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I won't actually go back to work for a little while longer, but I now know where I'll be working once I do.  

I really wanted, in the spirit of openness, to journal my job-search. I think we benefit from sharing our evaluations and processes and experiences, in general, and finding a new job isn't structurally all that different from the kinds of consumer decisions that it's already considered wholly appropriate to write about in public. Legally speaking, I was not under formal non-disclosure agreements anywhere I visited or interviewed, and morally it would have been trivial and narratively harmless to leave out the few specific details that were revealed to me in informal confidence.  

But the big difference between consumer decisions and getting a new job, obviously, at least here in the part of the world where I buy and work, is that sellers don't get to choose their buyers, so consumer openness mostly doesn't introduce any risk of recoil. I could have written about my job-search anonymously (and for all you know, I did), but writing about it here would have put my thoughts into the awareness of my potential employers. That should be safe, in the same way that writing openly about your actual employers (short of definable trade-secrets, and that should be more carefully circumscribed and limited, too) ought to be much more rigorously defended. But some precedent still needs to be set, and I wasn't quite up to putting myself in the position to set it. Until I found a new job, I couldn't be sure that I wouldn't end up wanting or needing to take one about which I'd previously expressed reservations or criticisms.  

In the end, though, my search turned out to be less contentious than I imagined it might. I walked out of more than one office thinking "Well, I'm not working there", but almost always due more to a mismatch of interests than any overwhelming sense of systemic dysfunction. I visited only one company that made me feel like I'd spent a day on the B Ark, and two of the most successful VC firms in the world had just expressed several million dollars of confidence in its commercial viability, so what do I know?  

My search was also a lot less involved than I expected. This was the first time in my working life that I'd ever left one job without the next one already lined up, and really the first time I'd ever done a job search, as opposed to having a new job basically present itself to me at random. The overwhelming and unsurprising moral is that connections are everything. I spent a lot of time digging through public job-listings and refining filter subscriptions and sending off resumes to careers@... addresses, and nothing even marginally promising ever resulted from any of that. All meaningful leads came through people I knew. Weirdly, maybe, almost all my meaningful leads came through friends and colleagues, not former bosses, and in no case was anybody I know directly involved in the decisions about my role.  

But I'd have spent even less time and energy on the process, and none pondering the ethics and repercussions of writing about it, if I'd known ahead of time that the very first casual job-related conversation I scheduled after being laid off, the connection to which came through my own sister, would end up leading to basically my dream job. This will probably be my easiest employer to explain, and my most arcane actual job. The company makes software for finding plane tickets, most prominently for the travel sites Orbitz, CheapTickets and Kayak, and the ticket-search functions on the airline sites for US Airways, Alitalia, Continental, and Alaska Airlines. The founder was recently listed by Travel & Leisure magazine as one of the 35 innovators who are changing the way people travel, and their blurb about him ended with this comment: "But it's Wertheimer's next undertaking that will most affect travelers. Called Project Needle (as in haystack), it uses artificial intelligence to search travel sites, quickly 'learning' them and giving shoppers only the information they're looking for."  

I'm not at liberty to explain the exact relationship between this description and reality, but there is a real project to which they are referring, and I will be working on it. In casual conversation I will probably usually summarize it as "semantic web searching", which, depending on where you put the hyphen, has to do with either how to structure human information so that it can be better synthesized by machines, or how to teach machines to better help humans extract useful understanding from bodies of information not already structured that way. It will be a while before you get to see any form of this, and probably a while before I can even say what that form might be. But I believe it's one of the mutations that will shape the future evolution of the net, and I'm thrilled to get to participate in something I would spend so much of my energy pondering and following even if I weren't.  

And although this could have been my dream job even if I'd had to move to California or Norway to do it, its most hilarious minor virtue is that the office is so close to my house that I think the single Walk light between here and there accounts for 20% of the variability in my commute time. In fact, coworkers who live elsewhere and drive to this office have to walk farther from their parked cars than I will from my bed.  

But maybe the future is always closer than you think.
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