Gutenberg…

Whenever people ask me what I like most about my job at DreamHost, I invariably think of Johannes Gutenberg.

Gutenberg

Gutenberg was a German goldsmith who pioneered mechanical printing in the 1400′s. His inventiveness took the power of the pen – for good or for bad – and amplified it, fostering a spread of knowledge that, ultimately, resulted in a burgeoning Renaissance.

The impact this had on science, business, technology and the overall democratization of knowledge that come with it cannot be overstated, even though Gutenberg himself would benefit little from it personally in his lifetime.

Printing Press

This is, of course, not to compare DreamHost itself to Mr. Gutenberg – we’re just a web hosting company with a penchant for free pizza and off-the-wall jokes that people sporadically find amusing.

And, when you get down to it, the reality of the situation is that most of our customers opt to use the power of the ‘printing press’ that we offer to publish pictures of their cats, indulge in navel gazing or publish rants embued with varying degrees of coherence. Among, well, other things.

The beauty of this, though, is that each and every one of these things is important to somebody, somewhere, for some reason. Even if it’s just the author and a select handful of readers.

Taken at their face, this may not seem like much – but I believe it is actually pretty important.

  • While most people couldn’t care less about someone else’s cat, forever will there exist a memory of a beloved pet that can be looked at years later. Self-publishing has caused people to treasure the little things that enrich their lives – and, from time to time, enrich others as well (the rise of digital photography owes a lot to the fact that people can now so easily share their creations with others, for instance).
  • While the web’s penchant for facilitating so-called navel gazing garners criticism at times, I believe that this, too, serves a purpose. The more we explore our own thoughts and ideas and allow others to peek into our world, the better our relationships with those people will be. I, for one, am happy to see the web evolve into a tool to connect people. It has become a humanizing technology.
  • Those rants that annoy so many also serve as an outlet of sorts. For many, writing is in itself a way to explore ideas. It links people with similar ideas and – yet – exposes people to a vast marketplace of ideas. If nothing else, we could always use more ideas.
  • As for those “other things”, well, I’ll leave those to someone else. We’ve hosted some pretty weird stuff over the years.
Cats!
Picture of my cats – because I can…

While we at DreamHost are ultimately a commercial entity and benefit in kind, I like to think that we’ve played a small but important role in facilitating the free-flowing transfer of ideas and creative expression across the Internet. Good ideas, bad ideas, those that are well thought out and those that could use a little refinement.

I’m quite proud to have been even just a small part of all this.

It’s for that reason, really, that I’ve had mixed feelings in the weeks since deciding to leave the company for other pursuits. When you’re proud of what you do and you’ve been doing it for nearly a decade, that’s a tough decision to make.

And now, finally, I’ve reached the last few hours of my employment here. While I’ve got some personal projects in the works that I’m excited about (shameless plug: one of which may be of particular interest to Spore players, once it’s ready: PanSporea) – and I’m certainly looking forward to sleeping in – it’s going to take me a while to get used to not being a part of it all.

While I’ve already thanked most of the great people whom I’ve had the pleasure to work with, I would like to again express my gratitude toward the DreamHost Honchos (Dallas, Sage, Josh and Michael) in particular for their support and for building this great company in the first place.

I also want to thank my fellow co-workers, both past and present, who made the experience so much fun. I’ll miss you all.

Finally, I want to thank our customers for filling our servers up with all sorts of interesting and peculiar things and generally making the web as a whole a more entertaining and useful place. I still get a huge kick any time I run across a really cool site only to scroll down and find a link to DreamHost (something that has become increasingly common in recent years). We’d be nothing without you.

Nor, for that matter, the inspiration of a certain Mr. Gutenberg.

PS: For those of you in or around southern California, you can see an original Gutenberg Bible at the Huntington Library in San Marino. It’s definitely worth the trip (the botanical gardens are also pretty impressive).