Two days of stories from artists and creators using the internet to maintain their independence, and use their platforms in important ways.
Saturday, September 13
The founding editor of Wired and former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Review, Kevin Kelly coined the "1,000 True Fans" theory, an idea underlying the crowdfunding and direct-to-fan revolution. Last year, he self-published Cool Tools, a massive 472-page, 11"x14" compendium of the greatest tools ever made, a catalog of infinite possibilities.
Back in 2009, Lifehacker founder Gina Trapani started hacking on a new personal project, a little open-source toolkit for archiving her Twitter activity and show useful stuff with the data. Five years later, ThinkUp launched publicly in March as a for-profit company after a successful crowdfunding campaign from over 1,000 backers.
Golan Levin & Pablo Garcia
The camera lucida is a 19th century drawing aid, like a mirror on a stick, that lets you trace whatever you see. But controversial new evidence shows the Old Masters used optical aids, raising questions about the purity of art. As a provocation, artists Golan Levin and Pablo Garcia decided to make their own in the NeoLucida, a $30 device that democratizes art by letting amateurs explore the intersection of technology and art history.
Six years ago, Ethan Diamond launched Bandcamp to give musicians a way to stream and sell their music directly to fans at a fraction of Apple's cut. While the streaming services pay fractions of a penny to indie artists, Bandcamp's paying out $3 million monthly, with over $80 million since launch.
NYC singer-songwriter Jonathan Mann made a music video today. And yesterday. And every day since January 2009, more than 2,000 songs and counting, a project that landed him multiple viral hits, TV appearances, and a Steve Jobs keynote. In the process, he's parlayed Song A Day into a uniquely weird career.
Two years ago, Anita Sarkeesian decided to use Feminist Frequency, her video series on the portrayal of women in the media, to document sexist stereotypes and cliches in videogames. That project, Tropes vs. Women in Videogames, ignited a sustained campaign of violent threats and abuse, while raising over $150,000 from nearly 7,000 supporters. Despite the intense scrutiny, each video is essential viewing, a free masterclass in gender studies.
For the last 12 years, John Gruber's tracked the modern era of Apple on Daring Fireball, his personal web site turned full-time job. Bootstrapped with reader contributions and shirt sales, John's thoughtful approach to sponsorship allowed him to remain fiercely independent, while working on projects like his podcast, The Talk Show, and Vesper, his minimalist note-taking app.
Sunday, September 14
Lexicographer Erin McKean sews dresses and knits words. The former editor-in-chief of the Oxford New American Dictionary, Erin founded Reverb, an app for exploring news through words, and Wordnik, an online meta-dictionary with billions of words and an open API that spawned hundreds of mashups and served over 1.5 billion calls.
For over 20 years, Justin Hall has shared his life online. From a 20-year-old student experimenting with sex, drugs, and the Internet, readers have followed the most intimate details of his life, including his father's suicide, a failed startup, a marriage and painful divorce. Now, one of blogging's pioneers is making an independent film and video series to make sense of it all.
Propelled by a massive fandom community on Tumblr, Welcome to Night Vale exploded overnight, launched to the top of the iTunes charts last year. The community radio for a friendly desert community where every conspiracy theory is real, creators Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor have kept Night Vale independent, expanding to a touring live show and spinoff novel.
Last year, Edna Piranha (aka Jen Fong-Adwent) launched Meatspace, a chatroom that snaps a two-second animated GIF of your face every time you post. No usernames, no registration, and no history—messages last minutes before being deleted forever. The results were unexpected: a tight-knit community of virtual strangers turned real-life friends.
Most people are lucky if they finish a couple side projects in a year. Last year, Darius Kazemi released 72, averaging one every five days. His projects fall under what he calls "weird internet stuff" — bots that generate random Amazon purchases, surreal metaphors, rap battle lyrics, pickup lines, and everything in between.
As editor-at-large for Gamasutra, Leigh Alexander writes about video games, but her independent writing isn't so easy to define, drawing elements from fictional narrative and autobiography. Her second book, Clipping Through, was released independently last month, a pay-what-you-like experiment in sustainable writing on games.
Hank Green is the benevolent leader of the Nerdfighters, a massive community of YouTube fans and creators. With his brother John, their VlogBrothers channel grew to over 2.2 million subscribers in seven years, leading to the creation of his own record label, online charity, crowdfunding platform, a dozen successful YouTube channels, and VidCon, the world's largest convention about online video for fans and creators.