Adiós muchachos.

Perhaps I should be more emotional about this, but this will be my last blog post on Airbag. The time has come to make this domain more useful than where I share my thoughts and feelings about things and stuff. It has been a wonderful stage to practice writing in the English language (still needs a lot of work) and engaging with hundreds of people here on this site and in person (I hope that doesn’t go away). I have managed to make people laugh and probably irritated just as many, and really pissed off a few of you.

It’s through my antics here at Airbag that I managed to catch the attention of several media outlets including two articles by the Wall Street Journal. This domain once appeared at the top of weekly traffic reports for Apple.com. I know because someone reached out to me and asked me to kindly remove a bit of tracking code I mistakenly left in when I created the page for the Ashley Simpson special edition iPod. They also said they loved the satire. There was the Blog Thread Level and good old Introverster which also received a ton of traffic.

Sadly, I was never able to make a solid go with Airbag merchandise. The first time I met Jason Kottke and John Gruber at SXSW in 2004, they both asked why I didn’t sell Airbag t-shirts. So, went home and tried just that and managed to sell a few to friends and family. Oh well, maybe next time.

I might be more upset, but it feels good to continue writing for a new publication. Something I should have done back when I turned Airbag into a studio. Maybe it would have stuck with me during those years when I couldn’t get up the gumption to continue publishing. Yesterday I woke up thinking about writing which I haven’t done in years and I credit that with having a new place to engage people. Even when the site is not nearly what I want it to be. Never underestimate the power of a new shiny thing to re-ignite passion.

There is an exciting future ahead for this site! One that I’m excited to make live soon. So, don’t delete your bookmark just yet (ha, as if anyone bookmarks anything anymore). In the meantime, come check out my new digs and subscribe.


Design for the Fediverse and French Paper.

After I devoured Anil’s article in Rolling Stone, I had similar feelings as I did after attending my first SXSW in the spring of 2002—Pure excitement. I got to meet so many folks who were behind the Internet that I loved. SXSW ’02 was a three-day conversation on how the indie web got to be so cool and how important it was for those who remain to continue working on pushing technology, creativity, and community. It was like the Deathstar that was Dot-com had just blown up and we were all in the Millennium Falcon shooting out of the explosion.

Years later web 2.0 came into the world and that changed everything for the better or worse. You know, you were there. And then, similar to 2001, the House of Capitalism propping everything up crashed in 2023. Hard. You know, you are here.

This time around, I see a glimmer of light and it starts with Anil’s vision. People are fed up and tired of being tied to platforms controlled by delusional bros. I genuinely love to see all of the signs of a resurgence in independent publishing on the web. That’s the Internet I contributed to building in the 90s. The Internet that Airbag as a studio designed for time and time again. This is the Internet I want to see more of in the world.

Meanwhile, a similar independent movement has taken place in the world of print publishing—my original passion. My intent in college was to become a graphic designer for a newspaper or magazine until I picked up an early issue of Wired magazine and my world was forever changed. I love print like most of you love your vinyl. I spend more money on magazines and zines annually than I do on anything powered by the Internet.

So, it feels like the universe is starting to speak and I'm primed to listen. While I have other business interests in flight, I think it’s time to take Airbag back to its studio days. This time with a laser focus on publications, either in the Fediverse or on French Paper or both. A few irons are already in the fire so, stay tuned. And if you love this idea, say so.


Five things.

“Why our fashion editor buys almost nothing new” popped up in my podcast queue this morning. Though I’m not into fashion the episode title and show notes caught my attention.

Last year, the FT’s fashion editor Lauren Indvik made a pledge that surprised us. She vowed to buy just five new items of clothing and shoes all year long. The number comes from a study that says in order to stick to the Paris Agreement’s goals, five new items of fashion a year is the optimal goal for those who live in the world’s richest countries. Lauren tells Lilah how the experiment went and whether she stuck to five things. She also shares her tips for buying fewer new clothes.

I’m intrigued because I look around at all of the things I own, especially media, and I don’t need to buy anything new. Especially if you consider my digital library with hundreds of books and thousands of comics. I know enough about myself that I can go full turkey and that will last for a few months. Then I’ll see something cool and—oops, willpower is gone—1-Click buy button, click—oh we, I’ll try again next year!

But five things. I think I could do five things. That means one new thing per quarter and a bonus for that one time when my brain can not get over whatever it is and I have to have it. This I can do.


A win for independents.

This morning I woke up thinking about a story I read yesterday that deserves more attention and celebration. Brandon Kelly, the creator of the Craft content management system, posted this news with little fanfare on Mastodon:

Mind-blowing stat to kick off 2024: CraftCMS is now the 7th most popular CMS among the top 5K domains worldwide, according to Cloudflare’s 2023 trends report.

His message was accompanied by a chart showing WordPress at the top with 53.3% market share and Craft sitting at a humble 1.7%. In between were more juggernauts like Adobe Experience Manager, Drupal, Contentful, Hubspot, and Squarespace.

Even if you’re not a developer, you’ve likely heard of Squarespace as they advertise like crazy on television, streaming, and just about every podcast ever made (except for Sprints & Milestones). And when I say crazy, I mean this year they spent “over $100 million on advertising in digital, print, and national TV in the last year” according to MediaRadar. And if you’re curious, like I am, that staggering amount of money is one-tenth of Squarespace’s expected revenue for 2023.

Craft is highly likely not on track for that kind of revenue and I’m pretty sure I could bet my house and retirement that Brandon is not spending $100M on advertising, and yet his company is within .1% of Squarespace’s influence on the top five thousand websites on the planet. In addition, almost all of those competitors have received hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to get to where they are. Craft has been bootstrapped since day one and their team is less than twenty people.

Think about that for a minute.

To be fair, Squarespace’s target market is individuals and tiny companies that sell products and services. That said, for a company that is a fraction of a fraction in size of its closest rival in this report, Brandon and his team are clearly the winners. It is a remarkable achievement for the products they create, their product strategy (the products they don’t create), and their obvious commitment to the thousands of people who create these top five thousand websites with Craft.

Folks, this is the Internet I signed up for! This is exactly the type of business story I want to see, read, and hear more of in the years to come. It’s a great reminder that the independent web is still alive and kicking, and poised for a strong comeback. Maybe it’s time to spin Independents Day back up and celebrate.


AI is not a silver bullet.

This morning I happened across a new publication called Futurism. Doesn’t it always make the day better when you come across a new journal?

Anyhoo, scrolling through the homepage this headline caught my eye—Sam Altman's Right-Hand Man Says AI Is Overhyped. Sam being the Sam who was fired from OpenAI, hired by Microsoft, quit his job at Microsoft, and went back to take over OpenAI all within 24 hours. Damn, the job market is so crazy stupid right now.

Back on topic. I love this statement about the state of AI and the Enterprise:

In an interview with CNBC, OpenAI COO and CEO Sam Altman's right-hand man Brad Lightcap said that certain aspects of AI are "overhyped," especially when it comes to the sky-high expectations of the company's enterprise AI customers.

"And there’s almost never a silver bullet answer there — there’s never one thing you can do with AI that solves that problem in full," he said. "And I think that’s just a testament to the world being really big and messy, and that these systems are still evolving, they’re still really in their infancy."

While I was at IBM I worked with a few engineers on Watson AI-powered projects. I learned a lot, especially their disdain for the people in marketing. At the time, IBM ran a lot of advertising featuring Watson as a simple device that could solve all kinds of very complex challenges easily.

Customers were excited and came to IBM in droves with massive problems expecting to hook up the magic box and solve all of them within seconds. In reality, Watson couldn’t do many of the things it was advertised to do because it wasn’t mature enough and almost all of the time the customer's legacy systems were in such a state that simply hooking up AI wasn’t an option, and it’s still not. Mostly because the data on the customers end is so messy and scrambled across so many systems that the cost-benefit doesn't work out.

This left the engineers in a very awkward position of having to burst all of the bubbles and bring customers back to Earth as gently as possible. Nobody likes doing that, least of all, engineers who are so often put in that position.

It’s interesting that seven years later, the problem still stands. AI is not a silver bullet and engineers are still left to the task of busting bubbles. Some things never change.