Note from Bil: Since I've been asked this question at least a dozen times this week, I'm pushing it back up to the top for our new readers. This post is always linked from our About Us page.
This week's installment of "I Get Mail" comes to us from Richard in New York City. Richard writes:
Subject: what does bilerico stand for
Message: i very much enjoy receiving and reading bilerco project daily updates. thanks!
as for the question addressed in the subject line, i mean that in the quite literal sense. maybe i'm just dense, but i'm wondering what does "bilerico" mean? is it a combined form of several people's names, or does it have some other origin?
would just like to know, and think you may want to explain it on your "about us" web page.
hope to hear from you soon, and thanks very much again for sharing the daily experiment.
After I wrote Richard to ask if he minded me using his e-mail for this week's reader mailbag, he sent back this very sweet note:
i'm not so much of a news junkie, so the bilerico project makes it much easier for me to stay in touch with things that are happening on many fronts. and, although i live in nyc, i venture to say that it makes me feel proud to be a hoosier!
thanks very much again, and please keep up the great work.
all the best,
With sweet compliments like that, how can I resist answering his question? *grins*
First let me dispel two common misperceptions:
- I am not Hispanic; the blog isn't pronounced Billy Rico
- The blog is not named after a medication or an ancient Chinese warrior
Let's deal with how to pronounce the name of the blog first. If you've seen half of our shout out videos or heard any of the interviews I've done with various radio stations, most people don't know how to say the name of the blog.
After all, it is a made up word. Please note the handy pronunciation guide - it used to be part of our banner before we morphed into the Bilerico Project. If you don't remember your pronunciation guide from elementary school, I'll break it down with a "sounds-like" guide too.
Bil - As in Bill - "Hello, my name is Bill Smith."
Eri - As in airy - "The house smelled fresh and airy."
Co - As in Co
ke or Sunoco or Amoco
So what does it mean?!
Bilerico is a combination of names. Originally, it was a joke between my best friend Eri Muramatsu and me. Eri is Japanese; we lived together back in the college days. When Eri was finished with school and moved back to Japan, we used to send care packages to each other all the time. She'd want canned goods, Doritos and other assorted American goodies. I wanted Pokii, chocolate-covered Cheetos and more Japanese delicacies. We sent so much stuff back and forth (and spent so much money!) that we joked that we should start an import/export business.
We could call it Bil-Eri-Co - Bil and Eri's Company.
Flash forward to when AOL became big in the late 90's. When I signed up and needed to come up with a screenname everything I could think of was already taken. After scratching my head for a few minutes, I typed in our little joke and the Bilerico internet presence was born.
A couple years later homepages were all the rage. I had a Geocities page that I spent quite a bit of time playing with and Jerame's friend bought me bilerico.com as a birthday present. For a while I had a homepage on the site, but after a while I stopped messing with it. Eventually I took down the old page, and Jerame and I just used bilerico.com for our e-mail addresses.
A blog is born
One day, Jerame said to me, "As opinionated and smart as you are, you should start one of these 'blogs.' Everyone is doing it now." I promptly informed him that I wasn't like everyone else and it sounded like a lot of work and I didn't do diaries very well and I...
In September of 2004 Jerame talked me into investigating blogs a little further. I agreed to start one on Blogger and we'd take it from there. Blogging is hard work. Finding something interesting to talk about every day is even harder. Being interesting yourself is the hardest. I sucked at keeping up with daily blogging. At one point I spent a week or two just putting up political cartoons - one a day.
I told Jerame if this thing was going to work, he was going to have to help me keep fresh content on the blog. After all, my crappy attempt had already drawn a couple dozen people a day to the site. Jerame became a contributor.
Then I had the bright idea of inviting local LGBT leaders to blog with us. The intent was that if more people saw the personal sides of our leadership, perhaps there could be less fighting and arguing in our community. Several folks joined and we were off and jogging. (Current contributor Marla Stevens was the first to join outside of Jerame and me. Her first post went up in April of 2005.) Notice I said "jogging" instead of "running." Most of the contributors were as faithful to blogging as I'd been.
Some contributors stayed, others left. More came on and I started to seek out actual bloggers rather than just people who should be blogging. Alex Blaze stopped by and left some comments on a few of my posts and I followed the link to his own blog. He'd just started and I loved his content immediately. We had lunch together a week or so later and I offered him a spot on the blog in February of 2007.
A couple months later, Alex had proven himself invaluable by providing quality content and assisting with other matters, so I made him our first member of the Editorial Team. (The team was him and me!) He's still as important to the blog now as he was back then. Without Alex's assistance and hard work we wouldn't be where we are today.
After we'd grown bilerico.com into one of the largest Indiana blogs we started thinking, "What's next?" Jerame, Alex and I put our heads together and came up with the Bilerico Project model. It would focus on LGBT issues nationally and would step outside of politics to embrace the entire LGBT experience. It would be an experiment to see if we could bring together 50 of the community's best thinkers, activists, entertainers and writers to blog regularly about what they thought was important to our community.
July 1, 2007, we launched the Project with about 25 of the contributors confirmed. Within a couple months we were being nominated for blogging awards and the kudos haven't stopped since. Why? It's not because my name is in the title. It's not because Alex does such a good job of finding typos and knowing where to put a comma or because Jerame keeps the software a hummin' for everyone. It's not any single contributor's success.
It's because we offer something you can't find anywhere else. A diverse group of people separated by distance, gender, age and attitudes has, nonetheless, managed to come together like a family should. We like each other. We look out for each other. We work together and we share our success with each other.
Bilerico is more than just Eri's and my joke now. Bilerico is a project - an open ended experiment on communication and community building.
We are succeeding.
We are Bilerico. Bilerico is us.