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How it works
Just a thought from 28 September 2003 about .

Public Service Announcement
Just a thought from 26 September 2003 about .

As always, we're happy to be mentioned, but let's just be clear on this:

Fray. Is not. A blog.

Fray comes from 1996, before the word "weblog," before the vast sums of cash being driven around in dump trucks for anyone with a business plan, before the hype about portals, about community, about VRML.

No, wait. VRML was first.

I suppose I'm to blame. I added Storyblog to the site a while back to link to outside stories. Perhaps I confused the more slow-moving journalists. Sorry about that. My bad.

Just for future reference, then: Storyblog is a section of Fray in a weblog format. A weblog format is short pieces of content, in reverse-chronological order, updated frequently. Fray is magazine about personal storytelling that features stories up to 3,000 words long and is published monthly at best. I think the difference is obvious.

Believe it or not, there were personal websites before the age of the blog. And for those of us fogies born in that era of web history, the confusion of the word "weblog" with the word "website" is as annoying as it is perplexing.

Now I know how my geeky mentors felt when they lectured be about confusing "net" and "web." These kinds of distinctions are felt passionately, if only by a certain few.

Ten Days and Counting
Just a thought from 24 September 2003 about .

fray day 7

You gonna be there too? Say so!

Talking Champ
Just a thought from 23 September 2003 about .

My beautiful and talented girlfriend has pulled up stakes at Harrumph and moved across town to her spiffy new photo-a-day site at the eponymous Hchamp. Did you know that Polaroid film goes blue when its out of date? Now you do.

Speaking of Heather, she's still accepting designs for the big Badge Swap. Send yours in now! Why? Because there's nothing she'd rather do than assemble your badge. Isn't she cool?

Hurry back, Fred
Just a thought from 22 September 2003 about .

Eleven years after I found him on the street, three since he surprised me with strange alien flowers, Fred's come full circle: He's back to a stump in a pot.

fred

He'd reached the ceiling, you see, and that's quite a feat in our high-ceilinged Victorian apartment. It was time, past time really, to do the deed. I bought a saw, we had a talk, and it was done.

The walls have never seemed so white.

More Fred memories:
» Fred strikes again
» Almost there
» Fred flower update
» Fred bloomed

Conservatory of Flowers Reopening
Just a thought from 22 September 2003 about .

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Photos from the reopening of the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. More »

It's okay if you don't get it
Just a thought from 21 September 2003 about .

Thanks to Gavin, Huw, Tom, and Eric for sending me the article. It's yet another humorless diatribe about web sites that quotes Jakob Nielsen too much and claims to know the answers to everything. Fray is mentioned in the section on "design":

In the early days of the internet, designers paid almost no consideration to their audience.

What kind of crap is that? Did they talk to every last one? I'm one of those designers, and I worked in the heart of the web world in San Francisco in 1995, and I can tell you that the audience was always at the center of every decision we made. That's not to say that all the decisions we made were right, of course.

"It was a case of 'we can do it, so we will,'" said Nielsen.

Right. And by "we," Nielsen means all those cutting edge web designers doing the real groundbreaking work while he was a UI tester at Sun, working on a dying OS. Why do people take this guy seriously? He thinks design is two columns of equal size with no visual cues to tell the user which is more important.

The next craze was to assume that the more information, the bigger the picture and the more multimedia were thrown at a site, the better. Wrong again. So designers employed visual metaphors an airline desk to buy tickets, for example. Finally, they realized that legibility is all.

I can't continue pointing out how stupidly offensive this cockeyed little version of web history is. How it overlooks the visionaries, the experimenters, the hundreds of thousands of people who contributed to what the web is today. The people who made things instead of just criticizing them.

Some experts have rigid rules about achieving this: Nielsen dislikes frames (dividing the screen into boxes), and if you look at the English Table Tennis Association site (www.etta.co.uk), you can see why.

Okay. There are a million problems with the Table Tennis Association's site, not the least of which is frames. But maybe their audience understands the site perfectly. That's the problem with one size fits all rules - they ignore the very audience we're supposed to be thinking about.

And here comes the Fray mention:

Catriona Campbell, founder and chairman of the Usability Company, believes that all sites should be designed with black text on a white background.

Doors would not go as far as either Nielsen or Campbell. White on black works fine at www.fray.com, while the cinematic design qualities of www.gorillaz.com create an arresting visual ambience. Nielsen's view that Adobe Acrobat files are "unpleasant to read and navigate online" is, however, spot-on. Someone please tell the Inland Revenue.

Fray.com, poster child for the design exception. I can live with that.

People, the web is a big place now. And not every website needs to be understood by every person. Some sites exist purely for the joy of their creator. Some exist for a very specific audience. It's myopic and arrogant to assume that every site out there needs to be understood, needs to make money, needs to be usable.

Maybe, if you don't get it, it's not the site's problem.

Log in or join
Just a thought from 21 September 2003 about .

Anyone out there have an account with The Times UK? My referer logs show that they're linking to Fray from this page, but I can't get in to see what it is. My curiosity is killing me.

UPDATE: I got it. Boy did I get it.

On the radio
Just a thought from 19 September 2003 about .

Remember that interview I mentioned? Well, the show, Invisible Ink, will air on KALW will air on 91.7fm in the Bay Area this Sunday at 2pm. It'll also stream live and be available on Invisible Ink's site after the fact. In fact, you can hear some promos on the Ink's site now! In addition to me yammering on, the show will also include stories by Lance Arthur, Kevin Smokler, and Jish Mukerji. Tune in!

Meeting Tom
Just a thought from 17 September 2003 about .

I wouldn't call it chickening out as much as showing some restraint. But, yeah, Tom, call me. We'll do lunch.

For the record, the man was surrounded by a perfect circle of gibbering fans all intermission. That's gotta suck. And still he was very kind when I interrupted, said hello, and thanked him for making work that's mattered to me.

I have a short list of people who's work I admire so much, they make my heart go double-time. And Tom Waits is at the top of it.

Porchlight Video
Just a thought from 16 September 2003 about .

I had a blast at Porchlight tonight. The place was packed, the drinks were stiff, and the stories were great.

I had a hard time with this one. One of my cardinal rules for Fray events has always been: Don't talk about the web. That's because we already know what it's like there. I want to know about your life.

Derek at Porchlight - click for videoBut for some of us, the people Craig Newmark called "my tribe" tonight, the internet is a central character in the story of our lives. So it was nice to tell a story that paid tribute to the guiding force that has carried me forward these past eight years. And thanks to some camera work by Heather, you can see my story here (11.5mb .mov).

Huge thanks to Arline and Beth for having me on the program! And don't forget to catch Beth on stage at Fray Day 7 San Francisco on October 4!

Fray audio bonanza
Just a thought from 15 September 2003 about .

We've compiled almost all the audio we have from past Fray events on to one handy page. Check it out for over 18 hours of stories, with more to come! Special thanks to the cool cats at the Internet Archive for hosting all the audio.

Invisible Ink
Just a thought from 14 September 2003 about .

Today I sat down with the wonderful Roman Mars at the KALW studios for an interview for his show, Invisible Ink. I can't wait to hear how it comes out! Stay tuned.

Potty mouth
Just a thought from 11 September 2003 about .

I love it. I write a post or two that mention porta potties in passing, and now my Google ads are all about "One Piece Toilets" and "Elegant Mobile Restrooms" and "Bumper Dumpers."

And now I've just made it worse. Poop!

9/11: Two years later
Just a thought from 11 September 2003 about .

An incredible thing has been percolating at Fray this week. The students of East Side Community High School in New York City have been visiting the site as part of a classroom project. Every morning I'm greeted by a fresh batch of posts.

Two years ago today, these students, some of whom were only in 5th grade at the time, witnessed the Twin Towers fall just across town. This week they visited Missing Pieces and posted over 150 stories about September 11. Reading these stories gave me a new insight to the tragedy, and the childhood memories we keep forever.

What are your missing pieces?

Coming to a sidewalk near you
Just a thought from 10 September 2003 about .

say it with me now

Telling stories by Porchlight
Just a thought from 9 September 2003 about .

Stoked! I'm going to be telling a story at Monday's Porchlight here in San Francisco. The theme is "www.whatthehellhappened.com" and I'll be sharing the stage with fellow Frayer Rebecca Eisenberg, Mister List Craig Newmark, and other fine performers. It's just ten bucks, so I hope you'll come out for a great night of stories.

My Film Playa Pics
Just a thought from 7 September 2003 about .

scan244   scan249   scan256   scan257   scan258

Thanks to some help from my sweetie's scanner, here's the last of my Burning Man photos. These were shot on film our last day in BRC and the night of the burn. Enjoy! More »

More Potty Memories
Just a thought from 7 September 2003 about .

Why is it that so many of my Burning Man Memories involve Porta Potties?

There was the octogenarian I bumped into in line, who told me that three generations of her family were there.

There was Porta Potty tennis - a note written on the back of the door that said "Wanna play Porta Potty Tennis? Look left." Then, there on the left panel, "Look right." And there on the right, "Look left."

dig10 One of the Porta Potties even had a whole childhood story written inside. A graffiti artist after my own heart.

One afternoon there was a girl standing sheepishly in front of one of the potties. I noticed that the potty in front of her was empty, but she was still there, just in front of it, doing that side-to-side I-hafta-pee dance. When she caught my eye, she said, "Could you help me with this?"

It was only then that I noticed she was wearing some kind of one piece chain mail thing that all hooked together in back. With all the crazy attire at Burning Man, I'd just kinda stopped noticing what people were wearing. I unhooked her and she scurried into the potty.

There was Slim, the guy I bumped into in line who remembered Fray Camp from years ago. What are the chances? He even have me a coveted pink chip, redeemable by anyone for sexual favors.

And then there was the day of the DPW parade, when trucks with giant flame throwers trolled the streets. I was in a Porta Potty, sitting down (ahem), when one truck released a thunderous explosion. The whole place shook and I briefly wondered what I'd look like blue.

[Ariel is sharing her Porta Porry Stories, too!]

New in {fray}: Joshua Tree Blooms
Just a thought from 7 September 2003 about , .

Burning Man. Arcosanti. The desert calls dreamers.

If you were one of the 30,000 people with me in Black Rock City last weekend, then you'll need no explanation of why Joshua Tree Blooms, Liz's tale of overcoming writer's block in the desert, seemed like the perfect story to come home to. And if you weren't, well, I bet there's a place out there where you learned something about yourself. Read Liz's story and tell your own.

Fray Day for Danes
Just a thought from 7 September 2003 about .

I can't tell you how much I love this. I can't read a word of it, but I love it.

Burning Memories
Just a thought from 6 September 2003 about .

I'll always remember the big things - the man burning, the Vogon camp, the look in Heather's eye as we biked the outer fence. It's the little moments I fear losing now that I'm back in the "real world."

There was a sign on one of the potties: "Beware! Gorilla on the loose!" When a guy went to open the door, an 8 year-old kid in a gorilla mask jumped out, roaring. The guy gasped and backed away and we all had a good laugh. Then the kid went back inside and flipped the door lock to red. A while later, the lock flipped from red to green, but no one came out. Those of us still in line smiled at each other knowingly.

Another potty experience: Sitting in there, in the heat of the day, feeling nauseous thanks to the pound of playa in my belly, listening to the guy in the potty next door ralphing into the blue water. On second thought, I'm okay with forgetting this one.

Video: The Swedish Cowboy Song
Just a thought from 3 September 2003 about .

swedish cowboySo this is a little difficult to explain. Just know this: It's hot during the day at Burning Man. Really hot. So entertainment that comes to you is pretty great. And, fortunately for us Vogons, we have Evan, and he has a bullhorn.

You should also know that the two people in this clip have never met, and probably never will see each other again. They were just lured over by Evan, who then said: "Sing me a song about a Swedish Cowboy."

And then they did.

My Digital Playa Pics
Just a thought from 3 September 2003 about .

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Here's a small gallery of some shots I took with my digital camera at Burning Man this year (the film shots still need to be scanned). More »

Heather's Pinhole Pics
Just a thought from 2 September 2003 about .

When Heather set up the tripod for her playa pinhole portraits, I got to be the lovely assistant. We paused only once to photograph ourselves.

See also: More Vogon photos from Kate. Mine tomorrow.

Video: Spontaneous Whip Camp
Just a thought from 2 September 2003 about .

There is no way to talk about Burning Man without just jumping into the middle. So here goes.

Jason and his whipOne of my favorite moments from this year was when Vogon 42 (our camp) suddenly became Spontaneous Whip Camp. See, Jason brings whips to Burning Man. Nothing kinky (unless you count a childhood Indiana Jones fetish as kinky), just a guy doing professional-level whip tricks. And he brings extras.

It was like an experiment in group psychology. Jason started showing someone else how to whip without killing themselves. Then someone else came in. Then someone else. All of a sudden, we had a class on our hands.

Here's to Vogon Jason, our whip guru.

Wha?
This section is called Just a Thought. It's a blog where I post little pieces of what I'm thinking about at the moment. This page shows thoughts from September 2003, including:

How it works
28 September 2003

Public Service Announcement
26 September 2003

Ten Days and Counting
24 September 2003

Talking Champ
23 September 2003

Hurry back, Fred
22 September 2003

Conservatory of Flowers Reopening
22 September 2003

It's okay if you don't get it
21 September 2003

Log in or join
21 September 2003

On the radio
19 September 2003

Meeting Tom
17 September 2003

Porchlight Video
16 September 2003

Fray audio bonanza
15 September 2003

Invisible Ink
14 September 2003

Potty mouth
11 September 2003

9/11: Two years later
11 September 2003

Coming to a sidewalk near you
10 September 2003

Telling stories by Porchlight
9 September 2003

My Film Playa Pics
7 September 2003

More Potty Memories
7 September 2003

New in {fray}: Joshua Tree Blooms
7 September 2003

Fray Day for Danes
7 September 2003

Burning Memories
6 September 2003

Video: The Swedish Cowboy Song
3 September 2003

My Digital Playa Pics
3 September 2003

Heather's Pinhole Pics
2 September 2003

Video: Spontaneous Whip Camp
2 September 2003

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The Fine Print

Working the web since 1995, Derek Powazek is the creator of many award-winning websites, a couple of which still exist. Derek is the cofounder of JPG Magazine and the CCO of 8020 Publishing. Derek lives in San Francisco with his wife, two nutty Chihuahuas, a grumpy cat, and a house full of plants named Fred. More »

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Recently

How it works  28 September 2003

Public Service Announcement  26 September 2003

Ten Days and Counting  24 September 2003

Talking Champ  23 September 2003

Hurry back, Fred  22 September 2003

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