This Day in History, as told by Gmail

My colleague James Turk looked back at his recent life as told by Gmail. I’ve decided to do the same for this day, February 26.


Doing the advanced search in Gmail, I noticed that when given a date to search on, Gmail will actually return email from that day along with email from the day before and the day after. This is a welcome feature, as I didn’t send or receive any email on this day in 2005. I received a mere seven emails during that three day time window.

It was my senior year of college at Georgia Tech. I received an email from the Georgia Tech College Democrats president, who became my girlfriend three weeks later (and still is). I registered for and CyberCoders, two IT industry job search sites.

A recruiter from Microsoft scheduled a phone interview with me. Two months later I was invited to Redmond for on-campus interviews with the Office Online operations team. I was twenty-one years old, and Microsoft paid for my first ever rental car (I would not drive another rented car for five years). The Emerald City was sparkling and gorgeous on the April Sunday I arrived and did the tourist thing on Microsoft’s dime.

The next morning, I got ready in a Redmond hotel room watching the white smoke announcement of Joseph Ratzinger as the new Pope. I completely flubbed the marathon session of interviews. It was during my third interview of the day when I realized I was simply not qualified for the job, having no experience with IIS or .NET. I left Seattle knowing I wouldn’t be offered a job. That summer I took a developer position with Democracy for America(DFA) in Vermont, for a salary that was probably a third of what I would have earned at Microsoft.


I was now braving a winter in Burlington, Vt., as the lone developer at a small PAC. I was testing out a new contribution system I was building for DFA, a mini-ActBlue, making small donations through the system to the first candidate we’d raise money for, Ciro Rodriguez. DFA later scrapped that system and just used ActBlue.

In my search for a Mac text editor, I purchased skEdit, which was my editor of choice until I purchased TextMate in May. I also signed up for a DreamHost account to host my personal website.

Nearly a year into our relationship, most of it spent hundreds of miles apart (she was still in Atlanta at Georgia Tech), a good percentage of the 36 email conversations and chat logs were with my girlfriend.


I moved back to Atlanta in early January. I exchanged several emails with Jerome Armstrong concerning a new campaign platform I was to build in Rails. I ended up living in Atlanta for two years, working remotely for Jerome’s consultancy based just outside DC.

At this time, I was also talking to folks who wanted to draft Al Gore in the presidential race. I had registered and launched an ineffective website a few months later. Email traffic was still reasonable, at 47 conversations for the three day period.


Fully into my consulting gig in an election year, I was inundated with client requests. I was doing work for the U.S. Senate campaigns of John Kerry and Mark Warner, and building a social network for the SEIU. I was harried and overwhelmed with the workload, and the 117 conversations in this period reflected that. I also bought a first generation iPod Touch for my girlfriend, which was my third anniversary present to her.


My girlfriend graduated from college after the fall semester, and we moved together to Northern Virginia. My remote work for the consulting agency was now on-site work and I was an actual employee. While there were 222 conversations in Gmail for this period, that was a function of automated email. Our team was using Pivotal Tracker and practicing continuous integration, and the system sent out emails after every commit to GitHub with the build results. I named our CI server Phyllis Schafly so that broken test suite notifications came from her.

I was subscribed to the Sunlight Labs mailing list, which was seeing loads of activity around the first Apps for America contest. My app entry was a precursor to Poligraft, a tool I would build a year and half later as an employee at Sunlight. Also, I received an Eventbrite notification about the first ever TransparencyCamp.

GMAT prep books I had checked out of the library were due. I took the GMAT a few weeks later, did horribly average on the math section, and decided I didn’t want to get an MBA after all. I purchased the Beta of The RSpec Book, which wouldn’t be published until December 2010.


Now working for Sunlight, email load was a bit lighter at 138. The Sunlight staff was abuzz with the positive reaction to our first ever production of Sunlight Live. Today in 2011, I’m working on a follow-up project to Sunlight Live: a generalized platform for reporting on real-time events called Datajam. I was working on the website for Politiwidgets, and bought an ebook from Manning called iPhone and iPad in Action. This was a new title for the book. It was first called iPhone in Action, and today it’s called iOS 4 in Action.

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