Mark Connell is president, chief technologist and internet strategist for MarkConnell.com, a world-renowned force of web vision and leading edge application development located in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Finalists in the elite division of the 1998 Masters of the Web competition, Mark's project Shadowboxer has dabbled in intelligent preference filtering technologies, natural language information queries, mega site databases, and online community building. Mark's project, WebbieWorld, is a concept traffic funnel that serves as much more than a search engine. It provides phrase searching, database compilation of search and hit referral results, and allows the public to get involved by monitoring the WebbieWorld People's Pick of the Week for best, or most popular sites on the web.
This is your friendly interviewer, Jeff Clark, as he appeared in 1999. Time changes things.
Formerly the developer of the Webbie Awards, a five star rated web award program stolen by corporate scoundrels, Mark demonstrated his grace and dignity by going them one better and producing WebbieWorld, one of the fastest growing sites on the Internet. We invited Mark to talk to us in April 1999 about web award programs in general, from the eyes of an expert, and specifically how you can improve your site to score well with reviewers. What we got was a whole lot more from this delightful master.
[Internet Brothers] Mark, please tell us about the latest Shadowboxer projects.
[Mark Connell] Well, of course, we just released WebbieWorld 3 weeks ago (in mid-March 1999). We are working on several supersites... that are subsets of WebbieWorld categories. These sites are sister sites of WebbieWorld, but will have identities of their own outside of WebbieWorld. We are using some of the same concepts as with WebbieWorld, but we are molding each site around the content.
We also just finished a few site designs, one for a company called Intellinet (who was the southeastern Microsoft partner of the year), a leather factory in Turkey, and a mega site in the UK. We are working on an interactive computer-based training module and other online applications as well.
Shadowboxer is an ever morphing web development company. Lots of people are involved in various projects, but most include Tom Carter on graphics and myself on code. We generally work together on the design and structure of the site. We also have some great designers and developers working with us on other projects as needed.
[IB] I know you've purposely avoided it on WebbieWorld, but here's your chance to rant and rave about corporate thievery.
“It can be frustrating to submit your site to an awards organization and never hear any feedback. WebbieWorld gives every site a chance to rise to the top.” — Mark Connell
[MC] Thanks, but no thanks. Because our Webbie Awards were around so long, I wanted to continue the history by evolving them into WebbieWorld, which I personally think is a much better concept. The original Webbie Awards concept was to highlight exceptional sites, and I think we did that well. WebbieWorld continues to do that, but has a much higher profile. It generates traffic by allowing people to become involved and rewards the involvement with return traffic. It is a win-win for everyone and provides a way for the little guy to become noticed very quickly. Try submitting your site to Yahoo and see how fast they put it online, if they ever do. WebbieWorld gives everyone an equal chance and responds very quickly.
What happened with Web Magazine and the Webby Awards was unfortunate, but it taught me some lessons. I think their concept, while heavily hyped, is out of touch with the real internet. How current can you be if you only recognize internet sites "once a year?" I heard that in one category, there was only one site that was still online.
I also think it is curious that they are saying that this last one was the third year of the awards... when in fact, they have only been around a year and a half. They squeezed three award shows into that period to appear more established. Other than that, the whole incident is over for me. When I read an article saying that "already there are copycats of the Webby Awards" and linked to my site, I knew that the water was already tainted and it was time to move on.
[IB] WebbieWorld employs a contemporary back-end database to compile traffic statistics and vote tallies in and out of the site. Tell our readers the rationale behind your meta site concept.
[MC] I wanted to build a site that recognized great sites, but I didn't want to limit the benefits to only the sites we choose as hot picks. It can be frustrating to submit your site to an awards organization and never hear any feedback. By allowing those submissions to pass through to be viewed, WebbieWorld gives every site a chance to rise to the top.
There are basically three main ways for a site to be recognized. They can be selected as a Webbie Pick, be voted into the People's Pick list, or be on the most visited list. Being in the Webbie Pick list or the People's Pick list will result in traffic, which helps on the most visited list. All three are factors of the others, of course, but that is what makes WebbieWorld interesting and dynamic. And it means that a site's efforts to promote itself can be rewarded with an increase in traffic. And that's the beauty of the site. It gives every site the chance to rise to the top and be seen. But even if we don't pick the site as a hot pick, the site can still benefit from the other aspects of WebbieWorld.
We also provide interviews and features that help web builders learn about different facets of the web. WebbieWorld is basically an ever changing site that lets people learn about the web and a place to find interesting sites on the web. Because there are lots of new sites coming in on a daily basis, there is always something new to see.
We have plans for the growth of WebbieWorld, but I believe the site should remain easy to use and understand. We didn't overdo the graphics on purpose. We wanted it to be simple, streamlined, and quick loading. I've been getting lots of comments from visitors that say they like to come to WebbieWorld because they "can always find something new and interesting." That (and the huge increase in traffic) tells me that our concept is on target. We have lots of new things in development that will continue to help web developers build traffic to their sites.
Proceed to part 2 of Internet Brothers interview with Mark Connell.