I don’t feel like a “real” developer. Ever. But I am super jazzed that I just made a commit and closed a task, on two different secure sites that I host.

Accomplishing this with a beginner’s mind is euphoric. ^_^


June 30, 2014 — Leave a comment

This is the first in a series of posts explaining some decisions I am making. I hope they will serve as reference and discussion starters. It is kinda scary doing this stuff on my own, so advice is appreciated.

The big headliner is: I am starting a non-profit project called the Webcraft Guild.

To ease into the documentation, I will explain why I chose the term “guild” (future posts will have info about the why, when and how).

The reason I want to start this way is because historically guilds have been pretty sucky. While there was sharing inside a given trade or craft, guilds were known to horde their secrets, and had their governments enact ludicrous laws to ensure they stayed relevant. My favorite story, because it is so outlandish, is about protectionist practices against cloth buttons:

Shortly after the matter of cloth weaving has been disposed of, the button makers guild raises a cry of outrage; the tailors are beginning to make buttons out of cloth, an unheard-of thing. The government, indignant that an innovation should threaten a settled industry, imposes a fine on the cloth-button makers. But the wardens of the button guild are not yet satisfied. They demand the right to search people’s homes and wardrobes and fine and even arrest them on the streets if they are seen wearing these subversive goods.

In the case it is not obvious, I do not wish to create a totalitarian web. Quite the opposite, I wish to discover, document and encourage the best practices or a free and open web. And I play video games.

Video game guilds are super-cool! They get guild halls, and shared storage, and badges for achievements. They are like real-life guilds in name only, but I like the appropriation of the term to mean a group of folks with a shared interest.

And despite their shortcomings, guilds were useful for their particular trades and crafts. The idea of a journeyer, one that spreads the memes of their craft, resonates with me. I am self-taught, in that I didn’t receive a formal education in webcraft, but without the countless resources, tutorials, frameworks and general openness of the web, I wouldn’t know anything.

I chose to create a guild because I wanted to make something that I would want to be part of, something safe and inviting to folks, so they can be supported and encouraged in their own webcraft path. And that is the Webcraft Guild.

I generally enjoy Five Useful Articles, but this week had a particular quote concerning Lisa Kirby v. Marvel Characters:

In any case, Supreme Court hearing Kirby seems like a natural fit, at least for the fans: SCOTUS geeks and comic book nerds both like waiting overnight in lines for a chance to watch two hours worth of dark, brooding figures making corny jokes and bad decisions.


June 19, 2014 — Leave a comment

I have two methods of existence that are at odds with each other. The method in which I am highly skilled involves using a variety of stimuli to avoid feeling deep emotions. While I don’t particularly abuse substances (my caffeine addiction is probably more mellow than that of the general population), I do tend to overwhelm myself with a series of passions and causes, contributing to my contrary nature and making my outsider status ever more concrete. Having a good memory helps, because I can always call up facts to support my lifestyle; human history is full of examples that justify not being successful at being normal.

That’s fine, I am always kinda aware of my personality, and in recent years it has really worked out for me, probably because I care less about what people think of me, and that tends to inform what people think of me.

The other method is a drive to alleviate uncertainty and insecurity from every vector of my life possible, so my progeny may flourish in the hypothetical world that was better than the one I grew up in. Things like having a living income and food security, those things mean a lot to me as a parent, and I am a parent before anything else, because as I said, I can call up facts of history quite easily, and since I don’t beat people, abuse drugs, or have difficulty with incarceration, parenting is really the only thing left to argue about with the voices of my parents that reside in my head.

Pain compensation vs. security seeking. Completely at odds in my heart.

So the obvious thing to me is to continue seeking the most engaging lifestyle for my family, and just deal with the shit that comes spewing from my heart. But it is hard when I want to cry every time Clover randomly catches my eye and smiles, or runs to my side when a loud sound invades from the outside, or enjoys the healthy food Susan makes for em. My instinct is to throw myself into a wall of activity, or to lash out at memories that seem to fade more and more each year. But I don’t want to do that anymore. So I am being still.

In moments of stillness, I feel the energy in me in a counter-spin to the non-maiki existence outside. The fabric of my being feels fragile, like any amount of force will cause the whole cloth of my body to be shredded by these two maelstroms slamming into each other. But no force is to be had. Because while it is painful and harrowing and occupying and exhausting, I am the world, and there isn’t any force, internal or out.

So I go back to chopping wood and carrying water. And finding a therapist (and watching movies alone, so I can cry is a dark room amongst strangers).


June 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

I heard about Phabricator from Greg, in reference to the WMF collapsing a bunch of other tools into this one omni-developer app. I’ve been struggling to figure out what I am doing with my repo hosting, so it was neat to hear a large org moving to something that is free software and self-hosted.

I’ve spent about a week with it, and I’ve been up and down, most so than with any other software I’ve ever used. I didn’t quite understand why I was hung on this software so much, but for the last few days it has been all I can think about. I am starting to break it down, now.

First thing: I wish I had found Phabricator when I was first starting out, maybe back in the cog motive days. It does a lot of stuff really great, and outside of an org that does shared development, it has some great features for single freelancers, like the simple interface for creating and signing contracts.

It bums me out that it doesn’t hit all my needs, but it did make me reassess what my needs were. The git hosting doesn’t come close to Gitorious or GitLab, but those are specialized apps, and they only have light issue-tracking on top of it. I am actually quite fond of the tasks in Phabricator, but tracking issues around code outside the repo is not what I’m looking for.

Basically, I want Phabricator to scale! I want big, huge, public instances of it, but that isn’t the tool they made, though it can organize large groups of folks. I think it is the perfect tool for WMF, which will have a relatively narrow focus. I want a single todo list, and I won’t be able to get it from Phabricator.

However, my own personal work is taking me in interesting directions lately, where I am focusing on fewer clients, but larger projects. I can already think of 2.5 new instances that I should be running, and they do not overlap. And for other projects, I think I have some WordPress plugins that make more sense, since they are less technical in detail, and allow for a conversation to develop with folks that may not want an account to a complete organization system.

Thanks, Sasha. ^_^


June 7, 2014 — Leave a comment

Susan: Where does the jellyfish live?
Clover: At home.

Saw X-Men: Days of Future Past. I liked it! And for a variety of reasons. There is a lot in there, for Marvel historians, and for folks just looking for powers.

The best part, however, is the emotional performances and the core story that surrounds a series of relationships. First Class had a really poor treatment of women, and while this movie doesn’t expunge that record, it at least tells a compelling story as a reaction to that story. Very interesting!

This was posted on pump.io, because I don’t have spigot set up, and sometimes ramble on in other places, rather than where I should (this here site).

Since we’re just chatting, and I apparently sleep like a zen monk (without any of the advantages), the thing that has been keeping me awake: I am going to build a crowd-funding platform specifically for stuff going into the commons, such as free cultural artifacts (CC-0 stuff) and FOSS projects, as well as supporting the personal lives of folks that participate in such things (replacing broken laptops, making airfare to LibrePlanet/Wikimania/wherever).

That is exciting, sure. But it is a lot of work, and I need to get org stuff in place, yadda yadda. The part that is making my brain crank is how I am going to fund ongoing web services via the clever use of perks.

Basically, I want to make services that are accessible to lots of folks, regardless of ability to pay, while also being transparent about the cost. A lot of the stuff I host isn’t open registration, in part because dealing with spammy accounts and volume is difficult to do when one isn’t offsetting the cost by being creepy (ie tracking, serving ads, selling user info, etc.). So, each web service will have an annual fund-raiser, explaining how much it is used, and aiming to to support itself for the next year. The tiered awards will include a “perk”, which is one from a list.

What are the perks? Essentially an account on some service, and different extras on subsequent choices (the latter are shown after the forward slashes).

  • A jabber account for you/for a friend
  • ownCloud account for you/for a friend, more storage
  • WordPress hosting
  • Federated social net account for you/for a friend

The idea is that those accounts are lifetime affairs, and this also makes it so once a year we can have an intake of new users for our services, making it more manageable (the other ways to get accounts will be local, in-person mentoring, special programs, stuff like that).

This way of funding and increasing usage free web services corresponds to my ideas on human scale (hey, I wrote that a almost exactly a year ago!). And the possibilities are astounding. Right now is a golden time to point out how big companies treat customers as products, and to cater to a growing number of folks that care about how theirs services are configured. It also means that I can support the free and open web by mentoring others and supporting individuals behind projects (whom I’d much prefer run updates and configure these services than myself!).

So yeah, that is why I only sleep 4 hours a night, which itself contributes to the delirious smile I wear these days. ^_^

I am having a moment of clarity, and suddenly I know what I want to do.