Interviews With Early Web Developers · Joe Jenett 2

What this is about:

Joe Jenett is one busy content developer. Always working with an eye toward interactivity, Joe is the founder and keeper of the popular Coolstop portal and, a personal webspace housing several different sites. He lives in the Chicagoland area, in the western suburb of Aurora. "Unlike most so-called award sites and portals, Coolstop is singly focused on the spirit of the web that is personal, creative and non-commercial. As the web has become increasingly commercialized, Coolstop is committed to providing an alternative kind of portal and innovative ways for independent web builders to network and gain exposure."

Jeff ClarkThis is your friendly interviewer, Jeff Clark, as he appeared in 1999. Time changes things.

The Magic of Personal Expression

Monday Man

[Internet Brothers] You are an acutely gifted digital artist, yet you don't display much of it on your web sites. Is there a particular reason for that?

[JJ] Though I do display some of my art-type stuff on my personal site, I really don't consider myself to be an artist. I'll admit that creativity is a part of my soul that I feel fortunate to have enjoyed my whole life. My art really has more to do with page layout, conceptualizing content, and programming... I am blessed with certain creative gifts (as every living human is), but it may just be a matter of labels that prevents you from "seeing" it in my works. Whatever gifts I may or may not have will definitely show up — that's part of the magic of personal expression.

[IB] In your Monday Man vignette, you describe the angst suffered by a talented part-time web developer who must weigh the security of food and shelter from his corporate career against the joy and pleasure derived from his passion. Boy can we relate. How is Monday Man doing these days?

[JJ] He is much happier than the days in which he wrote the Monday Man series. At that time, I was working full-time in a job that had little room for creativity, and part-time doing the webthing and wishing I could be doing that full-time. Now, I do the webthing full-time, and I'm a happy camper. My full-time job as a web designer pays the bills, and all of the projects I've shared with you here are totally non-commercial and produced for the fun of it. I love what I do all day now and Monday Man is someone I remember well and do not miss.

Cool — people actually do read that stuff...

[IB] The majority of your site's features are driven by intricate scripting that helps deliver their interactive capabilities. Colorspeak, i2k, and iNSPiRiT are particularly intriguing. You seem to thoroughly enjoy this aspect of web development.

[JJ] I really do — that's part of what's so cool about the Web — and I do find experimenting with scripts to be most enjoyable. Colorspeak is probably the most elaborate scripting I've done. It combines JavaScript and Perl just right, and effectively provides my side of the interaction with the visitor. The scripts used for i2k and iNSPiRiT are relatively simple. Both of those projects are more concept than anything else. It's the concept that turns it into unique, interactive content.

“It would be nice to see more in the news about the people side of the Internet instead of always reading about products and e-commerce geared toward exploiting the consumer.” — Joe Jenett

[IB] You recently discovered, however, not all web hosts are up to handling the interaction.

[JJ] It really wasn't so recently that I discovered it — but it was very recently that I finally moved on resolving the problems. The Web is full of access providers and presence providers all claiming to be the best, but only a very few live up to the claims they make. You really have to be careful in picking your providers, and sometimes, only trial and error will lead you to the right one. Just last month, I moved all of my sites to a new server and it's the best thing I've ever done — for my visitors and for my own well-being. My sites have been functioning flawlessly since the move. My former provider really sucked and I should have made the change last summer, when all the problems started.

[IB] What are your favorite scripting tools? For those wanting to learn more, and improve their skills, what would you recommend? Do you have some textbooks or web sites to suggest?

[JJ] I use Perl and JavaScript for most of my scripts. I have a few reference books that have been helpful, and there's a number of excellent resources on the Web. Because so many of the resources I use have been bought up by the big portals and have become highly commercialized in the process, I prefer not to make any site suggestions. You should know by now that my way of coexisting with the commercial side of the Web is simply not to point you to it — but the information is out there and relatively easy to find.

[IB] Your Coolstop portal is a fabulous way of delivering quality surfing pleasure to your subscribers. With millions of web sites to choose from, how do you go about narrowing your search for excellence?

[JJ] I have many sources for finding great websites. Many people submit their sites at Coolstop — either directly for award consideration, or through one of the other listings I maintain. In many cases, this brings in credible candidates for the Best of the Cool award. When I'm out there surfing and searching for cool sites, I regularly check in on what's new at a few of the major directories, and spend hours following links on good websites. What makes the Best of the Cool really mean something is the strict criteria I use, and the mission to spotlight the personal and creative side of the web, not the commercial side. As a result, it does take a fair amount of time to find a winner every day.

Art Night [IB] Time for a little break. What do you like to do for relaxation and enjoyment? Can you recommend a few of your favorite books or musical artists? We hear you really wowed 'em at Art Night Series 2000 with your guitar playing and blues singing.

[JJ] I really don't read books that much, never have. But music? Don't get me started, Jeff. I'll just say I really love music, new and old. I've been playing guitar and writing songs for almost 30 years and if anything has kept me sane, it's my music. Favorites include Stevie Ray Vaughan, Neil Young, B.B. King, Pink Floyd, The Verve Pipe, Neville Brothers, Sarah McLachlan, Pretenders, Eric Clapton, Filter, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Fiona Apple, Bonnie Raitt, INXS, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes, Red Hot Chili Peppers, R.E.M, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock... I have to stop 'cause I could keep going.

I'm really impressed with your knowing about Chicago Art Night — you've really done your homework. That was a truly magical experience and my little bit was nothing compared to what I was lucky to have witnessed that night. Ann Snowberger was behind the whole thing, and brought together a large group of people (young and old) with talents in art, dance, music, photography, comedy, poetry. Almost everyone there shared their talents with the group, and I have never EVER been so inspired. Ann is a great fine artist and a true creative spirit, and I met her in person for the first time that night. I can't wait for the next Art Night!

Proceed to part 3 of Internet Brothers interview with Joe Jenett.

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