Budapest's non-stops rememberedhe sweet-natured but infinitely weary Egyptian Copt who sometimes has to serve us through an anti-personnel grille in his shop door when street activities get lively around 1am. The two painfully thin grizzled men with missing teeth (one customer, one salesman) in the shop with only two shelves – 12 boxes of biscuits on each shelf – who challenged me to a series of mathematical match puzzles they had stretched out across the counter at 3 o’clock one difficult night. Or the mildly busy 24-hour shop around midnight where a man and woman, both in their 20s, were intently watching a porn channel on a TV set near the ceiling, ringing up each purchase and silently handing back change without once taking their eyes off the carnal congress on the small screen.
I do think there is a predilection for blogging among post-communist expats. In the early 1990s, Budapest and Prague attracted publishing renegades, a mini-generation of people who decided that life was too short NOT to join the adventure after the Wall came down. Once here, we couldn’t tap into any old-boy networks or climb any corporate ladders; we invented new structures, businesses and networks. We are, as a group, infatuated with revolutions. So blogging seems a natural fit for people like Ben Sullivan, Matt Welch, Ken Layne, Emmanuelle Richard, Nick Denton, Rick Bruner, you and me. Somehow, having lived outside the system, we were better able to see blogging’s unique applications. Rather than saying “gee, but this doesn’t match traditional media’s credibility or resources,” we were more likely to say “gee, but look at all the neat new things it does do.” We’ve all stayed in touch, we’ve learned from each other. I told Nick Denton about Google a few years ago and he told me about ObscureStore.com. I’ll say semi-seriously that, in the long run, I think I got the better half of the trade. You take your friends more seriously than you take some case study you read in Business 2.0. Though I have to say I’m still astonished by the number of publishers, journalists, ad reps and professional writers who STILL don’t get the professional implications of the Internet. They use Google every hour, but they still don’t quite understand that nobody needs anyone’s permission to publish. A few publishers see this, but not many. I’d love to meet more publishers who get it.