Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

13 Apr 2021, 16:16 p.m.

Trying to Notice What's Missing

I'm ploughing through some open source project email threads and thinking:

In 2010, people got together in Berlin for a Wikimedia developers' meeting .... and then a bunch of them hung around a lot longer than they'd expected, because a volcano erupted and so their flights got cancelled. As I understand it, you can trace certain architectural decisions and improvements to the discussions and pair programming from that chunk of unexpected extra in-person time.

It's conference season, at least in the northern hemisphere, and we're going into our second year of virtualized or missing technology conferences. The maintainers, users, and stakeholders of the open source software you depend on have gone more than a year without getting to quietly gossip with each other over a snack or while walking to a sponsored party. It's been more than a year since one guy has been able to make that other guy laugh and remember "ah, he's not so bad really". It's been more than a year since people could easily scribble boxes and arrows together on the back of a conference schedule or poke at the demo on someone's laptop.

We come together every once in a while to refill on trust and camaraderie and a shared understanding of what we're trying to do and who we're trying to do it for; I assume that, for some folks, those wells have now run dry.

In a tree's rings you can see the years of drought. Where, in our code and our conversations, will we see the record of this separation? Do you already see it?


Will Peabody
14 Apr 2021, 9:52 a.m.

Speaking as a developer for over three say this as if it's a bad thing. Hive culture and group think is what's corrupted/corrupting the profession.

Sumana Harihareswara
27 Apr 2021, 14:46 p.m.

Will, my experience is different, but perhaps I place a higher value on friendship than you do, or have seen in-person conversations actually break through groupthink more than you have. My condolences that you are having a difficult experience and perceive your profession to be in decline.