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Website of the Week

ESC!Webs Site of the Week

Week of May 7, 2000


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Until a few years ago, the only gnomes I knew were the garden variety.  I don't know if you've tried or not, but carrying on a conversation with one of these guys is an exercise in futility.  More often that not, they simply sit there and stare off into space, ignoring everything you say.  Then, somehow, I heard about Lockergnome the e-mail newsletter.  Probably someone I knew said "Hey! You should subscribe to this.  It's great."  I'm guessing this is how I heard of it because that's Lockergnome's primary means of distribution -- word of mouth.

A Little History (from my perspective)

Lockergnome started as a simple, text based, newsletter.  It arrived in my mail box roughly once or twice a month and always provided an enjoyable read.  You see, Chris Pirillo -- that's the newsletter's owner and distributor -- writes in a very friendly down to Earth fashion. I suppose the main reason for that is his hailing from the Midwest.  Iowa specifically or "Silicorn Valley" as Pirillo is fond of saying.

When Chris started this venture he still held down a full time job.  Taking time out of his life with his then future wife, Chris would deliver a combination of good writing, interesting computer news and timely delivery to your inbox.  Hang on now!  Don't go away yet!  Computer news doesn't always equate dull and stodgy.  You see, Chris would infuse his reviews and news with a little bit of humor and a little bit of fun, thereby ensuring your return issue after issue.

As time went on, Chris moved his newsletter to more stable servers for faster and more reliable distribution and began to send out daily issues along with a weekly synopsis issue.  Shortly thereafter it became possible to get your newsletters delivered in the ever more present HTML format which allowed you to not only read his prose, but do things like check out his web cam!  As this point it could pretty much be said that Lockergnome  became his full time job. 

Now keep in mind that this is the oversimplified version of Lockergnome's history -- and it's from my perspective as a reader.  I'd encourage you to read the whole story at the website if for no other reason than to learn the origins of the nickname "Locker Gnome".

The Newsletter

The newsletter is the meat of the operation.  When you get your first issue, you'll notice that it is divided up into several neat sections: GnomeReport, GnomeProgram, GnomeSystem, GnomeCandy, GnomeFavorite, GnomeDesktop and GnomeTip.

GnomeReport is the "live" information.  This is what Chris updates daily with little tidbits he finds around the web.  As I am writing this, the LoveLetter virus is running rampant and Chris has information regarding this in this report.  Like I said, this is very timely info culled from the various Internet news sources.  

One of the reasons I enjoy reading Lockergnome is the way Chris opens up his life to his readers.  You are just as likely to find the latest about Sprocket, Chris' pet dog, in this section as you are his opinions on the Microsoft trial.  After reading Lockergnome for as long as I have been, you begin to feel you know the guy.  Maybe that's because I also hail from the Midwest, maybe it's because, despite his subscriber base, he still reads and answers all of his e-mail (at least he's always answered mine) and maybe it's his writing, but I can't shake the feeling that he's just the guy next door.

The Rest of the Newsletter:
The rest of Lockergnome is pure info.  Like comic strips and opinion columns in the newspaper, the other sections of Lockergnome are often written days, if not weeks, ahead of time. In these sections, you'll find new programs, fonts, games, screensavers and tips which almost always provide at least one link you'll want to click on.

Since I mentioned the LoveLetter virus up above, I should take a moment to iterate that Chris appears to take every precaution when listing sites and links.  I have never had a problem with a link or a program which caused any harm to my system from a viral infection.  Keep in mind that if the program or tip you are about to run seems "out of your league", hold off on running it until you can get some help from a friend or colleague.  In some cases you may even want to run a backup first.  You'll often find, however, that Chris will recommend such actions if he thinks you might need it.  As a computer professional, I may be more careful than most, but I am certain you can feel safe using the links provided in each issue.

Where you will have problems, however, is when you try to link through to a site listed and find it unavailable.  This is an unfortunate side effect of (and testament to) the newsletter's ever increasing popularity.  Many of the sites listed are housed on sub-par servers -- like many of the "free" web hosting services -- which simply do not have the capability to withstand so many hits in such a short period of time.  Often, if you wait half a day, you'll find the traffic has died down enough to get to the site.

As a reader of Lockergnome you'll also notice that you are never blatantly bombarded by advertising as you might be with some other newsletters.  Chris actually makes an effort to place ads in such a way that you notice them and maybe click through, but don't feel as if they are being shoved down your throat.  On occasion, however, there are links within the GnomeReport section which are so well integrated that they might appear to go to some news story when in reality, the link leads you to a site where you can purchase the product mentioned.  This is a form of inline advertising which even I employ on ESC!Webs, but I think you'll find that as long as you are aware that it's there, it never harms the journalistic integrity of the information.  You should always remember that sites like Lockergnome and ESC!Webs often depend upon users clicking through on the links and buying things.  It's how Lockergnome survives and it's how ESC!Webs survives.

The Website is a mirror of the newsletter visually. Content-wise you'll find a little more depth.  At the site you can download code to link to Lockergnome (see below), watch his web cam and even order his book.  The site's main function, it seems, is two-fold: first provide a place where regular Lockergnome readers have the ability to search and read all of the past issues using a very good search engine.  Even though I archive all of the past issues, I often find myself clicking over to the website simply because I am much more likely to find the information I'm looking for.  Second, the site allows potential advertisers to get rates and other publication information to help make more informed ad placement decisions.

Other than those two things, however, the site pretty much provides the same links as the newsletter and there will seldom be a reason to visit if you are a regular reader.

Final Cornalysis

What it all boils down to -- Have you ever gone to a corn boil?  It's great fun! -- is that if you use a computer, you should subscribe to this newsletter -- either daily issues or weekly.  Whichever way you choose though, be sure to subscribe.  You'll find yourself in very good company since over 180,000 others consider themselves to be "gnomies" as well.  Considering the notoriety Chris gets from the site, his subscriber base and his plans to expand in the near future, I'd say that Chris has done very well to keep the information in his newsletter both fresh and friendly all the while keeping his head down under the clouds.

To Subscribe to Lockergnome:

Related Links:

Poor Richard's E-Mail Publishing -- Great book about the trials and tribulations of e-mail publishing.



Site Rating: 9/10
Pros: Excellent source of "alternative" computer information.
Cons: None to speak of.

Requirements: E-mail client.  Preferably HTML based like Outlook Express.

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