Conceited Me: Trend Hopper

Apparently, I'm actually pretty good on being involved in trends when people think they're relatively stupid and faddish but turn out to be transformative. Latest trend-turned-mainstream? Blogging. The Pew Internet & American Life Project says that according to their most recent survey, seven percent of the 120 million adult Americans who use the Internet have created a blog; 27 percent of them read blogs; five percent use aggregators; and 12 percent have posted comments on blogs. Only 38 percent know what the term blog means, which makes sense as newer blogs don't go on and on about being blogs.

I was trained in high school, by accident, as a typesetter. I thus wound up working in desktop publishing back in 1985, and pursued it seriously in parallel with my degree in graphic design at Yale (1986 to 1990) as an undergrad.

I hopped on the Internet first in 1987, but more seriously via the Well and other tools--however mediated they were--in 1992, then signing up for a real Internet account in 1993 when I arrived in Seattle.

My old boss Steve Roth gets the credit for seeing a blurry screen capture of Mosaic for X Windows in MacWeek in March 1994 and proclaiming it the next big thing, but I built a test Web site for Peachpit Press in May 1994, and co-founded a Web development firm in July 1994.

I joined in October 1996 (leaving six months later), long before it was really well known and before its IPO. (I got no stock because I left so quickly.)

In Oct. 2000, I realized after playing with an Apple AirPort Base Station that Wi-Fi was going to be frickin' huge, and wound up writing a cover story for The New York Times's Circuits section that ran in Feb. 2001. I started a blog shortly thereafter on the topic of Wi-Fi.

What was I wrong about? I thought that Zip drives were stupid. They were, but it took a while for that to become apparent--tens of millions were sold during their heyday. I thought the commercial Internet would grow slowly. I viewed most of the dotcom bubble period as a bubble, and thus never invested in companies that I would actually have made a moderate return on, like, at their early point before they were radically overvalued.

In terms of career choices, I've always bet right. Somehow. I don't view myself as a prognosticator. Rather, I jump in with both feet in areas I'm interested in.

My latest venture is a blog for Weblogs, Inc., about digital radio, focusing particularly on satellite digital radio with a larger focus to come on terrestrial high-definition and other broadcast digital radio. I came up with the notion of blogging about this last summer, but didn't want to start yet another blog myself and build traffic. I pitched the idea to Weblogs, Inc., who signed me on. In the meantime, my wife and I had a baby. So it was about six months from conception to launch.

During that time, XM and Sirius, the two satellite digital radio companies with duopoly licenses from the FCC enormously increased subscribers and their stock prices soared. If my track record is any indication, I can hope that digital radio will be one of the medium-sized ongoing stories of the next couple of years.