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Lines for a Dejected Webmaster

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A friend I've yet to meet face-to-face wrote about a new project that touched on some things he had built, and several people were working on. There's a rush on the web to build various connective tools, some for commerce, some for community. In any case, there's a race to skateflavor these tools, or cyclify or whateverify...to customize them for an audience. So the battle is do you make it first, or do you make it the best you know how, or some other way that reflects your slightly or greatly different values. He wrote with a mixture of happiness and sadness about this, not meaning anything negative about the new project, as it seems great. But he sounded ready to destroy his own creations or end some of his efforts. It sure is tough to see others have ideas you had and wanted to implement, even tried, or are still trying to develop. So here's my reply and a manifesto for the new roadskater.net.

i understand the "joy and sorrow," at least in part, of finding similar tools on the web to what you might have envisioned or created, but want to encourage you toward joy and toward continuing any efforts you've made even if they seem duplicate. they could not possibly be duplicates. google, yahoo, ask and msn are not duplicates. they're flavors.

i haven't looked at the new skate event map but i hear it's great. but if i look, i'll be tempted to stop what i'm working on and give up. i'm not going to do that. i'm just going to create because of what it does for me, and share, because of what it does for me and could do for others.

i have struggled with this too, because if you can't be first out of the box, you sometimesfeel you should get back in the box. but that hides your light! the world needs light of every hue. imagine a world without #330066, that wonderful greenless, barely red, blue.

to shift metaphors to an area i love, vanilla shouldn't give up just because chocolate came along. some will enjoy one or the other, some will enjoy both. they're flavors, textures, from which we select. both might be shaken by the arrival of butter pecan, but butter pecan has nothing to do with the worth of vanilla or chocolate.

one paragraph struck me...

"As webmasters, I believe we're responsible to our constituencies to only publish what is better, in some meaningful way, than what already exists, and to delete what we've published when it fails to meet that criteria (not saying I actually do that well). Hope this discussion helps promote that goal."

i love the noble sentiment and believe it real, but that makes US the judge of our stuff not being good enough for others, and i've been shocked to find repeatedly that something i thought of little value that i had created meant something incredible to someone over the winter, for example, when they missed summer inline roadskating. this may have been for a few seconds, but they might have been crucial seconds, they've told me, once or twice.

my creation still wasn't necessarily "good" or "great" or "the best," but existentially it was there at the right time and place for one person. that's ok!

i'm especially glad that bbc or pbs or npr (abc, nbc, cbs for that matter) have not decided their news (and entertainment) programming is not the best and therefore should be destroyed! on a given day i may prefer what one or the other is offering BECAUSE they represent different perspectives, not in spite of it. and some days it may just be a matter of prefering their tone or mood of delivery.

so all of this is to say we can't but one be first to implement a new skate map, or forum, or blog, or gallery, or whatever is the latest tag me your it myspace frappr googlemap for skaters and cyclists and charity.

nor were the wright brothers first to implement the powered airplane. they just were the first to get it off the ground and working a wonderful bit. and it should be said, nor were the wright brothers the ones to carry the lead in aviation forever, and some of this may have been their generosity of spirit when it came to something they loved and wanted to share and spread. innovation often comes with those who are not presently distracted by huge success, and different sorts of innovation come when commerce comes into play, even the kind that loses money.

the evolution and revolution may come faster on the internet (or not, sometimes), but here is the thing. we (or i at least) have been thinking about all the skaters we know. let's think about all the skaters we don't...or rather, let's think about all the skaters who don't know about the websites we know about.

right now, they're out there in their small town or big city and they're wondering if anyone else is as hooked as they are. so let's give them as many ways as possible of landing on one of us, and they'll find their home with one or several of us.

and especially, let's not forget there is a huge audience of people who look at us when we skate by and say, sometimes out loud, "i wish i could do that. you make it look so easy!" well it is easy after hours and days of repetition, of playing the scales of inline skating, little repetitive, muscular and mental movements.

let's think about the MILLIONS of people sitting there, feeling fat, maybe lonely, hardly moving, swimming in mental mud, finding it difficult to see a reason, or find any joy. let's think, what if one of those decides to get some inlines, a helmet and some wrist guards, and start to move again, with help from all these resources so many are creating online.

we're building a community, and each community will be interconnected, yes, but will appeal as home to different people, as a place to visit for refreshment, for others.

the fall of 2005 was an important time for inline roadskating. things seemed to be falling apart in several areas. some will fall away. but this caused many of us to do more, to start something, first or not, best or not. there's no way to judge that. and the creator is the least able to know whether their creation resonates.

but creation seldom is a waste of time and seldom finds no audience. the smaller the audience, often, the more intense the identification, the more important the feeling of loneliness or separation it soothes, the connection it makes.

so i say create. you're in charge of course of what you create or exhibit, but i encourage you to keep innovating and sharing. what is the cost of leaving your creation there for someone to enjoy, perhaps years later, rather than destroying it.

i don't know if this story is true, but it means a lot to me. that wonderfully, lucsiously, depressed and glorious song, "lush life," was said to have been thrown away by the writer before a gig in disgust and self-mockery. someone in the band noticed and saved it from the trash. how different my life has been, at moments, on certain days, just knowing such a work of beauty and insight might never have reached me if it had been up to the creator alone to judge whether it was of any value or not.

for seconds in my life, and crucial, live-saving ones, i've known in that song that someone felt so horrible and described it so wonderfully, richly, flavorfully, and with such miserable beauty, that it made me feel better. and in those moments of connection i was accidentally inspired to the knowledge that i could take my own pain and create something of absolutely no inherent value, just existing, for someone else to view, to find their own meaning, and maybe to save their own life by creating something else, for someone else to experience as healing.

copyright 2006, blake lambert, roadskater.net. all rights reserved.

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