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Why I’m a retired Coffeegeek Columnist.

In order to understand all the reasons, a bit of background is in order. Around 1998 Mark Prince, founder of Coffeegeek, started regular posting to Alt.Coffee, the Usenet coffee newsgroup. Mark is a Canadian web developer (his company is Webmotif) who was at the beginning of a coffee hobby. He was an … enthusiastic poster, to say the least, and I can still remember his announcements of his registration of the and websites..

From memory, Coffeekid started about 2000. Mark published his own experiences and added reviews from other interested “coffee geeks”. Then in 2001 he registered the  name and set about the task of building a complete coffee website.

In December 2001, shortly before opened, Mark rang me (from Canada, on a Sunday morning as I recall) to ask me to be his “Australian Columnist”. I protested fairly vigorously at the time that it was hard enough for me to find the time for my own newsletters, let alone a regular column, but Mark was adamant. He did make two important concessions; I could write about anything I liked (rather than just what was happening in Australia) and there would be no fixed schedule for the articles, although he wanted them as often as possible.

As a result of this I reluctantly agreed, and found to my surprise that I quite enjoyed being able to put an article up whenever I had something to say. I also enjoyed not writing anything when I didn’t have something to say. In fact, over the next couple of years I became the second most prolific columnist after Mark himself.

All this was on an entirely voluntary basis, of course. I’ve never received a cent for anything I’ve written, and Mark has never even shouted me a drink! <G>

Coffeegeek has been VERY successful, so much so that Mark found it necessary to start accepting ads from US & Canadian coffee businesses in order to cover his bandwidth costs. Recently Mark introduced Coffeegeek version 2, and apart from the changes to the site itself, there are obvious changes to the way he “does business”. The demand for the ads has risen to the point where Mark hopes to be able to pay for the bandwidth, cover his travel costs, draw a salary for the many hours he puts into the site AND actually pay his columnists per article.

What has happened (and I don’t know if Mark appreciates it yet) is that he has created a successful, advertising supported online magazine. For those of us old enough to remember the heyday of “hobbyist” magazines, Coffeegeek is the definitive online equivalent, with news, reviews, forums, first looks, columnists and more. When Time-Warner comes knocking on his door in a few years time with a megabuck cheque, remember, folks, you heard it here first!

So why am I not continuing as a regular columnist?  Well, as part of Mark’s pay increase for columnists, he is also looking for a more consistent performance from them. This involves stuff like a minimum word count, consistency of topic, adherence to deadlines and editorial oversight, all the elements you’d expect columnists of a successful magazine to stick to. And frankly, he wasn’t going to get ANY of them from me! After all, I have my OWN successful online business to run, and there is simply no way Mark could afford to pay me enough to compensate for the disruptions a regular schedule and strict deadlines would create.

The OTHER thing that I’m not willing to go along with is the loss of control over content that I produce. In Mark’s own words:

“All content submitted to CoffeeGeek for an opinion article is licensed
to CoffeeGeek in perpetuity, and must remain exclusive to CoffeeGeek for a
period of no less than three months. This means if you write an article for
your regular column, you cannot use it on your own website, or in any
promotional literature for a period of 3 months after the publication date.

 All images submitted to CoffeeGeek fall under the same rule as 7, above.”

Note that I explicitly retain copyright to anything I write or have written in the past, and reserve all the rights associated with them, including the right to publish them as and when I wish, and to allow others to do so with my permission.

I did offer to continue to write on the original basis, i.e. for free, what I like and when I like, but this wasn’t acceptable, which is fair enough, it IS Mark’s website after all! I have my suspicions that some of Mark’s new columnists don’t realise exactly how hard a job they’ve signed up for, though.

I know full well exactly how difficult it is to find the time, the interest and at least 1000 words of something new to say about coffee at any time, let alone try to do it every 30 days! Most of my articles to date have taken at least a week (and sometimes considerably more) of my “spare time” to prepare, so I’m completely ready to retire gracefully! What I will be doing is devoting the time I formerly donated to Coffeegeek to improvements to my own website, including hosting all the articles I’ve done (including this one) in my own “Articles” section. I’ll also be adding new ones, on irregular topics and at irregular intervals, as time permits. So while you may have read the last of me on Coffeegeek, you certainly haven’t read my last word yet!