Interviews With Early Web Developers · Joe Jenett 3

What this is about:

Joe Jenett is one busy content developer. Always working with an eye toward interactivity, Joe is the founder and keeper of the popular Coolstop portal and, a personal webspace housing several different sites. He lives in the Chicagoland area, in the western suburb of Aurora. "Unlike most so-called award sites and portals, Coolstop is singly focused on the spirit of the web that is personal, creative and non-commercial. As the web has become increasingly commercialized, Coolstop is committed to providing an alternative kind of portal and innovative ways for independent web builders to network and gain exposure."

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

Culture in Chicago

Art Institute of Chicago

[Internet Brothers] Chicago is one of our favorite cities to visit. For those that don't know much about it, let us in on a few of your favorite hangouts and cultural destinations.

[Joe Jenett] It's an amazing city though I'm probably not your best travel guide. My favorite hangouts include the blues clubs on Halsted St. and musical events at Grant Park. The Art Institute of Chicago is the place to visit and the annual fireworks show with the Chicago Symphony playing to it is quite memorable.

There's over 5,000 restaurants in Chicago and the culturally diverse make-up of the city shows through. Though famous for pizza and hotdogs, you can find virtually anything you want to eat here. "Taste of Chicago" is an annual week-long event that features samples of food from 100 or so different restaurants and is great to go to if you don't mind brushing elbows with a million other people who are there with you. There's live music throughout the day on different stages, mostly well-known local talent (this is the home of the Blues, ya know) but also featuring some major national artists.

One of the more interesting things about the Windy City (to me anyway) is local politics. There is so much corruption in local government that reading about it is on par with reading a good comic book. The characters are interesting to follow and it never stops. Like other major cities, Chicago has a City Council and Police Department full of of shady characters and the ongoing news of this can amuse you forever. Racial profiling is a big issue these days, and the recent story of a certain hooker who's been servicing an entire fire station for the last 11 years is one of the more amusing "comics" I've read lately.

Seriously, though, this is a culturally rich area. The architecture here is phenomenal — from the world's first skyscraper to the Frank Lloyd Wright houses in Oak Park, anyone who loves architecture could spend a lifetime here and not see it all.

[IB] All your web properties are excellent at traffic dispersal. But to disperse, you first have to attract. Do you have any tips for our readers related to web site promotion and marketing? What has been your single most successful and effective method of attracting visitors?

[JJ] I really have no tips on website promotion and marketing — in fact, that whole concept has been so abused and misrepresented on the Web, that I'm really turned off by it. My simple suggestion is that if you put content out there that people are interested in, and present it in a user-friendly and engaging way, you will get traffic.

Okay, so you do need to be listed by the big search engines and directories like Yahoo! to increase traffic, but those ways are becoming less and less effective as the numbers drastically grow. Commercial sites with big budgets simply turn to television advertising and such to promote their sites, but I think the little guy with a creative website has to turn to alternative ways of networking and gaining exposure and those ways only work if you have a great site to start with. As far as my own sites are concerned, I have simply stayed focused on making them as enjoyable as I can for the user, and that is where the growth has come from.

For your visitors who have great creative websites — go submit them at Coolstop — that's what it's all about — my visitors appreciate great creative websites, and a few loyal visitors like that are worth a lot more to me than thousands of schmucks looking for something for nothing, if you get my point. I do it for the fun more than anything so I'm not as concerned with "marketing and promotion."

[IB] Who are a few web designers and developers you admire? Anyone you would like to collaborate with?

[JJ] Jeffrey Zeldman, Kitty Mead, Michael Schmidt, Lance Arthur, Cedric Dewulf, Heather Champ, Glenn Davis, Ann Snowberger, Kathleen Fetner, Jen Honner, Jan Vanderven, John Halcyon Styn, Clive Murray — these are just a few of the designers / developers / creative spirits that I admire and have been inspired by. Though I don't know them all personally, they all have played a big part in my love for the web.

[IB] Joe, thank you very much for your time and effort. We look forward to your varied and various webthings.

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