Monday, March 1, 1999

Lessons learned from CRISISWATCH.COM


By David Gewirtz

One of the advantages of being an Editor-in-Chief is that many of my personal experiences eventually become grist for the editorial mill. Last year, in PalmPower, I talked about my new car, my broken arm, my cat, and all sorts of other seemingly unrelated topics that, due to sheer editorial genius, I managed to make relevant to the journal.

Now it's DominoPower's turn. Right before your very eyes I'm going to turn our CrisisWatch Web site and the Clinton impeachment trial into a relevant topic for DominoPower. Don't blink. Don't change the channel.

As the impeachment trial wound down, so did our first run of CrisisWatch. In this article, I'm going to discuss some of our original intentions and some of the lessons learned. Since many of you are running your own Web sites, our experiences with CrisisWatch will most probably give you some great ideas for your new projects.

The genesis of CrisisWatch

Prior to registering the domain CRISISWATCH.COM, we had a rough plan to create a journal on the Year 2000 problem. We felt this was an important topic that hadn't been treated properly by an independent press. Most of the Y2K sites on the Web are really fronts for fear-mongering Y2K consultants or for survivalists and wacko religious groups. We wanted to do a pure Y2K publication that didn't have an agenda, other than helping the readership at large better understand and prepare for any problems with the millennium transition.

We did the normal brainstorming for a domain name, tried a bunch that were registered, and somehow, through some sort of internal, infernal, inferential leap (alliteration provided for pure entertainment value), came upon the name CrisisWatch. To us, it seemed that Y2K was certainly a long-term crisis. Of course, with the name CrisisWatch, we reasoned, we could also cover other long term problems. We never thought of the impeachment as a topic (who knew?), but figured that there'd be a war somewhere. Plus, there were other potential topics that needed attention like AIDS, spam, care-giving, and other troubling problems of modern society.

Our plan was to launch a news page on Y2K, beginning on January 2, 1999. We'd recruited a well-respected Y2K author to write the weekly tips, we'd done a deal to give away free Y2K books, and we'd assembled the bulk of the Web site's structure.