kottke.org posts about www
From 1996, a Wired article by Josh Quittner about Suck, Carl Steadman and Joey Anuff's now-legendary website.
Who at HotWired noticed the look of dread and tension on the faces of Carl and Joey when Suck secretly launched like a torpedo on August 28, 1995? Carl tied his desktop machine at HotWired into his server, which was hidden in plain sight among the array of hardware, so he could watch as people logged in to Suck that first day. This is the coldly accurate terror of the new medium: Carl could tell at any second not only how many people were logged in to his server, but in some cases, who they were.
On that first day, a hundred people found Suck -- not a bad turnout considering the Boys told only their friends. Naturally, their friends told their friends, and good news travels like a sweet breeze across the Web.
This was critical since Carl had set some ambitious goals: he wanted 1,000 hits by the end of the week, he wanted to be more successful than any HotWired channel by the end of two months, and he wanted to be the Cool Site of the Day within three months.
Suck made each benchmark.
Some notes: 1) Suck was one of the handful of sites that inspired me to start publishing online. Thank you, Carl & Joey. 2) I loved the site so much that I build a parody of it called Sock. They linked to it soon after it went up and I DIED. Can't link to it because 0sil8, my site from that era, isn't online right now. 3) I applied for an internship at Hotwired in early 1996. Never heard back. What an alternate timeline that would have been. 4) Reading this made me sad. I love the Web so much, like more than is probably sane and healthy for a non-human entity, but nearly every other good thing in my life has happened because of it. And that Web is going quickly, if not already gone. All good things... and all that, but it still fucking wrecks me.
Justin Hall has been sharing his life online for over 20 years at links.net. Justin's Links from the Underground was one of the first sites I found and read regularly, back in the mid 90s. Now Hall has made a documentary about his time online, overshare: the links.net story.
Starting in 1994, my personal web site Justin's Links from the Underground has documented family secrets, romantic relationships, and my experiments with sex and drugs.
overshare: the links.net story is a documentary about fumbling to foster intimacy between strangers online. Through interviews, analysis and graphic animations, I share my motivations, my joys and my sorrows from pioneering personal sharing for the 21st century. In 2004 the New York Times referred to me as "perhaps the founding father of personal weblogging." I hope this documentary reveals that I was a privileged white male with access to technology who worked to invite as many people as possible to join him in co-creating an internet where we have a chance to honestly share of our humanity.
The movie is available in various formats, including as a digital download with extra footage from VHX for $11.99.
In 2008, Hossein Derakhshan was sentenced to 20 years in jail in Iran for blogging and championing the open web. Released and pardoned late last year, Derakhshan is now wondering why the web he went to jail for is dying and why no one is stopping it. Just as things changed in the real world while he was imprisoned:
Around me, I noticed a very different Tehran from the one I'd been used to. An influx of new, shamelessly luxurious condos had replaced the charming little houses I was familiar with. New roads, new highways, hordes of invasive SUVs. Large billboards with advertisements for Swiss-made watches and Korean flat screen TVs. Women in colorful scarves and manteaus, men with dyed hair and beards, and hundreds of charming cafes with hip western music and female staff. They were the kinds of changes that creep up on people; the kind you only really notice once normal life gets taken away from you.
...so too did the web:
The hyperlink was my currency six years ago. Stemming from the idea of the hypertext, the hyperlink provided a diversity and decentralisation that the real world lacked. The hyperlink represented the open, interconnected spirit of the world wide web -- a vision that started with its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee. The hyperlink was a way to abandon centralization -- all the links, lines and hierarchies - and replace them with something more distributed, a system of nodes and networks.
Blogs gave form to that spirit of decentralization: They were windows into lives you'd rarely know much about; bridges that connected different lives to each other and thereby changed them. Blogs were cafes where people exchanged diverse ideas on any and every topic you could possibly be interested in. They were Tehran's taxicabs writ large.
Since I got out of jail, though, I've realized how much the hyperlink has been devalued, almost made obsolete.
Near the end of a piece by Morgan Housel called Innovation Isn't Dead, appears "the typical path of how people respond to life-changing inventions":
1. I've never heard of it.
2. I've heard of it but don't understand it.
3. I understand it, but I don't see how it's useful.
4. I see how it could be fun for rich people, but not me.
5. I use it, but it's just a toy.
6. It's becoming more useful for me.
7. I use it all the time.
8. I could not imagine life without it.
9. Seriously, people lived without it?
That's about right. I can only recall a couple of instances where I've skipped from step 1 to step 8 or 9: when I first used the Web1 and when Jobs introduced the iPhone at MacWorld. Everything else -- Google, HD TV, Twitter, personal computers, streaming music services, wifi, laptops, Instagram, mobile phones -- went through most of the 9 phases. (via @cdixon)
Kevin Fox recently unearthed a screenshot he took of Apple's homepage in the early 90s:
I don't remember this version, but it looks like it was contemporary with this Microsoft homepage (which I do remember). I bet there's footage of this page in Triumph of the Nerds or Nerds 2.0.1 or on an episode of Computer Chronicles. Anyone?
Paul Ford writes about how Greg Knauss scaled Paper's web site after they broke the internet with nude photos of Kim Kardashian.
Via email, Jacobs told Knauss that PAPER believed "they've got something that they think will generate at least 100 million page views, and will their current infrastructure support that?"
"This sort of cold thrill goes down my spine," Knauss said, "and the only thought that makes it out of my brain is, 'Eep.'"
He continued: "I reflexively begin designing the architecture in my head. It's a nerd impulse. Dogs chase after thrown balls, system administrators design to arbitrary traffic."
I love this article for a whole bunch of reasons (including that it's written by a friend about two other friends, one of whom is responsible for keeping kottke.org's servers going), but I was just talking about the burstable web scaling issue with a friend the other day. She was trying to make a reservation for a ferry. The reservations open for the entire season on a particular day at a particular hour and in a matter of hours, most (if not all) of the reservations are taken. And of course, their tiny web site and backend systems melts into a huge puddle that day, people can't get in, and everyone wastes 4 hours of their day trying to make a simple reservation. Basically, the ferry company needs to be Ticketmaster, but only for 3 or 4 hours every year. That's a weird problem and it's been an issue on the web since forever, and no one has solved it in an entirely off-the-shelf way. Someone get on this, riches await.
This article attempts to explain, in great detail, what happens when you type 'google.com' into your browser and press enter.
To pick a zero point, let's choose the enter key on the keyboard hitting the bottom of its range. At this point, an electrical circuit specific to the enter key is closed (either directly or capacitively). This allows a small amount of current to flow into the logic circuitry of the keyboard, which scans the state of each key switch, debounces the electrical noise of the rapid intermittent closure of the switch, and converts it to a keycode integer, in this case 13. The keyboard controller then encodes the keycode for transport to the computer. This is now almost universally over a Universal Serial Bus (USB) or Bluetooth connection, but historically has been over PS/2 or ADB connections.
An I, Pencil for the internet age.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Microsoft home page, the company has recreated that old page here. More here, including screenshots of subsequent designs.
In terms of "Web design," the notion, much less the phrase, didn't really exist.
"There wasn't much for authoring tools," Ingalls says. "There was this thing called HTML that almost nobody knew." Information that was submitted for the new Microsoft.com website often came to Ingalls via 3-1/2-inch floppy disks.
"Steve Heaney and I put together PERL scripts that handled a lot of these daily publishing duties for us," he says. "For a while, we ran the site like a newspaper, where we published content twice a day. And if you missed the cutoff for the publishing deadline, you didn't get it published until the next running of the presses, or however you want to term it."
Interestingly, Microsoft doesn't seem to know exactly when the page first went live:
Based on the findings, it appears the website was launched during the time between HTML/1.0 (June 1993) and HTML/2.0 (Dec 1994).
I made a brief search of the NCSA What's New Archive, where a web site for Microsoft should have been noted, and found nothing between June 1993 and September 1994. This piece written in 1999 about the beginnings of Microsoft's site says the page launched in April 1994. I searched some early Usenet groups to no avail. Anyone have a more accurate date? (via waxy)
Through a series of unlikely events, Steven Frank was able to master the near-unwinnable Dragon's Lair when he was a kid. And for one day, it made him a God amongst kids.
I was obsessed with Dragon's Lair, and its spiritual science-fiction sequel Space Ace. (A true sequel, Dragon's Lair II, is lesser known as it arrived almost exactly as the last remaining arcades were being shuttered. I only ever saw it in the wild once.) I was an animation nerd, and a video game nerd, and here were these games right at the intersection.
Like everyone else, I wasted a lot of my parents' quarters playing Dragon's Lair and lasting for about 2 minutes before losing all five lives. Fortunately, the local grocery store had a Dragon's Lair cabinet, as well as a couple of other games, so I got many occasions to practice.
One day I was sitting in our apartment reading a video game magazine (nerd!), and in the back was a little section of classified ads. My eye was caught immediately by the words "Beat Space Ace and Dragon's Lair!" For a few bucks, you could send away for this random guy's strategy guide, which listed all the moves and when to make them.
Please realize there was no residential internet. We had a computer, but no modem. There was no just going to Google for an FAQ or walkthrough. If you didn't know the moves, you just didn't know them, unless you knew someone else who knew them, which of course you didn't.
I begged my parents. Weeks later, my strategy guide arrived (a few black and white photocopied sheets of paper stapled together), and I began studying.
The feeling Frank had at the end of the story, of awing the crowd and then walking away from that machine like Will Smith walking away from an exploding alien spaceship, is a sensation that 1980s nerds didn't often feel. When the web came around in the 1990s, it provided a similar, but much larger, opportunity for nerds. On the very public stage of the web, the nerds of the world finally had something to offer the world that was cool and useful and even lucrative. The web has since been overrun by marketers, money, and big business, but for a brief time, the nerds of the world had millions of people gathered around them, boggling at their skill with this seemingly infinite medium. That time has come and gone, my friend. (via df)
The World Wide Web turns 25 this year...the "vague but exciting" proposal on which the Web is based was sent to his boss at CERN by Tim Berners-Lee on March 10, 1989.
In the following quarter-century, the Web has changed the world in ways that I never could have imagined. There have been many exciting advances. It has generated billions of dollars in economic growth, turned data into the gold of the 21st century, unleashed innovation in education and healthcare, whittled away geographic and social boundaries, revolutionised the media, and forced a reinvention of politics in many countries by enabling constant two-way dialogue between the rulers and the ruled.
There are a few principles which allowed the web, as a platform, to support such growth. By design, the Web is universal, royalty-free, open and decentralised. Thousands of people worked together to build the early Web in an amazing, non-national spirit of collaboration; tens of thousands more invented the applications and services that make it so useful to us today, and there is still room for each one of us to create new things on and through the Web. This is for everyone.
My friend David Galbraith continues his lonely quest to recognize and preserve the room in which the Web was invented (which is not where CERN officially recognizes it was invented.)
I wrote to Tim Berners-Lee after exploring CERN looking for the location where the web was invented. His replies regarding the exact locations are below.
There is a plaque in a corridor in building 2, but no specific offices are indicated and there is some ambiguity as to what happened where, in building 31. Thomas Madsen-Mygdal has a gallery showing locations in building 31 and 513, but there are very few places on the web documenting these places. I took photos of the plaque, such as the one here, with Creative Commons licenses, so that they could be used elsewhere.
The reason I'm interested in this is that recognizing the exact places involved in the birth of the web is a celebration of knowledge itself rather than belief, opinion or allegiance, both politically and spiritually neutral and something that everyone can potentially enjoy and feel a part of.
Secondly, many places of lesser importance are very carefully preserved. The place where the web was invented is arguably the most important place in 2 millennia of Swiss history and of global historical importance.
I was hoping one of the items on the anniversary site's list of 25 things you probably didn't know about the Web was that the Web was technically invented in France and not Switzerland, as Galbraith uncovered during his conversations with TBL.
A team of web dev hot shots recently convened at CERN to build an emulator of the CERN line-mode browser, the first browser that made the WWW accessible to a wide number of people.
The line-mode browser, launched in 1993, was the first readily accessible browser for what we now know as the world wide web. It was not, however, the world's first web browser. The very first web browser was called WorldWideWeb and was created by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990.
But WorldWideWeb only worked on the NeXT operating system. WorldWideWeb was a great piece of software, but it was important that the web should be accessible to many kinds of computers, not just NeXT machines.
That's where the line-mode browser came in. It was the first web browser with a cross-platform codebase so it could be installed on many different kinds of computers. It was a relatively simple piece of software with a very basic interface, but in the early days of the web, it was instrumental in demonstrating the power of this new medium.
The text says the line-mode browser launched in 1993 but it was actually 1991 (and first stable release in early 1992). My first browser was NCSA Mosaic so it was a treat to use this for a few minutes this morning. (via @craigmod)
This is what it feels like to use the Web sometimes:
That's from National Geographic's excellent Found blog; Porters transport a car on long poles across a stream in Nepal, January 1950.
A nice post from Anil Dash about the web of yesteryear and all the nice things we used to have.
When you see interesting data mash-ups today, they are often still using Flickr photos because Instagram's meager metadata sucks, and the app is only reluctantly on the web at all. We get excuses about why we can't search for old tweets or our own relevant Facebook content, though we got more comprehensive results from a Technorati search that was cobbled together on the feeble software platforms of its era. We get bullshit turf battles like Tumblr not being able to find your Twitter friends or Facebook not letting Instagram photos show up on Twitter because of giant companies pursuing their agendas instead of collaborating in a way that would serve users. And we get a generation of entrepreneurs encouraged to make more narrow-minded, web-hostile products like these because it continues to make a small number of wealthy people even more wealthy, instead of letting lots of people build innovative new opportunities for themselves on top of the web itself.
The open web is an amazing thing, way way way better than Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and all the apps on my phone put together. The thing that really irritates me and deeply disappoints me about Twitter specifically is that the people who started that company and those who now run it know this. They know exactly what Anil is talking about. They railed against big companies trying to control the web back in the day. And they don't care anymore? Are they just out for themselves and the money? Has the Valley really shifted so significantly from Brand to Rand?
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.
Happy Thanksgiving, all!
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.
The internet is an amazing place for sure.
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.
Lauren von Gogh:
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.
Last year at this time, I was in education teaching art + design. There was a great piece I thought students would respond to 'An Open Letter to Graphic Design Students: Don't Follow the Web, Follow Your Heart' by one Timothy O Goodman. The piece was great, and lead me to another piece by him, New York vs California.
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.
Thanks again to everyone who emailed!
P.S. Sorry for murdering the kottke.org homepage with this crazy long post.
I don't remember how I found kottke.org. (This is Sarah Pavis, btw. Hi!)
I know I must have found it at least 4 years ago because it introduced me to almost everyone cool I've met on the internet in those years since. Everyone like Jason, Aaron, Deron, and Tim. (Theoretically I should be able to at least ballpark it based on what the kottke.org site design was at the time, but I'm a dirty RSS freeloader.) All I know is kottke.org was my portal to all the coolest stuff and, more importantly, the coolest people on the internet.
After all, the internet is a people connector. At least that's what Dan Harmon, creator of Community and XOXO speaker, called it.
While I wish I could remember specifically how I found kottke.org, I do vividly remember being newly graduated from college, having moved halfway across the country to a city where I knew no one, sat in an office at a new job, and being unable to get on Gmail. Unable to talk with my friends. (This was 2006, pre-smartphones.) Feeling bereft, I stumbled upon Google Reader and after a short learning curve ("What the hell is RSS?") I soon had an easy way to at least find interesting stuff to occupy me on slow days. Google Reader's best feature, though, was the shared linkblogs which allowed you to exchange interesting articles with friends directly in Google Reader. For me these were like little messages in a bottle that I would toss back to the east coast, messages that were mostly cat pics and political rants.
Unfortunately, Google lobotomized Reader last year with the advent of Google Plus, shattering those fragile social networks. Google valued the connector more than the people it was connecting. (Any other Google Reader castaways out there? I'm trying NewsBlur now.)
Long story short: kottke.org led me to clusterflock.org when one day a clusterflock post showed up in my RSS feed that called my name. Literally. Turns out that Google Reader linkblog I was using as a lifeline to my friends back home was being read by other people including cflock's Andrew Simone. After following Andrew and Tim on Twitter for awhile, I joined clusterflock as a contributor along with Garrett Miller. A few months ago, unbeknownst to each other, Garrett and I both bought tickets to XOXO, and when my housing accommodations fell through Garrett offered to let me crash with him, even though we'd never met. Thankfully, neither of us turned out to be axe-murdering rapists. And as a bonus to not dying, I got to meet a bunch of awesome people, including Jason. Hooray for the internet!
Do you have any cool stories about how the internet has been a people connector for you? Extra credit if you include how you found kottke.org and/or how kottke.org connected you with other people.
Email me at email@example.com by Wednesday night, and I'll do a roundup post on Thursday of your stories.
The campaign website for Dole/Kemp '96 is still available on the web. The entire front page at its actual size fits in this image...man, screens used to be tiny.
The Clinton/Gore '96 site no longer seems to be available (cg96.org is a parked domain, covered with ads), but 4president.us has some archived screenshots and a press release of some remarks by Al Gore on the site's launch. We've come a long way since then.
This is the first thing you see when you go to our home page, and it has a couple of innovative features for those of you who are familiar with the Internet and the World Wide Web. It's not very common to have this kind of ticker with a changing message at the bottom constantly moving or to have a server pushing new pictures onto the page with regularity right to your own computer.
Anyway, this is the first thing that you see, and then we go to the main menu. Since 1992, Bill Clinton has been working tirelessly to insure that America forges ahead and leads the world in the information age. He has brought technology into our classrooms and libraries, he signed the historic telecommunications reform bill to make sure that all of our cabinet agencies are online. Together, not long after we got into the White House, we became the very first President and Vice-President to have e-mail addresses and to set up a White House Website. I hope all of you have had the opportunity to visit the White House Website.
4president.us also has screenshots from other campaign sites that year, including those of Steve Forbes and Pat Buchanan. (via @kdawson)
I'm switching to a new default web browser today (i.e. the browser I use the most on my computer) and that put me in a reminiscing mood. So here are some screenshots of all of the browsers I've used as my default for the past 18 years.
Using NCSA Mosaic to surf the World Wide Web for the very first time in the basement physics lab at college was as close to a religious experience as I've ever had. It was a thunderbolt that completely changed my life.
When Marc Andreessen left NCSA and formed a company to build web browsers, it was clear that their browser was the future. The first version was called Mosaic Netscape:
NCSA didn't appreciate the new company's use of the Mosaic name so they changed it to Netscape Navigator. This is a screenshot of Netscape 3, still my favorite web browser.
I continued to use Netscape 3 even after the release of Netscape 4, which was a such pile of junk that I eventually decamped for the sweaty embrace of Gates and Ballmer. You may not remember, but IE 4 was a pretty good browser. Microsoft won the browser wars, in part, because their browser was better than the other guy's.
I used IE on Windows until I bought a iBook in 2002. The default browser for OS X was IE for Mac:
From IE for Mac, I moved to Chimera. I loved Chimera...it was fast and was the first browser I used that supported tabbed browsing.
Chimera soon changed its name to Camino for legal reasons and I switched along with them.
Eventually, the team and resources for Camino dried up, the release schedule slowed down, and the other browser makers caught up. At this point, I can't quite remember what I switched to. I might have gone to Firebird (which was renamed Firefox), but I probably just went straight to Safari.
I used Safari for a long time until switching to Firefox a couple of years ago.
And today I'm making Chrome my main browser. I'll still use Safari and Firefox for some stuff but links will open up on Chrome by default.
Chrome will probably be my last default browser on a non-mobile computer. Many of you use Mobile Safari much more than any desktop web browser; I'm not quite there but will be soon enough.
David Galbraith updated his post on where the web was invented (which includes an interview with Tim Berners-Lee) to include the juicy tidbit that the building in which TBL invented the web is in France, not Switzerland.
I'll bet if you asked every French politician where the web was invented not a single one would know this. The Franco-Swiss border runs through the CERN campus and building 31 is literally just a few feet into France. However, there is no explicit border within CERN and the main entrance is in Switzerland, so the situation of which country it was invented in is actually quite a tricky one. The current commemorative plaque, which is outside a row of offices where people other than Tim Berners-Lee worked on the web, is in Switzerland. To add to the confusion, in case Tim thought of the web at home, his home was in France but he temporarily moved to rented accommodation in Switzerland, just around the time the web was developed. So although, strictly speaking, France is the birthplace of the web it would be fair to say that it happened in building 31 at CERN but not in any particular country! How delightfully appropriate for an invention which breaks down physical borders.
Inspired in part by my post on the original Twitter homepage, Serge Keller collected a bunch of screenshots of early web sites, including the very first web page, an early Microsoft design, and the White House's initial site. Some sites haven't changed all that much...Amazon and Craigslist in particular have retained much of the design DNA over the years.
Here's what the communication between a web browser and YouTube looks like when the browser requests a video, slowed down 12X so you can actually see what happens.
Wired published a story on the web today called The Web Is Dead. The most appropriate response to such a claim is something close to Tim Carmody's series of tweets demonstrating the parallels between the growth of the web and Brett Favre's professional football career. The web isn't dead yet, says Carmody, because Brett Favre hasn't retired. It's our culture's most significant symbiotic relationship since E.T. and Gertie's flower.
The web became publicly available on August 6, 1991. Brett Favre was a rookie in the Falcons' camp, having signed a contract July 19.
1993 saw the introduction of Mosaic's graphical browser, Favre's first full year as a starter, and the Packers' first playoffs since 1982.
In 1995, Favre wins the MVP, the Packers get to the NFC Championships, and Windows 95 brings the internet & graphic interface to the masses.
Brett Favre's first Super Bowl win coincided precisely (almost to the day) of Steve Jobs's return to Apple.
And so on. Carmody's bottom line:
What this means: like Favre, the open web has been with us for a long time, in good times & bad. Never count it out. Never believe the hype.
Even concussed, full of painkillers, with a dead dad and a wiped-out house, I'll let that 20-year-old vet lead me down the field. Anytime.
Come on, web, just one more year! HTML5'll make you feel young again!
whatthefuckismysocialmediastrategy.com is certainly a veritable and powerful social media strategy generator for any business. If you need a social media strategy, you should start here before interviewing folks. You know, to make yourself conversant in the lingo. That said:
Yo, whatthefuckismysocialmediastrategy.com, I'm really happy for you, I'mma let you finish but howtousetwitterformarketingandpr.com had one of the best snarky social media single serving site takedowns of all time. One of the best snarky social media single serving site takedowns of all time!
David Galbraith tracked down the birthplace of the web and confirmed the location with Tim Berners-Lee.
The reason I'm interested in this is that recognizing the exact places involved in the birth of the web is a celebration of knowledge itself rather than belief, opinion or allegiance, both politically and spiritually neutral and something that everyone can potentially enjoy and feel a part of.
Secondly, many places of lesser importance are very carefully preserved. The place where the web was invented is arguably the most important place in 2 millennia of Swiss history and of global historical importance.
Here's a new wrinkle in the ongoing battle with people that inline other people's images: I stole your images, put them back or I will call a lawyer.
Why is business so hard? (thx, jillian)
Update: That image is from 2005...here's the rest of the story and a couple more images. (thx, andy)
The internet cloud is actually "giant buildings full of computers and diesel generators".
Yet as data centers increasingly become the nerve centers of business and society -- even the storehouses of our fleeting cultural memory (that dancing cockatoo on YouTube!) -- the demand for bigger and better ones increases: there is a growing need to produce the most computing power per square foot at the lowest possible cost in energy and resources. All of which is bringing a new level of attention, and challenges, to a once rather hidden phenomenon. Call it the architecture of search: the tens of thousands of square feet of machinery, humming away 24/7, 365 days a year -- often built on, say, a former bean field -- that lie behind your Internet queries.
A nice selection of "photos that changed the world". Warning: some of them are NSFW and/or disturbing/upsetting. The first photo on the web was new to me.
Back in 1992, after their show at the CERN Hardronic Festival, my colleague Tim Berners-Lee asked me for a few scanned photos of "the CERN girls" to publish them on some sort of information system he had just invented, called the "World Wide Web". I had only a vague idea of what that was, but I scanned some photos on my Mac and FTPed them to Tim's now famous "info.cern.ch". How was I to know that I was passing an historical milestone, as the one above was the first picture ever to be clicked on in a web browser!"
? May 01 2009
Living in a big city, you get to hear other people's conversations all the time. These are private conversations meant for the benefit of the participants but it's no big deal if they're overheard on the subway. And you know what people talk about most of the time? In no particular order:
1. What they had or are going to have for breakfast/lunch/dinner.
2. Last night's TV or sports.
3. How things are going at work.
4. The weather.
5. Personal gossip.
6. Celebrity gossip.
Of course you'd like to think that most of your daily conversation is weighty and witty but instead everyone chats about pedestrian nonsense with their pals. In fact, that ephemeral chit-chat is the stuff that holds human social groups together.
Ever since the web hit the mainstream sometime in the 90s, people have asked of each new conversational publishing technology -- newsgroups, message boards, online journals, weblogs, social networking sites, and now Twitter -- the same question: "but why would anyone want to hear about what some random person is eating for breakfast?" The answer applies equally well for both offline conversation and online "social media": almost no one...except for their family and friends.
So when you run across a Twitter message like "we had chicken sandwitches & pepsi for breakfast" from someone who has around 30 followers, what's really so odd about it? It's just someone telling a few friends on Twitter what she might normally tell them on the phone, via email, in person, or in a telegram. If you aren't one of the 30 followers, you never see the message...and if you do, you're like the guy standing next to a conversing couple on the subway platform.
P.S. And anyway, the whole breakfast question is a huge straw man periodically pushed across the tracks in front of speeding internet technology. There is much that happens on Twitter or on blogs or on Facebook that has nothing to do with small groups of people communicating about seemingly nothing. Can we just retire this stupid line of questioning once and for all?
(Would you like to post this link to Twitter?)
Update: From Twitter, two pithier reformulations of the above:
@phoutz: If Twitter is banal it is because you and I are banal (It's called social norming)
@thepalephantom: The "no one cares what you're doing" proclamation is a solipsists way of saying "i don't care"
Update: Three related articles. How the Other Half Writes: In Defense of Twitter by Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG (thx, @secretsquirrel):
Again, I fail to see any clear distinction between someone's boring Twitter feed - considered only semi-literate and very much bad -- and someone else's equally boring, paper-based diary -- considered both pro-humanist and unquestionably good. Kafka would have had a Twitter feed! And so would have Hemingway, and so would have Virgil, and so would have Sappho. It's a tool for writing. Heraclitus would have had a f***ing Twitter feed.
Twitter: Industries of Banality by Struan McRae Spencer of Vitamin Briefcase:
Living with friends and colleagues would be a cheap alternative to living alone. People generally don't do it because it's not a good thing for humans to do. We are genetically predisposed to need time in solitude occasionally. So instead of living with your friends and colleagues, try living with their disembodied thoughts floating around on your computer and popping up on your desktop every fifteen, thirty, sixty, (manual refresh), minutes. Fellowship exists to provide us with relief from solitude and our individual pursuits. Living in a state of constant fellowship with hundreds, if not thousands of people who have known you (or not) across various stages of your life becomes an insurmountable problem the longer you try to do it.
To Tweet or Not To Tweet by Maureen Dowd of the NY Times, the essay that finally set me off in the first place:
Do you ever think "I don't care that my friend is having a hamburger?"
In the past week, both Joshua Schachter and Matt Haughey published articles that were excerpted in the Voices section of All Things Digital, a web site owned by Dow Jones and run by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg of the WSJ. Each excerpt was accompanied by a link to the original articles. Schachter and Haughey both reacted negatively to All Things Digital's posting of their work. Andy Baio has collected responses from Schachter, Haughey, All Things Digital's Kara Swisher, other writers whose stuff has been excerpted in the Voices section, and a couple other long-time online writers. Merlin Mann's comment on Twitter sums up what the independent writers seem to be irritated with:
Republishing online work without consent and wrapping it in ads is often called "feed scraping." At AllThingsD, it's called "a compliment."
It does suck that ATD's linking technique makes it appear as though Schachter and Haughey are in the employ of Dow Jones and that DJ has the copyright on what they wrote. ATD should make the lack of affiliation more clear. Other than that, is the ATD post really that bad? In many ways, All Things Digital's linking technique is more respectful of the author of the original piece than that of a typical contemporary blog. For comparison purposes, here are screenshots of Schachter's original article as linked to from a typical blog (in this case, Boing Boing) and by All Things Digital.
Go read both posts (ATD, BB) and then come back. With its short excerpt and explicit authorship (i.e. there's no doubt that Joshua Schachter wrote those words), the ATD post is clearly just an enticement for the reader to go read the original post. On the other hand, BB's post summarizes most of Schachter's argument and includes an extensive excerpt of the juiciest part of the original piece. The post is clearly marked as being "posted by Cory Doctorow" so a less-than-careful reader might assume that those are Doctorow's thoughts about URL shorteners.
[Metaphorically speaking, the ATD post is like showing the first 3 minutes of a movie and then prodding the viewer to go see the rest of it in a theater while BB's post is like the movie trailer that gives so much of the story away (including the ending) that you don't really need to watch the actual movie.]
What ends up happening is that blogs like Boing Boing -- and I'm very much not picking on BB here...this is a very common and accepted practice in the blogosphere -- provide so much of the gist and actual text of the thing they're pointing to that readers often don't end up clicking through to the original. To make matters worse, some readers will pass along BB's post instead of Schachter's post...it becomes, "hey, did you see what Boing Boing said about URL shortening services?" And occassionally (but more often than you might think) someone will write a post about something interesting, it'll get linked by a big blog that summarizes and excerpts extensively, and then the big blog's post will appear on the front page of Digg and generally get linked around a lot while the original post and its author get screwed.
So I guess my question is: why is All Things Digital
getting put through the wringer receiving scrutiny here for something that seems a lot more innocuous than what thousands of blogs are doing every day? Shouldn't we be just as or more critical of sites like Huffington Post, Gawker, Apartment Therapy, Engadget, Boing Boing, Buzzfeed, Lifehacker, etc. etc. etc. that extensively excerpt and summarize?
Update: I'm pulling a couple of quotes up from the comments so that the opinions of the people involved aren't misrepresented.
I really just objected to the byline on the ATD thing. It made it appear that there was a relationship when there wasn't. If there is curation, the curator should be the one noted as making the choices.
All the complaints stem from the affiliation issue. Running ads and having comments on an excerpt are only an issue if it's presented as original content, instead of curation. Put an editor's name on there, remove the author photos, throw it in a blockquote, and all these complaints go away.
After threatening as much for many months, Joshua Schachter has published a piece about how URL shorteners (TinyURL, bit.ly, is.gd, etc.) suck for everyone except the companies which build URL shorteners.
There are three other parties in the ecosystem of a link: the publisher (the site the link points to), the transit (places where that shortened link is used, such as Twitter or Typepad), and the clicker (the person who ultimately follows the shortened links). Each is harmed to some extent by URL shortening.
I agree with Schachter all around here. With respect to Twitter, I would like to see two things happen:
1) That they automatically unshorten all URLs except when the 140 character limit is necessary in SMS messages.
2) In cases where shortening is necessary, Twitter should automatically use a shortener of their own.
That way, users know what they're getting and as long as Twitter is around, those links stay alive.
Cathy Curtis, a former staff writer for The LA Times, shares how the web made her a better writer.
Another impetus for scanning, I believe, is the web's seemingly limitless content. It's like being unable to enjoy yourself at a party because you might be having a better time at someone else's house. Add the growing mania for speed ("This #%&* site is taking 20 seconds to load!"), and it's clear that web writing has to pick up the pace.
Here's a handy flowchart to figure out which new media blowhard you are. I am "Try Again".
Rod McLaren tracked every browser tab he closed for more than a month. The total: 1725 tabs, an average of nearly 50 a day. I would be hesitant to undertake a similar tabulation for fear of learning the answer.
The Vintage Web blog consists of screenshots of sites whose current design appears to have not been updated since the 1990s.
Being that Jimmy Fallon is a big nerd and his show's producer is Gavin Purcell (formerly of TechTV, G4, and Attack of the Show), I knew it was only a matter of time before The Late Show started featuring more online stuff than its predecessor. But I didn't know it would happen so soon. So far Jimmy has welcomed Kevin Rose & Alex Albrecht (of Diggnation) and Josh Topolsky (of Engadget). On last night's show, they turned a Twitter user with 7 followers into an instant Twitter celeb. The show's web site is mainly a blog staffed by full-time editors.
New MoMA web site is launching tomorrow...here's the preview.
Farhad Manjoo on the unrecognizable Internet of 1996.
I started thinking about the Web of yesteryear after I got an e-mail from an idly curious Slate colleague: What did people do online back when Slate launched, he wondered? After plunging into the Internet Archive and talking to several people who were watching the Web closely back then, I've got an answer: not very much.
David Wertheimer calls bullshit and retorts:
The World Wide Web was an invigorating, compelling and, frankly, amazing place in 1996. Innovations were fast, furious and quickly adopted. Clever people did clever things and pretty much everyone noticed, because "everyone" was a rather small and curious community. [...] The Internet of 1996 was certainly nothing like today's experience. But to suggest there wasn't much to do is to ignore everything that was being done.
I'm obviously with Team David on this one.
smarthistory is a fantastic substitute for that art history class you never took in college.
smARThistory.org is a free multi-media web-book designed as a dynamic enhancement (or even substitute) for the traditional and static art history textbook.
This looks like a great resource.
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.
Greg Allen raises a good point regarding the new White House web site: why did the old site get completely erased?
It seems problematic to me that the entire official web presence of the Bush administration, as tainted and manipulative or enraging as you may think it is, just gets wiped clean from the web like that. People need to remember, reference, discuss, and link to that publicly owned, previously published information; it shouldn't be tossed to the curb like a dead plant or buried in the National Archive backup tape repository.
Perhaps there needs to be a simple directory structure put in place, something like:
The files for each President's site would live under the associated directory and would never need to be taken down to make room for new files. Of course, maintaining all that, and the different systems and platforms potentially used by each administration would be a total PITA.
Update: Here are the Clinton whitehouse.gov archive and the George W. Bush whitehouse.gov archive. Nice but they don't address the broken links issue and snapshots don't capture any dynamic functions (like search, for instance). Also, shouldn't every page on the site function like a wiki so you can go back and see the history at any time? Quite a few people suggested using subdomains (e.g. 43.whitehouse.gov) instead of directories to keep everything straight; I concur. (thx, arnold & kate)
Web/movie mashups. My favorites:
Il Huffington Postino
Slumdog Millionaire Dollar Homepage
Behind Enemy Bloglines
And while not strictly adhering to the form, I also chuckled at "Bone Thugs & eHarmony". The best I could come up with for kottke.org is Girls Gone Wild: Kottke West, which is not so good.
Update: Duh, I totally forgot about Koyaaniskottke. Also: kottke.orgazmo, The Kottke Horror Picture Show, and Kottke Balboa. (thx, andy & charley)
Here's a small and nerdy measure of the huge change in the executive branch of the US government today. Here's the robots.txt file from whitehouse.gov yesterday:
And it goes on like that for almost 2400 lines! Here's the new Obamafied robots.txt file:
That's it! BTW, the robots.txt file tells search engines what to include and not include in their indexes. (thx, ian)
Update: Nearly four months later, the White House's robots.txt file is still short...only four lines.
Several readers have noted that The White House Site has already been refreshed to the now-familiar Obama look-and-feel. It's even got a blog on the front page. Will there be a Twitter account? The Wikipedians have been busy too: Obama is listed as the current President on the President of the United States page.
Update: Oh, and all of the third-party content on the WH site is licensed under Creative Commons. Wow.
Update: Oh, there's a Twitter account. Pair with THE_REAL_SHAQ for maximum fun! (thx, brian)
Update: This appears to be the official WH Twitter account, former updated by the Bush administration but now helmed by the Obama folks.
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. ↩
Is This Your Paper On Single Serving Sites? is a single serving site that houses a paper on single serving sites written by Ryan Greenberg.
Visually, sites' presentation is often as sparse as the domain names are long. Many display only a few words. Although some sites use Flash to play an audio or video clip, very few offer the rich interactivity associated with Flash deployment in other contexts. Some sites incorporate design tropes from past online eras: gaudy 3D headlines, jarring repeated background images, looping audio clips, and centered text.
Late last week Jason Santa Maria posted the first web site that he'd ever made and asked others to do the same. The earliest web page of mine still online is a parody of Suck that I did in March 1996 called Suck for Dummies. (It's now called Suck for Dimwits because I received a C&D from the X for Dummies people threatening to sue.) In June of 96, I made this over-the-top home page, Jason's Awesome WWW Home Page. (Warning, <blink> tag usage!! Sign my guestbook! Top 5% of All Web Sites!!) I posted a bunch of old kottke.org designs back in March but missed that the first few months of posts are still live in their original design.
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.
I read Cynical-C everyday; the other day I ran across this post about the Dancing Plague of 1518.
The Dancing Plague (or Dancing Epidemic) of 1518 was a case of dancing mania that occurred in Strasbourg, Alsace, France (then part of the Holy Roman Empire) in July 1518. Numerous people took to dancing for days without rest, and over the period of about one month, most of the people died from heart attack, stroke, or exhaustion.
Wikipedia is great but I like to dig back into the "primary" sources. A Discovery News article tells of a book called A Time to Dance, a Time to Die whose author says that the dancing was a result of mass hysteria caused by high levels of psychological distress in the community. That article also mentions the Tanganyika laughter epidemic:
The epidemic seems to have started within a small group of students in a boarding school, possibly triggered by a joke. Laughter, as is commonly known, is in some sense contagious, and for whatever reason in this case the laughter perpetuated itself, far transcending its original cause. Since it is physiologically impossible to laugh for much more than a few minutes at a time, the laughter must have made itself known sporadically, though reportedly it was incapacitating when it struck. The school from which the epidemic sprang was shut down; the children and parents transmitted it to the surrounding area. Other schools, Kashasha itself, and another village, comprising thousands of people, were all affected to some degree. Six to eighteen months after it started, the phenomenon died off.
That epidemic was covered at length in Radio Lab's Laughter episode from earlier in the year.
But back to the Dancing Plague. That article links to a page on another form of mass hysteria, penis panic.
Genital retraction syndrome (GRS), generally considered a culture-specific syndrome, is a condition in which an individual is overcome with the belief that his/her external genitals -- or also, in females, breasts -- are retracting into the body, shrinking, or in some male cases, may be imminently removed or disappear. A penis panic is a mass hysteria event or panic in which males in a population suddenly believe they are suffering from genital retraction syndrome.
Which in turn guides us to a 2008 article in Harper's, A mind dismembered: In search of the magical penis thieves. George Costanza had a personal case of penis panic in the Seinfeld episode entitled The Hamptons.
George is seen naked by Jerry's girlfriend Rachel, to whom he tries vainly to explain that, having just gotten out of the cold water, he is a victim of penile "shrinkage."
Penis panic put me in mind of a similar phenomenon and after a couple of failed searches -- "afraid to pee", "pee in public" -- I finally found it: paruresis, aka "pee shyness, shy kidney, bashful bladder, stage fright, urophobia or shy bladder syndrome".
Paruresis [...] is a type of phobia in which the sufferer is unable to urinate in the (real or imaginary) presence of others, such as in a public restroom. It can affect both males and females. The analogous condition that affects bowel movement is called parcopresis.
Paruresis has been referenced in several movies, TV shows, books, and other media.
Stage fright always puts me in mind of this New Yorker article by John Lahr about the phenomenon (subscribers-only version). From there, it's relaxed concentration all the way down, a topic on which I could digitally ramble all day, so let's stop there.
(I took the title of this post from the online excursions that Rosecrans Baldwin conducts for the NY Times' The Moment. Apologies and thanks.)
In this video interview, long-time online community expert Randy Farmer explicitly references the broken windows theory and its application to online spaces. He tells an anecdote about how the quick deletion of trolling questions from the front page of Yahoo Answers led to a decline in the number of trolls. (thx, bryce)
The Economist reports that experimental tests of the controversial "broken windows theory" of social behavior indicate that the theory is correct.
The most dramatic result, though, was the one that showed a doubling in the number of people who were prepared to steal in a condition of disorder. In this case an envelope with a EUR5 ($6) note inside (and the note clearly visible through the address window) was left sticking out of a post box. In a condition of order, 13% of those passing took the envelope (instead of leaving it or pushing it into the box). But if the post box was covered in graffiti, 27% did. Even if the post box had no graffiti on it, but the area around it was littered with paper, orange peel, cigarette butts and empty cans, 25% still took the envelope.
Here's the 1982 Atlantic article in which the theory was first discussed in a popular forum. (Great article, BTW.)
At the community level, disorder and crime are usually inextricably linked, in a kind of developmental sequence. Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. This is as true in nice neighborhoods as in rundown ones. Window-breaking does not necessarily occur on a large scale because some areas are inhabited by determined window-breakers whereas others are populated by window-lovers; rather, one unrepaired broken window is a signal that no one cares, and so breaking more windows costs nothing.
Reading these articles, I wondered: how does the broken windows theory apply to online spaces? Perhaps like so:
Much of the tone of discourse online is governed by the level of moderation and to what extent people are encouraged to "own" their words. When forums, message boards, and blog comment threads with more than a handful of participants are unmoderated, bad behavior follows. The appearance of one troll encourages others. Undeleted hateful or ad hominem comments are an indication that that sort of thing is allowable behavior and encourages more of the same. Those commenters who are normally respectable participants are emboldened by the uptick in bad behavior and misbehave themselves. More likely, they're discouraged from helping with the community moderation process of keeping their peers in line with social pressure. Or they stop visiting the site altogether.
Unchecked comment spam signals that the owner/moderator of the forum or blog isn't paying attention, stimulating further improper conduct. Anonymity provides commenters with immunity from being associated with their speech and actions, making the whole situation worse...how does the community punish or police someone they don't know? Very quickly, the situation is out of control and your message board is the online equivalent of South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s, inhabited by roving gangs armed with hate speech, fueled by the need for attention, making things difficult for those who wish to carry on useful conversations.
But what about a site's physical appearance? Does the aesthetic appearance of a blog affect what's written by the site's commenters? My sense is that the establishment of social norms through moderation, both by site owners and by the community itself, has much more of an impact on the behavior of commenters than the visual design of a site but aesthetics does factor in somewhat. Perhaps the poor application of a default MT or Wordpress template signals a lack of care or attention on the part of the blog's owner, leading readers to think they can get away with something. Poorly designed advertising or too many ads littered about a site could result in readers feeling disrespected and less likely to participate civilly or respond to moderation. Messageboard software is routinely ugly; does that contribute to the often uncivil tone found on web forums?
A list of infrequent HTTP/1.1 status codes.
HTTP 220 (The Clooney): Same as 200 with a little something in there for your trouble.
A golden oldie from Matt Jones in 2001: WebDogme.
Two Danish filmmakers, Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg in 1995 responded to what they saw as the increasing inhumanity and formulaic commerciality of effects-heavy, franchise-friendly feature films. They created a vow of chastity that placed the stylistic presentation and formal tricks of film subservient to the narrative and characterisation.
WebDogme is an attempt to outline a similar approach for the web. kottke.org is doing pretty well on the rules...I've unwittingly followed 5 or 6 of them at least. I'd link to the original Dogme 95 manifesto, but the official web site does not adhere to WebDogme rule #3 ("The browser must not be violated"); the manifesto is hidden within a frame. (via preoccupations)
Jamie Zawinski, one of the developers responsible for the early versions Netscape Navigator, has declared that today is Run Some Old Web Browsers Day. In celebration, he's hosting an archive of old Mosaic/Netscape broswers and rolled back the clock on the original mcom.com domain.
home.mcom.com and all URLs under it just redirected to netscape.com, then redirected a dozen more times before taking you to some AOL portal page. The old URLs that were baked into the toolbar buttons of the original web browsers didn't work any more. But now, if you fire up a copy of Mosaic Netscape 0.9, and click on the various toolbar buttons, they will work again! For example, in the old browsers, when you clicked on the "What's New" toolbar button, it went here.
home.mcom.com is now a snapshot of that web site from 21-Oct-1994.
mosaic.mcom.com is now a snapshot of that web site from July 1994. That's from just after the company was announced, but before the first browser beta was released. I think that by Oct 1994, both mosaic.mcom.com and www.mcom.com were redirects to home.mcom.com, but I can't remember any more.
Evolt also maintains an extensive archive of browsers old and new. I have a smaller archive that I put together for an episode of 0sil8 more than 10 years ago.
In past few years, several prominent US magazines and newspapers have begun to offer their extensive archives online and on DVD. In some cases, this includes material dating back to the 1850s. Collectively it is an incredible record of recent human history, the ideas, people, and events that have shaped our country and world as recorded by writers, photographers, editors, illustrators, advertisers, and designers who lived through those times. Here are some of most notable of those archives:
Harper's Magazine offers their entire archive online, from 1850 to 2008. Most of it is only available to the magazine's subscribers. Associate editor Paul Ford talks about how Harper's archive came to be.
The NY Times provides their entire archive online, most of it for free. Most of the stories from 1923 to 1986 are available for a small fee. The Times briefly launched an interface for browsing their archive called TimesMachine but withdrew it soon after launch.
Time Magazine has their entire archive online for free, from 1923 to the present.
Sports Illustrated has all their issues online for free, dating back to 1954.
The Atlantic Monthly offers all their articles since Nov 1995 and a growing number from their archive dating back to 1857 for free. For a small fee, most of the rest of their articles are available as well, although those from Jan 1964 - Sept 1992 are not.
The Washington Post has archives going back to 1877. Looks like most of it is for pay.
The New Yorker has free archives on their site going back to 2001, although only some of the articles are included. All of their articles, dating back to 1925, are available on The Complete New Yorker DVD set for $40.
Rolling Stone offers some of their archive online but the entire archive (from 1967 to 2007) is available as a 4-DVD set for $79.
Mad Magazine released a 2-DVD set of every issue of the magazine from 1952-2006.
And more to come...old media is slowly figuring out that more content equals more traffic, sometimes much more traffic.
Update: Nature has their entire archive online, dating back to 1869. (thx, gavin)
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 2007 Digital Economy Handbook is almost 200 pages of information about trends related to the internet, hardware, software, communications, digital media, ecommerce, and more. Looks like an amazing document and it's a free download. Tons of charts and graphs and tables. (thx, jeff)
Ok, now we're getting meta up in this piece. Scott took all the Single Serving Sites in my list and made a Single Serving Site that cycles through them. Here's a SSS that lists other SSS. Additionally, there's a Wikipedia entry.
Update: Ho, ho, not so fast. The Wikipedia page for Single Serving Sites has been flagged for speedy deletion for several reasons:
This article or other page provides no meaningful content or history, and the text is unsalvageably incoherent. It is patent nonsense.
It is blatant advertising for a company, product, group, service or person that would require a substantial rewrite in order to become an encyclopedia article.
Not notable: definition of days-old neologism; not covered anywhere except a popular blog and a few less-popular ones.
Thanks to an avalanche of email, I've added a bunch of new items to the Single Serving Sites listing. Now please stop emailing me suggestions!! ;)
Lately I've noticed a pattern of people building Single Serving Sites, web sites comprised of a single page with a dedicated domain name and do only one thing. Here are a few examples:
Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle showcases all the lovely things that the presidential candidate has done for you.
Sometimes Red, Sometimes Blue. Sometimes the page is read, sometimes it is blue.
Check out Is Lost a Repeat? if you need to know if the upcoming episode of Lost is a rerun.
D-E-F-I-N-I-T-E-L-Y helps you spell definitely correctly.
Now you can find out quickly from anywhere in the city or world: What Color Is the Empire State Building?
Khaaan! The classic William Shatner and his rage!
Is It Christmas? (thx, michael & andy)
Misanthropebook, a Facebook parody.
Status page for the overburdened microsocial site: Is Twitter Down? (thx, kevin)
Find out, Are We At War With Iran? (thx, kevin)
The Abe Vigoda status page. Currently alive. (thx, peter)
Gods Damn It, a Battlestar Galactica in-joke.
You can do anything at ZOMBO.com. (thx, edward)
The classic You're The Man Now Dog! (thx, jordan)
Purple has a FAQ page but it's a SSS in spirit. (thx, mike)
Oh, it's Yet Another Useless Web Site. (thx, mike)
You Sneezed! blesses you.
Use Is Paris In Jail Right Now? to see if Ms. Hilton is a free woman or not. (thx, lex)
Are you tired? Tell them why. (thx, kathi)
Am I Awesome? Very. (thx, jared)
Hypnotoad! (thx, chris)
Fuck the Sound, which is, I'm told, "IRC quotes (some NSFW) by an Autechre fanboy from Romania". (thx, huphtur)
Gentle advice to those who ask dumb questions: Just Fucking Google It. (thx, michael)
Do websites need to look exactly the same in every browser?
It's not Lupus, it's never Lupus. Some House-related thing? (thx, sharelle)
Beth Cherry keeps a single page blog with no archives. (thx, malcolm)
We Need More Lemon Pledge. Not sure what this is. (thx, zach)
From the same person: Illegal Tender Terms of Service and These are the rules.
No Time For Love, Dr. Jones. Indy, you scoundrel. (thx, wade)
And several more: Is It Tuesday?, The Internet Fire Log, Let's Turn This Fucking Website Yellow, iiiiiiii, Instant Rimshot, It Will Never Be the Same, Thank You Andy Warhol, Free Bill Stickers, raquo, The Last Page of the Internet, Thanks Ants, Is The Apple Store Down?, What Is My IP?, Hillary Clinton Is Your New Bicycle, John McCain Is Your New Bicycle, Michelle Obama Is Your New Bicycle, The Daily Nice, Defiant Dog, Hillary Clinton Is Your New HD DVD Player, and Spinning Beach Ball of Death.
Update: Ha! Alright, this got outta hand in a hurry. There are like 400 emails in my inbox, each with several Single Serving Site suggestions. I quickly went through them all, pulled out the notable ones, and called it good. Thanks to everyone who sent in suggestions.
Speaking of mining the archives of kottke.org, I just found this post that quotes a message board post by Ben Affleck about why he posts his thoughts to the web:
I think there is some responsibility on the part of those folks who benefit from the attentions of some section of the public to be responsive to that group.
It's worth noting that Affleck was one of the first celebrities to post online in a bloggish manner...he'd answer people's questions on his site's message board. (His site is now dead, but a couple of instances of the board were collected by archive.org.)
I remember one post of his in particular (which I can't find on archive.org). Ben was up late, at like 3am, playing Everquest (or maybe Ultima Online?) because he was addicted and couldn't stop. He also mentioned that he was essentially playing the game instead of being in bed with his girlfriend at the time, Gwyneth Paltrow.
Matt Webb recently gave a talk at Web Directions North 2008 about movement as a metaphor for thinking about the Web. The slides take awhile to get through properly but it's worth the effort. Some interesting points:
The meat of what Matt is getting at with his movement metaphor is contained in two systems he refers to in the talk. The first is the internal combustion engine:
To my mind, this is a more beautiful Rube Goldberg machine: the internal combustion engine.
Intake, compression, power, exhaust.
So what's happening here. It needs a spark to get going, just like a message-board community online. And then it keeps cycling, and almost as a side-effect it outputs mechanical motion which goes to the wheels. But another side-effect of the process is that the motion also provides the intake stroke to start the cycle again. It's self-perpetuating, just you use the energy from breakfast to go and make dinner, and you use the energy from supper to go and get breakfast again.
And the second is David Allen's Getting Things Done:
The cleverness of GTD is not that it's a system for achieving tasks. It's that it's a system for keeping you motivated to run the system for achieving tasks. It helps you start. It gives you reasons to continue. It helps you start again with a blank slate if you get overwhelmed, you know, to get back on the wagon.
It contains small and big rewards.
What's more, it has a catchy name which advertises itself, and it's easy to grasp too so when you tell your friends about it they remember it. So it's a system that contains its own growth cycle too. Very clever.
A hardware API is like a software API for hardware (duh). Matt and his partner are working on a radio for the BBC which has a hardware API. For example, they're planning on having different parts for the radio that hook together using magnets, much like Apple's MagSafe power connector.
Snap is a proposal for syndicating actions. Instead of using RSS for passive input (news reading, blog reading, etc.), Snap imagines using an RSS-esque reader for doing things (purchasing books, managing todo lists, posting to blogs, etc.) without using a proper browser. Matt wrote a whole bunch more on Snap here.
But my main takeaway from Matt's talk is his process for thinking about, describing, and explaining things. He uses idea scaffolding and metaphor.
So one of the way I work, being not-a-designer, is to use a lot of metaphors. Metaphors are a great sort of idea scaffolding.
I start by saying, as the Web is to cities, so weblogs are to Catalhoyok. Or, so this online social music website is to the London underground system. Or, so this repository of scientific papers is to Borges' infinite library.
You know, so you make the analogy and then extend the metaphor. The consequence would be this, the consequence would be that. It's a way to provoke creative thinking.
I've observed that there's much resistance in contemporary society to simply trying out ideas to see if they work. It seems more important to many people to know who they are and what they believe. New ideas are either accepted or rejected and then those choices are vigorously defended. If it's going to help you figure something out, why not look at a problem from every possible angle? Working on kottke.org is a big part of my process of idea scaffolding. I don't necessarily agree or disagree with everything I link to1 but reading articles and then describing them to others is a good way to continually wonder, "Gosh, isn't it interesting to think about the world this way?"
 I often get email from people saying that a particular idea expressed in some article that I've linked to is wrong and that I should alert my readers or remove the link. To which my response is a lusty hell no. What's the big deal? It's just an idea; it's not going to hurt you. ↩
Web Trend Map 2008 Beta, which is basically 300 influential web sites mapped onto a Tokyo train map. It's very pretty, but once again, kottke.org gets no love.
Update: A general trend map for 2008, this one modeled on the Shanghai subway map. (via mass custom., thx maaike)
Movie trailer for Untraceable, which features a serial killer who live-broadcasts his murders online so that his victims are killed faster as more people visit the site. From the looks of it, the movie features every single bad computer-related movie cliche all in one neat package. Either that or it's a clever metaphor for what the web is doing to our culture. (via fimoculous)
Late last week, Marc Andreessen pulled a quote from a New Yorker article written in 1951 about television:
The most encouraging word we have so far had about television came from a grade-school principal we encountered the other afternoon.
"They say it's going to bring back vaudeville," he said, "but I think it's going to bring back the book."
Before television, he told us, his pupils never read; that is, they knew how to read and could do it in school, but their reading ended there. Their entertainment was predominantly pictorial and auditory -- movies, comic books, radio.
Now, the principal said, news summaries are typed out and displayed on the television screen to the accompaniment of soothing music, the opening pages of dramatized novels are shown, words are written on blackboards in quiz and panel programs, commercials are spelled out in letters made up of dancing cigarettes, and even the packages of cleansers and breakfast foods and the announcers exhibit for identification bear printed messages.
It's only a question of time, our principal felt, before the new literacy of the television audience reaches the point where whole books can be held up to the screen and all their pages slowly turned.
This sounds far fetched and Andreessen belittles the prediction, but is it really that outlandish? Literacy rates in the US have risen since the advent of television (I am not suggesting a correlation) and Steven Johnson suggests in Everything Bad Is Good For You that TV is making us smarter.
If you stop thinking of TV in the specific sense as a box on which ABC, CBS, and NBC are shown and instead imagine it in the general sense as a service that pipes content into the home to be shown on a screen, the prediction hits pretty close to the mark. The experience of using the web is not so different than reading pages of words that are "held up to the screen" while we scroll slowly through them. If we can imagine that what Paul Otlet and Vannevar Bush described as the "televised book" and the "memex" corresponds to today's web, why not give our high school principal here the same benefit of the doubt?
Related to Jason Salavon's work from last week is Brian Piana's work, the layouts and colors of web sites with all of the text and graphics stripped out. For instance, Barack Obama's Twitter page. The flowchart stuff is lovely...reminds me a bit of this page from Jimmy Corrigan. (thx, jonathan)
Alexander Bohn wrote a glowing review of FFFFOUND! at Speak Up the other day. My FFFFOUND! fandom is documented elsewhere, so I'll comment instead on an observation Bohn made in his initial paragraph:
Graphic design might not work in the white cube, but it flourishes on a white background. A new mutated strain of design blog has evolved: The Randomly Curated Other People's Images White Background Site, or RCOPIWS. Sites like Manystuff, Monoscope, Your Daily Awesome, and VVORK (among countless others) offer designers and design aficionados a constant flood of typographic morsels, interesting photos, arresting new art, and the like. One such site sets itself apart, notably, from the other RCOPIWSes: the collaborative image-bookmarking site ffffound.com — allegedly, but unconfirmed, initiated by online fiend Yugo Nakamura.
Among the many things that the internet has democratized is curating, a task once more or less exclusive to editors (magazine, book, and newspaper), art gallery owners, media executives (music, TV, and film), and museum curators. They choose the art you see on a museum's wall, the shows you see on TV, the movies that get made, and the stories you read in the newspaper. The ease and low cost of publishing on the web coupled with the abundance of sample-ready media has made the curating process available to many more people. Smashing Telly is David Galbraith's rolling film festival (or TV channel). By simply listening to the music that you like, Last.fm allows anyone to put together their own radio station to share with others. kottke.org is essentially a table of contents for a magazine I wish existed. Shorpy has freed old photography from the nearly impenetrable Library of Congress web site and presented it in a compelling blog-like fashion.
In the case of FFFFOUND! and other RCOPIWSs, I would argue that these sites showcase a new form of art curating. The pace is faster, you don't need a physical gallery or museum, and you don't need to worry about crossing arbitrary boundaries of style or media. Nor do you need to concern yourself with questions like "is this person an artist or an outsider artist?" If a particular piece is good or compelling or noteworthy, in it goes. The last week's output at Monoscope would make a pretty good show in a Chelsea art gallery, no? It'll be interesting to see how this grassroots art curating will affect the art/design/photography world at large. Jen Bekman, who has roots in the internet industry, is already exploring this new frontier with her nimble gallery and the Hey, Hot Shot! competition. Others are sure to follow.
things magazine on living in simulation: "There's a lack of depth on the internet, a world with an atmosphere just one pixel thick that has reached out across all forms of media and turned everything into a vast, shallow pool that stretches as far as the eye can see. All visual culture is instantly at our fingertips, with the thrill of discovery superseded by a high fructose corn syrup buzz that comes from near-constant, 30fps stimulation."
So, whoa. The commonly accepted wisdom is that Vannevar Bush's seminal As We May Think, published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1945, was the first time anyone had described something like the modern desktop computer and the World Wide Web. Not so, says Alex Wright in Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages (@ Amazon). A Belgian chap named Paul Otlet described something called the "radiated library" -- or the "televised book" -- in 1934:
Here, the workspace is no longer cluttered with any books. In their place, a screen and a telephone within reach. Over there, in an immense edifice, are all the books and information. From there, the page to be read, in order to know the answer to the question asked by telephone, is made to appear on the screen. The screen could be divided in half, by four, or even ten if multiple texts and documents had to be consulted simultaneously. There would be a loudspeaker if the image had to be complemented by oral data and this improvement could continue to the automating the call for onscreen data. Cinema, phonographs, radio, television: these instruments, taken as substitutes for the book, will in fact become the new book, the most powerful works for the diffusion of human thought. This will be the radiated library and the televised book.
Sweet fancy Macintosh, if that's not what we're all doing right here on the web all day.
Much of the section in the book on Otlet was first published by Wright in a Boxes and Arrows essay called Forgotten Father: Paul Otlet. Wright's extensive online bibliography for Glut should keep you busy for a few hours when you're done with that. (I wish all the books I read were accompanied by such bibliographies.) I'll also recommend a related read and one of my favorite technology books, The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage (@ Amazon):
It points out the features common to the telegraph networks of the nineteenth century and the internet of today: hype, skepticism, hackers, on-line romances and weddings, chat-rooms, flame wars, information overload, predictions of imminent world peace, and so on. In the process, I get to make fun of the internet, by showing that even such a quintessentially modern technology actually has roots going back a long way (in this case, to a bunch of electrified monks in 1746).
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my televised book.
I wanted to clarify my comments about Facebook's similarities to AOL. I don't think Facebook is a bad company or that they won't be successful; they seem like smart passionate people who genuinely care about making a great space for their users.1 It's just that I, unlike many other people, don't think that Facebook and Facebook Platform are the future of the web. The platform is great for Facebook, but it's a step sideways or even backwards (towards an AOL-style service) for the web.
Think of it this way. Facebook is an intranet for you and your friends that just happens to be accessible without a VPN. If you're not a Facebook user, you can't do anything with the site...nearly everything published by their users is private. Google doesn't index any user-created information on Facebook.2 AFAIK, user data is available through the platform but that hardly makes it open...all of the significant information and, more importantly, interaction still happens in private. Compare this with MySpace or Flickr or YouTube. Much of the information generated on these sites is publicly available. The pages are indexed by search engines. You don't have to be a user to participate (in the broadest sense...reading, viewing, and lurking are participating).
Faced with competition from this open web, AOL lost...running a closed service with custom content and interfaces was no match for the wild frontier of the web. Maybe if they'd done some things differently, they would have fared better, but they still would have lost. In competitive markets, open and messy trumps closed and controlled in the long run. Everything you can do on Facebook with ease is possible using a loose coalition of blogging software, IM clients, email, Twitter, Flickr, Google Reader, etc. Sure, it's not as automatic or easy, but anyone can participate and the number of things to see and do on the web outnumbers the number of things you can see and do on Facebook by several orders of magnitude (and always will).
At some point in the future, Facebook may well open up, rendering much of this criticism irrelevant. Their privacy controls are legendarily flexible and precise...it should be easy for them to let people expose parts of the information to anyone if they wanted to. And as Matt Webb pointed out to me in an email, there's the possibility that Facebook turn itself inside out and be the social network bit for everyone else's web apps. In the meantime, maybe we shouldn't be so excited about the web's future moving onto an intranet.
 And I'm definitely not, as more than one person has suggested, "bitter" about Facebook's success. Please. Just because you disagree with something doesn't mean you're angry. The only reason I even wrote that post is that I got tired of seeing the same people who think AOL sucked, that Times Select is a bad business decision for the NY Times, that are frustrated by IM interop, and that open participation on the web is changing business, media, and human culture for the better trumpeting that this new closed platform is the way forward. ↩
 Aside from extremely limited profile pages, which are little more than "hi, this person is on Facebook and you should be too" advertisements. Examples here.↩
Update: From the reaction I'm hearing so far, it's difficult to tell what was more disappointing to people: Jobs' keynote or The Sopronos finale. Also, a Keynote bingo was possible (diagonally, bottom left to top right)...no report yet as to whether anyone yelled out during the show.
Update: TUAW is reporting that someone in the crowd yelled "bingo" 35 minutes into the keynote, but if you look at the card, a bingo was only possible when the iPhone widgets were announced towards the end. Disqualified for early non-bingo! (thx, alex)
Regarding my earlier post on how Heather Champ's jezebel.com came to be in Gakwer's hands, she sold it to them directly: "When the good folks at Gawker contacted me a couple of months ago, I realized that she would find a good home amongst their properties." (thx, meg)
Jezebel is a new Gawker Media blog about...well, that's not important. Anyway, the site is hosted at jezebel.com, which was the former personal domain of Heather Champ and the original home of The Mirror Project (timeline). Heather put the domain up for sale in January 2004...I guess Nick bought it?
Update: Never fear, vintage Jezebel merchandise is still available.
There are almost no words for this video. "When that stool pops out an ottoman 9 months from now, there is no way in hell y'all are gonna be able to tell who the baby daddy is...." Potentially NSFW. (via todd at bingbong.com, who says that he "would be totally happy if this video was the World Wide Web's grand finale, and then the Internet just went dark and we all went back to making candles and reading the bible and stuff.")
Update: The video was made for a contest held by Pretty Ricky, a hip-hop group. Here's the contest announcement. That still doesn't explain why those young men were having outercourse with that ottoman. (thx, travis)
Update: This one's good too. Furniture sex + rubber gloves and surgical masks.
Update: One last word on this...the video is not an entry in Push It contest, it's just set to a Pretty Ricky song. (thx, todd)
Regarding the Twitter vs. Blogger thing from earlier in the week, I took another stab at the faulty Twitter data. Using some educated guesses and fitting some curves, I'm 80-90% sure that this is what the Twitter message growth looks like:
These graphs cover the following time periods: 8/23/1999 - 3/7/2002 for Blogger and 3/21/2006 - 5/7/2007 for Twitter. It's important to note that the Twitter trend is not comprised of actual data points but is rather a best-guess line, an estimate based on the data. Take it as fact at your own risk. (More specifically, I'm more sure of the general shape of the curve than with the steepness. My gut tells me that the curve is probably a little flatter than depicted rather than steeper.)
That said, most of what I wrote in the original post still holds, as do the comments in subsequent thread. Twitter did not grow as fast as the faulty data indicated, but it did get to ~6,000,000 messages in about half the time of Blogger. Here are the reasons I offered for the difference in growth:
1. Twitter is easier to use than Blogger was and had a lower barrier to entry.
2. Twitter has more ways to update (web, phone, IM, Twitterific) than did Blogger.
3. Blogger's growth was limited by a lack of funding.
4. Twitter had a larger pool of potential users to draw on.
5. Twitter has a built-in social aspect that Blogger did not.
And commenters in the thread noted that:
6. Twitter's 140-character limit encourages more messages.
7. More people are using Twitter for conversations than was the case with Blogger.
What's interesting is that these seeming advantages (in terms of message growth potential) for Twitter didn't result in higher message growth than Blogger over the first 9-10 months. But then the social and network effects (#5 and #7 above) kicked in and Twitter took off.
Important update: I've re-evaluated the Twitter data and came up with what I think is a much more accurate representation of what's going on.
Further update: The Twitter data is bad, bad, bad, rendering Andy's post and most of this here post useless. Both jumps in Twitter activity in Nov 2006 and March 2007 are artificial in nature. See here for an update.
Update: A commenter noted that sometime in mid-March, Twitter stopped using sequential IDs. So that big upswing that the below graphs currently show is partially artificial. I'm attempting to correct now. This is the danger of doing this type of analysis with "data" instead of data.
In mid-March, Andy Baio noted that Twitter uses publicly available sequential message IDs and employed Twitter co-founder Evan Williams' messages to graph the growth of the service over the first year of its existence. Williams co-founded Blogger back in 1999, a service that, as it happens, also exposed its sequential post IDs to the public. Itching to compare the growth of the two services from their inception, I emailed Matt Webb about a script he'd written a few years ago that tracked the daily growth of Blogger. His stats didn't go back far enough so I borrowed Andy's idea and used Williams' own blog to get his Blogger post IDs and corresponding dates. Here are the resulting graphs of that data.1
The first one covers the first 253 days of each service. The second graph shows the Twitter data through May 7, 2007 and the Blogger data through March 7, 2002. [Some notes about the data are contained in this footnote.]
As you can see, the two services grew at a similar pace until around 240 days in, with Blogger posts increasing faster than Twitter messages. Then around November 21, 2006, Twitter took off and never looked back. At last count, Twitter has amassed five times the number of messages than Blogger did in just under half the time period. But Blogger was not the slouch that the graph makes it out to be. Plotting the service by itself reveals a healthy growth curve:
From late 2001 to early 2002, Blogger doubled the number of messages in its database from 5M to 10M in under 200 days. Of course, it took Twitter just over 40 days to do the same and under 20 days to double again to 20M. The curious thing about Blogger's message growth is that large events like 9/11, SXSW 2000 & 2001, new versions of Blogger, and the launch of blog*spot didn't affect the growth at all. I expected to see a huge message spike on 9/11/01 but there was barely a blip.
The second graph also shows that Twitter's post-SXSW 2007 growth is real and not just a temporary bump...a bunch of people came to check it out, stayed on, and everyone messaged like crazy. However, it does look like growth is slowing just a bit if you look at the data on a logarithmic scale:
Actually, as the graph shows, the biggest rate of growth for Twitter didn't occur following SXSW 2007 but after November 21.
As for why Twitter took off so much faster than Blogger, I came up with five possible reasons (there are likely more):
1. Twitter is easier to use than Blogger was. All you need is a web browser or mobile phone. Before blog*spot came along in August 2000, you needed web space with FTP access to set up a Blogger blog, not something that everyone had.
2. Twitter has more ways to create a new message than Blogger did at that point. With Blogger, you needed to use the form on the web site to create a post. To post to Twitter, you can use the web, your phone, an IM client, Twitterrific, etc. It's also far easier to send data to Twitter programatically...the NY Times account alone sends a couple dozen new messages into the Twitter database every day without anyone having to sit there and type them in.
3. Blogger was more strapped for cash and resources than Twitter is. The company that built Blogger ran out of money in early 2001 and nearly out of employees shortly after that. Hard to say how Blogger might have grown if the dot com crash and other factors hadn't led to the severe limitation of its resources for several key months.
4. Twitter has a much larger pool of available users than Blogger did. Blogger launched in August 1999 and Twitter almost 7 years later in March 2006. In the intervening time, hundreds of millions of people, the media, and technology & media companies have become familiar and comfortable with services like YouTube, Friendster, MySpace, Typepad, Blogger, Facebook, and GMail. Hundreds of millions more now have internet access and mobile phones. The potential user base for the two probably differed by an order of magnitude or two, if not more.
5. But the biggest factor is that the social aspect of Twitter is built in and that's where the super-fast growth comes from. With Blogger, reading, writing, and creating social ties were decoupled from each other but they're all integrated into Twitter. Essentially, the top graph shows the difference between a site with social networking and one largely without. Those steep parts of the Twitter trend on Nov 21 and mid-March? That's crazy insane viral growth2, very contagious, users attracting more users, messages resulting in more messages, multiplying rapidly. With the way Blogger worked, it just didn't have the capability for that kind of growth.
A few miscellaneous thoughts:
It's important to keep in mind that these graphs depict the growth in messages, not users or web traffic. It would be great to have user growth data, but that's not publicly available in either case (I don't think). It's tempting to look at the growth and think of it in terms of new users because the two are obviously related. More users = more messages. But that's not a static relationship...perhaps Twitter's userbase is not increasing all that much and the message growth is due to the existing users increasing their messaging output. So, grain of salt and all that.
What impact does Twitter's API have on its message growth? As I said above, the NY Times is pumping dozens of messages into Twitter daily and hundreds of other sites do the same. This is where it would be nice to have data for the number of active users and/or readers. The usual caveats apply, but if you look at the Alexa trends for Twitter, pageviews and traffic seem to leveling out. Compete, which only offers data as recently as March 2007, still shows traffic growing quickly for Twitter.
Just for comparison, here's a graph showing the adoption of various technologies ranging from the automobile to the internet. Here's another graph showing the adoption of four internet-based applications: Skype, Hotmail, ICQ, and Kazaa (source: a Tim Draper presentation from April 2006).
[Thanks to Andy, Matt, Anil, Meg, and Jonah for their data and thoughts.]
 Some notes and caveats about the data. The Blogger post IDs were taken from archived versions of Evhead and Anil Dash's site stored at the Internet Archive and from a short-lived early collaborative blog called Mezzazine. For posts prior to the introduction of the permalink in March 2000, most pages output by Blogger didn't publish the post IDs. Luckily, both Ev and Anil republished their old archives with permalinks at a later time, which allowed me to record the IDs.
The earliest Blogger post ID I could find was 9871 on November 23, 1999. Posts from before that date had higher post IDs because they were re-imported into the database at a later time so an accurate trend from before 11/23/99 is impossible. According to an archived version of the Blogger site, Blogger was released to the public on August 23, 1999, so for the purposes of the graph, I assumed that post #1 happened on that day. (As you can see, Anil was one of the first 2-3 users of Blogger who didn't work at Pyra. That's some old school flavor right there.)
Regarding the re-importing of the early posts, that happened right around mid-December 1999...the post ID numbers jumped from ~13,000 to ~25,000 in one day. In addition to the early posts, I imagine some other posts were imported from various Pyra weblogs that weren't published with Blogger at the time. I adjusted the numbers subsequent to this discontinuity and the resulting numbers are not precise but are within 100-200 of the actual values, an error of less than 1% at that point and becoming significantly smaller as the number of posts grows large. The last usable Blogger post ID is from March 7, 2002. After that, the database numbering scheme changed and I was unable to correct for it. A few months later, Blogger switched to a post numbering system that wasn't strictly sequential.
The data for Twitter from March 21, 2006 to March 15, 2007 is from Andy Baio. Twitter data subsequent to 3/15/07 was collected by me. ↩
 "Crazy insane viral growth" is a very technical epidemiological term. I don't expect you to understand its precise meaning. ↩
A map of online communities. Notable features include the Blogipeligo, the Bay of Trolls, the Sea of Memes, and the Viral Straits. (thx, kayhan)
Coda Apr 24 2007
Panic has released Coda, a new web development app for OS X. Panic co-founder Cabel Sasser describes it thusly:
We build websites by hand, with code, and we've long since dreamed of streamlining the experience, bringing together all of the tools that we needed into a single, elegant window. While you can certainly pair up your favorite text editor with Transmit today, and then maybe have Safari open for previews, and maybe use Terminal for running queries directly or a CSS editor for editing your style sheets, we dreamed of a place where all of that can happen in one place.
Ever since I switched to a Mac, I've been seeking a suitable replacement/upgrade for Homesite. I limped along unsatisfied with BBEdit and am finally getting into the groove with TextMate, but the inter-app switching -- especially between the editor, FTP client, and the terminal -- was really getting me down. John Gruber has a nice preview/review of Coda:
Each of Coda's components offers decidedly fewer features than the leading standalone apps dedicated to those tasks. (With the possible exception of the terminal - I mean, come on, it's a terminal.) This isn't a dirty secret, or the unfortunate downside of Coda only being a 1.0. Surely Coda will sprout many new features in the future, but it's never going to pursue any of these individual apps in terms of feature parity.
The appeal of Coda cannot be expressed solely by any comparison of features. The point is not what it does, but it how it feels to use it. The essential aspects of Coda aren't features in its components, but rather the connections between components.
Panic's implicit argument with Coda is that there are limits to the experience of using a collection of separate apps; that they can offer a better experience - at least in certain regards - by writing a meta app comprising separate components than they could even by writing their own entire suite of standalone web apps. Ignore, for the moment, the time and resource limitations of a small company such as Panic, and imagine a Panic text editor app, a Panic CSS editor app, a Panic web browser, a Panic file transfer/file browser app - add them all together and you'd wind up with more features, but you'd miss the entire point.
Panic co-founders Steven Frank and Cabel Sasser both weigh in on the launch. Has anyone given Coda a shot yet? How do you find it? I'm hoping to find some time later today to check it out and will attempt to report back.
The Game Neverending Museum contains several screenshots and a paper transformation matrix. I got a little nostalgic for Web 1.0 looking at this.
The New Yorker redesign just went live. Not sure if I like it yet, but I don't not like it. Some quick notes after 15 minutes of kicking the tires, starting with the ugly and proceeding from there:
- Only some of the old article URLs seem to work, which majorly sucks. This one from 2002 doesn't work and neither does this one from late 2005. This David Sedaris piece from 9/2006 does. kottke.org has links to the New Yorker going back to mid-2001...I'd be more than happy to supply them so some proper rewrite rules can be constructed. I'd say that more than 70% of the 200+ links from kottke.org to the New Yorker site are dead...to say nothing of all the links in Google, Yahoo, and 5 million other blogs. Not good.
- The full text of at least one article (Stacy Schiff's article on Wikipedia) has been pulled from the site and has been replaced by an abstract of the article and the following notice:
The New Yorker's archives are not yet fully available online. The full text of all articles published before May, 2006, can be found in "The Complete New Yorker," which is available for purchase on DVD and hard drive.
Not sure if this is the only case or if the all longer articles from before a certain date have been pulled offline. This also is not good.
- They still default to splitting up their article into multiple pages, but luckily you can hack the URL by appending "?currentPage=all" to get the whole article on one page, like so. Would be nice if that functionality was exposed.
- The first thing I looked for was the table of contents for the most recent issue because that's, by far, the page I most use on the site (it's the defacto "what's new" page). Took me about a minute to find the link...it's hidden in small text on the right-hand side of the site.
- There are several RSS options, but there's no RSS autodiscovery going on. That's an easy fix. The main feed validates but with a few warnings. The bigger problem is that the feed only shows the last 10 items, which isn't even enough to cover an entire new issue's worth of stories and online-only extras.
A New Yorker timeline. Is this new?
Listing of blogs by New Yorker contributors, including Gladwell, SFJ, and Alex Ross.
- Some odd spacing issues and other tiny bugs here and there. The default font size and line spacing make the articles a little hard to read...just a bit more line spacing would be great. And maybe default to the medium size font instead of the small. A little rough around the edges is all.
- The front page doesn't validate as XHTML 1.0 Transitional. But the errors are pretty minor...<br> instead of <br />, not using the proper entity for the ampersand, uppercase anchor tags and the like.
- All articles include the stardard suite of article tools: change the font size, print, email to a friend, and links to Digg, del.icio.us, & Reddit. Each article is also accompanied by a list of keywords which function more or less like tags.
- Overall, the look of the site is nice and clean with ample white space where you need it. The site seems well thought out, all in all. A definite improvement over the old site.
Thanks to Neil for the heads up on the new site.
1993 New Yorker piece on Barry Diller's search for his future and that of television, cable, and technology. This article is a time capsule of the optimism surrounding technology in the early 90s. Note that no one saw the internet coming then...the word doesn't even appear in the article even though most of the things hoped for by the media barons came to pass on the web without their involvement. This interesting exchange between Diller and Steve Jobs happens about halfway through: "After studying NeXT's brilliant software and graphics -- 'It's the most magical computer,' Diller says -- he recalls telling Jobs, 'You've made this thing too hard. It shouldn't be this hard.' 'No,' Jobs answered. 'It's like learning to drive. It takes two months.' 'No, it takes very little time to drive,' Diller said. 'A computer is not that -- it's hard. Why make it harder?'"
1994 best/worst-of the internet lists with predicitons for 1995. "Pick any tragic event and you can probably recall seeing a newsgroup that taunted its seriousness. There was alt.tonya-harding.whack.whack.whack. Then we had alt.lorena.bobitt.chop.chop.chop. And no, I haven't forgotten alt.oj-simpson.drive.faster."
Here's what kottke.org looks like using the browser on the Wii. The browser is from Opera and is available for free by going to the Wii Shop Channel, then Wii Ware, and then click "Download".
Dori Smith had her personalized license plate ("WEB GEEK") stolen and she wants it back, no questions asked. "I know a lot of people in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area. I know a lot of Web geeks. The chances are good that whoever ends up with my plate knows someone who knows someone who knows me."
The Observer lists 15 web sites that changed the world, including Google, Wikipedia, Blogger, and Amazon. (thx, dylan)
Today is the WWW's 15th birthday. "Links to the fledgling computer code for the www were put on the alt.hypertext discussion group so others could download it and play with it. On that day the web went world wide." Here's the alt.hypertext posting where Tim Berners-Lee releases the WWW to the world.
Gopher, developed in 1991 at the University of Minnesota, is a text-only, hierarchical document search and retrieval protocol that was supplanted by the more flexible WWW in the mid-1990s. Some servers running this old protocol are still alive, however. The WELL, an online discussion board and community that started back in 1985, is still running a Gopher server. If you've got a recent version of Firefox, you can check it out in its original Gopher-y state at gopher://gopher.well.com/ or with any web browser at http://gopher.well.com:70/.
It seems to have been frozen in early 1996 or so and houses several historical documents from the early 1990s. Many of the links are dead and some documents cannot be found, but poking around for 20 minutes or so, I found:
One of the articles by Sterling, his remarks from a privacy conference in 1994, touches on a topic that's still hotly debated today:
I've been asked to explain why I don't worry much about the topics of privacy threat raised by this panel. And I don't. One reason is that these scenarios seem to assume that there will be large, monolithic bureaucracies (of whatever character, political or economic) that are capable of harnessing computers for one-way surveillance of an unsuspecting populace. I've come to feel that computation just doesn't work that way. Being afraid of monolithic organizations especially when they have computers, is like being afraid of really big gorillas especially when they are on fire.
I don't follow Sterling's writing that closely, but I wonder if he's changed his mind on this issue?
Matisse Enzer helped set up The WELL's Gopher server and tells how it came to be on his blog. And here are a few other Gopher servers that are still running:
Update: It occurs to me that this might be up the alley of Digg's users. If you've got an account there, you may wish to Digg this story.
Update: Here's a write-up of GopherCon '92, "a small working session of Gopher developers and users". I liked this bit:
Ed Vielmetti of CICnet gave a talk on "what we would be gathering to discuss if UMinn had never developed Gopher", meaning primarily World-Wide Web (WWW). WWW was developed for the high-energy physics community and serves as a model of what Gopher could do if a discipline-oriented virtual community invested in it heavily.
Thanks for sending that along, Ed.
Update: The archives of the infamous spies.com Gopher server appear to be here. I don't know how complete they are or when they're from. (via digg)
Back in 9/2000, over a hundred bloggers recorded their day in photos and text...alas, most of those galleries are gone; only the listings remain. It's funny, bloggers are their own paparazzi and archivists, but they're not doing a very good job of it; there's little material publicly available from those early days.
List of easily mispronouncable domain names. I've always beeen partial to WhoRepresents.com (or whorepresents.com).
Interview with Amy Franceschini, founder of Futurefarmers. Franceschini also had a hand in Atlas Magazine (blast from the past!), which was one of my favorite sites back in the day.
David Galbraith notes that several of the top sites on the web don't validate: Yahoo, Ebay, Amazon, Google, and even "Web 2.0" newcomers Flickr, Digg, and Del.icio.us. "Are all these companies wrong, or is there something wrong with current accessibility standards?"
After four days as a porn site, suck.com is back to its old self. No explanation yet about the outage.
Suck.com is (temporarily? forever?) a porn site. If it's gone for good, it's the end of an era. (thx, owen)
Update: Andy's got more info and is trying to see if an archive exists anywhere.
Matt's first impressions of and experiences with the Web sound a lot like mine (visiting those first few sites with Mosaic was a transformative experience for me, like falling in love), except I did quit grad school.
Adobe is planning on combining Flash Player and Acrobat Reader? As Todd says, "I don't know about you, but I just got an acrid taste in my mouth".
Update: John Dowdell notes that Adobe has clarified their position re: the above combination: "we will continue delivering the Flash Player as a small, efficient runtime for content and applications on the web". (thx, neil)
On the plane on the way back from Vietnam, I was reading this article about how bookstores are preferable to shopping for books online when I ran across this quote from David Sedaris:
One thing about English-language bookstores in the age of Amazon is that it assumes that everybody has the Internet. I don't. I've never seen the Internet. I've never ordered a book on it, and I wouldn't really want to"
This seems almost impossible and might even be a joke, but it would go a long way in explaining how he gets so much work done. He's got continuous complete attention while the rest of us have only partial.
 Which article was not very convincing since it included this passage:
[Odile Hellier, owner of the Village Voice bookstore in Paris] said that she thinks the act of buying books in a store rather than online is essential to the health of our culture.
"My fear is that while the machine society that we live in is very functional, very practical, and allows for a certain communication, it is a linear communication that closes the mind," she said.
She said that although Internet sites perform many of the functions of a bookstore - recommending similar books or passing on personal impressions of a book - nothing equals the kind of discovery possible when visiting a store and scanning tables covered with a professional staff's latest hand-picked selection.
I always chuckle when someone (usually grinding an axe) describes the web as so flat and with little social aspect. I love bookstores, but in many ways, shopping for books online is superior.
On the eve of the 15th anniversary of the creation of the web, James Boyle muses on how we should celebrate. "We probably would not create [the web], or any technology like it, today. In fact, we would be more likely to cripple it, or declare it illegal."
A man asks MetaFilter for help in tracking down his grandfather's address in 1938 Vienna and after only two days, he's got the address as well as a bunch of other information he never knew about him. This internet thing is gonna be huge someday.
Steven Johnson's thoughts on Web 2.0. He compares it to a rain forest, with the information flow through the web being analogous to the efficient nutrient flow through a forest. "Essentially, the Web is shifting from an international library of interlinked pages to an information ecosystem, where data circulate like nutrients in a rain forest." Compare with Tim O'Reilly's recent thoughts on the subject.
Steven Levy profiles Tim O'Reilly for Wired. Kind of ironic since O'Reilly Media has put itself in the middle of what's happening on the web, a position that perhaps should have been occupied by Wired, had they not sold all their online properties several years ago.
Update on the Million Dollar Homepage...it's actually starting to fill up. He's sold almost $100,000 worth of space so far. This is beginning to look like an absolutely brilliant idea.
An interview with David Greiner of Campaign Monitor. Some good stuff in here about starting a small business on the Web.
Greg reminded me that today is the 10th anniversary of the launch of Suck. I started reading a few weeks after it launched, but I do remember going back to read the first article that kicked it off. Here's a lengthy and comprehensive look at Suck's history.
Salon profile of 37signals and "the next web revolution". Also noted (for the first time in public, I think): Adaptive Path's secret web app is "a tool to help bloggers measure traffic and other stats on their site [and] will be out by the end of the year".