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So long and thanks for all the fish

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy February 26, 2021
Some reflections on the past as I cheerily wave goodbye

head up ass gapingvoid

It's finally come. I'm retiring after a career swirling around technology that spans 51 years, eight of which have been around diginomica. It's a bittersweet moment.

Many people, including immediate colleagues, never thought they'd see the day. Many have said: "I don't believe it." My long-suffering partner remains skeptical. But this is for reals. 

I've long wondered whether my real-life epitaph might read: "He ran out of things to say, some people are pleased about that,"  but it didn't come to that. At least not so far.

If I have any talent at all, it's knowing in my heart when my time is up and today is that day. It's happened before when I was more finance-focused, so I know this is both the right thing to do and the right time to walk away.

Before heading into the metaphorical sunset, I want to extend a warm and heartfelt thanks to all the readers, commenters, colleagues, and friends who've been an integral part of my story. 

To my fellow partners in grime crime - Phil, Stuart, Jon, and Derek, especially - thanks for putting up with me all these years. diginomica could not be what it is without you all. It's been a blast providing opportunities that would not otherwise be possible. I've always respected and admired the different yet complementary talents you bring to the table, even in those moments when I didn't get what you told me or I threw a tantrum disagreed for whatever half-arsed reason was floating through my mind at the time. I now get to admire your efforts from afar and you all get stress relief

diginomica is so much more than the sum of its parts. Contrary to many media firms, diginomica isn't a motley collection of individuals who happen to produce content but a tribe of thousands with a shared purpose and shared values that extend to all those who contribute to its success. That's gold right there. 

Looking back, I could never have imagined just how well this firm would not only work out but thrive, attracting some of the brightest and talented tech media writers and analysts, none of whom are afraid to take positions that challenge the accepted tech media narrative. I am in no doubt that diginomica will achieve incredible things as it goes forward. You're all stars that shine bright in what I frequently find to be the dreary firmament of enterprise software schlock media. It's been a joy following your analyses on the many topics diginomica covers.


When we put this thing of ours together, we broke a mold that plagues tech media. We collectively understood that the ad-driven tech media model was irretrievably broken and developed a different way to generate revenue using a specific type of media partnership no-one else in the industry grasped, let alone replicated. As time passed, we continue to find  ways to refine the model, recognizing that relationships are multi-faceted, requiring nuanced approaches. 

Today, I'm proud of the emails we routinely see from partners that express the value diginomica brings to the table. We don't talk about those in the public domain, but each one represents an opportunity to celebrate shared success. Today, that's in no small measure due to Alex's sterling effort in nurturing those relationships.

None of this would be possible without the acts of faith that individual C-suite officers and a precious few others put into what we created. I am forever grateful, but I hesitate to name names. If you're reading this, then you know who you are. 

My journey on this road may be over, but I will forever cherish those relationships. I especially remember the furious exchange of emails that went between myself and a certain CTO in the middle of a Saturday night eight years ago. It went something like this:

Me: Heh, we've got this idea to do a venture that looks something like this, but I need you to partner with us.
CTO: Count me in.
Me: Really? But it's going to be expensive. 
CTO: It doesn't matter; count me in. I'll tell XXX to work with you on it. 

And with that, we were off to the races.

From the very beginning, we set out with the idea that to succeed, we have to ignore everybody and suck less every day. We still think that way. These are not new ideas, but one of them stuck with me to the point where I named my own business Suxless Daily Ltd much to my accountants' and lawyers' amusement. Turning that on its head, I look forward each week to reading Jon's Whiffs in his Hits and Misses. Some of them are belly bustingly funny. Many are a sad reflection of some of the worst in the tech industry.  

software eats the world
(Hugh MacLeod)

We also teased folk from time to time with the idea of #evilplans. Again, not a new concept and one I stole from my good friend, cartoonist Hugh MacLeod of gapingvoid, along with quite a few of his cartoons as illustrations for some stories - like this one. Hugh is a constant source of inspiration, and if you can get past some of his sharp-edged humor, then the messages he conveys make total sense. He is one in a million.

In summary, I leave diginomica behind feeling profoundly blessed to have had the all too rare opportunity of working alongside some of the very best and talented people in the industry. 

If I have any advice to offer those who will continue the diginomica story - don't try walking in my shoes. It's painful.

That's about all I've got other than to say that my immediate plans are to sleep as long as I like, learn more about cooking and especially preserving foods, build and paint 1/35 scale armored vehicles (I've got three in progress and 18 more in my 'stash'), and spend a LOT of time with my large and expanding family, COVID restrictions permitting. I've got a lot of years away to catch up with them.

I also want to continue pursuing an interest in taking great train journeys. A few years ago, we did the Prague to London leg of the Orient Express. It's a once-in-a-lifetime, otherworldly treat in the Agatha Christie tradition. We've done the Bernina Express in the Swiss Alps - although express is hardly a word I'd use to describe traveling on a train that doesn't go much above 45kph. While in the US, I traveled on the San Diego to LA Pacific Surfliner a few times, another beautiful, leisurely journey. The Paris to Laval ride on TGV and the Cordoba to Madrid RENFE journey are amazing. Marseilles to Nice will take your breath away, as will the ride between Geneva and Zurich. 

The next journey will be from close to home in the north of England, across the Yorkshire Dales, skirting southern Lakeland and then up to Glasgow for the route to Mallaig and on to the Isle of Skye. Even though it's only about 400 miles, it will take a good 11-12 hours each way. It represents a sensory overload of the best that the mainland British countryside offers, punctuated by traversing some of Victorian-era engineering's most remarkable feats. 

And with that - keep reading diginomica, sign up for the daily or weekly newsletter, stay safe, have fun, get your vaccination when you can. 

Howlett out.

Image credit - all images via Hugh MacLeod

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