Cowbird empowers personal story-telling with a powerful, elegant narration element that’s rarely achieved online. It’s a project we’re honored to host. Below is the special story of Cowbird and its founder, Jonathan Harris.


1. What is Cowbird?
Cowbird is a small community of storytellers, focused on a deeper, longer-lasting, more personal kind of storytelling than you’re likely to find anywhere else on the Web.

Cowbird allows you to keep a beautiful audio-visual diary of your life, and to collaborate with others in documenting the overarching “sagas” that shape our world today.

Our short-term goal is to pioneer a new form of participatory journalism, grounded in the simple human stories behind major news events. Our long-term goal is to build a public library of human experience, so the knowledge and wisdom we accumulate as individuals may live on as part of the the commons, available for this and future generations to look to for guidance.

2. What were you doing before you started Cowbird?
I spent 2+ years living like a hermit in small cabins in various far-flung corners of the world (Iceland, Oregon, New Mexico, Vermont, California) writing the 145,000+ lines of code that are the basis for Cowbird.

Before that, I lived in Brooklyn, New York, where I made a number of projects like We Feel Fine (a search engine for human emotions), I Want You To Want Me (an exploration of online dating), The Whale Hunt (an unconventional documentary about an Alaskan Eskimo whale hunt), Balloons of Bhutan (a portrait of happiness in the last Himalayan kingdom), and 10×10 (an hourly snapshot of global media coverage).

Starting on my 30th birthday, I began documenting my life with one photo and short story a day.

In one way or another, all my work has been about evolving the art of storytelling.

3. What’s next for Cowbird?
We plan to spend 2012 slowly growing our community of storytellers, keeping very focused on quality and substance.

We really see Cowbird as a soulful oasis within the fast food / shopping mall landscape of the Internet.

We’re trying to create a space on the Web that can foster self-reflection and deeper connection, being a force of compassion in the world.

4. What are your favorite Cowbird stories?
There are so many stories that just take your breath away.
Here are a few of my favorites:

  • It’s Cecily, Darling – a woman remembers her sister on the 10th anniversary of her suicide.
  • 1000 Words – a man tells the story of his French lover, who he met on Flickr.
  • Thank You Taliban – a war photographer marries his girlfriend on a graveyard of Russian tanks in Afghanistan, hours after facing death.
  • Frank – a famous pianist keeps playing at age 95.
  • That would make it so easy – a young boy on an airplane reflects on his divorced parents.
  • Do you ever put them on – a surreal encounter at a holiday party

5. What are three sites you visit daily?
The New York Times, Twitter, Cowbird

6. (mt) Vital Stats
Domain: http://cowbird.com
(mt) Hosting Service: VPS (ve) Server
Years with (mt): 1.5