Recently Candy wrote a post re-accounting some of the events that took place around the time of DeafRead’s birth. I would like to, for once and all, tell you how DeafRead came about. This is from the horse’s mouth.
I saw Jared Evans at the NAD conference in Palm Springs. At the time, he was living in San Diego. I was living in Los Angeles. He was working as a blogger for NAD at the conference. We both each had a personal blog.
Although I was at the conference, I was not a registered attendee. I would toil around in the lobby, halls and the expo floor catching up with long lost friends. I would crash the occasional party. Even I had lunch with Ricky Taylor at a nearby restaurant.
Shortly after the conference concluded, I was taking my daily walk during lunch break at work. Sitting all day at the computer called for a good stretch. It hit me like a hammer. I thought of building a blog aggregator. I instantly turned back to return to my office desk, walking in a frisky manner. I immediately, and out of excitement, reached Jared.
Before the conference, Jared and I had not spoken all that much. We used to, but for a good period of time, he had lived in Rochester, New York while I was living in New York City and San Diego. He, to my surprise, moved to my city, San Diego. We definitely re-connected. After a year, I moved to Washington DC to attend Gallaudet University to acquire my masters degree. Upon graduation, I again relocated to California, in Los Angeles. It was during my year in D.C. that we kinda lost contact again.
When I had the blog aggregator idea, I immediately thought of Jared. He is the only guy that I knew very well, had the technical skills, and most important of all, a great heart. At this time (2006), I’d known him for 11 years and hold him in the highest regards of adhering to good values.
I reached him on Google’s chat, GTalk. He responded. And he promptly agreed to work together on the aggregator. Then I quickly came up with the name, DeafRead. He again agreed promptly to the name.
So DeafRead was born. For the next week, I worked feverishly to create the site. I worked late nights. Very late. I recall he took a trip the following weekend to Solvang, California. Upon his return, he asked how things were going. “We’re almost ready to launch!”, I exclaimed.
Two days later, or 7 days after DeafRead was conceived, DeafRead launched with 4 blogs. This was July 2006.
During the week in which I was building the very foundations of DeafRead, Ella was doing a project with Dawn Sign Press (DSP), where Jared worked. He was stoked about it, and explained that she was well-respected in the ASL community, having authored books on the subject. I agreed when he wanted to see what Ella thought of DeafRead.
Jared responded that Ella was enthusiastic about the site, and that it was something that we should pursue. This is just off my head. The only recorded message I could find of Jared’s description of his encounter with Ella is this:
Jared: she says that she wants us to keep track of these counts for future research I was thinking that our raw logs, we should keep those for archival purposes who knows… it might provide useful in the future when doing historical research
I know this is not much proof in the case of recorded messages, but I definitely don’t recall Ella clamoring about how wonderful it would be for Deafhood to be on DeafRead; that DeafRead should be for Deafhood only. I know it didn’t happen, because I would have shrugged it off perhaps with a little discontentment. I wasn’t going to allow one idea claim ownership of DeafRead. Right from the beginning, DeafRead was going to be for everyone and everything deaf-related. That was the agreement and understanding between me and Jared. We never questioned it, nor thought about changing this philosophy. We were glad to have Deafhood come on DeafRead, because it was such a new and novel idea, but it wasn’t going to own DeafRead. Nothing was going to, except for “deaf”.
The only thing I took from Jared’s encounter with Ella was that we had the support of someone well-respected in the ASL community. It was a small boost. I appreciated her feedback and belief that DeafRead was worthy of reality.
Now, I’d like to go back a little in time to the days of Gallaudet University’s announcement of the President finalists. I was contacted by a friend who wanted to bring more awareness about the search process. He felt that not enough people realized how paramount a moment this was in Gallaudet Unviersity’s history and future, and I agreed. After one month of running the site, GallyPrezWatch.com, it had reached 400,000 pageviews. Sure, websites surpass this number of pageviews in a month, but rarely does one reach this in its first month.
After Fernandes was elected, the guy I worked with wanted to close the site. He felt that the comments were too scathing — Ron Stern’s kids’ were being dragged through mud. A picture was put up in the list of finalists of Koko, the signing gorilla. This was purely to be satircal and humorous. If anyone read the blog posts, it was clear this person was dripping of satire. But we were accused of being racial and insensitive to colored people. To fuel this further, it didn’t help that Dr. Glen Anderson failed to become one of the finalists. But in all, we accomplished our goal: awareness was definitely raised. 1,000+ comments were made on the day of Fernandes’ selection.
Although it was a profound experience as a developer and administrator, I felt it had no bearing on the reason I wanted to create DeafRead. It was in the summer time. Any protests to Fernandes’ presidency had died down. I remember thinking to myself, I wanted to create DeafRead to empower people to say what they wanted.
One common misconception I’ve seen, and have corrected here and there, but without full effort, is that DeafRead was created to cover the Gallaudet University protests. DeafRead was created in July 2006, and the Gallaudet protests did not take off until October 2006. Yes, DeafRead’s success is owed to the Gallaudet protests. Awareness of DeafRead grew exponentially during this time. It was one of the main sources to get instant information (and rumors) about the protest as it unfolded. Ricky Taylor and Elizabeth Gillespie were some of the prominent bloggers covering the protest.
During the heights of the Gallaudet protests, DeafRead was seeing as many as 30,000 pageviews a day.
Fast forward to the summer of 2009. During the v/blog symposium hosted by LaRonda Zupp and DCARA, I gave a presentation in which I said DeafRead helped get the word out about Deafhood, Deaf Bilingual Coalition (DBC) and Audism Free America (AFA). I was happy for this, after all, it was empowerment that was taking place on DeafRead. In fact, John Egbert was on DeafRead before DBC was founded. It was the discussions on DeafRead’s blogs that probably had some influence on the beginnings of DBC. Surely, when DBC was ready to be launched, DeafRead was the place to do it.
Later in the day at the symposium, it was Ella’s turn to give her presentation. One of the first things she said, and I remember this quite well, was something along those lines: “Someone told me that someone (me) claimed that DeafRead helped spread the word about Deafhood (etc). Well, yes, blogs and vlogs helped spread the word.”
Someone felt it was important enough to tell Ella what I had said during my presentation. And Ella felt it was important enough to respond (or to “correct the information”?) during her presentation onstage. At the very least, we have her public acknowledgement that DeafRead played a role.
The irony in all this: The people involved with Deafhood, DBC and AFA and whatnot, have tried several times to close DeafRead and DeafVIDEO.TV — the same media which helped give birth to their organizations.
What a way to thank us!
Yes, Candy is correct: we offered to serve DeafSide.com. The panelists were difficult to gather, and in the end, they did not do what they needed to do. They backed out. So with that, DeafSide.com fell into the darkness.
Trying the DeafSide approach once again, I offered Ella the opportunity to administrate an EXACT COPY of DeafVIDEO.TV last spring. I was giving her full administrative powers. It was in response to her claims that DeafRead and DeafVIDEO.TV wasn’t what she thought it was. So by offering her this site, she could create a community to her exact liking. In response, she asked: “What is your rationale and what are your plans for incorporating anti-cyberbullying and audism guidelines on DeafRead and DeafVIDEO.TV?” This was during the time of yet another effort to close DeafRead and DeafVIDEO.TV.
Well, hello! I have the DeafRead guidelines and DeafVIDEO.TV’s R-List. And I’d already stated my position on incorporating audism in the guidelines. It wasn’t allowed, but because it was widely abused as a term, it would instead be enforced under the harassment rule.
Ella resumed to vlog and leave video comments at another website. She had asked me about anti-cyberbullying measures and was using a website whose owner subtly threatened a vlogger, said it was OK for his users to cyberbully people outside the site, and worse of all — cyberbullied others.
Karma is funny.