It’s Like Working in a Record Store

Here I am, posting for the first time in a very long time, which is kind of a shame as I had been meeting my at-least-one-post-a-week schedule for a while. Here’s the story:

A few months ago, I decided that it might be time for me to change jobs. While I had learned a lot working with both my client and my staffing agency, I felt there really wasn’t anything exciting on the horizon. The project I was working on was described as “wholly unremarkable” by Gizmodo, which I thought was about right.

The biggest issue for me, however, was the structure of the development organization. The people who created ideas and the people who implemented ideas were never the same people, by design. And while there was a possible opportunity for me to move into doing more idea creation and less implementation, I don’t want to go post-technical yet.  I like writing code.

I did enjoy playing the role of full-on code monkey and improving my chops at the bottom of things. I’m a much better hands on-coder now than I was.  Not only do I write better code than I used to, I’m better at talking about code. I did a handful of presentations on the whole tdd/refactoring/code qualities/design patterns universe. Trust me: nothing helps you understand where your weaknesses are better than having a room full of developers asking you tough questions about a new concept. I also got to do SDET stuff for a while, which is something that all developers should do from time to time (I have more to say on that concept in a later post).

Anyway, I cautiously started looking for something new. I put the RSS feed of a Craigslist job search into my Google Reader and waited. I only responded to a small handful of listings that seemed like interesting companies. One company could have been really good for me, but they were planning on moving from Fremont to East Bellevue. While I don’t want to come across as the latte-drinking Seattle snob that I probably am, I’ve really come to enjoy not driving to work and I’m seriously not ready to ride my bike from Ballard to Bellevue.

And then, one day, this comes up in my RSS reader:

Be a .NET Developer for Cheezburger ( (Lower Queen Anne, Seattle)
Help us make the intarwebs a better tube for millions as we develop some amazing tools and features (we’re more than just a blog under this fur!).

I’m not even huge lolcat fan, but I have realized that I’m an internet culture person. I read in an article about Internet Trolls (which I’m not, just to be clear) that their favorite video game is Portal and their favorite TV show is House. I thought “Oh no! That’s me!”. Besides the Portal/House connection, I blog (of course), have a Flickr stream, I subscribe to few dozen RSS feeds, I listen to streaming radio on my chumby. I listen to podcasts on my iphone. I use facebook/linkedin/twitter to keep in touch with people. Heck, even the times that I specifically unplug from the network (NaNoWriMo and ScriptFrenzy) are essentially internet culture things that happen largely asynchronously.

So, after three weeks of working to make the intarwebs a better tube, what’s life like at the Cheezburger factory? It’s like working in a record store, only for internet geeks instead of music geeks. There’s still a lot of real work that needs to be done, but it all essentially centers around helping people do a better job of wasting time online. Or, if you want to take more uplifting view on it: we make a few hundred thousand people happy for a few minutes every day.

Besides just being in a position to both create ideas and implement ideas, the favorite part of my job is when we get together for Thai food on Thursdays and just talk. We talk about our favorite webcomics (in what would come as a surprise to nobody, Garfield minus Garfield and XCKD are both universally loved). We wonder aloud what kind of people will come to the Fail blog meetup. Someone noticed the “NEDM” inscription on a picture of Happy Cat. It turns out that “NEDM” is an acryonym from the YTMND community which stands for “Not Even Doom Music”, which is to say that something is so horrible that not even the soundtrack from Doom can redeem it.  Yeah, Internet geeks, srsly.

One specifically cool thing about working here is that all of the infrastructure is on the cloud. There’s esesentially no LAN. We use gmail and google docs instead of exchange/office. We use the Mercurial distributed source control system. We use ReviewBoard for code reviews online. The result? I can work just about as well from home or from a coffee shop or from Europe (as one of our developers does) as I can from the office.

And now that things have settled down, I’m renewing my pledge to keep a blog posting schedule and try to write at least one thing worth reading every week.  Wish me luck.

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