Friday, October 14, 2005

Dot Blog Boom

You'd have to live under a rock, or have a brown paper bag as your favorite hat, not to notice that things are getting very bullish and "dot com-like" in the blogosphere these days.

Two weeks ago, to have Jason Calacanis sell his baby Weblogs, Inc to AOL in the same week Dave Winer sold to Verisign -- well, that's just a public demonstration of the surge we've all been feeling privately this summer around the neighborhood (Blogsville USA). Winer was surprised by the supportive comments around both deals by bloggers. We were supportive because we know you guys were here from the start, in the trenches with us. We know it wasn't easy for you guys either. We know how tough it was in the beginning.

So what to do about this atmosphere of fame and fortune suddenly being visited on blogging? A bunch of us were talking about that at dinner Monday night in Seattle at MSN Search Champs Camp. The "champs" included Chris Pirillo, Robert Scoble, Mary Hodder, Liz Lawley, Gina Trapani, Andru Edwards, Raymond Chen and yours truly, Halley Suitt. (So sorry Marc Orchant was stuck in Salt Lake City's airport!) Also a pile of smarties from the MSN Search Team were there to add their very valuable two cents. I have nothing but good to say about them.

We're the kids in the neighborhood that used to play stickball and now are getting the chance to don fancy street hockey equipment and flashy new rollerblades. But hey, wait a minute! The thing we loved about the blogosphere was how down and dirty and NOT flashy it was. It grew up in a culture (think 2000 - 2001 days) of economic disaster and was all about making something from nothing, or less than nothing.

It's a bit like being the nerdy geek girl who never had a date in high school and then suddenly gets a make-over in college, is revealed to be a babe and the boys are knocking down her door. It all feels like a little TOO MUCH.

I guess we all wondered Monday night if these newly arrived MEN WITH MONEY will twist, divert or blow up the bridges on this natural path of innovation we have been walking in the blogosphere. We made editorial decisions and built blogs based on passion -- because that's all we had in the beginning -- when there was no money and the need to amuse and entertain one another was the key motivator in blogging.

You could hack together any old thing and be a complete maniac and blog any old shit and be perfectly stupid but fun, because nobody was watching ... or only a few of us were. It was a culture of freedom we all miss, since it's already gotten less free around here. We were talking about how this sense of celebrity many of us find coming down around us, feels just plain weird and constraining, makes it harder to just be yourself on the blog page and is not always welcome. It's disingenuous to say the fame part doesn't have it's perqs, but the reason we're here is because we were here when blogging wasn't cool, wasn't well-known, wasn't lucrative and never promised to make you famous.

All of us had to answer those questions in the early days, "What the hell is a blog? Why do you do this for no money? What's a trackback?" on and on, and now this onrush of fans and supporters makes you think, where were you back in the good old days when we were barely making it?

The dinner plate said it all to me ... it was surf and turf and Mary Hodder and I looked down at it, shocked to see such a plentiful plate, an amazing piece of prime rib WITH a gorgeous piece of salmon. An embarrassment of riches really for bloggers who were used to the old days, when we were throwing together blogger dinners of cheap Chinese food and hoping to hell when the bill came we could each come up with $9.00 or less.

So what did we take away from the dinner ... full bellies for sure, and a bit of nostalgia for the days when we were all a lot more hungry. All we want to do now is remember how we got here, keep true to the spirit of blogging, being weird and wild on the page when we want to, ignoring the deals flying by, and if they come after you with flowers and candy, only take it seriously if it can help you reach more people with your same truthful content and you can keep your good sense and soul in the process. Is that too much to ask?