A few weekends back, the founders of WebTV threw a 10th anniversary/reunion party for all of the company's original employees. It was amazing to see so many people who were once part of my everyday life, and to cast back to those years when the job was still really fun (our frequent complaining aside).
The day after the party, I started to do some (very soft) math, and realized that I can trace about 80% of my Bay Area friends (still here or far-flung) back to WebTV. Off the top of my head: Otis, Jed, DaveG, Jenney, Josh, another Josh, Geoff, another Geoff, Jeff, Eric, Renee, Erfert, Melissa, another Eric, yet another Eric, Stephen, Elissa, Kumi, Shayne, Daryl, Charlie, Sai, Sloo, Andy, Monica, Marcus, Joe, Jos, Chris, Scott, Adam, Deb.... No other aspect of my life--not childhood, not Vassar, not IFFCON, not NAPO--has netted me such a take.
Clearly, I had little enough love for what the company had become by June 2004 (which is to say, indistinguishable from the rest of Microsoft) to want out, and to make good on that desire. But it bears remembering that once upon a time, we got free lunch every Friday, and had knock-down, drag-out fun parties, and spent endless hours with our colleagues outside of the office by choice, and managed to hammer together a family of sorts here in SF that would become something so much greater than we imagined it would.
So thanks be to Steve, Phil, and Bruce. Thanks be to Braintrust for luring so many overeducated kids down to Palo Alto to answer phones or write e-mail. And thanks be to the dozens and dozens of people (you know who you are) who made the job what it was, and made it more than it might otherwise have been. In retrospect, I feel impossibly lucky to have been part of it all.