Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

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.


6 responses to “Happy 15th Birthday, Wrath of Kon”

  1. motel todd Avatar
    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.

    1. jkonrath Avatar

      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.)

  2. Happy Quinceañera!

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

  4. 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.

    1. 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.