Minding the History Gap

The Verge sat down with blogger and Stellar.io creator Jason Kottke. Most people linking to the interview are pulling the quote about how Kottke’s able to do in 2-3 hours of blogging what it used to take him 6-8 hours. Here’s the part that fascinates me:

What’s your primary browser?

Firefox, I guess. I keep that, Safari, and Chrome running all the time…Safari is my blogging browser, Firefox is for development, and Chrome is for fun. Now that I think about it, using three browsers all the time sounds pretty ridiculous.

It’s totally ridiculous, but I get what he means. On the one hand, this suggests that Kottke compartmentalizes the ways in which he uses the web and the browsers to access them. Safari is for blogging, Firefox is for work and Chrome is for play. That’s kind of a cool way to approach things. It keeps things from becoming muddled.

On the other hand, it also suggests that different browsers have personalities and are better at some things that others. I use Chrome from blogging and playing, but I use Firefox whenever I want to do any sort of FTP’ing, or design work, etc.

Anyway, Jason has something really special going with Stellar and I’d love to see him be able to do that full-time. It’s a great site to surface content and discover new things. It feels, in a way, serendipitous. That’s the only word I can use to describe it.

Further, last night, Jason posted what I think is the central thing that I love about his work. In President John Tyler’s grandsons are still alive!! he writes:

That’s right, two exclamation points because this blows my mind. John Tyler was the 10th President of the United States. He was born in 1790 and took office in 1841. His son, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, was born in 1853, when Tyler was 63 years old. Lyon had six children with two different wives, two of whom were Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Jr. (born 1924 when Lyon Sr. was 71) and Harrison Ruffin Tyler (born 1928 when Lyon Sr. was 75). They are reportedly both still living in their 80s.

Someone needs to come up with a term for this sort of thing (history bridges? no.). There’s also this 1956 game show appearance of a Lincoln assassination eyewitness and Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) shaking hands during his lifetime with both John Quincy Adams (b 1767) and John F Kennedy (d 1963), one man spanning 200 years of American history.

This is a textbook example of what makes Kottke so great. He’s genuinely enthusiastic about having his mind blown (Snarkmarket also does this well and has coined this as “synaptic“), but rather than stop there with an insane fact, the post is also informative and puts forth an interesting question about what the hell we call the phenomenon of something or someone that connects a giant swath of human history?

“History Bridges” isn’t quite snappy enough, but it does get to the point. Think of it this way: right now there is someone alive who will be able to bridge the Arab Spring with a significant revolution that takes place in 2212.

There might even be someone who could connect the French Revolution to the Arab Spring. It’s like “minding the history gap” and that’s the phrase I’m going to use.

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