Happy 15th Birthday, Wrath of Kon

Back on April 11, 1997, I had a stupid idea.

I used to write in these journals, spiral notebooks, every day.  I started doing that in 1993.  I never wrote stories, and it wasn’t a diary either – it was some strange mix of both.  But any writing I did there was trapped forever on paper, unless I transcribed it, which I never did.  So my thought was to move some of this to the electronic world, to create a public web page where I posted some of these entries.

Jorn Barger coined the term “blog” on December 17, 1997.  They didn’t become popular for a few more years.  Livejournal started in 1999; so did blogger.  This diary project of mine was born before anyone knew what the hell a blog was.  I’m certain some other site influenced me to do this, and I didn’t pluck the idea out of thin air, but I don’t remember what I was reading on a daily basis back in 1997.

I did everything in emacs back then: email, book writing, usenet news.  I bugged my friend Bill Perry for some elisp help, and he wrote a little thing that would let me hit a magic key combination and open up an html file with today’s date as the filename.  So I’d hit Control-x Control-j, and the file ~/www/journal/html/041197.html would magically appear.  I then hacked out a C program that I could run and generate an index of all of these pages.  There was no database, no themes, no CMS.  This was five years before wordpress was a gleam in Matt Mullenweg’s eye.  It was rough, but it worked.

So on that Friday, I posted my first entry here.  Back then, this project didn’t have a name.  I called it “the journal” for a while.  It eventually got the name “Tell Me a Story About The Devil”, which has its origins in a Ray Miller story.  The name “The Wrath of Kon” is a more recent change.

I always hated the word “blog”, though.  There was this whole journal or diary movement in the late 90s that everyone has forgotten, and all of a sudden, blogs were “invented” in the early 2000s.  That meant I had a good five or six years of entries, when all of a sudden, everyone and their mother was a “blogger” and started getting book deals and money thrown at them.  So yeah, I was bitter.  But I kept at it.  Now, I don’t give a shit about the term “blog”.  I have bigger fish to fry.

There have been many changes over the years.  My Rube Goldberg mechanism would break on January 1st every year, and I slowly duct taped more functionality to the system, adding a bit of CSS, a comment system, and eventually ditching the entire thing for wordpress.  The page originally lived at speakeasy.org, and moved to rumored.com/journal in 1998.  I eventually dropped the /journal part.  The content also slowly changed, moving from diary entries to stories to news to travel reports and back again.  I never had a solid theme, but I think that prevented me from painting myself in a corner.  I think if I originally would have only blogged about the books I read or a quest to collect every Atari cartridge, this would have died a long time ago.

So.  15 years.  1149 entries.  I think the last time I was able to calculate a word count, it was something like 650,000 words, and Infinite Jest is something like 460,000.  I did a book that collected the first three years, the Seattle entries; I keep thinking about a book that collects some of the best essays of the last dozen years, but I’ve got something on all four burners right now.

Anyway, here’s to fifteen years.  I don’t know many other sites that have been around this long.  I wonder where things will be in 2027.

  • motel todd

    Good entry. The only reason I ever started putting stuff on the internet was because a friend of mine, Robert, had started a website in 1999 and I had been sending off stuff for years to traditional print publishers and usually never hearing anything from them. I was lucky to even get rejection notices. The web for me started off as vanity publishing without the costs. I guess with blogspot, which is what I use, and wordpress it still is. Besides, whether any money is ever made on my rambling words at least I can instantly have thousands of readers as oppossed to none before.

    • jkonrath

      Did you put all of the old Motel Todd stuff from Howie's site onto your current blogspot, or do you have it anymore? I only vaguely remember that stuff, but wouldn't mind reading it again – if you still have it, you should make a kindle book out of it. (And if you don't have it, maybe archive.org has a copy.)

  • Happy Quinceañera!

  • That is impressive. I sometimes say I started blogging in '77 but that's more of a joke. This is the real deal. Congrats.

  • A.

    Did I ever tell you that I knew Jorn Barger when I lived in Chicago in 90-93? We had a bunch of friends in common and hung out a few times. He and my friend Duffy had had a falling out over some theory of Jorn's that vinyl records captured ambient emotion during playback; he and another friend of mine, Eric (who didn't know Duffy) had had several fallings out, one over having once shared a place, and the second over Eric being engaged to a woman who had (several years before) dumped Jorn for being completely insane. In fact, it may have been the breakup with this same woman which triggered the vinyl-recording theory, since strong emotions were experienced while music was being played.

    Once I even visited Jorn's place, which was in a rooming house with a depressing squishy carpetted hallway. (We were collecting him en route to some movie, but he changed his mind.) He had freestanding bookcases back-to-back all over the room, in rows, with a futon in a corner of the floor.

    I also remember talking to him on the phone once, and the conversation rambling all over the place, with a disquisition on hypertext markup.

    • I think you mentioned Jorn before. I always get him mixed up with a fictional persona named Bjorn that another friend made up. I think that character, Bjorn, also made an appearance in Rumored.