The All Mighty Green One

Non sense, whining and stupid unfounded comments from the green.

Making a Dent in the Universe

Something very interesting happened recently. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs attended an interview. They discussed many topics, ranging from the current state of their projects, how they viewed the other person and company, and their position on the near future and evolution of the industry, amongst other topics. We even learned that they have been secretly married for the past decade. There have to be dozens, if not hundreds of mainstream media venues and blogs talking about this event, so I wont go into detail. If you want to know more always remember: Google is your friend.

This reminded me of “Pirates of Silicon Valey”, which is a top movie for any nerd, and yet I have not seen it. I took it upon myself to utilize the occasion and watch the land mark film, since these two behemoths will probably not rejoin any time soon to offer me inspiration, or for any other reason. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie it tells the tale of the surge of Apple and Microsoft, although that’s not really important right now.

I was very surprised at how Steve Jobs was portrayed in the movie. He’s eccentric to say the least, and some of the things he did were unreasonable to say the least. I don’t really know how much of the movie is fact and how much is fiction. Again, unimportant detail. The one thing that really caught my eye was the passion that the character of Steve had in the whole movie. This passion has also characterized Jobs himself in the few press conferences and communications I have seen in the recent past. I’m guessing it may be more fact than fiction. He took risks, he stuck with them. He is today one of the most successful and charismatic men in the industry. He has an almost cult like following that will defend him at any cost. A real Cinderella story, if I’ve ever heard one.

This reminds me of one of the many failed attempts I have had in this short but interesting life. Like many others I quit the day job in order to pursue a start up company. As for school, I had already dropped out a couple of years ago at that point, so don’t even bother questioning that. I got together with a couple of my friends and started working on software that we identified that was needed in the market. Software that was inexistent in the market for the most part, and if not, fundamentally flawed.

I was the self appointed software architect. I would dream up most of the designs, and try to plan the stuff to the best of my ability. This does not mean by any extent of the imagination that I had the credentials, experience or know-how to actually do an adequate job. I simply was the guy in the role. I designed a couple of applications, and swiftly started working on them. I was full of life, full of passion. I was glad I had escaped the corporate shackles. I was living my life, my way on my terms. In the end, everything would be alright, or so I told my wife (at that time still girlfriend), every day.

The idea of doing your own thing was very appealing to me. My current day job, considering the market, didn’t have a too bad salary. Yet it got to a point where it was a simple repetition of outlined steps. It quickly became very redundant and boring. To make matters worse, corporate politics, company oversights and bad management made my experience there a whole lot worse. I was escaping all of this. I was going to do what I wanted to do, AND GET PAID TO DO IT. If you add to that family and friends, you’re set! What else do you really need to be happy? Aaahh… the eternal unanswerable question.

Yet the dude (that’s my cute nickname for God) is not without a perverse sense of sarcasm. My planning skills, as I have mentioned before were not stellar. Therefore implementation time was becoming more and more extended due to unforeseen complexities. Discussions turned into fights. People started pointing at my code, ridiculing it. Saying I was a fanboy of a particular technology or a particular construct of a language. I did my best to keep my cool and keep working. After all, our survival was at stake. I had alredy quit my day job, and a couple of the other guys were on their way to do the same.

Then an defining day arrived. One of the guys popped. I don’t know why. I have several theories. Maybe he felt unimportant. Maybe he felt ignored. Maybe he felt that his contributions were not taking into serious consideration. Who knows? Up to this day I still haven’t asked him. He sent a very beautiful email insulting everyone in the group and their mother. The group was already in a tense state. This was just adding a tank of propane, bathed in gasoline, to the fire. Keep in mind I had invested a lot of my creativity and time to the group’s objectives. Hell, the current code base was at least 80% all my own handwritten code. All the designs were mine. Never the less, I promptly quit, wished everyone good luck and started to look for potential job opportunities. I was simply too frustrated and didn’t want to put up with it anymore.

I know have another job, at another corporation. This one seems to be much more friendlier, flexible and comfortable to work with. They try to keep bureaucracy to a necessary minimum and make their employees comfortable. This is a world of change in comparison to the old job. Yet I still feel the same sense as before. I am repeating the same steps over and over again. I am doing a job that in the end will not positively influence someones life. I am simply there, because justification is necessary.

Steve Job’s character (in the movie) in the beginning said that their objective was nothing mediocre, but to make a dent in the universe. He was out to make a difference. He was out to change everyone’s life. I had that kind of passion once. Probably not to the extent of Mr. Jobs, but definitely something palely comparable. I think it’s still lurking down there somewhere. Yet I have lost hope. Not in the group, but in myself. To actually get a start up going takes a lot of hard work. To do it while maintaining a day job, going to school or having other major responsibilities makes it near impossible. Yet there was a day where I laughed in the face of this feat. That day is long gone. I miss being fearless. I miss working to reach objectives I truly believed in, not just for the next paycheck.

Now, making a dent in the universe is pretty big deal. While there are some talented few that are meant to lead, most of us have no choice but to follow. I wanted to be a leader. Apparently I did not have the chops to make it happen, or maybe I gave up too soon. Who knows? Can I still turn it around? Or will I just be another sheep gladly following the herder, reminiscing of a short period of time in my life where I made my own rules, before it all crumbled down to the ground?

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June 2, 2007 - Posted by | apple, microsoft, software, technology, work

6 Comments »

  1. Good read. If it makes we feel any better, you’re not alone, everyone that takes ate least two minutes a day to analyze his/her life feels that way at some point. Me, I have no issue getting motivation, but it’s in keeping that motivation that my issues are, work life and other aspects as well. Is it me, the environments I have been in, or just how they came to me? The answer has not yet revealed to me. But like someone once told me, if you know your problems, or at least acknowledge their existence, you’re closer to their solution than those who do not.

    Comment by Ivan | June 2, 2007

  2. If you are interested in more info of what was going on inside apple at that time, you might want to have look at: http://www.folklore.org/index.py

    On the topic of your start up experience, I have to say, that it seems you were the only one working. From what you said above it seems, that is the case, it’s really not surprising what happened.

    I believe you have the concept wrong, or at least what you wrote above. A startup is collaborative effort of a group of people working towards the same goal. In a startup there is no room for words like: My, I, mine etc. they should be plural.

    If you re-read what you wrote, even now, while you clearly state it was someone flipping out that cause you to quit, it still sounds like you feel responsible. You should feel responsible as all of the other members should too, if they don’t then their is a bigger problem.

    You can’t expect to have a group of programmers not look, pick, and point at your code, that is not going to happen, unless you work alone. That’s why sites like Daily WTF exist.

    To expand on what I said above, in a startup situation it shouldn’t (in the successful ones at least, it doesn’t matter) who, when or where the code was written, and if a bug is found, if a better solution is found, you apply it, that’s why they have SCM tools, and make builds etc.

    If you read the folklore site, you will find stories of how Jobs, used programmers against each others, “to get better quality” it seem to work out for him, but he had to pay a very high price. Do you think he’s still doing it? I think not, he learned his lesson, and on that note, I know you’ve learned yours, whatever it might be.

    Comment by xmonk | June 2, 2007

  3. I apologize. I never meant it to sound like I was the only one working. That is not true. I was just trying to tell part of the story from my perspective. I wanted to focus on what I felt and what has taken me from point A to point B over this period of time.

    Again, I apologize, if I it appears that I am laying a shadow over the work of the other people in the group. Especially yours xmonk.

    Despite what happened I am still grateful for the experience. Experiences are what make me what I am today. The lessons I learned there I still value and use. I would have been a different, maybe less mature, person if I had not been through that process. Thank you for being a part of it.

    Comment by tamgo | June 2, 2007

  4. There is no need for apologizing, it’s not about that, is about the notion, that in the successful startup every single
    member is involved in every single piece of software, or decisions being made, that includes coding, modifying another member code is normal, even to the point of re-writing whole classes if necessary, and the premise is it better this way if the answer is yes, good everyone wins, if the answer is no, the changes are reverted, and work continues.

    In a more organized startup, you make patches and you send those patches upward to the person who is in charge of the module or app, for revision and inclusion on the tree if it’s a good solution, or a comment explaining why it’s not a good solution, it’s simple, that’s how 100% of Open Source software works.

    When you can’t modify a piece of code, or when all your suggestion are shot down as bad, two things are happening.

    1.) The maintainer has something against the person handing down the patches, or he just does not get it.

    2.) The guy sending the patches is not at a programming level to work on that particular project or company.

    All I’m saying is when you work on a start up all egos, should be focused on doing the best for the company to get off it feet’s. Not who owns or did what.

    Gates, Jobs, and the Google guys do that a lot, they will bring new people into a project that’s already evolving, that will push the software into the direction they want.

    It’s not about blame, responsibility or who did, or who did not.

    It is about moving forward, not quiting on people that believe you. Who have always believe in you, even when you didn’t, and I’m not talking about me or Napo.

    Comment by xmonk | June 3, 2007

  5. I read an interesting book called “The Perfect Thing” by Stephen Levy (think that’s his name) about the Ipod phenomenon. Very interesting book, and quite a lot about Steve Jobs…worth a read I think.

    Comment by silverneurotic | June 5, 2007

  6. Very interesting and insightful post. I saw the movie fairly recently and was kind of surprised in that there seemed to be some very factual points in the movie — at least more than I expected.

    I think that we all, to an extent some time in our lives, have that urge to do our own thing – make our own dent somehow. However, in such a huge world, as we grow older, we soon see how small we really are. Therefore, even the remote idea of making a dent seems so astronomical that we put those desires to the side. I can personally relate because I am someone who is affected with Dwarfism and for years I wanted to use that to help make that dent, do something special just to hopefully inspire people to chase their dreams despite life set backs. But, the world is so big and I quickly realized that I will never be able to make that kind of dent. So, my next question was ‘well, what can I do?’ One thing I know I can do is be myself and hopefully make ‘little dents’ or dentlets in the lives of those whom I have the privilege to meet.

    I now am in the middle of starting a small business in web design and development. So, as I am writing up plans and really thinking about how I want to set my service apart from others in the region is really the same reason that Steve Jobs has had for his motivation. And, that is to really create a unique way of service and focus as much as the experience as the technical service itself. There are many ‘freelance’ tech-heads that can do basic websites in the area, but I would love to take that further.

    Lastly, I wanted to respond to your comment on my blog. Your comment was very good and insightful and was alot of what I had been thinking through while writing that post, I just may have not expressed it clear enough. The genersl OS as we know it will probably never die, it just has to exist for the computer to function. However, I think what you will begin to see is more intergration with desktop client apps with online apps. Soon, the browser will be one of many apps that utilize online tools. Your comment was great and thanks for reading my blog! Yours is great.

    Comment by Kris | June 10, 2007


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