Steve Gilliard, interactivist

Letters. We get lots and lots of letters.

The NUblog generates fan mail. We are somewhat unaccustomed to this sort of popularity. And we’re getting into a couple of useful discussions, one of which is excerpted herein, with permission. (HTML badly needs a built-in format for displaying E-mail discussions akin to the format=flowed spec. We’re faking things with HTML.)

Note that we use three of George Carlin’s swearwords here, one of which is unavoidable by virtue of being embedded in a domain name. Unlike CNN, which refers to through the misplaced, paternalistic, churchy redaction of IP address, we’re not big on censorship. If you don’t want to read swearing in an otherwise serious site, don’t.

Steve Gilliard of Netslaves writes, after reading our discussion of Salon and the “death of content”:

Gilliard – Love the site.

The whole problem with sites like Salon, which don’t even link to most of theirwriters, is that interactivity. It’s critical. At Netslaves, we get abused regularly,but the exchange is vital. – Well, OK. We have a problem here. Sites with discussion fora offer the illusion of interactivity. Powerful journos write their articles, and the rabble kibbitz among themselves, entirely ignored by journos and editors.

Gilliard – Which is so wrong that I don’t even pay attention to it any more. As opposed to Slashdot, where the rabble are the editors, and the comments, while often childish, are often informed as well. – If we were running the world – and we have proposed this to more than one content site – writers would be forced to participate in discussions. For that to happen, there might be some editing of submissions:

Choose one:

Gilliard – Hmmm. But does Rich have the balls for it? Maureen Dowd clearly doesn’t. I couldn’t care less about the postings for postings’ sake. I like the accountability. When we’re wrong, we get called on it. It’s much healthier than the letter-to-the-editor approach.

Look at It’s smoking-hot right now, both with news and a message board. A smart company could harness that idea into real news, a real living wire service, not this dull shit that passes for news. – OK, but: There is no formula for success. That is true of every artistic medium. Propellerheads will throw around words like “meme,” but who knows what makes popular sites popular? or popular singers popular?

Gilliard – There are some things: a sense of community, editors who care about the message as well as the work. Jim Romenesko cares about the message of his site as well as the quality of it. No single formula will work; we couldn’tcopy /. any more than they could morph into Netslaves. Every site is different, every editor is different. – One keeps thinking of Orangina. Leslie Savan in the Village Voice deconstructed American Orangina commercials (imported from Europe) about eight years ago. To her eye, they were suffused with “Why won’t the American public just obey our instructions to consider Orangina cool? When will they learn?” Companies try really hard to produce something memorable, something memetic, and fail most of the time.

Gilliard – Because cool is something that happens. Napster is cool not because it allows free music. You could set up an FTP site for that. It is because it creates this massive library of music of all different tastes from Nazi skinhead Oi to movie soundtracks to Phil Ochs. – The same is true for amateurs. There are lots of satirical sites, the Onion being the biggest. What makes the Onion and FuckedCompany work? Can we really put our finger on it? We wish to fuck we could.

Gilliard – Not worth it. You have to find your own way. I’ve met the Slashdot guys and know their boss. Nice people, respect them greatly. Could not deal with that environment if you paid me.

The Onion is 10 years of work. It’s about as overnight a success as George Clooney. They worked for years to get that voice and that site to where it is. FuckedCompany, which I’m going to write on for the site tonight, is synergy :-); it’s angry, abused people gathering together to complain and think about an industry which is flawed in many ways. They’re learning a lesson about capitalism – the bosses and you do not share the same interests. It’s like a giant I Am TV commercial with real attitude. :-)

Not everyone can or should be a journalist. Look at Drudge. After he was chased from Hollywood, he went back home to DC and all the dumbass media drones sucked up to him like he could read in English, much less write in it.

We stomped all over APBNews because they didn’t get it. Their writing was like Sominex it was so correct and dull. Salon fired writers because writers are cheap to fire. Fire designers and you can’t replace them easily. – (Embarrassing admission: We didn’t read much at APBNews before it went tits-up and we started writing about it.)

Gilliard – Neither did I. After reading it and hearing from their staff, I know why. Theywere dull as shit. And as a Canadian, why would you care about it? It’s U.S. news anyway. Smug assholes, got most of what they deserved.

Content hasn’t even really started. The net could be a great place for dissidentvoices. Our amoral news companies will invest in anything for money, as will most VCs. There is room to do a lot in this space, but all you have are blueshirts kissing each other’s ass and sniffing for praise. – We wonder about this.

Gilliard – I don’t. I’ve seen it. The hardcore people I have nothing, as they say among the homies, but love for. Slashdot, the Smoking Gun, the guys at OJR, Jim Romenesko, Aaron Barnhart. But the pretenders, the guys who walk around in those damn shirts and smile at everyone like they just hit the lotto... please.

The best work comes from love here. Not just some plan and VC money.

Posted on 2000-07-02