Andreas: "...that meant he was also deeply contemptuous of, well, standard business
practices and morals."I find this very interesting because I remember a person previously on this list, or Phil. and Lit., named Nancy. I can't remember her last name but I do remember her anger when she found out that he wasn't going to pay her for whatever work she did for him on ALD. It might have been around the time Dennis sold the site. I am wondering if he promised her a share when and if it was sold.
Veronica Caley Milford, MI----- Original Message ----- From: "Andreas Ramos" <andreas@xxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> Sent: Thursday, December 30, 2010 4:47 PM Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Dennis Dutton RIP
The last time I talked with Denis was perhaps nine months ago. Either he asked me something or the other way around. We emailed every few months. I didn't know he was sick. Somehow, I didn't expect he would die. He was full of life and energy. Denis was one of those people who stirred up a great deal of things. He got other people motivated and engaged. He was involved in many different fields. There was no doubt that he was very bright. As I wrote earlier, Denis stayed at my place a number of times and whenever he was in Silicon Valley, we had dinner. Conversation was never boring. But there was another side to Denis's projects. He often had hidden agendas and very often, he didn't disclose the facts. He created, but he also left disasters behind him. Cybereditions and Arts & Literature Daily was a total mess. Phil-Lit and Lit-Ideas were also his projects. I first ran across Denis while I was in graduate school. I found "Philosophy and Literature", an academic journal that was edited by him. It had great articles and was one of the few that I continued to follow after I left graduate school to start a computer company. In the early 90s, the web was starting up and I wrote to him and suggested an email list. David Myers hosted the list at his university at Texas and that started this list, which has been going now for more than 15 years in various forms and various servers. In the mid-90s, I became the co-moderator of the list. Denis and I got into constant communication because the dotcom boom was on. People were inventing ideas and making millions of dollars. I live in Silicon Valley and I was working at dozens of startups (literally! I worked at some 35 companies in that five year period.) Denis and I began talking about digital content. That led to CyberEditions. My friends included VCs, Silicon Valley lawyers, etc. I began to set up a startup with Denis. We had verbal commitments for $500K for seed money; the top Silicon Valley law firm was involved; I developed the website, the business plan, and so on. The goal was to create a digital publishing house. The key idea was unique; we carried out due diligence and nobody else had thought of it (and in fact, to this day, no one else has thought of it.) I thought we needed a portal to attract readers, so we came up with Arts & Literature Daily. I registered the domain name, built the original website, and came up with the first version of the logo: the Greek muse at a large book. In that period, Denis was often at my place. We went to meetings with VCs, lawyers, developers, etc. It was a great time: I was making rather absurd amounts of money and everything seemed possible. And we talked. Lots of wine, yes, but also remarkable amounts of whiskey. And after a few weeks, Denis began opening up to me about his other projects, what he was doing, and so on. Everyone who knew Denis also knew he was contrarian. Wherever the crowd stampeded, Denis went the opposite way, and very often, he turned out to be right. Denis was one of the few who poked Post-Modernism in the eye in the 80s and 90s. That meant he was also deeply contemptuous of, well, standard business practices and morals. The ancient Romans only knew about wine, so they said "in vino veritas", but they didn't know about whiskey, and in whiskey, more so. Denis confided in me, and to show me how clever he was, he told me what he was up to with many of his projects and what he did to his partners and friends. For the startup, I had assembled a team of experts who were all friends and colleagues; we had built many websites for startups. Time is money and a three-month project in Silicon Valley during the dotcom boom was a serious amount of money. I began to realize that my business partner was a problem. If Denis did to them what he had done to his other projects, well, Denis was a tenured professor in New Zealand and frankly, if it blew up, it wouldn't hurt him. For me, however, it was a serious risk: it'd damage my colleagues and my reputation. So after a few meetings with key people, I told Denis that I would not continue further. I turned CyberEditions and Arts & Literature Daily (ALD) over to him. I told my friends, the lawyers, and the VCs that I would not continue with the project. It became Denis' project. I was horrified to learn later what Denis has done with people whom he had hired to work on ALD. He hired people on promises and paid them nothing. He used his academic connections to convince what was at the time the best academic magazine in the humanities that they could cash in on the dotcom boom, so in bout of insanity plus Denis' wild promises, they bought ALD. It turned out ALD's domain name was still registered in my name, so he needed my signature to complete the sale. He came to Palo Alto and we had dinner at Il Fornaio. I could have forced him to pay and he knew it, but I signed for nothing, because I wanted nothing to do with it. It was one of those funny scenes from a movie: he gave me the documents, and as I began to sign, I stopped and began to tell a long-winded irrelevant story. Denis was frantic but pretended to listen. I finish the story, pick up the pen again, but once again, I said "we should celebrate this with whiskey!", and yet another long delay. He knew what I was up to, and it was rather funny. Finally I signed. The sale was a disaster; the journal collapsed. Denis walked away with a good deal of money, but he destroyed the magazine and many people lost their jobs. We stayed in touch. I realized he must have known why I walked out of the project, so he never brought up any of that again. Our relations were cordial, but I never got involved in any more projects with him. Denis was both very bright and very contrarian: that's a bad combination. Just as cats are sometimes too smart for their own good, Denis did many needless things that weren't good for him or others. ALD is in my RSS feed and I still read it every day. I was glad to see that it got many awards; it's considered one of the 100 best sites on the web. It always amuses me when new friends tell me "Oh, you've got to read Arts & Literature: it's a great site!" I hope it continues and maybe in a way, it'll be one of the good things that Denis leaves behind. Phil-Lit and Lit-Ideas were also good. I've made many good friends from these lists; I've visited many people on this list in Palo Alto, SF, LA, NYC, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and so on. yrs, andreas www.andreas.com ------------------------------------------------------------------ To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off, digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html
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