Those that Made for a Better 2009

The year 2009 is over and 2010 is upon us. But, I think that we should reflect 2009, remembering the people that made the year better for us. There have been plenty of people that made my life better last year. There’s the obvious friends and family, but I specifically want to shine the spotlight on some of the writers, developers, and podcasters that made last year so good.

I’ll start out with an easy one. It’s not one person in particular, but all of the folks at Media Temple. They have been great to me this last year. And their fantastic 24 hour phone support is just the beginning, they’ve also moved my database to a SQL burst container (for free) when my web traffic demanded it. My site went down a few times throughout the year but Media Temple’s professionalism and courteousness went well beyond expectations, which managed to make up for any ill will that could have been built up from down time. I haven’t had too many web hosts in my time, but I can safely say that Media Temple is the best.

The next person I want to mention built two fantastic web apps that I started using this past year. Shaun Inman is the man behind Mint, a web analytics app that you host on your own server. Mint has been around for a while but I just discovered it this last year. I had been using Google Analytics for my sites but was very happy to find a good replacement which would keep all of my stuff on my own domain. But, it’s not only Mint, Shaun released an RSS reader in 2009 called Fever. I happily switched to it shorty after its release. The most clever part of Fever (and one of reasons I switched to it) was its use of a “Hot” section which displays the most popular links from the feeds I subscribe to. Shaun Inman has also developed an iPhone app, named Horror Vacui, a URL shortener called Lessn, and a sort of Quicksilver for the web service called Shortwave.

Speaking of Quicksilver, let’s give some credit to Nicholas Jitkoff. Nicholas now works for Google and the Quicksilver updates haven’t been coming as quickly as some of you may have liked, but the app continues to make my life easier every day. Nicholas Jitkoff developed an amazing app with Quicksilver, one with nearly limitless possibilities, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of it. Quicksilver isn’t the only application developed by Nicholas that made my life easier, though. He’s also the man behind Telekinesis, a simple application that you install on your Mac that allows you to access files and share your screen with your iPhone or iPod touch. It’s a clever (and free) application that comes in handy when I need it (albeit rarely). Nicholas has developed several applications and utilities that you can find on his website, Blacktree.

While Nicholas Jitkoff’s Quicksilver helped me be more productive, I’ve spent spent (or arguably wasted) countless hours with Tweetie. Loren Brichter’s delightful Twitter client for the iPhone. Earlier in the year Loren was well on his way to making it into this piece but really kicked it up a notch when Tweetie 2 was released in October. There’s no doubt that Loren Brichter made my life better with Tweetie 2 but his iPhone programming lecture at Stanford was what made me look up to him even more as a fantastic developer. Aside from Tweetie 2, Loren has also developed Tweetie for the Mac and Scribbles.

Later in the year I finally got around to signing up for Marco Arment’s Instapaper. Not only does Marco run Instapaper the service, he also developed the Instapaper app for the iPhone. Before using Instapaper I felt as though I was reaching a point where I was spending way too much of my time reading short-form content rather than the longer, more well thought out pieces that good writers put so much effort into. Marco’s service has made it easy for me to save all of the longer articles that I’d like to read. When I have time to read them I can do so where I’d like, whether it’s on my iPhone with Instapaper Pro, on the web, or on my Kindle using Instapaper’s fancy Kindle-friendly export feature. I really enjoy the fact that I read so much more well thought our pieces by the writers that put a little bit more into their articles, and it’s all thanks to Marco.

Speaking of writers, it’d be hard for me to write something like this without mentioning John Gruber. His website, Daring Fireball, is always the first feed I check when I load up Fever in the morning. Out of all the people mentioned here, John has probably had the most influence on me. Whether he’s writing 2000+ words on a JavaScript framework for iPhone web apps or writing about HTML5 he always manages to keep me interested from the first word to the last footnote.

I happened to discover Patrick Rhone this past year. Patrick Rhone is the man behind Minimal Mac, a weblog about minimalism, Macintosh, and related geekdom. Although I don’t follow Patrick Rhone’s “journal,” I do read every single word he writes on Minimal Mac. I’ve spent a great deal of my life trying to keep things simple and Minimal Mac has fed right into my obsession with minimalism.

One of my favorite podcasts is MacBreak Weekly, it’s one of the first podcasts I listen to when it shows up in iTunes. I enjoy all of the regulars on the show but one person stands out above the rest, Andy Ihnatko. Andy Ihnatko regularly writes for the Chicago Sun Times and his Celestial Waste of Bandwidth. But in my opinion, his best work is on MacBreak Weekly. He always has a fantastic pick of the week (whether it be a book or otherwise) and often times is the one trying to keep the other hosts from jumping to conclusions regarding whatever the latest outlandish Apple rumor is. I don’t read his articles as often as I’d like, but I always find time to listen to MacBreak Weekly.

The final person that made my life better in 2009 was John C. Dvorak. He’s another writer/podcaster and like Andy Ihnatko, I believe his best work is in his podcasts. He is a regular co-host on This Week in Tech and co-host of both DH Unplugged and No Agenda. Whether you agree with his political stances or not he does a great job of trying to keep Adam Curry grounded in reality on No Agenda and keeping the folks on This Week in Tech on topic. He always has something insightful to say and often tells fantastic anecdotes about the topic at hand.

2009 was a great year for me. I had a lot of fun, I wrote more than in any previous year, and I certainly read more than in any previous year. I consider all of the people mentioned here to be incredibly successful. All of them and their work certainly meant a lot to me this past year. And, without them, this year wouldn’t have been nearly as enjoyable or productive.

I’ve taken the time to build a Twitter list that includes all of the people mentioned here. If you’re even the least bit interested in any of them I would suggest following them on Twitter.

Update 1/4/09: Somehow I neglected to mention that Marco Arment is also the lead developer of Tumblr. Tumblr is a wonderful weblog platform that I used for a brief period of time in 2008. I really enjoyed using it but eventually decided to keep all of my content on my WordPress weblog instead.