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The Dream Machine --- The Imagination of the World Wide Web
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On March 7, 1998, shortly after my "coming out" as Willy Chaplin, I published an article entitled Want to own your very own Renaissance man? This tract was my somewhat frivolous effort to seek a patron like those that supported Renaissance painters and scientists. I mentioned four men; Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Larry Flynt and Howard Stern. I chose those guys because I thought they could easily afford me and that I might have things in common with them that would light their respective fires. Never completely serious in this undertaking, since it seemed so farfetched, I was serious enough to locate snail mail addresses of the latter two...I have no idea how one might contact the two billionaires in the group...and send them brief entreaties to look at my material and perhaps find a use for me in their organizations.
Upon reflection, I decided that I really like what I am doing right now...maintaining a somewhat successful Web site and writing my daily columns. These include autobiographical anecdotes which someday may comprise a complete story of my life...for my grandchildren and their descendants, if not for the entire world...as well as political, philosophical and technocratic musings...even a recipe! Deducing that YOU must like what I am doing now as well, or you wouldn't be reading this, it occurred to me that my REAL patrons are YOU, my readers. So I decided to try to figure a way to get you ALL involved in the story. This is what I came up.
People, especially libertarians, like to pursue the interests of others by pursuing first and foremost, their own self interest. Like the cabin attendant in a jet airliner tells you when you are carrying an infant, "Should the cabin pressure suddenly decrease and the oxygen mask descend, remember to first breathe some yourself, before giving it to the baby." The cabin attendant is telling you something that is counterintuitive to a protective parent, but knows full well that an UNCONSCIOUS parent can NOT help his or her child in ANY way. So it is with my newly chosen profession as full time Webmaster. If I can not support myself, I can provide nothing for you.
Likewise, you have YOUR self interest to think of. So, any scheme to use you to support me must include some payback for you, hopefully in excess of your "investment." Also, like any entrepreneur intimately involved with others, I need to find a way to really involve you in what I am doing. Now, when it came to the rich prospective patrons, it was easy for me to see the two way exchange. They would provide money and I would provide written materials or perhaps use my computer skills give them a Web presence (not one of them has a personal Web presence, although you could say that Gates and Turner are omnipresent in the form of Microsoft and CNN). What could induce you to invest your hard earned cash in me and my schemes?
Suppose I were to turn the Dream Machine into a "virtual" corporation...virtual because I really do not want to get the government involved in this if I can avoid it. This corporation would have stockholders, each of which would sit on the board of directors. As in any corporation, critical business decisions would be decided by voting their stock. Intellectual input would be welcomed from any stockholder with as little as a single share. Not just welcomed, but actively solicited. As I have said in many contexts, I am a lousy businessman. Business acumen has never been one of my many talents, or...as fans are often wont to remind me...I would already be rich and famous.
The "Initial Public Offering" would sell a certain fixed number of shares, ensuring that those who got aboard early would ever after command a lion's share of any proceeds . Furthermore, this would keep ownership from becoming unduly diluted. I would initially own the largest block of shares, as compensation for having founded and provided most of the content of the Dream Machine sites,hardware and software capital to date, but would be, in view of my self confessed inadequacies, unable to vote more than, say, ten percent of my holdings...EVER. Other content providers, like Gypsy, Stan and the Teen Movie Critics, would also receive modest blocks of stock, but would also not be able to vote but a small percentage of their holdings. This would put control into the hands of those who can make the enterprise fly, you the readers, but reward the content providers when dividends become available.
Any member of the company and ONLY members of the company would have license to negotiate on behalf of the company as an agent, and, if successful, would receive a percentage of the proceeds as an agent's fee. Negotiate for what?
Expenses of the company would be paid out of capital accumulated by stock sales and any other proceeds generated by the site. These expenses would include small salaries for the content providers, including me. I would be happy with $2500 a month, at least for the first couple of years, to cover all my work. Others would get small stipends depending upon the frequency of their additions to their sites, for example $50 a column for Stan and $25 an advice "letter" in Gypsy's site. Again, these fees would be renegotiated after a year or two. As in any other corporation, all other funds accumulated would be returned to the stockholders in the form of dividends once every quarter.
After all initial shares have been sold and assuming that the enlistment of the stockholders as agents has provided enough income to make it viable, a stock "market" would be established to trade...buy or sell...existing stock at whatever the market will bear. If the company is really successful, original stock could be split and new stock issued to expand the enterprise. Perhaps other sites would also like to start their own virtual corporations and trade their stock on our "stock market."
Every stockholder would be privy to any aspect of the business he or she wanted to know about. In the true spirit of the Web, all dealings would be open and available to the stockholders...expense statements, sales reports, advertising revenue...EVERYTHING. Frequent reports and updates would be sent to all stockholders via email. My daily columns would also be "pushed" to stockholders that wanted to receive them that way. Every stockholder would be able to contact any of the others for lobbying purposes or simply to discuss business issues. Or perhaps we could establish a private stockholder chat room in which to discuss these things in a group manner.
My instincts tell me this is a good idea, but I need your input to tell me if it really is. I suspect that among my circle of regular readers, there exist a whole host of talents, connections and brainpower to make such an enterprise soar. Furthermore, I have deliberately left out any concrete numbers, even though I possess many and have my own ideas, in order to let YOU, the real experts tell me what they should be. Use the "mailto" after the divider below to send me your comments and suggestions. Tell me if you personally would be willing to "invest" in the Dream Machine. If not, why not? Make sure, if you have any bright ideas, to pass them along. I will, in the very near future, revisit this subject and report to you what I have learned. Until then...
See you tomorrow...
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