Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

Here We Go Again

Three things I said I’d never do again:
     1. Work at a startup company.
     2. Have a dayjob.
     3. Tap dance.

One out of three ain’t bad, I guess.

Today is my first day as Senior Designer of Technorati. Yes, it’s a startup company. Yes, it’s a dayjob. No, I’m not tap dancing for them. I haven’t done that since grade school, and frankly, the less said about it the better.

Stamp-hop-step-salap-step.

Technorati, if you don’t know, is a company that indexes weblogs. The bloggers in the house already know it’s the best place to check what people are saying about your site. But it’s also a great place to see the latest in news, books, and politics. There’s an incredible amount of really interesting info in there, and all of it is gleaned from us: regular folks with weblogs, crawled and indexed and aggregated into something bigger.

I’ve been doing this web thing for ten years now, and I’ve seen over-hyped buzzwords come and go. Does anyone even remember VRML now? Portals? Push?

And in all that time, only one came and stuck and refused to die: Blogs. I did the former Blogger design in 1999. (Yup, that was me.) I designed the Blogger B five whole years ago. And blogs have not gone away. They’ve only gotten, as Morbo would say of his children, belligerent and numerous. (Bonus points if you get the reference.)

Why blogs? Because, I think, most of those other over-hyped buzzwords were about grafting an old idea onto a new one. VRML was “virtual reality” on the web (“you can zoom through the web!”). Portals were just an exercise in information overload (“like the dictionary, phone book, and encyclopedia … all in one!”). Push was television on a computer (“so you don’t have to use that pesky keyboard anymore!”). But not blogs.

Blogs (like what you’re reading right now, mom) were born online. My favorite definition of a blog was said, if I remember correctly, by Ev in those long-ago days: “Blogging is like instant messaging on the web.” I love this definition not because it’s a perfect fit (though it certainly describes one kind of blogging), but because it uses one online behavior to describe another. There is just no offline equivalent.

Blogging (or, more specifically, frequently posting to a site that displays content in reverse chronological order) is not going away. It just works on the web. It’s families keeping in touch and armchair political pundits. It’s photographers and illustrators and storytellers. It’s, basically, anyone with anything to say, often.

When I wrote Design for Community, blogging was still nascent, but I devoted the last chapter to it. And since then, blogs have completely overtaken community sites in their role as online gathering places. Taken as a whole, blogs are one gigantic, fractured community, where everyone owns and maintains their little piece. Blogs have built the most successful uber-community site on the net. And, like the net, nobody owns it.

I think that’s kewl.

It may not be journalism (we have, yaknow, journalists for that), but it certainly keeps journalists on their toes. We all know those examples of bloggers rattling their cages in unison until the mainstream media can’t ignore it anymore. That’s why tools that aggregate blogs are poised to play an important role in the way media works in the next few years.

Technorati is interesting because it can take that cacophony of voices and save it, search it, and compile it into something more meaningful. And the site just scratches the surface of what’s possible. So that makes it interesting enough to get over my whole dayjob aversion.

And the people I’m going to be working with are some of the smartest and nicest people I’ve met in a technology company. (Smart is an easy quality to have. Nice is, too. But the two together are rare.) I also get to work with my friend Tantek, who, strangely enough went to the same high school as me (but I doubt he hated it as much as I did because, trust me when I say that few could). I mean, look at the resumes on these people. The brain power is astounding. So that’s enough to lure me back into startup land again.

And like I said, no tap dancing. So there’s that.

So today I’ll put on slacks and get on Muni again. I’ll dust off the iPod and plug in and sip my white mocha with the rest of the working stiffs. I’m going to work, and there’s good work to be done.

Watch this space.


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Hi, I’m Derek. I make awesome community-centric web stuff. I sometimes post things to Flickr and Twitter. I’m mostly harmless. More.





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