the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Hip Club and the Coffee Shop


I noticed a few people on Twitter chatting about a site called Alltop. It is a clever idea. One opinionated, well-connected entrepreneur collects all the most buzz-worthy blogs in each category — Moms, Religion, Gadgets, etc., and creates a definitive list, a starting-off point for what people “should read.” Not only does this create a buzz among bloggers, it instantly makes this individual into a cultural arbiter. Since the final say comes from the creator of the list himself, bloggers are now desperately clamoring and wooing this person to be included on the list, since having their name included “means” that they matter. And why exactly is one mommyblogger listed and another is not? I think mommybloggers should get together and refuse to be listed if EVERYONE isn’t included. Doesn’t anyone question authority anymore?

Sure, there is a place for this in the blogosphere, just as there is in the real world. I imagine there is no better feeling for some than getting entry into a hip club while others stand outside in the rain. Alltop appeals to this type of blogger. I’m not immune to this. I’m sure I’ll get a buzz when I’m included in the “Most Flirtatious Bloggers” category. Part of the fun is getting “in,” so you can feel that you are different than the masses. Who doesn’t like being a VIP? Us and Them. It’s human nature!

Unfortunately, I’m a Queens boy at heart. I grew up in coffee shops and diners, where I would talk with my friends for hours while eating tuna fish sandwichs, linzer tarts, and drinking coffee. I like that diners and coffee shops have a diverse mix of crowds — from homeless people using their last quarters to high-powered attorneys grabbing a quick lunch, a cross-section of the city, sitting side-by-side. I’m a sucker for this populist stuff. In fact, I just watched this great documentary on Pete Seeger on PBS, crying when he sang his union songs. Now that’s poetry.

I think of my blog less as a hip club, more of an online coffee shop. I sit by the computer with my cup of coffee and talk about “stuff” with whomever showed up. I go so far as to even think about my “blog crush of the day” as a representative of the waitress working that night. That’s why I usually I pick a blogger with a nice rack who I can imagine bending down low while serving me the french fries.

The Great Interview Experiment is pure “coffee shop.” There is an open seat at the counter. Whoever comes in, takes a seat, and is stuck interviewing/being interviewed by whomever was before/is next. There are no reservations needed. Most of all, I have nothing to gain from it.

I want to give a special thanks to so many of the “popular” bloggers who are participating in the interview experiment. You are bloggers who, despite the ability to get past the velvet ropes online, still chose to take some time hanging in the coffee shop with the mailmen and construction workers of the blogosphere. As for those who are ass-kissing to get on that Alltop list, but weren’t interested in being interviewed because “you don’t want to be interviewed by some “D-lister,” it’s cool, but the coffee is better here — and so are the women.


  1. CuriosityKiller

    Shucks, Neil. I’m a Queens girl coffee shop rat myself when I was a wee young thing. Thanks for many cups of coffee… next time I go on my shift, I promise I’ll drop something and pick it up for ya. 😉

  2. Penelope

    Doesn’t this all come down to why people blog in the first place? To write about life, make new friends and maybe learn something, or to become “famous” ,(I use the term loosely). Nothing wrong with either, I just know I’m quite happy where I am.

  3. Kathy

    I looked at that site. It’s not so much the hip club feel that bothers me, but the somewhat ridged categories. As a childless 30-something who writes a personal blog, I fit in nowhere.

  4. ingrid

    wonderful. i take mine with cream.

  5. better safe than sorry

    i’m a tea drinker but i like the coffee you serve here.

  6. Dingo

    I’m with Karen. I don’t fit into any of those categories although if I put a few more pics of my dog and cat on my blog I could weasel into the Cute category. Not really. I think Alltop will be a good place to find new blogs but I find it a little disheartening – I was naively hoping that the blogsosphere would avoid sitting the cool kids at one lunch table and the not so cool kids at another. But hey, if I ever get to sit with the cool kids, I’ll invite you all over to join me!

  7. Not Fainthearted

    This is what I’ve been saying about you for years, Neilochka. The community building. You’re all about the community building.

  8. suburbancorrespondent

    Yes, we don’t need no stinkin’ elitist blog snobs…we know where the real party is!

  9. Marilyn

    I think the only reasons I haven’t done the interview is a) I’m nervous someone wouldn’t want to interview me and b) that I wouldn’t know what to say if I was to interview someone who was “cooler” than me. It’s all about the social paranoia! 🙂

  10. Marge

    Neil, thanks for taking my last 25 cents. And thanks for telling me what Alltop is all about so I can avoid it now. My readers had better be reading because they are interested in me. If that’s 3 people, fine. I’m not trying to win any awards. I read here because I like you 🙂 Same for everyone on my roll. You’ve got a good thing going, even for nerds like me.

    Marilyn – See, now I’m really curious about you and I really think you need to do the interview thing. I hestitated but then when I did it, it was fun and I got to know two new bloggers who are on my roll now. Try it, you’ll like it!

  11. tiddleywink

    Yours is some of the best coffee around, Neil. Your readers are indeed a mixed bag, and they are the only arbiters of taste I need. I have adopted a few blogs into my RSS from your commenters.
    Katy – I’m also a childless 30-something who doesn’t fit into a category. Still, I get enough hits to tell me that SOMEBODY cares what I had for lunch. 😉

  12. Alison

    I looked at Alltop, too (funnily enough, not because of you, but because of someone else on Twitter). Meh. Whatevs.

    As for the interview, it’s good you keep mentioning it, because I still have to interview Sarcomical. And someone has to interview me. I’ll have to look at the list again to help me remember who it is. *looks around, sheepishly*

  13. Melina

    I’ll stay with the coffee shop, myself.

  14. Julie

    I’m a diner girl myself. I miss the coffee and the Mini-Meals terribly. There are no diners down here in NC. Now if you want barbecue, you’re set…

  15. schmutzie

    I’m a fan of this little coffee shop you have going on here. And I thought YOU were one of the popular bloggers! You’re not? Crazy.

  16. Neil

    Next morning: This was a an odd post. It definitely came out of watching that Pete Seeger documentary last night. Now that was a guy who followed his beliefs! I really didn’t like this conversation I had with someone a few days ago who was talking about A-listers and D-listers so freely, especially when on his blog he is always talking about why we should vote for his candidate — who offers hope for a better future. Why talk about liberal politics if you are going to act like a old boy’s club Republican online? It’s like a Governor who has prosecuted hookers while seeing one himself.

  17. Neil

    Schmutize — You’re right. This blog has gotten popular. That’s why I think about these social issues. I’ve NEVER been popular in social circles, so it is a bit of a burden. I have to fight my own feelings of being “important.” That is why it is important that you make fun of me as much as possible.

    I’m the guy who stands by the wall during the party. It truly bothers me that I’m not being polite to other bloggers, especially those who might drop in for the first time after reading a good review in the food section of the newspaper. Who runs a coffee shop like this? The best coffee shops have a friendly Greek owner who recommends the Greek omelette today.

    I feel sort of stupid having set up this interview process, and not having even read half of the completed ones. I’ll get to it.

    By the way, the custard pie is good today.

  18. ACG

    i was watching that same documentary last night. very moving.

  19. Loralee

    Hmm…I visited that sight because a lot of my bloggity friends were put on it.

    I was confused at the selection process and left wondering what the difference between that and a glorified blogroll is?

    Either way, I am DEFINITELY a coffee shop kind of blogger. Not that I’d mind hanging out at a swank club from time to time, but I prefer the comfy, cozy casualness on a daily basis.

  20. Bec

    Having never hung out with the A or even B listers, Alltop would just never really appeal. Nice idea, but, meh. Spent 5 minutes on it and just felt… annoyed.

    Who wants a muffin?

  21. Dagny

    Mmmmm. Custard pie. Now I might have to go to Nation’s. It’s a burger joint up here that only serves burgers, breakfast, and pie. All day long. Sometimes I like the swanky places but most of the time I just want a place in which I can be whomever I’ve chosen to be that day. I don’t think that I easily fall into any one category and I like it that way.

  22. Nat

    I am non-category girl. I write about The Boy but I abhor the label Mommy blogger — but I write about all sorts of other stuff too. I have issues with BlogHer about this as well.

    I hear you on the diner thing. We spent many a night highly caffeinated discussing nothing in local diners and pubs. You can’t talk in the dance club.
    (What’s a linzer tart?)

  23. Annie

    I take my coffee with cream :-). I never cared about being one of the popular kids in school and most of them went nowhere anyway. If people like my blog, I am happy, but just the fact that you come by from time to time makes me feel as if I am at the top of the heap :-), good enough for me.

  24. Angella

    Neil, I love that you are so real and down to Earth. Sometimes blogging can feel like high school, and I am SO OVER HIGH SCHOOL.

    Thanks for keeping it real 🙂

  25. Neil

    I think it is great that so many of you don’t take this stuff seriously. But the message that Pete Seeger had yesterday was: “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Why not try to make the blogosphere a place better than an imitation of the real world stressors of high school?

  26. Neil

    I also noticed that the creator of Alltop, evangelist/entrepreneur/VC Guy Kawasaki has been joking about a “BlogHim” next to this year’s BlogHer in SF.

    via Erin at Queen of Spain:

    Guy Kawasaki tried to get me to like the idea of Hooters girls next door to BlogHer Con serving drinks to BlogHim Con goers.

    Hey, that joke is two years old already — “BlogHim” on Google.

    And Nat — You MUST try a linzer tart.

  27. bookfraud

    i, too, view my blog as a coffee shop, albeit one where no one visits and is having trouble paying the rent.

    i highly recommend an essay called “the inner ring” by c.s. lewis. it may seem a bit off topic — out of left field, really — but i think it’s exactly what you’re talking about.

  28. Non-Highlighted Heather

    I’ve been tossing around the idea of starting a blog for a couple years now. And just when I think I might….

  29. brettdl

    Hey, that site doesn’t have a list of dad bloggers!

  30. QueenofSpain, Erin Kotecki Vest

    Dude that is so NOT fair. I told GUY all about your bloghim idea and that he wasn’t the first and then I told YOU. And the only reason I haven’t signed up for the interview project is because I have NO Time. And for the record, you get more traffic than I do…so pffffffffft on you.

  31. Annika

    I like coffee.

  32. MammaLoves

    And THIS is why you’re my permanent Blog Crush of the Day.

  33. Neil

    Queen — Yeah, probably wasn’t fair. But you’re strong. Can you believe that someone actually told me that they didn’t want to interact with a “D-list” blogger? Alltop just creates that type of atmosphere. Blogging is not like a “magazine stand” where only a limited magazines survive. I don’t like that model at all. It is supposed to be a never static exchange of ideas and POVs. Imagine someone saying they didn’t want to interact with “D-listers” in real life? Why is it OK to say online? Imagine the LA Times publishing a list of the “Mommys That Matter,” and only adding upscale mothers who are well-connected to Hollywood. I think everything online should be about opening doors, not shutting them — the same way I feel in the real world. And I know you feel that way, too.

  34. Neil

    By the way, I really recommend watching this American Masters program about Pete Seeger. I didn’t know how influential he really was — not only in his songs — he had an influence on every modern social progressive issue — the labor, peace, civil rights and environmental movements.

    He also reminded me of my father a bit.

    After the program, you just want to grab a banjo and unionize the poorly paid major league cheerleaders.

    I promise, the pomposity will disappear by tomorrow. For now — let’s march against the Dallas Cowboys! Pay those cheerleaders! Pay those cheerleaders!

  35. nancypearlwannabe

    I’d rather sit at your coffee shop any day, Neil, even if my rack could get me into any A-list club around.

  36. Neil

    Nancypearlwannabe — I noticed that you have a “blog list” story of your own.

  37. the slackmistress

    I think that there’s a desire to eschew all things popular to an extent where you’re creating a whole new brand of elitism, but the great part about the Internet is that there’s room for all of it.

    I don’t fit into any of the categories, either. I think that there’s a part of the blogosphere that you’ve got to bring it into “real life” to make the jump from blogger to BLOGGER. SF is a pretty big social media scene, but I gotta say having participated in it to a small degree, everyone has been really welcoming. And this is from a chick who also used to hug the walls at a party. 🙂

    I’m actually working with a new site to start a new blog talking about all of this (being “antisocial” in a social media world.) I’ll bug you about it later, you might dig it!

    Anyway, I love coffee, and I love champagne. But I was also an honor student who used to cut class to smoke with the “bad” kids. 😉

    (FWIW, Guy’s been looking for DaddyBloggers via Twitter.)

  38. Neil

    “I think that there’s a desire to eschew all things popular to an extent where you’re creating a whole new brand of elitism.”

    Great point. I really like that quote. I’m taking it as an offshoot of power corrupts. I think a lot of people like to pull down the powerful, so they can replace themselves at the top. It happens all the time in history and social groups. Think of how the Russian Revolution was initially about socialism and the “common man,” until it turned out worse than before.

    That’s why I hope my dear readers will always call bullshit, even if I say it. Do I really care about this Alltop, or do I just want to replace it with my own list of hot female bloggers?

    I’m not immune to ambition myself. I try not to push it too much into the blogosphere, or else why bother with the online world at all? There are enough tensions with real work. Maybe there are too many people trying to use the online world AS their careers, making the average blogger seem less relevant than those who are “professional” bloggers. It is just important to remind ourselves that it is ALL the same thing, despite one person’s hype — we are all writing from our bedroom in our pajamas.

  39. miguelina

    I’m still not over the fact that someone actually told you they didn’t want to be interviewed by a “D-Lister.” Really?!

  40. Baroness von Bloggenschtern

    For what it’s worth, I’d choose a chat-n-chew at a diner over an elitist nightclub any day of the week. I admire your view, and agree that ass-kissing does not always equate with value.

  41. communicatrix

    I think someone in this huge, long, excellent thread brought up the main point: do what the hell you want to do b/c you want the hell to do it (paraphrasing & swears my own.)

    I didn’t participate in the interviews b/c…I didn’t feel like it!!

    I comment…when I feel like it!

    The internet–and whatever List of the Moment, like that one you were involved with a couple of years back (what was it called???) has made me more aware of doing things with ulterior motives. And it’s ree-damned-diculous, really: who gives a flying rat’s patootie?

    I think The BF sums it up best:

    Q: “Why do people care so much?”

    A: “Because there’s so little at stake.”

    It’s a philosophy that scales. Feel free to adopt it.

  42. sassy

    Your coffee shop’s fine by me, and you’re not a snob Neiliepoo. Community is important.

    I recognize that the A-listers often have a talent that got them there, so good for them. That’s great. But that’s not my thing, I’m just normal whiny-with-issues Sassy.

    I enjoyed being interviewed by Arjewtino, and discovering his blog. Thanks for making that possible.

  43. lfar

    Man, I toggle between “the whole blogosphere is a coffee shop!” and “the whole blogosphere is high school part 2”. Sometimes it feels so inclusive, like shallow things don’t matter. And sometimes there’s high strung drama about link backs and comment whores and silly things like that. I just checked your technorati… I never realized you were so huge, Neil! That’s a testament to you, I think- you keep it real even though you’re a semi-super star.

  44. Arjewtino

    “you don’t want to be interviewed by some “D-lister”.

    Did someone actually say/write that?

  45. mrsmogul

    Queens girl myself I MISS DINERS! There are some here but it’s not the same NYC style grease! I am on ALLTOP, I just asked the guy to list me and he did without any VIP treatment.

  46. Neil

    Mrs Mogul — I can’t even picture you in a diner anymore. You are on all of the VIP lists. Next time — we meet on that diner on Queens Blvd.

  47. Theresa B.

    I checked Alltop out, but there’s no “there” there. What I like about blogging and the internet is that suddenly, we don’t have to rely on underpaid, overworked middlemen, deciding who gets published or not. We get to decide whether to write and who to read. And with no threat of losing your contract, it doesn’t even have to be about stats or comments.

    I really like this conversation you’ve got going. You and others who’ve been around, Fringes, Danny and Saviabella, people I’ve met through the interview project. I may have found the diner a little late, but the coffee’s on and there’s always room at the table.

    This thing you have created is special and don’t you forget it.

  48. gorillabuns

    I think blogging in general is one big social experiment. and we are all the lab rats.

  49. Edgy Mama

    I spend a good portion of my days in coffee shops. Recently, I even spent an evening in a Waffle House. Do you even have WHs in CA?

  50. smtwngrl

    I am so much more a coffee shop girl than a hip nightclub girl. Thanks so much for giving us anti-hipsters a place to hang our hats and be “somebody”. I’m still enjoying reading interviews of people I’d never have found if it weren’t for you!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial