Chris Gulker, Web Publisher

Christian F. Gulker (born 10 March 1951) is an American photographer, programmer, writer and businessman. He lives with his wife Linda in Menlo Park, California, where he maintains the “hyperlocal blog” In Menlo. He has been running his personal site Gulker.com since 1995.[1]

In the previous decade, Gulker was closely involved in two seminal Web events: the San Francisco newspaper strike of 1994 and the emergence of the weblog community some three to four years later.

Scripts and Strikes

Gulker had been a staff photographer at the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner before moving to San Francisco in 1989. As Director of Development at the San Francisco Examiner,[2] he was charged with converting the newspaper from black and white to colour, a task he solved by implementing a production system of his own design.[3]

In 1994, as “a staff of one,”[4] he also came to run a pilot project called the Electric Examiner,[5] which routed wire-service stories to the Web. Gulker wanted to expand his system to distributing the actual reporting produced at the Examiner but was frustrated in this ambition,[6] as the Examiner was bound by a joint operating agreement with its local rival, the San Francisco Chronicle,[7] and could not move on its own when it came to venturing into new distribution modes.

The Electric Examiner attained a heightened degree of visibility in the first two weeks of November 1994, when San Francisco’s two major newspapers were hit by a strike in which some 2,600 journalists, editors, lorry drivers, press operators and paper handlers walked off their jobs.[8] Gulker did not join them. He opted out of the Newspaper Guild,[9] crossed the picket line and, backed by management, immediately set to work tweaking his system so that the Electric Examiner would now appear daily on The Gate, a website jointly run by the two papers.[10] For the duration of the strike, Gulker’s operation became the official, management-approved online voice of San Francisco’s two big newspapers.

Within two days, the striking journalists set up their own online newspaper, the San Francisco Free Press,[11] and competed with The Gate as “the soul of the Examiner and the Chronicle.”[12] Led by the Examiner’s Associate Editor Bruce Koon and freelance writer Marcelo Rodriguez,[13] they operated from a makeshift newsroom using their own hardware and a local ISP for rented server space.

The Free Press immediately caught the attention of Dave Winer, who, after the first two daily issues had been produced in hand-coded HTML,[14] pitched in and helped Systems Editor Cynsa Bonorris automate the site’s production workflow.[15]

While Gulker and Winer thus found themselves working on opposite sides of the labour dispute, they still “shared scripts and techniques,”[16] an experience which proved to be a transformative for Winer.

Winer had been aware of Gulker’s work since 1992,[17] as both the Examiner’s production system and the Electric Examiner were integrated using Winer’s flagship product, the Frontier scripting environment,[3] which Gulker prized for its versatility.[18] It was only during the strike, however, that Winer reviewed Gulker’s work in detail and came away deeply impressed: “After seeing the software he wrote I understood my own software in a whole new way.”[16] Having learned that “Frontier could play a role in publishing,”[19] he got “totally itchy to get my own web server up and on the air.”[6] Accordingly, Winer announced on the strike’s penultimate day that he was going to “drive the positioning of Frontier as an essential developer tool for Internet publishing.”[20] Gulker had just ignited Winer’s enthusiasm for the Web.

Networks and Attributions

Gulker left the The Examiner a few months after the strike and took an executive position at Apple Computers, where he oversaw strategic relations for the company’s Design and Publishing Markets group.[2] He came to collaborate with Winer again in March 1997 as part of the InternetWorld trade show in Los Angeles, for which Apple had commissioned Winer to build and run a promotional website.

Since the newspaper strike, Winer had brought out public beta versions of two Web building products, AutoWeb[21] and Clay Basket,[22] both of which he abandoned shortly before they got to a 1.0 release. As an alternative, he had decided to turn Frontier into a content management system[23] that allowed different groups of people to collaborate on Web site building in different capacities.[24] The Frontier 4.2 release of January 1997 was a partial implementation of this new system design, and it introduced a new default site architecture, adapted from Macintouch.com and Hotwired.com, that called for a “news page” on the home page, a reverse-chronologically, date-stamped list of lightly annotated links pointing to the most recent articles on a site. It invited links to external materials as well.[25] The new architecture was first implemented in a redesign of Scripting.com in February 1997; Apple’s News Room[26] at the InternetWorld trade show was to be its “moon mission,”[27] a highly publicised event in which the technology would need to prove itself.

Set up on location at the Apple booth, the News Room team created, in real time, “a constantly updating site for 3 days with very little technical infrastructure”[28] that would “focus on the achievements of the Macintosh net developer community”[29] and solicited contributions from conference-goers to achieve this aim.[30] In one critic‘s view, the site was a full success, as it “had a visceral appeal, it was up to date, and had immediacy and directness that I don’t get from other news outlets.”[31]

Gulker was equally impressed with Frontier’s new capabilities and started his own news page in May 1997,[32] predicting it to become part of “a new, and possibly much greater ‘age of letters,’ not unlike the one that arose when the first reliable postal services allowed correspondents to share ideas though separated by large distances.”[33] With expectations as high as that, he kept a vigilant eye out for whoever else was setting up their own news page, and in late 1997 created a blogroll avant la lettre in his site’s left sidebar, titled the “Newspage Network,”[34] which listed a full dozen of them.

Gulker’s Newspage Network never fomented any appreciable interaction amongst its members, but the promise of such interaction confirmed Jorn Barger in his dream of a weblog community.[35] Pursuing this dream in early 1998, Barger reached back to something unusual and nearly unprecedented that Gulker had done on his news page: on 25 Jul[36] and 12 Sep 1997,[37] Gulker re-posted a link that he had found on Phil Suh‘s news page; in both cases he added a parenthesis that credited his source for finding the link. Gulker had left it at those two instances and did not choose to make link attributions a regular feature of his news page, but Barger revived and formalised the practice in early 1998. A few weeks after learning of the NewsPage Network, Barger spotted Gulker’s discovery of Steve Bogart’s news page,[38] and recommended Bogart’s site instantly, on 13 Feb 1998, as “another fine weblog,”[39] crediting Gulker for the find. A few days later, on 16 Feb, Barger re-posted a link from another member of the NewsPage Network, Daniel Berlinger. This time, he not only credited his source, he introduced an entire scheme that was designed to attribute the source of every re-posted link, using citation keys that referenced a separate “sources page.”[39]⁠ Barger practiced and refined this link attribution scheme for two months before he found any imitators.

The long-time news page maintainer Steve Bogart was the first to adopt Barger’s scheme on 24 Apr 1998.[40] As a consequence, Bogart and Barger became the first two webloggers to trade links and attribute their borrowings.

Others adopted link attribution shortly after. In May 1998, the first sites appeared that were named “weblog” after Barger’s example: Raphael Carter’s Honeyguide Web Log and Avram Grumer’s Pigs and Fishes Weblog, both of which adopted link attribution. In June, these two sites were joined by Bill Humphries’ Whump Weblog, adopting link attribution as well.

Link attributions soon sprung up everywhere across an emerging network whose members had begun to take note of each other’s postings.

The most forceful testament to the spread and success of link attributions may have been the opposition they evoked. Two weeks into the year 1999, [http:flutterby.com Dan Lyke] referred to them — half-jokingly, having just attributed a link himself — as “one big tangled incestuous mess.”[41] The sentiment didn’t go away and, in November 2000, occasioned a full-throated rant of Joe Clark‘s against the “unbearable incestuousness of blogging.”[42] The notion that link attributions were “perhaps unhealthy, a form of incest”[43] was strongly opposed by Brad Graham, however, who defended link attributions on grounds that, in retrospect, hold true even for their first appearance in Gulker’s News Page; their purpose consisted in “growing a community.”[44]

Gulker did not claim the name “weblog” for his news page until November 1999,[45] yet two of the most effective means through which weblogs coalesced as a shared practice, the blogroll and link attribution, made their debut on his news page in 1997. Gulker wasn’t only among the very first people to understand that web publishing was going to be scripted, he also saw before anyone else that weblogs were going to “proliferate […] and cross refer,”[46] that they were going to be, in short, a social medium.

Archives

Gulker.com currently hosts archives only back to 2002, but with the help of the Internet Archive, they can be reconstructed all the way back to May 1997. I believe that these are Gulker.com’s news page/weblog archives in their entirety:

May 1997 | Jun 1997 | Jul 1997 | August 1997 | Sep 1997 | Oct1997 | Nov 1997 | Dec 1997 | 20 Jan 1998 to 24 Aug 1998 | 29 Oct 1998 to 7 Jul 1999 | 7 Jul 1999 to 4 Jan 2002 | 14 Jan 2002 to 2 Jul 2006 | 13 Jul 2006 to present

_

  • This post formed the basis of the Chris Gulker biography on Wikipedia.

 

References

  1. ^ Gulker, Chris. “About“. Gulker.com. http://gulker.com/about-2. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  2. ^ a b Gulker, Chris (2000-12-07). “Chris Gulker’s resumé“. Gulker.com. http://www.gulker.com/gulker/resume.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  3. ^ a b Gulker, Chris (1997-10-05). “Agents Home Page“. Gulker.com. http://web.archive.org/web/20000914072055/www.gulker.com/agents/index.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  4. ^ Gulker, Chris (1994-12). “The Web, or can you succeed on-line by giving things away?“. The Cole Papers. http://www.colepapers.net/TCP.Archive/Cole_Papers_94/TCP_94_12/web.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  5. ^ Gulker, Chris (1994-08-31). “News Wires“. Electric Examiner. http://www.sfgate.com/examiner/newswires.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  6. ^ a b Winer, Dave (1994-11-07). “Dave’s Automated Webster“. DaveNet. http://www.scripting.com/davenet/1994/11/07/davesautomatedwebster.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  7. ^ Farhi, Paul (1999-09). “The Death of the JOA“. American Journalism Review. http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=317. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  8. ^ Agreement in San Francisco Newspaper Strike“. New York Times. 1994-11-13. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/13/us/agreement-in-san-francisco-newspaper-strike.html?pagewanted=print. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  9. ^ Powell, George (1994-12). “On the Internet, there are no picket lines“. The Cole Papers. http://www.colepapers.net/TCP.Archive/Cole_Papers_94/TCP_94_12/strike.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  10. ^ Lewis, Peter H. (1994-11-09). “A Newspaper Labor Dispute Spawns an On-Line Rivalry“. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1994/11/09/business/the-media-business-a-newspaper-labor-dispute-spawns-an-on-line-rivalry.html?pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  11. ^ San Francisco Free Press“. The Well. 1994-11. http://www.well.com/conf/media/SF_Free_Press/. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  12. ^ Morse, Rob (1999-11-13). “Winning the good fight“. The San Francisco Free Press. http://www.well.com/conf/media/SF_Free_Press/nov14/morse.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  13. ^ SF Free Press staffbox“. The Well. 1994-11. http://www.well.com/conf/media/SF_Free_Press/credits.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  14. ^ Powell, George (1994-12). “On the Internet, there are no picket lines“. The Cole Papers. http://www.colepapers.net/TCP.Archive/Cole_Papers_94/TCP_94_12/strike.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  15. ^ Winer, Dave (1994-11-05). “Random Breathless Stuff“. DaveNet. http://scripting.com/davenet/1994/11/05/randombreathlessstuff.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  16. ^ a b Winer, Dave (2003-09-21). “The Spirit of the Web“. BloggerCon 2003. http://www.bloggercon.org/stories/storyReader$401. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  17. ^ Winer, Dave (2002-01-19). “Another homecoming“. Scripting News. http://archive.scripting.com/2002/01/19#lc7f7cedc3151b7a74c73d3045f352b44. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  18. ^ Gulker, Chris (2002-01-20). “Lightweight CMS“. Chris Gulker’s Radio Weblog. http://radio.weblogs.com/0100924/stories/2002/01/20/lightweightCms.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  19. ^ Winer, Dave (2001-02-15). “Notes from the O’Reilly P2P Conference“. DaveNet. http://www.scripting.com/davenet/2001/02/15/notesFromTheOreillyP2pConf.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  20. ^ Winer, Dave (1994-11-13). “UserLand Got Lucky“. DaveNet. http://www.scripting.com/davenet/1994/11/13/userlandgotlucky.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  21. ^ Winer, Dave (1995-01-28). “AutoWeb & Beyond“. AutoWeb. http://www.scripting.com/autowebdocs/autowebhome.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  22. ^ Winer, Dave (1996-07-22). “What is Clay Basket?“. Clay Basket. http://www.scripting.com/clay/whatisclaybasket.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  23. ^ Winer, Dave (1996-05-15). “Watch This!“. DaveNet. http://www.scripting.com/davenet/1996/05/15/watchthis.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  24. ^ Winer, Dave (1996-12-17). “A Custom Cookie-Cutter“. DaveNet. http://www.scripting.com/davenet/1996/12/17/ACustomCookieCutter.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  25. ^ Winer, Dave (1997-01-23). “A New Groove“. Davenet. http://www.scripting.com/davenet/1997/01/23/ANewGroove.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  26. ^ Winer, Dave (1997-03). “News Room“. Apple @ InternetWorld. http://web.archive.org/web/19981205074514/http://apple.www.conxion.com/newsRoom/. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  27. ^ Winer, Dave (1997-03-07). “Moon Mission“. DaveNet. http://www.scripting.com/davenet/1997/03/07/MoonMission.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  28. ^ Gulker, Chris (1997-03-14). “What we learned from the Virtual Newsroom“. Apple@InternetWorld. http://web.archive.org/web/19970704141309/http://apple.www.conxion.com/newsRoom/contentserver/newsroomwrap.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  29. ^ Winer, Dave (1997-03-06). “Mac Developers @ InternetWorld“. DaveNet. http://www.scripting.com/davenet/1997/03/06/MacDevelopersInternetWorld.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  30. ^ Winer, Dave (1997-03-10). “Fire Drill!“. DaveNet. http://www.scripting.com/davenet/1997/03/10/FireDrill.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  31. ^ Suh, Phil (1997-03-16). “Comments on Apple@InternetWorld NewsRoom. http://www.scripting.com/mail/mail970314.html. Retrieved 2009-09-06. 
  32. ^ Gulker, Chris (1997-05-31). “May 1997 Archive“. Chris Gulker’s News Page. http://web.archive.org/web/19991006011654/ww2.gulker.com/news/archive/may.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  33. ^ Gulker, Chris (1997-05-04). “A new ‘age of letters’“. Gulker.com. http://web.archive.org/web/19980215222047/ww2.gulker.com/news/about.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  34. ^ Gulker, Chris (1997-09). “Chris Gulker’s News Page – October 1997 Archive“. Gulker.com. http://web.archive.org/web/19991118021850/ww2.gulker.com/news/archive/october.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  35. ^ Ammann, Rudolf (2009). “Jorn Barger, the NewsPage network and the emergence of the weblog community“. Proceedings of the 20th ACM conference on hypertext and hypermedia. Torino, Italy. 
  36. ^ Gulker, Chris (1997-07). “Chris Gulker’s News Page – July 1997 Archive“. Gulker.com. http://web.archive.org/web/19991005231431/ww2.gulker.com/news/archive/july.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  37. ^ Gulker, Chris (1997-09). “Chris Gulker’s News Page – September 1997 Archive“. Gulker.com. http://web.archive.org/web/19991118015628/ww2.gulker.com/news/archive/september.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  38. ^ Gulker, Chris (1998-02-13). “Chris Gulker’s News Page“. Gulker. http://web.archive.org/web/19980215222004/ww2.gulker.com/news/. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  39. ^ a b Barger, Jorn (1998-02). “Robot Wisdom WebLog for February 1998 (waning). http://robotwisdom.com/log1998m02b.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  40. ^ Bogart, Steve (1998-04-24). “Hefty Hefty!“. Steve Bogart’s News, Pointers & Commentary. http://nowthis.com/oldsite/archive/1998/april.html#apr24. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  41. ^ Lyke, Dan (1999-01). “Via Cameron“. Flutterby. http://www.flutterby.com/archives/comments/779.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  42. ^ Clark, Joe (2000-11-12). “Deconstructing ‘You’ve Got Blog’“. Fawny. http://fawny.org/decon-blog.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  43. ^ Graham, Brad (1999-06-16). “Why I Weblog“. The Bradlands. http://www.bradlands.com/weblog/comments/essay_why_i_weblog/. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  44. ^ Graham, Brad (2000-01-06). “Re: navel gazing“. Weblogs eGroup. http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/weblogs/message/953. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  45. ^ Gulker, Chris (1999-11-01). “Weblogs get a mention in InfoWorld“. Gulker.com. http://web.archive.org/web/20030701024703/http://www.gulker.com/indexarchive.html. Retrieved 2009-09-08. 
  46. ^ Gulker, Chris (1997-05-05). “Mon, May 5, 1997“. Chris Gulker’s News Page. http://web.archive.org/web/19991006011654/ww2.gulker.com/news/archive/may.html. Retrieved 2009-09-06. 

2 Comments

Chris Gulker

Rudolf, thank you for researching this so carefully and writing it so nicely. I blush!

For the record, I’d like to clarify one point about crossing the picket line in 1994 – I had been promoted to a management position, charged with developing the web and other new media properties for The Examiner, before the strike, though most of my Guild colleagues were unaware of this.

Like many issues, it’s a bit messy – my account is here:

http://www.gulker.com/an-addendum-15-years-after-the-fact/

Probably more than most people want to know, but important to me.

Rudolf Ammann

Thanks for the clarification, Chris! As you realise, my interest is aspects of Web publishing (such as the blogroll) rather than the politics of the newspaper strike, but it’s good to have your perspective on that story as well.

Comments are closed.