The Intellectual Activist
An Objectivist Review
Leslie Harpold and the Problem of a Digital Legacy
Categories: Finding a Voice

Leslie Harpold may not be a name the majority of web users know, but her online legacy continues to influence the influencers. In the 2020s, social media has given a voice to everybody, but in the early days of the internet, few creators were making their mark digitally. Leslie Harpold was one of the few web users from the 1990s who made their mark on the psyche of the U.S. and the wider world. Even after she died in 2006, Harpold remained an important figure in the development of the internet. The author and web designer’s work has largely disappeared from the web because of a decision made by her family not to extend her domains or allow her work to be published.

Finding Online Success

Before the internet began judging the work of writers by their use of keywords and Search Engine Optimization algorithms, Leslie Harpold found her voice. The woman who would become an influence on a generation of online writers began her writing career in the early days of online content before blogging and vlogging was considered a career. Harpold had two successful digital careers, the first as a writer and the second as a successful web designer. As the founder of the Fearless Media group, Leslie Harpold pushed forward the new artform of designing websites and pages.

An Established Writer

The decision of Leslie Harpold to concentrate on her career as an online blogger and writer, Leslie Harpold grew a strong online following. Her work as a writer for her own Smug.com lifestyle magazine drew huge praise. It was as a blogger that Leslie Harpold made her biggest impression and influenced a generation of followers. Harpold established her own blog, Hoopla 500, which allowed her to develop her voice as a writer and commentator on the development of digital media. In the early days of her blog, Harpold wrote the critical piece, Logrolling. The impact of Logrolling remains and is still one of the most important critiques of blogging written. For fans of Harpold and the growth of digital media in the late-90s and early-2000s, Logrolling showed the possibilities of the internet for serious work.

An Influential Voice

Leslie Harpold passed away in 2006, yet the 15th anniversary of her death stands as a time to assess her continuing influence over social media influencers and bloggers. The work of Harpold has been seen as vital to the history of the U.S. by the Library of Congress. The Hoopla 500 blog entries detailing the events of 9/11 and the impact it had on the life of Harpold were praised by the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress established its September 11 Web Archive Collection and included the blogs by Harpold because of their cultural importance. A variety of writers and designers have cited Leslie Harpold as an influence on their work, including blogger Heather Armstrong and designer Jeffrey Zeldman.

More Than a Web Artist

Leslie Harpold is now seen as a voice from the early days of the internet. However, her work to give a mainstream voice to bloggers and designers took many forms. Although blogging was not a widely appreciated art form during the mid to late-90s, Harpold chose to take part in a three-week series of in-person readings of blogs. The influential Web Writers in the Flesh in 1998. Several works have been noted by her followers as vital to developing the art of blogging. The Possible Scenarios for Heaven blog entry and her How to Make Things Easier for Everyone anthology are among the most popular.

Death and Battle for Recognition

The death of Leslie Harpold was a shock for her army of online followers. The importance of Leslie Harpold to the development of the internet was celebrated in the days following the announcement of her death. Harpold sat at the third position in online search rankings in December 2006, behind Britney Spears and Christmas. The online footprint of Leslie Harpold remains a battleground between her fans and her family. The websites and blog pages of Leslie Harpold have been allowed to become dormant and have been lost to prosperity. As an early online hijacking victim, Leslie Harpold led the way in fighting for her work to be seen and protected. Following her death, Leslie Harpold has become an important figure in the fight to protect the work of artists choosing to work with digital media.

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