We’ve come a long way baby – in the blogosphere that is. Tune in as Anil Dash, one of the pioneers of blogging, dating back to 1999, Founder of ThinkUp and Activate and columnist for Wired magazine, joins Brent Leary to discuss the world of blogging – then and now.
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Small Business Trends: about your background?
Anil Dash: I am a blogger first and foremost, and I have been blogging at Dashes.com for 13 years. That has taught me a little bit about how the tech world works and about how the media world works.
Small Business Trends: Are you surprised at where we are today with blogging and social media?
Anil Dash: Yes and no. I think everything we do in terms of posting to Facebook, blogging and Tweeting, I consider that to be within the realm of what we thought blogging was going to be.
It’s actually something similar to, if you say, “We knew hip hop was going to take over the world.” And right now, what you call pop music, even if Justin Bieber is singing it, it sounds like hip hop.
I think the same thing is true in tech. In the early days of blogging that first hundred people, that was part of that community I was part of. I absolutely took it as an article of faith that there we’re going to be a hundred million people that are going to do this, or a billion people. There was no question. Nobody had a doubt about that. I think that was part of why we seemed particularly crazy.
So the good and the bad part of being in an early community is there is a little bit of grid thinking. But in retrospect, I think it must have been like that for whoever worked on I Love Lucy.
Television had been around for 30 years before they made I Love Lucy. Then you are working on I Love Lucy, and you think, “Man, this is the sitcom that this medium was made for; we figured it out.”
Small Business Trends: I guess it’s the same kind of cycle we are going through with all of this social technology, huh?
Anil Dash: That is exactly right. I think there were probably two or three networks that existed even before I Love Lucy launched right? I don’t know what they were doing.
It’s kind of like personal computers 20 years before the internet came along. What were we doing on them? Then we had the Internet for decades before social media comes along. What were we doing on it?
That is one of the things, where it takes a lot of time to reveal it. If you are somebody like me who makes software, makes technology, cares about those parts, what you are hoping is you are making the camera that somebody is going to shoot their I Love Lucy with.
Small Business Trends: Have consumers of the technology actually gotten ahead of the creators of technology?
Anil Dash: In some ways yes and in some ways no. At its best, yes. If you made a piece of software, or website, or app, or tool that can be used in ways you did not expect, then you are winning. Then you are really succeeding.
The examples that everybody loves to point to on Twitter are the Hashtag or the @Reply. Those weren’t invented by Twitter, those were people saying I am going to spin this turntable backwards and I am going to make something magical out of that.
Even to some degree, Twitter just announced what they are calling “Cashtags,” which is putting the dollar sign in front of the stock ticker. It will link it to information about that company. That is something that emerged from the community
Small Business Trends: How is it different creating new Web based businesses now compared with when you helped build Six Apart?
Anil Dash: It is night and day. I remember this distinctly, late 2002, I was spending days and nights in Microsoft Excel, making spreadsheets, trying to figure out how much it should cost to have a website on the blogging service. Because nobody had ever made a service that you sign up for, and paid money for as a consumer that was a host service on the Web.
I was slaving on it for months and we were doing, what sounds silly now, calculations about how much it costs to run a server and how much it costs to pay for disk storage for your blog if you had to have a lot of pictures.
All of that is gone. Now I talk to young folks doing startups and I try to mentor them, especially here in New York City where I live. They just wave their hands kind of like, “I don’t have to worry about that, I use Amazon EC2, or I use Rackspace, or whatever the provider is. It is all in the Cloud. I don’t even think about it.”
I know I sound like an old timer, “Back in my day, it was up hill both ways.” But that was our liberation. Now I don’t have to know any of that stuff. I can focus on, “Is this going to be useful to somebody?” Or, “How do I tell the story of why this product is useful?”
Small Business Trends: What recent startup has your interest today?
Anil Dash: Kickstarter is just a box of text that a person types into, so it is just a payment system. But they are using Amazon payments and didn’t really build their own payment system. There is no technology or algorithm that makes Kickstarter particularly unique or anything you couldn’t have done years ago.
What’s amazing is the culture changes. First of all, recognizing a large class of things that people want to pay for that are not about business, but instead, are all about good will and artistic expression and creativity and all of these other positive things, which is really amazing.
The second part behind it is just building the site and telling that story in a great way. Because they had to attract a film maker, a musician, somebody with a great idea for a software game, or whatever those people are. You had to be appealing to the creative types and have a place they can go and do it.
Kickstarter is for people that do creative things, I think it is astounding.
Small Business Trends: Where can people learn more about what you are doing?
Anil Dash: The best place to go is Dashes.com.
This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.
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