A guy I knew from my days as an influential member of the Pocket PC community (I suppose press isn't quite the right word but in any case) sent me a message on MSN yesterday, as people I know from that era are prone to doing. My somewhat brief discussion with him reopened a series of wounds that I had been ignoring blissfully, but I think reopening them was good for my creative process.
I kind of fear that I'm going to fall into a trap of telling my autobiography again and again, almost to the point of nausea; but I think this background is necessary for the story I'm going to tell today. Before I started High School, I got a Handspring Visor and a portable keyboard for use in school, and over a period of about two years I upgraded and changed my PDA gear. All the while, I contributed to a number of communities as an editor, columnist, freelance writer, discussion moderator, staff writer, and probably one or two other jobs I've blocked from my memory. While I probably made the most money writing about PDA stuff, it wasn't emotionally fulfilling in any real way, and I did more work for the profit of others then I'd really like to think about right now. My 'career' hit a high point when I was one of the editor/moderator/staff writers for a certain site that was pulling half a million unique visitors per month, when that ended, I decided that I had had enough, and moved on to concentrate on other more exciting projects. Since then I've drafted a book, gotten a good start on another book, and created TealArt, among other accomplishments. So now you know… back to our regularly scheduled programming.
One thing this experience granted me, other than a few hundred connections I have no use for, and a near encyclopedic knowledge of everything mobile tech related, is a pretty good understanding of how online communities function and how to build websites to be successful. This is why I was basically pounding my head on the desk when this guy sent me a message.
Mobile technology website/communities are thick on the ground and just like any other web-project, all new sites need to either offer something that is completely unavailable elsewhere, or they need to offer their content in a format that is completely new and different from what's available. Otherwise, you won't have an audience worth speaking of.
This goes for 'personal' weblogs too, and all of the really successful fun ones, knowingly or not follow this mandate, and websites that mirror someone else's design or format aren't really successful. GreyExpectations.com merges Noah's writing and photography in a really unique way, and simplicity is the charm here. David's design keeps his format in check, and he blends his stories, with his photography, blogwhore content, and the like. TealArt combines aspects of already used formats (most notably Domesticat), but I don't know of a single weblog out there that has (at least in theory) a group of four people writing this kind of content. We're unique in our approach if not our format.
The basic format for Pocket PC/mobile sites (those that resemble blogs that is) is to have some sort of a weblog and an associated discussion board. The majority of the content is derived from links to other sites and commentary by the site leader and his (usually his) associate minions. When it's a bunch of dorks (sorry folks) blabbing about the latest gear, this tends to piss me off, but I was thinking that there's really nothing wrong with the format itself, and there could be a lot of potential if this 'template' were applied to other kinds of projects. So I was thinking that it might be really interesting to have a mobile tech style site about men. That's right, men. There's a plethora of masculinity related stuff going on in the world and on the internet that should be covered, and I think there's a lot of potential with this form.
Now don't get worried, I'm not ready to start another site, because I really want to get this site off the ground completely before I start working on another one (and because I want to have an active user base here that I can use to jumpstart another site). I think the idea has some definite promise, and maybe someday I can look back on this entry and think "god, wouldn't that be cool to do."