Iâ€™m just back from The Future of Web Apps, an inspirational conference in San Francisco about the technology thatâ€™s the backbone of what many refer to as Web 2.0 — shorthand for community rich, user-driven, and, one hopes, more economically grounded than the last boom (Flickr is a great, oft-cited example). For folks like us trying to create a new kind of magazine — one thatâ€™s community driven yet still guided by professional editors — it was pure manna. A personal highlight was seeing my old friend Ted Rheingold deliver a presentation on building passion-centric communities, like the one he founded, Dogster.com (which was followed by Catster.com), as well as places like Deviant Art, Craftster and Cats That Look Like Hitler (always a crowd pleaser).
People who know me know that I believe in my friends. When their projects are smart, fun and heartfelt thereâ€™s no chance you can get me to shut up about them. This means, for one, I wear my Dogster shirt all the time. As such, people are prone to looking me up and down and asking, â€œHey man, whatâ€™s Dogster? I tell them itâ€™s a user-driven community of dog lovers. Reply: â€œOh, like Friendster for Dogs.â€ Quick, unnuanced answer: “Yes.” At that point people either nod their head as if to say, â€œIâ€™m down with that,â€ or maybe chuckle and walk away, though sometimes smirk and wait for me to defend and/or explain it. To the smirkers I say: Dogster has 10 employees in a fun office in San Francisco and is making a lot of people, and dogs, happy. And after two and a half years working like, on and for the dogs, the company just raised a million dollars in order to keep building the biz and keep connecting people to their passions. If those passions have paws, then more power to them. Read about how Ted and his crew are getting the dogs out in The New York Times here.