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Meet our final breakfast panelist, Brandon Gorrell of Thought Catalog!

If you’re a twenty-something, an avid internet surfer or just someone looking for some great writing, chances are you’ve heard of Thought Catalog. The digital magazine, whose audience has exploded since its launch in 2010, has built a following based on the mantra of being a platform for expression, open to all voices and designed for all readers.

Brandon Gorrell, Thought Catalog, panelist at bitly breakfast

Brandon Gorrell was brought onto Thought Catalog team as a writer in the summer of 2010, six months after the site launched. He’s watched it grow from a few hundred readers each day to a site that boasts six million unique visitors every month. Brandon’s grown along the way as well - moving the ranks from writer to full-time editorial position to now working as the director of editorial for Thought Catalog.

Brandon will be one of the panelists at our upcoming bitly breakfast, where he’ll talk more about how Thought Catalog finds its writers and give his advice to others looking to make a career out of writing.

We had the chance to speak with Brandon about his role at Thought Catalog and his own transition from aspiring writer to the man in charge of directing and managing traffic for a major website.

How would you describe Thought Catalog?

TC is an open platform for expression. The majority of our audience tends to find something that they relate to on a deeply personal basis whenever they browse the site. It’s a collection of thoughts from a very diverse range of people from around the world.

I feel really lucky to be apart of it - half of the success is being at the right place at the right time. We just happened to bring on certain writers and take notice of trends before a whole lot of other people did because we were in the right place at the right time. It feels really cool.

I’ve always been a little bit frustrated with certain writing conventions - to be taken seriously by a certain group of people, you had to write in a certain way. It was exciting when we found out we were breaking these conventions and doing things in a different way that really resonated with people. Not everyone wants to read standard, conventional writing, some people want different content that’s posted in a different way.

What are some of the day-to-day responsibilities of being the director of editorial at Thought Catalog?

Essentially, I manage all of our writers and all of the content. I make sure that we hit our daily, weekly and monthly traffic goals as well as manage our social media accounts, deal with in-depth analytics and set up syndication deals with other blogs.

How does Thought Catalog find its writers?

A lot of it is through the submission form, where people can submit whatever they want. Around 80-90 percent of our writers on staff have come from our submission form.

We’ll also stumble upon blogs that are interesting and we’ll reach out to those people to see if they’re interested in contributing. What makes Thought Catalog special is that we’re taking submissions from people across the world.

A blog is good to look at if I’m thinking about trying to establish a formal relationship with [a writer]. A lot of contributors and staffers have their own blog. It’s a great benefit - you see certain bloggers all the time and it’s because they’re really good and they’re always saying something poignant on their blog. It’s a really great thing for aspiring writers - you just need to know how to use it.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers and bloggers?

It depends on what type of writing you’re trying to get into. If you want to be a freelancer who makes the rounds on New York media, then having a blog is really important because it gives you a lot of training. If you’re writing every day about what’s going on in the world, that’s good practice.

Write and submit your work, it’ll help you work out the kinks in your writing. Don’t ignore them and don’t convince yourself they aren’t there - you should always be working on refining and noticing where there are problems.

In terms of time management skills, it’s hard work to be working every day and going home and being tired but if you want to be a writer, you have to prioritize that above your free time, above your procrastination. It’s about determination. One of the ways you can get writing and not have it be a chore is find topics that compel you to write or things that make you mad or happy - that’s a lot easier than approaching it from a perspective of “oh, I’m going to write to develop a portfolio.”

Brandon created a bundle of some of his favorite links, some great bloggers and some advice for those looking to start their own blog - you can take a look at it here

Interested in hearing more from Brandon? Come join us on May 31 at bitly HQ for a breakfast and panel discussion on what your blog can do for you. Featuring Jamila Rowser of Girl Gone Geek, Dave Gustav of Bowery Boogie, Hide Harashima of Dumbo NYC and Brandon Gorrell of Thought Catalog. Space is limited, so register here!

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Meet our breakfast panelist, Hide Harashima of DumboNYC!

If you’re an NYC resident, you know Dumbo. The Brooklyn neighborhood, an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is well-known for its rich history, booming real estate and a surplus of shops and restaurants. If you’re interested in finding out what’s going on in Dumbo, you read DumboNYC, a hyperlocal blog that highlights all this plus the interesting people who live and work in Dumbo.

Hide Harashima is the man behind the blog. Hide’s a longtime lover of the area since he first started traveling there to visit friends in the early 2000s. When he became a permanent resident in 2006, he saw the opportunity to help spread the word about the cool place he lived.

Hide’s one of the panelists at our upcoming bitly breakfast, where he’ll talk more about the opportunities he’s had as a result of being the voice of DumboNYC and give his advice to other bloggers looking to build their community.

We had the chance to chat with Hide about his love for his neighborhood, how DumboNYC has grown and how he manages his blog alongside his business career.

Hide Harashima, the creator of DumboNYC.com

How did DumboNYC get started?

About ten years ago, I had friends in Dumbo that I used to go visit. At the time, Dumbo didn’t have any presence online with social media or blogs or anywhere, so most people in New York didn’t really know what it was.

When I moved to Dumbo in 2006, I still didn’t see much online about all the different things happening. I was doing work for one of the galleries in Dumbo, so I put together a simple Wordpress site so I could tell my friends about what was going on here. Soon after I started posting about Dumbo, I started getting emails about different events and meeting people at different venues who I kept in touched with. They all gave me more information about Dumbo and it snowballed from there.

What are some of your responsibilities managing DumboNYC?

I update once or twice a day. I curate some of the more interesting news items from people who email me tips or information about something that may interest the residents or people live or work here in Dumbo.

I’m the sole content creator, so maintaining it is quite a bit of work. It’s a labor of love though.

What are some exciting things that have happened to you since starting DumboNYC?

When I started the site, I was the CIO at a corporate company located in Philadelphia. About 80 percent of my time was spent commuting to to other cities, so during my commute I would post information about Dumbo. I saw media companies were gaining momentum in New York City and in Dumbo specifically. I saw more entrepreneurs moving in to grow their business and got to know a lot of the companies who were making cool products or services. I wanted to jump back into the startup world and through my network on the site I met the guy who turned out to be my cofounder for my new business.

What’s your business? How do you manage to balance your blog with a full-time job?

I’m the founder of an analytics startup company. A lot of bloggers out there do it because they have the passion for a particular topic, mine just happens to be the neighborhood I live in. The way I balance it is that I make time for it - I’ll cue up posts at night or on the weekends and I’ll spend the extra time in the evening to go through the tips I’m getting from people in the neighborhood.

I get around 300-500 emails a week and that’s not junk mail - they’re real emails from people around New York looking for exposure or coming to visit Dumbo and are curious about what places to go to. I’ll respond to about 40-50 a day and that’s a lot of work.

Why did you decide to write about Dumbo?

For me, it was easy to write about Dumbo because I loved where I lived. If you’re writing something that interests you, it’s easy to start something and continue with it. A lot of blogs you see out there start and stop, which could be because of time constraints or they’re disinterested in their topic. What it really comes down to is your experience and passions about that particular topic. The community grows as a result. You find other people who are interested in that topic and they contribute and it grows from there.

What advice would you give to aspiring bloggers?

Get out there and just do it. Don’t worry about your voice or if you’re not a writer, just get something out there. You develop your writing voice and your blogging skills. That eventually happens as you go along, but everyone starts from the same place.

The blog, for me, is where to post some information about a community, but if you grow in terms of readership and the community you’re starting, there are other channels that will come too. You’ll be able to engage further past your blog and that’s an important piece - it doesn’t just stop at your blog, there’s a lot of other chances to talk and to interact with people. 

Hide’s created two bundles for us - one has links to Brooklyn blogs, and the other has links to Brooklyn media.

Interested in hearing more from Hide? Come join us on May 31 at bitly HQ for a breakfast and panel discussion on what your blog can do for you. Featuring Jamila Rowser of Girl Gone Geek, Dave Gustav of Bowery Boogie, Hide Harashima of Dumbo NYC and Brandon Gorrell of Thought Catalog. Space is limited, so register here!

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Syracuse University students visit bitly

We were thrilled to have 16 students from Syracuse University visit us at bitly HQ on Thursday. Their visit was planned as part of SU’s EntreTech NYC course, a class designed to to expose students to information-based companies and entrepreneurs in New York City. 

Syracuse University iSchool students visit bitly

Bitly employees from all different roles took the time to speak with the EntreTech NYC students, showcasing the range of opportunities at startup companies like bitly. Presenters included our senior data scientist Brian Eoff, VP of engineering Pete Miron, quality assurance lead Carol Mirakove, application engineer Sean O’Connor, recruiter Alex Valcic, sales team member Gavin Bernstein, customer success team member Whitney Hillyer, product manager Matt LeMay and community manager Julia Wilson.

The visit highlighted the different backgrounds and skill sets of startup employees. Our employees shared their day-to-day responsibilities and told stories of their own transitions from fields like music, art history and creative writing to their current positions. They talked about how a tech background isn’t always needed to excel in a startup company and there are plenty of opportunities in fields like community management and sales that also need to be filled.

We had a great time talking to the students and meeting this next generation of entrepreneurs. You can see more of the conversation that took place, along with comments and pictures, in this Storify.

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Meet our breakfast panelist, Dave Gustav of Bowery Boogie!

Five years ago, Dave Gustav would have never guessed that he would be the co-founder of Bowery Boogie, a hyperlocal entertainment, lifestyle, and local news site that is focused primarily on the Lower East Side neighborhood in Manhattan. Since then, he’s helped the blog grow from a simple Blogger site to the largest site dedicated to news and lifestyle of the neighborhood. Along the way he’s been invited to review concerts, plays, restaurant openings, and has even ended up in the background of a scene in HBO’s How to Make it in America.

Dave is one of the panelists at our upcoming bitly breakfast, where he’ll talk more about the opportunities he’s had working on Bowery Boogie and share advice with other bloggers interested building their community.

We had the chance to chat with Dave about Bowery Boogie, the value of starting a blog, and some of his favorite places on the Lower East Side.

Dave Gustav of Bowery Boogie

 

How did Bowery Boogie get started?

I came in a few months after it started. The other cofounder, Elie Perler, lived on the Lower East Side. He was reading local news blogs and didn’t see coverage of his block or things happening along his commute to work, so he started a Blogger account. I grew up with Elie; we’ve known each other since we were 15 years old.

At some point a month or two into it, a story he wrote got linked to from The New York Times City Room blog. Elie had showed [the blog] to me, and when The New York Times linked to it, I said “hey man, we gotta step this thing up! We can’t have The New York Times linking to some basic thing. We have to actually build a site for this and turn it into something since there’s interest in it.”

What are some of your main responsibilities as co-founder of Bowery Boogie?

I handle most of the stuff that’s not editorial. Elie is editor in chief so he’s the one who oversees day-to-day content production.

I’m more involved with long-term strategy, branding, strategic partnerships, technology, and advertising. I’m kind of the product guy in the partnership. I also write articles, and provide a second pair of eyes with editing and proofreading.

How has the blog grown?

We still cover the bulk of the same content we started with which can be very focused, like if a traffic light is out on a street or a new pothole appears, but we’ve been expanding coverage in the past couple years to a wider area. For the past year or two, we’ve been doing more entertainment and lifestyle content. We used to mainly cover news and local politics.

Bowery Boogie is hyperlocal, do you think it’s important for a blog to have a targeted topic?

What it boils down to is a lot of the blogs we enjoy reading are ones that have personality and are also focused on a specific neighborhood. There are plenty of hyperlocal initiatives written by people covering news in a traditional media sense and a lot of that falls flat for me.

For us, its been important to have an identity. If you read the site long enough, you get a sense of who we are. We write about what we enjoy which ranges from the community news to a funny Beavis and Butthead clip on YouTube.

If you’re starting a blog, you definitely want to make sure you’re covering the core news stories, but you also want to cover things that interest you so you have fun doing it at the same time.

What is something exciting that has happened to you as a result of being part of Bowery Boogie?

We were invited to cover last year’s CBGB festival. Elie and I just happened to be 10 feet away from a stabbing that took place. I took out my iPhone and started taking some pictures as it was going down and that coverage is what blew everything up [for Bowery Boogie] last year. It ended up on NY1 on TV, in The New York Post and four or five other newspapers picked [the story] up since we had the exclusive photos and info.  

Writing a blog gives you a lot of experience in things you never would’ve gotten into. You learn so much and you apply it to everything else that you do.

For anyone looking to make a career change or try something and see if they like it, a blog is an awesome way to test the waters. Five years ago, I never would’ve thought I’d be negotiating advertising deals and working out co-sponsorships because I helped start a blog.

Do you have a favorite place on the Lower East Side?

That’s a tough one. Meaning that it’s hard to narrow it down. The Lower East Side has such a rich history, people who come down here should appreciate it and not just see it as a nightlife hotspot. It has that tendency to become that weekend drinking location everybody flocks to, kinda like New Orleans in a sense, but there is a community and heritage and history behind it. With that said, 169 Bar and Welcome to the Johnson’s are great. Sadly, some of our favorites like Motor City and Max Fish are leaving. The Coleman Skate Park is also pretty great.

You can check out Dave’s bundle of links he created just for our bitly breakfast here.

Interested in hearing more from Dave? Come join us on May 31 at bitly HQ for a breakfast and panel discussion on what your blog can do for you. Featuring Jamila Rowser of Girl Gone Geek, Dave Gustav of Bowery Boogie, Hide Harashima of Dumbo NYC and Brandon Gorrell of Thought Catalog. Space is limited, so register here!

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Meet our breakfast panelist, Jamila Rowser of Girl Gone Geek!

Jamila Rowser is pretty unique in the blogging world - she’s a comic-book-lover, anime enthusiast and self-proclaimed geek. Jamila is the one-woman army behind Girl Gone Geek, her blog where she talks about what she’s “obsessed with in the geek realm.” That can range from sci-fi and fantasy to anime to video games, and everything in-between.

Jamila’s one of the panelists for our upcoming bitly breakfast event, where she’ll talk more about her story and the opportunities and experiences that can come from starting a blog.

We had a chance to chat with Jamila about Girl Gone Geek, her community and how she feels as a girl in a “boys’ club.”

breakfast blogger profile Jamila Rowser, Girl Gone Geek

How did Girl Gone Geek get started?

I started Girl Gone Geek in May 2010 because none of my friends liked the same geek stuff I did. I wanted to talk about all the things I’m obsessed with that falls in the geek realm - comics, anime, sci-fi/fantasy stuff. It’s a big part of my life and I wanted to write about what I’m most passionate about.

I didn’t think [the blog] would become what it has - I set it up just thinking some people will read it and maybe I could make some Internet friends to tweet about geek things with. Slowly, it started to become a bigger thing than I had ever imagined and that’s been a really great surprise.

What are some daily responsibilities being the head of Girl Gone Geek?

I check my blog every day. I approve any comments, update any widgets, reply to emails. Because I work, the blogging system that works for me is I’ll sit down on the weekend, answer blog emails, write my posts up and schedule them to be posted throughout the week. It’s the best system for me, to do all [the writing and editing] in one day and manage it when the posts come out.

I’m obsessed with Twitter, since that’s where most of my blog community is. Twitter is how I interact with my community and how I like to keep in contact with them. Once [link] shorteners became important, bitly was the first one I saw people use.

When I tweet out a post or something else related to my blog, I’ll check the stats on bitly to see how many clicks I got. I’ll be like, “Oh, when I tweeted about Doctor Who my community really liked that, so maybe I’ll continue to do that.” It gives me the stats on what people are interested in, so I’ll use that to think about what kind of content to put out.

What advice would you give to other bloggers?

Make sure it never feels like a job. The things I blog about are things that I love, so it’s always fun for me to do. It’s never like “Ugh, I have to blog,” it’s more like “I get to talk about something I’m passionate about.” No matter how busy I get, it doesn’t bother me and it never feels like a burden.

That shows in your writing - if you’re truly passionate or if you’re blogging to blog. It’s also what keeps people blogging for a long time, because it’s not going to last if it’s not something you’re passionate about.

I also don’t like when bloggers or people feel like they can’t respond to their community or fans at all. My blog can get really personal sometimes, so I treat my community like they are my Internet friends. I reply to pretty much everyone who talks to me - I try to respond to every comment on Facebook or tweet on Twitter. I’m not just pushing out my content, I want us to talk about these things together. I don’t want it to be a one-way conversation. I believe in engaging with your community and caring about what they think.

What exciting things have you done as part of Girl Gone Geek?

Neil Gaiman is an author that I love. I did a blog post about people who got tattoos of his work and he retweeted me and wrote “cool” or something like that. I was freaking out. It broke my blog for a little bit and to this day it’s the most views I’ve gotten in one day - it was really cool.

I tweeted Scott Snyder, the author of Batman, about reading his comics. He responded to me, checked out my blog and said he liked it! I went to New York ComicCon in 2012 and he recognized me out on the convention floor and said “I know you. Hey Jamila!”

In my head, I was freaking out thinking “You know me?! You write Batman!” But I kept my composure on the outside as best as I could. It was such a great moment.

In April, I was on a panel about women in comics. This father and his teenage daughter came up to me after the panel and said the daughter is a huge fan of my blog and I’m a big role model to her. I just write about what I love, like comics, anime and games, so I would never expect someone else to see me as a role model. I was extremely honored and so happy, I was almost brought to tears.

One of the big things for me is that in the geek world, it’s still sort-of a “boys’ club,” so creating a space where girls and women don’t feel left out is important. To this day, people young and old are still teased about being a geek and often feel like outcasts. It hurts my heart to know that still happens, so I try to fight that by actively showing how proud I am to be passionate about these topics. I hope that I’m able to bring comfort to others by showing them there are more people out there like them. That’s what had happened with that young girl [at the panel]. That’s what I blog for - moments like that.

Jamila created a bundle just for us - take a look at some of her favorite links from across the web here.

Interested in hearing more from Jamila? Come join us on May 31 at bitly HQ for a breakfast and panel discussion on what your blog can do for you. Featuring Jamila Rowser of Girl Gone Geek, Dave Gustav of Bowery Boogie, Hide Harashima of Dumbo NYC and Brandon Gorrell of Thought Catalog. Space is limited, so register here!

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Improvements to tracking your links with bitly

Over the past few months we have been working on some exciting improvements to the way we show link stats. Your feedback inspired these improvements, and members of the bitly community beta tested them. We are excited to share them with you today.

The improved link stats view — which you can access by adding a “+” to any bitly link or by clicking “view stats” on any link in your history — shows you much more than just the number of times your link has been clicked. You can now compare your bitly link’s performance to that of all bitly links pointing to the same content, find out who else is sharing a bitly link to the same content, and see what social networks and geographic regions are providing traffic easier than ever before.

A better bar graph

The bar graph at the center of the link stats page now lets you visualize your link’s traffic alongside that of all bitly links pointing to the same content. Use the toggles above the graph to turn these data sets on and off. View stats for the past hour, day, week or month by selecting one of the time options listed above the graph on the left.

For links more than a day old, you can see hourly click breakdowns for any day in the bar graph. Simply hover over a bar in the graph, and click ‘view hourly breakdown’. This can help you see the exact pattern of traffic that a link received on a given day.

A better bar graph 

Other bitly users who shared the same link

Interested in comparing your click stats to those of other bitly users? At the bottom of the page, you can see the other people who shared a bitly link to the same content. You will see up to six people, sorted by the number of clicks their link received. This list will only display people who have publicly saved this link with bitly. (Learn more about the difference between public and private links here.) people who shared this link 

Stats at a glance and link insights

At the top of the link stats page, you will see three different numbers: total clicks on your bitly link, total clicks on all bitly links to that same content, and the percentage of the total clicks that came from your bitly link. Below these stats is your bitly shortlink to copy.

link stats page title 

Right underneath the header block, you will now see link insights that tells you something interesting about your bitly link, and how it performs compared to other bitly links that direct to the same content.

bitly breakfast invite bitly breakfast invitebitly breakfast invite 

See which social networks are driving traffic to your link

Below the bar graph, you will see the list of domains where your bitly link was clicked. Clicks from large social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn or Google+ are added up and displayed together. Even better, if you connect your Twitter account to bitly, you can see recent tweets that include a link to the content you saved.   

social networks your clicks are coming from 

 

Any clicks on domains that are not part of a major social network, such as a blog or corporate website, will be represented under “other”.

Where in the world your clicks are coming from

You can now gain a better understanding of where your bitly link is being clicked with a heat map that displays countries with higher click rates in red. To the right of the map, you will see a list breakdown of clicks by country, as we ll as the percentage of the total clicks that came from that country.

geographic distribution of links

We’d love to know what you think about these improvements to the link stats page! Please send any questions or comments to support [at] bitly.com, or send a tweet to @bitly. Need a bitly account? Sign up here

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Join us for breakfast on Friday, May 31st!

Come join us at bitly HQ in NYC on Friday, May 31st for a free breakfast and panel discussion on what your blog can do for you. We are thrilled to feature Jamila Rowser of Girl Gone Geek, Dave Gustav of Bowery Boogie, Hide Harashima of DumboNYC, and Brandon Gorrell of Thought Catalog on our morning panel.

We will discuss a variety of topics, like how to get involved in blogging, how to build an engaged community, and what positive opportunities can come from managing a blog. The breakfast is open to anyone that is interested in blogging, online content, or those that simply want to enjoy breakfast in the company of other interesting people.

bitly breakfast invite

You can register for the breakfast here. Space is limited, so be sure to RSVP soon. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to community[at]bitly.com. We look forward to meeting you!

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Meet Matt LeMay; foodie, musician and Head of Consumer Product

You know what bitly does, but do you know who bitly is?

We’re excited to start a new series highlighting different members of the bitly team. Each month, we’ll feature a different bitly employee and talk about their role here at bitly, as well as their outside interests, projects and goals.

Up first is Matt LeMay, bitly’s Head of Consumer Product. He’s known here for his role as part of the product team, but he’s also a musician, avid writer, teacher and self-proclaimed foodie. We bet you didn’t know he wrote his senior thesis at Brown University about Sex and the City, or that he’s the one stealing all the cashews out of the office container of mixed nuts.

bitly employee profile head consumer product Matt LeMay

What are your main responsibilities at bitly?

I’ve had a few titles since starting here three years ago, all of which have been some variant on “product manager.” There is a lot of totally fair and reasonable debate over what a product manager does; I feel that it is a fundamentally communicative role. I do my best to make sure we’re all using the same terminology, asking the right questions and talking about things as openly and productively as possible.

It’s been a really humbling experience to work here with such incredibly talented people. I feel like it’s helped rid me of whatever unhelpful overachiever impulses I may have carried around before I got here; now I have no choice but to chill out and learn.

How did you get started at bitly?

I wound up at bitly through Andy Weissman, former COO of Betaworks and current partner at Union Square Ventures. His wife and my mom met at a dance class and it turned out Andy and I knew a lot of the same people and had a lot of the same interests in terms of music. Through our conversations, it dawned on both of us a lot of the work I had done as a musician was, in effect, product management work.

We saw you’re also a senior contributor at Pitchfork, how did you get involved there?

I got started at Pitchfork when I was 16. I was a huge music nerd and a fan of the site. There was an open call for writers, so I sent in a review. For some reason, they liked it. I started writing two reviews a week for them, and kept up that pace for about five years. Nowadays, I contribute occasionally, only when I feel like I really have something to say.

Music sounds like it’s a big part of your interests outside of bitly, what role does it play in your life?

Music has always been a huge part of my life. I started recording music at home when I was 14. My sophomore year of college, I started a band called Get Him Eat Him that toured nationally and opened for a couple well-known bands. We had a real go at it, but it became much harder to sustain that kind of lifestyle once we graduated. I love the dudes I was in that band with, and I’m super-proud of the work we did together.

My last show fronting Get Him Eat Him was actually my first show playing drums with Kleenex Girl Wonder. I still play with them, and produce their records.

I also have a solo musical project, which I started about a year and a half ago. I do a lot of recording and mixing work, which can be a headache for my fiancée, since my recording setup is about three feet away from our bed, and I tend to lose track of time and work late into the night.

Fiancée? That’s exciting. Wedding plans in the future?

We’re working on wedding plans, yes! We just got engaged in November, and the wedding is planned for January. We’ve got the venue locked down, now it’s just a matter of locking down a caterer, rentals and, uh, everything else. My fiancée and my mom have been doing most of the legwork on that!

So, what else do you do in your spare time?

I also do a lot of teaching work on the side. I teach at General Assembly and also at Smith and Beta, a tech education startup that mostly works with ad agencies. I love doing that kind of work.

For me, there’s been a lot of difficult learning involved with this job, just in terms of really trying to understand what things mean and what the repercussions of these things are. It’s hard to ask questions - it’s easier to pretend you know the answer than to ask something and risk sounding dumb. It’s great to go into a room where everyone is nervous to ask about something, and to change that; folks at an agency might feel stupid when I mention something like hadoop or MongoDB at first, but it’s super rewarding to walk out of a room where people are no longer afraid to talk about really exciting things.

Anything else?

Food. I like food. For better or worse, I’m a well-researched foodie.

Any favorite spots?

Legend. It’s really interesting - it used to be a Pan-Asian restaurant that was popular with local business folks, then it was taken over by a Chinese family known for their Sichuan cooking. All that Pan-Asian stuff — Pad Thai, Vietnamses sandiwches — it’s all still on the menu. The Sichuan food is mostly in the last couple pages. Michele Humes wrote a great blog post about it.

Between bitly, your music ventures, teaching and an upcoming wedding - you sound pretty busy! How do you manage to do all of this?

I just got started trying to get my life organized via Google docs. Balancing work-work with creative work with true nonwork is always a challenge. Most of my artist and musician friends also have day jobs, and it creates a hierarchy of sorts: things for your day job take first priority, things that involve other people come next, and the work that’s just for you — often the most creatively fulfilling work — comes last. I hope that keeping myself organized will help make sure I’m setting aside time to do the creative work that’s most important me, and also to relax sometimes.

If you’re interested in seeing Matt in his element, you’re in luck. Matt and Kleenex Girl Wonder will be playing at WBAR-B-Q on Saturday, April 27. Or, if you want to learn more about his work at bitly, you can enroll in his class, “The What and Why of APIs” at General Assembly on May 23.

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Astronaut Ron Garan visits bitly!

NASA Astronaut Ron Garan stopped by the bitly HQ on Friday while in NYC for the International Space Apps Challenge, a two-day hackathon where citizens from seven continents, 44 countries and 83 cities came together with the aim of making the world a better place.

Ron’s well-known not only for his work at the International Space Station (he’s traveled there twice, first in 2008 for a two-week construction mission and then again in 2011 for a six-month excursion), but as the astronaut who went viral when he started tweeting from the ISS and later answered questions about his experience as part of a few Reddit AMAs.

Astronaut Ron Garan visits bitly 

Ron chatted with us about the importance of international collaboration, his organizations and of course, what a day is like in space.

On international collaboration

I believe we have all the technology and resources to solve the problems we face. The primary reason why we still face so many problems relies primarily on our inabilities to collaborate on a global scale.

I believe it’s possible to live in a world without poverty, where everyone has access to clean water, where no one goes to bed hungry, where we educate all our children. I believe that the power of collaboration will fuel incredible economic growth. We’re all in this together, so the only way we can solve it is all together.

Every truly great accomplishment didn’t just seem impossible - it seemed crazy. It might seem impossible to lift the entire planet out of poverty, impossible to find cures to diseases but the point is if we can fly to the moon and fly there safely, if 15 nations can come together and build a space station, then we can do anything. Nothing is impossible.

On his projects since coming back to Earth

Fragile Oasis is an initiative that uses this perspective we have on [international collaboration] to inspire others to go out, work together, make a difference and make the world a better place.

I realized that there’s probably a lot of efforts that are trying to build universal collaboration, so the first step to do that is to collaborate with those organizations. That’s where Unity Node comes in, it’s an effort to unify those efforts from around the world. We’re trying to connect existing databases and existing groups to build a global community.

I also believe businesses have a tremendous capability to solve problems. There are a lot of groups that want to accomplish some kind of social good and do that in a financially stable manner, but even when startups get funding they can fail because they don’t have the things they need. CoImpact.co is going to be a global community of business development tools that these groups can use.

What is a day like in space?

There are 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets every day. It’s busy - we wake up around 6 a.m. GMT. 80 percent of the day involves picking up with experiments - we do a lot of medical research, try to make new materials, research new medicine, new forms of energy, the list goes on and on. 99.9 percent of what we do is trying to make life better on the planet.

20 percent of the day is maintenance. It does take a lot of work to maintain the space station as well.

Then we have some downtime that we can spend in the cupula taking pictures of the Earth or working out. We have to work out two hours each day to keep bone density and muscle mass, which we do through resistance machines.

Astronaut Ron Garan showed bitly the pictures he tweeted from space

A photo Ron tweeted from space when he was at the International Space Station in 2011.

Can you describe a space walk?

It is an amazing experience. I’ve done four spacewalks and logged around 27 hours total in space. The first time I went to space, I did three space walks. We have a long robotic arm that’s about 100 feet long and it locks in your feet. The first time, the arm carried me across in an arc shape about a hundred feet above the space station.

It took about 35 minutes each way. When I went there, it was nighttime and when I came back, it was day. On the way down, I shut off the lights in my suit and it was like the whole universe opened up, I could see the milky way and everything. On the way back the sun rose.

Half of my brain was saying “wow, this is incredible and beautiful,” and the other half was saying “yeah, but it’s not real.” I had nothing to compare it to, floating inside a space suit with all of infinity out there.

Where was the trade-off when you realized you shouldn’t be doing research in space and instead evangelize people about your causes?

Right now, we fly about three or four Americans a year. You stay at the space station for six months, training is two-and-a-half years, that’s a long time. When you’re done with a six-month mission, you have a six-month debrief and then you get back on line. The line is not moving very fast. The way I looked at it, I’ve flown twice and there are a whole bunch who haven’t gotten to fly once. It didn’t make sense to try and get back on that line.

I looked at it from an impact view - what am I going to do that’s going to make more of an impact? I could get in line and train for another six months in space or I could use the experience I already had to make a difference. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing now.

What was your favorite experiment or research you did while in space?

From a fun point of view, we have these flying robots that were pretty cool. There are two robots that go through the air and maneuver around each other.

From a scientific point of view, we discovered a property in our research that went to be used in the vaccine for salmonella. We also did a lot of energy and combustion research and that research is leading to new ways to eliminate hazardous waste and efficiency.

We were so excited to have Ron visit us last week. If you’re interested in learning more about Ron, his career or his projects, be sure to check out our bundle here.

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