A (round-about) story about Jeffry P. Bezos

The following is what i wrote on “43people.com” about the boss. I thought it was worth keeping in my own archives, since it’s actually a story about my life as it pertains to Mr. Bezos.

Back a few years ago, I was taking some classes down in Edmonds. The one I’m thinking of in particular was on the care and feeding of unix. We were using red hat linux 6.0 or some crufty version that wasn’t so crufty at the time.

Anyway, the prof didn’t require that we buy any books, but he made some suggestions. And he also suggested that we buy them on this new fangled “Internet” thing through a few of his friends down south in Seattle at this place called Amazon.com.

And thus was my introduction to O’Reilly and Associates. I soon thereafter bought a book called “Open Sources.” It quickly shaped my outlook on life and the way I viewed software, information and communication. The professor of the class told me that O’Reilly and Amazon got along quite well and that Amazon sold mostly technical books. I thought to myself “self, it might be fun to meet some of the folks at Amazon and maybe even take a job there.”

And that was about as far as I got on that train of thought before I hopped off and got distracted by the shiny bling of 3dfx and internet service providing. During this distracted period of my life (as opposed to the many and varied distracted periods that followed), I spent many an hour curled up in a comfy chair reading books published by Tim and friends that I bought from Amazon.

Then there was a period of weeping and gnashing of teeth when everyone got disillusioned by the whole humanity taking advantage of the VCs that funded development of the intarwebs thing.

I was happy to note that neither O’Reilly nor Amazon tanked during this period. This seemed like a well planned and well executed failure to fail.

After the fall of civilization, I found myself living in a social nexus called “Fey Abbey.” My fellow residents and the visitors were very supportive; I learned quite a bit about building intentional community, social networking, and the connectness of all things living.

I came up with some ideas about integrating these social networks with computational networks. I never implemented any of them to much extent, but shortly after I shared the ideas with the hive mind, sites like “friendster.com,” “tribe.net,” and “orkut.com” started showing up. Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps I had merely “tapped the zeitgeist” as Jeff is wont to say.

Either way, it taught me something about one’s involvement in community and the impact that such involvement triggers, in whatever direction the impact happens to travel.

But back to the story. I kept O’Reilly’s and Amazon.com’s success in mind as I delivered pizzas, sewed my wild oats, and dreamed of returning to the life of high technology.

I mentioned it to one of my confidantes and she said to me “get thee to a computery!” or something not unlike this, so, with her help and the help of my network of friends, I did. And shortly thereafter, but after more time than I would have liked at the time, I had an offer to take a contract working for Mr. Bezos and his company.

The contract went well; I learned a lot, and I like to think I imparted much wisdom, but rather than riding it out until the bitter end, I took some time to train with some Europeans on how to make software that lasts much longer than anyone would have expected (and maybe hoped).

I returned to the doors of Amazon.com barely a year later with resume in hand, some ideas that I wanted to implement, and a great deal more experience. The folks with whom I interviewed fought hard to get me on their team, hinting that the group would be getting close attention from senior members of staff.

So here I am, working with a crack team to build the pet projects of “senior members of amazon staff.” It’s challenging work, but it’s work that I’ve been intending to get done for a few years now. If I read him right, I think Jeff has many of the same ideas about software and perhaps the world as do I. Perhaps I’ll talk to him about it tomorrow night…

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