I mentioned yesterday that I interviewed Heather Armstrong, who wrote the blog dooce and that she later wrote about how excruciating the experience was for her.
Armstrong took her own life this week. She was talented, funny, and insightful, and she helped invent professional blogging, which led to today’s social media influencers and indie journalists.
I was not offended by the piece Armstrong wrote after I interviewed her in 2006. I thought it was a fair rap. However, I was disappointed that I’d set out to interview someone I admired, and that person had found the experience horribly painful.
Yesterday, I said I was unable to locate Heather’s blog post, but a friend online found it and sent me the link this morning:
On being a total nutjob
A few weeks ago Jon and I gave an interview to an IT magazine for an article about accidental entrepreneurship. They wanted to know how this website now pays our mortgage when I originally started it so that I could make obnoxious fart jokes online. Short answer: I had to give a lot of head.
It was a phone interview, and they recorded it so that they could incorporate it into a podcast (when it’s posted I’ll link to it here), and I can honestly say that I have never been more uncomfortable giving an interview. One, it was only a couple days after I had discovered that someone I thought was a very cool person was making viciously mean comments about me in a public forum, and every time I answered a question into the phone I could hear in my head how this person would make fun of the way I said things. Two, in order to make sure that they had a clean edit for the podcast, the guy conducting the interview wouldn’t say anything for at least 10 seconds after I answered a question, and that disorienting pause made me think that my thrilling discourse had bored him into a coma.
Here’s the article that followed from that interview. It’s … fine. Not my best work, but not bad either.
Accidental Tech Entrepreneurs Turn Their Hobbies Into Livelihoods. InformationWeek interviewed five accidental entrepreneurs, including the founders of del.icio.us and Digg and the author of the blog Dooce, to find out how they freed themselves from the paycheck-to-paycheck grind.
The article I wrote is perhaps notable today as a time capsule of Internet history. I also interviewed Joshua Schachter, the co-founder of a bookmarking site called del.icio.us; Kevin Rose, who co-founded digg; Mena Trott, co-founder of Six Apart, the company behind Movable Type, LiveJournal, and TypePad; and Tom Davis, author of personal information manager software called Zoot, which is similar in mission to more recent applications like Evernote and Microsoft OneNote. (I’m pleased to see that Zoot Software is still around.)
I did a brief follow-up article a few years later, focusing on Armstrong alone: Maytag Crosses Popular Blogger, Gets Spun Dry. I talked at the end about how I felt about reading Armstrong’s article about our interview.
News of Armstrong’s death this week shook me in the same way Anthony Bourdain’s death shook me. Like Bourdain, she was struggling with demons, and the demons beat her.
I can’t help thinking that her living so much of her life in public, sharing her insecurities and self-loathing with millions of people, was not helpful to her mental state. And I need to think about how that relates to my own online habits.