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Four Point Oh: Built for Geeks
Jul 08, 1997 :: Michael Sippey

As I write this, mid-evening on a Monday night, I have one active connection to the net open. It's a "Saving Location" dialog box spawned by Netscape 3.01, and it's 4% of the way through an 8 meg download of Netscape 4.01.

I'm finally on the upgrade path. Not because there's any one feature of Communicator that I absolutely can't live without. For most of my web surfing needs, 3.0 is just fine, thank you very much. But I'm upgrading because one of my most oft-visited bookmarks just went to version 4.0 as well, and the new site is optimized for all the fancy new effects that Communicator supports (dynamic HTML, layers, style sheets, etc., etc., ad nauseum). And I need to keep up.

I'll admit it up front: I'm a fan of HotWired. When the first version launched, greeting visitors with the presumptuous "Log in or Join!" message, I joined. They had writers worth reading, design worth complaining about, and, God forbid, banner ads. Regardless of whether they actually were seeing black (back then we had no idea how quickly the pools of red were forming), they were at least trying to make money on the web. And more power to 'em.

Fast forward three years. HotWired has been through a few redesigns, many different revisions of content channels (some good, some not so good), and has now settled on a site which exploits the latest in browser technology and exploits the Wired brand for all its worth. In a tagline splayed across the bottom of most of the site's pages, HotWired now takes it's place in Louis and Jane's "Wired Digital Family:" alongside the responsible eldest child, the info-addled middle child, the geek with glasses, the no-good alcoholic that left home, and the no-good pain in the ass that came home after college and refuses to leave, lies HotWired -- the prodigal son who promises to mend his ways and turn a profit any day now. Honest.

Part of that mending strategy must be a pledge to focus on core competencies. HotWired 4.0 is a retrenchment of sorts, a move back to basics to do what the organization is good at: providing engaging content on the web that's about the web to people that care about the web. Five categories of the site invite you to "X the web": build it, surf it, think it, work it and hear it. There are no illusions here -- this is content meant for geeks, built by geeks. The only category that doesn't ask you to "X the web" instead invites you to "clear your cache." Enough said.

Speaking of geeks, with 4.0 HotWired has jumped on the community bandwagon, albeit a about nine months late. With the new "member pages" feature, all the geeks that have enough time on their hands to fill out a member profile get to answer questions like "Why are you a geek?" and "Why are you cool?" And HotWired gets free content.

It turns out that one such geek, Luke Seemann (a past contributor to these pages), is a man who has a certain way with search engines. This past weekend he spent a few of his precious Minnesotan hours abusing the member pages search engine, "hoping to define once and for all what constitutes a geek." And as a way of going meta on the HotWired community, and providing new, valuable data for potential HotWired advertisers, I'm proud to present his findings...

From the "location" field:
Minnesota: 20
Alabama: 0
Africa: 5
San Francisco: 115
New York: 37

From the "interests" field:
Jesus: 32
God: 67
Allah: 0
Buddha: 5
(David) Koresh: 1
(Nicholas) Negroponte: 7
(John) Lennon: 9
(Vlad) Lenin: 2
(Carl) Steadman: 1
(Luke) Seemann: 0
(Mohatma) Ghandi: 4
(Jenny) McCarthy: 4

Mom: 33
Dad: 52

Computer: 222
Love: 121
Money: 80
Fame: 3

Sex: 31
Math: 10
Literature: 9
Sleep: 24
Food: 76
Monkey: 15
Books: 235

Kafka: 6
Moby Dick: 7
Coupland: 13

Outside: 6
Inside: 11

Coke: 5
Pepsi: 2
Coffee: 42
Tea: 28
Cocaine: 0
Crack: 10
Marijuana: 4
Beer: 54
Wine: 25
Whine: 1

Tattoo: 2
Piercing: 2

Motorcycle: 16
Car: 153
Walking: 5
Running: 15

Suck: 24
Fuck: 6
Pornography: 2

Dogs: 21
Cats: 7

Life: 102
Death: 13

I'll give you some time (about a week, let's say) to muse on those fascinating figures. In the meantime, remember that George Bernard Shaw once said that technology only makes life meaningful for technologists. This must explain why as I clicked through one member page after another, it seemed that one in five answered "Why are you a geek?" with "Because I'm building this page."

 

 

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