Time to start blogging again.

Years ago I kept a blog on the great, much-missed BBC online magazine “Collective”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/collective/U207003

In many ways Collective was ahead of its time. It pre-empted Facebook with its offer of a profile page, it allowed users to write their own blogs, and it asked users to contribute their own reviews of new media. In return, with the weight of the BBC’s name behind it, Collective offered a weekly magazine featuring reviews of new music, film, books, art and so on, as well as exclusive mixes and downloads from new music artists. Occasionally it would put on live shows for up and coming bands: Hot Chip played an early gig at the Spitz in London’s Spitalfields market.

As the users and Collective’s community producers got to know each other better, its functionality expanded, and it created a “community” area where users could collaborate on projects or pool long term projects. I was proud to be part of that early development by initiating and curating the online art gallery “Unique forms of continuity” which you can see here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/collective/A2208151

For all that Collective asked for user generated content, it also knew it had to appeal to the materialist and give rewards. Each week one user’s review would be picked as a featured article and would win a CD or book – or whatever turned up on the community producers’ desks from music or book or DVD companies.

For many the magazine provided a place for artistic inspiration, and it’s fair to say that there are many people out there whose lives are now different because of the discussions and contributions they made. Some of us even made friends and are still in touch almost 10 years later.

For me Collective offered a way to practice writing. Many of my reviews were experimental in nature, some provocative, and just as many commented upon and the source of many a philosophical discussion.

And it was on Collective where I gained the confidence to write creatively. To dare to think that I could write stories, and that perhaps, one day, one of those stories might lead to a novel.

Without the BBC’s Collective website, there would never have been an astrotomato, and there would never have been a science fiction book called “planetfall”.

To the community producers who worked on Collective, to all the people I met, talked with, who inspired me, and to everything that Collective gave me, this first, opening post on astrotomato.com is dedicated to you.


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