A series of Jim Reilly's interviews with players, fans, and the people
behind the scenes of the Chapman Stick. These interviews can be heard
regularly on CFBX radio, 92.5 FM in Kamloops, B.C. Canada.
Talking Webs (and a little Stick too)
March 19, 2002
It's a good time to be a Stick player. New instruments, tons of new music,
more people than ever are picking up the instrument and using Emmett's
The Internet has played a vital role in The Stick's growth through the late
20th and into the 21st century. I for one have figured out how to play The
Stick as much from the wealth of information on the Web as I have from any
other single source.
Stick players by and large are an educated bunch. Obviously they embrace new
technologies. Technology has been embraced by Stick players so strongly that
Stick Enterprises' Web site couldn't keep up with all the great stuff Stick
players from all over the world had to contribute.
A new site was needed.
The lion's share of the design and development for the new site fell on the
shoulders of Michigan Stick player Glenn Poorman. I assume if you've made it
to this, that you've got a good taste of Glenn's work. If I may offer my
critique: the site is packed full of information. I'm scared to actually go
through and see a navigation map of all the stuff. But everything is laid out
really clean and organized. Glenn has managed to pull of the greatest trick
and made the work behind the site, the site's structure look invisible.
Jim Reilly: What prompted the new Stick Web site?
Glenn Poorman: I started to do maintenance on the old Web site. Tom Griesgraber was doing the maintenance before, and I took it over from him because with Agent 22 and stuff like that he just didn't have time anymore. But even before then, I use to daydream about getting the opportunity to do a Web site from scratch for Emmett. I've done things like that before and I just kept looking at those and thought, "Boy wouldn't that be great."
After I started to take over the maintenance from Tom, I brought it up a couple of times. It turned out that my timing was right because Emmett and Greg (Howard) had already talked about it. They were going to get someone who does it for a living to do a first pass and then turn over the maintenance to me. They asked if that would be o.k. with me and I said, "Sure."
I'm not really sure what happened there, but at one point, I think it might have been Greg that suggested to Emmett, "You know we're three smart people, if we put our heads together we could probably just do it ourselves."
And of course I got word of that and jumped up and down and said, "Yes, yes, yes, I would love to do that." It all just spiraled from there.
JR: So what was wrong with the old Web site? Why did it need replacing?
GP: It wasn't so much that there was anything wrong with it. The content in the site had grown so much that it just couldn't hold up anymore. A lot of the pages didn't use a lot of things that were not really available at the time. Back when the page was made, tables were not supported very well by browsers, so they weren't used as well as they could have been. And to go back and retro-fit those things into the old site, we could have done that, but at that point we're just essentially doing the work of re-doing a site anyway because there's just so much work involved. That was a good point to stop and ask, "Do we really want to fix up every single page in the old site or do we want to use the opportunity to just do a new one?" We opted for the new one.
JR: What were your goals going into it? What were you setting out to do?
GP: I was setting out to do two things. I was setting out to make things easier to find. On the old site it was very difficult to add new things so we just added things where we could. It made some new things difficult to find. It wasn't organized as well as it use to be just because there was so much new stuff. So the first goal was to have things organized so that somebody new going to stick.com would be able to find things really easily.
The second goal was to learn from past mistakes and put this thing together in such a way where, assuming the same thing happens one, two, three years down the road, adding new things in a logical sort of way would be very easy. We could just slip things in, edit one HTML file and have new things pop up in the menu on every page in the site.
JR: Tell me about the layout and the graphic side of it. The new site is much more visually appealing but still not busy. A lot of Web sites overload you with graphics and stuff.
GP: That's kind of a pet peeve of mine. I use to joke about a company that my wife use to work for. Their old director, her husband, decided that he knew how to make Web sites. And he also, apparently, just discovered how to make animated image files.
I fired the thing up-this is for a medical outfit, so it's very professional. I fired up the Web site and it looked like Las Vegas. There was just stuff all over the place-MOVING-little guys dancing around. Because this guy knew how to do this, he did it everywhere.
That's always been a pet peeve of mine, just way to much flash. Just because you can do something doesn't necessarily mean you should. For the Stick site, it goes back to what I said about things being easy to find. The first thing we did was layout the navigational system. We made a front page and we anguished over the front page for weeks until the navigational system over on the left was just perfect, or at least what we thought was perfect and then just went from there.
The images, that was more Greg's doing. Greg had talked early on about how it should be very image driven and he had made suggestions about having a lot of thumbnails, having a lot of images as well as text to guide you to different places. We started to play around with that and really liked what we were seeing. Because we liked it and also for consistency reasons, on almost every page you see a combination of pictures and text to choose from.
JR: What works on the Web? As we're getting more and more comfortable with the technology, what makes a good Web site?
GP: For things to be easy to find and to try and second guess what things people are going to want to look for. I asked a couple of people who weren't necessarily musicians even, I described Emmett's business and asked, "If you went to a site like this what is one of the first things you would want to see?"
Almost unanimously, they all said, "We want a list of the instruments he sells and we want to know how much they cost." That was the first thing on everybody's mind. So, you can't hind things. You've got to figure out what people are going to want to see the most. Things like articles and interviews are great and people are going to get to that but I think newcomers to the site are going to want to find out about the instruments.
JR: But it also seems to me like you set it up for the Stick player and Stick enthusiast as well, as a resource to the whole community.
GP: Absolutely, definitely. That's why the first thing we put in there was the instruments and accessories but right after that you get into the other things that people are going to be interested in, especially as they start to play, like the history of the company, the history of the instrument, the history of Emmett's method and things like that. Articles, interviews, those are huge. A lot of people read those.
JR: What were some of the obstacles, the difficulties you came up against putting the site together?
GP: Actually, there were surprisingly few difficulties. I've been involved with a few of these now. Even the site I did for my band took a while to get started just because of the design by committee thing. A lot of times that can really get in the way but I found, working with Greg especially, we saw eye to eye on a lot of things. That was one of the things I would have expected to be an obstacle and it really wasn't.
It would be hard to pinpoint any obstacles. It went pretty fast and painless.
JR: And the response has been good so far?
GP: All the responses have been excellent. I've gotten some, I don't want to call them nit picky because that would sound like they're bad and they're not bad. I had one guy on stickwire send a substantial list of typos that he found. I found that very valuable.
JR: Yea, I wouldn't know about typos because of course in these Talking Sticks interviews come to you totally clean.
GP: Yea, there're no typos or anything like that in these of course. I'm actually not that good at catching them. Greg catches a lot and so does Emmett.
JR: Yea, Emmett's amazing. He's an amazing editor.
GP: He found a lot of things. He covered a lot of ground pretty fast. I would send him e-mail messages with tons of new pages and it wouldn't be very long before he would send me messages back with some little changes and some wording here and there. It was very obvious that he looked at everything we did pretty closely. Which I was real happy about.
JR: So what's next? What happens with the site now.
GP: Now we just let it grow. Actually, there were some little things I planned on doing. Emmett had sent me a lot of new photographs to use in place of some of the old ones. As we got into the last week I had to prioritize things and separate the list of things that would be nice from the things that had to happen for us to go online. Now that we're online I can go back to the list of things that would be nice and put some of those up.
Aside from that we're going to be real ambitious about getting more pictures in the artist gallery. We're going to be real ambitious about getting a new Stick player of the month, every month. Well be working on that pretty much all the time. In the verbiage about the new site I put a comment in there about how we're going to try to have a new Stick player of the month every month. Greg called me and said, "Don't say we're going to 'try,' say 'we're gonna do it,' that'll keep it going."
I said, "All right, I'm with you." I pulled it out and now it says 'every month.'
JR: Direct me to some of Glenn Poorman's favorite links.
GP: When I was looking around at different sites, I found a Web site for Harry Connick Jr. that I thought was really nice. I thought the colors were nice, it was laid out nice. I actually took a little bit of direction from that. You'd never know it by looking at it but if you really picked it apart, you'd see I actually took a little bit of direction from that.
I like the site for the company I work for, which is autodesk.com. I thought we did a really nice job laying that out. I say we, but I had nothing to do with it, so THEY did a really nice job laying out that site.
It's been a while since I really looked around, to be honest.
Mountainzone, I always thought that was a good site. I spent a lot of time going through that site about a year ago. They had a team on Mt. Everest that found George Mallory, who had been missing since the '20s. It was really interesting. He was way up in the altitude so he was preserved. They have these expeditions that go out to places like Everest and they have diaries that they phone in over satellite phones. You can get on mountainzone and you can get the day to day, blow by blow on what's going on. It's pretty exciting.
JR: Any possibility of that on stick.com? A week on the road, with a live feed from the Greg Howard Band perhaps?
GP: That would be really cool wouldn't it? I really think that the possibilities the Internet are giving us are just beginning to be explored.
JR: I think we're just becoming aware that the surface is there to be scratched.
GP: I wonder how long it's going to be before some of these artists start having regular concerts. Theoretically, you could sit in the comfort of your own studio, jam a whole show and broadcast it over the Web.
JR: Has anybody done that yet?
GP: I don't think so. I've heard of some people that have been doing not so much Web casts of their shows but they've been doing road journals and video clips over the Web.
JR: Tony Levin is a great example of that.
GP: You mentioned cool Web sites, I can't believe I didn't think of that. Tony Levin has a really nice site. One of the things that's cool about his site, one of the things I would like to do with stick.com, is that his site changes a lot. People, especially Stick players who have been playing and are interested, like things that change a lot. It gives them something to look forward to. Go into work Monday morning, grab a cup of coffee and find out what's new on stick.com. With a site like Tony's, you're almost guaranteed that when you go in on Monday, you're going to get some new stuff.
JR: Do you have any time to play these days?
GP: I'm making more time right now. I try to keep my practice schedule up. The last couple of weeks we really we're hammering on the site so I wasn't practicing as much. But I've got a couple of shows coming up in a couple of weeks and I need to really get back on a regiment so I can be ready for them.
JR: Any plans to any more recording?
GP: Yes and no. I have material. Just a couple of weeks ago I made the first step. I fired up my VS workstation and saved the last CD off onto CDs and blew away the disc and started fresh. I didn't actually turn it on and record anything, I just made room for new stuff. I thought that was a big step. It's almost like saying, "Yes, I'm going to do something…tomorrow."
I've got quite a bit of new stuff. A couple of tunes that have surfaced recently that I listen to and go, "Wow, these are kind of cool." That prompted me to start thinking about recording another homespun CD. But I've got to get the last one out too. I want to get some new artwork for the first one, make it a little bit more professional looking. Coup Detroit is working on a new record that we're hoping will be done by the end of the summer.
JR: Any last thoughts?
GP: Keep checking out the site because we're going to keep putting new things up. Watch for a very special Stick player of the month coming up in April. Watch for a new Coup Detroit record in the fall.
Jim Reilly can be reached at
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