When I interviewed at Wired Online, I was struck by the head of the whole deal - the Online Tsar, as it were. He had a huge head of frizzy black hair, birkenstocks, and a cocky attitude. I hadn't really known what to expect, I was impressed by his powerful personality.
I was brought on board as an intern, and during my first day I went to a meeting chaired by Herr Steuer. I was again impressed, this time by his command of the attention, and his knowledge of what was going on. Each person was reporting on their feild of interest - what they would contribute to our new venture (at that time called @Wired). He could talk to each person, on their terms. He knew what was up from the geek side, the technical side, as well as the planning, marketing and community development angles.
And he was only 28. The head of our brave venture.
By the end of June, Chandra and I were still apartment hunting. We wanted to live in the Mission, but two month sublets were hard to come by. Jonathan had a roommate moving out. We auditioned, the Cyborganites dug us enough to take us on. I was now rooming with my boss Jonathan.
At that time Jonathan had a community of fun twentysomething computer freaks - most living on Ramona street, in the Mission district of San Francisco. Most everybody used to work at Wired, and most everybody worked on Cyborganic.
He enlisted my labour on a contract job, a report on Online Services for Henry Holt Publishers. In addition, I picked up work digitizing the Maze book. He was soon hosting this web site, an arrangement started in the summer of 1994 and extending until the present moment!
Living with him was extremely stimulating on one hand, him being the publisher meant that he had a head full of HotWired, often available for download. As the job became more stressful, and less fun, there was a lot of line noise on the downloading. He was unhappy, and it was contagious to the people sharing his dream.All the while Cyborganic was Jonathan's dream. With friends he plotted a series of cyber-community centers, spaces linking the real and virtual, where a cup of coffee might lead to a free web page and some interesting debate around technology.
Things spiralled with HotWired. Conflict over community, contributors and deadlines had Andrew and Louis taking over Jonathan's brainchild to squeeze it into a branded box. Jonathan was demoted to Information and Technology Architect before HotWired even launched. He waited to see the project through labour, and quit to work on personal projects, consulting for c|net on the side. He wasn't the only one disillusioned - ten of twenty people left within eight months of launch.
I appreciated his vision because it could bring the net to thousands of people who wouldn't otherwise have access to the computers and the net hookup. I wanted a place to hang out with cyber-funky folks, teach some classes, meet my friends. But the timing was too early perhaps, in 1996; the people who wanted to be online found their way there, and other folks didn't quite know how cool and useful the internet was. The Cyborganic effort broke up and the people involved took those ideas and experiences elsewhere.
I heard him spelling his name out to someone on the phone - "S, as in sugar, T, as in toy, E, as in elephant, U, as in underpants..."
thanks to Jeff Veen for the crossed arms photo.
Between all his projects and responsibilities, Jonathan can get pretty frazzled sometimes.