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Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

By Christopher Allan Webber on Mon 04 January 2016

I'm sitting on a train traveling from Illinois to California, the long stretch of a journey from Madison to San Francisco. Morgan sits next to me. We are staring out the windows of the observation deck of this train as we watch the snow covered mountains pass by. I am feeling more relaxed and at peace than I have in years.

2016 is opening in a big way for me. As you may have heard (I mentioned it in the last State of the Goblin post) MediaGoblin was accepted into the Stripe Open Source Retreat program. Basically, Stripe gives us no-strings-attached funding for me to advance our work on MediaGoblin, but they wanted me to work from their office during that time. Seems like quite a deal to me! Unfortunately it does mean leaving Morgan behind in Madison for that time period. But that's why we splurged on a fancy train car and why she's joining me in San Francisco for the first week, so we can spend some quality time together. (Plus, Morgan has a conference that first week in San Francisco anyway; double plus, Amtrak has an extremely generous baggage policy so I'm able to get all of the belongings I need for that period shipped along with me fairly easily.) Morgan and I have been talking about but not really taking a vacation for a while, so we decided the moving-scenery approach would be a nice way to do things. It's great... we're mostly reading and drinking tea and staring out the window at the beautiful passings-by. I could hardly imagine a nicer send-off. (So yeah, if you're considering taking such a journey with your loved ones, I recommend it.)

The passage of scenery leads to reflection on the passage of time. Now seems a good time to write a bit about 2015 and what it meant. It was a very eventful year for me. I have come recently to explain to people that "I live a magical and high-stress life"; 2015 evoked that well. From a personal standpoint, Morgan and I's relationship runs strong, maybe stronger than ever, and I am thankful for that. From the broader family standpoint, the graph advances steady at times with strong peaks and valleys, perhaps more pronounced than usual. Love, gain, success, loss... it feels that everything has happened this year. Our lives have also been rearranged dramatically in an attempt to help a family member in a time of need, and that has its own set of peaks and valleys, as is to be expected. But that is the stuff of life, and you do what you can when you can, and you try your best, and you hope that others will try their best, what happens from there happens, and you use it to plan the next round of doing the best you can.

That's all very vague I suppose, but many things feel too private to discuss so publicly. Nonetheless, I wanted to record the texture of the year.

So what in the way of, you know, that thing we call a "career"? Well, it has continued to be magical, in the way that I have had a lot of freedom to explore things and address issues I really care about. Receiving an award (particularly since I did not know I had even been a candidate ahead of being notified that I received it) has also been gratifying and reassuring in some ways; I regularly fear that I am not doing well enough at advancing the issues I care about, but clearly some people do, and that's nice. It has also continued to be high stress, in that the things I worry about feel very high stakes on a global level, and that the difficulty of accomplishing them also feels very strong, and of course many are not there yet. Nonetheless, there has been a lot of progress this year, though it has come with a worrying increase of scope in the number of things I am attempting to accomplish.

We're much nearer to 1.0 on MediaGoblin, which is a huge relief. Of course, this is mostly due to Jessica Tallon's hard work on getting federation in MediaGoblin working, and other MediaGoblin community memebers doing many other interesting things. Embarassingly, I have done a lot less on MediaGoblin than in the last few years. In a sense, this is okay, because the money from the campaign has been going to pay Jessica Tallon, and not myself. I still feel bad about it though. The good news is that the focus time from the Stripe retreat should allow me the space and focus to hopefully get 1.0 actually out the door. So that leads to strong optimism.

The reduced time spent coding on MediaGoblin proper has been deceptive, since most of the projects I've worked on have spun out of work I believe is essential for MediaGoblin's long-term success. I took a sabbatical from MediaGoblin proper mid-year to focus on two goals: advancing federation standards (and my own understanding of them), and advancing the state of free software deployment. (I'm aware of a whiff of yak fumes here, though for each I can't see how MediaGoblin can succeed in their present state.) I believe I have made a lot of progress in both areas. As for federation, I've worked hard in participating in the W3C Social Working Group, I have done some test implementations, and recently I became co-editor on ActivityPump. On deployment, much work has been done on the UserOps side, both in speaking and in actual work. After initially starting to try to use Salt/Ansible as a base and hitting limitations, then trying to build my own Salt/Ansible'esque system in Hy and then Guile and hitting limitations there too, I eventually came to look into (after much prodding) Guix. At the moment, I think it's the only foundation solid enough on which to build the tooling to get us out of this mess. I've made some contributions, albeit mostly minor, have begun promoting the project more heavily, and am trying to work towards getting more deployment tooling done for it (so little time though!). I'm also now dual booting between GuixSD and Debian, and that's nice.

(Speaking of, towards the end of the year I switched to a Minifree x200 on which I'm dual booting Debian and Guix. I believe this puts me much deeper into the "free software vegan" territory.)

I also believe that over the last year I have changed dramatically as a programmer. For nearly ten years I identified as a "python web developer", but I believe that identity no longer feels like an ideal description. One thing I have always been self conscious of is how little I've known about deeper computer science fundamentals. This has changed a lot, and I believe much of it has been spending so much time in the Guile and Scheme communities, and reading the copious interesting literature that is available there. My brother Steve and I also now often meet together and watch various programming lectures and discuss them, which has been both illuminating and also a great way to understand a side of my brother I never knew. It's a nice mix; I'm a very get-things-done person, he's a very theoretical person, and we're meeting partway in the middle and I think both of us are stretching our brains in ways we hadn't before. I feel like a different programmer than I was. A year and a half ago, I remember being on a bike ride with Steve and I remember complaining to him that I didn't understand why functional programmers are so obsessed with immutability... mutation is so useful, I exclaimed! Steve paused and said very carefully, "Well... mutation brings a lot of problems..." but I just didn't understand what he was getting at. Now I look back on that bike ride and wonder at the former-me taking that position.

(All that said though, I'm glad that I've had the background I have of being a "python web developer" first, for a matter of perspective...)

I do feel that much has changed in my life in this last year. There were hard things, but overall, life has been good to me, and I still am doing what I believe in and care about. Not everyone has that opportunity. And this train ride already points the way to a year that should be productive, and will certainly be eventful.

Anyway, that's enough navel-gazing-reflection, I suppose. One more navel-gaze: here's to the changed person on the other end of 2016. I hope I can do them justice. And I hope you can do yourself justice in 2016 too.

Life Update: January 2015

By Christopher Allan Webber on Tue 13 January 2015

Hey, so where did 2014 go, amirite guys? Amirite??

2014 in bulleted list form:

  • Most stressful year of my life (and that includes the years I both worked full time and went to school full time), but not bad: high peaks and low valleys even out to a good year, but turbulent. Not just high and low events contributing to stress, also much stress has been ambient from ongoing and difficult events, but much of it not really befitting describing on this blog.

  • MediaGoblin campaign went well, but I am tired of doing crowdfunding campaigns. Probably the last I will ever run... or at least the last for a long while. Nearly 5 months from start to wrapup of 60 hour high-stress weeks. But again, it went well! And hey, that video came out pretty great.

  • Hiring Jessica was the smartest move we could have made, and I'm glad we made it.

  • MediaGoblin federation work is going well; next release should make that clearer I hope.

  • Both Jessica and I are on the W3C Social Working Group trying to standardize federation, and I'm excited about that.

  • Hiring Jessica is great, but what to do about my own income? Happy to say I've started contracting for Open Tech Strategies who are great. Working under Karl Fogel is wonderful, and so is contracting for an org that mandates all code written there be free software. Plus, contracting 10 hours a week means I have plenty of other (including MediaGoblin) time left over.

  • Also it's great to have a boss again who is reviewing my performance and seems happy with my work, especially when that boss is almost certainly more technically capable than I am; I forgot how much external affirmation from that is helpful in probably some base human way. I had some great bosses in the not too distant past, and while I think I'm a pretty decent boss to others, Morgan has pointed out that I am a really mean boss to myself.

  • Despite ambient stress for both of us, Morgan and I's relationship goes well, maybe this year better than ever.

  • Got nerdier, started playing tabletop role playing games with friends a lot. Board games too.

  • Living in Madison is good.

  • We are currently caring for a dog since another family member can't keep her where she is staying. Aside from temporary dog-sitting, I've never lived somewhere with a dog that I am caring for... it's interesting.

  • The first half of the year was crazy due to the MediaGoblin campaign (again, I think it went great, and I had lots of help from great friends, just stressful), the second half crazy due to... well, a pile of things that are too personal for a blog (yeah I know I already said that). But everything came to a head right at the end of the year. This year burnt me the hell out.

  • This made me pretty useless in December, and makes me feel terrible because I pushed vocally for a MediaGoblin release and failed to hold up my end of things to make it happen. I need to get back on track. This will happen, but in the meanwhile, I feel shitty.

  • Burnout recovery has been productive; an odd thing to say maybe, but I seem to be getting a lot done, but not always on the things I think I should be.

  • I feel more confident in myself as a programmer than before... I've always felt a large amount of impostor syndrome because I don't really have a computer science degree... I'm a community trained hacker (not to knock that, but it's hard to not feel insecure because of it).

    But this year I did some cool things, including getting patches in to a fun language, and I worked on an actor model system that I think has a hell of a lot of promise if I could just get the damned time for it. (If only I had time to solve error propagation and the inter-hive-communication demos...) I did every exercise in The Little Schemer (a real joy to work through) and I feel like hey, I finally understand how to write code recursively in a way that feels natural. And it turns out there is a MELPA-installable texinfo version of SICP and I've been slowly working my way through it when I'm too tired to do anything else but want to pretend to be productive (which has been a lot of the last month). Still so much to learn though, but I appreciate the bottomless well aspect of programming.

  • Aside from the MediaGoblin campaign video, not a lot of artwork done this year. Hrm.

  • A couple of friends this year have made the "I've been doing nothing but python webdev for years and I need to mix it up" and to those friends: I hear you. Maybe hence the above?

  • Aside from MediaGoblin I've been doing a lot more chipping away at tiny bits of some free software projects, but maybe nothing significant enough to blog about yet, but there's a deployment system in there and a game thing and some other stuff. Nothing MediaGoblin sized, though. (Whew!)

  • Enjoying learning functional reactive programming (and expanding my understanding of Scheme) with Sly. Unfortunately still under-documented, but it's getting better, and davexunit is answering lots of questions for me. I might write a tutorial, or tutorials, soon.

  • Another ascii art logo for a FOSS project I made got vectorized and made way better than my original version, but that deserves its own post.

  • I continue to be able to work on free software full time, which is great.

I feel like the start of 2015 has already been moving upward, and has been much less stressful than the end of 2014. I hope that curve can keep moving up. And I hope I can keep up what I feel, despite me nearly going insane from various facets of it, is a fairly productive life.

Life update: Late November 2013

By Christopher Allan Webber on Tue 26 November 2013

I thought I'd give a brief "life update" post. In some ways, this is a more me-centric version of a "state of the goblin" post. Life is pretty intertwined with that these days.

I gave my block o' conferencing reflections already, so we'll consider that out of the way. We're also about to put out a new release of MediaGoblin. Stay tuned to the MediaGoblin blog... it'll be an exciting one I think.

What can I say about this last year though? We're nearly at the end of it. For this last year, I ate, breathed and lived MediaGoblin. This has been simultaneously the greatest thing ever, and also super exhausting. I really have not had much as in terms of breaks, role-wise I have worn more hats than I thought I could fit on my head (among other things, this includes writing core architecture, code review, promoting and speaking about the project, plenty of behind the scenes communication, plenty of management and project administration, budgeting things, the project's "art identity", some system administration (though thankfully simonft is helping), grant writing, all the many roles that went into running the crowdfunding campaign and producing the associated video). I'm glad I was an Interdisciplinary Humanities major; it couldn't have been a more interdisciplinary year. I'm also glad I use Org-Mode; it will sound silly, but MediaGoblin could not exist without that program.

And as tiring as it may have been, I am hoping I can continue with it. The MediaGoblin community is... dare I say while admitting tons of bias... one of the best communities I have seen in free software. (Maybe even the best? Again, I am admitting bias! ;))

But Joar Wandborg summarized the situation well:

The challenge at the moment, at least from what I see, is time. MediaGoblin would greatly benefit from more resources, having either one or more funded MediaGoblin developers would greatly benefit the project, as it is now, we have a lot of separate volunteers contributing code, thus putting a lot of work on the lead developer to review code. If we could increase the throughput on reviewing by assigning more people to review it would make the lead developer able to concentrate on increasingly keeping the project coherent and flexible while moving forward.

Well said. :)

On that note, I am simultaneously working on trying to get more resources on board and growing MediaGoblin upward and outward. This is achievable, I believe, and if we can get enough resources in front of ourselves, I think MediaGoblin can easily be sustainable. But to get there, we need to split my role into multiple people. That's hard to do because splitting my role into multiple people requires more resources, but it's hard to do the work to get more resources in while I am the only full time person, even with the amazing, amazing community we have (which is, again, super amazing!). This is solvable, but as a friend of mine accurately described it over dinner, it's a "bootstrapping problem". In the meanwhile, I am also playing a role of trying to bootstrap things just so, but that means actively wearing another hat, one that the MediaGoblin community does not usually see. It's hard not to feel bad while I'm doing that kind of work, because I feel like I am neglecting other things I want to move forward. But it needs to be done. And I think we can and will get there.

On that note, we will be running another crowdfunding campaign. I won't go into details here, but I have elsewhere, and if you're interested, you can read a relevant IRC log. There will be more to say soon, and of course you will hear about it here.

Another way to summarize things: next year I want to wrap up the features we need to get MediaGoblin 1.0 out the door (and that includes federation work) and then work on pushing forward MediaGoblin adoption. Plans are moving ahead on those fronts, and I am feeling optimistic. (One way to advance those plans is, if you or an organization you are working with are interested in running an instance, do it! And even better, if you are interested in funding either us developing relevant features or helping you run an instance, by all means contact me!

By the way, have I mentioned XUDD? I don't get that much time to talk about it, but the very rare times I get to work on code that isn't MediaGoblin (sadly, it's pretty rare) I have been spending on XUDD. In short, I think the way we're writing a lot of asynchronous network applications is wrong, and I think we can massively improve the situation. XUDD is an attempt to show how I think that could happen through an implementation of the actor model in Python. The architecture is shaping up nicely, and I feel good about the ideas and directions of the project. It's too bad it's so hard to allocate time for it. As you may have guessed, this may tie back into MediaGoblin some day, but if it does it will be some time in the future.

Anyway, that's enough of me yammering on for now. I think we've got an exciting year head. Now, back to working on this release!

Life Update: June 2013

By Christopher Allan Webber on Wed 26 June 2013

So I haven't done one of these in a while... the last one I did was right when I was leaving CC to work on MediaGoblin. I think they're pretty good to get out of my system. I tend to have a lot of things accrue that I'd like to talk about, and I just don't get to them. It's nice to kind of reflect all at once.

MediaGoblin

The most publicly visible thing that's changed in my life over the last many months is my shifting to being fulltime on MediaGoblin. I've written about this a bit, but honestly not enough. How is it going? I think given the circumstances, I could hardly ask for more: we have an active community that is a joy to work with each and every day, I love working on the codebase, and I feel like I'm doing something important.

And things have certainly busy. We've put out three releases since the last "life update" post I did. We've got six summer interns participating in Google Summer of Code and GNOME Outreach Program for Women. And 4 out of 6 of these participants are women... that's affected by outreach, but it's also by merit. We got a lot of super strong applicants, and I feel that we did a good job picking the best proposal for each task. Diversity is something I really believe matters, and I feel like we're doing well here. It's good to see that that message is caught on and understood by our community too (see this post by OPW participant Emily O'Leary). Things keep churning forward, and in a good way, in a community that's strong and functional in ways I feel proud of. (We just reached 65 people in the AUTHORS file.... how cool is that?)

Most of the time it's a lot of fun. It's also generally fairly tiring. Not that it isn't worth it, it's totally worth it! But there's always more to do, and I constantly feel bad about that. But I think often it's best to not be feeling bad so much and just keep working forward generally.

One thing I also feel bad about is I don't take the time to write enough about things. I don't give weekly or biweekly updates partly because I don't have a good place to put them, and blogging used to be a painful setup (although I've improved that a bit)... but maybe I should make a sub-blog for it. Or I could just spam this blog a lot more. We do have a list managed by the FSF from the MediaGoblin campaign where I sometimes put out notices and of course there's the MediaGoblin blog. Anyway, it's a situation I'm not super happy with. Joey Hess does an awesome job of blogging on a daily basis about his git-annex work. I talked to him about it, he said he often copies stuff from git logs into there. That wouldn't be hard for me to do. I've also been writing out invoices to the FSF since I am getting paid for MediaGoblin work as a contractor, and I detail most (but not by any means all) work there.

Speaking of Joey Hess, I talked with him when I was at LibrePlanet. (I'm a huge Joey Hess fan, by the way!) It was nice to compare our two projects given we're both people who were paid to work on free software for a year from crowdfunding. One thing I've thought about is the distribution of time... I think Joey spends more time directly on coding than I do, and for his project, I think that makes sense. But git-annex is, I think, mostly Joey's work (which is not to say there aren't other contributors). MediaGoblin is structured differently, and thus my allocation of time is different. Neither of these approaches are better I think, and I think the workflows we have really are probably best for our separate projects.

I write more MediaGoblin code than anyone, but the majority of MediaGoblin code is not written by me. Mostly what I do is write the "core infrastructure" of the project, then people build on top of that. I help coordinate with people on the right direction of things, help build the core bits people need, help people find what they need, do code review on what they've written, and... well, I do a lot of guidance day to day. But this makes sense I think... MediaGoblin really is a community project. I provide a lot of the vision of the project, and I do tons of work on it, but it's not all my decision making. Outside of the general vision, a lot of what happens comes from negotiation on IRC.

How much do I spend on what tasks? I have a rough "guideline schedule":

  • Monday: administrative work (I do this at the start of the week to get it out of the way)
  • Tuesday through Thursday: programming
  • Friday through Saturday: code review / community management
  • Sunday: personal/retooling day

I probably work a little over 8 hours every day (but not too much more so I don't hit total burnout or aggravate my RSI). But how much do I map to the above schedule, really? The truth of the matter is that usually there's some kind of immediate task that takes precedence over this "general schedule", but it's useful for when there isn't. But I think proportionally this comes close to the distribution of workload I have, except probably I spend a bit more time on community management / code review stuff (especially because when you add community management to this, it becomes a much broader category of things I do) than on coding directly. And that's just fine, actually... having a lot of code to review and an active community is one of those things you can't complain about.

I continue to believe that the work we're doing with MediaGoblin is important. If there's some frustration involved it's that it's a long-journey process. But I guess most things worthwhile are. People have asked me whether or not I'll continue to work on MediaGoblin after this year, and the answer is that I intend to if I can (yes, that does require figuring out funding; yes, I am thinking about it; yes I am open to suggestions). One way or another, I have felt a heightened sense of purpose recently. PRISM, Google announcing closing Google Reader and it looking like they'll stop supporting federated IM via XMPP, Google Glass coming out soon and set up by default to stream your life through Google's datacenters... these things continue to reinforce my feelings that working on issues of user freedom in networked applications is an area that critically needs work.

Visiting family and re-contextualizing my work

So things are busy with MediaGoblin, but very recently I took a break to visit some of my dad's side of the family in New Mexico. It was good to see everyone. I had some conversations with one of my aunts, a couple of my uncles, my father, one of my cousins, and one of my younger brothers about all sorts of things ranging from philosophy to religion to social justice issues... it felt like the better side of academic debates, which I miss a little.

Sitting in these conversations and talking to my family members gave me an opportunity to appreciate my family for who they are in a way I haven't thought about as much as I should. My uncle John is a great thinker, has a clearer and sharper vision on the construction of society than anyone I've ever met. He and my aunt Barbara both worked on projects to aid those in poverty, and at one point they lived both in Madison (where we are now, and that's part of the reason my parents moved to the upper midwest and why I grew up there) on a cooperative. My aunt at one point ran a rape crisis and counseling center, and now she is working on issues of helping bring heath care to the disenfranchised. My uncle Bill is working on starting a coffee shop and is trying to figure out how to use it to support local artists and promote ethical trade. My father taught and studied theology from the standpoint of greater inter-cultural understanding and finding common ground and peace between religions. My cousin Wendy is an atheist with a degree in theology and it's interesting to see just how close she and my father think. Just now she's leaving on a humanitarian mission to bring sustainable water solutions to areas that need it most (part of this is grounded in a purpose to show that actually atheists are moral people too). I'm proud to come from a family that is grounded in both thinking and acting upon issues of social justice.

And this lead to something interesting... the news of PRISM broke while I was on this trip and some of that conversation shifted toward the work I was doing, but it also contextualized some things because it was just one part of many conversations. We talked about issues of user freedom, both of PRISM and of the work I am trying to do, interwoven in many issues of social justice and human rights. And this felt significant to me, both in that I'm following in a family tradition of working on social justice issues, but even more importantly, that issues of user freedom are issues of social justice (and furthermore, that this was just very well understood by people who have worked on issues that are much more clearly seen as such).

But there is a flip side to this: if this is true, why have those of us who work on user freedom issues so generally failed to contextualize the issues we are working on in those terms? Why have we failed to describe issues of software freedom (or user freedom concerns more generally) as issues of social justice or contextualize them within human rights? A lot of thinking around this really congealed for me while on this trip, and I think I need to write about it more clearly while it is still fresh in my mind.

I left for this trip feeling like I was taking a semi-vacation from work, but also feeling bad about doing so. I left the trip with a renewed sense of purpose. It was certainly worth it for that.

Talks, conferences, and other projects

One odd thing about this year is that you'd think I'd be giving more talks than ever being fulltime on MediaGoblin, but I have actually avoided going to conferences for the most part. I have gone to two conferences in 2013: FOSDEM and LibrePlanet. I spoke at both, and I am convinced it was worth it. But every time I travel to speak it throws me off from the work I need to be doing and it feels hard to give MeidaGoblin's community its full attention. Right now I think we need more work done than speaking publicity, so after LibrePlanet, I decided to avoid conference-going for some time so I can focus. (Sadly this meant even missing PyCon... the first time I have missed PyCon since I started going in 2008!) I will probably resume some conference-going soon, as I have a collection of things I want to talk about.

But about FOSDEM and LibrePlanet: they were both great conferences, maybe some of the best conferences I have ever attended. I wish I had more time to write about them (or rather, I really should have written more about them closer to when they happened since this post is long enough already) but I will say that they were both amazing experiences. (One thing about both is that they both involved being on panels with people I really admire and have looked up to... it's strange to be taken somewhere near the same level of seriousness as them. Guess I'm doing a good job of tricking people into thinking I'm relevant!)

Oh yeah, I did give a talk about something unrelated recently, and it's the one project I've been helping with a bit: Hy, a pythonic lisp! You should check it out, it's pretty cool. I've been helping with the docs and I made the logo and I gave a talk at ChiPy and some other things. Mostly I just pester Paul Tagliamonte though. :)

Miscellaneous

Well this post is more than long enough, so here's an attempt to wrap it up.

Life is good. I like Madison. I'm slowly meeting friends here. Slowly, but it's happening. I love where we live. Generally, I love life. I'm not the absolute greatest at any of the fields that I'm in, but I seem to be doing well, I think I'm working on the right things, I have the fortune of working on them with amazing people, I'm trying, and I think we have a good chance of making it. At the moment, I'm giving myself permission to feel good about that.

Life Update October 2012

By Christopher Allan Webber on Tue 09 October 2012

I'm long overdue for another life update. I guess the last update I gave was in June with a supplemental post to update that I was leaving CC to focus on MediaGoblin. So, 4 months. That doesn't seem like a long time when I put it in month-numbers. In my mind though, it feels like a universe away. So many changes have happened in my life at once that it feels impossible to record them in one entry. Which I guess is why I intended to blog earlier to avoid this situation, but of course, I didn't do such a thing. Oh well, "life update" blogposts are fairly self-indulgent; interesting mostly as a record to myself and to keep the scattered few family and friends who have passing interest informed.

I don't think I can really intelligently list everything off, but let's start with bullet points and see where we go from there.

  • First of all, I wrapped up my work at Creative Commons. Well, kind of. I'm still somewhat involved as a contractor (details on that still being worked out though, so even that is vague), but anyway, there certainly was a significant "wrapping up" phase that happened during that exiting period of two months, during which a lot of the other things I'll be talking about happened consecutively. Largely I did a lot of work to try to put the tech team in as best of a place as I could and push forward various agendas I care about very much so personally forward (CC 4.0 stuff especially). There was also a lot of Liberated Pixel Cup wrapup stuff, but that actually kind of deserves its own entry, so I guess I'll list that next.

  • Liberated Pixel Cup's contest submissions on both art and code wrapped up and we got tons of amazing results. Way more than we anticipated, and way more than we prepared for. We did end up wrapping up the art judging but very much so significantly after when I would have liked to seen it wrapped up. Part of this was because of how overwhelmed we were by so many high quality entries, and thus a lot of judges fell through (not their fault necessarily given we didn't prepare them, didn't know to prepare them, for the volume of stuff). Another part of it was because Bart and I, the main organizers of the project, both had several large disruptions to our project; him with some family medical emergencies, me with being "homeless" for two weeks (more on that below) and settling into a new place and launching a major campaign all at once. The code side of things still needs to be judged, and I'll be returning some focus to organizing that shortly. Anyway, failure on our part at all largely comes in another way from a large amount of success, so that's a weird situation of pride and guilt that I'm feeling right now. It's good to have one of my major dreams come true and proven right, anyway.

  • Kind of a weird off-note but right before the move I made a major change to my mail setup. For years I had been using a terrible pop + fetchmail + local spamasssassin + gnus setup that I had cobbled together before I understand how any of those things worked from mailing lists and wiki pages and all sorts of cargo to build cults from. Problem: I could only check mail from my desktop, and when traveling, I always had the stress-inducing process of having to ssh into my desktop from wherever and open up gnus. I finally decided I was tired of that, and in a long and painful process that I really should have documented but didn't, I moved my mail over from gnus and nnml with some hacky elisp over to offlineimap and the incredible mu4e. mu4e is a real pleasure... I even added a small extension called mu4e-uqueue to make iterating through my mail a bit easier. Definitely happy with the change.

  • So yes, about the move. First, about leaving, which I have more to say about than probably makes sense. A couple of years ago we had the misfortune of moving to DeKalb/Deklabbs and a couple of months ago we had the good fortune to finally move out. DeKalb wasn't so bad for Morgan (and she had given me the option to live someplace closer to Chicago or in far west Chicago, but I didn't want her to have such a long commute) mostly because she had a community there. But I didn't... I was mostly friendless and depressed, which isn't good when you work from home. I had such a lack of community and sense of connection (excepting a university LUG that I attended sporadically) that I realized there were only a few things I would feel at all like I missed in DeKalb: the food co-op, the coffee shop, and most especially the restaurant Pita Pete's, which I ate at almost every other day (and I made sure the exact last thing we did before driving out of town for the final time was to get one last delicious seitan wrap). Going out to eat was in some ways one of the few connections I had to other people living in that town, so we did it quite a bit. On the last day there I was in a "finally, I'm getting the fuck out of this town" kind of mood. I went to the coffee shop, got a final coffee, and the woman behind the counter asked me if I'd come back. I said I didn't think so, I didn't think I'd miss anything, except maybe this place a little bit and Pita Pete's, but not really that much anyway. She told me that I should come back and visit, they'd miss me (not really sure that's just one of those things you say or not) and I asked her if she was still there as a college student (largely because I had the "so, when are you gonna get the fuck out of this town too?" type attitude on the mind) and she said she used to be, but she stayed around because she loved DeKalb. So, something about that moment felt significant, that there really wasn't an intrinsic terribleness to the area... it was really just a lack of connection to anything on my part.

  • So enough whining about a place I don't even have to live at anymore... we had someplace new and exciting to move to... Madison! But before we could do that we had a two week space of non-residence between our leases. Technically, we were without a home, so were "homeless" in one sense, but that seems degrading to people who are actually homeless, since our situation was the opposite of any sort of hardship. (Whatever, I'm rambling. Whatever to that too, this whole post is a big ramble.) Quite the opposite: we decided to do something we really haven't done much as a couple and do some vacation traveling.

    We had a two part-trip, first in Boston, then in New York. In Boston Morgan and I stayed with our good friend Deb Nicholson. For Morgan, this was pure vacation. For me, it was kind of a "work-cation"; I spent a lot of time hanging out at the FSF and meeting with various free softwareish people (a few highlights were meeting friends Mo and Ray of Fedora hackingness for lunch and Bassam Kurdali and Fateh Slavitskaya of Tube for dinner, as well as hanging out with a lot of friends from the FSF). Will Kahn-Greene also came down and Will, Deb and I gathered to discuss the MediaGoblin campaign, how we'd go about it, and whether we'd go a Kickstarter type route or do things through the FSF (whom had mentioned they would likely be interested in doing such a thing). After laying out a long list of requirements that the FSF would have to add for our campaign to work with them, we all agreed on that route forward.

    At some point, Deb's partner Ernie asked me when I was going to stop working and start vacationing. Actually, hanging out with free software people, and even doing the MediaGoblin stuff while lurking at the FSF offices, had me in a better mood than I had been in ages. Guess that's how I roll.

    Nonetheless, we also did some wonderful hanging out and seeing some touristy things with Deb, who as always, is a great host and excellent friend. Anyway, Boston was great times.

  • In-between Boston and New York, we thought we'd try to play it cheap by going to a smaller town in-between and just relaxing and reading and keeping things simple. So we MegaBus'ed it to Hartford.

    When I told people in Boston that we'd be having a few days in Hartford, we got a lot of "Oh god, why would you do that?" and stories about Hartford's insurance industry lobbying to kill all taxes, thus completely not investing in any infrastructure, and better hope you won't be stabbed, blah blah. I figured these were exaggerations from township rivalry. It couldn't be any more boring than DeKalb, anyway. I was wrong. I won't go into details, but Hartford kind of feels like one huge ghetto. Sad city Hartford indeed. Anyway, we took the fastest trip out of there we could, which meant buying extra bus tickets and spending the extra money I didn't want to spend in New York, but there you go.

  • New York was great though. I didn't really do any work, so that was real vacation for me. Some high points were museums, walking around Central Park, weird but delightful films, live puppetry, and meeting MediaGoblin contributors Aaron Williamson and Sam Kleinman. But maybe most of all I really enjoyed hanging out with Karen Sandler and her husband. The original plans to record my interview on Free as in Freedom while I was in-person didn't work out, but on the up side we got lunch on Karen's rooftop, which is had a crazy amazing view, and unsurprisingly really great conversation.

    Oh, and we didn't bring back bedbugs. Which is great, given that's a huge phobia of mine, and we were staying in New York.

  • We moved to Madison. Madison is, I will say, completely and totally amazing. For some reason I was afraid of moving to another college town after DeKalb, but there is simply no resemblance between towns here. Madison has a great tech community, amazing food, lots of interesting things going on and people, and so on. Also, we live between two lakes and are three houses away from the town's amazing Willy Street Food Co-op.

    If you ever plan on stopping through Madison, maybe consider contacting me... we have crash-space, and an extra desk for people to work from.

    Anyway, Madison is amazing. I'm very happy with the move.

  • Some bad news on Morgan's health. I won't go into details, but some things we thought were fixed weren't. Lots of stress.

  • Last Saturday my mom got married. I really like the guy she married, and the wedding was beautiful. Plus, I didn't screw up my part in the ceremony too badly. Morgan and I danced for five hours straight at the reception having a wonderful time and regretting it the next day.

  • Most significantly of all though is the MediaGoblin campaign. This will get a post of its own shortly (hopefully we launch this week) but what I will say now is that I've been working insanely hard on it. The video, the website (with commissioned help from Jef van Schendel), etc are all coming together well, and things are mostly coordinated with the FSF.

    In the meanwhile, I am really fried. I have put as much of myself as is possible into the campaign over the last month and a half, pretty much working as much around the clock as my body and mind will let me. I guess I can't complain though if I am living the dream?

    Or hopefully at least I will be! It really depends on how the fundraiser comes out. Really hoping for the best. As said, I've poured myself into it... and I think at least that the results are really good and I've tried my damndest.

    I'm feeling quite confident that this campaign is the right thing at the right time in many different ways, but most especially in the "more socially important than ever" type way. Here's hoping everything goes right. You'll certainly hear about it here when things launch, which is fairly imminent.

So those are the things on my mind these days. More news about the campaign comin' up shortly.