Friday, September 29, 2006

The More Stuff You Own

The more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you.

It is the undeniable fact of modern life that we obsess over what we have, where we got it and how big a space we have to control to keep it. We work longer, harder and consume more than we thought we ever could when we were 12 years old and believed a well-read comic book collection was the ultimate expression of our mojo.

Cultures are classified by the stuff they throw away. Ask any archaeologist and they'll tell you their careers are made by digging through ancient garbage dumps. So your fame after this life is defined by the garbage you dispose of. Consider that the next time you and your significant other are arguing about keeping Great Grandma's piano that can no longer be tuned and therefore played. Maybe it is time to memorialize her in the museum of greatness: the local town landfill. At least then you could start on your own memorial by purchasing the spinet the family down the street is keeping in their minivan because they've run out of room in their four bedroom split level with the unattached garage and 3000 square foot basement.

I've read that an American Indian tribe had a custom where members would give away all of their stuff and start over. Today we call that a garage sale and get more money to get more stuff. Garage sales replace malling as one gets older in America. They say the richer we get the more we obsess over quality stuff but corporations have to spend billions every year tearing down malls that are less than ten years old and rebuilding them to keep us coming to shop there. Do you replace your garage in the same location that often? No. You have a garage sale but you rarely sell the garage so it can be hauled away and you definitely never give it away. Somewhere in the function of trading stuff for more stuff, real economics take over.

Except for the uber-wealthy in America. They are the biggest garage sale buyers in all history reflecting a culture that has found it can buy and sell anything except taste and a reasonable government.

If you can get to Christies' next week, you can buy original parts of the Star Trek set (original series) although Paul Allen already owns Captain Kirk's chair. Someday maybe Paul will have the world's highest quality garage sale.

And so it goes.

Monday, September 25, 2006

DealNews! You Rule!

I went to a fun job interview today. To understand why, you have to understand that unlike Silly Valley or Vain Vancouver, I live in one of the hearts of Eisenhower’s military industrial complex. Some interviewers and interviewees wear clothes that at their most liberal would be conservative-gotta-meet-a-client Monday in Silly Valley. Targeted selection questions modeled, scored and integrated into a politically-correct and technically empty script determine rat fir color to confirm that one is the right kind of rat fit to be on a team of rats who have spent more time obtaining degrees than time spent with their spouses or children.

Cheese, please?

Today, I was interviewed by a real web company. woooh... It reminds me of the first West Coast conference I went to after years of East Coast conferences. The differences are profound.

This was not a startup. These middle school buddies started in a garage ten years ago a few doors down from where my much older middle school buddies used to hang in their bedrooms hooking Christmas tree lights to a stereo and listening to the Allman Brothers while swapping the wisdom of the Furry Freak Brothers. These guys hooked up MACs, learned to code, and built web pages. They didn't go for venture capital. They budgeted, invested and published. They found a niche, survived the dot.bomb, stuck to their business plan, implemented LAMP not because it was cool but because it was everywhere they needed to be, and hired an accountant who doubles as an office admin.

They offer you a Diet Coke before they get around to brewing coffee, have machines sitting next to the office door and office furniture stacked against the wall because they need the space to spread out and work, and otherwise, remind me of garage bands that play their axes, sharpen their chops, record their originals and make it happen while having a helluva good time together. They build multi-platform web pages and enable their customers to buy office equipment cheaper and faster. In other words, without a deep sales teams, planning committees who write studies, scads of ads, moribund meetings and polyphonic professional e-mails, they provide a service and make a profit.

SWUUUUHHH! Take a deeeeeep breath....

It was humbling. I'm not web-ignorant and I certainly have been on the pioneering end of some stuff, but I've never had the moxie these kids have, and that is why they have a successful company interviewing me instead of the other way around. They are completely the opposite of the dour sour greedy little buggers I'd come to know in other circumstances. The guys who interviewed me today were ALMOST apologetic that they were still building their own tools, didn't have ASP.Net, didn't need it and had no intention of buying Ferraris with their first millions if they could buy more gear for their business. They laughed, carried on, swapped stories and all the while asked questions one needs to hear to know this is a serious business but not a religion, a pipe dream or an ego trip.

It was a breath of fresh air.

I may not get the gig but I hope I get to visit with them again. It's good to smell ambition mixed with sweat equity and hard headed practical programming chops instead of meetings drenched in lattes and sarcasm. I've seen a few bands like this web company. They were the ones who made it and kept it and enjoyed it. They take their angsts to the skateboard park rather than the shrink. They succeed the old fashioned way: turn, burn and return.

Hey DealNews! You rule! Thanks for a great morning and the Diet Coke and the cup of coffee!

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