Our In-House Ferret Finds the Facts.
Have you ever wondered how Mark Moxon became the overall project manager for h2g2? Well I did, and here is the story of his journey to the top.
In 1991, after plodding through adolescence in the usual haphazard manner, he managed to end up with an Oxford degree in Maths and Computation. But, as he wandered out through the university gates, he realized what most of us do at that time; he had absolutely no idea what he wanted to do with his life. His initial plan was to get a camper van and drive around the pubs of mainland Britain for a year. There was only one problem with this plan; he was broke with no sign of money flowing in anytime soon. This meant that his plans must be changed. Being a fan of Acorn computers since his first BBC micro in the early '80s, and thus, a reader of the Acorn press, he spotted an advert for a position as Technical Assistant on the Acorn magazine RISC User, so he applied and, much to his surprise, got the job!
He had a wide range of responsibilities in his new position
including launching the magazine's cover disk. He realized that he
would need an artist and asked his freelancers if they knew anyone
suitable. One of them brought in a friend of his named Jack Kreindler, who was not only a young medical student but also a
pretty hot artist. Mark commissioned him for a whole series of
illustrations and regular articles.
It was during this time that he met Sean Sollé and Jim Lynn, two
particularly helpful programmers from Computer Concepts, the
company whose DTP package they were using to publish the magazine.
At the end of 1993 Acorn User was sold to a company in the north of
England and he continued working for them from his home in London.
He stayed with Acorn User until Oct. 1995 when he decided that he'd
had enough of the slowly dwindling Acorn market and bought a one-way
ticket to Sydney. Originally, he planned to go away for one year
but, three years later, he was still on the road. He had a motley
collection of computer hardware which enabled him to send and
receive email wherever he was, thus giving him enough, through
writing, to pay for and extend his trip right through to July 1998.
He finally came home when he realized that he could no longer remember what his family looked like.
While he was away a company called The Digital Village was formed
and quite a few Computer Concepts employees, including Sean,
started working there. As Starship Titanic was nearing completion
an artist called Jack Kreindler whom he employed some years earlier
to work for him at Acorn User was brought in to design the graphics
for the game's PET.
On his return Mark was asked to edit RISC User, in a freelance
capacity, for its final year.Having no job and no real idea what he
was going to do, he accepted.
The security of this position did not last long though as the
bottom soon fell out of the Acorn market and he found himself
looking for something that would last for more than a year. Xara
Ltd. - the new name for Computer Concepts - offered him a position
as assistant webmaster and his first day found him saying both
hello and goodbye to Jim Lynn, who was leaving to work for The
Digital Village on some esoteric-sounding Hitchhiker-related
Meanwhile he bumped into Sean again at a mutual friend's house and
they kept in contact. He used his newly found webmastering
knowledge to put his travel writings on the Web and started
dreaming of saving up enough cash to tackle Africa and South
While Mark was coding in Perl in Hemel Hempstead, Jim, Sean, Shim
and the rest of the programming team were coding in Perl in Covent
Garden. Jack was designing the h2g2 goo, and the whole project was
starting to come together. It launched on April 28 and Sean mailed
Mark to tell him how fantastic it was. He decided to have a look
when he could find a spare moment which, at that time was never.
Then, out of the blue, late in May 1999, he found an email on his
computer asking if he would be interested in editing for h2g2.
Apparently his travel writings had caught the team's eye, so he
popped over to the site to see what all the fuss was about. Not
being prone to insanity he accepted the job and started as Editor
on the 28th of June 1999. Since coming on board the h2g2 team, his
responsibilities have grown a bit making him overall project
manager instead of just content manager.
He would still like to travel and has not stopped dreaming of
exploring Africa but, in a sense, running h2g2 is just as
satisfying for him. He gets to meet people from all over the world
hearing stories from far- off places. In between all the budget
spreadsheets and planning documents, he can still find time to
write. h2g2, for the moment, fulfils his desire to travel... and
there is far less chance of catching malaria!
If you would like to read more about the story of his trip, which
was mentioned earlier, then pop over to moxon.net, which also contains some of the travel writing he did on the road. Mark notes that, in retrospect, he would have been one of the very first travellers to go out on the road totally wired. He was almost akin to a Field Researcher for the Earth Edition of The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, except that his Guide did not have the ever so helpful 'Don't Panic' words inscribed on it, and relied on some decidedly ancient technology. At least it worked, however, and he could keep on travelling and writing.