Wetmachine so far

Half a year (or so) ago I decided to get serious about livening up my Wetmachine website. Wetmachine had been around since October 1999, but I had only updated it a few times. I wanted to transform it into a site that people would come back to. A blog of some kind was clearly in order.

Knowing that it would be a drag, not to mention probably impossible, to singlehandedly make Wetmachine sufficiently compelling to warrant return visits, I invited some friends to play along. About three months ago we made the switch to blog format. Read on for some brief musings on the experiment so far.

So the first thing I did was badger my friend Gary to look into blog software. Gary has been the Wetmachine webmaster for a number of years; also he designed the covers of some of my books and did the book design for Cheap Complex Devices. I like his eye. The point being that I’ve come to rely on Gary for technical opinions AND graphic design. After all he’s talented, and he works for free.

I’m sure I could have figured out the blogging software myself, but I’m also sure I never would have gotten around to it. So Gary looked into Moveable Type and a few other systems and ended up recommending this Nucleus (??) software that we’re using. ( A main consideration, of course, is that it’s free). Gary and I met a few times and exchanged a few dozen emails and came up with the design of the current Wetmachine, which I think is nice, so far as it goes.

The next thing I did was send out emails to a bunch of friends asking them to be contributors. I knew Gary, Howard, and Ron from the time we worked at Curl corporation. Chris is my cousin; I’ve known him for 50 years or so. Jainaba is my daughter. I met Peg online at Kuro5hin.org. I met Harold in 2003 at a Science Fiction convention. These are all people who write well, have interesting things to say, and are philosophically within a few zipcodes of my own technoparanoia. Some of them have met each other, but many there are any number of binary in-the-flesh meetings among wetmachiners that have never happened.

We swithed over to blog format sometime around 1 December, although I’m not quite sure of the exact date because the Nucleus software seems to have eaten/forggotten about some of my first blog entries.

As is apparent, Harold has really come through as a Wetmachine contributor. Some of the rest of us have made contributions from time to time; others are still Wetmachine virgins.

I feel bad that I haven’t been more of a Wetmachine contributor myself. Part of the reason that I haven’t made more posts here — on my own site — is that I haven’t yet figured out where to put my web-writing energies, and consequently have put them nowhere. I used to put a lot of work into my diaries at Kuro5hin.org; in fact I created 2.5 distinct (to me) Kuro5hin personalities there. These “personalities” expressed themselves in hundreds of diary entries and thousands of comments. I made lots of friends of there, and let’s be honest, I sold books to fellow kurobots. So even if the time I spent “there” wasn’t profitable, at least it was remunerative.

But then, starting about a year ago, my best friends and favorite writers started an exodus from the website Kuro5hin to an ofshoot site called HuSi. And I found myself spending rediculous amounts of time trying to decide whether I should be making posts on Husi, where my friends were, or on Kuro5hin, where the readership was much larger. Why was I spending time online? Was it to have fun and good conversation, or to promote myself as a writer (and make new friends)? And then, of course, there was now Wetmachine crying out for my attention. Why should I spend time writing on Kuro5hin or HuSi when my own Wetmachine was going stale?

But I found it hard to put much energy into writing a Wetmachine post that might get 90 readers, when I might spend the same time writing something for Kuro5hin that would get a few thousand readers.

And that’s not to mention Salon. I’ve written a few articles for Salon.com; not only does Salon pay actual $$ (now; my ealier articles paid virtually nothing) for my effort, but more to the point each of my Salon articles has been read by tens of thousands of (smart, bookbuying) people.

So every evening when I come home from work and set myself down at my computer and begin to noodle around on the Internet I have to refight a tedius fight with at least four corners of my psyche about where to put my writing efforts. Kuro5hin? HuSi? Wetmachine? Or on one of the 3 Salon essays currently in develolpment? What I’ve found is that the tedius fight becomes a stalemate and I don’t much of anything at all.

It also doesn’t help that I typically get a few dozen comments on a Kuro5hin diary, but only one or two comments here.

So I’ve been a disappointment to myself, especially with regard to this site. I haven’t made a lot of posts, and those I’ve made have been pretty minimalist. And most other Wetmachiners, except Harold, have been similarly quiet. They all have lots of stuff going on in their lives and certainly I understand that they’ve had other priorties. But I do wish the site were more lively.

So anyway I think I’ve decided to put more of my energies here. This is my own site, after all, and I’ve proven to myself that I stink at mulitasking. So I might as well chose one site and focus on it. That’s how it seems to me tonight anwyway. We’ll see how it goes.

By the way, readership of this site is about 100 unique visitors/day. I don’t have statistics from before September 2002 so I dont’ know what kind of traffic I got on my various slashdottings. But the heaviest traffic since (when I have an article running on Salon or a mention running on BoinBoing.net) have been two or three thousand uniques a day.

Finally, let me say that I wish Nucleus had a preview and a spellcheck!


  1. Hey John,

    Well, I’m sorry I haven’t been able to contribute more to Wetmachine, but my well of inspiration has been pretty dry these days. Frankly, unless I find an issue that I consider myself an expert on, I tend not to want to post about it, and there’s vanishingly few topics I’m an expert on that are related to Wetmachine, and are also not being covered ad nauseum at Slashdot, Ars Technica, or many other sites.

    As for spell checking… that could be in the cards. I found a system a while ago that lets you do spell checking, as long as you have the correct software on the server’s end of things. I think I tried setting it up when we bloggified Wetmachine, but gave up in favor of actually getting Nucleus working.

    There’s also a Nucleus 2.5 out now, which I should look at… I’ll put that on my list of things to do.

  2. Oh, another thing I should mention… Nucleus supports blogging tools, which means you can use another program to write your blog entry, then upload it when you’re done. Two of the tools the Nucleus site mentions are Mozblog (http://mozblog.mozdev.org/) and w.bloggar (http://wbloggar.blogspot.com/).

    I haven’t used either of them, but the Mozilla one does at least mention that it does spell checking.

  3. Nice to see some new stuff on here. Definately an interesting site to check out.

    I was lead here by links from kuro5hin, at first, I guess. Then I finally read Acts of the Apostles when I got a PDA(Adobe Reader on Palm sucks, btw…). Great book though.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. If you are moving your writings here, then I will be checking this site with greater frequency. The K5-HuSi->to-> thing is difficult. Each sites has their own feel, not only in writing environment, but also the diaries and posts that border it.

    It is hard to work out sometimes where the style I write in fits well. Well enough that I get the audience (attention?) I want, enough that it is appreciated, enough that people are moved to comment, and also that friends can comment in it. For instance I always look forward to scrymarches, sien’s and sven’s comments.

    I am uncertain still why I write, I enjoy expressing myself, I enjoy the research and philosophical tangle of an indepth diary/article. That is fun, but after putting that effort in, what to get out of it? Humbleness directs me to say I dont care about the audience my writing gets, but that is a lie. I hit refresh often afterwards to see how commented on it.

    Maybe diary writing is performance art, cry for attention, modern letter writing, a dihonest persona, or maybe even just fun. I dont know. I enjoy writing and I enjoy publishing. With the k5/HuSi thing, I have come to feel that it is important to have the right environment/home to publish to.

    Since you have chosen wetware, I will be checking more often.


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