Five years ago, I said I work for Six Apart. At the time, that sort of thing was a big deal, not because of me, but because so few of us who loved blogging could get a job doing what we loved.
Since then, amazingly, it’s become downright common to work in the blogging business. I have literally dozens of friends who work on creating tools and technology for blogs, and dozens more who blog for a living as part or all of their job. I even get to work with the best of them, from San Francisco to Paris to Tokyo. And now I can celebrate the company and industry I support in the city that I love, since we have an office in New York City.
As always, I’m immensely proud of working at Six Apart, even more proud to count such amazing coworkers as peers and friends, and proudest of all of what our community of bloggers has accomplished. When I started working at this company, my hopes were that we’d be able to teach more people about blogs, and that we’d be able to build a sustainable, ethical company that gave a bunch of talented people a great place to work. But in retrospect, I find it almost impossible to believe the role we’ve played in helping blogs become so common that they’re taken for granted.
That’s not to say it’s been easy. At Six Apart, we’ve made a number of mistakes, and learned from them. We’ve all been through a lot of stress, both personal and professional. But even after all we’ve been through, Mena wrote a beautiful post in my honor, and last Friday offered one of the kindest compliments to me that I’ve ever gotten, recognition in front of all of my coworkers, a group of people whom I hold in the highest esteem.
But one point that she highlighted last week was that all acts of entrepreneurship are really acts of faith. My title these days (though I often cringe when I say it), is “Chief Evangelist”. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the religious implications of it, but I’ve become comfortable with the fact that it reflects a bit of faith. This goes back to why I started doing this work in the beginning:
So I make tools that help people communicate. Mostly because I love technology, mostly because I love to try and build things and to get other people to think these things are cool, too. And certainly because I’m hoping to impress my friends and family with the end results. But some small, central part of the effort is because I know I’m privileged to be able to talk to anyone in my family at any time. In the span of a few decades, my father went from not being able to even send a letter to his father for a few years to being able to instant message me frequently enough to pester me.
Our letters to each other used to be the documentation of the lives we’d lived, the entirety of our correspondence forming memoirs for those who weren’t accomplished or pretentious enough to formally write out a memoir. I think that, among many other functions, this is one of the key roles that personal publishing can play in our lives. Weblogs and other social media document the lives we live and let us connect in ways that are, despite the cliché, genuinely new.
This is more true than ever. I am glad to have stuck with a company, and with blogging, through both points of ceaseless hype and endless criticism. Well past any point of blogging being “cool” to the insular world of tech geeks, blogs have become enough of the fundamental infrastructure of communication to actually become interesting to the world at large.
And of course, I had some personal goals, too. I wanted to work with good friends, with people I know and trust. I wanted to show people that New York City is, and will be, one of the centers for real, hardcore technology innovation and invention. (We’re hiring!) I wanted to bring together the worlds of the two things I have always been passionate about, technology and media.
As is likely obvious from our announcements this week, we’re close to being all of the things I’d hoped a company like Six Apart might become. In just the past year, we’ve damn near reinvented the company, with Ben and Mena and our CEO Chris Alden have been leading some brave efforts to do what few have the courage to do: Reimagine a company that’s already successful and growing, and picture it honoring its innovative roots in a way that’s actually new. We’ve invented, launched, and promoted more things that make the web better in the past year than at any time since the beginning of the company.
That kind of creative destruction, the willingness to take apart something that’s working in order to make it something truly inspiring, is actually even more ambitious than I’d imagined Six Apart being when I’d joined. And it’s the reason that, after five years, the milestone for me is that it feels much more like I’m starting a new job than that I’ve been at one for half a decade. I can’t ask for much more than that.