20 Years Ago Today

One day in the Spring of 1995, just a few months before I finished my undergrad degree a friend in the student computer lab leaned over my machine and said “check this out.” He double-clicked the NCSA Mosaic icon on the desktop and showed me the World Wide Web for the first time.

It wasn’t much to see and I wasn’t impressed. I’d heard so much hype aboutThe Information Superhighway and this was… this was all there was to it? We went through a bunch of random sports news he viewed every day and none of that clicked for me. Sensing my lack of excitement, he continued. We kept looking at random sites until eventually he showed me the David Letterman Top 10 Archive and it just about blew my mind. A college student was posting whatever Top 10 list Dave used on the previous night’s show to a giant long page on their college account. As a comedy nerd I loved Letterman but couldn’t catch every episode of Dave’s show while busy with school, so I found this to be an incredible resource. I was immediately hooked when I realized it was just some kid in some random college publishing whatever they liked and I could find it and enjoy it for free, every day going forward. I was hooked.

A few months later I graduated, but I stayed at the same university to start a Master’s program. I bought my own home computer and spent every spare moment reading the web, while also working in my advisor’s lab analyzing samples. We had a lot of downtime between sample analysis, so I could surf the web while I waited for results. By that Fall, I began a new research project while continuing to devour the web in my free time. Eventually one day I figured it was time for me to be part of this—I wanted build my own web pages instead of just reading them all day. I couched this to my graduate advisor as a way of promoting our work and publications to the greater world. He’d already been dabbling in it and gave me the green light to learn how to publish our research online.

To give you an idea of how long ago this was, I went into a Waldenbooks in a mall to buy a book on HTML. I’d dabbled in Justin Hall’s Publish Yo Self section and other online how-to guides but I knew having everything from soup-to-nuts laid out in a book in front of me would be a better tool to learn from—plus I was a college student used to paying too much for books.

It was Christmas Eve, 1995, and while the store was busy, I scoured the shelves and eventually got my choices down to two books on publishing HTML. One was about writing HTML in Microsoft Word and even then I could tell it sounded like a bad idea. Instead, I grabbed Creating Your Own Netscape Pages by Andy Shafran, which covered all aspects of HTML in plain simple text and the only helper apps mentioned were a text editor called Hotdog and an image editor called Paint Shop Pro. I bought the book.

Being that I was 23 and in college, I didn’t have much money to give gifts while simultaneously being too old to get fun gifts anymore, so I had a fairly boring and uneventful Christmas at home with my parents. That night, I was having trouble getting some sleep. At around 1am, I realized I couldn’t sleepat all, and then an idea hit me like a bolt of lightning. I decided to grab the book I bought a couple days before, and read it. And not just read it, but really read it.

That night I did two unique things I’ve never repeated. I read an entire technology book cover to cover, not skipping a single page or reading anything out of order, and I read it all in one sitting, straight through, overnight.

I sat in front of my computer, opened the book at 1am, and kept reading while occasionally typing things into a text editor. I picked out images and tweaked them in Paint Shop Pro. I learned how font sizes and lists and custom bullets worked, and I wrote down everything I wanted to see on my own page. I typed up a little bio and a list of links to stuff I enjoyed. I found a web page counter and copied the appropriate code to my page. I immediately fell in love with the BLINK and HR tags and I couldn’t get enough of having giant borders on things. I was building a cool page that described what I did and liked to do, and figured the world would be impressed by my eclectic collection of links (kind of like every person in college that used the word eclectic to describe their own music collection, and how impressed everyone was supposed to be by it all).

At 7am on December 26, 1995, as the sun was ready to come up, I was finally finished with both the book and my web page, so I uploaded it to my college web server. I nervously opened up the URL in a browser and much to my surprise it worked, and it looked exactly how I pictured it would (This was one of the very few times something worked the first time). I was stoked. It was incredible—those obscure instructions I wrote down in a text editor actually made that colorful page. Holy shit, I actually made this. I finally went to sleep an hour later.

Tonight in 2015, on the anniversary of that day, I dug through tons of old hard drive backups, and the closest thing I could find was a version of that same first page from roughly 8 months after that night along with most of my personal pages from 1997 right before I bought my own haughey.com domain. The copy of my homepage is linked here:

That morning I knew I’d found something incredible in learning to publish online. While I had finished a couple science degrees and was working on another, I started school as an art major and I really loved how the early Web married art and technology in ways I’d never seen before. For the first time I felt like I was using both sides of my brain simultaneously and I knew building websites would become my thing someday.

A few months later, I considered quitting my Masters program and striking out on my own to build web sites, but instead I stuck it out at school, and finished my thesis and my degree. Unsurprisingly, my first freelance gig post-graduation was building a website for my department and all its faculty, about 50 pages in all over the course of a couple months. My first real full-time job was shortly after, at an environmental engineering firm making copies, pushing pencils, and writing environmental impact reports for cellphone poles being erected all over Southern California. After years of working in a chemistry wet lab analyzing samples, I hated having a desk job doing paperwork and quickly started looking for a web design job instead, which I found at UCLA in December of 1997.

It wasn’t easy to walk away from basically seven years of college education focused on environmental science to instead start working as a web designer. But I felt it in my gut the moment I stepped into the offices of a computer group at UCLA — this was where I belonged and I needed to drop everything to come here. If I didn’t get the job I interviewed for, I would do everything to find another one like it. And it didn’t feel like quitting Science or quitting anything, but instead like moving to a place I was supposed to be all along, opening a new chapter in my life. Thankfully, I got that job and things went well there and at every other job after. Tonight, 20 years later, I can fondly remember that night with the book, and how amazed I was that first time I loaded my very own web page in a browser and it all worked correctly. Ideas from my brain down jotted down into these obscure instructions, which finally rendered on a screen for anyone in the world to see.

Today, I’m glad I got that book and stayed up all night reading it 20 years ago. Here’s to 20, 40, and hopefully 60 more years of doing the exact same thing and feeling similarly amazed by it all.

Wired Anniversary Issue

Powell's had the new Wired early!

So I’m in the new WIRED issue! It was a little weird to see myself listed alongside industry giants, but I’ve been working on MetaFilter for 14 years now, so it probably aligned nicely with a 20th anniversary look back.

A quick note about the short interview: we talked for 20-30min but it was edited down to a pretty small space. Most of the questions I was answering were about Ask MetaFilter (the Q&A section) so they sound a bit weird when applied to MetaFilter in general. When they asked me what internet things I hated, I couldn’t actually think of any at first, and only later on in the interview I mentioned that Buzzfeed is sometimes annoying in that “stories” are often just a list of animated GIFs when I really wanted to read an article, and they might use that list of GIF as a comedy device a bit too much. But I’m not as down on Buzzfeed as the article would suggest. There are things I like at Buzzfeed, the FWD technology blog has been one of my favorites of the genre since it launched. They also do some impressive longform journalism, so they’re not all bad.

It should be in stores now and I was honored to be a part of it. Oh, and that hot tub pulled by bike for a bike-based midwife was a real suggestion on BikePortland.org.

RIP Papa

Let me just get this out in open right away: I was an extremely lazy and extremely whiny kid. I never liked to do anything that resembled work, I complained about everything all the time, and I quickly learned to do the minimum necessary for anything assigned to me. Aside from legos and computers, I expended as little effort as possible in everything I did each day.

The funny part was my parents in many ways enabled it and slightly encouraged it. They had a hard life of labor, standing on their feet, working near 200 degree ovens, and were working 12-13 hours most days. They would come home from work exhausted and stinking of grease and dirt and tell me every single day that their life was the pits. “Use your brain, get a job where you get to sit at a desk and use brainpower instead of this horrible life we have working so hard.” Thankfully, I excelled at school and I even remember in junior high and high school when I figured out at a A- counted the same on my GPA as a A+ (my schools didn’t do the 3.67 or 4.33 for A- and A+ grades, it was all worth 4.00). I quickly became an expert on figuring out how much I needed to study and what grades I needed on exams to hit that minimum 90% in every class. Heck, I also realized teachers felt bad giving me a B+ for a 89% grade so I started shooting for 88-89% knowing I could eek out a A- and eek out a 4.0 grade from classes.

Every summer I spent a week or two with relatives, most often it was my mom’s parents, my grandma and papa. They were retired from my earliest memories so often we’d go to the beach, travel around to see other relatives, and my papa had this habit of helping out his elderly sisters and brothers with home improvement projects. He also maintained gardens at home, cured and pickled his own olives and vegetables, lots of Great Depression stuff he never stopped doing.

When I was about seven I was with my grandparents and we went off to see my aunt Lena to help out around her house. I think I started the day watching cartoons on the couch and I remember my papa coming into the living room and being grumpy, turning off the TV and asking me to help with the yardwork. As long as I can remember, I lived in a condo or a small house and I was either too young to do yardwork or yardwork was handled by the condo association. I didn’t actually buy my first lawnmower until I got a house around the age of 31. When I was a teen I would get a lot of flack from friends, since that was a standard teen chore they all had to do but I got out of.

So Papa wanted to show me how to mow a lawn at age seven, and I remember it was a push mower and Auntie Lena had a pretty sizable yard (several football fields in size to my seven year old eyes, probably meager if I visited it today). I remember what a pain it was, pushing that old rusty mower, constantly getting tripped up by too much grass in the blades, having to redo parts again and again. Over the course of a few hours I eventually got the entire lawn knocked down and my hands were blistered from the rough wood handle. After dinner, I collapsed on the living room couch and asked if I could go to sleep before 8pm.

Just before I was drifting off to exhausted sleep, my papa entered the room and said something along the lines of “Matthew. You’re tired right? Do you feel exhausted?” I said yes and he went on “Good. Now you know what an honest day’s work feels like. You’re tired and you’re exhausted but you did a good job today and you should feel proud of all you did out there. Someday you may have to do work like that every day but you will get to feel satisfaction from it like you did today.”

It’s funny, I continued to be a really whiny kid after that experience and I don’t think I ever fully kicked the laziness habit, but I do feel after that day I learned it was ok to plunge into projects and work and school assignments and hobbies and jobs with the concentration and dedication I once only reserved for new lego sets and a Commodore 64.

Thanks papa for teaching me what work means and though I’m sad to see you gone you did live to 96 and I got to spend nearly four decades with you around.

It’s a me!


A few weeks ago, I got an email from a reporter at the Willamette Week, asking if I was open to an interview before MetaFilter's 12 anniversary and I said sure. Then I got a note that a photographer would pop in during our interview and take a few shots. Then hey, you're done and have time, do you mind standing in front of this makeshift studio backdrop for a few more photos? We might use them next to the story. It won't be on the cover or anything. Ok, we need to ask a few more questions, the story just got lengthened. 

Then last night I got an email saying that my photo did end up being on the cover.

Here's the story on the Willamette Week's site. I like how it turned out (aside from calling my friend Anil, Neil, but they said they'd fix it) and it was fun to do.

Today I sat in a coffee shop and got interviewed for a research project by someone that had a copy of this on the table and it freaked me out to stare at myself the whole time.

Things that suck about a cast

image from farm7.static.flickr.com

– You probably remember a kid in your second grade class falling off the monkey bars right before school let out for the summer and how that kid's entire summer was ruined. Turns out at age 38 that's also true. I had tons of bike rides planned, a trip to the beach, a new waterpark opened in town, and I was hoping to swim at the Great Barrier Reef next month. I just cancled two long bike tours I reserved months ago. My summer: ruined.

– Typing sucks. Not impossible, but if you thought you'd have plenty of time to write while you try not to sweat in your new cast, you're in for a surprise.

– It's pretty much impossible to use a standard xbox360 controller with a left thumb locked in position. That was another way I thought I might pass time I'd otherwise be riding a bike in full health.

– A few months ago I finally up and decided to dress like a grownup for the rest of my life. Today before getting the cast off I had to take off a nice shirt I was wearing over a tshirt for fear I'd have to cut it off to get around the cast. Today's the first day in months that I've walked around as a 38 year old man wearing a tshirt in public and I feel both somewhat naked being so underdressed and I know I look like a complete slob without a nice shirt on. I can't believe how quickly I got used to nicer clothes and how I spent the last 30+ years of my life just wearing a tshirt and shorts or jeans every day in public. At least I wasn't the most underdressed while running errands today, there were 40-something dudes wearing tank tops.

– Given I tore some ligaments and didn't break the bone, healing means a slow process with therapy and my wrist probably won't ever be pain free afterwards. Surgery would make it worse, clogging my wrist with scar tissue that would restrict my range of motion. The whole diganosis for recovery reminded me of Louie CK's bum ankle and how sometimes parts of our bodies just never get any better:



Milestone: five years without a day job

A little over five years ago, I gave my notice to my last employer, Creative Commons. I'd been waiting for the day for over a year, but even with outside income from blogging it was pretty crazy at the time. We had just bought a new house and we had a six month old baby, and there I was, thinking it was the perfect time to quit my cushy telecommuting job and strike out on my own with no real idea of what the future would be like.

Thankfully, a lot of luck landed in my lap in the form of advertising income. It took six penniless years to get MetaFilter going, but soon after I started doing it full time it became big enough to pay other people to help out and we continued making MetaFilter the best site we could, as income grew with traffic.

2010 is the first year that hasn't seen double digit growth, but I'm chalking it up to the stagnant recession economy and I'm seeing glimmers of things improving again so I have high hopes for 2011.

I'm stoked that I went from something that could barely pay the bills to a company with employees, it's really beyond my wildest dreams when I made the decision in 2005. Here's to another five years (and hopefully a lifetime) of never having a boss ever again.

Health Month (so far)

Health Month is a new game (currently in beta) designed to help you find that ever-elusive motivation that you need to improve your health. 

via healthmonth.com

I've been playing the Health Month beta this month and it's been a great motivator to get out of my office chair and onto my bike and into some running shoes. I set some pretty high goals for myself and have been doing my best to try and hit them. As crazy as it sounds, I actually forced myself to take a long bike ride the other day when I was still tired from the previous day's exercise simply because I was low on "life points" in the game.

Screen shot 2010-09-15 at 9.38.50 AM

I've lost five pounds in two weeks because I set a goal of exercising 5 times a week instead of the typical 1x or 2x per week I've been doing lately. Due to some of the medications I take, I've been gaining about 3-4lbs a month since last December, so having my first significant weight loss has been satisfying and I'm feeling better than before. The game is just enough to motivate me to try a little harder while still being fun.

The site runs as a month-to-month thing, so be sure to sign up so you can try it out in October.


New look for Haughey.com

I never know what to do with my vanity domain haughey.com ever since I moved my blog to this address in 2001. This week I scraped the old list of links to my work and updated it as a portfolio of the projects that currently take up my time. 

This was another quick project I sent over to HTML Rockstars, and kudos to them for turning my mockup into HTML reality in just a few days. I suppose the only thing lacking is bio or contact info, but I guess you can easily find that online elsewhere.


I had to run Eudora.exe in a virtual window to find an email from 14 years ago today

A little over fourteen years ago, I ran into someone at a friend's backyard party, talked to her for a while, and eventually wanted to know more. I did everything I could to run into her in between classes the following week and at the end of that week she invited me over to watch a movie, then sent this email in the late morning changing plans to see the opening night screening of a new movie called Fargo. Then because hey, it was at night, let's go out for some food after, and so on and so forth and sometime after midnight we finally kissed.

Oh, and that Ben Stiller movie that came out around the same time was Flirting With Disaster. I'm glad we picked Fargo, and while it's not the best first date movie, seeing someone's reaction to such a film is a pretty good barometer for whether that first date will turn into ten years of marriage down the line.

Adventures in brain tumors: part one of many

 Photo on 2009-11-13 at 14.13

You know it's going be bad news when the ER doc slides a chair over to sit on. Good news is quick, a simple "You're gonna be fine! You can go home!" Seeing that chair slide over with her let me know I was in for some long explanations of bad news.

Of course the worst part is that I went to the hospital with a bad flu and two hours later this ER doctor is explaining that during the routine CT scan on my head, a lump was found. She couldn't tell if it was blood, a mass, or a collection of both. She couldn't tell if it was benign or cancerous either. I was immediately rushed to the area major hospital OSHU for MRI scans that could provide higher resolution data.

I finally got to experience the horribleness that a 45min long MRI I've been hearing so much about. That really is a ghastly creation, sliding me into a jet engine whirring to life for 45 minutes with about one inch of clearance above my face and an entire field of white to stare at until it's over? Figure out a way to project a few Simpsons episodes or at least some music to overcome the loud, claustrophobic noise machine that is a MRI.

I forgot to mention that before I got my MRI, I was waiting in their area and a technician asked me to move from my flat hospital bed that I was sleeping on to a waiting wheelchair before I got transferred to the MRI sliding test bed. I remember saying "Ok, I guess…" and as soon as my ass hit the wheelchair seat I said "I'm going to pass out" to the tech. I blinked my eyes and when I opened them six people were above me on a bed with an alarm sound in the distance. The head person in charge asked me if I do recreational drugs "It's cool here man, no judgments, it just helps us help you" and I said no, I've never done any recreation drugs (which is true). When I said I'd just taken a few doses of Codeine cough syrup the night before he rattled off a bunch of what I guess are street names for codeine based highs that were each more hilarious sounding than the next. I was exhausted and just coming back into consciousness so forgive me for not remembering the real names but it sounded something like this:

"Oh you took Codeine huh? You doing Night Rammers? Doing Robot Jammers? Doing some Springboard slammers?"

I had to confess that without a copy of UrbanDictionary.com, I wouldn't even know what he just asked me but that no, I didn't take any more than the recommended doctor's dose.

I'm getting ahead of myself, let me go back to the beginning for the sake of friends wondering what was up with my initial tweet (this is long and exhausting and I don't mind if it's tl;dr for you).

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