Baedeker's United States 4/5/2021
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May 26th at 11:07am
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"I have an emergency if you can help me tonight or tomorrow."
Under most circumstances, I like a good technological crisis. It means someone else has failed - often more than once - and they've provided me an opportunity to cement a new relationship.
Unfortunately, the timing of this emergency obscured some of the shine. The email arrived a week before we were scheduled to take our first international trip since our son had been born, and I didn't want anything to disturb our preparation or the trip itself.
That wasn't an overreaction. Projects like this had taken absurd turns a couple of times before. But I was interested.
Jeff, the guy who contacted me, explained the situation on the phone. "It's for Stan Lee's website."
Under most circumstances, I like a good technological crisis.
I devoured Batman comics as a child. A bookish 10 year-old me frowned in the recesses of my consciousness. You're a DC guy! he said.
I shook my head and focused on the call. "Cool," I said. "What's the problem?"
Jeff explained the basic issue. It didn't sound complicated, but I wasn't going to commit to anything yet. He put me in touch with the admin, a gifted graphic designer who felt ill-equipped to solve the problem. We walked through some of the issues. I logged in and looked around.
The anticlimactic climax
Even though our vacation was days away, I was confident I knew what the problem was. The project wouldn't get in the way of our trip.
I've worked on celebrities' websites before, but still: I felt a little nervous. Scarlett Johansson might visit this site, I thought. Or Brie Larson, or - please God - Simone Missick... or maybe some of the guys that play Marvel superheroes. That Deadpool guy's funny, he might check out the site.
I fixed the main problem and optimized some things. We sketched out a plan for migrating content from the old site to the new one - there was a lot, and it was messy. We all worked together quickly and efficiently because, well, Stan. And I needed to get to Europe.
The falling action
The new design was in place and we had inserted dummy content to see how it looked. We corresponded with representatives from POW! Entertainment, including a lawyer.
Later, on a call with the designer and me, Jeff told us the magic words: "Stan's really happy with the site so far. He likes what we've done."
It was a perfect sendoff for my trip.
"Stan's really happy with the site so far. He likes what we've done."
I had one thing left to do: find a replacement who was capable of finishing the migration plan and then following through on it. Someone I trusted without hesitation. I knew just the guy.
"I have a project for you," I told him on the phone. "It shouldn't take too long and it should be decent pay. It's for Stan Lee and-"
"I'll do it."
I laughed. "Don't you want me to tell you what it is?"
"Well, sure, but I'm still going to do it."
Comfortable in the knowledge that a good team was on Stan's site, I forgot all of it and went to France. I was in Dijon on November 12 when I got a surprise text.
When I returned, I asked my colleague how the project worked out, especially with the sad twist at the end.
It turns out the content they needed to migrate from one system to another was not going to go quietly. Here was his email to me:
I looked at that data every which way I could think of, and given the manner in which was collected, it would have taken hundreds of hours to get it back to being [importable].
I gave them a very detailed, step by step quote. About a week had gone by, we hadn't heard anything back from them about a decision, and basically we figured it wasn't cost effective for them, but then Stan passed away and they needed some help.
The Stan Lee website crashed from the traffic after the news broke out, so they needed help getting that up and running again, plus they wanted to put up a memory wall.
Took a few minutes, but we got them on another server and back up and running again. Created a page for the memory wall tributes and they were good to go.
That memory wall got pounded for weeks. Just crushed.
My participation was brief - literally six days - but I'm glad I was able to untie a few knots for Stan Lee's new website.
And if he was pleased with it - if he really did say he liked it (and I have no reason to doubt Jeff) - then he complimented my work less than two weeks before he died.
Not the biggest feather in my cap, but hell yes, I'll take it.
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