Should I begin biographically, and tell a story, ending with: “and now, I’m on to something new,”?
When I met Talis towards the end of 2007, I knew very little about the web, but suffered from a problem of perspective and believed I knew quite a bit.
I had just finished my first post-university job in online marketing, project-managing some pretty big site constructions and ticking lots of boxes for “new media”. I became the webby chap for a non-webby company because my degree in linguistics didn’t finish with any direction towards a career without paying more to do MA’s and certificates, or travel abroad teaching English. I focused on semantics, and found myself applying for marketing jobs in order to pay the rent. And I knew about the web.
When I was 12ish, I played around with the web a lot, using excellent tools like Netscape Composer to learn HTML and masterfully arrange content across table cells. I have a proper geek dad, who has written millions of lines of code in over a dozen languages, so some of that must have put me into a position of thinking I understood the web better than my friends (who didn’t tend to use it at all then.) I grew from that to bothering my friends about proper standards and browsers, then secretly installing Firefox on their computers.
I was kind of trying to merge the two ideas of semantics and the web into something I could wrap my head around, and started writing about some webby trends. After a few posts to ZDNet’s Web 2.0 Explorer blog, I started writing a few pieces for ReadWriteWeb, and they asked me to profile a company down the road from me called Talis. I enjoyed our introduction, and asked if I could do anything for Talis, seeing that we were virtually neighbours and we both liked semantics.
For the next 4 years, I had my perspective realigned. I quickly realised that I knew nothing whatsoever about the web. After a few months, I started to learn that I knew very little about many things. But, conversations with insightfully intelligent people made this transition exciting instead of shattering. It’s hard to say – without sounding well up oneself – something about learning helping you understand that you know less than you thought you did: insert something attributed to Socrates.
But hearing about the web from Talisians like Ian Davis, Tom Heath and Rob Styles (to name three who put up with me a lot for several years) is a good way to learn. Through Nodalities, I learned from an even wider circle of clever people, pulled together through Talis’ industry support and open nature.
Talis has been a good friend of mine, and has taught me much about the web, and left me with a much better perspective. I know – now – that I know very little about the web, technology and semantics. But I do realise that I’m better at leaning, and have had my head expanded by kind and interesting people.
Tomorrow, I will be saying farewell to my friend Talis, and will promise to keep in touch and send postcards as I move up North to Yorkshire and start living and working somewhere new.