So it bee-gins.

So it bee-gins.

When most people talk about startups, they conjure up visions of inexperienced hipsters fighting for VC[1] 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[2] 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…

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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…

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Blog Migration

So, I've finally done what a certain loved one calls "taking an engineer pill"[1] 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. To "take an engineer pill" is to do one of the hardest things an engineer could do: to let go of control of something under one's purview and hand it over to someone else, who may or may not do it exactly as the engineer him/herself would have.…

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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[1] 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…

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