We’ve got so much blog we don’t know where to put it all

cover of new yorker with you've got blogIt's hard to believe, but five years ago today Rebecca Mead's article You've Got Blog, How to put your business, your boyfriend, and your life on-line was published in the New Yorker. My how times have changed! Though the magazine uses the word 'blog' regularly now, Rebecca's article was the first about blogs for the magazine, and the first mention of the b-word in its pages.

The article was also a really big deal for me. Of course, you wouldn't know it from what I wrote at the time:

I'm only going to mention this once, right now: there's an article in this week's New Yorker (November 13, 2000, the cartoon edition), p.102. I'm in it.

That's because I was horrified by the article. When I'd spoken so freely to Rebecca about my life, I'd somehow assumed it was just background material because my understanding was that she'd be writing about our company, Pyra. When I opened the magazine and saw the first line, my heart sunk. I guess I was just embarrassed, or something. It just seemed so dumb and cheesy that an article that (in my mind) was supposed to be about blogs — important stuff! — was about — ick! — love instead!

It took a long time before I realized how good the article really was, how Rebecca had taken something obscure and geeky and placed it in a context every reader could understand. And after all this time, I don't think many other articles have come as close to getting to the heart of what blogging is about (or at least was about at that time).

A lot has changed in the five years since Rebecca wrote "You've Got Blog." Pretty much everyone knows what a blog is now, and most people are probably sick of hearing about them. Pyra was bought by Google, who now own Blogger. Neither Ev nor I nor any of the people who were involved in Blogger when Rebecca came to visit our offices in San Francisco are involved in the product anymore. Most of us don't even blog very consistently these days. And I don't think any of us qualify as "A-list" bloggers anymore — there certainly are no more shrines to Pyra!

And my life too has changed. I started another company and then left it. I left blogs and technology and I spent time working as a cook on Nantucket. Then I sort of came back to it, cooking less and less but never really diving back into tech. And Jason and I spent time in Paris, moved back east, spent more time in Paris, and moved around the east coast. Blogging grew and grew as my direct involvement in all things blog diminished, especially here on megnut.com.

I write a lot less these days, and rarely about such personal topics the way I did when Rebecca was reading. But there's something I've wanted to share for a while now, something I thought some of you might like to know, especially those who came to this site because of "You've Got Blog." Extra-especially those who wrote some of the nicest emails I've ever received in the history of this site, and those who wrote with words of support and encouragement about my relationship with Jason. I found one tonight that said simply, "Hope you two last a lifetime." 🙂

So for everyone who's been reading for five years, I just wanted you to know: a few months ago Jason and I got engaged. We're going to be married early next year. I guess we finally mastered the techniques for having an analog relationship as well.

Fifty years of Lolita

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita was published fifty years ago yesterday, and there's an interesting article in the New York Times, Forever Young, about its history. I hadn't realized Nabokov struggled to get it published, though of course that makes sense. Anyway, an interesting look at one of my favorite books.

Why the Beatles still rock

An interesting article in the New York Times, Why This Band Plays On, examines the continued popularity of the Beatles after all these years.

But fun on the level that the Beatles managed to achieve – at least in those days – implied more than a collective, thrilling scream. We remember the Beatles for their music and spectacle, but we celebrate them because, when they stood before their American audiences in 1964 and 1965, we witnessed the social and cultural power that a pop group and its audience could create and share. From there, I guess, you measure how much we've learned, or how much we've lost.

The Beatles broke up before I was even born, yet from the time I was little I've been a huge Beatles fan. In fifth grade some girls asked me in the locker room what my favorite song was and I remember telling them, "Either 'Ob-la-di Ob-la-da' or 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand'," torn as I was between my first love for early Beatles and my then-developing love for their later work. The girls scoffed and said something about old music not counting. Apparently I was supposed to like some song by Rick Springfield or something. Take that fifth grade girls! I don't see your precious Rick Springfield being mentioned in the Times these days!

Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in DisguiseIf you've been reading this site for a while (or checked my reading page) you know that I'm a fan of former New York Times restaurant critic and current Gourmet editor in cheif Ruth Reichl's memoirs. I recently read her newest, Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, which covers her stint at the Times. Both funny and touching, Ms. Reichl details the various disguises she employed to avoid detection as she dined at some of the great, and not so great, restaurants of New York City. Also included are the eventual reviews she wrote after the meals. A very hunger-inducing and enjoyable read.

A good beach book about France

Almost French: Love And A New Life In ParisI recently read Almost French: Love And A New Life In Paris by Sarah Turnbull, a delightful memoir of a young Australian woman who falls in love with a Frenchman and moves to Paris. It has all the requisite examples of screwing up in a foreign culture, and really captures a lot of the essence of not only being an outsider in a new land but real slices of Parisian life as well. It's a good beach read — nothing too strenuous — just the thing as you sit on the sand to make you day-dream of heading to Paris.

Looking at fonts underground

A neat article on Underground Typography compares the navigation of three major subway systems: London, New York, and Paris. I've ridden all three systems (though not London in ages) and I love that Paris and London tell you when the next train is due. Both those systems exhibit an orderliness that's apparent on the streets above. And the Paris metro font is amazing. But New York's subway, for all its grime and confusion, is my favorite because it's the embodiment of the city it serves: diverse, fast-paced, surprising, confusing, and awe-inspiring when you think of how it actually all works.

A profile of me by Tufts

Ages ago (well it seems that way), I went to Tufts University outside Boston, MA. More recently, the school interviewed me about Blogger, Pyra, and my web life. The interview in online here, A Web Of Innovation. I look a little stern in the pictures, perhaps because — while it looks nice and sunny outside — it was actually quite cold and I was freezing. And since I'm not a famous model, there was no truck with hot chocolate or an assistant with a big warm coat waiting for me off camera.

The NY Times wants fewer links

A couple months ago, I chatted with someone who said the New York Times was considering going to a subscription model for nytimes.com, similar to the Wall Street Journal. I said that would be a foolish and short-sighted decision on the Times' part; to place their content behind a subscription wall would be to remove themselves from online conversations now and in the future.

Adam L. Penenberg, in an article for wired.com on February 24, 2005 about the Wall Street Journal's for-pay approach, Whither The Wall Street Journal? expressed a similar point of view:

Since most people refuse to pay for WSJ stories, most bloggers are reluctant to link to them. It also has an impact on anyone who uses the web for research — and there are a lot of us. As importantly, the next generation of readers is growing up by accessing news over the internet, and one place they are not surfing to is WSJ.com. With their habits being formed now, there is little chance the Journal will become part of their lives, either now or in the future. (emphasis mine)

The Times should remove all barriers to content, from their registration requirement to their for-pay archive access

And yet, yesterday the Times issued a press release, The New York Times Announces TimesSelect – New Online Offering to Launch in September announcing their decision to move more content to an expensive for-pay only section of their site. This is a move in the wrong direction: The Times should remove all barriers to content, from their registration requirement to their for-pay archive access. Such action would enable and increase linking to their broad range of content.

As Jill Walker writes in her paper, Links and Power: The Political Economy of Linking on the Web, "Links have become the currency of the Web. With this economic value they also have power, affecting accessibility and knowledge on the Web."

Enabling more links to the New York Times would:

  • increase the visibility of the Times brand
  • help content reach a larger segment of readers
  • increase traffic to the site

Clearly, increased traffic would drive increased revenue in the form of online advertising. And in the long term, I believe it would generate more income than charging US$49.95 for an annual subscription. Perhaps US$49.95 is, as Martin Nisenholtz (senior vice president of digital operations for the Times) says, a "terrific price point" for what they're offering — if you happen to live in the US or western Europe. But it truly is a world wide web, with English as its de facto language.

As media brands increasingly become more global, it's hard to fathom why the Times wouldn't do everything in its power to ensure it's the world wide web's news leader. By charging for its online content, the Times reduces its number of linkable sources, and thus its reach in the online world. It's their first step towards ensuring they will play a smaller role in it going forward.

Cooking Under Fire on PBS

Finally, a reality TV show I can get into! On April 27, Cooking Under Fire will premiere on PBS.

Tracking 12 finalists plucked from the country's restaurants and culinary schools as they embark on a coast-to-coast cooking competition, this documentary-style series will bring viewers behind the scenes and into the kitchen. Each week, the aspiring chefs face intense cooking challenges, difficult deadlines, and the heated pressure of working against the clock. In order to survive, they must combine their kitchen savvy, unique style, and skills of organization and creativity to serve the judges a winning meal.

Contestants who fail to perform will run the risk of being "86ed" — taken off the competition menu and sent home. But success will bring them one step closer to the ultimate culinary prize: a chef position in one of restaurateur Todd English's Manhattan restaurants.

Michael Ruhlman — who you may recall is the author of some of my favorite books (see my The Soul of a Chef review) — will be one of three judges in the competition. It should be good since I've really enjoyed every PBS reality show I've seen (Frontier House, Colonial House, etc.) I'm looking forward to it!