December 13th, 2005

default, pepper

Claw & Quill 2.0?

So. I have this web domain…

The original idea of Claw & Quill was to be an edited magazine, but it ran into two long-standing bugs in my personal software: one, I’m more interested in being a builder than a maintainer; two, I don’t delegate well enough to make sure that balls I set in motion keep rolling if I’m not behind them pushing. I’m working on ways to address the second one in the Excursion Society MUCK: simply, there are 3-4 other people I’d like to approach as wizards, and the goal is to set up a system that keeps any of us from being “blocking points” on outstanding tasks. While I had ideas on how to do that with C&Q, too—the biggest idea one being bringing on one or two other editors!—I deliberately pushed it to the wayside this year. (One of my other long-standing bugs is taking on too many projects simultaneously, so one of my resolutions earlier this year was to start serializing them. I’m also starting to learn how to serialize the projects into discrete actions a la Getting Things Done, but that’s a subject for another message.)

While ESM remains my main delayed project for the moment, I’m hoping to give it a “soft opening” in January, which means it’s going to be time to start thinking about C&Q some more. The big thought is: what is it going to be?

The two obvious choices are another run at an edited magazine, or some kind of fiction archive, perhaps to supercede the Belfry Archive that revar started years ago. (Since I think the only thing Revar put in there are stories I wrote, I don’t feel too bad suggesting a theoretical replacement.) However, I’ve joked that I have a good habit of recognizing niches that should be filled but a bad habit of trying to fill said niches myself, rather than getting somebody else to do it. Hence, things like Mythagoras, furry fandom’s first “semi-prozine,” which was pretty damn cool if I do say so myself and established several other firsts: first furry zine to have newsstand distribution, first furry zine to publish a Hugo-winning author, first furry zine to be penalized by the tax board. Go us! But if this didn’t lay groundwork, maybe it at least inspired people, like Sofawolf Press, for instance—what they’re doing is what Mythagoras could have done with people running it who were serious about, well, running it.

And on that front, 2005 has seen two interesting things… namely, somebody else doing an edited magazine, and somebody else doing a fiction archive. The former is Quentin Long’s Anthro, a cousin of his bi-monthly TSAT transformation fiction zine. The latter is FurRag, Osfer’s ambitious project to develop an archive site with extensive user-driven filtering capability:

Rather than having a different archive for every set of preferences, there ought to be one single collection which can easily be filtered down to the stories that interest any particular user. As FurRag’s technologies are rolled out, it will come ever closer to achieving that goal, allowing all stories a place in one massive archive whil [sic] allowing readers to easily filter away what doesn’t interest them to get at what does.

So, I suppose the questions for me are:

  1. Is there a third way to present furry/sci-fi stories that isn’t either of those two models?
  2. Is there a way to make a hybrid of the two approaches? If so, what would it entail?
  3. Is there a slant I could take that would differentiate Claw & Quill from either of those attempts (or others that may be out there already)?
  4. Can I come up with a good justification for “competing” with either of those sites? What would it mean to be substantially better in this context?

To share my sketchy bullet points:

  • The “furry but not in a way that scares non-furries” approach I’ve tried to take in the past
  • A site that would be a “moderated archive,” like Yerf! was for art
  • Featured stories that would be put on the front page like a magazine, possibly with illustrations (and possibly with payment!)
  • A user interface I haven’t defined yet, but whose ideal is what Apple mostly gets right: visually pleasing, intuitive, and with “scalable power,” i.e., new users can figure out what to do immediately but advanced users don’t feel patronized
  • Ruby on Rails Ajax tags Web 2.0 blah blah blah
  • The other editors I’d thought of for C&Q version 1 might not be off the hook, depending on their interest next year

While I’ll be chewing on this for a while, I’d like to get other input on this from folks. Critiques on my ideas, critiques on other people’s ideas, answers to my questions, all those things that will intimidate me when I try to get going on this in a few months.

Addenda, 8pm: One of the future plans for FurRag is to have “reviewer” roles, where users can follow lists of stories a reviewer thinks are worthy. I presume this will be something like iTunes’ mixes or Amazon’s lists. It’s possible for C&Q to be a FurRag list, in effect combining forces rather than having two separate sites. Good, bad or neutral? I have my opinion on this and my reasons, but want to hear others!