Thursday, November 20, 2008

Some Problems in the Long-Term Maintenance of a Music Website




On the subject of people planning a new Finnish experimental music portal (which I recently mentioned also here) I was asked to give my opinions to this discussion at Charmlist (I take a licence to reproduce my own text here, slightly edited) as someone who has maintained since 1996 a site that at the moment lives at pHinnWeb.org (2 gigas (if I remember correctly), hosted by Nebula.Fi's Web hotel, 15 euros a month + a registering fee of ca. 17 euros/year).

I have to say that these days the pHinnWeb site works mostly as an archive and portal to other sites, because I just don't have time and energy to update it the way I used to. The scope has been from techno and electro to some indie pop to experimental, so that wide spectrum might in its part explain my fatigue. (Probably the separate blog part of it -- the one you're reading now -- is at the moment most active, but there's a lot of content that has nothing to do with music.)

There's also the fact that I've always maintained pHinnWeb as a one-man project, having minimal technical knowledge on such things as coding etc. Yes, there have been many times I've wished there was a bigger team running it, where everyone could concentrate on their own area of expertise and knowledge, but so far there has been no luck in finding collaborators. And I'm concentrating more on my own creative
work these days, anyway, so I've accepted the fact that pHinnWeb goes on its life just as a slow-moving, often hibernating dinosaur. Also, because of my own recent family and work circumstances I haven't been able to contribute to pHinnWeb or its mailing list the way I used to, so things have been a bit quiet on that front, too.

So, some problems in a nutshell:

  • One voluntary person running a wide project like this is not enough:
    share responsibility and recruit new people all the time, people with varying interests and technical/artistic skills.

  • Maintaining a long-term interest and energy in maintaining it year after year:
    ditto.

  • Re: discussion forums - keep it bilingual if you can: it seems because of language barrier many people just are timid to have a more detailed discussion in a tongue that is not their own (I've noticed this problem with my own mailing list).

  • Avoiding besserwisserism, arrogance and hostile factionalism: "That guy doesn't know anything about music/the scene"; still, these know-it-alls often curiously tend to keep their mouths just shut when it comes to actually contributing something. It's easier to criticize someone else's work from one's comfortable armchair than to go out in the cold and create and maintain something yourself.

  • Difficulties of "datamining". Media in general being interested in more mainstream things. Many Finnish underground artists and scene being so low-key, isolated, insular; not exactly keen on hyping themselves, it seems. Maybe it's the Finnish mindset - being modest, not boasting yourself, etc. (Artists being in general difficult beasts sometimes, requiring kid glove tactics and being discreet.)
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