What follows is a poorly written exposition of my recent activity. If you’re not in the mood for self-congratulatory bullshit, here’s the gist: I made morgante.net. It’s cool. It’s me.
Before doing so, I created numerous designs, from the gaudy to the overly-subdued. One was entirely primary colors, another was pure black-and-white. With respect to the design, I feel I’ve reached the ideal equilibrium with respect to the Goldilocks Principle: interesting, but not garish.
As my online home on the web, it of course links to all my profiles on various sites (I have too many). Most notably, I’ve added a link to Lemnos, my lab. Its name comes from the island upon which the great engineer-god Hephaestus wrought his creations. Within the lab are all my various technical projects. Its powered by Habari and a plugin of my own devising. The project pages are almost entirely automated: metadata is extracted from the plugin source, downloads are built from the subversion repository, and support is powered by the Habari Forums. Overall, I’m quite satisfied with the result.
Back on my hub, I did my best to keep things jovial. Building a website entirely devoted to myself is inherently rather pompous, so I was sure to have a healthy dose of self-mockery. The about page is a tongue-in-cheek tale of my life, while the Twitter widget in the sidebar features my occasionally whimsical wordplay. Meanwhile, the contact page is fully AJAXified, using my AlienContact plugin.
In the future, I plan to have a fully integrated lifesteam, à la Sweetcron. It will have all my activity from various places around the web, in addition to random life achievement bits: school awards, projects I start, etc. — the idea is that I will be able to programmatically generate a resume from the data. Though I currently have something similar here, I would like to eliminate a lot of the superfluous material from Newy Ancient and move it to my hub. The next iteration of my blog will put my best content up front, while also integrating newer (short) link posts.
Stay tuned for more exciting things as I finally get some priorities straightened out. My goal is to write at least one article a week, when the hellish load of AP English allows it.
My friend Joe Thibault recently emailed me about a new site he has started with Sean Behan (a crackerjack Ruby programmer). Their site, called PostLearn, is essentially an affiliate job board for education. While I wish them success in their endeavor, I won’t be joining as I believe this model suffers from a couple of major flaws.
The greatest flaw is immediately visible from the affiliate graph: one site drives a vastly disproportionate amount of the traffic; Free Technology for Teachers alone accounts for over 90% of the traffic, and consequently will receive far more affiliate revenue. Except it will probably receive all of the revenue. In an affiliate model, there is a certain base amount of traffic required before you can get a single sale, a minimum that I doubt many of the others on the long tail (including yours truly) would reach. Effectively, the entire pot of affiliate money is controlled by a tiny oligarchy of sites.
This would be acceptable (it’s a free market, after all) were it not for the fundamental flaws in the Internet economy. This flawed economy is controlled by a small oligarchy of noisemakers. This oligarchy isn’t particularly hard to enter: just abandon journalistic ethics and post lists of the top n ways to write lists.1 Boom! Traffic.
Unsurprisingly, just as in the larger Internet, the most popular PostLearn affiliate simply rehashes merit-less news stories and tips.2 Looking down the page, lo and behold, we find a list of the aforementioned variety. Sadly, this content is rewarded far more generously than potentially more deserving comment.
Google AdSense grants us some slight freedom from this paradigm by democratizing advertising. Though the most trafficked sites still receive the vast majority of the revenue, smaller sites do share in some of the revenue, potentially enough to offset minimal publishing expenses. In this way, Google AdSense resembles most modern democracies: while the elite still maintain most of the power, the little guy does get a small voice. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than an oligarchy of the unthinking elite.
However, we can do one better with a meritocracy. Rather than being a detriment, advertising can be a force for good on the web. Fusion Ads and The Deck are prime examples of this. Instead of rewarding breadth of content, these networks focus on finding blogs which consistently post material with depth. By handpicking their members these networks ironically end up leveling the playing field and giving quality content a chance to shine. I truly believe this is the advertising model that will save the web.3
With that in mind, I offer this challenge to Joe and Sean: devise an advertising platform which will improve the quality of the edublogosphere. In my opinion, such a model should observe three crucial principles:
- Popularity doesn’t necessarily correlate with merit. Meaningful blogs with strong reader relationships will, in the end, provide greater long-term benefit.
- Be selective. The quality of small, niche groups is more easily controllable, making them more marketable.
- Know the audience. Most readers are going to be job seekers (teachers) not job posters. The billing and payment strategy should reflect this.
Whether they choose to implement these ideas or not, I wish Joe and Sean the best of luck and look forward to their response.