Entries for April 2002 (May 2002 »    June 2002 »    July 2002 »    Archives)


Sick of the Web

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 30, 2002

Note to self (so that I'll remember this feeling when it's gone): I'm finding it harder and harder to get back into the Web when I'm away from it for long periods of time. It's not that I was on vacation, stomping about in the beautiful Alaskan wilderness. I thought it was that at first, but it's not. It's something else, but I don't know what exactly. I'm sure I'll forget all about it in a few hours when the digital crack starts taking hold.

Postmodernism, Writ Small

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 29, 2002

Postmodernism, Writ Small is a brief history of the Post-It Note: "Until Fry took an interest in Silver's adhesive, it was considered a failure rather than an invention. As far as anyone in 3M's marketing department knew, there was no great consumer demand for lousy tape. But for Fry's purposes, this new kind of adhesive was perfect. It would allow him to create a bookmark that would stay fixed to a page, but also be easily removable."

Punchdrunk Knuckle Love

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 28, 2002

I've been hearing about this for months, but it's apparently true that PT Anderson is making a film with Adam Sandler. It's called Punchdrunk Knuckle Love and also stars Emily Watson as well as PTA regulars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Luis Guzman.

The Jailhouse Inn

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 28, 2002

The Jailhouse Inn lets guests spend a night (or more) in a jail cell.

Crappy DVD covers

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 28, 2002

A collection of crappy DVD covers. The half-face ones & the rip-offs are my favorites. It's no wonder that there are faces on so many of the covers...good design doesn't sell DVDs, celebrities sell DVDs. (via scrbbls)

Bees! Bees in my hair! Aieee!

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 27, 2002

You know how after you poke a hornet's nest with a stick and all the hornets come streaming out and they are all buzzing around pissed off and they sting you with their stingers but it's not really their fault because they're hornets and that's all hornets know how to do even though all you would like is for them to stop stinging you and go back into their nest? Yeah, that.

Dangerous Segways

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 26, 2002

This article on the acceptance of Segways for sidewalk use prompted an interesting response from one of Romenesko's readers (scroll down a bit to read the whole thing):

"At 6 m.p.h., a 140-pound jogging Oprah will collide with our stationary pedestrian with a force of (in metric equivalents) 65.3kg x 2.68 meters/sec. = 175 Newtons (omitting a few minor principles that I'll keep constant across all examples). The same collision between our 160 lb. Commander in Chief at 8.5 mph would result in a force of 72.5kg x 3.77 meters/sec. = 273 Newtons, an increase of about 33%, which just goes to show how forces multiply quickly when speed or mass increases slightly."

"Now, let's say skinny Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, weighing in at a nice even 150 lbs. crashes into you on his 80 lb. Segway at a cruising speed of 12 mph, near the top of Segway's range, but certainly below its stated maximum of 12.5 mph. You'll be picking broken teeth out of the sidewalk after absorbing a whopping 104.3 kg x 5.3 meters/sec = 552 Newtons of force! That's the equivalent of being trampled by a herd of three jogging Oprahs, each of whom is carrying a 3 lb. ham!"

A herd of jogging Oprahs carrying hams? Now that's science!

Snailmail from the 21st Century

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 25, 2002

What the Net might look like in the overregulated next millennium: Snailmail from the 21st Century. As inaccurate as most gazing-into-the-future is (just read some old entries on kottke.org for proof), Mark did a pretty good job with this one from May 1997.

No "the Force is not with you" joke?

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 24, 2002

Fun 404 page on starwars.com.

Off to Alaska

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 24, 2002

I'm off to Alaska for a few days to speak at the Our Workforce — Our Future Symposium and enjoy the state's natural wonders. Alaska is one of the 6 U.S. states I have not yet visited, so I'm excited to see what's it's like. I've got the Kottke Updating Bot switched on, so there should be some new posts for you to read while I'm gone.

MeFi offline

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 23, 2002

In case you're wondering, the T1 line that provides bandwidth for MetaFilter, Megnut, A Whole Lotta Nothing, and Q Daily News has been down for the last day and a half. No word on when it will be back. If that didn't make any sense to you, feel free to ignore it. Update: the T1 is back up...read all about it.

On writing

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 23, 2002

"If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent, whatever that is. Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me if I do? You're a human being, with a unique story to tell, and you have every right. If you speak with passion, many of us will listen. We need stories to live, all of us. We live by story. Yours enlarges the circle." — Richard Rhodes, How to Write

Ads as content

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 22, 2002

Advertising as something other than advertising (a non-exhaustive list): historic 1950s-era advertisement for Shasta Cola, AdCritic to charge for looking at TV ads, movie trailers as entertainment, vintage television commercials collected for entertainment and historic purposes, the Smithsonian has a set of Burma Shave signs. With apologies to Arthur Clarke, perhaps the sign of any sufficiently advanced society is its ability to make advertising indistinguishable from traditionally-accepted forms of creative output.

Hole in one!

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 22, 2002

I'm not going to comment on the decision to kiss the unfortunately-shaped trophy in this photo, but you can if you'd like.

Mirrored mirror shots

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 21, 2002

This mirror shot by Alison reminded me of a shot I took in Berlin at the Camper store. (Hmm...the Web site has been redesigned recently...)

kaliber10000 relaunch

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 19, 2002

Rumor has it that kaliber10000 is relaunching tomorrow after an absence of several months. I'll believe when I see it...but I do hope that I see it. I'm anxious to see how they've reinvented themselves and if the site will still be as relevant to the online design community as it once was.

Abercrombie: what's wong with that?

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 19, 2002

Abercrombie & Fitch has pulled some offensive clothes from their store shelves. A few of the shirts in question can be found for sale on eBay, with this "Wong Brothers Laundry Service" tshirt currently fetching $128.

Privacy projects map

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 19, 2002

A metamap of surveillance and privacy, a cartographic depiction of various global efforts and resources related to "surveillance, privacy, free speech and open infrastructure projects". A good resource presented with great information design.

Civil war

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 19, 2002

What would happen if you split MeFi into two "teams", each a community of its own?

Google API

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 18, 2002

I've been messing around with Google's API this afternoon. After installing the proper modules on my system, I finally came up with this rudimentary example:

Google limits developers to 1000 queries per day, so I'm only updating these results every four hours. Thanks to Matt for his Perl demo script.

Different Google databases?

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 18, 2002

I was looking at the What's Related list in Rael's right sidebar and noticed that both kottke.org and Megnut are listed using old titles. I changed mine slightly a couple weeks ago, and Meg modified hers a week ago. Is Google using old data for its API? Update: No, they aren't. They seem to use older data for their "similar pages" searches: pages similar to www.oreillynet.com/~rael/.

Ice tea and masturbation

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 18, 2002

Andre's L.A. Story: "My favorite memory from this place is that we had a police scanner and we'd listen to the building maintenance guy talk to his girlfriend on his cordless phone. He'd call her around 5 in the afternoon and say, 'I'm watching some porn, masturbating, and drinking some iced tea.' Every time he'd come over to fix something I would, in front of my roommate, offer the guy a glass of iced tea even though we never had iced tea. He'd always decline and my roommate would have to run to his room to laugh into his pillow."

Brain Candy on DVD

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 18, 2002

Woo! Brain Candy is finally coming out on DVD! Oh, and Charlie's Angels is a really fun movie.

War and blogs, what are they good for?

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 17, 2002

There's a warblogging book coming out.** No, that isn't a link to a story at The Onion...it's really happening. In all fairness, a collection of online writings about the events of September 11th with the proceeds going to charity sounds like a decent idea. It's interesting, possibly important, and it's doing some good. What I find curious is the agenda attached to it: "Let us crush the apologist/root-cause-spewing/Western-civilization-hating/lefty-fascist essayists with blogger logic and righteous indignation. This is a mission."

So, what are the choices here? Either a) everyone with a weblog is a hawkish right-wing Westerner; b) only those webloggers who are hawkish right-wing Westerners can submit something for consideration; or c) I'm not getting a joke here. What seems like an opportunity to take a balanced, accurate snapshot of what people all across the Web were writing online at the time of the events of 9/11 has somehow turned into us vs them. Isn't there enough us vs them going around these days? How about letting everyone play...or at least make folks who may not be right-wing or pro-West feel welcome to contribute?

Related topic: what the hell are the warbloggers going to talk about when the "war" is over? There will still be political issues and current events to yammer on about, but they seem to have a lot invested in that name. Maybe they could all turn their sites into a big online book club that only discusses H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds.

** I sincerely apologize for the weblog-related posts of the last two days...there are probably about 3 people out there who could give a shit. I promise that tomorrow I will return to posting about more important things like what I ate for breakfast, how freelancing sucks, my continuing battle with the shower, and how deeply I have been injured by the repeated disparagement of my personality (or lack thereof). Wait, that's no good either...

Blog Nation article lacking

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 16, 2002

I got "pitched" this morning. At least, that's what I think it's called...I'm not too up on PR speak these days. A woman from Business 2.0's PR company sent me an email pointing to this article on weblogs on her client's Web site in the hopes that I would link to it. Mission accomplished.

Now for the good part (or bad part, depending on your perspective). The article isn't that good. It starts out by talking about weblogs as the "blinking neurons of an emerging, chatterbox superbrain" and ends with a mention of the weblog collective (running the now-standard blog/Borg joke). Given that and the title of the piece (Blog Nation), you'd think that there would be an interesting story in the middle about the network of weblogs: why it's interesting, why it's annoying, what it's good for, what it's bad for, are people doing things with it that haven't been done before, is it significant, etc. etc.

Instead, Wolcott gives readers the impression that the only thing worth checking out in this blog nation are the "superstar" warbloggers talking about the "war" and politics. Contrary to what the article says implies, "warblogging" (two of my least favorite words, together at last!) is a recent invention and not representative of weblogs as a whole.

Near the end of the article, he even laments that what's missing are "blogs dedicated to cultural pursuits written with the same enthusiastic, hobbyhorse zeal as the breaking-news blogs". The funny thing is that if you break the habit of only reading the sites listed in Instapundit's sidebar, you'll find that there are *tons* of weblogs out there doing just that. Granted, many of them are about technology and Web design, but there are more and more on music and movies and television and theatre and cars and sewing and parenting and cooking and eating and and and! And the majority of weblogs aren't even focused at all...they just talk about whatever strikes their fancy. A more interesting point to make here is how weblogs on specific topics are hard to find unless the weblogs writer is already some sort of known journalist (i.e. the network is huge and therefore valuable, but it's largely useless without tools to get people to the information they are looking for).

Anyway, I should come up with some sort of snappy summary here, but I've got 50 billion things to do...and unlike Mr. Wolcott, I don't have to write a thorough, accurate article because this is just a weblog. So nyah.

Nick writes in about the article discussed above, calling it fourth wave journalism. Heh.

Getting excited about Web services

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 15, 2002

Web services is the latest buzzword that promises the change the way we ___[fill in the blank]___. Since the last buzzword that lived up to its hype was "World Wide Web", I'm naturally a little skeptical. But I admit that Web services makes me feel just a little bit tingly. Google recently released an XML-based API that allows people to access their search results without a browser. Amazon is letting participants in their Associates program use an XML API to access product information.

So what can you do with all this? How about using Amazon's API** and some XML-formatted data from weblogs.com to build a list of the most linked books on the Web (more info)? And you know what the best part is? You can use BookWatch's RSS document and Google's API to add the most recent search results for each of the books on the list, which is useful because Google searches for book titles and authors often yield links to authors' Web sites, sample chapters, and reviews.

The biggest challenge for companies offering Web services will be how to make money with them. Free and unlimited Web services would suit developers best, result in fast adoption and defacto standardization for those offering the services, and promote an explosion of innovation. But as we saw with the Web, a free product, no matter how many people are using it, doesn't necessarily translate into revenue down the road. Plus it conveys a false sense to Web users that everything online must be free, which is ultimately self-defeating for everyone trying to do business on the Web.

It's nice to see that Google and Amazon are on the right track. Google is betting that a free teaser of their API (only 1000 searches/day currently allowed) will demonstrate to developers the power of Google in their applications and hope that they upgrade to a more industrial strength version (at least, that's what they should be thinking). Amazon is limiting the use of their API to their Associates for the purpose of driving traffic back to Amazon and (hopefully) increasing sales.

** Note: I'm pretty sure that Paul didn't use Amazon's API to get the book information from them because I don't think they offer that capability yet (although they say that they are going to). I think he just screen scraped the info. Paul?

kottke.org: bigger than Jesus

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 14, 2002

The latest issue of Shift magazine contains a letter to the editor about the 100 Sites We Love feature they ran a few months ago. Travis Nolastname, if you're out there, I'm flattered that I rank right up there with The Onion and the Holy Bible in your estimation. Kottke.org: Bigger Than Jesus. You heard it here first, folks. (thx to Jish for the photo)

"People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of character." — Ralph Waldo Emerson

Polaroid Digital Printers

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 14, 2002

Amazon still has some of these Polaroid Digital Printers available for $50 (only $30 after mail-in rebate).

Donnie Darko

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 14, 2002

Donnie Darko is one of those movies that slips through the cracks at the box office because it doesn't have big explosions, Martin Lawrence in drag, or hot Hollywood teens trying to play normal kids. It's just a solid movie that's entertaining (but maybe a little undisciplined in places) and doesn't talk down to the audience at all.

Correction: Donnie Darko didn't slip through the cracks at the box office...it couldn't even find space there. It only opened on 58 screens nationwide. (thx josh)

Wired article on weblogs by Andrew Sullivan

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 13, 2002

I'm surprised no one has yet found and commented on this article from Wired on weblogs by Andrew Sullivan (along with the associated sidebar on Power Bloggers). Normally webloggers are all over this stuff like Oprah on a baked ham.

Wired magazine ticking up

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 13, 2002

Jason is right, Wired magazine has been getting better in the past few months. Or at least it's getting better for me and what I'm interested in. The credit goes to Chris Anderson, the new editor-in-chief. The most recent issues have been filled with great stuff from great writers, and it's focused & well-designed without going overboard (like the Wired of old sometimes used to do). I'm anxious to see if the redesign continues the improvement.

A disappointment of mine about Wired is their lack of involvement on the Web. Since selling off all their Web properties to Terra Lycos, all they've done on the Web is put their back issues up on their Web site (although the entire current issue is online now...I wonder if that's a new trend?). They don't need a full-blown effort like HotWired again, but they need to be connecting with the growing population of folks who are creating and living a wired culture on the Web.

This is not a store

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 13, 2002

This is not a store. You can't buy tshirts, mugs, or mousepads there. (via notablog)

Some sort of temporal loop

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 13, 2002

The world seems as though it's caught in a Star Trek episode, where time is looping over and over again onto itself, and there's nothing the Enterprise crew can do to avoid being trapped in the loop forever. Every time I visit a news site or look on the front page of a newspaper, I see that a suicide bomber has blown themselves and several innocent bystanders up, Israel has captured such and such a city, peace efforts are thwarted by stubborness and hatred, and business & gov't are colluding to limit the rights of the individual. Captain, we need to reverse the polarity on the deflector dish, point the particle stream at that temporal anomaly, and get us the hell out of this situation.

TurboTax: best Web application ever

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 13, 2002

put your illegal kickbacks elsewhereBest Web application ever: TurboTax for the Web. If you do your own taxes, TurboTax is worth the $40 (deductible!)...no paper forms to fill out and it earns its fee by suggesting tax-saving strategies. Plus, the documentation is often amusing. In this case, it left me wondering about the proper place to put my illegal kickbacks amount.

Music video formation

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 11, 2002

From now on, I'm walking everywhere in music video formation.

SF Station's Literary Arts Events Calendar

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 11, 2002

If you're in the Bay Area, SF Station's Literary Arts Events Calendar is an indispensible resource, listing tons of talks and readings to check out each month. Through the magic of technology, you can even have the calendar emailed to you twice a month. (p.s. Dave Eggers on Mon)

Kevin Kelly and Stewart Brand on the Long Now

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 11, 2002

I went to see Kevin Kelly and Stewart Brand speak at the Commonwealth Club last night. They talked about their new endeavor, the Long Bets Foundation, which provides a "public arena for enjoyably competitive predictions, of interest to society, with philanthropic money at stake". Accountability and continuity are the keys here, two things largely missing from society these days, especially when you look online.

Overall, I'm a big fan of the Long Now projects that Kelly and Brand are involved with (like the 10,000 Year Clock, the Rosetta Project, and the All Species Foundation). Getting people thinking about these long term projects might help stimulate new thinking and perspectives about some long term projects we're already involved with (raising a family, building cities, living a lifetime, building societies).

Joining the EFF

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 10, 2002

It wasn't as much as I had hoped, but I just donated $150 (proceeds from my Q1 Amazon Associates revenues) to the EFF because, well, they need it to combat stuff like this, this, and this. When I get myself a full-time job again, I'm going to start donating to them on a more regular basis because I believe that the EFF is doing necessary fundamental work, not just for folks in "cyberspace", but for everybody that comes into contact with technology (and who isn't included in that group these days?).

America: Land of the Lawsuit

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 09, 2002

I want to write about this lawsuit, but I can't seem to organize and articulate my thoughts about it. On the one hand, the entire airline industry (and indeed, the entire US) has been lax about security over the past couple decades. On the other hand, these types of lawsuits make me *so angry* because many Americans are of the belief that when life hands you lemons, you sue the ever-living shit out of the person or company that will yield the most money, regardless of who is at fault. Some years ago, I worked with a woman who told me "I can't wait to sue someone and get my money". I wanted to fucking strangle her until I realized I'd just be fulfilling her dream.

ceci n'est pas une weblog

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 09, 2002

Question of the day: does calling something "not a weblog", even though it is a weblog, make it not a weblog?

"When to close" and other fascinating tales of punctuation

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 09, 2002

I've never liked putting closing punctuation inside quotation marks. It always seemed a little wrong to me, especially when quoting someone else (e.g. Sally said "that's interesting". rather than Sally said "that's interesting.") because the original quote often doesn't contain that punctuation. Turns out that it's not an uncorrect way to do it...in some limited cases. So I'm still doing it wrong, but a little less wrong than I previously thought. (via glfstrm)

Walter Miller's Homepage

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 08, 2002

Blast from the past: Walter Miller's Home page. Walter was a favorite at Suck a few years back. There was some speculation that Carl or one of the other Sucksters made up the Walter character, but I'm not sure if the matter was ever settled or not.

Waiting for Tolkien

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 08, 2002

It's a little embarrassing how excited I am about seeing the next Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers (trailer here). Totally geeked-out, fanboy excited. I read the books again over the past two months or so (including The Hobbit) and saw The Fellowship of the Ring for the third time. It's just such a wonderful story...I can't wait to see how the next two installments of the movie turn out.

Don't Mourn For Us

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 06, 2002

Don't Mourn For Us: "Parents often report that learning their child is autistic was the most traumatic thing that ever happened to them. Non-autistic people see autism as a great tragedy, and parents experience continuing disappointment and grief at all stages of the child's and family's life cycle. But this grief does not stem from the child's autism in itself. It is grief over the loss of the normal child the parents had hoped and expected to have."

I have humor floss

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 06, 2002

If I ever write a book or a screenplay that calls for a great line from a dentist, I've got one all ready to go. The dentist looks the patient right in the eye and says dramatically, "dental floss or you'll have dental flaws".

ThreeRing Internet Mapping Project

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 05, 2002

Ok, two. Help fill in the map at the ThreeRing Internet Mapping Project by adding the following HTML code to your Web site: (update: the site is down temporarily due to massive popularity...check back in a couple days)


posted by Jason Kottke Apr 05, 2002

Ok, maybe just one: Oddpost, indubitably the most astounding Web-based email application on Earth (IE5+ only). The FAQ is better reading than most weblogs (not yours, of course).

One of those days

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 05, 2002

Today is one of those days. No, not one of those days, one of those good days for finding neat and interesting things on the Web. So much to link to and discuss. But it'll have to wait. I'm going to set up my new printer instead (update: success!).

The continuing Greg Knauss roadshow

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 04, 2002

Greg is still traipsing about the Web plugging his book. BTW Greg, where's that free book you said you were going to send me? My toilet time is being wasted! If I have to stare at the wall for one more second while I'm on the can, I'm gonna have to buy a book of Far Side cartoons. You don't want that, do you Greg? Do you?!?

Cheap Polaroid Digital Printer

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 04, 2002

This Polaroid Digital Printer looks like a great deal at $50...and a really great deal at just $30 after rebate.

Clay Shirky on Communities, Audiences, and Scale

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 04, 2002

"Prior to the internet, the I-thou quality of mass media could be ascribed to technical limits — TV had a one-way relationship to its audience because TV was a one-way medium. The growth of two-way media, however, shows that the audience pattern re-establishes itself in one way or another." So says Clay Shirky in his latest essay, Communities, Audiences, and Scale, and I think he's on to something fundamental here.

At the same time, I do think there's a middle ground that is quite useful as well, with small communities of people communicating with each other, not one-to-many or even many-to-many in the traditional sense (many individuals interacting with each other), but group-to-group. Groups don't communicate with each other nearly as effectively as individuals do, but having those larger nodes can help stimulate keeping people in contact with each other while handling broadcast duties as well.

Talking about Cooking with Bigfoot with G. Beato

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 03, 2002

It's been awhile since I did a mini interview for this site, so here we go.

G. Beato, who Web veterans might remember from Soundbitten, Suck, and a bunch of other places, has been busy recently with Cooking with Bigfoot, an online, animated cooking show featuring "an aggressively bisexual, substance-abusing Sasquatch". Mr. Beato shares his thoughts about the business of indie Web media with us. (It's a long answer to a short question, but it's worth the read.)

Q: What's the thinking behind selling subscriptions for Cooking with Bigfoot, besides the obvious riches involved?

A: When I first decided to create CWB almost a year ago, I knew that if I wanted to do it on an ongoing basis I'd have to figure out a way to make some money doing it, because the shows actually do cost money to create: I pay an animator, I pay the voice talent, etc.

Initially, my plan was to license episodes to other sites. Advertisers were getting increasingly frustrated with the limitations of banner ads — they wanted bigger ads, they wanted ads that moved, they basically wanted TV commercials on the web. But as sites like NYTimes.com and WSJ.com now prove on a daily basis, TV-commercial-style ads plunked down in the middle of newspaper-style sites are really annoying — reading is not the same activity as viewing, so when you go to a site to read, it's frustrating when the ads there are designed to be viewed...

But if you insert a 10-second TV-commercial-style ad at the beginning or end of a 3-minute Flash cartoon, it makes a lot more sense. So I figured I could license episodes to sites that wanted to offer a better context for rich-media ads to advertisers, but didn't actually want to incur the costs of producing their own series. I used to write scripts for one company that was already doing this, but they were targeting portals and other fairly large sites: my idea was to make the licensing fees low enough so that any kind of website could afford them: alt.weeklys, radio stations, portals, etc.

As I began to implement this plan, however, a few things began to sink in: (1) Selling this concept would be a full-time job in itself, (2) Even if I targeted sites where the standards for content were a little more flexible than a daily newspaper, I still had to worry about keeping the show "advertiser-friendly", and (3) in order to convince anyone that I could deliver X number of episodes on a weekly/biweekly basis, I would probably actually have to do that for 6 months or so, and I didn't have the money to do that.

Since I really created CWB mainly because I wanted the freedom to write an online animation series exactly how I wanted to write it (I had been writing scripts for a bunch of other online series before that...), I ultimately decided that instead of trying to sell the show to advertisers, it'd be a whole lot simpler just to try to sell it directly to viewers.

Of course, it's not as if trying to convince people on the Web to pay for cartoons is simple, but at least this way I can write the show I want to write and not worry about whether or not the marketing director at Sprite will consider a show starring an aggressively bisexual, substance-abusing Sasquatch a good place to sell soda...

Also, I really do think there's a larger issue at stake here, and that's the future of independent content on the web, and the varieties of content that the web will support. While there has been a lot of debate about whether web content should be free or paid or sponsored by advertising, I think an important point has largely been overlooked — and that is that an environment where the majority of content is free or sponsored by advertisers ultimately favors corporate-created content.

On the one hand, this seems counterintuitive — after all, if content is free, then business models don't exist, and neither do businesses. And, indeed, when lots of dot-coms started crashing because they couldn't figure out a business model, many people rejoiced and said, "Good! The web's going back into the hands of the people, where it belongs! People who create content for the love of it, not because they want to make fast IPO millions."

But while there are now hundreds of thousands of independently produced blogs thriving on the web these days, how much *other kinds* independent content is being produced? Obviously, sites like MP3.com distribute a lot of independent music, and various other sites (ifilm.com, newgrounds.com, animationexpress.com) aggregate a lot of independent animation and video. But all of that stuff is mostly one-offs — i.e. a film-school student does a short and posts it on ifilm. A couple years ago, there were at least a couple hundred ongoing online animation series, because corporations were subsidizing their production. Now, there's probably only dozens of regularly updated series like Cooking With Bigfoot, because it simply costs too much to do without some form of revenue or subsidy. (Similarly, there are very few independent news-oriented sites that do actual reporting on a regular basis, with Salon.com being probably the most notable example).

So the ultimate irony is this: while the Web has huge potential to distribute off-beat, unconventional, non-common-denominator media that traditional corporate media channels will never touch (i.e., the kind of content often favored by people who believe that web content should be free and corporate media sucks), it won't really be effective at doing that unless viewers/readers/users support that content in a direct financial way. But if content remains free or ad-sponsored, then the corporate colonization of the Web that has characterized these last few years will likely continue. (Currently, 60% of all web usage occurs on sites created by AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, and about one dozen other corporations.) And so we'll have a web of a million weblogs talking about the content created by a dozen corporations.

Traditionally, the two mediums that have the worst reputations for bad content are TV and radio — the two mediums where the content is mostly free (and mostly controlled by large corporate interests.) So, really, the best way to ensure that the web doesn't turn into TV or radio is for users to start paying independent content creators directly. And while it's clear that one of the things people like best about the web is that everything is free, the practicing of supporting content creation directly has its good points too. For example, when a TV network decides to cancel a show, there's nothing you can really do about it except write a letter and hope that the network listens — but on the web fans will actually be able to make or break shows based on their support, and because the costs are so much lower, it will only take a relatively small number of fans to wield that kind of power. Take Cooking With Bigfoot — if I can attract 1000 subscribers, the show will survive (albeit just barely). If I can attract 3000 viewers, I'll be able to create around 20 - 24 episodes a year. If I get over 10,000, it'll go weekly, the episodes will get more complex, etc. In other words, each subscriber really has a stake in the show/site and can help make it better, and if enough people subscribe, they'll eventually be able to see the impact of their collective support. To Disney or AOL Time Warner or News Corp. of course, an audience of 10,000 is fairly meaningless, but to an independent content creator on the web, an audience of 10,000 can be really powerful — and they can increase their power dramatically just by spending a few bucks here and there to support the content they like. So, ultimately, that's what I'm hoping to tap into... ::end

What do you think?

BTW, I'm participating in Cooking with Bigfoot's affiliate program. If you have a Web site and are interested in supporting Greg's efforts while making some scratch, you can too.

Bible family tree, that's the tree for me

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 01, 2002

Family tree of the Bible. Now, how exactly did Cain beget Enoch and Seth beget Enos?

I found that image via a Google image search for "family tree", which yielded a lot of great images, including this map tracing a large group of Icelandic** asthma patients back to one person.

**Icelanders are particularly valuable as genetic research subjects these days because of their homogeneous population and meticulous genealogical records.

Continual fools

posted by Jason Kottke Apr 01, 2002

Today's posts have nothing whatsoever to do with April Fools Day. We're foolish here every day.

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