Interview with Jacob Kauffmann


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Interview with Composr community member, Jacob Kauffmann, Nerd on the Street. Jacob Kauffmann also co-ordinates the Composr weekly chat along with Chris Graham.

1. Tell us about your website: what is it called, what's the URL, and what is the mission behind it?

I have a video publishing website called Nerd on the Street. The URL is My mission, as stated on the about page, is to inform and entertain my viewers while advocating for free & open software.

2. Tell us about yourself: what led you to the point of building a website?

I've always enjoyed making websites. I published my first website at 8 years old, when I was only in the third grade! I loved the idea of putting something out that everyone in the world could see. A little more recently, I started making tech-related YouTube videos under the Nerd on the Street name in 2012. I realized that YouTube didn't give me as much creative power as my own website would, so I set out to make a Nerd on the Street website, and I ultimately settled on Composr for doing that.

3. How did you come to know about Composr, and what made you choose Composr for your website?

When I first started making websites, I used simple web builders (usually Freewebs), then later moved on to static HTML. While that worked for some of my older projects, I wanted a more dynamic system for Nerd on the Street, particularly something that would allow visitors to interact with the website and feel like they're hanging out somewhere. I had some experience using a web builder called Webjam, which marketed toward people wanting to build their own social network, so when I discovered content management systems that I could host myself, I searched specifically for one that had those social capabilities built-in. What I found at the time was ocPortal, and it was exactly what I was looking for! I remember reading the "Why we're different" and "What ocPortal is not" pages, and with each line that I read, I became even more convinced that I'd found a perfect match. I set up a 30-day hosted demo through the ocPortal website, and after trying it out for about a week, I put it on my own server and got started building. I eventually moved on to try a few other systems that looked more modern by default, but when Composr launched, I was super excited to take what I had learned from those other systems, bring that knowledge back to my use of Composr, and use it to make the best version of my website yet.

4. How has Composr helped you?

Composr has helped me take a little web design knowledge a very long way. The flexibility of the templating system lets me make pages look however I want them to, but Composr takes care of the back-end functionality for things like content management and interactive elements.
Nerd On The Street streaming

5. What do you consider as your most significant achievement on your website so far?

Pertaining to the website specifically, my most significant achievement is probably my livestreaming page. I've hacked around with Composr's chat system to make an embedded chat (and also a pop-out version), I've learned just enough JavaScript to do some neat tricks with regards to width changing and iframe editing, and I've made some cool dynamically-updating fundraising widgets the last two years for my Extra Life livestreams. My most significant achievement found on my website, though, has got to be the spectacular second season of my machinima series Displaced.

6. Do you consider yourself more artist, techie, or writer? Or perhaps something else?

This is an interesting question that I've actually thought a lot about. I'm still pretty young, and just a couple of years ago, I was split between going to college for a creative field (video editing or music) or a technology field (IT or programming). I ultimately decided to go to school for IT, but part of the reason is that I'd rather be the most creative person in a room full of technical people than the most technical person in a room full of creative people, and I also didn't want to cause myself to hate video editing or music by making it my job. So, I probably consider myself more artist, although I'm trained as a techie.
Nerd On The Street

7. Are most of your hits from mobile users, tablet users, or desktop users?

I use the free & open Piwik analytics software on my Composr-powered website, and it reports that this month, 73% of my views came from desktop users, while 27% came from mobile/tablet users. 28% of the total views this month came from GNU/Linux desktop users specifically, which I monitor because my website places an emphasis on Linux and other free & open software.

8. Besides your website, what else do you do in your free time? What are your passions?

I actually spend almost all of my free time on Nerd on the Street, although a lot of it doesn't have to do with the website. I spend lots of my time video editing. I enjoy composing and producing music, even when it's not for videos, although I usually only find the time if it's part of a video project. Recently, I've been writing the third season of my sci-fi series Displaced, and I've been learning animation for the past two years in order to switch from machinima to proper animation. Even when I'm not working on a video, I'm still probably tinkering with Linux or one of the many free applications available for it, since I don't use anything else on my personal computers.
Nerds On The Street Displaced

9. What is yourfavorite inspirational statement or proverb?

Monty Oum, the former lead animator at Rooster Teeth who passed away in 2015, once said, "the only thing that stops us from doing the really cool things is time." I've always got half a dozen video projects moving at once and a lot of times, I find some of them progressing very slowly because I'm spreading myself too thin. My hope is that eventually, I'll find other creative free & open software enthusiasts who can help with some of it, and/or that I'll get more time to work on Nerd on the Street myself. Either way, I definitely find myself limited by the number of hours in the day, and Monty's quote drives me to spend as much of my time making content as I can.

10. Is there any other really cool Open Source software you'd like to recommend to people?

Absolutely! Anyone who wants to edit video should install Linux and grab Kdenlive, a professional-grade video editor that's part of the KDE project. Graphic designers should definitely try Inkscape, a vector graphics editor. Teams thinking about trying Slack might want to take a look at RocketChat, a self-hosted alternative. I talk about these and tons more freedom-respecting/open-source software at Nerd on the Street, and I'd be happy to discuss them on my forums.
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