One of the things I’ve been putting a lot of thought into the last couple of months is the blog, my website on chuqui.com, and the various pieces that connect into my online presence.
The underlying question: what does it want to be when it grows up?
That in itself is a significant change of mindset, because for a long time, my intent was to keep it very simple, very personal, very informal — that it should never grow up. It’s never been intended to be more than a place for my stuff, and that any of you care enough to follow what I put on it just makes my toes tingle, so if I haven’t said it recently, thank you most sincerely for your interest and feedback.
Like the Apple TV is to Apple, this is a hobby, has been a hobby, and knowing that gives me the freedom to choose to ignore it when other things complicate life, or to experiment with strange things (and delete them when they fail badly), and not worry too much about the other side of the fourth wall and whether what I’m doing is enough of a dancing bear to keep everyone amused or informed (or hopefully both).
But that’s been increasingly unsatisfying, and I think out of sync with what I’m interested in doing online. And given I’m working with community and social media professionally, part of me feels like what I do in my personal part of the universe needs to be done a bit more — not professionally — officially? with gusto? Well, something more serious that I’ve done to date. But please, if I ever use the phrase “social media guru” non-ironically, please slap me silly.
So I’m thinking that it’s time to start ramping up the volume. Lots of thinking about what I like about the sites, what I don’t, how they interact. What I like about other sites and how to bring them onto mine, whether it’s technology, design, features or content. And deep down inside, what I want this site to be about, other than “me” or “what I feel like talking about”. Not that I ever intend to turn this into “a site about this topic”, but planting a few flags in the sand and creating some topic areas to focus on? That seems to make sense.
I’ve been using mind maps a lot recently as a thinking/note taking tool. The current view of the site setup looks like this:
There’s a lot more to do in the pre-planning phase before I get down to the nitty gritty of design and architecture, but you can see some thoughts about what I’m considering.
This isn’t about turning the site into a revenue generator. It may be about creating something that might be something that can generate revenue later, but that’s not on the docket for this generation. It’s about putting a more professional (or at least polished) look on my content, adding some functionality to support things I’m thinking of doing, like e-publishing my writing, both fiction and not.
It’s about architecting things so that things this site are about are findable. Like reviews. One thing I keep coming back to is reviews. A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I published OtherRealms. it was about reviews. It was well-regarded. Every so often, I get asked if it’s ever coming back (answer: no). At least, not like it was, going on 30 years ago. But I keep thinking…
When I left Strongmail, it was with intent to put some time and energy into a site I called “Dare to Thrive”. The core idea was to focus on going really local, wandering in the space Yelp lives in, but curated. The concept started over a beef tongue in this hole in the wall chinese restaurant in deep Chinatown in Vancouver back in 2005 (hi, roland! hi, boris!), and fermented for a while. I’ve long thought there is a strong ability for a good, curated site to compete against the Yelps of the world — the elevator pitch is “Sunset and Via magazines meet the web”. the tag line was “because there’s more to life than a cube and a cot”, and the hook was that the site was to help people understand there’s a lot of great stuff in and around silicon valley, and more to life than sleeping under your desk at that startup.
For various reasons, I aborted my plan to take time off to work on D2T and went back into the job market, then a few months later, came to the realization that the concept simply wouldn’t work for me, so I reluctantly took it out behind the barn and shot it. Problem 1 was that when I got realistic about time commitments there was no way the thing would succeed, much less thrive, on a “as I have time” basis running it. there were too many things that would need tending to — that it required a full time commit, and I just wasn’t ready/willing to do that. But problem 2 was the real killer: I realized that I was designing a system that would allow others to write and review and contribute, while I was primarily going to end up administering, managing and editing. And that’s when I realized the writing itch was returning, and what I really needed to do was build stuff that focused on my own writing rather than enable other’s to write.
Good idea; damn good idea, IMHO. But the wrong idea for me. So I Old Yeller’d it. And hated doing it, but I’m glad I did. And put in the back of my head that I needed to figure out how to pull out the essence of the idea, and translate it into something that was about my writing, rather than enabling other’s to write.
I’ve been chewing on that ever since, on and off. And now that idea, and my tech writing, and my fiction writing (if it happens) and my photography are all coalescing and my general “commenting and talking about stuff” are all coalescing, and need a home to live in and thrive on. And what I have isn’t it.
And how to make it something people can contribute their thoughts to — and want to. And share their own things. Blog+disqus is easy, but is that enough? blog+forum seems wrong. it’s something I’m still chewing on.
So we’ll see. Not sure where the flag is on this map, but I think I know where the flag is, and I’m headed in that direction. I expect this will be an interative set up updates, not a massive, all at once “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” update. But we’ll see.
Half the fun is finding the flag, honestly. sometimes, all of the fun is searching for it….
I know some people fear having more questions than answers. for some reason, I love it… As I figure out pieces of it, I’ll make them happen, and if they’re interesting, talk about it.
Because it’s what I do… and thanks for putting up with me…