"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 5 August 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Mid-Hype Crisis



Forget failing stocks,

Internet-hype-debunking stories,

hands gripping iced teas with

renewed vigor in South Park. The

real symptoms of gloom and doom

in webland are as ugly and as

blatant as those outlined in a

developmental psych textbook.


[Power Abs]

If the birthday of Internet hype

is about July of '95, and the

death of Internet hype is set

for April of '97, then it

follows that web professionals

now find themselves firmly

entrenched in a midlife crisis.

A day of reckoning is inevitable -

but it won't necessarily

happen overnight. Before we die,

we have to get old, and that

process is as dull and arduous

as watching the scales tip. As

our gut spreads and our veins

varicose, we begin to realize

the end isn't so much near as it

is unavoidable - and unless we

want to actively hasten its

arrival, all we can do is wait

for it to come. But we shall not

fear - properly conceived, a

clear vision of the end can only

bring a deeper appreciation of

the privileged status we now




Every day the web workers walk

cheerfully into SOMA offices,

almond croissant and quad

frappucino in hand - and every

day the more perceptive can see

a dark parallel to their Dream

Jobs, a waking nightmare of the

inevitable future: sucking down

motor-oil coffee and crusty

doughnuts in front of a Mac IIci

in some godforsaken office in

some godforsaken part of town

where there are no beautiful

women in expensive shades and

pleather pants, no T1

connections, no proscuitto-and-


sandwiches, and no reporters

hanging on to their every word.


They sigh deeply, because they

know they're living like the

Kobe cow, who spends his youth

eating fine grains and receiving

masterful deep-muscle massages,

only to be hacked up and flown,

on ice, to New York, for some

Vanity Fair mutant to relish

briefly, digest, and expel into

the sewers of the big city.


[Golf Clothes]

Just as extroverts have it easy

in adolescence, only to find

themselves ill-equipped for the

introspection of the middle

years, the early adopters in the

"revolution" can find it quite a

challenge to wake up knee-deep

in the, er..."hoopla." After

all, back in the fall of '94, it

was cool to know that Mosaic was

gonna break wide someday. But

now Netscape is a household word

and (thanks to Glenn Davis) cool

is a dirty word. As early

Wiredlings wander around dazed,

seeking an ear for their

twice-told tales of the glory

days, we can't shake visions of

a balding old codger in

lime-green golf pants,

reminiscing about Mimsy Lou's

sturdy frame and promising hips.


What will become of these early

adopters? During the web's

adolescent months, self-started

projects drew unjustified

publicity like cheap beer draws

desperate 16-year-olds. And,

once paired, the relationship

was cozy (if ultimately

vomit-inducing). Publicity, the

kids saw, could be leveraged

into capital - so they loaded up

the press equivalent of a six of

Mickey's Big Mouths, and waited

in comfy back seats, hoping Lady

Luck would at least go all the

way to third.


[Project Cool]

But, just as few long-term

relationships grow from such

boozy groping, most early

adopters shirked the

responsibility of "development"

and innocently yielded their

great ideas to the higher-ups,

who proceeded to make a quick

bundle. Or, the early web

successes of others encouraged

them to fancy themselves

geniuses, geniuses worthy of

their very own ventures!

Ventures that inevitably sunk,

slowly and painfully, like a

flailing marriage that was quite

obviously doomed from Day One.


[Netly News]

Many early web users learned a

little HTML and climbed that

ladder in fast motion. Once

plugged into IRC and snarfing

Twinkies at midnight, now

they're sitting behind big desks

mouthing off about "facilitating

communication between

departments" and "quality

control." Others were go-nowhere

metro journalists, who got their

own "cyber" beats and found they

had nothing to write about.

Still others were go-nowhere

trendoids, who finally found a

cause and a use for that

post-Jerry Deadhead commitment

to community living - only to

find the "online community"

functions just about as

effectively as the crowd at a

Dead show.



So the midlife phenomenon is upon

us all. Now even Glenn Davis,

web cheerleader extraordinaire,

is practicing a philosophical

comb-over. Formerly known for

his naively egocentric

proclamations ("It's Glenn Davis

cool"), now he's muttering

deflated concessions:

"Personally, I'm a bit tired of

the word 'cool' but it has put

me where I am today. I'm not

quite sure where that is

sometimes..." Other early net

pundits infamous for their

dogmatic diatribes now give form

to unsettling confessional

puddings. David Siegel's

ramblings suddenly range from

little dreams deferred, like

writing screenplays that

consistently "sucked," to

wholehearted regrets: "I wanted

to make something people wanted

and sell lots of them." Ay,

chicken little... just get in

line, already.



And even those who made a buck

think they could have made more.

And even those who are

happyhappyhappy with their jobs

know they won't have them that

long, because they'll only get

worse. The new media troops have

Dream Jobs, and fear Real Jobs -

the kinds of jobs they had

before the "revolution." Yet,

these Dream Jobs are gonna get

more and more Real as the powers

that be trade the cut-off jeans

dress code and internal emailing

lists for middle management and

employee policy handbooks. One

day they're blasting Slint on

the office stereo like it's

concrete evidence that their

lives are Special, the next day

they're attending seminars on

Assertiveness and Managing Your



[The Spot]

It's enough to make the web

worker long for the early days,

when we all felt so gloriously,

palpably cutting-edge; newborn

wireheads testing out our wobbly

legs in a beautiful struggle for

quality bookmarks, witty,

etiquette-minded email, insider

jabs at The Spot. But now that

the suits in Miatas are running

the game and the founders' egos

are bloating beyond recognition,

being associated with the whole

thing can make us feel downright

dirty. Suddenly we find

ourselves daydreaming about

print. Working for this

"exciting new industry" seems

about as exciting as getting

smashed on 151 shots and

vomitting all over that comfy

back seat. You can never turn

back the clock, and that's a

damn good thing.



But that doesn't stop us from

wondering - like the

newly-rotund middle-aged man who

hopes a Nissan 300ZX will

guarantee a firm blonde on the

arm - if we can't somehow

lengthen our days in the sun...

Now that we all have pagers,

that Suck-by-phone idea makes

more sense... right?


Then again, after our second

triple latte, we realize that

everything'll be okay. Once we

come to terms with the

limitations of the web, just

like a midlifer coming to terms

with thinning hair and the

threat of incontinence, we'll

find peace. We'll go through the

motions and act like We Believe

just long enough to save some

tall dollars, move to Savannah,

Georgia, and write a thoroughly

unexceptional novel. We'll get

the mediocre lives we deserve,

but in the meantime, we'll savor

that $4 coffee concoction like

there's no tomorrow, all the

while mouthing off about Who

Matters In New Media and What

The Next Big Thing will be.


The web, my friends, is boring.

We must not say so.

courtesy of the Polly Esther