What has Ben been up to?

Not that anyone was really asking, but I want to tell the few of you who aren’t search engines and spiders, what I have been up to recently (and hey if the spiders are amused, all the better). It has been a very busy year so far for me and I have realized that too many of the posts on Alt Text recently, have been links to other sites, posts, and videos and a lot less of me. I’m not contending that people think I am all that interesting, but a side-effect of not talking about myself is that I have not been talking about things I am doing and things I care about, and this is perhaps effecting how much passion I have had for blogging. How can I ask you, the reader, to care about what I am writing here, if I have been less than passionate? The answer is, I can’t. So I am hoping to start some more off-the-cuff style posts – perhaps putting less research into some topics, but also adding more of my own personality.

So what have I been up to? As I was saying it has been a very busy, but also a very fulfilling and, in many ways, extraordinary year so far. The first thing to note is that I co-founded a company with my friends, Scott and Jesse. My work as part of Refactr has been rewarding and fun. We have developed a product that we plan on releasing soon and we are working with a medical startup company to help them develop their flagship product. In addition to working in a very agile way we are leading the way in the Groovy/Grails development community by building a large application using this new language/framework.

To help foster community here at home in Minnesota, we have started the Groovy(and Grails) Users of Minnesota. Meetings are the 2nd Tuesday of each month. In late April, minnebar, the (un)conference I help to put on was a huge success with over 330 people spending a Saturday indoors geeking out. By all accounts, it was the second largest barcamp event in the world and the largest outside of India.

In addition to work and community related stuff, I have been playing volleyball and kickball this winter and spring. Jena and I threw a Cinco de Mayo party with her sister and husband that was quite fun and then my loving wife gt me a Wii for my birthday so I have been busy playing Wii sports like golf, tennis and bowling, as well as trying my luck with Super Paper Mario, Zelda, and Call of Duty 3.

SXSW in review

It’s quarter to 3 in the morning and I have just returned from “breakfast” with some very interesting people. Prior to breakfast, I was able to attend a party with some more interesting people at a very nice house and as a result, I am pretty “happy”*.

Up until today (wait…yesterday) I hadn’t been feeling too good about the conference, but today – hearing Josh Davis and talking with many good people, I was really energized and feel I am ready to return to Minneapolis with a new sense of purpose. I plan on really throwing myself into my job and giving myself to the tasks at hand. In addition, I hope to work harder on personal projects and get some things I have been planning for months, out the door. But my enthusiasm isn’t confined to the web.

In a post a couple days ago, I was lamenting the problems I have been having in maintaining and starting friendships. Then I get an email from Brent reminding me of this post at kottke.org (your site for inspiration) stating: “The only way to make a good friend is to be a good friend.”

This is really true and I realized that I need to be a better friend to people. So don’t act weird if I call you up out of the blue, or invite you out.

* Happy in the traditional sense yes, but also in the sense that I have imbibed 7 beers/wine/drinks and also a capful or two of Vicks NyQuill – oh yeah.

Austin stories

Do you think there sometimes are events that happen that are meant to help us? I am not sure from where this help is issued, but it certainly seems unlikely that coincidences are simply that. Case in point. After returning home from Fray Cafe (photos), I was sitting at my computer attempting to add captions to some of the photos I had taken. In particular I was trying to remember the name of the guy who runs praystation.com. Now of course I knew his name, but it was just slipping my mind. I had just heard him and dozens of others tell stories from their past, it was 2am and I may not have been altogether “with it”. I was just sitting there in my underwear, in front of the computer, ESPN on in the background, trying to focus and remember the name on the tip of my tongue, when the sportscaster on ESPN tells me, Josh Davis. Of course he was speaking about a collegiate basketball player from Wyoming, Josh Davis, or was he? Maybe he was speaking directly to me in that moment of consternation I was feeling – not remembering a name I knew I knew. The world may never know.

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Up until this week I had visited praystation.com and enjoyed the content with a but. It is is pretty, but, it’s not functional. This is cool, but, not very usable. Wow that is remarkable, but, not very practical. I had heard of Joshua Davis but knew little of him. I created a picture of him that was similar to that I have of the various skate/snow boarding, young web designers I have met in my day, but I wasn’t prepared for what Josh actually was like and the life he has and is living. I wasn’t prepared for him to be my new *hero*.

In his 31 years (much older than I thought he would be) Joshua has done many things and had many experiences. He has been addicted to heroin, been a sponsored skateboarder, had conversations with Buddhist monks, traveled all over the world speaking about the web and design, is an exhibited artist, and on occasion has been a professional cross dresser. All of these things have coalesced to make Joshua Davis a unique and interesting individual, but these things are not why he is my hero. No, it is his attitude, sense of humor, and my new-found understanding of what he is going for when he makes his art, his sites. I may go into this more in future posts or may not. You could ask me more and I will expound or you could go to praystation.com and find out more.

Austin stories

I like Austin – it has some dirt under its nails. It isn’t uptight about how it is perceived, it just is. Its people maybe aren’t as nice as in Minneapolis but they aren’t mean either.

Having just returned from Fray Cafe 2 (photos coming tomorrow) I am pretty tired (it’s 2 am) and so will not write long here. I will say that if I ever go to Fray Cafe again (like for next year’s SXSW) I have promised myself I will share a story.

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Some random observations, comments, absurdities:

What would be the reaction one would have to overdosing on children’s chewable vitamins? I ask this for no reason – there is no proof of a problem lest you count the half empty bottle of Flintstones vitamins here in my hotel.

Do you think people – once they leave college and maybe work in their first job – do you suppose that they determine that they have made all the friends they are going to make and sort of put a cap at that number? Maybe the reasoning being that additional friendships will be more work then they are good and it would then be too hard to maintain all of those friendships? I guess I always felt that I would continue to make friends throughout my life but somehow it seems much harder than it used to be to start friendships. Damn its even hard for me to hold conversations it seems. It wasn’t always this way. At least I am pretty sure it wasn’t.

Off to SXSW

I don’t really know what to expect of SXSW. I have gone to other web conferences before but they were huge and the focus was much more on design principles and specific technologies. They were faceless, monolithic productions. I get the sense that SXSW is much more focused on the web design and development communities. I am excited, but also fearful of this idea. I am really looking forward to meeting many of the people whose site’s I have been reading, enjoying, learning from, and copying for, in some cases, years. I am talking about sites like: whole lotta nothing, bluishorange, jish, cam world, praystation, zeldman, 37signals, anil dash, little yellow different, bradlands, harrumph, dollar short, six different ways, movable type, ben brown, cockybastard.com, jjg, and so many more

There will be some folks there whom I know including: Jason who I consider a friend as well as ex-coworker and I have at least met Meg, Derek (at Web 2000 or was it Builder?), Peter (Web 2000 also), and Jeff (Web 2000).

Then I get to wondering how many of these people have been to my site? How many of them have never heard of it? Worse, how many have come and clicked away out of boredom. These feelings of “fitting in” bring me back to my junior high days. Those were not good. Were they for anybody? The awkwardness associated with those days was overwhelming at times. These anxieties aren’t enough to dull my excitement however. Not even the fact that I may not be able to speak (as I have by this time nearly lost all ability to speak due to some mysterious throat issues) and thus miss out on a bunch of great opportunities for interesting conversation, has me down.

So if you are reading this and you happen to be attending SXSW and a person comes up to you, tries to audiblize a greeting but only a few hoarse croaks come out, rest assured that it is just me expressing my compliments on you and your beautiful site.