Interview: Josh Santangelo

There’s a good article on the The Web Standards Project site about all the hacks for CSS out there. I think I’ve used them all and I’m glad that people smarter then me have found them all. Now if only all the browsers would just support CSS 2.1

There’s a good article on the The Web Standards Project site about all the hacks for CSS out there. I think I’ve used them all and I’m glad that people smarter then me have found them all. Now if only all the browsers would just support CSS 2.1

There’s a good article on the The Web Standards Project site about all the hacks for CSS out there. I think I’ve used them all and I’m glad that people smarter then me have found them all. Now if only all the browsers would just support CSS 2.1

Quicktake 100This article seems to think that Apple might be about to release a digital camera. Although the patent does look nice, emergency companies like Apple patent technology all the time that they feel is ownable. I do miss the QuickTake from Apple. It was the first digital camera I ever had. 640×480 and it actually had a nice ID form factor.

There’s a good article on the The Web Standards Project site about all the hacks for CSS out there. I think I’ve used them all and I’m glad that people smarter then me have found them all. Now if only all the browsers would just support CSS 2.1

There’s a good article on the The Web Standards Project site about all the hacks for CSS out there. I think I’ve used them all and I’m glad that people smarter then me have found them all. Now if only all the browsers would just support CSS 2.1

Quicktake 100This article seems to think that Apple might be about to release a digital camera. Although the patent does look nice, emergency companies like Apple patent technology all the time that they feel is ownable. I do miss the QuickTake from Apple. It was the first digital camera I ever had. 640×480 and it actually had a nice ID form factor.

There’s a good article on the The Web Standards Project site about all the hacks for CSS out there. I think I’ve used them all and I’m glad that people smarter then me have found them all. Now if only all the browsers would just support CSS 2.1

Quicktake 100This article seems to think that Apple might be about to release a digital camera. Although the patent does look nice, emergency companies like Apple patent technology all the time that they feel is ownable. I do miss the QuickTake from Apple. It was the first digital camera I ever had. 640×480 and it actually had a nice ID form factor.

Josh Santangelo Josh was nice enough to take some time to answer our questions about online communities, purchase web technology and other cool things going on in the world. He is a very talented website developer who is known for creating such wonderful sites as Paper Napkin, SXSW Developer’s Resource Award winning site Tangent, and 2nd place 5k Competition entry Iris, and many other things.

F: You recently started your own company, how has that been for you?

JS: It’s been interesting. I’ve been freelancing off and on for four years or so, but dropping the safety net of a 9-5 gig has been a little stressful. I’ve started out with some good clients though, with more on the way. The biggest trick seems to be getting motivated to write code every day, when there’s nothing really stopping me from hitting the snooze a hundred times each morning.

How has it compared to working for a company?

In a regular development house, you’ve got a project manager who relays information between the client and the team building the projects. When things go wrong or budgets need altering, they handle all that sensitive stuff. You also generally have sales people out running around to find work for people to do. I get to do all that myself, in addition to actually making the projects happen.

How do you keep from going crazy wearing all the hats now? Do you find that clients respect your time?

So far my clients have been pretty relaxed about things. The first round of projects are longer term and have fuzzy deadlines, so the clients are kept happy as long as things appear to be progressing.

What sort of work have you been doing?

I quit my regular job with three clients to start with, all PHP/MySQL web app things for very niche audiences. January is shaping up to be mostly consumer-facing Flash work, which is a lot easier to show off.

I’ve been seeing a lot less Flash and more AJAX stuff getting all the attention lately. How do you feel they compare? What seems to be the drive for clients to choose Flash as their medium?

Right now it seems like people only choose Flash if they want to accomplish things that aren’t really possible otherwise. Audio, video, and any sort of really rich interactivity (like games) are either impossible or very difficult to do without Flash.

Ajax is currently well-suited for most applications because most applications don’t require that sort of interactivity. I think Flash will swing back into the application space soon though, because its tools are coming along faster. Right now it’s roughly equally difficult to build a complex Flash app or a complex Ajax app because the tools all kind of suck. I think Macromedia’s tools are going to come out sooner and be more robust than whatever the OSS community or Microsoft will push out for Ajax apps in the near-term.

What sort of work would you like to be doing?

I’d eventually like to be writing less code and writing more specs and handling client relationships, and handing the actual code-writing to other folks. It’ll be a bit before I’m ready to start hiring, though.

Do you have a network of other talented people like yourself that you share work with?

I know a number of people, but not as many as I’d like, and not enough with skills in the particular areas that I’d need. That’s part of the reason I want to get more involved in real-life communities of web professionals, to find people to share the work (and wealth) with. If I had any time to spare, I’d put some weight behind mousecontrol again.

I also really need to make time for my pet projects, endquote.com and nwtekno.org. They’ve been dormant for years.


I know I’d like to see some updates to both, what would you like to do with the sites?

Endquote will turn into a site for my company, likely with a couple of blogs — one for company stuff and one for "hey look at this neat thing you can do with this technology" kind of stuff. People tend to take companies a little more seriously when they at least have a website.

NWTekno desperately needs to be updated to the current version of vBulletin, redesigned, and generally refreshed. It’s been something like four years since I’ve really touched it. Hardware issues beyond my control are holding it back at the moment, though.

What tools do you use?

I have an obscene amount of Mac hardware to work on, and 90% of the time it’s just running BBEdit for code and Excel for accounting. And Flash too, of course.

You seem to always be involved in the latest web based service and community. How do you keep up?

TechCrunch is good for that. I sign up for a lot of things because I’m dying to see someone do something truly different yet simple in the community space. It seems like everyone’s just reworking the friends-and-interests model and just piling more and more crap on top of it. The 43things/people/places sites are probably the most interesting things to come out recently, but I still don’t know how they make money.

What makes the "43" sites interesting to you?

It’s not about profiles and making lists of what your favorite books and movies are. Instead of centering around who your friends are, it’s about who your heroes and goals are. It’s a lot more altruistic than the major sites, which are glorified dating and ad-serving networks.

Say-So is similarly interesting — there are no profiles really, just people talking to each other. You don’t even really have to log in. It kind of freaks me out.

How do you feel about the growth of social networks and their effect on the web topography?

I hate that so many people I know spend so much time trolling MySpace and other similar sites to communicate, blog, and hook up. Any time you centralize a large userbase like that, it just becomes a vehicle for advertising. People are giving away their personal info and their content and ideas, and in return they get to punch the monkey and win a free iPod. People don’t realize these things are valuable and they shouldn’t be giving it away for free.


I couldn’t agree with you more there. No matter how many times I tell people they don’t seem to get it or care. Do you think it’s because it’s just so easy to do or is it because the user base is so strong in that people are more peer pressured in to using MySpace?

It’s a snowball effect. The more people use it, the more value it has, so more people use it. I never used to read the bulletin boards on there until I found out that some of my friends were using it as a sort of evite service. "Why didn’t I get invited to your party?" "Well I posted it on MySpace, didn’t you see it?"

How can people like yourself help spread the word that their information has value?

I’m not sure I’m any kind of crusader for that, but I think that busy people already realize their time and attention is precious, and will choose to allocate it where they perceive the most value.

AttentionTrust.org and root.net are doing some interesting things along those lines, creating an open market for buying and selling the attention of their members. It’s very think-tank-ish right now, but it would be pretty exciting if such a thing became simpler and more widely adopted.

I’d love to see ten billion unique and thought-out sites from each of my friends, linked together by FOAF, access-controlled through OpenID, and aggregated with RSS, and not centrally controlled by anyone, but it’s still too difficult for people.

(I’m of course no shining example of this utopia, at least until I get something going on endquote.com again.)

I’d really like to see this too. Why do you think no one has done this yet?

It’s tough to find money in it. There’s certainly a benefit to creating silos of community — people on MSN Spaces can find interesting people on MSN Spaces more easily than they can on Yahoo 360, so they tend to hang out on MSN Spaces, and then MSN can sell them ads. There’s very rarely any money in getting people to leave your site.

Really open networks like I described are pretty impossible to get to critical mass, because no one’s going to put marketing dollars behind them.

How many social networks are you a member of?

Most of the US-focused ones, I guess. I tend to not spend a lot of time on any other than LiveJournal, which I’m completely addicted to because I can easily keep up on the details of 100+ of my real-life friends.

I’ve been getting more interested in real-life communities of peers though, such as Seattle Mind Camp, Idea Day, and the local online music communities. People behave much differently in real life than they do on a blog or one-page profile.

I think the real-life communities are always better. Have you been to any of these events and if so what did you like best about it?

Mind Camp and Idea Day are both interesting local communities focusing on web (and other) technologies. There’s also Dorkbot, which has chapters all over the world. Interestingly enough, none of these has a centralized online community associated with them.

I think the reason for that is because no matter how many profile fields or tags or search engines or whatever you add to a community project, you’ll never be able to communicate more efficiently than people sitting in the same room and talking to each other.

Has anyone done a convergence of both a good online community and a real-life community?

Dodgeball is probably the most interesting at the moment, but it hasn’t really hit critical mass in Seattle yet. It rules the social life of some friends in NYC, though.

Locally there are lots of music mailing lists and things where people discuss artists and technology, and then when people go to the shows you hear those discussions continue, and then they continue right on again on the list the next morning.

How does such a thing scale to more people over a broader area, though? I don’t know. Maybe it’s not supposed to.

What technology excites you the most right now?

I’ve been doing a lot of "ajax" stuff for one of my clients, and have found it to be pretty fun. The tools to build things with it aren’t easy yet though, and "enterprise" won’t take anything less than 2.0 and $2000 seriously, so it’ll take a while before it hits the majors.

I really want Macromedia’s Flex 2 to take off — it’s very simple to build intricate applications with it. It’s still in alpha though, much like everything else seems to be. Flash 8 and 8.5 are really going to enable some amazing experiences once the players get more widely adopted, as well.

What sort of things do find yourself wanting to create with Flex 2? What about it makes it so easy to use?

My current fantasies involve just building things similar to what I’m already building with HTML and JavaScript, only accomplishing them much more quickly. Aside from that you get the "free" benefit of slicker and more varied interface components (http://flexapps.macromedia.com/flex15/explorer/explorer.mxml) and isolation from browser quirks.

Whose are your heroes?

I think Matt Webb and Paul Ford are underrated geniuses. Paul writes the Weekly Review for Harpers and made an amazing CMS for harpers.org that he should really release to the public. Rick Ellis of pMachine and Dean Allen of TextPattern are making publishing easier for people. Brad Fitz of LiveJournal is scary-smart and posts something that blows my mind almost daily.

What annoys you the most about the web?

MySpace. I can’t even begin to describe how much I hate that site, and even worse, how much I hate how successful it’s been. Friendster should have won.

Anything else that on your mind that you’d like to talk about?

I want encrypted REST APIs for my personal banking data. I want my camera, which has enough storage and processor speed to play video, to also play music. I want US consumers to start caring about the physical design of mobile phones. I want more people making more good multimedia art. I want the Nintendo Revolution to come out. I want to know what’s the next big thing after tagging. Or better yet, I want to invent it, sell it to Google, and retire to an island somewhere.


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2 Responses to “Interview: Josh Santangelo”

  1. glamour-agency says:

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    Interview: Josh Santangelo « Futile

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