what is deadsquid.com all about, anyways?

I get this question a lot, and have always meant to have a short history on the subject. Here it is:

A long, long time ago, on a university campus not so far from here, a small incubator company was born. Its founders had convinced the federal government that they should try this cool new thing called the interweeb to connect schools (and their students and faculty) together. The project was called Schoolnet, and what started as a contract to architect how Schoolnet would be constructed turned into several projects and a start-up called Ingenia Communications.

Ingenia was about 4 years ahead of its time. It introduced me to this weird thing called the world wide web and an application called a web browser. The broswer was called Mosaic, but there was this derivative product called Netscape. It was so early in the game, Netscape’s download icon looked like a bunch of windchimes, followed shortly by a throbbing blue “N”. Websites were mostly text-based with the odd .gif file thrown in for some 16-colour-VGA-palette goodness, and gopher was a protocol, not an employee or friend. But I digress…

It was a cool company, and to this day I look at it as the starting point for my “real” career. I had run my own consulting company for five years prior to joining Ingenia, and while I enjoyed it greatly, the work I did after was on a whole different scale. Since working there, I’ve worked for a whack of big companies, including one where I reported into the corporate executive of the largest private corporation in the Western world, and Ingenia is still the place I look back to as my roots.

I’m still good friends with the majority of people who worked there, and talk to a chunk of them on a daily basis (in fact, there’s a whole bunch of them who lurk on deadsquid and pintday). It rocked, and we had a lot of fun in the sandbox and at Auriga.

Ingenia was the greatest collection of raw talent under one roof I’ve ever been a part of. Unfortunately, we were also one of the youngest. When your company has over eighty employees, and the average age is under 24, you’re in for some rocky times. We hit those times, and the company ended going through an acquisition to save it, and a number of people got burned in the process.

That leads directly into why deadsquid.com was originally created.

In the year before being acquired by Software Kinetics (who was later gobbled up by xwave, who was eaten by Aliant, who got acquired by BCE), there was close to 50% staff turnover. For a number of those leaving, departure was an awful experience for more than a few. Our executive was inexperienced in the ways of people, and were fiercely proud and protective of what had been created (and rightly so, in a lot of cases). A number of those leaving were made to feel like traitors, and a number of long-standing friendships were casualties.

In spite of that, those who did leave wanted to stay in touch with the really cool group of people they had become friends with. It was decided a mailing list was a good idea, and the only requirement for admission to the list was that you were an ex-employee of Ingenia.

Ingenia’s logo was supposed to be “indicative of a wake created by a moving particle”, and the whole rationale behind it’s corporate identity can be found here. Most of the folks inside the company looked at the logo, and figured it looked a hell of a lot more like a squid than a light particle. Who the hell knows what a particle wake looks like, anyways (and can you drink at them)?

Warning - tangent ahead… Let this be a lesson to those companies looking to create a brand for themselves: If your designer uses a silver, spray-painted, plastic lunchbox as his briefcase, you deserve what you get. For more lessons on how to run your own company, please read this handy guide. Ok, back to our story.

We needed a domain name, and this was before squatters got silly and took everything (oh how I wish I had purchased furniture.com then). Going back to the logo that looked like a squid, Keith Ajmani and I were exchanging emails, and he said we should call it “Cult of the Dead Squid”. After all , the company was pretty much dead, but there were a lot of folks who still wanted to gather. It made sense at the time.

And thus, deadsquid.com was born. I registered the domain (or maybe Keith did and transferred it to me, I can't remember), and hosted the service on my luvley little SGI Challenge S in my apartment on Kilborne Place (connected as Bell ADSL customer #7). The mailing list had between 30-50 people on it during its life (it’s still alive, it just hasn’t been used in a vewry long time), and was used by folks to stay in touch. It was also used to vent a ridiculous amount of bitterness, and we lost a number of folks who got tired of people getting over the whole mess.

I have pretty complete archives of the whole damn thing. Scary, no? The mailing list itself was called “exgenia”, a name coined by Ray Canton, who was one of our designers and always had a “last night, I got drunk, and I met these chicks…” story for anyone who would listen.

So, that’s how deadsquid.com started out. It was a play on the squid-like logo of Ingenia to capture the idea of a company lost to its inexperience, but kept alive by the folks who worked their asses off in an attempt to make it succeed. The angst is pretty much gone today, and a bunch of us have gone our seperate ways, but a core group stays in touch on a regular basis (working and Mozilla has further cemented those, and Facebook helps, too!). That’s the power of the web, and all of us got that back in the early nineties, and continue to get it today.

Today, deadsquid.com is a small ISP for friends and family, offering web services, mail services, and other fun internet-based applications soley for our entertainment. We’ve been trucking along for over a decade and a half, and I have no intention of stopping.

So that’s the deal.