my office is cooler than yours.
© 1995-1996 Jamie Zawinski <>

In January of 1995, Netscape (All Praise the Company) moved from our old, tiny offices on the 5th floor of an office building at 650 Castro Street into new offices in our own building at 501 East Middlefield. New offices on which vast sums of money had been spent. New offices designed by someone who watched entirely too much Star Trek. The decorator seems to have had a real fixation here; it was a sea of cubicles, but they were at funny angles to each other, and the walls were light beige with a dark red raised stripe running down the middle. It was so Starfleet it's not even funny. I felt like I should be blowing a whistle and saying ``permission to come aboard'' when I arrived.

Something had to be done.

So, the first day we moved in was a pretty lousy day, and I was stressed out about various shit involving having to move my machine, crawl around on the floor, find longer cables, and so on. The usual ``moving is a drag'' scenario. I needed a tension reliever in a big way, so Lou and I drove down to the friendly neighborhood army surplus store, and I bought about five hundred square feet of camouflage netting.

The guy at the store seemed kind of surprised. I don't think they sell a lot of that stuff. I'm not sure he really believed my credit card wasn't stolen.

At this point, it's safe to say that I now had the coolest, scariest cubicle in the world. I hung the netting from the ceiling tiles with short pieces of phone wire, so that it draped down and covered the walls of the cubicle. It also made a nice door: people actually asked ``can I come in'' before hassling me. Feature! And nobody could ever figure out how to get in to my office -- they just could not accept the fact that, yes, you had to reach down and lift the curtain, you couldn't just slide it aside. Sometimes when I was feeling particularly ornery I'd just sit there and watch them struggle and get more and more uncomfortable with the unfamiliar paradigm instead of telling them lift it up. Hee hee hee. Wiggle in my net, little flies.

The net is fairly transparent, but did a nice job of cutting down the awful life-sucking glare of the fluorescent lights. While inside, it really gave the feeling that you were out in the woods. The only thing that was missing was some tapes of birds and screeching monkeys or something.

The next day, someone told me that the architect guy who designed the place (he of the Trek fixation) freaked when he saw my little ``tent.'' They tell me he got all red in the face and said things like ``this is his way of saying FUCK YOU to me!''

Some people really take their jobs too seriously. I mean, I've never met the guy. But it does seem likely that if I had been around and he got all hot and bothered at me, the phrase ``fuck you'' might well have been bandied about.

Someone donated a big rubber battle-axe to hang on the door, but I think what was really called for was more of a South Seas theme; bamboo spears, shrunken heads on sticks, maybe a big rusty propeller, or part of an airplane fuselage, to really give it that cargo cult look. (Donations graciously accepted.)

  Deep Thought:
I think there's someone whose job it was to attach the camouflage parts to the net part by hand. They're held together with little bits of stiff wire, placed fairly randomly. I think that that must be a really lousy job.

During the first two weeks of the Age of the Tarp, it kinda smelled; it had, after all, been sitting rolled up on the shelf of an army surplus store for who knows how long. And when I unrolled it, there were, in fact, dead leaves in it, so this net is not exactly new. I ran a fan in here at night to air it out, while Lou and Garrett whined about it a bit. Their office abutted the Tent of Doom, you see. However, I felt no guilt, because their office is also the location of the Amazing Fish-Cam, and when it is being cleaned (which clearly isn't often enough, or the fish wouldn't die with such horrific regularity) it smells absolutely awful. Dead fish, dead fish, dead fish everywhere. At one point there was a small yellow fish whose fins were tattered and whose left eye had completely rotted away. That Montulli guy, he's a monster, I tell you, a monster!!

Ahem. Sorry. Got a little carried away.

A few months after it went up, there were photographers running around doing yet another fashion shoot with marca. (This kind of thing happens all the time around here. He is the Internet's Own Poster Boy after all.) Anyway, one of them had this high concept idea -- wait, that's a net. A net is kind of like a web. Wow! World Wide Web! So they descended upon my cube, filled it with red light, and took lots of pictures of Marc making faces and holding the rubber axe and so on. I think they said they were from Newsweek.

(Then of course I got my turn in a magazine called Fast Company, but the less said about that, the better...)

I'm told that I'm not the first person ever to accessorize with camo netting; check out this highly amusing message.

Oh, by the way, you may have noticed that the first picture on this page, the one of the striped hallway, has a nasty moiré pattern in the carpet. That's not just an artifact of the image; the carpet in this place really looks like that. Especially late at night. After you've been here for enough hours, it seethes and writhes at you as you walk down the hall, skittering away from your feet, taunting you, whispering at you, telling you to do horrible things to your coworkers in its quiet, insistent voice. Or maybe that's just me.

Meanwhile, a Year and a Half Later...

In June of 1996, we moved again, this time to 685 East Middlefield, just down the street. We still occupy the previous building, and at least four others, but the engineering department was shuffled off to new territory this time.

At first, I planned to retire the Tent of Doom at the move; I thought that it had had its time in the sun (so to speak) and perhaps it was appropriate to give this story an ending. (One must strive always to maintain proper narrative structure in one's life and surroundings.)

But then I got email from someone in facilities telling me that they had been instructed to move and re-hang my net, and asking if I had any particular handling or hanging requirements!

Well I thought that this was way funny; the net, once reviled, had now been explicitly added to the move schedule by some unknown middle-manager. Wow. With treatment like that, perhaps the net should remain! I asked around, and everyone else thought so, too. It was a landmark, I was told, even a tradition. But the most compelling argument was that the net had become a part of the Netscape Tour; it had been on Japanese television multiple times, someone said: how could I think of taking it down now?


So we moved, and my net ended up in a big pile just outside my cubicle. I knew that, after the move, fire marshals were known to be lurking around inspecting things, and the net didn't seem like something they would look on too fondly, so I attributed the delay in it being re-hung to that: waiting for the fire marshal to get lost. But after a few weeks, I asked facilities what was up. Their response? Nobody in facilities was willing to take on the awesome responsibility, so perhaps I should do it myself. Sigh. Very well then.

Now, my old office was right in the middle of the engineering department's sea of cubicles, so the net was a fairly imposing sight. But my new cubicle differs from my old one in three important ways:

These three things together would make the old tent-like configuration rather less dramatic. A new approach was called for.

So one night, in a burst of cleansing synchronicity, Raven, Frederick, and I embarked upon the greatest engineering project that the southeast corner of 685 East Middlefield had ever seen. We hung the net in the open common area which sits between my office and the Fish-Cam. Rather than dangling down to create walls as before, it now spills out along the ceiling, thus appearing to be about four times larger than before. Which is fitting, since everything in this new building seems larger than before.

Whimper, No Bang.

February 1998.

The company occupies 14 buildings; my office has been moved three times in less than a year. I gave up on moving the Tent of Doom, and last I heard, it was rolled up under Frederick's desk.


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