Aug 30, 1998
Most of the notes above lament your departure as a sad thing, a loss to the Hotwired site. And to be sure, it is. Hotwired, as I and others have pointed out in numerous posts, has been on the decline for some time now. Your departure accelerates that retreat.
But my sense of wistfulness is tempered with the thought that your departure is an inevitable evolution. Katz and Hotwired have drifted too far apart for the marriage to be a happy one. A peaceful parting of the ways is probably what is needed to refresh both your career and this tired old homestead.
It is ironic, Jon, to see you talk of the freedom you had at Hotwired, when all could see the walls beginning to hem you in. The Digital Citizen poll. The movie reviews. The Lewisnky saga. All these seemed more to originate from a bean counter's desire for mainstream than the hindbrain of a simmering media pundit.
So I think your departure will be - for you - a release. And as that, a good thing. And as I read your columns here and in DTW I will watch for your work as it appears in print or online elsewhere. Because I think your experience here at Hotwired has changed you, given you an element not found in other writers: an awareness of and need for interactivity. Royalty cheques won't be enough any more; you're going to feel the urge to slug it out with your readers. That is where your best work always has come from and will in the future.
As for Hotwired, well, Art Kilner above dissected this ungainly corpse with his usual craft, echoing pretty much what I would have written about this place.
If I were to add anything, it would be this: the genius of Wired, and later Hotwired, was always that it was about more than just nuts and bolts. The writers and editors always knew that even while they were writing about new media, they were writing about Understanding Media.
It is this latter focus that made Wired unique. There are scores of other magazines and sites doing the "how-to-HTML" thing and the "Microsoft-vs-DOG" thing and even the "new-site-cool-site" thing. No other site (or magazine) took it further than that.
The medium is the message: and yes, other outlets analyse the message by analyzing the medium. But also: the content is the reader (or viewer). And nobody else is looking at the content, and asking: what does this new medium say about the people who use it, and the society which spawns it.
That's what Hotwired loses with your departure, Jon, and while your analysis of the content wasn't always as sharp as I would have liked, what I will miss is your deep recognition that there is a content and that it is important. And that is why I will continue to read your work in the future, and Hotwired maybe not so much.