The seeds of Project Cool

Saturn in space

I had wanted to leave InfiNet for quite some time.  The problem was that I didn’t know where I would go, what I would do, or even where to look.

I had wanted to leave InfiNet for quite some time.  The problem was that I didn’t know where I would go, what I would do, or even where to look.

I have a horrible time looking for a job.  There’s just something about my mental makeup that makes it one of the hardest things for me to do.  For most of my working life I would go to temp agencies and go wherever they placed me.  If there was anything interesting there, I would learn it.

When Manpower placed me on the assembly line at Canon, Canon offered free training in Kaizen.  Kaizen is a manufacturing philosophy based on statistical process control.  By the time my contract was up, I had learned something interesting.

When they sent me to my next job, I leveraged my knowledge from Canon to get hired full time ahead of temps who had been there longer.  There I learned about reflectance and the vacuum sputtering of metals to produce first surface mirrors for laser printers.

That’s where I was working when I slipped and ended up having ankle surgery, during which time off I discovered that the internet was available in my area.  And I’ve already told you how I practically walked into that job.

Even post web, I still depended on temp agencies for small jobs when I wasn’t making my own.  When I made my own it would be things like computer services and repair. But it was mostly temp agencies.

Bottom line, before we move on, looking for a job paralyzes me.  Asking anyone for help is very difficult for me, and looking for a job is just that, asking for help.

So there I was at InfiNet, wanting to do more, but not knowing where to turn to find a better job, I felt stuck.  Considering the people I knew in the industry, I could have asked and probably had job offers, but asking was something I couldn’t do.

Dave Winer had made me an offer at one point.  $75k to move to California and work for him running, a CSotD clone.  He even had his lawyers look into the legality of it and InfiNet wouldn’t be able to stop me from doing the same thing I had been doing, but doing it there, for him.

I like Dave, he’s a great guy, friendly and very smart.  I always enjoyed talking with him.  I just really didn’t want to do CSotD rebranding for a mainstream audience, which was what the audience was becoming.  I didn’t know what I wanted to do at the time, but I didn’t want to do that, so I turned him down.  This was what made me start thinking about leaving, however.

A pair of gentlemen approached me about working with them.  I assume they were gentlemen, they never did anything to suggest otherwise.  Like many, they just wanted me to do the next big thing.  I didn’t really yet realize what I wanted to do.  When they asked me, I told them I wanted to sit in a cabin in the woods with a good net connection and play with the web.  They thought that was a grand idea, and they were sure I could come up with something good. Everyone wanted the next big thing from me.

Basically they wanted to ride on my name.  And I didn’t find them particularly personable.

One of the things I did at InfiNet was travel around to newspapers and talk with their staff about getting on the web.  I’d also teach them to edit simple web pages.  Often I’d create something for them and they’d edit it for their papers without having to have done the design themselves.

Knight-Ridder decided to have a conference for their newspapers and to hold it in Norfolk, VA, the home of InfiNet.  I don’t recall if I was scheduled for any speaking sessions.

Since I was someone who traveled around and spoke with newspapers about what they should look at about getting their content online, I was curious about a session where a K-R person was going to speak on the same topic.

Teresa (tuh-RAY-suh) was from K-R’s Interactive Media Lab in Colorado.  She worked on their Tablet Newspaper Vision.  Their vision for the tablet was that every night you had a cartridge plugged into a special modem.  While you slept, tomorrow’s newspaper would be transferred to the cartridge and then you’d take the cartridge and plug it into a tablet and you’d be able to read the newspaper.

Teresa was supposed to be talking in a session called Taking your Content Online.  Since I had been teaching newspapers how to do just that,  I was curious about what she might have to say, so I went.

She was late.  After about 15 minutes when she still hadn’t shown up, I did what needed to be done.  I stepped up to the podium and started talking about bringing your content online.  Teresa did finally show up, and I turned the session over to her.  It turned out we both had some interest in creating a company that was web based and we had interesting viewpoints to share with one another.

That night, our financial officer was taking her to dinner, so I talked my way into joining them.  I probably monopolized the conversation with her, but Ray took it gracefully.  I drove her to her hotel and dropped her off later.

She flew home to California, and we talked about things we might do.

So, I saw two choices.  The first, a pair of men who didn’t really have a plan, but had dollar signs in their eyes, or a woman who wanted to build a company who also had dreams of dollar signs in her eyes but seemed to actually understand what I wanted to do, teach people to build cool sites.

So I did the most stupid thing I could.  I gave away most of my things, including my car, and flew to California to live with Teresa and her husband.

We’ll see how that turned out in a future installment.  

One Response

  1. Awesome Glenn! I worked at the ellsworth newspaper for a few years! .

    A publication without a web presence these days is a death sentence

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