For the past 16 months, I've been living the life of the independent. Its something I've always wanted to do and it has been fun. Fortunately, I'm in a position that I can afford to do it--the pay can be spotty (not necessarily bad, but it comes in lumps). Here's some of my activities over the past year and four months:
- I've written for InfoWorld, had a monthly column for Connect Magazine, and been working on a book about digital identity.
- I've spent a lot of time working with start-ups as a member of their advisory board, or even as a CTO for hire.
- I've done some consulting on large IT organization dynamics.
- I've spoken at a number of conferences (I was on the road 45 days last year).
- I've taught three courses at BYU
- I've served on the board of a public company (Sento)
- And I've written a lot in this blog and UtahPolitics.org
As fun as all that is, however, I've missed building things. The greatest times of my life have been the times when I was building big systems or exploring new ones. Consequently, I've been looking for the opportunity to do it again.
Over the past months, I've been quietly looking and I've had a number of offers--all of which I've turned down for one reason or another. There's only one I regret turning down, but my reasons were sound and I'd probably make the same decision. As I examine my motives for turning these opportunities down it basically comes down to the fact that I don't just like building big things, I like building my big things. Fundamentally, I think successful CTOs are usually associated with something they're passionate about and I just haven't found anything that I was so passionate about that I was willing to trade my freedom for it.
The obvious choice then would be to start a company and in fact, I've been involved in starting a few lately. Some of them were intended to remain small and they have. A few are intended to be big and perhaps they yet will be. As they mature, I'll talk more about them here. Even so, starting a company hasn't happened and part of the reason is I'm more interested in the right ideas than I am in making money. I'm not interested in starting a company just because its a good business. Its got to grab me and not let go.
At the same time, I've been finding that the more time I spend on campus, the more I realize I miss it. I have loved colleges since I saw "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" when I was 5 or 6. I got a PhD because I liked being at school. I became a professor because that was the only way to get paid to be at school. My epiphany was to realize that I realized the I could continue to do many of the things I've enjoyed over the past year (like blogging and going to conferences) and also have the opportunity to build things.
Where this is all leading to is that I've decided to rejoin the Computer Science Faculty at Brigham Young University starting May 1st. I was there for 6 years from 1993 to 1999 and love the school and the department. My lab will concentrate on what I'm calling, for now, "connected computing." Calling it distributed or networked computing has too many connotations that don't fit. I'll be hiring some grad students over the next few months and starting to build some things. I've already had some discussions with people about some interesting RSS systems we'd like to build.
I'll continue to have other interests and activities. I view this blog as a fundamental part of my activities and intend to incorporate it into my new activities. You'll probably see more posts about academics and, hopefully, some about the cool things we're building.