Happy Fourth Birthday LISNews
LISNews turns 4 years old today! It seems almost impossible that it has already been 4 years since I first hatched this crazy idea to start a Slashdot for librarians. Since that day I've been through 4 jobs in 2 states, 5 apartments, 2 web servers, and 3 different versions of the site. Now, four years later, LISNews continues to survive, maybe even succeed, thanks to all the many people who work to keep our little site interesting and informative.As is usual on this day, I've thrown together some thoughts to share, and I hope you'll do the same.People like Bob Cox, Charles Davis, Gary Price, Steven Fessenamiar and Robin Blum, who take the time to send in stories. Bob, especially, deserves special mention for the literally hundreds of stories he's shared with us over the years. If I had a dime of every time I posted a Bob Cox story, I'd be rich!
Other people, like Ender, help catch our (usually my) mistakes, and help keep LISNews running smooth. Steven M. Cohen also deserves special mention for his dedication ad hard work in days gone by. Though he's too good for us now, he was once a big part of the site.
People like Michael Nellis, rteeter, mcbride, and Fang-Face, and who leave us colorful comments, and Michael McGrorty for his entertaining original writing.
Bill Drew deserves special mention for taking on the wireless blog. I like having the ability to have separate blogs, run by different people, come out of LISNews. This is something I hope to be able to extend further in the future. I'd like to find editors for each of our current sections, and add others I've not yet considered. More collaboration, more cooperation, and more involvement from more people can only help make LISNews stronger. Diversity, breadth, and depth. There must be a nice slogan there somewhere.
There are three people who really made this all possible. Without their help, LISNews would not exist as it does today. Joe Frazee for his Linux skills, Nabeal Ahmed for teaching me how to program, and Steve Galbraith for posting stories with me in the early days.
There are far too many people involved with LISNews for me to be able to thank everyone, and that's the beauty of it all. I've always strived to make LISNews an open site that allows as many people to participate as possible. I think collaboration is the key to success in most ventures, and LISNews is no exception. I've never really thought of LISNews as "my site," because it's truly a group effort, I just keep the thing running. At this point I've either been proven right on that idea, or the site is empty. Everyone who has had special "author powers" deserves a big pat on the back for the time and effort they put in to post stories. The authors are really the most important part of the site, since they are the people who post the stories that keep us all coming back. Someday, I hope, I'll be able to pay them for their hard work.
LISNews started as a small, hand made, static HTML site with a few pages, and just a few stories. I simply wanted to see if I could make a web site, any web site. I eventually figured out how to get PHPSlash installed and running, and that code kept us going for a few years. A couple months back I said farewell to that dear old friend, and untold hours of development, and moved to the "real" Slashcode. Slashcode allows more interaction and participation. With journals, moderation, the zoo, and many other features, LISNews now provides what seems like a never ending array of goodies to help kill some time at work, or home, or wherever you happen to be.
As I wrote in an email the other day, I honestly can not remember what I did with my free time before I started this site. Actually, I don't have free time now. I don't know how many hours I've put in since November 2 1999, nor, I think, do I want to know. LISNews is a big part of my life, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
So that's where we've been, where we are now, what about where we're going?
Honestly, I don't know. The future of LISNews is still not clear to me at this point, and it's not from lack of ideas, but rather, too many ideas, and no time to move on them. That's not to say the long term future has ever been clear to me, but it may actually be less clear now than ever before. Lately I've had even more ideas, and even less time. I just don't know what direction to move in now. At this point I can't imagine life with out it, but I'm not entirely sure what to do with it, what to change, or what to leave unchanged.
Troy and I are working on a journal idea. I've always wanted to extend LISNews, either in print form, or on the web. The idea is an extension into a journal form, where original, longer, more scholarly articles can explore issues in different ways. So you can most likely expected an LISNews journal in some form at some point in the future. Print may just be too much work, and too expensive, but an eJournal should be possible, if there is interest.
Something else I've been thinking on is the "LISNews holy trinity"
The RSS, The HTML, and the Email. (Make up your own hand gestures for that)
They are 3 different versions, three different ways we communicate the same information to people, each one is an opportunity for us to share what we know, in a slightly different format. I'd like to figure out a way to somehow tie these 3 rather separate things together, so a person who prefers one version will not miss out on things that happen on the other versions. I'm not really sure what that means, or how I can make it happen, but it's something that I've just started giving some thought. The RSS version needs to be able to bring comments into the mix somehow, is just one thing I need to work on.
Much of the future of the code right now is dependant on the slashcode team, as I am basically a perl moron at this point. The old, PHP, code was very easy for me to work with, I could add new features fairly easily. Now, it could be a year or so until I have that same level of knowledge and proficiency. To make things worse, LISNews is not my only part time project. It's also not as stable, or as robust. We won't be able to hold up to another slashdotting like we did back in June of this year, the new code is just using too much server power to be able to handle so many hits in a day. All those features come at a price. Even now there are days when I need to firewall off an IP thanks to a crazy spider trying to crawl the entire site all at once. There are still a few issues floating around in relation to the old code vs new. Some stories didn't import correctly, and the old comments and polls are still gone. I have no idea if I'll ever get to that.
I've really enjoyed watching the site grow over the years, watching the hits increase, and the comments and participation come alive has been wonderful. It's been fun watching the journals. The journals are being used mush more than I had though/hoped they would have been, and a few have actually generated some discussion, so I know they're being read. It's been even more fun watching the moderation. I'm surprised how quick people are to mod things to -1, especially -1 flamebait. There's been a few comments that either I took to mean something different, or I just didn't get that had been moderated down more than once. So far the powers of moderation have been used sparingly, and usually accurately. There really does need to be more moderation on each comment for it to be accurate and fair, but essentially, the moderation is really doing the job I had wanted it to do. Comments aimed in the general direction of Boston get modded down pretty quick, so I know it's working. My bachelors degree is in Psychology, and I just love to watch this stuff happen to see how people are acting and reacting to others on the site. With just over 1,000 comments on the new code now I'm quite happy with the amount of participation via comments. It was a slow start, in part, I think, because it's just harder to leave a comment on the new Slashcode. I had hacked the old code to make it easier, and it's just not quite as obvious now. Another hack is in order.
I just hope the site will remain interesting for people. I don't want LISNews to stagnate, but at the same time I don't want to move to quick and try things that are not of any interest to people. The site continues to be interesting to me, and I hope we can continue to make it interesting to others as well. New features will, I hope, add to our usefulness.
With LISHost I have less time to devote to LISNews, now that I am married (I'm actually on my Honeymoon right now, having just remembered to write this the day before my wedding) I'll be pulled in different directions once I buy a house, and some day, if we're lucky, kids. Since I seem to change jobs about every year and a half, there may be a day when work doesn't allow me time to work on the site. At this point in my life I don't mind devoting the time, but I don't want to lose any more money. I paid $20 a month for over 3 years to host LISNews, and I don't want to again pay more for LISHost as well. So how I ensure this continues to pay for itself is a big scary question at this point. I think about running ads, but I don't want to be in the advertising business. I've actually snuck some google ads into the old code to see how they look, I may at some point add them to a few of the current pages as well. So far we have enough clients to pay for the server, and I think that'll be true next year as well. Of course my ultimate dream would be to run LISNews/LISHost for a living, but how this little site could ever pay the bills is beyond me at this point.
I'm also thinking very seriously of incorporating LISNews/Host as a nonprofit organization. That may happen before the end of the year, if I'm lucky. Like I said, lots of ideas, little timeâ€¦
So many ideas, so little time, this is why I am always looking for more authors. Many days it's all me, and I don't like that. I don't think of this is my site, and you all shouldn't be stuck reading just what I post. The variety, depth and breadth of stories we get from having more people participate really makes things more interesting.
Please consider helping out if you have time. Share a story, write a story, volunteer as an author, moderate or simply leave a comment. Aloha, and always, I value your feedback.