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20070406 Friday April 06, 2007

Embracing Hats At Technorati

Wow! I'm sure the executive search announcement (Embracing Change) that Dave Sifry just posted will elicit a range of responses from the blogosphere. While I expect a lot of speculation and innuendo around it, I probably have a unique perspective owing to my three years working with Dave at Technorati (this week was my third anniversary). I'd like to share some of that perspective.

It started for me in the Spring of 2004, I was trying to figure out to do next. At the time, I was frankly very skeptical of Technorati when a friend suggested that I make that my next stop. Most of the time that I visited, the website was unavailable or had PHP errors all over the place, what a trainwreck! Maybe I can fix it.

What I expected to be a short conversation with Dave that fateful day in March 2004 turned into one that lasted for hours. After much discussion about the impact technology developments have on publishing and social discourse, I was struck by Dave's insight, inspiration and passion. In turn, I committed myself to taking what I knew about scaling web sites, learning what ever I needed to scale for the blogosphere's unique requirements and fixing the technical problems that plagued Technorati; I joined Dave to make Technorati the real time engine that would provide micropublishers with the connective tissue of community.

In the years since then, I've worn many hats. Software developer, DBA, sysadmin or whatever-it-takes; I came to Technorati determined by-any-means-necessary to sustain and improve Technorati's state of the art. The company has grown (there were about five us back then). The blogosphere has grown (there were only a few millions blogs back then). And all of us working together at Technorati have grown as people. Today, I still collaborate closely with Dave and Adam. I lead the Core Services group and work with our fabulous front end (led by Dorion) and search engineering (led by Brian) teams as an architect of Technorati's evolution. In helping lead the reshaping of Technorati's infrastructure, we've sought the right path between oft conflicted goals of flexibility, economy and run time optimization. We haven't always gotten it right. Technorati's storied episodes of instability and poor performance were often the source of much sleepless grief and perhaps opportunity costs. There have been business directions that have led our attention up some blind alleys. There have been technical errors. Project execution errors. Hiring errors. And so on. But, if I may add without being too immodest, we've done a lot of things well; I think ultimately the right things have happened. It is an honor and privilege to work with these folks, except for how wonderful my kids are, I couldn't be prouder of them!

So that brings us to where we are today and my ongoing working relationship with Dave. Dave's not going anywhere else. He may do some hat trading. But I expect to enjoy the benefits of working with him... for as long as I can!

Through good times and bad, Dave provides vision and inspiration. Synthesizing new ideas, asking tough questions and supporting the creativity and enthusiasm of all us working on Technorati, Dave is a catalyzing force. Among the principles Dave demonstrates that are important to me is internal transparency. Being open with factual matters about the company, the markets we address and the competitive landscape enables myself and others at Technorati to contribute their smarts and creativity in ways that a closed environment would never benefit from. Because that openness isn't always extended to parties outside the company, Technorati has been accused of being secretive. Well, sure. We don't answer rumors or trumpet funding events. But being judicious about external transparency is part of life; we could spend all day fielding the probes and inqueries from outside parties but to what benefit?

Throughout my years working with Dave, we've made it a point to hire only great people at Technorati. "Good" isn't good enough and "can do the job" can't; we only hire great people, period (and we've passed on a lot of good people who could ostensibly do the job if there was doubt about their greatness). It seems entirely plausible that there may be great people other than Dave who can wear the CEO hat better than he can. There might not be. I support Dave's launch of this search to find out. I'm looking forward to meeting this person; if he or she exists, there are some incredible shoes to fill (and hats and a buncha good stuff in between)! However, I expect to continue collaborating with Dave irrespective of if or when there is another CEO. Regardless of what hat he's wearing and which one I am, I'm looking forward to working with Dave towards Technorati's continued success.

So, wow! I'm posting this as an embrace of Dave, a virtual hug and an assurance of my unflagging support.

( Apr 06 2007, 12:16:22 PM PDT ) Permalink