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!