One of the site’s first logos, from some time in the mid 1990s.
Twenty years ago this week, it was an age of dial-up modems, Windows 95, Internet cafés, and the media hype over an alleged “Seattle Sound.”
I hate to use the old cliché “it was a simpler time.”
But in some respects it was.
The ol’ World Wide Web was a child just learning to walk. It seemed so full of possibilities. It hadn’t yet been tamed, corporatized, or commodified.
The “free”/”sharing” ideology of Grateful Dead bootleggers hadn’t yet taken completely over. There was still hope that journalists, musicians, and other “content” people might one day make a buck from this medium. (I know, crazy, right?)
I was in what turned out to be the middle of a seven-year writing stint with the Stranger. The paper itself had little interest in going online at the time, but allowed me to put my own material up on my own site.
I’d already been a regular at the Speakeasy Café in Belltown, essentially Seattle’s first Internet café. I’d been customer #23 on its then-novel home broadband service (which outlived the café, eventually becoming a business-to-business operation owned by something called MegaPath).
The Speakeasy people helped me learn rudimentary HTML and get a site up. I created some simple .JPG graphics, and reformatted (and, in some cases, retyped) columns and zine pieces I’d written over the previous nine years.
I didn’t call it a “web log” or “blog” at the time, but rather an online version of a classic “three-dot” newspaper column format. It originally wasn’t dependent on links to other websites, and it was only updated once or twice a week.
But it was one of the first sites anywhere to have a little bit of this and a little bit of that, curated and compiled from assorted info sources local and worldwide, based on an individual sensibility.
It allowed me to keep writing MISC after the Stranger fired me the first time.
For a while, it got me enough freelance work to live off of, at least until the first dot-com crash in ’01.
And I’ve kept at it ever since, more or less.
There have been times (such as most of last year) when I haven’t really felt like adding to it.
Times when I didn’t even want anyone to think of me as “a writer,” especially if that meant I was expected to gladly work for for-profit companies for free.
(I am not, nor have I ever been, independently wealthy, despite occasional rumors to the contrary.)
Even more than in the past, I’ve been obsessed with finding something, anything, that I could do specifically for money. Not for coolness, and certainly not for that dreaded term “exposure.”
And having the public image of “a writer” meant many people thought I couldn’t do, or wouldn’t want to do, anything else.
But the Seattle corporate world isn’t a fully welcoming place these days for someone who’s neither young nor a programmer.
And reinventing myself at my age (yes, it’s my own birthday today) would be possible, but perhaps more trouble than it would be worth. Especially if that reinvention involved student loan debt.
So I looked into what I could do that would exploit what I’m already known for doing.
Blog ads don’t earn a lot any more, unless you’ve got a really high readership in a national “market niche.”
And asking people to contribute money to a personal, occasional blog wasn’t much of a proposition.
But, perhaps, an information service that would contribute to people’s lives might be something people would want to support.
In 2007-8, I was involved with a group trying to start a local news site.
The project fell through for several reasons.
But the initial notion, of a single handy source for the day’s Seattle-area headlines, stayed with me.
There have been several attempts, but nothing that came close to the type of service I’d like to see.
So I’ve made my own.
It’s MISCmedia MAIL, and it starts today.
Each weekday morning, your email box will be filled with a brief, breezy summary of what’s going on around here.
It’s everything you’ve learned to love about this site, only in a much more useful form.
You can sign up for it at the handy box in the upper-left corner of this page.
Over the next few weeks and months I’ll be looking into ways to monetize it.
But for now, I’m working on building its audience.
Won’t you join us?