A Farewell to Arms

My daughter tells me I’ll never pull off this post. Her initial reaction was, “OMG, please don’t ruin a classic piece of Literature!” Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms was, according to Wikipedia, “Considered by some critics to be the greatest war novel of all time.” It’s about young Lieutenant Frederic Henry, an American ambulance driver serving in the Italian army during World War I. The book takes several twists and turns including Henry getting wounded and spending time on the front where he is caught in a bombardment by enemy forces. How does Frederic Henry relate to me? Why through Monty Python and the Holy Grail, of course.

Stay with me. Arm #1 = Web 1.0. (aka dotcom bust)

This beloved platform we’ve come to know as the Internet has been brutally battling me for ten years now. In the 1.0 era, I got swept up in the irrational exuberance and joined a company where I swiftly suffered several personal economic blows when the company I joined went out of business and I lost all my savings on investments that tanked and I was rendered unemployed by the eventual bankruptcy of the startup I joined.  (Ouch.)

Arm #2 – Web 2.0. (aka socialweb)

Fast-forward to 2006, I came back into the workforce after a nice, long break. About that time, I was once again swept up in the excitement over web 2.0 and what these incredible changes could mean for business. I discovered some smart folks talking about Enterprise 2.0 and was hooked. I blogged about being on the front lines of a valiant battle (Like Frederic Henry), ready to charge the hill of corporate complacency. This new wave of enterprise transformation is even more exciting to me than the hysteria that whipped up during the late 90s. I sailed past the third anniversary of this blog this month. Shortly before the Christmas holiday, I found out I was being laid off. Around that time, I also found out that because of the mudslide in housing values, I had lost virtually all the equity in my home I’d been unable to sell in NJ and now bear the burden of my own toxic asset.  So, web 2.0 is turning out to be more seriously damaging to me financially than 1.0 was. (And I didn’t think that was possible.) I’m writing this candid view into my personal life to explain why I am still ready to keep fighting.

Call me ignorant, call me a sentimentalist, but I believe in the power of the Internet to change the world. There, I said it. Leveraging technology to change the world for the better has been a lifelong ambition of mine. It’s the reason I chose computer science for a career and pursued a career in technology. For a long while, I spent most of my days in tech driving toward improved quarterly earnings for one company or another.  In 2009, everything is changing.  Technology has been such a powerful force in uniting people around the globe, and the impact the participative social web has had on the global political stage is unprecedented in modern history. There’s a lot that folks born in my generation that grew up in the 60s and 70s aspired to achieve.  The technology platform our global tribe is creating will enable those idealistic dreams of youth. But, like Obama says, there is much more work to do. One half of the world’s population has still not made a telephone call, yet tools are getting in the hands of people who can really make a difference. This simply thrills me.

So to those who would tell me to just give up, to admit defeat, to look for a new, more stable occupation, I say, “Bollocks. It’s just a flesh wound.” I just have to make sure the lights on my cable modem don’t go dark.

LinkedIn Pay it Forward Day


If you’re of a certain age, you know what it’s like to live through company layoffs. It’s pure hell. Paranoia lays a weird filter over every intra-company experience. If you know someone who got laid off, you just feel awful for them. At least I do. With the economy pumping out more and more bad news, the likelihood that you or someone you know will be laid off increases every day. TechCrunch has even started tracking the demise in the tech sector. So. What I suggest is we take a pro-active step in making the transition a little smoother for at least one person (more is better!) in our social network– should it unfortunately happen to them.

I’d like to establish Wednesday, October 29, 2008 LinkedIn Pay it Forward Day. It’s simple, choose one person in your social network and write a LinkedIn recommendation for them on that day. Everyone has worked with someone in their network who is deserving of a positive recommendation. The randomness of the recommendation will make it satisfying for you and the recipient.

There’s not much we can do collectively to arrest the hemorrhaging in our economy, but we can take a few charitable actions to assist others who are affected by it.