Laughing Squid Squirts From the "Underground": BetterKnowanSFBlog

Every Tuesday morning, the SF Weekly news blog The Snitch profiles one of the Bay's many cool blogs in a segment we call -- BetterKnowanSFBlog. This week: Laughing Squid unites art and gadgetry.

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By Tyler Callister

The San Francisco Bay Guardian dubbed Laughing Squid the “Best Pipeline to the Underground” in 1998. But Laughing Squid founder Scott Beale says that he’s since taken the word “underground” off the website. “’Underground’ is a really strange term now,” he says. “I mean, nothing’s underground unless it’s truly underground and that means that no one’s talking about it.”

Beale has a point...

The term “underground” was always problematic and the internet has just made things more confusing. After all, by the time people recognize something as “underground” it’s no longer underground at all. And these days, any independent artist with the internet has the potential to reach thousands or millions of people.

That said, there’s always cool new stuff you haven’t heard of, and that’s where Laughing Squid comes in. The blog, which gets 20,000 to 30,000 visitors a day, bills itself as “art, culture, and technology from San Francisco and beyond.” Beale says that Laughing Squid tries to bring together artists and tech geeks. “On the art side, it’s just letting them know about the tools that are out there to promote their art,” he says. “On the tech side, it’s all about getting those guys out and more exposed to art, when they’re so busy working on the tech side of things… Get out of the cubicle.”

Beale is a filmmaker and photographer who uses Laughing Squid to document such important San Francisco events as Santacon — the decentralized parade of Santas who consume copious amounts of alcohol and disrupt business as usual for one day each December.

Beale documents his travels outside the Bay Area as well, uncovering little idiosyncrasies like a parking meter that donates to local charities in Dayton, Ohio and a double-decker bus full of mannequins in Destin, Florida.

So how does Beale rifle through the abundance of underexposed art and choose what to post on his blog? Beale’s blogging seems fairly free flowing, just like a swimming squid. “Things choose me; I don’t choose them,” he says.

Laughing Squid is also a web hosting site, used by people like Boing Boing’s Xeni Jardin, organizations like the Yerba Buena Gardens, and only-in-San-Francisco-things like the Pornorchestra. Laughing Squid's web hosting has become a popular choice for independent artists and supporters of grassroots community, helping to make the Laughing Squid sticker popular in the geek world:

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Photo credit: Ealasaid on Flickr.

Beale thinks blogs produced by major publications would be stronger and more consistent if more of those bloggers were paid. “That’s the only way you can do it," he says. "When you’re blogging for someone else they should be paying you.” (It should be noted, as Matt Smith did recently, that SF Weekly does pay its bloggers while other publications like the San Francisco Examiner do not).

In the same spirit as Matt Mullenweg’s WordPress, Laughing Squid’s website says they are “open source geeks.” This means that Laughing Squid, which uses WordPress for the blog, supports the idea of keeping software and its code free and open to the public. “It kind of fits in with everything else, even things that are not technology related, being opened up,” Beale says.


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