Don Woods

phone:(650) 622-2400

In July 2022 I retired from Okta, which I had joined in 2016. Okta began in 2009 as a "single sign-on" service and has since expanded to cover "identity as a service", striving to connect everyone with everything.

My previous job search had been in 2003, and landed me at Postini, which offered email spam filtering, archiving, and related services. In September 2007 Postini was acquired by Google. Unlike the PlaceWare acquisition (below), this time I chose to stick around, and helped maintain the Postini service while incorporating its features into Gmail. I left Google in 2015 and took some time to recharge before finding Okta.

Before Google and Postini I was working at PlaceWare. PlaceWare offered Web Conferencing and other products for on-line collaboration. The company was acquired by Microsoft in April 2003, and they relocated the engineering department to Redmond, WA. (They also renamed the product to be Microsoft Office Live Meeting.) I chose to stay behind and see what new opportunities I could find in Silicon Valley, leading me eventually to Postini.

I went to PlaceWare in December 2000 from NaviLinks, a now-defunct spinoff from ClariNet Communications Corp., where I went at the end of 1996. ClariNet was mostly known for supplying the clari.* newsgroups; it was sold to YellowBrix in late 2003. NaviLinks was developing technology for automating the adding of links into high volumes of text (such as news) to related content on the web.

Before that, I was at General Magic for 2 1/2 years, where I developed a prototype Web browser for the Magic Cap platform, and worked on the Telescript-based HTML and Web support libraries that got released under the name Tabriz. I've also worked at Sun Microsystems (primarily on the NeWS window system and toolkit) and at Xerox (on the Star desktop office environment, which subsequently evolved into GlobalView).

In my spare time, I enjoy playing a wide variety of games -- card games, board games, role-playing games, etc. At the time I wrote this, which seems like a millennium ago now, some of my favorites included Titan by Avalon Hill, and the Empire Builder series of games (sometimes called "crayon rail games") from Mayfair Games. (I've even created a program to generate new decks of cards for the latter.)

How time flies! Though I do still play Titan occasionally, and even organise (and play in) a pool of on-line Titan games, I don't find the time to play it nearly as often. And though I still maintain my crayon-rails deck generator site, I don't get to play those very often either, and haven't kept up on the latest maps available. (Frankly, the maps for Russian Rails and China Rails seemed screwy, but I loved Lunar Rails.)

A decade or so later, Dominion in its many forms has recently pulled ahead of Race for the Galaxy as my most frequently played game. Though Race wasn't released until 2007, I'd been playing it in pre-publication playtests for quite a while, and it had been my top game since 2005, which is as far back as I've been keeping track. :-) Oh, and next after Race is Wizards, about which there is more, below.

I am perhaps best known, with Will Crowther, for having written the original Adventure game, now sometimes referred to, by retronym, as the "Colossal Cave" adventure game. I've also written several implementations of a double-deck solitaire game called "Spider". Indeed, I believe the scoring rules shown on the Spider Wikipedia page were pulled out of my hat when I wrote the version for Sun's Network Extensible Window System (NeWS). And some friends and I developed a play-by-Email space combat/diplomacy game called Phoenix; we licensed it for a while to a PBEM game company, but they eventually dropped it, and we haven't done much with the game in rather a while now.

Despite the Adventure game and other role-playing, I managed for some time to avoid getting sucked into any massively multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPGs). In late 2003, however, while between jobs, I briefly considered trying to design such a game, and to get an idea of what already existed I started playing EverQuest, certainly one of the more successful MMORPGs of the day. My design venture never took off, but my addiction to EverQuest continued, and in October 2004 I took over maintenance of the FAQ for the newsgroup, which I managed until my ISP dropped newsgroup content in mid-2009, as well as my own page specifically about how to put item links in hotkey messages. My guild and other friends in EverQuest mostly moved on, and I found it hard to progress through current content as a solo player, so I followed my friends to other games such as Lord of the Rings Online, Champions Online and, most recently, Star Wars: The Old Republic. My wife preferred City of Heroes and World of Warcraft over EverQuest (though CoH shut down in 2012, eliciting much sadness), and gave up on LOTRO because it requires solo play in too many places, but joins me in Star Wars.

My other claims to fame include being co-author of The Hacker's Dictionary, co-designer of the INTERCAL Programming Language, and author of a textbook titled Notes on Introductory Combinatorics.

I live in Los Altos, California, with my wife, two daughters, and a varying number of cats. Actually, my older daughter doesn't live here any more; she lives with her husband. They chose to follow the example set by my wife and me by getting married on April Fools Day. And in late 2010 my younger daughter moved into her own apartment, so now it's just us and the cats.

Here are links to various game-related items I've produced.

Click here for a chart (formatted in PDF) showing the odds of getting various numbers of "hits" when rolling dice in Titan or similar games. (If for some reason you don't have a PDF reader (such as Adobe Acrobat), here's the same chart in PostScript format.)

Click here for a rather difficult logic puzzle I devised, called "Twenty Questions".

Click here for the rules to a strange yet viable mashup my gaming group invented some years back, adding parts from Merchant of Venus to Can't Stop. (One of that group was looking for a copy of the rules and couldn't find them online, so I fixed that.)


Click here to see the rules to a game I designed that you can play with pieces you probably have at home. Wizards

Click here to see the modifications my gaming group has come up with for Avalon Hill's game, Wizards.
Psychological JuJitsu

Click here to see the rules to a pure strategy game called Psychological JuJitsu.

This page was last updated on February 9, 2023. See the change log.