Profile: Damon Lanphear

August 9th, 2006 by Hugh

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Damon joined Exbiblio in June, one of a clutch of recruits who came over from RealNetworks. A friend at Real who was job hunting pointed out the Exbiblio website. Damon was immediately attracted by Exbiblio’s culture, vision, and the direction it wanted to go in with its technology.

“It’s a big vision. It’s a vision that isn’t limited to ‘We are going to make blog writing easier’, or ‘We are going to let you buy coffee’ or ‘find cheapest tickets’, but it is, “We are going to do something epic for humanity.’”

He also liked the idea that it involved real technical challenges that needed to be overcome, and which would establish Exbiblio as a leader in its field.

Damon’s particular role is to work on the search and indexing side of Exbiblio’s project. Without going into detail – Exbiblio’s index will work in a way that is substantially different for others currently in use. He has been given a deadline of the end of August for the first working model that can be put on desktops internally. When you consider that Damon only arrived in June, that deadline is rather tight.

He describes the current work as “drastically trying to pull something together that demonstrates the vision in a short space of time.” The early results will involve some trade-offs, but the aim is have a proof-of-concept that can attract funding if necessary.

He compares the current state of Exbiblio to the early days of personal computing, where the vision of a computer on every desk was in the province of geeks, and not really understood by the business community.

“Before you cross an ocean, you have to build a boat,” he says.

While Damon has been at Exbiblio, there’s been a lot of lively discussion that could have pulled the project off in a variety of directions. Even now there there are developments afoot that could change or add substantially to the vision.

He likes the fact that the destination of this particular journey is not always clearly in view.

“If you are walking towards a peak, the journey is not so interesting because your focus is always drawn to that end point. If we wander on the way, we will have some adventures. We might find that that peak we’re headed towards is not what we want. Perhaps we will find a lovely waterfall on the way up to this peak, and decide that in fact, that’s what we want after all.”

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