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Jan 3, 2008 9:02pm

happy 2008

Well, a Happy New Year to you!

I'm sitting here looking back on a full year of blog posts (warning, big) trying to make sense of 2007. Here's what I've been up to, in chronological order and ultracondensed form:

Oakland Crime

I hurt my back at the end of 2006, and by winter I found myself in full-on convalescent mode. It was bad: I slept on the hard floor for almost two months, could barely walk, etc. etc. To take my mind off the pain and give myself something to do, I started poking at the City of Oakland's CrimeWatch website, a classically-user-hostile government "service" displaying up-to-date, mapped crime reports. I found I was able to dissect the site, extracting details of individual crime reports for use in an improved map services. In August, we took the initial collecting and organizing work I had done in my spare time, and turned it into an actual Stamen research project called Oakland Crimespotting. Our site had a number of interface improvements to the original, and I think we raised some eyebrows in City Hall, because it took barely a week or two for them to start blocking our data collection. We got a lot of mumbly excuses about imposing too much of a load on their server (despite having just spent 8+ months happily collecting away, unnoticed), and after a month or two of wildgoosechasen, we were forced to shutter the site.

More on this below.


My one prediction for the year was that "design" and "math" were going to move a lot closer this year, and I feel confident saying that it's been borne out. We hosted a weekly Math Club at Stamen with friends from O'Reilly in the winter and spring, I threw myself on the rocky shores of recommendation engineering for a few weeks, and we've started to see a lot of algorithmic, procedural branding and design work from folks like Moving Brands.


In February and again in March, I posted twice about OpenID and why I'm not a fan. It's been a year, there's been a bunch of noise, and I'm still not seeing this silly standard get any traction beyond its inner geek circles. I have, however, been a close observer of the OAuth standard development process, and I think this second thing stands a much better chance of seeing some real-world adoption due to its inherent nerd-focus.

Standing Up

My good friend Bryan made me a beautiful desk, at which I work standing up 100% of the time. At first, this was a back-pain thing, but has since become a habit at home and at the office. It just feels better, and I have no intention of retiring it.


My other good friend Boris invited me to visit Tokyo for a week, which I did with great pleasure. We ate well, touristed around a lot, and ultimately made good on the excuse for my trip, new sidebar maps for Global Voices Online. These were produced with an early draft of...

Modest Maps

So much of Stamen's work focuses on geographical maps, and the only official Flash-based component out there is Yahoo's miserable Flash API. As part of the Oakland Crime effort, I started the Modest Maps project with my good friend Darren. Since March, we've used Modest Maps in a number of projects such as Trulia Hindsight, and we're on our way to a final 1.0 release of the mapping library Real Soon Now.


Digg is one of Stamen's banner clients, and as part of our Labs work in 2006, we designed a RESTful web API with them. This chugged along in an unofficial form for a while, then finally saw a public, official release in April. I'm still proud of the result and I'm happy to have worked on it.

I was also part of the process that resulted in Digg Arc, and posted a collection of in-progress screenshots here and more on Stamen's blog.

Blog All Dog-Eared Pages

Also in April, I posted a few excerpts from Marc Levinson's The Box, which transmogrified over time into a longer series of posts featuring my non-fiction reading. The format has been lightly picked up by Chris, Ryan, and adapted by Adam for what I hope represents a new twist on public reading.


In June, our rabbit, Bean, died due to something called "bloat".


I wrote a fan letter to the London 2012 logo, the controversial branding of the forthcoming Olympic games. I continue to stand by my opinion, and I was especially happy to re-find the brand video after it was pulled from YouTube. Sadly, the Saved By The Rave Olympic Remix is gone for good. If YouTube is going to operate anything like a repository of cultural, moving-image memory, Google is going to need to step up a little and show some testicular fortitude when dealing with copyright takedowns. I'm interested in building an automagic YouTube backup system that mirrors videos to a service like Amazon's S3 and packages a simple Flash player, but where will I find the time?

API Authentication

I took a load of notes on authentication for web APIs that got OAuth on my radar.

Design Camp and Ffffound!

I also posted a bunch of notes on the idea of "design camps", in the mold of unconferences like BarCamp. A bunch of interesting commentary and answers there for sure. Oddly, this was followed the next month by my discovery (thanks Lydia) of Ffffound!, an image bookmarking service for designers. Almost wordless, almost community-free, in some ways this was the proper response to the design camp question. I still use Ffffound! constantly, but they've not responded to my e-mails.


"Beauty vs. Utility" was definitely a theme that I expect will be explored in greater depth by Tom at E-Tech.


In mid-2006, Adam put the fixed-gear bug in my ear, and I bought a new bike. This past summer, I found a crusty old Univega road bike in the trash across the street, and used it to build a second bike that I very much enjoy riding.


My brother and I both hit milestones this year: I'm 30, he's 18. Holy hell.

Crime Again

Now, it's Christmas break, my back doesn't hurt, I'm back from spending a lovely few days up in Sonoma County with friends both good and new for New Years Eve, and I'm hacking on the Oakland CrimeWatch website again seeing if I can't get this guy re-launched in the new year. Stay tuned!


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