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San Francisco

The Daily Dot assembles its troops. Can we kill ourselves with kindness?

When I joined the Daily Dot, the first thing I did was break our CEO’s heart. Nick White, who is such a newspaper man at heart that I’m told he was bathed in ink as an infant and then swaddled in newsprint, wanted a physical newsroom in Austin, Texas. Mostly, I think, that was so he could ramble his lanky frame into it occasionally, gaze upon his domain, rake back his lustrous locks, and declare our work excellent.

There was a problem with his plan, I told him. First, I had no plans to leave San Francisco. Second, what would it say about our commitment to covering online communities if we could not form one ourselves?

And so we did. I hired a staff I’d mostly never met—one of them, Lauren Orsini, via Twitter. And yet we’ve formed a tight crew that’s launched a newspaper for the Web, of the Web, and by the Web—on the Web. We Yammer, we hang out in Campfire, we IM, we Skype. (We sometimes even talk on the phone.)

One proof of the connections we’ve formed, however, is our yearning to meet up in meatspace. So Nick, in his tall, wavy-haired goodness, is flying the whole squad to San Francisco for a two-day staff meeting—our first since we launched a month ago, and the first time we’ll all be in the same room.

Oh, and we’re throwing a party!

Space is limited, but if you live in or near San Francisco, tell me how online communities have changed your life. I’ll pick some of the very best stories and shoot those storytellers an invitation.

One person we’re expecting: Wade Cothran, also known as the Best Roommate Ever. After accepting a job in San Francisco, he posted an ad on Craigslist looking for a room to rent. But he declared his virtues as a roommate in over-the-top fashion:  ”I’ll even cook for you. That’s right! My dad is a chef and taught me everything there is to know about cooking southern cajun cuisine. I’ll fry green tomatoes, cover them with marinated crab meat and smother that shit in bearnaise.”

So he instantly became an Internet star.

But fame has its costs—in Cothran’s case, not one but two jobs. He got fired from the gig he was leaving in Alabama—no big loss—but also from the job he was taking in San Francisco. You know what? He hit the road anyway and arrived in San Francisco Friday, where a coterie of well-wishers, this scribe included, greeted him.

Cothran fascinates me. Underneath his veneer of good cheer and profane bombast, I detected an undercurrent of pain, a growling dissatisfaction with life as it had been for him. Like so many seekers who come to San Francisco, he wants both to change the world and find his place in it. (I think he’d be a genius marketer: He clearly knows how to command attention.)

Where so many gold miners come here asking what’s in it for them, though, Cothran just wants to give. Sometimes kindness and generosity scare us, I noted, and my Twitter followers debated why.

“No good deed goes unpunished,” observed Ben Roodman. (True, in the case of Cothran’s job-losing Craigslist post.)

“Sometime it intimidates us because it puts pressure on to reciprocate,” said Charli Prangley.

Cothran told me he doesn’t expect anything in return for his random acts of solicitude. He’s already gotten offers of places to stay around the world. But I think there’s something challenging, even intimidating, about his altruism. Will it last in the out-for-yourself world of Silicon Valley?

Photo by http2007

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