Me and Metblogs

I announced this internally last week but didn’t make any public comments about it mostly because of the proximity to April 1 (I realized the date after I sent out some internal emails and got back lots of “ha ha, you aren’t fooling me!” replies. Ooops.) Last week I stepped down as the CEO of Bode Media, Inc, the parent company that publishes Metblogs and my co-founder Jason DeFillippo assumed the role.

There’s no drama or scandal or forbidden love triangle or blackmail behind this, it was simple and obviously time for a change. I’d been CEO of the company since Jason and I started it back 2003 and 8 years is a long time. Especially for someone with as short an attention span as I have and especially for something that thrives on constant engagement and excitement. I’m exceptionally proud of a lot of what Metblogs has done and while I think some of the stuff we did was too early, and some of the stuff we wanted to do we didn’t do fast enough, as a whole I think it’s all right on. Though, in the same way a drowzy driver on a road trip (hopefully) realizes when he/she is nodding off and has the sense to pull over and hand the keys to someone else, I know it’s time for someone else to drive. It’s probably been time for someone else to drive for a while honestly, and I couldn’t be happier that Jason will be doing just that.

The first several years of Metblogs were filled with explaining to people why local mattered – at that time the web was all about global. Local is finally starting to make sense, a lot of sense in fact, and I know Metblogs will be in good hands with Jason at the helm. He’s been right there with me since day one and seen it all already. I know some of what he has planned and it’s going to be awesome.

As for me, I’m looking forward to playing a non-leadership role again and will continue to blog about local stuff over on our Los Angeles site. I used to do that a lot, but haven’t so much recently. I’m excited to get back into it from purely the fun angle.

And yes, stepping out of the full time role at Bode Media means I have time for other things, though as you might expect that’s very much already spoken for. I’ve got another post coming soon talking about what I’ll be spending my time on over the next few months, but that’s another story.

Resolution Revolution

Resolutions. It’s the end of the year and the end of a decade. In some respects that’s a really big deal but really it’s just another day with a bigger tick mark on it in our heads that make it seem like it’s different than all the others. A way of marking the time that has passed. I’ve not been a big fan of resolutions for the most part because while they are meant to make you happier, make you a better person, right your past wrongs, the are frequently so lofty that the chance of success is very slim and that just leads to disappointments and feelings of failure when you eventually either don’t meet the goal or generally break the resolution.

Instead I prefer to look back on the last year, or on the last 10 years as it might be. Look at what I wanted to do, what I actually did, what I didn’t. Where did I think I would be today when I was looking ahead a year ago, or 10 years ago? Am I on track with those projections? If not, is the track I chose better than the one I thought I was going to take? What have I done right? What have a done wrong? Who did I help? Who did I hurt? I think reflecting is very valuable. It helps you see what kind of a person you are. It’s really easy to paint a beautiful picture of the person you want to be but actually taking a solid look at the person you are I think is a better way to see what actions to take that will help you to be a better person tomorrow.

I know not everyone cares about that, but it’s kind of the central thing to me. At least I always want it to be. I know I fuck up. I know I’ve done things wrong. I know I’ve hurt people. I didn’t want to or intend to do those things, so what can do, what can I keep in mind to reduce the chances of doing those things again in the future. And more that that, not just fixing mistakes, what can I do to generally improve situations. What can I do to be a better person. What can I do to not just make the world a little better place for me, but for those around me.

Of course it’s easy to write that off as equally selfish and lofty and I’d be lying to say these concerns are paramount every day – sometimes the only thing I care about is having a really good cup of coffee – but I think spending some time thinking about it every once and a while is a good way to asses and evaluate and adjust accordingly. I think wanting to do the right thing goes a long way and influences your actions without it being a conscious decision. Maybe I’m full of shit, but that’s what I tend to think.

And bringing that back to resolutions, thinking to myself that I want to try to do more good than bad seems more reachable and attainable than having some statistic I’m trying to reach. Of course I still have those mini-milestones in my head for this project or that one, but I think pulling those off should be the byproduct of being on the right track, not the main goal that is being worked towards. The destination isn’t the goal. When you get to the destination it’s over. And if that’s all you were thinking about then you missed the journey in between here and there.

Happy New Year.

That thing with Metblogs

Whoah, it’s crazy how much can change in 48 hours.

In the grand scheme of weeks, this one has been closer to the difficult side. It’s been extremely bad, and at the same time humbling and inspiring. In case you missed the news, on Friday we announced that after six and a half years, we would be shutting down Metblogs at the end of this month. It’s abrupt and unexpected even for us. Jason DeFillippo, my friend and business partner throughout all of this, wrote a personal and touching post about how it all started, and posted some closing stats to wrap it all up with a bow. In that time the network has had over a thousand writers, created more than 100,000 posts, and generated nearly 320,000 comments. Even I was impressed by that.

I wanted to write something about it myself. I wanted to explain how I felt and how hard of a decision that was to make but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Every time I started writing I’d just get a page full of emo crap that wasn’t much more than me wallowing and feeling bad about myself. I couldn’t help it. I was heartbroken. I never in all this time thought there would ever be a situation when we were forced to turn off the lights and walk away, but there we were standing in the middle of it. To think of everything that had gone into this, and to think of it just disappearing was crushing. I stopped trying to write and just let whatever was going to happen happen.

I said this was a surprising thing for us and I meant that. For it’s entire existence Metblogs has pretty much taken care of itself. It’s never been the biggest thing in the world but it wasn’t losing money and we felt that the social impacts and benefits it had were certainly worth that alone. We were also lucky to know a few people who supported what we were doing and chipped in some cash to help make it better. Michael Baffico, Larry Busacca, Michael Goff, Jody Mulkey and Sean Suhl believed in us enough early on to help us out with some of the bigger growth costs and we will forever be in their debt. And as Jason mentioned having Joi Ito and Xeni Jardin as our consiliari of sorts has been invaluable.

In 2009 the ad market took a serious nosedive industry wide (I’ve written about that here) but luckily we had some reserves to get us through the rough patches. And even in the darkest hour we never considered shutting things down. At worst it was more like “crap, ok we’ll let our phones get turned off for the month or something” and things would bounce back. But 2009 was exceptionally rough and we didn’t bounce back as quickly as we needed it to.

In January of 2010 we made a post asking for help – we wanted the sites to stay online and to grow and knew that what we were doing wasn’t cutting it anymore and there had to be someone or someone’s out there who could take the steps we couldn’t. We spent the next few months talking to many people and finally settling on a deal that we thought would be perfect. And it was. Until it wasn’t. Which was the beginning of last week. We were suddenly faced with the cold hard reality that putting all of our eggs in one basket was a very, very bad idea. We spent 24 hour or so running around our respective rooms in a panic before realizing we didn’t really have any other options. And that’s when we notified people that this was likely the end.

I want to say that sitting alone in your own house watching something you’ve spent the better part of the last decade crumble in front of you is no fun. It’s pretty easy to think you are the only one who cares about it, and that if it all went away tomorrow no one would
notice. Or if they did they’d just feel let down. It’s pretty defeating honestly. And I know that is exactly the whiney emo crap I was trying to avoid, but that’s pretty much the headspace we were in towards the end of last week. So we accepted our fate, and made our post. Clicking ‘publish’ was the lowest I’d been in years. And I didn’t even have the guts to do it, I made Jason do it.

And that is when the unexpected happened. People started popping up like goddamn ninjas out of nowhere to tell us how important they thought Metblogs was and how they couldn’t let it die. Several people offered their own cash to help keep things alive. Several groups stepped forward and offered to take some of the weight off our shoulders to help keep things alive. We honestly never expected that to happen, and we’re blown away by the kind things people had to say about it. We’ve spent the weekend talking to people, running numbers and getting hopeful. On Friday everything seemed dark and impossible, today everything looks like it will work out.

Our number one goal in all of this is to allow the sites to live on, and ensure the efforts of the last six and a half years don’t disappear. After what has happened this weekend I think we can safely say that that won’t be a problem. While things are moving super quickly, they aren’t moving quickly enough that I can say anything specific but I’m really excited about the prospects. Because these prospects require cash, and because people keep offering it, we’ve set up this pledgie to make it easier to donate. I want to take a moment and thank everyone from the very bottom of my heart for all the kind words of support and stories about how much Metblogs has meant to them. It’s been flattering and humbling to have been even the smallest part of something that people feel has had such an impact on their lives, but all credit, all of it, should be going to the authors on the sites. While Jason and I had a small part in getting this train in motion, it’s the authors that are at it’s core and are it’s lifesblood. I can’t stress how grateful I am to each and every person who ever contributed to any of the sites.

With that I’m going to end this post, and hope to have another with even better news in the very near future. Thanks again everyone.

And now for something completely different…

I just posted this on, but it’s pretty important to me so I’m posting it here too…

In mid-2003 Jason DeFillippo and I met up in person for the first time at a Starbucks on Melrose Avenue to talk about an idea we both had for a cool new blog about Los Angeles. The concept of a group blog didn’t really exist and when people thought “local news”, newspapers or alt weekly’s were the first thing that came to mind. In November of 2003 we launched – the first blog to try and cover all that is Los Angeles and thought that would be the end of it.

Skip ahead to early 2010 and that one site turned into a network that now spans almost 60 cities around the world. The team of 10 or so bloggers we hand picked has grown into the thousands. We’ve seen some of our blogs become the focal point for their communities after major disasters and have seen some of our bloggers move on to some amazing careers because of doors these sites opened for them. We’ve won awards and been served cease and desist letters. We’ve traveled the world and met more amazing people than we had ever hoped to. It’s been a fantastic journey.

We’ve also seen the landscape change considerably. People no longer look to newspapers as the premier source of local news and most cities are filled with passionate bloggers covering their own aspects of the city in ways no one else ever could. It truly has been a local revolution and we’re incredibly proud to have played even the smallest part in that. That said we know this is only the beginning. National publications are taking a renewed interest in local and every news site is waving their local flags around, and trying to get people from those communities to help them do it. If you think things have been interesting thus far, and we do, just wait and see what the next 24-48 months will bring.

We know this is just the beginning but for the past 7 years we’ve busted our asses trying to fuel this revolution. We’ve tried things that have worked out perfectly and things that have blown up in our faces. We’ve stuck to our guns and if given those opportunities again would do the same thing. We believe in the power of local, and that is why we’re now looking for someone to help keep Metblogs moving and take it to the next levels that we have yet been able to.

Our collective talents span a broad range of expertise but business development has never been our focus. On many levels we’ve built a kick-ass global network but our ability to grow into what we really want Metblogs to become and what we deeply believe it has the potential to be has reached our personal limits, and we are aware of that. We’re looking for the right people or organizations to keep Metblogs alive and to take it where we were unable to so we are putting out this call.

If you know a thing or two about blogs and local media and think this sounds interesting, we want to talk to you. If your company is already doing something similar or complimentary and could benefit from a closer relationship with Metblogs, we want to talk to you. There are many shapes this might take, from something as simple as a new CEO or GM, to a full acquisition by the right company. Our deepest concern is for the future of the network and all the content our amazing bloggers have spent years creating, and finding a relationship that is respectful of that is extremely important to us. What that means is if you are interested in turning the sites into an SEO linkfest we are likely not interested in talking to you. However if you are interested in making some real headway and think local is the future, we definitely want to talk.

We know this is an unorthodox approach but we’ve never been the kind of guys to follow the well beaten path. Are you the person or company we’re looking for? Let us know. (we can be reached at sean or jason of course)

Dear Metblogs readers & writers, we fucked up. Sorry.

Photo 122Yeah. So… Hey. Hows it going? Good. Glad to hear it.

We’ve made some changes over the last few years in efforts to make things better but have realized that some of those changes might have done the opposite so we’re trying to change the changes. The truth is the changes we initially made were made with good intentions, some were at the request of readers and writers, some were heading the advice of business people who were giving us advice about business. Really it doesn’t matter who we were listening to because we forgot one of the main things that helped us get this whole network off the ground in the first place. We forgot the part about not giving a crap what other people thought and just building sites we liked and wanted to hang out on ourselves. We tried to please a lot of people at the same time which is always, always a bad idea.

And we’re sorry.

Truly and seriously. And while we know we have egos, they aren’t so big that we can’t admit when we screw up and the only thing to do when you screw up is take a step back and try to fix it. So here are some of the things we’re doing.

Qwitter is bad for everyone

I’ve been meaning to write something about Qwitter for a while now but have been holding off because of two main reasons, namely that I really despise the app coupled with the fact that I really like the guys who built it. If you don’t know already Qwitter monitors your twitter account and notifies you when someone stops following you. It’s built by Ireland’s Contrast who are extremely cool and totally rock in my book. So, there you have my biases front and center.

My biggest problem with Qwitter, and the one that covers all the bases in one shot is that is creates drama and negativity from something that should be innocuous. Can you imagine if there was a service out there that notified you when someone you know chose to move an e-mail you sent them from their inbox to their archive folder, or worse to delete it? If you got a notice saying “Britney Spears just deleted the e-mail you sent on the 5th of October with the subject ‘OMG R U Pregnant AGAIN?!’ ” – Even if Britney had already responded to your e-mail you’d be forced to wonder what she was thinking when she clicked delete. Maybe she was pissed off at you and steaming at the thought of it, or maybe she was just deleting all the e-mails she’d gotten last month that had already been responded to. You wouldn’t know either way, but are now forced to wonder. An act as simple and common as deleting an old e-mail has now sparked feelings of resentment.

In a way that is what Qwitter does to twitter. I’ve written before about how I use twitter and have heard from a good number of people that their usages follows mine to some extent. On any given day I add 2-3 people, remove 2-3 people, read the tweets by several people that I don’t follow by looking at their page on the site, and maybe turn notifications on or off for a person or two. If I’m traveling, that gets compounded. Frequently when going to a new city I’ll start following 10-20 new people who I might be interacting with, and I might stop following 10-20 people from a previous city who I won’t be running into on a daily basis. I’ve written about how when I start following more than 200 people the flood of tweets is so constant that I miss more than I get and it becomes useless for me. And the beautiful thing is that because of the web version of twitter, and tools like Facebook, Ping.FM, Friendfeed, Loopt, etc – I don’t need to actually “follow” someone on twitter to read everything they post to twitter. To go back to the e-mail analogy I don’t need to keep an e-mail in my inbox to be interested in what the person has to say.

Craig in New Orleans

I mentioned this earlier in the day, but seriously, go read New Orleans Metblogs. Craig, one of the bloggers there, is disregarding the Mandatory Evacuation order and staying through it, and blogging the whole thing. From a post earlier today

A hell of a lot of us have managed to wrest a living and a life out of what was left at the end of 2005. We’ve managed to do it with the help of family, friends, neighbors and, in a lot of cases, mysterious folks who just seemed to want to help. Note that I didn’t mention “government” in there. We’ve done it despite our government(s). And it’s not done yet. It likely will never be “done.”

Now we have to deal with this latest threat. We have put too much into what we have (personally, professionally, physically) to simply sit in a motel room someplace and watch it all get washed away again. We wouldn’t be “in our own home.” I agree that to stay is a type of madness. But it’s preferable to the madness we felt in our Being Away the last time.

And he just followed up with a new post, as things are getting underway…

We’re actually SMOKING in the dining room, which would be a violation of state law if we were open. Ha fucking ha. I bought new cigars yesterday, so I’ll fire one up in a little while and break out the bourbon. We’re already missing ice — though we froze some in advance that we’re saving for later if we really, really need it.

We have loaded the guns, though we haven’t shucked shells in the chambers yet. We have also posted a sign in the front window, saying WE ARE HERE INSIDE AND HEAVILY ARMED.

The only traffic outside is police, usually going the wrong way on our one-way part of Magazine. We’re also seeing the occasional Guardsmen and it’s good to have them back in force. I was joking with one officer earlier today that what they need to do is park at the top of the Crescent City Connection bridge and keep any Westbankers from walking across the bridge into New Orleans. He shot back, “Yeah. We’re afraid they’ll clean the place up. We’ve got our pride.”