The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Monday, May 7, 2001

Time Zones

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: For me, in Sonoma, Calif., the meeting began Friday afternoon, May 4, at 4 p.m. In England, where one of my collaborators lives, it was midnight, about to become May 5. Meanwhile, in Sydney, Australia, where another of my collaborators is based, it was 9 a.m., well into May 5. We — a number of collaborators located around the world and I — have been developing a new Web site that we plan to launch later this month. Each week we meet online and hold a real-time chat in a custom-designed chat room on a private server to discuss our progress and to resolve various issues and problems that have come up in the course of the week. Back in the mid-'90s, during the first few years of my first Web site, Addicted To Noise, a lot of interaction took place via email, but there were also plenty of in-person meetings. And phone calls. And in-person 48-hour production sessions at the end of the month. This is different. Most of the folks I'm working with on this new thing, I've never met in person. Most of us have never even spoken on the phone. We know each only in a virtual way. We know each other and are working together because we admire each other's unique talents. Some are visual artists. Some are writers or editors. Some are designers and interface specialists. Others are programmers. There is a cerebral quality to the interactions. These exchanges are, well, different from in-person collaborations. After I published a column last week about unwound, one of my collaborators sent this: "You know what's exciting? How into the new unwound record you are. I get into albums and think, 'I am the only guy in the world who sinks this deep into a record any more. People used to engage this deeply in the seventies but they stopped sometime in the eighties.' But it's not so." Or we shared our excitement when we learned that Michael Chabon had won a Pulitzer for his incredible novel, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay." Creative people, online, share their excitement about the things that inspire them. I have worked closely with people — reporters, editors, designers — in an office, and it was certainly very exciting. There is something special about four or five people sitting around, brainstorming in person — and when things are "right," ideas come fast and furious. But there is a downside as well: Personalities clash, and there's a lot of awkward small talk, not to mention all that time spent going to and from an office and trying to find a parking space. Or spending a day flying across the country for a day or two of meetings and then another day flying back. That got to be really too too much. I walked away from that kind of scene nearly a year ago, vowing that I would not repeat it. And as the months passed, I was struck by how much easier it is now to collaborate in a virtual manner. Also, how it's possible to be so much more expressive on the Web than it was in the mid-'90s. Web design is light years beyond what it used to be. It is now possible to create a Web site of awesome beauty and serene minimalism. Last fall, I thought, "What if you could collaborate with others in a totally virtual way, mixing up ideas and expression from artists and writers and musicians based in many parts of the world?" I've been lucky enough to find others who share some of my vision, and who have shared their own vision with me. What an amazing challenge, what an amazing experience that could be, and now is. So it was that as one of my collaborators was practically still rubbing the sleep from her eyes, for another the clock had just struck midnight, while I glanced away from my screen and out the window to see blue sky and the graceful hills that surround the Sonoma valley.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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