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Not 21 - Evan Williams: The Egotist
June 5, 2001 8:03 AM   Subscribe

Not 21 - Evan Williams: The Egotist I saw Evan from Blogger last month in the Industry Standard and then found this version of that article on the Signal vs. Noise site.
posted by webguyphil (42 comments total)

 
It's a poorly-written parody, everyone mentioned or involved in this story is too classy to discuss it, and the Pyra horse has been more thoroughly flogged on MeFi than anywhere else.

What about something productive or inspiring?
posted by anildash at 8:21 AM on June 5, 2001


It's a pity when people slag off others anonymously with petty generalizations and allegations. It's not worth the time for anyone to answer it (although many probably will).
posted by timothompson at 8:24 AM on June 5, 2001


If we're going to pretend we have any idea about what caused the Pyra breakup, can't we just blame it on Yoko and move on?
posted by rcade at 8:41 AM on June 5, 2001


The breakup was obviously caused by Ev's arms. Wow, are they hirsute!
posted by kindall at 8:47 AM on June 5, 2001


Somebody thinks they're being funny. Instead, they're just being stupid. Congratulations.
posted by camworld at 9:02 AM on June 5, 2001


At the "ground level" (me!), I don't really care WHY Ev started it, or what keeps him going - I'm just glad that the product/service exists - hell, I'd be willing to pay a modest fee for this great service. Same for MeFi - not particularly concerned about Matt's ideology, motives, sexual orientation, or social conscience - it's a great service/product, bottom line. What a pinhead that poster was.
posted by davidmsc at 10:18 AM on June 5, 2001


Evan Williams may arguably be a cow, but he is not sacred. It is amusing how quickly a certain Metafilter cadre leaps to discourage alternative readings of accepted indie-Web history. There are certainly enough facts – and on-the-record quotes – to support a theory that Ev and everyone else at Pyra drove the company into a ditch. As head of the firm, Ev should and must take the most blame, particularly if he’s been spending all this time taking the most credit.

Apparently some people are just too important to scrutinize in any but the most conventional, laudatory, mythic, and loving ways.
posted by joeclark at 10:36 AM on June 5, 2001


Not to disrupt the blogworld circle jerk too much but...

From the outside, this parody reads like a relatively probable, relatively plausible version of the diabetes-inducing gushjob from Industry Standard (as if anyone with a brain (outside the "Internet companies" it's targeted at) would ever take what they read there at face value...). Blogger? Outstanding idea, decent product, sub-optimal implementation, unusable (for any purpose other than personal pages) deployment - look back over that list and you start to get the idea that nobody associated with Pyra - including Williams, who as joeclark points out, has to take responsibility - was at all able to stop and figure out where the right time to sell was. You guys have the right to defend your friends and call their detractors "stupid" (I prefer "poopyhead" myself); perhaps it would be worth pausing a moment and reflecting on how stupid it is that the relatively simple structure of profit and loss seem to be beyond the comprehension of the dot.com.has.beens.that.never.really.were...
posted by m.polo at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2001


Wow, ya, I guess anything that makes fun of the beloved blogger can't be funny. *shrug*

But ah yes, takes me back to the grade school days when we would do the exact same thing to the school news paper.
posted by yupislyr at 10:43 AM on June 5, 2001


> figure out where the right time to sell was...

As has been mentioned countless times in a zillion other threads about Pyra/Blogger, Blogger was not "built to flip." We were more interested in building something meaningful, not making a quick buck.

The "right time to sell" depends on the right time within an organization, i.e. when the people who've built something are ready to let it go *and* the right time in the marketplace, i.e. when others are willing to pay for it. If these things don't occur simultaneously, it doesn't matter who had the sense to sell or didn't. You can't sell something no one will buy. And you can't buy something someone won't sell.
posted by megnut at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2001


What joeclark said.
posted by donkeyschlong at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2001


That entire piece in the Standard, with its sub-John Brockman bestowing of titles, deserved to be trampled into the dirt.
posted by holgate at 11:57 AM on June 5, 2001


I agree that the Standard piece goes beyond gushing, but the parody strikes me as much more bitter and spiteful than clever. No one should be elevated to the point that they can't be made fun of, but at least make it funny.
posted by gimli at 12:21 PM on June 5, 2001


The parody isn't funny, just nasty. I think it might have been better if the author had written a polemic under his own name.
posted by tranquileye at 12:26 PM on June 5, 2001


We were more interested in building something meaningful, not making a quick buck. [...] You can't sell something no one will buy. And you can't buy something someone won't sell.

So, Pyra was "building something meaningful" but a meaningful something that "no one will buy." And what Pyra had, a core product that showed strong promise was "something [Pyra] won't sell." And Pyra ceased to exist, basically because they were operating under some Planet Idaho rendering of the basic tenets of business. And because there's a zillion other threads that apparently discussed this, it's just too boring to talk about. Oh, yeah, and it's not funny to parody the self-important founder of the cult... sorry, company... posed like a brooding young Morrissey, in an article bemoaning the Lost Horizon of Pyra as if it were the Lost Treasure of Atlantis.

(It may well have been bitter and spiteful, gimli, but - again from the outside not having to know any of the referenced individuals personally - it's a pretty funny kind of bitter and spiteful...)
posted by m.polo at 12:28 PM on June 5, 2001


Maybe it's silly to make blogging into something grand, and have ideals and altruistic dreams about the web, or to use the word 'empowering' and really mean it, but there's nothing really wrong with that.

It seems that all the attacks on Pyra are out of proportion with the actual 'harm' they supposedly caused.
posted by FPN at 12:34 PM on June 5, 2001


polo, actually, no, I just didn't find the parody all that funny, and it had nothing to do with the subject. I am sure a wonderful world of humour is just waiting to be releaved by the talented writer who can make light of not just Ev, but Cameron Barrett, Joe Clark, Zeldman, and countless other webloggers and "online personalities." But leave Morrissey out of this, damn you.
posted by tranquileye at 12:43 PM on June 5, 2001


Morrissey, the last bastion of truly off-limits humour... (mailto:TGreen@mtv.com: Boy, do I have a pitch for your next film!) Come now, tranquileye, don't you think even Morrissey can laugh about Morrissey nowadays?!
posted by m.polo at 12:54 PM on June 5, 2001


Only if he's on Prozac, polo. Remember that.
posted by tranquileye at 1:03 PM on June 5, 2001


i'm famous! o/~ fame fame fatal fame...

i didn't realize you wrote poetry
i didn't realize you wrote such bloody awful poetry

posted by moz at 1:15 PM on June 5, 2001


Whatever the pro- or anti-Ev politics, there's a good point waiting to be extracted from both the Industry Standard original and its parody. Blogger is a potentially great service, one for which people would pay, which is being rendered impotent by its owners' refusal or inability to 'sell out'.

Blogger is more and more becoming a victim of its own success and so in the long run, if it's ever going to last and fulfil its great promise, the technology and marketing will need some real, permanent investment.
posted by tobyslater at 2:01 PM on June 5, 2001


Interesting. Whoever the author is, they're being clever. On May 27, I received an anonymous submission to CamWorld:

> Date: 27 May 2001 02:37:58 -0000
> To: @camworld.com
> Subject: Camworld Submission
>
> Name: N/A
>
> Email: N/A
>
> Link: http://www.geocities.com/not21egotist/
>
> Site: N/A
>
> User's browser was: SilentSurf/1.1x [en] (X11; I;
> $MyVersion)
> User's IP was: 63.87.244.21

The submission form I use logs the IP number and user-agent of the browser being used by the person submitting the info. In the past, I've had to use this information to track down people who have submitted controversial material to CamWorld or have written things about me that are less-than-flattering, and then submitted them to CamWorld in the hopes that I would get riled up. I have all of these incidents logged and know who the culprits in the past are, what OS's they are using, and what methods they have used to publicize their controversial works, slander, parodies, etc.

The intersting thing about the above submission is that the IP number doesn't resolve with an nslookup, but when you plug it into a web browser, you get to a page called Silent Surf, which matches the user-agent in the submission logs. Apparently, Silent Surf is a service running on a Linux box somewhere that allows people to surf anonymously. The person submitting this URL to CamWorld apparently went to great lengths to make sure I couldn't track him.

I have my own guesses of who the author is, but they are just guesses based on what I know about the people in the past who have been openly vocal about weblogging, the people behing Blogger, etc. and also who is smart enough to know that they needed to cover their tracks in this way. It narrows the list in my head down to 2-3 people.
posted by camworld at 2:31 PM on June 5, 2001


For someone who slams Microsoft for being the "evil empire" so often, you've got a pretty cavalier attitude about not disclosing the fact that you're grabbing people's IPs...
posted by owillis at 2:53 PM on June 5, 2001


Yeah I don't see a notice on the camworld website saying that you log people's IPs when they submit slanderous things to you.

I guess I shouldn't have submitted my lengthy less-than-flattering diatribe that way. Oops!
posted by FPN at 3:07 PM on June 5, 2001


and also who is smart enough to know that they needed to cover their tracks in this way.

Smart? I would think most people posting at me-fi know enough to cover their tracks if so inclined. Maybe I'm wrong.

As far as 'grabbing' IPs, fill out any form and chances are the other end is 'grabbing' it. Anonymity is a myth. It's not a matter of right or wrong, that's just a fact.
posted by justgary at 3:13 PM on June 5, 2001


I have a privacy statement on my site, and it says, in part:

"IP addresses are not generally considered personal information, and are outside the provisions of the [Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents] Act [of the Government of Canada]."

However, this was within the context of the Dreamhost server logs, which don't reveal click paths and so on. I did my privacy statement prior to installing an email form that does grab individual IP numbers; I will have to update to indicate that, yes, I will get your IP.

Which begs the question:

Is an IP address, in fact, personal information?

(What is wacky about this is that, because of my hacker\culture site, I get a plethora of kids each week emailing me to help them crack AOL and become a hacker... and they give away their IP each time. First rule of hacking: mask your damn IP.)

Wouldn't it be funny if the person who posted the Ev "parody" article was actually involved in this Metafilter thread?
posted by tranquileye at 3:38 PM on June 5, 2001


Wouldn't it be funny if it had been Ev?
posted by internook at 4:20 PM on June 5, 2001


You can't make a TCP/IP connection to another computer without that computer getting your IP address. Since the remote server will always have that information, you should never assume it will simply be discarded.
posted by kindall at 4:41 PM on June 5, 2001


I would venture that it isn't commonly expected on an email form that your IP will be sent to the recepient of the form (as only a url and name are requested). You expect your number to go to the machine (web server), but not in the form. Especially not when it comes from the site of someone who's views on privacy (and Microsoft's abuse of it) is so prevalent, that there's no notice or disclaimer of such. I'm just saying.
posted by owillis at 5:02 PM on June 5, 2001


Every time you submit any kind of form on a webpage (whether it be an email form, or a cgi script), you should expect that your IP is available to the website. It's just common sense since you know the data is available to the website, unless you're a true newbie that doesn't have a very basic idea of how a website works.
posted by gyc at 5:06 PM on June 5, 2001


It's just common sense since you know the data is available to the website, unless you're a true newbie that doesn't have a very basic idea of how a website works.

That definition of "true newbie" encompasses somewhere upwards of 99.9% of all Internet users. Just FYI.

Joe, Ev should inarguably take blame as the leader of a company that faced some degree of catastrophe. Apparently your envy of his site's traffic leads you to believe that an anonymously posted, feeble attempt at satire is equivalent to him taking blame?
posted by anildash at 5:47 PM on June 5, 2001


Joe, Ev should inarguably take blame as the leader of a company that faced some degree of catastrophe. Apparently your envy of his site's traffic leads you to believe that an anonymously posted, feeble attempt at satire is equivalent to him taking blame?
Poor Anil confuses a painting of a pipe with a pipe.

Traffic? Whatchyou talkin’ ’bout, Willis? Blogger traffic would swamp Luke's box, and neither of us would like that. I’d certainly be envious of Ev if he were cuter. I’d be envious of myself if I were cuter.
posted by joeclark at 7:25 PM on June 5, 2001


For someone who slams Microsoft for being the "evil empire" so often, you've got a pretty cavalier attitude about not disclosing the fact that you're grabbing people's IPs...

Uh hello. That's how the Internet works. Every time your browser hits a site, processes a form, or whatever, your IP number is being logged. There is nothing "evil" or even wrong about logging IP numbers. In fact, the privacy issues around doing such are very minimal. It only becomes a problem when that information is tied to other personal information and used, abused, or leveraged in a way that can be seen as unethical.

And when this community took it upon themselves to investigate the Kaycee hoax, there wasn't anything wrong about digging up so much personal information and posting it on a public site like this for the world to read?

As for why I log IP numbers on CamWorld, I have already told you. Incidents in the past have forced me to protect myself by logging such information in case I ever need to prove that someone is attempting to do unethical things with the personal information I publish on my site. This includes things like libel and slander.
posted by camworld at 7:33 PM on June 5, 2001


Um hello. Does it say anywhere on your site that you will tie in submissions to people's IP addresses? No. I'm just saying someone who's pro-privacy, pro-disclosure doesn't do it on their own site.
posted by owillis at 7:45 PM on June 5, 2001


Um hello. Does it say anywhere on your site that you will tie in submissions to people's IP addresses? No. I'm just saying someone who's pro-privacy, pro-disclosure doesn't do it on their own site.

This is a pointless argument. IP numbers are logged by every site, by default. When the government passes a law saying there needs to be such a disclaimer, then I will provide one. It makes no sense to provide a disclaimer for something that is so integral to how the Internet functions.

You're trying to make me look like I'm doing something wrong. I clearly am not. It's a free Internet. If you don't like the way it works, log off and read a book or something. May I suggest Preston Galla's "How the Internet Works."
posted by camworld at 8:23 PM on June 5, 2001


I wasn't accusing you of anything, just pointing out some logic gaps. "Do as I say, etc." I gotta book suggestion for you too.
posted by owillis at 8:38 PM on June 5, 2001


IP addresses are generally only useful in tracking down the internet service provider.

People here talk about them like as if they're a digital signature or something. In reality, they're only one piece of the puzzle, a clue as to where a person is coming from nothing more.

Also the IP in a web request can be easily anonymized as happened in Cams' case.
posted by lagado at 9:29 PM on June 5, 2001


Vincent: Not the same thing, the same ballpark.

Jules: It ain't no ballpark either. Look maybe your method of massage differs from mine, but touchin' his lady's feet, and stickin' your tongue in her holyiest of holies, ain't the same ballpark, ain't the same league, ain't even the same fuckin' sport. Foot massages don't mean shit.
(source)
And when this community took it upon themselves to investigate the Kaycee hoax, there wasn't anything wrong about digging up so much personal information and posting it on a public site like this for the world to read

I don't think the Kaycee thing and this goofy parody are in the same ballpark, nor in the same league, nor even the same sport.

Someone created a parody that was arguably funny, but you have to admit it was a good one in the strict sense of mechanics. The original piece was a bit over the top, and this parody is also over the top, but in the opposite direction. And the extent to which the writer of it did a sentence-for-sentence rewrite is impressive. It was done anonymously, and whoever did it covered their tracks well, but it boils down to a silly parody that is plainly fiction.

The Kaycee thing was a whole 'nother beast entirely.
posted by mathowie at 9:41 PM on June 5, 2001


Hmmmm...

A semi-pointless IP argument between camworld and owillis leads to amazon book recommendations. Then the initial post is nicely wrapped up by mathowie. His response contains a link to the IMDB which is part of amazon.

What fun...
posted by john at 10:22 PM on June 5, 2001


Blogger is a great tool, and I use it when it's working. I am eagerly (lazily?) awaiting the next version, however, that is free, open source, and can be installed at will. At some level I just don't trust a lot of web applications because the web isn't that stable, and you risk getting hosed by a failing business, connectivity problems, or the rapid adaptation of the product by thousands of others.
posted by mecran01 at 5:57 AM on June 6, 2001


Then you might want this.
posted by jga at 7:35 AM on June 6, 2001


That definition of "true newbie" encompasses somewhere upwards of 99.9% of all Internet users. Just FYI.

True. But you're assuming all newbies think the web is 'secure'. Many go the other way and over do the 'web is dangerous' idea. I had a grandmother who thought people could watch her through her monitor even though she wasn't online. Of course, she was a little crazy.

As far as grabbing IPs, maybe we should put a disclaimer on every website on the internet, since by simply visiting any site the owner can gather info on the visitor.

I think that's the only thing that could satisfy some people.
posted by justgary at 10:25 PM on June 7, 2001


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