A Company that Matters

This Movable Type blog started in 2002 when, having recently moved on from Red Herring, I wanted to publish on my own and learn a new medium. The decade I spent working on Red Herring, from 1992 to 2002, was phenomenal. As the magazine chronicling the entrepreneurialism of Silicon Valley and beyond we truly had a passion for what we were doing and a sense of deep purpose. We weren't just publishing a magazine, we were helping people launch ideas and build great companies - companies that changed the world - and so we believed we were changing the world too. It wasn't a company, it was a mission. And as Tony, Zack and I were entrepreneurs by practice and by inclination, we built the magazine that WE wanted to read.

Sadly, as things do, the Herring era came to an end -- yet another victim of the tornado that swept the Valley in the dawning of the new millennium, like so many we had covered. I knew I needed a new professional passion, but I doubted I would ever match what we had at Red Herring.

I turned to blogging.

It seemed to me at the time, and it seems to me know, that we are in the midst of a period of massive positive, if tumultuous and sometime painful, change and growth -- impossible to grok completely from up close, but inevitably obvious centuries from now: A new flourishing of the individual, a technological revolution, an explosion of creativity, new heights for freedom and self expression, with democracies finally outnumbering autocracies, with liberty outpacing oppression. In short, a Renaissance - but a Renaissance of the 21st century: r21. It was interesting thing to write about, so I started doing my best.

I asked around for what technology to use and a friend told me that all of the people in the know were using this thing called Movable Type. That was good enough for me. It was a major project getting Red Herring to and off the presses. One of my first jobs was learning how to get information into Quark and out to files, figuring out how to create films from those files, plates from those films, and magazines from those plates (alas our presses didn't use movable type). An amazing and not inexpensive process that seemed at the time completely streamlined compared to the printing process that had powered information revolutions in centuries past. While it took us almost a year to get up and running with Red Herring, with Movable Type I was publishing in hours. Incredible.

Through using the technology, and then participating in the industry when we started Rojo - built to help people READ all of these new blogs - I came to know Six Apart in a sense. But it wasn't until just a year ago that I really got to know the place through a twist of fate becoming the GM of Movable Type, upon Six Apart's acquisition of Rojo.

What great people! I was instantly impressed by the folks at this company. Smart. Dedicated. Focused. Passionate. Creative. Six Apart is both bigger and smaller than many think. It is well beyond the early stage start up that fights to turn a vision into a reality, but for a company that has such an impact on the world it is still only 150 people. And how it changes the world. Over 20 million people blog with the tools that Six Apart provides. And while we can only prove over 40 million people read those blogs in a month, I believe the true number is 2 to 3 times that. When you look around at the amazing expression and diversity of LiveJournal and the relationships built there, at the powerful ideas and passionate discussions powered by TypePad, the friendships formed and extended on Vox, and of course the countless sites powered by Movable Type, from Iran to Japan, it is staggering to contemplate. Collectively these products amplify the voices of some of the world's most powerful people and companies, but even more compelling is how it has given power to the powerless.

I spent some time this week with China's most popular blogger who has been using Movable Type for 5 years. I had met him several years ago when he told me that he never blogged about politics nor did anyone else in China by and large. When I asked him this week if that were still the case, he said no - he and countless others have started blogging about politics in China. Why? The Chinese government had cracked down on bloggers, shutting down millions of blogs and forcing others to register, and this has been the bloggers' response.

Six Apart matters. It matters to millions upon millions of people who use it to communicate - about life, works, ideas, politics, sports, health, economics - about virtually every area of significant human endeavor. When our descendants look back at this time, as we today look back at the Renaissance and the other eras that brought advancements to human civilization powered by amazing new technologies, this will be one of the things that is studied. This company matters.

Today I have the privilege of being named Chairman and CEO of Six Apart, Ltd. The opportunity to lead this icon of the Internet is both exciting and humbling. I am grateful to many people. To Barak Berkowitz, who brought me into the company and supported me as his successor when he resigned, and the board that has but their trust in me. To Ben and Mena Trott who had the vision and drive to create this enterprise -- as we built the magazine we wanted to read, they built the platform they wanted to use, and it shows. To the incomparable Anil Dash who has kept the passion alive since being the first employee. To Aaron Emigh, who helped me bring Rojo to Six Apart. To the folks I have had fun working with every day, Andrew Anker, Michael Sippey, Marissa Levinson, Mark Simmons, Dave Tokheim, Nob Seki, Olivier Creiche, and many more, who I so desperately want to acknowledge individually but there are just too many of them!, who I have the honor and great opportunity continue to work with to build this company into what is deserves to be. I think about what I owe my family, my friends, my past business partners and colleagues, who have influenced and supported me and I'm grateful.

I didn't think I'd find something I'd be as passionate about as I was at Red Herring, but I've been lucky again. OK, enough of that. I better get back to work!

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TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.r21.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/25

Chris Alden may have been the reason Six Apart acquired Rojo. He became the general manager of Movable Type; MT4 came out about a month ago. Today, Six Apart announced that Chris will replace Barak Berkowitz as CEO and Chair. Congratulations to Chris, ... Read More

» Six Apart get a new CEO from Lifeblog

For some of you, this might be just another press release for just another Silicon Valley company (see quote and link below). For me, I see and feel a ton of things at once (hey, I won't get sappy on Read More

7 Comments

So, if you received the above open letter (my listed URL) regarding the mess that is LiveJournal and which contains the signatures of more than 1,200 LiveJournal users who have asked some very forthright questions that should not be difficult to answer, would you ignore it as your predecessor has done, or would you see to it that the questions of your users are answered?

If you are actually more interested in the concerns of your userbase than anyone else at your company seems to be, I would love the chance to sit down and talk to you about it. I would also love the chance to tell other users that this company is being led by a CEO who has a better understanding of their user base and the meaning of customer service than it has up to now. Otherwise, I am going to continue to do the majority of my posting at my alternative blogging sites until such a time when my flist, which has been slowly migrating to other services, completes the migration and I can move on to greener pastures, run by owners who actually listen to their userbase and respond to their questions. And I will also continue to encourage my flist to choose alternative journaling sites.

Regardless, I find myself curious to discover what direction you may decide to take the company in, and whether it will be a better one that it has been going in so far this year. I'd simply adore it if you could give me some hope that you are going to save Six Apart's non-corporate products from, well, Six Apart.

In that vein, if you would like a hard copy of the above mentioned letter sent to your office, please let me know. I am aware of at least 5 copies of it running around there already, but one more couldn't possibly hurt, and I wouldn't mind sending it if it would mean that the members of your userbase who signed it would finally get some answers.

Sincerely,

~BubbleBlunder bubbleblunder@comcast.net http://bubble-blunder.livejournal.com

I would like to know what you plan to do with the four-month-long LiveJournal debacle known as Strikethrough.

Thank you.

Deb Author Profile Page said:

Congrats Chris! I am sorry we never got to work directly together - but I am sure you will do 6A proud. Heck - I may now finally get my behind back over to the office for a cup of coffee I keep promising.

All the best, D

Chris Author Profile Page said:

Bubble_Blunder: Thanks for your note. I've asked Rachel to set up a phone call for us to talk so that I can hear your concerns.

Hello there. I hope that you are a nice, fair fellow, for the sake of LJ's future. In the meantime, I have backed up my LJ on another hosting site, since I have lost 99% of my hope. Perhaps you have a different way of doing things, which can change that.

What would really increase my hope is if you could shed some light upon why LiveJournal has chosen to support communities such as proanorexia?

BTW, your photo reminds me of Jonathan Frakes. That's kinda cool.

Congrats on the promotion. Six Apart is an excellent company, and I'm sure you'll continue that reputation.

Also, ignore the LJ drama queens that have cluttered up the page, the best thing SA could do to LJ is a full purge of the angsty teens, and merge it into Vox.

I kid of course ;)

estetik Author Profile Page said:

I would also love the chance to tell other users that this company is being led by a CEO who has a better understanding of their user base and the meaning of customer service than it has up to now. http://www.estetiks.com/

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Chris Alden

Christopher J. Alden is Chairman & CEO of Six Apart Ltd., the world's leading blogging company. Six Apart acquired Rojo Networks, Inc., creator of an innovative RSS feed reading service, where Mr. Alden was co-founder and CEO. Before Rojo, he was CEO of Red Herring Communications, Inc., publisher of Red Herring magazine -- described by the Wall Street Journal as the "bible of Silicon Valley" - which he helped launch out of his house in 1993. Prior to that he founded Computer Guides, a consultancy.
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