Holovaty stepping out on his own

I first met Adrian Holovaty when he was still a student at the University of Missouri and I was at The Topeka Capital-Journal. It was Steve Klein who set up the introduction, and I’ve thanked Steve numerous times since!

From the first day I spoke with Adrian, I really wanted him to join our development team because he was one of the brightest people I had ever met.

And even in those earliest discussions, it was obvious he had really great ideas.

The best way to build a great web team is to surround yourself with people who are about a million times smarter and more talented than you, and Adrian definitely fit that bill.

I was heartbroken back in late 2001 or early 2002 when he called me to say he was accepting a job at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution instead of coming to hang with us.

So, when Dan Cox and I left Topeka to go work at The Lawrence Journal-World, the very first person we called was Adrian, and we were both thrilled when he joined us in Lawrence.

Adrian’s work in Lawrence was amazing.

Hell, I think it might be legendary.

The system that this guy put together for lawrence.com was one of the most amazing and innovative things I’ve ever seen. Brilliant. And he was so damn fast, I couldn’t believe it.

When we got approval to expand our team, Adrian brought this other super-smart guy named Simon Willison to Lawrence to work with us, and about a year later they had created something called Django.

It was just amazing to show up to work each day and know that Adrian was going to have some cool new thing to show you. For me, it was better than Christmas.

And in his free time, he built a little site called “chicagocrime.org.” In his free time.

Adrian left the Lawrence Journal-World for The Washington Post, where he made so many cool things, I’m not even sure I should try to list them. But if you ever see a really cool database-driven project on washingtonpost.com that has “projects.washingtonpost.com” as the beginning part of the URL, then you know it was Adrian’s handy work.

So, now comes the news that Adrian has received a very nice grant to strike out on his own to build something called “EveryBlock” and I’d be more than willing to bet the lion’s share of my salary that it’s going to be a hit.

The formal press release from the Knight Foundation said Adrian will “create a series of city data sites presenting address-specific news and information. The 10 cities will include the Knight cities of Miami, Philadelphia, Detroit, San Jose and Charlotte.”

The newschallege.org site gives a little more information about the project, stating that it will: “create, test and release open-source software that links databases to allow citizens of a large city to learn (and act on) civic information about their neighborhood or block.”

And, of course, Adrian has written a short blog post about it that you should check out.

I talked with Adrian yesterday to congratulate him and tell him how proud I was of him. I could just hear in his voice how excited he was.

If anybody can make this work, it would be Adrian.

And if I were a newspaper in one of the cities that Adrian will be testing in, I’d either be very mindful of this guy’s work, or I’d figure out a way to partner with him. Immediately.

Adrian is smart, he’s a winner, and he builds things that help people.

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Dad. Journalist. Nerd. Music lover. Baseball fan. Puckhead.