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Interview: Corey Vilhauer

Corey Vilhauer

Photo © HenkinSchultz 2006. Used with permission.

At the end of last year, I put out a call to my fellow 9rulers, asking for anyone and everyone to step forward and be interviewed. Corey Vilhauer, author of Black Marks on Wood Pulp, answered that call. And answered it with vigour. Vilhauer took some time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk about his blog, his favourite sports team, the future of blogging, and much more.

BG: Your blog is a self-proclaimed place “for people who like to peer inside a stranger’s head.” Is your writing a purely personal venture? What fuels your blogging?

CV: For me, Black Marks on Wood Pulp is a personal journal. I believe that everyone should have a place to spill out their randomness - to really be able to formulate their thoughts, whether it be in a notebook or by using a tape recorder or online. It just so happens that my journal is available to everyone, with limits.

I’ve tried to steer away from mundane “here’s what I did today” posts. I try to at least have some specific subjects – some themes, I guess. But my blogging is really just fueled by my desire to write.

BG: You tend to cover a lot of ground in your posts, discussing a Modest Mouse concert one moment and writing a book review the next. With so many blogs focusing on one or two core topics, it can be refreshing to read an author who isn’t afraid to jump around a little bit. How do you decide what to write about? Is it a natural process or something much more thought-out?

CV: It’s really as random as it seems. As I mentioned, I write this for myself - if other people like it, then all the better. So, for the most part, I write about what’s on my mind. During basketball season, I’ll throw out some thoughts on the Indiana Pacers or our local NBA D-League Sioux Falls Skyforce. If I find something interesting on the Internet, I’ll write about it. If something personal is going on that I have some deeper, more constructed thoughts about, I’ll write about that.

It’s actually quite liberating. I can go off on a weird tangent, or create personal top-100 lists that have nothing to do with books or basketball, and I can get away from it. Someone who writes solely about one subject might not be able to justify going off base.

BG: Do you feel writing about a variety of topics has helped your readership grow, or hindered it? Do stats and readership levels matter at all?

CV: It has definitely hurt, without a doubt. I find myself being, to use an old cliché, a “Jack of All Trades, Master of None.” I’ve been categorized primarily as a book blog - but only about 25% of my posts focus on reading or books.

In order to build readership, bloggers need to really hone in on one subject. But because readership is secondary to BMOWP being my own personal sandbox, I’m able to be free. Not that I wouldn’t love to have millions of hits per day and a dedicated fan base - it’s just not how the site was designed. And it doesn’t bother me, really.

Though sometimes I still find myself screaming out into the blogosphere, seeing if anyone’s actually reading.

BG: You own season-tickets for the Sioux Falls Skyforce and write about the team regularly. What inspired you to cover them, particularly in such detail? You’ve stated your goal of covering every Skyforce home game. What sort of challenges has that goal presented?

CV: Well, this is the first year that the Skyforce has been an NBA D-League team - a minor league outpost for the Pistons and Timberwolves. And this is also the first time that my wife and I have had season tickets (at the bargain basement price of $64 for 25 games - the D-League is cheap, by the way). So I thought it would be fun to chronicle the season as a way to really focus on the team.

No one else in town is even touching the idea of blogging about the Skyforce, aside from our local paper - The Argus Leader - and even they don’t do a very good job covering the team. So there was a niche to fill.

Of course, I’m not sure how relevant it ended up being. I did get one comment form someone that went by the name of simply “Skyforce.” They told me to get a life - that I was writing a blog about a D-League franchise. I thought that was hilarious. First of all, my blog’s about more than just the team – it’s not a Sioux Falls Skyforce Blog. It’s not Black Marks on Skyforce. And secondly, how did that reflect on the commenter? I mean, they were READING a blog about a D-League franchise! They must have even less of a life than I do!

BG: Your sidebar contains a list of “Authors/Books I Need To Read”. What motivated you to keep such a list online? How long do you think it will be before you conquer the entire list?

CV: My goal is three years. I found from reading other book blogs that there were so many authors I had heard of but hadn’t read. I went to school to be a teacher before finally settling in the writing field, and so I missed out on a lot of college level literature - the time when they teach you about Steinbeck’s themes and the importance of John Updike and on and on. So I figured I’d better catch up.

I have the type of personality that always wants to have complete knowledge on a subject. I was the type of kid that wanted every single baseball card from a specific year, or every single release from my favorite musicians. And this is just an extension of that - I can’t see myself convincingly writing about and discussing books if I’ve never even read some of the most influential authors - as if having no knowledge of Kafka or Dostoyevsky or Updike makes me ill equipped to pass judgment or have strong opinions.

So one day I just sat down with a list of suggestions and a book of modern authors and put together an “Essentials” list. And I sprinkle them into my regular reading. It’s kind of silly – of course I can write and read and understand literature without being familiar with certain authors – but it’s just how I do things. And I figure if I can read one a month, I’ll have it done in roughly three years.

BG: You have been writing at Black Marks on Wood Pulp since February 20, 2005. Two years later, what have you learned from blogging? Where do you see the medium headed?

CV: Like many, I see a great future in the field. There’s something very exciting about seeing thousands of people writing what they want and getting it out into the open. I don’t quite see it as a viable news source, simply because people don’t trust blogs like they trust the major news sites.

Instead, I see blogging more like a proliferation of online magazines. There are hundreds of blogs dedicated to hundreds of individual subjects, and those people are the experts at what they do. You’ve got technology blogs and political blogs and blogs about cats and blogs about television shows. If there’s a subject, there’s a blog about it.

The scary thing about this is that I don’t want to see blogs become so overbearing and integrated that true paper-bound writing is left by the wayside. One thing I’m frightened about is how fewer and fewer people read the newspaper, or buy books, or read magazines – it’s all online now. I’d hate for it to all go away.

As far as what I’ve learned, I’ve picked up an ability to see everything as thought worthy. I’ve gained a lot of confidence in my writing abilities. And I’ve learned that anything you write can touch someone, somewhere.

BG: What inspired you to call your blog Black Marks on Wood Pulp? I took it as an obvious book reference, but I’m intrigued about its origins.

CV: I’ll answer that in a roundabout way.

Black Marks on Wood Pulp started for two reasons.

One, I’ve always been an exhibitionist when it comes to my life. I have no problems posting my personal thoughts in the open. I’m not much of a conversationalist, but I can get my thoughts across pretty well by writing. So that’s how I do it.

With that thought, I figured blogging would be a fun adventure - a new, cool thing to do, an easy way to journal and get my name known in whatever circles it could be known in.

Two, I did it to hone my writing skills. I chanced that if I wrote every day, even a little, I’d learn more than by not doing anything at all. As I said - I went to school to be a teacher, and at the time I was a call center manager. I used the blog to self-publish my own thoughts. I started my “What I’ve Been Reading” column and it was picked up by a local magazine. I used my blog to get my current job as an advertising copywriter. I proved to the company that I could write and that I could do it constantly, and I was hired with absolutely no professional experience.

The name of the blog comes from that idea. I was searching around for a name and I came across a quote from Ursula K. Le Guin: “The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.”

In other words, unless your words are published - unless someone sees them and reads them and experiences your thoughts - those words are nothing but marks on a page.

Thanks Corey!

Happy Birthday, Bryan!

Avalonstar Logo

NOTE: Bryan has posted a letter of his own on the site. He’s okay and working to bring Avalonstar back.

Just a quick note to wish Bryan Veloso, of Avalonstar, Nyxsis, and Revyver fame, a very happy 24th birthday — from myself, and all of his friends in 9rules. For those who don’t know, Bryan was recently forced to take Avalonstar down for reasons he’s been unable to disclose publicly. It’s a turn of events that has, understandably, caused him some stress and anxiety. His fiance, Jen, posted the following message:

Dear Avalonstar Readers,

Many of you may know my name from the times Bryan has mentioned me in his entries, podcasts, etc. I am Jen, Bryan’s fiancé. I know how important this site is to Bryan and all the people who have supported him over the years, so I wanted to make sure that you guys are not entirely in the dark even though I am limited in what I’m allowed to say.

Due to circumstances beyond his control, Bryan has been forced to take Avalonstar down indefinitely. He is needless to say a bit restless and emotional and he doesn’t seem to want to talk about it too much. He has, however, allowed me to write this message. We are trying to make any arrangements that are possible, but it’s proving… complicated. As of right now we are uncertain of what is going to happen and even the feasibility of bringing Avalonstar back. In the meantime, I ask that you all continue to support Bryan and Avalonstar as usual, and please wish for the best.

Like I said, nothing is certain at the moment but I will say one thing… this could change everything.

Sincerely,
Jen V.

In light of that, a bunch of us got together and, with a little magic from Kyle Neath, put together a small birthday card for Bryan. Check it out at Avalonstar Love. Happy birthday, Bryan, hope to see you back in full form soon.

The Twitter Movement

Twitter

Twitter, the brainchild of Obvious, has been hailed as everything from “trivial and useless” to a “fun little tool,” and it has been making massive gains in popularity as of late. The site allows users to quickly and easily update their friends, and any other random contacts who may wish to follow them, on their activities using a web browser, IM, or text message.

Some people, however, have been scratching their heads, asking the question, “What is Twitter good for, anyway?” With the glut of IM programs, RSS feeds, blogs, chat clients, and e-mail, what place does Twitter have in the online world? Tyme White, ever ready to comment on the web’s changing landscape, has posed that very question over at 9rules and is gathering a steady stream of answers.

When I first heard about Twitter in 2006, the idea seemed fairly trivial to me. Like many people, I was having a hard time understanding why someone like Evan Williams would sink his time and money into something that seemed so, well, useless. But, with the recent surge in interest (thanks, largely, to SXSW), I decided to log into my old account and see what Twitter is all about.

Now, after four straight days of using the service, I’m hooked and I’m not quite sure why. For all intents and purposes, I have no practical use for Twitter. Few of my local friends use the service and I haven’t enabled any of the cellphone-specific features. No, my experience is much more internal. David Seah, a fellow newcomer to the service, explained it pretty well:

[..] it does do one thing very well: closeness through shared environmental context. A big part of friendship is just hanging out and doing things together without direct communication. You can learn a lot about someone by just watching what they’re doing; Twitter is a kind of virtual version of that.

By “Twittering” with your online contacts — fellow bloggers, friends, family, readers, etc. — you become part of a stream of consciousness, a global passing of notes. It may seem silly, but you really begin to feel a sense of community, as disconnected as the medium may seem.

A number of other bloggers are exploring this new phenomenon as well. MG Siegler has explored Twitter’s potential as a source for breaking news, Charlene Li has examined where the service is headed, Corey Clayton wonders if Twitter has potential for newsroom use, and Kathy Sierra wrote up a great look at the addictive properties of Twittering. Now it’s your turn. What do you think of Twitter and its popularity? If you’re a current user, what attracted you to the service? If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, why not? Let me know.

Oh, and if anyone is interested, feel free to check out my Twitter profile and add me as a friend.

Around the Nine #7

Every Sunday, I showcase some of the great content produced by 9rules members in the last week. It’s a great way to keep up with what’s happening around the network and highlight some of the best authors on the web today. This week’s featured sites include Lorelle on Wordpress, Brazen Careerist, Architectures of Control, Creating Passionate Users, Black Marks on Wood Pulp, and CaveMonkey50. Thunderbirds are go!

  • Lorelle on Wordpress: How to Know When to Stop Blogging

    “There are times to blog and there are times to stop blogging, especially if blogging interferes with the rest of your life. And there are times when you don’t need to stop blogging, you just need to take some time out from blogging to deal with your life. Then you can return to blogging.”

  • Brazen Careerist: Office Politics is About Being Nice

    “Let’s say you pack up your bags and go work in a national park, with trees and rivers and no cubicles. There will be politics about who has to take care of hikers when it’s raining and who gets to stay dry, and if you are bad at politics, you will be wet every time.”

  • Architectures of Control: No Photography Allowed

    “But a sign ‘banning’ photography at exhibitions? At design exhibitions where new aesthetic ideas are the primary reason for most visitors attending? That seems hopelessly naïve, akin to a child defensively wrapping his or her arm around a piece of work to stop the kid at the next desk copying what’s being written, but then pleading with teacher to put it up on the wall.”

  • Creating Passionate Users: Female-Friendly Tech Shirts

    “Whether these companies make products that are women-friendly is up to you to decide, but there’s no question they were thinking of us when they made the t-shirts!”

  • Black Marks on Wood Pulp: The New Sport of Racism

    “That’s all fine in the past. But keep today’s immigrants out, thanks. We live in a culture that tolerates cultural diversity, but prefers to keep it an arms length away. The only good immigrant is a historical immigrant.”

  • CaveMonkey50: Pizizz Your Way to a Better Sleep

    “Do you have trouble sleeping at night? Wish you could take better naps? Own a computer? Then I have the solution for you. Meet Pzizz, a software application that helps you sleep better and take great naps.”

Many thanks to everyone in the 9rules network for the great content they produce each and every week!

Around the Nine #6

Every Sunday, I showcase some of the great content produced by 9rules members in the last week. It’s a great way to keep up with what’s happening around the network and highlight some of the best authors on the web today. This week’s featured sites include Adam on Life, Donklephant, Footsteps in the Mirror, Bjorkoy.com, Ask Patty, Influential Interactive Marketing, Eyes Turned Outward, and Maryland Media. Get Er’ Done!

  • Adam on Life: Want More to Read? Here’s Where to Start!

    Adam lists some of the great Coldfusion resources out there for developers to add to their feedreaders. “We all read occasionally, less than we’d like, and sort out our current problems at work as they come down the line, but the expansion into new areas sometimes lags behind. The hot topics remain unknown…”

  • Donklephant: Hillary Is Running For President?

    Justin takes a look at Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and how he sees the 2008 presidential race turning out. He also wonders if voters will elect her as a way of bringing Bill back a “defacto 2nd President”.

  • Footsteps in the Mirror: Malaysia(ns) Start Suing Bloggers

    Kamigoroshi writes about two recent cases of Malaysian bloggers being sued for libel and defamation by certain newspapers and political parties. “What I will say though is that this is unprecedented and when this goes to court, the future of how bloggers blog in Malaysia will rest solely on how we play this publically and how Jeff and Ahirudin play their hand.” A great read and a serious issue to consider for many bloggers.

  • Bjorkoy.com: Why not store blog avatars locally?

    Olav considers ways to get around the recent downtime of Gravatars. “Storing avatars on a centralized server works well for a while, but with popularity comes great hosting costs, and in this case, without any significant form of revenue. But what if we stored avatars locally, on our own servers?”

  • Ask Patty: 51% of US Women Are San Spouses

    Jody comments on a recent New York Times article. “Just one more reason for single women to take control of their vehicle buying, maintenance and service needs and get education on the entire process.”

  • Influential Interactive Marketing: R-E-S-P-E-C-T: The Secret of Success for “24″

    Rohit describes how, through the “wrapping up” of story lines, airing an uninterrupted season, and not pandering to its audience, 24 is one of the best dramas on television today. “What is the marketing lesson in all this? Keeping customers is the same challenge as keeping viewers. Standing out from all other serial dramas is not just about great writing - the entire experience has to live up.”

  • Eyes Turned Outward: Does reputation really matter?

    Richard calls out those who worry about being seen with the “wrong” people and encourages Christians to become “friends of sinners”, a title he argues Jesus was proud to bear. A great read, even for the non-religious. “I think that amongst all the possible names, Son of God, Son of Man (two more for the collection) etc, friend of sinners might just be the one that means the most to Jesus himself.”

  • Maryland Media: Web Design Freelancers: The Psychology of your Rate

    Martin helps freelancers understand how much to charge their clients. “The simple fact is that most business people will assume they know how much they should be paying for your services, but have no idea how much time it takes you to do your magic.”

Thanks to everyone who contributes to this great network every week! See you all next time!

Around the Nine #5

Every Sunday, I showcase some of the great content produced by 9rules members in the last week. It’s a great way to keep up with what’s happening around the network and highlight some of the best authors on the web today. This week’s featured sites include BlackRimGlasses, Erratic Wisdom, Photoshop Ninja, iQ Blog, and Internet Zillionaire. Let’s get down to it, shall we?

  • BlackRimGlasses: Enough already with the iPhone hand wringing!

    Ethan expresses his frustration with some of the rumours and complaints swirling around Apple’s recent iPhone announcement. All of the critics losing their minds over the product, which won’t even be released for another six months, would do well to read this article. “The hand wringing is out of control. Lets put things in perspective for a minute please.”

  • Erratic Wisdom: Redesign: Color Revolution

    Thame re-designs Erratic Wisdom, adding an improved layout and a splash of colour. He’s looking for feedback, so why not check it out and let him know what you think?

  • Photoshop Ninja: Fixing white backgrounds on images

    Jonny explains how to enhance studio-shot photographs with white backgrounds. A great tutorial on Photoshop’s Levels function. “Backgrounds can pick up all sorts of problems - like a colour cast from the lighting or reflecting the colour of other elements in the studio. Also poor lighting or lowgrade Photography equipment can spoil your pure white background.”

  • iQ Blog: Irish government to redefine the television?

    Laurence writes about the Proposed Broadcasting Bill 2007, and the discussion surrounding the inclusion of devices like the iPhone under the official definition of “television”. It’s a great article and gets into the issues surrounding the bill very well.

  • Internet Zillionaire: Ornamental Testicles

    The Centaur talks about balls. ‘Nuff said.

  • Ryan Arrowsmith: Creating a Wordpress Theme
  • Thanks to a heads-up from reader Shawn Blanc, I was turned on to Ryan’s great series about coding your very own Wordpress theme. It’s a great guide and he’s already moved on to part two. Whether you’re new to the blogging scene, or a polished veteran, you’ll probably find something to learn here.

Check back next Sunday for Around the Nine #6.

Interview: Matthew Oliphant

Matthew Oliphant

Founder of Business Logs and “minor helper” in the founding of 9rules, Matthew Oliphant has made an impressive mark on the web. A self-described part-time superhero, swashbuckler, and adventurer extraordinaire, he splits his time between working for MathWorks, enjoying the company of his wife and daughter, and blogging about a wide variety of topics. Coming to you live from Framingham, MA, Oliphant recently sat down to answer a few questions about his site, his daughter, and what the future holds for one of his biggest projects.

BG: One of your recent projects, Pink for October, garnered quite a bit of attention. What began as a fairly small project blossomed into a full-blown phenomenon with around 1500 sites taking part. Were you surprised by the reaction to P4O? Where is the project headed in the future?

MO: I was very surprised at the number of sites in the final count. I had hoped to get about 100 when I started the idea, so in a way 1500 completely freaked me out. What I liked was that while there were a lot of sites what went Pink that were familiar to me, there were a ton of sites I’d never seen before. It reminded me how big the web is. I know that is a “duh” statement, but I suspect most people forget that from time to time.

I plan on doing P4O again next year. The sign up process will be more automated, with editorial control to combat spam. I think I got about 2000 sign-me-up and thank-you emails over 3 days when the site got slash-dotted and I was completely crushed by it. I’d also like to add more static-y pages for informational-type content.

I think the For Men section should be expanded and be more like a stand-alone page(s) than a blog post. And of a whole-site a redesign. Not because Tammie did a bad job (not at all) but because redesigning is a habit that must be succumbed to.

Lastly, I’ll add an aspect to the site for donating money and make it available for other to put on their sites (much like the badges). The point is still 90% about awareness, but next year I think there’ll be enough awareness about the event to add a donation aspect. Beyond that, I am open to ideas from others and will be looking for help starting in July.

And for the record, I don’t think P4O would have been as successful without help and you were a big help so…thank you. (While my involvement in P4O was limited, thank you! I look forward to hopefully helping again next time around. -Brian)

BG: What sort of projects have you been working on the last few weeks? What’s coming up for Matthew Oliphant?

MO: I’ve actually been doing small things to “passively” monetize my site. I have added some pages which aren’t live yet to support my Threadless habit and a couple of other things. I say “passive” because I am not out to make big bucks with my personal blog. I just want to make enough to pay for hosting and have some fun now and again. These new pages will require an IA change, which will be welcome as my site’s all over the place now.

Mostly I’ve been acclimating to my new job and the new state in which my job requires me to live. That’s been taking a lot of my attention.

Coming up I just need to write more. Who doesn’t? I’d like to see my readership/visitors grow again. Switching hosts lost about 80% of my RSS subscribers and my visits went down a lot especially after I was moved out of the 9rules Design Community (rightly so, I will add, since I write all over the place).

I’d also like to get more involved in some side projects in collaboration with others. There have been some ideas floated over the past couple of years but we are all so busy nothing sticks. So that’s more a hope than a plan, though I’ll seize on opportunity if it knocks.

BG: You spend a considerable amount of time writing about your daughter, Sagan, on your site. You have also published a huge number (over 400!) of photos of her. What prompted you to begin writing about such a personal subject in such a public way? What sort of response has there been from your readers?

MO: My site is such a mess topic-wise, especially given the URL. That’s due largely to having too many separate sites at one time (I think I had seven) then I changed hosts and decided to combine all my content into one site. Part of the reason I write so publicly about my daughter is that we are so far separated from our families the site makes it an easy way to share with them how Sagan is growing.

If you hover over the Sagan link in the topnav on my site you will see a tool tip. It says, “This link is primarily for the grandparents.” The link is prominent because I want my non-techie relatives to be able to find things easily. But beyond that, Sagan is such a powerful influence on my life that it never occurred to me not to write publicly about her.

I suppose it is odd in a way. I’ve written, much more publicly than my blog, about Sagan a couple of times, and have received some feedback about doing it. Most people don’t feel like putting so much of themselves online. I find it very natural, though I didn’t start out that way. I hid behind a pseudonym for a long time and didn’t really change to be “me” until I did a guest writer stint on SVN.

I don’t really know what the response is from my readers. While I’ve received feedback it’s in the realm of telling me it’s odd and they wouldn’t do that. I do have some comments on a couple of posts about her from people who are glad to find other kids named Sagan in the world.

BG: How do you decide what topics to write about on your site? While you tend to lean toward personal content, you also bounce around other topics, like design, cars, and (gasp!) usability.

This goes back to my mentioning combining sites. I have a lot of interests. I should redo my URL to be matthewoliphant.com, but I’ve sorta come to be known for usabilityworks.org. I should just make the switch and damn the loss in pagerank!

Most of my posts do fall into the design and usability categories, but my varied interests carry my writing in different directions. I tend to post only when I have something to say that I feel will add to the collective conversation on a topic, or if something strikes me as really funny, strange, or cool.

A lot of what I know about design and usability is so ingrained in me that it is second nature. I forget that most people don’t know much about these topics. So writing what I feel is a boring topic (like how to prepare for and run a card sort, for example) wouldn’t occur to me to do since there’s not much I can add to the topic. Except that most people don’t know how to do it or why it can be helpful.

Let me ask you a question… is my bouncing around on topics good, bad, or indifferent? I’ve thought about this now and again. I’m not sure if my bouncing around, even though I want to write about these differing topics, is something my readership likes and if it keeps my readership from growing. I’ve never received many comments on what I write so I am not sure what people like or dislike about my site. Though I suppose it doesn’t matter. I will still write about what I want. (I think it’s fine. -Brian)

The funny thing is I just received an email today from someone thanking me for all the information I’ve shared on my site. It was from someone in the usability field so that was nice to see. In my plans to write more this year I do want to do more design and usability related posts, especially more rants. Some of those Adaptive Path people really peel my potatoes so hopefully I can take them down a peg or two.

BG: I hate to delve into clichéd interview questions, but what sites have caught your eye lately? Why?

MO: I just re-added the 9rules OPML to my feed reader so now I have about 200+ more sites (I don’t think I added when round 4 went through). I’ve been whittling the ones who cover topics in which I have no interest, but I’ve found a couple of others that I will stick with for a while I think (need to follow them for a few weeks to make sure).

I will admit to being in a web rut lately so nothing’s really catching my attention.

BG: Anything you’d like to add?

MO: 98791+717. I like to add that. It equals 99508. Good ZIP code which I will soon be visiting.

Thanks Matthew!

Around the Nine #4

Every Sunday, I showcase some of the great content produced by 9rules members in the last week. It’s a great way to keep up with what’s happening around the network and highlight some of the best authors on the web today.

  1. The Glass Is Too Too Big: Reading the Iraqi Constitution

    J Wynia makes the Iraqi constitution part of his nighttime reading and gains a picture of the country you won’t see in the media. Some of the document’s provisions, it turns out, are a little more reasonable than others — at least to North American sensibilities.

  2. Pronet Advertising: Thanks Everyone

    Cameron announces that Pronet Advertising has won the award for Best Social Media Optimization Blog of 2006. Cameron, and the entire crew at Pronet, run an extremely interesting weblog and have been a favourite of mine for a while now.

  3. Warpspire: MooTools: Review

    Kyle reviews the MooTools Javascript framework, covering issues like inheritance, effects, and documentation. A great read for anyone interested in learning more about MooTools.

  4. Marketing.fm: Advertise Different: NYC Taxis Dressed Up As Cows

    Eric runs across some New York taxis dressed up in rawhide and wonders just what could be going on. Thanks to a helpful reader in the article’s comments, the mystery is solved, but I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.

  5. The Web 2.0 Show: Are Blogs the New Forums?

    Darren wonders if blogs, with their options for commenting on articles, are slowly beginning to replace forums on the web. “However it is so easy for people to start Blogging today that if people want to start their own discussion they can just do it on their own Blogs.”

  6. Snook: SXSW 2007 Interactive Pass Contest

    Jonathan is running a t-shirt design contest. Come up with the winning design, and you’ll find a brand spankin’ new SXSW Interactive Pass, worth $275, in your possession. SXSW is one of the biggest geek events of the year, so why not submit a design and see if you can’t get in for free?

  7. Not Too Geeky: Editing Comments: Think First

    Tyme comments on an ongoing discussion in 9rules’ notes section, warning bloggers about the implications of editing their reader’s comments. A great read for beginners and blogging veterans alike. “Comments are a direct reflection of the commenter’s thoughts, personality, etc. and have zero reflection on the blogger/writer. I cannot grasp why anyone would want to change that.”

See you all next week!

Interview: James Mathias

James Mathias

Blogging for just over five years now, James Mathias is an accomplished artist, writer, and developer. 32 years old, he lives in Bonners Ferry, Idaho with his wife and two sons (and another child on the way!) Always willing to share his latest drawing or sketch, Mathias has been a member of 9rules since June 2006. His site, titled Leihu after two Chinese symbols, went pink for Pink for October, and he continues to post great content on a near-daily basis. Taking a few moments out of his busy schedule, James sat down to answer a couple of questions.

BG: You publish a large number of sketches and drawings on your site — there have been almost 80 entries in your “Random Illustrations” category so far — and work as a professional artist. Where do you find the inspiration for these unique creations? What sort of creative process takes place?

JM: Wow, I hadn’t noticed that, between the Random Illustrations, Illustration Friday and Alternate Friday I’ve published 132 illustrations. Yikes. In fact it may be more by the time you read this. Drawing is just something I love doing and never really think about finding time for. I just do them, sometimes with no thought. I don’t really have a creative process when it comes to illustrations, I just start drawing and whatever comes out is what goes down. I know it’s disappointingly boring as an explanation, but it’s the truth.

BG: On your “About” page, you mention that you are a Buddhist. While far from being a religious or spiritual person myself, I find other’s beliefs to be extremely interesting. What are some of the common misconceptions about Buddhism? If there were one thing you could tell anyone interested in Buddhism, what would it be?

JM: A very common one I hear a lot; people think Buddha is a god I worship, this is not the case. Buddha was a man, whom became enlightened through meditation and study and taught the Dharma (the way) to others. The basic idea is to live your life as purely as possibly, all the while trying to understand the human condition, at least that’s how I see it.

One thing I’d tell people who are interested in Buddhism; Study religion in general, read the bible, read the koran, learn as much as you can, search your soul and find your path. You do not find religion, ideas finds you.

BG: Your blog’s archives go back as far as February 2005. Looking back, what sort of impact has blogging had on your life? Professionally? I’ve noticed your wife commenting on many of your entries. What do your friends and family think of the site?

JM: Yeah, the current incarnation only goes back to Feb 05, but the site actually goes back to April 01, but unfortunately I’ve lost the database quite few times. Blogging has had a very good impact on my mental condition, and my ability to share my thoughts. My wife is a devoted reader and commenter, as well my mom, aunt, uncle, sisters and brothers-in-law and a couple of my offline friends and a few of my clients read consistently. It’s a nice feeling that the people who know me best find an entertainment value behind the site and keep coming back and not just because they feel they have to.

BG: You briefly experimented with limited edition t-shirts and the “Kiosk” section on your site lists some of your other ideas for custom-designed items. Has there been any progress in that area? I’m sure there are plenty of people who would love to own a James Mathias-designed skateboard deck.

JM: The t-shirts idea was a miserable failure. So I’m a bit gun-shy to put any time or effort into another for sale item, unless it was something that I could produce easily and sell consistently. I want to do the skate decks, and some illustration prints as well, I hope to get the first board up this year, but it’s not on the top of my priority list.

BG: What does the future hold for your site? What will we see next from James Mathias? Your fans want to know!

JM: Fans? Not sure I have fans, but I appreciate them if I do. This year we’ll see 362 more daily drawings, a couple of fun videos, the loss of 140 more pounds, some code improvements to the site, the return of an old friend, the announcement of my novel’s completion and the introduction of a new family member.

Thanks James!

Around the Nine #3

Picking bits of tinsel out of my clothes and scratching at two-day-old stubble, I am happy to present this week’s edition of Around the Nine. For the uninitiated, Around the Nine is a weekly feature on Ekonoline showcasing some of the great work produced by 9rules members in the last week. It’s a great way to keep up with what’s happening around the network and highlight some of the best authors on the web today.

Let’s get down to it, shall we?

  • Lorelle on Wordpress: WordPress.com, Please Stop Using Snap Preview

    Lorelle discovers a new “feature” on Wordpress.com blogs and uses the occasion to discuss accessibility and usability. “Do you really need this bell and whistle on your blog? It’s a nice gimmick, but if you have given people enough information about the link you are offering, isn’t that enough?”

  • Maryland Media: The Greatest Design Tool is Customer Service

    Martin explains “the design of business”. “People rarely remember individual promotions or commercials – but they never forget a bad waiter, rude call center or impolite flight attendant.”

  • Binary Moon: In Game Ads Don’t Work?

    Ben examines the response to in-game advertising and its effectiveness. He provides examples of a few different advertising models, including “Advergames” and “Cheapies”.

  • Bleacher Report: Just Saying, Is All…Un-Predictions for 2007

    Ryan, in a fit of genius, makes his sporting predictions for 2007. Definitely meant to be taken with a healthy dose of sarcasm. My favourite? “In 2007, no athletes will be busted for using performance-enhancing substances. The year ahead will be notable neither for the habitual repetition of the word “perjury” on SportsCenter nor the unprecedented volume of air time allocated to ESPN legal expert Roger Cossack.”

  • Finkbuilt: Hacking Laser Tag

    Steve shows off what may be the coolest laser tag gun ever created.

  • Heat Eat Review: Best and Worst Frozen Meals of 2006

    Abi counts down the best and worst frozen meals of the past year, including macaroni and cheese dinners, rice meals, and Asian frozen meals.

  • Cognitive Daily: What are babies looking for when they look to their mothers?

    Greta posts a guest post by one of her student writers from fall 2006, examining whether a baby looks to its mother simply for comfort, or if there is some sort of information exchange.

  • Open Switch: Happy Day in the Gray Home

    Ben adds another sheep to his flock. That’s right, he’s going to be a daddy again!

Many thanks to the 9rules members listed here, as well the members I missed this week, for all of the great work they do within the network. See you guys next week!