Team's Page

The posts by individual Exbiblio team members are collected here.

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Website Redesign

August 21st, 2006


This is a re-post of a blog entry I made to my internal blog on August 18. Internal blogs are one of the ways we communicate process and progress with one another at Exbiblio, and I thought I’d share it on our main blog as well since it’s about a process that many other small companies face at some point or another. So, without further ado, the post. — Ariel

What’s happening in my world (long)

Perhaps it’s hubris to think so, but maybe there are one or two folks out there who wonder what the heck happens on my side of the office every day. Well, among a couple of other smaller projects, I spend the majority of my time working on the website redesign.

Traditionally, web presences for small companies have been built as an afterthought. Many of these entities don’t want to devote time and resources toward building what is seen as simply a static brochure, so a site is launched with no planning or concern for the needs of its audiences; the goal is to just have a web footprint. I’m sure each and every one of us has been directed toward a company’s site hoping to learn more about it, only to find vague text and a directive to call the company for more information. How many of us pick up the phone?

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Green Design

August 21st, 2006

Hardware LabAt Exbiblio we take responsibility for the things we make and do, and strive to leave beauty in our wake. This means our products should be beneficial to our users, not harmful to them, and likewise our products should not be harmful to the environment or the people manufacturing them.

The main aspects of an electronic device like Exbiblio’s oPen scanner that would cause environmental impact are the circuit board, the components on the circuit board (chips, resistors, capacitors, etc.), the battery, the case, and the packaging. Transportation is also a factor, but should be smaller than the others, and energy usage during customer usage should be very small compared to these manufacturing impacts, so we’re concentrating on them. So far, the green design considerations for are mostly going smoothly. This is a brief summary, more detail on each aspect will appear in the future.

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August 10th, 2006

For my first post I wanted to jump into the blog with my own experience of this unique work culture.

One of my first steps has been to interview folks around the office to gather up views on and ideas about the audiences and purposes for our site. Technically I’d call these stakeholder interviews, but one of the things I like best about working at Exbiblio is that we really are “folks” more than we are “stakeholders,” even though I’d say we’re all deeply engaged in our work.

The term “stakeholder” differentiates those in a company who have a vested interest in something from those who don’t. It separates those who have a say from those who don’t. Those polarizations don’t exist here at Exbiblio, and so I don’t like to use the term when I’m conducting my interviews. When I approach my coworkers it’s with a great amount of respect for their knowledge and experience, but not with a sense that they have more or less of a stake in the Exbiblio project and process. We all have a stake in this project… so perhaps what I’m doing are more like “folkserviews”.

By Ariel van Spronsen

Hello from Ariel

August 10th, 2006

ArielGreetings and salutations. By way of introduction to the occasional posting I’ll be doing here in the near future, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Ariel van Spronsen, and I’m heading up the Exbiblio website redesign effort.

Though Seattle has always been the place I call home, my story is an amalgam of experiences living in places as diverse as Michigan, Saudi Arabia, Texas, New Jersey, and most recently, San Francisco. A keen interest in the wide range of urban social systems I encountered led to a BA in Urban Studies at Vassar College. My grounding in communication systems combined with an innate tendency toward organization has translated more recently into a passion for information architecture, and I am now pursuing an MS in Technical Communication at the University of Washington.

I’ll be posting periodically about the nuts, bolts, and discoveries in my work here at Exbiblio, and about the larger topics of information architecture and communication.

By Ariel van Spronsen

For Love of Product

August 8th, 2006

People who build great companies start with a very different motivation. They want to make “meaning”, not just money. They want to improve the quality of life, right a wrong, or prevent the end of something good.

Hire “infected” people. Look for love of product or idea more than educational credentials. Hire people better than yourself.

From The Ten Commandments of Successful Entrepreneurs by Guy Kawasaki

In mid-March, Adam sent the following email out to the local Mac development list XCoders:

Howdy XCoders,

We are looking for a few great coders to join our team in Pioneer Square. We need your help creating two important things:

1. A company where we can’t wait for Monday to roll around each week because we love the work we are doing and enjoy working with one another.

2. A set of technologies that will change the way that people relate to paper documents.

The skills we are look for include:
- The ability to create killer-apps that change peoples lives
- Experienced with Mac, web and / or open source technologies
- Collaborative and engaging team players

Check out our web site ( for more specific job descriptions and send me an e-mail if you’d be interested in joining our team.


Adam Behringer

I had just joined another great company, so I wasn’t looking for yet another job, but the “Monday” bit sounded sincere, and the technology that the Exbiblio site talks about is fascinating and personally interesting to me (I had “invented” content-based addressing on the Web myself, but I hadn’t made the connection to paper), so I decided to meet these people, and it was love at first sight (sorry Good).

I especially like the bit in the statement of corporate values from the Web (posted on the front office door as well) that talks about technology:

  • “We will remember that technology can create value in society, but that technology by itself is valueless.”
  • “We will focus on creating value in the world, not capturing value from the world.”
  • “We will leave beauty in our wake.”
  • It reminds me of a big difference I see in companies today in their approach to product design.

    Some companies claim to have no personal stake in the products that they build, and strive to be perfect mirrors of their customers’ needs. They focus on their customers first, and the products follow. Other companies, often led by strong visionaries, portray a love of products, quality and excellence. They focus on the products first, and the customers follow, and usually end up loving them.

    There is a big difference between creating good enough products for money, and creating products because you want to see them come to life. There’s nothing wrong with solving real problems in as economically feasible a fashion as possible. In fact, it’s difficult and worthy of admiration. But, I do believe that it is often possible to do a lot better. Quentin Stafford-Fraser has an interesting quote on the subject.

    One way to look at the difference is to observe the long-term cycles in business. Clayton Christensen, for example, in Innovator’s Solution, talks about how new ideas disrupt existing products and business models, often using highly proprietary, custom solutions, and then gradually become commodities, and become built from commodity pieces, and then are disrupted by a new idea.

    People who love products (be they gadgets, services or outcomes) are the ones who will innovate in the large, but innovation is riskier than optimizing existing products and processes, and is not a consistently winning strategy if one’s focus is money as a means to other, unspecified goals. But it is a winning strategy if the products are the end, and the money the means.

    By Claes-Fredrik Mannby

    About Mortality

    July 26th, 2006

    Martin King writes: Hugh’s post “Mortality” gave me serious pause. For a short time I changed the WordPress state of this post to “private” – but then we restored it.

    One of the guidelines we established in deciding to blog about Exbiblio was that we must reserve the privacy of exbiblio’s employees (of which I am one). There’s nothing actually wrong with Hugh’s post, no major inaccuracies – I just felt it was way too personal. But (of course) this turns out to be my fault, not Hugh’s. Here is the background:

    Until very recently Exbiblio’s website described me as a “wacky inventor.”

    So one of my “wacky” ideas was that we should write a book about Exbiblio, which book (as was suggested by several people) would employ Exbiblio’s technology – i.e., would be the first truly
    interactive paper document, have numerous markup layers of comments, personal experiences, photos, etc. for each of Exbiblio’s employees (including me), etc. This imagined book would tell the story of our radical, values-first company – and might come bundled with one of the oPen scanners we are building. This imagined book would also essentially tell the the story of itself being written, maybe with a last chapter describing us shipping off the paper manuscript plus a scanner to various publishers…

    Wacky, but by no means too wacky for me. And, a bit to my surprise, others at Exbiblio also thought this book idea was at least worth exploring. So on a Sunday afternoon last May I posted this to the Seattle Craigslist:

    Experienced and Accomplished Author Near Seattle
    Reply to:
    Date: 2006-05-14, 1:48PM PDT

    Experienced and accomplished author near Seattle with technical depth – to write a sequel to Kidder’s “Soul of a New Machine” – but where the context and story are far, far more interesting.

    This book will be about a truly extraordinary Seattle technology start-up company with a grand vision of the future – and it will be about (and written in collaboration with) the remarkable group of people who are pursuing this vision.


    And I also reached out directly to several established authors – including Hugh’s business partner Matthew Lynn (at the time I was reading Matthew’s “Birds of Prey” – which is wonderfully written). This is how we eventually get to Hugh (in London) blogging about Exbiblio (in Seattle).

    A few weeks ago, at Exbiblio’s invitation, Hugh came to Seattle to see what we were doing and to discuss a possible book. But shortly after he arrived I steered our discussions and efforts to blogging for the company – not least because I wasn’t at all sure I was going to be willing to give up my treasured (and much defended and long preserved) privacy if we ever did decide to do a book.

    So Exbiblio engaged Hugh to help with our blog – but Hugh and I also continued to discuss the potential to do a book, and the material it might contain. Indeed, as Hugh and I were sitting in Seattle’s fabulous SeaTac International Airport, with two hours before his return flight to London, I brought our conversation back to this maybe, sometime, probably-never-happen book. Or I thought I did anyway. Hugh thought we were still discussing the Blog.

    So I am telling Hugh some of the background behind Exbiblio, my motivations, and a bunch of personal stuff – thinking this is possible material for the book, should we in fact ever decide to do a book.

    And Hugh, who is thinking blog, keeps saying things like, “You know, everything you say will look different in print…” and, “You really won’t have a problem if these things are published?”

    A few weeks later (as in last night) key parts of this conversation showed up on our blog. Hugh was sound asleep eight time zones away (unfortunately, not exactly “Near Seattle”). So I took his post off the site for 12 hours (hey, it was about me) until I could reach Hugh to discuss it. At which point we discovered some slight differences in how we understood our conversation at the airport. And I realized his post was here to stay.