Launching the FreeZine Online Magazine Publishing Platform

Both Facebook and Twitter have registered .Blog addresses bearing their company names. The Alphabet Company (alias Google) has signed up. None of these companies seem to be thinking twice about how bankrupt their own brands are (or at least are becoming) – they are simply signing up and thereby underwriting one of the most trusted brands on the Internet: WordPress.

It used to be that WordPress meant blog. Now, Blog means WordPress.

Built on an „open source“ foundation, WordPress seems much more trustworthy than top-secret algorithms for pulling websites out of a magic machine. I think it’s a fascinating thought exercise to consider the prospect of a search.blog or a directory.blog that would make search engines like Google or Facebook superfluous.

Yet indexing is somewhat beyond the scope of all of these companies. These companies are much more based on a foundation of hacking algorithms, pure mathematics, statistical tricks and such… with a twist of advertising, psychological manipulation and a dash of propaganda. Plus inordinate amounts of espionage. None of this has very much to do with information retrieval per se. Open or closed is not the central issue. It may be a very significant aspect, but one should not forget that it is nonetheless merely one facet of many.

Information retrieval is – or at least ought to be – a central concern of communities, a kind of communal concern. These could be professional communities, local communities,… – quite probably, in any case they will some sort of linguistic communities. Speaking the same language is more or less identical to belonging to the same community.

The immense complexity of relationships in the real world leads us to believe in a tangled web of overlapping communities, at least if we expect our view of reality to be somewhat realistic. In other words: the „real world“ territory requires a multitude of maps rather than a more simplistic view in which there is a 1-to-1 mapping of points on one map to points in the one real world. The quaint, old-fashioned view of relevance, in which whatever is relevant to you must also be relevant to me no longer suffices the demands of a no-longer homogenized global population.

Note that such relativity is apparently still a revolutionary concept, since the vast majority of people have been drilled with truisms such as the notion that money is a reliable metric of value. Such truisms are easily disproven by simple facts – such as the fact that most terrorists are not motivated by money. Money as standard metric may even lead to extremely grotesque conclusions – such as that we are all „better off“ with more weapons than we would be with less weapons, or that burning more oil leads to more growth.

So much for theory, now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty about how the optimization of information retrieval will increasingly play out in the coming years.

First of all, it should be easy to understand from my last remarks above that the significance of generic, one-size fits-all search engines will continue to wane. Google already started shifting its business model years ago (I don’t mean what many refer to as „personalization“ – this is actually more of a smoke-screen to cloud people’s views). They may continue to press ahead on marketing proprietary mobile phone apps, and may even continue to build out their mobile phone business, as they are increasingly becoming aware of the writing on the wall for all kinds of advertising (which is still presently their mainstay income source, probably making up about 99% of their total revenues).

Indeed the outlook for retard media in general continues to look dismal at best, and the prospects for rational media are at least rosy, perhaps quite strong or even „hyper-growth“. The crux of this growth (regionally) is the degree to which a society is able to transition from generic, standard and hierarchical organizational structures to community-based organizations.

This is the central focus of a publishing platform I am currently building. The platform is divided into 4 parts: a general chat area, a current local news area, a classified magazine area (i.e., with different sections for different topics) and a professional website area. The professional website area is intended for people who want to have their own website without having to do it on their own. By and large, I would advise doing this at wordpress.com, but if for some reason someone prefers to do this on the publishing platform I am building (for example: for specialized design / layouts / templates / themes / plugins which are not available at wp.com), then this option is available. None of what I am offering is guaranteed to work, but since I am designing it to work for me, it should also work for you. 😉 The other three areas are intended as 3 kinds of communities – a general (by and large unformatted) community, a local community and a magazine-format community. What this means is that each of these communities are a separate community that operates and functions independently of one another, but within each community the space is shared such that members can share information with each other (and with the entire world). In that sense it is very similar to what most people refer to as „social media“. It is also crucially different, though, insofar as there is no anonymity involved. They are also fundamentally different in other ways, too – such as that (as with all WordPress sites) a multitude of RSS feeds are freely available.

These RSS feeds are a basic building block and also a bridge to another related project in development. Thousands of topically focused sites (so-called „rational media“) will be sourcing their material (aka „content“) via RSS feed from these and other trusted websites. Needless to say, anonymous websites are not considered trustworthy. Likewise, most so-called „social media“ – which only require an email address to sign up – do not pass muster (besides: most such websites also don’t even publish RSS feeds). All Freezine Magazines sites and all Freezine Magazines content will be automatically trusted, simply because all of the authors will be trusted sources.

Therefore, Freezine Magazines participants will be able to share with very large groups of interested parties, who will be able to view their content via a wide array of rational media related to their communities (I guess you could call these „communities of interest“). What is more, members will also be able to engage in more „advanced“ ways (than simply being an author). For example, they can apply to become editors, which would enable them to make recommendations, suggest additional resources, etc.

My initial motivation in creating the Freezine Magazines publishing platform was for my own use, but I also realized at the outset that I could easily build it so that others could use it just as well. Whether other people want to use it is another question. My willingness to open it up as a shared platform is motivated primarily by my own visions of what a collaborative platform could be, what it ought to be, and how I envision such a platform playing a role in how information retrieval works online (i.e., on the internet / world-wide web). Much of this is now easily attainable, some parts are a little tricky. All in all, I feel now is a good time to actually test the waters. I consider this to be a very early-stage test. I am eager to learn, and also to get suggestions and feedback from people who feel uneasy about any aspect of the project. As an incentive to participate, I am offering the first 10 people to register a lifetime membership in all 3 community websites (fun, local and online). Registration will be required, as this creates a „paper trail“ type documentation that documents the participants as not only „real“, but also as willing to put in at least a very thin layer of „skin in the game“. I would be willing to even say people I have met personally (or done business with) do not need to register, but my trust is a different matter than such documented trust (this is also, by the way, why I have chosen to configure registration as a renewable data point – I believe this way the data can be considered „current“ and/or „up to date“; at the same time I am also open to multi-year registration [as a sign of trust], though I have not yet figured out a way to present such data in a way that is truly helpful for information-seekers).

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4 Responses to Launching the FreeZine Online Magazine Publishing Platform

  1. Profile photo of nmw nmw says:

    In the Activity Stream, I posted a comment contributed by Sue Braiden (a longtime friend, and I hope at some time also a participant in this community 😉 ) — see http://fun.freezine.org/activity/p/39

    The monetization issue she raises is, I feel, a valid one. I have clarified that the price of registration (1 Euro) is for a term of 1 year only. I am considering letting people use multiples of this “unit price” as a way of increasing their support of this project if they want to. I am also considering having a special page listing all members ranked by:

    1. the degree of support (high to low)
    2. the time of registration (earlier to later)

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