TheServerSide.com

TSS was a site I created in 1999 (at the age of 21) thanks to Ed Roman who hired me as he started The Middleware Company (a Java training company) and gave me the chance to build from scratch and run an online community for Java developers.  At one point it hit 500,000 unique visitors a month and was the goto place for the Java community to find what's new and debate issues of the day.

I wrote the daily news and ran this business unit within TMC. In 2003 TMC was acquired by Precise which was later acquired by Veritas (now Symantec).  During that time TechTarget, a publicly traded media company acquired TSS including me and the team. TechTarget was all about the profit and not about the purpose or community so after a year I quit to start C4Media which produces InfoQ.com (a competitor to TSS) and QCon conferences.

Here is what it used to look like before TechTarget changed it: 

TheServerSide.com before TechTarget
In an Interview with Ed Roman, he describes how we met and how TSS came to be:

Ed:  It’s an interesting story, um, so, this is actually kind of a funny story actually. I was at a conference speaking once. This was back when it was just a one man show, just me doing everything. I didn’t have any other co-workers, so I was running a booth at the conference, trying to get leads for my business, and in the a booth, I couldn’t leave the booth to eat dinner because I was the only employee, so I had to actually have food delivered to my booth.

So I was sitting there eating food at my booth and this kid from the University of Waterloo came up to my booth, his name is Floyd. He kind of felt bad for me; he’s like what is this guy eating at his booth. So he started talking to me, and we started to hit it off from a chemistry perspective and it turns out that he had actually heard about me, and heard about my book, and he was a Java programmer himself in college. And at the time I was thinking about building TheServerSide.com, to kind of give us an unfair advantage as far as [??]. So it would give us leads for training consultant. And so he and I started talking in the weeks after that. And he seemed like a natural fit to help build that website.

So we thought, we’ll build a website for programmers, to help them, and well build that in the Java language itself. So it’s a Java community built in Java. So he started doing that programming for me. He did such a good job that I eventually promoted him and he was in charge of all the content for the website. So he was responsible for the content in terms of like the articles. Making sure that everyday there was something new posted on the home page, that it would be sticky so people would come back. And eventually, he did such a good job at that, that I thought, I’d put him in charge of profit and loss for the business. So he was in charge of that for a while as well.

So basically, this kid out of college who was a sophomore at the time, ultimately became my number one star employee, and now that we sold the business, he is running his own business, which is pretty much one of the largest programmer websites in the world, it’s called InfoQ.com, and he also has extended this model and is now running the largest programmer conference in China, for programmers. He’s taking this whole business model and exploded with it. And now it’s more than Java, it’s Ruby on Rails, and other technologies as well. I really learned a lot about investing in the person in terms looking for someone who has ability versus experience.

It would have been very tempting for me, and I almost did, you know, go with someone to build this web site for me that was, someone who already had a lot of experience building these Java websites, but I took a chance on this kid and over time he and I became not just amazing business partners, but amazing friends, and it’s all because he had that innate ability. And the lesson I learned from that is, if you have to hire somebody, and you have to choose between ability and experience, I would always the ability over the experience. Ideally you want both, both ability and experience but if you can’t get both, then the lesson I learned from is to go with ability.