Yahoo! Picks Profiles Interview
Oct-2007: My website was originally honored as a “Yahoo! Pick” back in Apr-2004. Three and a half years later, I was interviewed on how my website and the web had evolved since then.
- Interview for: Yahoo! Picks Profiles
- Interviewed by: Molly McCall
- Interviewed via: E-mail
- Interviewed on: 03-Oct-2007
MOLLY: You first posted something shoelace-related on the Web in 2000. In 2003, you expanded that post into a full-fledged site. And here you are in 2007, still going strong. Ian, you are an Internet pioneer! How have you seen the Web change since those early days?
IAN: I'd never thought of it that way, but I guess that my site was around in the “early days”. Back then, it was sufficient to have a simple site because there were very few tools for creating anything sophisticated. People like me were forced to learn all of the necessary concepts: Setting up a domain name, HTML programming, creating graphics, uploading to a server, etc.
Today, people who want to setup a site can go to one of countless free web hosts, choose from pre-defined templates and scripts, and have a site up and running in minutes. This has led to what I'd call the “social era” of the Internet; where once it seemed to belong to big business, it has now opened up to everyone.
The web has also changed in the way that visitors find my site. Back in 2000, my few pages about shoelaces would have been invisible if not for native links from search engines or from hand-selected links from sites such as Yahoo! Picks. Today, more and more web sites are embracing the concept of linking to other sites they consider worthwhile, with the “Blog” format encouraging even individuals to make their own “Picks”. This means that there are now links to my site from literally thousands of other web sites all over the world.
MOLLY: Do people interact with the site differently now?
IAN: In terms of true “interactivity”, it was a few years before I first learned PHP programming, which allowed me to add dynamic content. The site now has polls about shoelaces, ratings for each lacing method and shoelace knot, even a Shoelace Length Calculator to spare people from the complex mathematics.
I've also noticed that I receive fewer questions nowadays (proportionally), either because my site now has more answers or because the SPAM problem has made people more wary of divulging their e-mail address.
MOLLY: We feel pretty comfortable saying that you are one of the world's experts on shoelaces. Do you ever get sick of them now? Is Velcro starting to look attractive?
IAN: I'm not sick of shoelaces yet. Perhaps it's because they are the ultimate underdog? As for Velcro, many a teenager who has told me they reckon Velcro is better has received my retort: “Yeah, kids love Velcro”.
MOLLY: We love the gallery of lacing images. Do you have a favorite?
IAN: Ahh, yes I do, but I'll have to admit to shameless bias! My favorite photo is one I took recently of my partner, Inge, wearing her new double-laced sneakers. Otherwise, I'm always impressed when someone uses their imagination in a lacing photo, either with a variation or a combination of a couple of methods, or at least posing their shoe creatively.
MOLLY: What has surprised you the most about the Shoelace Site? Anything you regret?
IAN: The biggest surprise in recent years was the appearance of a cyber-squatter with a mis-spelling of my domain name. (http://www.fieggan.com/) (which I hope you WON'T link to). I guess it's one form of recognition.
As for regrets, in hindsight I'd have named a few lacing methods slightly differently. For example, I've recently renamed “Straight Fashion Lacing” to “Straight Bar Lacing” in my upcoming book, primarily because this appears to be a more common term. However, rolling out this change in the web site requires updating every single reference and hyperlink.
MOLLY: We know you have a backlog of new knots to add. What about any other plans for the site - video? Podcasts?
IAN: For the knots, animation really helps, so video is not a bad idea, and flip books for each knot are definitely on the cards (though Podcasts might be a bit “Out There”!). I'd also like to make downloadable pdf instruction sheets for various knots, allowing them to be printed and used as wall charts or handouts in pre-schools. I'd love to spare future generations the problems caused by inadequate instructions, some of which actually teach how to tie incorrectly!
MOLLY: What's the most common misunderstanding people have about the site?
IAN: The most common misconception is that the site must be trivial. Such people have a preconceived idea that shoelaces are trivial, thus they believe that a site about shoelaces must be just as much a waste of time. A browse through the more than one hundred pages usually turns up something of interest for even the greatest pessimist.
Another common misconception is that, like much of the sneaker culture, this site must be “male oriented”. On the contrary, shoelaces are one way in which women can “re-feminise” their lace-up footwear, either with more feminine styles or colors or with decorative lacing methods.
MOLLY: We know you added advertising a couple years ago and you have a system for donations. How's that going?
IAN: Anyone who sees the site for the first time may conclude that it's just another money-making niche site with advertising. They may not be aware of the fact that I had been running the site and meeting all costs for years, long before such advertising was even available. Even today, I've kept the advertising to an absolute minimum, just enough for a tiny income as well as to meet the needs of visitors who are looking for products or services that my site doesn't yet provide.
Donations are a very direct and much appreciated form of support, but are pretty infrequent, probably because of the logistical difficulties of making payments over the Internet.
I've occasionally had a direct sponsor, but these appear to be equally rare. The shoestring budgets of shoelace manufacturers don't justify sponsorship deals, while the massive budgets of footwear manufacturers are generally spent on sponsoring sportspeople to wear their gear, not on supporting shoelace professors who are simply providing community information!
MOLLY: Do you feel pressure to sell shoelaces over the site?
IAN: I'm often asked about selling shoelaces, and while it would be nice to make a living this way, I suspect that shipping costs from Australia will destroy any potential viability. What would make it worthwhile is if I could offer the widest selection and possibly the best the world has to offer. Stay tuned!
MOLLY: Do you have a favorite testimonial?
IAN: I guess I'm a softie because I always get the same tears of joy when I read about the pride of both the mother and her physically handicapped son when he at last managed to tie his own shoelaces with the “Ian Knot”. Of course, there's also one or two other testimonials that just really make me laugh, either at the hilarious situations or their quirky, off-beat style, like the guy who felt somewhat lost because the resolution of his “Granny Knot” problem meant that he would no longer have untied shoelaces as his “trademark”.
MOLLY: Finally, thank you for teaching us what an aglet is! We always wondered.
IAN: What's more amazing to me is that someone, somewhere, at some time in history, devised a name for this seemingly trivial object!
“Ian's Shoelace Site”
By Molly McCall, Yahoo! Picks Profiles, 10-Oct-2007
(Link now dead)
Article Transcript (Excerpt)
Ian wasn't on the Web from the very beginning, but he found his way there pretty fast. He pitched his first page online in 2000. In 2003, he expanded to a full-fledged website. Now, seven years later, he continues to build and polish what has become one of the world's foremost collections of information, advice, and trivia about shoelaces.
Yes, shoelaces. Ain't the Web grand? But before you dismiss this as another Internet-issue triviality, consider how often you lace up your sneakers or double-knot the ties of your boots. Venture in to Ian's emporium of ties, and you will find more fascinating fodder that you'd think possible...
MOLLY: Ian, you are an Internet pioneer! How have you seen the Web change since those early days?
– The article then continued with the remainder of the original interview (as above), with some slight edits plus with hyperlinks to relevant pages.