Derek Powazek

Interview with Derek Powazek

Derek Powazek has a thing for stories. He tells them through pictures and words. He was a Senior designer at Technorati, is the founder of Fray, a co-founder of JPG magazine and an Online Director of AlterNet. He wrote a few books and his photos have been in exhibits and in various publications including San Francisco Magazine, Curve Magazine and also online. He’s won awards like the Silver Award in PhotoJournalism from the Society of News Design and is currently starting his own publishing company. Derek is inspiring to me. He is true to himself, follows his dreams and has more than enough talent to take him anywhere he wants to go.

Blog Birthday:

Earliest reverse-chronological posting, you mean? 1997. Yeah. Back then is was called a homepage. Quaint, huh?

Why do you blog?

Because I’m always half convinced that I’m going crazy and a good way to find out if you’re crazy is to talk about what you think and then see if people say, “Yeah! Totally! I feel the same way!” or if they just look at you funny and back away slowly.

It’s about half and half.

What do you talk about?

Less and less. When I started, I really was a lot more loose with the personal information. As I get older and the web gets bigger, I find I have less to say (or can say). Maybe growing up is about learning to keep things to yourself.

What don’t you talk about? Why?

Well, I’m in the middle of starting a business right now. I’m experiencing all kinds of crazy new things: Dealing with investors, business partners, creative ideas, legal stuff, hiring, etc. After years of working on other people’s ideas, it’s just amazing to finally be working on my own.

But I can’t talk about much of it for various business and legal reasons. It’s a strange feeling to have this giant part of your life and not be able to tell stories about it. Especially for a compulsive storyteller like myself.

Worst/best experience regarding something you wrote in your blog or put out on the net?

I’ve put so much personal information out over the years, the best and worst thing that happens is when I get recognized. It’s eerie to have a complete stranger say, “so how’s your cat, Spoo, and your dogs, Chieka and Bug, and your wife, Heather, and your house in Cole Valley, and…”

What is the most rewarding of your online endeavors?

Fray. Definitely. Fray proved to me the power of personal storytelling, and showed that an idea could bring web geeks out from behind their computers. Everything I do, for the rest of my life, is going to have a little bit of Fray in it.

Worst thing about living where you live?

I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you. The N-Judah was going by. What?

How many photos do you take per day/week?

This week? None. Last week? Hundreds. Photographic inspiration is pretty random.

If you were president of the US:

I’d apologize to the world, over and over, for the rest of my life.

What actor would play you in the movie of your life?

I’d like to lie and say Pitt but it’d probably be Keanu. Fucking Keanu. Stop being in all the movies I wanna see!

What did you learn with JPG mag? Will it continue?

I learned that Heather and I can collaborate on an artistic project without killing each other. I learned that digital photographers appreciate print more than traditional photographers. And I learned that I really, really like making magazines.

Will it continue? You bet your bippy. And it’s about to get much, much more awesome.

8020 Publishing: what is it? What are you doing? Where is it going? Who/what are you looking for?

What it is: Awesome.
What we’re doing: Building.
Where it’s going: Big.
What we’re looking for: Patience.

What do you do to stay sane and healthy?

Get away from the computer and out with friends as much as possible. And I don’t do that nearly enough.

I know in the past you have spoken regarding virtual/online communities. Do you have an opinion about Secondlife and what the attraction is and who are the people that ‘live’ there?

I have a theory. Virtual worlds like that and World of Warcraft are for people who enjoy digital interaction, but don’t like to write. If they did, they’d be bloggers instead.

What have you learned since you wrote your book and would you change anything you wrote based on what you’ve learned?

Since I wrote Design for Community, the world of web communities has really become much more about blogs, and blog tools, than the bulletin boards it used to be about. I covered blogs in the last chapter of the book, but not nearly enough. The talks I give these days are much more about how blogs change the old notions of web community, because everyone’s the king of their own castle.

When you were 10, what did you want to do when you grew up?

A game programmer for Atari. Or a guitarist in a rock and roll hair band.

Is Fray still around? Do people meet up and share stories?

Fray is on hiatus, but all the archives are still up. In spite of that, there was a Fray Cafe last SXSW, and will probably be another one next year (thanks to Eric Rice and Michael Brown and their utter refusal to let it die, God love ’em).

What do you want to tell other bloggers, if anything?

Ignore your links, your stats, your hitcount, and just WRITE. All that matters is the writing. Have fun doing it and everyone else will, too.

Astounding fact about you:

I am featured in a painting on the wall of A Dorm in Porter College, Santa Cruz. Naked.

Are you Windows or Mac? Why?

Mac, because interface matters. If it hadn’t been for the Mac, I never would have gotten a computer.

Is there a design that you have done that you are particularly proud of?

My designs now are like my songs when I used to write songs: My favorite one is always the most recent one.

How would your wife describe you?

A romantic troublemaker who makes her crazy (in a good way).

Do you cook?

Breakfast is my specialty.

What will you being doing next year?

If all goes well, being the founder of a small company with a handful of employees making some really cool shit.

Tell me a secret story.

Ok, well, if your readers have actually read this far, here’s a brief story I’ve been saving for a special occasion.

A few years ago, I was working for a company, and let’s just say I’d had a difficult day. I went out to dinner with Heather and Paul (who is now my business partner) at a neighborhood restaurant. As we were sitting there, waiting to order, I let loose a torrent of work-related kvetching. I named names. I told tales. It felt great.

Just as I was reaching a crescendo of kvetch, one of the key higher-ups at the company walked into the restaurant, and headed directly for our table. When he got there, he embraced the woman who’d been sitting at the table next to ours the whole time.

“Oh, hi, Derek,” he said. “Have you met my wife?”

Thanks for reading – I’ll be here all week.

Thanks, Derek!

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