Justin Hall's personal site growing & breaking down since 1994

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2014 Archives

40th update, and do you remember this site?

I turned 40 and missed my end of 2014 deadline for my film. What am I doing with my life?

Using type I could describe of my thoughts and feelings, but let's be more oral than literate. Yesterday I filmed myself for five minutes, committed edit and post a video in a day. Here's a moving picture update on my life:

If you visited this site before 1999 and you have some memory of the site in the context of the web at that time, I might want to interview you / video you / ask you to appear as a talking head in my upcoming video. Please lemme know if that's something you might share: Thanks!

more details here:

I've been friends with this writer, editor, teacher Howard Rheingold for over 20 years now. A year or so ago, Howard suggested I come give a talk about my experiences sharing my life on the web to a class he was teaching at a local university. Afterwards, he suggested that if I could make a short film with that story, it would be useful for other professors teaching about the history of digital media.

This fall, I helped edit a video with Howard about his Alchemagical Lucid Dream Box

So in May 2014, I put aside The Justin Hall show and focused full time on a documentary. I thought it would take 3-4 months, and I would aim for 20 minutes. Now, seven months later, I'm not finished with the film and it's about 40 minutes long.

I think my film is a decent piece of work; my friends have told me it has some strengths. There are two key weaknesses I've identified today:

1. I retreated from deeply personal online sharing in January 2005, just as social networks were beginning to take off. What did I learn and how do I see online sharing today? I've touched on this in my film, and in this recent interview with Innovation Hub from WGBH, but folks I respect want a deeper articulation. I think I need to summon some unscripted anguish, because I don't have an easy answer but I want to speak to the convergence of freedom, technology and community. With brevity.

Justin Hall 20 years of blogging

2. Why was "Justin's Links" notable? Why should anyone care about this old web site and this guy talking at them?? It's a strange thing to make an autobiographical film without working hard to prove my own worth: I've hewn towards telling my story, my experience, more than ranking myself externally. But the film needs some of that context, what was interesting about my site?, in order to have some long term prospects. Between the links of my life and the links of the web was Justin's Links from the Underground and @#$!@$! was worthwhile about that in the mid-1990s??

If you visited this site before 1999 and you have some memory of the site in the context of the web at that time, I might want to interview you / video you / ask you to appear as a talking head in my video. Please lemme know if that's something you might share:

I turned 40 on Tuesday 16 December. I said I wanted to finish this film by that time, so I could shift to other projects including exploring the potential for to promote health, justice and good feelings. But this film has gotten good enough that I can't release it yet. I'm fighting my own impatience to make this worth inflicting on folks curious about the early web, decades from now. And maybe you can help me out! Thanks for your attention :-) the film will end up here and on 20links.vhx.tx.

a conclusion; the end is nigh

Yesterday afternoon my girlfriend Ilyse was running late for a doctor's appointment. She sat with me in the bottom floor of our house, an iPad in her lap, reading over a script for a video. Her mobile phone was strapped on a tripod, pointed at my entire body, along with two other cameras.

I didn't dare believe it at the time, but it looks like yesterday was the final day of formal shooting for my personal documentary project. I'll have a few lines or moments to reshoot, pickups - nothing I can't pull off myself in the days or weeks ahead. Yesterday broke through - I wrapped up the story I've been telling myself for six months. A final filmed conclusion! It was my third or fourth draft of "what is the result of all this web sharing I done?" and after I spliced my takes together last night, I felt a weight lifting. I felt the story entirely in my hands for a moment again - reminding me of the uninformed optimism that convinced me to make a personal documentary in just a few weeks starting in the spring this year.

A few weeks turned into a few months turned into most of a year. My deadline was mid-September for XOXO; now I'm glad to have wrapped principle photography before the deadline for the Iranian-US nuclear negotiations this Monday November 24. My 40th birthday comes in less than a month; how about I finish my edits before then? That would be a nice present Mr. Hall.

Blood kin have requested a screening in Chicago this Thanksgiving holiday next week. So I'll receive some family feedback on whatever draft I deliver in a few days. The time elapsed on this project, and the work I've done revising it after friends viewing thus far, has me feeling like my spine is steel - I won't need much-less-want to change much. Fingers and legs crossed.

Ilyse was a bit late for her doctor's appointment. Her full-body phone footage enables some of the most fun edits in the film: shots where I'm standing in the scene, a part of the illustration for whatever I'm speaking. I've learned an enormous amount working on this project; soon I look forward to sharing it with you.

OMG I just remembered that I still don't have a title. Ahahahahaha

Columbia journalism reviewed

I'm honored to have been written up by journalist Lene Bech Sillesen in the Columbia Journalism Review, "Is this the Web's first blog?" Justin Hall's 20-year-old website shows how opportunities in online journalism slowly developed.

not only does Justin's Links map Hall's personal coming-of-age-story, it also illustrates the internet's rapid expansion, and the development of online journalism. Here are some thoughts from Hall, now 40, on what it was like to be an early blogger.

It was a fun conversation - understanding how a new writer today might glean something from my various experiments as they approach the internet. Lene is @LeneBechS on Twitter if you want to keep up with her ongoing explorations.

Infamous Internet raconteur Justin Hall has now blown through two deadlines for his upcoming personal documentary film, with no clear release date in sight. One concerned friend reports that this production is so muddled, "he still doesn't even have a title for this thing."

What we do know is that Hall somehow believes that the internet wants to revisit the material of his rambling personal web site in video form. But after months of working on this documentary project, the internet has only seen a 6 second preview with no clear path to release.

Originally scheduled for a mid-September debut, the film was postponed with little explanation until early October - a deadline Hall observed with barely an apology for depriving the web of his latest free amateur production. Now some suggest that Hall has bitten off too much to chew - "look, he made a few hacked-together video episodes. Now he wants to command a full 40 minutes? With no writer, no film crew, no editor, no one else at the controls? I am not optimistic -" this associate finished their appraisal by spinning their index finger at their temple.

Meanwhile video reached the web of Hall's September remarks at the XOXO festival in Portland Oregon. His performance earned some praise while others pointed out that speech may be the best he can muster: "I am not sure he's going to do better than XOXO with his current approach [filming alone in his basement]."

They were likely referring to the stilted green screen style that Hall has employed for videos on a range of subjects during his dormant "Justin Hall Show" series. Shaking their head, one friend remarks on the episodes: "we never knew if he was kidding about how bad they were."

With delays mounting and the quality expected to be low, it appears Hall is continuing his long slide into online irrelevance. Decline is nothing new to the veteran web publisher: he peaked in 1995 with 27,000 daily readers and now has barely 250. Is this video a ruse to cover up a lack of poignant personal experience or compelling sex links on his web site?

When reached for comment, Hall asked if we had any Adderall or XJ-13 to spare. When we pointed out those are both prescription drugs in his home state of California, Hall asked us to sign up for his mailing list.

Part of a series of infrequent third person posts; here's a few more:
Web Site Founder Flees Mounting Scandal backlash takes toll most eligible bachelor award for 2011

XOXO 2014

XOXO is a festival celebrating "independent artists using the Internet to make a living doing what they love." What a lovely niche! I had heard of the event for years, I had watched some of the XOXO talks on YouTube. So I was quite honored when one of the two Andys who organizes it reached out to me - they had found that failure and vulnerability made for good talks and they thought I might share some of what I've learned being vulnerable and sharing my failures on the web.

I said yes I would love to participate in XOXO! I pitched them a screening of my upcoming "20 years of documentary" but a speech was a better fit. Here's my talk, in this nice video shared by the XOXO folk Justin Hall, Links from the Underground - XOXO Festival (2014):

What's not included in this video is the heartfelt introduction by Andy Baio suggesting that my web pages might have had some kind of influence on him in high school; Andy was sweet to write it up afterwards. After listening to his introduction, by the time I took the stage, I was a bit choked up.

My speech here looks back over 20 years of personal sharing online. XOXO is about as splendid a venue as I could imagine for this content - the event is curated, everyone attending has to explicitly explain something they make (not just sell, or promote, or schedule, but hands-on). So there's a touching lack of irony and the chance to turn to anyone there to ask "what do you make?" with people generally prepared to tell you! It's a much more fun conversation opener than "what do you do?" or "where do you work?"

In the crowd were many godparents of the early web; serious long-term community builders and online experimenters. It was heartening to see them a little grayer, still making things, eyes a-twinkle.

meeting Aaron Peckham - the guy who made Urban Dictionary! Enabling a collective evolving vernacular online, hurrah.

But XOXO wasn't some kind of web geezer fest - there were all manner of innovative new creators in the mix as well. Animators, game designers, storytellers, musicians making new experiences left me in a delicious limbo between the beloved familiar and the tantalizing novel. I came away from XOXO hugely impressed by the momentum they've created to attract folks, friends and strangers that I wanted to be around.

Ilyse and I meeting Asher Vollmer, game designer behind Threes! And now a casual RTS called Close Castles

Inside the XOXO venue, Andy + Andy on stage to kick things off Friday.

Riding a schoolbus between cultural opportunities and hotels

Portland, a city famous for cloudy skies, beamed bright burning sun throughout. Here's some outdoor pleasure on the roof-deck of Panic, an XOXO sponsor.

Playing Close Castles during an evening curation of experimental video games.

DJ Anil Dash descended from Twitter/ThinkUp to drop beats for happy feets.

Ilyse and Tantek work their way through a maze at the Hover-sponsored happy hour at Ground Kontrol, packed with playable arcade games, part of XOXO 2014.

People playing "Marrying Mr. Darcy" - a card game based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen during an evening's session of curated board and card games.

Jamie Wilkinson, Casey Pugh and KK Apple prepare to preview The Empire Strikes Back: Uncut as part of the XOXO Film Fest

Darius Kazemi sums up his #1 inspired XOXO 2014 talk "How I Won the Lottery" - not yet posted online, but Darius is active at

There was soul food and brain food and social connection - I was delighted and honored to be a part of XOXO 2014.

I managed to be included in one of Jonathan Mann's daily songs, after I too cried at his XOXO talk featuring his wild and lively grandmother:

Finally, after my talk, after a few drinks, late one evening in a bar I had a chance to answer Daniel Agee's question: What is it you do or make only for yourself?

Kevin Marks took great live notes, and Scott Rosenberg wrote up his multiple years of attendance in "XOXO and the Fierce Urgency of Nice". I didn't get a chance to thank Glenn Fleishman for the wireless setup book he wrote that help me configure my home; he wrote up a longer piece about XOXO 2014 for BoingBoing, "The narrative lottery at XOXO".

Preparing for my speech took a few weeks but nicely overlapped with the work I've been doing to look back at 20 years of online sharing at this here web site. My speech video from XOXO is a tasty appetizer, I hope, for a hot steaming pile of delicious main course film I aim to serve up in the next few weeks! More information about my upcoming documentary currently titled " 20 years of Too Much Information" lives here:

VHX site launched for personal documentary

Aside from hunting and gathering foodstuffs, I haven't left the house in over a week. I'm up to my ears in video making, for a short personal documentary about 20 years of sharing my life on this web site!

Today I'm pulling my head out of my Final Cut Pro X video editing software, and setting up a VHX page for this 20 Links video:

This will allow me to at least collect emails from prospective viewers, during my final phase of editing. Some day, when this video is done, I plan to release it free online and VHX will allow me to sell people DRM-free copies for as much as they feel like donating. I interviewed one of the VHX founders, Jamie Wilkinson, in 2013; I look forward to experimenting with more forms of crowd-supported online media production.

re DJ

Yesterday a plumbing emergency hindered filming for my documentary (I had a garden fountain of night soil). So between plumber visits, I made a 20 second DJ J-Hole promo video to submit to a local bar with an open call for disk jockeys:

Thanks to Greenhomies giving me the chance to DJ at Camp Baxter this July, so I had something recent to show for myself! July 2014 was my first time live DJing since 1998 at Reboot in Copenhagen. Now I've updated my DJ page: ahahahaha TODAY BACK TO MY DOCUMENTARY

from the midst of a search for the core yearning

This site Justin's Links appears in Vanity Fair magazine October 2014, in an article by Walter Isaacson "The Great Connectors." Isaacson penned a series of articles, drawn from his work on the book The Innovators about the twenty years since the birth of the web. He included me in his research, and I made an animated gif of his shorthand when Isaacson and I met up in October 2013:

Walter Isaacson shows his shorthand - animated GIF

For the last few minutes of our meeting Isaacson agreed to an interview, about The Innovators and his career as a storyteller, preacher, manager - YouTube, Facebook, or Flickr.

It's an honor to be included and I look forward to reading The Innovators - I had a terrific time reading Isaacson's Steve Jobs biography, as I was still reeling from a failed leadership attempt at GameLayers. I've handled a copy and I'm plumb-tickled they included a photo of me and Howard freaking up a page with Tim Berners-Lee and Marc Andresson.

So Hail, visitors - new and returning alike. I'm grateful for your attention! My hard work lately has been videos, mostly up on Otherwise, this web site proceeds through various orifices, including this rather large one.

This uptick in external attention urges me to finish my film about my time on the web. To animate my presence in the infosphere whilst I canoodle video storytelling, I present

a jazzy #20links trailer posted to Vine:

a jazzy #20links trailer posted to Instagram:

This 6 second, 40k speed video event includes a sped up music sample from Harry Roy and His Mayfair Hotel Orchestra - Tumbling Tumbleweeds free music from the Internet Archive.

This article was quite helpful in exporting video for Vine vs. Instagram. Knowledge like that is not precious forever, but for now - fun to launch a blipvert for 20 Links.

"20 Links" is a nickname. The core yearning that animated my exploration of the web thus far defies a pithy title. I have been experimenting with all manner of story-bending systems to distill my truth to tell:

breaking down a story

Story-bending at a micro and now a macro level! More details to follow, fingers willing.

preparing not to over-prepare

I'm overdue for an update here! I posted my last update for my Patreon followers only in June, and didn't re-post it here until September. I am grateful to folks who would pledge their money towards the production of my future videos, and perhaps early access to my writing is a reward in lieu of new moving pictures.

This summer I haven't produced any videos, because I've been working on a documentary about my first 20 years online. I don't have a title yet, but I do have 35 minutes of edited footage. Here's a 40,000x speed preview of what I have so far:

The Innovators book by Walter IsaacsonI have reason to believe I may make an appearance in Walter Isaacson's upcoming book The Innovators. He's including some history of the early web and he interviewed me about my work on this web site, and my work at HotWired (just before I turned the camera back on him, almost a year ago: Video Walter Isaacson: Storyteller Preacher Manager).

When Isaacson's book comes out in early October 2014, if anybody says "whatever happened to that web geezer Justin Hall," I'd like to have some hard-earned online wisdom to share with them. I'm 70% done with a short documentary I look forward to sharing free online.

My deadline for this documentary was originally mid-September, to show at the XOXO conference - a celebration of independent internet-enabled creativity. Well, they were nice enough to give me a speaking slot and not a film screening. I have a speech to give this Sunday, and a film to finish for early October.

The last time I gave a speech was at the Game Developers Conference (here's a video episode I produced about the event). I promoted #OGDY - Open Game Data Yes. I wanted to encourage more sharing of experience by people making interactive entertainment. I had a 7 minute timeslot and I scripted my talk and rehearsed it until I had it memorized. Down to the gestures!

The feedback came back from audience members: the talk was polished but soulless. My point seemed shallow compared to the pompous depth of my presentation style.

"Justin was feeling too self-important in his delivery (wide-eyed stares into the room and pregnant pauses should be followed by something revelatory)."

That feedback had the fortunate effect of making me quite concerned about over-preparing for my XOXO talk. How does one prepare not to over-prepare? With a lot of writing, rewriting, drafts, writing new drafts and throwing away the script.

Fortunately the topic for my talk is the same as the topic for my film - how I've shared myself online, why I failed to live up to my earliest goals, and what I've learned. So I'm steeped in the questions, steeped in the material, and deep in conversations with trusted advisors on how to best digest and spew forth what I've learned.

My strategy has been to rely on an outline instead of a script - easier with 20 minutes, more time to inhabit my ideas in progress. XOXO has filmed and posted their films with weeks of the event, so I look forward to hopefully sharing some footage of my XOXO remarks here.

A chap named Justin McMurray messaged me to apologize to referring to my "crappy green screen" in his DO Lecture about "turning the camera back on the internet". I'm honored by the reference (about 11 minute 20 seconds in), and curious how he snuck a peek in my studio to spy my green screen fabric held aloft by chip-clips.

I appreciate McMurray's message of doing and reflecting, doing and reflecting. I'm a big believer in sharing what I've learned, and what I'm learning from others. As humans alive with language and hungry minds, it's the best we can do to support each other: sharing our truths towards greater understanding. That's what I aim to do up on stage at XOXO!

Sharing knowledge is also what I aim to do with future episodes of the Justin Hall show. I've been immensely cheered to see additional people sign up to support future episodes on Patreon, even during this production pause. The growing monies inspire me to make more and hire others.

I know that making videos is the best way to raise money for making more videos; I have no current strategy to monetize my 20 years of documentary, other than to hope it will send more folks with open wallets towards After I publish my documentary, I look forward to more interviews, more essays, more questions, more sharing what I've learned as long as I'm alive!

Appeared on a podcast: Montreal Sauce

Miracles of the 21st century - people have conversations and record them to share with the world!

Montreal Sauce

I met Christopher Sikkenga through the web game PMOG. A few years later, he's started a regular podcast conversation with Paul DeLeeuw called "Montreal Sauce." On 26 June 2014 I was allowed to be a guest; you can listen Justin Hall on Montreal Sauce podcast!

Borrowing from their web writeup, here's a breakdown of some of what we discussed; much of it concerns my video efforts with the Justin Hall Show, and what it means to make personal media:

I am grateful these two decided I might be worth their attention. Perhaps you'll find Montreal Sauce is a tasty addition to your media diet!

Originally posted 29 June 2014 on Patreon; my supporters there got an early glimpse of this

Hello Patreons!! Thanks for your support. I want to explain why I haven't posted any new Justin Hall Show for a few weeks. I've been working on a single long video about my experience of publishing my personal web site.

This project has a deadline - I've been invited to speak at a conference called XOXO in Portland September 11-14. It's an intimate-looking "experimental festival celebrating independently produced art and technology" and it seems like the perfect place to give a public gander of this "20links" video. XOXO conference tickets are available until the end to day Monday, tomorrow! Would be fun to see you there, if you can make it:

So far I'm working almost entirely alone so I want be integrating feedback early and often. I now carry a draft of the video on my mobile phone, so I can review it or share it with others on the road. Soon I look forward to previewing clips for you folks here!

Here's a recent behind-the-scenes update video: that was a hasty production shot with a 13 year old webcam late last Sunday evening to make the occasion of receiving a deadline and entering the go phase of the project.

I'm wrestling to make my experience of the early web relevant to strangers. I'm currently speaking a script and script revisions into the project timeline. On top of this voiceover I'm adding videos, pictures and effects to visually anchor the story.

I just finished a film editor's memoir: "When the Shooting Stops, the Cutting Begins" by Ralph Rosenblum, the editor for Annie Hall and a slew of other movies, and he published this account of driving storytelling through image sequences. He cut his teeth on documentaries, including WWII-era propaganda films. I loved his moment-by-moment descriptions of film edits; he inspired me to think of ways to show more and tell less.

Now I'm started "Sound Design: The Expressive Power of Music, Voice, and Sound Effects in Cinema" by David Sonnenschein. Sound is the most visceral aspect of filmmaking and I know little about it. This book encourages me to think about sounds that communicate story, besides voice and music.

Amidst editing and researching, I like to re-focus my brain. Yesterday I found "A Dark Room" which is a simple, free text-only experience. A Dark Room is stirring and provocative - a great example of an experience unique to video games.

I aim to craft a uniquely video experience about a personal web site! And I look forward to sharing it with you.

A Long-term Personal Digital Archive Strategy

Recently I read with horror as Ben Brown posted on Twitter about a burglary in March 2014 - gigabytes of personal photographs were stolen with a computer hard drive from his home:

As I felt terrible for Ben, I realized I was in a similar boat. All my personal digital memories are in my home. I have too many gigabytes to store in the cloud. Working with video, I now have many terabytes of storage here for my memories. Someone who broke into my house would sell my hard drives for spare parts and the contents would be lost to me.

So, spurred on by Ben's sad story, I began asking around for people's backup strategies. During a visit to the Internet Archive, just before I interviewed Richard Stallman, I complained to John Gilmore than I had too much data to backup in the cloud. Gilmore suggested I get a harddrive, fill it up and mail it to my parents.

Howard RheingoldTwas a brilliant low-tech suggestion: I bought a big hard drive, copied all my personal digital assets on to it and shipped it to Chicago - about a five hour plane flight away. If the entire United States is rapidly overtaken by a government of totalitarian infophobes seizing our bits at taserpoint, I'll be hosed. But if there's a California earthquake, fire or burglary and I survived without my immediate computers, I'll at least have copies of my photograph of Howard Rheingold in his citrus fruits shirt.

For about two years I've been slowly emptying a storage space I had in San Francisco: scanning old personal video tapes, papers, photos, DVDs, EZ Drive disks and hard drives. You can see some of the results in my "Justin Hall appearing elsewhere" YouTube feed. I realized that old data is fragile and very small relative to today's data. It's only getting more expensive to rescue old files from old drives. And I don't have a job. And I'm making a documentary about my life, which is sorta what I've been doing for 20+ years anyhow. So now is a good time to preserve my datas.

After a brief bit of research, I purchased the "WD My Book 4 TB USB 3.0 Hard Drive with Backup" for $160 from Amazon, and saved the box it came in to remail it.

Spring 2014, I spent a few weeks consolidating my photos, videos, school papers, personal scanned documents, email backups, web site backups, old laptop dumps, archives from my company GameLayers - whatever I could get my hands on, to copy onto the drive. Then I shipped it yesterday! In a few months, I'll buy a second drive, fill that up, and swap it with the first drive each time I travel to Chicago.

Now there's a copy of all my personal data on a hard drive labelled "continuance" that should soon be collecting dust far away; thusly I spent many hours and $160 + $19 shipping for peace of mind.

I still need to figure out what I expect anyone to do with my data when I die; I can pretend I have some measure of preference and control over that while I'm alive.

Just In Berlin

I had a free plane ticket to Europe and some free time; I decided to visit Berlin Germany for my first time. I was attracted to Berlin because of all the creative folks I know moving or visiting there. When I arrived I was stunned at how hard the tragic history of the place affected me.

Here's a short video about the trip:

YouTube: Just In Berlin

Featuring interviews with Doris Steinbichler, Gabriel Shalom, João Paglione and Felix Petersen. Plus footage from a performance by Urnamo Ali at Savvy Contemporary and time well spent at Holzmarkt 25.

I attended Sunday services at Berliner Dom which features English translations. I was rejected from the infamous dance club Berghain, and spent much time at the Topography of Terror and German Historical Museum.

Huge thanks to João Paglione and Der Magnetmann for hosting me! I met João years ago through Flickr where I enjoyed his lively cheerful presence. We established communications and Berlin was the first time we met. I was grateful they could put me up.

Behind the Scenes

I filmed all of this with my mobile phone (iPhone 5s) and a cheap lavalier microphone. I used an inexpensive mobile phone tripod to film myself talking out in front of the Topography of Terror museum; that was an intense half an hour - riffing on horror and humanity and my travels as people wandered around nearby.

I used Motion to make a "lower thirds" title template that I could edit-once and change across all the text in the video. For the background, I used cobblestones I filmed abroad, slowed down and color-tweaked.

I finally learned how to reattach clips elsewhere in the timeline of Final Cut Pro X - command+option click where you want it; so easy I never knew.

Plus I learned how to export frames as images from FCPx, thanks to Larry Jordan.

My Video Publishing Future

So my skills are improving, I've got more polish at my reach plus an evolved sense of how to capture useful source material. In the last eleven months I've learned about green screens, color correcting, audio balancing, lower thirds, motion graphics, sourcing content from the web, the importance of soundtracks, uploading and sharing video in 2014. It's a lot to learn! It's been fun to motivate and publish myself in regular videos.

Your sponsorship on Patreon is fantastic - I'm grateful to the people there who support my videos, and the money is motivating. Having patrons makes me want to make sure I produce something worthy of your dollars, so that has me combing over one video to polish it, and not cranking 'em out the way I did late last year.

Sometimes I debate publishing less-polished videos more often - informal riffing, maybe like I used to do when I filled web pages with free verse poems each night. For now I'm enjoying the craft of prioritizing a single story for a spell.

I aspired to one video per week; I'm now averaging more like 2 per month. May 2014 I will probably only publish this video, Just In Berlin!

In the next few months, I'll be returning to the 20 Links project - making a short film about my time on the web. I look forward to more video sharing with you here! Just maybe not as often as I have been producing. Based on how much time I spend making a 6 minute video I like, polishing up a 20-40 minute video could take a good while.

Jake Lodwick: Weirdo CEO

It's been almost three weeks since my last video; the divorce project really took it out of me. I got a bad cold. Then a pipe burst and I learned a little plumbing.

All the while I was working on footage I shot: an interview with Jake Lodwick from 27 February 2014. Jake is an engineer and entrepreneur. He developed the video sharing web site Vimeo. Vimeo was sold for millions of dollars and Jake was soon fired. He admits he was then adrift, at a time when his personal oversharing on the web became more challenging as well.

Now Jake has started Elepath, a software studio. I was curious to hear what he had learned, and how he's adapted his personality for the task of building a company.

YouTube: Jake Lodwick: Weirdo CEO

Jake was one of the first people to encourage me to do interviews and videos on the web when I started talking about it last year. He offered himself to be the first guest on The Justin Hall Show and I'm glad to have finally gotten him in my folding chair.

This video has 39 images and moving pictures I found freely-shared on the web. What a miracle - a cultural commons. I thank many of the usual suspects in the credits; I'd also like to give a special thanks to Zabou for permission to use her Surveillance illustration about 10 minutes and 8 seconds in.

Sharing my Divorce - video

I have shared a number of intense things on my web site over the years, but I haven't told the story of my divorce. I thought I would only get married once! And then I would do whatever it took to make it work.

Well (spoiler alert), that didn't work out. Upon reflection, I think running GameLayers was a big strain on our partnership. I had to learn to let go.

So this week, for The Justin Hall Show, I made a video to share the story of my 2010 divorce:

on YouTube: Sharing My Divorce

Each of my "Justin Hall Show" videos is an experiment; here I wanted to challenge myself to discuss a topic I find challenging and upsetting. After I edited out my long plaintive stares at the camera, I decided I didn't feel my customary impulse to insert illustrations or music. So, it's a 14.5 minute long, somewhat stark simple video of a sad story. And what I learned! And that I survived! So it's not all sad.

Hopefully this video might help someone going through a challenging end to their union. As I was preparing to post this video, I learned that a college classmate of mine Esther Parker was killed by her husband, reportedly because she requested a divorce. It felt like a gut punch to read that news - I was reeling, feeling disoriented and unsure of what I was doing amidst that senseless violence and horrific tragedy. My girlfriend Ilyse pointed out that posting a video that supports people accepting divorce and moving on could be a positive political act - we need to learn to be in partnership, and we need to learn to let go humanely. And hopefully we can evolve to be more supportive of each other as we wrestle with the friction between our ideals and other people.

Provocative People Making Games - #GDC2014

Earlier this month I found some provocative people making games at the Game Developers Conference, and at a free unconference called Lost Levels nearby. Please enjoy this latest episode of the Justin Hall Show:

Provocative People Making Games - from the Game Developers Conference and Lost Levels March 2014

I interviewed four folks here: Anna Anthropy, Paolo Pedercini, Auriea Harvey and Mahdi Bahrami.

Each of them makes personally-motivated games. I was sorry I didn't ask Anna Anthropy about her games work; I focused on her books here instead. She is a bold example of individuals telling their story through games. I chose web pages, now I'm using film. It's exciting to see that games can be a personal storytelling medium as well! Anna recommended that folks eager to experiment with making personal games experiment with Twine.

Behind the Scenes

It was fun thinking of a quick jingle and filming that. A human voice! That's about what my show is about: "For provocative stuff that I think you should know, check out the Justin Hall Show" - hah. "Branding" :-)

I continue to bask in the happy learning glow from Larry Jordan, Color Correcting in FCPX using Scopes summed up in this article: Color Correction: Make People Look Normal by Larry Jordan. Turns out all humans are the same on the inside! Red blood under gray skin! I learned this for Richard Stallman and it's made my footage look better to my eye.

Like the Richard Stallman video, these interviews were shot with an iPhone. But I didn't do such a good job focusing on people's faces. More to learn! At least the sound came out decent.

For this video I made my first sort of lower-third, to stand behind the titles making them easier to read. I chose a standard font throughout to be like consistent and stuff.

This video was fun to make - I pushed myself for a March 31 publishing date, 10 days after the end of GDC 2014. I had a much longer cut that I showed to some friends, and ended up cutting some fun bits at the end. Maybe I can do some side footage releases to support this video. But I have piles of other films to make in the meantime!

recording lively performances of talented provocateurs

The Game Developers Conference "GDC" drew playful sorts and digital game makers together in San Francisco last week. I attended and participated in a "Game Developers Rant" panel - some coverage of that event here: 'Nobody wants your cock,' and other highlights from the Rant Apocalypse.

I proposed a new hashtag to organize freely accessible game data, source code and business results: #OGDY, that stands for "open game data yes" and it's pronounced "Oh Goody" :-) I put together a short video about #OGDY, and launched that along with a few starting pieces of data for #OGDY on Twitter.

I recorded some of my #OGDY rant at the GDC; I hope to share video of it online. I memorized an outline for under 5 minutes. I enjoyed the practice and being able to speak without notes felt connective with the audience. Though upon reflection I suspect I might have come across as rather intense. Suitable for a rant panel perhaps!

Lost Levels

Frank Lantz also spoke and suggested that "if you're sitting in a beige room watching PowerPoint, you're doing it wrong" so I headed outside to Yerba Buena Gardens where there was a free unconference called Lost Levels happening. Essentially anyone could pitch in with a game talk, and there were musicians, writers, designers and gamers lounging around the grass listening.

There I caught up with several creative game makers for iPhone camera interviews. I was excited to film Auriea Harvey but I didn't remember to tap on her face to focus. In the next few days I was able to record her and her partner at Tale of Tales Michaël Samyn around the GDC but I didn't do a good job of focusing in those shots either. A forehead slapping moment. And especially bizarre since their award-winning game Luxuria Superbia is about expressly touching screens!

I also interviewed Paolo Pedercini of Molleindustria who makes video game media interventions. And I spoke with Anna Anthropy about personal game making and expanding game community.

Besides this I had an experience with the Oculous Rift VR device, and some even more bizarre contraptions for human diversion and enlightenment.

All this! All this is being edited into a video! It's an ambitious video, with a greater-than-ever number of voices and clips. I will not likely be posting this video "this week" which means I'm on track to publish 3, not 4, official videos in March on Patreon - a crowdfunding platform I'm using to get serious about regular storytelling.

After a month on Patreon, I have 35 patrons and each video I publish officially now nets me over $100. I'm honored, and incentivized to keep up a steady flow of videos. Please consider supporting me on Patreon if you haven't already; I think we're having a good time making the future together.

So I'm not publishing so many videos in March 2014, except I actually published three videos last week! Richard Stallman, #OGDY, and Ric Chivo:

During the Lost Levels event, I saw Ric Chivo coming from a mile away, due to the size of his prodigious reputation as a straight-talking game developer with advice to share. I got a front row seat, recorded his talk with my phone, edited and posted it live on YouTube within an hour:

Citizen Journalism! Amazing reporting power we have with our mobile devices now. That video, "10 Responsibilities of a Game Developer" talk by Ric Chivo at Lost Levels / GDC2014 has had over 2600 views in a week - among the very best performing videos I've yet published. And it has no green screen, no mention of "The Justin Hall Show" or beginner effects shenanigans. It's just a lively performance by a talented provocateur. I aim to be!

Earlier this month, I had a chance to sit down with Richard Stallman at the Internet Archive. Stallman helped make Unix broadly available, Unix which now powers powers much of the web. He also wrote Emacs, which is my favorite Unix text-editor.

Now this pioneering software developer has dedicated himself to "freedom for all the users" which means railing against Facebook and Apple and most of software as we know it. Editing this piece, I felt a bit like I was listening to the older Jeff Bridges in Tron 2.0, or Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix. Stallman has an unusual perspective but after the Edward Snowden revelations he doesn't sound so unfoundedly paranoid.

Stallman agreed to be interviewed only as long as I posted the interview where people don't need proprietary software to view it. And as long as I posted the content "no-derivatives" so people can't take his words out of context. So this video is posted on the Internet Archive!

Here's a trailer I posted to YouTube.

Huge thanks to my supporters on Patreon!

a story of

I've owned the web domain since 1994. Why?? What have I done with it? What might we all do with it together going forward?

Here's a short video answering them very questions:


Huge thanks to my supporters on Patreon.

AT&T sent me a letter informing me they would be placing a large box on my street. Something like this:

surface mounted facility

I was offered a chance to give my feedback to the city of San Francisco - here's my letter, dated 3 March 2014:

Hello San Francisco Department of Public Works -

I live near the proposed location for the [redacted] street Surface Mounted Facilities. I wish to submit an objection to AT&T's Permit Application.

I wasn't able to attend the 13 January 2014 hearing on the AT&T boxes, but I watched it over SFGov online streaming. After reading the note from AT&T, and watching the hearing, I would like to register these objections to the cable box:

During the hearing an AT&T representative said AT&T expects each of their employees to take responsibility for graffiti abatement. But a former AT&T technician stood up at the same hearing to observe that the people working on those boxes for AT&T do not remove graffiti.

I was left believing that AT&T will not be accountable for keeping this box graffiti-free in a timely fashion. Since this is a neighborhood with some lively young folks who practice street art-making, I want proof that AT&T is ready to manage this issue before we put a potential graffiti billboard up on this block.

I corresponded with AT&T to see if they could instead have a mural on the box, to support local artists, reflect the community, and avoid a blank canvas for graffiti tags. AT&T replied that the SMF boxes they use can not be painted since they get too hot inside. That seems like an obstacle they could tackle, especially after seeing something like Mona Caron's "Manifestation" painting on a similar box near the big Safeway on Market:

If AT&T is correct, and their boxes can't handle paint for a mural, and also can't be spraypainted, or markered, or scratched, well that would be an urban miracle. There's a tree on our street with a graffiti tag on it, so I expect this box would soon be somehow decorated. Whatever resistant material they have come up with. I don't want to be calling AT&T to ask them to be a good neighbor when the box is invariably targeted.

If I used AT&T for TV or internet, I might be more eager to have them install this hardware in the neighborhood. Instead I get my internet through, a local San Francisco wireless internet service provider. Monkeybrains doesn't need these giant boxes installed on neighborhood streetcorners to bring good, inexpensive internet service: they offer 30 megabits per second for $35 a month; similar service from AT&T costs about $55. I think I know why AT&T might cost more; they have to subsidize the direct mail solicitations they send me each week asking me to sign up for their expensive service.

If AT&T can prove that they are going to do something beautiful with that box, like incorporating local artists to decorate and avoid graffiti, and if they can explain how I might have a huge increase in my home internet speed for less money than Monkeybrains, I might be interested. Instead I feel like AT&T has made a 20th century proposal in a 21st century town and I don't want to give them permission to add something to the street that doesn't seem necessary or community-enhancing.

Thanks for your consideration,


Interview with Quinn Norton: Reclaiming Systems of Mutual Care

Writer Quinn Norton describes her vision for Reclaiming Systems of Mutual Care in this interview video. Quinn has extensively covered the Occupy Movement and the hacktivists with Anonymous so she has a fascinating view of new social arrangements evolving within our networks:

YouTube: Quinn Norton: Reclaiming Systems of Mutual Care or Facebook: Quinn Norton: Reclaiming Systems of Mutual Care

Big thanks to Quinn, thanks to the folks who posted the free media assets I used in my video, and thanks to my supporters on Patreon who fund my future work.

The Justin Hall Show on Patreon

I'm going to see if I can support myself making videos to share freely on the web. Please consider contributing to support The Justin Hall Show!

Patreon is a sort of ongoing Kickstarter - a way to ask for broad community support for the arts, instead of having to seek out a specific commercial sponsor. I've always loved publishing my work freely on the web; if I can get enough support on Patron, I can tell stories on the web full time instead of having to find a job anytime soon.

2013 and the start of 2014

At the start of the year in January 2013, I was living near Duboce Park near the middle of San Francisco. I had a lovely one bedroom apartment with wood paneling, and a fireplace, on a garden filled with busy squirrels.

Each day I put on a tie and a jacket over blue jeans and took the Muni light rail to my job as Director of Culture and Communications for a mobile phone games company called DeNA. I had started there in 2010 when the company was ngmoco:), a mobile gaming startup that pioneered free-to-play and took some creative risks with great artists and creative developers. My boss changed in 2013 as members of the leadership team exited for other opportunities after the DeNA acquisition. My job was to help the employees feel aligned around group identity and shared goals; by January 2013 I was feeling a bit burned out, frankly. As "Culture and Communications" person, I intended to connect people to a sense of meaning and common humanity in their jobs. But as the company groped for sustained profits, I found myself repeatedly unclogging byzantine communications pipes and my inspiration diminished.

3x justin
Immensely surreal moment: colleagues John O'Neill and Tim Shundo wear my face for Halloween 2011 when I was Director of Culture & Communications at DeNA.

In January 2013 I was pulled into a room by my boss, the new head of HR. She said that I was good at telling the story of the company inside the company. So would I tell the story of the company outside the company? She asked if I would serve as a recruiter. It meant I would no longer be a "director" and I wouldn't be invited to company strategy meetings. But after being a recruiter for a half dozen or so months, and learning the ropes, there was an opportunity for me to establish the company's college recruiting program.

From 2004-2007 I went to a graduate school program for interactive media and game design. I love arguing about ideas, and being around people building experimental play. University recruiting sounded great - I could mingle with professors encouraging the avante garde, I would have a chance to help student projects turn into real live games, and I might help some talented people begin their careers. Plus I didn't mind stepping down as a director; I figured the company would be paying me to learn a new skill, and I would enjoy the chance to take on a new challenge. They found someone else to take on the culture role, so I could focus on my new work.

So in January 2013 I became a recruiter for a mobile phone games company. An old colleague became my boss. I was no longer a one-man communications & culture band; now I was a junior member of a recruiting team.

I quickly remembered there are two distinct role types at software companies: engineers and everyone else. Engineers were some kind of insane holy unattainable - there could never be enough engineers. We had a number of open engineering positions - each resume that showed up was an adrenaline spike.

Nearly every other position: designer, artist, lawyer, marketer - there were so many candidates for these. Some positions had dozens of resumes arrive each day, and I soon learned the job of a recruiter is primarily to say no 99 times and yes once (unless you were chasing engineers, in which case the job of a recruiter is not to stop looking).

Constantly rejecting people sucked, but I genuinely enjoyed my weekly meetings with hiring managers across the organization. Amid the banter and honesty, I teased out the kind of person who would mesh well with their team culture and future goals. I began to learn to read a resume less for the specifics and more for the story.

Through Howard, I was introduced to a veteran recruiting pundit who served as my mentor, and I did some freelance writing about recruiting for a recruiting web site. I went to a conference about recruiting innovation. I met other recruiters and explored my community of peers. I set out to learn the trade! And I re-read the portion of my father's eulogy that reminded me he was on his law firm's hiring committee: after a round of brusque recruit reviews, he passed around Kafka's Penal Colony to remind his colleagues to be humane.

I enjoyed the interview process - meeting new person after new person. Connecting resumes with personalities, stories and aspirations. Speaking to people's visions for themselves and their careers. Exploring someone's candor and honesty about their situation. And abiding people's sense of entitlement; a favorite example: asking about gym membership subsidies during interview #1 before we've established that we have any real common cause. I had fun with interviews; I would test people's comfort levels and confidence by leaving silence to see what kind of nonverbal experience we might share. Some folks could play with that informal space, and I knew that they would be more likely to succeed in our environment.

But I was growing frustrated; I wanted to solve big problems. They asked me to recruit smart engineers. So I reached out to my smart engineer friends outside the company to see if I could excite them about our company. I quickly fell flat on my face. "We are a company you might have heard of and we aim to make the most profitable mobile games!" wasn't enough of a employment sales pitch against huge perk-laden companies like Google or Facebook, or nimble innovative startups seemingly on every block in San Francisco.

So in March I set to work developing a company story I could tell in public to excite engineers and innovators. Amidst this work, I was approached at my standing desk by my boss's boss. He came over to ask why I had 950 unread resumes in the company's applicant tracking system. I explained that anyone could process resumes, but I was good at telling the story of the company so I was focusing my time on "employment branding." He told me that I needed to read resumes, because that was my job, and they didn't have another job for me at that company at that time. Ours was a heated exchange - I think in part because I had a standing desk so I was eye to eye with this guy. We spoke directly and stubbornly at each other, in the middle of the office, standing a few feet over our nearby colleagues; me explaining that I didn't like the job he was giving me, him telling me I didn't have a choice.

Standing at my desk at DeNA ~2011 - thanks Tim Shundo for that pic!

I could see his logic: they badly needed all the hands-on recruiters they could get; "creative employment branding strategist" wasn't on the near-term radar. And I began to realize that any university recruitment program I started would need to focus on developing a pipeline of MBA students and computer science graduates. I wouldn't be spending so much time identifying new creative talent and innovative student game design. Increasingly, I didn't relish my present work, and my future at the firm grew dim.

I believe I was a pain to my boss and teammates, since I avoided basic recruiting tasks because I wanted to fix systemic problems that were above my pay grade. I am grateful that they put up with me in spite of my impatient petulance. I remember feeling sorry for my boss - she hadn't asked for someone so big for his britches to join her team.

So I stopped wearing a suit and tie to work every day, I dressed more like a normal tech worker. I challenged myself to excel at the tasks I hated. I considered looking for other opportunities, but I focus on my work too much to thoroughly explore other options. I decided to shut up and be a good recruiter while I was there. After three years, the sun began to set on my day at ngmoco:) / DeNA.

In late 2012 a friend called - a dilapidated house on his block in Bernal Hill was for sale through auction. It seemed like a great deal; if he bought the place tomorrow, would I buy it from him and live there? He would loan me the money. It was crazy, short-notice and rash. I drove over to look at the place all locked up. I gazed in the windows and saw a lot of space. The photos online made the house look like a serial killer's residence and workshop. I was blessed: after sixteen years working with technology startups, I had a fortunate stock event plus some other money that put me in a position to make a down payment. What the heck, I could afford it: I gave the go-ahead.

I didn't get that place. But I got a real estate agent when I realized I could afford a home in San Francisco. In January 2013 he began sending me listings. Once my job seemed temporary in March 2013, I fast-forwarded my home search while I still had a paycheck and could qualify for a loan. I wasn't sentimental or picky - I looked at ten places, and successfully bid on the tenth one. I snuck into conference rooms at work to call all the parties repeatedly each week, and closed the home sale in 21 days in April 2013. I have a crazy stupid adjustable rate loan with a pre-payment penalty - the type of loan that helped cause America's 2008 housing crisis. Basically in 2018 my monthly housing costs will likely triple, but for the next five years, I'm paying less for my mortgage than I was paying in rent. Hopefully I can figure out a new loan by 2018.

The house is a two bedroom on the south edge of San Francisco's Mission district. Built around 1893, I believe the house originally came with an outhouse, because a bathroom on stilts was added to the back of the house some time decades later. Upstairs is a cozy two bedroom house about 1000 sq/ft, downstairs is a garage with an un-permitted room added. It was that room that made me want to live in this house - I could see myself working down there.

Out back was a small concrete and pebble garden with a yellow brugmansia tree dominating the one dirtbed that sees the sun. Brugmansia is strongly psychedelic and also extremely toxic for your liver. The flowers have a most intoxicating smell; released only in the evening as night falls. I mentioned all of this in my letter with my bid for the house; the landlord said the letter made him want to sell the house to me over the other bidders.

Shortly after I moved in, someone spraypainted on a nearby street "fuck techie scum" and there have been frequent street protests against evictions and rising rents. As a white guy who works in tech, I resemble the face of the enemy to some folks pained by gentrification in the neighborhood. I have lived on and off in the SF Bay Area since 1994, so I don't feel like a techie-come-lately. But I am acutely aware that I represent economic forces that are driving out some of the latino and punk culture that makes this neighborhood lively and lovable.

Nearby in a similar-sized house lives 4 generations of a family from Peru and their two dogs. They couldn't believe I was moving into the house alone, without even any pets. Nearby is an artist's collective including a rap group that I saw open for KRS-One at Yoshi's jazz club in San Francisco. You can hear a rock band in the nearby Central American Pentacostal church rocking out on Sundays. Moving in, putting things away, and fixing things gave me a huge sense of purpose. A friend Jake noticed I seemed more full and happy in my body when he saw me standing in the house.

Now I was working as a recruiter because I had a giant loan and a bunch of house stuff to fix! 21 May I went to dinner with a friend of mine who had helped me join the company in the first place. He asked how work was going: I explained my frustrations and he asked why I was working there. I said the money was good and I was getting pleasure from investing in my house. He reminded me that time was the one true scarce thing. Suddenly I realized I was living my work life with a low-level goal: sustenance and cave-improvement, not a big goal, like learning, world-bettering, or personal evolution. Yow!

My mother turned 74 in April 2013. After my stepfather died in 2011, and my brother moved to work in Europe in the fall of 2012, I understood I am my Mom's primary family member. Between her travel and mine, I'm proud of the fact that I saw my mother in April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December 2013. Time is precious, family is precious - I owe my Mom so much for raising me and supporting my oddball choices; I am grateful to look in on her now and enjoy her company.

Mom and I had scheduled a trip to visit Rome together In October 2012, renting an apartment for a week, wandering around, shopping at food markets and cooking together. Instead a relative fell ill and we left Rome on day one to spend the week in a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska. My Mom and I ate one Italian meal together: unremarkable convenience pizza at the Rome airport. I ended up working remotely from the hospital; I skipped the vacation.

Fortunately my relative's health returned. My Mom and I had a vacation to make up for: we decided to book 3 weeks together traveling in Scandinavia for the summer of 2013. I planned the trip with her 9 months in advance, and told boss after boss after boss about it. As the trip approached, everything came together: DeNA hired another recruiter who spoke fluent Japanese (DeNA is a Japanese company) and he had more experience than me, a natural improvement on my function. My boss asked me in mid-June "what positions do you want to recruit for when you come back?" Impulsively, I made a circle with the fingers on my right hand - I didn't want to recruit for any positions. I announced I wanted to take a 3 month sabbatical, using up vacation time and unpaid leave, to travel with my Mom and experiment on myself.

As a recruiter I hired 12 people in 6 months [My former boss, the head of recruiting Jenn Leong emailed: "i just wanted to correct you on something.. you were a Great recruiter and during your 6 months of recruiting you hired 21 people.. not 12" - thanks Jenn :-D] My last hire was for corporate counsel: that position had been open for almost a year. I felt like I could have a big impact by helping our leaders reach consensus on someone good and finally filling that senior lawyer role. I believe when I left my boss and team might have been sad to see me go, and I was grateful for their patience and to have learned how to serve in that role. But I was ready for something else:

A friend Ben had been telling me for a year or more that I should take time to tell short video stories. Now a vision for my time materialized in tangible form: I acquired a green screen to set up in my home office. A green screen would allow me to record videos of myself telling a story, and then show images or text or whatever behind me to illustrate my hand-waving.

June 28 was my last day in the DeNA offices. June 29 was my departure date to travel with my Mom. That day I published my first greenscreen story: "Summer 2013 Sabbatical Time". I wanted to explain to my creative community, friends and family why I was leaving my job and what I expected to happen. Perhaps I could begin to attract new prospects, or at least ease the minds of family and friends that fear I've toggled off my good sense.

I left with a clean heart and few intentions for three weeks of daily exploration with my Mom across Denmark, Norway and Sweden. The natural landscape of rural Norway is a true marvel. I felt an ache near Trollheim to wander off into the blasted mountains some day. It was an inviting emptiness. My Mom and I had a sustained conversation about our lives plus inevitable adventures - eating rehydrated dehydrated cod, a low-visibility rainstorm driving us to travel overnight by boat and plane, Mom braving the catacombs at Elsinore's Kronborg, visiting my friend Svante's family in a red house in rural Sweden and a chance to return to the most lovely modern art museum I've yet seen in this world: Louisiana nestled in a forest on the shore above Copenhagen.

I read a dozen or so books in the time we traveled: all Scandinavian crime thrillers. The fiction was engrossing, a pleasurable reading experience - plus color on my surroundings. Here's a list of the books I read and liked that summer:

When I returned, my time was my own. I made video after video. I caught myself cackling with glee multiple times a week as I laid down some amusing music, or made myself look like I was standing in a desert. I experimented with all manner of scripting: riffing on a topic, speaking from an outline, working from exact wording on an iPad teleprompter. I followed Final Cut Pro X tutorials on YouTube to improve my craft. Mostly I just made video after video solely to post online and keep moving.

In September, after returning from Burning Man, I pledged to make one video per week for the rest of 2013. I chronicled that desert arts festival, and the pain from pulling a muscle in my back as I loaded water in a truck there. I interviewed museum hacker Nick Gray, biographer Walter Isaacson, and VHX CEO Jamie Wilkinson. I met up with another guy named Justin Hall, a comics artist and teacher who lives in SF who is a total sweetheart - I interviewed Justin Hall on video and we've had dinner together since with our partners.

I made a video explaining a potential NSA free online backup service for everyone on the internet, called Citizen Cloud. That got a lot of traffic from both liberal and conservative audiences; I was invited to do some standup comedy as a "volunteer NSA supporter".

By the end of the year my ambitions had grown some. The 20th anniversary of my personal home page was coming up, so I decided to abandon weekly video-making to instead focus on a single video about my site January 2014 finds me digitzing old VHS tapes, digging up old web pages, and basically interviewing myself about my drive to share myself on the web. In December I interviewed my Mom about my online oversharing and she said some remarkable touching things that I didn't know; I'm honored she's willing to contribute like that. In the first part of 2014, I aim to produce a documentary about 20 years of personal online publishing, and I've invited other people to share their reflections with the tag #20links. Fun seeing how I might solicit other voices in my own media production.

So I start 2014 with an unclear path to any kind of paycheck. But I am filled with purpose and pleasure by my current work: telling stories. This year I turn 40. Maybe I'm halfway through my life. On December 31 I sat down with someone I hadn't seen since I met him on a road trip 18 years ago passing through Wichita Kansas. He remarked that being loved was one of life's great treasures.

In 2013 I have known love in my daily life. I have been with my lady Ilyse since the fall of 2011. When we first met, we felt like we were headed in opposite relationship directions and weren't compatible. But we couldn't stop talking to each other! Ours was the most stimulating and hilarious conversation I'd had in years. In 2012 Ilyse nursed me back to health after I tore up my shoulder. In 2013 Ilyse moved in with me in this new house!

When I was dating, I experienced a lively dialogue in my head as I sat across the table from women I didn't fully mesh with or enjoy. Today my partner is someone who pulls that dialog out of my head, makes it real, and then makes me laugh. I feel profoundly blessed; I strive to support her passions and freedom, as I invest in trusting our communications to carry us through friction.

Fortunately our greatest challenges in 2013 were self-made. Since we are such avid talkers and scenario-spinners, we began discussing the type of spiritual life we would want to lead down the road. In my early middle age I've become a sort of militant agnostic. I believe there are so many competing human truths and explanations for the unseen; how can any one spiritual framework be proclaimed true above others? Plus I get so upset to see the suffering wraught by structured faith groups. Listening to myself argue with her, I realized I was becoming intolerant of organized religion.

Ilyse comes from her own faith traditions and we embarked on a series of discussions about the kind of faith we might join together. Planning our shared path to godhead strained our sense of mutual flexibility, and I found myself doubting our easy connection.

Fortunately in 2013, I was able to connect more with her family and she with mine. Whatever differences we have in our personal approaches to faith, we are rooted in our tribes. So it has been comforting to find that I am with a woman who comes from people with whom I can share jokes and truths, while she can increasingly connect with my more reserved relatives. Over time I realized that easy communications could be a solid foundation for mutual agreement, instead of expecting to determine our household commandments long in advance.

For the end of 2013 and the start of this year, she and I were both working flexibly, often from home. These days I usually spend 3-4 hours a day in conversation with Ilyse; stimulating, nourishing social time. She has an abiding appetite for adventure and new experiences, so we have been good travel companies and co-explorers. At the start of 2014 she had taken up walking San Francisco in earnest and now we regularly embark on multi-mile excursions.

Still in spite all this fun, my divorce has me mistrusting my romantic instincts. I am so grateful for Ilyse's unwavering hilarious support; I understand we should take our time to develop our unique model of partnership. But as I wonder where this relationship leads I experience some tremors: I misjudged my prior relationship. I thought that marriage was forever! In my worst moments I doubt my ability to be a consistent partner, my selection of a mate, and my ability to help shape a sustainable relationship.

My divorce was final in mid-2011, after a relationship lasting from 2005-2010. So it's been a few years now and I have gotten over so much of the daily anguish of failure there. I have divorce nightmares maybe only 2-3 times a year! I have worked to forgive my ex-partner some for joining and leaving the relationship. Now I think I still need to forgive myself. I was hell bent on only being married once, like my grandparents. I fucked that up! Sorry Justin. I forgive you?

Now with Ilyse I can see the challenge for me is to learn to relax and trust and take my time. Fortunately Ilyse is a patient supportive partner who has not been intimidated or put off by any of my baggage or healing from my prior commitment. After my first marriage experience, I am thriving in a sustained relationship with someone gentle and smart as this lady has been with me.

Justin & Ilyse - riding a bus home NYE 1 January
Justin and Ilyse ride the Muni bus back from New Years eve dancing ~4am 1 January 2014 - thanks Jimmy Defebaugh for the photograph!

Ilyse is an artist; her work focuses on resources, waste and sustainability. This means that she doesn't throw anything in the trash lightly, and she considers the new objects in her life carefully so they don't end up in landfill. Her ecological awareness has rubbed off on me and I find myself leaving our thermostat set to 63 degrees, foregoing meat more often, and bringing old containers to the hippy store where we load up on bulk beans, rice, spices and popcorn. It's nice to feel like I've lessened my footprint on the earth, but so much of the world around me is hugely consumptive. It can get depressing to read about filth clotting the world on my devices loaded with conflict minerals.

Exploring alternatives to carbon-spewing air travel, Ilyse and I took train trips from San Francisco to the midwest and back. Amtrak is a fabulous way to see the USA roll by if you have time! 50 hours one way from Chicago to San Francisco; I recommend getting a Roomette if you can afford it.

Now I commence 2014 not in a jacket & tie on public transit, but wearing sweatpants tucked into my socks for warmth, padding down outdoor stairs in plastic slippers with a flask of water, tucking under my house to power on a computer and crack open my latest personal video project.

We get good at what we practice; today I am practicing storytelling and envisioning, not game making or company building. My money is starting to run out which should force me to generate tangible economic value before too long! Exciting.

[Part of an exercise called "Year in (P)Review 2013 / 2014" (YiPR) run by Randy Smith - thanks Randy!]

Happy 20 - long time linking

It was twenty years ago today! I posted this first web page and embarked on an experiment to describe my life to the internet. What did I do? What happened to me? How did my family, friends and romantic partners react to real-time web-wide life-sharing?

I'm making a short film about that, and you can help: share your own reflections of publishing and sharing on the web!

Here's a teaser for that short film, and a little something to celebrate just 20 years touching you through a keyboard:



moving Justin pictures from the 1990s

My web site turns 20 years old this month! So I went through a bunch of old media in case I might include it in a 20 years on the web video I'm working on. If you've shared about yourself online, maybe you can help!

I shared these old videos of me so now you can see my old face and hear my squeakier voice:

Francis W. Parker High School Graduation 1993 speech Justin Hall - big thanks to my classmates, they elected me to deliver a speech at our high school graduation.

This was June 1993; I was 17 years old. I worked on the speech for about 10 months; I delivered it better than I did this next speech in 1995!

Web Publishing Empowerment 1995 Justin Hall at RAND Corporation - the video for my Web Publishing Empowerment speech. I've had that speech text on the web for 19 years! Now the video joins it January 2014.

Gosh I sure wish I would have memorized more of the speech so I could have looked up. But I was 20 years old here, I cut myself a little slack.

Justin Hall interviewed by Denise Caruso 1996 on The Site, MSNBC

Thankfully my brother popped a tape in the VCR and recorded my appearance on MSNBC in September 1996. I had just come off my 29 city web page evanglizin' road trip; we can see my wardrobe at that time: sarong, toolbelt, caucasian-colored wrist-gloves, electric minds t-shirt. And a vertical dreadlock - yowza.

Justin's Links from the Underground - 1998 interview with Justin Hall for Filmpoint Sweden:

This film crew came from Sweden to interview me, at my house in Oakland when I lived with Amy. I had just graduated college and then been mugged, and I hadn't yet been fired from my job in television. A moment in time! Like July 1998. They insisted I drive this big boxy old white American convertible. My car was a blue 1988 Honda Civic. Amy and I felt weird about it, but we played along. Funny how those things go.

"Justin Hall & Home Page make it to Sundance" 1999

Filmed in Park City Utah, at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, when I accompanied filmmaker Doug Block to the Sundance showing of Home Page, a documentary about early webloggers and netizens and online diarists. Doug hasn't got a post-VHS copy of Home Page out yet; this is actually one of the few clips from an early movie about web pages that you can see on the web in 2014 hah.

Watching these is a reminder that I wore my hair in distinct variations during 1994-1999. I remember telling people during QA at Sundance that I had the dredlock in a plastic bag in my closet; it's still true. They would ask about it. I would ask about it, looking back. In my 1995 speech I look so feminine! It's wild - I forgot I looked like that - hah! Was I wearing nail polish to speak at the RAND Corporation?

Then by 1996 I look like what the who knows. Whoo wee!

Now I express myself more through my ear hair.


Ahoy! A pile of old video tapes in personal storage.
Let's activate, while the media is still good!

I used the 20th anniversary of as an excuse to dust off my refurbished Magnavox ZV427MG9 DVD Recorder/VCR Combo and convert a bunch of old VHS tapes into DVD. Then I use HandBrake to make a digital file from the DVD. Then I upload that to YouTube and post it here! By uploading it I figure that the video might survive the specificity of my personal data storage. I'm still working out the reasons why I think that's worthwhile.


Thanks Steve Rhodes - from @tigerbeat on Instagram
June 2012 dancing in the streets of San Francisco with Ilyse Magy, photo thanks Steve Rhodes on instagram!

Hi, I'm Justin Hall and this here is a personal web site I've used to chronicle my time on earth since 1994. The content on the front page is relatively recent; if you search through the archives, you'll find old pieces of Justin. Some folks have indexed my doings on Wikipedia.

Twitter: jah
Facebook: Justinreach

eBooks by Justin Hall

I've published books for sale, somewhere else online! Behold:

Now available for the Kindle: A Story of GameLayers. My experience being CEO of a tech company, 2007-2009:

"A tell-all story of a startup from the very beginning, with lots of info about real-world fundraising. A more intimate look than you'll find in other business reads." says Irene Polnyi in a 5-star review on

A Story of GameLayers, for the Amazon Kindle.