"Just like the Internet was 10 years ago, blogging is popular with an underground culture that is doing it for the love and passion," said Tony Perkins, who edited the recently folded Red Herring technology magazine and last month launched a business blog called Always On Network.

"Now there are people like me coming along and trying to figure out how to package it," Perkins said. "It's time to take it to the next level."

Interesting thought. What level are we on? I guess it might look "underground" when you first join, but blogging has already past the "underground culture" phase, I think. Having said that, I'd like to continue doing it for love and passion.

Nick Denton says this about the article.

One of the most clueless articles in a while, on the weblog phenomenon. Stars Tony Perkins, editor-in-chief of the defunct Red Herring, and his new venture, a super-blog about technology that I can't even find through Google.
Henry Copeland blogs some thoughts and an exchange with Tony Perkins where Tony gets a bit defensive. Elizabeth Spiers blogs:
The funniest thing is Tony's attitude toward Henry—the who-do-you-think-you-are indignation. This is how blogs work, Tony. You generate content. Other people comment on it. And you're not always going to like what they say.
Tony comments on Elizabeth's blog in humble lowercase:
Tony Perkins
to the lovely elizabeth spiers who runs this site, i promise to work harder. i must say that the fact that a person as obviously as smart and qualified as you are can't find a single thing of value on AO is certainly dissapointing to me. if you don't mind, i will let you know when i finally post something that you might find useful. btw, i appreciate the feedback so far.
So... Where am I on this? I've signed up for and played around with AlwaysOn. It looks sort of like a blog, but doesn't feel like a blog for a variety of reasons other people have blogged already, but the articles feel like magazine columns and it doesn't have the linked-in/real-time/community-participation element that real blogs have. For instance, I think Dan Gillmor does a great job of blogging and having a weekly column separating his interaction with the blogging "underground" and the readers of his column. Two different groups of people.

On the other hand, I think Tony is turning on a lot of people in Silicon Valley and getting bigshots to blog is a good thing. I do think it would be better to try to learn how to blog before evangelizing though. I am a venture capitalist trying to figure out how to make money. Blogging feels like 1992 to me. Lots of tool builders, lots of buzz, pre-Yahoo, pre-Amazon. I'm doing what I did in '92. I'm immersing myself in the technology and the community. I started my blog June last year and am finally figuring out the nuances, which makes blogging so cool. You really have to do it and immerse yourself in it before you really "get it." I think the risk that Tony faces is that "taking it to the next level" before you understand the current level is that you might not bring all of the good stuff with you to that level. I am also trying to "take it to the next level" but I'm part of a group effort.

Anyway, I thought the interview with Idei was great. I think Tony's helping everyone become more aware of blogging generally and I wish him the best. It reminds me a bit of how I alienated the Japanese diary community when I started ranting about blogs in Japan. They were upset because I had not given them credit for popularizing the form in Japan and acting like blogging was a new thing. Maybe a lot of the negative reaction to Tony is a similar feeling. I do think that there are a lot of smart people in the "blog underground" that Tony should probably interact with more and calling us an underground culture is not the best way to make friends.

16 Comments

I'm not sure where you're coming from on that last sentence. Why would calling the current state of blogging underground alienate people?

I ask this for two reasons. One, blogging is still underground. I'm constantly finding myself having to explain blogging to people. In fact, I have only run across one person who knew about blogging when I first mentioned it to them. And she was just aware of the term, but did not have any interactions with them. You can't say something isn't underground when the majority of people have no idea what you're talking about.

Second, from a more personal side, I've been involved in a few underground movements and seen some of them grow into more populair movements. I know I'm being selfish to a certain degree but things were more fun when these things were underground. But, that's just a personal preference.

I can't help but wonder why you think people would take offense to someone calling blogs underground.

Interesting point Matt. Maybe my impression of the word "underground" is different from yours.


1. Situated, occurring, or operating below the surface of the earth: underground caverns; underground missile sites.
2.
a. Hidden or concealed; clandestine: underground resistance to the tyrant.
b. Of or relating to an organization involved in secret or illegal activity: underground trade in weapons.
3. Of or relating to an avant-garde movement or its films, publications, and art, usually privately produced and of special appeal and often concerned with social or artistic experiment.

So I guess if he meant that it was avant-garde or something and that were sort of ahead-of-the-pack, it might not feel so bad. I guess the sense that we needed him to "take it to the next level" made it seem like the current blogs were at a lower level and that the underground he was referring to was not going to go mainstream.

So I guess you could talk about how blogs are underground, but I would rather talk about all of the real-world impact blogs are already having and about all of the great tool-builders building stuff that might become the next big thing. Do they need help to get to the next level? Maybe... maybe not. The tone of the article just had that, "ok, you can step aside now... The cavalry has arrived." feeling.

Having said that, as I try to point out, maybe he will make a great contribution.

David Winer teaching blogging at Harvard doesn't seem very underground to me.

Is Tony Perkins doing something important with AlwaysOn, asks Joi Ito? The answer is he is packaging it effectively and that is significant. That doesn't mean he is taking blogging to the next level as much as doing the work any publisher would when shaping a new publication (which is just a different arrangement of the same letters and design notions on a page). We need to avoid confusing the tools with the thing created using the tools. Tony's not making that mistake, which is why people are talking about AlwaysOn. Is it a great source of information? Not yet, maybe never; we'll see.
Maybe I should cut Tony some more slack. He is trying to do something new with AlwaysOn and I am probably talking more about the tools. I just have a philosophical thing that maybe comes from being a geek. I just believe that understanding your tools well is essential when trying to be creative with the new media form.

Let's not forget Justin Hall. http://www.links.net/ As far as I'm concerned, he's the first blogger, ever. He was years ahead of everyone else.

Mike, it was Justin that convinced me to start blogging.

Oh, I know that. Sorry, didn't mean to say that you weren't giving him his props. The guy doesn't really get enough credit for it, in general, though.

Mike I agree. Justin's carefree and open style could be mistaken for ego, but it's much more about art than ego. He's not a self-promoter like many people and deserves more credit than he gets.

I think there is some validity to your problems with what Tony is saying. I imagen that his use of underground though was more to with the number of people who 'get it' versus the number of people who've never heard of it.

I like your comment though about whether we need him to take it all to the next level. That I think is the big quuestion. What will the next level look like? I also agree with you that the 'next level' needs to come from inside the community. Outsiders coming in and telling us how we need to work is not going to get anywhere. Fresh perspectives are useful, but there must be some kind of basis in thhe way things are currently done.

hey guys, really,

blogging as we know it is an underground activity.

The blogosphere is a weird world with lots of geeky terms. It might be that a lot of your immediate circle is into blogging, but outside of that, does anyone have a clue what it's about? I mean, does your postman even know what 'blog' means? What about the cleaning lady? Us technology types have isolated ourselves in our own little world again.

This guy perkins, his site is usable, his articles are ok, he gets a bit of meaningful discussion. These are the key aspects of a good blog site.

I'm not mad on the registration scheme, but it's not the worst one I've ever had to fill in (check out my profile if you're a member, my userid is 'fuckyou')

The whole thing is accessible and non-intimidating to someone who doesnt' know anything about blogging or RSS or any of the rest of it. The guy might be a bit full of himself, but he is having a go. That's a good thing. Fair play to him.

(Though I would like to know where he's getting the USD 65k revenue/month from.)

Antoin.

Antoin. Generally agree. It's good that he's having a go and some interesting things on the site. I think that actually the business networking parts like Ryze are maybe more important than the content once it works well.

Well, "Internet" was once a geeky term as was "World Wide Web" and "Browser."

Tony Perkins apologizes on Henry Copeland's blog

Tony Perkins
look guys (henry). i am sorry for my outburst. you are right. i was arrogant.
i just think it is important that if you are going to be hyper-critical of something, you really need to support your case with facts. and while AO is clearly a boostrap, and we should be given grief when we fail, you can't say that everything we are trying to do is a disaster. i just don't think this is warranted.
for example, to mr. butcher above, have your read the Idei interview? did you look at the comments? i think this was a pretty valauble piece. if you don't think so, then tell me why, don't just flame it.
whether you like my approach, which is really a b2b site aimed at digging up cool trends, new entrepreneurial opportunities, and connecting investors with people looking to get their ideas funded, it is what i have always done for a living. and it has been very rewarding.
clearly, i did not invent this new media form. i am coming in much later than most. but i appreciate what people like you all have done to make this happen. and i want to be a part of it, becuuse frankly it is the most fun i have ever had in my professional life.
so, again, if i could erase my last post, i would. i am sorry.
peace.
tony perkins

the botton line is i am trying to take in consideration a reader who is serious about technology business. in other words, AO must identify the companies and people that are driving the it and communications industries, and explain why they matter. we am experimenting with interviews, exceperts, and editorials, and encourange our members to repsond and send in their own original entries. so far, it has been incredibly fun. we are also listening to our members, and trying to adjust what we do accordingly. people should see AO for what it is—a boot-strap, experiment, betting on a new form of media that was pioneered by many great people before us. to these folks, we say thanks.

the botton line is i am trying to take in consideration a reader who is serious about technology business. in other words, AO must identify the companies and people that are driving the it and communications industries, and explain why they matter. we am experimenting with interviews, exceperts, and editorials, and encourange our members to repsond and send in their own original entries. so far, it has been incredibly fun. we are also listening to our members, and trying to adjust what we do accordingly. people should see AO for what it is—a boot-strap, experiment, betting on a new form of media that was pioneered by many great people before us. to these folks, we say thanks.

the botton line is i am trying to take in consideration a reader who is serious about technology business. in other words, AO must identify the companies and people that are driving the it and communications industries, and explain why they matter. we am experimenting with interviews, exceperts, and editorials, and encourange our members to repsond and send in their own original entries. so far, it has been incredibly fun. we are also listening to our members, and trying to adjust what we do accordingly. people should see AO for what it is—a boot-strap, experiment, betting on a new form of media that was pioneered by many great people before us. to these folks, we say thanks.

Tony, Tony, Tony...I'm really glad you framed that as "companies *and people* that are driving the it and communications industries," because it is most assuredly the people and not the companies that are making things interesting.

It's bloggers that are the story, not Pyra. It was the vibrant diversity of the user community that made Napster interesting (and a threat to the RIAA), not poor baseball-capped Shawn Fanning and his virtually assetless shell of a company. You'll see the same with moblogging, with place-tagging, with whatever aspects of ubicomp people find worth adopting.

The companies are just the excuses, the nodes around which people and their ideas accrete to do work in the world. You know this. Don't get hung up covering (let alone fetishizing) the culture of entities when it's the people within that are the real story.

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