It was an obvious product enhancement. Anyone could have seen it, anyone would have done it. I just got there first, that's all.
There were a number of shopping sites that were popular enough to allow you to create wish-lists that other people could see. It let your friends and family know what you might like for your birthday, it let your friends and family see your wedding registry all from one site, it even let your enemies and exes know what you were getting and be annoyed about it. But it made things a little bit easier, for some people at least, and that was a product enhancement. It was just the right way to merchandise the site a little better.
My first suggestion was just that we separate wedding registry and wish-lists. "Make them separate," I said, "and people can put the expensive stuff they want from people they never see on one list, and they can put the cheap stuff they'd really love on the list to share with the people who mean the most to them."
"Like who?" asked Brent across the table. His roseacea was particularly bad that day.
"Like no-one," I said, going for honesty. "That'll be where they keep the things they really want and don't want anyone to know about."
"But we'll know," he said, his face wrinkling in puzzlement, like a shah-pei's.
"Yes," I said, "and we can market to them based on their secret desires. We can recommend leather clothes, soft Japanese ropes and unusual intimate jewellery alongside the usual cookie-cutters and books."
We went ahead and split the lists, and it was successful. Brent wasn't happy, as I got a bonus that quarter and he didn't, but then I checked his own recommendations and realised that he must have a very strange wish-list indeed.
If I'd stopped there, it might have been ok. Just maybe.
"Well," I said at the next meeting. "I was thinking, why have just two lists? Why not let people create their own lists? Let them create a Secret Santa list to be shared by the office, let them create a Nerf-arsenal list to be shared by the whole civil-war reenactment club, und so weiter?"
"What was that last bit?" asked Brent. His fingernails were black from where he'd shut his hand in his garage door that morning.
"It was German," I said smugly. I'd read it in a magazine the previous evening.
"I think they pronounce their w's as v's," he said, sounding disinterested. I blushed, knowing he'd won a point over me, and realised I had to try and claw the advantage back.
"We use the existing list technology," I said quickly, "and just give it editable names and a sharing list. Then we'll keep an eye on common names for lists and we'll automatically create lists of those types to inspire people."
By itself, it wasn't a bad idea. It really wasn't.
"The new lists are working well," said Brent, reading from a forty-eight page report. He'd lost two fingers to frostbite over Christmas and I didn't like looking at his hands any more. "But there are a few worrying trends, and I don't think we should be allowing autogeneration of popular list types any more."
"Why's that?" Kevin, Head Honcho for Marketing, was growing a moustache and it was turning out patchy. He was compensating by trying to seem dynamic.
"We had to remove a 'People I'd like to F-word" list already, said Brent. I sniggered, but quietly and behind my hand. "We also had to remove an 'Outed sex offenders list' too. There's a little too much flexibility in the lists, they can seriously infringe on our policies."
"I agree with Brent," said Geraldine, who represented Legal. "We could get into some serious trouble with some of these lists. We should probably put an age-restriction on creating a list too, so there's no more 'We hate Brent Conmurty' lists either."
Brent looked stricken, apparently he'd not known about the list. I was relieved that I'd got my sister to create it using her daughter's boyfriend's account.
If I only left it there. If only I'd not risen to the bait.
I went home that evening determined to get a little more revenge on Brent done. I wasn't sure what I wanted any more, or why revenge was important, but it was fun and I got a little bored in the evenings before I opened the wine. I put his name on my 'To Hit' list and then went off and got drunk.
I was woken at three am by the pinging of my cell-phone. I'd fallen asleep on the toilet after throwing up my knees, as far as I could tell. My head hurt, so I peered at my phone, hoping it would be telling me how to feel better.
Saw the addition to your hit list, read the text. Ran Brent Conmurty down on the Haversham road two hours ago. He's so much roadkill now!
I threw up again. How the hell had I mixed up my 'to-hit' list and my 'hit' list? And where had a 'hit list' come from anyway?
The cold memory of Brent in the meeting, when he was still alive, saying that autogeneration was dangerous reared its ugly head.
My phone pinged again.
Bonus: I got his parents too; house has been petrol bombed into a ruin!