Skewed Featured In Roanoke Times
The Roanoke Times has done a Feature article on us here at Skewed. It came out January 15, 2002. Pics are below as well as the text....
Front page story snipe
EXTRA Section Feature Story, continued on back of paper
Tuesday, January 15, 2002
A cyber lit hit
Skewedperspective.com wasn't supposed to be a big deal.
Soon after he moved to Roanoke to take a job as a graphic designer, Dean Browell hit on the idea of creating a spot in cyberspace where he and his buddies could stay in touch as they left behind the creative fervor of college and entered the 9-to-5 world of adult careers.
At midnight on Sept. 12, 2000, Browell and Brian Pluta, a friend in Philadelphia, were connected by telephone as they finished the debugging process.
Browell hit a button and launched skewedperspective.com into cyberspace.
They could only dream that anyone except friends and family would see what they had done. And that was pretty much the case for the first couple months. But soon skewedperspective.com's essays and fiction began getting picked up by Internet search engines. The site began enjoying a modest browsing from the outside world - about 14,000 visits in its first four months.
Then the Web site started getting visits by cybersurfers from across the United States, then from Australia and Europe and, as Browell puts it, an "almost ridiculous number of hits from Korea." In 2001, skewedperspective.com drew nearly 100,000 visits - including nearly 17,000 one day in July when Browell posted a series of articles about his pilgrimage to a Macworld software exposition in New York.
Browell, 25, has been surprised but pleased by the attention. "Just trying to grasp that that many people looked at what we wrote is just incredible," he said .
He attributes much of the site's success to the fact that it's noncommercial - it doesn't take advertising and it doesn't charge users. The site's browsers aren't bogged down by ads, and its contributors are free to write and create what they want without worrying about what sells.
"It's really cool to have done something that stays pure," Browell said . "We started when dot - coms were big. Now they're down, but we're doing great. It's got to have something to do with the fact that we don't bombard people with ads."
The site offers an eclectic mix: fiction, music MP3s, interviews, a comedy MP3, essays, cartoons, visual art and reviews of books, software and music.
As the site has grown, so has its list of contributors, which now totals about 15. Five of them are people Browell knew at Randolph-Macon College, four of them went to high school with him in York County, and others have been drawn into skewedperspective.com by the group's web of friendships. They are a far-flung bunch, connecting themselves to skewedperspective.com from locations in Chicago, Florida, the Virgin Islands (where Pluta has since relocated) and elsewhere.
Local contributors include Browell, who now lives in Franklin County and has a day job as the Web master at Ferrum College; Evan Jones, a fantasy novelist who lives in Roanoke; and David Hamilton, a Roanoke free-lance illustrator who designs carpet patterns for Burlington Industries' Glasgow plant.
Hamilton had thought about doing his own Web site to display his artwork, but decided to throw in with Browell after meeting him a year or so ago. "It was a really good opportunity to get some exposure," Hamilton said . "Dean, he's really motivated. I'm sort of envious of him. He's really creative."
Mike Hiller met Browell a couple of years ago through a mutual friend back when Hiller was living in Richmond . Hiller, 28, had worked as an actor but had been thinking about becoming a writer.
Skewedperspective.com gave him a chance. His "long - haired logic" pieces are evocative explorations of American music, from a look at Willie Nelson's "Red Headed Stranger" album to an essay on a famous 1950s jam session that included Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
When John Lee Hooker died this past summer, Hiller wrote a biographical essay about the blues legend. In December, Browell got an e-mail from Hooker's grandson, who'd run across the essay as a link on a German site dedicated to Hooker.
Hooker's grandson liked the piece, Hiller said , and has asked for permission to include it on the johnleehooker.com site that the Hooker family is developing.
Hiller now lives in Boston and is working at what he describes as a "trained monkey kind of job." He has yet to have his first paying gig as a writer. But he says skewedperspective.com is a great place to learn the craft.
Browell has used the site to develop his own writing. His serialized novel, "23," is now in its second season. Its installments have ranged from 2,000 to 4,000 words each, going against the shorter-the-better philosophy of most Internet sites.
"People do read," Browell said . "The entertainment industry is having to deal with the short attention spans it has helped create. But we're able to survive with really long stories."
He gives a lot of credit to Corrine Browell, his wife and "patient test subject." When he was trying to come up with the name for the site, he explains, she listened to "all the ridiculous dot - com names I came up with."
He liked devilinthedetails.com, but was persuaded that he didn't want a site name that would attract Satanists as well as the artistically motivated. He finally decided on skewedperspective.com, which he said is a good reflection of the content on the site. "It's not the straight take on things."
As the site's founder and financier - he puts out about $200 a year to maintain the domain name and rent Web server space - Browell doesn't exercise much control over the contributors . Each is given his own channel. "That's their room, their house to build as they see fit," he said .
Based on the e-mail comments Browell has received, the audience seems to approve of the approach: "... what an ambitious but so cool group, how do you afford it?" "If everyone had a bit of the SP quality in their sites we'd all be better off." "... a Web rag that everyone should check out."
In December, Browell said , visits surpassed an average of 800 a day. This month , they've crept to more than 900 a day.
He's not sure what the ceiling will be but guesses it might be a daily audience of 2,000 to 3,000.
"If we could even average a thousand a day, I think that would still be difficult for the authors and I to comprehend," he said . "But then again, we were thrilled when it was a hundred day. We weren't sure if we even had that many friends between us."
MIKE HUDSON can be reached
at 981-3332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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copyright 2002 skewed perspective
; Roanoke Times, story, images and name copyright respective authors and owners;
as always, as it has been since Sept. 12, 2000: for Alec.