We visited Alex at his home in Colorado in August, 2015.
AllThingsD, Life

Remembering Alex King

It is with great sadness that I learned my friend, Alex King passed away last night. We were fortunate to visit him and his family last month in Colorado. Alex and I shared a love for photography and technology. We worked on many projects over the years, including the original AllThingsD website for Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. His work in the WordPress community helped make WordPress what it is today. Alex, you will be sorely missed. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Meeting Alex

I first met Alex through a mutual friend, Eric Cheng, who was working at E.piphany. I learned from Eric that a co-worker of his was looking to buy a digital camera. I happened to be selling my Canon EOS-D30. So, on February 7, 2002, I went to the office to meet up with Luke.

Meeting Alex King for the first time while selling my Canon EOS-D30 to his cube mate.

Meeting Alex King for the first time while selling my Canon EOS-D30 to his cube mate.

This is how I met Alex for the first time, as he was Luke’s cube-mate at E.piphany. Little did both of us know at the time, but our paths would cross many times in software, photography and friendship over the next decade.

Collaboration

Alex and I worked on several projects together in the early 2000s. We hacked together an application called Read it to Me, which created MP3 files from unread items in one’s NetNewsWire RSS feed using Apple’s Text-to-Speech feature.

Alex also gave me the idea to develop MsgFiler, an application that allows OS X Mail users to file their messages to mailboxes quickly using only the keyboard. It’s since become one of my most popular software applications, with thousands of devoted customers around the world.

Holding up old Palm and Handspring devices in Cupertino on January 23, 2003. The one Alex is displaying is actually a phone!

Holding up old Palm and Handspring devices in Cupertino on January 23, 2003. The one Alex is displaying is actually a phone!

Furiously typing away on our keyboards for the camera’s sake on February 26, 2003.

Furiously typing away on our keyboards for the camera’s sake on February 26, 2003.

Stanford Golf

In 2003, I was spending the year as a Digital Vision Fellow at Stanford University. I was also doing photography for the campus newspaper and was tasked to photograph the Stanford Golf team during the Nelson Invitational held at the Stanford Golf Course on October 26, 2003.

Knowing that Alex was an avid golfer, I invited him to tag along. For both of us, it was our first time photographing a golf tournament. He gave me a number of tips about shooting golf, and his photos turned out much better than mine that day.

We followed two groups of Stanford golfers, Pat Phillips and Brandon Lawson and Matt Savage and Scott MacDonald, through the front nine before calling it a day. I figured that there would be crowds of people following the matches, so I was surprised to see that it was just the two of us for much of the morning.

Photographing the Stanford golf team with Alex.

Photographing the Stanford golf team with Alex.


Camera Owners of the Bay Area

In August 2003, Alex spoke at COBA, the digital camera user group I ran, about his Photos web application for managing, storing, cataloging and retrieving digital photos.

Alex spoke at my Camera Owners of the Bay Area user group.

Alex spoke at my Camera Owners of the Bay Area user group.

Alex spoke at my Camera Owners of the Bay Area user group.

Alex spoke at my Camera Owners of the Bay Area user group.

Portraits of Alex in Cupertino

Alex wanted a headshot of himself done for his website. On December 19, 2003, he came to my house in Cupertino. We set up the lights and camera in the living room and started clicking away. The photo to the right was the last shot of the day and the one he most liked. Alex used this photo for nearly a decade as his digital avatar. It remains one of my favorite photos of Alex.

I took the photo of Alex that he used for many years as his online avatar.

I took the photo of Alex that he used for many years as his online avatar.

Here are three other photos that we took during the portrait session that winter afternoon in the Bay Area.

All Things Digital

Near the end of 2006, Alex emailed me and asked me if I wanted to work with him on a large WordPress project with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher, two prominent journalists at The Wall Street Journal. They were creating an online extension to their popular D: All Things Digital conference called AllThingsD.com. I jumped at the opportunity to work with Alex again, as I had recently left a startup a few months earlier.

This opportunity directed the path of both of our careers for almost a decade. I continued to work with Walt and Kara at AllThingsD.com, Recode, and Vox Media. Alex launched Crowd Favorite, and it went on to do great things within the WordPress community and beyond.
It’s safe to say that I owe Alex an incredible debt of gratitude. I don’t know where my professional career would be today had we not worked together on this project.

Alex and Walt Mossberg

Alex and Walt Mossberg

Alex at the AllThings Launch Party

Alex at the AllThings Launch Party

Alex speaking with Megan Smith, now the CTO of America

Alex speaking with Megan Smith, now the CTO of America

Alex and Eric Cheng

Alex and Eric Cheng

The AllThingsD Launch Party in April, 2007.

The AllThingsD Launch Party in April, 2007.

Alex with Matt Mullenweg, Barry Abrahamson, and me.

Alex with Matt Mullenweg, Barry Abrahamson, and me.

Random Snapshots

Here’s a collection of photos of Alex that I have taken. Since moving to Colorado, we’ve tried to meet up whenever he was in the San Francisco Bay Area on business.

Visiting Alex and his family in 2015

Rae and I returned to Colorado in 2015 with our son Dashiell. We were fortunate to visit Alex, his father, Heather and Caitlin at their home in Arvada. I finally got to see his custom-built office desk and basement. We reconnected like it was old times, and I’ll cherish our talk forever.

Visiting Alex in Colorado

Visiting Alex in Colorado

Further Reading

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AllThingsD, Apple, Journal, Technology

At the D8 Conference in Rancho Palos Verde

D8 If you love technology, you’ll want to tune into the D8 Conference, where I’ll be for the week in beautiful Rancho Palos Verdes, California. We have a terrific slate of speakers being interviewed by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, including Apple’s Steve Jobs, on Tuesday evening. Check out the complete list of speakers and visit conference web site for live blogs, photos and video highlights from every session!

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AllThingsD, Apple, Photography

Photographing the iPhone 3.0 Event

iPhone 3.0 event

I was at the iPhone 3.0 event today at Apple’s Town Hall this morning, covering the event with John Paczkowski for AllThingsD.com. I ran into a number of people that I know from both development and media circles, including Raven Zachary and Eric Savitz. The crowd was comprised of about 60% developers and 40% media.

When I shot the MacWorld Keynote this year for All Things Digital, I was missing a critical piece from my computer and photography kit, a BixNet battery to power my Cradlepoint EVDO/Wi-Fi router. Without the battery, I had to manually transfer images from the camera to the computer to SmugMug. At the time, I was pretty efficient, but I wish I could have removed those extra download and upload steps.

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AllThingsD, Apple, D5, Journal, Microsoft, Photography

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates at D5

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

The highlight of the D5 Conference last week was without a doubt the joint interview of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. If you haven’t yet seen it, the video is available in audio and video podcast form on iTunes, and you can see highlights on the AllThingsD.com. The D5 site also contains the complete transcript and John Paczkowski’s live blog of the event. The interview been covered all around the blogosphere and was even mentioned at last night’s event at the Computer History Museum.

I want to talk briefly about the media workflow that we used during the conference. The goal of the D5 website was to be the best source of commentary, photos, and video on the web. Because media would be coming in from and used by multiple groups — Asa Mathat for photos, Fourth Wall Media for digital signage, Kodak for poster prints, Trillium for video, and John Paczkowski for commentary — close coordination was needed between everyone. My role at the conference was to make sure the site was working properly and that content got up in a timely fashion.

At the beginning of each session, the ATD staff began writing a new post for the current speaker. Within the first few minutes of the talk, Asa delivered a few photos which his assistant (and wife) imported and annotated using Photo Mechanic and iView. These photos were then rsynced to a hard drive operated by Fourth Wall. They had their own crew selecting and processing images that would be displayed on the large-screen monitors throughout the hotel. They also supplied these images to Kodak, who were printing and hanging large prints outside the Grand Ballroom following each session.

Walt Mossberg holds up a print of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

As for me, I created iView catalog that updated whenever new files were added to the repository. From there, I selected the ones that I wanted to post to the website and imported them into Aperture. If necessary, I performed some quick adjustments to the image before captioning the photos. Finally, I uploaded the images to SmugMug (using the Java web uploader) and used a customized version of my WP-SmugMug plugin to display the images in WordPress. As more images came in during each session, I repeated the process of (1) importing and selecting in iView, (2) processing and annotating in Aperture, and (3) uploading to SmugMug.

Video was handled a little differently than photos. There were typically three sessions before a break, during which time we received a hard drive containing QuickTime movies of the previous talks. Our video editor used John’s blog posts as a guide to create a five minute highlight reel for each session. Ali did a fantastic job at quickly editing down and exporting the videos so we could upload them to our video provider, Brightcove. From there, we tagged each video and updated the blog post with a link to the video.

With the exception of the Gates-Jobs interview, each session resulted in one blog post, five to fifteen images, and a five-minute video. For Gates-Jobs, we created a five-minute highlight reel and had the entire session available in seven segments. Eventually, we were able to deliver Apple a version that they then used to create the video and audio podcast. Last I checked, the podcast was one of the most downloaded podcasts on iTunes this past week!

If this workflow sounds a bit complex, it was. That said, everyone involved in the conference was top-notch and worked really well together. Of course, there’s room for improvement, but that’s what D6 is for! I think we’ve seen a glimpse at how conferences will be run in the future. Near instant availability of commentary, photos, and video will become the norm, rather than the exception, for conferences.

Fortunately, I had some time to sneak out of the control room to watch the talk live in the Grand Ballroom. Seeing Jobs and Gate on stage in person was far more interesting than watching it on the TV in our room. The photos below are from Jobs’ solo interview with Walt Mossberg and the joint interview with both Kara and Walt. Enjoy!

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AllThingsD, D5, Journal

Day One at D5

John McCain kicks off D5

Today was the first day of the D5 Conference for attendees. Industry luminaries such as Steve Ballmer, Arianna Huffington, Martha Stewart, Jeff Hawkins, George Lucas, and many more were seen strolling around the Four Seasons Aviara today.

The conference was kicked off by U.S. Senator, John McCain, who engaged in a spirited discussion with Walt and Kara. Everyone got a kick out of McCain’s joke that he’ll be appointing Ballmer and Chambers to his cabinet if elected. Things turned serious when Walt asked about the War in Iraq and McCain’s stance on the United States continued role in the area. I’ve gone back and forth as to what we need to do. I can understand both viewpoints: the desire to stay and secure the area and the need to get out immediately.

Tomorrow’s going to be real busy as we dived into the meat of the conference. Ballmer, Jobs, Gates and Jobs together, and more. The team at AllThingsD accomplished quite a bit today, including launching a new section to the site, d5.allthingsd.com, which has continuing coverage of D5. John Paczkowski of Digital Daily will be live-blogging during each session. We’ve also created a special low-bandwidth page for those people who like to reload every minute.

Photos are being hosted by the fantastic team at smugmug, with D5 videos being hosted by Brightcove. We’ve posted a 5-minute clip from the McCain session. Check it out and more over the next few days!

Here are some photos taken throughout the day. The official photographer for D5 is once again the excellent Asa Mathat. I first met Asa at a Palm conference over 7 years ago! Everything is coming full circle!

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AllThingsD, Journal, Running

Craplets at D5

Craplets at D5

As a surprise for Walt, the D5 staff all wore these great Mossberg Craplets t-shirts from Mule Design. Kara posted her thoughts on the surprise, along with a video of the proceedings.

I’m putting the finishing touches on some updates to the allthingsd.com site before the conference begins. I didn’t get to see much of the beautiful weather outside today, sadly enough. Perhaps tomorrow, I will have a little time to go out for a nice POSE run. One good thing about having Puma H-Street shoes is that I can fit them in my suitcase very easily. Typical running shoes are really bulky and take up so much luggage space. H-Streets are the complete opposite: light, flexible, and easy to pack.

The Four Seasons is a very impressive hotel; it reminds me of the time Rae, her family, and I spent on the Constellation during our Northern Europe cruise. The constant pampering from the hotel staff is a little bit awkward, but that’s par for the course at a five-star hotel. The service is definitely a step-up from a Best Western!

Some photos of the Craplets t-shirt surprise for Walt below!

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