Neal Sheeran

Rants, Raves, and Geekery

Ten Years of John Gruber


Yesterday was John Gruber’s 10th anniversary of running Daring Fireball. Besides reminding me that my tenth year of “blogging” is approaching in a few months, I thought back to when I first read DF and up through to now.12

My first Mac was a Titanium PowerBook G43 that I got in the spring of 2002. Shortly thereafter, after reading some blogs, I got interested in blogging and then learning about HTML and CSS so I could change the design of my site away from the default Movable Type template that it was born with. I don’t exactly remember how I first found out about DF, but I do remember pretty much blowing off a whole day in the office and going back and reading all of Gruber’s previous entries. This was sometime in early 2003, so that only took about a day. I enjoyed his succinct and sarcastic writing style and his articles were informative to a new Apple user.

One of the first web design books I ever purchased was Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing with Web Standards and I found out about it because Gruber put a small picture of it in the corner of his site. Back then, a CSS selector looked about as complex to me as some sort of esoteric algorithm written in <insert obtuse programming language>. I remember admiring the simplicity of Daring Fireball’s design (pretty much unchanged to this day) and actually printing out Gruber’s HTML source and CSS file so I could try and learn how he laid out his site.

I have read DF pretty much every day since then. And I have to admit that I like the old John Gruber better. Back then, even though he was quickly becoming a big fish in the Apple blogging pond, that was still a pretty small pond. And Apple itself was still the scrappy player it had pretty much always been.

Now, Apple has become a behemoth. And I’m pretty sure Gruber wouldn’t be caught dead these days writing posts like An Anthropomorphized Brushed Metal Interface Theme Shows Up for the WWDC Preview Build of Mac OS X Leopard, where he assumes the identity of the OS X Brushed Metal interface to poke fun at its demise. And if you would have asked 2003 Gruber if he would have been invited to a private meeting with Apple to discuss a unreleased product4, I’m willing to bet his response would have been along the lines of “no f#$%ing way”.

That’s not to say that I think Gruber is a shill for Apple, not at all. But he has become such a huge player on the Apple scene, that I think the topics that he writes about (or doesn’t) have changed. And, at least to me, it seems that some of his entries to DF nowadays seem mailed in. I have listened to a handful of episodes of his Talk Show podcast, and maybe the arrogance was always there but there was no avenue for us readers to bask in it, but it is definitely on display. When I say “arrogance”, I mean acting utterly disinterested in the whole podcast affair, other than going through the motions in order to what one can only assume is to collect sponsorship dollars.5

I still think Gruber is an excellent writer and blogger. His post about the death of Steve Jobs was one of the finest pieces of writing I’ve read, regardless of medium, in a long time. This blog post, along with pretty much all the others, is written in Markdown, a web-writing tool that he created and used by thousands. He pioneered the Linked List-style blog post that has been copied by legions of other bloggers, including this one.

John Gruber is a blogging force, and his obnoxious love for the NY Yankees aside, I hope he continues to be one. I just wish he would be a little less lofty these days.

  1. To say that my Ten Year Blogging Anniversary is approaching is actually a borderline farce. That would imply that I have blogged somewhat continuously for those ten years. I have gone many months without posting to this site. If you peruse the archives, you’ll notice nothing from 2005 and a whopping two entries in 2006. It will more accurately be a ten-year anniversary of owning this domain with some outdated and not very good content hanging on it.

  2. Footnote to the footnote (how DFW of me): The archives also don’t list anything before 2004. When I did my first rebuild of this site back in 2004, I didn’t import (and have since lost) the original Movable Type export file. Trust me when say this blog started in the fall of 2002. Don’t believe me?

  3. I was deployed overseas that winter and someone sent me my mail that included an issue of Newseek (wow…that was a while ago.). Inside was one of those multi-page ad inserts. It was an Apple ad for the original iMac. I was intrigued and spent the next couple weeks scouring the Apple website looking at all their products. When I came home, I immediately ordered the PowerBook and checked the option to include an iPod. The original 5Gb (or was it 10?) version with a click wheel that actually spun. That was all she wrote in terms of me ever owning a PC again.

  4. As morbid as it sounds, I think the death of Steve Jobs had some part in this happening.

  5. Remember when he sold memberships? I didn’t mind paying to get his Linked List feed. Now I get to read Gruber’s paid advertisements in my RSS feed, much like Howard Stern shilling for Snapple on his old radio show. Gruber is by no means alone in this department.