geert lovink on 23 Feb 2001 14:40:26 -0000

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<nettime> Death of a Community

(from:, posted first on "Europe's Internet Business
Forum" digest  <>, reposted on nettime with the
permission of the author. /geert)

Sent: Friday, February 23, 2001 8:08 PM
From: Paola Di Maio <>
Subject: Death of a Community

Heard it just yesterday in a newsgroup. Surprising how many
websites who never reached the limelight while they were alive
and kicking, suddenly make the headlines. For example, last week
I got a message in my mailbox saying 'company such and such'

Really? And who are they? Anyone I talked to didn't really know
much about the company, and many ignored their existence
altogether. But yes oh boy the website which issued the headline
got the highest hits ever after the mail shot to all subscribers
carrying the news.

New economy, same old news tricks. Some things never change ...

When I hear of highly pushed artificially inflated dot coms
shutting down, not always do I feel sorry. Sometimes, cynically,
I just think 'one down'. Some sites are really just hot air
balloons and when they burst do not even leave a void.

In the case of organically grown sites, however, that is very sad,
and the Internet community, if there is any such thing, should be

The fact that at the dawn of the Internet age healthy and sound
online communities get shut, must indeed be a symptom of
dangerous and potentially infectious disease, worth dissecting
and including in the case study section of the 'New Harvard

Let's make sure we all learn from the lesson. So what went wrong?
Everything. Who is going to suffer? Everyone, and not last, the
new economy at large. began as a hobby in early '95, Debbie Ridpath Ohi,
Editor and Founder, writes in one of the pages, and has grown to
nearly 50,000 subscribers and 70 staff and volunteers with over
500,000 visits a month. It received many awards including
Writer's Digest and Write Magazine #1 writing Web site for
writers in its 2001 Yearbook. was sold to Xlibris last July (disguised as a
partnership?). Now Xlibris is restructuring, and shutting the
site down.

Of course, strictly speaking, this is none of my business. But as
part of the goodies that the Internet brings to all, there is
also some free advice, so why not take it. I occasionally do
contribute to dispense.

New Economy Lesson Nr 1

When selling an company, a suitable committed buyer is essential,
who undertakes to develop the business, and a series of clauses
should be negotiated to ensure that the business will be managed
properly, failing that, the economy and legality of
re-acquisition should be facilitated.

Inkspot now should dutifully appraise its assets: a rich mailing
list - who wouldn't go after 50 000 email addresses and a lively
skilled creative community of 500? After all content is in great
demand these days, just it may be necessary to retrain the
creatives to respond to market demands

Members themselves could surely try to exercise some pressure on
the owners for a better handling of the future of the community.
At the dawn of the industrial age, history teaches, it was the
coal that miners dug up with their own hands that built modern
economy as we know it, and yet it did not happen without
struggle, if I remember correctly.

Why not issue shares to the members against a little capital, say
a few dollars each, to refinance? First Tuesday (congratulations
by the way) are working on it as we speak.

Do not let the lack of business skills and the Internet fatigue
that sooner or later is bound to affect every entrepreneur,
impact the hopes and promises on the new economy.

If a website is more than just a speculative venture, then there
must be some real economic value behind it worth rescuing.

At the time of declaring closure, it is not only morale that is
down. The value of the assets is also at its lowest. That's when
sharks and vultures start getting closer, to get a free meal out
of a carcass. Don't let others get hold of the bones, what is
left belongs to the community.

We do not know what the schemes of the company are. Either these
guys are really bad managers or, maybe, they are smarter than we
think and perhaps are planning a turnaround and need a bit of
free publicity, in which case the whole affair could be a
marketing move.

(It's worth to be mildly cynical these days, we have seen it

Or maybe we just haven't heard the rest of the story yet.

Either way, we look forward to real new economy lessons, hoping
that someone out there knows what new economy means.

Paola Di Maio

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