The Next First Day

Today is the first workday of the new year. For most of us, that means the slow roll of the holidays is over. Today we answer all those emails we left unattended, resume work we left on hold in early December, and start filling up our calendars with meetings we’d rather not attend.

I’ve chosen a different path this year, for me, an uncertain path. I’m resolved to write here more frequently, even if what I produce isn’t exactly consistent with whatever it is I do for a living. The past four years have been strange – I started a political media company with a dear friend, it triumphed and it failed and it continues to this day. I learned more than I thought was possible, but my writing stagnated. I’ve decided to return to this blank space filling slowly with words – to prioritize it, to make it more important than the meetings and the unsent emails and the work left on hold late last year.

It’s a risk.

Twenty years ago, literally, almost to the day, I was reeling from the end of my second business (The Industry Standard), but back then I had a clear idea of what I was going to do next. It would be a book on search, on its history and its future, on its meaning and its most important company: Google. I had no idea how to write a book, though I had edited a few in my time at Wired. I was fascinated by blogs, I’d set up a few as an Adjunct Professor at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, and I figured if I wrote out loud about my reporting, something might come of it. Here’s the very first post I wrote on this site, in its entirety:

Finally we’ve got this thing up and running. I’m in New York, seeing old friends, interviewing folks for the book. In some cases they are one and the same.
I suppose this first post should outline the goals of this blog, but to be honest, that feels far too forced. Suffice that here I’ll post this and that which I find noteworthy or interesting, in particular as it relates to search, the subject of my first book, and secondarily as it relates to the warp and weft of traditional media as it intersects with technology.

That’s it. No one noticed, of course, why would they? Since then the post has accumulated some cruft – six comments in all, mostly spam. But I kept at it, writing into the void, and over time the site accumulated an audience of folks interested in the impact of search on the growing technology business.

At its peak that audience numbered more than 300,000 visitors a month. I was writing upwards of four or five posts a day. Most were pretty mundane, but every week or so I’d push something out that mattered – a rough draft of something that would end up in the book, for example. People started responding, a conversation ensued, and several new projects blossomed – the Web 2 conference, a magazine column, the idea for my next company, which became Federated Media.

Federated got big, and it took most of my time. As it prospered, struggled, and was sold, I wrote here only occasionally. I always felt the guilt of not tending to this particular garden. Friends starting asking me why I wasn’t doing what, in their minds, I was best at.

So I’m resolved to come back to this patch of land and dig around. I don’t expect anyone to notice, and that’s OK. I need to till the soil, clear the rocks and roots, and find out what might grow here. I hope to plant all manner of things mundane and material. Having your own domain means you can experiment, and I sense a new age of experimentation is upon us, finally. I think I’m finally in a place where I can allow myself to start something without really knowing where it’ll end up. Maybe this site will evolve into something personal, maybe I’ll find a subject I’m as passionate about now as I was about search twenty years ago. But one thing I know is this: If I don’t practice, if I don’t make myself sit down and write, I’ll never find out.

One thought on “The Next First Day”

  1. I, for one, will notice and I am guessing many others will as well. I have always enjoyed your writing/thinking from afar (and occasional industry panels). I am excited to dig in.

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