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Seven Years

Squidoo

At around 7:35pm, seven years ago today, I sent an email to the then tiny Squidoo team that we were live and things were working (we went live a couple of hours before, but it wasn’t quite there).

And so, Squidoo was open to the public.

I sent that email from Viget Labs in Falls Church, before making the 90 minute or so trip home to the Shenandoah Valley, on less sleep than I remember ever getting.

(When I got home, I couldn’t sleep. It was weird.)

Seth posted a birthday lens in celebration today. The pictures took me down memory lane, as pictures do. And so, here’s the short story of what happened before and after that day.

Seth Godin started changing the way I think in 1999, with the release of Permission Marketing. In an instant, I was a lifetime Seth fan. When he started his blog a few years later, I was a daily reader.

And so when he posted that he was looking for help with an idea in May, 2005, I responded.

Seth chose four people to help him with that idea, and we met in person on Father’s Day 2005. I was nervous about meeting Seth, but not for the reasons I think a lot of people would suspect. I was nervous because I wanted him to be the guy I pictured writing the books. Luckily for this fan, he was even greater than I imagined, and I can say the same thing 7+ years later.

Meeting and working with Harper Reed was tremendous too. If you ever have the chance to meet him, I’m sure you’ll have the same reaction.

Harper’s gone on to do amazing things outside of Squidoo since that summer. And yes, he is awesome.

Squidoo's first team
from left to right: Seth, me, Aaron, Greg & Harper

It was a busy summer (or a summer that didn’t exist). I spent nights and weekends architecting Squidoo (which was publicly called “Plexodex” to keep people guessing). So I was finding myself writing a lot (in MediaWiki) and doing a lot of sketching, wireframing and prototyping the pages and user experience.

It was a cool time for the web: the start of the social era and user generated content. Sites like Flickr, Del.icio.us and Youtube were making huge waves, and Squidoo was right on time.

We teamed up with Viget at the end of the summer to build it. And then the Squidteam started taking shape. Megan and Gil joined, and worked from the NY office with Seth, and I spent a lot of time in Falls Church at Viget and making trips to NY to discuss things as they became real.

For at least a couple of years, we stayed really tiny, and so 20 hour days were common.

Tisha (my sister-in-law), joined us and took on the role of Bug Tracker Boss – getting me out of hours a day in Fogbugz. So I transferred those hours to other things.

Then Josh (my brother) joined and started making Squidoo look better and our CSS work better. So I transferred those hours saved into other things.

Blake Schwendiman joined us as lead developer, giving Gil to the Rescue more time to do his work on servers, databases, data and performance (it was much needed – we kept growing).

As time went on, our team continued to grow, but not like most on the web. We’ve always preferred lean and mean, and still do.

At first our team was completely virtual, and then in 2010, we started a new pattern of building the bench in Winchester – specifically at Bright Cowork – when Aaron Collegeman joined us. Since then, the Winchester part of the Squidteam has added Stephanie Mangino, Joey Blake, Liz Hamilton and Paula Le Duigou. So Bright Cowork got even cooler, and so did Squidoo.

It sure feels like we’re in a new era, and we’re building cool stuff like we’ve always been driven to try to build. I’ve never stayed in one place for seven years – not even close. But I hope there’s at least seven more great years ahead.

To this day, I’m glad I had the guts to write Seth, and glad I gave up a summer of sleep to put my energy into the work that summer (and the work I had done before that which made Seth think he wanted me on the team in the first place).

I remind myself of those things as often as I can.

Of course, Seth says it so well, as he almost always does:

“Safe is risky”.

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