Bloomington Bees

My 14yo son, Lucas, is working on his first startup. Bloomington Bees is a Bloomington, Indiana based apiary, or bee farm, producing honey, beeswax, honeycomb, and other interesting things. The Bloomington Bees blog, linked above, launched last week and received a bit of polish today making it ready to promote. Lucas talks about beekeeping and what it is like to start a business while still in school. My original post about Lucas's beekeeping endeavor can be found here: So it bee-gins.…

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So it bee-gins.

So it bee-gins.

When most people talk about startups, they conjure up visions of inexperienced hipsters fighting for VC money with a "build it now, exit soon, profit will magically happen sometime" attitude. There's a lot more going on in the world--a lot more going on just in the US--but it gets little attention because it's not trendy and "high tech". My 14yo is starting up this year. It all started last winter, when Lucas saw a movie set in Sherlock Holmes' later life. Holmes pulled himself out of retirement to solve one last case. In doing so, our favorite detective entrusted his home apiary to a young neighbor boy to ensure it would be looked after in his absence. Lucas, who used to be afraid of bees, became fascinated with the idea of raising them and collecting honey. A few people thought I was crazy, but hey his mom is the sort who deals with her acrophobia by going mountain climbing, so why not? I reminded Lucas that a friend of ours had started an apiary about a year before, and Lucas was soon off to the races, trying to find out what he needed to do to start an apiary of…

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Getting Mentorship Right in Open Source

Thanks to pdurbin and moongazer in #openhatch for the original discussion, and pdurbin again for some good edits to this post. I was party to a great discussion on IRC today about the disconnects in expectations that can make creating great mentor/mentee relationships difficult. This post is an attempt to capture some of my own thoughts and correct some misconceptions. A Mentor's Perspective I'll begin by explaining what mentoring looks like from the mentor's perspective. This is something most prospective mentees don't usually think much about, because they haven't yet gotten to this stage. Understanding your mentor's needs and concerns can make the process of getting good mentorship make more sense. A good mentor is busy. The people who make the best mentors are people who aren't just competent at what they do, but the combination between a top performer, a good communicator, and the type of personality who is themselves always learning. This is a recipe for being busy, all the time. Good mentorship is labor intensive. Mentoring costs a mentor time and energy. Because good mentors are busy people, these resources are already at a premium. Too often, mentees don't understand that mentorship is, on the part…

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Meritocracy in Open Source

I sat it on a great talk at OSCON today by VM Brasseur about succession planning in Open Source projects and communities. There was a point where she called out the weaknesses in claims of meritocracy in open source projects: At first, I expected the worst: another tirade about putting the goal of selecting contributors who look different from one another ahead of selecting for competence, differences in thinking, or complementary skill sets. What I actually got was something very different: a real assessment of where attempts at meritocracy usually fall apart. Specifically: The "I know it when I see it" failure mode: no one defines what merits a project or role needs, leaving new contributors flailing to figure out how to fit in, and established contributors blind to how to select and encourage others to eventually succeed their roles. (Fun fact: this blindness usually leads to a high attrition rate among new contributors and selection that corresponds more to individual biases than what the project needs.) The "the role is the person" failure mode...succession planning is put off again and again until it never happens, because project leadership never look at what the key roles are that they…

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Blog Migration

So, I've finally done what a certain loved one calls "taking an engineer pill" and moved another bit of my digital world to a managed service, reducing maintenance overhead so that I can focus on other things. This blog is now hosted courtesy of https://ghost.org, who have kindly offered me a complimentary hacker account to support my work in open source. They've taken over running my blog on the new Ghost blogging platform so that I can focus on content and, of course, my infosec work. I'm still migrating content and chasing down several remaining theme bugs, but thought I'd go ahead and set this live so that I could begin to put more writing out into the world. You'll see new and old content continue to appear here in a trickle over the course of the next few months. Feedback is always welcome.…

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Heavy Training

This isn't just a post about training hard in martial arts -- though it is about that -- it's about training hard when one is very overweight. In the past year, I've lost clothing sizes even faster than I've gained belt ranks, and thinking back on the process, much of it was non-obvious. So, tonight I'd like to collect some of my thoughts where they can be seen by other overweight martial artists and their teachers and ukes. If you can stand and walk, you can start training in martial arts. I spoke to my sensei last summer about two martial arts sessions I'd been asked to lead at a local nerdcon. I was having a major case of imposter syndrome, being only an orange belt at the time and overweight to boot. Sensei chuckled and said he couldn't think of anyone better for the job. "As a general rule, the people who most need to study martial arts never will. Nobody in a room full of computer geeks and gamers is going to listen to a word I say, but you speak their language. They might listen to you." Sensei was right on both counts. The face of martial…

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The Drupal Support Gap

The Problem We lack a clear and inviting path from discovering Drupal and learning how to use it to becoming an active and productive contributor. As a result, our most active developers are plagued by the support demands of intermediate users who have outgrown the Drupal.org forums and don't know where to go. This effect is compounded both by our failure to attract and assimilate new highly qualified support-givers, and the myriad bad behaviors that newbies are learning in "newbie ghettos" such as the forums -- behaviors that make it difficult-to-impossible to adequately support them and bring them into the wider Drupal community. The Solution Phase out the Drupal.org forums in favor of a more straightforward Q&A format resource. Treat posts that resource as not just the answering of this question here and now, but building a useful searchable reference into the future. Be brutal in eliminating off-topic chatter and duplication (but as kind as possible in explaining why a question was closed) ala StackExchange. Provide easy gateways from that resource to more active participation in the Drupal community: IRC, issue queues, doc team, translation teams, GDO, etc. Improve the consistency of IRC and Q&…

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Prerequisites

I was recently asked what one needs to know before becoming a Drupal developer. It's a tricky question, both because Drupal draws strength from the diversity of our community, and because it's hard to pinpoint the precise point where one becomes a dev. Below is my attempt at an answer; feel free to suggest additions or changes: The Basics Have Patience Rome wasn't built in a day, nor will your Drupal-fu be. Prepare for trial and error; it's part of life in the open source world. Speak Fluent English While Drupal itself has been translated for use in many languages, the lingua franca for development is English. English is spoken in the issue queues, on the [contributor IRC channel)(irc://irc.freenode.net/drupal-contribute), and at DrupalCons. If you don't speak, read, and write English fluently, you will miss out on most of what is going on, and you will never reach a high level of Drupal developer-fu. Use Drupal You might think this goes without saying, but we do get wanna-be devs who don't really grok what Drupal is or how to install it. It's not necessary to be an expert Drupal admin before your first issue queue visit,…

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Learn this--hacker culture is not optional

In the past couple of weeks, I've become increasingly aware of how much conflict younger open source projects I'm involved in have compared to more mature projects and projects run by folks with an extreme number of years in open source. Then I had to explain to my housemate who Donald Knuth is... ...and tell a fellow Drupalista what the Jargon File is... ...and define "grok" for a colleague from the XMPP community... ...and stifle a laugh while my 7-year-old tried to describe the wumpus to someone who should know better... ...after which I read Eric Raymond's recent post on the social utility of hacker humor. Then I grokked. In the projects that have been around for a dozen or more years, or those run by hackers who have been, there is a common culture and identity shared by all: we're hackers. Whatever else we are -- country bumpkins, urbanites, gay, straight, bi, male, female, transgender, a particular religion or nationality, old or young, single or married, parent or not, rich or poor -- we are hackers, and all we need to know to work together is that we share that cultural bond of hackerdom. In the younger open source…

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I usually don't write about feminism, but...

I rarely write about feminism. When I have, it has to point out the foolishness of pushing non-tech women into technology in the name of gender equality, and trying to obscure the ability gap by pressuring competent women to spend too much of their time with the incompetent ones. This time I'm writing about a brilliant article I came across on twitter (thanks @crell). The tech industry isn't closed to women, or girls for that matter. I was welcomed from the first day I wandered into the open source world, a self-conscious twelve-year-old farm girl with no feel for tech culture. The problem is that most 12yo girls don't feel like spending their nights in front of a computer screen and line after line of code. Jolie's article talks about what should be obvious, but no one talks about -- you can't raise a little girl with nail polish and baby dolls then expect her to magically become obsessed with tech at university. I'm sure my chemical sensitivities (which caused extreme illness when I was exposed to clothing stores, new clothes, make-up, etc) had something to do with my becoming a geek. Will all girls raised in a more varied…

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On Speculative Web Development Work

Many web developers, especially Drupal developers (who are in particularly high demand these days), won't touch speculative work, period. With so many options available to us, we can choose work that will pay now over work that might pay some day. Still, not everyone who has an idea has the front money to build it. I have had some luck with speculative web development work over the years, and I thought I'd talk about why I do it and how I choose which projects are worth speculating on. Not long after I diverted from my former career path to pursue life as a Drupal consultant, I received the following advice from a trusted friend: "Every good independent web developer has a project or two that is their own, besides what they do for their clients." It's turned out that he is right. Good speculative work gives me a chance to build a product I'm really happy with, free of portfolio-harming client compromises and NDAs. It also provides me with important experience following a project through its entire life cycle, so that I can jump into my consulting projects and easily answer "where do we go from here?" no matter what…

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Protection vs. Preparation

A 7yo boy was kidnapped from someplace in Oregon. It's received the kind of coverage parents can only get when their missing child is cute enough to imply profitability to network news directors. During a one-year period studied by the DOJ (stat via missingkids.org), an average of 2,185 children were reported missing each day. Paring the news coverage down to the occassional poster child makes the subject more manageable, but it also gives the illusion that kidnapping is a rare occurrence. Commentary I heard today from parents I know -- really good parents -- was all along the lines of "I just want to hug my kids and never let them go" and "it makes me scared to let my children go anywhere". It's an understandable impulse -- as the parent of a kidnapped (and safely recovered) child, I certainly experienced the instinct to keep my child close at hand. Years later, I have an amazing and increasingly independent seven-year-old. He's got a year of formal martial arts training, and a lifetime of instruction on basic tactics. At seven years old, and as he grows up, Little Fish deserves both a little freedom, and the skills to deal…

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