Remembering Alex King

The following is the remembrance I shared with everyone at Alex’s Celebration of Life service (about his life in Denver) on October 8th, 2015.

I can’t remember where I came across this phrase, but you’ve probably heard it before: think globally, act locally.

It may have been in a business class or even earlier talking about the environment.

But, when thinking about Alex and his life in Denver I realized there was a lot to it. And then that phrase popped in my mind.

Alex was the guy who could think and act, and had a huge impact, both locally and globally.

Starting here, in Denver, my story of Alex begins almost 10 years ago. In 2006 I met him at a small community meet-up here in town called BarCamp.

I remember him talking about WordPress then. I look back and I remember he made a strong first impression on me. Alex, now that was a smart guy.

For years, Alex continued to help support and foster a local community here in Colorado by attending, speaking at, and even hosting conferences for people to come together and “talk nerdy” to each other.

About two years after that meet-up, Alex mentioned on his blog that he moved his company to Denver. I read his blog and was working in Denver, so I commented and asked if he wanted to grab lunch with me. I was then surprised that a) he remembered me and b) he said yes. Alex was a friendly, approachable person.

Let’s step back and zoom out: it was 2002 and there was a software project where the maintainer disappeared. It was open for anyone to work on, so a few people picked it up, and Alex and some of his code came along with it. That new project was and still is called WordPress. And it now powers nearly 25%, a quarter of all websites on the internet.

I won’t go into Alex’s various technical achievements and contributions, others have written far more about those than we could possibly share here today (including Alex, on his blog).

But, his impact was felt around the world. You’ll find remembrances and appreciations of Alex written from folks in China, Japan, Greece, Iran, and beyond.

Alex joined and became part of something far bigger and more important than himself. On top of that, he was such an important part of it. Alex provided leadership, mentorship, and set an example for others to follow.

David Cohen shared a memory: “Alex totally leaned into mentoring … and never for a moment asked what was in it for him.””

It’s true. He gave a lot of himself, and his work, and his projects, and his ideas — all to the world, often for free. Alex never really asked for anything in return.

If we haven’t met, there was a time when I would joke and introduce myself to folks at conferences as “just someone who helps Alex King run his business in Denver”.

That line alone, with “Alex King” in the middle would give me just enough credibility to hold someone’s attention for a few minutes… but usually ending with them asking “so hey, is Alex here? or what?”.

Over time Alex and I grew close. He trusted and allowed me to help him make all kinds of decisions: not just stuff like what to say back to that client, or if we should hire that developer.

No, he often deferred to me about the kinds of clients and projects we should take on. He gave me the authority to say “no” to small or simple projects, guaranteed revenue, because I was convinced we could land that more interesting project instead with just a little more negotiation. Luckily, we usually did. And so we had the privilege of working on some amazing projects together. Alex was gracious in business.

In hindsight, he shielded me from all kinds of concerns, like making payroll. I realize now he had both the joys, and burdens, of owning and running a small business. Alex was strong.

And I have to mention: he created a work environment that expected high-performing individuals, just like him. I’m not alone when I say he expected a lot from his team. More than anyone I’ve met in life thus far. Alex was demanding (in a good way).

And he would warn people about this during his interviews. And I would warn those same people and say, “no, seriously”. And then they’d go to work for Alex, who expected quality, continuous improvement and sometimes reading his mind.

But as a team, we accomplished great things together. Alex challenged us all and we’re all better for it. I’m especially grateful for his lessons and the experience that came from working beside him.

Zooming back out: over the years Alex did a lot, and not just in Denver. He spoke and shared his experiences at big conferences. He appeared on stage at SXSW in Austin, the annual WordCamp in San Francisco, and many more.

Some of my more memorable conference experiences with Alex surround The Monktoberfest hosted in Maine, by his friend Steve, who he met here in Denver. Alex sponsored it, Alex attended it, and Alex even helped design the t-shirt for it.

But what will always make me chuckle, if you don’t know, that conference describes itself as “the intersection of technology and craft beer” — Alex did not like beer! But with some coaching from his friends, he learned to love some particular styles. Alex was particular.

But that’s beyond the point, Alex didn’t hesitate to support a friend (that he met locally), abroad. Alex was loyal.

Alex’s participation in, creation, and support of, both local and global communities meant he touched and truly affected lives all over the world during his time in Denver.

Second only to my own family: Alex is the person who has had the biggest influence on my life. I, we, are all better because of it. The world will not be the same without him… thanks, Alex.