James Home

Let me make myself perfectly clear.

Value judgments are destructive to our proper business, which is curiosity and awareness. John Cage

Beloved friends, astonishing luck, and an unyielding preoccupation with two questions have largely determined my course through life:

  1. What is consciousness?
  2. What are we trying to do to ourselves with all this technology?

Some favorite places this path has taken me —

  • Into the Pacific Ocean aboard Rejoice, the 40 foot sailboat my wife and I sold our house and quit our jobs to move aboard in 2017. In 2018, we sailed ’joice out the Golden Gate and south to La Paz, Mexico, gateway to the extraordinary Gulf of California. In 2019, we’ll be cruising the Gulf and Pacific Mexico. We’re telling that story at Getting Free. Here’s where we are now.
  • Seven years of product design at Google. On Search, I managed the six person team that designed universal search results, and was a lead designer on two comprehensive search redesigns. On Helpouts, I led all aspects of design for the personal services marketplace and wrote front-end code for production. On Fuchsia, I led design for trust and flow, which is deliberately vague. I also evangelized and ran several design sprints, a process I’ve had great success with and remain extremely enthusiastic about. I am thinking about ways to run the occasional design sprint while we sail. If your work could benefit from the intense outcome-oriented problem solving focus that a sprint provides and you need an experienced facilitator, get in touch.
  • To ceremony, under the extraordinary guidance of Cofán Taitas Tulio and Alberto. The more I understood, the more I understood nothing. I will always be grateful.
  • Under the Northern Lights outside a bus on a deserted street on the outskirts of Reykjavik, Iceland, with the SF Embassy, a collective of music-loving city explorers I co-founded in 2010. We got our start at SXSW in Austin, renting out a four story apartment building and populating it with 100 ambassadors. We threw the best afterparties at SXSW that year. In 2013 we went to Iceland Airwaves, where we were the second largest group of Americans to visit that year, granting us an audience with Reykjavik mayor, comedian, and anarchist Jón Gnarr. 2016 found us in Houston for the Day for Night festival. Where should we go next?
  • Five years of design direction at Metaweb. I helped conceive of and build Freebase, the free and open database of 12 million entities that ultimately became Google’s Knowledge Graph, the foundation of today’s Google Search. It’s the difference between things and strings. I designed the first entity-aware search result interfaces, called Topic Blocks, the precursor to today’s Knowledge Panels. I also helped designed several data reconciliation tools, a browser-based JavaScript IDE, and OpenRefine, a data wrangling tool still in heavy use by data journalists.
  • Into Ganga Maa during the 2010 Kumbh Mela at Haridwar, India. One of the largest gatherings of human beings on the planet, over 60 million people came to bathe in the Ganges during the event, which has happened every three years in one of four locations in India for centuries.
  • EG Conference and TED. I staffed my first TED in 1999, and returned each year until founder Richard Saul Wurman sold it in 2003. I followed Richard to EG, which I have helped produce for over ten years. It is now helmed by Mike Hawley and you shouldn’t miss it.
  • That one time, with you, in that one place. That was amazing.
  • To a nondescript warehouse in Burbank with a magic phone booth, home to Danny Hillis and Bran Ferren’s Applied Minds. I helped design Aristotle, a social networking site for the Department of Defense. Another project I worked on became Metaweb.
  • Two decades of collaboration with The Long Now Foundation, Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly’s effort at countering civilization’s pathologically short attention span by fostering long term thinking. Michael Chabon wrote a great piece about it. I designed Long Bets, an arena for philanthropists to place high stakes bets about the future, with the proceeds going to charity. I also designed the first website for the Rosetta Project, helping linguists collaborate on the creation of a physical object that archives 1,500 human languages in analog form. An early prototype of the Rosetta Disk was launched into space in 2004. I also helped Kevin with personal projects, including a website for his gorgeous photo book, Asia Grace. Working with them means a lot to me because it was their Signal, a 1988 special edition of the Whole Earth Catalog, that helped me understand where technology was going years before I might have otherwise. Thanks again, you two.
  • Black Rock City, home of the Burning Man. A temporary city in the Nevada desert, Black Rock City emerges once a year from the collective imagination only to leave no trace a couple weeks later. When I went in 1996, it was the first time I had to "voluntarily assume the risk of injury or death" to attend something. I did so ten more times, last in 2011. We built Bianca’s Smut Shack, Irrational Geographic, Lonertown, and an art car called the Moonyacht. If you always meant to go, go now.
  • Onto countless social networks, where I’m usually jameshome. Heartbreakingly, they’ve all lost my trust, so I won’t link to my profiles there. I trust protocols more than corporations, and you should too. Figure out how to tell your story without their help. The Web belongs to everyone, and that’s never been more important than it is right now.
  • Through nearly twenty years of marriage to Kristie Dahlia Home, healer, poet, satyavaktr, and Rejoice’s X.O. There are about a million words in the English language. When Dahlia and I chose one for our last name, we chose Home. Our marriage is the work I’m most proud of. There is only one of us. Our vows, exchanged before our friends and family in Novato, California in 1999, are at thisishomemade.

I’m not much closer to the answers, but I’m profoundly grateful to be living the questions, and to be alive here with you, now. Never hesitate to reach out.

JAMES HOME
La Paz, Mexico
January 1, 2019

You are free

Nobody’s free until everybody’s free. Fannie Lou Hamer