Jason Kottke

Interview with Jason Kottke / kottke.org

I’m a busy girl and there aren’t many sites that I click over to read more than once a day but Jason Kottke’s site is frequently updated with lots of link yummy-ness that I can’t stay away from. If you blog or get on the internet much, chances are, you know who Jason is. He’s well known for so many things that it might take more room/time than I have to list them. The short list: a year of micro-patron supported blogging, an interview with Newsweek’s Brian Braiker on msnbc.com, his live web-cam (which appears to have ended in Dec. 2005), a connoisseur of fonts including Silkscreen, which he created, B-Swing, a Senior Fellowship in the R&D Labs, the Kottke Diary at Valleywag.com which includes The Meg and Jason Courtship in the New Yorker and Wedding Story, and the Matrix Revolutions post. A lot of people want to be him or be like him. I was very happy just to get to interview him.

Blog Birthday:

March 14, 1998. I had a bloggish site in 1997 called Quick where I posted a photo, a link, and a snippet of text every day, but it only ran for a few months and is now offline and on a Zip disk in my closet somewhere. I should dig it out at some point and get it back online.

Why do you blog?

At this point, inertia.

What do you talk about?

Basically anything that interests me…it’s all over the place, which makes it a impossible read for some and a favorite of others. Favorite subjects include movies, science, design, New York City, photography, food, technology, Apple, and sports.

What don’t you talk about? Why?

Politics (not a fan). My private life, which is circularly defined as that part of my life which I choose to keep private. When I first started putting my thoughts online in the mid-90s, there was little about my life that I wouldn’t put online, but now it’s almost the opposite situation.

Favorite/worst thing about living where you live?

I’m a curious person by nature and — like the Web — New York City is a never ending source of amusement, stimulation, fascination, and interesting people to work & play with. Worst thing? Expensive and wasteful…those two things generally go hand in hand.

If you were president of the US:

I would resign and look for a new job. I do not envy any of the people who have held that office; it’s a fantastically difficult job.

What is interesting to you right now?

Pre-Columbian America. I read Charles Mann‘s 1491 on my honeymoon and it was a fascinating companion to our exploration of the Yucatan in Mexico.

What actor would play you in the movie of your life?

Ewan McGregor, circa Trainspotting. Renton and I have the same hair.

I know you get asked lots of questions by people like me who are nosy. What is the most frequently asked question and what do you tell them?

The most common question I get via email is, “how did your site get so popular?” I don’t really have a good answer to this, but if you’re looking to make something that other people might be interested in checking out, I’d advise you to do what you love, be enthusiastic, be curious, build a network, get sued for copyright infringement, and just keep at it.

What do you do to stay sane and healthy?

My wife is into food, so we have a lot of nice meals, both at home and out…it’s one of my favorite things we do together. I also like to have time on my own, just to goof around and do nothing in particular. NYC can be overwhelming at times, as can being online all day, and I need that alone time to recharge.

Favorite food:

I will eat a good sandwich at almost any opportunity. I like soup. A few years ago, I had a bowl of plain vanilla ice cream drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar, which was sublime in an undescribable way.

When you were 10, what did you want to do when you grew up?

I was never one of those kids who had a ready answer for what they wanted to be when they grew up. I recall that most of my friends wanted to be nurses or doctors or fireman, but I was such a serious little kid that I thought, “I don’t have any idea what it’s actually like to do any of those things, why would I want to?” But my dad was a pilot and he used to take me flying with him, so I may have wanted to do that because I was at least more familiar with what was involved.

You link to lots of people/sites on a daily basis. Does anyone ever get mad?

Not that I know of. I’ve gotten pretty selective as to what I link to. I don’t link to videos on sites that look like they might not be able to handle the bandwidth…I don’t want to be responsible for anyone’s monster end-of-the-month bandwidth bill. The denizens of Slashdot are gleeful about taking down people’s servers; I am not. I also don’t link to anything that seems like it’s not intended by the author to be widely public. If someone posts some photos on their blog of their birthday party for their friends to see (thinking that no one but their friends reads their blog), it’s their own fault if that gets out. But I know that if I link to it (because it contains a particularly funny photo of someone dancing oddly), it could turn into a meme and be potentially embarrassing or upsetting for the blogger in question. People should still be given their privacy in public places.

Do you read anyone obsessively?

I will seek out anything new by Malcolm Gladwell, David Foster Wallace, and Steven Johnson. This being the age of weblogs, I also get to read my friends obsessively, which is great.

Astounding facts about you:

I have never seen Jaws. (I don’t consider this particularly astounding, but a recent post of mine mentioned this fact in passing and several people wrote in, stunned that I’d not seen it.)

Are you Windows or Mac? Why?

Mac. I love their hardware and software. It’s not a religious thing like with some other people (I’ve used Windows in the past), but for right now, the Mac gives me what I need.

What is your favorite place that you’ve traveled to? Why?

Paris. I’ve been there 4 times, for about two months total. I love the food and the scale of the city; it’s a beautiful place.

Do you cook?

I do not, although I should learn at some point. My wife enjoys cooking so much that she’s happy to take care of most of the meals, way happier than I am to take care of the dishes.

In your opinion, what is the best application/widget/program or helpful-bit-o-code to come out over the past year?

I’ve just discovered the latest version of TextMate, which is an OS X text editor. I’d tried it when it first came out awhile ago and it didn’t take, but they’ve improved it extensively since then and it’s an amazing little piece of software. Newsfire is underrated as a newsreader; I find it much faster and easier to use than NetNewsWire.

You were born after me by 2 years and grew up in a totally different part of the country. Were the Osmonds as much a part of your life as they were mine?

Haha, I don’t think so, although I vaguely remember seeing them on TV when I was a kid.

What are you working on right now?

I just finished redesigning Megnut, my wife’s new food site. It needs some tweaking, but I’m mostly happy with the end result. I’ve got a couple other projects in the works for kottke.org, one typographical in nature, a mapping project, and I’m working on a little blogging widget with a friend. I also just signed on as design advisor for a company a friend is starting. It’s going to be a busy summer.

Your own favorite post or your highest hit entry of all time?

The most well-received post on kottke.org was one of the very few not written by me: Bear with me on this

Greg Knauss wrote it while babysitting kottke.org when I was at SXSW in March, 2000 (this was before everyone had laptops and there was wifi everywhere at conferences). It’s tough when the best post on your site wasn’t even written by you, but then again, I’ve never thought of myself as that much of a writer.

Thanks, Jason!

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