«   Thoughts from July 2005   »

Justice, Cole Valley Style
Just a thought from 31 July 2005 about , .

Today I made peace with the fact that, yes, I am one of those neighborhood busybodies. Someday I will have the city complaint line on speedial. I'm okay with that.

It's just that I have this innate sense of justice. And when I see the jerks of the world getting away with their jerkiness, it burns me up inside.

Here's the story. Last Thursday night, as I was taking the pups on their last walk of the evening, there was the unmistakable sound of a moving car hitting a still one. A car alarm blared out and the dogs and I turned to see a purple Scion speed down Carl Street and off into the night. No note, no nothing. A hit and run. Bastard.

My car was similarly hit on Carl Street a few years ago and it cost $7,000 to fix. Insurance covered it, but my rates went up for a year. Probably some drunk idiot stumbling out of one of the bars and driving when they shouldn't. Same thing happened to this poor car - it had been sideswiped from front to back. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for purple Scions.

Then, this morning, I saw the same purple Scion. I knew it was the same car because it had a dent and a broken taillight right where it hit the other car.

Continue reading “Justice, Cole Valley Style” »

How to Make Coffee 2: Revenge of the Nerds
Just a thought from 29 July 2005 about , .

There's no better way to learn a few things than to tell the internet that you know a few things. Case in point: A couple weeks ago I was having a low self-esteem day. So instead of focusing on what I was bad at, I focused on what I was good at. Coffee. So I posted my little recipe for how I make coffee. And then the coffee nerds found me.

So now I'm sitting here, listening to the CoffeeGeek Podcast, and hearing myself as the topic of conversation. Is this what it's like to live in the future?

Turns out my recipe required some, uh, modification.

Continue reading “How to Make Coffee 2: Revenge of the Nerds” »

How Tags Happened at Technorati
Just a thought from 25 July 2005 about , , , , , .

It's been six months since we added Tags to Technorati (where I'm Senior Designer), and as it turns out, it was a pretty big deal. So before we get too far away from it, here's the story of how it came about. From my perspective, anyway.

Firstly and most importantly, Technorati did not invent tagging. We were inspired by the tags that Flickr users were using to describe their photos, and the tags Delicious users were using to describe their bookmarks, and the many tagging adventures that came before them. We thought bloggers should have something similar - an open standard for adding tags to their posts. If there was such a thing, we could display all kinds of different kinds of content on the same page - photos, links, and posts - grouped by tag.

Secondly, it's important to note that many people at Technorati worked on various tagging solutions at different points. So credit goes to the company as a whole. We're a small company now and were even smaller six months ago. Just about everyone had a hand in our tags implementation.

For me, it all started with New Year's resolutions. In Fray, we've always had a New Year's resolutions story, and it was always a big hit with posters. In December 2004, I was in my second month at Technorati, and I had an idea: Why not encourage people to post their resolutions to their own blogs, and then use the power of Technorati to gather them all together on one page?

Over Technorati's winter break, Tantek Çelik, Jason DeFillippo, Bradley Allen and I met at Crepes on Cole and banged out the Resolutions 2005 page with help from Kevin Marks and Aaron Bannert who were there via IM. The page was set up to show any post that contained a link to it - in other words, if you linked to that page, then your post appeared on that page.

The page went up on December 29 and we encouraged people to post their resolutions and include a link to that page. And they did! Hundreds of posts came in. It was great. But the system we'd devised had one critical flaw.

There were two kinds of posts that linked to our resolutions page. The first was what we'd wanted - people posting their resolutions and linking to our page for more. But the second was different - it was just people saying "look at all those resolutions over there." It was not a participation in the theme - it was just a pointer.

What we needed was a simple way to tell one kind of a link from the other. Tantek mentioned the "rel" standard for hrefs that he used in his XFN work. Basically, the rel attribute was a way to describe the relationship implied in a link. With XFN, I could say that Tantek is a friend of mine by putting "rel=friend" in a link to his site. I suggested we just do the same thing here, using "rel=tag" to allow a blogger to say "with this link, I intend to tag my post as being about the subject I'm linking to."

The best part about this technique was we could read the tag from the location in the href. So if someone wanted to tag their post "iPod" they could link to any URL that ended in that text, whether it was our tag page (technorati.com/tag/iPod) or the product page at Apple (apple.com/ipod) or the Wikipedia entry (wikipedia.org/wiki/Ipod). All would result in the post getting tagged as being about iPod.

We were making the taggers do a little bit of work to be included, but it made sense to ask the people who wanted to participate to do the work, instead of the people who just wanted to make a pointer.

In the first week of January 2005, Technorati founder David Sifry and coder Kevin Marks sat down and kicked out a beta version in a weekend. Dave wrote a service that grabbed the feeds from other tag providers, Kevin coded up a spider that would crawl blogs looking for those rel tags. Kevin also added an awareness of categories in RSS and Atom to the spider, so people could use those, too. I designed some templates to encourage fun browsing.

Tagging in Technorati was released on January 14, 2005. And we knew at the time that any search service could read the rel=tag standard. We wanted them to! The success of tags would be good for us, good for bloggers, and good for the web in general.

Since then it's been one of our most beloved features, and not just because it's a browsing experience as I wrote back in January. It's because tags are carefully created visible metadata that, for the most part, you can trust. When a blogger says their post, photo, or link is about iPod, you can generally believe it.

Together we're creating a web that's both more organized and more human. A web where the content creators are in control of how their words are categorized, not some academic in an ivory tower. A web where the difference between a reader and a writer gets blurrier every day.

And I'm so happy I could play some small part in helping it along.

My New Glasses
Just a thought from 23 July 2005 about , .

Uploaded by Heather on 22 July 2005, 8.30pm PDT.

Someday I'm gonna write a post called, "So I Married a Photoblogger."

Jon Stewart on The Couch
Just a thought from 20 July 2005 about , .

Jon Stewart mentioned the Bring Back The Couch Campaign on the Daily Show tonight. He said:

Apparently there is a campaign ... to bring back the couch to the program. I've got some bad news. The couch ... died. It was surrounded by family. Assorted recliners and such. It was a terrible whoopie cushion accident. But it is no more. All of us would like nothing more than to have the couch back. Just know that the couch right now is being sat on by someone else who's dead.

The couch may be lost, but then again, so are the annoying animations behind the speakers that rolled out with the new set. And tonight, the blurry background images went away, too! Was the teasing from Billy Bob Thorton last night the last straw? Whatever the reason, tonight saw the return of the humorous images in boxes that I lamented losing last week. Smells like progress.

Oh yeah, also, the show was a fantastically sharp and and hysterically funny look at the John Roberts nomination, and exactly the thing I turn to them for every night.

What? I'm a designer. First thing's first.

Jon Stewart fans prefer Minima
Just a thought from 14 July 2005 about , , .

Today I wondered what people were saying about Jon Stewart's new Daily Show set. So I did a Technorati search for "Daily Show" "Jon Stewart" "New Set" Desk Couch. The top three results were all within the last 24 hours:

  1. Jon Stewart II: What a Difference a Set Makes
  2. A couch, a couch, my kingdom for a couch
  3. But what a way to go

The funny part is, while all three present differing opinions on the new set, they all use the same Blogger template. Jon Stewart fans prefer Minima?

Personally, I love the show and trust them to evolve it according to their vision. But I agree that the new backgrounds are distracting and I kinda miss the boldness of the foreground graphic overlays. Stewart always seemed uneasy when they got the laughs, though. ("Oh you like that pun, huh? Hmph.") Backgrounding and softening them seems to detract from their humorous punch.

As for the couch, yeah, I miss it. But it always seemed like an uncomfortable layout, the way guests had to sit all scrunched up on one side, twisting their necks to face Stewart. Is say: bring back the stools from the old MTV show! (Yes, I'm a longtime fan.)

Just don't stop doing what you do, Daily Show peeps. You're the best thing on television.

UPDATE: Just saw tonight's show. Hooray for the non-moving orange background during the first half. But did you see the menacingly enlarging Newsweek cover during the interview with Michael Isikoff? I literally had to look away to avoid getting dizzy. Please, Daily Show, chill out on the motion for the sake of motion.

How to Make Coffee
Just a thought from 11 July 2005 about , , .

Some days I feel like I really know what I'm doing. Some days, not so much. But no matter how bad the lapse in self-confidence, there's one thing I always know: How to make coffee. And since this site has my name at the top of it, I'm here to tell you the Derek Powazek Preferred Method of Coffeemaking. Feel free to take notes.

Step 1: Gather Ingredients

  • blue bottle makes me crazy with joyBeans. Always buy whole beans, and buy organic Fair Trade beans when you can. And not because they're politically correct - it's because they taste better, period. People who care about coffee make better beans.

    Want the best beans ever? The Blue Bottle Coffee Company is seriously the best coffee I've ever had. And lucky for you, they sell online.

    Buy the roast that sounds best to you - there is no bad choice. The lighter the roast, the more caffeine. The darker, the more flavor. I tend to shoot for something in the middle.

    One last thing about beans: Never, ever put them in the freezer. Ever eaten an ice cube that's sat in a freezer for a while? You know that icky metallic taste? That's what freezers do to coffee. Store your beans someplace with consistent temperature and very little moisture. The fridge is fine. So is a nice dark cabinet. Just no freezing!
  • Grinder. If you get whole beans, you'll need a grinder at home. Get one. Doesn't really matter what kind.
  • Water. Use filtered water - Brita or the like. The better the water that goes in, the better the coffee that comes out.
  • French Press. Anything from Bodum is perfect. No offense to you electric coffee pot brewers - I did it for years. But once you go press, you never go back.

Step 2: Make Some Coffee

  1. Take the beans out of that cool, dark place that's not your freezer and put some in the grinder. How much? Experiment and figure out what tastes good to you. Don't be anal about measuring. Nobody likes a math geek, Scully.
  2. Grind 'em for about half as long as you think you should. Do not pulverize them into powder! I usually give it about five Mississippi's and then stop. The grind should be coarse, with some big bits left over. If you grind it too fine, little bits will slip into your coffee and make it too bitter.
  3. Put the grinds into the bottom of your clean French Press. Take a moment to smell the aroma of the ground beans. Personally, this is usually the first moment I realize I'm awake and standing in the kitchen with my nose in a Bodum.
  4. Put some of that lovely filtered water into whatever boiling conveyance you've got and heat it up. For the best coffee, the water should be just under boiling - right when the bubbles start going but before the whistle blows.
  5. Pour the just-shy-of-boiling water over the virginal ground beans. Make sure you get them all nice and swirling around in there. Put the top of the press in and slide it down to where it meets the top of the pre-coffee.
  6. Go check your email for 4-6 minutes. Don't forget! Leave 'em in too long and it'll be too strong.
  7. Plunge. Slowly push the top down, moving the grounds to the bottom of the press. Do it slowly and evenly. And try not to tip it over and shatter it on the stove. Trust me - it's impossible to get all the glass shards out of the coffee.
  8. Serve immediately. If you've made too much, pour it into an extra mug and cover. Do not leave it in the press - it just gets nasty.
  9. Flavor to taste - sugar, milk, whatever. Anyone who says coffee has to be black is a bigger coffee snob than me. Personally, I put a single scoop of Ben and Jerry's vanilla ice cream in there. It's a habit I picked up in college when my shitty fridge couldn't keep milk from going bad to save its life, but the freezer worked like a charm. The roastmaster at Blue Bottle Coffee said it was okay, so I'm sticking with it.

So that's what I know about coffee. It's not much, but it's gotten me this far.

UPDATE: How to Make Coffee 2: Revenge of the Nerds!

And only six months late!
Just a thought from 2 July 2005 about , , .

It's my little tradition to redesign the ol' dotcom around the new year, just to keep things interesting. And today, I finally got around to it. For those playing along, yes, that's only six months late. A new record!

Being a remedial CSS student, the grey boxy design this site was sporting until about five minutes ago was my first real all-CSS design (for powazek.com, anyway. My clients always got the good stuff - cobber's children and all that). So this time I decided to try redesigning by only modifying the stylesheet. And that's what I did. Mostly. I wound up having to do a little in-template tweaking to achieve my favorite feature: the header and footer images.

Ephemera Headers

I'm using the amazingly indispensable MTEmbedImage plugin for Movable Type to create a special background image for the headers and footers. It will update every time I update Ephemera. Neato!

In general I just wanted to bust out of the drab boxiness of the old design, and embrace the whitespace. The recent redesign of Plasticbag was an inspiration in this regard. White is the new orange.

There's more I want to do here, but I think I'll call it quits while I'm ahead. Hope you like it!

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 July 2005, including:

Justice, Cole Valley Style
31 July 2005

How to Make Coffee 2: Revenge of the Nerds
29 July 2005

How Tags Happened at Technorati
25 July 2005

My New Glasses
23 July 2005

Jon Stewart on The Couch
20 July 2005

Jon Stewart fans prefer Minima
14 July 2005

How to Make Coffee
11 July 2005

And only six months late!
2 July 2005

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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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