Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Leslie, I hardly knew ye

I was skimming my Google Reader this morning when I just about sprayed the iMac in tea.

This post was written by one of the 43 Folders guest bloggers. It was conveying the wisdom of their dear friend Leslie Harpold who passed unexpectedly last December. That’s were the iMac almost got the tea bath. Leslie Harpold? Could it be the same Leslie Harpold I’d tussled with over the name of my web design company in 1996? And if so, she was dead????

A little background, in early 1996, I started a web design company called Fearless Media. My idea was to create websites for small businesses and non-profit organizations. This thing called the Internet was in its infancy and I was on a crusade to share it with people who could benefit the most.

One night in October of that year, I got a call out of the blue. Even though it was after 8pm, I answered the business line. On the other end of the line a woman’s voice peppered me with questions about my company, when did it open, what services did it offer, how many people did I employ and on and on. At first, I answered the questions, but pretty quickly I got a grip and fired back with “Hey, who are you and why do you care?”

It seems she had just started her own company and chosen the name Fearless Media for her company. Except when she went to register the domain, oops, someone else had it . Namely, me.

At first I was all about live and let live. We were chasing different markets. She wanted corporate clients after glitz and interactivity. I wanted small shops interested in conveying their message to the world. It seemed to me we could peacefully co-exist. Yeah, I was young and naive.

We couldn’t. There was confusion in the marketplace and that wasn’t good for either of us.

I filed for and received a trademark on the name. I could prove first use in interstate commerce. Woo Hoo! Cease & desist letters were sent and there was a brief exchange between her and my lawyer. Nothing substantial came of it.

Time passed, and I kept and eye on her site from time to time and then the site wasn’t updated anymore. I knew she was from New York and I had an awful feeling she’d been lost on 9/11. But then the site was updated again. She had new staff, and a new address clear across the country.

By this time, I’d moved on to other interests and decided it wasn’t worth fighting about and I let the trademark lapse.

Frankly, I never gave her much though until today. I spent the remainder of my large mug of tea following links and learning more about this woman who I’d always though of as kind of a fly in my soup.

The one time we spoke, she portrayed herself as just a woman trying to carve out her piece of the American Dream. To read the online accounts of her life, she was a visionary who was widely respected and published and very well regarded. By, friends, enemies and colleagues alike.

In hindsight, I wish I’d gotten to know her better. Odd how trajectories can intersect and people pinball off of one another.

So, hats off to you Leslie Harpold. I’m sorry that our time together was on opposite sides of the table, but thank you for all that you contributed to the Internet Community. May you rest in peace and never run out of cigarettes and Diet Coke.

No comments: