Remembering Molly

I’m saddened to hear of Molly Holzschlag’s passing yesterday. Molly’s contributions to the web are innumerable. She more than earned her Fairy Godmother of the Web moniker.

But my memories of Molly are more personal. I didn’t get to spend much time with Molly, but the moments I did spend with her changed my life.

The first time I met Molly was at a WebVisions after party. I was an attendee. Molly was a rockstar.

Despite the difference, Molly treated me as a peer. She showed interest in and riffed on an idea I had. It was the first time I felt like I might have something interesting to contribute to the greater web. That conversation energized me.

The second time I met Molly was at Web 2.0 in San Francisco. I was still early in my speaking career. Molly remained a rockstar. She was the only other speaker I knew so I sought her out. I doubt she remembered me, but she welcomed me into her circle.

And her circle included several people who worked on browsers including on Internet Explorer during the tumultuous web standards period. For the first time, I heard insider accounts of the politics that defined web standards and whether or not a given company would adhere to those standards. This experience made me realize it was possible for individuals like me to contribute to web standards.

One story in particular stood out, but I fear I may get some of the details wrong. Much of the resistance from Microsoft when it came to web standards we due to one individual. That individual challenged Molly during one of the meetings that the Web Standards Project (WaSP) had with Microsoft. So Molly reached out to Bill Gates who had previously promised Molly and the rest of WaSP that Microsoft would cooperate.

The group laughed as they recalled this individual—the one who had blocked so much progress—had to step out to take a call from Bill Gates himself. They said they could hear Bill Gates yelling on the phone. Things changed after that day.

Think of all the time and effort lost dealing with Internet Explorer incompatibility mostly because of this one individual. One person can change the world, but not always for the better.

Molly is the counterpoint of course. She was one individual who made the world a significantly better place. Molly was a whirlwind that couldn’t be stopped and swept up all of those around her in it. We went along willingly.

My best memory of Molly is my most treasured. We skipped an afternoon of sessions at Web 2.0 and visited an art exhibit at the The Contemporary Jewish Museum. We talked about the web, her career, our shared love of challah, her family, and her extended web family. That afternoon remains one of my fondest memories from all of my conference experiences.

To this day, I can’t remember how or why we ended up at the museum. Why was I the lucky one who got to spend an unforgettable afternoon with the the Molly Holzschlag? I was no one significant. I barely knew her.

But that’s what made Molly amazing. She made everyone feel like they were someone. She touched my life and so many others.

Thank you Molly. You will be missed.

I’m leaving Facebook and you should too

I can no longer support Facebook. Until Facebook undergoes a wholesale leadership change, or better yet, has been regulated, I need to minimize or eliminate my Facebook account.

What pushed me to take action? Let’s look at some recent news:

And there are many more examples. Since Facebook’s earliest days, Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly broke the trust of his users. Each time Facebook is caught, they apologize and promise it won’t happen again. But it does repeatedly. After 14 years of this cycle, we should know better.

So I’m leaving Facebook and all of the properties that Facebook owns. I’m not sure what form that will take yet—whether I will delete my accounts or just leave them unattended.

I do know that I’m going to resurrect my personal website and go back to owning my content and platform. I’m finally going to upgrade my site to participate on the modern IndieWeb. I’m also excited by what my friends Nishant and Pita are building at Digest—a social network built with privacy and user control built into it from the beginning.

I’ve given myself until the end of January to figure out the details. I’ll share what I learn in hopes it helps others leave Facebook as well.

Going exclusively digital comics

Today was a sad day. I told my good friends at the comic book shop that I was closing my box.

Long before the iPad existed, I wanted a device like it simply to consume comic books. Shortly after I got back into comics, I realized the collectors market had collapsed and comics had no resell value to speak off. So why keep paper copies around?

I’ve been increasing my consumption of digital comics over the last year, but until February, I didn’t think I was ready to go all digital. The experience was still too clunky.

But in February, everything changed. Our second child was born.

Suddenly, I looked around our house and thought we had too much stuff for three people. How would we be able to handle a fourth person’s stuff? I wanted to purge everything.

I looked at the multiple bookshelves we have and the comic longboxes and realized that with few exceptions, I wanted everything digital. Novels, non-fiction, comics. It didn’t matter.

So my primary motivation comes from space considerations, but there are also convenience factors. I don’t have to pre-order comics three months in advance to make sure I get them. If I hear something is good, I can buy it at that moment because my iPad is almost always with me. And I can carry hundreds of comics with me in an extremely light device.

I do have concerns. It troubles me that the comics have DRM on them. Instead of owning them, I have a license to them. The Comics+ app makes me particularly nervous because it doesn’t appear to have a central database that keeps track of what I’ve bought. It seems to be relying on Apple to let it know what I’ve bought. I fear if I move to another platform down the road, I will lose those comics.

On the other hand, Comixology does it right. I can access their website and read anything I’ve bought. I can sync things bought online or via the app to any device I own that has their app. And they recently rebuilt the app and made it much better.

All of this said, I probably would have happily continued to visit Excalibur Comics on a weekly basis. I love the people who work there. Debbie (the owner) and I share the same birthday. I’ve taken to bringing her chocolates to celebrate. I’ve helped them with web site issues and they’ve rewarded me with discounts and free books. I couldn’t be happier with them.

But we’re moving to the west side of Portland which means the store is no longer on my way home. That and the fact DC Comics is now publishing every book digital at the same time as print has made it possible to take the leap. I’m curious to see if I can do it or if I find myself back at the comic store on a regular basis.

I worry about local comic book shops. I read a lot of online forums where people say they can’t see themselves ever giving up the print comics. Perhaps I’m an edge case. But I think comics is an industry that survived disruption by the web and mobile phones, but where the tablet form factor will shake up the industry tremendously.

Mobilewood and

Last March, Luke sent an email:

We should have a mobile web/responsive design/multiple devices + web retreat sometime soon. Small intimate group of folks meet-up at a conference center in the woods for a long weekend and discuss/collaborate/etc.

Josh replied:

LOVE it. Color me deliriously enthusiastic (a rather bright orange) about this idea.

Since then I’ve been anxiously awaiting this event. Last week, ten of us gathered for two intense days in a beautiful location outside Nashville. Our shorthand for the event was Mobilewood.

Working session

We set out with a few goals in mind:

  • Was there some common ground between all of the different ways that each of us is trying to address device proliferation?
  • Can we find ways to help web developers and designers start to plan for this changing landscape?
  • How can we encourage browser makers to support device APIs and other tools needed to take full advantage of new capabilities in a more timely fashion?
  • How do we break out of the browser ghetto?

The first output of our collaboration launched today. It is a concept we’re calling Future Friendly.

We realized that none of us felt like our approach was necessarily the right approach for the future. The landscape is shifting too quickly to be confident. There is no such thing as future proof.

We have principles, tools, techniques, and some gut instincts on what will work in the future, but we don’t have solutions. And that is to be expected based on this stage of mobile’s ascendence. We have a long way to go before we have push-button deployment of web technology for multiple devices in the same way we do other web services.

Thus focuses on the things that we think can help prepare people for the chaos that is sure to come. Our thinking doesn’t offer proclamations. Instead, these are the areas that we find ourselves thinking a lot about and see as keys for the future. They are the starting point for conversation, not the ending.

There’s more to come from last weekend. I can’t wait to explore some of the concepts in more detail. But for now, I simply want to say thank you to a fabulous group of people:

I’m honored to have been included.

Devices and mobinauts

Seeking Balance

A couple of years ago, my co-founders asked me to write more frequently on the Cloud Four blog. It was flattering to know that they trusted me to speak my mind on our collective blog and let me voice help shape our company.

Since then Cloud Four’s blog has taken off and my personal blog has languished. The last post was two years ago and it was simply a dump of bookmarks from delicious.

Several events have caused me to restart this blog:

  • IndieWebCamp reshaped the way I think about content on the web and the importance of owning my own space. In many ways, I feel I own as well—not the least of which is the fact that I own part of the company—but it is still a shared space. No matter how freely I can speak there, it isn’t my blog. Nor my site.
  • Anil Dash recently wrote if you didn’t blog it, it didn’t happen and the follow up if you did blog it, it did happened. Similar to IndieWebCamp, it highlighted the importance of blogging versus the more transient nature of Twitter.
  • I’ve had an opportunity to watch first hand as Luke Wroblewski and Jeremy Keith turn out numerous informative blog posts in short order. This is a muscle that needs to be exercised.
  • I want to write about things that don’t make sense on the Cloud Four blog. Talking about comic books or politics or just random ideas that aren’t fully baked. There has to be a place for that too

The final impetus came from the launch of When signing the document, we had to have somewhere to point the signatures. What made the most sense was a link to this dormant blog.

Embarrassing. It’s time to rectify that situation.

links for 2009-09-10