Time Travel and Blogs

I appear to have lived another whole life in the time since I last posted about my resolve to become more “open source,” to share my activities and my thoughts and feelings freely with the world

At the time of that posting, December 2014, I was nervous and giddy about starting a new career in tech. I studied and practiced every day. I did indeed attend code school and did well enough to be asked to teach subsequent cohorts. I loved the school and its mission so much that I stayed, first as an instructor and then as the Enrollment Coordinator, heading up the admissions process. Over the course of the next four years, I became the Campus Director of that school. I continued to hone my tech skills while also meeting amazing people who would become some of the dearest friends of my life. The time went by quickly, which is hard to notice when actually living it! I look back and marvel at how consumed I was by the excitement of collaborative learning and coding, of the stream of eager new programmers who spend 27 weeks with us, learning the basics before flying off to their new lives. The pace was fast, the work was demanding, and by the time I stopped and took a moment to reflect on that part of my life’s journey, I regretted that I had not found the time to chronicle each step of it here.

During that period I saw firsthand the challenges women and minorities face in the field of tech, and our school continued its initiatives and added new ones in efforts to level the field for junior developers of all stripes. We talked constantly about diversity and inclusion, about the accessibility of education and networks for job seekers. We sought to be a training and career-launching beacon to underserved communities, and I like to think that we hit that mark pretty often. It was a worthwhile way to spend my time. While I have since moved on to a new venture, I am very proud of Epicodus and the doors it continues to open for its students.

Which brings me to now, April 2019. Here I stand, some new skills under my belt and a longing in my heart to merge all my various life paths into one. I am returning to my literary roots, as my time in tech left no significant room for the arts, and I am hungry for it. At this stage in my life, I am ready to take what I’ve learned and turn it into an organization that helps boost writers and artists in their literary pursuits. With the help of my wife, Beth, I am founding a small press publishing company called Northwest Quest Publishers.

Beth and I met as English majors nearly 30 years ago, and our love of literature and storytelling has endured. We are also avid game-players, whether board games, tabletop rpgs like Dungeons & Dragons, or video games with deep characters and epic narratives. It seemed fitting that our publishing house should focus on GameLit, LitRPG, and portal fiction. Since we also adore the Pacific Northwest and its history, we want to publish works by and about the people of this region, especially those who may not be represented well within the genre.

We are completely new to the business side of publishing, and are bound to make many mistakes. In hopes that we can help other potential publishers learn by our strides and stumbles, I’ll be chronicling our adventure in these pages. Here’s to another round of Open Source Deb, version 2.0.

Open Source Deb

Last month, Microsoft surprised many people by announcing they are changing their .NET framework to be open source *and* cross platform. It’s a remarkable sea change for the tech behemoth that built a global empire steeped in the spirit of closed gates and proprietary code. Their new attitude speaks to how the world has changed in the past 15 to 20 years.

We all benefit from shared discoveries
We all benefit from shared discoveries

It reminds me of my own gradual evolution towards transparency and living a more open and exposed life, even as every new spate of headlines chronicles the pain caused by corporate data breaches, the doxxing of celebrities and private citizens alike, and the viral nature of human foibles that is the social sphere of the internet these days. Having grown up in the time before everyone had 24-hour access to one another, I always valued and guarded my privacy. As an Army broadcaster, one of the first tenets I learned at DINFOS (the Defense Information School) is that I should consider the mic “always on,” so I ensured my public utterances were fit for public consumption and would never bring embarrassment to myself or Uncle Sam. I have worked in other data-sensitive careers and have been responsible for the personally-identifying-information of many other people, from Social Security Disability claimants to victims of severe identity theft. I am keenly aware of the impact the loss of control over one’s personal information can bring (whether it be identifying data or simply personal brand or messaging.)

In recent years I have marveled at the way in which it seems many young people have little concern over the permanence of their every internet move. I know they realize that nothing is ever truly deleted, and yet they post photos and comments with which I suspect they may not want to be associated in the future. Then again, that could just be the bluster and exuberance of youth itself. I know I spoke more freely and with more (unearned) authority back before I learned how big and small the world really is. I just didn’t have the internet and a global community of strangers at my fingertips to act as my friends and provocateurs.

But now open source beckons, with its truly communal mechanics, its spirit of shared contribution and benefit. I sincerely appreciate the opportunities it affords, even while I steel my resolve as a new coder to have any work I may contribute evaluated and surely found wanting or begging for improvement. That daunting aspect is also the key to its beauty; of course the code can be improved. In my understanding, that is the very point of open source. (Is this what is meant by the wisdom of crowds? That our work is at its best when it is the product of many different perspectives and skills?) This system also lends a vitality to every coding project, as it is by necessity bigger, more permanent, than the work of any one person could ever be. Open source projects live on past their originators.
While this way of creating code has existed for many years, it is a philosophy that seems to be reaching critical mass if even Microsoft has finally embraced the inevitable. For myself and my own evolution, I look forward to finding a sweet spot, a balance between greater exposure and continued caution when either feels right.