James Home

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

Hiya! I’m James Home. When I’m not preoccupied by birds, what the light is doing in here, or how consciousness works, I’m a sailor, designer, and technologist. My wife and I live on a sailboat called Rejoice. In 2018, after twenty years in San Francisco, we sailed ’joice out the Golden Gate and south to La Paz, Mexico, gateway to the extraordinary Gulf of California. We’re telling that story at Getting Free.

Before we took to the sea, I —

  • Worked at Google for seven years as a senior product designer. On Fuchsia, I led design for stories, trust, and flow for the new operating system. On Helpouts, I led all aspects of design for the personal services marketplace and wrote front-end code for production. On Search, I managed the six person team that designed universal search results, and was a lead designer on two comprehensive search redesigns. I also ran several design sprints, a process that helped me and my teams build better products and helped me become a better designer. I'd like to run a couple of design sprints when we visit San Francisco this summer; if your work could benefit from the intense outcome-oriented problem solving focus that a sprint provides and you need an experienced facilitator who can help you get a prototype up and running, let’s talk.
  • Worked at Metaweb for five years as design director. I helped create Freebase, the free and open database of 12 million people, places, and things that ultimately became Google’s Knowledge Graph. It’s the difference between things and strings. I designed some of the first entity-aware search result interfaces, called Topic Blocks, a 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.
  • Worked as an independent designer for over a decade. Clients included —
    • Applied Minds, where I helped design Aristotle, a social networking site for the Department of Defense. Another project I worked on became Metaweb.
    • Cartesis, a Paris-based business intelligence platform that was acquired by SAP.
    • The Long Now Foundation, where I designed Long Bets, an arena for philanthropists to place high stakes bets about the future, with the proceeds going to charity, and the Rosetta Project, which gave linguists a platform to 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.
  • Helped produce the EG and TED conferences. 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 you shouldn’t miss.
  • Co-founded the SF Embassy, a collective of music-loving city explorers. We got our start in Austin at SXSW, renting out a four story apartment building and populating it with 100 people. 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?
  • Bathed in 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.
  • Burned in Black Rock City, home of the Burning Man. 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. I helped build Bianca’s Smut Shack, Irrational Geographic, Lonertown, and an art car called the Moonyacht. If you always meant to go, go now.
  • Married 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.

Right now I’m thinking about —

  • Sailing, and the small and extraordinary community of liveaboard cruising sailors. I’m learning so much from how sailors take care of each other and the places they explore.
  • How to prevent the eroding confidence in the media and advances in machine learning and augmented reality from making it impossible to understand what is really going on in the world.
  • How to use data visualization for storytelling.
  • Why less comfort makes me feel more alive.
  • How to use design to oppose oligarchy in the United States and in the world.
  • How to design operating systems and social networks in a way that makes them inherently better stewards of individual identity and trust.
  • The wildness I found in myself at sea and how to become an advocate for it in the world.

Thank you for your curiosity! If any of this resonates, I’d love to hear from you. You can also tell me a secret.

La Paz, Mexico
April 21, 2019

You are free

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