March 2, 2009

Change You Can Believe In

Quico says: Over the past week, I've been doing some blue-sky thinking about the future of this blog. Here's the skinny:

Caracas Chronicles is at a crossroads. Over the last five years, this blog has been unwittingly made possible by the Dutch tax-payer: i.e., the people paying my scholarship to attend Maastricht University. At the end of this month, however, that gravy train will be coming to the end of the line. On March 31st, I will hand in the final draft of my dissertation, and with that will come two consequences,
1. Y'all will have to start calling me "doctol"
2. Hello unemployment!
Which means we're gonna have to shake things up around here. After much deliberation, I've decided that the way forward is to try to take Caracas Chronicles from semi-obsessive hobby to out-and-out, self-sustaining professional activity.

The reality is, I absolutely love blogging. I find it addictive and strangely fulfilling. And I think I've gotten pretty good at it. If there's even any chance I can make a living doing it, then that's definitely what I want to do.

What this means is that this site has to start to generate some income. Information wants to be free, but my bills want to get paid.

Most likely, this will mean some combination of advertising, grants, and "support from readers like you" (i.e., donations). It will also mean that Caracas Chronicles has to seriously step up its game, in terms of site design (thus, that contest), marketing reach, rate of posting and, as has become agonizingly obvious, commenting platforms.

Enough of this bush league stuff...we're going pro.

Most exciting, we are now actively researching the possibility of launching a sister-site in Spanish, which I envision as a sane-alternative to the NoticieroDigital/Noticias24 duopoloy. And we're looking to do that on the basis of an innovative software infrastructure specifically designed to prevent the rampaging troll wars those sites have devolved into. This is a major project, and it's going to take some work to get it right: look for a launch date some time this summer.

Where You Come In
One thing is clear, this blog's greatest resource is the reader community, an inexhaustible source of good ideas, juicy gossip and unexpected expertise. If we're to pull off this shift, we will need lots and lots of support from you. If you have more time than money, we're going to be asking for you to volunteer. And if you have more money than time, we're going to be asking you for some of that as well.

In terms of volunteers, I've already been in touch with a handful of you, but we need to involve many more. Specifically, we really want you to get in touch with us if you know anything about:
  • Web technology (PHP, MySQL, phpBB, Joomla, PERL or others.)
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • Online community development
  • The Venezuelan online marketing/web advertising world
  • Fundraising from first world donors imaginably interested in supporting this site
  • Fundraising inside Venezuela
Please take a minute to write into if you have particular expertise in any of these fields, or if you know someone who does.

Taking this blog pro is one of the scariest/most exciting things I've ever done. There is just so much we could do with Caracas Chronicles if we had a bit of an income stream and the ability to fund the kinds of little side-projects you can easily do with a small budget, but find it almost impossible to do with no budget at all.

Think far more sophisticated community development software undergirding the comments section. Think web-video. Think regular audio podcasts. Think in-depth research into voting trends and new ways of visualizing the results of that research. Think detailed economic analysis and investigative pieces delivered as flash animations.

The sky is the limit. But I can't do it alone.

Together, though?

Yes we can!