Ben Brostoff

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06 May 2017

I bought a new MacBook Pro 2016 today, which represents a large upgrade for me. I was on an MBP 2012 before. The performance improvements are remarkable. Just using it today felt like one of those (ever more frequent) times when technology shocks you with how quickly it improves. I got to thinking about how many open source tools just in the last few years have sped up my workflow as a developer:

  • Docker
  • Anaconda
  • Jupyter notebooks
  • ES6 (especially async / await)
  • yarn
  • React and React Native

In the last decade (almost half decade), at some point one of these things did not exist. I could not envision myself living without any one of them now.

As someone who uses a lot of open source tools, I feel very privileged. I am the beneficiary of frequent upgrades. When I need to debug someone else’s library, it’s generally not too terrible, and almost half the time there’s a robust conversation on GitHub about the exact issue I’m having. The other half of the time, I’m probably using the API incorrectly. Being a developer is fun because nothing stays broken for that long.

But yes, more things do break, and complexity increases. That’s a given. And Hacker News, reddit and Twitter will remind you ad nauseam that everything is terrible and you’re part of the problem.

I sometimes worry that these channels have become so vocal that they’re discouraging would-be makers from contributing. Kenneth Reitz wrote recently about publish-only mode:

I didn’t want to lose what I valued most about my position within our community — being able to influence the world I cared so much about. So, I unfollowed everyone on Twitter. Every single person. I stopped paying attention to tech trends and reading hacker news. I went into publish-only mode.

I continue to find these words inspirational, because I think they’re more relevant than ever. The open source ecosystem is meant to be lived in and improved. To the extent that developers can adopt improved software with as little friction as possible, I believe the world becomes a better place.

I was reminded today that software and hardware improvements can really impact human life in a positive way. I want to help bring upgrades into the open source ecosystem as much as I can. And the road to upgrades lies in deep work.

So, here’s to publish-only mode, and resolving to be a part of the next decade of upgrades.


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