Via Eric Freeman's Radio Weblog:

Tim O'Reilly: So often, signs of the future are all around us, but it isn't until much later that most of the world realizes their significance. Meanwhile, the innovators who are busy inventing that future live in a world of their own. ... these are the folks I affectionately call "the alpha geeks," the hackers who have such mastery of their tools that they "roll their own" when existing products don't give them what they need.

That's what I want to be when I grow up: an alpha geek.

Well, I already am an alpha geek, only just in fairly obscure circles. Wherever I've worked, I've become the ToolBuilder. I'm the guy who takes the stuff we have that never quite all works together, and I weld it together into some freakish kind of A-Team nightmare that lets the team crash through the brick walls.

And here at my current job, I've worked at seeing how far I can take the ThirdTimeAutomate rule. Where it's lead me (and this company) is to a component-based web application framework with automation support in building up the apps.

I've gotten the system to the point that a Design Tech (HTML-guy) can crank out a dozen promotions with the system in a day, with a large degree of customization. Occasionally, a Software Engineer may need to toss in an hour or two to write a custom component subclass or new component.

The components are built to be self-describing and, within certain circumstances, automatically collaborate. We can mix & match promotion aspects and they'll work to integrate themselves. The efficiency it's given us has allowed this company to survive the dot-com bust with a tiny number of employees and expense. Now that business is actually picking up, productivity is still so high that we don't need many more people yet. And it's kept me in a good job all through these rough times.

It's really good stuff, and I'm very proud of it. In a way, it's the culmination of my last 8 years or so of work on the web. The problem is... This technology will likely never leave this company. I've spent my past two years refining it, and it will probably never be seen outside the 2 dozen or so employees of this company, only 3-5 of whom really know what it's about.

Which brings me to things like this:

Getting Noticed? from Eric Olsen (via Steve Ivy, et al.). "As the volume of blogs has ballooned well into six-figures, the need for links from ?star? blogs has become an absolute requirement to be noticed."

But I think this is how things go in the world in general. It's a big, big place. To be noticed in it takes some work.

So here I am, an alpha geek and a ToolBuilder spinning in my own circles, hope someday to have my name up in lights.