Thanks, Dave Winer!

Today is Dave Winer’s 20th Anniversary blogging, starting with this DaveNet piece in 1994. Dave wrote a great piece about the occasion here: 20 years of blogging. As I read it, a few things came to mind. Oddly the number 19 seems to be a theme…

Another life on another continent

Twenty years ago today, I had just turned 25. I was living in Amsterdam, and touring as the bassist with an indie rock band called Painting Over Picasso. We had just released our first album. My life has changed a lot since then—enough so that today it feels like the “me” in Amsterdam might have been a different person altogether.

I started reading Dave’s writing online and getting into programming with Frontier some time in 1995, while I was still living abroad. Dave’s writing and programming in Frontier are among the few threads in my life that cross the K-T boundary between my music and tech careers.

The band stayed together for a little over four years altogether. I had been an aspiring musician for about five years before that, and continued performing in public with various bands until 2006, though not professionally.

Reflecting on 20 years of… anything

In total my music career lasted about 19 years, only seven of which were really serious.

19 years is the same amount of time between when I first started programming in Frontier to now.

19 years is also the time between writing my very first programs on the Apple II at my middle school, and joining UserLand as a developer in 2000.

I’d be pretty hard pressed to think of any single thing I’ve done more or less continuously for 20 years.

Starting a second career

I returned to the United States in 1996, with no job, no real prospects, a music composition degree, and a strong sense that I belonged in the software industry. Though I had been an amateur programmer off-and-on since 1980 or so and had created large-ish projects of my own, I had zero real work experience in technology.

Through a college friend, I managed to bully my way into an entry-level software test engineer job at Sonic Solutions in Marin County, which brought me to the Bay Area for my first tech job. My first day of work was my birthday, October 1, 1996, just over 18 years ago. (Huzzah for testers!)

I met my friend Vance who introduced me to Sonic in the fall of 1987 at Reed College in Portland, OR—the same college that Steve Jobs famously dropped out of. (Not that this fact has anything at all to do with me.) So I’ve known Vance for 27 years.

The number of people outside of my family that would call close friends for 20 years or more is… 4.

Doing anything or knowing anyone for more than 20 years is rare in my experience, but as it turns out my true friends have lasted longer than my career tracks to date.

And this comes as no surprise. 😉

A few quotes from Dave’s piece

These passages in Dave’s piece today resonated with me:

… You should create stuff because you enjoy being creative, because you have the creative impulse. Not because you expect to be loved for it. #

That’s how I’ve always felt about my own creative work, whether sculpture and painting I did in high school, making music, creating software, or writing (online or off).

It really is great to be admired for one’s accomplishments. But that’s never been the most important reason I’ve worked to create anything. People may admire someone or their work, but admiration doesn’t equal love. It’s an easy mistake to make, especially when you’re young.

This part about Aaron Swarts also struck a chord for me:

… I did him the honor he asked for, and treated him as a responsible person. One of the great things about the Internet is that our bodies are the same size here, and if you want to play with the adults, there’s nothing stopping a young person from doing so… #

I remember how surprised, and then delighted I was when I first learned about Aaron’s youth, as he began to engage with the RSS community. It was refreshing to see (much of) the community accept him as a person with ideas, and worthy of being listened to. Especially since I often didn’t fit in easily when I was younger, and I’d wished that being bright and engaged were enough to gain acceptance in the so-called “real world”.

Dave did me the same honor when I approached him and UserLand in 2000, and asked if I could work with them. At that point I had few accomplishments to prove my worth as a developer, other than some hacked together Frontier scripts that ran my own blog, a bit of incomplete online writing, and the willingness to ask for their trust.

The move to UserLand, and having worked with Dave and others there have had a very positive long-term effect for me, which is difficult to quantify:

  • I grew from a tinkerer into a real software developer working in Frontier, with Dave, Brent, and André as mentors.
  • Relationships I made at UserLand, and work I did both with and for Dave, continue to open professional doors for me even today.
  • My UserLand experience proved to me in a personal way that a few smart, dedicated people can have a big impact, if they stick to it over time.

Thanks, Dave!

So on your 20th blog-versary, I’d like to say “Thanks, Dave!” for sharing your thoughts and writing with us all, and for narrating your work on so many things, some of which now seem obvious—even taken for granted.

And on a personal note, thank you for the great opportunity and experience of working with you and the folks at UserLand. It was a great experience for me, and in no small part it was reading your writing starting about 19 years ago, that made me to want to work with you. 🙂

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