Greenspun's Departure : LUSENET : Joel on Software : One Thread

Thank you, Joel, for writing an essay the crystallized many of my feelings about Philip's departure from ArsDigita. I've been following aD since 1999. Had they opened a Toronto development office, I would have been first in line to join. I credit P&A for teaching me nearly everything I know about the essence of building a good, user-centered, effective web service.

I seem to recall reading something, somewhere, where Philip related the sentiments of many VC firms to aD. "Everything's great, except Philip." I don't know, maybe he was too opinionated or scary or hands-on. (If someone can find that article/comment and provide a link, please do.) The inevitable happened, faster than I thought, and I'm glad that for Philip that he's found something even cooler to move to on to. In London, too, dammit!

Philip's experience, for me, has solidified and intensified my desire to stay the hell away from Venture Capital in any of my future efforts. They stick their fingers in everything, and wrench the company off in dark and nefarious directions. A colleague of mine pointed out that there is only one thing VCs care about: their exit (i.e. sell-out) strategy. They want one of two things: 1) sell the company to a big player or 2) go public. Nothing else matters. At my current employer, which bears many resemblances to aD except for its size and success, the VCs have put us on what seems to be a suicidal campaign to productize all of our technology, perhaps for the return-on-investment reasons that Joel identified. The company grew too quickly and hired too many bozos, and the stock market collapsed right as we were picking up steam. We fired 14 of 80 people in mid-February.

Philip will do well and have fun. ArsDigita has me worried. They've been in bed with Oracle, trading, bodily fluids, for a few years now, and now they've invited Java to join them. This cannot end well. I expect that aD will have dumped AOLServer by the end of 2001 in favour of Oracle's HTTP server.

The question for me as a software developer (who aspires to Philip's professionalism position) is how I can continue working to put collaborative web tools into the hands of mere mortals. My answer has been to start writing a book, like Philip, based on my experience developing some online communities of my own. Addison-Wesley might publish it.

-- Anonymous, March 19, 2001


I particularly agree with Joel about the dogmatic anti-MSFT aspect of Greenspun's theories. It was a bit of a turn-off.

Philip says:

"I'm not motivated to fight a religious war for any particular database management system or Web server."

Well, I guess that's okay, because Cameron Barrett seems plenty motivated.

-- Anonymous, March 20, 2001

While Greenspun's departure is old news to those of us who follow ArsDigita, there is more recent trouble brewing over there.

First of all, the idealistic ArsDigita University has had its funding cut: This does not surprise me much. When I was at ArsDigita in January, the employees were rather skeptical of the University idea, considering it premature.

Then, 20% of the company was laid off, and 3 offices were closed (Pittsburg, Philadelphia (sp?), and Atlanta:

Included in the pink-slipped was well-liked community coordinator Adam Farkas:

...and all this after they have posted "Record Revnue" (partially attributed to a "growing user community"):

As someone who has followed ArsDigita for a while now, I too am saddened by the company turning its back on the developer community and ignoring its earlier ideas. I wonder if Philip knew what he was getting into when he brought in the VC dollars. I miss the old spirit of the company, where you could tell which web pages on the company's site were written by Philip just because of the wry humor. In place of that idealism now is marketese garbage with no name on it. I hope some part of the company's original views make it through these hard times because their software is really great and has taught a lot of people (because of the boot camps, and the fact that it's open source).

-- Anonymous, April 03, 2001

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