You may not recognize the name Heather B. Armstrong but, if you're a blogger, you're probably familiar with the word "dooce."
Dooce.com is the name Heather gave to her website when she began blogging back in February of 2001. At that time, she was a 25-year-old graphic artist and web designer living and working in Los Angeles. She wrote about her life: her friends, the Mormon faith of her family, her depression, her job.
Heather was particularly vocal about her job. Here's a posting from January 17, 2002 titled "The Proper Way To Hate A Job":
Exercise your right not to shower, as practicing basic hygiene only makes their lives easier. You will look presentable when you want to look presentable, and today just isn’t one of those days. Today is, however, the day the company’s primary investor will be taking a tour of the new office. Think to yourself what a coincidence this is.
Arrive an hour late to work singing “Smack My Bitch Up,” because that’s what you were listening to at full volume the entire commute, over and over again. Look straight at your boss as you pass her desk and say, "Smack my motherfucking bitch up."
Readers will probably not be surprised to learn that Heather's company was entertaining doubts about her viability as an employee. Still, it seemed to come as a surprise to Heather when she was fired some six weeks later on February 26, 2002. Here's part of her blog for that day:
I lost my job today. My direct boss and the human resources representative pulled me into one of three relatively tiny conference rooms and informed me that The Company no longer had any use for me. Essentially, they explained, they didn’t like what I had expressed on my website. I got fired because of dooce.com.
I guess I could be bitter. I mean, I defended myself rather studiously, explaining that I had never mentioned the company or any employee by name, and that I had exaggerated several characteristics of the personalities showcased in a few of my posts.
But I really don’t feel like I have the right to be all that bitter. I made my bed; I’ll lie in it, to quote the inimitable Courtney Love. I understood the risk when I wrote certain things about certain figures that key members of my company might discover my website and pooh-pooh my endeavors.
Two weeks ago an anonymous person emailed every vice president of my company to inform them that I had written unsavory things on my personal website. I have yet to determine who sent the email or why this anonymous someone would hide behind a false email address. Conversely, I have devised several ways to torture said anonymous person when his/her identity surfaces.
Heather continued blogging and attracting more and more attention--sort of like a car wreck that no one could pass without rubbernecking. People flocked to her blog to read the latest rant. Robert J. Samuelson of the Washington Post described the phenomenon this way: "Call it the ExhibitioNet. It turns out that the Internet has unleashed the greatest outburst of mass exhibitionism in human history. Everyone may not be entitled, as Andy Warhol once suggested, to 15 minutes of fame. But everyone is entitled to strive for 15 minutes -- or 30, 90 or much more."
Heather became famous as the first person ever fired for blogging about her job. The name of her blog, Dooce, became an Internet neologism for losing one's job as the result of writing something on the Internet. We now speak of being "dooced."
Five months before she was fired, Heather and her boyfriend, Jon, decided to live together. Shortly after she was fired, they were married. Two months later, Jon got laid off. They decided to move back to Utah where they'd met at Brigham Young University.
In the years since, the blog Dooce.com has become their primary source of income as Heather started to accept paying advertisements on the website. She is now averaging between 800,000 and 1,000,000 hits each month. She and John had a daughter, Leta Elise, born February 3, 2004. Heather thought the baby looked like a frog.
Despite Andy Warhol's assertion, Heather is now experiencing her second at-bat for a run at fame. And it involves the world of publishing. I'll give the rest of the story tomorrow.