Hello to all LWN readers! For the tenth anniversary of LWN,
I've been dragged out of my closet to say a few words. Am I
stunned that LWN is still going after 10 years? Not really.
Much more stunning to me is the realization that the number
of years LWN has been published without me are now almost double the number
of years it was published with me. That is much harder to get over.
As a result, all new readers from 2002 on have no reason to
know who I am or what I've written in the past. For those of
you that remember me and have asked about me, thank you and rest assured
that I haven't forgotten you either.
My name is Elizabeth Coolbaugh (Liz) and I was there for the very
first issue as well as many issues that
followed in 1998 through 2001. I've always said it was the very best
job I ever had. I wish for all of you, if you haven't experienced it
yet, a job where your first weeks of work are greeted with happy,
enthusiastic letters. As the years went by, letters of praise, though
much sparser, never totally ceased. You couldn't have a better
incentive to work harder and harder!
Jon has done an excellent job of going over the history of the first
few years already, so all I can add is some tidbits or personal viewpoints.
I'll mention that for me, the start of LWN was actually back in
the early 1980's, when Jon, Becky and I came together as a programming
team in the then infamous "Assembly Language Programming" class offered
through the Engineering School at CU Boulder. We got a chance to
experience lots of late nights, interesting hardware experiences
and how to keep going with pizza, chocolate, caffeine, etc. That is
a good way to get to know your future business partners. Jon and Becky
never let me down and we all found different strengths to add to the mix.
Forrest was around, too, though not working with us directly at the time.
Jon mentioned that I was between jobs at the time we began. In fact,
I had left NCAR three months pregnant. I loved working at NCAR for
many, many years, but I had always said that I would leave it when the
work stopped being fun. It actually stopped being fun about two years
before that, but I had weathered rough times before and waited to make
sure the situation wasn't going to turn-around before choosing to move
on. The challenge of a new baby on the way (and the continuing challenge
of the Multiple Sclerosis that eventually led to my departure from LWN)
finally made it "the right time".
So I'd actually had most of a year off to recuperate, re-organize,
have a baby and test the job market waters. What I wanted was a job
that used my professional skills and yet was part-time, to help me
keep the health I'd regained. What a pipe-dream! Companies that
would have gladly recruited me full-time just tossed my resume into
the nearest recycle bin. The nicer ones told me to go out and find
someone else with identical skills who wanted to job-share a full-time
job and they would be willing to consider the possibility. Not
So when Jon and I were having lunch and he suggested we might be
able to work together to create something giving me what I wanted
and allowing him to eventually leave NCAR, it seemed to be the
right idea at the right time. I never regretted the decision, but
in fact, I had a full-time working spouse to cushion the decision.
Brandon's reaction (my husband) to becoming the sole support of the
family and a new father in one fell swoop was a little different
-- much like a deer full-blinded by headlights.
In the spirit of true confessions, though I had fifteen years experience
in the computing field and had worked with many different operating
systems, VMS and Solaris being primary, I'd never actually touched a
Linux system. Jon's unwavering belief in my ability to pick it all
up in a heartbeat was both daunting and encouraging at the same time.
So I installed my first Linux system only three or four months before
we first started publishing. It did give me a fresh, unbiased view
of the whole community, though. Okay, not totally unbiased. I did
sit on the emacs side of the whole emacs/vi war.
To get started, I subscribed to say, a hundred different newsgroups
and mailing lists full of people I'd never met, topics I'd never heard
of and flame wars I didn't care to read. It was truly a new skill to
develop to learn to skim through them searching for the topics people
cared about, the posts that actually carried real information and gently
lift each little kernel of "news" out and place in into the newsletter,
then wait to hear how well I'd done.
The response was totally overwhelming. I will never, ever forget
the emails we received those first couple of months. New people were
finding us each week and so the responses kept coming in. They drove
me to try and make my contributions worthy of the praise they sent.
It is because of those emails that I'm not surprised LWN is still out
there today. People wanted and needed what we had to offer. Jon's
vision of what people liked and wanted has always been clear and that
is another important piece of why LWN is still going strong.
My take on the Red Hat Support fiasco: I have no hard feelings.
Although my work as a systems administrator had always included supporting
people and I had enjoyed the interaction, I had no idea what I was getting
into offering 24 hour support from my home. Just as my daughter was
getting old enough to give me a full-night's sleep, I was getting
phone calls at 2am and 3am, having to wake up to a fully alert state
and go into emergency fix-it mode. I'm surprised I survived until all
the contracts we had sold finally expired. In the long run, Red Hat's
ideas gave us the courage to start our own business and since writing
for LWN was what I learned to love, I consider the end result to
have worked out for the best. I also carefully noted for the future
that telephone support work was definite going to be a last resort
for any future career moves.
Meanwhile, since the few contracts we had didn't bring in enough to
pay the bills, let alone enough to support Jon's full-time entry, I
also did contract work as a technical writer, remote or on-site
administration of Linux for some local companies and I don't even
remember what else. Eventually, Jon had to take the risk, forgo
waiting for a reliable income and quit his day job in order to
increase the income stream. Note that his early work on LWN was
always done in addition to continuing his full-time job and trying to
increase our income stream at the same time. No wonder he got grumpy
if I was out sick or worse, got to head to a fun Linux conference,
leaving him to pick up the slack! Of course, it was terrifying in
turn for me when the situation reversed and Jon was unavailable.
Picking up the kernel page for the week? Ack! I didn't usually
complain. Instead, I kept my head low, worked hard and hoped not to
see too many corrections or criticisms come in.
It was wonderful for both Jon and I when we were finally able to add
Becky to the mix. I think initially we were only able to scrape up
enough to pay her for 10 hours a week, but every hour helped. I haven't
forgotten, Becky (okay, it should be Rebecca, but she'll always be
Becky to me), the hours you put in at a very low rate of pay. Of course,
we did pay you first -- the downside to being the business owners
Over the course of the next couple of years, we continued to bring
in our income from other sources. We did actually initiate putting
some advertising on our site and it brought in a tiny amount of
money, but the bread and butter of the company continued to be contract work
done in addition to the weekly publication. That included our
most successful side foray, building and teaching Linux classes.
What else did I love about LWN? I so enjoyed the friendships I made
throughout so many different communities. Will Rogers once said he
never met a man he didn't like. Well, I've met many! But truly,
in all the years I worked for LWN, I never met anyone I didn't like.
Sometimes people I liked said things or did things that I didn't like,
but underneath it, they were all good people, smart, idealistic and
very strongly opinionated. That was part of what I liked and enjoyed,
so I never held people's opinions against them.
The conferences I attended and at which I spoke were like the
icing on the cake. I got to meet in-person people I had only
come to know through newsgroups and mailing lists or occasionally
personal correspondence. I got to meet even more people and
share in the excitement. And yes, I do remember the late nights
going out for food, drink and conversation with you -- the Atlanta
Showcase, LinuxWorld San Jose, Embedded Systems Conference San Jose,
LinuxWorld New York, the Colorado Linux Info Quest and
the Singapore Linux Conference. Each one provides me with
rich memories. My trip out to Singapore was one high-point.
So many good and wonderful people and such a wonderful experience.
I thought it was to be the first of many international conferences that
I would be attending and I am still so sad that it was my last.
I particularly regret never making it out to any of early Linux
conferences in India, despite invitations.
Professionally, though, the highlight of the work was actually
developing myself as a journalist, rather than a computer expert.
I enjoyed researching more in-depth articles. When rumors
floated my way, I loved actually going out and contacting the
people involved first hand by telephone -- short-circuiting
email and the rest, to discuss the issues and get their first-hand
viewpoints. Since our community wasn't exactly hounded by the
media back then, everybody actually wanted to talk to me and was more
than happy to give me the straight scoop, instead of just seeing themselves
misquoted elsewhere the next day, with the resultant flames.
Best of all, I was occasionally
able to get the sources of both sides of a controversy together and
talk. I can think of at least twice where problems got resolved
as a result, people got together and I got the scoop on a story
the next day that had literally changed as a result of my work.
Very heady stuff.
Jon has already done an excellent job of covering our experience with
the dot-com bubble, so I won't add to his description. It was truly a
unique life experience that we enjoyed to the fullest, knowing that
another like it was unlikely to come by us again. We were very
fortunate in our decisions and I agree that the people at Tucows were
extremely good to us.
Well, at this point, all this happened a long time ago. I had a great
time and regret nothing I did, only the things I didn't get time to
do. For those who have asked after me personally, be assured that
health-wise, giving up my job was again the right choice at the right
time and I'm doing much, much better than I was in August of 2001.
You're still not likely to see me back any time in the near future. I
focus my research skills now-a-days on tracking traditional and
alternative medical discoveries, implementing what seems good to me
and serving as an ad-hoc resource for other family members. Oh yes,
and serving as a chauffeur to my daughter, who is now ten years old,
just as LWN is. Take care, all of you, remember to be proud of what
you are achieving and *always* have fun doing it. I stand by my
opinion that when work ceases to be fun, it is time for a change.
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