I chanced upon an ancient backup of my RSS feed subscriptions, a cold hard stone of data from my time at Wired in the mid-2000s. The last-modified date on the file is December 2007. I wiped my feeds upon coming to Boing Boing thenabouts: a fresh start and a new perspective.
What I found, over 212 mostly-defunct sites, is a time capsule of web culture from a bygone age—albeit one tailored to the professional purpose of cranking out blog posts about consumer electronics a decade ago. It’s not a picture of a wonderful time before all the horrors of Facebook and Twitter set in. This place is not a place of honor. No highly-esteemed deed is commemorated here. But perhaps some of you might like a quick tour, all the same.
The “Main” folder, which contains 30 feeds, was the stuff I actually wanted (or needed) to read. This set would morph over time. I reckon it’s easy to spot 2007’s passing obsessions from the enduring interests.
↬ Arts and Letters Daily: a minimalist blog of links about smartypants subjects, a Drudge for those days when I sensed a third digit dimly glowing in my IQ. But for the death of founder Denis Dutton, it’s exactly the same as it was in 2007! New items daily, but the RSS feed’s dead.
↬ Boing Boing. Still around, I hear.
↬ Brass Goggles. A dead feed for a defunct steampunk blog (the last post was in 2013) though the forums seem well-stocked with new postings.
↬ The Consumerist. Dead feed, dead site. Founded in 2005 by Joel Johnson at Gawker, it was sold to Consumer Reports a few years later, lost its edge there, and was finally shuttered (or summarily executed) just a few weeks ago.
↬ Bibliodyssey. Quiescent. Updated until 2015 with wonderful public-domain book art scans and commentary. A twitter account and tumblrrolled on until just last year. There is a book to remember it by should the bits rot.
↬ jwz. Jamie Zawinski’s startling and often hilariously bleak reflections on culture, the internet and working at Netscape during the dotcom boom. This was probably the first blog that led me to visit twice, to see if there was more. And there still is, almost daily.
↬ Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society. Curios and weirdness emerging from the dust and foul fog of old books, forbidden history and the more speculative reaches of science. So dead the domain is squatted. Creator Josh Foer moved on to Atlas Obscura.
↬ The Tweney Review. Personal blog of my last supervisor at Wired, Dylan Tweney, now a communications executive. It’s still going strong!
↬ Strange Maps. Dead feed, dead site, though it’s still going as a category at Big Think. Similar projects proliferate now on social media; this was the wonderful original. There was a book.
↬ BLDGBLOG. Architecture blog, posting since 2004 with recent if rarer updates. A fine example of tasteful web brutalism, but I’m no longer a big fan of cement boxes and minimalism with a price tag.
↬ Dethroner. A men’s self-care and fashion blog, founded by Joel Johnson, of the tweedy kind that became wildly and effortlessly successful not long after he gave up on it.
↬ MocoLoco. This long-running design blog morphed visually into a magazine in 2015. I have no idea why I liked it then, but indie photoblogs’ golden age ended long ago and it’s good to see some are thriving.
↬ SciFi Scanner. Long-dead AMC channel blog, very likely the work of one or two editors and likely lost to tidal corporate forces rather than any specific failure or event.
↬ Cult of Mac. Apple news site from another Wired News colleague of mine, Leander Kahney, and surely one of the longest-running at this point. Charlie Sorrel, who I hired at Wired to help me write the Gadget blog, still pens articles there.
↬ Ectoplasmosis. After Wired canned its bizarre, brilliant and unacceptably weird Table of Malcontents blog, its editor John Brownlee (who later joined Joel and I in editing Boing Boing Gadgets) and contributor Eliza Gaugerfounded Ectoplasmosis: the same thing but with no hysterical calls from Conde Nast wondering what the fuck is going on. It was glorious, too: a high-point of baroque indie blogging in the age before Facebook (and I made the original site design). Both editors later moved onto other projects (Magenta, Problem Glyphs); Gauger maintains the site’s archives at tumblr. It was last updated in 2014.
↬ Penny Arcade. Then a webcomic; now a webcomic and a media and events empire.
↬ Paul Boutin. While working at Wired News, I’d heard a rumor that he was my supervisor. But I never spoke to him and only ever received a couple of odd emails, so I just got on with the job until Tweney was hired. His site and its feed are long-dead.
↬ Yanko Design. Classic blockquote chum for gadget bloggers.
↬ City Home News. A offbeat Pittburgh News blog, still online but lying fallow since 2009.
↬ Watchismo. Once a key site for wristwatch fans, Watchismo was folded into watches.com a few years ago. A couple of things were posted to the feed in 2017, but its time has obviously passed.
↬ Gizmodo. Much has changed, but it’s still one of the best tech blogs.
↬ Engadget. Much has changed, but it’s still one of the best tech blogs.
↬ Boing Boing Gadgets. Site’s dead, though the feed is technically live as it redirects to our “gadgets” tag. Thousands of URLs there succumbed to bit-rot at some point, but we have plans to merge its database into Boing Boing’s and revive them.
↬ Gear Factor. This was the gadget review column at Wired Magazine, separate from the gadget blog I edited because of the longtime corporate divorce between Wired’s print and online divisions. This separation had just been resolved at the time I began working there, and the two “sides” — literally facing offices in the same building — were slowly being integrated. The feed’s dead, but with an obvious successor, Gear.
↬ The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. Required reading at the time, and very much a thing of its time. Now vaguely repulsive.
↬ i09. This brilliant sci-fi and culture blog deserved more than to end up a tag at Gizmodo.
↬ Science Daily: bland but exhaustive torrent of research news, still cranking along.
The “Essentials” Folder was material I wanted to stay on top of, but with work clearly in mind: the background material for systematically belching out content at a particular point in 2007.
↬ Still alive are The Register, Slashdot, Ars Technica, UMPC Portal (the tiny laptop beat!), PC Watch, Techblog, TechCrunch, UberGizmo, Coolest Gadgets, EFF Breaking News, Retro Thing, CNET Reviews, New Scientist, CNET Crave, and MAKE Magazine.
↬ Dead or quiescent: GigaOm (at least for news), Digg/Apple, Akihabara News, Tokyomango, Inside Comcast, Linux Devices, and Uneasy Silence.
Of the 23 feeds in the “press releases” folder, 17 are dead. Most of the RSS no-shows are for companies like AMD and Intel, however, who surely still offer feeds at new addresses. Feeds for Palm, Nokia and pre-Dell Alienware are genuine dodos. These were interesting enough companies, 10 years ago.
PR Newswire functions as a veneering service so anyone can pretend to have a big PR department, but it is (was?) also legitimately used by the big players as a platform so I monitored the feeds there. They’re still populated, but duplicate one another, and it’s all complete garbage now. (It was mostly garbage then.)
My “Gadgets and Tech” folder contained the army of late-2000s blogs capitalizing on the success of Gizmodo, Boing Boing, TechCrunch, et al. Back in the day, these were mostly one (or two) young white men furiously extruding commentary on (or snarky rewrites of) press releases, with lots of duplication and an inchoate but seriously-honored unspoken language of mutual respect and first-mover credit. Those sites that survived oftentimes moved to listicles and such: notionally superior and more original content and certainly more sharable on Facebook, but unreadably boring. However, a few old-timey gadget bloggers are still cranking ’em out’ in web 1.5 style. And a few were so specialized they actually had readers who loved them.
Still alive: DailyTech, technabob, CdrInfo.com, EverythingUSB, Extremetech, GearFuse, Gizmag, Gizmodiva, Hacked Gadgets, How to Spot A Psychopath/Dans’ Data, MobileBurn, NewLaunches, OhGizmo!, ShinyShiny, Stuff.tv, TechDigest, TechDirt, Boy Genius Report, The Red Ferret Journal, Trusted Reviews, Xataca, DigiTimes, MedGadget, Geekologie, Tom’s Hardware, Trendhunter, Japan Today, Digital Trends, All About Symbian (Yes, Symbian!), textually, cellular-news, TreeHugger, dezeen.
Dead: jkkmobile.com, Business Week Online, About PC (why), Afrigadget (unique blog about inventors in Africa, still active on FaceBook), DefenseTech, FosFor (died 2013), Gearlog, Mobile-Review.com (but apparently reborn as a Russian language tech blog!), Robot’s Dreams, The Gadgets Weblog, Wireless Watch Japan, Accelerating Future, Techopolis, Mobile Magazine, eHome Upgrade, camcorderinfo.com, Digital Home Thoughts (farewell), WiFi Network News (farewell), Salon: Machinist, Near Future Lab, BotJunkie (twitter), and CNN Gizmos.
I followed 18 categories at Free Patents Online, and the site’s still alive, though the RSS feeds haven’t had any new items since 2016.
In the “news” folder, my picks were fairly standard stuff: BBC, CNET, digg/technology, PC World, Reuters, International Herald Tribune, and a bunch of Yahoo News feeds. The Digg feed’s dead; they died and were reborn.
The “Wired” feed folder comprised all the Wired News blogs of the mid-2000s. All are dead. 27B Stroke 6, Autopia, Danger Room, Epicenter, Gadget Lab, Game|Life, Geekdad, Listening Post, Monkey Bites, Table of Malcontents, Underwire, Wired Science.
These were each basically one writer or two and were generally folded into the established mazagine-side arrangements as the Age of Everyone Emulating Gawker came to an end. The feed for former EIC Chris Anderson’s personal blog survives, but hasn’t been updated since his era. Still going strong is Bruce Sterling’s Beyond the Beyond, albeit rigged as a CMS tag rather than a bona fide site of its own.
Still alive from my 2007 “Science” folder are Bad Astronomy (Phil Plait), Bad Science (Ben Goldacre), Pharyngula (PZ Myers) New Urban Legends, NASA Breaking News, The Panda’s Thumb, and James Randi’s blog,
Finally, there’s a dedicated “iPhone” folder. This was not just the hottest toy of 2007. It was all that was holy in consumer electronics for half a decade. Gadget blogging never really had a golden age, but the iPhone ended any pretense that there were numerous horses in a race of equal potential. Apple won.
Still alive are 9 to 5 Mac, MacRumors, MacSlash, AppleInsider and Daring Fireball. Dead are TUAW, iPhoneCentral, and the iPhone Dev Wiki.
Of all the sites listed here, I couldn’t now be paid but to read a few. So long, 2007.