Survivor! (How Your Peers are Coping With the Dotcom Crisis)

To Whom it May Concern: Due to the current economy, yet another dot-com enterprise is being dissolved, hence I am applying to your company for employment.

It’s ugly out there, but how bad is it, really? We asked some of our peers how they were coping with the crisis in the web industry. Below,  they tell their stories in their own words. At the end, you can share your experiences.

Article Continues Below

Heather Champ, Designer, Jezebel.com#section1

For the longest time the term “cocoon” has bubbled up images of Don Ameche,
Wilford Brimley and Hume Cronyn cavorting in the crystal clear waters of a
“magic” swimming pool. Ron Howard has a lot to answer, for if you ask me.
But as of November, it has taken on a whole new meaning as the company that
I work for went into “cocoon” mode.

My job was supposed to end at the end of
January though I’ve been given a stay of execution until at least the end of
February. As it is, I’m pretty much the last one off the island.
And how have I been dealing with it? I would have to say that the seven
traditional stages of grief pretty much cover it: Acceptance (it’s happening
to everyone else so it makes sense that it’s happening to me), anger (#$%&!
why me?), denial (the market will pick up again soon and all this will go
away), depression (I really liked the people that I worked with), fear (how
will I find another job if everyone else is looking as well?), and shock
(this can’t be happening to me). I’m endeavoring not to get stuck in any one
stage for too long.

Ryan Holsten, Senior Multimedia Designer, Thunk DesignLiftingfaces#section2

In order to brave the sudden shifts in our medium’s needs, I am
returning to tradition, and going smaller. Finding the right firm to
work with is key. As much as it may be tempting to go to a dotcom
startup that shows more promise than the others, there’s
longevity that 90% of them are missing, and that is tradition. You
will take a pay cut at a smaller shop, but you also have a
heavier influence on their success/failure (meaning do a good job,
and you will be amply rewarded).

I am at Thunk Design now for a few reasons: They create cool
and engaging work, they have a great team of people which makes it an
interactive studio, and finally they are a traditional shop. Getting
rich slowly, and maintaining a steady incline, is what this place is
about. They are a team of 11 (myself included), and the politics,
hierarchy, and management are all under control. So throw away the six
figure salary hopes, and find a place that makes you equal parts
compensated, happy, and influential.

Suzanne Carter-Jackson, Owner/Proprietor, Zero Cattle, Production Specialist, populuxe.digital#section3

I don’t know how I am doing it, but I am surviving; possibly even
capitalizing on it. But I am feeling the pressure, especially in my jaw from
grinding my teeth at night. I see people far more talented and gifted than
myself losing their jobs, some for spurious reasons.  I feel the push to
stay on top of my skills, and resting on my laurels isn’t possible for a
day, much less months.  Always onward.

But you know what, if the whole thing collapsed tomorrow, I would still
survive.  The skills I have gained doing this work (predominantly publishing
related) over the last 5.5 years are easily extended to more traditional
“real world”  jobs. Nothing is guaranteed, no gold rush lasts forever. At the
heart of it, I have reinvented myself once –  I can do it again.

Dan Shafer, CEO, The WeTalk Network, Inc.#section4

As a company, the WeTalk Network is, to use the euphemism du jour, between rounds of funding. We’re coping only because we didn’t grow large enough during the run-up period to leave us in a place where bankruptcy was our only option. While we’ve had to lay off most of the team and others are working without salary or with minimum wage income while we sort things out, the company is definitely still in business. I have a huge dose of caution in my cup of optimism, but it beats the depression of the fourth quarter of 2000.

Personally, I’ve gone through a real wilderness experience and have questioned my sanity many times in the last four months. But I’m beyond that now and am finding that returning to writing roots while keeping several company dynamite sticks juggling in the air is actually satisfying, even invigorating. I suspect my delusions are due principally to my age; I’m one of those “gray hairs” of the industry. So I take things more sanguinely than most and perhaps more than I should, but there you have it.

Kelly Goto, Creative Director, Idea Integration, San Francisco#section5

Crisis? I think it is a “settling.” For those who have been in the business
for over a decade –  this is reality. You had to work hard to get jobs, keep
them, charge reasonable rates, and provide outstanding work. People actually
do care where and how their dollars are being spent. Now it’s back to the
real world. Our office is intact –  morale is high –  we have an incredible
team, based on respect and support. We will get through this time.

Peter Balogh, Freelance Flash Designer#section6

The last company I worked for –  a large agency providing web design and
advertising to blue-chip-level clients –  had a record year in 2000 and
grew rapidly until the fall, when they instituted a hiring chill (not
quite a freeze).  Their revenues are still huge.  Perhaps their
background in direct marketing gave them both client appeal and
business savvy.  But then, all the statistics I see indicate that
online advertising revenue grew enormously throughout 2000, and I’m
wondering why I keep hearing that online advertising is dead.

Now I’m freelancing on a full-time basis for a multimedia
animation/entertainment company that’s growing rapidly and has
substantial development budgets for its projects.  Granted, the clients
are old-media companies who want to create new-media products, but I’m
not seeing much fallout from the dotcom “collapse” from where I sit.
Maybe working in entertainment on the web isn’t so different from
working in entertainment offline: you do your thing and appreciate the
people who manage the mystical trick of generating money from it.

Davezilla, Designer, Davezilla#section7

I’m surviving fairly well, actually. The Midwest was slow to embrace the web, which turned out to be a good thing. Businesses out here are still brick and mortar. That seems to have been our saving grace.

George Olsen, Former Information Architect, Scient#section8

I was caught in the tidal wave of layoffs in December, but in some ways
it’s actually been a blessing in disguise. I’ve been working 60–80 hour
weeks for more than a decade and I came to realize just how burnt out I’d
gotten. (The plus side is that with a decade’s worth of savings –  and
severence –  I can afford to sit out for a while.)

Since the job market looks slow in the first quarter, I’m thinking about going to Europe for a month or so. Interestingly, this may work out well, because some of the companies
I’ve talked with are trying to hold off filling openings as long as they
can to improve their first quarter numbers.The other blessing in disguise is that I’ve finally got a chance to catch up on work-related reading and ponder how to improve my approach to
information architecture and interaction design. One of the really nice
things is to be able read texts back-to-back, which helps in
comparing and contrasting approaches.

It’s also nice to be able to step back and look at my experiences in the trenches and see how well things really worked. It’s tough to get that distance when you’re in the throes.

Claire Robertson,, loobylu.com#section9

It has been a good thing for me to be forced to stop and think about what it
is that should be most important to me creatively and professionally. I
quickly discovered that this does not involve telling myself that I work in a
hip, to-die-for industry full of funky kids and Palm Pilots™ when really what
it is I’m doing is working the longest hours ever, in a filthy warehouse, in
a seedy part of town for stock options that may never happen. I realised I
could be throwing all this energy and blind enthusiasm into my own dream
career which just might take off.

So, I found a couple of little niches in my freelance design work which
aren’t terribly exciting and will not make me wealthy, but will keep paying
the bills for the time being. Meanwhile I have the time and the fresh
inclination to follow up on some of the ideas that had been pushed aside to
make room for a “career,”  the truly creative things, the me things.
And I don’t have that oh gawd, the web sucks feeling that had begun to
manifest after listening to management consultants tell me about their take
on how the web works all day long. The web even feels exciting again.

Dave Winer, , Userland Software#section10

At UserLand Software, we launched our free Manila-hosting services before
the collapse of the dotcom stocks. At the time, our assumption was that if
we were successful at building a growing user base, we would be able to
follow companies like Geocities and About.Com, and fund the expansion of our
service through the public stock market.

Since then the economic tide has turned, and now we’re sure that we’ll keep losing money until we have to shut down the service.

However, not wanting to strand our users and lose their goodwill, we are
getting creative. We want to keep them writing and creating for the web with
our software, but we want to be able to develop new software and have a
profitable business that makes our shareholders happy. We’re exploring ways
to distribute the load, so that our users’ machines can do most of the work,
leaving our servers free for new applications that we can base money-making
businesses on.

Annalisa Oswald, Creative Director, www.anaphase.com (personal site)#section11

I work for an enterprise software company, my first actually, so we’re not
seeing as much destruction and downsizing as the dotcoms and the
eBuilders, those two having a pretty tight relationship to one another.
Having worked in this industry for over five years, it’s amazing (the boom and
bust of such large companies) and I’m so very glad that I made the decision
to head up an internal design group for a product-based company, rather
than become a creative director at a dotcom, service-based company, even
if it seemed that the latter would have provided more interesting design
work.

I mean, it’s not as sexy, sure. But at least I still have a job, one
in which I feel very fairly compensated, and those options that had
potential to be worth something in 1998? I think that they still might have
a fighting chance by the end of the year.

Caroline van Oosten de Boer, Prolific#section12

Crisis? Wot crisis? Plenty of work here in the Netherlands, no sign of a
slump. Our company is small, has longstanding clients. We will be merging
with another smallish company that also has solid clients. Neither company
ever had to rely on ’VC’ money.

There are 180,000 jobs unfilled in the Netherlands. I’m not worried. I’m
lucky. At last.

Thomas Brodahl , surf.lu, surfstation#section13

The Luxembourg economy is based on banking. The e-revolution has not yet
started here, so my job is as secure as ever. We have had no set-backs,
we have had no let-offs. Quite the contrary, we need people more than
ever; there are just no good designers here. Maybe this slicing of the
web design industry in other countries will get some good people
migrating to Europe, and Luxembourg. I can only hope.

Joe Gillespie, Designer, W e b   P a g e   D e s i g n   f o r   D e s i g n e r s#section14

Crisis, what crisis? Web design is alive and well and living in England
where there are tens of thousands of vacancies for IT and web-related jobs
that can’t be filled; they are even putting the unemployed on web design
courses to get them off the streets. I have to turn away 75% of the jobs I’m
asked to do because I need to sleep sometime.

There are 320 million surfers out there, all wanting something to look
at, some information. If you keep giving them meaningless Flash animations
and e-commerce “solutions”  that don’t work, they will go somewhere else, no
big surprise there. But show that you can communicate and the world and
his wife will beat at your door!

Cheryl Stockton, Designer, Studio Firefly#section15

We are very busy at the studio and we have kept small, hiring a third person
part-time for the moment and hiring freelancers only when absolutely
necessary.  So far, our overhead has been fairly low, sharing our space with
another company. We will be taking over the space ourselves in the near
future. If things get hard, we figure we can rent out some of the space.

When you have your own business, there is never a guarantee of
where the next job will come from, but you take your chances, do the best
work you can, and keep faith. I also teach two classes at Pratt. There is
always a lot to do.  Finding balance in life is the most challenging thing.

Joe Utsler, Freelance Web Geek, utsler.com#section16

I’m flying under the radar.  People still need websites, and for those of
us doing contract work for small to mid-level companies, the work is still
there in quantity.  It’s one of the small benefits of not living up to my
potential.  The negative is that I’m not finding one of those gravy train
jobs I was hearing so much about, and when I do take a new job, I’m much
more likely to go with an established company.  That probably won’t be as
much fun as a risky new startup, but it will be more fun than unemployment.

Leigh Baker-Foley, Designer, No One’s Daughter#section17

It was a relatively short stint as a dotcommie: nine months, two companies and
a few new and lasting friendships well made. The one thing that still
lingers, two months after the layoff, is the guilt.

Just for fun, the beasts for whom I worked decided the layoffs should happen the Friday before
Thanksgiving: the beginning of a 6-week period of hiring freezes in all
industries due to the holiday frenzy. (High point: While one young designer was
sobbing at her desk –  head down, attempting to calm herself enough to ring
her mother, who is going through yet another breast cancer surgery,
to let her know that she wouldn’t be able to afford to visit her this time
  –   the tiny, mudflap-haircut-wearing male member of the vampiric marketing team entered her department to loudly announce that the marketing department was going shoe shopping.)

Because of my design experience and ability to hand code, I’ve been
fine and from day one have had enough freelance work (much of it fixing up
the mess that the dying dotcoms have created with WYSIWYG editors and their
slavish thumbing of Jakob Nielsen’s published scribbles –  thanks, Jakob!) to
incorporate, pay all my bills, and share work with a couple of helpful fellow
designers.

Not so for my new friends. Recruiters and headhunters are
screwing them out of decent salaries by throwing them difficult and grueling
short-term contracts with no benefits for rigid corporate clients, paying a
third of what these talented folks should be paid because the predators know
they’re becoming desperate. My friends tell me that I should feel no responsibility for their plight, but if I don’t, then who will?

Jason Fried, Matt Linderman, 37signals#section18

So far, we’ve survived the dotcom troubles just fine (knock on wood). I
think it’s mostly because we focus exclusively on visual interface design
instead of trying to be a full-service web design shop. This makes us very
attractive to clients who already have a back-end solution (or an in-house
programming team) but are looking for help with the visual interface
look/feel and the overall customer experience. Our specialization allows
clients to engage us to improve their site without having to sign up for a
massive, and expensive, project.

We have also kept our team tight and small. We don’t have the inefficiencies
that come with layers of management, unnecessary meetings, etc. Plus, being
small allows us to be more selective and only choose projects we think will
be successful and interesting. We don’t have to take everything that comes
our way which is a nice position to be in.

Finally, we’re smart with our money (yes, some might even say frugal). We
want to make every single dollar work to make us more efficient, more
productive, and more effective. We don’t waste money on fancy furniture,
signage, receptionists, or other things that are “nice” but not necessary.
This means we can work on projects that we actually want to work on –  which makes it all worth it.

L. Michelle Johnson, Web Designer, Makes Grown Men Cry#section19

I’m updating my portfolio/resume, keeping in touch with local
web-related groups (Silicon Valley Webgrrls, Silicon Valley Web
Guild), keeping in touch with former colleagues who have been laid
off or who have moved on to other companies, and saving money like
crazy (no big purchases).

Also, instead of branching out and broadening my base (learn
JavaScript, learn more Flash, learn DHTML –  time is a luxury right
now), I’ve been narrowing my focus to strengthen my design skills and
making sure my HTML is up-to-date so that I can jump fast.  Of
course, as I write this, layoffs are pending at my company.

{NOTE: As this issue went to press, L. Michelle Johnson was laid off by AOL/Netscape. – Ed.}

Ben Summers, Designer/Developer, Fluffy Clouds Ltd#section20

Moving to specialist software development, with nothing to do with web
design. Who’d willingly fight web browser stupidity all day long?

Manning L. Krull, Web Designer, Jerkbox Studios#section21

I’m not feeling any sort of crisis in the web design industry, from where I sit. My grown-up job with my employer (Medical Broadcasting Company, in Philly) feels very stable; plenty of good web projects coming in, lots of professional freedom, etc., and my freelance career is as good as it’s ever been. There doesn’t appear to be any shortage of work, and dealing with clients is actually getting easier as they gain a little more respect for the web and a little less confidence in their supreme knowledge of what they’re paying me to do.

I tackle projects with a philosophy of making the very best out of the lowest common denominators, so the chaos of standards (or, more specifically, the distinct lack thereof) isn’t much of an issue for me. Things are sweet. I can’t complain. Which makes me feel a little… guilty, I guess.

And ignorant, maybe. Where’s the crisis? Am I super unhip to not see it? Don’t answer that. YAY PIXELS!!! [By the way, it may amuse you to learn that I actually sent in a tape to audition for Survivor last summer.]

Lance Arthur, Director of User Experience, Quris#section22

Short answer: remarkably unscathed. I’m not going to pretend prescience, but
didn’t we all see it coming? Weren’t we all looking at each other over the
lips of our over-priced Yuppie coffee drinks with narrowed eyes and
thinking, “How the hell is that company ever going to make a profit?”
followed quickly by, “And why the hell are people buying stock in them when
they aren’t even projecting a profit for years to come?”

All these companies going public to cash in on an unbelievably, well, naive market made up of, I
presume, daytraders in pajamas feverishly attempting to balance their
portfolio made out of cotton candy and wiffle balls before everything
tanks.

Anyway, back in January I moved to the heart of darkness, San Francisco,
hoping to hitch my butt to some fast-moving locomotive and get some of the
millions that were, at that time, still being tossed around. My dream was to
start my own company, doing web design and consulting and hopefully
conning… um, I mean, convincing some friends to join me in the
venture. There were so many huge studios and consulting firms because they’d
bought all the small ones. I figured there was a place for small studios to
service small firms and that I could do many smaller projects instead of
being sucked into months-long dead-ends that still the soul and quiet the
creative spirit.

Then reality slapped me in the face, I realized that I
should be the last person to start a company because I hate business, and I
started shopping for permanent digs to put down stakes.

After freelancing at a few start-ups and seeing the insanity for what it was
(i.e. wishful thinking) I joined a company that had a business plan that
made sense to my uneducated business brain, a team of very smart people who
knew a lot more than I did and they weren’t looking backwards trying to prop
up what was already a crumbling foundation.

I work for Quris, an electronic messaging firm. We work with big companies (that pay their bills with real money) to help them design, implement and deliver email, wireless and mobile
device messaging for customer retention and information. No, it’s not spam.
It’s double opt-in informational or account-related messaging. Everyone
knows that email is great, but it’s also sometimes a pain. We’re working to
take the pain out of it. So in a sense I survived by getting out of the web.

James Widegren, Senior Art Director, Vir2L Studios Ltd. (a division of ZeniMax Media Inc.)#section23

ZeniMax Media forges strategic partnerships with leading communications
media and e-commerce companies. Joint ventures. ZeniMax invests in people and equipment and is careful with expenses. It may sound like a boring company, but it’s safe and I have greatly invested brothers and sisters around me knowing our parents are taking care of the economy.

webchick, dreamer, jammer, media.org

I’m surviving –  I’d prefer to say thriving –  but not due to the
downturn of dotcoms. I actually experienced an epiphany of sorts
before all the doom and gloom.

I had changed my life dramatically to be
part of the “revolution.” Yet once all was said and done, after I
followed that yellow brick road to Oz, I was left with an incredibly
empty feeling of, “is that all there is?”

I didn’t need to move to the
West Coast to be a part of some hipster scene or a corporate rat race
on steroids. Being happy, and the quality and meaningfulness of work, 
have always been what matters most to me.
So, that has been exactly what I have been doing for the past year while the industry turned itself on its ear. Focusing on what is important: someone I love, my life, meaningful work.

I still believe in the web, and think that it can be used to do magical things, and
that you really do get back what you put into it. It certainly has
held such promise for me.

The ironic twist to this story is my
partner and I have remained true to our ideals, and spent the past
year working on projects that are important to us, out of which
sprang an idea we thought we’d run up the flagpole to see if it had
any merit. Right in the midst of the legendary dotcom debacle, it
got funded.

Peter Reid, Design Director, ourcommon.com#section24

I am doing just fine, and I have finally caught up on my sleep. It is true
that I was a victim of the falling dotconomy, but I am living a different
career track than my father did. Hence, I expected the cutback, and expect
to see a few more as my days pass.

I had worked for a larger web consulting firm, so I saw all the strings that
the news media is pulling apart currently. I was cut, and then asked to
return as a freelancer shortly afterward.

So –  you rid me away, take my benefits and my worthless stock options and
then ask me back to contract? Damn….  Well –  I guess I’ll see you Monday,
because I just spent the last of my vacation money.

On the other side of the fence –  I have been diligent and busy as a bee. The
light in this relentless storm comes in the form of a few words –  small
front-end design.

The VCs didn’t want to give money for a two-week, 175K define phase for a new
project. The gems in the business today are the small ventures, completed by
small groups of designers and builders who gathered all their experience
from the consulting companies.

Adam Greenfield, Internet Marketing Strategist, e-agency
(jollies at v-2 Organisation)

I’m professionalizing, actually: extending and deepening my skills in the area of information architecture, which I think is the growth area in web design. I hope this will recession-proof me, for now and further downstream. I also think good IA is a way of “giving back.”

Alec Pollak, Creative Director, Web, btldesign#section25

Horrible to say, but the industry coming apart like a slowly bursting balloon
seems to have its advantages for companies like ours. We are a twenty three
year old design firm that does everything from websites to television
commercials, and have kept our ranks at twenty five people or so. In the past
year we have been looking to expand our staff, especially our web teams, and
in doing so have seen the market change.

Survival isn’t our issue –  we need
to snatch up the good people from the failed companies before our old
media/hybrid competitors get them first. How do we do that? Keep up with
who’s doing what in all our professional circles and keep an eye on what’s
happening with which dotcoms.

Most importantly, though, we stress to new
applicants the qualities that we possess that their former companies might
not have had: stability (no new business plan every three weeks), longevity
(we’ll be here in three weeks, and in three years…), a strong design ethic
(design didn’t start with the invention of Mosaic), and a rich history and
years of experience to learn from.

Kitty Mead, Freelance Web Designer, Ink2Art

The only thing I’m doing differently is trying to broaden my technical capabilities.
I don’t feel that I, as a lone freelancer, am feeling the pinch as severely as a larger design firm.  My needs are less overall, and my clientele are a more select group of people.
As Babe Ruth once said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”

Dan V. Licht, Designer, laboratory13.com, instafluff.com, angel-devil.com#section26

I work in a large B2B company with a few divisions. There
were some cutbacks (6%). I think it’s always difficult to deal with
unwarranted firings, but that’s life. My company is trying to gain
new business from industries that they never thought of competing in
before (more entertainment, fashion). Companies can’t have the
mentality that they should only go for businesses with high margins; so
we are trying to look at work with fresh eyes. For instance,  how much
money we charge, how long it takes to produce.

The problem all stems for the venture capitalists, who came
in to the market and flooded it with all these big design firms that
were not focused on the design but on getting rich –  and if that’s why
you’re in this industry then get the fuck out. Go become a football
player. Leave the design to the designers.

The solution is to go back to the basics (so to speak), make it about the design, make it about
giving the client the best, take all the sexy, beautiful, personal sites and slowly work in what makes the web that we know into the web the world will know. If you have the love, you’ll get
the business.

mschmidt, Creative Director, Adcore#section27

We are surviving just fine due to our inexhaustible supply of
Swedish-grown, Kevlar-wearing strategy consultants that we can use as
cannon-fodder if the going gets rough. If we run into problems, we’ll just fire a bunch of these puppies and watch our stock soar. It’s like printing money!

John Halcyon Styn, Digital Visionary, CockyBastard.com#section28

Well, my old company, CollegeClub.com, went bankrupt and was bought by a
competitor. My new company, CitizenX.com,  is unable to get funding and survives on its founders’ credit card debts.

To survive, I moved into a webcam House (TheRealHouse.com) to avoid paying
rent. And I subsist on a diet of potatoes and ice. The alternative would be
to get a real job … and that is unthinkable.

Craig Hockenberry, Chief Typist, The Iconfactory,
Iconfactory Design

I think our success can be attributed to two things: focusing on our
greatest talent,  and the diversity with which we apply that talent.
At the Iconfactory, we have learned to create world-class icons. Originally,
our website was a way to give away the things we loved creating. As we
played, we honed our talent. As that talent grew, so did the number of
people who were willing to pay for it.

Our talent has been expressed in many ways: in the design of our website,
in the icons we give away, in the software we sell, and in the clients we
delight. These activities may not all generate cash flow, but they do give
us great sense of satisfaction. And that is the greatest success of all.

kylie gusset, frontendgeek, gusset.net#section29

self confidence –   being able to put yourself out there, whether it be a personal site, contacting clients/future employers, or an interview. constant
learning – there’s always something to find out about
and explore (even more so when you’re in between
work).

the personal site –   importance of these has been
rammed home to me watching someone go from $500 a week
to $500 an hour, with the aid of showcasing their
skills via a personal site. unlike business sites, you
have total control to make it yours.

Derek M. Powazek, Writer, Designer, Consultant, Powazek Productions#section30

Almost five months ago, I quit a good job to write a book. It was a risky thing
to do, but I figured I could always go back to freelancing when I was done.
There’s always freelancing.

And now, with the book half done and my savings dwindling, I’m not so sure
there’ll be that much work to be had on the other side. All of my friends
in this business are suddenly looking for work. The constant stream of
clients has dwindled for some, dried up entirely for others.

Everyone I talk to is painting a brave face on this. “It’s just the
shakeout we knew was coming,” they say. “This’ll force all the
money-grubbing dotcommers out,” they say. “This is a good thing,” they say.

But I’m not so sure. Maybe I’m just being too emotional (it wouldn’t be the
first time), but I wish that we could all stop rationalizing this, just for
a while, and call it what it is: a death.

It’s the death of our webbed-out way of life. The web biz was fucked up and due for a fall, sure. But it was ours. It was out moment in the sun. And now it’s over, baby, and it will
never come back.It’s important to mourn. For a while. Then life will go on as it always does.

Daniel, Designer & Developer, Waferbaby#section31

By working for myself! Start-ups are all well and good, but I’d
rather be a free-range web monkey able to drift through the gossamer
pillows of contract work, than be tied down to www dot yournamegoeshere dot com.

Jeff Clark, Founder, Internet Brothers#section32

My fortune from the web lies in the good will of community and
the simple fact that I don’t have to do it for a living. Sorry, but a
27 year Information Technology career for a large multi-national
assures that I eat regularly and sleep indoors without having to rely
on click-throughs and design portfolios. Fallback security
engenders serenity. However, the meager supplement from
affiliations and freelance small potatoes site development has
all but dried up. I recognize the pain in the industry.

Internet Brothers was founded on the spirit of helpware –  you
have to give it back to keep it. That hallmark has been
moderately successful in branding the IB name. My day job
provides sustenance for a continued Web presence. Advancing the
motivation (learn – apply –  share) renews opportunity for growth
in the medium.

Satchell Paige said, “Don’t look behind you, they
may be gaining.” Never stop learning and communicating lest it
all becomes vapor aspiration.

carole guevin, chief imagineer, netdiver.net  –  new media portal#section33

A) I’ve been predicting/hoping for this correction for over two years.  Though
it may sound like a doomsday scenario (or at least pessimistic), the basis of this
assumption is rooted in good old business sense.  In my opinion,  any business lacking
solid R&D in the development of their business model –  for example, the precocious launch of Business to customer models –  was a complete flop.
(Boo.com/Pets.com/Mercata.com since it’s still the Business to Business
era.) The lack of sound forecasting of revenue models, over-funded start-ups
charging/spending enormous amounts of money for little/NO results,
hypermediatized, half-crazed clients who wanted a piece of the virtual pie,
all conspired to become flying elephants who were going to need a much need
back-to-reality slap somewhere in the near future.B) The true positive side is that the companies who have bellied up, who
have sold vaporware and are struggling with a board screaming for profits
are no longer our competitors! They are the compost in which we can root,
find sustenance and livelihood.  Clients are now less ignorant and more
expectant of results when expressing their web needs.  This is the right time for
the pioneers of who have slowly grown, who have been both observers and
contributors for countless hours during the emergence of the web –  those who have
kept a determined outlook and weathered all kinds of adversities (lack of
funds, lack of resources, lack of competent team players, lack of personal
life, lack of sleep).  They have become dedicated and rooted in the ever
changing demands of our industry, they understand that you can’t be all things
to every client.  They will grow from the rumbles.  Their talk is reality
talk and business is about answering one’s needs not inventing needs.  Will
the real players stand up,  please!

Mike Cina, Designer, trueistrue.com,
mikecina.com

Month six: Leave me be. I was taking a walk and I saw this silver ship on shore. ’Free Ride,’ it boasted. I quickly hopped aboard. Where I
was going, only the man upstairs knew.

Days later, the ship stopped by an island. The crew charged and threw me in the ice cold water,
then sped off.I swam to shore, not knowing what was going on. All I knew
was … I was alone.

I started finding things on the island; it looked
as if someone had lived there before me. Searching, I found
wonderful items to play with and work on. The more I looked, the more
I found. Some of the items were so cool, I stayed
up for nights playing with them. Eventually I started creating my own
things and played with them non-stop. Sometimes it was hard to sleep.Keep the boat ashore. I don’t want to come home.

Christopher Schmitt, Senior Design Technologist, MindComet#section34

Surviving the dotcom implosion very well. It helps to work for a company
that treats its employees well –  not lavishly –   but also shares concerns
openly about making sure the bottom line is met. It’s very rare to work for
a company that implores you to work smart, not hard.

Teresa Martin, COO and VP, Strategic Planning, MerlinOne, Inc#section35

My current company is MerlinOne. We develop powerful “visual asset
management solutions” –  that is, we help people store, manage, and use
collaboratively large collections of photos, graphics, PDFs, QuickTime
movies, and other visual objects. People like The New York Times, The
Chicago Sun-Times, MSNBC, Marvel Comics, Pfizer Drug, and Reebok use our
core system.

In late 1999, in mid-dotcom frenzy, we launched MerlinNet. This was to be
an e-commerce network, through which newspapers could offer prints of the
best of today’s photojournalism.  Shortly thereafter we decided an ASP
version of Merlin would also be an exciting and timely offering. Needless
to say, an e-commerce play did not take off quite as expected, and the hot
hot ASP market isn’t –  but this cycle forced us to do some good analysis
of what our strengths really were and in the harsh light of post-boom day I
think we’re actually better positioned than we were when e-commerce sounded
so sexy.

Let me explain! We first jumped into e-commerce because, well, the drumbeat
for it seemed to be everywhere and we had this great set of customers (most
of the leading newspapers in North America) who had a lot of really
incredible photography. It was visual! It was immediate! It had that little
e in its name! How could we miss? A year and many deep breaths later, we
realized that we did have a good idea, but it wasn’t quite what we thought
at first. What we had was a way to meet our customer’s needs –  a way to
help publications handle the very real issue of handling reprints through
the online medium. To have this product survive the reality wall that hit
last year meant we had to go back to fundamentals and to understand what
value both the web and our applications added. Once we did that, we
remembered again that the web is about connecting people, connecting
different physical locations, and providing a service in a distributed,
time-free way.

Getting off the ASP bandwagon was a similar healthy realization –  once we
started understanding (or remembering) the real reasons why hosting
services make sense in certain environments, we were able to identify
REAL hosted products –  including a version of both our core archive and
managment product and a new e-commerce product based on our experience with
MerlinNet and to offer them in a way that makes good business sense for
both us and our customers.

The lesson is, I think, that one doesn’t think creatively while in the
midst of a boomlet –  but that once we’ve shaken that fuzz out of our heads
we can start to move into the next (and more interesting) phase of web
development, in which the web is a truly useful component of solving very
real creative problems.

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