Open source and open knowledge

I spent part of the train ride home today working on a coding project (the Highrise bookmarklet I blogged about wanting on Monday).  It’s almost done and I’m excited to start using it.

I am not a great programmer, but I like it a lot. I only took one CS course in college. I really learned to program in the ~10 years after college, teaching myself from books and online resources, spending a ton of time using view-source to see how web pages were built, and hacking things together using open source tools like WordPress.

There is an important and profound combination of things in that last statement, about the hackability and learnability of the web.  That combination of things made it possible for me to build a ton of new skills, and really an entire career, because a) it was possible for me to explore how the pros had built things and b) it was really easy to get help online, from documentation wikis, discussion forums and blogs.  And now, there are more and more amazing tools that help this process along, from open-source sharing sites like Github to amazing Q&A sites like StackOverflow.

Today’s success was possible, in large part, thanks to the kind folks who ask questions, post answers, and share code in these places and more.  It’s amazing, really, so thank you.

Further, I can say with absolute honesty, that I owe my career to the openness of the web.  To the fact that I’ve been able to examine, tinker, ask, learn, and experiment in these ways is something that underlies everything else.

I guess I’m writing this to remind myself that despite the fact that I’m not a hard-core open source person (I’m writing this on a Mac), I really do feel a profound personal connection to the openness of the web.  And that’s one reason among many that it’s something worth working to protect.

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