RealTime IT News

This is Goodbye

Six years ago, I got a call asking if I wanted to join an online publishing company. Internet.com, as this company was called then, was opening a Boston office and needed local writers.

It was a gamble. I knew little about technology (my previous employers considered hulking terminals with tiny screens and cell phones that looked like World War II field radios as high-tech) and even less about content sites.

But the offer was attractive. I could help shape a growing company and learn from two editors that I respected. So I took it.

Working in, and writing about, the "new economy" in 1999 was thrilling. The allure of big money was certainly part of it, but so was the sense of possibility.

It was a youth movement. People in their 20s and 30s were suddenly free from the notion that they had to slog it out for 20 years to be taken seriously. Suits and ties were out. Gap khakis and blue oxfords were in.

There were crackpot ideas and jackpot ideas, but there were ideas, and all of them were big.

Of course, confidence curdled into hubris. The flip side of not having to slog it out for 20 years is lack of experience.

Pets.com was losing $5 for every $1 of Kibbles 'n Bits it shipped. My business school friends would call this "an unviable plan." At least the sock puppet had his 15 minutes.

Big public companies weren't any better; some were worse. Sales and profits were first fudged, then fictionalized. Good companies are still paying for their mistakes with new compliance requirements, but that's another story.

In hindsight, WorldCom balance sheets remind me of the Raymond Chandler line: "From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away."

We all should have known better.

The fall was ugly and swift, marked by waves of layoffs and Chapter 11 filings. The survivors stopped buying hardware, software and IT services -- fearful that they, or their vendors, wouldn't be around to see the contracts through.

By 2003, however, the economy clawed its way back, and as usual it began with the startups. Since then, it feels a bit like 1999 in some sectors, although with some perspective.

Search, 3G wireless, VoIP and converging communications are booming. It's nice to see the enthusiasm and the big ideas return.

A few weeks ago, I got a call asking if I wanted to join a financial services firm. The offer was attractive, I could help shape a growing company and learn from businesspeople that I respect. So I took it.

Jupitermedia has been good to me and so have the entrepreneurs, executives analysts and PR staffers I've worked with every day. I'm sure this company will continue to prosper without me and will benefit from the infusion of new blood.

Preparing for this column, I searched the archives for my previous stories. The first piece I wrote here - six years ago to the day -- was about Massachusetts farmers using the Web to sell Christmas trees.

It certainly didn't win any prizes, but the seasonal symmetry somehow seems appropriate.

So, to all of you that I've worked with, and for, during the last six years, Thanks. It's been a gift.