Chris Pirillo: Celebrated Founder and Publisher of LockerGnome.com
This week, Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P., has an
exclusive interview with the internationally celebrated technologist,
television host, columnist, blogger, author, and entrepreneurial visionary,
Chris is the legendary founder and
publisher of LockerGnome.com, a technology website and content publishing
company with over 1,000,000 subscribers worldwide. He is one of the Internet's best-known
and respected speakers on technology topics ranging from desktop software to
e-business. Every month, his columns can be read in Computer Power User and PC
Today Magazine. His recently authored book, “Online! The Book” with John C.
Dvorak, is garnering considerable attention for its insights. Chris' annual
tech convention, Gnomedex, continues to draw record crowds, and he has recently
launched “The Chris Pirillo Show” online audio broadcast for tech enthusiasts
from around the world. Chris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris, as a pioneer in many Internet
mediums, we appreciate you taking the time to do this interview.
Q: You are a past English education major
from the University of Northern Iowa who started your first newsletter in 1993 sending jokes to friends.
This expanded into shareware news and now, you have 20 newsletters covering
most current topics in technology. People rarely use most of their URL favorite
bookmarks but they check email every few minutes so newsletters became part of
your core business model—now even advertising within your syndication process.
You have updated due to Spam and filtering and make available several channels (email/RSS-Atom
syndication/Web) and now audio with the Chris Pirillo show. You have past roots
with TechTV. Can you comment on this history and where do you go from here?
A: My background, obviously, is rooted in
using and sharing technology. I’m not a programmer, and probably never will be.
However, I have a tendency to pick up on trends and further apply them to my
own universe. I’ll also share certain parts of these insights with others at a
TechTV discovered me much like Columbus “discovered” America.
I was doing things long before I was on cable television, although being
recognized by network executives certainly did boost my visibility. For that,
I’m thankful. I spent two years working with folks at TechTV and I had a blast
doing the show every weekday. It was definitely a challenge, but I gained so
much experience by doing it.
Where do I go from here? Into the future,
and nobody knows what that holds.
Q: It is an interesting brand,
“Lockergnome”-- a combination of your nickname as a writing class, high school
senior, and your tendency to be standing by lockers. As an early weather
enthusiast [even winning a contest where you explain weather], you had a
surreal moment when Mike Lozano [a weatherman you admired] contacted you
through Lockergnome admiring the work you were doing. Describe other remarkable
or eventful times in your career. How do you plan to further develop or evolve
A: There are times when I’ll email someone
who I consider “untouchable”, and they’ll turn around with a “mutual admiration
society” response. That’s a killer – and it shows me that I’ve accomplished a
lot in these past ten years online.
I’m always looking for smart opportunities
to extend Lockergnome’s reach. There are certain tools which make this easier
to do, but I couldn’t do anything at all if I was locked into the ideas that
made me a success in the ‘90s. Sure, I survived the dot-com boom and subsequent
bust, but that was only because I had a profitable business model without
necessarily knowing it (or getting too far ahead of myself).
Q: You have engaged in some interesting
experiments such as rentmychest.com to see what people would pay for online.
Can you share a humorous story or two?
A: Sometimes I’ll get introduced at parties
as “that chest guy.” That always cracks me up, but it’s also a killer
ice-breaker in new situations. The ultimate punch line is that I’ve scored
about $2000 with that resource so far. I’ve actually got another chest to rent
sitting in my Inbox right now.
At one point, soon after I launched, I did
about 10 chests in a single evening. You’ll notice, in my early chests, I’d
make heavy use of the nipples. That all ended when I rubbed those things raw.
These days, I don’t really employ nipplage in my chest rentals.
Q: Gnomedex started in 2001 from an idea in
a chat room. It’s for the enthusiast and the non-technical and provides an
opportunity to network, make connections, give the average person access to
leaders, and all without spending a fortune. Your speakers’ list has grown,
including Steve Wozniak last year. It is being held in Seattle this year, June 23-25,
at the Bell Harbor Conference Center. Tell us more about it and what speakers will be featured. What is
your vision for its future?
A: Everybody dreams of meeting industry
influencers face to face, and we’re bringing a few of them to Seattle for the
fifth annual Gnomedex – which has become a conference for entrepreneurs and
tech enthusiasts. This year's theme: Producing, Consuming, & Monetizing
Technology. Even at $399, it’s still one of the most affordable tech
conferences of its kind in the world today.
Consider that both Wi-Fi and power strips
will be provided to attendees this year; two items that are essential for the
success of any technology conference. I’m surprised at just how many tech
conferences do one without the other – with many of them not even doing Wi-Fi
all that well. Plus, we’re giving folks unlimited food and beverage throughout
the day’s scheduled events. $399 should be sounding like a bargain now.
Past speakers have included John C. Dvorak,
Tim O'Reilly, cmdrtaco of Slashdot, Dan Gillmor, Evan Williams, Pud Kaplan, Doc
Searls, Robert Scoble, Wil Wheaton, Jim Louderback, Steve Gillmor, and Jason
Every year, however, the landscape changes;
different topics gain and lose popularity even over a month’s time. Conversation,
itself, remains constant – which is what Gnomedex has quickly become a part of.
Q: Warner Brothers Music gets it. Apple is
way ahead. Amazon understands. Atom is a standard and you have interesting
views on RSS. You want “it” part of operating systems. As one of the earliest
proponents of syndication, give us your views of its history, where it is
heading, how it will make a difference? When will it reach that critical mass?
A: RSS was always easy to use, provided you
had the right server-side software. There were only a handful of desktop
aggregators a few years ago, but the power of RSS was still there – largely untapped.
As more and more CMS’ were publishing feeds automatically, there became an
increasing need for a more usable news aggregator.
Right now, we’re still in a chasm. It’s not
easy for everybody to use and it’s certainly not scalable. That doesn’t mean it
shouldn’t be used, though. Eventually, support for it will be included in every
mainstream browser. We’ve got Firefox handling it in a rudimentary way, and OS
X’s Safari will soon make feeds more usable. I predict that Internet Explorer
will help push feed management into the mainstream – which is what it’ll take
to reach critical mass. If IE does it, it’s game over (in a good way).
Q: You were blogging before it became
popular; even as far back as 94/95. Provide us your commentary and insights
today and into the future?
A: Personal voice is everything. Always has
been, always will be. ‘Nuff said.
Q: Your many varied experiences have taught
you valuable lessons along the way such as in 1998 when you had a situation
backfire. Can you share your top ten tips for Internet business success?
A: 1) Be open, be honest, be real.
2) Ignoring one problem creates another.
3) Remember who pays your bills.
4) The only person you can trust is
5) Instead of fighting with a competitor,
try working with them.
6) If you don’t know what’s wrong, don’t
try to fix it until you do.
7) Afternoon vacations make for great
8) Don’t be afraid of change, despite the
9) Work to build bridges for people, not
10) Good salespeople cost a lot, but bad
salespeople cost even more
Q: Who are the principle members of your
team and what lessons can they share with the audience?
A: At this point, it’s just a few of us –
including my Operations Manager / CEO / Fashion Consultant / Fiancée, Latthanapon
Indharasophang. Don’t even try to pronounce the name. We just call her
Ponzi. She’s learning how to: run an Internet-based business, keep her Inbox at
a manageable size, and deal with an entrepreneurial geek. We’re a different
breed with special needs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell you what they are,
because I’m blind to a lot of my own shortcomings.
Then, there’s our editor, Robert “Bob”
Fogarty. He’s been a godsend. I never have to worry about the work he does
because he does it so well, without question, without fail. He’s the kind of
guy every company hopes to find! He can think independently, and doesn’t need
someone checking in on him every five minutes. I wish he lived in Seattle with Ponzi
and myself, but he’s currently living in LA. At least there’s no commute time.
Q: What is worse, getting pirated or not
getting pirated? You have some pretty interesting ideas on sharing freely and
people’s fear of piracy. Can you expound more?
A: If you’re not getting pirated, you’re
not worth stealing. That’s worse than having something that everybody wants.
Well, if they want it, give it to them – on your terms, of course. Many
companies get lost in the idea of control, but when they realize that there’s
little to control, it’s likely too late. The Internet changed the way we access
information… and it’s only getting further decentralized.
Q: Chris, as the Keystone or Hub in an
information ecosystem, you are in an ideal position to make predictions. So
make your top ten predictions in any areas of your choosing? Who are the
winners and losers? What are the solutions?
- MSN Search will be renamed to 'MSN Graham's Number'
- Robert Scoble will be fired and/or hired by another company at
twice his current salary
- George Lucas announces three more Star Wars films (dubbed
'Suckquels'), after Special Editions for the Prequels and Super-Duper Mega
Deluxe Power Special XP Uber Plus Editions for the Original Trilogy are
- Adobe Reader 7.0.2 will be released, solidifying its place in
the Guinness Book of World's Records as the "Most Painfully Long Boot
Process for an Application that Everybody Needs."
- eBay will eBay itself on eBay
- Microsoft will begin issuing patches as viruses and spyware,
thus boosting update adoption by ten billion percent
- The RIAA will make writing on any kind of CD illegal
- Everybody and their grandmother will have a podcast that's just
as boring and useless as their blogs
- To compete with Atom in the marketplace, Harvard will start
calling RSS 'Eve'
- It becomes legal to castrate / sterilize spammers under
Winners? The Hatfields. Losers? The McCoys.
Solution? Punch the Monkey.
Q: What are your favorite information
links, tools, and other resources? Why?
A: 1) http://www.newsgator.com/
- I can’t live without my Aggregator, but I wish I had more time to use it more
- I use the service at least once a week, whether I need to or not
- It’s the best free Windows-based text editor around
- The only browser I’d consider using right now
- Because I don’t want to load more than one IM client at a time
Q: Give one example of a major challenge in
the last six months and how it was resolved?
A: Gnomedex 4. It started with good
intentions, but quickly became my nightmare. The person who helped launched the
conference, its location, etc. left the project shortly thereafter, followed
soon by the parting of another staff member – and then by yet another staff
member. There is no “I” in team, but “I” no longer had a team (for various
reasons). Then, we started to work with a production company that wasn’t quite
painting a complete picture – while I’m certain their intentions were good. We started
working with a coordinator who had other conferences going on at the same time.
Again, I’m sure the intentions of this person were good.
I pulled out all the stops and made
Gnomedex 4 the best it could be – and it turned out to be the best Gnomedex to
date. Had Ponzi not been there, I don’t know what I would have done. She’s
amazing. My old friend, Eric Myszka, also helped me through this stressful time
in Lockergnome’s history.
Q: How about commentary about your Darth
Vader collection starting with your 1977 figure?
A: Heh. Ponzi picked up an original Kenner figurine for
Christmas a couple of years ago. It was sitting there on its lonesome and I
decided to fill out the shelf with more Vaders. Why not? They’re cheap on eBay
because Lucas puked all over his brand.
Q: Chris, it has been fun. You are making a
real impact on Internet history and we are looking forward to your future
A: I wish I had more time to provide more
extensive answers to your questions! I’m busy preparing for Gnomedex 5.0 in Seattle right now.
Will I see you there in June?
Stephen: Great question considering my
schedule…I will try quietly having a quick go of it.