At some point over the weekend, I decided to out the low level moving on campaign and put my most famous website up for sale on eBay.
I started the site back in the May of 2002, before there were really such things as blogs in the mainstream and the term ‘hyperlocal’ was not even a glint in an irritating theorist’s eye. Pretty much everything that’s ever been on it, and definitely everything technical was written or created by me, I’ve had a couple of ‘columnists’ for short whiles and a couple of bits of ‘holiday cover’ but that’s all. The site was flat, hand coded HTML until I learned of PHP and wrote a simple news updating section. Later I discovered that there wasn’t only a name for such things but software out there to do it more prettily and better.
And now it, or sites like it, are either the future of the media or a disappointment to those that thought they should be.
But, it didn’t start because the media was dying, it started because the media was crap: crap at explaining why people connected emotionally with a place that—when looked at objectively—was a bit shit. Crap at self awareness, crap at understanding real life. The media has changed a little, but mostly the contents have just shifted in transit.
I have always been proud of it being not only independent, but seen to be, so not taking advertising and clearly marking anything churned from a press release was always part of the plan. It was fun at times, maybe important and influential at others, but always fairly time consuming and costly. I’ve got lots of other stuff on now, and for the first time in years a regularly hour-ed job (that’s also in another city)—so it’s time to give up.
There’s also a way in which the landscape of ‘hyperlocal publishing’ has changed—the Corinthian spirit beaten down by encroachment of money or officialdom: from ad sales bullshitters to quango reports that do nothing but serve the interests of the establishment. I don’t have the energy to fight, but don’t want to lose that battle really. So the idea is to let someone with the energy try something else with the cultural cache that the site’s built up. There is a way forward for local content created by people that can reach an audience without aping what’s gone before, but just right now I don’t know what it is.
And I’d like to recoup some of the costs if possible, so I’m selling.
I’ll no doubt return to the themes, and the location, but for now time’s up.
(Here’s what I said just over two years ago about how it all started, I still think pretty much the same.)
Around ten years ago I started Birmingham: It’s Not Shit, the reasons are well documented and it’s been an interesting, useful and, at times, fun ride. It’s certainly changed the path of my life, let me meet interesting people and do interesting things. But it’s never been intended to make money, I think of it as part hobby part community service—and at the moment I haven’t got the time, money, or energy for either of those. So this is what I’ve said on the site:
Seriously, for a few reasons (time to keep updated, money, energy, the increasingly commercial “hyperlocal” landscape) I’m struggling to keep the site updated and I don’t really want it to slip away. I’ve looked into handing it over to someone to run for free out of the goodness of their hearts like I have for 10 years (in May), but no-one suitably likely to keep the spirit with the time and skills to has presented themselves. I’ve never run the site for gain or wanted praise, so it would have to be someone very motivated to keep that up. So, I figure that someone who thinks there’s money here (and there could be if if you worked it, I do get offers) might be able to keep it vibrant.
There’s a reason in the money thing—I think that people who have made an investment are more likely to have the time and motivation. And those two things are really what you need here; you could in theory make money out of a site like this if you wanted to, but it would take work.
Thanks to the wonderful guys at Rhubarb Radio (where I also do the Saturday breakfast show, plug plug) the improvised talk on my personal journey towards communities online from WxWM2 is now available as audio. Not only is it the full talk, and good quality, but you don’t have to look at me waving my arms about — and since there were no slides that’s got to be a good deal.
No, not related to Mike Whitby’s awful meaningless slogan, but the very real sense that — in online parody at least — we’re all pretty similar. At BiNS I got an incoming link from a blog site in Wellington, New Zealand, called “the Wellingtonista“. It seems to be doing similar things to what I do on BiNS, but the reason for the link is the row brewing over this T-shirt: