Happy Birthday to Us...
SPECIAL BIRTHDAY EVENTS:
#1: Letter to Everyone (Below)
#2: The First Annual Skewed Roast (Coming Soon)
#3: Skewed History (A Monthly Author Highlight)
#4: All New Channels (Coming Soon)
The objective was relatively simple to say out loud but far harder to actually accomplish: How can a bunch of friends and talented folks just make their own damn outlet? The impetus didn't come from a group of rejected writers, or even established ones for that matter. It was a small nagging feeling that my friends, many of them met through artistic or collegiate experiences, were drifting. Not just drifting socially, but even artistically as life, employment, cash, domicile, marriage and relocation caught up with us. A fledgling site (Screaming Jack Ass Graphics) let me get my feet wet with the internet, assisted by a handful of freelance jobs. The reality that at the very least we could do a simple site for us to put up our stuff, maybe point it out to a few friends and family, and essentially get that fuzzy feeling like getting our name in the paper was enough. It wasn't easy, but it was enough. Getting the site wasn't hard although coming up with a name certainly was. I spent weeks agonizing over the name and didn't even want to start in on any of my ideas or designs until I had it firmed up. The site was very nearly DevilInTheDetails.com until I finally settled and registered SkewedPerspective.com. A few core people had already signed on (i.e. humored me) to write articles and of course lots of plans and ideas flew over beers, email, and phone conversations. My desk became a sticky-note farm. And ultimately on September 12 (my parent's anniversary- chosen because we were late from a September 1 launch, and I was too impatient to wait until October) over a Grolsch Blond and on the phone with Brian Pluta, I launched the site.
We had only four real authors for awhile, but already the content was diverse. In fact, it was as diverse as the people involved. There was one point in the last year when more than half of the people involved had never met eachother (like a bizarre web version of the band Pigface). Cranking out content was no problem on average, but planning and forcing any deadlines on a non-paying, low-priority sort-of online magazine was a bit strained. We tried to update every week, which is what sites do, I thought, but quickly learned we could stretch out features better over two weeks. Eventually our participation was such that we could go back to a mostly weekly schedule. The idea was that we would have this no matter how many people looked at it. Our statistics would be a nice pat on the back if they were good, and if they weren't, well then oh well! We weren't doing this to become internet stars, we were doing this to get something that itched out of our head, and have an easy place to point interested people to.
The first hundred people showed up on the first week. Granted this mostly consisted entirely of us checking it ourselves and asked everyone we knew to just stop by, but it was a nice idea. The whole concept of the internet was at our doorstep, asking us if we really understood what numbers meant.I tracked our statistics like a baseball analyst. I sent out official-sounding reports to the authors encouraging them to keep writing and let them know how we/they were doing on our charts. Again, the stats were secondary, but it was pretty cool to note that fifty people looked at someone's piece (considering you might only really know 30 of them- "Hey twenty people I didn't know looked this month!"). I started plugging our stuff among the appropriate circles or sites that might be interested, but I should note that never paid for ads. Search engines were alerted and we started a Reviews section. New and old friends got interested and joined. And while we were sleeping and becoming pretty comfortable in our little homepage away from home, something exploded.
I'm not sure when it was exactly, but somewhere in November, on a routine check of statistics I noticed a steady increase. Not just a "an extra four friends" kind of increase, but a marked change on our average readership. I'm sure it was due to several factors but the 100 pageviews and/or unique visitors a week started to double. And then double. And then double. By December, when we hosted our first free MP3 and interview, I could begin to see the regular readership patterns of over a thousand readers a month. By March it was nearly a thousand a week. We still hadn't bought any ads anywhere. In fact, we were promoting less, just a handful of emails every now and then. And here in the summer of 2001, we've begun to get two thousand a week. Compared to some sites that's pocket change. But to a shrugging group of people who would be doing art anyway, who might want the exposure or just the outlet, who don't get paid, and who have given so selflessly of their art, daring to put it out for anyone to stumble upon or specifically request, this site and its readership has become an incredible thrill and bright spot.
I'm not going to get much more mushy, or use this as a "shout-out" for all our helpers or fans. But as we have been able to flex our artistic muscles I've seen the people involved in this site grow and artistically mature... I am proud to have wrangled even a sentence from this group, much less opinion, stories, music, paintings, cartoons, comedy and commentary. My part in this has been so much fun and such a boost to my own artistic life that I can honestly say I would not be who or what I am now without this site (certainly career-wise). We took a simple idea, borne out of many thoughts, nights, moments, ales and stories and made it work. Together.
So what next? Everything. I've tweaked the front page to give a better feel of ownership and separate channels, and left some room for some new arrivals to our group (which are brewing as we speak). We've had lots of offers to contribute and we've brought most into the fold- more and even more different things to come. Every month has been bigger than the last in terms of visitors and I think we can continue that trend as we expand (but if we don't who cares?). If you are a reader just wandering in, please take a moment to look around. Every corner has something guided by a different hand, totally free of editorial constraints. If you are a regular reader, please know how much we appreciate you. I speak for every creator in this site when I say thank you very, very much for your visit, attention and eyeballs, no matter how fleeting. If you are family, or friend, we owe so much to your support, we can hope we either make you proud or at least amused. And if you are one of the wonderful people I have had the pleasure of working with in the last year (some of you I only met in this time) thank you for everything and I hope it is even half as rewarding for you as it has been for me.
So, "How can a bunch of friends and talented folks just make their own damn outlet?"
This is how.
September 10, 2001
P.S. ( added after the recent tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001 ) I'm not sure what to say and I'm never at a loss for words, but we all took and are still taking large moments of silence with the events of this week. "Externally, internally, we'll never be the same." one Skewed writer said and I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you for being patient with our pause. Our thoughts are still with those involved.
all images copyright 2000-2001 skewed perspective ; as always, as it has been since Sept. 12, 2000: for Alec.