Interviews With Early Web Developers · Mark Connell 3

What this is about:

Mark Connell is president, chief technologist and internet strategist for, 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.

Jeff ClarkThis is your friendly interviewer, Jeff Clark, as he appeared in 1999. Time changes things.

Collaborations, People, and Tunes

Cheezy Marketing [Internet Brothers] In your interviews you conduct on Webbieworld, you like to ask your guests about hot collaborations, hot people, and hot tunes. What and who are a few of your own favorites?

[Mark Connell] Collaborations: I'm always open to new ideas and love to mix specialties to build something unexpected. I've really appreciated the writers that buzz around the Lance Arthur circles and would love to put the Shadowboxer spin on some of those types of sites. I also love working with Tom Carter, the graphics genius behind all of the Shadowboxer projects. We have a mental vibe and complimentary skills that make us think we could build anything we want. I have the same type of connection with Will Crowther, but he is concentrating on 3D models right now.

I also have been thinking about pulling together a network of folks like Internet Brothers to help provide web builders the resources and information they need to build great sites. I'm not sure how to do that yet.

There are a bunch of other folks I'd like to work with in 3D design and virtual worlds, but that is on the back burner for now... until the technology catches up with the ideas. Actually, I've got a million ideas and I want to do them all.

Tunes: I'm still blown away by how good OK Computer (RadioHead) is. I'd like to see David Bowie bust loose again, but I'm a bit depressed to know that his songs are put together by cutting out phrases and randomly putting them back together again. I'd like to think the lyrics had more meaning than that. I like almost every kind of music, so I have favorites all over the board. I love watching David Byrne on Sessions interviewing bands... he has such a different perspective than most of us.

[IB] Where do you want to take WebbieWorld?

[MC] Everything we do is an experiment with a purpose. We built the Shadowboxer site as an experimental design site that is entirely database driven. Shadowguide (the restaurant guides) was an experiment in preference filtering and using templates to create customized site views. Quest is an experimental answer bot that is a first step into an intelligent site interface.

WebbieWorld was intended as an experiment in simplicity of design, a step forward in the concept of finding great sites, and a site that included a mechanism to self generate traffic. It is basically an intelligent search engine... one that continuously allows great sites to bubble to the surface. And people love it. Site developers love it because their sites get an increase in traffic in correlation to their participation. Visitors love it because there is always something new to check out. WebbieWorld equals instant gratification. If the newest, hippest site submits to WebbieWorld their first day in existence, they could be at the top of the hot picks list the same day. I built it specifically to allow that to occur, and it does every day.

“To be fair, WebbieWorld itself has an element of cheeze, but the cheeze helps the smaller sites get some exposure, and lots of folks benefit as a result.” — Mark Connell

[IB] What would you do if Shadowboxer was nominated for a Webby Award?

[MC] Are you putting me on the spot?! First, I try to live my life as far away from negative energy as possible, so it doesn't make sense for me to harbor longterm hard feelings towards that organization. Most of the people who are running it now probably don't even know who I am, so it is even more unproductive for me to waste energy even thinking about it.

Since we've won both the Project Cool Sighting of the Day and the Original Cool Site of the Day, I'm not really focused on winning more awards. I really wanted to win the Project Cool award with Shadowboxer and we did. WebbieWorld is too close in concept to what they do, and we didn't build it to be the type of site to win that award; although it did receive the CSOTD in March, which was cool.

See, sites like Project Cool and WebbieWorld are about the internet by internet people. Things like the Webby Awards are about marketing and hype by people that don't really live the Net. From that perspective, I don't really buy the Webby Awards as an award that means a lot to me personally.

Ok... that didn't really answer the question, did it? I probably would be happy that one of the sites I work on was recognized by any organization. Because it is only given once a year, I question how valid the Webby Awards are as the pulse of the internet. I thought that most of the sites they recognized were no-brainers, which made the thing incredibly boring. For the most part, it was all hype with a huge dose of marketing cheeze (my preferred spelling for this context). Any self respecting web developer recognized that right away.

To be fair, WebbieWorld itself has an element of cheeze, but the cheeze helps the smaller sites get some valuable exposure, and lots of folks benefit as a result. I knew the cheeze factor existed, so I built in benefits and valuable information to compensate. WebbieWorld is intended to be a traffic attraction and, in return, funnel traffic back to people who make it work. It is the type of cheeze that is fun and actually benefits the right people.

Vote For Us at WebbieWorld [IB] WebbieWorld certainly is fun and beneficial. We sincerely thank Mark for his valuable time during this interview, and wish for his continued success. If you haven't yet visited WebbieWorld, now's your chance. Use their voting button here, and be sure to tell Mark the Internet Brothers sent you.

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