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In geek world, he's a celebrity

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Mention Chris Pirillo on your blog or Web site and, soon enough, he'll show up with a comment.

This happens so often that bloggers call it "The Pirillo Effect." Pirillo, it seems, is always online, checking for his name and ready to jump into the conversation.

And Pirillo's name gets mentioned a lot. If you do a search for Chris on the Google, Yahoo or MSN search engines, his Web site is the first result.

Pirillo, 31, is a minor celebrity among online Web loggers and technology enthusiasts, and has been making waves in the Puget Sound area since moving to Seattle in December from Woodland Hills, Calif. One of his first tasks here was to organize a three-day conference on technology, which will open to 300 attendees June 23 at the Bell Harbor International Convention Center.

Pirillo has organized the conference, called Gnomedex, every year since 2001. This year's event is expected to focus on some of the newest technologies for online communication — including blogging, news feeds and publishing sound files called podcasts.

Gnomedex "is very nerdy," said John C. Dvorak, a columnist for PC Magazine. "The speakers are up there and only about 10 percent of the people will be watching. The rest will be blogging it. It looks like one of the reporters' nooks at a baseball game."

Unlike past conferences, which have been held in Des Moines, Iowa, and Lake Tahoe, Nev., this year's show is going to be profitable, Pirillo said. You don't have to beg people to come to Seattle. The show's influence can be measured by its sponsors alone, which include Microsoft, Yahoo! and Google.

It's hard enough to keep track of Pirillo's business ideas. Having a conversation with him is like trying to catch leaves in a windstorm. Pirillo talks fast and talks a lot, hopping from subject to subject and admitting that his mind fires on "like, 17 different cylinders." Even friends, like Dvorak, say Pirillo would be more successful if he were more focused.

Pirillo describes himself as a geek, and, OK, there's some geekiness, what with the framed eyeglasses, the grin that borders on goofy and the pin on his shirt that says "RSS" in large white letters. RSS, if you didn't know, is a format used to distribute online content.

But Pirillo isn't short on personality either, and, as he's fond of saying, personality sells. Especially when it comes to something as intimidating as technology.

"I'm a shameless self-promoter," he said. "If I don't toot my own horn, you can't expect anybody to do it."

He's been criticized online for being egotistical and arrogant, for transparently grooming himself and his Web site for bigger things. That's a career move, Pirillo said.

"My career is being me," he added.

"If you don't know what people say about you, I would be worried," he said. "You have to know. You have to stay ahead of the game."

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