As I was saying

As I was saying

Summary: When I met with Dan Farber last week to discuss closing InfoRouter down, we agreed I'd use a last post to both wind up the blog and detail my future plans. Although I'd intended to write this and release it tomorrow (Monday) it seems appropriate to work on it tonight and jump the gun a little.

TOPICS: Browser

When I met with Dan Farber last week to discuss closing InfoRouter down, we agreed I'd use a last post to both wind up the blog and detail my future plans. Although I'd intended to write this and release it tomorrow (Monday) it seems appropriate to work on it tonight and jump the gun a little. Also, I've got people breathing down my neck about releasing Parts II and III of Resignation Gang, and I'm stalling hoping I can announce some better bad news about the Gang first.

As you know, this has been a tough week for me and my family, with our beloved dog Murphy gone to the big Squirrel Chase in the sky. I thank you so much for your condolences and expressions of shared understanding of this passage. Lying on the sofa today, our cats slowly came over and curled around me, as the melancholy begins to lift.

Writing this blog has been in many ways the end of a journey for me. My brother was one of the first mainstream journalists to start writing a blog all those years ago, and although I only started a blog for real after I was fired from the back page column of InfoWorld, I always felt a kinship that perhaps sprang from the style of editor's notes I started writing as editor in chief and editorial director for XML and JavaPro magazines. Indeed, one of the things that led directly to my firing at InfoWorld was my refusal to hew to a new more traditional style mandated by the newly appointed CEO and editorial director. It wasn't that it was unreasonable; it was that I didn't want to do it. A blogger's choice in a mainstream world.

Following Mike Vizard to CRN, I began the same process I'd begun at InfoWorld by hiring Jon Udell, of seeding a blogging infrastructure inside CMP (the parent publishing company) by starting the first blog, named Steve Gillmor's Emerging Opps by Vizard in an attempt to somehow bridge the chasm between a channel book and a disruptive flamethrower. You notice I've linked to the blog here, in apparent conflict with The Death of Links. Well, you can scroll down a bit to where I started that crap in the first place, on September 30, 2003. Ironically or not, the permalink is broken.

Around that time, my friend John Taschek resigned as eWEEK Lab director (the job I held at InfoWorld) and I negotiated a deal between eWEEK print EIC Eric Lundquist and online czar Jim Louderback to write an OpEd column in the print book and run a section of the online site on collaboration and messaging. Of course, once again I offered myself as the guinea pig for's first blog. Each successive RSS opp, which is how I saw the process of tunneling under IT to establish blogging, and then RSS, as a strategic (and destabilizing) virus inside the mainstream trade press, moved a little faster than the last. Udell's success at commandeering the dominant page view metrics (and most of the InfoWorld brand integrity to boot) was by now becoming obvious to even the most entrenched ostriches (names withheld, as with links, because you already know who you are.)

Ironically or not, that first post of Steve Gillmor's Blogosphere is the only one that survives. The Wayback Machine provides the rest, like this post about the first Gillmor Gang, right up to the day I was fired in July, 2004. Only now, with Mike Vizard running Ziff Davis Online Enterprise, have blogs by such fine writers as Peter Coffee finally surfaced. Ironically or not.

It was at that I developed my profound loathing for the page view model, which I viewed (correctly of course) as the next big handbag to hell for the trade press who had escaped in the helicopters from the collapse of the print model. As with InfoWorld, I was fired for cause, in this case cause I just didn't give a damn what some online pinhead in the San Francisco office had to say about what journalism was all about. And when I sat next to Dan Farber some weeks before the eWEEK gig fell apart, I took a chance and spilt my guts while we waited for some press conference to start. When the ax fell, Dan conjured a contributing editor slot out of paper mache and chewing gum, and I started posting what first appeared as online columns and finally (hello IT) morphed into this blog in late October, 2004.

Amazingly, I haven't been fired this time, mostly because Farber has evolved into a close friend from a start as one of my best editors ever, and also because all this gibberish I've been spouting over the years about attention and now gestures turns out to be right on the money. As attention gained a capital A, so too did my star rise to the point where some folks are amazed that my brother Dan is related to me. Of course, I've seen Dan take the first step out of the pod bay and live to tell about it, making transitions such as Om Malik's and even Robert Scoble's a lot easier to fathom. I call him my younger smarter brother because a) it's true, and b) I'm afraid of him.

A little more about Farber, because although I promised I wouldn't post this before he saw it, I'm doing it anyway. He's turned blogging into a journalist art, reinvented himself as editor, stringer, photographer, budget magician (just look at the talent writing blogs for/with him on a fraction of the budget his CNET counterpart plays with), and whatever else it takes to keep so many balls floating in the air. If anything, I'm leaving because he's convinced me that anything is doable. It's one thing to champion user control of your own data, and quite another to conjur just the few breadcrumbs that it takes to let me nurse this spark into the full blown inferno it's become. Airfare to Gnomedex 5, hotel to OnHollywood, lunch when I couldn't afford the gas to get home and eat. And that's just the money. At every turn, even some that challenged his beliefs about his own business, he's there to stick together and offer the best an editor and friend can, a nod of approval and more importantly, the right tone to tell me when I'm off the rails.

I've had a lot of occasion to cry these last weeks; the Valley has become a feeding frenzy as the reboot suddenly becomes obvious to everybody. As I leave InfoRouter behind, I am no longer amazed at the vitriol that pours from those who would ascribe the most venal, pathetic, short-sighted, and twisted motives to the pure joy of writing what I see and hear and feel. Imagine for a moment, those who I am calling out--if you were the victim of those same attacks. Think about what would hurt you most, whether it is being fat, old, stupid, corrupt, pathetic, a loser in the hurtful sense of the word. Then brush that off and tell me what hurt worse--any or all of that lot, or the threat of taking away your freedom to communicate, complain, cry, bore, surprise, apologize, delight, and fail. No matter how insufferable I find the mean-spirited people who populate my little corner of this village, I still defend with every fibre of my being your right to spew that crap. Just remember that it's people like Dan Farber and Mike Vizard and Dave Winer and you, yes you, who are fighting to keep this network out of from under the Thumb.

So I've got my reasons for closing down InfoRouter, and tomorrow (if tomorrow is Tuesday) I'll be on a plane to New York to work with Seth Goldstein on some of the infrastructure for this new world we're sailing toward. If all goes well -- and I know it will -- those of you who want to join me in the next phase will just have to sit back and wait for the switch to occur. There will be similar upheaval with Gillmor Gang, but what will emerge will be worth the struggle. In the end, it's easy to tell who your friends are: they're the ones who pay attention. Thanks for listening -- and stay tuned.

Topic: Browser

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  •'s page-view model

    Steve: Congrats on the new gig, and condolences on your dog!

    As the guy who was in charge of at the time you
    were blogging for us, I have a somewhat different recollection of
    events. Sure, Ziff's sites were (and continue to be) monetized
    based on inventory to specific subjects. (This focus on page
    views continues with renewed intensity under Mike Vizard, who I
    also happen to consider a friend -- I don't believe there's been a
    revolution in Ziff's online revenue engine since Mike came on

    However, traffic wasn't the major issue with your
    blog, especially since we knew it was a trailblazer for us.

    Our big problem with paying you a monthly stipend out of our
    shallow free-lance budget was that you weren't actually
    [i]writing[/i] very much. I'm glad to see that your frequency has
    increased dramatically since switching to ZDNet, but at the time,
    we were paying you significant money for writing a dwindling
    number of blog entries a month. The only issue had
    with "attention" was that yours was obviously waning by the

    I wouldn't bother calling you out like this, but I'm personally
    offended by the cheap shot at our resident "online pinhead" in
    the San Francisco office, who did indeed try to coax you into
    producing enough to salvage this gig. I'm sorry you were too
    self-absorbed to recognize his efforts to help for what they

    Best of luck with your future endeavors,

    Matthew Rothenberg
    • Cheap shot

      You're right Matthew. I should have made it clear that the editor in question's constant lectures about how to write for the page view model were unwelcome, arrogant, and ultimately a waste of his talents as an editor. He was just doing his job, but your comments here betray your animus and a perspective about what my role was that was, and is, tunnelvision. However, you're doing your job protecting your editor and I respect that.
      • Animus

        Thanks for the response. I'm happy to see my message was received (although it seems obvious from your response that one person's tunnelvision is another's BS meter).

        RE my "animus": I'm not sure that even the hardest-core minimalist could argue that [i]not[/i] updating a blog represents a triumph of "attention" over the "page-view model."

        And by responding only to the peripheral personnel issue, you neatly sidestepped my primary contention: We didn't burn out on you based on page views, we burned out on you [i]because you weren't actually posting much of anything![/i] I could pay a high-school kid or my mom or a fire hydrant [i]not[/i] to post -- and pay them a lot less than we were shelling out to you based (ironically or not) on your past tech bona fides working for the mainstream media you affect to disdain.

        Dan Farber (another tech-press vet who I happen to regard as a mentor myself) has obviously achieved some sort of [i]modus vivendi[/i] with you that actually involved you producing work for pay. My congratulations to both of you for achieving that balance for as long as it lasted! I'm sorry we couldn't work such an arrangement out on our site, but it's simply tacky to try to shift that blame to a third party who was trying to do his job.

        Matthew Rothenberg
  • RE: As I was saying

    Anyone who loves the Art Ensemble of Chicago appreciates Steve Gillmor's prose style. Like Pharoah Sanders Gillmor blows a mean horn with a gentle touch. Encore!