Kitely News: What needs doing

Talk about community-managed projects in Kitely
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Kat Lemieux
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Kitely News: What needs doing

Post by Kat Lemieux » Thu Jul 03, 2014 9:47 pm

The title of this post may be a bit misleading, sorry. But today I was chatting with Dot Matrix, and somehow the conversation got around to community building. I said one thing I'd found extremely important for cohesiveness back in the old days of Second Life was a professionally published electronic newspaper called Metaverse Messenger. Many of you probably remember it. When it ceased publication a few years ago, it left a vacuum that has not been filled, although some people have tried.

The reason I mention it is because I think Kitely is at the point now where it can support, and be supported by, such a journal. No, I'm not proposing to do this myself -- my plate is full -- but I have contacted the people behind Metaverse Messenger, Phoenix Psaltry and through him, Katt Kongo (SL names). Maybe they will chime in here with more background than I can possibly know about, I hope. But what I can do is describe it from a reader's viewpoint, and say what I think were some of the factors behind its success.

First, I mentioned "professionally published". As a publisher/writer/editor myself I appreciate the difference between all these roles. Each must be filled if a publication is to succeed, but most people don't really think very much about what a publisher does.The functions of editors and writers are easier to fathom, but unless you have actually been involved in the process of producing some form of tangible word communication, everything a publisher does may not occur to you. Managing the newsroom may be the job of the editor-in-chief, but the publisher manages that person. Generally, the business end of things is the publisher's concern. This includes finances (selling ads, paying bills, meeting payroll, etc., or managing the people who do those things if the outfit is big enough to have departments) and legal affairs, including the all-important IP rights and regulatory compliance. And, working with the editor, the publisher sometimes has a hand in deciding how the product is formatted, and in what way it is distributed. It is not for the faint of heart.

Some of the things I think Metaverse Messenger got right include their division of labor, with publisher, editor, and a staff of reporters and IT people, artists, ad sales people, and someone in charge of distribution. This last job is one thing they did exceptionally well, IMO. The "paper" was published in PDF format, which was downloaded from their website, which in turn was available from web links embedded in objects within the virtual world as well as via normal Web search engines and navigation. This methodology provided many benefits, including the ability to present a (better than) traditional-looking product (instead of a text-only notecard kind of thing), economical distribution, and the all-important in-world presence. Without these things even the best-written articles would not have gotten the audience they achieved. By having a sufficiently large enough staff, all the various tasks got accomplished well and in a timely way. Looking over the masthead of one of the issues I saved, it appears they had over a dozen people working there at any given time.

So, what did all this do for Second Life? Ads and feature articles informed the public about what was happening throughout the virtual world, while editorials and letters to the editor discussed controversies (which lively, innovative communities seem to always have). Yes, online calendars and forums like this one, blogs, and the marketplace website can do some of that, too, but not in as compact a form that is easy to reference, yet expansive enough to provide an in-depth, comprehensive picture of the things it describes.

The hypergrid in general has Maria's HyperGrid Business blog, and Marstol Nightly does a great job of reporting on events in her Facebook posts & blog, and of course this forum is quite lively, and Ilan & Oren keep us posted on Kitely technical and business issues very effectively in the official blog. But none of these things is quite the same as what I've described. Is Kitely big enough to support a major news organ yet, and is there someone willing to create and operate it? I hope so.
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Re: Kitely News: What needs doing

Post by Phoenix Psaltery » Thu Jul 03, 2014 10:45 pm

Wow, Kat. Thank you for that tribute. We simply did what we had to in order to make sure the M2 looked as good as it possibly could. It wouldn't have been what it was without my co-founder, Katt Kongo. It was her real world journalism experience that helped us to make the M2 "A Real Newspaper For A Virtual World." Eye jist wryte gud ann draww pertty pickshures. ;)

Over the four years that the Messenger was published, we had an overwhelmingly positive response. I must admit that initially, when Katt proposed the idea of starting a newspaper, I wasn't sold on the idea. "Who's going to pay good L$ for a newspaper?" I asked. "No," she said, "It'll be free." "Free?" I asked. "Then how are we going to make any money?" "We'll sell advertising," she said. I still wasn't sure. "Who's going to pay money to buy ads in a fake newspaper about a fake world?" I was never so wrong about anything in my life.

Early on, there was a bit of a ramp-up as people got used to the idea of advertising in a paper about a virtual world, but within a couple of months, business was booming. Selling ads was never a problem. I was constantly fielding instant messages, forum messages and e-mails from those interested in buying ad space.

During our tenure, there were those who objected to the PDF format and urged us to go to a web-based, blog-style format, something like the Second Life Herald, and that is what finally transpired after I stepped down, just to simplify things and reduce Katt's workload, but overall I believe that the PDF is the greatest thing since sliced bread when a publisher wants to make sure that what readers see is what you intend. It's essentially printing on digital paper. Have you ever looked at a web page and realized that things are smashed together, or out of place, perhaps because your screen resolution isn't what the designers intended? PDF avoids all that.

If memory serves, at our peak we were seeing well over 300,000 copies of the M2 downloaded each week, and we also had the amazing experience of seeing our work leak out into the real world several times during Second Life Community Convention weeks when we had the M2 professionally printed for convention attendees.

The thing someone would need to recreate a publication like the M2 is knowhow in a good publishing program (we used QuarkXpress), as well as an image manipulating program like Photoshop or similar (I usually used Paint Shop Pro for building ads). Understanding of AP style is important for making the stories read professionally. As mentioned, at any given time we generally had anywhere from five to a dozen writers on staff; some were more competent than others, and it's important that the editor have no qualms about cleaning up poorly written stories, or even rejecting them if they are really bad. That's an editor's job, after all.

Looking back and realizing that it's been five years since we ceased publication just amazes me. Of course, I've been busy; first with the health concerns that forced me to step down in the first place, and then with my newfound career as an author and editor at my own small publishing house, <shamelessselfpromotion>Five59 Publishing</shamelessselfpromotion>, doing several short story anthologies a year and now working on my third novel.

The Messenger really was a labor of love. It was something that helped people know more about what was going on in Second Life, and the ads helped content creators to let residents know what all they had available. I am very proud of the role we had in helping SL to become more of a "real" place.

If someone decides to try a project like this for Kitely, I wish them all the best. It's very rewarding.

P2

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Re: Kitely News: What needs doing

Post by Carlos Loff » Thu Jul 03, 2014 11:52 pm

kKitely is taking care of Us so lets take care of Kitely

On my side Im making a hard effort to bring SL folks, one has already established and became Premium
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Re: Kitely News: What needs doing

Post by Dundridge Dreadlow » Fri Jul 04, 2014 12:54 am

..dunno about glossy magazines..

but.

Virtually Newsworthy (as seen in the Murder Mystery and occasionally elsewhere) is still available for those who want to use in-world and on-web publishing technologies..

You'd have to twist my arm to embed textures or web gfx in a pdf..
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Re: Kitely News: What needs doing

Post by Marstol Nitely » Fri Jul 04, 2014 1:10 am

Hi Kat,

Thanks for the undeserved credit, but I haven't posted to my blog in over a year.

What I can take credit for is that I was the managing editor of a RL community newspaper for many years. I always add "community" because there's a difference between something published by Gannett and a local publication. Community newspapers are generally smaller and the editor wears more hats.

My publisher was in a different city, so I while I was hired and paid by him, I wouldn't say I was managed by him. I was responsible for managing myself, the sports editor, my office staff, as well as some paid and volunteer writers. I coordinated with my sales rep and the editors of my sister newspapers, covered breaking news, wrote feature articles, sold some of the ads and took photographs. I created many of the ads and graphics, did the lay out, delivered it to my publisher for printing, addressed the printed copies and took them to the post office for mailing. During that time, I made sure a 12 to 20 page newspaper was delivered once a week, every week of the year. I also emptied the trash and on a few occasions shoveled snow.

I was paid well by my publisher. The newspaper was established in 1880 and was a newspaper of record. So even though the organizational structure doesn't exactly fit what you describe as a "professional publication," by definition, it was.
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Re: Kitely News: What needs doing

Post by Dot Matrix » Fri Jul 04, 2014 9:36 am

I wonder if a first step might be to gather a team of individuals willing to act as reporters, to find the news and write about it (say just a paragraph or two each time). Then the material might be collected and collated (non-formatted at this stage) in a central spot.

From there the material could be formatted for both inworld and web-based publishing. That could be fun!
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Re: Kitely News: What needs doing

Post by Selby Evans » Fri Jul 04, 2014 10:42 am

Dot Matrix wrote:I wonder if a first step might be to gather a team of individuals willing to act as reporters, to find the news and write about it (say just a paragraph or two each time). Then the material might be collected and collated (non-formatted at this stage) in a central spot.

From there the material could be formatted for both inworld and web-based publishing. That could be fun!
Note that you could start with a blog. You can set up a community blog on Blogger, letting all the reporters have posting rights. Somebody creates and owns it. That person authorizes others to post. It works like the Google calendar we already have. The Google calendar could be embedded and carried from time to time . A twitter stream could also be embedded if we develop an active one.

We have people who already follow particular themes and want to tell people about things in that theme. Reporters can report on their interests. That makes reporting easy. One big advantage of a community blog is that it publishes enough to get an audience.

Suggested title: Kitely Nightly.

There are articles in my blog about collaborative blogging and other aspects of blogging. You can search it from the search bar on the right (scroll down).

If we have a community blog, I will put it on my blog roll and pick up stories from it for my blog. I will also be happy to provide advice. I probably won't have time to write for it as I am too busy with my own blog and other things.
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Re: Kitely News: What needs doing

Post by Freda Frostbite » Fri Jul 04, 2014 12:17 pm

When I first read your post, I was thinking this is not a bad idea, but, upon further reflection, I am not sure how useful an inworld magazine would be. We already have one, I thought, (put out by Dundridge? or am I imagining that?) and there are a LOT of people covering events and Kitely news on blogs, on FB and G+, and here in the forums. I have been in Sl for many years and have never read a single inworld publication that did not have my own poetry in it, so, although there are mags and papers there, I am impervious to them. Am I alone in barely noticing their existence? I am far more likely to get news about virtual worlds on FB, G+, blogs and in forums.
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Re: Kitely News: What needs doing

Post by Dot Matrix » Fri Jul 04, 2014 12:45 pm

Given the spread of coverage "on blogs, on FB and G+, and here in the forums", might there be an argument for a publication that pulls all the threads together, maybe with a summary? For example, not everyone uses Facebook or Google+.
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Re: Kitely News: What needs doing

Post by Freda Frostbite » Fri Jul 04, 2014 1:16 pm

Are you meaning an inworld publication, Dot? Or one here in the forums? Or online somewhere else?

I am not much in favor of duplicating work already being done and really do wonder how much attention folks pay to inworld publications. I am not necessarily against the idea, BTW, just trying to get a handle on what it would be. Also recognizing that I personally cannot take on any more, not that anyone was asking-- it's just the question I ask myself whenever writing/publishing/events related tasks are mentioned, cuz those would be my three areas of expertise. Well, there is music too but rarely does the need for inworld opera or lieder get mentioned anywhere. LOL
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