Archive for the 'Life at Exbiblio' Category

Profile: Lauren Summers

August 10th, 2006 by Hugh

LaurenLauren runs Exbiblio’s HR and is the office administrator, working primarily with Henry “Hap” Happel, but also helping out everyone when there’s a need.

She was the fifth person to join Exbiblio, back in March just before the company moved to its current base in a stylish former hotel on Seattle’s 1st Avenue. She admits that she and some of the other newcomers did not fully understand what the project was about at the time of joining. Fortunately, Janinne (formally a big part of Exbiblio who moved on recently) did a good job of persuading her that it was going to be exciting. Lauren recalls that the early days involved a great deal of discussion about the project’s direction, but soon the developments started roll, and the prototype designs started appearing. New ideas started to emerge at virtually every company lunch – traditionally held on Wednesdays.

Lauren has used the third party C-Pen to scan notes for the research project into Word. Although this is only the very starting point of Exbiblio’s vision, it was the point at which it all became real for her.

Appropriately, she loves gadgets. Her latest favourite “toy” is the sleek Motorola SLVR phone which incorporates iTunes music software and lots of other “cool stuff.”

Exbiblio’s idealistic culture helps her to feel comfortable working here. “I grew up with my mother who was a nurse. When I first graduated I worked for a medical company where the definite purpose was to make money – I didn’t enjoy that. I enjoyed working in academia where was more a social service.” Lauren respects the way that business is done at Exbiblio – for instance, in her role she can see at first hand that creditors’ bills are paid promptly – instead of leaving payment for as long as possible – an all too common business practice.

Lauren and her husband run a design studio out of their home, and she handles the sales from their website. Her husband has designed concert posters for the likes of REM and Wilco – the latter being one of her favourite bands. Lauren graduated in journalism, and still enjoys writing for herself – mostly essays – and reading social commentaries.

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.”

Hardware Demo at Company Lunch

August 2nd, 2006 by Adam

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Exbiblio at WWDC

August 1st, 2006 by Adam

San FranciscoI’m really looking forward to attending the Apple World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco next month. I’ve been watching the Steve Jobs keynotes and many of the WWDC sessions via Quicktime for the past 5 or 6 years and it will be great fun to finally make the pilgrimage in person.

Our company shirts will not arrive in time for WWDC, so I designed my own Exbiblio shirt on Zazzle for the recruiting events at the conference. It turned out pretty well, check it out.

If you are attending the conference and are interesting in working with us or just chatting about Exbiblio, I would love to meet you. Send me an e-mail or an instant message and we can coordinate a meeting.

Company Lunch

July 26th, 2006 by Adam

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About Mortality

July 26th, 2006 by Team Member

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: job-160751628@craigslist.org
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.

Mortality

July 24th, 2006 by Hugh

There is one fact about Exbiblio that it is impossible to get away from: Martin King, the founder, was diagnosed last year with a fatal illness called Multiple Myeloma.

You would not guess that this is a man who has been given a short time to live. He looks well, he discusses many topics with great vigour, and retains the passionate enthusiasm of extreme youth. The only outward sign of anything untoward with his health is his inability to carry a weight above 10LB. Even his beloved Mac Powerbook gives him some discomfort when he brings it to work.

His demeanor shows no trace of fear or self pity. He cheerfully states that his illness will turn his bones into something like Swiss Cheese. The first time he mentioned this to me, he prefaced it by saying that his illness was “fascinating.” He takes large doses of steroids every other day, and these lead to powerful fluctuations in mood, with “up” days and “down” days – but he hides these fluctuations well.

The courage of the man strikes me as quite remarkable, though he modestly states that he is not brave, he merely has no fear at the moment.

“Bravery is about confronting fear. Those who aren’t fearful aren’t brave,” he says.

“Isn’t it natural to be afraid of the unknown?” I ask.

“Or Excited” he reposts – but I think this is just for the sake of argument.

He is willing to approach any subject, even his own demise, with intellectual curiosity. He has come up with a creative way to end things early, if the need arises.

I hope this gives just a little flavour of the man. But obviously this situation has a great bearing on Exbiblio. There is a sense of urgency about Exbiblio’s mission, which might not be quite so intense under other circumstances. Time is really short to get things done. There is also an immediate need to find a new CEO, and that has to be somebody who shares Martin’s values and approach to life, as well as his technical abilities. It’s a tall order.

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An Inline Comment From Martin

Not my favorite post – it offends my false sense of modesty. My
fault, not Hugh’s. If anyone cares to know more, I have explained in a seperate post.

Hanging out at Exbiblio

July 20th, 2006 by Adam

Exbiblio Team