No endings this time, just another beginning . . .
I first met Jason Calacanis at a blogging.la meetup three or so years ago. I didn't know anything about his company, Weblogs, Inc., or his history with the Silicon Alley Reporter, but after talking with him for about fifteen minutes, I respected him. He was one of the first people I talked to back then who really grokked where things were going on the Internets, who understood the importance of content, transparency, respect for the audience, and all the principles that drove me to found Monolith Press and self-publish Dancing Barefoot.
Over the next year or so, Jason kept trying to get me to write for Weblogs, but there wasn't a blog in their network that really fit with my passions . . . until they launched a poker blog. During an all-night hold'em session in Tahoe at Gnomedex, Jason and I talked about poker blogging, the popularity of poker online, and how online poker was making hold'em the bridge of our generation. Over the next few months, Jason asked me so many times to write for the poker blog, you could almost call it "courting," but since there were no flowers or chocolates involved, we'll just call it something else, like . . . uh . . . pursuing. Yeah, that works.
Eventually, after countless WWdN readers bitched me out about writing poker stories on my blog, I realized that I was leaving money that could be helping my family on the table, and I would be stupid to keep telling Jason no. It was a perfect way for me to write about stuff I loved and put some food on the table without alienating a lot of readers. We worked out some details, and I joined the team at CardSquad. We ate Sir Robin's Minstrels, and there was much rejoicing.
After a few months at CardSquad, Brad Hill, a senior editor at Weblogs, asked me if I'd be interested in writing some TNG reviews for TV Squad. I could do whatever I wanted, he told me, and turn them in on a schedule that was convenient to me. This one was a no-brainer, and after a negotiation that I think lasted all of six minutes, I signed up. I've done five of them now, and after finding my groove and voice, I'm really excited to do as many as I can before the jokes get old and the audience gets bored. I even have my own awesome-o banner!
So what's with all this history? It's to illustrate that I really like working for Weblogs, and though I don't always agree with him, I like and respect Jason. I've learned that he's right about things way more often than he's wrong, and when he comes to me with an idea or a job offer, I listen.
A little over a year ago, Jason took me out to lunch to discuss something he cryptically called "a really cool thing that I think you'd be perfect for." During this lunch, he told me that he'd been given the Netscape domain (which was owned by AOL) and given the task of doing something awesome with it. Jason was a big fan of Digg and del.icio.us, and had some ideas on creating a social news portal with a twist: in addition to content submitted by users, he would have full-time staffers (called Navigators) who would seek out content, and full-time staffers (called Anchors) who would do follow-up "meta" journalism on popular or controversial stories, make really important stories sticky, and some other things that involved pushing Big Red Buttons.
"I want you to be a Navigator," he said.
"Why me?" I said.
"Because you're passionate, you're constantly online, and people listen to you when you link them to things. I think you're a good match for what we want to do with Netscape."
We talked about a lot of stuff that's under NDA, and I left the meeting rather intrigued and not just a little excited. Here was an opportunity to be involved with something I already liked (I absolutely love Digg, Reddit, and Fark.) and to be part of it from the very beginning. It was also an opportunity to support my family, help build the college fund for Ryan, and hopefully free up some time to write another book.
See, I really want to write another book, even if it's a Dancing Barefoot-like compilation of stuff that I really like (in fact, that's exactly what the next one is) but there just wasn't time or creative energy to write for myself when I was done with all my various freelance gigs. Working for Netscape would go a very long way toward freeing me up a bit, and giving me the opportunity to write a follow-up to Just A Geek, or maybe even the coveted work of fiction that I've been too chicken to attempt.
Jason and I talked about it several times over the next couple of months, and eventually I got to see a preview of the new Netscape. I was really blown away by the changes they'd made, and their plans for its first year. There's a lot of philosophy underlying the whole project that dovetails with the stuff we're doing at Revision 3: just like I believe that on-demand is part of the future of television, I believe that socially-driven news sites like Fark, Digg, Reddit, and Netscape will eventually become the primary way people will get their news and information in the future. Also like Revision 3 and InDigital, I would be joining a team of passionate and talented people who were taking a chance and challenging the status quo. It was another no-brainer, and I accepted the job.
Last month, I became a Netscape Navigator. Every morning, I drive a truck down the Internets, find stories that I think are worthwhile, and bookmark them for others to vote on. Instead of putting lots of links here, I put them there, sort of the same way I put my poker stuff at CardSquad. See how that works? Everyone wins.
This isn't a full-time gig for me, but I'm spending a few hours a day posting stories and participating in discussions about them. In fact, I'd love it if WWdN readers would become members at Netscape, add me as a friend, and get in on the fun. There's even a super-cool firefox add-on that lets you see what your friends are doing in near real-time. Note: I am told that folks who do not live in the US are running into a hassle because they don't have a US ZIP code to use when they join. Until the development team can work on that (our Fearless Leader at Netscape, C.K., poked them with a stick about it just now) you can put in a ZIP code for a US city near you (if you're in Canada or Mexico) or something else if you're in europe or some other far off mysterious land. I suggest 91505 because you'll know what the weather is like in beautiful downtown Burbank.
I think that's it for beginnings, at least for the near future. I hope that the next ending will be the ending of not enough time and creative energy, leading to a beginning that involves Monolith Press and a lot of words on paper.