It recently occurred to me to write a bit about open source and it’s value to me. As many of you may know, I design and program websites and people freely and abundantly give me federal reserve notes when I do. It’s a hobby really. Anyway, I was pulling an all nighter last night to fix some bugs on a client’s website. A calendar plugin program I had customized up the wazoo is used on the site, but the original programmers of the plugin, even in the latest version hadn’t fixed a particular, rather glaringly large bug. There’s a lot of debate in programming circles: “Do we fix the bugs, or add more features?” And they had focused on the latter. Well my client needed it fixed! So I dived into the code, swimming amongst it’s many parts to figure out what had gone wrong. By about 4 a.m. I finally figured out what needed to be done to fix it, and I fixed it! Yay!
I then jumped on to an online forum for this particular WordPress plugin and posted the fix. The bug was a long running bug that people had complained about up to six months ago, but the developer was focused a whole lot more on adding features. Well, once I posted the fix to the forum, the developer hirself jumped online and commented that they’ll have to try to get it worked into the next latest release. Open source is a beautiful thing.
I use WordPress for most of my clients’ sites, and for a lot of my own. With some of the latest releases of the program, I also have gotten into writing WordPress plugins themselves – to mend the program when it doesn’t live completely up to my expectations. And it is a mighty good feeling to walk away from a plugin I’ve developed and written and even more pleasing when people leave comments about how wonderful and useful a plugin is, too. :)
In a recent interview with Matt Mullenweg ze said that “scripting is the new literacy”; that is a pretty interesting perspective, that writing code for the net is a contemporary form of literacy. I suppose there is an expanse where knowing how to read and write in English is a form of literacy, but code literacy being important, I’m not sure. I know that a lot of programmers, including Jobs and Mullenweg have tried to make the interface between user and machine to be intuitive and seemingly natural – that is not being code script literate, but helping people to be less so.
In another vein, I have a new client recently whose previous site manager maintained their site in a specific manner, and when I initially jumped into maintenance with them, I had to dive pretty deeply into reading the code to figure out “how” it had been created and maintained to that point so as to continue along similar lines of maintenance.
Maybe that so much of the web is open source, that that common body of scripting literacy and foundational constructs make programmers sort of the bookbinders, and in some instances the librarians of this present age. But also it is literally also an artistic design medium, too. Though for many of my clients, a lot of the programmers they have worked with seem to be more nuts and bolts oriented and less design and artistic. But we’re all working together, cooperatively, to create the open source printing machines of our age.
I suppose if one of those titanic 2012 cataclysms occurs, it could wipe the computer world off the map and that would be fine — it was an interesting ride. Ah, the many thrills and enjoyments of eternity.