Last night I was at the official goodbye party for Doke Pelleboer, who was general manager of XS4ALL for the past 6 years. I normally hate official goodbye-events: shallow speeches filled with some idiot’s perception of humor, the obligatory giggling coworkers taking way too long to present some homemade gift and maybe a made-for-the-occasion song or two, sung by people who invariably cannot sing. But this one was different: the songs actually sounded good (No wonder: longtime-XS4ALLer Annemarie, who sung them, has a nighttime existence as a jazz-singer) and the speeches touched on some important issues that XS4ALL has been facing lately, mostly the difficult relationship with mother company KPN and with the Dutch wiretapping
nazis authorities. Some amazing things were said by former XS4ALL spokesperson Sjoera Nas (who’s now with Bits of Freedom) and by Doke himself. And although he was sweet and soft-spoken, it was obvious that this ex-KPN manager had a minor chip or two on his shoulder. Even though some insiders had given me a glimpse of what was happening over the past years, the ferocity and the high stakes of some of these fights can still impress me. I can only wish upon Marion Koopman (the new manager) the strength to deal with the undoubtably difficult issues that lie ahead.
But what struck me more than anything else last night were my impressions when speaking to the people there. When I talk to people that still work at XS4ALL they invariably moan and bitch about how burocratic it has all become over the years, and how most of the new people just aren’t like the old people. So I was bracing for the worst when I walked around and talked to some people that work at today’s XS4ALL, many of whom I had never met before. I was amazed to find that XS4ALL still manages to hire some very sharp, crazy, witty and excentric folks. And how even some people that just came in seemed to feel connected with the ideals that XS4ALL stands for. I’m sure there’s plenty of exceptions, but I sure as hell didn’t meet many yesterday. It’s a strange and proud feeling to notice that large pockets of the not-so-corporate culture that I had the privilige to help create manage to stay alive in a company of 300 employees.