AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

You’ve Got Blog

You’ve Got Blog” by Rebecca Mead is probably my favorite blogging-related article, and perhaps even one of the influences that got me blogging.

Here’s the beginning of the article, written back in 2000 (I only heard of blogging in 2003);

“Meg Hourihan was in a bad mood. She had nothing major to
worry about, but she was afflicted by the triple malaise of a
woman in her late twenties: (a) the weather was lousy; (b) she
was working too hard; and (c) she didn’t have a boyfriend. Nothing,
not even eating, seemed very interesting to her. The only thing
that did sound appealing was moving to France and finding a hot
new French boyfriend, but even when she talked about that idea
she struck a sardonic, yeah-right-like-I’m-really-going-to-do-that
kind of tone.

I know this about Meg because I read it a few months ago
on her personal Web site, which is called Megnut.com. I’ve been
reading Megnut for a while now, and so I know all kinds of things
about its author, like how much she loved Hilary Swank in “Boys
Don’t Cry,” and how she wishes there were good fish tacos
to be had in San Francisco, where she lives. I know she’s a feminist,
and that she writes short stories, and that she’s close to her
mom. I know that she’s a little dreamy and idealistic; that she
fervently believes there is a distinction between “dot-com
people,” who are involved in the Internet for its I.P.O.
opportunities, and “web people,” who are in love with
the imaginative possibilities presented by the medium, and that
she counts herself among the latter.”

Meg, by the way, is one of the people behind Blogger.com.

I guess I also fell in love with this article because of the romantic time travel bit (no, really, not much makes me go “aww”, not even cute, chubby babies, but interestingly geeky romance does, for some reason or another).

So yeah, the article goes on detailing how Meg recognized Jason, who she initially thought was stuck up due to something he wrote on his blog, at a culture conference, and Meg somehow managed to develop a crush on Jason which led to post on a mysterious crush on Megnut.com Tit leads to tat and they ended up ICQing and ta da…

I already knew that Meg and Jason were involved, because I’d been reading their Web sites; although neither of them had written anything about the relationship, there were hints throughout their recent entries. Those hints had also been under discussion on a Web site called Metafilter. Metafilter is a “community weblog,” which means that anyone who is a member can post a link to it. Most of the posts to Metafilter are links to news stories or weird Web sites, but in early June someone named Monkeyboy had linked to a photograph of Meg and Jason looking into Jason’s bathroom mirror. The picture was posted on a Web site belonging to a friend of Meg’s who collects photographs of the mirrors of Web celebrities. Monkeyboy also linked to Megnut’s “crush” entry, and to an entry that Jason had written on Kottke.org about Meg’s site design, and he posted them all on Metafilter with the words “So what’s up with this? I think there’s something going on here.” This generated a lively discussion, with some bloggers furthering the gossip by linking to other blogs whose authors had confessed to having crushes on Jason, while others wrote in suggesting it was none of anyone’s business.

This was back in 2000, six years later, Jason and Meg are engaged, which I think is totally “aww”. And it is “aww” right? I mean, this how a modern fairytale should be; screw prince charming’s on horses and beds of roses and stuff, dude, technology is the way to go.

Yeah.

[UPDATED: Since the article is not consistently online, here’s all of it for your reading pleasure]

The New Yorker
http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/001113fa_fact2

YOU’VE GOT BLOG
How to put your business, your boyfriend, and your life on-line.
by REBECCA MEAD
Issue of 2000-11-13
Posted 2006-05-29

Meg Hourihan was in a bad mood. She had nothing major to worry about, but she was afflicted by the triple malaise of a woman in her late twenties: (a) the weather was lousy; (b) she was working too hard; and (c) she didn’t have a boyfriend. Nothing, not even eating, seemed very interesting to her. The only thing that did sound appealing was moving to France and finding a hot new French boyfriend, but even when she talked about that idea she struck a sardonic, yeah-right-like-I’m-really-going-to-do-that kind of tone.

I know this about Meg because I read it a few months ago on her personal Web site, which is called Megnut.com. I’ve been reading Megnut for a while now, and so I know all kinds of things about its author, like how much she loved Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry,” and how she wishes there were good fish tacos to be had in San Francisco, where she lives. I know she’s a feminist, and that she writes short stories, and that she’s close to her mom. I know that she’s a little dreamy and idealistic; that she fervently believes there is a distinction between “dot-com people,” who are involved in the Internet for its I.P.O. opportunities, and “Web people,” who are in love with the imaginative possibilities presented by the medium, and that she counts herself among the latter.

Meg is one of the founders of a company called Pyra, which produces an Internet application known as Blogger. Blogger, which can be used free on the Internet, is a tool for creating a new kind of Web site that is known as a “weblog,” or “blog,” of which Megnut is an example. A blog consists primarily of links to other Web sites and commentary about those links. Having a blog is rather like publishing your own, on-line version of Reader’s Digest, with daily updates: you troll the Internet, and, when you find an article or a Web site that grabs you, you link to it—or, in weblog parlance, you “blog” it. Then other people who have blogs—they are known as bloggers—read your blog, and if they like it they blog your blog on their own blog.

Blogs often consist of links to articles that readers might otherwise have missed, and thus make for informative reading: it was via an excellent blog called Rebecca’s Pocket that I learned, for instance, that the Bangkok transit authority had introduced a ladies-only bus to protect female passengers from straphanging molestation. It also led me to a site devoted to burritos, where I underwent an on-line burrito analysis, in which my personality type was diagnosed according to my favorite burrito elements: “Your pairing of a meat-free burrito and all those fatty toppings indicates a dangerous ability to live with illusions.” Blogs often include links to sites that illuminate the matter at hand. For example, when Meg wrote about planting a plumeria cutting, she linked to a site called the Plumeria Place, which included a picture and a description of the plant.

Many bloggers have Internet-related jobs, and so they use their sites to keep other bloggers informed of the latest news in the world of Web design or copyright law. Jason Kottke, a Web designer from Minneapolis who maintains a site called Kottke.org, is widely admired among bloggers as a thoughtful critic of Web culture. (On the strength of the picture transmitted by his Webcam, he is also widely perceived as very cute. If you read around among blogs, you find that Kottke is virtually beset by blogging groupies.) Getting blogged by Kottke, or by Meg Hourihan or one of her colleagues at Pyra, is the blog equivalent of having your book featured on “Oprah”: it generally means a substantial boost in traffic—enough, perhaps, to earn the blog a mention on Beebo.org, which has functioned as a blog best-seller list. (An example from a blog called Fairvue.com: “Jason K. linked to Fairvue. My life is now complete.”)

The weblog format of links and commentary has been around for some years, but in the early days of weblogging the sites had to be built by hand, one block of code at a time, which meant that they were produced only by a handful of technology mavens. There were a few weblogs that earned a following among non-tech civilians—Jim Romenesko’s Medianews, a weblog of stories about the media business, is one; Arts & Letters Daily, a digest of intellectual affairs, is another—but most remained more specialized. A year and a half ago, there were only fifty or so weblogs; now the number has increased to thousands, with blogs like Megnut getting around a thousand visits a day. This growth is due in large part to Blogger, and a couple of other weblogging tools such as Pitas and EditThisPage, which have made launching a personal Web site far simpler.

Most of the new blogs are, like Megnut, intimate narratives rather than digests of links and commentary; to read them is to enter a world in which the personal lives of participants have become part of the public domain. Because the main audience for blogs is other bloggers—blogging etiquette requires that, if someone blogs your blog, you blog his blog back—reading blogs can feel a lot like listening in on a conversation among a group of friends who all know each other really well. Blogging, it turns out, is the CB radio of the Dave Eggers generation. And that is how, when Meg Hourihan followed up her French-boyfriend-depression posting with a stream-of-consciousness blog entry a few weeks later saying that she had developed a crush on someone but was afraid to act on it—”Maybe I’ve become very good at eluding love but that’s not a complaint I just want to get it all out of my head and put it somewhere else,” she wrote—her love life became not just her business but the business of bloggers everywhere.

Pyra, the company that produces Blogger, has its offices on the ground floor of a warehouse building on Townsend Street in SoMa, the former industrial district that is now home to many of San Francisco’s Internet businesses. The company, which was founded last year by Evan Williams (who has his own blog, Evhead.com) in collaboration with Meg Hourihan, occupies two computer-filled rooms that face each other across an atrium littered with random pieces of office furniture discarded by Internet startups whose fortunes took a dive when the Nasdaq did, last April. Pyra survived the dive, with some help from venture capitalists, and from Mr. and Mrs. Hourihan, Meg’s parents. (More recently, Advance Publications, which publishes this magazine, invested in Pyra.) Still, Ev and Meg ruefully talk about how they managed to get through the summer of 1999, the season of implausible I.P.O.s, without becoming rich.
“We first met at a party,” Meg explained, as she and I sat on a battered couch. Ev rolled his desk chair over to join us. Meg, who grew up in Boston and graduated from Tufts with a degree in English, is voluble and given to gesticulation. She is tall and athletic-looking, and has cropped spiky hair that last spring she bleached white-blond after polling the readers of her blog about her hairstyling options. Meg and Ev dated for a while before deciding that their shared passion for the Internet did not translate into a shared passion for each other; but then Ev drafted Meg to help him start Pyra, the goal of which was to develop a Web-based tool that would help project managers share information with co-workers. (They have since been joined by four other friends.)

“I knew she was very good at helping me think about ideas,” Ev said. Ev comes from Nebraska—he once blogged an aerial photograph of the family farm—and is taciturn and ironic; he has a beetling brow and a Tintin coif. In 1991, he dropped out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln after a year and launched his first Internet company, for which he still owes his parents money.

Blogger wasn’t part of Pyra’s original plan; Ev and a colleague, Paul Bausch, built it for fun, and then launched it on the Web one week in the summer of 1999, when Meg was on vacation.That fall, Blogger found plenty of users among geeks who were glad to have a tool that made weblogging easier; only recently, though, did Ev and Meg set aside their other Pyra plans. “It took us a long time to realize what we had with Blogger,” Meg said.

That afternoon, Meg sat down with me at her computer—I tried to stay out of the range of the Webcam that is trained on her whenever she sits at her desk—and showed me how Blogger works. To use Blogger, it helps to know a little of the computer language html, but, once you’ve set up your site, adding new chunks of text is as easy as sending an E-mail. Meg clicked open the Blogger inputting box, typed a few words, and showed me how she could hit one button and send the text to her site. The creators of Blogger think it may make posting items on the Web a little too easy; a new term, “blogorrhea,” has been coined to describe the kind of entries—”I’m tired,” or “This sucks”—that are the work of the unimaginative blogger.

While I was sitting at Meg’s desk, I noticed the bookmarks that she had on her Web browser. Among them were Evhead and Kottke.org. She had also marked Jason Kottke’s Webcam. Jason Kottke was the object of the crush that Meg had described in her blog a few months earlier. They met last March, at South by Southwest, an alternative-culture conference that takes place in Austin every spring.

“I recognized him immediately,” Meg wrote in an E-mail to me. “He was taller than I thought he’d be, but I knew it was him.” She had been reading his blog, Kottke.org, for ages. “I always thought he seemed cool and intelligent . . . but I thought he was a bit conceited. He was so well-known, and he wrote once about taking some on-line I.Q. tests and he actually posted his results, which I thought was showoffish.”

After meeting Jason, Meg changed her mind: “He seemed not at all conceited like I thought, and actually pretty funny and nice, and cute, much cuter than he ever appeared on his Webcam.”

Meg made sure she had an excuse to stay in touch—she offered to send Jason a customized version of Blogger code for him to try on Kottke.org. Once she got back to San Francisco, she said, “I wrote on Megnut that I had a crush, and he E-mailed me and said, ‘Who’s the crush on? Spill it, sister.’ So I E-mailed him back and said it was him. He was really surprised.” Meg took further electronic action to advance her aims, and altered her Web site so that it included her ICQ number—the number someone would need to send her an instant message, even though the last thing she wanted was to be inundated with instant messages from strangers. A couple of days later, Jason ICQ’d her for the first time. (“He fell for my trick,” she said.) That night, they instant-messaged for three hours. A week later, she shifted technologies again, and called him on the telephone. Then she invited him to San Francisco, and that was that.
Meg and Jason had been dating for two months when I visited San Francisco, and he was due to arrive from Minneapolis for the weekend. Meg told me about a Web device she uses called Flight Tracker: you type in a flight number, and a map is displayed, with an icon representing the location of the airplane. “I always look at it, and think, Oh, he’s over Nebraska now,” she said.

I already knew that Meg and Jason were involved, because I’d been reading their Web sites; although neither of them had written anything about the relationship, there were hints throughout their recent entries. Those hints had also been under discussion on a Web site called Metafilter. Metafilter is a “community weblog,” which means that anyone who is a member can post a link to it. Most of the posts to Metafilter are links to news stories or weird Web sites, but in early June someone named Monkeyboy had linked to a photograph of Meg and Jason looking into Jason’s bathroom mirror. The picture was posted on a Web site belonging to a friend of Meg’s who collects photographs of the mirrors of Web celebrities. Monkeyboy also linked to Megnut’s “crush” entry, and to an entry that Jason had written on Kottke.org about Meg’s site design, and he posted them all on Metafilter with the words “So what’s up with this? I think there’s something going on here.” This generated a lively discussion, with some bloggers furthering the gossip by linking to other blogs whose authors had confessed to having crushes on Jason, while others wrote in suggesting it was none of anyone’s business.

When I looked back at Jason’s blog for the period just after he met Meg, I found no references to a romance. Jason’s style is a little more sober. But there was one entry in which he seemed to be examining the boundary between his Web life and his non-Web life. He’d written that there were things going on in his life that were more personal than the stuff he usually wrote about in his weblog. “Why don’t I just write it down somewhere private . . . a Word doc on my computer or in a paper diary?” he asked himself, and his readers. “Somehow, that seems strange to me though. . . . The Web is the place for you to express your thoughts and feelings and such. To put those things elsewhere seems absurd.”

One day, I met Meg and Jason for breakfast. Jason, who is twenty-seven, is tall, with short hair and sideburns; he was wearing jeans and a Princess Mononoke T-shirt. She ordered a tofu scramble and soy latte, he had real eggs. I asked what it was like to have their private lives discussed among the members of their virtual community, and they said they thought it was funny. I asked whether they ever included hidden messages to each other in their blogs, an idea that seemed to surprise them. “Well, I did once use that word ‘tingly,’ ” Meg said. Jason blushed.
A few days later, they stoked the gossip further by posting identical entries on their Web sites: word-for-word accounts of seeing a young girl on a bicycle in the street, and descriptions of the childhood memories that it triggered. Then a strange thing happened. One by one, several bloggers copied the little-girl entry into their blogs, as if they had seen the child on the bicycle, too. Other bloggers started to write parodies of the little- girl entry. Still other bloggers started to post messages to Metafilter, asking what the hell was going on with all these sightings of little girls. When I sent Meg an E-mail about this outbreak, she wrote back, “I was especially struck by the number of people who thought it was a big prank pulled by the ‘popular’ kids to make fun of the uncool kids.”

There have been some ostentatious retreats from the blogging frenzy: last June, one well-known blogger named Derek Powazek announced in his blog that he wanted no part of it anymore, and that instead of addressing himself to the blogger community at large he would henceforth be writing with only a few friends and family members in mind. This announcement provoked a flurry of postings from neophyte bloggers, who feared they were facing the Twilight of Blogging before they had really had a chance to enjoy the Dawn of Blogging.

The people at Pyra, having generated a blog explosion with their Blogger software, aren’t entirely happy about the way blogs have developed. “It’s like being frustrated with your kid, when you know he could be doing so much more,” Ev told me. He and Meg have been developing different uses for Blogger, including ones from which they might actually make some money. One idea is to install Blogger on the intranets of companies, so that it can be used as a means of letting large groups share information. (Cisco is currently experimenting with using Blogger in-house to keep minutes of project meetings up to date.)

Meanwhile, Meg and Ev have developed a whole new level of celebrity status. Not long ago, a group of bloggers created a community blog called the Pyra Shrine. There are posts about how hot Meg is (“Megnut is da bomb. She’s one kewl lady”) and whether Ev needs a personal assistant (“You know, to make him coffee and get him stuff. I’d do it. For free, even!”). The whole thing is very silly, and completely irresistible if you’re a reader of Megnut or Evhead, or, indeed, if you are the creator of Megnut or Evhead. Meg linked to it on her site recently, and wrote, “O.K., I have to admit, this The Pyra Shrine cracks me up.”

It was through the Pyra Shrine that I learned, one day last month, that Jason was moving to San Francisco. (“That’s a big sacrifice. He must really love her,” one of the Shrine contributors had posted.) I E-mailed Meg, who told me that Jason had taken a new Web-design job and was driving across the country—he was probably in Wyoming at that very moment. I remarked that since he was in a car she couldn’t use Flight Tracker to see where he was.
“Oh yeah, it’s so bad,” she wrote back. “I’m so used to being able to communicate with him, or at least check in in some way all the time (Webcam, Flight Tracker, ICQ, E-mail, etc.) and now there’s nothing. Well, except for phone at night, but still, seems like nothing compared with what I’ve gotten used to.”

Later that night, I called Meg, and she sounded excited. “He should be here in three or four days,” she said. Having mastered the techniques for having a digital relationship, she was finally ready for an analog one; and she hadn’t even had to move to France to get it.

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7 Comments

  1. It’s kinda creepy when you think about all the people that know about out lives, yet we know nothing about theirs.

  2. You’re a dork. But I still like you.

    Who ends a post with “technology is the way to go?”

    1992 called, they want their slogan back.

  3. but still…
    if you had to choose between horse back prince charming, or creepy net flick, you’d choose the prince…. right…?!?!

    or you have another scenario…?!?!

    thanks, this story gave us hope again in the more possible ways we missed on finding true love…..!!!

    nah, just kidding….

    good post, nice narrating, would like to read short stories of your own…

  4. Omar, it’s really freaky. No, seriously.

    Ameen, roo7 nam. But yeah, I still like you too. Arrab il Valetnines!

    ExZombie, wrong :P No seriously! I don’t want no charming prince…

  5. so you dig ugly guys….!!!
    that’s a first….!!!

    still hopeing to see you experiment on writting short stories….!!! (I don’t know why I keep bugging you with that?)

    and one last thing (which I’m pretty sure that I’ll keep annoying every other jordanian blogger with)
    when, where, and at what time is the JP bloggers meeting….?!?!

    I would like to take part in it…

    and do anyone have any links on the “shabria” the knife not the place….?!?!

  6. Ex Zombie, you are more than welcome to the meeting.
    As for short stories, I’ve never written any.

  7. nice, cozy place you got here :)..

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