Wicked Little Town (Why am I here?)
Usually, we I get into the place I find myself today, people think I am putting down the physical location I am in. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I find myself living in a place as foreign to me as a fish exploring outer space. I don't just mean this actual town. I mean my personal, professional, spiritual, and imaginal lives. I have entered a domain that is no longer governed by my five senses and everything I have ever learned, thought or believed is useless.
I swore to myself that I would never move back to Poplar Bluff, but here I am. There are many versions of the story.
In one, I am victim of circumstance. Not entirely, but this was not in the plan.
In two, I am a good Samaritan. Not really, I am a little too selfish for that to be true.
In three, I am afraid to move. I lost nearly everything once, now I am afraid to loose my family too.
In four, I am afraid I don't know who and what I want anymore. This one is probably closest to being true.
A couple years ago, when my grandfather died, my sister (who I trust, admire, and love more than anything) sat me down and gave me an ultimatum: "You have tried to be a writer for a long time now. How much longer are you going to do this before you give it up and get a real job."
It broke my heart, and in many ways my soul. All I have ever wanted to be was a writer... well storyteller. She was right, up until that time, I had not found anyone who liked anything I ever wrote. My prospects as a writer were slim to none.
I remember that day clearly. That was the day I sacrificed my personal life to make my dreams come true. I started worked 12 to 18 hour days writing and learning:
how to blog
the ins and outs of the software
how to podcast
how to pretend not to be the shy, sensitive artist, and how to be an entrepreneur.
As my former life lay bleeding at my feet, I turned my back, hoping to achieve my dreams and make my family proud.
My professional life is a juggling act.
I blog for three sites.
I record 9 podcasts a week in 5 series.
I am planning out a new novel in a new setting.
I promote 3 already published works.
I run a Blog and Podcast Network.
I am developing a Table Top role playing game based in the settings I created.
I am a community manager.
I am dashPunk Media's tech support and code monkey.
I am not looking for sympathy. I enjoy most of what I do for work, and not a day goes by when a reader/listener doesn't remind me why I do what I do. The problem is, I am having trouble remembering why I do it.
I can definitely say:
I am not in this for the money (though it would be nice).
I am not in this for the fame (frankly the little that I have freaks me out).
I am not in this for my ego (I get too much hate mail for that)
I love to tell stories because I like to connect with others. There is a certain magic that happens when I discuss one of my stories with a fan, or talk about someone else's story. Stories are the way we share those unspeakable things with each other. They are the way we connect on a deep level. That is what is missing:
Where are the connections?
I am fortunate to have made connections with a few of you, but not nearly to the level I would like, and not nearly in the way I would like.
The Internet is by its very nature impersonal. It is hard to meet and connect to new people in a real way.
We talk on twitter, email, every now and again through IM, but these are all dry and empty communications platforms, not community platforms. What I am wanting to make is an honest to God community on the web. Facebook is great for the people I already know, and twitter is great for sharing ideas and links, but what I want is an interconnected hub where we can meet greet, and share. Getting to know each other, and helping each other out.
Laconi.ca, Reddit, Drupal, and Ning
I looked at every social tool I can find, and I have yet to find the one that will do what I am looking for. They all have their pros and cons, but the hard truth is, I really don't have the time and energy to learn all of these systems. What I want is a one stop shop.
I am not sure what happened to Chris Pirillo's idea for a simple community version of Drupal, every time I go to the site it is down. I suppose he abandoned it.
This might be a problem that is not solvable.
The Dream App
I like Ning, and the features they offer, they have all of the basics:
Branding & Visual Design Freedom
Unique Member Profiles
Moderation & Privacy
Invitations & Search Engine Optimization
Custom Text & Widgets
RSS Feeds In and RSS Out
Photos Feature & Branded Photo Slideshows
Video Feature & Branded Video Players
Blogs for Every Member
That is the bare minimum for a network, but it really should have a few more things.
Twitter integration: (Using the Existing API)
Group Tweet-like functionality that would allow members see each other's updates in one place, as well as post to the feature, and have the feature post on to Twitter. Members would also be able to start new groups with a quick and easy set up process.
Tweetizen-like functionality that would allow for topic communities, and a great example of group tweeting, but it is limited to 10 people in a group, that limit would have to be removed, and members would have to be able to join without having to be added.
Last.fm intergation: The ability to display and share information to and from Last.fm in the network.
GoodReads integration: The ability to display and share information to and from GoodReads in the network.
Blip.fm integration: The ability to display and share information to and from Blip.fm, including a network playlist, and individual ones for the groups.
Social Bookmarking integration: I really have no favorites here, but it would be great to share, collect, rate, and organize links.
Full integration with other photo sharing sites.
Bookmarklet to easily share videos, pictures and links into the network
Groups should have the option of having their own blogs.
Member blog posts should have the option of which groups they are posted to.
Easy Zine creation and distribution.
Members should be able to start, accept submissions, edit, and publish their own zines individually or in groups.
A desktop app that makes all of these features little more than a click away for those members who are interested in it. Something like TweetDeck.
I know I am probably forgetting a lot of things. If you can think of anything that your dream network should have, please leave a comment. Maybe we can find a couple developers who can help us take BuddyPress, Ning, or Drupal to this level of functionality.