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Yesterday afternoon on the way back up from the Internet Identity Workshop, Chris Messina and I stopped by the offices of a growing tech company (what company doesn't actually matter) on the way back up 101 to chat with a friend of a friend. Parked in one of the awesome free garages Palo Alto provides and walked to one of their offices. Could see a giant logo on the window, continued walking, and went to open the door; it was locked. Gently tugging it a second time caused the receptionist to walk over to unlock it for us. Turns out the person we were meeting works in their other office just a few blocks away which she kindly pointed us toward.

So Chris and I walk a few blocks and come to another door labeled with a smaller logo. Inside sits a private contract security guard at a desk listening to his iPod. As we try to open the locked door he walks over, pauses his music, and pokes his head out being cautious never to open the door more than twelve inches. After telling him who we're here to see, he points to the left of the door at an intercom and tells us to use it to talk with the receptionist since he is not allowed to let us in. So he closes the door, goes back to his desk, and I push the button on the intercom. Receptionist answers, asks a few questions to ensure that we have an appointment, and then buzzes us in. This time when I tug on the door it opens.

We now walk through the glass door to interact again with the security guard. He's already laid out two pieces of paper on the desk in front of us. He shrugs as we ask why we need to sign visitor NDAs though graciously agrees to make copies of them for us. I sign the NDA and it seems my story now has to end. The real irony is that we ended up talking at a nearby coffee shop instead of their office.

I have no problems with visitor NDAs or security guards (I did work for VeriSign for 1.5 years), but this experience greatly shaped my views on this company and the environment that its executives feel is reasonable for visitors before I even got in the door. I really enjoy working at Six Apart (our inside door) where I'm able to host great community meetings for things like OpenID, social network portability, and even business development without impersonally shoving NDAs in my guest's faces before they even come inside.

I know a lot of people would see the opportunity to even touch that locked door as amazing, so don't get me wrong I don't hate the company or anything. Rather I encourage companies to think about the experience they create for their visitors, no matter the company size, the importance (or lack thereof in this case) of their visitors, and ultimately this is why asking "what company?" doesn't actually matter.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 7th, 2007 12:12 am (UTC)
So which company was it? :)

I'm kidding. Nice bit of writing, sir!
Dec. 7th, 2007 12:23 am (UTC)
The opportune word is "humble". Always be hungry; always stay humble.
Dec. 7th, 2007 02:59 am (UTC)
Along the same lines, what about companies that simply assume that if you visit they can take your photo and file it for a few months?
Dec. 15th, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC)
Re: Photo
Haven't run into that one beyond security cameras I guess.
Dec. 8th, 2007 12:27 am (UTC)
Trying redirection
Hope you don't mind me enslaving your site with OpenID tests!
Dec. 8th, 2007 12:28 am (UTC)
Hi again
Good thing we're friends, right?
Dec. 12th, 2007 09:40 am (UTC)
That sounds pretty bad, I have a bad experience everyday working in Baynard House (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castle_Baynard) in London which is ugly (http://pmsa.cch.kcl.ac.uk/images/nrpCL/clcol252.jpg). It's total un-inspirational, with the added bonus of security guards who, even though they've seen you every day for a year, when you forget your pass you have to sign in.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )