inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #26 of 189: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #27 of 189: 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."
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #28 of 189: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #29 of 189: 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).
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #30 of 189: 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. 

---
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #31 of 189: 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.)
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #32 of 189: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #33 of 189: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #34 of 189: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #35 of 189: Dennis Wilen (the-voidmstr) Mon 18 Aug 03 14:53
    
A lot of that story ended up in his book.

Same with <bruces> (Cyprus).
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #36 of 189: 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."
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #37 of 189: 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).
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #38 of 189: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #39 of 189: Betsy Schwartz (betsys) Mon 18 Aug 03 17:05
    
The book the cable story ended up in was Cryptonomicon (sequel coming
out SOON!) 
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #40 of 189: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #41 of 189: 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!
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #42 of 189: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #43 of 189: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #44 of 189: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #45 of 189: Steve Silberman (digaman) Tue 19 Aug 03 13:25
    
What is he doing now?
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #46 of 189: 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."
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #47 of 189: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #48 of 189: 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.

 
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #49 of 189: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.192 : Gary Wolf, "Wired -- a Romance"
permalink #50 of 189: Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 20 Aug 03 12:22
    
Perfect.
  

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