How do you begin a piece like this?

Does it start with: “It is time to move on…”?

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.

Published by Zach Beauvais

Zach is an amateur greenwood worker, mainly carving spoons, bowls and kuksas. He's worked professionally as an online editor and community manager.

3 thoughts on “How do you begin a piece like this?

  1. Good luck and congrats for the new job. Will miss the conversations about languages and semantics. You’re clearly not the only one who learned a lot during your time at Talis 🙂

    Like

  2. If I haven’t said this before, you are an amazing writer, and I wish that I had half your talent.

    Like

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