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The Nebraska Foster Care Review Office has put out its quarterly report and it’s worth a look. As the Journal Star summarizes it, some data are moving in the right direction: fewer children are in out-of-home care, and children are spending less time in temporary “shelter care” situations—basically limbo between home and a more long-term foster care placement. That’s the good news.
Here’s (some of) the bad news: oodles of children have been out of their homes for two years or longer, and most of those children are under the age of twelve. These aren’t trouble-making teens, in other words. These are young kids spending a significant chunk of their lives in impermanent situations. The implications for their mental, behavioral, and social health are profound.
This issue hits home for us here at 625 Elm Street. When we adopted Joey he had spent a total of roughly three-and-a-half of his eight years in foster care. Keishor spent his first 20 months in foster care, lived with his bio mom for a year, and then was in foster care with us for 1.5 years before we adopted him.
The FCRO report identifies some worrying statistics indicating that African American and Native American children are far more likely to spend more time out-of-home than other children. The question is why. The Indian Child Welfare Act is an obvious contributor for Native American kids. But there’s an easy-to-identify, much larger issue that covers pretty much every other explanation: poverty.
When I talk to people about foster care, one of the frequent complaints people have is that the bio parents just don’t seem to try very hard to get their kids back. There’s a kernel of truth in that complaint, but it’s largely based on an extraordinarily naive understanding of poverty. Not that I’m an expert on the topic; I’m still trying to wrap my head around some of the things I’ve witnessed. Lack of education and/or mental health problems play important roles, as does what might be termed “poverty culture”. Whatever the cause, the fact is that many things just take longer for people in poverty. That includes getting kids back into the home.
Complaints are the length of time children spend out-of-home make me worried. I worry that one of two things will happen as policymakers rush to improve numbers: children will be shoved back home before the home is ready or they’ll be taken away before parents have had adequate time to fix their problems, all because a page turned on a calendar somewhere deep in the bowels of the DHHS offices. If you think I’m exaggerating, if you think that DHHS wouldn’t possibly do something so arbitrary, you clearly haven’t dealt with the office very much.
So although I do want kids to spend less time in limbo, all parties must be treated fairly. That includes the kids, of course, but also bio families and foster and adoptive families. The solutions need to encompass everybody or they’re simply not going to work. Fortunately I’m aware of a couple private efforts here in Lincoln to work on just those sorts of problems. I hope they work out. The one I’m most familiar with is still in its early stages, but I will definitely post more information about the effort and its results at a later date.
There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who dislike sushi, and cool people.
If you fall in the latter camp, read on.
A restaurant’s name can communicate all kinds of things, deliberate or accidental, about what awaits customers. The name can describe the joint’s formality (or lack thereof); the type of food it serves; how the food is prepared; and even the quality of service you will receive. What, then, are we to make of the name of one of Lincoln’s newest restaurants: LeadBelly? The word “lead” makes me think of dense, heavy food that will have me waddle out in misery at the end of the meal. And the combined words “LeadBelly” resemble potbelly—not a look I’m going for.
And yet early reports about the restaurant were positive. Very positive, in fact. This isn’t a Valentino’s Buffet-style stuff-yourself-til-you-hate-yourself kind of experience, they said. Buzz about the food and the atmosphere reflected something quite different from that.
I had to try this place.
LeadBelly Contemporary American Pub is located at 8th and Q in Lincoln’s Haymarket. You’ll recognize the location. It has been the home to no fewer than a half dozen failed restaurants over the years. It’s a location with baggage, yes, but also one with incredible potential. Potential that’s increasing substantially with the impending opening of nearby hotels and, of course, the Pinnacle Bank Arena.
LeadBelly’s approach is both more traditional than many of the earlier attempts in this building, and curiously eclectic. Perhaps the best thing they’ve done is add outdoor dining with a new patio on both the east and south sides of the building. The experience is, unfortunately, quite noisy right now thanks to nearby construction, but the beepbeepbeep of backing construction vehicles won’t be there for too much longer. The interior is classy, with black booths and a variety of conversation-encouraging tables. The front room features a bar and televisions, while back rooms instead offer tables and booths. It’s cozy without feeling too crowded. Don’t come for a quiet meal, though. Conversation volumes do get a bit high.
I have visited LeadBelly twice, once on a Saturday night and once for a Monday lunch. The restaurant was busy both times. On the Saturday evening we arrived around 6:30pm. Oddly, a sign encouraging patrons to seat themselves greeted us at the door. I don’t know if that’s a regular thing or if it was due to something like a temporary shortage of personnel. Later in the evening a host was managing seating; perhaps it’s seat yourself until the tables are filled? Once we sat at a booth toward the back, we were quickly greeted by our server and offered drinks.
On our lunch visit we snagged a table outside. It took a good five or ten minutes for somebody to come along and clear off the glasses and such left over from the previous patrons. The wait wasn’t very encouraging, but neither was it surprising; a relatively new restaurant is going to face that kind of hiccup on a busy lunch service.
Overall service ranged from fine to very good on my two visits. In both cases the servers were friendly, upbeat, and energetic. They offered recommendations and they were able to speak knowledgeably about most of the items on the menu. Drinks were refilled as expected and the usual “how’s everything going?” questions came at appropriate intervals. Other tables appeared to be receiving a similar level of service. My largest gripe is that our Monday lunch took much too long to come out of the kitchen and, thanks to the slow table clearing at the start, the whole experience dragged a bit. I don’t want to be rushed, of course, but weekday lunch service generally needs to be snappy to get folks back to work.
LeadBelly’s menu (Page 1, Page 2, Page 3) is, as I said, both traditional and unique. They offer nachos and salads and burgers and tacos and sandwiches. Pretty typical stuff. Take a closer look at the descriptions in the menu. Intriguing, right?
I can’t cover the entire menu but I can spotlight a few dishes. The Missus tried the grilled cheese ($7.99) and the tomato soup ($3.49 / $4.49). She described the tomato soup as good, but not necessarily anything to write home about. The sandwich, on the other hand, was a delicious combination of parmesan, provolone, tomato, basil, and garlic aioli on a toasted baguette—a definite step up from the Velveeta on wheat I make at home.
I went a far less traditional route. While browsing the menu I couldn’t help but get drawn in by the Full Leaded Jacket ($11.99). I had to try it. It’s a burger on a cinnamon roll bun topped with cheddar, chili, queso, sour cream, and jalapenos, and served with corn chips. As with all of LeadBelly’s burgers, you can choose from ground chuck, chicken breast, or a veggie burger. I opted for the veggie burger and it was fantastic. The overall Full Leaded Jacket experience lived up to my expectations. It’s a bizarre meal, one consisting of an appetizer, entree, and dessert all on one plate. But somehow it works. It’s not the sort of meal I plan to eat every time I visit, but I would definitely have it again.
On my next visit I forced myself to try something very different from the burger. This time I went with the chicken tinga “flatcar” ($10.99). A flatcar is like a taco or tostada served on a crisp corn tortilla. Mine featured chicken, lettuce, and blue cheese. It was served with mild salsa and a side of black beans. It was a slightly messy, but tasty, meal, nicely sized for lunch, but perhaps a bit on the small side for a full dinner. The tortillas were a nice variation from the usual sort of tortilla used for tacos. The beans, though not particularly remarkable on their own, complemented the meal quite well.
Fletch opted for the huevos ranchero burger ($8.99). He was intrigued by the idea of a fried egg on a hamburger. In addition to the egg, the burger features salsa, romaine, and sour cream. It came with a combination of crinkle-cut and waffle fries on the side. He enjoyed the hamburger and I’m pretty sure he plans to put an egg on every burger he eats from now on.
LiquidRetro sent me this information about a recent trip to LeadBelly:
On Friday June 14th I ate dinner at LeadBelly with my family for the second time that week. Parking in the Haymarket was difficult as the parking garage was already full at 6pm. If going later than 6pm to LeadBelly be prepared to wait.
Despite being very busy our service was good. He was very enthusiastic and kept the water glasses full! I took a gamble and ordered the Fish and Chips ($10.99) after reading several online reviews recommending them and it being a LeadBelly favorite on the menu. The gamble paid off, with what was some of the best Fish and Chips I have had in town. They were served piping hot, the breading was thick, and super crispy. The menu said it was battered in New Castle beer but I couldn’t really detect the beer flavors. The tarter sauce was a homemade mayo based that had what tasted like a bit of garlic and onion added in. It was great for the fish as well as the fries. The fries were a mix of waffle and crinkle cut that had a special seasoning on them. They were good and the ratio of waffle to crinkle was fine for me. My only suggestion would be to include another piece of Fish and or a different vegetable side. The grilled sweet corn side that was included was overcooked and a bit mushy.
Overall if you like Fish and Chips, it’s a must try at LeadBelly.
All that being said, does LeadBelly have what it takes to break the string of restaurant failures in that location? I think it does, and I think I’m basing that on more than just short-term buzz. The improved outdoor seating, unique menu, and Haymarket expansion all work in LeadBelly’s favor. Their largest challenge at this point appears to be strengthening their service by ensuring customers are greeted well and that food comes out of the kitchen quickly, especially at lunch. If they can do that, LeadBelly may be the first to say that they’ve finally found a winning recipe at 8th and Q.
Congratulations to the organizers and sponsors behind Tracey’s Memorial Run today. This is a really fun, laid back, and very scenic race in Pioneer’s Park for the wonderful cause of beating cancer.
This kid (above) came in first place for the one mile race - Good going kid!
TEDxLincoln is looking for speakers for this fall’s event. Interested? Applications are due on June 27 so get your ideas ready now.
You may not be familiar with the event. TEDxLincoln is part of the TEDx series of independently organized events which feature talks on a wide variety of topics. It is roughly comparable to Ignite Lincoln, at which I spoke last year. TEDx is a spinoff of TED, an awesome event that features some of the world’s most brilliant minds in technology, entertainment, and design. If you aren’t familiar with TED, you should be. But be warned: once you start watching TED talks you aren’t going to want to stop.
This year’s theme is Seeking Brilliance, Pioneering Change and you can download the application [PDF] here. I’m trying to decide if I want to apply. Check that; I would love to apply, I’m just trying to decide if I have a topic in mind that would suit the event. Maybe you can help me process some of these ideas:
- Everything I’ve learned about interacting with people I’ve learned via sports officiating. While not entirely true, reffing soccer and umpiring baseball have taught me all kinds of lessons about psychology, human nature, and people management. I could talk for hours on a variety of related topics. Maybe somewhere in there is something appropriate for this event.
- Parenting or foster parenting. My Ignite Lincoln talk was about our experiences with foster care so I’m not sure I want to re-hash that. But there are plenty of other foster care tales to tell, including some great stories about people working on amazing projects here in Lincoln to help kids and bio families. On the parenting front, raising Joey has been extremely challenging thanks to a variety of mental and behavioral health challenges. Oh the stories I could tell! Parenting him has forced me to become a better dad, and to deal with many of my own personal shortcomings.
- Building communities online. Lincolnite may have its flaws (see this week’s series on The Future of Lincolnite for many examples!), but we’ve got something good going here. Between my experiences with this website and the creation and cultivation of the #LNK hashtag on Twitter, I’ve learned a few things that may be worth sharing. Who knows, maybe people want to hear about it.
What would you like to hear me talk about for 6-12 minutes?
This week I’ve chattered on about all kinds of things related to Lincolnite’s future. Thanks for humoring me! Part of the reason I did this was to generate feedback, which many of you provided here in comments, in emails, or in personal conversations. I also did this to force myself to really think about a number of issues associated with the site. Mission accomplished.
Next, of course, I have to actually put all this stuff into action. It’s going to take some time. I haven’t finalized all the decisions that need to be made, but I’m well on my way. Here are a couple of the actions I plan to take in the near future.
First up: I’m going to work on content. I need to work on improving how I generate content, getting back to my old ways of a minimum of one post each day and a game or other distraction every week or two. (Would you believe I used to try to post three items each day? Who has time for that!) Getting content quantity back to reasonable levels will help improve reader engagement, not to mention the benefits it will have for my morale. I’m also going to recruit some new bloggers / videographers / podcasters / whatever to help out around here. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ll look for both regular contributors (one or more times per week) and guest contributors (one-time or rarely).
Then I will work on the site’s design. Tweaking the layout, navigation, and similar features will be an easy enough temporary solution until I’m able to do a larger redesign. Under the hood, I need to make a decision about what system will run the show. Continue with ExpressionEngine? Move to a new system like sexy newcomer Craft? Or perhaps whip up my own system as a fun (but work-intensive) project?
One thing I haven’t discussed this week is money. Well, I’ve mentioned that Lincolnite doesn’t bring in any money. Over the years I’ve spent thousands of dollars on this little hobby of mine. It’s time to begin recouping some of that. At some point during the redesign process I’m going to begin showing ads on Lincolnite. But don’t freak out! I’m not talking about a JournalStar.com-esque disaster. Presently on the Journal Star’s website I count a ridiculous 22 advertisements; sometimes they also have pop-ups and full-page wrappers. Here on Lincolnite on any given page there will be one ad. It won’t be a pop-up, it won’t be animated, and it will always be in the same spot. In addition, the ads I show will often not be commercial—some will feature local non-profits and goings-on, for example. The goal is to be unobtrusive and unannoying, while at the same time helping to promote local stuff and help pay some site expenses. I trust you folks to beat the snot out of me if I let things get out of hand.
Thank you so much for joining me as I’ve worked through this process. Lincolnite is my baby and I want it to be something I’m proud of and you enjoy. Look for changes to begin very soon. Don’t fret, though. Lincolnite will still be Lincolnite. Just ... better.
I have talked a lot about things that need to change so that Lincolnite can live and thrive. The vast majority of it is stuff that I need to do. There are a few things I need some help with, however. Fortunately I’ve already had some volunteers. This post is a brainstorm about some of the ways you can help Lincolnite be a success.
The first and most obvious thing I could use help with is content creation. To that end, I’m going to expand the number of bloggers who post here. I have talked about this before—several times, in fact—but I haven’t done a good job of following through. That will change. The bloggers I bring in will be of two types: regular bloggers who can post on any topic any old time they like; and guest bloggers who post periodically and are more closely moderated. There will be an application process of some sort, but it won’t be anything too onerous.
What kind of bloggers am I looking for? In short, I’m looking for people who fit in here. People who care about Lincoln and who can contribute meaningfully to the sorts of conversations we like to have around here. People who can fill niches I’m not strong in (local sports, to name one example). People who can write well and engage the reader. People who aren’t going to fade out after three posts (unless they are a guest blogger, of course).
Or heck, maybe I’m not looking for a writer at all! Mr. T, for example, has become our resident photographer. I plan to expand his work—if he’s willing!—in the next iteration of the website. Maybe somebody out there wants to help resurrect Lincast, the podcast I briefly toyed with. Or perhaps there’s a videographer who wants to post some short films from around town. I’m open to all kinds of ideas.
There’s another type of content assistance that would be extremely helpful. I have many, many ideas for posts that require time-consuming activities like driving around town or setting up interviews. Having a “producer” available to help set up that stuff would be unbelievably handy. Being able to say to somebody “I want to write about X, can you find out Y and Z for me?” would open up all kinds of possibilities.
Over the past several days as I’ve been thinking through all of this, it occurred to me that I’m asking some unspecified number of folks to help take ownership of Lincolnite. That line of thinking led me to ask myself: what would actual shared ownership of Lincolnite look like? Presently there isn’t much to “own”. I’ve never made a dime off of this thing so it’s not like there are profits to be shared. But what would it look like if there were some kind of Board of Directors? To be honest, some of you already fill that kind of navigational role by virtue of the feedback you provide. Perhaps I could formalize it. Or let’s take that even further. What if the entire Lincolnite project were open sourced somehow? What if Lincolnite’s website design, backend systems, content, and everything else belonged to nobody at all? I’ve chewed on that idea for a while now and, though I haven’t figured out how it would work, I’m willing to consider it if somebody can come up with a working model.
The final thing I need help with is a biggie. As I have already mentioned, I want a new site design. I’m no designer; I can do website architecture and engineering, but making pixels pretty is out of my league. I have a good friend who is a designer by trade, but he’s not able to help out right now. I wonder if any of you can help. I don’t want some sort of cookie cutter WordPress template design. I want something creative and classy, conservative and lasting. The catch, of course, is that my budget is ... not large. Like I said, I don’t make a dime off Lincolnite. Whatever I pay comes out of my pocket. Still, if I can find somebody who can provide professional-quality work I’ll do everything I can to compensate him or her fairly.
I hope that helps you understand the sort of help that some of you can provide to keep Lincolnite going strong. Most of this has been coming for a long time (e.g. adding bloggers), now I’m forcing the issue. It’ll be a good thing for all of us.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about what comes next. In the mean time, let me know what you think in the comments!
It’s hard to believe that it was seven years ago that I made this little introduction.
Now it’s time to take a look at the features we want out of Lincolnite. And I do mean “we”. I want to provide the stuff you folks are looking for, of course. But I also need to ensure that I’m making this a project that I want to continue working on day after day. I will break up the features into three categories: content, design, and social.
This one is pretty easy thanks to the feedback I’ve received this week. You folks want information and opinions about local goings-on in the style that I’ve been using for over a decade. Easy enough! No point in fixing what isn’t broken, right?
I can improve a few things, though. First off, restaurant-related posts tend to go over very well. We Lincolnites enjoy food. I need to see if I can make those posts a more regular feature, whether in the form of reviews or just general conversations about goings-on in the local dining scene. Likewise games tend to be very popular. I’ve been told that even when games don’t generate much direct participation in the form of comments, people still love to play along. Mr. T has been doing an incredible job with his weekly Where In Lincoln series; I want to make his game more accessible and fun, and he and I have already discussed how we can make that happen. I also want to more regularly play games like Twenty Questions, Four Corners, and Common Answers. If you have ideas for other types of games—preferably ones that don’t take me hours to set up!—I’m all ears.
One thing I haven’t done a great job with is opening Lincolnite to a wider array of voices. I want to make this site available to more bloggers. Some will be regular contributors and some will be guest posters. Getting more people on board will help with both the quantity and diversity of content available here. The tricky part: ensuring that certain quality standards are met. I don’t want to turn this place into a wasteland of partisan bickering, for example. Lincoln already has the Journal Star comment section for that.
As I mentioned yesterday, many aspects of this site’s design bother me. I want a new look on the front end, and I want it to be friendly to the myriad mobile devices out there. (In industry terms, I want to build a “responsive” website.) The difficulty I have is that I am a code guy not a designer. More on that tomorrow.
Speaking of code, the system running this website has to change. One option is to continue using ExpressionEngine, but to basically start from scratch using the latest version. I don’t think there’s any good way to upgrade the system in place. I’ve got too many customizations behind the scenes to make a straight upgrade feasible. Another option—and my preferred one—is to build my own system as a learning exercise. I’ve become too comfortable in my career and I need to stretch out a bit. The downside of that option is it would take longer. Whereas I could have a new version of ExpressionEngine up and running and fully customized in a few days, building my own system would take much longer. On the other hand, I could build out the pieces in stages and release them as they’re ready.
I dig it when I’m able to get you folks participating, whether it’s playing games, commenting on articles, feeding me tips, or even saying hi out in public. Thus I really want to work on the social side of Lincolnite.
With that in mind, I think I will keep some variation of the current nested comment system. Folks seem to enjoy being able to respond to a particular comment. One series of tweaks I do want to make is to the email notification system. Presently, you can either receive a notification for every comment posted on a thread, or for none. That could be refined to make the emails more targeted to you (i.e. only sending emails if somebody has responded directly to you) and less inbox-filling (i.e. only sending one email no matter how many comments there have been). It would also be nice to show you on the website how many comments there have been since your last visit and where you can find them.
I very frequently post on Twitter as both @MrWilson and LNKite, but neither of those accounts feeds content to this website. I would like to change that. There should be a more direct relationship between my activity on Twitter (and other social media venues, where appropriate) and on here. Don’t expect much Facebook integration, however. I’m not a Facebook guy.
I would love to make it easier for you to share information with one another. I’m not quite sure what that will look like. At the very least it needs to be easier for you to submit tips and ideas to me. The trouble is, many of the tips I receive aren’t “worthy” of being posted here. That’s nothing against you or whatever it is you’re promoting; it’s just that I try to carefully tailor the sort of content I post here for a specific sort of audience. Sometimes I don’t have time to put together a post before whatever you’re promoting has already happened. (Oops!) And I receive press releases all the time that never make it on here. Why not? Because I don’t really care about Budweiser’s latest promotion at some random bar in town, and neither do most of you. It’s not what this site is about.
That being said, some people do find that information useful, and the folks promoting these things could really use a way to get their information out there. I want to facilitate that somehow. I’m not sure yet what that would look like so let me know if you have ideas.
It’s your turn. Are there any feature requests you’d like to see? They can be large or small, specific or generic. Maybe they’re quick and simple, maybe they require a lot of work. Now’s the time to share them.
Before we tackle the “what’s next?” questions associated with Lincolnite’s future, let’s first talk about what things look like now. There is a mix of good and bad going on.
First the bad. I designed this iteration of the website over five years ago. While age alone isn’t inherently a bad thing, the fact that I’m not a designer is. Sure, you folks have told me you’re here for the content. Yet every time I type lincolnite.com into my browser and I see the existing site design, I cringe. It’s not the most offensive look on the web, but it had its day. It’s time for something fresh.
More importantly, the design was crafted to accommodate goals that no longer reflect reality. Consider the site navigation in the upper right. “Classifieds”? “Directory”? “Events”? “Forums”? “Gallery”? None of those things exist any more, and the Classifieds and Directory sections barely ever existed in the first place. One also has to wonder what the difference is between “Articles” and “Blogs”. That distinction is fuzzy at best.
The right sidebar also has issues. There are four separate blogs listed, but two aren’t used any more (625 Elm Street and DMB Sports Report). Mr. T’s Den is really only used for Mr. T’s weekly “Where In Lincoln” posts, which really should belong to the main blog. The long and short of it is that although it is nice to know who is posting content, “where” they are posting is largely irrelevant. The inLNK.in widget showing tweets containing the #LNK hashtag is mildly useful at times, but the feature isn’t being utilized particularly well. Then there’s the blogroll. Holy cow is that ever out of date. In fact, I almost forgot it was there. Finally there’s the monthly archive. ‘Tis a handy list of links for very rare purposes, but practically speaking all it does is show that I’ve been actively blogging on this system for a very long time. (I blogged for a few years before the end of that list, but a teeny tiny little database disaster nuked it all.)
There are other design problems as well. Some are subtle. For example, for a while I had enabled a feature that would show you which comments were new since the last time you visited. The feature broke during a system upgrade many moons ago and, for whatever reason, I never got around to fixing it. It was a great little feature that regular commenters miss. Mr. T, our resident photography expert, likes to point out how woefully the current site design presents images within posts. You can’t easily set up image galleries, nor can you easily display images wider than 450 pixels.
The problems happening behind the curtain are far more severe. Lincolnite runs on a system called ExpressionEngine (EE). I love EE. In fact, building websites and website components in EE is my job. But in a classic case of the cobbler’s children lacking footwear, the version of EE running this site is embarrassingly out of date. The system and its various add-ons all technically work, but the entire collection is so ridiculously fragile at this point that I can no longer upgrade any individual component without blowing up the whole thing. That’s why spam comments are such a problem at times, for example. It’s a house of cards and I’ve been hoping for years that nobody sneezes.
I could go on, but let’s not beat this poor horse any more. Let’s switch to the good stuff.
I kid! Despite how frustrated I am with all of the stuff above (and more!), there are some good things going on here. People come to Lincolnite for the content, as you stressed yesterday. We can break that down into three components: 1) news and information, filtered for a specific type of audience; 2) analysis and opinion; 3) comments and reactions from readers. Those are our strengths and they are what need to be used as the foundation for whatever comes next. In addition, periodic injections of content “sugar” help sweeten the experience. The games and contests I create tend to be very popular and they probably should happen more often to help people stay engaged with the site.
All these years of writing content have helped to build a great little community. It’s still a little weird to me, but I’ve become a bit of a C-list celebrity around Lincoln. Folks don’t necessarily know “me”, but they know or have heard of Mr. Wilson. Thanks to this website I have met many of you in person. In fact, I ate lunch with three of you yesterday at Leadbelly. (Look for a review soon!) I also get a kick out of how many people spot The Missus and my kids around town.
And we’re a diverse group. Regular readers include folks on the political far right and the far left; evangelical Christians and militant atheists; wealthy homeowners on the City’s fringes and folks just barely scraping by. I’m not making up those characterizations to make a point; you folks have described yourselves to me in those terms. We’re all here because we enjoy participating in the community in various ways. That’s our link.
Lincolnite could do more with this community of ours. Right now Lincolnite helps build a small buzz for certain local businesses. That has been neat to see at times. And you folks have come through amazingly with thousands of dollars in donations for various causes over the years. That’s just plain awesome. Yet I can’t help but feel like there’s more potential here. So while content is the foundation of Lincolnite’s next iteration, our community should play a big part in the core infrastructure.
That’s how I perceive the current state of Lincolnite. Did I miss anything? What do you think about the way things are here at Lincolnite?
We need to talk.
Lincolnite is struggling right now. That’s no secret. I haven’t been blogging as prolifically as I once did. The number of comments has declined. Spam comments are a pain. The site is just a blog yet the site design implies a much broader reach. And so on. Things just aren’t going real well for Lincolnite at the moment.
It’s my fault, of course. I’m the guy running the show and I’m just not keeping up. There are many reasons for that, all of which are predictable and understandable. But I’m not happy with the way things are going.
I started the website called Lincolnite.com from my dorm room back in March 1999. It was, at that time, intended to be a bit of a Yahoo! clone, but at the local level. It would be a Yahoo!-style directory of local websites, plus reviews and commentaries on things from around town. Eventually it morphed into a blog when blogging was still in its infancy. I discovered how much I enjoyed writing about local topics, and how incredible it was that other people enjoyed reading and responding to my thoughts. I slowly built a base of readers, most of whom stayed with me even through the Great Database Disaster of 2004 during which I lost everything associated with the site. (Backups? Who needs backups?)
Lincolnite’s peak came a couple years ago. I posted like crazy and a wide variety of commenters participated in fun and engaging discussions. Although visitor numbers are still doing ok, participation has dropped way off because I’m simply not engaging people like I used to. There’s no energy here.
Lincolnite is and always has been my own personal project, so I could choose to not worry about all of this. It’s my hobby. Why stress about something I’m putting out there for my own enjoyment? What I have learned over the years is that Lincolnite strikes a chord with people. It helps fulfill a desire that people have for participating in this community. People need to have an outlet like this. Indeed, the very same motivations that drive me to write about Lincoln drive others to come here day after day to read and to comment. I have discovered that folks so appreciate this little thing that I do that they trust me to filter and analyze news about local goings-on; they ask me to speak at their events; they donate generously to causes I support; they invite me onto their radio shows; and they’ve even encouraged me to run for public office, promising their votes, their money, and their time. All this based solely on my written rants and musings here on this blog. I’d be one hell of a fool to brush all that aside with a dismissive wave and say “Meh, it’s just a hobby”.
There’s are opportunities here, and I’m missing them.
This week I’m going to ask for your help as I spend a lot of time thinking about Lincolnite. What is this place? What could it be? What ought it be? What can it be? These are big, complicated questions.
This post is the first in a series that will continue for several days. Next I will look at the way things are with Lincolnite. What’s going well? What’s wrong with this site? You can help me think through the current state of things. In Part 3 we will examine the features we want from Lincolnite. We will look at all kinds of ideas, from the realistic to the pie-in-the-sky. Then in Part 4 I will talk about how you can help. I know some of you want to participate more broadly with Lincolnite because you’ve told me so. What might that look like? Finally in Part 5 we will talk about next steps. I will describe the decisions I have already made (based in part on the feedback you provide this week), and the things that still need to happen.
I hope you take some time to think about all this. Whether you’re a first-time reader, long-time lurker, or active participant, I want to hear what’s on your mind. Good or bad. So please, let’s get the conversation started and do plan to come back often throughout the week to read and respond to the comments. Thanks!
It’s not much, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Nebraska Department of Roads is hosting a public meeting on the South Beltway on June 25 from 4:00pm to 7:00pm at Lincoln Southwest High School. I assume they’ll cover topics like: the project’s route; land acquisition issues; environmental impacts; funding issues; extremely hypothetical timelines; the fate of the existing route of Highway 2 through Lincoln; and so on. It’s a meeting I would love to attend—I even went so far as to add it to my calendar—but I’ll be in Des Moines assessing referees at a soccer tournament. I hope a few of you are able to make it.
Thanks so much to the tipster who sent this in.
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