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Independents Day's first event
November 12, 2001 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Independents Day's first event is taking place now, with a new essay on the future of the independent web being posted every six hours. I especially liked Halcyon's predictions, including: "Jacob Nielson is discovered to have heavy.com as his homepage. At a press conference, he admits he finds his own webpage 'unappealing'."
posted by fraying (52 comments total)

 
The independent web will continue to be a way for any person on the planet to have his voice heard. Anyone with talent and something to say can say it just as loud as the big boys with deep pockets.

I dunno. It'd be nice if what Halcyon was saying were true, but I get the feeling that the dream of everyone's voice being heard will be overshadowed by human nature, which tends to make us more interested in and loyal to whoever is already the most popular. The net effect will probably be merely introducing a new pantheon of media celebrities which exist in parallel to the ones we already have. Obviously, if your site is good enough, you too can become a celebrity blogger, but there's only gonna be so many slots open, given the time constraints and attention span of the ordinary user. There can't be a million most popular blogs, even if there are a million worthwhile voices.

Meanwhile the average Joe with a blog will have more of a say than he did before, but he certainly won't be competing with CNN. Or Halcyon.
posted by Hildago at 11:22 AM on November 12, 2001


i've been on ID's mailing list for a long time (i have resubscribed, remembering that it was stuck on my old email address), and i was wondering what they had planned for the future.

i'm glad that there is an organization promoting independent content. i hope it's a kick in the bum for people who produce weblogs simply to recap their day with no or little insight, or to post the next best meme. perhaps people may branch out and not be afraid to try something different and wholly original.

if you care to in the first place, anyway.
posted by moz at 11:43 AM on November 12, 2001


I can do without seeing Halcyon again, but I decided to check out TheRealHouse.com and see what it is all about. When I clicked the link in the leftnav, I got realhouse.com... not the same.
posted by hotdoughnutsnow at 12:15 PM on November 12, 2001


We know most browsing is dependent on the big three. I wonder how much content is independent. Probably most of it, OTOH.

Sad, really. I wish ID all the best ...
posted by walrus at 12:51 PM on November 12, 2001


ugh. i read through some of the articles, and the whole thing came off as a nauseating combination of preaching to the converted and patting one another on the back. nothing like a circle jerk to get people to switch away from cnn and espn.

also, why on earth would something proclaiming itself 'independent' use a MARKETING GIMMICK as its way of timekeeping? or are swiss companies independent because they're, like, european and stuff?
posted by maura at 1:09 PM on November 12, 2001


(also, how hard is it to find the proper spelling of jakob nielsen's name? or is independent content also independent of the standards of being, gasp, edited? you can't have a content-forward movement when you're propelling yourself on things that are so blatantly flawed -- unless this particular movement isn't for promotion of the potential of the medium so much as its potential for fleeting celebrity.)
posted by maura at 1:28 PM on November 12, 2001


well, yes, maura. independent content can be whatever you like. if you don't want to edit it, fine. it may not look professional or otherwise good, but hey -- it's yours, you indie fiend.
posted by moz at 1:45 PM on November 12, 2001


ack, i'm probably gonna get hated on for this, but in my humble opinion, heavy's site is "wack as hell," with the exception of a few audio tracks. once again though, maybe i shouldn't talk. ::hides own personal site:: i'm glad though that id is finally doing something. i recall them coming out like sometime around july, and hadn't heard from them since. it would've been kind of sad if it was just another idea that was never acted upon, with the exception of a few sites displaying animated .gif's. i sincerely hope this turns out to something great.

hah, i thought heavy was huge for a second and was worried, 'cause i actually like huge's page, even though there's little to do there. hmm.. my comments are pretty random... i would've also thought that considering powazek's involvement in the web, he would've been able to spell jakob's name right (and that's not an insult on him at all.. just a passing thought.). maybe i'm just a dork for remembering stuff like that.
posted by lotsofno at 1:55 PM on November 12, 2001


ack. baka desu. i don't see how i mistook his quoting halcyon's words for his own comments. my apologies.
posted by lotsofno at 1:58 PM on November 12, 2001


but moz, you're missing my point. first off, one should not champion content for the sole reason of it being 'independent.' it should instead be championed because it has something to say. otherwise, you're just creating more noise, adding to the din, and not letting truly independent messages cut through the clutter.

how can this particular movement expect to be taken seriously when it can't even be bothered to look up the spelling of a name that's constantly tossed around its community's discussion boards? and before you dismiss my criticisms as a 'spelling flame,' look deeper and think what else might be wrong. there's a reason for fact-checkers, copy editors, and the like; they make your content unimpeachable. and like it or not, that's important.

a story:

i had a boyfriend, back in the day, who was very very funny in that dry, sardonic way that is out of vogue now that america's been hit with a tragedy. he hated liz phair. but, when WHIP-SMART came out, he bought it. 'why are you buying it?' i asked him, confused. 'because this way, i know what i don't like about her.' i wish i had the disposable income to spend on things like this, but his point's salient, and damn if it didn't make him funny, and it also taught me the lesson you should know what you're talking about before you satirize it. it makes your words legitimate—and isn't legitimacy what independents' day is all about?
posted by maura at 2:08 PM on November 12, 2001


you're right, maura. i could point out that in a subtle, if not annoying, way, the spelling error is a statement that i can write whatever i like. but, really, it's not a useful statement, and i think you're correct in saying it's more harmful than anything else. what you wrote was not a spelling flame, and i'm sorry if i gave you that impression.

i think your analogy is very valid as well. it reminds me of a habit of mine that's very similar. i have several cds by the future sound of london and the orb -- i truly like only two of FSOL's and one of the orb's. for a while, when they were both regularly producing new music, i would buy whatever they came out with. friends would be like: why??? the difference between your boyfriend and i was that i still held out hope that the cds would be good (since my first impression of both bands were of their better cds), but in the end, all the purchases ever did was reinforce my dislike of the groups despite what good they have done.

i would like to say that the goal of independent content should be its worth in spite of not having fact checkers, copy editors, etc. but not in ignoring consequent errors. the worth come from an author who can both fact-check and proofread his own work very well, and who furthermore can swallow his or her pride and say that "whoops, i made a mistake -- sorry about that" when he or she does screw up. that's potential worth looking for -- i think.
posted by moz at 2:29 PM on November 12, 2001


I dunno. It'd be nice if what Halcyon was saying were true, but I get the feeling that the dream of everyone's voice being heard will be overshadowed by human nature, which tends to make us more interested in and loyal to whoever is already the most popular.

I disagree. There are tons of sites out there with independent content that generate traffic, and I'm not talking about blogs. I hate blogs. I don't read them, and I just manage to stomach MetaFilter. There's a hell of a lot more out there than what your typical 'a-lister' manages to burp about (I'm assuming that's who your comment was about). Some of my favorite sites through the years have been notably obscure -- found more by accident, than anything. And yet, there's something for everyone, and people find these place. All you have to do is look, wander, follow this link, follow that...

It's sort of strange. Back in highschool I was the clueless idiot who used to beat up the nerds -- the unpopular kids. But now, ten years later, I'm finding that they're the most interesting people I come across. I wish I would have realized that back then. Personally, I find that they have a lot more to say, than the popular ones did. But that's just me.
posted by lizardboy at 2:38 PM on November 12, 2001


Wow...I am truly sorry if my spelling indifference will cause ID to be disregarded and considered illegitimate.

I know its *much* easier to knock things down (and is sorta "the MeFi way"), but perhaps some people who are being critical of ID will offer help to the organizers in the form of essays or advice?
posted by halcyon at 2:54 PM on November 12, 2001


The New York Times suffers typos, as well. The misspelling of a name is a non-issue.

On the other hand I found that the Independents Day essays currently published are about as pithy as a self-congratulatory screed on the Op/Ed page of a local Pennysaver.

When a real opportunity for the independent publisher is to present ideas that nobody else has written about before, the essays I've read at ID so far have chosen to waffle unispirationally. The Internet isn't a public park in danger of being paved and strip-malled, sites that archive Amiga MODs and Demos are not gemstones worth leaving CNN for, and lamentations that "the vast majority of the work being requested is dictated by the strict, rooted, and often boring corporate guidelines that just can't be changed" is as pointless as kvetching about how dull the double yellow line is in the middle of every road.

Quality writing is an attribute I'd find worth celebrating, but amateur status is not. And I'd buy my cherries from the vending machine if it meant they were tastier.
posted by wenham at 3:09 PM on November 12, 2001


but perhaps some people who are being critical of ID will offer help to the organizers in the form of essays or advice?

The following is something I wrote to Sooz about six-eight months ago when I first heard about the project. I would suspect that many of the issues I had with it then still hold up. Consider this advice and constructive criticism not knocking anything down.

--

One of the big issues is that raising awareness about independent content from a small group of indie content producers will never reach the intended audience. When my 50-something year old dad logs on (not to AOL, but he used to), he goes to ESPN.com, CNN.com, and eBay.com, and pretty much nothing else (he then checks his email and logs off). How would this ever get on his radar screen? I can't see how this could get beyond the scope of our sites, and onto any one of the sites that 95% of internet users might visit. So in effect, if this went as I think it might, we'll be preaching to the converted. Only other independent content producers and readers will see my site, and they already know the benefits of it.

The internet is inherently different from other mediums. I do believe that independent music, film, and television is held down and kept away from most people by a system of studios and industry that controls entry (a high barrier of entry) and distribution of works, and that people just aren't aware of things such as small time bands playing good music unless they're hip to the local music club scene.

Relating this to the independent's day movement, I don't think there are any outside forces really holding back independent content on the web, anyone can go up to a browser, type "k10k.net" and see non-commercial works of internet art, completely free of outside influences or barriers. You can't necessarily go down to the record store and pick up a CD for a band you heard that was big in the Athens, Georgia music scene, unless a major label carries them. I can't see why I'd get behind a movement to push independent content in front of people's faces when they're perfectly welcome to it anytime they please. There are also a million and one internet/html/webpages for dummies books available at any bookstore showing people exactly how to get started building their own pages (not to mention all the free site builders at geocities, tripod and xoom). Again, in film, music, and tv, there are the studios, in the web, there is no barrier to entry, really, so there's no real "enemy" to fight.

Finally, this could come across to many people looking like a bunch of people patting themselves on the back for a job well-done, and not making any real progress or affecting real change.

I do think highlighting independent content is a noble endeavor (Isn't Joe Jenett already doing this with I2K and coolstop.com?), and I wish everyone on the web was aware of its existence, but I don't really see anything keeping anyone from it, or any reason to promote it when I think anyone can eventually find it. It reminds me of public radio. The best things in radio are on NPR, everyday, and anyone can listen to them. If only 5% of the listening audience chooses to do that (while the rest say, listen to howard stern or rush limbaugh) is anyone really at fault?

Ok, enough criticism, here are some positive things I have to say about it.

I remember when I first got on the web, and I eventually found justin hall's links.net. I remember every page on his site had a little thing at the bottom saying "this is easy to do, here's how" and that linked to his intro to HTML pages. They weren't very good, because I tried to learn HTML that way and failed (eventually I went out and got a book instead), but I liked that he promoted all readers into becoming creators. I will admit I don't see people doing that much anymore (I don't do it explicitly on my own sites, I but worked on blogger.com specifically with the hope and purpose of allowing anyone on earth to have an updated webpage).

Now, it would be nice and I could get behind something with the goals of the independents day movement if it were much more low key. Instead of a "manifesto" urging everyone to run to the tops of the hills and shout the virtues of indie web content, why not ask people to put up "how-to" pages, or tiny banner links in their footers to a centralized helpful, tutorial site that tries to turn readers into writers and creators? Maybe I'm misinterpreting the goals or mood of the page, but it comes off as much more in-your-face than something I just described. I could see the astute readers finding the links at the bottom of your pages saying "HTML is easy, go here to learn how" and them becoming creators as a result.

I would be very open to writing tutorials for such a tutorial site (I wrote a few at blogger, specifically to help people get their first site up). A central site could also solicit articles and tutorials from other developers, in much the same way evolt.org operates.

--

I think most of this sprang from the argument at the time of whether or not Sooz should proceed with the project. I didn't think and still don't really think we need something like ID, I think we do well on our own, and the people interested in our work will eventually find it. I could be completely wrong, I remember the vast majority of developers I knew in 1998 thought the Web Standards Project was something that wasn't needed, that it was too late to make any real change in the browser industry (FWIW, I thought the WSP was worth the effort at the time, knowing the payoffs wouldn't come for a very long time).
posted by mathowie at 3:12 PM on November 12, 2001


You know what? There is something special about independent content, regardless of its relative quality. We are lucky that we've got this groovy medium that allows us to broadcast our stories, our lives, our passions, and our opinions. And that is worth celebrating.

The irony of Maura pissing on Independents Day here is that it's an example of the very freedom that the event is celebrating. Call if self-congratulatory if you want, but it's also congratulating you - all of you - for doing what you're doing, right here and on every site you participate in.

Accept the congratulations or don't. It's up to you. But don't say there's nothing to celebrate.
posted by fraying at 3:23 PM on November 12, 2001


*big smile*

Sorry about "the Mefi way" crack. You continue to inspire with class, Matt.
posted by halcyon at 3:23 PM on November 12, 2001


Matt: Of course, there's nothing tangible holding independent content back on the web. Metafilter.com is as easy to type in as Cnn.com. But the playing field is not totally level - Joe user knows about CNN already. How do we get him to know about all that independent content, too?

Well, for starters, how about an organization that promotes independent content?

There's power in numbers, we all know that. If you put all the independent content creators together, we could kick CNN's butt.

I don't understand all this criticism of an organization that wants to promote, well, you! Are we really that sensitive that we can't accept a pat on the back? Or is the problem that the people criticizing this don't feel represented by the project? If that's it, say something to them! It's a volunteer effort - I'm sure they'd welcome any help you could offer. Especially if you know how to spell. ;-)
posted by fraying at 3:38 PM on November 12, 2001


You know what? There is something special about independent content, regardless of its relative quality. We are lucky that we've got this groovy medium that allows us to broadcast our stories, our lives, our passions, and our opinions. And that is worth celebrating.

And this is quite possibly the essence of the value of ID -- getting this statement out there to the people who are interested in independent content. That is, while ID might be "preaching to the converted", as mathowie writes, it still has a value in that it also offers the converted support, encouragement and community. The aim of ID needn't be to promote independent content to the masses; it is worthwhile if it simply serves as a rallying cry for the independents.
posted by mattpfeff at 3:39 PM on November 12, 2001


fraying:

i don't feel that maura has pissed on ID: i think she has a legitimate gripe. ID is basically making its first impression on people, and indeed presenting itself as the center of independent content.

You know what? There is something special about independent content, regardless of its relative quality. We are lucky that we've got this groovy medium that allows us to broadcast our stories, our lives, our passions, and our opinions. And that is worth celebrating.

you're right, in a sense. people should publish what they like, even if the spelling is horrible and the design is awful. but maura was not criticizing all content producers: she was criticizing the ID website. it is not fair of you to expand her criticism to address all indie content publishers. quality does matter when you're talking about the organization established to champion independent content; the organization's legitimacy is at stake.
posted by moz at 3:46 PM on November 12, 2001


(just to follow up: fraying, if ID does hope to promote independent content to the general public, then of course quality does matter. Celebrating independent content because it's independent is one thing (and one that, I agree, makes sense); promoting it just because it's independent, however, is more difficult to justify.)
posted by mattpfeff at 3:47 PM on November 12, 2001


moz - I think didn't communicate clearly. I was trying to get at the beauty of independent content, which is the raison d'etre of Independents Day, that's all. Not trying to expand anyone's anything.

Specifically, Maura said: "one should not champion content for the sole reason of it being 'independent.'"

I disagree. I think independent content is worth celebrating, just for the fact that we're lucky to be able to make it, and more people should know about it.

Should they spellcheck their website? Sure. But, really, that's a cheap shot and very easy to fix. The website is clearly very professional, especially for something done by voluneers in their spare time. Cut 'em some slack, huh? Or even better, volunteer to help!
posted by fraying at 3:57 PM on November 12, 2001


Fraying, I like the spirit of picking a challenger to compete with, but a coalition of amateurs and bloggers is not going to "kick CNN's butt."

Following amateur news reporting is like trying to catch the day's stories by scanning through a radio dial that's infinately wide, populated by stations that don't have a broadcast plan. You can't leave it on one station and be done with it.

The babble of independents can do a better job of news analysis. Compete with Op/Ed pages, Car Talk, and Crossfire. But try to compete with Christiana Amonpour and you'll have a sore butt with some sandy footprints on it.
posted by wenham at 4:12 PM on November 12, 2001


I think I'm just confused about what ID is doing. It seems to be promoting the idea of independent content more than actual independent content. They say they don't want to be a portal — ok fine, so how does that "raise awareness of the independent web?" I'm not trying to dump on them, I'm just trying to understand the point. You write an essay and people go to your site? Is that it?
posted by transient at 4:18 PM on November 12, 2001


Wenham -- I think you're taking my CNN example a little to literally. I just meant that an army of independents could have the same impact as CNN, not replace their reporting.

Plus, I just like the phrase "kick CNN's butt." ;-)
posted by fraying at 4:36 PM on November 12, 2001


I don't think I was, because even if we also thought of it that way, an "army of independents" becomes an oxymoron.

An independent writer could have an impact. An army of independent writers would have lots of little impacts, but not a single and cohesive impact.
posted by wenham at 4:42 PM on November 12, 2001


There is something special about independent content, regardless of its relative quality.

This is a tautology. What's special about it is that it's independent. And its independence makes it special.

The only thing really worth promoting is quality.
posted by kindall at 5:22 PM on November 12, 2001


I'd like to know who's going to pay for the independent web. Seriously.
posted by owillis at 5:47 PM on November 12, 2001


original comments aside, i really like what i saw going on at the new ID. i really like the colors. very zeldman-esque. and... i don't know. it sounds sick but, anything zeldman-esque just for some reason, makes me feel more comfortable. the sign up and obscene buttons look obscene in opera, but VERY pretty in IE. trying to add some constructive criticism, i was slightly annoyed by the change of margins with the text between the frontpage and the rest of the site. i can understand the logo getting smaller, but the margin-change really irked me. but you guys are the professional designers, so maybe i should stay out of that relm of critiquing.

i like the idea with the essays and i can see how it touches on the importace of having some pride in what you're doing with creating independent content (undesign-esque.). i'm sure that they're not just promoting independent content because it's independent. really, what would be the goal of that? i'm sure that NO ONE who wants to see this succeed has that in their mind.

you know what i'd like to see at the site? more info about how i can help aside from just being happy that i've got this chance, and maybe put up the ID button on my site (not that there's anything wrong with that at all.. i just want more.). sure, we'd be helping the independent "movement" just by improving our site and providing quality content, but i'd really like to see more involvement with ID, that would go beyond just reading what the "big names" have to say.... ... .. and that's all for now.
posted by lotsofno at 5:56 PM on November 12, 2001


I don't understand all this criticism of an organization that wants to promote, well, you! Are we really that sensitive that we can't accept a pat on the back? Or is the problem that the people criticizing this don't feel represented by the project? If that's it, say something to them! It's a volunteer effort - I'm sure they'd welcome any help you could offer.

I wanted to say that I don't feel like I was being too harsh on ID, I'm just wondering if it's worth getting behind. I'm not strongly against it or for it, I'm definitely not attacking anyone personally for this, I'm just sort of "eh, I don't know" about the whole idea of it.

I've always thought good stuff rises, regardless of medium. Greg Knauss' eod.com site was something I used to share with all sorts of joe sixpack types (well the ones in my family that had children and could relate to everything he wrote). I think there's a lot to be said for word of mouth and I still feel it's debatable whether we should actively promote ourselves or not.

I think a lot of people are confused by the ideas of ID because it's a new project and there isn't too much action besides essays. A lot of people I'm reading here are wondering what form the idea of spreading and supporting independent content will take (awards? tutorials? press releases? directories?). Keep in mind it's natural for a new project to get criticism like that, as many people think "now what?" and "what next?"
posted by mathowie at 5:59 PM on November 12, 2001


I wanted to add to my last point: remember Adbuster's manifesto? I think it got a lot of the same reaction. The general consensus seemed to be "great, but now what do we do with it?"
posted by mathowie at 6:02 PM on November 12, 2001


None of the people linked from that site is independent. They're all prisoners of the same tired old Flash fetishes and funky fonts. Nothing to do with "independence". It's the same old prevarication where aging hipsters claim creativity by divorcing themselves from a supposed mainstream while enforcing a cement-block conformity amongst themselves. My guess is the only common element making these people "independent" is that they're laid off. Ptui.


There. I feel better now.


posted by gimonca at 6:54 PM on November 12, 2001


(Warning: this is one long sad ramble.)

Something about this is rubbing me the wrong way. It's not cynicism, it's not hostility to the idea, it's...something.

I keep trying to draw analogies with the film industry, because that's what I know, but they keep failing. Damnit.

I think. I think it stems from.

Okay, first of all, the term "content" is odious at best, degrading at worst. There has to be a better word, because "content" is too tarred in association with Herr Nielsen as "any old shit you could throw into a design template, be it Hamlet or toaster instructions." The word, in its present incarnation, is so hopelessly New-Economy-Esque. Let's get a better one.

Now then. "Celebrating independent content." All of it? The Hamsterdance? Camgirls? Stileproject.com? Penny Arcade? Bomb-making recipes? Racist Geocities webpages? Pictures of my cat? The 99% of Diaryland pages that are dull and boring? A web page about a Changeling LARP in Des Moines, Iowa? Kaycee Nicole? Bryce-rendered art? Japanese webpages about hentai? An Israeli teenager's fan page for Faith Hill? Superbad? NASA survey data? Published papers on string theory? Conspiracy theory sites? The site of some dumb Satanist schmuck in Santa Rosa trying to raise Belial the Archdaemon using an inverted Tree of Life? A housewife in Wellesley, Massachusetts, talking about her garden? A U. of Michigan's page of sports links? Every stupid flash movie ever made, from AYBABTU to Weeeeeeee!? Should I go on?

The problem with the term "independent content" is that, in its denotation, it means any content that isn't produced by a for-profit organization. Which means...anything outside of AOL, MSN, Citysearch, Salon, Slate, etc.? And I mean, anything? Are we gonna be that shallow? Because, technically, that means MeFi isn't independent, since Matt accepts ads. Oh, but are those ads all right? Is this like saying Miramax is still indie even though it's owned by Disney?

Or are we talking about the connotation, which means that particular peculiar hybrid genre of personal revelation/journal-keeping that seems to make up most of the "content" people read on the Web, descended from Justin Hall, Fray, Water, etc., that got distilled from personal narrative into the blog form? Because that is a much more limited realm. And although there are of course deviations from this median, this style seems firmly entrenched. (And I'm as guilty as anyone.)

No. No, while I do have trouble with the terms, what seems to irk me is that ID is five years too late. Independent content is here, it's widespread, it's everywhere. From Geocities to Diaryland to Livejournal to Blogger to the rarefied heights of the most lauded personal sites, the revolution happened, man. We're here. They came, they saw, they started writing. We have the numbers, already, and that's fine, because really, do you want to try and go head-to-head with CNN? Do you want that kind of LCD mass reach stupid-is-as-stupid-does audience? Do the Coen Brothers make a movie with the hope that Joe Porchfucker in Ankle Patch, Arkansas will go see it? Why should I worry about whether or not Spoonfed is read by Arlene and Durkham Wanklefrunk in Peoria? (I'm having a lot of fun with these names, just so you know.) I'm exaggerating, of course, but the tone of ID seems to be, "Let's capture that audience!" which means they should start buying adspace on AOL.com and coming up with branding strategies to penetrate that 25-to-54 year old demographic.

What we need now is not some circle-jerk of self-congratulatory "we're gonna get those fuckers through the power of Greymatter and my high school literary journal!" but rather an emphasis, finally, after five years, on quality, on shifting from a free-form anarchic "hey, anyone can do this!" mode of thinking to a "yes, you can do this, but just what are you trying to say?" mentality where it's not enough just to be here, but to use the Web, its tools, its syntax, to create actual art, to stop basking in the Grand Light of Being Here Aren't I Cool and start wondering what, exactly, we're making with these tools, what ideas are being conveyed, what our intention with this above and beyond selfish interest.

I'm half talking about my ass, but I'm half deadly serious, which is good because if I was 100% serious I'd be a demagogue and we'd all be fucked, but the THING IS... If you really want the Average User, Mister AOL I Sure Do Like To Buy Things On Amazon.com, then you have to create things that they want to see, and That Way Lies Madness. I'm sure all of us have had the experience, at one time or another, of having to explain our personal sites to our families or friends or people who were just plain confused as to why we would possibly waste our time making personal sites. If you really want this audience, then for God's sake, make a dumb joke page or whatever, some link that your parents can forward to everyone on their Buddy List and have a chuckle at for five minutes.

I, however, would much rather see the first masterpiece of Web art. It hasn't been made yet. We're still at cave-painting level here. All the best sites we know of are grafted, bastardized forms - a personal site is like a diary, but online; Soulflare was a gallery, but online... The Web hasn't had its Birth of a Nation yet, and I don't mean a racist movie (the Web has plenty of those), but the film that kicked the medium from novelty to art. Hell, I hope I'm wrong and I've just overlooked a bunch of sites (feel free to share), but anyone who's serious about this medium shouldn't be worrying about getting more hits than Slate, but should be thinking how they can use the bizarre intricacies of Web code to convey old truths in a new light, how they could convey emotion through a JavaScript effect, how a Flash movie can communicate the author's intention - and how the author actually has an intention outside of being a wiseass and getting 15 seconds of fame.

And once that happens, then you'll have your audience, because the level will be raised, everything that comes after will build off of that, and suddenly the bar will be raised and people will go, "Shit, it's not just porn!" and that's when they'll think, "Well, if there's this stuff out there, then there must be something else" and that's when they'll start looking around and hopefully land on ID or another site or whatever and discover all this great stuff.

Good Lord, I ramble.
posted by solistrato at 6:58 PM on November 12, 2001


I think what's so clearly special and unique about independent web sites is that their owners continue to take themselves, and their sites, too seriously and fail to maintain any sort of healthy emotional balance - nay, distinction - between their lives and their URL.
posted by gsh at 7:11 PM on November 12, 2001


I think, based on the folks apparently involved, and their respective, umm, respect and established audiences, the project has the potential to do many good things.

I recall several conversations I had with people speculating about what exactly ID was going to be/do, and was therefor excited upon hearing of the current event. I'm not saying it's "bad" or "good", just that it made me go "eh, I don't know" too. Kind of anti-climactic if you ask me.

I think perhaps that's what people are feeling, and expressing here: We all know and lovingly embrace the idea of "independent content", and probably all know and love the efforts of sooz, carole, and jeffery, but we're expecting some whiz-bang effort from these folks that will be wildly more successful than other similar ones already in existence.

Perhaps sites about independent content, are plagued with the same issues as independent sites themselves: They have no marketing budget to speak of. They're done in someone's spare time. Rewards come in the form of intrinsic satisfaction, or charges for bandwidth. They're dependant on the motivation of the creator(s), and can change, or disappear based on said motivations. Everyone contributing to this discussion can surely add to this list of things which are both the upside and downside of independent content.

The best promotion of independent content that can ever occur, is another independent site going up. Everyone knows someone that "has their own website", even if it's just a Geocities page with pictures of Timmy on it. 10 years ago if you had your own website, you were hella cool. Now, you actually have to have some decent content, and most likely a decent design too, to be "cool".
The word is getting out.

Of course, efforts like ID might not end up being the be-all and end-all, or suddenly change the viewing habits of everyone with Net access, but they can't hurt either :)

Just ditch the silly time format.
posted by canoeguide at 7:31 PM on November 12, 2001


apologies to zeldman for misspelling his name... halcyon ain't alone I guess.
posted by canoeguide at 7:34 PM on November 12, 2001


Tangentially related Metatalk/content related post requesting comments here. Thanks
posted by owillis at 8:32 PM on November 12, 2001


A. There is something seriously funky with the design - in my browser (IE6/PC) the text is running over the pics, and it is impossible to read.

B. Been creating neat stuff (to me!) on the web for at least 4 years. Did it yesterday (before the launch). Will be doing it tomorrow, after the launch. Can't see what the fuss is about today, since this isn't going to change what I do, or what anyone else creating websites for love, not profit will be doing.

Oh, wait - I think I do see what the fuss is about - people aligning themselves with this project can now use it to position themselves as Independent Content Specialists, sending out press releases and praying some bored newseditor calls them up for a soundbite.
posted by kristin at 9:25 PM on November 12, 2001


Comments on Kristin's "B" comment above.

I have been creating content on the web for the last 7 years... what I don't get is the need for people to slam other projects... if you don't like it, do something better yourself... to me, slamming the project in a public forum/community is just as self-promotional as being a part of it.
posted by Nick Finck at 9:54 PM on November 12, 2001


the thing with organizations like independence day is that they, despite their claims of 'independence,' also subtly take on a 'you're with us or you're against us' attitude.

and what about the 99% of independent content out there that is, to the eyes of these creators, crap? (thank you, scott, for putting the hamster dance song in my head. grr.) is some independent content better than others? will it be the job of these 'independent content experts' to point reporters to the 'right' content out there? why not, like matt suggested, put up a tutorial right off, so that all potential readers can participate in this amazing froth of content-creating activity, a la jenny toomey and kristin thomson's record-making guide that they put out with their record label? wouldn't that be opening the guide up to others beyond the scope of those already in the thick of things?

i am demanding, and perhaps i shouldn't be because i'm clearly harshing the vibe, but here is what i want: show me something new, something inspiring that the organization has created or will help create (note: this does not mean a rehash of the urls of the site's creators), instead of Yet Another Ponderous-Slash-Funny Essay On Where The Web Will Be Next Year That This Time Is Announced By A Press Release, and only then may (note that i didn't say will, because, really, who knows?) the 'power of independent content' be realized. what's there right now is fine fodder for, say, a south by southwest panel discussion, but do the people who this organization is trying to reach really want to hear it?
posted by maura at 4:15 AM on November 13, 2001


I'd like to know who's going to pay for the independent web. Seriously.

Well, I'll pay for my bits if you pay for yours ...

This kind of question makes me laugh. It's a hobby. I don't expect to be paid for my hobbies. If you want to make money out of what you do on the web, that's fair enough, but don't imagine that everyone else wants to.

Getting paid for my creative work would feel like stepping down from the pedestal of artistic integrity. I'd feel like I was just producing copy, rather than creating art. I get paid to shuffle crap all day: the web is my release.

That's just my opinion, however. In someone elses opinion, what I do is crap. The point here is not to denigrate however, but to congratulate. ID is trying to do that, from what I can see. I still find myself agreeing with Maura though: what it's doing right now probably isn't original enough to make a difference.
posted by walrus at 4:49 AM on November 13, 2001


ID could definitely use a good copyeditor/proofreader, and volunteers would be appreciated. Contact Sooz if interested.

ID is not trying to stop hundreds of millions of web users from logging onto AOL.com or MSN.com (that’s absurd), nor is it trying to persuade those millions of web users to additionally visit an indie site (impossible without a multi–million–dollar ad budget and unlikely even with such a budget).

ID is not trying to be a portal to indie sites. i2K already does that very well and has been doing so for years. Neither is ID a design portal, of which we have plenty. ID is not a collection of “experts” deciding which “content” is “best.” It is simply a celebration of our freedom to create.

As to why it exists: if you have a vinyl fetish, you can find a FAQ about your fetish online. There ought to be a similar node on the web for people who create personal or collaborative sites. Not as a be–all, end–all, definitive hub, but simply as a pointer. There were many independent sites but there was no FAQ. ID was created as a partial solution, to help fill that vacuum.

If in a year or two one or two of the essays now being published at ID (or something else that comes later) is still worth reading and linking to, then those who wonder what’s meant by terms like “independent website” will have something to read that helps them understand. As will critics, journalists, and those who create web competitions—assuming ID evolves and grows.

Similarly, if successful, ID may help provide a focus on independent sites at gatherings like SXSW.

ID is not trying to be an HTML tutorial or a “build your own site” evanglist tool. Personally, I feel I’ve covered that territory with Ask Dr Web (1995), A List Apart (weekly since 1998), and Taking Your Talent to the Web (2001). ID doesn’t link to those things but as mentioned it’s not intended as a portal or a self–promotional (or other–promotional) tool.

It’s just a node and a celebration in its very early developmental phases. Like all community-driven non–commercial web enterprises, it will either evolve over time with increased community participation, or it will fade. If it grows, good. If it fades, so be it.
posted by Zeldman at 6:06 AM on November 13, 2001


Jeffrey, I laud your efforts, even if no-one else will. If nothing else, Independents Day has provoked this conversation and hundreds (tens? ;) like it, about what and where independent websites are and where they're going to, if anywhere.

I guess what I (and others) have been missing is that clear statement of intent you give above. Personally, I got the message "we're going to do something to help independent websites, and it's going to be good". The reality is always going to be a letdown in the face of such hype, and maybe it wasn't deliberate hype, but the site (pre-launch) certainly gave me an impression something stronger was going to happen.

Negatives will always come out in these discussions: no-one feels comfortable in a love-in. I think you can feel positive that you have made a difference however, and hopefully it will lead to something bigger. Even if not, we'll all learn something from it. Won't that be nice?
posted by walrus at 7:43 AM on November 13, 2001


Nick Finck: "what I don't get is the need for people to slam other projects... if you don't like it, do something better yourself"

Some of us already have.

This ought not come as a surprise, but when you chose to take your work public, then people will chose to take their criticism of it public as well. (A paradigm-shifting observation, I'm sure.)

You may not like your Kellogg's Feedback Loops unless they're sugar coated and fruit flavored, but when you go public then you don't get that choice. It's nice when someone decides to spend the effort and detail everything (it's usually because you've earned their respect), but you still only get what you're given. If you invite the world to come see, and after doing so the world says "this is dumb", then it really isn't our problem if you don't like it. Tough. Block my access if you really don't want me to voice my opinion of your site.

"Slamming", as you call it, will be valuable feedback if you can cure yourself of a dependency on attaboys and an allergy to everything else. I could be constructive and say "your sweat accumilation has progressed beyond socially accepted norms," or I can say "your B.O. really stinks."

No, I'm not going to send you a "cover" with my proposal for a redesign. No, I'm not going to re-implement your site the way I think it ought to be done. No, I'm not going to copyedit your work for you. And if you're so proud that you must belittle my criticism to yourself because I didn't deliver it on your terms, then that's your problem. You will thrive in an inbred loop of meaningless (but "constructive") criticism, and when your brain-children start growing up with arms longer than their legs and overbites you could shade a bus with, don't come crying to us.

With words as currency, we paid exactly what we thought your project was worth.
posted by wenham at 9:46 AM on November 13, 2001


I’m not going to send you a “cover” with my proposal for a redesign. No, I’m not going to re-implement your site the way I think it ought to be done. No, I’m not going to copyedit your work for you.

Wenham: I think there’s a difference between inviting community participation (as ID has done since it was launched) and asking you to redesign or reimplement ID.

This ought not come as a surprise, but when you chose to take your work public, then people will chose to take their criticism of it public as well. (A paradigm-shifting observation, I’m sure.)

I have no problem with the way you’ve expressed your criticism. I didn’t write the essays at ID and I didn’t design or program the essay site, so I didn’t take your crit personally—and probably wouldn’t have anyway. After six years of publishing stuff online, I’m rarely upset by people’s opinions and often surprised and pleased by the fact that anyone cares.

My note was intended to clarify the intentions of ID, since some posters were unclear about the site’s purpose. That confusion may mean the site isn’t communicating, or it may mean people aren’t reading. Probably a bit of both.

I think there’s a good idea latent in ID, an idea that might blossom with the right support. I think some of the essays in “The Future Web” have been quite good, and the work done by Afterchaos was good. You disagree? No problem. You choose not to participate? No problem.
posted by Zeldman at 10:31 AM on November 13, 2001


FWIW I've enjoyed reading some of the essays.
posted by walrus at 10:32 AM on November 13, 2001


Zeldman: "I think there’s a difference between inviting community participation (as ID has done since it was launched) and asking you to redesign or reimplement ID."

Nick Finck had written: "if you don't like it, do something better yourself"

Zeldman, I wrote about Nick.
posted by wenham at 10:46 AM on November 13, 2001


Zeldman (or anyone on the ID project), would you mind bumping up the fonts or doing one of those DOM-hack buttons to allow people to adjust their preferences?

I know I'm getting old when I have to admit it's really hard to read 10px type. 11px is fine, but extended blocks of 10px type is just painful to me.
posted by mathowie at 12:23 PM on November 13, 2001


Comments, requests, flames, corrections, suggestions, etc., please write: ido@independentsday.org. (Matt, I've passed along your request to the site’s developers.)
posted by Zeldman at 12:52 PM on November 13, 2001


Here's the thing: lots of people with long web histories started out as producers, and ended up as project managers. It just happens. It's not a bad thing. And ID smacks of project management, which is lovely and valuable and files away the rough edges, and generally makes the world of production go round, but I don't think project managers speaking as project managers have ever inspired people to produce. (Speaking as a part-time project manager.)
posted by holgate at 4:40 PM on November 15, 2001


shit.
shinola.
posted by kilroy at 6:32 PM on November 15, 2001


I don't think project managers speaking as project managers have ever inspired people to produce.

Is this a reflection on the goal of the project, or its execution so far?

It's strange to me to find so much criticism of an open project here. It wouldn't be strange for people here to say they think it could be done better, or even offer ideas as to how -- that happens all the time. But this vibe is more like, look at what those other web people are doing, here's what I think of their little project.

Every project has its shortcomings, and no project is for everyone. Of course. Simply pointing out such truisms is hardly worthwhile, in and of itself. Maybe (here's the armchair psychology bit, someone shoot me when I'm done) this issue is too close to home, and people get their hackles up because they see themselves as similar to the people doing this but want to point out what they see as critical differences.

I dunno. It's too bad, I guess. ID is an embodiment of one of the coolest aspects of the web, the little guy creating something out of nothing. Maybe it'll turn into a big something. Maybe not. But even if it fails, it won't be failure -- it will help us all figure out how to one day make something big out of independent web content. The only way a project like this would be a failure would be if no one tried it.
posted by mattpfeff at 8:41 PM on November 15, 2001


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