Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Sun 17 Aug 03 14:02
I was glad to see Kirsten's question about the "clinical" tone. This has bothered some people and pleased others. I think it is matter of taste. Wired attracted lots of criticism in tones of moral outrage, forced sarcasm, supercilious superiority, etc. But this begs the question: if it was so unbelievable, why did anyone believe in it, even though the zaniest contradictions and absurdities were apparent at the time? I decided to tell the story with a straight face, to find the comedy inherent in the events.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 17 Aug 03 15:52
Perhaps it's not really believing so much as giving the benefit of the doubt. "Sure, it's unlikely, but what if I'm wrong? Stranger things have happened."
Kevin Kelly (kk) Mon 18 Aug 03 07:44
Speaking of stranger things, Gary, I'm sure there must be stories you had to leave out. The post-modern thing to do is to put them onto the special features section of the DVD -- or in the case of a book, onto the WELL. Is there a Wired story you've already written that you had to cut for whatever reason which you feel like posting here?
hagiography class (kreth) Mon 18 Aug 03 08:47
262 pages is like a Space Bag version of the Wired timeline - vacuum-packed for price-point in hardcover and easy portability. Not easy to compress. I found myself wondering: Did anyone you approached refuse to talk, and did you find yourself wishing you could have included any voices who decided, by whatever rationalization, that discretion was the better part of valor? (really glad you adopted the challenge, Gary - it could not have been easy! thanks).
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Mon 18 Aug 03 10:51
In response to Kevin's question, I just looked over some old drafts of the book, and was interested to discover that there is little I would want to put back. Here and there are are a few lines of description that might have been fun. Below is a lost scene of Howard Rheingold's first meeting with Justin Hall, creator of the original dark-side Web index: Links to the Underground: --- Justin had worn his Christmas best to the job interview but the talk soon turned to drugs, and he felt right at home. "What brings you to HotWired?" Howard had asked the young man, when they first met. "The opportunity to work with you," Justin replied, widening his eyes. Howard loved it when he was shown new, creative ways to say fuck you, and they formed an instant bond. ---
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Mon 18 Aug 03 10:54
I'm still thinking about missing scenes, missing anecdotes. I think the thing to do is open this up to everybody. There is a Wired - A Romance topic in the Wired conference on the Well. I will post an invitation for zany Wired material that didn't make it into the book. If it heats up, I'll repost the highlights here. (Where they are viewable to guests.)
Steve Silberman (digaman) Mon 18 Aug 03 12:26
Gary, after my lovely wedding and honeymoon, I'm finally getting a chance to return to reading your book. I'm loving it. A few datapoints: Re: that story about Justin and Howard, where you see "fuck you," I might have seen "fuck me" in Justin's remark. Justin and Howard had a very tender regard for one another, it was obvious to me when I saw them together: part mentorial, part cosmic buddies, part father/son, part lovers, though they're both heterosexual, as far as I know. They really seemed to adore one another, in that sweet and goofy way that older guys and younger guys can fall in love with one another, though that particular relationship dynamic is not well understood by society these days. They were each other's gurus, for better and worse; I certainly understood why Justin would have wanted Howard as a guru -- as far as gurus go, Howard is a mensch (that's Yiddish, O West Coast readers, for "real human being.") --------------- A little story about Carl Steadman. I found him fascinating, as most people seem to do. That's partly because he was so hard to "read" using standard techniques of intuitive telepathy; it's partly also because he is so clearly brilliant and arch. Thus I was slightly hurt when he seemed to avoid talking to me for the first few weeks I was an editor at Hotwired. I'd walk into a room where he and I were alone; I say "hey Carl"; he'd leave. I had no idea what was going on: was I too old? Had he heard about my Grateful Dead connections or something, and thus I was beneath consideration? Did I just seem too naive, too unhip, too... what? Then one day, Carl walked in, came over to where I was talking with a couple of people, and announced, "HI STEVE. HOW ARE YOU? I'VE DECIDED THAT I'M GOING TO BE NICE TO YOU." And flashed a million-watt smile. I still have no idea what was going on. --------------------------- Since I'm only a quarter of the way through the book, do you mention the HotWired meeting where Louis announced that in a couple of years at most, the text-based era of the Web would be over? In the place of all that boring ASCII, he said, there would be "experiences" -- immersive, visual environments based on moving images, push, VRML, whatever. And he was determined that HotWired would lead the charge. No one disagreed. Either they agreed, or they figured they would let Louis get this week's rant off his chest, and then get back to work. I disagreed. I said that I thought the Web would always be significantly a text-based medium, because text is such a bandwidth-efficient means of conveying information -- thus Sappho was able to register an entire world of emotion in a fragment of a line written thousands of years ago. I said that what Louis was describing sounded a lot like television, and weren't people already sick of TV? I also felt that such faculties as search were such perfect uses of the Net, it was too good, text would never go away... Louis seemed testy at the meeting. I was a little nervous about having disagreed with him. But after the meeting, he sent me an email thanking me for "standing up for the Word." I appreciated that. --------------------- Another tale that might be in the book. A meeting around a round table at HotWired with a very hyper, bright, handsome, driven guy who had an idea for an online business. I told the guy that it sounded like a fantastic idea, but that he had to change the name of his startup, because it sounded like "some Rainforest action thingie." Amazon.com.
Kurt Sigmon (kd-scigmon) Mon 18 Aug 03 14:21
There was a brief mention of Neil Stephenson's 40,000 word story on the cable-laying business. That was a truly amazing piece of work, but I wonder why it ended up in a magazine (and in WIred specifically) instead of as a book?
hagiography class (kreth) Mon 18 Aug 03 14:30
expense account travel on Wired's dime, vs. writing a book proposal to get an advance several months later?
Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Mon 18 Aug 03 14:53
A lot of that story ended up in his book. Same with <bruces> (Cyprus).
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Mon 18 Aug 03 14:54
I edited Drudge's copy when his stuff first started running on Wired News. He came up for a meeting, during which we went through our feelings of various media companies and their online efforts, as we were taking about my idea of creating a sort of news blog -- another great idea passed over by Wired. These are fairly close paraphrases of what he had to say: CNN: "They suck dick." AP: "Boring fuckers." BBC: "Lefty English fruits." UPI: "I think they are among the best." Economist: "They think highly of themselves; smug fuckers." (but not in a fruity way, I guess). MSNBC: "Right idea, wrong people." NYT: "Liberal shit." LA Times: "Liberal shit." Wired: "People here think 'cool' is all you need to be."
Kevin Kelly (kk) Mon 18 Aug 03 16:08
"People here think 'cool' is all you need to be." That WAS a problem, but it didn't start out that way. Louis, Plunkett, myself were ex-hippy 40-year olds unemployable by any corporate scene, and definitely not interested in trying to be cool. We wanted to make a magazine that we would want to read ourselves, and one that made money -- that was all. We surrouned ourselves with 20-year-olds because it is far more fun that way. Next thing we knew, people were say we were K00L. The next thing after that: that we were trying too hard to be cool. The problem with being cool is even if you arrive there accidentally there is no place to go except uncool. Post-cool never cut it, and hyper cool doesn't exist. Note on Stephenson. The cable piece did not start out as a 40,000 word assignment. It was a small idea I had that Neal ran with and made large and wonderful. We did the right thing and edited (that is Pete Leyden did) his 80,000 words down to 40,000. What you saw in Wired was half of what he wrote. Gary, I'm still hoping you tell us what you learned about Wired that you didn't know going into the book (considering the fact that you worked there in some sense).
Steve Silberman (digaman) Mon 18 Aug 03 16:30
> The problem with being cool is even if you arrive there accidentally As much as I appreciate the layers of truth in this, any magazine that runs a "Wired/Tired" list is brazenly appointing itself the arbiter of cool, and in fact using its very brand-name as a *synonym* for cool. So there was a little more karma involved than mere accident, once the other self-appointed arbiters of cool caught up enough with the geekery to declared Wired tired.
Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Mon 18 Aug 03 17:05
The book the cable story ended up in was Cryptonomicon (sequel coming out SOON!)
Kevin Kelly (kk) Mon 18 Aug 03 18:00
Wired/Tired was deliberate. But at the time Wired did not mean cool exactly. It was a branding exercise, as you suggested. It's hard to explain how the cool part crept on us from behind, rather than as a goal. It wasn't part of the calculation initially, although it was increasingly something we had to deal with. The Karma of cool is unforgiving; it's hard to get if you try hard for it, and once you have it, it goes.
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Mon 18 Aug 03 21:41
Some things I learned that aren't in the book... okay, here goes. Warning: one of the reasons some of this isn't in the book is that I felt it was of interest mainly to insiders: Wired UK - the British version of Wired that failed - was a catastrophe from the get-go. Hardly a person in England associated with that effort will say a kind word about it. Every neurosis of the American version was translated overseas, without the confidence or passion or brilliance to make up for it. The designers hated the editors, the editors hated the publishers, the original publishing partners had contempt for Louis and Jane, who returned the contempt roundly. This was one of the first stories I reported, interviewing many participants, and despite all the bitterness I found little of true interest in it. I describe it as an ill-fated, money-burning error, and leave it at that. But there is a sub-theme that, were the book 500 pages long (God forbid) would have come out, rectifying a distortion in the book as it stands. You will notice that the book says very little about Wired's original managing editor, John Battelle. Battelle eventually went on to some celebrity as the creator of The Industry Standard, the trade magazine and bible of the dot.com boom. Battelle's most significant role at Wired was as a hard-working editor during the early years. His later activities trying to create new business were futile. So, after describing his contribution, he disappears. In fact, one of the places he disappeared to was England, where, in contrast to nearly every other element of Wired UK, he was respected. I think there was a chance he could have pulled that project out of the flames, had the whole company not been a basket case at the time. Instead, he left, and started his own company, and suffered his own traumas, and got his own book written about him. Another set of stories not in the book center on the conflicts between Battelle, who represented the magazine, and Andrew Anker, who represented HotWired. There was a lot of bureaucratic infighting, which Anker tended to win. One of these conflicts has some minor ironies of interest. John Battelle wanted Wired magazine to partner with AOL, which was eager for the partnership. Andrew's belief was that with the advent of the Web, AOL was doomed. (A belief I shared at the time.) Andrew worked hard to keep all digital activities under his control, and managed to keep John from getting any significant resources devoted to maintaining Wired's presence on AOL. Soon, AOL was making huge stars of its content providers, such as the Motley Fools. Wired was left behind. Again, I think this is of minor interest. Wired did not rise or fall because of a failed deal with AOL. BUT, how about this, you participants: are there any old stories, rumors, anecdotes about Wired that you have always wondered about?Were they true? Chances are, I know. So if there is anything specific that you are curious about, ask!
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Tue 19 Aug 03 06:19
I didn't talk to Anker very much or know him very well, but he really comes off as a soulless money-grubber in this book. Almost sociopathic.
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Tue 19 Aug 03 11:36
Oh, I don't know. I think he is more like The Artful Dodger in Oliver Twist - the character that, when he shows up, signals that somebody ELSE is about to get into a lot of trouble. The split in human nature that allows a person to be generous, humane, and easy-going in their personal life while being entirely self-interested in business dealings goes back to the dawn of capitalism... or further. It may be a sickness, or even an evil, but it is no individual pathology.
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Tue 19 Aug 03 12:26
There were far more dangerous personalities at Wired than Andrew, whose motivations and actions were so transparent.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 19 Aug 03 13:25
What is he doing now?
Chip Bayers (hotwired) Tue 19 Aug 03 13:45
He just quit as a partner at VC firm August Capital. No immediate plans. Carl says he's "retired."
Kevin Kelly (kk) Tue 19 Aug 03 18:00
Question for the day, Gary: When Wired is dead and buried, what would you write for its eptiaph?
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Tue 19 Aug 03 20:07
>There were far more dangerous personalities at Wired than Andrew, whose motivations and actions were so transparent. Good point.
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Wed 20 Aug 03 11:41
I had two quotes chosen for the front of the book. The one I used is from Marshall McLuhan, and I chose it because it perfectly mixes seriousness and parody. But somewhere in my boxes of books in the garage is a political biography of Napoleon by George Lefebvre, which was the source of the other quote, the one I didn't use. The question about Wired will always be: with such a prescient understand of what was coming next, why was there so much trouble navigating? I don't have the book in front of me, but I remember Lefebvre saying something like: "...his mind was always on the future, but since his ambition was insatiable, he was always improvising." I think this perfectly explains Wired's behavior and its fate.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 20 Aug 03 12:22
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