Knowing Full Well That Anybody Who Wanted to Read the Site Could

Boris points me to The Fever who is seeking a definition of the phrase "the Dark Web". There is at least one article on my weblog where I discuss the term (which surely could have used a paragraph break or two). Even better, though, is Suw Charman's amazing interview at Supernova, talking about personal weblogs, that is, the ones with people talking about their personal lives as distinct from what they do for a living or as distinct from a strictly subject-based weblog. That would include weblogs that are intended for friends to read and maybe discuss later "offline"—I know that I've learned about as much about my friends from when they started blogging (i.e. this year) than the period before that, which for some is almost 9 years now. They're expressing what they are doing and how they feel as if it were a private weblog yet knowing full well that anybody who wanted to read the site could.

I saw Julie Leung's excellent presentation for the second time, this time at Gnomedex (the first time was at Northern Voice), and even though I knew what to expect from it, I still had to wipe tears from my eyes as she talked about the struggle to find the balance between reaching out to her community and keeping important things private. In the presentation she talked about trying to figure out how to write about her brother's passing. What she didn't talk about this time around—possibly due to time constraints—was the response to her article on her daughter's surgery, and how she helped other parents by writing some tips for when their child is about to have surgery. In the presentation at Gnomedex, just as the presentation at Northern Voice, she quoted from an article I wrote in January about my so-called personal life and whether or not people are obligated to write about it. She documented the links to the resources she cited in her presentation on

Since I had seen it before, the most interesting part of the presentation was the audience's reaction towards it. The applause afterwards was hearty, but there seemed be a slightly stunned silence when Gnomedex conference organizer Chris Pirillo said Julie's presentation was his favourite presentation of the two days, and I think that was because the audience were people the majority of which read exclusively technical material. That would be my way of saying that those who exclusively read and/or write technical weblogs don't really understand what "the Dark Web" is about, but that's more an assumption based on the silence than anything.


Nice work, Richard. I'm glad to be part of *your* Dark Web. I guess we need a post on the Ridiculous Hour soon, too :P

Richard, I think you missed the mark on the reason for the stunned silence at the end of Julie's presentation. I can't speak for everyone but after talking to quite a few others at Gnomedex about it, I can say that for quite a few of us Julie put into very clear words the ineffable reason we blog. When someone asks why we take the time to write what we do, whether it be a personal (semi-private?) blog, or related to our career or on a particular subject; "I just love doing it" doesn't come close to describing it. Julie could have been reading her presentation right from our very souls. Personally, I was so moved by it that stunned silence was the most supreme compliment I could ever give her (sometimes the Japanese just get it right you know? They show approval by silence rather than applause). That presentation brought me to tears. Not only due to the emotion brought out by the way she spoke of the passing of her brother, but because at that moment, it was clear that Julie "gets" me, totally, completely gets me. She defined bloggers better than anyone ever has. Julie, thank you, thank you, thank you. Zak

Zak, I was referring to the silence not diirectly after the presentation but after Chris Pirillo's comment that it was the best presentation he'd ever seen at a Gnomedex. But now that you mention it, there was a little silence directly after her presentation, and I think you're right: the people in the audience didn't know what to think of it. I mean that in a good way, because even though they are probably mostly technical bloggers, they were able to make friends (and maybe enemies, which isn't always bad, because having an enemy can make life exciting) from people they didn't know existed. My best friend found me through my weblog, and I'm pretty sure there are thousands of people like me who have as well.

This is the second time I've heard about Julie's presentation through entirely different types of blogs. I wish I'd gone to the conference now, if only to hear her speak. Glad you got so much out of it. Cheers, Tanya

I think the stunned silence is that moment to reflect on what was said and to realize that the presentation is over. (I only heard it at Northern Voice.) Why do I/we blog? Just because I/we can.

Thanks for posting this Richard. I think Julie's talk reminded us that blogging isn't about technology and breathed fresh air into a conferenced stifled by its own techno-literacy. On the Dark Web thing, I think it is something that takes on new meaning by being given a name.

I noticed that when Chris and Ponzi asked if there were any questions for Julie, there weren't many, and it took time for them to get rolling. That felt awkward, but I don't think it was disrespectful, because (as Zak and Richard said) this was an audience that often isn't used to asking the kinds of emotional and personal -- as opposed to technical or ideological -- questions of ourselves that she was posing. I'd also seen her at Northern Voice, and our families had dinner the night before, so I didn't have any questions myself, but I nearly thought one up to break the silence before someone else did. It was a different frame of reference, a different style, and a different topic -- with all the tech-geeky immersion of the previous day and a half, I think people really needed to think about it to process what she had said. I've seen a fair amount of thoughtful reflection (or at least, "Wow, that was great") in the followup blogs and podcasts from attendees, but right at that moment I think most of us were letting it sink in.