Today was my boss’s last day, and, ironically, my first anniversary. Julian Lombardi will be Duke’s Assistant Vice President for Academic Services and Technology Support. He’ll be responsible for the university’s IT customer service and development.

They made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

This youngest of the Ivy League has established a reputation with such programs as their initiative to give each student an iPod. They’re very excited about Croquet, and seek to establish a non-profit there to coordinate activity between the growing list of institutions working on and with this technology.

It will be some time, at least a year, before the Duke Office of IT can actually do Croquet technical development. Regardless, Julian will continue to collaborate with us on papers and our work on user interfaces. We’ve had some terrific fights on architecture, as can only happen between people comfortable with themselves and with each other. I expect this to continue by phone and following release 1, within Croquet itself.

Our team here in Wisconsin remains unchanged. With our colleagues in Minnesota, we continue to work on the Croquet core and frameworks, integration with campus enterprise systems, and applications for teaching and learning. My title of Lead Croquet Developer remains unchanged, but I now take on the leadership of the project here. UW-Madison’s Division of Information Technology is a fantastically talented and eagerly helpful organization, but there is a great challenge as well. DoIT’ has 700 employees, a $70M budget, and more than 55,000 sophisticated users. There are a lot of ins and outs. Did I mention that in Julian’s previous career as a research biologist, his job had been to literally swim with sharks in the wild? Given the machinations at HP, I’ve appreciated Julian’s observation of the local ecosystem.

However, I think Julian’s greatest talent has been to convey to people the fantastic breadth, complexity, and possibilities of Croquet. Check out this presentation: in Flash, or Mediasite. For any product, it is incredibly difficult to grasp the technical concepts correctly and convert these into meaningful possibilities. It’s even harder to simultaneously listen to the market and customers in a true two-way conversation, and incorporate the results into the core technology itself. It’s not about chasing after features or adding stuff. It’s about removing the useless “cool stuff” that nerds think of, until not only the users, but the nerds themselves can think in terms of an architecture that naturally follows the user’s goals for the system. This is rarely done right in normal stuff, but when inventing the future….? No one does it better than Julian. His new position is a great forum to continue doing this internationally across institutions. But I love Julian enough to be really pissed that he’s not going to be doing that on campus here at Wisconsin.

About Stearns

Howard Stearns works at High Fidelity, Inc., creating the metaverse. Mr. Stearns has a quarter century experience in systems engineering, applications consulting, and management of advanced software technologies. He was the technical lead of University of Wisconsin's Croquet project, an ambitious project convened by computing pioneer Alan Kay to transform collaboration through 3D graphics and real-time, persistent shared spaces. The CAD integration products Mr. Stearns created for expert system pioneer ICAD set the market standard through IPO and acquisition by Oracle. The embedded systems he wrote helped transform the industrial diamond market. In the early 2000s, Mr. Stearns was named Technology Strategist for Curl, the only startup founded by WWW pioneer Tim Berners-Lee. An expert on programming languages and operating systems, Mr. Stearns created the Eclipse commercial Common Lisp programming implementation. Mr. Stearns has two degrees from M.I.T., and has directed family businesses in early childhood education and publishing.


  1. Please don’t lose Julian’s postings on his blog. These may need to be archived on the Croquet Projects site or someplace appropriate.


  2. Julian’s blog ( is on Blogger, which is owned by Google. It isn’t going anywhere. Julian remains one of the six architects of Croquet, and is very likely to have a very public role in leading multi-institutional Croquet activity.

  3. I watched Julian’s presentation last night, and I have to agree with you that he has a good way of relating to lots of different people. You have some big shoes to fill in your local organization!

    By the way, all I ever do with Croquet is “cool stuff” by definition. If it’s not “cool stuff”, I’m not doing it! And I see that in the reactions that I get from certain academic parts of the Croquet community. Not that I mind too much; I don’t pretend to be an academic myself, just an informal student.

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