Things have been a little more hectic than usual while I deal with some non-work issues, which means I haven't been spending as much time as I'd like on kottke.org. You may have noticed it's been a little rough around the edges lately. (Or maybe you haven't...but I've noticed.) Apologies for that and hopefully I'll be able to focus on the site more in the coming weeks.
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank some of the folks and organizations who keep the site running so smoothly even when I'm off worrying about other things:
- Greg Knauss for cheerfully answering my occasional sysadmin queries and even logging in every once in awhile to fix problems (after sufficient pleading on my part). He's not as heartless as he seems.
In thinking about what sort of holiday gift guide (I know, I know) to do, I settled upon doing what I usually do here: highlight other people's guides and sprinkle in a bit of my own perspective here and there. Here goes.
Somewhat awkwardly, I'm gonna lead with my friend Jake's advice: don't buy anything for anyone for the holidays. Instead, give something to charity in their name/stead/honor/whatever. Check out Charity Navigator or GiveWell for good donation options or make a microloan. Any family or friends who think you're a jerk for doing this are annoying and you should make new friends and find a different family. (To be fair, Jake also recommends these two powered skateboards, Boosted Board ($1300) and Z-Board ($649+) so he's not entirely a Scrooge McBlog.)
Tinybop's Things We Love highlights many great things for the younger set. Two items that popped out at me from this list are James Mollison's Where Children Sleep ($22), a collection of large-format photographs of children's bedrooms from around the world, and Who Needs Donuts? ($14), a reissue from the year of my birth.
By a wide margin, the thing that has provided me with the most joy in 2013 is Rdio ($5+/mo). This musical buffet has big-time rekindled my interest in music of all shapes and sizes. My musical diet, a bloated spreadsheet of old favorites, had grown stale over the past few years. Now I love playing stuff on Rdio for the kids in the morning while they have breakfast and I make their lunch...we sing along to Burl Ives, Mary Poppins, and Lorde. I listen all day at work to writing/coding music. Dinners are accompanied by music tuned to the food (I found a corny Italian dinner playlist to go along with some homemade gnocchi; it was perfect). I'm filling in the gaps in my musical listening, including post-Chronic rap & hip-hop. I'd happily pay $50/mo for Rdio...it's that valuable to me.
I don't have a lot of time for many magazines anymore, but Lucky Peach ($28 for 4 issues) continues to knock it out of the park. Runners up: subscriptions for National Geographic ($15/yr) and Wired ($5 for 6 mo of print/digital) at Amazon are super reasonable.
If -- among a certain and increasingly geriatric set of bloggers -- you say the words, "a little girl was riding her bike," the response you'll get will be some combination of wistful nostalgia and the belligerent pride of the old-school. Back in the day, man, when people edited their sites by hand.
Memes have always dropped out of the Web, with the regularity and frequency of fertilizer from a well-fed horse. Witness your Dancing Babies, your Mahirs, your Hamster Dances. But the little girl thing -- and only the most obtuse definition of "thing" does it justice -- was the first time I'd seen something just... go. By itself. From and among people I knew, and counted (a bit desperately) as peers. Viewed today, it's infinitely small, undocumented by even the obsessive completists who obsessively complete documentation, but among the tight-knit community of early bloggers (modulo rivalries and jealousies and pettiness; it was still the Internet), it seemed like something new.
From this distance, a billion Web-years later, it's difficult to fully explain, except in the most rote way possible: Almost a decade and a half ago, a bunch of bloggers copied a post from kottke.org (and megnut.com), spreading it from site to site to site, for no reason whatsoever, except that nobody had bothered before. What started as the smallest conspiratorial joke possible quickly took on a life of its own, moving out of the house and getting drunk and causing trouble. Looking back, this random bit of Command-C, Command-V presaged reblogs and questions of attribution; the coordination of metadata to establish narrative; anonymous, poker-faced net.art; even the public pointlessness of telling the world about your lunch. It was people in a small community in a new medium pushing against the sides of the womb, seeing if there was a way out into a larger world.
Blogging has changed a hell of a lot over these past thirteen years -- only the most wild-eyed optimists and glower-faced doom-sayers were anywhere close to being right about how things would turn out -- but one rock-steady constant has been the work Jason Kottke has done. Early bloggers, dressed in animal skins and flung forward in time, would be dizzy with the technologies and economics of Internet publishing today. But they'd eventually find their footing, load up kottke.org, and discover some small improvement, some new touch, some tiny experiment, another little girl riding another bike, improving blogging and the Web along with it. Still.
My favorite of Jason's posts are the ones that are wrong. I love the spirited debate, looking at the @messages directed to him, and I especially love the "Post Updates" feature and its self-documenting "wha?" Kottke.org is not about viral videos or amazing facts (although it has those, too), it's about Jason saying: "Look at this cool thing," and starting a conversation around it. Jason has worked for almost fifteen years as programmer, editor, designer and of course blogger of the site with sharing at its core.
I've always loved how he thinks and talks about the way the site works:
"The yellow-green thing at the top is a tag. Like the red tag on Levi's jeans or even the red stripe on Prada shoes. It's small, out of the way, but when you see it on something, you know exactly what you're holding in your hands." - On the occasion of his 2004 redesign
Stellar is the natural extension of Jason's work. The site is an enthusiasm engine, allowing you to see the best of the Internet through the eyes of friends and trusted strangers. It's one of the Top Five pieces of software of all time.1 Jason's fine hypertext products buy us time by filtering out the crap. If you want something good to read or look at or retweet, Stellar won't let you down. And it's made Kottke.org better too.
Last night I swung by Jason's neighborhoodplace to raise a glass in Jason's honor. Meg generously offered me a few glasses more and soon I was telling strangers to buy the Stellar fun pass. Some people are angry drunks, I tell strangers about Stellar. But I do want to take this (sober!) moment to encourage you to buy the stellar fun pass, it helps Jason do what Jason does best - he does it better than anyone else, and it makes all of us better at internet.
Kottke loves maps. My favorite of last few years is "Local vs Tourists," but so, so many are fantastic & so is the fact that Kottke loves maps. So there's that to get out of the way: I would be a rabid Kottke fan just for the maps.
But he also loves, among others, Eggers and Tufte and Morris (if you missed this, go back and read the series) and generally keeps his smart-o-meter well-calibrated and active. There's also design and sports and computing and po -- well, no, not politics, but that's just not his thing. Jason can sometimes be snarky (this take-down was epic), but he never throws elbows and what's politics about if not elbows?
I sometimes ask myself, "What don't I get introduced to by Kottke anymore?" A lot, I suppose (I thought I was introduced to parkour by him, but checked and his first post on the sport was a link to a piece in The New Yorker by Alec Wilkinson, which I would have read) -- but what does it say that even if he didn't introduce me to something, it feels like he did? That is the secret ingredient of Kottke -- which will not, must not, ever be distilled or revealed. It certainly can't be imitated, as those of us posting today learned as one-or-another-time guest-bloggers here on Kottke.org.
And now Jason is 40. Can't believe how far back on the Wayback Machine I went to write this post, but hope it continues to go Wayforward: Happy Birthday, Jason!
The one piece of advice Jason had for me when I started guest editing was don't write about politics. kottke.org is usually a pretty apolitical site and politics coming from a guest editor would be especially weird so that made sense. But I think Jason and kottke.org were at their best and most relevant in December 2012 deep in national politics.
In the wake of the Newtown school shooting, Jason spent the next week adding context and perspective to what was a very untethered national conversation.
It's been 10 months since Newtown and, nationally, we still haven't stopped the flow of guns in general or even into schools specifically. But maybe the pragmatic empathy kottke.org and others have may be one way of stopping further tragedy.
"I just started talking to him ... and let him know what was going on with me and that it would be OK," the clerk, Antoinette Tuff, told Atlanta's Channel 2 Action News during a lengthy sit-down interview. Tuff described Hill as "a young man that was ready to kill anybody that he could."
One of the first pages I ever visited in the fall of 1994 was the National Center for Supercomputing Applications' "What's New" page. Every time someone added a new homepage to the web, the NCSA would publish it on this page. In hindsight, that was the first blog -- published reverse-chronologically, colloquial, and full of links. It was the family encyclopedia with velocity.
"Pleased and proud" is a slight understatement. I first ran across Wired at college. A friend had an early issue and I had never seen anything like it. (He also had a copy of 2600...the pairing of the two was irresistible to a culturally isolated midwestern kid raised on Time and Newsweek.) When I got on the web in 1994, HotWired was the coolest site out there. HotWired begat Suck and became the nexus of a bunch of the coolest online writing, culture, and design. The way people discuss the cultural and technical influence of Facebook and Twitter today, that position was occupied by Wired and HotWired back in the mid-1990s.
After I dropped out of grad school to teach myself web design, I applied for an internship at HotWired but never heard back. I wanted to work there so bad, to be at the center of all the excitement of the web, but I'm sure it was an easy decision for them to pass over an unemployed grad school drop-out living with his dad on a farm in rural Wisconsin in favor of any one of the thousands of other applicants who had likely taken more than zero design, programming, or even art classes. So yeah, to have written an article for the 20th anniversary issue of Wired about a project I created...well, 1995 Jason's head would have exploded.
Since Thanksgiving is all about remembering what and who we're thankful for I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering and sharing stories from readers about how kottke.org, and the internet generally, connected them with people. Thank you so much to everyone who shared their stories.
Jason's blog was the first I ever read and what inspired me to start my own in February 2001. I was really stupid back then (as opposed to now? SHUSH) and wrote a lot of what I thought were funny stories about my family that were in fact kind of horrific. A few months into it I wrote Jason an email asking for advice and he responded! He was like, "Hi. You're kind of funny. But your family is totally going to find your website, you know this, right?" My mom didn't know how to turn on a computer at the time, so I just laughed and laughed, and then they all found my website the day after I wrote a scathing diatribe against the religion my parents had raised me in. The whole family exploded.
Jason, he is wise.
Then he linked to my site. My traffic tripled. That was the first bump in visitors I ever saw. Now my website supports my family and two employees.
When I visit New York I try to stop in and say hi to Jason and Meg and their two beautiful kids.
Around twenty years ago, I was sitting at my home desk looking at my first ever personal computer. This was a particularly sad time in my life and the thoughts running through my head were leaning towards the end of things rather than beginnings. I happened to click on a story about web communication and one click led to another and I ended up at a telnet chat site called, "Spacebar". There were but a few people there as it was after midnight here in Texas, and one with a name of, "shena" happened to be in the same chat room as I was. I sent shena a chat request which was ignored and thought I was doing something wrong, then I sent the message, "do you want to chat or are you just lurking" and shena began a conversation with me that lasted a few hours. We made plans to chat the next day and then the day after.
Shena turned out to be a lovely girl living in Australia who chatted with me for about two years on a daily basis before one Christmas holiday when I called her to wish her a happy holiday. Now twenty years have gone by and we have grown to know each other very well, chatting nearly daily sometimes for many hours and sharing each others very different lives. I consider her my closest friend and confidant and now cannot imagine a life without her in it. We've shared so many important moments in each of our lives growing closer with each new communication invention from telnet chat and email, to ICQ then AIM, VOIP phone calls to Skype where we can talk and see each others reactions to our statements. If technology had given me just this without all the rest I would have been satisfied so without the Internet I would not have this lovely lady in my life.
I remember exactly how and when I found kottke.org. It was Saturday, February 12, 2005. I had a Flickr meetup with several Flickr friends for the opening of The Gates in NYC's Central Park. My Flickr friend Gene Han (whom I had known from Flickr for a while, but never met in person until then) told me about kottke.org. The rest is history.
Last week Jason wrote a post about My American Lemonade -- my book about my family's 18-year (and counting) US immigration ordeal. I am looking for a publisher, and Jason's post has already resulted in several inquiries. Connecting people.
My tale of people connecting starts many years ago in the nineties.
There is a six year age difference between my brother and I and I was 12 when he went away to University, first in Canberra (I was living in Sydney) and then overseas in Rochester, New York before he finally settled in Boston. We had never been close but when we both had access to email in 1991 we started a correspondence that created a real relationship that we had never had before. It got to the point where we would correspond at least once a week or so.
On top of this I have the usual tale of finding long lost friends via social media. One friend I hadn't seen since we both lived in Newcastle, NSW when I was 12 who now lives in Los Angeles, we hadn't been in contact in almost forty years until I found him on LinkedIn.
I recently had coffee with a bloke I hadn't seen in thirty nine years who found me on Facebook.
I read your post and i was like, OMG kottke.org was my people connector and led to my work life for the past five years. I've been following kottke.org since 2003, maybe? at least. I'm definitely more of a lurker. In 2007 Jason posted about a job at Serious Eats and I applied. I didn't get the job, but through Alaina (the general manager) I was introduced to David Jacobs and John Emerson. Long story short, I started working at their company (Apperceptive) and then Six Apart, and consequently met everyone IRL (Jason, Meg, David, Adriana, Alaina, Anil) and became friends with them. All because I answered a job posting on Jason's site! And to come full circle I've been working on Serious Eats for the past two years as their designer.
My people connection started way back in 1997, when I moved from Ohio to Florida in the middle of my junior year of high school. My parents felt terrible about it, and tried to make me feel better by installing AOL to the brand new computer they had bought to put in my new bedroom (they were REALLY trying to make me feel better). I had just made friends with a girl named Becky, who sat in front of me in our homeroom. She was one of the first people I met and had a lot in common with. One day when I told her I had AOL, she said she also had it, and had made friends with a lot of people online. She got my screenname, and that night, Instant Messaged me and gave my screen name to two guys she frequently talked to, Chad and Tim. She had met them through a couple "topic" chat rooms on AOL. She met Chad through a comic chat room, Tim through another one I can't remember. She told me they were a ton of fun to talk to, and would cheer me up. So I started talking to both Tim (from Seattle) and Chad (from North Carolina), both around my same age. Over the years, I lost contact with Becky, but kept in great contact with Tim and Chad, talking on the phone every so often with both of them throughout all of college (I graduated in 2002).
In late 2003, Chad asked me if I was planning on staying in FL, which I wasn't sure at the time. He was looking to move to Raleigh to look for a career in the technology field he had studied in college, needed to find a place and a roommate, and thought I would be perfect. So, I flew up to NC in January 2004, had a great time, and we started dating soon after. He found us a great place in Raleigh, flew down to FL to get me, drove back up here with me and we've been together ever since. We bought our first house together a couple years ago nearer to his family after we got our careers settled, and couldn't be happier. Tim is still a good friend of mine, although we don't talk as much as we used to. I've also never met him in person, as strange as that is. Chad and I found out a few years ago that Becky had moved to Charlotte, NC! Small world. We travel down to FL to visit my fam about twice a year.
Anyway, that was my fun story I wanted to share! Every time we're watching TV and see a commercial for one of those dating sites, I always say we made dating online cool before it was acceptably cool to do so.
I used to write regularly for SeriousEats.com which does an annual cookie swap at the holidays. At that event a few years ago, I met Ollie Kottke, Jason's son. He was standing by one of the cookie tables, and I said "Hey guy, how's it going?" He did what most toddlers would do: looked at me with a fearful stare for a moment, then ran to his mother and wrapped his arms around her leg. I was introduced to Meg, Ollie's mom and Jason's wife, and I think I gave her a fist bump, because my hands were covered in chocolate. They told me she helped get Serious Eats off of the ground, and that her husband was a famous internet guy. I continued to munch my cookies.
Through Serious Eats, I met Adam Kuban, the founder of Slice. He would always comment on my posts on Serious Eats, and say constructive, positive things about my work. We traded tweets (and still do) and he often favorites my random musings, something I must say is a tremendous confidence boost. Honestly, receiving the "Adam Kuban favorited your tweet" email is a sheer pleasure. He was one of the most delightful and encouraging people I've ever met on the internet, even though in person he can appear grumpy.
In August of last year, Adam Kuban tweeted something about having Stellar invites. I had seen @yo_stellar mentioned many times on Twitter, but I didn't know what it was. I visited stellar.io, and was intrigued by what I found. I read about it, Jason, and kottke.org.
I told Adam I wanted an invite to Stellar, and he gave me one. I evangelized Stellar to my coworkers at a tech startup. You know, the type of people who like internet things. One of them and I started regularly favoriting things to fill our Stellar feeds. We also became daily readers of kottke.org, and traded links to things we found.
In March/April, I decided to leave my job. I didn't know what I wanted to do next, so I asked myself "what would I do if I didn't have to do anything?" The first thought in my mind was "work as a developer on Stellar. Like an intern."
So I cold-emailed Jason. I tried to be as nice as possible, and I explained why I wanted to work on Stellar. Bear in mind, I had never met him, I had never seen him, I had never spoken with him. He was just this person tangentially in the Serious Eats world that I kept hearing about. Surprisingly, he agreed to meet me, saying he'd been thinking about having a Stellar intern, but wasn't sure what that person would do.
Surprisingly, about a week later, an email popped into my box accepting me as an intern, and showing me the basic steps of how to get a version of Stellar running on my local machine.
Jason is a laid-back guy, and it has been fun to work with him.
I found out about kottke.org through Jon Bernad. It is his favorite website. I'm not sure how he first came across it. I met Jon through the internet. He had one post on a really bad blog he had made with a brown and beige background and curly writing. It offered a free Birthright Trip for someone who had never been to L.A. before and who had never met Jon. I emailed him from Johannesburg, where I live, sharing some anecdotes about my life that would hopefully put me in line for the trip. I didn't hear anything back from him, and forgot about it completely.
9 months later I received an email congratulating me, telling me I had been chosen! Birthright Trip transformed to Leap Trip, which started on February 29th. I flew to Washington D.C., where Jon grew up. We met at the airport for the first time, without ever having been in direct contact with each other. We stayed with his dad for a couple of nights and then his mom, before driving the car his dad gave him across the country, back to L.A. where he lives now.
The idea of driving across the USA was so wild, and something I'd never expected to have done in my life. To meet a complete stranger, and then drive across the country together isn't something I could've ever dreamed up. That this complete stranger was not a psychopath, but rather the most enthusiastic, generous and mysterious character I've ever met, was a bonus. It was a life changing experience.
I flew out of L.A. on April 1st after spending two weeks there and the two weeks before passing through D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Knoxville, Boaz (Alabama), New Orleans, Houston, Austin, Marfa, and the White Sands National Park.
I completely fell in love with L.A. and actually went back for the summer. And Jon and I still speak every day
Before the World Wide Web, there was a thing called USENET. You can get a small sense of its sensibilities here.
I was highly active on the newsgroup rec.juggling; indeed in '92 or '93 I was its biggest loudmouth (somebody was keeping track on a yearly basis). When I decided I wanted to go to the 1993 European Juggling Convention, and before that to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I put out a "Can I sleep on your couch?" to thousands of people I didn't know, but who apparently felt knew me. Some said yes, and I got to stay in a house of young jugglers *with net access* (no small thing then!).
I met my best friend Isaac Watson via Livejournal in 2005. We both needed roommates and upon meeting clicked in a way that I've experienced with so few people. I introduced Isaac to Google Reader and to Kottke... or did he introduce me? I don't know but we bonded over sending each other different Kottke posts that we'd each already read in our own feeds. The intersection of our interests--the Liberal Arts 2.0 concept--curated on the site allowed us many hours of discussion and exploration of the interests we share . And after I moved away, Isaac and I used the shared links feature in Google Reader too. The discontinuation of that feature was very unfortunate.
I made my first webpage in middle school (1997) about a video game called EarthBound. Within a few years it had grown into a small online community, so I convinced my parents to let me hold a 'convention'. Four friends from the site traveled to my family's farm in Indiana to hang out for a weekend, and virtually every aspect of my life has been subsequently shaped by that website/community.
The conventions grew quickly, and within a few years became a yearly weeklong group vacation. In 2004 I married an awesome girl who attended that first convention (our first child is due in January). In 2008 I teamed up with a bunch of other friends from the community to start a business making merchandise inspired by old video games (like/including EarthBound). I now work with nearly a dozen friends and family, virtually all of whom are EarthBound fans I met through that website.
I too don't remember how I was connected with Kottke, but most likely it was a result of some cross-linkage between his site and Daring Fireball, my two most frequented sites.
Kottke turned me on to clusterflock via their first iPhone Giveaway. I thought it was a really cool idea: everyone pitch in a few bucks, and if they made enough money to pay for an iPhone, one of the contributors would get it. I was a student at the time the first iPhone was being released and couldn't afford a $500 phone, so I figured either I'd get an iPhone for next to nothing, or at least help someone else get one. Win-win.
Lo-and-behold, I was chosen as one of the winners! I was so excited. I actually received $500 in my PayPal account. Crazy. I was already a fan of Apple, but this cemented my love and I've purchased every damn iPhone every year since. :)
Around about 2005 I learned of this thing called National Novel Writing Month. Through that I found the chat room and it became a second home, at least for a while. Among the people I met in this chat room, a few of us met up sometime later when a bunch of us happened to be in Hawaii at the same time. And, even more important I met the gal who is now my roommate, who moved halfway across the country in the hopes of finding a job and did within three weeks after a year of searching. She's now lived with hubby and I for a year, and we don't mind her staying.
It all started with an album cover, really: "Electric Pocket Radio" by The Incredible Moses Leroy. I was killing time at Barnes & Noble so I took a listen. I loved it so much that I bought it and a few days later decided to start a page for them on Orkut (remember Orkut?). The only other person who joined was a girl in Indiana named Jamie. We became very close friends despite the fact that I lived in Arkansas. We sent each other CDs and zips of mp3s and my favorite disc of the bunch was for a band called Spiraling. By then she and I had moved over to MySpace, and we connected with Spiraling. I pestered a local club owner to give them a gig, and eventually they came through town and played some shows. I took them to a house party and we became friends; they'd stay over at my house. Eventually I got them hooked up with a gig opening for Switchfoot at the annual Arkansas Riverfest.
In 2006, I went to New York City for a short vacation, and caught up with the Spiraling guys (they're from NJ and Brooklyn). I went to a Halloween party at the bass player's apartment. Somebody said they thought I was from NYC, and that got me thinking that I could be. I figured I could give it a try, since I have friends in the area and by that time Facebook was on the ascendant, so I could stay in touch with everybody in Arkansas. And my music collection was so digital by then I could take my massive music collection with me. So I moved to NYC in 2008. I thought maybe I would be a temp for a year and hate it and go home, but that was 5 years ago. I have a great job in web project management at a major credit card company, one that allows me to work remotely from Arkansas whenever I want so I've been going back and forth.
From an album cover to a girl to a band to a city and back again. Thanks, Internet.
For about six years now, I've been a big fan of the musician Amanda Palmer. About a year into my obsession with her, I realized she was using Twitter a lot, so I opened an account to follow her. One Friday night, she made a joke about her and her fans all being active and chatting with each other being the Losers Of Friday Night On Their Computers. This VERY quickly turned into the hashtag #LOFNOTC, a T-shirt design was drawn up using Sharpie and they started presales that night, and it formed a large group of her fans under the #LOFNOTC tag who continued to get together every Friday night whether or not she was involved, not just chatting over Twitter but even opening up video chat rooms on Tinychat. I became a part of this group, which, over time, lost numbers, but grew even more tightly knit because of it.
The people I met through #LOFNOTC introduced me to other interests and, in turn, other people. Through my friend Katy, I found a fantastic Sherlock Holmes roleplay all done on Twitter (@SHolmesEsq and @MyDearestWatson, if anyone is curious), and through them, I met other people. There are dozens of people I am proud to call friends who I never would have met if it were not for Amanda Palmer and her accidental creation. The last time I got to speak to her in person (she tries to do meet-and-greets after every single show), I thanked her for creating #LOFNOTC and bringing all these wonderful people into my life. Sadly I've lost most contact with a lot of them over the past couple of years, but I still am rather close with quite a few of them and of course to the people I've met through them. It's hard to stay close with an entire group of 30+ people for so long. All of them, and her as well, have changed me for the better. I simply wouldn't be who I am today without those experiences.
I'm a former educational publishing editor who used to spend way too much of his time on google reader reading about baseball. I ended up befriending a particularly awesome little corner of the formerly superlative google reader social circle, one that was often referred to as the Google Mafia or the Sharebros more self-deprecatingly. Mostly headed by Jonah Keri (now of Grantland.com on ESPN), the group shared the most interesting writing, inspiring me to work harder on my then-hobby of baseball writing. I also grew closer to many of the people in that group, often when using the formerly sweet social functions of google reader sharing -- I argued and shot the shit over kottke posts when I should have been creating three-word sentences with rhyming words. Since those days, I've left my comfortable job and struck out into freelance sports writing, and with the help of many of those sharebros, I've managed to cobble together a (more personally rewarding, if not quite financially lucrative) living. I hope I'm living up to those standards that would have gotten me a share among the mafia back in those days. Without sites like twitter, breaking into the scene wouldn't have been possible, and back in the pre-twitter days, many of the obstacles to becoming a sports writer would have (once again) sent me in the wrong direction. Lowered boundaries to access, easier networking, and more rewarding content -- that's how the internets (and kottke and twitter and the old google reader specifically) have helped connect me to a better job.
I'm sure your response bag must contain stories from Craigslist. [ED: Surprisingly no! Cause I've also made some great friends through CL.] I've found no greater tool in the United States for solving your needs that also threads you to some other side of the Universe to connect with random new people.
Several years ago I decided to start building websites for other people. I would hunt the Gigs section for projects and first met Abe. Abe wanted to build a website, Abe's Apartments, to provide an easy online listing service for apartment seekers in Austin. I couldn't build him what what he wanted and told him as much. Years later my business partner would help him out. Abe and I connected over shared experiences and outlook on travel and have become great friends.
Another time I wasn't qualified to build the website for a Craigslist ad, I interviewed to design the web content management system for the Center for Non Linear Dynamics in the Physics school at UT Austin. Two of the grad students who interviewed me would go on to cofound our company, Infochimps, where the 3 of us have been partners for nearly 4 years. They are some of my best friends and we consider it a great irony that after I interviewed to build them a website they spent the next 3 years building our original site at infochimps.com.
At some point one of my cofounders would build for Abe the prototype of Abe's Apartments. In the end we got all our needs met and are connected, thanks to Craigslist.
In 2011 I started a Minecraft server so that my son and a few coworkers could play with me and eventually I decided to open it to the public, just to see what happened. I expected to find a few parent/kid groups at most.
Although I've recently decided to stop the server for many reasons, this little server grew into a behemoth with between 350-500 players every single day, over 18,000 in about 18 months. It's just blown my mind how many countries, timezones, and cultures were represented on the server and even though it's all digital and still mainly anonymous, many of our players made some really good friends.
The sheer volume of responses with people saying how great a job I had done, how this server had such a large impact on their lives, was fairly overwhelming.
I decided to reach out to Tim on Twitter and via his site's email address to see if he would share a meal with us in the city the following March when I would be bringing a small group of students with me to NYC for our 3rd annual 'Design Junket' where we introduce students to creative professionals across several disciplines.
Tim's not only talented, he's super friendly and said 'yes' to my request. We took him to lunch to dine finely on the rooftop of Eataly, where he patiently and enthusiastically sat among 10 students from high school and community college for about an hour and a half.
The internet (and generous community support) made that possible. That trip always changes students' perspectives and shows them how big and wonderful the planet is. You can live in rural Virginia and arrange a lunch in NYC with a world class professional. That's pretty cool.
As a junior in high school, social media has really been an interesting "people connector." Because I moved from the East to the West coast after freshman year, I like having friends from both areas in one place on facebook. All of my AP classes have facebook groups, which makes it easy to collaborate and ask questions (without risk of cheating, since nobody is going to use a public forum to cheat). Because I go to a huge high school now, sometimes I meet people once at a party or something and really connect with them, but I rarely get to see them around school. For these kind of acquaintances, facebook is enough to connect with each other. However, social media isn't that great for actually forging close relationships or having real conversations. Specifically for twitter, which I think is a great medium for sharing ideas and thoughts, I feel like it's not really a people connector since tweeting is more talking at people than to people.
I found kottke.org on a list of blogs to follow in Time magazine. It hasn't really helped me connect with people (haha, I don't really talk to people about, say, kottke and Time because typical high school students aren't really into this kind of thing) but it introduced me to David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest, which is definitely one of my favorite books now. :]
There's a saying that Facebook is for finding old friends, and Twitter is for finding new ones, and it has definitely worked that way for me. Last night is the perfect example of this: i went to a friends house for dinner and drinks, and the 4 other people there were all folks the host knew initially through Twitter. I got to meet a local journalist, an elementary teacher at a controversial charter school, and an entrepreneur starting up a new brand of Akvavit, all fun and interesting folks. I initially met the host when a mutual Twitter friend had invited us both to a meetup several months ago to celebrate a new work venture he was starting. This year i have been on bike rides and happy hours and fish frys and housewarming parties for people i never would have met without Twitter because our circles in real live wouldn't otherwise overlap.
Just saw your post on Kottke (via Reader). A colleague and I actually wrote an article about lightweight blogging + Reader + Twitter as a people connector for extending undergraduate classrooms back in 2010.
It was cowritten by me (in Indiana at the time), a colleague (in New Jersey at the time), two undergraduate students at my institution (one was an enrolled student, one wasn't), and a community member and contributor to the class (located in Kansas City, and unaffiliated with any of us in any way, save for connections through Reader and Twitter, and a shared interested in the things we mutually shared).
I don't spend a lot of time lamenting the loss of Reader's social features (companies create these things, we use them for free, and sometimes they go in a different direction--meh), but I do have to say that it was probably my favorite SNS ever (and I've been adopting and studying how people use SNSs since 2007).
My mom, Susan Pavis, emailed me a story that had slipped my mind & goes a ways to explaining why I'm so interested in this stuff:
This story shows that nothing is ever gone from the internet. My daughter (the now famous Sarah Pavis [ED: ugh! mom...]) was doing a project on earthquakes when she was in the 4th or 5th grade. One of the components of the project was to survey people on the topic. Living on the east coast we had never been in nor knew anyone who had experienced an earthquake. The Kobe Japan earthquake in 1995 had just occurred. We used a couple of different earthquake newsgroups (yes, there was more than one newsgroup devoted to earthquakes) to post a survey with some basic questions. This was cutting edge back then and she even got props from her teachers that she had used a 'new medium' to gather her information. We had a wonderful response from people from all over the world. I was very impressed that so many people responded to the survey - we even received a couple of responses from people in Kobe. My email was used to have people send back their completed survey. I can remember after about 10 years still getting email responses to the survey!!!
And in a surprising twist, requesting people connections reconnected me with someone I haven't seen in years: my childhood neighbor, Liam Aiello.
I've been reading kottke for some years now, so perhaps you can imagine my surprise when your name appeared in my feed. Sarah Pavis, guest editor? Didn't she grow up in Middletown CT? If so, what a fine coincidence.
My name is Liam, and I grew up on the same street. There were a handful of us, as I recall: all approximately the same age, terrible delinquents and ne'er-do-wells, riding our bikes from driveway to driveway. It's good to learn that a kid from the crime-ridden favelas of Wesleyan Hills overcame so much - and rose to such Internet heights! Well played, Sarah.
Truly, we who grew up on Connecticut cul-de-sacs should be celebrated for our rags to riches stories.
I am in [PARtially undIscloSed location] for vacation this week so I've asked Sarah Pavis to fill in. Her Tumblr says she's "a mechanical engineer & writer living in Chicago" and when I met her briefly at XOXO in September she didn't seem like a dishonest person so I believe that she actually is those things. Sarah has also done some writing for Buzzfeed and some tweeting for herself. She's also active on Stellar, which is where I noticed that she had a good eye for whatever the hell it is I do here, an eye that spotted this video, which goes from sexy robot to terrifyingly fast insect death machine in about 45 seconds.
Emeril Lagasse made an appearance on Treme on Sunday. I watched a clip of his scene a few days ago and have been thinking about it on and off ever since. In the scene written by Anthony Bourdain, Emeril takes a fellow chef to the building that used to house Uglesich's, a small-but-beloved New Orleans restaurant that closed back in 2005. The chef is having misgivings about expanding her business, particularly about all the non-cooking things you have to do, and Emeril explains that the way the owners of Uglesich's did it was one way forward:
You see, they kept it small, just one spot, just a few tables. There'd be a line around the corner by 10 am. You see, they made a choice. Anthony and Gail made a choice to stay on Baronne Street and keep their hands on what they were serving. They cooked, everyday they cooked, until they could cook no more.
But there's also another way to approach your business:
The other choice is that you can build something big but keep it the way that you wanna keep it. Take those ideas and try to execute them to the highest level. You got a lotta people around you, right? You're the captain of the ship. Or what I should say is that you're the ship. And all these people that look up to you and wanna be around you, they're living in the ship. And they're saying, "Oh, the ship is doing good. Oh, the ship is going to some interesting places. Oh, this ship isn't going down just like all the other fucking ships I've been on." [...] You've got a chance to do your restaurant and to take care of these people. Just do it.
kottke.org has always been a one-person thing. Sure, Aaron posts here regularly now and I have guest editors on occasion, but for the most part, I keep my ass in the chair and my hands on what I am serving. I've always resisted attempts at expanding the site because, I have reasoned, that would mean that the site wouldn't be exactly what I wanted it to be. And people come here for exactly what I want it to be. Doing the site with other people involved has always seemed unnatural. It would be selling out...that's how I've thought about it, as opposed to blowing up.
But Emeril's "until they could cook no more" and "you're the ship"...that got to me. I am a ship. I don't have employees but I have a family that relies on the income from my business and someday, when I am unable to do this work or people stop reading blogs or all online advertising moves to Facebook or Twitter, what happens then? Don't I owe it to myself and to them to build something that's going to last beyond my interest and ability to sit in a chair finding interesting things for people to look at? Or is it enough to just work by yourself and produce the best work you can?
Or can you do both? John Gruber's Daring Fireball remains a one-man operation...as far as I know, he's never even had an intern. I don't have any inside knowledge of DF's finances, but from the RSS sponsorship rate and the rate for sponsoring Gruber's podcast, my conservative estimate is that DF grosses around $650,000 per year. And with a single employee/owner and relatively low expenses, a large amount of that is profit. So maybe that route is possible?
I don't have any answers to these questions, but man, it's got me thinking. Emeril got me thinking...who saw that coming? Bam!
Publishing on kottke.org is suspended until further notice. The situation in New York and New Jersey is still dire** so posting stupid crap seems frivolous and posting about the Sandy aftermath seems exploitive. Information is not what people need right now; people need flashlights, candles, drinking water, safety, food, access to emergency medical care, a warm place to sleep, etc.
Anyway, we'll be back in a few days hopefully.
** I say "still dire" because I think the perception among people not in the NY/NJ area is one of "oh, the storm has passed, the flooding is subsiding, and everything is getting back to normal". But that's not what I'm hearing. What I'm hearing is that there are large areas that have been without power for 4-5 days, people are running out of food and gas, food and gas deliveries are not happening, etc. Things are getting worse (or certainly have the potential to get worse), not better, especially for those without the resources to care about which cool restaurants are open or how much an iPhone car service is gouging its customers or which Midtown office they're gonna work on their startup from.
If you're actually reading this on the site and not in RSS (guys, come on in from the cold, don't be shy), you'll already have noticed that I changed the "look and feel" of the site. In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.
Aside from those three things, one of my unstated goals with the redesign was to increase the number of people reading kottke.org2 and I had a hunch that the focus on simplicity, sharing, the reading experience would do just that. Using Google Analytics and a couple of other sources, I compared the traffic stats from the past 30 days (I didn't include the day of launch because that was an outlier day, traffic-wise) to that of the previous 30 days. Here are some of the results. (Except where noted, when I say "traffic", I mean visits.)
- Overall traffic to kottke.org was up 14%. And February was a pretty good month itself so that's a nice bump.
- As I hoped, the two areas that saw the most improvement were mobile and referral traffic. Mobile was the lowest-hanging fruit I addressed with the redesign...kottke.org's previous mobile experience sucked. It's better now. And the focus on sharing boosted referral traffic.
- Mobile traffic now accounts for 19% of kottke.org's traffic and increased by 25% over the past 30 days. iPad usage in particular shot up 40% and iPad users are spending longer on the site than they previously were. iPhone and iPod touch traffic both showed double digit percentage increases as well.
- Referral traffic now accounts for 45% of kottke.org's traffic and increased by 28% over the past 30 days. Most of this increase come from social network sharing. Traffic from Facebook increased by 45%, Facebook mobile was up 43%, Twitter increased by 6% (I already did Twitter sharing pretty well before, so not a huge jump here), and Tumblr referrals went up 125%.
- That big Tumblr increase was due to kottke.org's new Tumblr blog. Having kottke.org posts be properly rebloggable is paying off. In addition, it's got over 800 followers that are reading along in the dashboard. I'd like to see that number increase, but I'd probably need to engage a bit more on Tumblr for that to happen.
- One of the small changes I made was to stop using post titles for posting to Twitter. I had hoped that using more descriptive text would make the tweets more easily retweetable...look at this tweet for example and compare to the title of the post it links to. This hasn't really happened, which is surprising and disappointing.
- I also removed the links to the tag pages (like this and this) from the front page. I had a hunch that very few people were using those links compared to the real estate they took up and the traffic numbers bear that out...traffic to tag pages decreased only 3%.
That's enough for now...I very rarely dig into the traffic stats so it's difficult to stop when I do. That and it's rewarding when you redesign something and it actually works out the way you thought it was going to.
 Like this weird Safari bug that results in overlapping link text. Many people have reported this but it only happens sporadically (and usually goes away with a refresh) and I can't reproduce it or find any other sites/designers who are having the same issue. Oh, and it seems like it only happens on OS X Lion. I have no idea if it's the web fonts or something in my CSS. Anyone have any ideas? ↩
 Not for $$$ reasons, although that is certainly a consideration. No, it's more that I believe there are literally millions of people out there who are not reading kottke.org that would love it. I put a lot of myself into the site, I'm proud of it, and I want people to see it. That's pretty much it. Oh, and I would also like the unlimited power that comes with millions of readers. evil cackle and cat stroking noises And the money. even more cat stroking noises And the chicks. expensive champagne cork popping noises And my kids' love and respect. surprisingly loud whining noise that you can't even believe came from someone less than 40 inches tall oh come on you just watched Wallace and Gromit for the past hour and you want more orange juice jesus come on give it a rest and now there's a surprisingly loud whining noise coming from a 38-year-old man that should know better...↩
If you're actually reading this on the site and not in RSS (guys, come on in from the cold, don't be shy), you'll already have noticed that I changed the "look and feel" of the site. In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.
Simplicity. kottke.org has always been relatively spare, but this time around I left in only what was necessary. Posts have a title, a publish date, text, and some sharing buttons (more on those in a bit). Tags got pushed to the individual archive page and posts are uncredited (just like the Economist!). In the sidebar that appears on every page, there are three navigation links (home, about, and archives), other ways to follow the site (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and an ad and job board posting, to pay the bills. There isn't even really a title on the page...that's what the <title> is for, right? Gone also is the blue border, which I liked but was always a bit of a pain in the ass.
Reading/viewing experience. I made the reading column wider (640px) for bigger photos & video embeds and increased the type size for easier reading. But the biggest and most exciting change is using Whitney ScreenSmart for the display font, provided by Hoefler & Frere-Jones' long-awaited web font service, which is currently in private beta. Whitney SSm is designed especially for display in web browsers and really pushes the site's design & readability to a higher level. Many thanks to Jonathan and his web fonts team for letting me kick their tires. I believe that kottke.org is one of only two sites on the entire Internet currently using H&FJ's web fonts...the other is by some guy who currently lives in a white house near Maryland. Barnaby something...
The reading experience on mobile devices has also been improved. The text was formerly too small to read, the blue border was a pain in the ass (especially since the upgrade to iOS 5 on the iPhone & iPad changed how the border was displayed when zoomed), and the mobile version was poorly advertised. The site now uses the same HTML and CSS to serve appropriate versions to different browsers on different hardware using some very rudimentary responsive design techniques. Whitney ScreenSmart helps out here too...it looks freaking AMAZING on the iPhone 4S's retina display. Really, you should go look. And then zoom in a bunch on some text. Crazy, right?
Sharing. I've always thought of kottke.org as a place where people come to find interesting things to read and look at, and design has always been crafted with that as the priority. A few months ago, I read an interview with Jonah Peretti about what BuzzFeed is up to and he said something that stuck with me: people don't just come to BuzzFeed to look at things, they come to find stuff to share with their friends. As I thought about it, I realized that's true of kottke.org as well...and I haven't been doing a good enough job of making it easy for people to do.
So this new design has a few more sharing options. Accompanying each post is a Twitter tweet button and a Facebook like button. Links to posts are pushed out to Twitter, Facebook, and RSS where they can be easily shared with friends, followers, and spambots. I've also created a mirror of kottke.org on Tumblr so you can read and share posts right in your dashboard. I've chosen just these few options because I don't want a pile of sharing crap attached to each post and I know that kottke.org readers actually use and like Twitter, Tumblr, and even Facebook.
In computer science parlance, Kottke doesn't scale. That's a shame. While services that collect popular stuff online are useful, they lack any editorial sensibility. The links on Techmeme and Summify represent a horde's view of the Web. The material on Kottke represents one guy's indispensible take. The Web ought to have both kinds of aggregators, but I'd love to see more people starting link blogs that offer a clear editorial vision. But how do you get more of something so hard to do?
Enter Robottke. Over the last few weeks, Chris Wilson has been building a machine that aims to automatically generate links you might find on Kottke.org. Robottke isn't meant to replace flesh-and-blood Kottke; we just want to come up with a list of items that Jason Kottke might link to each day.
You can check out Robbotke here. How does it work? We began by crawling all the sources that Jason Kottke is likely to look at every day -- we look at all the sites he links to, and all the stuff that people he follows on Twitter are sharing. The hard part is choosing the best, most Kottke-like links from Robottke's collection. It's helpful that the human Kottke meticulously tags all of his posts with keywords. When Robottke finds a link, it searches for topics that it knows Kottke likes -- the more it finds, the higher the article ranks.
Hey, that riderless bike link at the top of Robottke actually looks pretty interesting...
Starting today and continuing through Friday, Tim Carmody will be manning the editor's station here at kottke.org. As I recall, he covered just about everything last time he was here, so who knows what's he's going to talk about. Welcome, Tim.
On Jeopardy today, a contestant named Ethan responded incorrectly to a $1000 clue with "What is kottke.org?"
The best part is how disgusted the viewer is..."Are you freaking kidding me? Oh jeeezz..." Ethan, if you're out there and if there was actually such an item, I would totally send you a kottke.org tote bag for working in a reference to kottke.org on a show that has such a storied past on the site. What a lovely 13th birthday present. (thx, justin)
Thirteen years ago, I wrote the first entry for kottke.org. There was never a plan for the site...I just never stopped. And amazingly, I've been doing the site as my full-time job for over six years now. Crazy. See also from 2008, kottke.org designs through the years.
Man oh man, thanks to Tim Carmody for more than holding down the fort around here. I liked the part where he tied almost everything in the universe together. Paging James Burke.
And how nice of you to ask, here's what I did on my vacation: beach almost every day for two weeks, sweet corn, teaching the boy wiffle ball, fishing without a hook, foggywaves, Red Sox game at Fenway, seven Mercurial commits, whiskey sours, [redacted], building sand castles, teaching the girl how to share, etc. Ready to get back at it.
I'm off for another week -- the summer sun is just too tempting, as is another project I'm working on -- so I've asked Tim Carmody to fill the editor's seat for me. Tim is one leg of the Snarkmarket tripod; he was a frequent commenter on the site and the two founding members, instead of saying jeez, guy, shuddup already with the comments, invited Tim to join them full-time. Tim is also an academic with a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory, which is a lot more book learnin' than I've ever had. Things are probably going to be a lot more grammatically correct around here this week. Welcome, Tim.
And a big thanks to Aaron Cohen for helming the site last week (and through the weekend even, a rare occurrence around these parts). I don't know where this ranks on Aaron's list of life accomplishments, but my 11-yo self would be super impressed that Who's the Boss's Samantha Micelli retweeted not one but two Cohen-penned kottke.org posts from the past week (after explaining the definitions of "post" and "retweet" to tweener Kottke).
I am off this week and cajoled Aaron Cohen from Unlikely Words into filling in for me again on kottke.org. Aaron said that he was going to upload some interpretive dance video of what he thinks I'm doing on vacation but let's hope he just shares what he finds interesting on the internet (that includes Gopher!) this week instead.
That maps post snuck out this morning before I could properly thank Aaron Cohen for for his exemplary handling of kottke.org for the past week++. From what I hear, many of you enjoyed his time here and I'm hoping he'll join us again soon. I'm looking forward to catching up on what he posted.
While I'm thinking about it, I'd like to acknowledge my pals at Buzzfeed for their continued behind-the-scenes support of kottke.org. I've been working out of their Chinatown office for several years; having a desk outside the house makes all the difference for this sole proprietor. They just moved into new offices in Soho (within walking distance of my house!); I haven't been there yet and am looking forward to checking them out today.
They discuss blogging for a living, general vs. niche blogs, content longevity, making the transition to full-time blogging, how taking a break (even for a week) can affect traffic, finding links, guest bloggers, the good and bad of comments, and more.
(Christ, is that my voice? I *was* just getting over a cold...)
For each of the past six years, I've collected my favorite stuff posted to kottke.org into a "best links of the year" list. 2009's list -- the original 100 kottke.org posts containing those links, in random order -- covers such topics as healthcare spending, Amish hackers, gaussian goats, surfing videos, fun Flash games, Pete Campbell dancing, Rwandan genocide, and something called the McGangBang, as well as the usual array of dazzling video, photos, and art featured on kottke.org in the past year. Kiss the rest of your day goodbye!
I am looking for an intern-type person to work on a project to commence almost immediately and lasting until the end of the year. Basically I have an idea for a thing and I don't have the time to do it, so I'm looking for someone who wants to own the project and I'll just be the publisher/overseeing editor/moral support. You need to know how to organize, write fluent English in short bursts, *love* lists, have good "hey, this is cool" spotting instincts, and be generally comfortable with using web publishing tools. PHP skills would be a huge plus. Time involved will vary but will be a few hours a day to start (first 3-5 days) and probably less than an hour a day afterwards, probably something that could be done in the evening if you have a dayjob but are really interested. You can be located anywhere in the world, although if you're in NYC, I'll buy you a cup of coffee and we can talk about the project in person.
I can't offer to pay because while it's a fun idea, it's not necessarily a lucrative idea, but you'll get full credit on the site multiple times and pretty much free reign to do what you'd like within the initial parameters of the project.
Seriously interested? Send me an email (no attachments!) with any information you feel I need to know about you and your abilities/talents/interest level. Thanks!
Update: Wow, what a response! Thanks to everyone who responded for taking the time to reply, but I've got enough to choose from for now. I wish I had projects for everybody, you're a talented and motivated group!
Whenever I link to something at Amazon on kottke.org, there's an affiliate code associated with the link. When I log into my account, I can access a listing of what people bought1. The interesting bit is that everything someone buys after clicking through to Amazon counts and is listed, even items I didn't link to directly. These purchased-but-unlinked-to items form a sort of store created by kottke.org readers of their own accord.
Let's call it The Store You Made. In the first installment of what may become a semi-regular feature, I'm highlighting some of the more interesting items sold in The Store You Made this week. You might be interested in what your fellow readers are buying.
When you connect or disconnect a device, the blue light on top flashes and the dematerialization vworp, vworp sound starts sawing away at your lugholes.
Note: kottke.org recieves a small percentage of the purchase price for each item purchased through the Amazon links above. If you're not into that, you may search for the item on Amazon directly or find it elsewhere using Google.
 Amazon does not reveal which customers purchased what items to their associates...just that a purchase was made. So I have absolutely no idea who bought that diamond engagement ring last year (congratulations!) or that 3-pack of underwear last week (congratulations!). ↩
Again, the data is from Google Analytics and only includes URLs that were directly accessed...no search or referral traffic. Compare those to the most liked posts in the kottke.org RSS feed from roughly the same period of time, data courtesy of Google Reader:
This only includes posts from the past week so the older stuff isn't represented. Interesting differences. The stuff with images or videos tends to do better with likes on Google Reader than just text. If Google Reader had an API, you could use that and the Analytics API to make a pretty decent "here's what's popular on the site" sidebar thingie a la the NY Times and most other publications.
The general trends are obvious here. Mac usage among kottke.org readers has risen -- over the past year in particular -- while Windows usage has fallen by the same amount. Forty percent of all kottke.org readers now use a Mac.
The adoption rate of Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6) by kottke.org readers is less than that of Daring Fireball readers. Of Mac users who visit kottke.org, 47.4% are on 10.5, 34.4% are on 10.6, 8.1% on 10.4, 4.0% on 10.4 (PPC) and 3.7% on 10.5 (PPC). Among Windows visitors, 61.9% are still using XP compared to 32.6% on Vista.
The numbers for Firefox and IE are falling while Safari and Chrome usage are surging. The Safari nummbers are surprising to me...Safari is not a new browser but its usage by kottke.org readers has increased by more than 60% in the past year. I predict Chrome will surge in the next 12 months to overtake IE.
Two miscellaneous things
1. Google is ruling the search space more than ever. 93.2% of the incoming search traffic to kottke.org comes from Google. That's up from 91.2% a year ago and 83.7% two years ago (!!). Bing is second with 3.4% (MSN and Live combined for 5% two years ago) and Yahoo is a very sad third at 1.5% (they were at 6.9% two years ago).
2. Twitter now accounts for 2.9% of all traffic to kottke.org while Facebook is 0.9%. That's understandable considering I invest a lot of time on Twitter and almost none on Facebook. For reference, StumbleUpon is at 6.5% and incoming Google search traffic is 25.5%.
As you may have already noticed, Ainsley Drew is back and will be helping me out here for the next couple of weeks on a part time editorial basis as my wife and I deal with our new houseguest. (I'll be posting stuff as well...just at odd hours.) Welcome, Ainsley!
Hello everyone. I'd like you to meet Ollie's little sister, Minna Kottke.
Big yawn! She was born at home (on purpose!) early this morning; mother and baby are resting comfortably. I am weakened by an unrelated sickness but proud and happy. Ollie can't stop talking about her. "Minna! Minna!" He's going to be a great big brother.
So, things are going to be a little slow around here for a bit, especially the rest of this week. Starting next Monday, I'll be joined by a part-time guest editor for a couple weeks. But more on that later. Now: sleep.
The old account, @kottkedotorg, will continue to post updates for a few more days and then will go silent. HUGE 72 pt. thanks to John Resig (@jeresig), who scooped up @kottke some time ago to protect it from a spammer takeover and generously handed the keys over to me this morning. So many people have wrongly referenced @kottke in the past few months that it's a relief to have it.
Two other things.
1. I have also been posting little extra links to Twitter -- like this and this -- stuff that doesn't really fit on the site for whatever reason. I'll eventually pull those links back into the flow here, but the only way to get them for now is to follow @kottke.
2. You may have noticed that at the end of each kottke.org post, there is now a "Post to Twitter" link. I have long resisted adding Digg This or Tumblr That or Stumble What or Jam This In Your Facebook links to posts, but increasingly people are sharing links and information on Twitter instead of on their blogs so I'm going where the action is. At least as an experiment. So, if you like something, click the link and tell your followers about it.
The data is from Google Analytics and includes posts with lots of search and referral traffic...filtering those out would probably be a more accurate indication of what regular readers found interesting.
I've made some little tweaks to kottke.org here and there. One little tweak was to the RSS feed...I've shored it up and moved to an Atom format. Aside from 40 unread duplicate entries flooding your feed reader (sorry, it's a one time thing1), you shouldn't notice a thing. Bug reports and feedback welcome.
 Oddly, Google Reader hiccuped this morning and spit out 40 unread duplicate entries for the kottke.org feed...before I even modified anything (i.e. not my fault). So a double apology to GR users. I hope this is the end of our Long National Unread Duplicate Entries Nightmare. ↩
Google | 262,946 | 93.8%
MS Live | 4,307 | 1.5%
Yahoo | 4,036 | 1.4%
MSN | 2,796 | 1.0%
It's a small sample and doesn't match up with Comscore's numbers (Google: 64.2%, Yahoo: 20.4%, MS: 8.2%), but wow. As a comparison, the numbers for a year ago for kottke.org had Google at 91%, Yahoo at 4.9%, and Live at 0.7%.
Usually when you belong to some kind of ad network, you're eventually asked to pester your readers with some sort of survey that attempts to gauge what sorts of eyeballs are reading your site. The Deck has never asked me to do this and still hasn't...but I ran across The Deck Ad Network Readership Survey on SimpleBits this morning and if I were you, I completely wouldn't mind taking it. The survey questions include:
7. If you were to become romantically involved with a typeface, which one would it be? 15. Where are you, emotionally speaking? 24. What would you say is your greatest weakness?
Unless you're an especially careful reader of kottke.org, you probably don't realize that I update old posts on a regular basis with material (mostly) contributed by readers. Here are several recent examples:
But they're a pain in the ass to read...and you have to scroll down the front page looking for the boldface "Update:". Updates also don't show up in RSS properly. In order to make these valuable contributions more visible (and to encourage myself to update posts more often), I'll be making a daily post to the site that collects these updates in one place. Expect to see them on the site and in the feed later in the week.
Nine years earlier, Reagan's predecessor Jimmy Carter had stunned his aides when he asked the South Korean dictator Park Chung Hee about his religious beliefs and then told Park, "I would like you to know about Christ."
If you're interested in the goings-on in the global economy, kottke.org's 2008recession tag is shaping up quite nicely.
In sponsoring the feed, you get the chance to promote your company or product in a short post that will appear in the feed. A sponsor "thank you" note will also be posted to the front page of the site. Your message will reach an estimated 110,000+ RSS subscribers.
As promised, the redesign of this site started last week is still in motion. I've just made a bunch of small tweaks that should make the site more readable for some readers.
- Fonts. In response to a number of font issues (many reports of Whitney acting up, the larger type looking like absolute crap on Windows), I've changed how the stylesheets work. Sadly, that means no more lovely Whitney. :( Mac users will see Myriad Pro Regular backed up by Helvetica and Arial while PC users will see Arial (at a different font-size). In each case, the type is slightly smaller than it was previously. I'm frustrated that these changes need to be made...the state of typography on the web is still horrible.
- Blue zoom border. Oh, it's staying, but it'll work a bit differently. The blue sides will still appear on the screen at all times but the top and bottom bars will scroll with the content. I liked the omnipresent border, but the new scheme will fix the problems with hidden anchor links and hidden in-page search results and allow for more of the screen to be used for reading/scanning. It breaks on short pages (see: the 404 page) and still doesn't work quite right on the iPhone, but those are problems for another day.
- Icons. Updated the favicon and the icon on the iPhone to match the new look/feel.
- Misc. Rounded off the corners on the red title box. Increased the space between the sidebar and the main content column.
Thanks to everyone who offered their suggestions and critiques of the new design, especially those who took the time to send in screenshots of the problems they were having. Feedback is always appreciated.
The design of kottke.org has been mostly the same since 2000...a garish yellow/green bar across the top and small black text on a white background everywhere else. (See the progression of designs since 1998.) People absolutely hated that color when I first introduced it1, but it stuck around -- mostly out of laziness -- and that pukey yellow became the most visible brand element of the site.
Two days ago, I refreshed the design of the site and, as you may have noticed, no more yellow/green. The other big changes are: bigger text set in a new font, a blue "zoom" border around the page, and the addition of titles to the short posts.
(A brief nuts and bolts interlude... For most of you, the site will look like this. If you've got Myriad Pro on your machine -- it comes free with Acrobat Reader and Adobe CS -- it'll look like this...this is the "intended" look. And if you're a fancypants designer with Whitney installed, you'll get this rarified view, which I did mostly for me. On IE6, the site will be legible and usable but somewhat unstyled. If you're not seeing something that looks like one of the above screenshots -- if the text is in all caps, for instance -- please drop me a line with a link to a screenshot and your browser information. Thanks!)
The blue "zoom" border is the biggest visual change, and it's an homage to what is still my favorite kottke.org design, the yellow zoom from 1999. I like that kottke.org is one of the few weblogs out there that can reach back almost ten years for a past design element; the site has history. In a way, that border is saying "kottke.org has been around for ten years and it's gonna be around for twenty more". At least that's how I think about it.
I've already gotten lots of feedback from readers, mostly via Twitter and email. There were a few technical issues that I've hopefully ironed out -- e.g. it should work better on the iPhone now -- and a couple which might take a bit longer, like the border messing with the page-at-a-time scrolling method. Some people like the changes, but mostly people don't like the new design, really dislike the blue, and generally want the old site back. This is exactly the reaction I expected, and it's heartening to learn that the old design struck such a chord with people. All I'm asking is that you give it a little time.
My suspicion is that as you get used to it, the new text size won't seem so weird and that blue border will likely disappear into the background of your attention, just as that hideous yellow/green did. A month from now, your conscious mind won't even see the blue -- chalk it up to something akin to banner blindness...brand blindness maybe? -- but your subconscious will register it and you'll just know where you are, safe and sound right here at good ol' kottke.org. And if that doesn't work, we'll tweak and move some things around. Design is a process, not a result, and we'll get it to a good place eventually, even if it takes twenty years.
 I wish I had access to my email from back then...everyone hated it and wanted the old design back. Before landing on the yellow/green color, I tried the golden yellow from the previous design, a blue very much like the blue in the current border, and then red. I think each color was live on the site for a few days and my intention was to just keep switching it around. But then I got bored and just left the yellow/green. Gold star to anyone who remembers that short phase of the site. ↩
This is the fifth annual selection of my favorite things I've linked to on kottke.org. This year's list includes games, photography, top-notch journalism, time-related material, architecture, design, and even politics, about 100 links in all. The format of the list is a bit different this year. Sprinkled amongst the usual high quality links are collections of links which fit into accidental categories that sprang up while going over the material, including my picks for the sites/blogs of the year. Enjoy.
Passage is a game that takes 5-minutes to play which possesses a poignancy that you wouldn't expect from such a simple game.
Sites/blogs of the year: The growing cache of vintage photos from museums and other public institutions on The Commons project on Flickr barely edges out excellently edited superb photography of The Big Picture for the site of the year.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: Backed by two huge and clueless media conglomerates, Hulu was never supposed to succeed but NBC and Fox managed to create a simple and compelling site for watching TV and movies online.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: It technically launched in 2007, but this was the year that many people realized that Amazon's MP3 store finally made it easier and more convenient to search for and buy DRM-free music than getting it for free and illegally elsewhere (Bittorrent, etc.). And I haven't bought a single mp3 on iTunes since Amazon's MP3 store opened.
Sports: Three 2008 sports happenings stick out for me. 1. The epic Federer/Nadal final at Wimbledon. It was almost 5 hours long (not including the rain delay) and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. 2. Usain Bolt winning both the 100m and 200m in world record time at the Beijing Olympics. Bolt celebrating so early before crossing the finish in the 100m was impressive but the margin of victory in the 200m was an astounding athletic feat. 3. The Michael Phelps / Milorad Cavic photo finish in the men's 100m butterfly final provoked much discussion and some of the only excitement on the way to Phelps winning a record eight golds at the Beijing games.
Things which aren't so much links as products:The Apple keyboard is the best keyboard ever made. RjDj is an iPhone app that samples sounds from your immediate environment and plays them back to you with music.
Fantastic Contraption, an incredibly addictive Flash game where you build machines out of seemingly simple parts to solve increasingly difficult puzzles.
Switched at Birth tells the tale of two girls who were swapped for one another at the hospital and didn't find out more than 40 years later even though one of the mothers knew the whole time. See also The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.:Roger Ebert's blog demonstrates that he might be a better cultural commentator than film critic. Either way, he's never been better.
Improv Everywhere used a Jumbotron, dozens of crazy fans, color programs, mascots, NBC sportscaster Jim Gray, and the Goodyear blimp to make a typical Little League game between the Lugnuts and Mudcats into The Best Game Ever.
As an appetizer before my annual best links of the year post (coming Monday, I hope), I put together a list of kottke.org posts from 2008 that I liked the most and that may be worth a look if you missed them the first time around.
For the next two weeks or so, kottke.org will relax into a slower holiday publishing schedule, so slow that at times it may seem stationary. I'll be full force again at the beginning of January. Thanks for reading this year, I really appreciate it.
My earlier sites are lost, I think. (I have a few Zip and Jaz disks that might have some older stuff on them but I don't have the capability to read them anymore.) Before 0sil8, there were three or four efforts that I must have deleted from my hard drive at some point, including some embarrassing efforts involving fractals. The very first thing I did in HTML was a personal home page around Nov/Dec 1994 that lived on a 3.5" floppy. I coded it on the computer in my dorm room (using an early version of HTML Assistant and Aldus PhotoStyler) and then put it on a floppy to use on the computer in the physics lab, the only computer I had access to on campus that had internet access. The page was little more than a gussied up list of links that I liked to visit online, but I loved building, rebuilding, and redesigning it over and over, even though I was the only one who ever saw it. The handcrafted/DIY nature of building that page hooked me on web design. I would give almost anything to see that little page again.
This page on kottke.org is the #1 result when you Google "obama wins". Servers may get a little melty around here in the next couple of days. That's ok...this is what Twitter's servers are going to look like tomorrow night:
Hear ye! I'm trying something new on kottke.org. Sponsorships of kottke.org's RSS feed are now available on a weekly basis. Sponsorships are exclusive and begin next week. If you're interested, check out the sponsorship page for details and get in touch.
P.S. The feed sponsorship idea was borrowed from John Gruber's Daring Fireball. I'd urge you to head on over to check out his sponsorship opportunities, but the DF feed is fully booked through the end of the year. (!!)
P.S.2. Advertising on the site proper continues to be handled expertly by The Deck. If you'd like to advertise on the site, read up on your options there.
As more and more people here in the US untether from their desks and computers to take advantage of the fleeting days of summer, I thought this slower time might be a good opportunity to highlight some recent kottke.org entries that you (and I) have found most interesting over the past weeks. Even if you've seen them before, go on, take another helping.
The most beautiful suicide shows an oddly peaceful photo taken of Evelyn McHale just after she jumped to her death from the Empire State Building. This photo inspired me to buy the issue of Life magazine it was taken from...I found it on eBay for $10. The rest of the issue is nearly as fascinating as the photo.
I'm moving some things around on the backend of the site so those of you reading kottke.org in RSS may have noticed some duplicate items. Sorry about that...it's a one time occurance and was mostly unavoidable.
If you'd like to follow kottke.org on Twitter, you may do so here. Tweets will consist of a post title and the permalink URL, updated every time I publish a new post (more or less). Thanks to arc90 for their PHP Twitter API library. Note: this is a separate Twitter account from my personal one. Never will kottke.org updates be pushed automatically to my personal Twitter account. I am not a dick, I would never do that to you.
1. I recently upgraded the software that powers this site to the most recent version of MT 4. I'll miss my pimped out copy of MT 3.2 but I'm excited to play with some new-to-me MT 4 features. Between this and my new keyboard, I feel like I just started a new job. Huge 72 pt. THANKS to Six Apart Services né Apperceptive and especially kottke.org patron saint David Jacobs for the excellent support. (Oh, and the iMT plugin for quick iPhone access to MT? Awesome.)
2. Pagination! The front page is now just over a third shorter than it was mere minutes ago. You can continue reading previous entries by pointing your browsing mechanism to page 2 and page 3. That's one feature down, about 2000 more to go.
I'm off on holiday this week and I've invited Cliff Kuang to help keep that kottke.org groove going in my absence. Cliff is a journalist and has written/edited for I.D., The Economist, Wired, Print, Monocle, and GOOD on culture, design, and technology. When he's not writing for money, he blogs for fun and wonderment at Delicious Ghost (may be NSFW). Welcome, Cliff!
The Deck is a smallish ad network that handles the advertising for kottke.org, which consists of an unobtrusive high-quality advertisement in the sidebar of each page of the site. The Deck recently moved to a spiffy new domain and is no longer so smallish; the network now includes 29 sites.
Ben Saunders had to break off his attempt at a speed record to the North Pole after only eight days because of an equipment failure. The bolts on his skis snapped.
Those few hours in the tent were some of the lowest of my life; I thought of all the people that had gone so far out of their way to make this expedition happen, of the weeks of intense preparation, the months of training and the years of experience, testing and perfecting everything from my diet to the design of the sledge. This expedition was the physical embodiment of one of the biggest and most audacious dreams I've ever had, and the whole thing hung from a giant chain that involved countless people, places, promises and pieces of equipment. It turned out on Friday morning that the weakest link of that entire chain was a pair of screws, each with a head the size of my little finger tip, and each snapped clean in half.
More on the periodic table. Periodically is an album put together by DBLF Studios featuring 119 songs, one for each element. Peep the lyrics; here's a bit of the lithium tune:
I'm unbelievable for non-linear optics high performance jet helicpotics I have numerous commercial applications am no longer integral for atomic weapons unfortunately meth-amphetamines I do catalyze I absorb carbon dioxide when I hydroxize nuclear fusion totally relies on me I allow the criminally insane to go running free
Three cities, two serious relationships, one child, 200,000 frequent flier miles, at least seven jobs, 14,500 posts, six designs, and ten years ago, I started "writing things down" and never stopped. That makes kottke.org one of a handful of the longest continually updated weblogs on the web...something to be proud of, I guess. The only thing I've done longer than kottke.org is sported this haircut. (Perhaps not something to be proud of...the hair-in-stasis, I mean.)
Being a digital packrat, I have screenshots of all the past designs the site has had. When I started, the posts were actually hosted on another site of mine, 0sil8, that I'd been doing since 1996. I didn't know at the time that kottke.org would eventually kill 0sil8. This was the first design (full size):
It's a little misleading because there's only one post shown on the page...there were usually more, displayed reverse chronologically. The stars were a rough rating of how well that day had gone called the fun meter.
When I moved the site to its own domain after a few months, I redesigned it to look like this (full size):
The aesthetic was influenced by the pixel grunge style of Finnish designer Miika Saksi...you can see some of his older work here. The font in the navigation is Mini 7...Silkscreen was still several months away at that point. The fun meter is still present as is the all-lowercase text, a house style I thankfully dropped a few months later. The cringeworthy writing took a few more years to iron out...if it ever fully was.
This one's still my favorite; it turned a lot of heads back in the day (full size):
With dozens of spacer gifs and five concentric tables, it was a bitch to code. There was also a capability to modify the look and feel of the site...you could choose between this design, the older design pictured above, and a text-only version. Inline permalinks were introduced on kottke.org in March 2000 and subsequently the idea was spread across the web by Blogger.
But it only lasted for about a year. In late 2000, I swapped it for this one (full size):
The familar burn-your-eyes-out yellow-green makes its first appearance. I never really meant to keep it or for it to become the strongest part of the site's identity. After this design launched, I cycled through a few colors (the old yellow, blue, red) before getting to the yellow-green...and then I just got lazy and left it. For 8 years and counting. The post style underwent several changes with this design. In June 2002, I switched to Movable Type after updating the site by hand for four years. Soon after that, I added titles to my posts. In late 2002, I added a frequently updated list of remaindered links to the sidebar. In late 2003, the remainders moved into the main column and have become an integral part of the site. I also started reviewing movies and books around this time...kottke.org became a bit of a tumblelog.
In July 2004, I refreshed the design a bit...tightened it up (full size):
After about a year, I changed it again to the current look and feel (full size):
Sorry, that got a little long...there's a lot I didn't remember until I started writing. Anyway, I didn't intend for this to become a design retrospective. Mostly I wanted to thank you very sincerely for reading kottke.org. Over the last ten years, I've poured a lot more of myself than I'd like to admit into this site and it's nice to know that someone out there is paying attention. [Cripes, I'm choking up here. Seriously!] Thanks, and I'll see you in 2018.
The UK Sunday newspaper The Observer recently published a list of the world's 50 most powerful blogs. kottke.org is fourth on the list. "Powerful" seems to be a word used here for its succinct headline value...that adjective doesn't fit many of the blogs on the list. But The Observer has made an effort to build a wide-ranging list of blogs that you should be reading...it's very nice to be included.
Ok, I'm back from a week of sickness, grueling travel, little sleep, and nothing done on some kottke.org projects I wanted to tackle. Time off is a bit different with an 8-month-old. But I'd like to thank Deron for holding down the fort while I was gone...I enjoyed his contribution to the site; I hope you did as well. Thanks, Deron.
Regular posting to commence after a short mental nap.
I am the founding editor of elimae, for which I designed, produced, and distributed a series of hand-made books. I am the author of Mockingbird, reviewed favorably by Guy Davenport in the April 2002 edition of Harper's. I founded and blog at clusterflock, a group blog dedicated to pretty much everything. I am the director of The World Come of Age, a documentary about the life of a gay man living in a rural north Texas county. I am in the process of deciding what to do next.
If you can even read this, sorry for the downtime on kottke.org this morning (and, from what I can tell, last night too). My robot and someone else's robot are chatting away gaily and no one else seems to be able to get a word in edgewise. We're hoping they quiet down soon. If you need your kottke.org fix before that happens, I'll be standing on the corner of Canal & Bowery in Manhattan handing out slips of paper with cool URLs on them.
Good morning, and thank you for attending. Should you have advice or ideas for me this week, I can be reached at choire [at] choire sicha [dot] com. I love mail. A brief moment of self-referentiality follows. Over the last nearly-decade, Kottke (the work product, not so much the actual person) has become incredibly (sometimes overly) smoothed and honed. When I first wrote a story for the New York Times, a very wise editor there told me this: That it was not the paper that made writers sound Timesey; instead, writers most often made themselves Timesey in anticipation of the venue's expectations. That was usually a bad thing! But in the case of Kottke (the site), perhaps a good amount of impersonation of or loyalty to its conventions is in order, don't you think? (That effort may fail as this week progresses.) So to those who are pre-gagging over my appearance here this week, I can only offer the same response that Joan Didion offered a letter by John Romano in the New York Review of Books on October 11, 1979.
Choire has written for Gawker (on two non-consecutive occasions, making him Gawker Media's Grover Cleveland), the NY Times, the Observer, and a host of other publications, but I remember him mostly from from the olden days of the blogosphere. He was one half of the tandem that wrote the now-defunct East/West, an early blog detailing the lives of two friends who live on opposite ends of the US. He's also done a bunch of other stuff but I'll let him share or not share about all that. Welcome, Choire!
For the fourth year running, here are some of my favorite articles, videos, games, photography, discussions, and design pieces that I linked to in 2007. After you're done with these, try the lists from 2004, 2005, and 2006.
People who know me know that part of my charm is how wrong I tend to do things. Raleigh St. Clair could write books on my horrid sense of direction (I couldn't tell you how to drive to my favorite restaurant yet I'm a totally awesome driver, curiously). Yesterday I made out-of-the-box mac n' cheese but ruined it so royally I ended up dumping it and having an ice cream cone for lunch (no ice cream - just the cone).
So what the hell am doing guest-writing for this man, this hero of the web whom I so admire? I'd been toying with the idea of referring to Mr. Kottke only as 'Cousin Jason' hoping this would remove any doubt as to how I'd been put up to the task. But no, we're not related. If we were, I'd have an easier time backing out at the last minute.
You may think, "Well, here you are, these are your words on the kottke blog, so you must've done something right." I wouldn't be so sure of that. But we'll see if I can't class this place up a bit while Mr. Kottke maintains his undercarriage.
For the next week, Adam Lisagor is going to be helping me out with kottke.org as I spend the week working on the site's undercarriage, performing some long-overdue maintenance and (hopefully) finishing a couple of projects begun long ago during the Golden Age of Weblogs. As it happens, Adam worked on The Day After Tomorrow, one of my favorite movies of all time. Seriously, Adam really worked on The Day After Tomorrow and, seriously, The Day After Tomorrow is one of my favorite movies of all time. (Seriously! I've seen it like 20 times.)
Food and Drink
Always, Often, and Sometimes are self-explanatory. The Pending folder is for blogs that I'm trying out, Frippery is stuff that is non-kottke.org-related to be read during non-work hours (ha!), and the Infoglut folder contains a bunch of blogs that have a low signal-to-noise ratio and are too high volume to keep up with unless everything else is read (any multi-author pro blogs that I read (not many) are in here). For organizing non-long-form blogs, I use these folders:
Links contains link blogs, Yummy has a bunch of stuff from del.icio.us, Photos are photoblogs, and Tumble contains tumblelogs, FFFFOUND!, and other Randomly Curated Other People's Images White Background Sites. And then for news, I have an NY Times folder, a Sci/Tech News folder, and a Keywords folder for Google News keyword searches.
All this folder business might seem overcomplicated, but I find that grouping feeds by mode helps greatly. And by mode, I mean when I'm reading link blogs, that's a different style than reading/skimming long-form blogs in the Always folder. Posts from link blogs usually take a few seconds to read/evaluate/discard while the Always folder posts take longer. If they were all lumped together, I couldn't get through them as quickly and thoroughly as I can separately. A juggling analogy will help -- Wait! Don't leave, I'm almost done! -- it's easier to juggle balls or clubs or knives than it is to juggle balls, knives, and clubs at the same time...same thing with different kinds of blog posts.
In the interest of growing the site beyond its current boundaries (i.e. me having to be seated in front of a computer 24/7/365), I'm trying something new on kottke.org. Starting tomorrow and continuing through next Tuesday, Joel Turnipseed will be editing the site. Joel is a writer living in Minneapolis, has previously run a software company, and is the author of Baghdad Express, a memoir of his experience as a US Marine in the first Gulf War. His writing has appeared in Granta, GQ, and The New York Times. For the week, Joel will be posting links, interviews, and entries loosely organized around a theme; he'll introduce himself and explain exactly what's going tomorrow. I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with.
After posting about needing some help for a kottke.org project, I was overwhelmed with responses. So much so that I'm looking for an intern to sort through all the replies. (Just kidding.) Thanks to everyone who applied and for your patience...I'll be getting back to everyone soon.
I'm looking for a writer/blogger** to work on a short-duration kottke.org project. You must be available from 10/30 to 11/6, not counting the weekend. There's a small budget available if you wish to be financially compensated. The resulting project will be featured on the front page of kottke.org with full credit to the author...this isn't some behind-the-scenes thing. Apologies if all that's intentionally vague, but I'll share the full details with the applicants.
If you're interested in applying, send an email to email@example.com containing: 1) a subject line of "kottke.org feedback - Oct project", 2) a one-paragraph cover "letter" of no more than 6-7 sentences, and 3) links to your resume (if you have one), your blog (ditto), and any applicable writing/editing/blogging samples. Use your own discretion as to what to reveal about yourself. Any email with attachments or excessive paragraphs will be deleted unread or will be read and then mocked. Publicly. Those who enjoy reading kottke.org but are unlike me, demographically speaking, are particularly encouraged to apply. Thanks!
** Update: To clarify slightly, I don't necessarily need someone who is a writer or blogger professionally, just someone who can write or blog, no matter their training or profession.
Update: Hi, I think I've got all the applicants I need for now. Thanks to all for your interest.
After two months of paternity leave and mostly not posting, I'm resuming work on kottke.org today. It's been wonderful getting to know my son and gaining some much needed perspective, but I've missed doing the site too...9.5 years on and there's so much yet to do. So here we go.
Two quick notes.
1. I've saved up several links found while on leave...they'll be trickling out to the blog for the next few days. Apologies if you've seen them before (some you probably haven't), but if you've been paying attention, kottke.org isn't a place for the exclusively new and fresh. There are several other sites out there for that; they function excellently but I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with much of the blogosphere that whatever is newest is interesting to the detriment of everything else. Bollocks to the new.
2. Several people have inexplicably assumed that since I'm now a father, kottke.org is going to turn into some kind of daddyblog, and furthermore asserted that they'd like that not very much. Rest assured, not going to happen. I'm sure I'll make occasional mention of the family, but don't look for posts entitled "Umbrella Stroller Buying Guide" or "How to Buy Gender Neutral Clothing for Your Newborn (A: Don't Try, This is Nearly Impossible)". For those who want Ollie, Ollie, Ollie all the time, may I suggest checking out my Flickr stream for the occasional photo.
Made some slight tweaks to the site, mostly on the front page. Might need to refresh the stylesheet (shift-reload or cmd-reload usually works) to see them properly. The left column is a bit wider and tags now appear on posts. The monthly archive pages are a bit busted, but I'm hoping to have them running again soon.
Some vital statistics: He was born on July 3 just before 1pm, weighed about 7 lbs., 2 oz., loves to eat (and then sleep), is O.K. (ha!), dislikes sponge baths, unfortunately doesn't have any descenders in his name, both mom and baby are home and doing fine, Ollie is not a particularly popular name right now (and is not short for Oliver), and I've never been quite so content as when he fell asleep on my chest yesterday and we snoozed together on the couch for an hour or so. A little slice of heaven.
Also, I'm going to be taking about two months of paternity leave from working on kottke.org. I'll probably post a few things here and there when I can, but it won't be a priority by any means. I hope you all have a good rest of the summer and that you'll find the site again when I start back up in the fall.
After working on this -- on again and off again, mostly off -- for much too long, I'm pleased to say that a significant chunk of kottke.org now has tags (around 5,100 entries are tagged, out of ~13,000). Right now, the only way to access them is through individual tag pages, but after all the bugs are ironed out, I'll be putting them in different places around the site (front page, main archive page, etc.).
Each tag page lists all the entries1 on the site that are tagged with that particular word...some good examples to start you off are: photography, economics, lists, infoviz, food, nyc, cities, restaurants, video, timelapse, interviews, language, maps, and fashion. Each page also has a list of tags related to that particular tag and further down in the sidebar, you'll find lists of recently popular tags, all-time popular tags, a few favorite tags of mine, and some random tags...lots of stuff to explore.
I've tweaked the design as well: the main column is a little wider, the post metadata look/feel is consistent among short posts and long posts, faint dotted lines now separate all entries, and per-entry tags were added to the post metadata. I'm testing all that out for eventual site-wide use. Questions, comments, bug reports, etc. are welcome...send them on in.
 Not all the entries exactly. Until I figure out how to do some pagination, I've limited the number of entries to 100 for each tag page. The movies page was more than 1 Mb when all the entries were listed. ↩
My short post on Nina Planck's reaction to the recent "death by veganism", as she calls it, of a baby boy is a good reminder that I don't always agree with the things I link to. My only criteria for posting a link is that it's interesting, whether I think it's right or wrong or am still trying to form an opinion about it. Anyway, I got lots of mail about this one, much of it that said that the parents' veganism was beside the point -- which the prosecutors and jury in the subsequent criminal case agreed with (thx, matt) -- and that a headline like "Death By Stupidity" was probably more appropriate. After all, you don't see "Death by Omnivorism" headlines every time a baby with a more traditional diet dies of starvation.
jkottke: Do you do anything to celebrate or recognize the changing of seasons? ELLEgirlBuddy: do you do anything to celebrate or recognize the changing of seasons? that's a tough choice. jkottke: yes, to celebrate or merely recognize. that is a toughie. ELLEgirlBuddy: yes to celebrate or merely recognize that is a toughie? i dunno. jkottke: you seem like an actual 13 year old girl. ELLEgirlBuddy: i haven't really made a decision 'bout that. jkottke: growing up is tough, isn't it? ELLEgirlBuddy: i dunno.
Are you a good liar? Most people think that they are, but in reality there are big differences in how well we can pull the wool over the eyes of others. There is a very simple test that can help determine your ability to lie. Using the first finger of your dominant hand, draw a capital letter Q on your forehead.
Some people draw the letter Q in such a way that they themselves can read it. That is, they place the tail of the Q on the right-hand side of their forehead. Other people draw the letter in a way that can be read by someone facing them, with the tail of the Q on the left side of their forehead. This quick test provides a rough measure of a concept known as "self-monitoring". High self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be seen by someone facing them. Low self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be read by themselves.
High self-monitors tend to be concerned with how other people see them. They are happy being the centre of attention, can easily adapt their behaviour to suit the situation in which they find themselves, and are skilled at manipulating the way in which others see them. As a result, they tend to be good at lying. In contrast, low self-monitors come across as being the "same person" in different situations. Their behaviour is guided more by their inner feelings and values, and they are less aware of their impact on those around them. They also tend to lie less in life, and so not be so skilled at deceit.
Made some long overdue changes to the sidebar on the front page, including an even longer overdue update of the "sites I've enjoyed recently". I used to use that list for my daily browse but it fell into decay when I started reading sites in RSS. Now the list is a random sampling of sites from the current reading list in my newsreader. If things look a little weird, you may need to refresh the stylesheet (do a Shift-reload on the home page).
Since swearing off Technorati a couple of years ago, I've been checking back every few months to see if the situation has improved. The site is definitely more responsive but their data problems seemingly remain, at least with regard to kottke.org; Google Blog Search gives consistently better results and easy access to RSS feeds of searches.
Technorati recently introduced something called the Technorati Authority number, which is a fancy name for the number of blogs linking to a site in the last six months. Curious as to where kottke.org fell on the authority scale, I checked out the top 100 blogs list. Not there, so I proceeded to the "Everything in the known universe about kottke.org" page where a portion of that huge cache of kottke.org knowledge was the authority number: 5,094. Looking at the top 100 list, that should put the site at #47, nestled between The Superficial and fishki.net, but it's not there. Technorati also currently states that kottke.org hasn't been updated in the last day, despite several updates since then and my copy of MT pinging Technorati after each update.
Maybe kottke.org has been intentionally excluded because I've been so hard on them in the past. Or maybe it's just a glitch (or two) in their system. Or maybe it's an indication of larger problems with their service. Either way, as the company is attempting to offer an authentic picture of the blogosphere, this doesn't seem like the type of rigor and accuracy that should send reputable media sources like the BBC, Washington Post, NY Times, and the Wall Street Journal scurrying to their door looking for reliable data about blogs.
Update: As of 3:45pm EST, the top 100 list has been updated to include kottke.org. The site also picked up this post right away, but failed to note a subsequent post published a few minutes later..
Might be a little slow today on the ol' kottke.org. It's raining, some dude died and a bunch of techy/copyrighty blogs are sorta trying not to dance on his grave, and I'm wishing a long walk off a short pier to a bunch of alpha male, loudmouth, know-it-all bloggers who are calling the kettle black to a degree way past insanity (or is that inanity?). Isn't it time you all shipped off to the Grey Havens or something? Sometimes I really don't like this blogos-whatever that we've all built for ourselves...don't we deserve better? That and the internet appears to be completely empty today, devoid of any new information. Melodramatically yours,
are those twitter updates on your blog updated automatically when you update your twitter? if so, how did you do it?
A couple of weeks ago, I added my Twitter updates and recent music (via last.fm) into the front page flow (they're not in the RSS feed, for now). Check out the front page and scroll down a bit if you want to check them out. The Twitter post is updated three times a week (MWF) and includes my previous four Twitter posts. I use cron to grab the RSS file from Twitter, some PHP to get the recent posts, and some more PHP to stick it into the flow. The last.fm post works much the same way, although it's only updated once a week and needs a splash of something to liven it up a bit.
I'm ashamed to say I'm still hooked on DesktopTD. The problem is that the creator of the game keeps updating the damn thing, adding new challenges just as you've finally convinced yourself that you've wrung all of the stimulation out of the game. As Robin notes, it's a brilliant strategy, the continual incremental sequel. Version 1.21 introduced a 10K gold fun mode...you get 10,000 gold pieces at the beginning to build a maze. Try building one where you can send all 50 levels at the same time and not lose any lives. Fun, indeed.
Regarding the low wattage color palette, reader Jonathan notes that you should use that palette in conjunction with a print stylesheet that optimizes the colors for printing so that you're not wasting a lot of ink on those dark background colors. He also sent along an OS X trick I'd never seen before: to invert the colors on your monitor, press ctrl-option-cmd-8. (thx, jonathan)
Got a penny-stock spam this morning where most of the text designed to confuse spam filters was taken from kottke.org.
From: "Harriot Mckee" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: March 27, 2007 10:28:25 AM EDT To: <email@example.com> Subject: The outside of one particular prison is all glass like an Apple Store, the furniture is nicely designed, and the sports facilities are top-notch.
CWTD Receives "National Park Award"
China World Trade Corp. Symbol: CWTD Price: $0.489
CWTD a diverse company involved in world trade and business services has just been awarded the "Nation Park Award" for one of the parks it manages. CWTD is expected to issue a huge news release this week. We always see big returns when they do. Read up and get ready. Get on CWTD first thing Tuesday morning!
" (via that's how it happened) Looking for work? Exburbians moved to the farthest reaches of suburbia for cheap real estate, willing to drive at least an hour each way to work. Why, then, don't we pull for the Iraqi insurgents? "There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. Netflix has a "take as much as you want" vacation. That suggests that the claim may be phony, he said. Why can't we see ourselves in the faces of those kids firing RPGs at convoys of Halliburton trucks stealing Iraqi oil? A French map shows that the Portuguese were the first. All content by Jason Kottke (contact me) unless otherwise noted, with some restrictions on its use. Protect Your System From Online Intruders. Sales of home coffee machines nearly . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area. You could say it would be a lifetime's quest to reconcile this battling trinity into a seamless whole. (thx, jennifer) Looking for work? Bob Saget was onto something. I don't think it's any coincidence that one of the people responsible for Blogger is also responsible for Twitter. jonreese(or how i learned to stop worrying and love the blog): Who Murdered 32 Iraqi Children? Update: The Showtime site doesn't seem to be available to those outside of the US. jonreese(or how i learned to stop worrying and love the blog): America is over. An interview with Michael Pollan about The Omnivore's Dilemma.
kottke.org might be a little slow today with (hopefully short) periods of downtime. I'm doing some long-overdue maintenance on the server to pave the way for a bit of future development. In Flickr parlance, kottke.org is having a massage.
Update: Alright, we had two little blips of downtime and now it looks like the site is back up and running like a finely tuned watch, a watch with a web server running on it.
Update: Took care of one last little glitch last night...should be alright now. You may need to clear your cache to make sure everything works smoothly.
And if that weren't enough excitement for one day, it's also Pi Day. (Whoa, the Pi Day web site uses Silkscreen!) I bet the Pi Dayers are really looking forward to 2015 when they can extend the fun to two additional decimal places.
As promised, I've made some long overdue changes to the kottke.org RSS feeds and the remaindered links. I've combined the two kottke.org feeds -- previously one contained main posts, movie posts, and book posts and the other contained the so-called remaindered links -- into one feed, located here:
If you're already subscribed to the main feed, you shouldn't have to change a thing. If you're subscribed to the remaindered feed, your newsreader (if it's smart enough) should automatically and permanently redirect you to the new feed. If not, just change the subscription to point at the above feed. If you're subscribed to both, unsubscribe from the remaindered feed. The new combined feed will mirror the front page of the site...whatever appears there will appear in the feed.
Second thing: the remaindered links are dead. Long live the remaindered links. Oh, they're still here on the site, but it's been a long time since they were just links...they're more like mini posts with no titles -- some of them are actually longer than the non-mini posts. The distinction made sense when they were included in the sidebar on the front page, but not anymore. Functionally that means no separate RSS feed, no separate archives, and no separate index page...they're all gone (or will be soon). All the remaindered links posts are still available, but they're in the main monthly archives now. The point is, you don't need to worry about any of this. Just subscribe to the above feed or come to the front page each day and you'll get everything that's new on kottke.org everyday. Simple.
Things should have worked this way for, oh, the past two years, but I just never got around to changing it. What finally kicked my butt into action were two things that happened in the past two weeks. I had coffee with Cory Doctorow last weekend. He asked how things were going with kottke.org and remarked that I'm not posting nearly as much as I used to. I replied that I had been posting as much as ever, but got the feeling that Cory was only subscribed to the main RSS feed, which only accounted for about 15-20% of my total effort on the site. I wondered how many other people out there were only subscribed to the main feed and started to, oh, I guess "fret" is the right word.
Fret turned to panic when I checked my server logs. Bloglines sends along how many people are subscribed to an RSS feed in the user-agent string that's deposited in the referer logs on the server, like so:
When I compared the number of subscribers to the main feed to the number subscribing to the remaindered feed, the main feed number was nearly 3 times higher. Even worse is when I looked at my server logs for the feeds (I stopped looking at my stats months ago)...visits to the main feed are outpacing visits to the remaindered feed 5:1. Which means that somewhere between 75-85% of the people who are reading kottke.org via RSS aren't even getting most of what's on the site! Which was dumb, dumb, dumb of me to let happen for all these months and why I've now corrected the situation. Interestingly, the stats from Rojo indicate the opposite situation...way more people are subscribed to the remaindered links feed than the main feed. Weird. (Another RSS stats tidbit: I've served up 58 gigabytes of RSS so far this month. That's crazy!)
As always, your bug reports, questions, and concerns are appreciated and may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Apologizing for not posting much lately is liable to get a fellow burned at the stake around these parts but since I'm feeling a little chilly today, I figured why not. Things outside kottke.org have been taking up much of my attention for the last week or so and they've made posting here regularly and with gusto more difficult than usual. Apologies.
But also, and more relevantly, I've been working on a number of improvements for kottke.org and I'm finally rolling some of them out. On the front-end, the part you see, the changes are relatively minor but things are working differently now on the back-end. I'm still using Movable Type to edit the site, but now there's a layer of PHP that takes what MT spits out, works some magic, and presents it to you folks, an arrangement that is probably a little nuts to anyone who knows their bangs from their octothorpes, but it promises to allow me more flexibility with how I want to present things around here.
Anyway, here's what's new:
Slight changes on the front page, including dates for the short entries and separate listings for each movie "review".
Monthly archives are now combined. Instead of going to separate pages to see the December 2006 entries for movies, books, remaindered links, and main entries, all entries are presented on one page. Books and movies are still available on their own pages.
A pared down the archive page to remove the superfluous monthly archives, as well as little changes to pages here and there for the same reason.
Something fun: a page of random posts from the kottke.org archives, featuring lots of broken links, really poor writing, but also some nice posts from back when. The posts randomize every time I update, which is every hour or two during the day.
That's it for now. There will be more over the weekend, I hope, including some looooooooooooooooooong overdue changes to the RSS feeds and remaindered links. As always, your bug reports, questions, and concerns are appreciated and may be directed to email@example.com.
Compiling a list of the best things I've linked to from kottke.org seems to get harder each year. I estimate posting about 2400 links to kottke.org in 2006, which is roughly one link every 2.5 hours on weekdays. Which is insane...I don't know how you guys read all of that. Last year I managed to whittle down the best-of list to ~65 links (2004's list had ~40 links), but I couldn't manage less than 100 this year. (Hell, the overflow list contains another 100 links that didn't quite make the cut...hopefully I'll be posting those in a few days.)
But enough with the statistics. Besides containing some really entertaining, informative, and provoking reading/viewing material, this list also functions as kottke.org's year in ideas for 2006, akin to the annual list in the NY Times Magazine. Climate change, the industrialization of childbirth, race & class in college & professional sports, the inherent messiness of science, adults who don't want to grow up, the role of journalism in the age of information abundance, and how creative work gets done are all ideas represented in the links below. Even the funny YouTube videos signal the arrival in 2006 of online video, especially if you throw Ze Frank in the mix. Enjoy.
I asked several bloggers about their most popular, or one of their most popular, blog posts -- the kind that made an impact on people, had skyrocketing traffic numbers, or triggered a meme or changes.
I was asked to answer the question, but didn't get my response in on time. Here's what I would have answered. In terms of pure traffic, it wasn't the biggest, but my 9/11 post and the resulting 2-3 weeks of posts subsequent to that probably had the biggest relative impact on the site. My traffic immediately doubled and didn't go back down after things settled down a little. You might say that those two weeks made kottke.org, just like they gave birth to the war/political blogs. That day opened a lot of bloggers' eyes to the cynical truth that the traditional news media already knew: other people's tragedy and pain sells.
I don't regret covering 9/11 the way that I did because it came from the heart and I got so much email from people, even weeks and months afterward, who genuinely appreciated my small contribution. But following 9/11, I've been increasingly wary of covering similar situations in the same way because, knowing that cynical truth, a part of me would be doing it for selfish reasons: writing for hits, attention, and glory. I posted a few things early on about the Indonesian tsunami and the London Tube bombings, and hardly anything about Katrina (I took a week off instead, writing about anything else during that time seemed trivial and ridiculous). In some ways, 9/11 was the defining editorial moment for kottke.org. After that experience, I took more care in why I was writing about certain topics and when the answer was "to get attention" or "because it's a hot issue" or "if I piss off [big blogger], he'll link back to me in rebuttal and boost traffic" or "if I kiss [big blogger's] ass, he'll link to me" or "I need to cover this issue for kottke.org to remain relevant in the global news conversat-blah-blah-blah", I usually take a pass. That editorial stance has probably cost kottke.org a lot of traffic over the years, but that's a trade-off I'm completely comfortable with.
As many of you don't know, I've been working less-than-diligently1 on a project with the eventual goal of adding tags to kottke.org. I posted some early results back in August of 2005. The other day, I started thinking about how tags could help people get a sense of what's been talked about recently on the site, like Flickr's listing of hot tags. I started by compiling a list of tags from the last 200 entries and ordering them by how many times they were used over that period. Here is the top 20 (with # of instances in parentheses)
photography (33), books (26), art (26), science (22), tv (21), movies (21), lists (20), video (17), nyc (16), weblogs (15), design (14), interviews (13), bestof (13), business (12), thewire (12), food (11), sports (11), games (10), language (10), music (9)
The items in bold also appear in the top 50 of the all-time popular tags, so obviously this list isn't telling us anything new about what's going on around here. To weed those always-popular tags from the list, I compared the recent frequency of each tag with its all-time frequency and came up with a list of tags that are freakishly popular right now compared to how popular they usually are. Call this list a measure of the popularity acceleration of each tag. The top 20:
(Note: I also removed tags with less than three instances from this list and the ones below.) Now we're getting somewhere. None of these appear in the top 50 all-time list. But it's still not that accurate a list of what's been going on here recently. I've posted 3 times about Photoshop, but you can't discount entirely the 33 posts about photography. What's needed is a mix of the two lists: generally popular tags that are also popular right now (first list) + generally unpopular tags that are popular right now (second list). So I blended the two lists together in different proportions:
25% recent / 75% all-time: photography (33), art (26), books (26), tv (21), science (22), movies (21), lists (20), thewire (12), video (17), nyc (16), weblogs (15), davidsimon (5), poptech2006 (4), design (14), interviews (13), bestof (13), blindside (3), ghostmap (3), pablopicasso (3), business (12)
The 75%-66% recent lists look like a nice mix of the newly & perenially popular and a fairly accurate representation of the last 3 weeks of posts on kottke.org.
Digression for programmers and math enthusiastists only: I'm curious to know how others would have handled this issue. I approached the problem in the most straighforward manner I could think of (using simple algebra) and the results are pretty good, but it seems like an approach that makes use an equation that approximates the distribution of the popularity of the tags (which roughly follows a power law curve) would work better. Here's what I did for each tag (using the nyc tag as an example):
# of recent entries: 300
# of total entries: 3399
# of recent instances of the nyc tag: 16
# of total instances of the nyc tag: 247
# of instances of the most frequent recent tag: 33
# of instances of the most frequent tag, all-time: 272
Calculate the recent and all-time frequencies of the nyc tag:
16/300 = 0.0533
247/3399 = 0.0726
Then divide the recent frequency by the all-time frequency to get the popularity acceleration:
0.0533/0.0726 = 0.7342
That's how much more popular the nyc tag is now than it has been all-time. In other words, the nyc tag is 0.7342 times as popular over the last 300 entries as it has been overall...~1/4 less popular than it usually is. To get the third list with the 75% emphasis on population acceleration and 25% on all-time popularity, I stated by normalizing the popularity acceleration and all-time frequency by dividing the nyc tag values by the top value of the group in each case (11.33 is the popularity acceleration of the blindside tag and 0.11 is the recent frequency of the photography tag (33/300)):
0.7342/11.33 = 0.0647
0.0533/0.11 = 0.4845
So, the nyc tag has a popularity acceleration of 0.0647 times that of the blindside tag and has a recent frequency that is 0.4845 times that of the most popular recent tag. Then:
0.0647*0.75 + 0.4845*0.25 = 0.1696
Calculate this number for each recent tag, rank them from highest to lowest, and you get the third list above. Now, it seems to me that I may have fudged something in the last two steps, but I'm not exactly sure. And if I did, I don't know what got fudged. Any help or insight would be appreciated.
 Great artists ship. Mediocre artists ship slowly. ↩
Every week, I get 3 or 4 inquiries from people looking for jobs in the web design/technology area or for employees (happily, it's more the latter than the former these days). When I hear about someone who needs some work done and I have a friend or friend of a friend who's available, I'm glad to make the connection. For the past couple of years, I've wanted to build a job board for kottke.org to make more of these connections possible, but I never got around to it. So when Jason Fried asked me if I wanted to put a link to the simple, focused 37signals Job Board on kottke.org (you'll find it on every page of the site, below The Deck ad), that seemed to be the next best thing to building my own. I've been referring people there anyway, so a stronger connection makes sense.
Or are they? I was trying to think of Stalin's first name last night and came up with the following before I remembered it was Josef:
I had myself convinced for an uncomfortably long moment that Bill Stalin was in fact correct.
Over the past two years -- including weekends, holidays, time off, and all of the 24 hours in a day -- kottke.org has changed every 3 hours, 14 minutes, and 51 seconds. Over the past 30 days, there's been something new here every 3 hours, 21 minutes, and 7 seconds. This pace may have some bearing on the above Stalin matter. I still remember to bathe regularly, but that may be the next to go.