Getting to meet Jason Kottke is like getting to meet Brad Pitt’s cousin

“Getting to meet Jason Kottke is like getting to meet Brad Pitt’s cousin”: Don’t know why I took notes during this afternoon’s conversation between blogging luminaries Jason Kottke and Heather Armstrong, but what the heck, I did, so here they are:

(Please note: These are my notes, and is not a verbatim transcription. I can type fast, but not that fast. )

Kottke: (on the subscription model that he tried for a year and has now given up): ” I liiked the experimental…I wanted the support to come from the readers. I also don’t like advertising that much. i didn’t want to see bad advertising on my site. or to bring a third party onto my site.

Heather: (Why she doesn’t have the subscription model) “I didn’t want the readers to think we’re entering a bargain where they feel they can demand (something specific from me)…like when (Kottke) went to Asia (and readers said, “Hey, I didn’t give him money to do that.”)
Kottke: I’m not (continuing the subscription model) because I had 1,500 bosses. I (originally) saw it as a magazize subscription. People who subscribe to magazines don’t think of themselves as shareholders. (But people who subscribed to his site did.)

Heather: Did your relationship with the website change?
Kottke: It became more like a job job. I felt I had to do it a certain way. It couldn’t be just whatever the hell I wanted it to be. (To Heather) I thoought your site would do good with a subscription model, because your readers are fans. the people are obsessed with you.

Heather: When I first implemented Google ads, there was an outcry. The whole way through, we (her husband John and her) were thinking about a subscription model. I never got to a point where i considered it (seriously). I didn’t want people to feel like they own me.
Kottke: You’re a lot smarter than I am because that’s what happened.
Heather: There’s already so much hate mail, i diddn’t want to put more flame into the fire.

Heather: You wrote more personaly before the subscription. (You’ve seemed to taken Kottke out of the blog since the subscription.)
Kotkke: I think HE was out already (before the subscriptions)…
Heather: (interupting) You’re speaking like Elmo…
Kottke: Huh? I don’t watch Seasame Street.
Heather: You’re talking about yourself in the third person.
Kottke: Omigod. i think that I was out of the website before that. Going professional furthered that along. I always had this personal line (that I wouldn’t cross).
Heather: You posted a photo of yourself in the shower.
Kottke: (Something like: “You couldn’t really see anything.”)

< snip >

Heather: You posted a lot more over the past year, but (you have said) your traffic didn’t grow. Do you think that not being so personal has affected your traffic?
Kottke: I think the people that blog personaly can develop a personality. Your site has grown more personal, in a way…
Heather: It’s always teetered on the edge, but there are boundries – introducing advertising hasn’t changed that…
Kottke: How do you separate “Heather the person” and Heather the site or business or public persona?
Heather: It’s been a long journey to this point. In the past I have crossed over boundaries that have devestated my life (with family and work). I now know the designated boundaries. Everything on the opposite side of that line belongs only to my family. People send me email that say they’ve known me for a long time. They don’t really know me – but that doesn’t matter to the website. John and I talk all the time (about what she can write about from their personal lives). He says, you can write about that if you want to. John will sometimes tell me the line.

Heather: What’s your day like?
Kottke: If I have things I have to do, I will not go to the office. I have a desk at home (with a monitor and keyboard that he plugs his laptop into). Other days I go into iBeam (Highbeam? eyebeam?). I really like going into an office and having other people to talk to. I like bouncing ideas off of other people. I’m married to my newsreader and browser.

< snip >

Kottke: I may explore putting ads on the site with the “failure” of the subscription model. (Heather interrupts with a disagreement over what “failure” means. Kottke says it’s failure because it didn’t turn out like he expected and says something to the effect that “not having those ‘bosses’ is a huge load off my mine.”)…
Heather: When you said it was failure, what is your standard? I thot it was wildly successful.

Kottke: I wanted to do more with it – or maybe different…I had no idea what I was going to do with this. I jumped into the void. I had some ideas of what i wanted to do, but it just didn’t work out.

< snip >

Kottke: I’ve been preoccupied for the past six months.
Heather: Doing what?
Kottke: I’m getting married in a couple of weeks.

< snip >

Heather: Do you think posting more has an effect on growing your traffic?
Kottke: The remainder links are good for keeping people. Those links keep coming back. The longer links get people in the door (from Google searches). And you get a good influx of traffic. You get a spike. I did 50 things you can do with your ipod. I spent quite a bit of time with it. It got both on Digg and /. eight months later.
Heather: It doesn’t matter if I post or not. People don’t come to my site for the updates or links. I used to post more links. I don’t do links as mumuch as you do. People come to my site for the story. I actually have to “live the content” (she comments about grimacing at that comment) before I can write about it…

Heather: Do you consider yourself a friend of this community of mean?
Kottke: Mean?
Heather: Like, you’re a critic not a friend (of the people you write about).
Kottke: I have to write about something. I don’t think you’re a very good friend if you’re always being supportive.
Heather: Publicly, in front of your large audience?
Kottke: I don’t do it as much. I think there is a lot of responsibility having that much traffic. It becomes a weight….I do take on a certain responsibility.

Heather: Do you warn people you’re linking to?
Kottke: If there’s a video, I’ll ask sometimes.
Heather: I don’t do a lot of links, usually I will contact the people and ask them. There is a fringe of my readers that have sent email to those I link to…

(Conversation turns to having comments and “community”)
Kottke: I don’t really want a community to develop.
Heather: Why?
Kottke: I don’t want to be a community leader. Dave Winer engenders people to follow him. I’m not interested in that.

Kottke: Have you ever looked at your entry on wikipeda?
Heather: No.
Kottke: It goes through you bio and … and it ends: “they (Heather and her husband) currently remain unemployed.” What do you think of as your job?
Heather: I’m still working thru the definition of what I’m doing. I have more time to dedicate to writing. But we spend the mornings together chasing (our daughter) around. That informs my content so I couldn’t give it up. When I was experiencing post partum depression, my therapist insisted on me getting a baby sitter in. She’s still there. It’s a big job for John to do the back end (of…

Kottke: What is your daily routine? How much time do you spend on the site?
Heather: I get up at 6.30. (Daughter always wakes up no matter what day it is). I do a daily photo. Spend the morning (doing) very boring and suburban things. Then we take a nap. I spend all afternoon working. writing, editing — and into the night.

Kottke: Some people have resistance to this idea of being paid to tell about their lives.
Heather: I think a lot of (those naysayers) are jealous of what we’re able to do (but she adds something to effect, ‘I don’t want to come off bad saying that.’) I consider (the blog a daily column. If you pick up the paper and read something like mine, you call it a column. I just have my on publishing platform. People who have problems with it (writing about her personal life), I can understand, but that’s their issues. I don’t have an issue with it. I think it’s working.

Heather: If you had advertising, what would be different?
Kottke: It would have advertsing on it. (laugh)
Heather: Do you have a design issue with advertising?
Kottke: Somewhat.

Heather: Are you going to get a real job?
Kottke: Maybe.
Heather: Is getting married why you’ve (given up on the full-time blogging)? Should we blame Meg?
Kottke: Yes, Meg is Yoko Ono.

< snip >

Best quote of the day:

Heather (to the audience): Kottke was the first blog I ever read. Getting to meet him is like meeting Brad Pitt’s cousin.

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