Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Crowded Comics -- Now in Beta!

If you've been around me the last few weeks you've probably heard rumblings of a "secret project" that I've been working on in the off-hours. Well, I'm happy to announce that after months of brainstorming, planning, and building, the project is no longer a secret -- it's live, and I'd love for you to be a part of it.

CROWDED COMICS is a one part social media site, one part online newspaper, and one part toy. It's a website that offers up timely editorial cartoons -- minus the punch line. That part is up to you.

Our goal with the site is to democratize the editorial cartoon by letting you add your own captions and rate the captions of others. We also want to get people more engaged with current events, so we've got news briefs and news article links to go along with each cartoon.

The idea for the site came from my friend David Burnett, who I went to Grinnell College with. After several years working as a business consultant, he left in order to build a start-up company that would be fun, profitable, and give something back to the community. David pitched Crowded Comics to me last November, and we've been having early morning Skype meetings ever since (he lives in New York). The third founder of the site is Oleg Terenchuk, who is a drupal wizard. I say "wizard" because the things he's able to do with the site might as well be magic, they're so complex. We're fortunate to also have the help of Rob Simon, who has been instrumental in testing the site, and my mom, who has been helping with copywriting.

Currently we've got four great cartoonists on board: Ken Avidor, Kirk Anderson, Lance Ward, and Dan Murphy, and we hope to expand the stable in the future.

Right now the site is in BETA, meaning there are still a few minor glitches to work out. If you go to the BETA site you'll see that registration is required. That will disappear once we're out of BETA, but I hope it won't deter you from signing up now, checking out the site, and adding some captions. I think you'll find the process of writing and rating captions pretty addicting -- but not Skyrim addicting, so don't worry.

Here's a simple primer showing how the site works:

After you play with the site we'd love to hear your feedback and suggestions for improvement. You should see a Feedback button on the right side of your screen.

If you like the site, PLEASE spread the word. We're bootstrapping this start-up and have no real marketing budget to speak of, so word of mouth goes a long way.

Thanks, and happy captioning!

PS - you can follow us on Twitter (@crowdedcomics) and see behind the scenes photos on our tumblr and on Instagram.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Craig Finn Live Concert Drawings

Today I got to see one of my musical idols, Craig Finn, taping a live in-studio performance for Minnesota Public Radio, so I thought I'd bring along a sketchbook and see what I could muster up. This was a big deal for me because I played Finn's "Separation Sunday" album on repeat for pretty much all of 2007, and only recently did I learn that we both went to school together in '87 (I was in first grade and he was in high school, which means that while he was skipping class and going to Replacements concerts, I was feeding our classroom's pet rabbit, Twinkles, and listening to Raffi albums).

The concert will air on Wednesday at 5pm, and I'm sure a video of the whole thing will be on The Current's site shortly thereafter.

So anyway, here are some live drawings I did during the concert. You can click these thumbnails to see a larger version:

Thanks for the ticket, Jamie!