My home office, late 2001.
It Began With an “About” Box
(The scene: October 2001, in a bland building in a bland office park on a bland street named after a large insurance company in a bland corner of Accordion City.)
“We’ve decided to re-assign you,” said the VP of R&D at the startup where I worked. “The new team will take over for your interface work. You will be in charge of the installer and the ‘About’ box.”
By “installer”, he meant the “setup” program that you would run to install our software onto your computer. As for the “About” box, that’s the little window that pops up when you click the “About this Application…” item under the “Help” menu (or the Apple menu on Macs). They look like this:
“Um…would I be doing anything else?” I asked.
“No, that’s it for now, but I expect that we’ll find more for you to do.”
If my new assignment seemed inconsequential to you, you’re right. On a particularly busy day, the task of making sure that the installer was running and that the “About” box has the correct copyright notices would take up a good ten minutes, leaving me a solid seven hours and fifty minutes of nothing to do.
Me at the office, late 2001.
The change in job responsibilities has drastically changed my daily routine. Once you factored in some time for me to answer email, my actual responsibilities had been taken core of by 9:20 a.m.. A workday that was once busy and challenging had been transformed into a vast desert of idle time.
I had the sinking feeling that as one of the last original employees of the startup who was still there amongst a rising tide of new hires hand-picked by the new boss, my days were numbered. Still, I tolerated the hour’s commute each way to my go-nowhere-do-nothing role to keep my cash flow going while I set up my next opportunity.
I spent a lot of my free time at work learning the PHP programming language and chasing down potential clients. I chatted on IRC with friends who were either working at startups or whose startups had just imploded. I read and occasionally, just for kicks, I’d help the sysadmins do things like tie up ethernet cable or inventory wifi cards.
I also started a blog.
It needed a name, and at the time I couldn’t think of one that I felt was any good. On a whim, I simply decided to call it The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century. It was dumb, and I planned on changing it as soon as I thought of a good one.
Having an outlet like Accordion Guy kept me sane during those last, tedious, will-you-fire-me-already days at the startup. It also kept me sane during those oh-God-oh-God-I need-to-get-clients days after getting sacked and during those long nights when I put in a lot of programming time for those clients later on.
It also had some unexpected benefits. My log entry about the time my deadbeat ex-housemate let a con man into the house for a second time got covered on Boing Boing, and suddenly my readership went from tens to the low hundreds. Getting laid off gave me a fair bit of time to have some adventures, and thus my much-linked-to stories from those early days got more attention through the blogosphere:
- The Accidental Go-Go Dancer
- That Syd, What a Mensch!
- The Star-Spangled Banner and Anal Sovereignty
- Now It Can Be Told (or How I Landed My New Client)
The Girl Who Cried Webmaster was a turning point for the Accordion Guy blog: it impressed the powers that be at Tucows, and played a key role in my becoming their Technical Community Development Coordinator (an incredibly wordy way of saying “developer evangelist”). The blog had saved my bacon and landed me a job – and now I was getting paid to blog!
Eight Years Later
Today is my eighth blogging anniversary. I’m still blogging happily here at Accordion Guy as well as at Global Nerdy and Microsoft Canada’s Canadian Developer Connection. There’s a chance that I’m Microsoft Canada’s most active blogger, whether blogging personally or in an official capacity. I suppose I can go look that up once my work schedule calms down a little.
Blogging has made my life better. From the more tangible things like the network of friends, acquaintances and contacts I’ve built to the less-tangible “making your life worth living by examining it” effect that blogging often has, it’s become one of the two life-changing hobbies I took up around the turn of the millennium (I’m sure you can guess what the other one is). I can’t imagine not doing it for at least another eight years.
To you, my readers, I’d like to say thank you. I hope to keep entertaining, informing – and yes, occasionally annoying – you for years to come. Thanks for reading.