Archive for the ‘john’ Category

After 9 years, I’m leaving Burton.

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

In 2000, I moved with my new wife across the country from San Francisco to Burlington, Vermont, to work at my dream job: web developer for Burton Snowboards. I couldn’t believe my luck! I would actually be getting paid to do websites for the best snowboarding company in the world. Apparently they were getting a team together to take some of the web stuff in-house, after years of outsourcing it. I was getting in on the ground floor of something new.

I had no idea what to expect. I’d worked in a bunch of different kinds of places, from a little five person startup to a huge multinational corporation, but I figured Burton would be a different kind of gig. All I knew was that I was going to be able to combine my loves for tech and snowboarding – my only hesitation was moving across the country after having lived on the West Coast my whole life. I had been to Vermont before, but I couldn’t say what Burlington was like or if it would suit me at all. Still, I was 28, and my wife said it would be great, so that was good enough for me.

She was right.  Working for Burton for the past nine and a half years has been a dream come true (and once in a while a nightmare, as well).  I have learned more stuff, met more cool people, done more stellar projects, and enjoyed myself there more than I would have ever thought possible.

But it’s time for my run to come to an end.  I’m taking another job with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, starting on Monday, Sept 28.

It was a hard decision.  Over the years I’ve been lucky enough for opportunities to come my way, and many of them were pretty good jobs that lots of people would be glad to get a crack at.  But I’d compare them to Burton, and I was always more stoked to stay where I was than jump ship.  That’s part of what kept me there that long – I loved working there, and I didn’t want to go anywhere else.

But all good things must come to an end, they say, and this breakup is more about me than it is about Burton.  There’s no sordid tale behind my decision or anything, it’s simply time to do something else, and I have an exciting opportunity with a quickly growing company to look forward to.  I’m excited and scared shitless in equal measure.

The craziest thing about making this transition is how much my life has changed between now and then. While I’ve been working there I’ve gone from a newlywed to being 10 years in love with my wife, and we’ve had two kids that are now starting school. We own a house that we’ve lived in for five years, and I’ve now lived here longer than anywhere else I’ve ever lived, except for the town I grew up in.  When I started we were still doing sites in classic ASP with VBScript on machines running Windows NT.  The web crew was called the “E-team,” of all things, and there were only a few of us.  It evolved into the Burton Media Syndicate (or Syndicate) a while after that, and I can still take credit for that name – my idea won the vote we all took.  I think in retrospect we can all agree that it’s better that “Spork” didn’t win.  We moved the office three times, from the HQ to the Lake Champlain waterfront and back again.  And in the end, I worked there longer than anyone in the media Syndicate, except Greg (props to you, Syndicate Survivor!).

Lucky for me my lovely wife Kacey just started there so I still get to stay connected to all my friends.  I think that I will never really lose touch with them, since we are still local and Burton is such a big part of the Burlington scene, but it’s nice to know that for now I can still reap some of those snowboard-specific benefits and drop by sometimes to harass my former teammates.

To everyone I ever worked with at Burton, past and present: it was a pleasure and a privilege, and I salute you all.  Keep killing it and may all your days on the hill be bluebird pow with all your friends.  I will see you up there – and I’ll bring the coffee!

why facebook won’t last

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I avoided Facebook for a long time.  Like many people, I think I thought of it as a slicker MySpace.  When I first saw it they even had a weird logo with a silhouette of a dubious-faced young man, and for some reason it creeped me out a little bit.

Once my lovely wife got going with it, however, it was really only a matter of time before she pulled me in.  Once I relented I realized why it’s so popular, and it’s probably safe to say that you probably have an account and don’t need me to explain what’s useful and fun about it.  Now, my wife and I are way more net-centric than many: I’m a web developer and she’s (among many other things) a web project manager.  But it’s not just people like us any more.

In the last six months or year it seems like it’s really taken off, not only in terms of the numbers of new users, but also in terms of how much use it’s gotten from people who don’t spend hours every day on the Net like I do.  For a lot of people, the Internet means Google, email, and Facebook.  And the web-centric community has gone absolutely gaga over it.  Dave Gibson from Propeller Media Works just said on the local radio show The Browser the other day that social networking sites like Facebook were going to be as big as email.  And Slate says “there is no longer any good reason to avoid Facebook”.  They even go so far as to compare it to anti-perspirant!

It’s extremely useful, it’s really fun, it’s got millions and millions of users, natch.  But I also think that it’s still entirely possible it’s a fad, and it will almost certainly face the same sort of rise and fall as MySpace, Friendster, and every other social network so far has experienced.

In Dave’s defense he elaborates a lot of the things that separate Facebook from MySpace, and he’s right.  Facebook is much better than MySpace ever was, and it fixes a lot of the things that were wrong about MySpace.  My intial feeling that Facebook was just a slicker MySpace was wrong.   Facebook is better, but it’s still probably going to fall harder. The history of the web is littered with glittering ascents followed by staggering falls.  Don’t forget that News Corp. paid $580 million for MySpace just a few short years ago, to much fanfare.  Despite the current hysteria (and my own time investment in it!) I see no reason why the same won’t happen again.  The web is built upon the flamed-out ashes of last year’s hot new thing, and that’s really been the only constant for the last fifteen years.


There are two reasons: Facebook apps and the fact that it’s a closed system.

The apps are a masterstroke and an Achilles heel at the same time.  They’re a masterstroke because they create a platform that encourages people to make cool stuff.  And if people make cool stuff, Facebook becomes more attractive, and more people join.  But it’s an Achilles heel at the same time because they create a platform that allows people to create useless crap.  And if people create useless crap and spam their friends with it, Facebook becomes less attractive, and more people leave.  Unfortunately the history of the web shows that so far spammers end up taking over sooner or later.

The fact that it’s a closed system is why it’ll never approach the usefulness of email or the cell phone.

The SMTP standard was first published in 1982, and through the collaborative work on many people, has evolved and matured so that it’s used by nearly every Internet user in the world on a daily basis.  No one owns the standard, and anyone who wants to implement the standard can write an email server or client, leading to a competitive ecosystem that’s led to a whole galaxy of ways to slice and dice email on nearly any internet-capable device.

I know less about the technical side of cell phones, but I know that there are communication standards that handset makers and service providers agree on in order to keep the lines open, and to be able to sell more products and services.  By working on open (or at least agreed-upon) standards, a competitive cellular ecosystem exists that means you can buy a used handset from someone on Ebay and have it activated with the network of your choice.

Now Facebook is cool, but when you really get down to it, it doesn’t really do anything that you can’t do other ways.  The only real utility that it has going for it is that everyone seems to be on it.

Within a couple of years someone will come up with a way of putting text and photos together in a way that’s just a little bit slicker, and then what will Facebook have?

enzo’s story

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Enzo dictated a story to me this morning where he had a magic drill that would turn you into a skeleton (I had a choice between zombie, skeleton, and ghost, and I chose skeleton).

I was washing dishes, and told him I had to finish them.

“OK, so when you’re done with that dish, then turn to me like this,” and he turns quickly and freezes, “and I’ll turn you into a skeleton.  But you’ll still have a face.”

So I did.  And he put his magic drill, made from a paper towel tube that’d been unpeeled along the seam, against my breast and wound it very solemnly and made a sound at the end like “pshow”.

“There, you’re a skeleton,” he said.

“Aaah! My hands are bone hands!  My head is all smooth!” I said.

“No, you still have a face, remember?”

“Oh, does that mean I still have hair?”

“Yes, and you still have lips and stuff.”

“This is the whole Goblinsmerg family, we’re all skeletons, for the next 80 eons.  I was turned into one too, by my great grandfather Goblinsmerg.  When you are done being a skeleton, I can give you organ lessons.”

more bread, less cookie.

Saturday, December 6th, 2008

So Facebook is great at posting little snippets of what’s going on, but if you know me, you probably know that I like to pontificate.  Usually I just do a Cliff Claven style too-much-informational type rant in response to one of Enzo’s innocent “how does X work?” questions, but in an effort to practice my writing skills and shamelessly drive more traffic to my blog, I’ve connected it to my Facebook profile.

One thing that I want to try to preserve here is longer thoughts.  It seems like all I hear about is the death of blogs, and not just from vapid Twitterites but from places I wouldn’t expect like Wired and Nicholas Carr.  (I’ll ignore for now the fact that I read both of those pieces through Google Reader…)  And everyone, but everyone is reading less longer-format work.  I’ve been reading novels again the last six months or so and it’s really seemed to make a difference in how I think.  So both for myself and for any willing victims, I’m going to post stuff here that takes a little bit longer to say.  I want to make sure that I try to fight to preserve my favorite endangered species, the American Attention Span.

I’m sure the main result of posting a ton of notes is people de-following me and wondering why they decided to friend this guy who loves the sound of his own voice so much.  But hopefully you will find something interesting and/or thought provoking here.  Perhaps my desire to write longer pieces stems from the fact that I need to work on editing myself more.  But for years I wanted to write stuff and didn’t because I assumed that people wouldn’t want to read it.  So now I’m just trying to ignore the fact that you probably won’t care to read past the first few sentences.  If that means I get better at being terse, then good.

Not that everything is going to be long.  But some things will be, and while I enjoy the zen semi-poetic challenge of encapsulating a moment with Twitter, I am more comfortable firing off with longer pieces.

More bread, less cookie.

my birthday

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

I had a fantastic birthday! The kiddies made me homemade cards, which melt me every time.

Kacey got me tulips, and they’re even in a pot so that I can enjoy them all year.

My wonderful loved ones chipped in to let me feed my gadget love with a new GPS unit, so I can drag all of them out to go geocaching as soon as the icy grip of winter loosens.

And best of all, my wonderful lady surprised me with a night out on the town! She arranged for the kids to be taken care of and everything. It was so great to just be able to have a drink with her and talk. It was strange to sit at a bar with her, since we used to have so much great conversation over beers when we were getting to know each other in San Francisco years ago.

Thank you for the well wishes everyone!

winter sickness

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

It’s been one of the worst winters I can recall for sickness. I don’t think our family’s been this sick, this regularly, since Enzo was a baby and started going to daycare.  Not-so-coincidentally, Sal has started going to daycare at the YMCA for an hour three days a week. That’s not so much, but how long does it take to pick up a virus?  I tell myself that it’s part of young childhood, that it will help his little immune system grow stronger, and that it always seems worse than it is, because when he cries it’s so pitiful.

But man, when he wakes up, like he did a week ago, wheezing, and barking like a seal when he coughs, it’s scary! I’ve done this before, with both kids, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of helplessness a sick child can give you. We put him in the shower, and then took him outside, and he started sounding better, and he fell asleep.  We took him to the doctor a few days later and he was diagnosed with pneumonia.  He’s been on antibiotics and sounds much better now, but it’s just the latest in a long series of illnesses this winter.

Kacey got pneumonia herself in the fall.  She had a nasty cough that started in November, and then by the first week of December she had been diagnosed and was laid up for most of a week, spending most of every day in bed.  It’s probably the sickest she’s been since I’ve known her.  She went on antibiotics too, and it cleared up, but minor colds have come back a couple of times in the last month.

I myself have been sick on three or four occasions this winter where I’ve had to miss work, and that never happens.  Most of them have been the kind where I was just too tired to move around much, and where my head would pound if I over-exerted myself.  I have done well for the latter half of the winter, but like I said, minor colds have hit me way more often than they ever used to.

Even Enzo, who is normally the healthiest of all of us, has missed enough school due to being sick that we’ve gotten the first letter from the school district warning us that attendance is very important…

Reason enough to be excited for spring to come!