Jan 14, 2013
All right! It's 2013 & I have all kinds of new business to report.
Back in 2002, when I was first getting serious about Stamen, I got my first real gig: my friend Dane Howard (formerly of Quokka Sports) connected me with some friends of his at DesignworksUSA, who were looking for a way to visually describe the process by which design decisions got made at BMW, and build a system to manage how they communicated this to the board. I flew down to Thousand Oaks and somehow managed to convince DesignWorks that I was their huckleberry. Having some Flash experience, but also having no idea how to actually build the server side of such a thing, I turned to another friend, Darren David, for help. He recommended another friend and colleague, Mike Migurski, as the backend coder for the project. He started coming by my studio after his day job was done, and after a pretty short while we were off to the races, working on projects over the years from admin interfaces for BMW to early mappings of Flickr imagery to Google News visualizations to maps of crime in the Bay Area. Today we're making public that he's moving on from Stamen, on the very best of terms.
Would you hire this guy? I would (photo from 2003).
I learned some valuable lessons from the experience. The first was: get the job first, and figure the rest out later. If you think too hard, it'll pass you by. The most important thing—the most important thing—is to have the paid work that will keep things moving. If you don't have that, it's all about talking and worrying and managing unknown risks; it's vital for skin to be in the game. The second was: trust your first instinct, go for it, and don't worry too much. After a month or of working together in a heady cocktail of cigarette smoke and techno music, I gave Mike a desk and a key to my studio well before we'd sorted out any of the details of how we'd work together, because I knew he was good people and we'd figure it out as we went. Eventually he came on as a collaborator and a partner, and the rest is history.
Mike has since emerged as a vibrant and talented spokesman for our community (I encourage you to keep up with what he does next at mike.teczno.com; I certainly will), one of the foremost practitioners of open source tools in the service of making data more public that you'll find anywhere. It's been an incredible nine years of intense collaborative partnership—the most important of my professional life, and one I feel privileged to have been a part of. We've had quite a run, and all of this is very bittersweet: I wish him the best, I know he'll continue to do great things post-Stamen, I'll miss him, and that's the truth, Jack.
Mike and I at the Digg V3 launch party in 2006.
2012 - this is why we could never agree on Stamen schwag
Welcome, new friends:
I also have some new Stamens to introduce to you, as part of the forwardsy-rolling epic adventure, Stamen and otherwise, that 2013 is already shaping up to be. It's new days around here, and I'm super excited to be able to tell you that Seth Fitzsimmons has come on as our new Director of Technology. A devotee of the Church of Allspaw (it's weird, considering how often I've heard that term, that there's so little on Google about it), he brings a focus on instrumentation and transparency to backend systems that I think is genuinely going to transform the kind of work that Stamen does from this point forward. We worked closely with him on a project for Oprah Winfrey last year and I'm really looking forward to the results of this new phase in our collaboration.
In another—is it OK to call this a coup?—Mike Tahani has joined us as a hybrid designer/technologist of the type that we seem to specialize in attracting to our practice. Stamen alum Sha Hwang first called Mike to my attention last year with his work on datahacker.tumblr.com/ - it was pretty obvious to me on first viewing (his cabspotting riff are wierd and beautiful) that this was someone I wanted to keep close so I could learn from what he was up to. We've had a great couple of months working on different projects, and I'm glad he's decided to come on board for reals.
We've also decided to take the plunge into some new territory for Stamen, one I've been interested in for some time now: Beth Schechter has agreed to come on to run Client Relations for the studio. As we've grown and the space of opportunity has expanded for us, I've increasingly found myself in a position where responding to new potential clients, and managing relationships with current clients, is harder to get to than I'd like. It's the lifeblood of what we do, and it needs someone to pay attention to it full time. Mike Montiero of Mule Design (who I asked for help with this—he knows his stuff) recommended we bring in someone to lovingly tend to this part of our business, and so: entre Beth Schechter, whose credentials include working the always-excellent Burning Man project, mapping work with Food Are Here, and managing projects for Stamen friend Zachary Coffin.
Ok, let's go!