End Of An Era
Posted on 06 Apr 2000
by Erika Meyer (erika)
Rated 3.89 (Ratings: 0)
- More articles in Commentary & Society
What is happening to Webmonkey?
The Webmonkey site churns along, but is its genius diminishing? Three long-time staff members (Josh, Jay, and Kristin) seem to have disappeared in the past month alone.It's difficult to tell which of the original staff is gone, and who remains. I've spent the last couple of days trying to find out more, but email to Wired has gone unanswered.
The Way We Were...Webmonkey was once my favorite site on the Web.When I was first introduced to hypertext, all the possibilities it offered for linking and networking grabbed me from the get go. I was an English major in college and never particularly good with computers. I didn't know if I had what it took to build web sites, but I knew that more than anything I wanted to try my hand at HTML.Then, one late night in the Fall of 1997, I discovered Webmonkey. The first thing that grabbed me about Webmonkey was, of course, the design. The second thing that grabbed me was the quality of writing and the quality of content. The writing was clear, intelligent, informative, refreshingly honest, and could even be downright hilarious.While I started reading Webmonkey for the technology, I stayed for the entertainment value and quality of writing. As the months went by I kept returning to Webmonkey to learn more about coding and design, as well as to enjoy the fine writing. I subscribed to the Monkeyjunkies mailing list, and continued to learn. There were times when the Monkeyjunkies list spat out upwards of 300 posts a day.
Enter Lycos, Inc.In October 1998, Webmonkey, along with the rest of Wired Digital, was purchased by Lycos. Janelle Brown's Salon feature ("Wired Acquired") from the same month quoted Bo Peabody, vice president of network strategy for Lycos as saying:
'"We're going to allow [Wired Digital] to grow [their Web sites], and as long as they're growing, we'll let them do what they're doing. Right now, they're all growing very nicely, so we don't see a reason to change them. In fact, we'll help them grow by integrating them into Lycos, without destroying their very individual identities and brand equity."'
Webmonkey Undergoes a RedesignA few months ago, the Webmonkey site quietly underwent a redesign.At first the Webmonkey redesign seemed cosmetic, but there was more to it than that. Daily content (aka "Monkeybites") was added, with links to offsite resources, but the real Webmonkey articles, the new ones, had become much more difficult to find.While the "old" Webmonkey offered a new, clearly presented, solid chunk of content on a weekly basis (more or less), the "new" Webmonkey seems to add articles much less frequently. How frequently is new content being added? It is hard to tell, because rather than featuring a weekly headline, the current front door offers a randomly generated stack of reruns (aka "featured articles"). New articles are simply shuffled into the mix, making them difficult to locate.
The Destructive Magic of Corporate Takeovers?When Senior Editor Joshua Allen left Webmonkey in early March, his personal site Fireland published a satirical "press release" that stated he was leaving "to pursue his long-standing dream of being a motivational speaker." He would miss many things about his former position with Lycos, he wrote, "most of all, the fierce commitment to providing the most compelling shopping experience on the web today." Fireland's "Press Release" continues:
'Allen has already unveiled two seminars, "Who, me? The Ancient Art of Decentralizing Responsibility" and "Ad Banners ARE Content," both of which had extremely successful runs at the Best Western in Kansas City, MO. He hopes to speak on a panel called "The Destructive Magic of Corporate Takeovers" at the upcoming CubiCon 2000."'Joshua Allen claims to be somewhere in Philadelphia, now, drinking Peach Snapple and studying the quality of light.
Navigation or Confusion?In addition to altering its presentation of content, the "new" Webmonkey site generally seems to be moving away from the concept of clear "navigation" and into a state of confusion. Nowhere is this more clear than on the "about us," page, the page also known as "Webmonkey Hideout."The Hideout is once featured such irreverent goodies as "The Han Solo Coloring Contest" and "Postcards to Kristin," as well as links to staff homepages and to hits.org, a non-profit dedicated to teaching rural students how to use technology, build Web sites, and defeat the digital divide. All of those links are gone, now, replaced with a sanitary white page, the whole bottom half of which is covered with Lycos corporate links.
The End of an Era?At one time, the Hideout offered a link to the Webmonkey "Staff" page. No more. The old staff page has been removed completely, and replaced with a more generic page called "contributors." The "contributors" page does not make clear who is still at Webmonkey and who is gone, nor does it do a good job of distinguishing permanent staff members from freelancers. It's difficult to tell what, exactly, is going on.I'm not feeling the love.The original Webmonkey seemed to be a labor of love mixed with exuberant brilliance. Where is the site headed now?
Wouldn't it be Nice...Here are a few simple suggestions from an actual Webmonkey fan:
- Bring back solid content: fewer product picks, fewer ads, more quality writing.
- Recognize that many of us build sites for love, not just for money. (It's hard to believe, I know.)
- Foster an environment that encourages teamwork and creativity.
- Respond to email inquiries.
- Bring back support--via links AND cold, hard, cash--for non-profits like hits.org and the Benton Foundation. The digital divide is a terribly serious issue in our country, and successful media corporations such as Lycos, Inc. ought to be right at the forefront of this battle.
All I can do is thank God for sites like evolt.