homeabout kottke.orgarchives + tagsmembership!
aboutarchives + tagsmembership!
aboutarchivesmembers!

kottke.org posts about kottke.org

Some site news: hello advertising, my old friend

posted by Jason Kottke   May 08, 2017

Last month, I told you that I lost the advertising on kottke.org after The Deck folded. After fielding lots of feedback (thank you!) and checking out a few different options, I’ve decided to try out Carbon Ads. By going with Carbon, the advertising on kottke.org retains many of the features I enjoyed about The Deck: a single unobtrusive ad per page, a curated group of sites and advertisers in the network, set it & forget it, and prompt payment. You’ll find the ad on each page of the site, in the post sidebar (or just below the post on mobile).

Before I let you go, I need a tiny bit of your help with this. If you use ad blocking software when you read kottke.org, could you please whitelist kottke.org and/or Carbon Ads (carbonads.com)? It should be pretty easy…check your ad block software’s instructions if you’ve never done it before. I don’t want to get into an argument about the ethics or morality of advertising or ad blocking, but I will say that blocking ads on kottke.org means less revenue for the site. As previously discussed, advertising is an essential piece of the ongoing stability of kottke.org and whitelisting the site would help me out in that regard. Thank you.

We Work Remotely

A Time Capsule for the World Wide Web

posted by Tim Carmody   Apr 17, 2017

Ray - Platinum Reserve.png

There’s an Achewood comic that I love where Ray, one of the strip’s deeply flawed but endearing animal protagonists, frustrated with browsing eBay, types “WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU GOT” into the search bar. This unlocks a special store called “eBay Platinum Reserve,” where Ray can buy items like “The Biggest Laser,” a real Airwolf helicopter, and Keith Moon’s head in a jar. Ray immediately buys Moon’s head and Airwolf, and the laser… well, eleven years later, like Chekhov’s proverbial pistol, it’s never been fired.

Sometimes I wish the internet worked like eBay Platinum Reserve, turning up the best stuff without us having to look for it. But for all that search engines, social media, and even artificial intelligence have given us over all these years, the closest thing we have to Platinum Reserve are still blogs like Kottke.org. Somebody still has to go out, concierge-style, to find the best stuff on the web and serve it up.

More than ever, what the web serves up on its own is the very worst things that have just happened. It’s an active shooter livestreaming a snuff film on Facebook — or something not as bad, but not much better.

And hey, focusing on very recent, very bad news makes a lot of sense. If there are awful things happening right now, I want to know about them. If some overpaid someone wrote something stupid and everyone I know is slamming it on Twitter, I want to get in on it. We’re only human.

But sometimes, I wonder, with all the abundance and ephemerality of the web, whether we indulge the opposite impulse enough. I don’t mean sharing more new things that are funny, or heartwarming, or relatable. I mean going out and finding or rediscovering the things that are The Very Best We Have to Offer, gathering them together, and saving them, forever.

This week, I am proposing an experiment. I am asking you — all of you: readers of Kottke.org, my friends, my colleagues, my strangers, my citizens of the World Wide Web, people who have known the grandeur of the best webcomics, the best YouTube videos, the best memes, the best stories and articles and entire blogs and games and nonsense with which we entertain and edify ourselves every day — I am asking you:

WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU GOT

We’re going to find the best things in the history of the internet, and gather them here, together, forever. And never to part. Find me on Twitter at @kottke or at @tcarmody and tell me what you want to show your children and grandchildren; what you want to show the aliens when they arrive; what you showed your partner when you couldn’t believe they’d never seen it. Tell me what made your jaw drop open in awe like Ray’s when he saw Airwolf.

Imagine we’re making the world’s greatest time capsule, or the world’s greatest mixtape, of everything on the web. Tell me what’s worth saving. And then we will save them all. Here. Together.

Update: Twitter turned out to be the wrong way to handle this, so I created a Google questionnaire that could better manage suggestions. It also lets me ask a few more focused questions, like “what’s the funniest story you’ve read on the web?” or “what’s the best animal thing you’ve ever seen on here?” It also, importantly, allows me to ask for the URL of the thing of you’re talking about. So please, if you have the time, I’d love your help.

Some site news: a (temporary) farewell to advertising

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 03, 2017

For the past 12 years, working on kottke.org has been my full-time job. For all but two of those years, my primary source of income has come from a small advertisement that appeared on each page of the site served up by The Deck. The Deck was small advertising network that displayed ads on sites like kottke.org, Daring Fireball, swissmiss, MetaFilter, and The Morning News from advertisers like MailChimp, Slack, Adobe, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, etc. etc. etc. The ads were small & clean and accompanied by a bit of text and a link; that’s it. No tracking, no targeting, no pop-ups. The ads were tasteful, polite even. In exchange for allowing these companies a small piece of my site to tell you folks about their products and services, I was paid a fixed amount every month, direct-deposited like clockwork into my bank account. I never ever had to think about it — we didn’t even have a contract!1 — all I had to do was write. All in all, a fair trade for everyone involved.

Sharp-eyed readers will note that The Deck ad is no longer on the site. Some months ago, Jim Coudal informed me that the ad network was struggling to attract advertisers. An attempt at restructuring failed and, as of March 31, The Deck is no more. There’s much I could say about the challenges faced by small independent sites now and how drastically the online advertising market has changed in the past few years, but mostly I’d like to thank Jim (and original Deck co-conspirators Jason Fried and Jeffrey Zeldman) for building a service that allowed me do my thing with minimal fuss for so long. Jim, I wish you continued good luck in steering the Field Notes juggernaut.

So, where does that leave kottke.org? Luckily I anticipated something like this happening1 and the launch of memberships back in November has left the site on stable financial ground, even without advertising. Thank you, members! Seriously, you people saved the Building & Loan. And if you’re not yet a member and you find value in what I do here, there has never been a better time to support kottke.org.

Even so, in the interests of necessarily diversifying the revenue of this here very small business, I will be looking at options for replacing The Deck with….something. I have a few leads and ideas but am open to suggestions. Wanna do a year-long sponsorship of one of the best independent sites on the internet? Got a line on a small ad network with tasteful advertising? Do you have experience with online advertising and advice for me? Let’s talk. Chumbox providers need not apply.

  1. You would not believe the looks people gave me when I told them this. My entire livelihood, dependent on a handshake! I dunno, it just never seemed necessary. *shrug*

  2. Which I feel a little clever about except that I should have done the membership thing years ago. Idiot. Just as every problem is actually a opportunity, every success is an chance to consider how you might have done it better.

Happy 19th birthday, kottke.org!

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 14, 2017

Kottke Designs

As of today, I’ve been posting and linking to stuff on kottke.org for 19 years. When I started, I was 24 years old, working as a web designer for a small web development shop in Minneapolis. The site started as a offshoot of another site I had at the time, which I worked on in my spare time at home on my Pentium Pro 200 with a 56K modem. I worked at a desk that was really a 70s-style kitchen table I’d bought for $25. I’m sitting at that same table writing this right now. Earlier I was struggling to think of something else that’s been in my life for as long as kottke.org has…I guess this table is it.

Whether you’re a relatively recent reader or you’ve been along for the entire ride, I’d like to thank you for reading the site and for your feedback, gentle typo corrections, encouragement, push-back, and membership support. I’m really glad to be hurtling through space and time with you good people.

See also a retrospective of kottke.org designs I did nine years ago when the site turned 10.

A Day Without Immigrants strike

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 16, 2017

kottke.org will not be updated today in support of the Day Without Immigrants Strike. From the Washington Post:

Immigrants in D.C. and across the country plan to participate in the “Day Without Immigrants” boycott, a response to President Trump’s pledges to crack down on those in the country illegally, use “extreme vetting” and build a wall along the Mexican border. The social-media-organized protest aims to show the president the effect immigrants have in the country on a daily basis. The boycott calls for immigrants not to attend work, open their businesses, spend money or even send their children to school.

The regularly irregular publishing schedule will resume tomorrow.

Medium’s pivot and the inherent instability of new businesses

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 05, 2017

From this piece by Evan Williams, it sounds like Medium is still trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up.

So, we are shifting our resources and attention to defining a new model for writers and creators to be rewarded, based on the value they’re creating for people. And toward building a transformational product for curious humans who want to get smarter about the world every day.

It is too soon to say exactly what this will look like. This strategy is more focused but also less proven. It will require time to get it right, as well as some different skills. Which is why we are taking these steps today and saying goodbye to many talented people.

I like Medium and read thoughtful & engaging stuff on there daily, including articles by the many publications that moved their entire publishing operations to Medium and who were caught off-guard by Williams’ announcement:

As part of the strategic pivot, Medium will lay off 50 staffers and close its satellite offices in New York and Washington. It will also stop selling “Promoted Stories,” its native ad unit, and distributing revenue from those sales to publishers.

Medium’s exit from the online ad business was news to some of its publishing partners, many of whom have come to depend on the publishing platform as a key source of revenue. More than two dozen publications are members of Medium’s revenue beta program, which allows them to sell paid subscriptions to readers and to receive a cut of Medium’s native advertising revenue.

Five members of the revenue beta program told POLITICO that they did not receive any advance notice of Medium’s change in strategy before Williams’ public announcement. One publishing partner only learned about the pivot after reading an article about it on the tech news site Recode.

Over the past year, when I was thinking about how best to steward kottke.org into a financially stable future, moving to Medium was definitely an option. But never, in my mind, a very serious option. It was just too many eggs in one basket for a small publisher like me, especially when Medium is still obviously trying to figure out if they’re even in the egg-carrying business. New businesses are unstable…that’s just the way it is.1 In Silicon Valley (and in other startup-rich areas), these unstable businesses have lots of someone else’s money to throw around — which makes them appear more stable in the short term — but they cannot escape the reality of the extreme risk involved in building a new business, particularly a business that needs to grow quickly (as almost all VC-backed startups are required to do). All of which can make it difficult to enter into a business arrangement with a startup…just ask publishers working with Facebook or businesses dependent on Twitter’s API or Vine or Tumblr, not to mention the thousands of startups that have ceased to exist over the years.

With kottke.org, even though it hasn’t been easy, I’ve opted for independence and control over a potential rocketship ride. Instead of moving the site to Medium or Tumblr or focusing my activities on one social network or another, I use third-party services like The Deck, Amazon Associates, Stripe, and Memberful that plug in to the site. Small pieces loosely joined, not a monolithic solution. If necessary, I can switch any of them out for a comparable service and am therefore not as subject to any potential change in business goals by these companies. Given the news out of Medium, I’m increasingly happy that I’ve decided to do it this way (with your very kind assistance).

Update: It’s tough to hear about the small companies that put their faith in Medium and then got blindsided by their umpteenth pivot.

“Right now, we’re very concerned about the future of our site’s partnership with Medium,” said Neil Miller, the founder of pop culture site Film School Rejects. “What we were sold when we joined their platform is very different from what they’re offering as a way forward.”

“It’s almost as if Ev Williams wasn’t concerned that he was pulling out the rug from underneath publishers who had placed their trust in his vision for the future of journalism,” he said.

Update: Film School Rejects ended up jumping ship back to an independently hosted site.

Our story begins last May, when we joined the Medium platform as one of their first 12 premium publishers. This meant moving 10-years of content over to their platform, where we were promised a beautiful user experience and a way forward that would allow us to grow our business, continue to pay our writers, continue our growth as a publication, and ultimately keep FSR on the cutting edge. It was a great partnership, until Medium changed its mind about what kind of platform it wanted to be. At first, we were a part of a group of publishers that took a wait-and-see approach with Medium. As time went on, it became clear that Medium’s priorities had shifted from being a platform for independent publishers to being itself a publisher of premium, subscription-based content. As we learned more about their future plans for the now-existent Medium ‘Members Only’ program, it became clear that our site wouldn’t be able to continue to operate the way we always had.

This was an interesting side effect of their time at Medium:

When we moved to Medium, we stopped worrying about what would be popular and started focusing on what we wanted to talk about. And guess what? Readers continued to follow us. So we’re going to continue to allow our very talented team to write freely. We’ll continue to deliver passionate, thoughtful, topical, and sometimes well-marketed articles.

I’ve never been that interested in chasing clicks because The Deck (the advertising network I used for 10 years) was not strictly based on clicks or pageviews. Even so, thinking about what sorts of posts might attract more attention than others was a growing consideration for me as traffic fell off the past few years. After launching memberships back in November, I feel as though I’m slowly trending back towards caring less about attention and more about writing for myself and the members. And lo and behold, traffic is up slightly since then.

  1. I will add that new services by large companies are unstable as well. They need to reach scale just as quickly as VC-backed startups or they don’t stick around that long or pivot to something else.

The 2016 kottke.org Holiday Gift Guide

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 06, 2016

For the past few years, I’ve featured the season’s best gift guides from other sites and pulled out a few things from each that I think you might be interested in. 2016 has been a rough year for some of us, so getting in a festive mood might be asking too much. But my determination to give is off the charts this year, and if you’re feeling similarly, maybe this will help you. Let’s dig in.

Charity is going to be a big part of people’s giving this year. If you have the means, please find a worthy place to spread the wealth at GiveWell or Charity Navigator. A kottke.org reader recently pointed me toward GiveDirectly as well. Find volunteer opportunities in your area, give to your local food shelf, and look for holiday toy drives. On the way to lunch today, the kids and I noticed a Toys for Tots donation box outside a store. I gave each of them some money to spend on toys to put in the box…we’re working hard to make giving back part of our family routine.

The Kid Should See This is a true gem of the web and their gift guide is always top-notch. This year, I sat down with my kids and they each picked out two things from the list. Ollie chose The LEGO Architect book and this wind-powered Strandbeest. (As a fan of Strandbeests and their inventor Theo Jansen from way back, I was tickled by that choice.) Minna picked out these colorful playing cards (which we have and use often) and the littleBits Gizmos & Gadget kit. She got one of the littleBits kits from Santa1 last year and really liked it — it’s seen a resurgence in use over the past couple weeks as well. Perhaps another installment from St. Nick is in order.

Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads has compiled a list of Great, Affordable Gifts for Travelers, including portable chopsticks, Appetites (a new cookbook from Anthony Bourdain), and Speakeasy Travel Scarves that have hidden pockets big enough to carry a phone, passport, and some cash. Sneaky! And the Altas Obscura book, duh.

Last year, Quartz did my favorite holiday gift guide: they asked a bunch of notable folks about the best gift they’d ever received. Unexpectedly poignant. This year, they’re publishing a story every day until Dec 25th (Advent-style) on different aspects of holiday gift-giving.

If you haven’t bought your partner an Instant Pot pressure cooker yet, now’s your chance. Goes from zero to risotto in just a few minutes.

Every year, The Wirecutter and The Sweethome bring it with the holiday recommendations…my entire house is basically a Wirecutter/Sweethome showroom. Among their extensive recs are littleBits Rule Your Room Kit, the Electric Objects EO2 Digital Art Display, Regarding Cocktails by Sasha Petraske, and this Bosch cordless drill (yo, Santa, I need one of these). Also, you can buy bulk movie tickets? Huh.

Stop reading, this is the best gift: Die Hard: The Authorized Coloring and Activity Book. Yippie ki-yay, motherfestivusers!

Boing Boing has three separate gift lists this year — for gadgets, books, and toys. Among the picks are the NES Classic Edition (hahaha good luck finding one of these before next year), a disposable hand-crank lantern, the Womanizer sex toy, blank playing cards, and What’s It Like in Space?: Stories from Astronauts Who’ve Been There by Ariel Waldman.

The Kindle Paperwhite remains my favorite gadget recommendation. I love mine…my entire library slips into a pocket now.

Did you know that Muji and Uniqlo both have online stores now? From Muji I recommend the ultrasonic aroma diffuser (and some essential oils to use with it) and these amazing sock/slipper things I bought there last year but now they don’t have them anymore, sorry! And point Grandma toward Uniqlo so she can get you some socks and underwear you’ll actually wear.

Find the readers in your life some books on the best books of 2016 lists.

Food52 and Serious Eats have your food picks covered. Fancy cheese knives! Olive oil fresh from a small Italian grove! The Food Lab Cookbook! Eco Planter Herb Kit! Tacos: Recipes and Provocations by Alex Stupak and Jordana Rothman! The Uuni wood-fired oven (“cooks a pizza in 60 seconds”)!

Speaking of food, did you know you can order Katz’s famous pastrami and they’ll ship it anywhere in the country? Get a loaf of rye bread and some mustard while you’re at it.

Friends of kottke.org who make cool products include Tattly, Tinybop, Stowaway Cosmetics, Kingston Stockade FC merch, Hoefler & Co, Wait But Why merch, Hella Cocktail Co, Storq maternity wear, Electric Objects, 20x200, Dead Bookstore, and Field Notes.

For years, I recommended this Tovolo King Cube tray for making big ice cubes for cocktails…until mine got the freezer stank on it and my old fashioneds started tasting like freezer stank. Yuck. No one seems to make non-silicon big cube trays though. Business opportunity? (See update below…)

I helped 20x200 out with their gift guide this year, editing the Geek Chic section. Selections across all their sections include the AWB OneSky Telescope, Craig Kanarick’s Animals prints, and Steve Lambert’s Drawings for 3 Rooms in Your Home: #1.

For the serious nerds in your life, check out the 2016 Engineering Gift Guide from the engineering department at Purdue University. Their picks include Thames & Kosmos Electronics Learning Circuits and Simple Machines from Learning Resources.

More gift guides and curated shops: Canopy, The Colossal Shop, The Cup of Jo Holiday Gift Guide, Photojojo’s holiday gift guide, The Digg Holiday Gift Shop, The Tools & Toys 2016 Christmas Catalog, Slate Picks, #holiday on Kit, the NY Times 2016 Holiday Gift Guide, and the Brooklyn Holiday Gift Guide.

You can also check out past kottke.org gift guides: 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Update: Several people recommended dealing with freezer stank by putting the silicon cube tray into a 350° oven for an hour. Bibulous recommends highjacking these OXO frozen baby food containers for the production of stank-free cocktail cubes.

Update: One Perfect Shot offers their list of 41 Perfect Gifts for the Movie Lover in Your Life. The Gannet’s gift guide offers guidance on objects, food & drink, and books. StoryWorth is offering a unique gift: a bound book of stories from a loved one. New site The Outline published A Gift Guide for Picky Nerds (including this Czech non-smartphone). Wink has a listing of good book gifts. Cool Tools has a selection of good gift ideas. The Stripe has a gift guide for the person who hated 2016. And from The Fox is Black, a gift guide featuring only products that are black.

  1. Both kids still believe in Santa, although the 7-year-old is more skeptical than the 9-year-old. Is that normal? A 9-year-old (almost 9 and a half!) still believing in Santa? And he is ALL IN. He explained his reasoning to me the other day. Since Santa has to build all kinds of toys in his workshop, LEGO, Nintendo, and Disney must license their products and trademarks for Santa to use. And since these big companies are all in on it, Santa must be real. It was all I could do not to laugh. Santa is definitely a manifestation of the machinations of large multinational corporations, but not in that way, kid!

Membership update

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 06, 2016

Last Tuesday, I asked the regular readers of kottke.org to support the site by purchasing an annual membership. The response, I am pleased and a little shocked to say, was overwhelming. If this were a Kickstarter campaign, it would be firmly in “stretch goals” territory. I’ve definitely found my 1000 True Fans. A big heart-felt thank you to all those who chose to support the site and for all your emails.1 The first members mailing should be going out sooooon.

If you haven’t had a chance to contribute yet, you can check out the post and the membership page to see if it’s something you’d be interested in.

[I’m not going to be releasing any stats, at least not right now, but I will give you a breakdown of the memberships by amount contributed by level:1 $30/yr: 52%, $60/yr: 42%, with the rest split between the $3/mo and $600/yr options.]

  1. Even the one from the guy who thought it was a bad move for me ask for support and then “badmouth” Trump. (I think this was the badmouthing…perhaps the mildest burn on record.) I didn’t think the kottke.org and Trumpworld Venn circles overlapped at all.

  2. This is by amount, not by number of memberships. So 52% of the total money came from those who contributed $30/yr, etc.

kottke.org memberships

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 01, 2016

If you are a regular reader and appreciate what I do here, please support kottke.org by purchasing an annual membership. It only takes a minute (or about 20 seconds on iOS w/ Apple Pay) and your collective support will mean a lot to the future of kottke.org. This has been in the works for a while now and I have a lot to say about it, but go check it out first, subscribe, and then come back. I’ll wait.

All set? Ok. A couple of recent catalysts have set this into motion, but I’ve been thinking about it for the last few years. So here’s why I feel this is necessary now, in four interconnected main points.

Focus on dedicated readers. Anyone who relies on an audience of some kind — artists, writers, businesses, etc. — has to focus on serving regulars while keeping an eye on attracting new readers/customers/users. As much as I feel that everyone in the world would enjoy reading the world’s best blog — I mean, who wouldn’t? — it’s difficult for me to take time out from writing the site to reach out to potential new readers.1 I love being a regular myself and at this point in the site’s evolution, it makes sense to focus mostly on the people who read and love the site. Part of that focus is building up the financial link between us. In an ideal world: I write for you, you pay me, I write some more. No middlemen. I’m not sure that’s an entirely feasible arrangement at this point, but we can get part of the way there and work on the rest.

Revisiting an old idea. Some of you may remember that I’ve asked for support directly from readers before.2 A few months ago, I went out to lunch with Tim Urban from Wait But Why. We’d hardly said hello when he said something like “my goal for this lunch is by the end of the meal, you’ll agree to ask your readers to financially support kottke.org”. Tim was very clear that asking his readers for support on Patreon had been game-changing for his site. Project creators and potential backers have become comfortable with directly funding creative efforts online, particularly through Kickstarter & Patreon and I’m curious to see how it works for kottke.org in 2016.3

A changed media landscape. It’s been 11+ years since I quit my job to do kottke.org full-time. Online media has changed a lot since then. Hell, it’s changed a lot in the past few years. Blogs are dead — long live blogs! — and the open web is struggling. If you ask around to the creators of other established independent sites on the web (and I have talked to many of them), you’ll hear that traffic and display ad revenue have been falling for the last few years. Many factors have contributed — Facebook, readers switching to mobile, the rise of apps, social overtaking search for discovery, ad blockers, Google Reader’s shutdown, VC money flooding into online media — and smaller sites without dedicated content marketing and mobile/social development teams can’t keep up. Other strategies are necessary.

Diversification. The site currently has two main sources of revenue: advertising via The Deck & the We Work Remotely job board and affiliate income from Amazon & iTunes. In an effort to diversify revenue, I’ve tried several things — RSS sponsorships, sponsored posts for Kickstarter projects, consulting for startups, and speaking — and none of them have stuck. I’ve thought about writing a book, putting on a conference, or doing a podcast. But that all feels like it’s beside the point and not what I really want to do, which is just to write here, for you. A recent (hopefully temporary) hiccup in one of these revenue sources4 has driven home the need for not putting all my eggs in one basket. I would love for reader support to become a healthy third leg on the ol’ revenue stool.

I could go on — and in several previous drafts, boy, did I! — but here’s what it boils down to for me: I’m proud of what I’ve built here at kottke.org over the past 18 years and I’m committed to publishing here regularly and operating independently as long as I am able. Even though the site is primarily a one-person operation, I’ve never done it alone. You have always been an essential part of this site — providing me with feedback, counsel, encouragement, pushback, and many great links and ideas for posts — and I’d love your help in taking this next step. As always, thanks for reading and thanks for the support!

  1. I’ll let you in on a little secret: kottke.org is a secret. Oh, not to you, of course. But approximately no one in the world has ever heard of or read this website before. kottke.org also has this weird little problem that much bigger sites like Buzzfeed or Vox don’t have where readers assume that everyone else is reading the site and so they don’t share links or posts on Facebook or Twitter. I’ll see tweets like “I don’t usually post links to @kottke because everyone reads it, but…” It makes me tear my hair out because I can assure you from looking at my stats that is absolutely not the case. You’re not big sharers, I get it, but tweet out some links, tell a friend, etc. ♫Tomorrow there’ll be more of us!♫

  2. Back in 2005, when I first started working full-time on kottke.org, I launched a micropatron campaign that funded my activities on kottke.org for the first year and bootstrapped the site into a sustainable independent business.

  3. I’m a big believer in supporting the things you love and the people who do them. I’ve backed quite a few projects on Kickstarter, am currently supporting some of my favorite creators on Patreon (Eric Holthaus, Wait But Why, Kurzgesagt, The Nerdwriter, and Every Frame a Painting), give monthly to Wikipedia, and have previously backed Daring Fireball, Mlkshk, and probably a few others I’m forgetting.

  4. Guess which one! I’ll give you a hint: it rhymes with “bisplay madvertising”. Nothing gold can stay, folks.

kottke.org, the fall 2016 edition

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 12, 2016

940x940

For the first time in more than four years, kottke.org is sporting a new design this morning. Since you should never launch anything completely finished,1 there are probably still some things that need to be ironed out, but I hope most of it works. (Drop me a note if you notice something amiss?) Let’s hop right into what’s new and why. (For reference, here’s what the site looked like until late yesterday, here’s what I said about that design, and here’s what some of the previous designs looked like.)

Design. Gone is the now-beloved blue gradient (which ppl didn’t like when I introduced it), replaced with a colorful rainbow banner thingie. The site title and the old school tagline — “home of fine hypertext products” — are both making a comeback. The march toward simplicity continues…every remaining design element serves a purpose. The type is a bit bigger to offset ever increasing display resolutions (which somewhat paradoxically makes everything smaller). Post titles are quite a bit larger. Media embeds and images are much larger, especially if it’s right at the top of the post. Check out this post and this one for examples of what I’m talking about. Tweaked the footnote style.2 More tweaks to come. (Including moving to some even faster new servers at Arcustech, the fantastic hosts of kottke.org for years now. Big thanks to them for all their support!)

The layout of the site is responsive — not fully so, but if you resize your browser window, it’ll change and flow and do all of the neat things that responsive design does. The type is still my favorite Whitney ScreenSmart by Hoefler & Co (designed by Tobias Frere-Jones), but I finally (FINALLY!!!) turned on smart quotes and such — you know, like “opening and closing quotes around this text” and apostrophes’ apostrophes and the proper m-dash right heeeeeere — so now the designers who read the site can finally stop tutting about it. (And Hoefler and Frere-Jones can stop tearing their hair out about seeing text rendered with their point-perfect typeface littered with dumb quotes. Enjoy your tresses, fellows!)

Mobile. This was the main impetus behind the redesign. Over 40% of you read kottke.org on a mobile device of some kind. The old site worked fine on phones and tablets, but not great. Now, the site looks and works great on mobile. (At least I think it does.)

Tags. Some of my favorite things about kottke.org are the tags and tag pages. Looking at the site through the lens of tags, it becomes apparent that kottke.org is actually a collection of hundreds of small blogs about introversion, Stanley Kubrick, time travel, early color photography, economics, crying at work, and all sorts of other things. For the redesign, I made them more visible on the site and I’m hoping to find more ways to improve their involvement in the site soon. You’ll now find tags at the end of posts no matter where you find them on the site; previously they were only on the individual post pages. Tag pages are now paginated so you can go back through hundreds and even thousands of posts on each topic. I’ve also included a list of related tags at the top of each tag page…which is incredibly addictive for surfing around aimlessly.

Biography. With the help of some friends (aka the kottke.org board of advisors), I rewrote the about page. I liked the brevity of the old version, but in the words of one friend, “the previous version undersold the site so much it was almost inaccurate”. This is the first bio I’ve ever written that takes seriously what the site is and what I’ve done in my career…and as such it makes me really uncomfortable. Taking credit, particularly in public, has never been my thing. But I wanted to have a chance at explaining kottke.org to people who might not know the whole story. Everyone here has an opinion about kottke.org, this is mine.

When I started the site in 1998, people expressing their ideas & beliefs through links and attempting to stitch technology & the liberal arts together were not commonplace pursuits. In many ways, media on the web has come to resemble, in form and function, what kottke.org and other early blogs were doing back then. The largest social media companies in the world are now centered around people collecting and showing each other cool/interesting/funny links in order to say something about what they believe. I’m proud that kottke.org and I have played a role in that (r)evolution.

Future. The past 2.5 years have been the most challenging out of the 18+ years I’ve been doing the site. (Translation: they sucked.) I’ve been working, with many loooong periods of inactivity, on this redesign for more than 2 years. It’s not a cure for cancer or the world’s best design work, but to have it finally be out in the world feels amazing. Like a bad chapter in my life is ending. Like I’m still alive. Vital. A start of something. Like I’m finally investing in myself and my future for the first time in a long while. It feels like hope. And I hope you like it. It’s a genuine pleasure being able to share myself with you like this, and I don’t know what I’d do without it.

  1. That’s right, don’t finish stuff. The last 5% will take you foooooorever and you’ll change it five times after you launch anyway. 95% is good enough. Also, don’t those new footnote buttons look great? Maybe they won’t be pink next week, who knows!

  2. I say again, aren’t those new buttons something?

Goodbye 2015, a programming note

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 21, 2015

Hi there. My name is Jason, the host of this here thing. How was your 2015? Mine was…not good and not bad. Challenging? Interesting? Uneven? Unparalleled? (You don’t want to know. And I’m not going to tell you anyway.) This is my last post to kottke.org this year. I’m leaving on the first proper capital-V vacation I’ve had in years. I am unplugging. No email, no Facebook, no Twitter, very little Instagram. This week, the site will be in the good hands of Susannah Breslin, who guest edited back in March. And next week, the site will be on vacation until January 4. (At least I think it will. A bunch of past editors still have working logins so who know what will happen.) Thanks, and I’ll see you in Jan. And now, Susannah…

The 2015 kottke.org Holiday Gift Guide

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 08, 2015

For the past few years, I’ve featured the season’s best gift guides from other sites and pulled out a few things from each that I think you might be interested in. Let’s get right to it.

As usual, my #1 gift guide suggestion is: make like Zuck and give to charity this holiday season. Volunteer in your area, find a worthy charity via GiveWell or Charity Navigator, or help people around the world help themselves with Kiva micro-lending. (You don’t have to worry about structuring your giving as an LLC though because you’re not rich. Just pony up regular-like.) Nicholas Kristof also shared some Gifts With Meaning recently.

Whenever I need something for my home, my first stops are always The Wirecutter and The Sweethome. The Wirecutter’s holiday guides are the best place to find the best technology buys. This food smoker, a 2Tb wireless backup drive, and a Weber grill are among this year’s picks. I am also trying to justify spending $400 on headphones because these Oppo PM-3s sound amazing.

Every household will be getting at least one of the following this year: a hoverboard self-balancing scooter, a drone, a selfie stick, an adult coloring book, or Ta-Nehesi Coates’ Between the World and Me.

My favorite gift guide this year is from Quartz. They asked a number of notable people, including Junot Diaz and Melinda Gates: what’s the best gift you’ve ever received? The result is not so much a list of products for purchase as it is a way of thinking about how to give people you love what they need and want. Unexpectedly moving. [Runner-up: Motherboard’s Best Black Friday Deals accompanied by the full text of the Communist Manifesto. Which BTW is available for purchase… ;) ]

If you’ve got kids, The Kid Should See This Gift Guide should be your gifting spirit animal. I leaned heavily on this guide in the past year for Xmas and two birthdays. Choice picks this year include LittleBits’ Gizmos & Gadgets Kit, The Roald Dahl Audio Collection, the Sprout Pencil (a pencil that grows real plants when it’s spent), and this Maps book.

I’m so sorry. You’ve missed out on the season’s best holiday gift: Edmund Halley’s personal copy of Isaac Newton’s Opticks, given to him by Newton himself. It was recently sold at auction for $1.33 million. Instead, perhaps a copy of Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe?

For the aspiring Gob Bluth in the family, the Pyro Mini fireshooter (“turn your boring wrists into flamethrowers”). And some accompanying music.

Cookbooks are always good gifts: Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine, Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest Nopi: The Cookbook (he’s the author of the outstanding Plenty), Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes, and Kenji Lopez-Alt’s magnum opus The Food Lab. Cooking is the main thing I feel like I should be doing more of in 2016.

Some old favorites that I recommend almost every year: the Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray, Tattly temporary tattoos, the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer, Palomino Blackwing pencils, the Kindle Paperwhite, and a 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant. (If you’re getting that last one for that special someone, you’d best get a massive bow for it.)

If you have too much stuff already or if you’re shopping for the person who has everything, perhaps Marie Kondo’s bestselling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing would be appropriate?

From Eater’s 2015 Holiday Gift Guide, Maker’s Mark X Woodzee Sunglasses (made from old whiskey barrels), Pleasant Ridge Reserve Extra Aged (award winning cheese from Wisconsin!!), and a young readers edition of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Speaking of whiskey barrels, I did not find these “white oak tools that turn drinking whiskey into top-shelf occasion whiskey” on Eater’s list but am intrigued. Do they work? Or would a small barrel for aging work better?

The Verge 2015 Holiday Gift Guide recommends the Loch Ness Monster soup ladle, Solitaire Cards designed by Susan Kare, and The Art of Lego Scale Modeling.

Friends of kottke.org who make cool products include Field Notes, Tattly, Stowaway Cosmetics, Hella Bitters, printmaker David Bull, Storq maternity wear, and Cabin Porn.

From the gang at Boing Boing comes their 2015 gift guide. On it, I spotted Mark Frauenfelder’s own Trick Decks: How to Hack Playing Cards for Extraordinary Magic, Haflinger wool moccasins, the Sphero BB-8 Droid from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Lauren Ipsum: A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things.

And a few miscellaneous things I’ve noted recently: a 200-year-old bonsai tree (for $28,000…how do they ship this thing?), the 1M Hauly Heist (for the “discreet, comfortable carry of up to US$1 Million in used bank notes while minimising the risk of radio frequency tracking”), the Google Cardboard VR viewer (for the DIYers, you can even make your own), the complete set of Minecraft handbooks (my 8-year-old has read the whole set from cover-to-cover about 12 times), and Ken Burns’ restored 25th anniversary version of The Civil War on Blu-ray.

Moar liszts und zhoppin sourzus!! (Sorry, I’m getting a little punchy…) Slate Picks, Canopy, Digg Store, The Colossal Shop, Tools & Toys 2015 Christmas Catalog, Kit, Tinybop’s Loves, The Brooklyn Holiday Gift Guide, and the Food52 Holiday Gift Guide. You can also look back at past guides from this site: 2012, 2013, 2014.

Update: As a public service, here are some things you shouldn’t buy your loved ones for the holidays. Deadspin presents The 2015 Hater’s Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog, which includes a $1000 bar cart. But the worst holiday gift idea I’ve seen,1 hilariously demonstrated by Alton Brown at the end of this video of Amazon’s dumbest kitchen gadgets, is the Rollie Hands-Free Automatic Electric Vertical Nonstick Easy Quick Egg Cooker. You crack some eggs into the device’s hole and many minutes later, a phallic cooked egg tube comes rising out of it. I mean…

Update: A couple of additional sources of bad gifts for the holidays. Megan Amram imagined a Goop gift guide from Gwyneth Paltrow including a $4000 pair of floor-length jean shorts, a $100 bill (price: $1000), and a yoga mat made out of a Picasso painting ($106M). There’s also The Worst Things for Sale blog which features things like fart-filtering underwear, the hot dog bucket hat, and George Takei’s Eau My cologne.

Update: Phil Plait of Bad Astronomer wrote up A Holiday Telescope Buying Guide. For the casual beginner, he recommends the OneSky scope from Astronomers Without Borders. For the more advanced star hustler, Plait himself uses the Celestron C8 S-GT Advanced Computerized Telescope.

What began as an inside joke over email for bloop, a version of “Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop were written exclusively by and for black women”, is now available for all. Aminatou Sow and Jenna Wortham present the 2015 Bloop Holiday Gift Guide. Among the picks are Lenny Kravitz’s ridiculously huge scarf and the Carry-On Cocktail Kit.

  1. This is not the worst gift ever though. A former co-worker of mine and her husband received a turtle as a wedding present. Like as a pet. Like, here’s a bunch of responsibility for a living thing you didn’t ask for. They cared for it for several months before deciding they didn’t really want a turtle (TOTALLY understandable) and released it in Central Park, which was also probably not a great decision.

Watches for graphic designers

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 16, 2015

I am not a watch person. Haven’t worn one since high school, no interest in getting an Apple Watch, etc. But this post on We Made This about watches that appeal to graphic designers lists a few watches I would consider wearing. The Braun is a classic, of course:

Design Watches

But this one from Instrmnt is also quite nice, although I would prefer slightly larger numbers:

Design Watches

And for kottke.org superfans only, I would recommend the Timex Weekender.

Design Watches

PS to the superfans: if you don’t like watches, may I interest you in a Vancouver bridge?

Crafted by Morgan Spurlock

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 19, 2015

Crafted is a 25-minute documentary from Morgan Spurlock about artisanship in the contemporary age, profiling knife makers, potters, and restaurateurs who still do things more or less manually. A trailer:

The documentary was created to explore the mindset of today’s artisan and determine how artisanship has evolved along with — or, at times, in spite of — new technologies that allow instantaneous sharing of knowledge and sourcing of ingredients. Brave creators are breaking from the norm and returning to their roots to master age-old art forms that are more relevant than ever in today’s world.

I have often joked about what I do here at kottke.org as being artisanal or handcrafted. (Free range links! Ha!) But watching the trailer the other day, I realized that maybe it’s not so much of a joke. Compared to the industrialized information factories of Buzzfeed, Facebook, and Twitter (or even the NY Times or Gawker), what I do is handcrafted. There’s no assembly line. I read a bunch of stuff and then write about just a few relevant things. It’s inefficient as hell, but most of the time, it results in a good product. (I hope!) In the site’s best moments, it really does feel, to me, like I’m treating people “like they’re in my house” rather than just pumping out content widgets.

The moment in the trailer that particularly resonated with me was the discussion of risk.

A single injury can have far-reaching consequences. If I injure my hands, I can’t feed my family.

I worried we’d be forced to quit from bankruptcy.

“If I injure my hands, I can’t feed my family”; I don’t handcraft knives, but that applies to me as well. If my wrists go, goodbye computer time. And I’ve been thinking a lot about how sustainable my business is in the age of industrialized content…my job seems a lot riskier to me than it did just a couple of years ago. But there’s still room in the world for handcrafted knives and food in a world of Henckels and McDonald’s, so maybe it’s possible for a small handcrafted information service like kottke.org to survive and even thrive in the age of Facebook and Buzzfeed. (via @mathowie)

Meet guest editor Susannah Breslin

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 15, 2015

Hello! I’m going to be off for the next week and Susannah Breslin will be editing the site in my stead. From her bio:

I created one of the internet’s first sex blogs, The Reverse Cowgirl, and I’ve been called a “modern-age Studs Terkel.” In 2008, TIME named me one of the top 25 bloggers of the year. I’m best known for my longform investigation of the Great Recession’s impact on the porn industry: “They Shoot Porn Stars, Don’t They?” I’ve written for Harper’s Bazaar, Details, Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Daily Beast, Marie Claire, Variety, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The LA Weekly. I’ve appeared on CNN, NPR, and “Politically Incorrect.”

Her newest work is a new short story called The Tumor that was drawn from her breast cancer diagnosis a few years ago. Susannah has long sent me interesting links and emails, so I’m excited to see what she gets up to this week. Welcome, Susannah!

The journey from hobby to job

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 22, 2015

Alastair Humphreys writes about making his living as an adventurer. But really, this advice works for anyone who wants to turn their hobby into a job. For instance, this list of reasons he’s an adventurer is pretty much why I did the same thing with kottke.org almost 10 years ago.

- I love almost every aspect of what I do.

- I love being self-employed: the freedom and the responsibility and the pressure.

- I think I’m probably now un-employable.

- I love being creative.

- I appreciate that building a profile helps generate exciting opportunities. (And I have come to accept — though not enjoy — the weird world of relentless self-promotion that being a career adventurer requires. I remain uncomfortable with people praising me more than I deserve, and I continue to get very angry and upset with the inevitable haters that your self-promotion will attract.)

Notice I don’t mention “going on adventures”, because there are loads of ways to do that in life. Don’t become a career adventurer solely because you want to go off on fun trips. There’s easier ways to do that.

That third point is a real double-edged sword. I can’t imagine what other job I would be even remotely qualified for other than this one. Feels like walking a tightrope without a safety net sometimes. (via @polarben)

The return of the remaindered links (sort of)

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 20, 2015

I’ve started posting more links to the @kottke Twitter account and including them on the front page of the site (pinned to the second post on the page). Read on for an explanation of why and where this is (maybe) going.

More than 12 years ago, before kottke.org became my full-time job, I made 2-3 posts per day. Maaaybe up to 5 on a good day. For whatever reason, in December of 2002 I started posting a bunch of links to the site every day. Like 10-12 per day…sometimes up to 20.1 The next month, I stuck that link blog in the sidebar of the site and called them “remaindered links”. I kept at it, posting a few things to the main blog each week and dozens of remaindered links every week. Eventually, I pulled the remaindered links out of the sidebar and into the main column. The link descriptions became longer, I started pulling short quotes from the articles I was linking to, and eventually, these links became full-fledged posts. These remaindered links, these leftovers, they are kottke.org now.

The links gave the site a velocity it didn’t previously have. I hadn’t really thought about it until I sat down to write this post, but that increase in velocity made it possible, more than two years later, for me to quit my job and do kottke.org full-time. But the web has changed. Sites like Reddit, Digg, and Hacker News and services like Facebook and Twitter are so much faster than this one man band…trying to keep pace is like racing an F1 car on roller skates. So, I’ve traded that velocity for quality (or, if you’d prefer, fussiness). I no longer post 10-12 things per day. Instead I post 4-6 of the most interesting things I can share with you on that given day.2 That means there’s a ton of very interesting but not-quite-right-for-whatever-reason stuff that I see but don’t have time to share. And that’s been frustrating me lately.

So, I’ve begun posting those extra links, those remainders, to the @kottke Twitter account. Then I pull those links in from Twitter and publish them to the front page of kottke.org. There’s no permanent archive, I might stop at any time, they’re not gonna show up in RSS, on Facebook, or on Tumblr, and there are no plans beyond what I’ve already done. I wanted to start with the simplest possible thing and see if it sticks or goes anywhere.

I do have a few ideas on where it could go, however. As my remaindered links experience shows, going fast without a plan can be beneficial in unexpected ways. With different tools and media delivery channels available to me now, I wonder: how fast can a one-person site go while still maintaining that choosiness? Using those new tools, 13 people built Instagram into a $1 billion company with millions of users. I’m not after billions, but I’d settle for making kottke.org sustainable in the future and not having to get a regular job again.

Anyway, your thoughts, questions, and feedback are always welcome.

  1. I went to a conference once and posted 50-60 things a day. It nearly killed me. Now everyone routinely does this on Twitter. Tools matter.

  2. I mean, interestingness is not the only criteria, but it’s probably the most important one.

Powered by Movable Type

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 02, 2015

Jason Snell on the supreme uncoolness of Movable Type, the outdated blogging software that powers Snell’s site, Daring Fireball, and also kottke.org.

Regardless, it turns out that software can also be considered uncool, even if it still works. Not only is Movable Type uncool —the equivalent of ’80s hair metal, but the language it’s written in, Perl, is supremely uncool. Like, New Kids on the Block uncool. The razzing John Siracusa takes about being a Perl developer isn’t really because Perl is old, or bad, but because it’s just not what the cool kids are talking about. The world has moved on.

And yet, sometimes that old stuff still works, and is still the best tool for the job.

Movable Type is often maddening and frustrating, but it’s familiar, behaves consistently, and I know it better than any other piece of software. In other words, MT is like a member of my family.

The 2014 kottke.org Holiday Gift Guide

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 11, 2014

Last year, I did a meta holiday gift guide where I picked some of the best items off of the best gift guides out there. Since we’re getting down to the wire here on shopping time (not that you should buy anything for anyone this holiday season or any other time of the year), let’s crank up this year’s version.

Consider giving to charity this year. If you can’t spare the time to volunteer (look here or Google for specific opportunities in your area), go on Charity Navigator or Give Well to find an organization worth your attention. Or go on Kiva and give small loans to dozens of families around the world.

For their list this year, The Wirecutter did a list of The Things We Want to Give. Items include The Neat Ice Kit, Benton’s ham, and The Flavor Thesaurus. Hmm, I picked all food stuff there. I must be hungry.

I recommend these every year: the Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray and the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer.

From Boing Boing’s Happy Mutant’s Gift Guide 2014, the excellent Eyes on the Prize documentary on DVD, the LifeSpan TR1200-DT5 Treadmill Desk, a Lodge 10.5-inch round skillet (can personally vouch for this), and perhaps my favorite Amazon item of all time, the 55-gallon drum of personal lubricant. Don’t worry, the latter item includes a lube pump so you don’t need to buy it separately.

For the sports fan in your life, SB Nation’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guide includes Zubaz pants (!!), Big League Chew, the Bluetooth Gramophone, and a home beer brewing kit. Throwback-errific!

Among the items on the Tools & Toys Christmas Catalog, Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and the Bellroy Slim Sleeve Wallet (which is my own personal wallet).

Nothing on Mat Honan’s 8 Perfect Gift Ideas for ‘Twitter Dads’ really grabbed me (even though I am an official Twitter Dad), except for the Bugaboo Bee. We had the first iteration of that stroller and it was the absolute best thing. We wore out two sets of wheels strollering Ollie and Minna around the city in that thing.

But I’ll take one of everything off of The Kid Should See This Gift Guide. Especially Animalium, the Crosley portable turntable, My Neighbor Totoro on Blu-ray, and a vintage typewriter. [Update: My friend Dan says to avoid Crosley turntables: “They use ceramic cartridges that track 3x as heavy as standard carts, permanently damaging records.” I have no idea what that means, but Dan knows things about turntables so you might want to make another choice.]

Good year for science-ish nonfiction books: How We Got to Now by Steven Johnson, What If? by Randall Munroe, Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom, and Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.

And cookbooks: Plenty More from Yotam Ottolenghi, MEAT by Pat LaFrieda, Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson, Michael Ruhlman’s Egg, Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails, My Paris Kitchen from David Lebovitz (whose Paris dining recommendations are top notch), and Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book.

The Brooklyn Holiday Gift Guide features products made locally in Brooklyn, including bracelets with subways maps and kottke.org favorite, Tattly.

Tom Bihn’s What We’re Giving list includes Fairbault wool blankets and their own Shop Bag. (via @widepipe)

One of many holiday lists from Food52, the Under $25 Gift Guide features Heirloom Seed Art Packets and this Water Bottle with Charcoal Filter.

The Continuous Lean went on a serious listing bender with The Epic ACL Holiday Gift Guide 2014. The stylish selections include the Whiskey Wedge, the Jaguar F-Type Project 7, and the Lego Architecture Fallingwater set.

Josh Rives made a list of gifts that don’t suck. Among the non-suckage is The Dangerous Book for Boys, Coudal and Draplin’s excellent Field Notes, and Cards Against Humanity.

Many many things on the NY Times Holiday Gift Guide, including Julia, Child these awesome cement stair planters, and History of the World in 1,000 Objects.

Since their acquisition by Vox, Eater has been better than ever. Their Holiday Gift Ideas 2014 package is overflowing with good choices, among them are sausages from Butcher & the Boar (smoooooked cheddarwurst!!!) and Fictitious Dishes.

Speaking of Vox, The Verge has a load of tech-oriented picks, including a selection under . They recommend MUJI notebooks and David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. One of The Verge’s more baller picks is the Nintendo Wii U Mario Kart 8 Deluxe Set. Which, droooooool. Santa, you got me covered on this?

Misc: the Good Web Bundle gives you subscriptions to five indie services/sites for one low price. You can get 8GB flash drives in necklace form now. From Haruki Murakami, a recently released short novel about “a boy imprisoned in a nightmarish library”. I have no idea if they are actually vintage or just made to look so, but you can find several vintage Soviet chess sets on Etsy (like this one); I bought one recently and if someone faked it, they did a good job. (Even if it’s fake, it’s real, etc.) You can buy Post-It Notes that are almost two-feet across.

Update: Added the guide from Tools & Toys and added a warning about the portable turntable. Added giant Post-It Notes. Added The Brooklyn Holiday Gift Guide. Added Tom Bihn’s list. Added Food52 list. Added The Continuous Lean set. Added a list of gifts that don’t suck. Added lists from the NY Times, Eater, and The Verge.

Last call for kottke.org t-shirts!

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 18, 2014

Today is the last day you can order the limited edition kottke.org t-shirt. Get yours now or forever be, um, something.

Kottke Tee Shirt

After much futzing about in Photoshop, I came up with the perfect simple design for the limited edition kottke.org tee shirt, featuring the familiar blue gradient that wraps all the way around the shirt. The shirt is made of fabric, has sleeves, and features a hole for your head. It’s everything you need in a shirt.

More info here.

The kottke.org t-shirt

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 04, 2014

For about 50 years now, I’ve wanted to do a kottke.org t-shirt. But I could never decide on a design I liked enough to wear. A few months back, I came across a service called Print All Over Me, which uses a process called “reactive dye digital printing” to seamlessly cover an entire t-shirt with a design, and I had a tiny eureka moment. After much futzing about in Photoshop, I came up with the perfect simple design for the limited edition kottke.org tee shirt, featuring the familiar blue gradient that wraps all the way around the shirt.

Kottke Tee Shirt

The shirt is made of fabric, has sleeves, and features a hole for your head. It’s everything you need in a shirt. Due to the unique printing process, the shirts are custom-dyed, cut & sewn to order, cost $38 plus shipping, and will only be available to order for the next two weeks. After that, poof. Order yours today.

(BTW, when ordering, select the “Print” option under “Back”. For some of the other shirts PAOM offers, it might make sense to not get the print on the back, but for this shirt, it’s the whole point.)

Introducing Boost

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 03, 2014

Today I’m launching something new on kottke.org. It’s been gestating for a long time, so I’m excited to finally get it out here. It’s called Boost and it’s an opportunity to promote individual Kickstarter campaigns on kottke.org through sponsored posts.

A week to go and a little short of your goal? Looking to add some of kottke.org’s fun and clever bunch of readers to your project’s emerging backer community? Reaching for that second stretch goal to provide even more value to your backers? Get your Kickstarter project in front of kottke.org’s readers with a Boost for Kickstarter.

The sponsored posts will obviously be clearly marked on the site (and in RSS, on Twitter, etc.) and only one project will be featured each week. And for Kickstarter project creators thinking about buying a Boost, here’s an interesting little wrinkle: if your campaign doesn’t meet its goal, you don’t pay anything for your Boost, just like with Kickstarter. So if you’re currently running a KS campaign or have one planned for the future, check out the Boost page and get in touch.

The first Boost will run on the site (and in RSS, Twitter, Facebook, & Tumblr) a little later today and is for a project called Monikers. I contributed slightly to the project and am a backer myself, and I would like to thank Alex for letting me use Monikers as a guinea pig for this new service.

Note: As much as I love their service, neither kottke.org nor the Boost service is endorsed by or affiliated with Kickstarter.

A programming note

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 19, 2014

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:

- EngineHosting for worry-free, responsive, robust hosting.

- Hoefler & Frere-Jones for the fantastic webfonts.

- The Deck ad network for providing one of the simplest ad experiences on the web.

- Gmail, GitHub, Dropbox, and AWS for hosting various files in various formats.

- 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.

- The guest editors, lately including Sarah, Aaron, and Tim. And Chris Piascik for the occasional editorial illustration.

And, not least, everyone out there who takes the time to read, write in with comments & links, shares posts on social media, and recommends the site to friends. Thanks, everyone.

2013 kottke.org Holiday Gift Guide

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 10, 2013

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.)

Tattly tattoos

If you have little kids, put Tattly temporary tattoos ($5) in their stockings. They even have a yearly subscription ($60/yr) available for the holidays. These are always a big hit around our house.

The Wes Anderson Collection

When I do feel the need to buy things (which I rarely do), The Wirecutter is my spirit guide. This year, they have a proper gift guide and a list of the best holiday deals available on the Internet; both are great. Too much on these lists to pick just a few items but here goes: WD My Passport Ultra 2TB Portable External Hard Drive ($115), Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share ($10), The Wes Anderson Collection ($24) is a no-brainer, and the Blade Nano QX RTF quadracopter ($90).

Star Wars, Han's Blaster

Star Wars fans, you can buy the actual blaster used by Han Solo in Empire and Jedi ($200,000+). Hey, it’s cheaper than the Death Star.

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.

Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray

Two things I love recommending as gifts for food & drink folks: Tovolo King Cube Ice Tray ($9) for making those big cocktail ice cubes at home and the KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer ($400). This year, I’ll add two more: Hella Bitter Salt & Pepper pack of aromatic and citrus bitters ($19) and the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator ($205), which The Sweethome recommends as the best budget sous vide thinger out there.

Boing Boing Gift Guide 2013 is full of the expected quirky gifts. Among them are Palomino Blackwing 602 pencils ($23 for 12)…I have some of these and they are great, LifeSpan Fitness TR1200-DT5 Treadmill desk ($2350+), and a 55-gallon drum of Passion Natural Water-Based Lubricant ($1250) previously highlighted here on kottke.org.

If I read more books, I’d definitely pick up a Kindle Paperwhite ($119+). Is there any way to buy more time to read books? Can someone get me that for the holidays?

For your sportsball friends and family, rely on the 2013 SB Nation Holiday Gift Guide. Some items of note include a motorized Cooler Scooter ($400+) for tailgating and Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure ($19).

You’ve likely seen the (probably staged) letter to Santa that’s mostly a long Amazon URL written out in crayon. Here’s what the kid wanted: Kid Galaxy Morphibians Killer Whale ($21), a remote-controlled car.

For the booze hound in your life, get a bottle of W.L. Weller 12 Year Kentucky Straight Wheated Bourbon Whiskey ($29). According to these guys, it’s the same stuff as the highly coveted Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year ($890) but aged three fewer years and a whole lot cheaper.

Rdio

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.

A little girl was riding her bike

posted by Greg Knauss   Sep 27, 2013

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.

That’s an awful lot of half-assed deep-think for a single paragraph about a little girl riding a bike, but this long-lost bit of serendipity is exactly the sort of thing that Jason Kottke has been doing with the Web almost every day, year in and year out and year in and year out and year in and year out: experimenting, playing, refining, honing, perfecting. Jason was the first person I knew to suffer a cease and desist; the first to run a comment thread out to a thousand entires; the first to ask his audience to support him financially.

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.

Fine Hypertext Products

posted by David Jacobs   Sep 27, 2013

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:

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 neighborhood place 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.

Jason was way ahead of his time with his Micropatronage project, which has been a huge influence on how I work and think about the web ever since. I also love How Cranberries are Harvested, NFL maps, God Fave the Queen,
Hilarious bad lip reading of NFL players
, Megway, the old domain “yoink.org,” kottke.org/random, and kottke.org posts tagged kottke.org. I love kottke.org.

Happy Birthday, Jason!

1. I am tweaking this list in my head almost weekly, but Stellar is always on it.

Just for the maps

posted by Joel Turnipseed   Sep 27, 2013

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!

Tragedy and empathy

posted by Sarah Pavis   Sep 27, 2013

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.

His informative, thoughtful posts on gun culture, talking to children about violence, and the media’s role in shaping these events were a rallying point for a lot of people looking to make sense of what was going on and have a productive dialogue.

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.”

School staff have regular run-throughs of scenarios like this one and Tuff was one of three staff members who were specifically trained to handle shooters. In fact, “the training is so often and extensive,” a district spokesman told reporters, that Tuff “thought it was a drill” at first. “Let me tell you something, babe, I’ve never been so scared in all the days of my life.”

Wired’s 20th anniversary issue

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2013

Wired published its first issue 20 years ago and the most recent issue is a collection of stories “for, by, and about the people who have shaped the planet’s past 20 years”. I am pleased and proud to have been included in this issue; I wrote a piece about kottke.org.

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.

RIP Google Reader

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 18, 2013

You may have heard by now that Google is shutting down Google Reader, their RSS reading service. It’ll be gone by July 4. Fortunately you can export your subscriptions and use another service…here are some suggestions from Matt Haughey and Gizmodo. Or you can wait for Digg’s reader.

If you want to forego RSS readers altogether but still want to keep up with kottke.org without having to visit the site regularly, try following kottke.org on Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr.