Congrats (?) Zamphir and Gary. I'll be looking foward to your contributions.
If I had any dignity that would be humiliating. - Adam Savage, Mythbusters
The basic idea was that webcartoonists, rather than competing with each other, should be sharinkg links and audiences. The Fleen website served as a hub for those links. In early 1999, this was a fairly revolutionary idea. We also had a mailing list where we could share ideas and discuss what, if anything, Fleen should become. The organization had a very loose structure (good for flexibility and avoiding toe-stepping), much in the same way that Dumbrella has now. What it didn't have was people who were capable of working together under such a structure -- something like that takes a degree of trust, and at that point I think only John and I had met in real life. Most of the other folks involved were faceless names to each other.
The lifeblood of Fleen was the sharing of traffic. When one of the higher-profile members decided not to participate in adding a drop-down linkbox to their homepage (also a revolutionary little doodad at the time), things began to sour. Then another prominent member decided that if that first person wasn't going to link, why should they link back? And then it all pretty much went downhill from there.
An argument could be made that the implosion of Fleen set the stage for the foundation of Keenspot, and later, Dumbrella. But we've already delved into history a bit too deeply, and I'm here to tell you about what Fleen has been reborn as today.
Webcomics journalism is in a pretty sad state. While a few websites devoted to webcomics news and reviews and discussion have sprung up, most of these have massive fatal flaws. The writing, for the most part, is the worst sort of amateurish fluff (which is not surprising since even professional journalists don't seem to be capable of writing a proper critical analysis these days). Posting schedules are erratic and sparse. The sites themselves are poorly engineered and violate most of the rules of usability. All these things are forgiveable. We, as an industry, are still finding our legs. Things like professionalism take time.
The one thing that is unforgiveable is that, almost without exception, all of these sites are run by and staffed by webcomic creators. They all have agendas, they all have friends they want to promote, they all have their own approaches to the artform that they want to see vindicated. These people are biased from the get-go. In the worst cases, webcomics bloggers have used their bully pulpit to launch their own nascent webcomics initiatives. This is the worst kind of journalism, the most terrible kind of comics crticism. It is the same sort of cronyism that has corrupted larger organizations like Fox News.
If these sites hope to have any sort of journalistic integrity, we must establish a divide between the creators and the people writing about them. The new Fleen is the first webcomics blog to attempt this.
The basic rules of Fleen are this:
We hope to add one or two more writers over the upcoming weeks; I think a good blog should be the sort of thing that you can check a few times a day and find new content waiting for you. If you're interested in being a contributor, send us at least two webcomics-related sample posts and me and the writers will try and pick a couple of candidates from amongst the interested parties. The compensation is so small that you may not even notice it is there, but I promise you it will be a fun gig.
Hopefully, the new Fleen will serve the same purpose as the old one: to bring people to where the webcomics are at, and to foster discussion.
Finally, I'd like to call on all of the webcomics creators who are out there moonlighting as webcomics journalists (and vice versa) to pick a side. If you want webcomics and webcomics journalism to be taken seriously, you can't be doing both. It's like how my ex-girlfriend used to put on stage shows with her friends for her other friends -- cute, but certainly not professional and ultimately pitiable. And everything you write until you pick a side will be suspect.