March 10, 2005

A few weeks ago, über-blogger Jason Kottke announced that he was turning his back on corporate America and will now suck his own audience dry like a giant Amazonian leech, begging readers to support his on-going quest to out-link every other blogger and eliminate the hyphen from web-log forever. We at glassdog applaud such hubris and insanity, and in this exclusive interview, Mr. Kottke does his best to explain himself without alienating the very audience he expects to pay him for being Jason Kottke.

Glassdog: Jason, what the fuck?

Jason Kottke: First of all, I'd like to thank Lance for this opportunity and such a nuanced and interesting first question.

Well, the fuck is that I wasn't enjoying my professional life as much as I used to and it was putting a real damper on the rest of my life. I decided that if it was possible to change that and start doing something I love, I should go ahead and try to do that.

GD: Is this a move you would encourage anyone to make? For example, I hate my job, but I love health insurance. What sort of qualifications and circumstances did you consider when you decided to quit your job and become a professional URL recorder and cultural commentator?

JK: I wouldn't recommend doing it quite the way I did it. The way I look at it in retrospect, I spent 7-10 years preparing to do this...building an audience, working on the editorial direction, trying out a number of different things to see what stuck. Goals sometimes emerge from preparation instead of the other way around...that certainly happened in this case. Point is, if you want to do something (raise sheep, race motorcycles, write for a living, or whatever), look at your options and figure out how to do it, making sure it's in balance with the rest of your life. That goes for work, play, love, shelter...everything.

GD: Can you give us a short schedule of the average day of a professional blogger (assuming that's the title you've given yourself, or if not, whatever it is your business cards now read)? I get up at 6am to milk the cow(s) and feed the chicken(s), then it's off to the gym to beat the posers to the equipment before biking 10 miles in the snow to make it to the office where I spend 10-12 hours staring at a flatscreen monitor plotting global domination. Does any of that sound familiar?

JK: I sold the cows and chickens a few weeks ago because I couldn't really fit them into my business plan or freezer. The flatscreen monitor sounds familiar, but to be honest, it's all kind of a blur from when I wake up in the morning to when I snap out of the trance right before bedtime. I assume lunch and dinner happen somewhere in the middle there. But yeah, there's a lot of computer time. Hopefully things will get more interesting once I move into my office space later in the month.

GD: As a professional bloginator, or blogation agent, you have to spend all day roaming the web looking for original -- or at least interesting -- or at the very least not coma-inducing -- links and then adding a comment about them that hopefully proves you actually read the pages rather than simply found the link elsewhere and copied it to your own weblog-journal. What's your opinion about hat tips or what have you? If one (you) finds a link via another site, is one (you) obligated to credit the actual finder, or is it all just water under the blog? And what separates a link-worthy link from crapola?

JK: I give attribution when I can, but most of the time I'm browsing along and opening all sorts of articles and links in tabs and by the time I get around to looking at them or reading them, I have no idea where I got them from. Tracking down sources for everything would be way too time consuming to the point where I might as well not post anything at all. Any site I read regularly or get links from often I list in my sidebar as sort of a permanent attribution. So many sites get links from mine and don't attribute that I figure it's a wash in the end.

As far as linkworthiness goes, anything that I find interesting is a good link. How's that for a stupid answer?

GD: That's an excellent and stupid answer, or an excellently stupid answer, if you prefer. Now that you've given up on actually doing anything for a living -- making anything or contributing anything new or original or creating anything that anyone else might find, you know, useful or entertaining -- and are content to merely point out what other people are doing or saying or commenting on what you had for lunch or the sad state of TV now that Buffy is no more, do you think your decision is indicative of your generation's overall lack of initiative and disregard for society? What's the bigger picture here? And what's the difference between asking advertisers to pay for you to do nothing and begging your readers to do so?

JK: You're not talking about that old chestnut about Gen Xers being lazy and stupid and all that, are you? Because I think that got taken out back and shot several years ago. As far as what kind of value the "creative class" is adding to our culture, I'm probably as skeptical about that as you are. Paging Richard Florida...there's your next book. The CC is on the rise, but are they worth a damn?

GD: No, I was talking about you, specifically, doing nothing rather than an entire generation. But we'll move on. You've been going at this now for well over a week -- that's nearly a year in Blogger Time, or something close to 1400 klopniks in Swatch time. Have there been any surprises so far, or is it all as glamorous, ego-boosting and spam-inspired penis lengthening as you'd hoped?

JK: I find myself procrastinating a bit, just like I've done at any other job. The difference here is that the procrastination, which generally takes the form of aimlessly surfing the web, usually brings me back to the task at hand. Which is nice. But when I get started doing larger projects, I'm going to have to buckle down or start taking ritalin or something.

One more question or is that enough?

GD: One last question -- and then I really must get back to my programs. You would not believe what's happening on Passions these days. Anyhoo, Jason, thanks for your time and finally, when the grand history of the Web is wrote up by scholars and historians and lunatics, what do you hope your legacy will be?

JK: Probably little more than a tiny blip on the radar. I've never done anything that new or important, at least not anything that would get more than a few dozen people in the world excited. The history of the web favors builders of tools, not the users of those tools.

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