Gina Trapani

I didn’t know I had discovered Gina Trapani when I first discovered Gina Trapani. In fact, I’d been reading her work for years before I made a more personal connection with the writer herself.

Gina is the founding editor of Lifehacker.com, one of the most addictive websites for enterprising nerds interested in living systems, and she’d been noodling around my computer in the form of selected Gmail plug-ins she’d written. At the time, I wasn’t in the habit of putting names to developers behind the software I was using, content instead to download and click and strive for freeware as often as possible.

When I quit my job to freelance in 2007, people became more important to me. Not just people, but creative people. That’s when I began to take note of great work, and of the great people behind it. It’s when I developed a taste for favorite bloggers outside of my own circle of nerd friends. It’s when I started to read bylines.

Gina, insofar as she is a technologist and entrepreneur, also taught me to think about marketing in a new way. She is member of a caste of professional creators that invests heavily in her community, representative of the shift in the market conversation that puts weight not just on the product, but on the maker of it. In following Gina’s blog, Lifehacker, her show (This Week in Google), I was able to learn enough about her as a person to inform me about the decisions she made in the products she created. This affinity made me more inclined to continue my relationship with her as a customer of her scripts, her writing, and more curious to investigate new projects she launched.

I had been a long-time supporter of her social data aggregation tool, ThinkUp, as an open source project. I’m thrilled to be one of the first round of backers of ThinkUp as a commercial project launched in the last few weeks. It’s a testament to her great savvy as a technologist and community wrangler that this is turning into such a useful and well-intentioned product.

I photographed Gina beneath the Geisel Library on the UC San Diego campus. If you’ve been following Gina for any time at all, you’ll note that one of her key defining characteristics is just how damned nice she is. Seriously. You’d think she was medicated how nice she is. The tagline for her company is, “It’s nice to be nice.” In thinking of what I wanted to capture in the frame, I couldn’t think of anything other than, “Get Gina mad.”

That’s remarkably difficult to do.

I tried insulting her. I tried calling her names. I tried making faces. It all just rolls of her back. Finally, I said something about a hot story on Fox that morning and she bristled just in time to catch a nice, sturdy growl. Then she laughed.

We shared a delightful walk that day on the UCSD campus, sharing thoughts and insights from social media to parenthood. And while our paths haven’t crossed since, I’m honored to have shared this brief time to connect with a great spirit.

To Gina, I owe great thanks for her work as an advocate in open source, and as a model for positive and engaged interaction online. She’s an inspirational creator and a warm and charming individual to boot.