working for?

Posted by shannonclark on September 14, 2008

A great question which a friend asked me earlier this afternoon after a brunch where our conversation covered dozens of topics. He is a financial adviser and most of clients are from the tech and startup world.

What am I working for?

I have been thinking about this question for a while now, all summer in fact. Being an entrepreneur means a lot of things, not least of which are some lean and sometimes tough financial times as you are getting started but also great rewards (including finacial rewards) when you succeed.

I have a, relatively short, list of things I would buy if money were not an object. A related list of things I would do, events I would attend. But I have realized that other than also putting some money aside for my hoped for future family (which first likely requires dating and probably marrying the right woman) much of what I am working for, what I would want financial rewards for are to be able to then do stuff for others with those resources.

So first the basics a quick list for my own future reference – what I am working for, what I would do when finacial success starts to flow my way.

  • Buy a car. Not an impractical car, but also not a beat up car. My taste tends towards hatchbacks or coupes, probably something with some serious power and performance yet also with many luxury features and definitely an automatic (I both do not and do not want to learn how to drive stick). I have not had a car for nearly 4 years and prior to that I had owned a car for 4 years but only drove it 13,000 miles. However to really enjoy living in CA I probably need a car and for my planned use of one owning it is likely more suitable for me than a car share service (for one I hate having deadlines or restrictions on my flexibility – one of the great things about working for yourself is being in control of your time and movements)
  • Furnish my apartment fully. I have, alas, expensive tastes when it comes to furniture. I really like very modern, very clean lines in my furniture. Most likely when I have the money I will spend a great deal of it at Roomand Board which is almost without exception my design aesthetic
  • Update and maintain my wardrobe. I like quality and clean design in most things, including clothes. However though I have many great pieces of clothing I also have many other items which are worn (even worn out) and do not update my clothes all that often. I also have many items where I really only have one – one pair of glasses, one brown belt (and one black belt), only a handful of shoes, not many different pairs of pants etc. Here I have also learned that for my taste quality matters – I definitely feel and act differently when I am wearing clothes that fit me well, that are well made from high quality fabrics, than when I am in ill-fitting clothes of cheap fabrics.
  • Complete and maintain my Doctor Who collection. I am huge Doctor Who fan, but for about the past decade I have not been actively collection Doctor Who items and as a result there are vast numbers of books, original audio plays from Big Finish, comics and especially DVD’s which i have not collected. If I had the resources I would buy a great deal of these materials and subscribe to many others. In particular Big Finish does amazing work, when i have the money I’d buy most of their back catalog and subscribe the future shows, in no small part as a thank you to them for their great work and that of the actors.
  • Buy even more books in hardcover editions and subscribe to great magazines. I already do buy a lot of books each year (probably averaging over 200 books each year, perhaps more some years) but much of what I buy are used or paperbacks and there are many new hardcover books, even by authors I really like, which I do not end up purchasing. When I have more money I would buy more these (though I likely will have less time to read so this is as much about supporting authors I really like as it is about reading the books – though for my favorite authors I do usually eventually read the books as well). On the magazine front I subscribe to very few magazines at the moment, yet here too there are many which I would really like to have and read on a more regular basis, in many cases a subscription is likely even a net savings (since i end up buying magazines like Wired and Monocle on newsstands with some frequency)
  • When I eat out eat at more of the restaurants I really love. And treat myself to serious dining experiences such as French Laundry and various tasting menus on a regular basis. I am a foodie, yet much of the time in the past years I have eaten cheaply instead of well, certainly not all of the time but there are hundreds of places I have always wanted to try but which I have not for lack of funds.
  • Upgrade my kitchen tools and continue to cook and buy locally. My one indulgence, though truly not much of one, has been to usually buy locally and mostly from farmers’ markets. However my kitchen equipment in some areas is lacking (no food processor or electric mixer) and I do not keep my pantry and fridge as well stocked as I would like (and for that matter my fridge and stove are not very nice at the moment)
  • Invest in myself. On a basic (and immediate even if the rest of this list takes longer to get to) I need to invest in my own health. Lots of dentist visits, finding a primary care physician in San Francisco, having full and complete health insurance, keeping a good supply of asthma and allergy medicines, etc. This also means investing more in my own ongoing and continual education. I love to learn, yet it has been nearly a decade since I last took a formal class anywhere. I should be taking something nearly every year – a writing workshop, a class at a local university, something to keep myself sharp and to continue to push my mind in new directions. For that matter I would also like to strengthen my knowledge of French and perhaps to try to learn other languages (Spanish? Hebrew? Chinese? Japanese?)
  • Commit to and attend more of the events I want to attend. In the past decade while I have made it to a lot of amazing conferences and events in nearly every case I have done so by deciding to attend at nearly the last minute and I have missed many events I would have really enjoyed being at (and at many of the events I have attended because I decided to go at the last minute I have not gotten the full benefit from attending – not been listed as an attendee, haven’t set up as many meetings or figured out what talks I want to hear/people I want to see etc). My short list of events I would want to attend includes: TED, PopTech, SXSW (music as well as film and interactive), a serious film festival (probably Sundance), one or more serious writing conferences (both genre such as World Fantasy and perhaps a non-genre such as the New Yorker Festival) and there are many more. I don’t see much live music, don’t get to live theater or opera, and rarely attend festivals. I definitely want to do more of all of that (and even some occasional sporting events such as this year seeing a Cubs game, especially if they make it to the World Series). More than the actual cost of attending any of these events (many of which are really business investments or which I have in the past been able to minimize through my own tech involvement and writing) is the powerful impat of being able to plan for the future, of being able to commit money now for future activities – and not be overly concerned if I have to later change my plans (as will inevitably happen as an entrepreneur). For the past few years I have not felt confident in my future planning (and budgeting) to commit money too far in advance, this is a habit and mode of thinking I want to break.

As I noted i do not have particularly expensive tastes except in a few areas (furniture, food and clothing). I would probably also indulge myself in some modern electronics (an HDTV projector, some games consoles, etc) but even after all of that the actual cost of all of the items I mentioned above (assuming medical costs aren’t too insane) is in the grand scheme of things not actually all that high. Probably dipping towards six figures with all of the medical costs and conferences added, but only barely.

Long term I probably would want to buy a place here in the Bay Area and probably either rent or buy a place in New York, perhaps also somewhere in Europe (London or Paris most likely) and long term my fantasty is that I live a more fully bi (or including Europe tri) coastal lifestyle. But what I want more than the places is the flexibility of living in each city for extended periods of time – so creative renting might work well (or buying a place in one of the newer buildings that rent out your apartment as a hotel room when you aren’t using it).

Very long term I also want to own (or have a long term rent) on a venue where I can hold events, probably some retreat center like property, most likely in the midst of a large forest somewhere (likely near here in Northern California). Though I love living in large, vibrant cities, I am also a serious lover of forests – more so than coasts or open fields, a forest is where I feel most at peace and most comfortable. Someday I want to own my small (or not so small) piece of a forest and have a place I can retreat to from time to time, probably extremely well stocked with books, games and fireplaces. I can see myself buying a place as a mixture of a personal retreat and as a working retreat center, I love to run events, having a place where I could host them myself has a lot of appeal, especially if it had sufficient space and facilities for the types of events I most admire and want to have (this probably means space for up to a few hundred, perhaps as many as 400+ people). So this is long term – and with money and resources there are far cheaper options to having access to such spaces than buying them entirely myself.

So given that most of what I describe above would be well within my reach if I were to go to work for someone else – my skills, experience and contacts are such that I would likely command a quite decent salary even by Silicon Valley standards – why am I working towards the possibility of much greater rewards (with all the stresses and risks associated with that)?

This was the full question my friend posed me earlier today, given that for the most part my tastes do not run too high, that I don’t really have much need on a personal level (or for that matter the desire to spend), why am I working so hard (if sometimes it feels not yet hard enough) towards really high rewards? Why didn’t I (or why don’t I) take the seemingly easier route of taking a job working for someone else?

The short answer is I do have a lot I want to do with great resources – but most of it is not personally directed. There are dozens of organizations I want to make a serious financial (and other) support towards. At some point in my future I also see making direct investments (or indirectly as a limited partner), especially in the types of businesses I think can have a really deep and lasting impact locally and on the world. I want to offer finacial support to politicians I believe in (Obama for starters). I run MeshForum as a non-profit for many reasons, not least of which is philosophical I have a mission with MeshForum which is not to make money directly but rather to help spark and support innovation and new ways of thinking about deep and complex problems – in the case of MeshForum around the area of the interdisciplinary study of Networks – and informing different fields and businsesses which are network related with the techniques and approaches of other fields. The conferneces I hold and will hold help here, making the content available widely also helps, but there is much more I could do. In the future I want to directly support lots of research efforts, especially around making richer datasets available to researchers and around supporting truly interdisciplinary scholors.

My passion is around learning and around having a large impact on the world. One way i want to do this is building a large, sustainable (in all senses of the word) business – a truly global business which has a large impact. I then want to leverage that business and the resources it makes available to me towards supporting great work and research – especially research that crosses disciplines and very much the basic research that is not as supported today inside or outside of academia.

So that is why I work, in a small way for the personal comforts it will bring me in the future, for the support it will offer my future family, but mostly I work to get the resources to have a huge impact on the world, to support the many people I know (and will know) who are doing great things and to help support and spark new innovations that can continue to have great changes in the world in the future.

Why do you work? What are you seeking from your efforts?

Posted in Entrepreneurship, meshforum, networks, personal, politics, reading, San Francisco, working | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My Yahoo HackDay Hack – building a personal identity hub part 1

Posted by shannonclark on September 14, 2008

A few weeks ago I finally, after nearly a decade of trying, purchased my name domain ShannonClark.com. At the Yahoo! Open Hackday this weekend I spent my time figuring out some ways to turn ShannonClark.com into my personal identity hub on the Internet.

My long term goal for the site is that it will contain much of what I do online as well as show who is linking to or using my content elsehwere across the web. Ideally I want to do this without updating or directly maintaining the site, instead i want content to flow into ShannonClark.com from all over the web in an automated (yet when needed moderated) manner.

I have many, probably too many, blogs which I maintain as well as a collection of blogs or bloglike sites which I do not maintain. Some are blogs which I started but have not posted to in a long time, others are my active blogs, and a few are the blogging sections of various social networks to which I belong which I do not utilize with great frequency. I am also active on dozens of online services and tools from Twitter to Facebook to countless other sites and services.

So my task this past weekend was to figure out how to start pulling together all this content I create, while ideally also capturing other people’s use of that content, all while avoiding claiming anything as my content (or my usage) which was not, in fact, me. After all the reason I did not have shannonclark.com for the past decade plus was that another person (a woman specifically) who is also named Shannon Clark had registered the domain first, though luckily for me she had never used the site and earlier this year allowed it to expire without renewing the domain.

I started by installing the latest version of WordPress on my domain which I am hosting on Bluehost.com. This was easily done with the web management panel provided by Bluehost along with the automatic updates plugin I installed which then makes the process of updating wordpress to the latest version quite simple and fast.

With the latest version of wordpress installed I then set about customizing my installation. First I installed a set of core plugins which I run on most of my other wordpress blogs – wordpress stats, askimet to capture spam comments. I then also selected a variety of themes which include support for the latest wordpress features as well as widgets and started to play with a variety of looks for the new blog. The current theme I have selected may change as I continue to update and modify the site.

In looking over the wordpress plugins I looked for a way to consolidate a bunch of my blog posts via displaying or using the full text RSS feeds I generate from all of my blogs. I found a number of possible solutions as wordpress plugins, for the hackday I selected on that looked promising and installed it. I may revisit the one I selected and both look at alternatives or try to correct some small bugs I have found with this particular plugin (bugs which I hope will be fixed in a future update, I think they are some form of AJAX related overlap in functionality or naming as the plugin causes problems with wordpress’ admin features).

But my problem now was how to feed my various RSS feeds into new site in a way that managed to maintain the correct time order of my posts and which would be maintained into the future in an automated fashion.

My solution for this was to take the four key blogs (though I likely will add additional blogs in the future) into a special Yahoo! Pipe I set up. My first pass at this resulted in output that instead of showing all of my posts in full text and formatting only showed a short excerpt of each post. To make this work as I intended my Pipe had to join the blog feeds together, sort them, and then modify the elements to move the full text of my posts into the field which was storing only the excerpts.

Using this pipe’s output as an RSS i then fed it into the plugin I installed to syndicate content. The result of this plugin is that a bit over forty of my past posts across the four blogs were syndicated as full text posts, with titles and other internal links linking back to the original source blogs and comments on the new site turned off. And the plugin will monitor my blogs on an hourly basis and syndicate any new posts (such as this very post) as they are posted. I set this timeframe to an hour to minimize load on my blogs (the default was 10 minutes). Over time I’ll play with this configuration to determine what works best.

In the next posts on this topic I’ll explain what I did to create a page that displays my activities across the web (and some future experiments I’m looking into for alternative approaches to this challenge), my start of tools to track usage of my content across the web, and my plans for the “about Shannon Clark” section(s) of the website as well as additional areas and features I may decide to build out in the future.

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, internet, meshforum, meshwalk, networks, personal, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

How we are social (or not)

Posted by shannonclark on August 17, 2008

Lost in the flurry of passion for “Social Networks” and more broadly in our cultures can be the fact that people interact with each other very differently. We have many different ways of being social (or not).

Most broadly psychologists divide people into introverts and extroverts or more accurately into falling somewhere along the continuum between the two traits. However culturally here in the US there is a massive bias towards extroverism – being the “life of the party”, being socially active, partying on the weekends (and while in college) and in short getting outside of your home, hanging out with groups of people and being able to make new friends. That behavior is reinforced and rewarded significantly.

Even online, where you might think introverts would be more comfortable a lot of social networks focus on extroverted behaviors and rewards. Call this the “friend gap” as many have recently – but nearly all social networks and socially enabled software show a massive change when you have a lot of frieds versus when you have few or no friends on the system. Being very social, therefore, is rewarded with lots of built-in rewards.

When you post something and have a lot of followers – whether on your own blog, to a microbloging tool like Twitter, or as an update inside of a social network like Facebook, if you have a lot of friends you have a much higher chance of getting a response and thus feedback – and with more feedback you generally get more feedback (i.e. people start to Digg it, other people who follow your friends notice their activity on your posts etc).

If you are extroverted and crave social attention then these tools can be quite wonderful – leveraging yourself to potentially larger social circles than you could keep up with without the tools (Robert Scoble for example probably couldn’t talk to 20,000 people every day but can follow that many on twitter).

Introverts, however, gain energy from focusing inward, they can engage outward but it can be overwheling and energy draining. The effort to gather up enough social contacts on a given service to get over the “friend gap” can be insurmountable. And since every outward effort can be somewhat draining keeping up the volume of activity in the face of the frequent lack of any response can be even more draining though for some the personal rewards (from writing a blog post and getting your own thoughts down) may be sufficient.

And then there are people like myself. I fall fairly squarely in the middle of the continuum – nothing is well suited for people like me – and we confound the expectations of society and others. In some contexts I am very extroverted – I talk to everyone, am the center of attention and gain energy from the presense of others. But this is not in all cases – and I also gain energy from time by myself, afternoons such as today when I spent most of the day on a 6+ mile walk by myself through San Francisco, listening to my iPod and thinking inwardly.

Society – and the current batches of “social” networks – are at times difficult places for people like me. I may have 100’s of twitter followers, thousands of contacts and hundreds of connections on many social networks. But at the same time how I enage with both people in person and within the context of these services is at times variable (contextual) and is not how extroverts approach the world – nor is it entirely how introverts do either.

I’ll follow up this post with further thoughts and discussion but I’m hoping it may spark others to think about this.

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, internet, networks, personal, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »