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As the U2 circus gets ready to pack up and leave London town, we chatted to the good people behind long-running fan site U2Wanderer. Earlier this year they celebrated 20 years online, and we chatted to founder Aaron back then - check that out here. They have been busy since then, preparing a long-planned whole new look and name for U2Wanderer - U2SONGS, and it was great to catch up with them recently, where they told us all about it.. u2songs.com? What is that site that you ask? It’s the newest version of u2wanderer.org. Literally days old. We are just re-launching the site now with a brand new backbone, and we will continue to keep the old one running until we have the new one well established. We aren’t quite finished yet, but we’re at a point where we wanted to show people what we are working on. We’ve been working on this update for the last seven years. We hoped to have it ready when the new U2 album launch happened, but they took us by surprise with the release of Songs of Innocence - and then they got us all distracted with a tour.. Fans are always looking out for information on new U2 stuff and where it can be found. So it’s time to let go of that more recent information, in hopes that it will assist other fans, even while the site is still in construction. Why u2songs? Many will think that maybe it was inspired by the recent Songs of Innocence album title, but we’ve actually had the domain name since 2002 and always planned on this being our final home. The site deals with U2’s songs, where to find them, what they’ve released, and what they’ve been. So the site made sense to us. It just took us a little while to get to the final destination. U2 being stuck in a “songs” place as well? Just a happy coincidence! u2wanderer.org was founded in April 1995, and celebrated its 20th birthday earlier this year. Our site started out as a discography site and still focuses on discography and lyrics as well as collecting. We have expanded at times, and like making lists...including recent lists like documenting the confetti being “exploded” at shows, and listing the books Bono is throwing from stage on the #U2ieTour. This year we set up a separate news section for the old site to tide us over while moving and we also brought several new ideas to the site that we look forward to carrying to the new site, such as the map tracking where in the wild you could find copies of the RSD release. We also maintain an active presence on twitter and also maintain an active forum where a small group of collectors gather to talk and discuss collectibles and lyrics. U2Wanderer staff and friends at our 20th birthday gathering The current core team at U2Wanderer.Org is made up of Aaron (AJ) Sams, Aaron Govern, Brad Hood, Carl Uebelhart, Don Morgan, George Dias, Harry Kantas and Mike Long. We aren’t located in one geographical area like some sites, but have staff from Canada, Ireland, the United Kingdom and United States. For a number of years it was just Aaron and Carl running things before Brad came on board in 2005, and the others over the years that followed. We would be remiss if we weren’t to give a shout out to our frequent collaborators Chris Jenkins and Shawn Rocco, as well as thanking all the others that have helped over the years. In the 20 years we have been working on the site the biggest ‘wow’ comes from realizing how many people have contributed and helped make this little corner of the web better. Carl and Harry handle most of the technical side of things. Carl and Mike are our lyrics staff listening for every nuance in every song and transcribing each from scratch. The rest of us approach things from the collectors side of things. AJ, Harry and Brad are always looking for and reporting on discography updates and also man the twitter account most frequently. George tracks the digital releases and digital streams. Aaron G, one of our newer staff members, is often found hunched away over a scanner producing some lovely images of some rare items. And Don has the unenviable task of going through all of the content in the discography and trying to edit and tidy it up. Over the years, our staff have been proud to be used for reference and to contribute items to exhibits at both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and The Little Museum of Dublin. We also contributed to the launch of “The Complete U2” on iTunes. The site has also been used as a reference for many books on U2, and the staff here have directly contributed to some of these publications. We also like a good giveaway. In the past we’ve given away the U2 branded iPod to a lucky fan. We’ve given away books, and albums, and collectibles. When we helped co-host the kick off party for the Elevation tour in 2001, we took armloads of posters and promotional CDs to the Hard Rock Cafe in Sunrise FL. It was one of the first big events we ever helped out with. Upcoming plans include some of our staff taking in the shows in London, Glasgow, Paris and Dublin. After that we have a few other plans for the site to improve and hopefully surprise. And definitely looking forward to a third leg and beyond. Looking for more opportunities to hang out together, to work together, and to bounce new ideas off of each other. With a staff that is spread out around the world we try to make the most of opportunities where we all end up in one place.
It's twenty years to the week since Aaron J Sams decided to make a 'U2 Web Page'. Part of a University class project, that webpage became U2Wanderer.org and with long-running collaborator Carl Uebelhart and other contributors, the site is still going strong. We asked Aaron for five tips on running your own U2 fan site. Here's what he told us - including how the late, great Johnny Cash sent him his thanks and his autograph. 'Truly one of the most memorable moments I’ve had working on Web sites.' -------- I’ve been making U2 lists most of my life. Early in the 1980s I had a list of U2 singles and B-sides that I would update with each release. Twenty years ago this week that list became a U2 Web page as part of a university class project. For a bonus I found a way to get it published on the World Wide Web. That list of U2 singles has become the discography section of U2Wanderer.Org. Over these last twenty years I’ve learned a few things about running a U2 site and here are a few thoughts I had to share with others looking to start something similar. 1. Pick something small and build. You won’t launch a Web site tomorrow about the band that covers every last aspect of their career. There is just so much information about U2 after a career that has lasted over 30 years. Pick some aspect of the band you enjoy and start with that. Maybe start with a focus on the bibliography of books dealing with the band, investigate the chart history, or start a Facebook group about the band’s Zoo TV tour. If you pick a favorite aspect to get started you can always build from there. My starting point was a list of B-sides and where to find them. We added the discography, lyrics, chart positions, collectibles and much more over many years. 2. Over 20 years the most enjoyable aspect of working on a U2 site has been communicating with other fans. I’ve been lucky to work with fans from around the globe over the last 20 years and had an opportunity to have contact with many more. So many faces and names flash before me as I think back on the people who have helped me out over the years – and from so many countries -- Mexico, Spain, Australia, Croatia, Poland, Greece, Ireland and so many more. The site has opened the door to so many people that I would not have met otherwise. It’s also important to find good people who share your interests. Without my longest running partner Carl and all of the staff at U2Wanderer.Org I might have given up on it years ago. It has been nice to work with people and get to know them through the projects we work on, even if we have only rarely had the chance to meet in person. It's important to have someone who will pick up the reins when you need a break, or who you just might want to discuss an idea with. 3. Every fan has something to offer, it doesn’t matter if they’ve seen the band 75 times - or 1. It doesn’t matter if they have two singles or if they have them all. A site will be aimed at a wide range of fans from all over the world and you should expect communication from a range of backgrounds and experiences. We all have one thing in common and that’s a love for the band. Some of the most positive interactions come from the places you least expect it. One of the earliest contributors to U2Wanderer.Org sent her first suggestions when she was 14, after having seen the band only once... taken kicking and screaming by her grandmother! She’s helped decorate the place and is still ready to offer up an honest opinion on any design changes we make. It was also because of her that Johnny Cash became aware of a U2 Web site that was named after the song he did with the band. He sent me his personal thanks and also his autograph. Truly one of the most memorable moments I’ve had working on Web sites. 4. Don’t be afraid to take a break and work on other things. If you want to do anything, you best enjoy it. If it stops being fun or seems like too much work you might need a break. I always struggle between tours to stay focused on working on the site but there is nothing like a new song or a new tour to renew that energy for me. We are currently working to finish off a major update, probably our largest, with a definite boost of fresh energy from the release of Songs of Innocence. 5. These days you need to use social media and get involved in the community. Web sites are just one way to discuss the band these days. There are Facebook pages to moderate. On Twitter you can discuss things with fans around the world. Zootopia is one forum where fans gather to discuss the band. It's important to learn where your audience gathers, and to look into the different options for communication you might want to use. This is where you'll find the people you want to work with – whether it's on a Web site, or through a Twitter campaign, or through a Facebook post. And if they are discussing what you are doing it will help gauge how your work is being appreciated. I have to admit, it always puts a smile on my face to see my site getting a mention - especially when people might not know I’m watching.