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Reflections on creating a web site




There are certain inevitable moments in amateur media. events that are utterly predictable. One of these predictable events is that the amateur will devote some time babbling about the tools of the trade. It is all quite understandable. The creator of amateur media must devote a fair bit of effort to mastering the mechanics of the publishing process. Having mastered the mechanics of communication one needs to communicate something. The hobbyist naturally talks about what he or she is interested in. And one of those interests is the mechanics of amateur media.

Thus it is that radio hams talk about transmitters and receivers. Amateur publishers talk about the mechanics of publishing a small magazine. People who create web sites natter about the trivia of creating and designing web sites. Who am I to buck tradition?


I started this site in March of 1996 for a couple of reasons. One was professional -- I wanted to keep up with changes in the computing field and the world wide web is the latest hot thing. The other was that I wanted to move my amateur publishing efforts from the print media to this new media. Off and on for many years I have published fanzines, small amateur press publications vaguely related to the Science Fiction world.

One of the almost inevitable events in the career of the amateur publisher is the hiatus. The sequence of events runs much like this. Jophan sees that other people are creating fanzines, web sites, whatever, and decides that this is a nifty thing to do. Jophan creates his first fanzine. It gets some positive response and provides some ego gratification. He follows up it with his next effort which is bigger and better. He gets more positive response. The next one is still bigger and better.

The catch is that there is nothing to force Jophan to keep publishing. What happens is that, as the product grows, each issue takes more and more work. Schedules slip. Finally there comes the monster issue that never quite makes it out the door. The thing is there to be completed but the effort required is no longer a joy but instead is a drudgery. The feedback switches from positive to negative. As enthusiasm wanes the effort spent wanes. And that last monster issue ends on the shelf. The hiatus begins.


My last fanzine, Personal Notes, fell into a black hole more than a decade ago, in part for the usual reasons and in part because the entrepeneureal effort consumed every bit of my spare time. It was dead. But that signifies nothing. The story of my life is one of picking up long uncompleted projects and bringing them to fruition. The dead do come back to life. I am haunted by the ghosts of zombies. Thus it is that Personal Notes has come back to life in the guise of a web site. Much of the original material for this site came from material originally intended for PN.

Web sites are a different animal from fanzines. With a magazine you have a subscription list and you put out issues. Each issue is an independent event. A web site is not like that. The whole thing is there -- you may add to it and fiddle with it but it doesn't naturally break up into issues. Another difference is that you don't have a subscriber list. Instead of sending copies to selected individuals you broadcast to the whole uncaring world. The rules are different. What's worse, once people have seen your site, they think they've seen it all and go on never to return. There's a problem with repeat business.

To be continued...


This page was last updated June 2, 1996.
It was reformatted and moved May 10, 2006.

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