Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 20 Aug 03 14:44
Gary: a dangerously ambitious question. Let's say, for the sake of rhetoric, that Wired is broken. (I don't think it is. In fact, I think it's doing very well. But.) So fix it. How?
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Wed 20 Aug 03 15:02
OK, refine that hypothetical. How are we imagining it to be broken?
Steve Silberman (digaman) Wed 20 Aug 03 15:05
That was up to you. :) You can just skip over that question if you like (or if you're sane.) I was just inviting you to retool Wired at will.
Kurt Sigmon (kd-scigmon) Wed 20 Aug 03 15:34
I just found Gary's own explanation of the Romance subtitle, leading chapter 14 - The End "In tragedy everything is lost, in comedy everything is gained, but romance is a mixed genre, whose happy outcome is never free of shadows." Very nicely put.
Kevin Kelly (kk) Wed 20 Aug 03 18:01
Yes Gary we have moved you from author about Wired to consultant to Wired. Now that you have a clear historical trajectory, where and how do you aim Wired?
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Wed 20 Aug 03 19:13
but, does he also get moved from writer money to consultant money?
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Thu 21 Aug 03 10:16
Making a magazine is hard, and though I understand pretty well how Wired worked from 1993 to 1997, when the main part of my story comes to an end, I'm not certain that qualifies me to tell today's publisher and editor what to do. I've noticed, in watching reaction to the book, how much strong opinion about Wired remains - both positive and negative, as always. Just the other day, in an interview with KRON television here in the San Francisco, the host of the show, at the end of the interview, held the book up to the camera and said a few nice things about it before pointing at the title and remarking: "It's called Wired - A Romance. It could also be called Wired - A Scam!" I hadn't said anything of the sort, of course. This was an expression of the always exciting hostility that remains, especially in media circles, when the topic of Wired comes up. With this, and with a revisionist history of the Internet bubble now ascendant (let's see, it all started with Enron and pets.com, right?), Wired has a difficult job, and I think it's succeeding rather well. As a reader I miss the visual inventiveness and the off-the-wall narratives, as a writer I miss the chance to do fictional interviews. These were very fun. In exchange, the magazine has become more reliable, more consistent, more journalistic.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Thu 21 Aug 03 10:46
Why is "scam" off the mark? Not for readers but for investors and vendors. You certainly described a certain amount of scrounging for funds to keep this startup business alive, and there were promises made that were not yet true and might have ever been true if the stars didn't line up right. I don't know if it crosses the line to a full-fledged scam, but it's not exactly honest work either.
Rip Van Winkle (keta) Thu 21 Aug 03 12:45
Who would you say thought of Wired as "our" or "my" magazine in its heyday? Who thinks of it that way now? (For an example of what I'm wondering, compare the attitude toward, say the Whole Earth Catalog and Coevolution Quarterly in their heyday vs. Whole Earth Magazine now. Or Deadheads circa 1969 vs 1978 vs 1985 vs 2003.)
Kevin Kelly (kk) Thu 21 Aug 03 18:15
Brian, that's why I encourage folks to read Gary's book. As he makes clear, quoting Louis: "Every person who ever touched Wired made money." In that way, Wired was unlike most of the rest of the dot.com wave.
Gerard Van der Leun (boswell) Thu 21 Aug 03 18:34
Yup, I think I made about $400. A veritable cash cow, that magazine.
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Thu 21 Aug 03 19:52
Hey, Boswell! I feel an urge to step aside and let one of the more interesting people who plays a small role in the book speak for himself. As for the question of a scam - okay - Brian's point is well taken. If by scam you mean that in Wired's scrappy start-up phase there were numerous incidents of advantage-taking (things consumed that would be actually be paid for only in the case of success, etc) then you are right. These are the ugly truths of many thinly funded start ups, which does not make them right. Still, in the whole world of scams, these are very minor ones. But the scam accusation usually refers to the idea that Wired cooked up a whole stock market bubble on a theory that the editors knew to be false, in the service of a scheme to get away with their own IPO before the concoction deflated. That's one way to tell the story, but it's not the one I chose. I think it is a crude caricature, and essentially false.
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Thu 21 Aug 03 19:55
Who thought of Wired as "their" magazine? The core fans were men between the ages of 25 and 45, often with technical backgrounds, for whom Wired gave a larger, exciting cultural context for work they knew to be important.
Gerard Van der Leun (boswell) Thu 21 Aug 03 20:31
That's certainly correct. When that changed, and the "management" changed, Wired became what it is today. Sad, really, but all magazines follow the arc of life in general. Wired's was just a bit accelerated. But then again, all things were in those days. Now, like a lot of other magazines, it is just running on fumes. Do I have a small role in the book? If so, I'll have to order it up from Amazon.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 21 Aug 03 20:39
I came to think of Wired as a glossy 'zine. In fact, one of our local newsstands here in Austin grouped Wired with the rest of the zines, right by Iron Feather, as I recall. (And not far from our own Fringe Ware Review, an image of which our operatives within the Wired establishment dropped, prominently, onto the inside cover of an early issue.) Wired had EFF connections; EFF members got a free copy of Wired #1, and some members complained because they assumed that EFF had given its member list to Wired (the actual case, I seem to recall, was that Wired gave EFF the magazines and EFF added the address labels). When the various hopeful protochapters of EFF were meeting in Atlanta, only to be told that EFF had decided not to do chapters, that first issue had just appeared on the stands featuring on its cover EFF-Austin's most vocal member, Bruce Sterling. While Howard Dean was still taking throat cultures, we were seeing the political potential of the Internet, and Wired was focusing that kind of energy ... from libertarians, mostly - the technoliterate cyberselfish crowd. Okay, so it was one-dimensional politics - the vision was still there.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 21 Aug 03 20:40
Slipped by Boswell, a former EFF employee... ;-)
Gerard Van der Leun (boswell) Thu 21 Aug 03 22:15
...who wrote for Wired #1 -- but never again.
Dan Mitchell (mitchell) Fri 22 Aug 03 06:55
>Now, like a lot of other magazines, it is just running on fumes. If you mean ad-wise, I think you are wrong. Things have been steadily improving from what I can tell. And circulation remains high -- it's even grown some. If you mean editorially, I know for sure you are wrong, though of course this is more subjective.
Gary Wolf (garyisaacwolf) Fri 22 Aug 03 09:25
Yes, Boswell is mentioned in the book in connection with the famous "leaked" memo. He is described as a member of the Well and as a prankster of sorts - prankster is proceeded by an adjective: inveterate, or infamous, or perhaps merely the more mild "well-known." I don't want to ruin a sale... After all, in the high reaches of Amazon where this book dwells, each copy matters.
Gerard Van der Leun (boswell) Fri 22 Aug 03 10:27
The boswell bent over his keyboard, A prankster of sorts. Wired's money was green. They said, "You have a blue keyboard, You do not play things as they are scored." The boswell replied, "Things as they are scored Are changed upon the blue keyboard." And they said to him, "But email, you must, A memo that will screw us, yet ourselves, An email typed upon the blue keyboard, Of things exactly as they are scored."
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 22 Aug 03 13:12
> fumes Wow, what a surprise, that blackout! Not if you read the cover story I wrote for Wired about the sad state of the national grid in 2001 and possible solutions: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.07/juice_pr.html May, 2002. Time magazine publishes a cover story about rising rates of autism, with a sidebar called "The Geek Syndrome" about autism increasing even more rapidly in Silicon Valley. What a surprise. Not if you read my story "The Geek Syndrome," published six months earlier: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aspergers_pr.html March, 2002. John Ashcroft announces that the FBI has smashed the "largest ring of child pornographers in history." Operation Candyman is hailed as a major FBI success amidst the 9/11 mess. One year later, two federal judges throw out Candyman cases, citing the FBI's "reckless disregard for the truth" and massive invasions of privacy. The only national news story that dared question the bureau's actions was mine, published five months before the judges threw out the cases: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.10/kidporn_pr.html Pure reckless self-promotion here, but I'm sure every Wired writer could post their own list of stories that proved equally prophetic. Those "fumes" that Wired is running on still seem to be potent enough to allow us to kick the asses of most mainstream media on a regular enough basis to make the magazine worth reading. Unless you're more concerned with whether or not Wired is as bleeding edge hip as it used to be. Rant over.
Steve Silberman (digaman) Fri 22 Aug 03 13:17
By the way, hi Gerard! I love you and miss you. The stinging rebuke in my post was not for you personally, but reflects the exasperation of someone who works to keep Wired relevant and solid amid a chorus of yawns about how Wired isn't as k00l as it used to be.
Kevin Kelly (kk) Fri 22 Aug 03 14:46
Gary, we are all bit players in this tale. Have you heard from any reader who had never read Wired -- only heard about it -- and then read your book? Did it work for the unitiated?
Gerard Van der Leun (boswell) Fri 22 Aug 03 19:17
Does it count if you haven't read it in three years. And diga, you are always first in my heart.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 23 Aug 03 07:40
Note to diga: Yeah, but have you had any *scoops*?! <grin> I recall a fellow zine publisher writing for Wired and mentioning 'kool points' as part of the allure (decent rates being the other). How could you go there, I asked him... you'll be EDITED! A whole crew of zinesters who'd opted out of professional journalism so that they could publish their prose as written eventually wrote pieces for Wired... I wonder if that was a pain, dealing with those independent voices? I recall at least one writer (actually a pro) who was irked by editorial changes to a piece he'd written and became, for that and other reasons, one of Wired's most vocal critics.
Members: Enter the conference to participate