You all know who he is. Some of you aspire to be him, some of you aspire to better him, some of you might even grit your teeth in jealousy, clenching your fists, shaking one in the air above your head and crying, "Curse you, Bilokonsky!" He's equally well spoken in discussions on religion and politics as he is on sex, drugs, or rock and roll, he can hold his own in an Arena of Death match or any flame war, and he's done more than his fair share of work to uphold the integrity of this Vine.
Who am I talking about? That's right...Mykola Bilokonsky (yeah, yeah, I know you read the title and that's what got you here, leave me to my build-up already, will ya?).
Mykola gets to interview all the big names on Newsvine, and now I get to interview him.
What is it about Newsvine, as opposed to other social networking sites, that inspires you to pour into it so much of your time and energy?
I first started to really like Newsvine when I realized that the devs were just as excited about their emerging product as we were. It helped that as the months went by I watched the team personally respond to a whole slew of questions and issues from myself and from others. I guess in spite of my cynicism I do really honestly believe in democracy and I sure as hell believe in information and Newsvine struck me from the getgo as a place where democracy and information merged. It's been exciting for me to be a formative member of the community here on Newsvine, because I've watched this community grow into what I'd currently categorize as a sort of awkward adolescence. The site grows and changes every day and the way the devs respond to feedback makes me excited that we may all be helping to shape the emerging adult.
Right now, we have a tremendously diverse, educated userbase that contributes to a whole culture of growth and education. The whole point is that Newsvine isn't just another social networking site - have you ever made real friends on facebook? Learned about the socioeconomic factors at play in the third world on myspace? Newsvine fuses a democratic model with an unlimited informational infrastructure - the result is that it's a great place to go learn.
How do you see Newsvine changing these days? What are your personal goals as far as your participation on Newsvine, and in which directions would you like to see the site move forward?
The site seems to be reaching a larger and larger crowd. A few old faces drifted away here and there, but there are lots of new ones to replace them. It's amusing to see new users post articles like "Poll: Do you vote for your own posts?" and that sort of thing, because it's all stuff that we hashed out in the community over a year ago. It's interesting to me how this sort of merger of old and new users leads to a sort of constantly changing community dynamic - but it's also really cool to see the framework of the community that we forged here during the beta still acting as the skeleton, the framework.
But I'm going off-topic here - my personal goals? I'd like to help steer this ship into the main shipping routes. Look, I'm no dummy - I'd love to make a buck off of this. I'd also like to reach a larger audience with my ideas. To that end, I think we need to shape up and organize a way for the community to break into the internet mainstream. I've got the Blitz project going on, but right now we're like a pack of roving Digg pirates occasionally descending on some treasure. I have another project in the wings, something very small right now and with only a handful of collaborators, that's designed to blow the roof of what Newsvine is capable of.
That brings me to my final answer to this question - I'd like to see Newsvine grow into a site that not only respects but emphasizes individual production. I want groups to be able to publish articles via the group, with author bylines. I want groups to have customizable homepages, down to graphics and layout - think of them less as advanced tags and more as independent magazines working within the internet at large. The base would be Newsvine, as would the initial community - but I want a set of tools from the dev team that'll let the users control what external visitors see. In my mind, it would be a fantastic day for everyone involved if some spinoff group launched a net magazine that got more hits than Newsvine.com itself. That's true empowerment, and it'd be profitable - Newsvine would of course keep a chunk of the ad revenue. So that's the direction I'd like to see us go, eventually.
You asked Brian Ford what the secrets are to his Newsvine success--what about you? It can't be merely your charm, wit, and dashing good looks. It likely has a lot to do with your ability to communicate your thoughts via the written word, in addition to your dedication to constant improvement of Newsvine as a whole. To what do you attribute your success here?
What a difficult question to answer. Look: I do indeed consider myself pretty successful on Newsvine, and there are a few reasons for that. Number one is simply that I'm a member of the community. I know that if I write something then I'll have friends who come read it and tell me what they think - and that's valuable to me. If I have any popularity on Newsvine, I think a large part of it is due to the fact that in the early beta days I put a lot of thought into how best to organize the community into a cohesive, self-reinforcing organism rather than just a bunch of trolls. A lot of people shared those ideals with me and supported me in my early meta-ravings, so I guess I got kind of a following of interested peers who read my opinions charitably. When I started focusing more on politics or religion or what have you (my interests wander), I was pleased to see that the community support base was still there. We as a community have fostered a sense of growth and enrichment, and now that we have that community I think it's pretty easy to be successful and visible if you just write with sincerity - which is what I try to do.
You received the Random Act of Vineness for your "inspiring idea to create Newsvine Groups, and for [your] hard work in founding and cultivating Newsvine's healthiest example of this feature." What do you see as the primary function of groups? How do you see groups being used? What would like to see them being used to accomplish?
Right now I like that we have the groups and I think they give us an extra layer of tagging, sort of. It's a little bit more control over how content is organized, and when used intelligently I think they really help users find the content they're looking for. I think there are currently some major problems with groups, though - ask anyone who runs a large group. They're really hard to keep organized - it's hard to make sure your users adhere to the group guidelines, it's hard to make sure the content you want to highlight remains highlighted, and it's a pain in the ass to have to go through and prune content. Some groups do this regularly, and the effort of their admins pays off. Some groups, not so much - my own Community group, for now the largest group on Newsvine, still has a lot of issues in this regard. It's necessary to define what kind of content you want and it's important to communicate that clearly, but we also need better tools for enforcement.
I got into my vision of the future of groups a little bit above - I want to see them as independent publishers working on top of the Newsvine infrastructure. That's a long way off, though - there are a few key features that I think we need before groups can advance any further:
And we'll leave it at that for now. There's a lot that can be done here, I feel like the groups surface hasn't even been scratched.
It wouldn't be an interview without one of those tough questions. What do you see as being your biggest failing, or your biggest roadblock, to continued success on Newsvine, personally? What are your own personal standards, and where, if ever, do you fall short of them? And how might other Newsvine users learn from you in that respect?
I am always juggling 15 new ideas, reading 3 books and starting 4 projects at any given moment. As a result, I get bored with things pretty easily; whatever is holding my attention has to be pretty stimulating to hold my attention for long - ask any ex-girlfriend. My greatest shortcoming in my capacity as sort of self-proclaimed Newsvine community guru is that just because I say I'm going to do something there's no reason to necessarily expect me to. Sometimes I lose interest and move on to pursue something else. I am always starting projects and community events, but if I don't get a lot of positive feedback I'm altogether likely to lose interest. In fact, even with positive feedback I sometimes lose interest - I am a very community-oriented writer on the one hand, but on the other hand everything I write and contribute is in some way for me, if that makes sense. Ultimately, I'm here to learn and grow - and if Project X seems boring, it's cuz I started learning from something else and it doesn't make sense to me to keep Project X going. So I guess the lesson is that just because I announce that I'm going to do something or start some new event doesn't mean it's going to happen - I announce events or calls for help or whatever from time to time to gauge the community and figure out if you and I can work together to make something interesting. If either you or I lose interest, I have no problem simply forgetting about it. I suppose if anyone was looking forward to my Fertility Week easter series, sorry about that. ;)
I guess I don't necessarily see that as a problem, though - it can be a strength. I bailed out of Assignment Zero pretty solidly and have no regrets because I stand by my view that it was a poor fit for the community. Sometimes it's useful to just be able to walk away.
That said, my really big projects I don't announce publicly beforehand (at least, not more than the occasional cryptic comment) - I just do them.
What does integrity mean to you?
Integrity is speaking and acting in a manner that would cause you no embarrassment if you found out after the fact that your grandmother had been watching.
I suspect that this is best achieved through sincerity in word and deed, but I'm not entirely sure. Still working on that. I don't have to have integrity until I have gray hair and look more dignified, right? Besides, sincerity and integrity never won nobody first prize in Survivor. ;)
Mykola, thank you for giving me the opportunity to get to know you better, and by extension, exposing a bit more of yourself (hey, we all had our awkward period, right?) to the rest of Newsvine.