This past weekend I was in Montréal for the Çingleton conference and had a pretty awesome time. A big thanks to Scott, Luc, and Guy for putting it on again this year, and thanks to everyone else that helped pull it off- it was a ton of fun.
Now that the weekend is over and I've had time to reflect, two talks end up standing out in my mind. Matt Drance's talk on leadership because it got me thinking quite a bit, and Jonathan “Wolf” Rentzsch's talk on value systems because it was a punch in the gut.
Matt's talk stuck with me because it really got me thinking about what leadership is (which was exactly what he wanted I suppose). A ton of questions popped into my mind while Matt was talking. I can't deny that people look to me, simply because I've run a mostly one man indie shop for over ten years now, which is a dream for a lot of people. And I have created code (both open source and closed) which is used and respected by lots of people as well. But does that put me in any sort of a leadership role? I don't consider myself a leader, and in fact I tend to shy away from those roles. But maybe I shouldn't? And what the heck does that actually mean? Should I be more vocal about my opinions or just keep on doing what I'm doing? Over the years I've been more quiet on my blog because it has so much more visibility - is that a mistake?
I don't have the answers and asking myself these questions makes me feel silly. But it does make me wonder about what the heck I'm doing these days. Life isn't about just writing code and making pizza.
Then there was Jonathan's. The overarching theme of his talk was about value systems. And there were some bits about "fillers and spillers" which I won't get into because I saw it as a side show to the one thing that I believe he was trying to convey.
In [C4 release]; Jon described why he ended his C4 conference. In short it was over the addition of Section 3.3.1 of the iPhone Developer agreement (which basically said you could only write iPhone apps in Cocoa) and the lack of condemnation from the developer community. When Apple added that section I thought it was stupid, but hey it's their platform they can do what they want. And so like most developers[^1], I didn't say anything about it.
That was a personal mistake on my part. And I didn't realize just how big a mistake it was until Jon's talk and the razor sharp way he described how he felt.
One of Jonathan's core values is to help push humanity forward. And he believes one way to do this is through exploration and experimentation in software. If we didn't come up with new ideas and new languages to express our thoughts (and really- that's what we're doing when we program) we would be farther behind in progress.
I know this for a fact. If I hadn't invented JSTalk which I use for rapid prototyping and adding functionality to my apps, Acorn and VoodooPad would be farther behind in development. I open source things like FMDB and FMPSD because I don't want people wasting time reinventing the wheel. I don't get much out of it but in a very small way, the world does by the time developers save so they can work on more important things.
Section 3.3.1 cut off the possibility of inventing new programming languages on the iPhone, so by the values that Jonathan holds - this was a horrendous act by Apple. It cut off an arm of progress and invention.
And Jon thought he was alone in thinking this.
I had to take deep breaths when Jon explained his reasoning. I felt incredibly ashamed. It was in part because I consider Jonathan a friend and he thought he was alone and I did nothing. I felt ashamed because progress is one of my values and I said nothing. I felt ashamed because Matt's talk set me up, and Jonathan's knocked me down.
I could have pushed back, even if it was only a tiny bit with simple post here on my site. That was the least I could do, and I didn't. And I am sorry and upset with myself because I was lazy and a coward. But I'm hopeful that I won't let an opportunity to stand up for what I believe in pass by again.
You can claim to have certain values and you can put them up on a pedestal within your own mind and walk around feeling good about yourself. But don't ever forget that a person is defined by their actions and your values don't mean shit if you don't follow through.
[^1]: Rogue Amoeba is one exception that stands out in my mind of a developer who has spoken out.