I had a great time at Penguicon 2016, including face time with a lot of the people who help out on my various projects. There are a couple of thoughts that kept coming back to me during these conversations. One is “It is good, having so many impressively competent friends.”
The other is that without me consciously working at it, an amazing support network has sort of materialized around me – people who believe in the various things I’m trying to do and encourage them by throwing hardware and money and the occasional supportive cheer at me.
Because I didn’t consciously try to recruit these people, it’s easy for me to miss how collectively remarkable they are and how much they contribute until several of them concentrate in one place as happened at Penguicon.
Where I thought: “I’ve been taking these people a bit for granted. I should do better.”
So here, in no particular order, is a (partial) list of people who are really helping. It focuses on those who were at Penguicon and are A&D regulars, so I may have left off some people that would belong on a more complete list.
John D. Bell: I hate having to do system administration and am not very good at it. John is the competent sysadmin I run to for help; he gives generously of his time and friendship. He’s also the person who accidentally started the cascade of events that resulted in the building of the Great Beast of Malvern.
Jay Maynard: My DNS zone secondary and the person I go to specifically for DNS help, because I touch it so seldom that I invariably forget all the fiddly details.
Mark Atwood: My project manager on NTPsec, he who makes my paychecks flow. He wouldn’t make this list if he were just some random corporate functionary set by CII to watch how their money is being spent; he volunteered to PM at least in part because he respects me, likes the work I do and thinks it good to help. Thus, not only does he do as comprehensive a job as I judge is possible of shielding me from the politics around my work and my funding, he smiles benignly when I wander off to work on things like reposurgeon or the Practical Python Porting HOWTO for a while. He even warns me against the dangers of overwork. I’m not sure what more one could ask of a manager, but I’m sure I’ve never had a better one.
Dave Taht: Dave…starts things. Like tossing a Raspberry Pi 3 dev kit at me, confident that though he might not be able to predict exactly what I’d do with it, I’d do something interesting. (He wasn’t wrong.) Dave is constantly pushing me, gently and constructively, to learn and think a bit outside my comfort zone. He’s one of the very best friends I have.
Phil Salkie: He who taught me how to solder (he’s a top-flight industrial troubleshooter of the hands-on kind by day) and is gradually inculcating in me the hardware-integration skills required for me to work with things like SBCs. Takes a lively, intelligent observer’s interest in many of my projects, and often has useful things to say about them.
Jason Azze: It took me longer to notice Jason than I should have, because he doesn’t draw attention to himself. His style is to lurk around the edges of my projects quietly doing useful things, often involving buildbots.
Sanjeev Gupta: Another frequent lurker, with a particularly good hand for criticizing and improving documentation.
Gary E. Miller: If I were an evil overlord, Gary would be my trusty henchman. He’s been my chief lieutenant on GPSD for years, and told me that he likes having me in the #1 spot so he doesn’t have to do it. Tends to follow me around to other projects; a once and probably future NTPsec dev. His excellent low-level troubleshooting skills complement my systems-architect view of things perfectly.
Susan Sons: Susan is an InfoSec specialist who worries, very constructively, about my security. She’s good at it. She was also the person originally responsible for pulling me into NTP development.
Wendell Wilson: Builder of the Great Beast, and another guy who tends to drop hardware on me to see what I’ll do with it. Takes time out of a very busy life as an engineer/entrepreneur to make sure I have sharp tools and the blades stay properly whetted.
All you fanboys out there: These people give me a gift I value much more than adulation. They engage me as equals to a fallible human being, think about what might make me less hassled and/or more productive, and then do it. This is good, because it means I get to solve more and harder problems for everybody’s benefit.
Last I cannot fail to mention my wife Catherine Raymond. It’s certainly what would be expected for a wife to support her husband, but Cathy goes well beyond “That’s nice, dear” by being actively engaged with my life among the geeks. She befriends my peers and followers and shares their jokes, not merely tolerating but often enjoying their eccentricities. The people in my support network like her, too, and that actually matters in pulling it together.
When I think of it, it’s like I have a small but remarkably capable army around me. I’m making a resolution to be more appreciative of people who sign up for that. Yes, they all have good reasons of their own; people who believe that teaching me things and helping me can have far-reaching consequences that they will enjoy are, on past evidence, quite right to bet that way in their own interests. Still doesn’t mean I should take them for granted.