Outside Palo Alto apple store following Steve Job's death.jpg
I heard an NPR bit on him yesterday. I didn’t know his father was Syrian.

The story, though, was irritating for its fanboi-ism (even though a woman reported it).

As far as I can tell Steve Jobs was no more a “computer genius” than Bill Gates. He certainly didn’t invent the smart phone, nor was he the first person to release a cellphone with a camera. The story attributed both of these things to him, incorrectly.

He was a marketing genius. But he was also a micro-manager who would look at, say, versions of the Mac or iPhone that his engineers brought him and make design changes on the spot. He expected long hours from his workers.

He also was good at controlling the Apple brand. When Jobs left Apple, his replacements wanted to imitate IBM’s success with the PC, so they licensed out the specifications for the Mac so that people could start developing clones of the Mac. The Mac really suffered during this period. When Jobs returned to Apple, one of the first things he did was kill off the clones.

I respect a lot of what he has done as a business man — he knew what Apple needed as far as business and marketing. I respect his taste for design. He was able to market the iPhone and iPod as the devices to have.

But over the years, I’ve become more attracted to the sort of people Fake Steve Jobs called “freetards”. And, truly, the parody does seem to really have insight into how Steve Jobs actually thought.

I’m not happy Steve Jobs is dead. And he is a significant person beyond just the tech world. He did a lot to popularize computers during my life. He’ll be missed by many.

I’m just more interested, now, in making computing resources (and knowledge) available to everyone. I respect his focus on usability — we freetards use a lot of the ideas that Apple engineers developed and popularized — but while I do want to sustain my current standard of living, I’m interested in making resources available for everyone, not selling more shiny widgets.

20020730083218 - Debian.jpgOf scripting languages used for web applications, PHP is pretty lightweight and fast. It is built to execute quickly and with little overhead, making it easy to scale.

Still, there are places where it could be better. Engineers at Facebook took this challenge and created HipHop. We at the Wikimedia Foundation would love to have HipHop packaged so that we can deploy it on our cluster. And, ultimately, while we realize we might need to do the initial work of packaging HipHop, we don’t want to be the ones responsible for keeping the package up-to-date.

Since I have some experience with packaging PHP applications and am a sometimes-active member of Debian’s PHP maintainers team, I felt this was a natural place for me to jump in.

And, because I’m lazy, the first thing I did was look for any other work on packaging HipHop that had been done. I found James DuPont’s work and built on it. Now it comes time to move this forward.

I’ve already taken his ITP for HipHop.

You’ll note that it depends on two other bugs to get the HipHop patches for curl and libevent included. These were essentially dismissed by both maintainers.

The curl maintainer pointed out that it that patch was un-needed or, at least, needed better a better defense. I can’t really provide that. I’m not sure that I can adapt the HipHop code to the suggested APIs, but I’m willing to try if the HipHop developers aren’t.

The libevent developer pointed out (in response to the Debian bug), that the patch was against an old, unmaintained version of libevent. Newer versions evidently make half of the patch un-needed and the other half needs to be adapted to the newer version of libevent.

I really want to make this happen. I really want Debian (and Debian derivatives like Ubuntu) to have HipHop packages. But I’m not sure how much time I can give to this right now since we’re in the middle of pushing out a new release of MediaWiki. If you can help solve any of the packaging problems mentioned above, please dive in!

So, this morning I was going to my Thursday morning “Early Risers” study group hosted by my (Orthodox) church with my neighbor, a Mennonite peace activist (see $10.40 for Peace for his most recent effort) and it was raining.

Since I don’t follow news, except the big stories that hit the Interwebs, I didn’t realize that we were getting the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. But we were.

So, at 6:15am as we passed through a low point, we saw a trailer park near a creek flooded, its residents standing at the roadside watching the water threaten their homes.

We got to the study group at 6:30AM along with a few others but my priest, who usually leads the group, wasn’t able to make it because of flooding on the road. So those of us who got there continued in his absence.

On the way back home at 7:45 the highway (US 222) was closed, so we took the slow road (PA 272).

Along the way, we passed the trailer park again. This time the flood waters had clearly reached some of the homes and were just about a foot from the road. But we slugged on and soon we were safely home.

Shortly after dvfmama left for work in Lancaster, but she soon returned. All the roads out of town (we live on a hill) were closed. Evidently, our children’s school got the same message: school was canceled due to the flooding.

(Here come the graphs!) My neighbor gave me links to some charts of the flooding. And it is pretty striking. The amount of rain in the past few days has caused local rivers to rise significantly, and meant that they’re carrying a lot more water. In some sense, because I live on a hill outside of a flood zone, this was a nice reminder of New Orleans, but still, it is good too keep in mind that others suffered.

I have let a few things build up that I want to write about (and I’m trying to make sure the bugosphere doesn’t overwhelm me entirely), so here is a potpourri of what is going on.

Good Friends

This past weekend, someone from New Orleans that I’ve been working with for the past eight or nine years was in New York City and said he wanted to get together. It provided a nice excuse to go up to NYC. We had a great dinner and had fun catching up. Even though I’m not a businessman, I have a few friends like this one who own and run their own business and I love their perspective.

While I was in NYC, I made good on a threat I’ve made before to this open source power couple that I know, Leonard and Sumana. I met Leonard seven years ago when we were both working on the Clark campaign. I didn’t realize then how truly bright he was, but if you google “Leonard Richardson”, you’ll see that he has written quite a bit. And he maintains a fairly humble attitude and has a wonderful sense of humor. You can see this in his O’Reilly Bio: Leonard Richardson has been programming since he was eight. Recently the quality of his code has improved somewhat.

When I said I wanted to meet him, he asked what I wanted to do. I suggested Museum of the Moving Image since it was near where he lived and, as it happens, was hosting the traveling Jim Henson exhibit. I vividly remembered Leonard playing the Manamana video for his fellow Clark staffers, so I thought this might be right up his alley. I was right.

I didn’t know Sumana before the WMF but she was brought on as our Volunteer Development Coordinator this year (in the TL;DR group, which I am a part of and I can only find a brief mention of in this “Platform Engineering” blog post) and, lo, open source runs in small circles. Sumana and Leonard are married!

Hurricanes

Of course, Hurricane Irene was on our minds. As someone who has lived through several hurricane seasons in New Orleans (but not, I admit, Hurricane Katrina), I was a little more amused than I should have been that NYC was evacuating parts of the city because of predicted 50 knot winds (though, I admit that I thought shutting down the subway was a good move — I will condescend at least that much).

Even if the storm that hit NYC didn’t meet my stringent standards for impending doom, it was still good to hear that Sumana and Leonard survived.

School

Oh, and as if that isn’t enough trauma in my life: tomorrow is the first day of school for my children. Given that and dvfmama’s work outside the house, it’ll be my first day for quite some time by myself.

I don’t know if I can handle the solitude.

The longer I am the bugmeister at Wikimedia, the deeper I get into the bugosphere, the social network that is the WMF’s BIEDRONA.JPG Bugzilla. This has led to a marked decrease in blogging and status updates in other places. Today (a Saturday!) has been slow for me, so you get a blog post.

Over ten years ago, someone coined the word “blogosphere” to describe the culture and interactions that formed around weblogs. Today, I feel the need to adapt that word to describe the microcosm that evolves around a particular instance of Bugzilla (or any other public bug reporting database, I’m sure): bugosphere.

As the bugmeister, I’m sure my experience should not be considered normative — you shouldn’t expect to jump into a bug reporting tool and find any sort of community. Still, I’m sure other bugmeisters (I only know a couple) and other committed bug reporters experience their own version of the bugosphere.

This past week, the bugosphere really came into focus for me. During the preparation for this week’s collection triage, Tomasz and I found a bug reporter (Helder.wiki or mybugs on bugzilla) who had reported numerous Collection bugs) and asked xyr to join the bug triage this past week.

It was through Bugzilla that Helder.wiki and I connected. Through that connection and xyr participation in last week’s triage, I decided to have a Wikibooks triage on the 14th.

I had a hint of the social aspects of working on bugs before this week (six months ago I said “Bugzilla is my social website”), but this week the bugosphere really came into focus. These are my people, they’re not bound by any one organization, like the WMF, but they’re interested in problems we experience with this software. Social bonds, social “networks”, have been forged over less, but the goal we share, sharing the sum of human knowledge, is an especially powerful one.

Bugzilla captures our struggles to make Wikipedia (and Wikibooks, and Wikisource, etc.) better. The bugosphere is a great place.

Posted in wmf.

Wikimedia logo family complete.svgOur Deputy Director, Erik Möller, has posted a list of the open Engineering positions at the WMF that we’re hiring for right now.

If you’ve ever wanted your work to matter, to mean something more than a paycheck and the 9-5 grind, and you have the skill and aptitude for software engineering, product management, or QA, then I don’t know of a place that you can work that a bigger impact than the only non-profit with a website listed in the top 10 websites — an organisation that is dedicated to a bigger vision that we are really trying to achieve instead of something we tell you to get more eyeballs for our ad banners.

Check out our job openings — we even have some non-engineering positions. Unlike the other top web properties, Wikimedia is never going to make you rich with stock options, or a signing bonus, but we’re still small enough where your own work can make a big difference.

Hands ondiamonds 350.jpg Last night, dvfmama and I got to talking.  In her macroeconomics class, she asked a question about slaves.  Does economics consider slaves “labor” or “land”?  (For those too lazy to click the links, economics defines land as a resource used to produce a good, while labor is the human efforts that are used to produce a good.)

Despite the eye-rolls from her classmates, she was specifically thinking of the brick-making slaves (including children) that were discovered in some Chinese factories recently.  Economic powerhouses, she pointed out to me, seem dependent on cheap labor to reach the powerhouse status.

Anyway, this conversation got me thinking about the Chinese workers that I met while I was in Uganda rafting the Nile.  They were helping to build out the cellular infrastructure, using money the Chinese government had loaned to Uganda.

At the time, I was confused by this.  China has a lot of its own people it could be helping: why this apparent philanthropy towards Africa?

Poking around last night I came across a story by Peter Hitchens about his experience in Congo: How China has created a new slave empire in Africa.

Congo, for the geographically-illiterate among us (including me, usually), is on the western border of Uganda.

China is poised to become the next economic powerhouse.  It looks like imperialism is an almost inevitable step on the path to becoming a major world power.  The UK did it, the US is doing it, and now China wants in on the game.

Brandon's AdI’m in the Wikimedia Offices this week in San Francisco, so when we had a one-hour A/B test where we showed banners to 100% of users who weren’t logged in, I got to see something I don’t usually get to witness: Brandon Harris, whose personal appeal was being tested, let us know how awesome it was that he was mildly kicking Jimmy Wales butt at fund raising. That, in itself, is good news. For too long, Wikimedia’s fund-raising efforts have relied too heavily on Jimmy Wales. Even though it only ran for an hour, people noticed. Which is weird.

But in a good way. I love that I can be a part of an organisation that is so influential that when we’re just doing a quick test, people notice.

Posted in wmf.