Back in the day, man, people edited their sites by hand.
September 27, 2013 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Jason Kottke turned 40 today. Some of his friends threw a party on his blog.

The Guest Posts
"Jason has had many guest editors over the years, some of whom have lost their logins." This post is by:

Anil Dash: Unshrinking Wool Sweaters
Tim Carmody: Computers Are For People
Ainsley Drew: Margaret Thatcher Margaret Thatcher
David Jacobs: Fine Hypertext Products
Adam Lisagor: Room 237 is Crazy Good: A Dissenting Opinion
Sarah Pavis: Tragedy and Empathy
Choire Sicha: Horse
Joel Turnipseed: Just for the maps
and of course, Greg Knauss: A little girl was riding her bike:
From this distance, a billion Web-years later, it's difficult to fully explain, except in the most rote way possible: Almost a decade and a half ago, a bunch of bloggers copied a post from (and, spreading it from site to site to site, for no reason whatsoever, except that nobody had bothered before. What started as the smallest conspiratorial joke possible quickly took on a life of its own, moving out of the house and getting drunk and causing trouble. Looking back, this random bit of Command-C, Command-V presaged reblogs and questions of attribution; the coordination of metadata to establish narrative; anonymous, poker-faced; even the public pointlessness of telling the world about your lunch. It was people in a small community in a new medium pushing against the sides of the womb, seeing if there was a way out into a larger world.

That's an awful lot of half-assed deep-think for a single paragraph about a little girl riding a bike, but this long-lost bit of serendipity is exactly the sort of thing that Jason Kottke has been doing with the Web almost every day, year in and year out and year in and year out and year in and year out: experimenting, playing, refining, honing, perfecting. Jason was the first person I knew to suffer a cease and desist; the first to run a comment thread out to a thousand entries; the first to ask his audience to support him financially.
Also posted today, a revisit to: Will an airplane on a treadmill take off?
posted by zarq (27 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Turns out is popular around here. "One or more of the links you entered were found in 306 previous threads." Who knew? ;)

Happy Birthday, User 109. :)
posted by zarq at 6:55 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:59 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Happy birthday! As a teenager I discovered a lot of really cool things on his (your) site before going to class.
posted by gucci mane at 7:00 PM on September 27, 2013

I'd talk about how much I like the dude, but I'm still working my way through that Matrix thread.
posted by gwint at 7:01 PM on September 27, 2013

*Flags gucci mane's comment as 'Not Being Shitty Enough To The A-Lister'*
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:03 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seriously though, the guy designed a font so small it was specifically made to blind anyone over 40, and drove his wife around as if she were a machine with wheels. A monster, truly.
posted by gwint at 7:03 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I wondered why they were revisiting old posts there today.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:08 PM on September 27, 2013


MeFi's own! Many happy returns!
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:19 PM on September 27, 2013

I worked with Jason for a while when he was still in Minneapolis. I hadn't heard of blogging before then (this would have been early '00); he clued me in to the concept and showed me the still-mostly-nascent Blogger software. It was basically because of him that I discovered TiVo, which I now can't think of watching TV without. And I'm pretty sure it was he, along with a handful of others, who helped me cotton to MetaFilter back in the day. In a lot of ways, working with Jason turned me on to what the web was and could be, and made me start really paying attention to it.

I remember a few co-workers and I discussing, with some mixture of disbelief and derision, the idea that Jason had expressed to one of them, that he wanted to be professional blogger. We couldn't conceive of how that could possibly work, twelve or thirteen years ago.

I haven't been a regular reader of in a lot of years - there's no blog I read regularly anymore, actually (though that's more to do with changes in my life pattern than any deliberate choice). But I still think of Jason pretty often, and I'm glad to know he's doing well out there.
posted by nickmark at 7:46 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Xenophanes said if a cow could paint a picture, its picture of god would look like a cow.

If a blog could write a blog, its blog would look like
posted by mattbucher at 7:50 PM on September 27, 2013

I offer my great appreciation on this occasion to Leo Kottke. In an era of the internet circle-jerk, where people are famous on the internet for being internet-famous, there is nothing more refreshing than a reason to celebrate someone who has devoted decades to developing his talent and working with the world's greatest artists.

Oh wait..
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:57 PM on September 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Happy 40th, and thanks for all the links!
posted by dhruva at 8:04 PM on September 27, 2013

Hell yeah the plane takes off
posted by device55 at 8:20 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you define the problem as "if the plane moves forward the treadmill will move backward just as fast as it has to to keep the plane in one place", then an infinitely powerful and indestructible treadmill capable of unlimited speed could probably keep a plane from taking off by going so incredibly fast and causing so much rolling resistance at the wheels that

a) a fairly weak propeller-driven plane couldn't overcome the rolling resistance of the tires and wouldn't take off

b) a powerful aircraft and especially a jet, the treadmill very quickly spins up to such incredible speeds that the tires overheat and burst, which would probably happen asymmetrically (i.e. they would not all burst at once), and when the rims collapse to the surface the plane would snap sideways and essentially be flung off the treadmill at an angle and almost certainly crash immediately and very messily.

... but we weren't really talking about that, were we?
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:29 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Happy Birthday Kottke.

I've been on the Internet seriously for about 10 years now, and one of the first sites I was introduced to was yours. One of the original bloggers that I am my group of friends were enamored with. Simple, yet expansive. Open, yet intimate. Kottke was the thing we all tried to be, but we all lacked that awesome that only Jason could do.

Thanks for being there to inspire us. Long before MetaFilter, long before blogs were a real thing, and in the infancy of this generation of the internet.
posted by deezil at 11:49 PM on September 27, 2013

BTW Zarq,

When I hit the first post this morning, I was super confused, but yeah after the whole day, I got the gimmick, and it worked really well. I wouldn't even doubt that the logins were forgotten, they were probably expired as they should be, and all of the old great contributors were no longer allowed in.
posted by deezil at 11:53 PM on September 27, 2013

They should have hack a popcorn hack to celebrate.
posted by ShawnStruck at 2:24 AM on September 28, 2013

Osil8. One of the websites I remember coming across and thinking, "this...this what the web can do."
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 2:34 AM on September 28, 2013

Amazingly I have no idea who he or any of those people are. It's like I've been living in a whole different neighbourhood of the internet.
posted by Damienmce at 5:13 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

A whole different GeoCity, one might say.
posted by Rory Marinich at 5:54 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Happy Birthday Jason (MeFi #109!). 40 was a tough milestone for me, a definite turning point. It's particularly amusing to me to read the puzzled comments here on MeFi, "who is that?". We're from the generation that built the Web, and now we've been around long enough there's a new group of younger folks who don't even know the details of what we did. Fair enough.

Part of what I love about Jason is he's one of the few old-school bloggers who is still active and stubbornly writing in his old form. His blog continues to be interesting every week, with thoughtful and amusing posts regularly. It's also a lot more influential than you might expect. I had my own experience with that earlier this year when a map project I did got picked up by Kottke about a month after I'd finished it. Other mainstream news outlets then picked it up and suddenly it was everywhere, I mean global media exposure to millions of people.

Jason's new project Stellar is pretty great. Basically it tracks what your friends are marking as interesting / favorites on various social media sites and aggregates them for you. I use it daily to catch up on stuff that is interesting but still below the mainstream media, works great.
posted by Nelson at 8:05 AM on September 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Happy birthday, Jason. You made the net a better place.
posted by gd779 at 9:24 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had my own experience with that earlier this year when a map project I did got picked up by Kottke about a month after I'd finished it.

I'm always coming across stuff and thinking, "That's so Kottke-esque." He has become a mental category.
posted by craniac at 10:40 AM on September 28, 2013

Though I can't find the Metatalk thread in question at the moment, I remember Matt talking way back when about how Jason had almost convinced him, when he wasn't seeing a way forward with Metafilter, to shut it down. I know that it was just a case of one friend trying to help another out of a tough stretch, but since then I've always had just tiny little nugget of furrowed-browedness towards Kottke, for what I admit is no good reason.

But yeah, he's one of those folks who were very much instrumental in shaping what we used to call the personal web, among other things, before it got taken over, despite best efforts, by massive companies and their cynical social-media datamining operations. Almost all of those folks had Metafilter accounts back in the early days, and some of them still log on once in a while here, and some part of why I joined Metafilter 13 years ago was because I wanted to hang out with them.

Happy birthday, whipper-snapper.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:42 PM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

I miss weird stuff like Kottke's now apparently defunct 0sil8. It was an era of weird graphic design art projects for the web which went into seeing how you could make the beast move. I used to endlessly devour sites like that and Test Pilot Collective and MeFi which was your guidebook to all the design weirdness that positively exploded. Jason did a logo one time made up of jittering scroll boxes because he could.. Some of that still out there now, fun things built with HTML5 or whatev the next evolution will come, but now it's about much showier things: nobody would be impressed by, say, a a nice swinging lightbulb effect but at the time man, mind melted. It was a weird new world, mostly static but with moving components with no rules yet developed.

Osil8 was where I heard Jessamyn leave a reading of Rural Electrification which threw me down the Brautigan pit forever: Sombrero Fallout is next to my bed here somewhere. Jason had leveraged a dot com voicemail service that I think would email you your messages: the Jurassic Google Voice. Seemed the world was full of fun, free things you could leverage.

Welcome to mid-life, sucka.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 9:34 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

We're from the generation that built the Web

No, that's Tim Berners-Lee. There was a web before there were blogs.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:01 PM on September 29, 2013

Happy Birthday, Jason -- yours was the very first blog I ever encountered, waaaaay back in 2000 - and it intrigued me enough to try my hand, which eventually led to my becoming an "online producer" - my dream job. A job that didn't even exist a few years ago. Thanks, Jason.
posted by davidmsc at 11:09 AM on October 1, 2013

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