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Leslie Harpold

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Leslie Harpold
BornLeslie Louise Harpold
(1966-01-08)January 8, 1966
Royal Oak, Michigan, U.S.
DiedDecember 7, 2006(2006-12-07) (aged 40)
OccupationWriter, humorist, designer

Leslie Harpold (January 8, 1966 – December 7, 2006) was a Web publishing pioneer, humorist, and designer, whose early and unexpected death raised the issue of the vulnerability of a digital legacy.[1][2]



Harpold was the publisher of Smug.com, an online culture and lifestyle magazine. Contributor Heidi Pollock described Smug as part of the "cultural migration from independent 'zine publishing to collaborative websites releasing curated content on a monthly basis".[3] Harpold's work there included a very early critical piece on blogging, "Logrolling".[4][5]

Her personal blog Hoopla 500, with posts describing her experience of the 911 attacks and its aftermath, was archived by the Library of Congress in its September 11 Web Archive Collection.[6]

She was an early victim of domain hijacking in 2001, with her website hoopla.com getting transferred because of a forged fax request, which resulted in a high-profile protest against Verisign.[7][8][9][10]

In 2002, her short piece "How to Make Things Easier for Everyone" appeared in Manual, an early experiment in non-traditional anthology publishing.[11] Harpold was noted for her work to expand the boundaries of writing and to build more connections between writers and readers, online and off. In May 1998 she participated in a three-week series of in-person readings by online writers called Web Writers in the Flesh.[12]

Many readers since her death have become familiar with her through the work she did for sites such as The Morning News and pieces like "How to Write a Thank-You Note".[13][14] Her writing on her now-defunct personal sites was also widely acclaimed, with "Possible Scenarios for Heaven"[15] being one of the most notable.[3][16]


Leslie Harpold illustration by Jeffrey Zeldman (1998)

She founded and led New York City design firm Fearless Media as Creative Director from 1996 to 2001.[17] For her work with Jones Soda she won a silver medal in identity design from Print Magazine. She designed Metababy, a website somewhere between an early wiki-like community and a piece of participatory performance art open to anyone.[18]

She participated as an artist in the Banner Project, the Web element of Day Without Art, from its inception.[19][20] She was also known for innovative work using Powerpoint such as Lorem Ipsum Dolor, her piece mixing the Latin text often used as filler (lorem ipsum) in unfinished documents with animation and graphics,[21] and Click To Add Title, her 2002 competition versus Michael Sippey in the style of a Photoshop contest.[22]

Her design work was often deeply intertwined with her work as a writer. Harpold was a strong advocate of the need for "a personal, direct, and conversational" voice on the Web in order to make sites effective.[23]



In December 2006, Harpold died unexpectedly.[1] Her death was quickly noted as it took place during her annual online Advent calendar; Day 7 was the last one posted.[24] At the time of her death, "Leslie Harpold" passed "Britney Spears" and "Christmas" to become the third-most searched term on Technorati.[16] After her death her family chose not to maintain her websites or allow others to make her work available.[3] This loss to the Web of her work raised the issue of digital estate planning for online creators.[1][2][25]



Author and editor Choire Sicha and blogger Heather Armstrong both have cited her as an influence,[26] as have designer Jeffrey Zeldman,[27] author Maggie Mason,[14] writer and podcaster Merlin Mann,[28] and engineer Chris Wetherell.[29] Like Harpold's work, recognitions of her influence often bridge multiple aspects of life, such as Wetherell's statement: "Her writing beat personal ploughshares into community ploughshares that cut through my personal and professional development like a sword".[29]

Harpold's influence on the personal Web was discussed by Christian Crumlish at the "Identity and Attention" panel at South by Southwest Interactive 2007, and it has been noted by many others including blogging software company Six Apart in an official post praising "her unique role in the history of social media".[30]

Many reference her piece "The Thread that Runs So True"[31] as an important representation of the personal Web she helped form and of their own experiences with the early years of the Web.


  1. ^ a b c Walker, Rob (2011-01-05). "Cyberspace When You're Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  2. ^ a b Evan Carroll; John Romano (15 November 2010). Your Digital Afterlife: When Facebook, Flickr and Twitter Are Your Estate, What's Your Legacy?. New Riders. ISBN 978-0-13-234537-8.
  3. ^ a b c Cadenhead, Rogers (2010-01-08). "Why Leslie Harpold's Sites Disappeared". Retrieved 2014-12-16.
  4. ^ Harpold, Leslie (May 1999). "Logrolling". Smug. Archived from the original on August 24, 1999.
  5. ^ Rosenberg, Scott (2009). Say Everything: How Blogging Began, What It's Becoming, and Why It Matters. Crown Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307451361.
  6. ^ Harpold, Leslie (20 September 2001). "September 11 Web Archive Collection". Library of Congress. Archived from the original on 20 September 2001. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  7. ^ McCarthy, Kieren (2002-05-14). "Web community puts price on head of super highwayman VeriSign: Domain transfer madness at Hoopla.com". The Register.
  8. ^ Doctorow, Cory (2002-04-12). "Let's put Verisign to death". Boing Boing.
  9. ^ Boutin, Paul (2002-11-02). "The Final Insult: A Lost Domain". Wired.
  10. ^ Null, Christopher (2003-06-23). "VeriSign Dodges Fraud Messes". Wired. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  11. ^ Rose, M.J. (2002-07-30). "Mommy, Write Me a Story". Wired. Retrieved 2014-12-17.
  12. ^ Silberman, Steve (1998-05-05). "The End of Dead-Tree Lit". Wired. Retrieved 2014-12-17.
  13. ^ "How To Write a Thank-You Note". October 2003.
  14. ^ a b "This Is Not a Eulogy". 18 December 2006.
  15. ^ "Possible Scenarios for Heaven". Archived from the original on 2014-02-20.
  16. ^ a b Cadenhead, Rogers (2006-12-13). "Remembering Leslie Harpold". Retrieved 2014-12-16.
  17. ^ "Art and Culture Network Masthead". Retrieved 2014-12-17.
  18. ^ Metababy – About
  19. ^ Olson, Marisa S. (1999-12-01). "Tune In, Black Out". Wired. Archived from the original on October 19, 2007. Retrieved 2014-12-10.
  20. ^ "Day Without Art Web Action". Artthrob. August 2000. Retrieved 2014-12-14.
  21. ^ Terdiman, Daniel (2004-12-10). "PowerPoint Message Is the Medium". Wired. Retrieved 2012-05-19.
  22. ^ "Click To Add Title". Archived from the original on August 2, 2002. Retrieved 2014-12-13.
  23. ^ Dougherty, Dale (1997-10-10). "Don't Forget To Write: Graphics May Get Attention but Good Writing Rewards It". Web Review. Archived from the original on October 15, 1997. Retrieved 2012-05-19. Note: Access date for Internet Archive version of page is 1997-10-15.
  24. ^ "Advent Calendar 2005 :: Leslie Harpold". Archived from the original on 2006-05-12.
  25. ^ Winer, Dave (2010-01-23). "Leslie Harpold's archive". Scripting News.
  26. ^ Burton, Bonnie; Graham, Alan (2004). Never Threaten to Eat Your Co-Workers: Best of Blogs. Apress.
  27. ^ "The Big Web Show episode 23: Paul Ford".
  28. ^ "WWLD: What Would Leslie Do?". 43 Folders.
  29. ^ a b Wetherell, Chris (2006-12-12). "Leslie Harpold and ... fuck". Retrieved 2014-12-16.
  30. ^ Dash, Anil (2007-04-03). "Leslie Harpold: Always Fearless, Never Smug". Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved 2014-12-16.
  31. ^ "The Thread That Runs So True (Some of what the web has taught me.)". Archived from the original on March 28, 2004. Retrieved 2014-12-13.


  • Burton, Bonnie and Alan Graham (2004) Never Threaten to Eat Your Co-Workers: Best of Blogs Apress. ISBN 9781590593219
  • Carroll, Evan and John Romano (2010) Your Digital Afterlife: When Facebook, Flickr and Twitter Are Your Estate, What's Your Legacy? New Riders. ISBN 9780321732286