The Internet is for free speech

 Sometimes, I must admit, I get a little nostalgic.  When I saw this video, it made me remember those early days of the internet, and how much has and hasn't changed.

(Thanks to Motherboard for sharing the video)

I remember the first time I got online via Prodigy at my friend Aaron's house.  It was magical.  I was talking to people all over the world from that house in Frederick, MD.  It seems like some of the magic has gone out of the internet in the intervening years, and some old ideas are cropping back up.

Are iOS and Android the new AOL?

Before I dig into this, I have to say, I love my iPad.  It has changed the way I work, play, and read, but I have a few concerns about the future.

As an entertainment designer, I spend an increasing chunk of my time thinking about how to improve the delivery of my fiction and this site.  Brian and I have talked about making an App available on iOS and Android, and have looked into ways to raise the funds to hire a developer... but why?

I read most of my content of the web via Flipboard and Reeder now.  That is a very new thing.  Grant it, they pull in stories from my Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader accounts, so why don't I use those sites directly anymore?

It is just easier (and prettier) to load up my Apps.  I am a little scared that we are seeing the the re-AOL-ing of the internet.

In the early years, access to the internet was metered, and the way the average users (I'm not talking about geeks like us), accessed content was through AOL, MSN, or other ISP portal.  Content had to be made specially for these services, wich took resource away from content.

I remember writing java script, dhtml, and other sometimes unique scripts so those early sites would work well with these portasl.  Pages had to be coded specifically for Internet Explorer and Netscape.  Some tags worked on one and not the other and it was a nightmare.  I spent most of my time coding and not working on content.

Now, Chrome is going the way of Internet Explorer, away from standards, and we are looking for a way to code specialized versions of our content for the iPad and Android.  Deja vu.

Google fan boys will probably take exception with my comparison of Chrome to IE, but that is what they did specifically with the new HTML 5 <video> tag.  It allowed you to add a type and codec so the browser would know what to play.  Google decided to make the video tag default to a video format they own rather than allow the tag to work as intended.  That is outside of the web standard, and a bad move.

Content should be Free

That is free as in speech.  With all of these new form factors emerging, they should comply to web standards so content creators can make their content once and display it on everything.

Apple and Google should both offer WYSIWYG app kits to allow content creators to make apps with ease.  It should be an option.  If I have the money and interest to hire a developer and start the expensive and time consuming process of developing an app, then so be it, but if having an app continues down the path of being a necessity, they are pushing smaller content creators out of the market before they get a chance to prove themselves.

Everything's great if you are NewsCorp and can work with Apple to make a native app to display your content, but that is something that will not be available to the vast majority of publishers.

Open the Systems

The power of the internet is that it allows anyone who wants to speak out to be heard.  But I receive more emails every week from people bemoaning that fact that we don't have an iPad app yet.  As an avid iPad User, I understand where they are coming from.  I just don't want to see us return to the limited options we had back in the days of the old AOL.

What do you think?  Am I blowing this whole thing out of proportion?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Micro-Magazines: Future or Fad of Media

An on-demand book printer at the Internet Arch... Image via Wikipedia

Seth Godin (among others) proposes that Micro-magazines are the Future of Media.  He defines a Micro-magazine as:

  • Being digital (probably a PDF), that's free to 'print', fast to make and easy to share. (Newsweek spends seventeen million dollars a year on paper.)
  • Having subscribers, either by email or RSS
  • Focused on issues that appeal to some, but not all
  • Having a very specific audience (call it a tribe)
  • Enabling that tribe to connect by sharing the ideas in the magazine among them, as well as supporting it with a forum or blog
  • Containing ads that are relevant to that audience
  • Being longer than 140 characters or even a blog post, so significant ideas can be exposed in detail (Seth Godin)

This is not a new idea, it is an old one. So let's start by calling them what they are.  Every time I see the word Micro-Magazine I really want to say Micromachines and John Moschitta, Jr.  I feel like I need to start talking as fast as I possibly can.  What we are really talking about are Zines: Extremely focused magazines made by people you have a strong interest in the subject for people with a strong interest in the subject.

I know some people won't like my use of Zine here.  To them, they think of poorly photocopied, saddle-stitched pamphlets someone cooked up in their mother's basement.  I think of the periodicals I always loved to read, and looked forward to more than any other.  To each their own, but we cannot have this discussion unless we are honest with ourselves.  What we are really talking about is the professionalizing of Zine publication.  Low cost, quality content for a focused audience.

That said, let's look at each of Seth's points individually:

Being digital

Agreed.  Future of media is digital publishing.

File Format

I call upon all Gods and Devils to prevent the PDF from being the format of the future!

The format of the future is going to be variable.  It needs to be available on the web, as a download, as an app for our favorite mobile device, and print on demand.  It needs to be available in every format a reader may want to read it in.  Conversly, there needs to be a singular tool for the publisher to post once and have the content appear every where.


The format need to be easy to share.  One button click to all our favorite networks, to email, and to print.  How ever the reader wants to share it, out it goes.


Why do podcasts work?  1 click subscriptions.

The platform will need to have the ability to allow the reader to subscribe in the manner of their choosing in one click and to have the content auto-delivered.  Email and RSS already exist, it is possible though not easy to make a mobile app, but it also needs to be added automatically to our Kindles, iBook shelf, or to be mailed via a print on demand.  Options are the solution.

Focused Content

The content needs to be focused.  That is why we offer the new minisites on dashPunk so people who are only interested in a particular subject can find that content easier.

The days of Mass Media are for the most part over.  The long term future in in producing content that will appeal to a niche audience and evangelizing for the importance of niche to bring more people in.

A Tribe of its own

Some topics appeal to a lot of people, others don't.  The trick is to find a way to get your tribe to support the Zine no matter the size.

It is also important to let your tribe talk to itself.  The more people involved the stronger the Zine will be for it.


Awwwww, I said a dirty word.

I would really like to be a utopian, but everything costs money, and thus has to make money to succeed.  It is a hard truth to face, but that's the deal.  If I want to give my content away for free, I have to sell ads to cover the cost, and hope that my readers will support my sponsors and affiliates, shop in my Amazon Stores, and buy my books.

I know that this is a great place to link out to these thinks, but I feel like that would violate my contract with my readers.  I am not posting to advertise the ways I make money, but to share thoughts I find interesting.  I know I can tell went someone is pushing a sale and I think you all can to.  That is a lesson I think more writers need to learn.

Content Collection and Exploring Ideas

This is the Holy Grail.

  • The Problem: (Content) longer than 140 characters or even a blog post, so significant ideas can be exposed in detail
  • The Solution: The Link.

Hypertext does this really well.  The MMO Aoin does this very well in that all Mission text is linked to dictionary articles, which link to the game's UI.  I never leave the game to find out more information.  I can easily surface this information if I want to, but it doesn't clutter the game if I am not interested.

Google Living Stories is an interesting model for this, but it is not polished enough to be useful yet, but it is movement in the right direction.

Scribd has also delivers some of these features, but in isolation of any of the other content.

My Dream WordPress Project

Everyone has their favorite Open Source project.  Mine is WordPress.  I would love to see a BuddyPress scale open source project to bring these features into WordPress in a way that is simple and easy to use.  If there are any developers out there interested in starting this project.  I will set up a site and start gathering resources for it.

We can build a better media for the future, we just need to put our heads together and make it happen.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Favorite Wordpress Plugins

Mike Lewis asked me to write out a list of my favorite Wordpress plugins, so here they are.


  • Disqus is my favorite plugin.  It connects your blog to the Disqus comment system.  I love Disqus for the simplicity and ease of use.  They also allow you to make a single community out of a collection of blogs.


  • Ad-minister allows you to run ads for on your site for the amount of time that you want.  It can run different ads in one widget.  This is my favorite ad plugin.
  • AdSense Manager does exactly what it says.

Search, Search Engine, and SEO

Tag, Category, and Page Management


  • Postalicious imports your Delicious into you blog.
  • QuickPost gives you a Tumblr style bookmarklet to write for your blog.

Stats and Analytics

Multiple Author Support

I am still looking for good cache and social bookmarking plugins.  I am using WP Super Cache to speed the site up.  I also tried WP-Cache, but the site crashed often.  I am also using ShareThis to provide social bookmarking links, but I am not in love with it.  If I could find something better, I would use it.

I this helps you out.