The Platinum Anniversary: 2000-2020
Celebrate the first 20 years of The Mattopia Times with two special retrospectives.
ONE: It all started with one page. Now the site features more than 1.5 million words and 1,700 pages of content only a powerhouse publishing organization like the Times can provide.
MATTISON AVENUE: A virtual gallery walking through some of the early efforts in Flash animation and other groundbreaking publicity initiatives.
It all started with one page.
Back then, the effort was quickly dismissed by so many. It was, after all, only one page. But, as smarter people know, big things have small beginnings.
And there were those who asked, derisively, “What are you going to put on a website?” Those were the same people who didn’t know Mattopia Jones very well. No idea where those people are now. But, to play off the masthead’s motto, they simply don’t matter.
Defining Moments in Mattopian History
What a back story.
Valedictorian in a high school class of nine. (An honor, to be sure, but the entire class graduated in the top 10.)
A nerd who learned how to program basic video games out of geeky computer magazines.
A homeboy who hadn’t strayed more than 20 miles away from his parents until fate changed everything. It was a Luke Skywalker moment, being plucked out of obsurity on the large University of Colorado campus and pulled eastward for some badly needed life alterations and transformations.
All of those things set the stage for a spark that would ignite a remarkable personal and professional transformation, followed by a life of adventure and some major el-e-va-tion.
Resourcefulness: Young Mattopia Jones making a pillow out of a napkin and taking a snooze on the kitchen floor. After all, isn't that where the word "nap" comes from? That resourcefulness has certainly come in handy while traveling the globe; 50 countries covering six continents (so far).
New York City: Moving from Boulder to West Haven for an accounting internship in IBM's software division was a fundamental shift in everything. Self-confidence, world view, travel, photography. It all started with those first trips on the Metro-North trains into Grand Central.
U2: The very first time our Dr. Jones saw U2 in concert changed everything — again. It was a whole new world after that and there was no turning back. (And the photos kept getting better and better.)
That Was Then. This Is Now.
Or course, it’s not one page anymore. No sooner did Mattopia Jones start digging into site construction than the opportunities started to happen. A whole new career and lifestyle were discovered.
Back during college, while roaming the Boulder campus, Matty was in a “New York Times or bust” state of mind. Fortunately, neither happened. Instead, he created his own Times and, in doing so, entered a wonderful world that so seamlessly blends the creative with the technical.
Stats as of 28 June 2020, tabulated by ZoomIndexer and certifed by the Central Auditing Council Authority (CACA)
That's just the web development side. There's also the tactile world of gear, which witnessed the transition from film cameras to digital point-and-shoots; the upgrade to digital SLRs, then the miracle of the mirrorless camera. Now, the world of Mattopia is being captured with the stunning Sony A7R4. With that camera, a single RAW photo can take 100 MB of space. Those photos (and 4K video), in turn, require the processing prowess of the latest MacBook Pro (16") as well as the latest software to render gorgeous imagery and slickly edited videos.
It’s a lot to keep up with, but it’s also a whole lot of fun.
Mind of the Times
This excerpt from a rare Times interview with Mattopia Jones — conducted on 11 August 2009 in Zagreb, Croatia during the 360° tour — serves as a great primer for the uninitiated.
Q: Why did you start The Mattopia Times?
A: After I finished my Master of Science in International Business, I wanted to take a step back and revisit my roots in journalism. I wanted to get back into writing. So, what better way to take a step back than to make a huge leap forward? I invested in my first laptop, bought some Macromedia software and taught myself how to build a website. That way, I could publish whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Things rapidly snowballed from there.
Q: Let's address the 500-pound gorilla in the room. What's up with the ubiquitous smiley face? It's used in a number of different contexts throughout the site.
A: While learning all this new software — Flash, Freehand, Fireworks, etc. — I needed something to play with. Thinking back to grade school, we'd draw the sun, but the sun would have a smile and it'd be wearing John Lennon sunglasses. I took that old idea and brought it into modern times. Plus, I needed something basic and easy to manipulate while learning those tools. Then it became something of a site mascot. As for the gorilla, look at it! It's smiling! It gets it!
An early Flash test using a smiley face to learn animation paths and object interactions (Archive files restored and provided by the Mattopia Institute of Technological History (MITH))
Q: Back then, what was your goal?
A: I wanted to have fun with this big idea, so I wanted to keep it light in tone. But there were also a few key strategic concepts that went into developing the site:
- I wanted it to look like it was produced by a team of people, not just one guy's hobby website.*
- In order to make that happen, it couldn't be filled with personal photos of friends and family. It had to be detached from that life and focused on more global topics, while also steering away from the divisiveness of politics.
- Once I got to that point, it was about creating a whole world in and of itself: The People's Republic of Mattopia. I remember having a little potted plant in my cubicle at the day job — this was before the site ever got started — and in that dirt I placed a toothpick with a little paper flag that said, "Mattopia." As they say, big things have small beginnings.
- Another core element was setting the tone. The Onion, This Is Spinal Tap, Walt Disney and other key influences — including U2, of course — helped me find my way.
- Finally, I needed it to work as both a living site worth visiting and as a sandbox in which I could continually learn and apply the latest in methodologies, libraries, tricks, what have you. Granted, not every page deserves a Pulitzer or a Webby, but quite a bit of it's mighty d@#n good, all things considered.
* Editor's note: That sense of creating an illusion is even more timely today, given the challenges with deep fakes, misinformation and audience manipulation. Matty had the idea on his radar 20 years ago. Certainly, social media has accelerated the capacity for deception. It's remarkably easy to do. And it's stunning to see so many people fall for it in this digital age.
The circular shades have been a staple of The Mattopia Times and Mattopian fashion since Day One. Up in the masthead, in the weather section, even the sun's wearing “John Lennon sunglasses.” Check out this gallery of the shape donning some of the world's most famous faces for the past 100+ years — and absorb some of their words to live by.
Just Gettin’ Started
Perhaps the most amazing thing about all of this is how much awesome content is sitting on (solid-state) hard drives. Interviews, travel videos, photographs, stories. It's an abundance — an embarrassment — of untapped content riches. So many ideas and applications to explore — if only there were more hours in the day!
As Mattopia Jones says time and time again, “Stay tuned, True Believers!”