A couple of in-progress screen shots from the revised UI, which uses Ajax everywhere.

(updated: Added ‘Audio’ screenshot)

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Status Report

Sorry for the delay on this one, folks — been busy.

Not, unfortunately, mostly with Dbasr. Real-life intruded this week; namely, the need to pay bills. So I spent most of the week working on outside projects.

However, good news: I’ve got the Post page mostly working. Adding/editing posts is now doable in Dbasr! You can’t post to Facebook/MySpace/Twitter yet, and I’m still working on the Media Manager (that allows you to insert media into a Post), but the basic functionality works.

This week, I still want to get three more pages fully functional. I should be able to manage that.

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Thought Of The Day

Ever notice that every torrent site has ads plastered everywhere? And not ads for Amnesty International, mind you; commercial, for-profit ads, the kind you get money for putting on your site. I see a lot of porn ads, which definitely bring in the revenue.

So somebody’s making money there. Just not, y’know, the people who created the content that’s being torrented in the first place.

Which makes it a little disingenuous when self-proclaimed “pirates” start cloaking themselves in the whole “information wants to be free” bit.

Tell it to your advertisers, dick.

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Why Not WordPress?

After a couple of conversations I’ve had with people about Dbasr, I realize that I probably haven’t been too clear on why I decided to build an entirely new CMS, rather than building off of WordPress.

WordPress is a blogging engine. It’s designed to allow users to publish, manage and edit blog entries and static pages, which consist mostly of straight HTML text. It can be extended — as Peter Kirn pointed out to me in an email — using custom fields for posts and pages.

It would be possible, in theory, to simply extend WordPress using custom fields and some database hacking to do what Dbasr does. You could build in tagging for audio, video, etc.

But I think the result would be clumsy, cumbersome and more than a bit labyrinthine. You’d have to not only add a whole set of custom fields, you’d have to rewrite the admin UI, strip out a lot of the extraneous stuff, and build specific themes that would work with the new data sets. Essentially, I think, you’d be doing as much work to create a Dbasr-type CMS with WordPress that it’s simply easier to write Dbasr instead.

What would be the benefit of using WordPress as the base for Dbasr? Well, for one thing, at the moment, WordPress has several million more existing users than Dbasr does. (Dbasr has one real-world user — me.) For another, there are thousands of WordPress developers out there. The key is in numbers.

But I think the problems outweigh the benefits. Dbasr is designed from the ground up to do what it does. It’s not intended to be a replacement for WordPress — if what you want to have is a blog, WordPress is the tool for doing that. It’s an entirely different approach to content management for an entirely different set of needs. Blogging is part of it, but Dbasr’s blogging tools are far simpler and less feature-heavy than WordPress’s. But its media management tools are far more rich and capable. (That’s not a slight on WordPress. It doesn’t need to do heavy media lifting.)

One of Dbasr’s features will be the ability to import, export and cross-post to WordPress. If you’ve got a WordPress blog, you’ll be able to import your existing posts from it into your Dbasr site. You can export Dbasr posts to WordPress. And if you’re running both Dbasr and WordPress, you’ll be able to post to the WordPress site from Dbasr using WordPress’s post-by-API functionality. You’ll also be able to post to your Dbasr installation from any tool that supports the standard WordPress API for posting.

As I told Peter, I think all of this will make more sense when you start actually seeing the tools in action. Which hopefully will be soon — I’m hoping by the end of the week to have working screenshots.

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Status Report

Well, here’s our first weekly Dbasr status report! As I’ve mentioned, I intend to do one of these every week on Sunday or Monday if possible. It’s part of my transparency policy for the Dbasr project, and also to let people who’ve contributed know what we’re doing with their money.

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The Popularity/Viability Bell Curve

I just had an inspiration, and I thought I’d throw it up here and see what you thought.

I’ve been saying for a while that the more popular a band is, the less likely they are to sell records now. Why? Because more people want and have their work and are willing to share/seed/pirate it. I’ve said that less popular bands will sell more records because it’s easier to just go to their (hopefully soon Dbasr) site and buy the music than try to find it on the Pirate Bay or some other torrent site.

But I was thinking about this the wrong way. It’s not about actual sales numbers; it’s about sales-to-shared ratios. (Or sales-to-pirated, if that’s the way you think.) The more popular a band is, the lower the sales-to-shares ratio; less people are buying, more people are sharing. But a really popular band with a low s2s ratio will still move more actual units than an obscure band with a high s2s ratio.

For example, think of Justin Bieber. (God help you.) Let’s say the grand total of Justin Bieber album transactions — where a person obtains a Justin Bieber record, whether they pay for it or torrent it or what-have-you — in a week is 100,000 copies.

Now, let’s assume a 1:9 s2s ratio; for every 100,000 records Justin Bieber sells, 90,000 of those are shared/pirated, and 1,000 of them are actual sales.

Now, let’s look at, I dunno, Big Friendly Corporation. BFC might move 200 albums a week. (I would actually love to see that; go buy their record right now!) Their s2s ratio is much higher, because you can’t get BFC records easily from torrent sites. Let’s say it’s 8:2; for every 40 records that are pirated, 160 are sold.

Those are encouraging numbers, but the fact is that Justin Bieber still makes assloads more money from record sales than BFC does, because the actual volume is so much higher that even a tiny fraction of sales versus shares is still a substantial amount of money. If albums are selling for $10 each, Justin just made $10K to Big Friendly’s $1600.

So far, so good. But — and here’s the thing I realized — there’s a point somewhere in the middle, not easily quantifiable, where a band is selling enough records to make reasonable money but not popular enough that they’re losing sales to piracy.

Let’s pick a band like Dusty Rhodes & The River Band, who are equally awesome to the BFC but who tour a lot more and have a bigger audience. DR&TRB sell their album through their website, or have it available through iTunes, etc. (I assume they do, this is hypothetical).

They’re right in that sweet spot; if they play 5 shows a week and 100 people from each show want to obtain the record, that’s 500 record obtainers. But since it’s hard to find DR&TRB’s stuff on the Pirate Bay, they’ll have a 9:1 ratio. They’re selling 450 records a week. At $10, that’s $4500 a week in sales — not Justin Bieber, but respectable.

I’m making these numbers up, but you see my point — somewhere in the middle of obscurity and megastardom, there’s probably still a point where bands can make money because purchasing their album is still easier than pirating it.

I don’t think bands will ever make the kind of money they did pre-Napster, though that’s an entirely different subject. But I do think they can make some money — maybe enough to make the effort and cost of recording worthwhile.

Now, if they only had a tool for doing so… :-)

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Plugin Architecture?

Something nobody’s actually asked me about is whether Dbasr’s going to have a plugin architecture. The answer is: yes, probably, but not in the 1.0 release.

Building a plugin-capable CMS is hard. Really hard. Part of the reason I haven’t actually launched Dbasr is because, for a year or so, I was trying to build it with the assumption that it would have plugin capability. It defeated my brain.

Ultimately, I think it’s necessary, of course. But I’d also like to launch 1.0 and see where the desire paths lie.

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Physical Media and Dbasr

I hadn’t mentioned this yet, since I’d been trying to figure out if it was definitely doable, but I think it is, so: I’m going to be building into Dbasr the ability to sell CDs and DVDs directly from your Dbasr site, on demand, at a cost of $1.00 per CD to you, the artist. (Meaning when somebody orders the CD, you’re paying out $1.00 of the sales price you’ve chosen, so you’re not paying up-front costs or anything. You’re not spending money, you’re just taking out $1.00 of your sales to pay for making the CD.)

How? Kunaki. Kunaki makes CDs with full color two-panel inserts (i.e. a single insert page, front and back) and a back tray card in a jewel case and DVDs with a color cover in a DVD case, wrapped in cellophane, for $1.00 each. (More for volumes of 11 or more, oddly enough.)

To sell media through Kunaki, you create an account with them, download their (sadly Windows-only) software, create your CD or DVD, and upload it to them. Once you do this, you’ll be able to add the item to your Dbasr store.

When someone orders the CD/DVD, Dbasr will send their order and shipping info to Kunaki’s XML service, which will send back the full price plus shipping. They order it, the order gets sent to Kunaki as ‘pending’. You, the artist, log into Kunaki’s site with your account and pay them their cut and the CD/DVD gets sent.

That’s the theory, anyway. I’m going to test it first. I’d like to figure out a way to automagically pay Kunaki their fee as soon as an order is shipped, but I haven’t really devoted a lot of time to figuring that out yet or even figuring out if it’s possible.

Either way, I think this really opens up a big door for Dbasr users. What do you think? Do you know of any other on-demand-publishing services that are competitive with Kunaki?

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On the styling of admin panels

I’ve been giving this a great deal of thought, and I think that I’m going to give Dbasr’s admin panel an extremely minimalist design. I’m talking black-on-gray, Helvetica-as-the-first-font-in-the-font-family-CSS-declaration sort of minimal.

My favorite site that I ever used, back in the day, was Josh Davis’s Dreamless message board. Dreamless could be themed by the user, but the default theme was light gray on dark gray with orange/red highlights. Lovely, readable, not too hard on the eyes when you’d been staring at a screen for fifteen goddamn hours without a break or a glance at anything further away than the edge of your desk.

I’m sure there’s an argument for Web 2.0 gradients and semi-three dimensionality here, but I’m just thinking from both a practical and visual standpoint, Dbasr works better without the widgetization.

Let the content provide the color, says I.

Any thoughts?

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Why Should You Contribute To Dbasr?

So maybe you’re here from Twitter or Facebook and you’re looking at my video and my features and thinking “This Dbasr thing is all well and good…but I’m not a musician. Why should I part with my hard-earned money for this? I won’t even use it.”

Actually, I can think of several reasons you might wish to contribute to Dbasr even if you never install it on a single web server. But I’d like to explain, first of all, why I started Dbasr, how I got here, and what it means to me.

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