Matthew Haughey

Interview with Matthew Haughey/A Whole Lotta Nothing

Matt Haughey is closing in on a decade of working the web with half of that time spent blogging, so it’s no wonder he’s got so many projects going on. His first foray into blogging was building MetaFilter and he soon followed it up with a personal blog of his own. He wrote a book about blogging with a blog to match, and also has one just for his daily photos. Even his sideline hobbies became blogs of their own. As the Creative Director for the non-profit group Creative Commons, when he’s not helping provide interfaces and designs for an alternative approach to basic copyright, he’s also blogging about issues related to artists and copyright. He’s a recent transplant to the wilds of Oregon, happily married and living with two cats.

When is your Blog Birthday?

MetaFilter is technically my first blog, and that was July 14, 1999. I stopped posting personal stuff there and spun off my own space on November 1, 1999. My crotch inadvertently held up my first weblog template.

Why do you blog?

It’s really just a place to jot down ideas. I think of it as a public scratchpad really. If blogs didn’t exist I’d probably have the same stuff in a text file or spiral notebook.

What do you talk about?

I have a bunch of blogs, so I typically self-categorize which blog will get what posts, but I leave the stuff rattling around in my head for my personal blog. It gets neglected sometimes, but I like to float new ideas or outrageous things I’ve found there.

What don’t you talk about? Why?

I’ve cut way back on talking about my personal life, naming names, and discussing family (see next question). Basically in the age of Google, if it’s not really pertinent to a story, I tend to leave out some details.

What is the worst/best experience regarding something you wrote in your blog?

Worst is when Google searches come back to haunt me. On metafilter a few people have threatened lawsuits over finding their companies being disparaged by comments. Also, in case you haven’t read it a thousand times already, I’ll repeat it: your family will find your personal blog, it’s only a matter of time. I think I pissed off an uncle or two by slagging them online, but then they’re family I’m not really fans of, so it’s not that big of a deal. Still, if I crafted posts more carefully it wouldn’t be an issue.

It’s tough to say what the best experience is, I’ve been doing this stuff for almost five years and it’s really become a part of me and blurred into everything. I guess waking up to an email asking you if you’d like to write a book, getting a phone call asking if CNN can come over, getting called to see if you can fly to NYC to be on the cover of a magazine, and getting a digital SLR that was on my wishlist are the definite highlights. Jeez, now that I cram all those things into a single sentence it sounds insane. I’m extremely grateful for those highlights and I’m incredibly lucky. Insanely lucky.

What is the best thing about living where you live?

After spending my entire life in California up until last year, I really like the peace and quiet of Oregon. Everything is green and there are seasons with snow and blooms and I’m getting a kick out of it. Since my first 26 years were spent in Southern California, I never really got to see what Fall or Spring are supposed to be like.

I guess the rain gets old after a while. Actually it’s not so much the rain as the grayness. I’ve been ok with Portland rain mostly because it’s short term and any day with rain will likely have a few hours of sunshine at either end. Since I like to get out and exercise, that’s important to my sanity.

What would you do if you were president of the US?

I’d probably want to quit right away, I don’t think any normal human is equipped to handle that kind of pressure. But I guess if I had to do it, I’d govern from a no-nonsense, common sense position. I don’t see a lot of that in politics today, it’s mostly partisan bullshit.

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

I’d want Christopher Walken to play me. Not because I look like him or act like him. I just like the amount of crazy he adds to every project he’s in.

What do you wish you could change?

I wish I could stop time. Not forever or anything, just a few hours here and there to catch up on things while everyone else was frozen. After I turned 30 I couldn’t stop thinking about the passage of time — the sudden realization that my time really was finite on this planet and I needed to choose my projects wisely from here on out.

What is your favorite color?

hmm. I guess green. Are you going to pull out one of those paper foldy things (google calls them cootie catchers), open and close it while you spell out G-R-E-E-N then tell me I’m a doody head?

Because I’m not.

What is your favorite food?

I love anything that tastes good and uses simple ingredients. Thai, Indian, Italian, Japanese, and Ethiopian foods rank near the top. I’ve also found that locally caught wild salmon is the best tasting fish I’ve ever had.

What are your other hobbies?

Running and Cycling are something I do every day now that the rainy season is mostly gone. I try to hike as often as I can. I take photographs everyday, and I play with a lot of software and hardware gadgets. Oh, and I just learned that “gardening” is just good PR for yard work.

What do you want to tell other bloggers?

Write for yourself, not your audience or money or fame or whatever. Find your voice, find your passion and just do it instead of talking about doing it. You could apply the same advice to almost anything, but seriously, it’s the truth. Do it because you love to, express yourself, and if your heart isn’t in it, find something else you’d love to do.

What is your next aspiration or goal?

I have a million ideas that I wish I had time to do. I guess in the future I’d like to do a few books I can be proud of (to be honest so far, I’ve mostly written tech stuff as a job, I’d rather do it as a craft). I’d like to set aside more time to photography and produce great stuff. I’d like to have children of my own. Finally, it’s almost possible right now, but in the next few years I’d like to start my own company producing software and/or maintaining sites, and make it successful enough to support everything else I do. Currently I have a full time job and all this is just a free-time hobby.

Fascinating facts about you:

My left foot is bigger than my right.

I’m half blind from birth.

I “look tall for my blog” at around six four.

I have a masters degree in environmental chemistry I don’t really use much anymore.

Thank you, Matt!

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