This is pretty cool.
I mean, I had some things to say and typed them up on my laptop; now you're reading my thoughts on your screen. Zap! We've made a connection.
I always wonder what's going on on the other side of the connection as I watch the hits click in to the site. Occasionally, somebody will write back, which always gives me a rush. It's kind of like that scene in E.T. where Elliott tosses a baseball into the shed where E.T. is hiding and is surprised when it comes rolling back to him.
Using the Web as a publishing platform isn't about computers; it's about communication and creativity. It opens up a two-way street between information providers and information consumers. That's why the authors' names on this site are linked to their email addresses.
Publishing a Web site involves the ultimate kind of creation creation ex nihilo. You start with nothing and can make anything. It's all digital bits and pixie dust. We just made this thing up, and now, thanks to you, it's something real. We've won awards. We've been cited as an authoritative source in various discussions. And the more people who visit this site, the more real it becomes. St. Louis is the perfect size for this sort of endeavor: it's small enough for people doing something new to get noticed, but big enough that getting noticed matters.
It's been incredibly satisfying to watch TheCommonspace.org develop its voice and grow to 273 articles (and counting). It's also been nice to be able to give people a forum to tell stories in their own words about causes, organizations and experiences that are important to them.
Self-publishing is very empowering. One of the great things about putting out TheCommonspace.org is that there's no one to tell us "no." Here's an example of our editorial process: we thought it'd be funny to run a back-to-school story about what aldermen did over their summer vacations, so we did it.
For the first time in history, anyone can get her message out to a global audience. The Web is free of a lot of the constraints of print. It has a built-in, perfect distribution channel. There's no per copy cost; in fact, there's almost no cost at all. Plus, you can publish in full color, use as much or as little space as you want, instantly correct and update stories, and keep track of exactly how many people looked at each article and for how long. Easy-to-use, low-tech options like email newsletters and Blogger have further democratized journalism, blurring several lines along the way.
The beauty of publishing a Web site is that you don't have to try to appeal to everybody. A lot of the Web is narrow cast. Unlike broadcast mediums like TV and radio, you don't have to go for the bland middle of the road. You can form a more personal relationship with your audience and cater specifically to it. As David Weinberger, the author of "Small Pieces Loosely Joined," put it in a recent Newsweek article, "In the future, everyone will be famous to 15 people on the Web."
Thanks for reading. Now get out there and start writing.