Interview - Adrian Holovaty


Interview: Adrian Holovaty, Web Developer, Publisher & Blogger:
7th July 2003


How did you get your break?

First, let me start by saying that it's an honor to share interview space with Jake "The Snake" Roberts. I don't think I've ever gotten a "break."

What does a typical working day involve for you?

90% Web development in PHP, HTML, CSS, MySQL and JavaScript. 10% listening to Arnold prank calls with my coworkers. [http://arnoldcalls.com]

What are your aims and objectives?

My aims are to be a mover-and-shaker in the online-journalism industry and to inject some sense into the online media world, which largely doesn't "get it." On a larger scale, I want to help give the public the information it needs. On a smaller scale, I'd like to end up in the Chicago area, where I was born and raised.

When and why did you develop your website: www.holovaty.com

I started it just about a year ago, although I'd had various personal sites/blog-like things for a couple of years before. I decided to start Holovaty.com because I wanted to make a place for folks in the online-news business to read (and comment) about technical issues that affect them directly. Seems like there are a lot of people in this industry who do a lot of pontificating on what news sites should be but don't actually *produce* anything; I intended my site to be an antidote to that, by giving real examples based on my experience. The site also has had the side-effect of being an outstanding self-marketing tool. That's the best thing you can accomplish with a weblog, really: reputation. Forget all this "blogs are journalism" banter that's been trendy as of late.

How many submissions per day do you receive (and publish)?

I don't receive or publish submissions. I'm the only content producer on my site.

When and why did you start reporting on the technology and internet business?

I wouldn't call myself a reporter -- moreso a commentator.

What else do you like to write about, or wish you had time to report on?

Completely unrelated things. The Beatles. The future of copyright and music distribution. My life. Short fiction.

What other websites do you manage or have responsibilities for?

I'm the lead developer for World Online in Lawrence, Kansas. Our sites are LJWorld.com, KUsports.com and Lawrence.com All three have won major industry awards and seem to have a great reputation in the industry press. I think one of the keys to our success is our mobility: We'll have an idea one morning and implement it soon afterward. As a side project last year, I did the backend development for trodo.com, a barter site that's sort of a socialist eBay.

What have been the highlights of your career thus far?

When I worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one of the special-projects reporters and I put together an online database of hard-to-find information about every nursing home in the state. Response was tremendous. Looking through the piles and piles of positive reader feedback reminded me why I got into this business in the first place: To give people information that makes their lives better.

Who are your mentors?

My parents, my coworkers/supervisors over the years and my wife.

What motivates you?

The need to be the best.

What are the biggest dangers of the internet?

Closed content walls. I see the Internet as a giant library holding all the world's knowledge. That goal becomes unattainable when content providers are too selfish to contribute. (I don't mean to sound like a communist, of course -- I believe in capitalism, competition, etc.) There is a place for making money online, but closed content walls aren't the way to do it. Oh, and privacy is a danger, too.

What is the ideal solution to stop spamming?

E-mail whitelists.

What is the worst internet crime you know of?

Disseminating child pornography.

What is the most famous case of plagiarism?

Well, I'm no historian. I dunno.

How has the NY Times sage been good for the business?

You mean the Jayson Blair episode? It hasn't.

How has the internet been an advantage and disadvantage for journalists?

One advantage: The Web allows journalists to provide mass amounts of searchable, useful data that's accessible to people around the world at the click of a button. That's amazing. One disadvantage: Web publishing is so easy that it's tempting for news producers to publish information that isn't necessarily accurate.

What are the most important aspects of a website?

The goals are pretty simple: Show me what I expect you to provide. And surprise me with things I didn't know I expected you to provide.

What do you like and dislike about www.mediaman.com.au

* You've got a lot of content, which I've spent quite a bit of time reading. * On my machine, the fonts are unbearably small. * The left-rail navigation has way too many choices. * The ads are unattractive and decrease your site's credibility, in my mind. * The site doesn't effectively communicate its purpose. I'm still unclear about what "a news media portal to bring together Australian and International media" means.

What news media websites do you most often visit?

Not many. I read the Lawrence Journal-World [ljworld.com] daily, because it's purely local news that has to do with my life. When I need national and international news, I check washingtonpost.com because I respect its news judgment, and the BBC or the Guardian because I respect that they're not American publications. My main source of news, though, is the weblog community, which points me to articles I know I'd be interested in. (Articles related to Web development, for the most part.)

How did the dead dot commer 2000s affect you?

I was still in college at that time, but it did affect me in one way: My internship with washingtonpost.com was unpaid.

How do you stay ahead of the pack?

I read lots of O'Reilly books.

Should journalists be savvy in all platforms of media, or be content being an expert at one?

Neither. There's a place for specialists, and there's a place for jacks-of-all-trades.

What media coverage have you received over the years?

Various blogs and Web publications have linked to my site and written about my writings, and I'm tickled pink every time it happens, no matter how small the publication. In the print world, I received media coverage several years ago in the Chicago Tribune, New York Times and the late Brill's Content magazine when an article I helped write as editor of my high-school newspaper was censored by the principal.

What are your current projects?

We've got a lot of cool stuff up our sleeves at LJWorld.com, Lawrence.com and KUsports.com But I'm not at liberty to give details. :)

...end.

Editors note: This young developer has attitude and loads of talent. Adrian do make some good points. He is a straight shooter, and like that. You will be hearing more from Adrian Holovaty.