Remembering Steve Gilliard (1964-2007), a "Web Writer and Damn' Proud of It"
Steve Gilliard at the Netslaves 2.0 launch party, February 2003. Photo by Teri Baldwin.
The mainstream world of media has never taken Bloggers seriously, and I very much doubt that they'll take the news of the death of Steve Gilliard, at the very young age of 41, as anything more than a transitory blip on their antiquated radar screens.
I had a chance to work closely with Steve for several years back in the late 1990s and early 00s. Myself and Bill Lessard had hatched an unlikely plan for a Web property called Netslaves.com. At the beginning we wrote all the content ourselves, but began opening up the doors to our readers, and then, to voices that we believed echoed our main concerns at the time, which can be summed up in the statement "something's rotten in Silicon Alley." This kind of statement was heresy in 1998: everybody was getting rich and the "Long Boom" future seemed infinite.
Steve was the first writer to come forward as a regular contributor to Netslaves. He wrote for the site brilliantly and prolifically from 1998 until 2003, when the site closed. His heroes were Edward R. Murrow, Jimmy Breslin, and George Patton. His prose was terse, direct, and in-your-face. He was an iconoclast who did not suffer fools lightly. His words brimmed with fire and anger: he, perhaps better than any of us, could see where the maniacal boom was heading, and he had zero tolerance for bullshit or evasion.
Steve was also an amazing financial analyst, and his series, "How to Read a 10Q," was one of the most popular regular features on Netslaves.com. Every week or so during the height of the shake-out, Steve would perform a forensic autopsy on a particularly benighted dot-com, and the results were both horrifying and hilarious (sadly, this material did not survive Netslaves' transition to a BBS in 2003). He could have become rich by proferring such insights to paying customers, but he chose to give them away to the world. I tried to push Steve into writing a book based on the "How to Read a 10Q" series, and he liked the idea, but there just weren't enough resources to push this idea through, although I'll go to my grave believing that such a book would have been a success.
As Netslaves.com morphed from an e-zine to a bulletin board, Steve's role changed. He continued to write for the site, but also became frequently embroiled in flames between members, especially those between two pseudonymous characters named "Uncle Meat" and "Cheopys" who had recently defected from Phil Kaplan's FickedCompany.com. In the Spring of 2003, I went to Rochester for a week and left Steve in charge of the Netslaves boards, and while I was away things spun out of control. Although I can't remember what the issue was, Steve ran out of patience with both Cheopys and Uncle Meat and banned them both from the site, as well as a group of their sympathizers.
I was very angry at Steve for what I believed to be the rash action he took against these two prominent Netslaves community members, and argued vainly with my business partner, Bill, that his actions should be reversed, but Bill sided with Steve, and so the site basically imploded. The investment of many thousands of hours, dollars, and dreams of building a lasting presence on the Web went up in smoke. Within six months, I was living on a $3 a day starvation diet and emptying dumpsters to keep alive, and Bill was waiting tables at a catering hall. It took both of us years to get back into the Web business, and I know that I blamed Steve for being the cause of Netslaves.com's self-destruction for a long time. (For those interested in the sickening blow-by-blow of Netslave.com's demise, read Forgotten Web Celebrities: Netslaves' Steve Baldwin and Bill Lessard).
In retrospect, it's easy to see that it wasn't Steve's fault. Management (myself and Bill) should have just let Steve do what he did best: write, investigate, and think, and left the moderation to others. But Steve did enjoy "mixing it up on the boards," and was a hell of a flame warrior who could "dish it out and take it." It's sad that his best discussions didn't survive the site migration. I know they live on a hard drive somewhere and perhaps they'll reemerge someday. In the meantime, there's a lot of Steve that lives on at The Netslaves Museum and I encourage you to take a look at some of his classic articles about worklife in the New Economy.
In a way, I'm glad that Netslaves.com's implosion happened when it did. After the events of 9/11/2001, it had been impossible to keep the site on target. The entire "New Economy," at least in New York, had been destroyed, everybody was out of work, and consequently there was less and less for Netslaves to talk about. Steve also wanted to write about global issues and Netslaves was too narrowly focused on workplace and tech issues for him to spread his wings and really fly. But fly he did, first to the DailyKos, and then to his own news Blog, which became very popular. At last, Steve was where he belonged: in the upper reaches of the Blogosphere, where he could confront evils far greater than those offered by Silicon Alley.
We didn't talk or e-mail each other much in the past few years, but I continued to read Steve, following his rise from obscurity to new-found influence in the burgeoning liberal Blogosphere. I always found his work exciting, provocative, and on the mark.
Steve really soared in his post-Netslaves.com incarnation as a "Fighting Liberal Blogger," and I'd like to think that Netslaves served as a kind of Blogging Farm Team that had a hand in conditioning his raw talent and eventually producing a legendary home-run hitter. I'm only sorry we weren't able to pay him as much as he deserved, but Bill and myself (who worked on Netslaves without a salary) rarely had a spare nickle to spend on anything, and I'm glad that we did pay him whatever we could whenever there was money in the till. I am very glad that this latter work received much more exposure among his peers -- the new generation of Bloggers that have risen as a major alternative media force.
Steve and I didn't always agree with each other. In fact, Steve was often a royal pain in my ass. As the editor of the site, I found it maddening that Steve refused to use spell-checking software, and I used to grind my teeth when he went "off topic" or "off message" or took a position that I considered to be extreme. And my jaw repeatedly dropped when Steve introduced himself at conferences or in his bio as "The Editor of Netslaves.com." What was I, a potted plant?
So Steve and I had our "issues" but that's always the case when you work with real talent. Steve was a rare, independent mind with a fierce, uncompromising soul, and that's why we hired him. If we had wanted pap or tripe, we'd have hired somebody else. He had heart, soul, brains, and the kind of drive you rarely find in a writer today. I will always remember him fondly. In 2000 and 2001, Steve became Netslaves.com's most powerful, articulate voice, and I'm glad to say that much of thie early, formative work is preserved at the Netslaves Archive.
I am proud to have known Steve and his companion and co-author Jen during their formative years as Web voices. I hope that the rest of the Blogging community, even those who are not Left-wing, appreciates his contribution to the Web. He was a pioneer, a truth-teller, and in person, a very nice guy. Steve inspired me in my own work and I know that he inspired others, and this energy will not be lost, but will continue to flow through all of our connected synapses and joined hearts. He was "a Web Writer and Damned proud of it," and to me and a lot of people like me, this epitaph means something.
Rest in peace, my fellow teammate, Web Writer, and brother Steve.
Surviving Steve Gilliard Articles at the Netslaves Museum
I wish I could share with you all the great articles Steve Gilliard wrote for Netslaves, but many of them were lost when the site migrated to a BBS format in early 2002. Fortunately, I was able to save many of Steve's early works, and this list comprises his contributions from June of 2000 to February of 2001. These articles are arranged chronologically, because Steve often wrote multi-part articles. These articles capture Steve in fine form, and highlight an aspect of his character that many may have missed from his postings on DailyKos and elsewhere: the fact that he had pretty good "geek" credentials (check out his story on building his own PC from scratch), and that he had a softer, introspective side (Winter Wonderland). He also had an absolutely wicked sense of humor, which came into play whenever he confronted and skewered the many clueless miscreants of Web 1.0.
These articles come in three groups: those articles written for The Netslaves Combat Manual, Steve's "Between the Lies" column, and articles once the site gradated to an automated posting system that also allowed comments. They show the evolution of Steve's writing, and provide a hint of the greater glories to come when he left Netslaves.com and staked his claim in the larger Blogosphere.
Steve Gilliard-authored articles written for "The Netslaves Combat Manual."
These are the earliest articles Steve wrote for the site, and they were contributed before the site allowed for commenting.
- Lesson Nine: Your New Media Heaven (The NetSlaves Guide to the Perfect Office)
- Lesson Ten: Surviving Silicon Alley
(How You Too Can Rise to the Top of the Bottom in New York's Attitude-Ridden Net Scene)
- Lesson Thirteen: How to Know You Work for Idiots (Just in Case You Haven't Figured It Out)
- Lesson Fourteen: How to Know Your Company Is Going Under (NASDAQ Jungle Mix)
- Lesson Fifteen: Getting In & Out of Trouble
(What You Don't Know WILL Hurt You)
Steve Gilliard's "Between the Lies" Series Written for Netslaves.com
After adding much to the Netslaves Combat Manual, Steve was given his own regular column, which he called "Between the Lies."
- The Working Dog (It's All about Boundaries)
- Godzilla Market Theory (More Than Our Favorite Whipping Boys)
- Economic Apartheid in the Valley (The 22 Bus Is Calling Us)
- Where the Hell's My Money? (Or: Why Initial Public Offerings Are a Sucker Bet)
- How Microsoft Lost a Billion Dollars
- Spare the Net, Spoil the Child? (AOL and Child Predators)
- The Buzz Stops Here (CEO Myths vs. Hard Truths)
Steve's Articles for Netslaves' "General Topic" section, March 2000 - February 2001
These articles include comments from Netslaves users.
- Deal With Them Just Enough...(Every investment looks rosy when you start out...), March 20, 2000
- The Daily Update (At least 51 Internet firms will run out of cash within the next year...) - March 20, 2000
- The Daily Update - Special (Michael Saylor found himself about a trillion dimes short this week...), March 21, 2000
- The Weekly Jerhimad (I spent Saturday buying fried fish and watching a riot on my TV...), March 26, 2000
- Let's Talk About Geeks (So many geeks live in a weird, self-imposed exile...), April 2, 2000
- Microsoft: the Wrath of the Federal Court (Does it matter? Hell, yes, little doggies. Matters a great deal... ), April 3, 2000
- The Weekly Jerhimad (Watching Bill Gates brazenly run ads days after his company was found guilty...), April 8, 2000
- Who Watches the Guardians? (In today's Times, there is an article about the head of the Icann...), April 10, 2000
- On Interactivity (Netslaves is not a print magazine. We don't have the same rules for content...), April 10, 2000
- How to Fit in to the New Media World (You're used to suits and ties and looking like a businessman. Well, in our new, casual workplace, that doesn't fly any more...), April 11, 2000
- Around the Web (The old music industry is dying. Some would hope for a slow, lingering death, like from lung cancer, others are hoping for a bullet to the head or a heart attack...), April 13, 2000
- Hey, We Wrote This Crap Months Ago (Options are the cocaine of the millenium... ), April 14, 2000
- The Weekly Jerhimad (This week, Kozmo, the video and condom delivering service, has been sued for redlining neighborhoods...), April 16, 2000
- Crazy Pat and the Bell Tower Club (Why aren't there more shootings at tech companies?), April 18, 2000
- Today's Lesson in Grace (Donna Hannover, the wife of the mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani is appearing in the Vagina Monologues... ), April 20, 2000
- The Weekly Jerhimad (Here's a sample of the fun new media work stories we've heard this year...), April 22, 2000
- Memo from Steve Ballmer (Steve Gilliard analyzes and annotates Microsoft's CEO's latest memo to its staff in the wake of the Federal Court decision against it...), April 26, 2000
- More Brain-Dead Thinking (Companies need to stop worrying about every copyright violation and only target people scheming to make money off them...), April 27, 2000
- The Weekly Jerhimad (At every turn, every one, Microsoft broke the law...), April 30, 2000
- The Weekly Jerhimad (Ok. This has been a mad week in New York, open adultery, bitter wives, more fun than a barrel of crack addicted monkeys jonesing..), May 13, 2000
- The Weekly Jerhimad (Let me say the following : F*ck you, Metallica...), May 21, 2000
- The Weekly Jerhimad (Robert E. Lee once had a private in his office. The kid was trembling. Lee asked him "why are you afraid, you will receive justice here." The private replied "That's what I'm afraid of..."), May 26, 2000
- Behind the Website: A Look at BET.com (The site is as smooth as Tyra Banks on the runway, but represents content as funky and low down as Lil' Kim on one of her albums...), June 1, 2000
- A Note to Our Readers (We're not wimpy Salon, running to grovel to their "readers".:-), June 1, 2000
- The Weekly Jerhimad (Comments on John Romero's Daikatana), June 3, 2000
- An Open Letter to APBNews.com Staff (They called you in at 9:30 AM Monday and said it was over...), June 5, 2000
A Reply to the APBNews.com Posts (When I started online, no one wanted to pay writers, period...), June 7, 2000
- An Open Letter to Fox (Concerning its Possible Acquisition of ABPNews.com), June 11, 2000
- Real Business (What Were The Venture Capitalists Smoking?), June 23, 2000
- Words for the Season of Doom (Key Terms to Memorize When Faced with an Imploding Tech Economy), June 27, 2000
- Tales from PC Expo... (A Hellish Tour of Computing's Premier Trade Show), June 27, 2000
- PC Expo Day 1 (Steve Gilliard Reports from The Fetid Pit of the Tech Economy), June 27, 2000
- Amazon Speaks (Why Steve Gilliard Believes that Jeff Bezos is the Most Dangerous Man on the Internet), June 28, 2000
- PC Expo Day 2 (Steve Gilliard's Jaundiced Dispatches from Computing's Annual Gathering of Overclocked Fools), June 29, 2000
- The Fire this Time (Commentary on Organizational Chaos, Managerial Cluelessness, and General Cruelty in the New Economy), July 2, 2000
- R.I.P. APBNews.com (Which Declared Bankrupty Today), July 5, 2000
- Be Happy I Let You Work for Free (APBNews.com Abolishes Paychecks in Bid to Hang onto Staff), July 5, 2000
- The Funny Thing About APBNews.com (An Analysis of a High-Profile Dotcom's Bankruptcy Filings), July 7, 2000
- You've Just Slept With the Boss (Steve Gilliard's Timeless Tips for Surviving Office Romance), July 8, 2000
- Aaron Bunnell 1974-2000 (And Other Casualties of Internet Mania), July 20, 2000
- Building a Beast (A Netslave Attempts to Construct a PC From Scratch), July 24, 2000
- Who's Next? (Will Kozmo.com, DoubleClick, or iVillage.com Be The Next Web Casualty?), July 28, 2000
- The Beast II (Further Insights From a Netslave Who Insisted on Building His Own PC From Scratch), August 24, 2000
- Back to 1900 (How the Tech Economy Destroyed the 40-Hour Work Week), August 28, 2000
- Can the New CEO Save the Company? (Thoughts on What CEOs Can And Cannot Do), August 31, 2000
- You Will Not Become Rich (Despite What the Dot-com Kool-Aid Drinkers Say), September 1, 2000
- We Are Not at War (Steve Gilliard Wonders Why Dotcom Workers Take Themselves So Seriously), September 10, 2000
- Your Ethics (How Working for a Dotcom Destroys All Traces of Morality), September 12, 2000
- Pseudo 1995-2000 (A Not-so-Fond Look Back at a Dotcom That Could Have Been "Bigger Than CBS"), September 19, 2000
- Time's Up (A Chilling Passage from the 10Q Statement of an Endangered Dotcom), September 20, 2000
- My Name is Steve and I Write for Websites (Netslaves Contrarian Steve Gilliard Introduces Himself), September 26, 2000
- On the Digitial Stroll (Exposing the Secret Relationship Between Drug Use and Dotcom Work Styles), October 4, 2000
- Betting the House and Losing the Farm (Reflections on Failed Internet Fund Managers), October 5, 2000
- Fun With Pseudo (Poring over Pseudo.com's Bankruptcy Filings), October 6, 2000
- Covering the Dotcoms (How Mainstream Journalists Blew The Biggest Business Story of the Decade), October 10, 2000
- Uncle Vinnie Explains It All (Life Lessons from New Jersey's Shadiest Tech Recruiter), October 16, 2000
- The End or the End of the Beginning (Will The Dot-com Bust Cause a General Recession?), October 18, 2000
- How Going Public Became an ATM Heist (Reflections on the Tech-Scam Economy), October 20, 2000
- Team Loyalty (How Sports Ideology Informs the 21st Century Workplace), October 22, 2000
- Alex's Adventures in Dotcom Land, Part 1 (Stories from a Web Worker Who's Had Six Jobs in 18 Months), October 23, 2000
- Easy Money on the Web (Steve Gilliard Looks at Insane Commercial E-Offers), October 23, 2000
- Alex's Adventures in Dotcom Land, Part 2 (Stories from a Web Worker Who's Had Six Jobs in 18 Months), October 24, 2000
- Alex's Adventures in Dotcom Land, Part 3 (Stories from a Web Worker Who's Had Six Jobs in 18 Months), October 25, 2000
- Fun and Games at IWorld 2000 (Steve Gilliard Crashes Another Prestigious Computer Trade Show), October 25, 2000
- Even More Fun at IWorld (An E-Gonzo Journalist Reports on the Latest Cyber-Follies), October 26, 2000
- Tales of Hell, Part 1 (Of Desperate Temps, Fast-Buck Recruiters, and Snake Oil Salesmen), October 28, 2000
- Tales of Hell, Part 2 (Of Desperate Temps, Fast-Buck Recruiters, and Snake Oil Salesmen), October 28, 2000
- What I Learned at IWorld (Netslaves Columnist Runs Amok at Another Trade Show), October 29, 2000
- United Way: Bane of the Workplace? (Pros and Cons of On-the-job Charitable Commerce), October 30, 2000
- SEX (On and Off the Job: Steve Gilliard's Timely Love Urge Tips), October 31, 2000
- Good Reasons Not to Kill Your Boss (Steve Gilliard's Reasonable Tips For Quelling Unhealthy Homicidal Workplace Impulses), November 2, 2000
- UBO: The Chapter 11 (A Detailed Look at a Hip-Hop Site's Financial Train Wreck), November 3, 2000
- The Dark Night of the Techie Soul (Midnight Ruminations of a Cynical Netslave), October 6, 2000
- Vote! (Brave Men and Women Died to Defend Democracy: Won't You Move a Little Lever for it?), November 7, 2000
- Bottom Feeding in PR (The Career Horror of Working for a Sleazy PR Agency), November 10, 2000
- Herding Cats, or Why Alex Doesn't Ranch Any More (Why Managing Techies Will Drive You To Drink), November 15, 2000
- Where the Money Is (Why Dotcoms Could Learn a Few Lessons from the Restaurant Trade), November 16, 2000
- Happy Together: You and Your Job? (An Open Forum on Employment Satisfaction), November 17, 2000
- Why Content Plays Don't Work (A Forensic Analysis of APBNews.com, Suck, Feed, Salon, Nerve, and their Doomed Brethren), November 19, 2000
- Why Dotcoms Are Dotgones (The Real Reasons The New Economy Crashed and Burned), November 20, 2000
- Happy Thanksgiving (A Netslave Ruminates on "The Most American of Holidays"), November 22, 2000
- A Field Guide to the Online Workplace, Part 1 (About Those Strange Creatures You Call Your Co-Workers and Superiors), November 28, 2000
- Surviving the Office Party (How to Deal With Your Company's Most Dangerous Ritual), November 30, 2000
- Times Are Weird (And We're Sorry Hunter Thompson Isn't Writing About the Web), December 1, 2000
- Class Is More Important Than Race (And Almost Everything Else), December 2, 2000
- The Money Room (Deep Within a Nightmare of Egos, Lies and Confusion), December 3, 2000
- Look for the Union Label (But Don't Expect to Find it in the Technology Business), December 4, 2000
- Silly New Yorker: Spoofs Are for Professionals (Anatomy of a Fake Article That Almost Escaped Scrutiny), December 5, 2000
- I was an Undercover Operative for Netslaves (A Mole Deep Within the Digirati's Camp Spills All), December 5, 2000
- It's Christmas: Bend Over (The Snow is On the Ground and the Pink Slips Are Under the Tree), December 8, 2000
- Dear Boss (A Letter Written After Involuntary Severance from a Technology Company), December 12, 2000
- The Netslaves Christmas Shopping Guide (Advice for the Stylish and Soon to Be Laid-Off), December 13, 2000
- What is Work? (And How Does Dotcom Culture Kill Play in the Workplace?), December 15, 2000
- How You Work (And Why It's Killing You), December 19, 2000
- Apple is Doomed (Steve Gilliard Predicts the Worst for Apple Computer), December 21, 2000
- A Workplace Shooting (Netslaves Commentator Steve Gilliard Comments on the Latest On-the-Job Gun Tragedy), December 26, 2000
- The FC Memorial Fund (Steve Gilliard Praises Phil Kaplan as "a Nice, Polite Young Man"), December 28, 2000
- Winter Wonderland (Steve Gilliard Turns His Attention From Dotcom Corruption to Snowflake Structure), December 30, 2000
- The Year in Review, Part 1 (Reflections on 2000: The Year the Bubble Burst), December 31, 2000
- Predictions for Y2K+1 (Steve Gilliard Predicts What the Year 2001 May Bring), January 2, 2001
- We Have Failed You (How the Mainstream Business Press Shifted Blame For the Dotcom Disaster From Venture Capitalists to Analysts), January 3, 2001
- The Missed Stories of 2000 (Underreported Stories From Last Year), January 4, 2001
- A Tech Letter (Ruminations from Steve Gilliard On The Tech Industry's Latest Unexciting Products), January 7, 2001
- Dear Caleb Carr (Who Advocates that the Federal Government Regulate the Internet), January 8, 2001
- The Netslaves 30 (Including Razorfish, Doubleclick, IVillage, TheStreet, and Others), January 10, 2001
- The Netslaves 30, Part 2 (Including Kozmo, MTVi, Oxygen, and Others), January 10, 2001
- The Flying Scooter (Meditations on the Weird, Useless, Highly-Anticipated Segue), January 12, 2001
- Why You No Longer Have a Job (A Forensic Analysis of the Factors Responsible For Your Precipitous Decline), January 14, 2001
- The Dot Bomb Shopping List (Looking for a Cheap Computer? Buy it From a Liquidating Technology Company), January 14, 2001
- That Time of the Quarter: A NetSlaves Pamphlet (Advice on How to Survive Your Own Firing/Termination), January 16, 2001
- Wake Up (Sensible Advice for Those Suffering Through the Tech Industry Recession of 2000-2001), January 20, 2001
- The New, New Business (We All Know What a Rotten Technology Company Looks Like. What's a Good One Look Like?), January 21, 2001
- Onion Staff: Welcome to New York (A Netslaves Columnist Wishes the Best to Scott Dikkers Et Al.), January 23, 2001
- Bloodbath, American-Style (Commentary on the Collapse of the Interactive Industry, Featuring layoffs at CNN, Fox, and AOL/Time Warner), January 26, 2001
- Pink Slip Monday: The Pre-Game (How to Enjoy the Weekend In the Face of Employment Extinction), January 27, 2001
- Death on the Online Ad Frontier? (Thoughts on the Collapse of the Online Ad Industry), February 2, 2001