Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

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Before HotWired launched, I collected predictions from stafffolk.

Here they are, with the names removed to protect the innocent. Maybe someday I put the attributed thoughts up...

Contributors include:

name position 10/25/94 position 5/21/95
Andrew Anker President, HotWired Ventures Ltd
Jill Atkinson Production Assistant(?) Production Manager
Chip Bayers Managing Editor Managing Editor
Al Choe Consultant gone
June Cohen NetSurf Editor Assistant Editor
Caleb Donaldson Production Manager gone
Michael Gold Databasso Profundo gone
Justin Hall Executive Assistant gone
Kirt Johnson Production Assistant gone
Kevin Kelley Executive Editor - Wired Executive Editor - Wired
Will Kreth Online Ambassador Section Director
Sean Malloy Editorial Assistant Editorial Assistant
Ian McFarland Engineer gone - Neo
Josh Michaels Renaissance Assistant gone
Matthew Nelson Production Manager (?) gone - Organic
Jim Petersen InfoStructure Coordinator (?) InfoStructure Coordinator (?)
Julie Petersen EyeWitness Editor Section Director
Louis Rossetto Editor-In-Chief Editor-In-Chief
Jonathan Steuer Publisher gone - Cyborganic
Gary Wolf Renaissance Editor Executive Editor

In a week the stress will be unrelenting. The site will be held together by duct tape. We'll be getting at least 200,000 hits a week, from 50,000 or more individuals. Various contributors will be calling editors and asking for changes in how their work is presented. However, their phone calls will not be returned. The advertisers will be getting plenty o'email, but they won't know how to respond.

In a month the staff size will have increased by at least half. It will be an unbelievable hive. The first HotWired parodies will have appeared, including one with a Zima ad on the top and a series "image load failed." Advertisers will be besieged by salepeople promising them less expensive space on other sponsored Web sites. We will be trying to create enough content to keep up. The most popular section will be Piazza. It will also break the most often.

In a year, we will be re-examining the whole site and moving toward a "program" model. Individual producers will create Web-based "shows," and the shows will be sponsored.

Justin will be living in a polyfidelious commune in Sonoma County, but otherwise be unchanged.

I think there will be more technical problems than we're willing to consider right now. I think the system will crash massively at least several times when overlaoded with users.

I also think we will become the target for net.tomfoolery. There are a lot of people out there who LIVE to hack around and break into things and screw them up. Until now, they've had a limited audience, but now the whole world is watching (or at least an audience that goes beyond the traditional scope of academics, programmers and other computer types). Hacker/exhibitionsists will definitely be out to break us. Not out of spite. Just for the thrill of it.

I think HotWired will generally be well-received in the community, but there will definitely be detractors, for several reasons: (1) the graphical interface -- while very cool -- is very user un-friendly for those on dial-ups with anything but superfast modems. (2) most write-ups will make sure to emphasize that we launched late (3) we will be lambasted by know-nothings like C&S and also by some Net die-hards for contributing to the commercialization of the Net, etc etc.

I think HotWired will grow tremendously in the next year (though its hard to see beyond that due to the shifts in technology) and I think many many copycat sites will spring up. Other magazines will most certainly jump online with similar set-ups. SOme will be very close take-offs. There will be several threatened lawsuits (us suing them over copyright shtuff)

We will become a ubiquilink.

I also think over the course of the next few months there will be serious soul-searching over what the focus and direciton of HotWired should be -- are we covering the digital revolution like Wired, or . . should we be more general-interesty. . . or what? I think there will be a lot of pressure from advertising to come up with new and interesting ideas for sections, so there can be more ad space.

By 1 week = 500,000 hits a day, 10,000 subscribers

By 6 months = 5,000,000 hits a day, 100,000 subscribers, 30 advertisers, 40 employees

Hmm, suddenly I don't seem to have as much to say about HotWired. ;-) I think that people will be impressed, BUT I think that the general net community will complain more than appreciate (isn't that just the net way?). Particular targets will be Threads (which may be widely disparaged in comparison to USENET news, AOL discussions, etc. [though personally I think that Brian have done a pretty amazing job and have done something of actual significance on the web]), and Renaissance (because anything where you purport to show the coolest stuff on the web and in such a hyped manner is bound to attract some jeers). The heavy-duty sponsorship list of AT&T, IBM, MCI, etc. will turn off another whole branch of the net community. Having "quality" advertising (Organic did do a great job with AT&T for example, especially as compared with the job Metaverse did) only goes so far to asuage the general contempt that people will (rightfully?) have for anyone bringing giant corporate sponsorship into an area so recently so pristine (I know HotWired is far from *responsible* for this, but it is certainly surfing the cutting edge of online commercialism).

Net people really love to tear stuff down, so I think there will be a lot of that in re: HotWired. Especially because it is so hype- laden, and just because it comes from Wired. But I think that at the same time, those same people will keep coming back to check it out, just like the people on alt.wired who apparantly hate everything about Wired Magazine, but don't seem to be able to stop reading it every month. If the relatively boring space that is currently is as popular as it is, I think HotWired will be a hit. But don't expect people to be "oh it's so cool! it's so great! wow wow wow!" I think the general reaction will be more like "it's pretty cool, BUT gripe gripe gripe gripe"

During the next six months:

We will not have as many users, initially, as we may have hoped.

We will have many more users, eventually, than we could have dreamed.

There will be many new faces at HotWired.

At least 4 HotWired imitators will spring up.

There will be an Internet-wide bandwidth crisis when every user on America Online attempts to hit HotWired at the exact moment AOL implements its Web browser.

Many current faces at HotWired will be missing, but fondly remembered.

We will add alternate text links on our home page. Then we will take them off again.

Howard will return from his book tour.

Justin's Links from the Underground will be surpassed in number of Web hits by Andrew Anker's Guide to Suburbia. Eventually, lack of interest in Justin's page will cause it to wither and die.

Alternate possibility: overwhelming interest in Links from the Underground, spurred by Justin's guerilla campaign to post it everywhere and anywhere in Threads, will bring 500,000 hits a week and prompt a leveraged buyout of Justin by Microsoft, which will turn Links into a shill sheet for Windows 95.

Members of the current HotWired staff will leave and attempt to start their own commercial Web site.

Canter & Siegel will attempt to buy a sponsorship. We will reject them, again.

We will buy a T3 connection.

Two people here will have nervous breakdowns.

One person here will end a long-term relationship.

Two members of the staff will marry each other.

Barbara and John will get a frame-relay connection to Park City and we will never see them in person again.

Josh Michaels will blow off the Media Lab and complete his graduate research at HotWired.

Andrew will get frame-relay and never cross the Bay Bridge again.

At least 2 attempts will be made to create unauthorized HotWired archives. Each will be beaten down by concentrated legal pressure.

Chip will sleep through the night without once snapping awake in terror over the work remaining on HotWired.

Gary Wolf will become the star of a new television talk show, bumping Ricki Lake from the airwaves.

Jane will appear on the Late Show with David Letterman, where Dave will praise HotWired for being "really happenin'." Paul Shaffer will not have any idea what HotWired is.

Justin will return to Swarthmore.

Brian will return to Berkeley.

HotWired will split into six different cyberstations.

Cyberstation will become a new entry in the Webster's New World Dictionary.

An earthquake will cause the building at 510 Third Street to collapse, but the Indy's will survive and continue to serve out Web pages.

Louis will go to work on Wired TV and will never be seen in the HotWired offices again.

I am wondering if disenchanted staff persons will be invigorated to work at HotWired by the overwhelming positive response.

i feel like we're all giving birth.
the stress, the anticipation, if it will have all its fingers and toes when it comes out...

i think we're all doing something pretty amazing. hotWIRED is huge. and will only get bigger. i think the reaction will be mixed: there will be the cynics who say that it is too commercial, that we're ruining the internet with ads, that we're a copy of WiREd on the net. i don't buy that. i think we're dealing with the advertising in the best way we can. And we are more live, real and twitching than wiReD :) damnit, we have our finger on the pulse of the net's nervous system. (or what ever that flyer says.)

but the rest will think it's pretty special. no one has ever made an commercial on-line experience so big and with SOUL! no matter what sort of internal strife we've made, hotWIRED is gonna rule. yeh yeah yeah. huh-huh huh-huh. i just hope the soul stays. i have a feeling some of the people who created the baby are gonna be forced to leave...and i will be pretty sad to see some of those people go.

as far as web hits go, if biancaT and links from the underground can get 20K hits a day, hotWIRED is going to be sick...with all the press attention that wiRed gets.

yeah Christmas morning! julie said she has that x-mas morning giddy-kiddy glow. me too! so jumpy. not enough caffeine. arrrhgh captin crunch.

i am so excited. aaahhhhh! eeek.
i should stop for now. still have a ton of work to do before 9:30! eeek.
procrastination is a bad thing.

hw stats:

150,000 hits / first day
1,500,000 hits / first week

more server machines within a month

TLG T1 swamped within 3 days after launch

1,000 posts in Threads within a week

5 new sections by the end of the year

ad rates will double for most popular sections within 6 months

picky icky shit:

club wired databases will get munged on launch day

there will be 250 bug reports in the first 24 hours; 50 of them will be real bugs


50 employees by April '95

Andre wAnker will proclaim himself King of the Universe in FY '95

NONE of Howard, Jonathan, Brian, Matthew, and Caleb will still be working at HotWired a year after launch

Jim and Julie will continue to live on premises for several months

design, etc.

so many people will complain about hw being slow that a text interface will be implemented within a month

the stupid non-modal toolbar in threads will be gone within a month


mean age of users over first three months will be 25; median will be 23

mean income will be $45k, median $30k

percentage of users on Macs and on Windows will be about equal for first 3 months

I forgot to mention that I predict we'll get flamed to hell on www-talk.

Beyond the usual predictions: late nights, hard words, bitter tears, and moments of comradeship unequalled in the trenches of the Digital revolution, I have some startling news.

The Internet will accept the encroachment of advertisers calmly. Not becuase the die-hard anarchists and hippy-dippy Berkeley UNIX-folx lose their faith, but becuase they are suddenly outnumbered a thousand to one by housewives and high school kids from across the country. So the flap about sponsorship and Wired selling out will die down. It's not so much of a big deal outside of the office anyway: everybody out there KNOWS we've sold out already, and they don't really care. We're a magazine, not a political party, however much we mught posture and however important we might feel tucked away up here in the Digital Sweatshop.

Brian and Jonathan will leave, and so will a bunch of other people. They'll be replaced by people with a slightly less revolutionary attitude. It'll be too bad for the place, but the lessons they have learned here will harden them to the realities of human greed and business (non)ethics.

Chip and Andrew and Barbara will be here another couple years at least.

Jim and Julie will be off in another ten months.

HotWired will be a really cool thing for about six months, but without innovative, energetic people who are motviated to work by having some control and gaining some reward, it will fall behind the rest of the Net. It won't even be important enough to vilify by the time there are twenty or thirty sites like this.

If the magazine makes it through the next year or two, it will be around for twenty, if only to provide a warm glow of remembered glory to the aging hackers of the early twenty-first century. Of course, I am here drawing my inspiration from Rolling Stone, but that parallel has been valid all along.

I predict great success in the first few months, followed by steady decline, followed by a long, dull twilight.

I predict that the Digital Revolution, which seems so important to us, makes little difference to the way people eat or shit or fuck or sleep, and less to the plants and trees and mountains, and so it isn't all that important anyway.

With luck, it will push us quicker to the realization that Stuff and Information are nothing without happiness and wisdom. Or it will make us empty, angry, and alienated, and we will get along about this business of destroying the planet and each other without a look back. Either way, the computers won't hum for long. Either way, we won't need them the same way we need them today.

But I digress....

At 12:43 PM 10/21/94, Justin Hall (Justin Hall) wrote:

>I have spoken to a few of you already about this -
>I am collecting predictions of HotWired from the people involved. I want
>to record our feelings and premonitions before this goes big time. Whether
>this really is new thinking for a new medium, and the web beats a path to
>our doorstep
"The Web will bleat a path to our content-rich barn"

>, or if it simply drowns in a sea of management and
>advertisers, it will be intersting to note how the people who made it
>thought it was going to turn out.
One thing I do think is a real danger is the advertising types getting greedy with it - especially if it starts to grow cash wings and flies through moneyed skies.

advertising rates

Agencies will have to prove something damn soon about the quality of the Web as an advertising medium to companies that are paying for the rates to stay so high.

Things might get rough. There will be controversies. There will be battles. Having watched the dialogue Well for the past few years, "virtual lynch mobs" can spring up online in an instant. It's going to be _very interesting_.

If we can resist the impulse of censorship of anything but the most egregious and gratuitous examples of obscenity or bad taste, then we'll really be saying something about the constricted "family val-ues!" of Muddled America (and AOL in particular).

Otherwise, I also know that it's going to require some good hosts. hlr, justin, will, julie, june, gary - we have a lot of good people. The beta-chats have been a blast! The mini-flamefest with Kristin and AA was just a preview of how punchy people can be.

What can I say, I think it'll be a kickass popular site. I'm too burned out now to say much more at this moment though. I wish my astrologer friend had had time to do a reading before the launch.

I think we'll certainly be seen as front-runners of the online publishing world. Could it become bigger than MTV - possibly.

my prediction was that our fowl and yeast infected network will frustrate all who try.

I am not looking very far down the road. Things change way too fast. When HotWired launches there will be a building crescendo of interest from the Web community. By the end of the year, everyone with a Web browser will have visited our site. Many will like what they see, and will come back regularly, to check out the content, to participate in the discussions, to watch a new medium evolve. Members will enjoy our content, and it will get better with every iteration. More and more artists will want to be part of the process, and that people will begin creating new art for our space and the medium in general. HotWired will be written about a lot, but I can't guess in what context. HotWired will be criticized by many on the Net for being "commercial" "arrogant" or "not interactive enough." Only the latter criticism will be valid. We need to do more to take advantage of the interactive nature of the medium, and not just in manipulating data. Our revenue model will evolve over the next six months. We will start experimeting with Digicash and home shopping, and they will be successes. We will sell many Wired subscriptions. Our launch advertisers will be surprised at the level of interest in their ads, and at the statistics we can give them. Some won't renew. Many will begin changing their ads, so that by 2.0 they will have begun to get the hang of what interactivity is about. For at least the first six months we will have more advertisers than slots. My biggest question mark is what happens after the first six months. And to a large extent that is outside our control. For HotWired to really succeed -- and to me succeed means endure -- the Greater Web has to grow. Just how fast it will grow I can't say. If it grows radically in the next year, HotWired will become a major destination; if it grows more slowly . . .

HotWired will have wild immediate success, storming the media waves as the place to head to on the FreeNet. As money transactions are introduced onto the Net and other publishers and broadcasters come online quickly imitating the success of HotWired, HotWired will break up into a bunch of niche channels. One or two of these offsprings will turn into something really huge, while the original HotWired will largely be forgotten over time.

  1. HotWIRED ditches those huge bitmaps at the head of each section in favor of a more traditional Table of Contents (with nice small icons), or,
  2. HotWired becomes the laughing stock of the Internet community.

HotWired Eats the Net

Within two weeks of launch HotWired will equal then surpass the Web traffic on NCSA Mosaic's Web site. Within in a month, Hotwired will be the most heavily used site on the Web. After squashing the inital bugs, Jonathan and Brian will spend their days frantically trying to keep up with the huge load. Within two months major hardware upgrades to our Web server and net connection will have to be made and new personal will have to be hired to assist Brian.

The advertising access numbers will be very low compared to the number of HotWired users, but will still be high enough that we'll be able to raise our rights after the inital contracts run out.

Editoral will experience major growing pains trying to collect and edit new material to keep up with the demand. Main-stream, big name contributors will be slow to come around. It'll be six months or so before we get Willam Gibson to write a piece for out site. On our one year anniversary, Al Gore will visit HotWired and speak in Cafe Wired.

Within 6 months, the major media outlets like Time-Warner will attempt to lauch copy-cat Web publishing outlets. For the most part, they will suck.

Overly optimistic? Maybe, but I gotta be if I want to end up making more then $100 a month...

HotWired will make a mediocre splash in professional and computer circles...probably like "Yet another big new Web site. But this one's pretty good."

Not much of a wake in the general public's eye...

The hype alone will result in ubiquilinking - one of the most popular sites on the web. Technical problems increase with volume. Over burdened systems. Ad rates increase drastically due to hits to ads. Immense popularity and flash/pizazz/general coolness will attract real media attention and coverage. Could be web killer app. - but Hotwired exodus in site - by January more than four leave HotWired with a more ambiguous position. Ultimately proven useless/top heavy unnecessarily burdened by management - small providers just as cool - whether advertisers realize or care in another question. Sucessful Web Brand Name.

Totally huge because it has to be. At least kinda lame, possibly disgusting. Still groundbreaking with many things. Will be a model for entertainment sites. Power structure will face criticism from the net but it won't matter. People will move to graphical browsers quickly.

It will crash a lot. Sponsors will panic in the first month and a whole lot of cool people will scorn it, or at least be dissapointed by unfulfilled promise. Bugs will get fixed before sponsor contracts expire, browsers will support one feature set, it will be wildly successful.

Hot/Wired | life

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