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Cargo Collective: Interview with Co-Founder Folkert Gorter

An interview with the head of Cargo, an artist-oriented publishing platform

by Brian Fichtner in Tech on 22 January 2010

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Cargo, a web publishing platform designed specifically for the creative fields, appeals to art directors, photographers, graphic designers, visual artists and more. Created by Folkert Gorter, Josh Pangell and Rene Daalder, the service enables users to publish a wide variety of visual content with ease, effectively dispensing with the need to build costly custom portfolio sites. Not only does Cargo make putting your work out there painless, it also introduces artists and designers to one another with its community-building functionality (hence, the collective part of the name). Much like an RSS feed, members can choose to follow others and get regular updates on when they add new work.

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Having evolved from the system that powers the SpaceCollective community, Cargo combines the elegance of a simple, fluid architecture with the tools that provide for enough customization to satisfy the most advanced user. Anyone familiar with blogging platforms will be able to dive right in and create a simple record of his or her work. Similar to blog "entries," Cargo uses "projects," which contain entry fields for images, text, and more. These projects then populate the user's main page in the form of expandable thumbnails (whether this is the actual homepage or a secondary page is entirely up to the user). Though Cargo provides an existing set of templates for users, the real beauty of the platform is being able to get under the hood and tweak colors, fonts, borders, margins and layout without too much difficulty. (Page view of Matthew Curry's profile pictured above.)

We took an opportunity to ask Gorter some questions about how Cargo started and where it's headed. Below are his replies, mixed with a few examples of websites running on the Cargo platform.

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Who are the minds behind Cargo and how did it start?
I started collaborating with Rene Daalder on SpaceCollective in 2005. Shortly after, Josh Pangell, who is responsible for all technology and development, joined us. We couldn't find anything suitable for developing the SpaceCollective community so we decided to build everything from scratch; a platform that would allow users to easily share and manage ideas and media.

SpaceCollective started collaborating a lot with universities and students, and from there we saw a need for members to publish their work as a personal, ongoing archive; this we further developed in a tool that is now called Cargo. We wanted to create a way for them to publish their work online and at the same time try to blur the boundaries between what is considered a portfolio and what is considered a blog, and instead encourage people to see their websites as an ongoing feed of creative output. (The Office of Feltron pictured above.)

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What sets Cargo apart from other content management platforms?
Our interface design philosophy in relation to Cargo can be summed up as "the content is the Cargo." In other words, "the work is the interface is the product is the brand is the network is the Cargo," and so on. For example, inside the various Cargo networks you are not represented by an avatar of your choosing but by the visual representation of your most recently shared work. We approach every interface challenge in this way. Another aspect is the networked nature of the system. It is set up in a way that it is almost impossible not to learn from or be inspired by other users. (DJ Raeo pictured above.)

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How would you describe the user base? Are most people familiar web publishing and architecture?
Our members seem to be situated somewhere between savvy and not so savvy when it comes to HTML and CSS. We're not really engineers either, and in a way we're designing this for ourselves. At the same time, we're intimately involved with how content is displayed on the web.

We tried to set up the interface in a way that accommodates this variety of skill sets, and puts a lot of emphasis on members learning more about basic web techniques in a playful way. One user said he loves working with Cargo because he gets to touch the important stuff, he can break things. In our forums members tell us they enjoy customizing their Cargo websites because they learn a lot about how the web works. ( Bruce Mau Design pictured above.)

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To what extent is it customizable?
You can do practically anything. In the CMS, each project contains an input area where you can enter things like text, images, embedded media, javascript, etc. And things like widths and margins are controlled by the CSS. One of the next steps is to allow members to share their customizations, as well as rolling out new design templates on a continuous basis.

How do you plan to grow the community?
In order to maintain a high level of creative content, we're currently keeping the platform by invite only. We're also enabling current members to invite others soon.
(Always With Honor pictured above.)

If you're interested in joining the Cargo Collective, simply email the team (hello [at] cargocollective [dot] com). Tell them Cool Hunting sent you.

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