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The State of The Partial Observer Address

Transcript from the Second Anniversary Gala held on November 3, 2002.


by Mark D. Johnson
November 4, 2002

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The State of The Partial Observer Address_Mark D. Johnson-Transcript from the Second Anniversary Gala held on November 3, 2002.
[ The editor of The Partial Observer, Mark D. Johnson, takes the podium at the Hotel de Grandeur's Virtual Ballroom in Chicago as the audience stands and applauds enthusiastically. ]
Thank you… Thanks so much!
[ continued applause ]
Thank you… You’re too kind… Thank you… Please…
[ Johnson motions for the audience to take their seats, as the applause slowly fades. ]
I must say that was one of the warmest receptions my imagination has ever conjured up!
[ laughter ]
Thank you all so much for being here to celebrate our second anniversary. I also wish to thank Kenneth the Menneth for that kind introduction, and a very big thanks to The Monkees for performing tonight as a special favor to S.E. Shepherd.
[ wild applause ]
“Daydream Believer” never sounded better… Now you may recall that I began last year’s address by having a little fun at the expense of Dear Jon. I’m going to refrain from making that an annual tradition, however, having recently received what we consider a credible threat from an anonymous source to retaliate for any negative portrayal of our beloved advice columnist. So instead, I’m going to begin by praising Dear Jon for another remarkable year of churning out two columns per week.
[ heartfelt applause as Dear Jon sits expressionless at his table ]
With a callousness that gives Dr. Laura a run for her money, Dear Jon has written replies to nearly 200 sorts of actual letters in his patented artistic mix of humor, manliness, and uncommon sense. In no small part, it is thanks to him, and his kind of dedication, that I am able to stand before you tonight and declare that the state of The Partial Observer is strong!
[ audience members leap to their feet and cheer raucously for three full minutes ]
It goes without saying that I am very pleased with the steady progress and artistic achievements we’ve made at the PO since I stood here a year ago. Though we’ve made no effort to market the site since day one, traffic has nevertheless increased slightly as more and more users are directed to us by search engines that have indexed our 500 articles. I’m proud of the quality of our content, and for that, we must thank the numerous individuals in addition to Dear Jon who took the time to put their partial observations into words and share them with us without financial compensation. Please join me in a round of applause for the following regular contributors, who will please stand as I call their names:

Barnabas, our resident ethicist, for his excellent weekly news commentary, “Curmudgeonry”…
[ applause ]
Casey White, for his poignant sketches of everyday people…
[ applause ]
Dr. Spin, our certified rockologist, for adding his musical insight…
[ applause ]
James Leroy Wilson, who retired his column last May, yet will likely be back in some capacity in the near future…
[ applause ]
S.E. Shepherd, and Essie McShepherd, our esteemed colleagues who continue to devote their writing talent to the betterment of our online establishment.
[ applause ]
These individuals alone provide a wealth of entertainment and food for thought, but they alone do not make up this magazine. (Okay, you guys can sit down now.) I must also recognize all of those who contributed a single article, movie review, forum message, book club comment, Dear Jon Letter, Dr. Spin question, or Letter to the Editor – you have helped make The Partial Observer what it is today, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. And a quick thanks also to Multicorp Solutions in Minneapolis for providing our hosting needs. Multicorp is truly the ideal business-to-business internet service providor in the Twin Cities, and we appreciate all they do for us.
[ applause ]
Now we’ve come to the next part of the speech, and I see some of you starting to squirm already.
[ uncomfortable pause ]
I am very much looking for an increase in participation, primarily by those who enjoy the site but have thus far not written a word for a host of reasons, and granted, some of you may have legitimate excuses. The rest of you, however, do not.

You may have noticed some changes in the forums this year. A year ago, we were trying to keep a dozen different categories of discussion going, but it became obvious that only a handful of people were keeping the forum fires burning, and just barely. We cut the number of forums down to one catch-all message board, which wasn’t satisfying to our forum users, so now we’re back up to five, yet discussion remains relatively sparse.

You might ask, “Well, why bother to keep them going at all, if most of the site’s visitors don’t join in?” That’s a very valid question, and indeed, I’ve been tempted to scrap them altogether at times. In our first year, we had a tumultuous election and a major terrorist attack to react to, and the forums were very active in those areas. The discussion that ensued in the weeks following those events was very much a fulfillment of what The Partial Observer was intended for: the exchange of thoughts and outlet for the expression of one’s biased opinions. I cannot bring myself to give up on this ideal in the forums, yet it continues to be an embarrassment in its present state. With more dedicated participation, it could grow to something truly inspiring.

On a related matter, I have to confess that I’m also somewhat disappointed in the participation level in another area I consider to be very worthwhile: the new Partial Observer Book Club. So far, after two selections, a small number of people have provided some stimulating conversation, but the few participants are simply unable to sustain discussion to the point of feeling we’ve done the books justice. Again, the concept perfectly suits our goals as a website, but we desperately need more people involved to enhance what we have. We are switching from bi-monthly selections to quarterly selections, and our next discussion begins in January with The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, which is available in paperback. Don’t miss out on a rewarding opportunity to get more out of a book than you would as an individual reader.

Now, I’m starting to notice some restlessness in the audience, and I sense that some of you might be wondering why I’m not doing more to direct traffic to the site, and thus more potential participants.
[ unintelligible murmurs ]
I have to admit that I have failed you in this manner. Like most of you, I have a full-time day job as well as a busy and time-consuming television-watching schedule.
[ laughter ]
The issue is time. We are all in a battle with the hour hand. I know some people with too much time on their hands, and many more with too little with which to enjoy life to their ideal. Most days, we spend our time in proportion to our priorities, which, one hopes, are decently arranged. As the Bible says, “There is a time for work, and a time for play,” and we are often unable to get the balance just right.

When it comes to The Partial Observer, a project I remain passionate about, I choose to spend my allotted time maintaining, upgrading, and writing content as opposed to investing in marketing efforts. It is still my hope that word-of-mouth and the dedicated talent of like-minded people will carry us forward through the next year, as we attempt to stir up a significant increase in participation.

If you have appreciated what you’ve read at The Partial Observer, and believe that we’re on to something that deserves a wider audience, I hope you’ll seriously consider helping out in one of two ways, or both: 1) tell friends and family about the site, especially encouraging those you know who have an interest in writing to participate, and 2) dedicate some time each week to writing something for the PO, even if it’s just one sentence in a forum. Believe me, it will make a difference, even if you don’t consider yourself a “writer.” We all get paid the same here: absolutely nothing.
[ the audience chuckles. Dear Jon shakes his head. ]
I hope that you find it rewarding to read The Partial Observer, and I hope that many more of you will discover how rewarding it can be to write for it as well. I know this is starting to sound dangerously close to a public broadcasting pledge break, so I will now shift gears.
[ laughter, sighs of relief, and a smattering of applause ]
No State of The Partial Observer Address is complete without some hint of things to come. Within the past year, the main site navigation was improved for users of the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser, to the appreciation of many. Unfortunately, Netscape and AOL users have been stuck with the old, graphical buttons because, I’m sorry to say, their inferior technology did not allow for the collapsible menus. Since IE users make up the vast majority of our audience, I did not lose much sleep over this. However, as Netscape and AOL slowly improve their browser products, it is foreseeable that the new navigation may be implemented for newer versions of those browsers.
[ roughly five percent of the audience applauds timidly ]
As in the past year, subtle design modifications will be made to keep the site fresh and more streamlined, while keeping to its current overall design scheme to avoid disorientation.

And it is time for our fifth installment of our popular Reader Invitational series, the title of which is…
[ audience waits with baited breath ]
“Spectacular Sporting.”
[ the male half of the audience cheers in a very masculine manner ]
I suspect this might appeal more to one gender than the other, but since sports are unquestionably a significant part of any culture, I was interested in departing from the arts-related themes of the previous invitationals for variety’s sake. We do have a Sports department at the PO, and I feel it has been under-appreciated. Here’s hoping this ranking of your top five sports-related experiences will spark more interest, and perhaps more articles, in this area. Anyone out there interested in becoming a sports columnist?
[ audience members avert their eyes from the speaker in discomfort ]
Now, I just know that someone out there is very close to raising his or her hand, and I want that person to think about it very seriously, then e-mail me. There’s even room for more than one sports columnist here, so don’t be shy! Furthermore, as always, we are in search of more female writers in the interest of providing a more balanced array of perspectives.

I’m afraid that’s all I have so far under the heading “New and Exciting” because I only finished this speech moments before I stepped up to the microphone. If I’m sure of anything though, it is that one year from now the PO will be, without question, a better, stronger magazine than it is today. Whether or not it delivers more voices of opinion than it does today very much depends on you, my friends. You’re feedback is always welcome. Send me your ideas. I’d love to hear how you think we’re doing, and what you like, or don’t like, about the PO by writing to me at editor@partialobserver.com.

Thank you so much for coming out tonight and for your continued patronage. Let’s make Year Three at The Partial Observer the best yet! Who knows: with a little momentum, there just might be some time for marketing down the road.

Thank you, and God bless!
[ the audience stands and cheers wildly as balloons drop from the ceiling and The Monkees start singing “Last Train to Clarksville.” ]

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The State of The Partial Observer Address
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