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California teen Steve Siercks is no Steve Jobs -- yet. But what Steve has managed to create, at the ripe old age of 14, is a wildly popular Web site developed for the fans of that Apple creation, the iMac computer.
Steve, who grew up using computers "since I was in diapers," got his iMac on Halloween. Not long after he was online with his iMac, Steve e-mailed Robert Aldridge, co-creator of theiMac.com, asking if he could write a column for the popular unofficial iMac site. The answer was yes, and it was only a few weeks after the green light that Steve pitched an idea for a Web site devoted solely to teens and their views on computing, to be hosted by theiMac.com.
Robert's reaction was simple -- "How do I hang on to this?"
Of course, Steve Jobs didn't build Apple computers by himself, and Steve Siercks didn't get iTeen Online started without a little help from some friends.
Fourteen-year-old Jordan Streiff, from Georgia, learned that a teen was writing about iMacs and wanted to get involved. He sent an e-mail to Steve and quickly became iTeen No.2 and the graphics designer for the team.
When Spike Friedman, 13, asked Steve one day at school whether he had heard of an online column on computing called iTeen, the last thing he expected was Steve's reply of "Yes, I wrote it." iTeen No.3 was on board.
Lou Denning, also 13, was friends with Steve and wanted to join iTeen, but owns a PC computer. The team decided that Lou would be their source for PC information to help round out their site.
"I'd like to get an iMac, but as Steve said, 'my people' won't let me," jokes Lou, referring to the infamous rivalry between Macintosh/Apple and PC users.
The iTeen Online staff (or the iTeam) currently consists of Steve, Jordan, Spike and Lou who write, post and design the site on their own. iTeen Online is slated to have its own URL in a matter of days, and is rapidly growing in popularity and membership. The first day their site went online, they received about 600 hits. By the end of the week, their site traffic was up to 5,000 hits and climbing.
iTeen features reviews of software and hardware, for both PCs and Macs, opinion pieces and informative articles on iMacs and the computer world. Recent articles have included tips on understanding hardware warranties and ways to find software you need at the lowest prices. The iTeam has found that some software companies will send them copies of games and components for them to review on the site. But it hasn't been all games and freebies.
"It's a lot of work," cautions Steve. "A couple of weeks ago, I was doing all the work, three hours a day, updating the site, writing articles, doing links." The iTeam plans to expand their Web site over the next few months to include contests, message boards and even live Web coverage of MacWorld conferences.
"We call Steve the dictator," Spike says wryly, explaining how the team gets all their work done and on time.
"It's real hard to meet deadlines because I'm also involved with stuff at school," says Jordan. The iTeam members all agreed that school comes before working on the iTeen site, but it's obvious that the site quickly is becoming more important to them as their audience grows.
"Steve Jobs, I've heard, has looked at the site," shares Steve. "I haven't heard anything from him, but I've had two or three e-mails from Apple saying they like it."
While Steve and Jordan have always been involved with computers and technology, Spike and Lou have been most surprised by what the writing involved, especially the reader reaction to their stories. "I love writing the articles," says Lou. "Hundreds of people are reading them, it's great!"
Spike definitely has an opinion as to why the site was getting such a positive response "Content, content, content!" The team meets regularly to set up their story update schedule, giving the group enough time to finish writing articles and allow them to really research their stories and not just put up links to other sites. "We try to think of things a month ahead, so we have things other sites don't," Steve explains.
Despite the hard work by all involved with iTeen, Steve definitely feels its worth it for anyone to start a Web site. "The biggest piece of advice is, no matter what you do -- if it sucks or no one comes to your site, or it's great -- you get something out of it. You learn skills, management, how to deal with people -- it's a really big learning experience."
"If you start [a Web site], you'll love it," enthuses Lou. "It's great. I mean, the e-mails you get back ... you love reading them."
More people are joining the iTeen team, and if all goes as planned, the site will have its own domain name, advertising and tons of new features. Until then, says Lou, "It's a lot of work!"
But for Steve? "iTeens kick !"
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