A new chapter
In the Fall of 2017, Sue Cooper , my wife, co-founder, and business partner, and I sold our 25-year-old interaction design consulting company to Wipro, an Indian tech services company.
Any entrepreneur who has struggled to find an exit strategy for a service company understands that the sale did not make us rich, but Sue and I are set for retirement if we are careful.
I expected that the new owners would want my ongoing participation and assistance in merging the companies. But the acquiring company chose to work just with Cooper’s executive team, and they did not include me in their operations or planning.
Around that time, I was engaged with a series of speaking engagements that took Sue and me around the world so we were too busy to help, anyway. Then, after our final transcontinental flight, we were ready for a well-earned hiatus. That hiatus slid easily into retirement.
I have many friends and acquaintances in the high tech world who struggle with retirement. When the phone stops ringing, it scares them. When they find themselves edged off of the business stage, they feel forgotten, powerless, useless. Not me! I love to play and can entertain myself for years making things and learning things. I love being retired!
In my last couple of years of work I became interested in the ethical challenges of the tech industry. I formulated a framework for ethical behavior that I called Ancestry Thinking. I was fortunate enough to join forces with a brilliant young designer named Renato Verdugo to develop this line of thinking. Together, we gave some talks, spoke some speeches, and taught a couple of semesters at University of California at Berkeley on the topic.
Our philosophical bedrock was the belief that individual practitioners could influence the ethical behavior of larger corporations. Sadly, the actions of corporations — and the governments they have purchased — has cast a shadow over our work. Metaphorically, I say it’s like doing origami in a house afire. It doesn’t matter how good you are at folding paper, it’s going to catch fire along with everything else. That is, no matter how ethical any individual behaves, the economic forces of trillion dollar companies will suborn them all.
I believe that Ancestry Thinking is still valid, but it won’t be relevant until we vanquish the system that allows gross social and economic inequality to persist. Sadly, I find my work in this area has ground to a halt.
In light of these events, my Medium blog, the one you are reading right now, has fallen silent. I have not posted to it for over a year. While I’m still active on Twitter, I find that my tweet threads grow repetitive, whiney, and even I grow bored with them.
I am having lots of fun on Monkey Ranch, our paradise in Petaluma California. I have a huge, well-equipped workshop and have a thousand ongoing projects in metal, wood, plastic, electronics, paper, and the nourishing soil. As a maker, I watch an ever-increasing number of maker videos on YouTube. Naturally, I’ve been inspired to become a maker video maker, too, so I’m learning how to film my projects. It turns out that making a video of a construction project is more work than the project itself! But I’m really enjoying the process. It’s complex and demanding, easy to start but hard to master. Every new video I make is better than the last one, or at least that’s how it feels to me.
Our new side business is hosting events on the Ranch. These events include corporate offsites, civic meetings, classes, parties, and hosting film crews for the making of commercials and music videos. But primarily, it’s weddings. Rustic ranch weddings are very popular right now and our funky little ranch has a lot to offer as a wedding venue. It’s fun to share our land with others and help young people throw the party of their lives.
I will probably write more on this blog about interaction design and software development practice, but I’ve decided that I am going to post more…lifestyle stuff. You are welcome to unsubscribe if you so choose.
For several years I maintained a sort of photo diary on Tumblr. It was personal and contained lots of entries about my maker projects, my travels, my cat, and Monkey Ranch. I abandoned it in 2016 as Tumblr became increasingly difficult to use and began its inevitable decline. But over the years I posted some interesting stories on it. Since it changed ownership recently, I expect they will shut it down soon, and those stories will be lost, so I’m reposting a few select entries here. I hope you find them interesting.
As always, your feedback is important to me, so let me know your thoughts in the comments. Thank you.