Originally a web designer, Kai launched the first issue of Offscreen Magazine in early 2012. His print-only publication explores the personal side of people in the tech/web community. As a one-man operation Offscreen is truly indie – published from Melbourne, printed in Berlin, now in its eleventh issue. Kai also sends out his weekly newsletter, The Modern Desk.
Hi Kai, first of all, thanks for taking some time out to answer these questions for HybridConf, we can’t believe it’s only three weeks away!
If you say it like that I'm getting sweaty hands. Should I be busy preparing my speaker notes?!
To kick things off: if the web had never existed, what would you be doing as a career and why?
Ha! That's like asking, "If we didn't need food, who'd be eating all the pancakes?" But seriously, I have no idea. I guess whatever I thought would have been better than wasting time on a computer back then. One thing is for sure, cats would be a lot worse off today.
What does an average day look like for you? We assume plenty of coffee?
My life is the working equivalent of 'Home Alone'. It's a mix of being scared, not really knowing what I'm doing, and coming up with a last-minute plan to kick some arse. I also order way too many cheese pizzas and wear PJs like nobody's watching.
But honestly, I've written in detail about how I break up my day on my blog. And yes, you guessed it, coffee is the magic glue that holds everything together.
Tell us a little more about The Modern Desk and where the inspiration behind the it came from?
I think TMD is the side-effect of creating a print product. With Offscreen the feedback and launch cycle can be very slow. I basically work on an issue 'in silence' for three months and during that time I don't really interact all that much with readers. I don't get to launch anything exciting.
At the same time, while I'm doing research for potential features in Offscreen, I come across all these interesting apps and accessories that people in our industry create. I thought it would be nice to share some of these findings with my friends. I like the idea of doing it through a weekly newsletter because it's very personal, and it gives people just a handful of things to explore without being too annoying or overwhelming.
TMD in a way makes up for the dry periods in between issues of Offscreen. It feels good to launch something, to click that send button and get (almost) immediate feedback. Gosh, I'm still a sucker for that instant gratification that only digital can provide.
You talk about Offscreen as an advocate of the Slow Web movement, how do you think the Slow Movement in general is having an impact on our lives today?
Well, I'm not sure it has. I mean, not for most people. I'm pretty sure nine out of ten people reading this have never heard of the Slow Web movement.
Having said that, I think the trend towards handmade, carefully crafted and independently produced items (such as indie print magazines) is a clear sign that we are all longing for a break from our 'always-on' lifestyles. These objects help us to relates to something materialistic, and I don't mean that in a negative way at all. The web being so fast and the devices we use so sterile, I think there is a real thirst for interacting with something more unique that gives us a sense of relationship, be at a magazine, a vase, or a piece of wood you brought home from your walk in the forest.
And so in a way, the Slow Web manifests itself in this new trend away from digital. It's certainly a niche – the majority of us is still hunting for the latest soundbites on whatever streams we're frantically refreshing.
As part of the creative industry, what do you think we all need to spend a little more time doing?
I know what we should be spending less time doing: trying to define what creativity, design, work, passion, etc. means and instead just go with it. Who cares whether you are designing the right or the wrong way, or whether your work is truly fulfilling your every emotional or creative need.
Many of us tend to intellectualise the act of making and sometimes forget that the most important part about making is… well, making. And I don't exclude myself here.
We’re all about inspiration here at Hybrid so what’s captured your attention recently and why?
Uh, you know I've been locked into my study for the last two weeks trying to finish this next issue of Offscreen. Editing long pieces of text does not really allow for a lot of inspirational input, be at visual or audio.
This is probably the most boring and perhaps trite answer to this question, but lately I have seen interviews with Barack Obama pop up in the most unlikely places, like this podcast. I find these interviews away from the mainstream really inspiring, for several reasons. Obama understands that the mainstream has become way too partisan with a lot of (especially younger) folks just plugging out. He can reach them through exactly those smaller, niche channels. But it also allows him to talk about much more personal and aspirational stuff, and be a lot more frank about it all.
I'm a guy who follows the news quite a bit and, to be honest, I often get dispirited about the state of humanity and the future of this planet. I have a deep admiration for Obama, not because of any political affiliation (although the Republicans are a bunch of knuckleheads) but because no matter how dire the situation, he always emerges as a hugely empathetic and unrelentingly positive guy that's never out of line. To me that's real leadership material – raw inspiration on a human level right there.
If you could offer our audience your personal ‘pearls of wisdom’ what would they be?
Always finish on sweet, never on savoury.