Ten Years Ago on the Web

2006 DOESN’T seem forever ago until I remember that we were tracking IE7 bugsworrying about the RSS feed validator, and viewing Drupal as an accessibility-and-web-standards-positive platform, at the time. Pundits were claiming bad design was good for the web (just as some still do). Joe Clark was critiquing WCAG 2. “An Inconvenient Truth” was playing in theaters, and many folks were surprised to learn that climate change was a thing.

I was writing the second edition of Designing With Web Standards. My daughter, who is about to turn twelve, was about to turn two. My dad suffered a heart attack. (Relax! Ten years later, he is still around and healthy.) A List Apart had just added a job board. “The revolution will be salaried,” we trumpeted.

Preparing for An Event Apart Atlanta, An Event Apart NYC, and An Event Apart Chicago (sponsored by Jewelboxing! RIP) consumed much of my time and energy. Attendees told us these were good shows, and they were, but you would not recognize them as AEA events today—they were much more homespun. “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” we used to joke. “My mom will sew the costumes and my dad will build the sets.” (It’s a quotation from a 1940s Andy Hardy movie, not a reflection of our personal views about gender roles.)

Jim Coudal, Jason Fried and I had just launched The Deck, an experiment in unobtrusive, discreet web advertising. Over the next ten years, the ad industry pointedly ignored our experiment, in favor of user tracking, popups, and other anti-patterns. Not entirely coincidentally, my studio had just redesigned the website of Advertising Age, the leading journal of the advertising profession.

Other sites we designed that year included Dictionary.com and Gnu Foods. We also worked on Ma.gnolia, a social bookmarking tool with well-thought-out features like Saved Copies (so you never lost a web page, even if it moved or went offline), Bookmark Ratings, Bookmark Privacy, and Groups. We designed the product for our client and developed many of its features. Rest in peace.

I was reading Adam Greenfield’s Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing, a delightfully written text that anticipated and suggested design rules and thinking for our present Internet of Things. It’s a fine book, and one I helped Adam bring to a good publisher. (Clearly, I was itching to break into publishing myself, which I would do with two partners a year or two afterwards.)

In short, it was a year like any other on this wonderful web of ours—full of sound and fury, true, but also rife with innovation and delight.

As part of An Event Apart’s A Decade Apart celebration—commemorating our first ten years as a design and development conference—we asked people we know and love what they were doing professionally ten years ago, in 2006. If you missed parts onetwothree, or four, have a look back.



Poverty is a System Design Failure

Platts Global Energy Awards. My friend Peyo at right.

“POVERTY is a system-design failure.” So says my friend Pär (“Peyo”) Almqvist in a World Economic Forum article he wrote last year when his company, OMC Power—which brings sustainable, renewable, off-the-grid energy to the poorest people in rural India—was selected as a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer.

Peyo’s article explains better than I could how renewable-energy companies, locked out of first-world competition by entrenched fossil fuel interests, are bringing the future to poor rural and urban areas—and ushering in a new era of decentralized power. (Much like the web is doing for content, commerce, and applications.)

The Economist has also covered OMC’s work.

Last night in New York, OMC Power won a fresh honor when they were named a rising star at the 2014 Platts Global Energy Awards (“the Academy Awards of the energy industry”).

I first met Peyo in 1999 in Stockholm, when we both spoke at a design conference organized by the K10k guys, Toke and Mike. Peyo was just 19 at the time. By age 25, he had become a digital media director and music producer (his music is still popular in the Swedish iTunes EDM and hip hop charts), not to mention a contributing author to A List Apart.

I am so happy for my friend, and even happier to see him putting his brilliance to use addressing one of the greatest economic, ecological, and social challenges of our time. Not everyone who is smart and talented is making smartphone camera apps (not that there’s anything wrong with it).

Congratulations, Peyo!

Brighter Planet beta

The Happy Cog-designed social network for Brighter Planet is now in public beta. Come on down and kick the tires. Brighter Planet helps you take control of your environmental footprint: measure your climate impact, discover simple ways to reduce it, track your progress, and share your experiences with other people who who want to make a difference.

Happy Cog‘s New York office developed this project. The team:

This truly collaborative project could not have been conceived or completed without the brilliant and generous work of Brighter Planet team members including:

  • CTO Adam Rubin (bio, blog, Twitter)
  • Co-founder and Product Design Director Andy Rossmeissl (Twitter, bio)
  • Senior Systems Engineer Seamus Abshere (bio)
  • Rails developer Rich Sturim (Twitter, bio)

Not only is this young, passionate team dedicated to reducing climate change and all things green, they are also marketing kingpins, shrewd user experience designers, and badass developers.

We love our clients. These folks and this project are dear to us. And it’s a fun way to make a difference. I hope you’ll check out Brighter Planet’s new beta social network.

[tags]brighterplanet, climatechange, beta, site, launch, launches, webdesign, projects, work, happycog[/tags]

The gift of carbon neutrality

I’d like to give everyone reading this page a special holiday gift this year: free carbon neutrality for a day. As a bonus, after claiming your One Day gift, you can pass it on to your friends, family, and colleagues.

To claim the gift, visit my One Day Carbon Neutral page, created by Brighter Planet.

So far, Brighter Planet has given away over 3,300 gifts and offset more than 440,000 pounds of CO2. That’s like everyone in America turning off their lights for a minute. The goal is to give away 5,000 One Day gifts and offset 680,000 pounds of CO2.

The average American emits 136 pounds of carbon dioxide each day. About 36 pounds come from driving, flying, and other travel. Another 22 pounds come from heating, cooling, and powering our homes. The final 78 pounds come from producing, transporting, and disposing of all the stuff we buy, and from shared services like schools and street lights. 136 pounds would fill 5,000 balloons—imagine releasing that every day.

Brighter Planet supports renewable energy projects in communities across the U.S.

[tags]climate change, offsets, gift, holiday[/tags]

Climate Matters

During the last couple of months, dozens of Vimeo members created videos to inspire the next American president to take action on climate change. Here are the 16 finalists; winners will be announced Tuesday.

[tags]climate change, environment, global warming, carbon footprint, brighter planet, video, competition, contest[/tags]