Back in 1994, Richard Frankel and I (along with Briggs Nisbet and Martha Conway), launched a hypertext webzine called Enterzone. At first it ran on a server under Rich’s desk at Berkeley and its address (now obsolete), was enterzone.berkeley.edu. Eventually we got the ezone.org domain and moved it there.
One of the features of that site was a collection of interesting links. At first we just linked to other e-zines, or other e-zines we liked, or other interesting creative sites, but along the way we added another set of links called “unclassifieds.”
Then one day Rich sent me a link to a site at akebono.stanford.edu/~yahoo which already had a big headstart on us in gathering and organizing interesting links. We agreed that the guys doing that site (David Filo and Jerry Yang), had the link-collecting thing under control so we decided to abandon our half-assed attempt to index the Internet by hand.
Yahoo apparently stood for “Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Organized Oracle“, although it clearly harked back to the “rude, unsophisticated, uncouth” characters in Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
That first website of ours launched both Rich and me into new careers. He was a sysadmin at the time studying archaeology and creative writing. I was an author of computer primers, former editor, and part-time painter.
For a while we ran a little consulting firm together, helping small silicon valley firms get on the Internet, setting up their email servers and their first web sites. Rich made the leap first, from that partnership to a startup in the web advertising world called NetGravity. By now, websites like Yahoo were buying and selling ads in huge quantities and companies that provided ad infrastructure and tracking tools were in high demand.
Rich started out doing tech support at NetGravity but quickly rose to a position of responsibility, and then NetGravity was swallowed up by DoubleClick and Rich took on a new position there. Ultimately he moved on to Yahoo itself, where he is a senior director of product marketing now.
I kept writing, became a literary agent for a while, kept making websites, started writing an online journal, helped an e-book startup acquire authors, saw all my art-y friends from the early days of the web explosion take jobs in the field, and then finally joined a web consulting startup with big ideas called Groundswell in 2000.
I rode that baby down through the whole dotcom crash, through seven official waves of layoffs down to an asset sale featured me, ten or so other good folks, some computers, ongoing engagements with Sprint and Visa, and some Aeron chairs. At Groundswell I was a content strategist but at the successor firm, Enterpulse, I was rechristened an information architect.
Times were still tough and I was finally laid off myself in spring of ’02. That hurt, even though it was a decision I’d have made myself if the roles had been reversed. We just didn’t have enough IA work to keep me around. I was working on the first of a series of Dreamweaver books then, so fortunately I had something to do. I also got heavily into blogging, which online journaling had kind of evolved into, launching the now fairly moribund Radio Free Blogistan and continuing to migrate the personal blog to new platforms and domain, ending up here.
I consulted with some startups, did some freelance IA work, got involved in politics, wrote The Power of Many, and then rejoined the world of the employed in June of ’05 as a senior information architect at Extractable, a dynamic interactive agency in San Mateo.
About a year ago I became the director of strategy there, ultimately consulting with such interesting firms as FedEx, Kodak, Charles Schwab, Safeway, Sun, SanDisk and HTC, among others. I spoke at SXSW several times and presented a poster at the IA Summit. I joined BayCHI and was elected to the board of directors of the Information Architecture Institute. Extractable has been growing at an exhilarating pace.
Now, nearly thirteen years after Rich sent me that url, I am also drinking the Yahoo kool-aid. I start my new job there today. I’ll be working for Erin Malone, one of the founder of the IA Institute and one of the founders and first editor of Boxes and Arrows. I’ll be joining her Platform Design group in the Platform Products group. Specifically, I’ll be “curating” the pattern library, and contributing to related initiatives.
Wish me luck. More on this as I get my bearings.