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Lobsters, who do you look up to and consider a role model in your capacity as technologists?

Let’s have a thread talking about who we look up to and why we look up to them/what aspects of them we most want to develop towards.

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    Fabrice Bellard.

    Writing ffmpeg, tcc, a new image compression format, starting qemu, writing x86 and RISC-V emulators in JS – all of these are not small feats by themselves.

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      I knew about all these projects for quite a while, but I didn’t know of Bellard. After hearing about him once I just kept on surprising myself when finding out that he wrote that too!?! I’d think that writing qemu and writing ffmpeg would require two totally different backgrounds and specialization, but then it turns out he also wrote a compiler and a javascript emulator! It never stops impressing me.

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        His JSLinux Run Linux or other Operating Systems in your browser is pretty insane.

        There is a boundary between insanity and genius… and he’s getting pretty far into the fuzzy area….

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          Wow, I would’ve never thought that ffmpeg, tcc and qemu were all started by the same person, this is impressive beyond description.

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          John Carmack - the dude wrote Doom

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            I always come back to Carmack. I may not agree with him on everything (notably politics), but the dude’s programming prowess is undeniable.

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              I’d have a lot easier time looking up to him if he hadn’t taken a job at Facebook.

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                Carmack manages to still leave a lot to be desired…

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                After reading Masters of Doom, one thing that really stuck out to me is his relentless work ethic that leaves little room for self deception, and little patience for coworkers with dissimilar drives. I think his legendary status was and continues to be earned partially because he spends so much intensely focused time on his work, and he constantly questions his efficiency, not in a myopic way, but in a broad meta sense.

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                  Yeah. Great read. It was fascinating to see how he had someone who was fun to compliment and check his more aggressive behavior. Not that losing Romero hindered Carmack’s future success…

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                    I’m pretty jealous of people who can be that dedicated. I think the primary reason I fail as a software developer is that I’m just not nearly as passionate as my peers. I’m very envious of those who are.

                    Masters of Doom has been on my reading list for a while… I really should give it a go.

                2. 3

                  I admire the fact that he is still passionate about programming and technology despite having become wealthy enough to no longer have to care.

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                    Wouldn’t you be? I know I would. Part of the reason I have manacled myself to the company I currently work for is the fact that they’re a very efficient engine for getting me and my wife to retirement earlier than anything else I can think of, and once I get there I plan to A) take care of myself REALLY well and B) spend large parts of my days puttering with WHATEVER THE F!$@# I WANT and not being constrained by my corporate masters :)

                    (Also it’s honestly a great place to work. Super intense, but the kinds of at scale problems we face daily are hard to find elsewhere.)

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                      Wouldn’t you be? I know I would.

                      I’m not sure most of us can know what we’d do if we had lots of wealth, tried many new things (esp hobbies/causes), and then decided which we’d continue to do the most. There’s experiences we can’t have without wealth. If we haven’t had them, there’s no way to know what we’d prioritize.

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                  Douglas Engelbart, Alan Kay, Bret Victor, Chris Granger (he worked on Light Table and Eve) because they all had/have a humanistic vision for what computers could be. Augmenting human intelligence (Engelbart’s goal) is a far better goal than “suck up all people’s attention and make them click more ads” that’s emerged as one of the primary goals of the industry today.

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                    Julia Evans, Alice Goldfuss and Jessie Frazelle.

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                      I’m very jealous at Julia’s ability to lay stuff out so clearly. Her zines are very informative and are extremely easy to digest given how much I find out in them. I’m very convinced that being able to break down stuff in this way contributes a lot to being able to pull off stuff like rbspy

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                        One of my earliest role models was Edsger Dijkstra, for both his brilliance and his insistence on doing things the right way. He was also generous with his time and attention; I still have a number of handwritten letters from him, which of course I cherish.

                        Graydon Hoare. Even aside from his Rust work, his Monotone was a major influence on Git, so he has done quite a bit to shape our modern environment. He also aspires to be a good person, which I am coming to value more highly than technical competence.

                        Jeff Dean. He is well known outside Google, but inside he is legendary. He also has a knack for solving hard problems that turn out to be incredibly important. Continuing the theme, he is surprisingly humble considering his accolades. I’ve not long ago seen him thoughtfully answer questions from student interns that many would dismiss as newbie.

                        Sophie Wilson. Though Silicon Valley centrism underplays the contribution from other places, the ARM 1 represents perhaps the single biggest leap from primitive 8 bit computers to the modern era (the 16 bit chips of the day were basically ugly hacks). It’s amazing that such a small team built it. Sophie also inspires because her answer to, “what do you do after you create something that changes the world?” is “keep creating.” (Broadcom Firepath etc)

                        Linus Torvalds. He is arguably the most successful open source project leader ever, and has created untold value. Equally important to me, he is sensitive to his flaws and strives to be better.

                        I’ll probably come up with a few more, but these are all footsteps I consciously try to follow.

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                          Would you be willing to post your letters from Dijkstra? That would be a fascinating slice of history.

                          1. 2

                            Lemme put my hands on them and I’ll see what I can do.

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                              Just checking in! I would love to help curate these letters if you still have them.

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                                Thanks for the ping. They’re in my storage unit, and I’d have to dig them out. I’m really focused on my talk today, but can probably get to these before long. Remind me again if it’s been a while.

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                                  Ping :) I hope your talk went well!

                                  If you mail me some of the boxes, I would be happy to sort through them for the letters. I could scan them and then mail everything back to you.

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                              I second that. They were an interesting read whether he seemed to be constructive or too much ego. Idk how I’d react to a letter from Dijkstra given I’ve liked or countered different things. The constructive aspects looked worth it overall. Plus, we’d learn more about how he thought of different things. Historical value.

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                            Chris Martens, Kate Compton, Emily Short, Julia Evans, Bob Nystrom, Nicky Case, Amit Patel, Bret Victor, Allison Parrish, Darius Kazemi, Eevee. I could probably go on, but these are the first bunch that come to mind.

                            I think the main thing they’ve all got in common is that they’re all making a meaningful effort to take their own power over technology and pass it on to others in some way. Some of them are building tech that’s geared toward the empowerment of regular people, some of them are trying to break down the divide between users and programmers, some of them are building communities, and some of them are just doing a really good job of teaching technical skills through blog posts/zines/etc.

                            A lot of them are also “creative technologists” in the sense of people who apply technology to making art/media/etc, but this isn’t as universal as the empowering-people angle. Partly this is probably a function of my background as a computers-for-creative-stuff researcher and games person.

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                              Interesting list….

                              Which reminds me… I wish I had more time to emulate the queen of shitty robots… Simone Giertz

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                              Oh fun!

                              • Steve Yegge (linked one of his best blog posts IMHO) - I like that the opinions are unfiltered.
                              • Joel Spolsky - his blog posts are talking about software development from all angles
                              • Jamie Zawinski - jwz is a legend
                              • Joe Armstrong - his an old school software developer, him and the chaps behind OTP actually built an amazing distributed system framework and VM.
                              • Robert Virding - see Joe Armstrong.
                              • Brad Fitzpatrick - he built LiveJournal and had problems with scaling the db, so he built memcached. Also he’s behind OpenID and one of the golang team members
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                                The two role models I think of immediately are Julia Evans and Simon Peyton Jones. They are both clearly extremely knowledgable, really good at explaining things and – perhaps most importantly – readily admit ignorance. I aspire to do that myself, too, and I suspect part of the reason that Julia and Simon seems to know so much is that they’ll say “I don’t know!”.

                                I saw a talk by Simon Peyton Jones last month about linear types in Haskell, and someone from the audience asked “why is it called linear types?” to which Simon – without hesitation – replied something to the effect of “I don’t know!”. For some reason it was very nice seeing such a knowledgable person unabashedly admit ignorance on a topic close to his area of expertise.

                                Some examples from Julia’s writing:

                                I’m not going to go into how you read that info right now because frankly I don’t know.

                                It’s not completely clear to me under what circumstances having swap on a computer at all even makes sense. It seems like swap has some role on desktop computers.

                                I was going to say that this isn’t how it works on Linux. But! I went and looked at the docs and apparently there is a posix_spawn system call that does basically this. Shows what I know. Anyway, we’re not going to talk about that.

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                                  I also look up to Simon, and exactly for those reasons. In that same talk he starts saying “I usually don’t understand types, I’m very bad with them”. That straightforward ignorance is something I strive to achieve.

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                                  Richard M Stallman - For his dedication on free software for 25 years and continue. I haven’t seen such a level of dedication and no compromise.

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                                    I tried to stop having role models after I met some of them and realized that just like me they are only humans and carry all the usual baggage that normal people do with flaws, prejudices and also a ton of good too. The whole motto of never meet your heroes is very truthful because whatever they become in your mind is not really what they are and sometimes they are much better inside your head.

                                    Still, years after I decided to stop having such models, I realized that it is exactly because they are just like you and me that they become even more awesome, normal people can have a ton of impact (which will cause them to be perceived as something superhuman).

                                    The main takeaway for me was to find qualities and characteristics from people and admire that and still allow them to be normal human beings because if we don’t it leads to over idolizing people such as the cult of Steve Jobs in which everything the guy did was pure gold and people give him a pass for being an asshole.

                                    So to answer this question using my own personal little prism of pick something to admire from people, I’d say that among the people I current look for when I try to reason about programming, Alan Kay, Bret Victor, Niklaus Wirth, are the ones I like the most for they’ve shown me that programming could be elegant, fun, and lead to systems that are a joy to work with.

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                                      When I had academic aspirations I looked up to Edger Dijkstra.

                                      As a software developer I admire John Carmack for having been financially successful by creating products he loved, and for not losing his passion for technology and programming after becoming wealthy.

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                                        Off the top of my head:

                                        • Niklaus Wirth
                                        • Ken Thompson
                                        • Dennis Ritchie
                                        • Rob Pike
                                        • Doug McIllroy
                                        • Ken Iverson
                                        • Mike Colishaw
                                        • Carl Sassenrath

                                        I agree and disagree with many of these people on many things, sometimes even technical things, but when it comes to their philosophies on how to work with technology, I am in general agreement.

                                        I suppose the common thread through all of their philosophies, with the exception of perhaps Colishaw, is valuing simplicity in implementation, algorithms, and notation.

                                        (Colishaw I admire because of the clarity and strictness of his specifications that nevertheless read fluently and conversationally…though his work has often preferred complexity in implementation to remove burdens on the user. And I have a soft spot for REXX.)

                                        I’m sure given more time I’d expand this list greatly, but I’m writing this in a two minute span between meetings. :) Also, these names are simply names of individuals but their greatest work was done with teams, and the acknowledgement should extend to those people as well.

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                                          Kent Beck… Partly for his earlier work on XP…. but especially for the honesty to give this talk https://www.infoq.com/presentations/self-image/

                                          Rich Hickey. Because he is thinking deeply about what we are doing… https://changelog.com/posts/rich-hickeys-greatest-hits

                                          Martin Fowler, his Refactoring book was hugely influential, and he is also trying to think about what is good software.

                                          Brendan Gregg…. because he measures, and knows where to measure (has big picture), and knows how to explain what he is doing and why.

                                          J. B. Rainsberger : Because he directly calls bullshit on some of the biggest and stinkiest mounds of shit the industry has served up. (And because he is honest enough in one of his talks to admit that he started doing TDD in desperation to dig him personally out of a deep pit of failure.)

                                          If there is a common theme it’s thinking deeply about what is good software, thinking about the human side of software, and attempting to articulate these thoughts.

                                          I really dislike technocrats that neither consider (empathetically) the human side, nor articulate what they are thinking and why. If you want to instantly piss me off…. tell me I’m doing wrong… but then fail to articulate what right is and why.

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                                            Thank you for the Hickey’s greatest hits link! Didn’t know anyone compiled it, but now I think it should’ve obviously been done by now :-)

                                          2. 10

                                            As an early net geek, I need to shout out some BBS peeps. Off the top of my head:

                                            Generous, creative, iconoclastic, community-oriented people who did inspiring work.

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                                              I feel I’ve outgrown some of my earlier role models, and the ones that are left are the deep thinkers and excellent writers. Two highlights:

                                              The late Pieter Hintjens

                                              A brilliant mind and wonderful drinking buddy. He encouraged me to get into public speaking. Also a strong enough character to stand by his ideals and speak out against more modern forms of social inequity, e.g. Radical Feminism.

                                              Fellow Pole Maciej Cegłowski

                                              Another wonderful writer and speaker. Definitely watch all his talks if you haven’t already (or again, for maximum enjoyment!). I’m inspired by him and how he runs his business, with no team and minimal technology. That’s my preference too.

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                                                For anyone interested, the Pieter Hintjens write-up to read if nothing else is Confessions of a Necromancer. Literally everything I read about the guy was interesting or amazing in some way. On technical note, he reiterated in my mind to use metaprogramming, DSL’s, and extract to C to solve as many problems as possible with high usability and productivity. On a personal note, he touched lots of lives with amazing effects on people. Even as he fought death, he was still writing “protocols” for how to face it in the best way possible. Went out after a great get-together he setup with all kinds of people he was close to and/or affected in life. They had a great time. I’ve only seen one other funeral even close to that in decades on this Earth.

                                                The man seemed to this outsider to live and even die as well as a geek with a family could. I’m not forgetting Pieter Hintjens. Too bad I never had the honor of meeting him in person. I’m at least glad he could end connecting strongly with people that made his life great (and vice versa), soften the blow on his family, and dodge the worst stuff he’d have experienced on a physical level. It’s one of the great endings I wish on others if possible.

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                                                  I wish you could have met him, and I wish I could upvote you more than once.

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                                                  I use Hintjens’ code in one of my projects. I was sad to hear he passed, but later found the default string for tests in some of his code. “Life is short but Now lasts for ever” which now is present in many files in my projects.

                                                3. 9

                                                  My coworkers

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                                                    What about them makes them a role model to you?

                                                    1. 8

                                                      Everyone is willing to learn and teach. I have people on my team who have been functional programming professionally for over a decade. Others who have picked it up while working on our project. We have weekly functional programming and category theory meetings.

                                                      Everyone is also willing to do things they haven’t before, e.g. everyone is willing to do UI work, write Nix for our deployments, configure Bamboo, etc. Our engineer managers submit pull requests if they notice typos or mistakes in documentation.

                                                      My coworkers really show me how to be flexible, competent and get stuff done. I love it.

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                                                        Just curious: where do you work? Sounds like a great place.

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                                                          Atlassian (of Jira, Confluence, Bitbucket, etc) - I work on the Marketplace project:


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                                                            A friend of mine just started working there in a non-coding related position. Your message gives me confidence that she’ll enjoy it there and that it is a good place to be. Thanks for sharing!

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                                                      Actually, me too! (we use Haskell at work)

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                                                        We use a bit of Haskell too!

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                                                      Simon Peyton Jones is cool and I love Haskell. Also David Thrane Christiansen gives good talks and has amazing work in dependent types.

                                                      1. 8

                                                        Three people are my primary role models.

                                                        1. Jim Coplien (Cope) - Was my professor and had a huge impact on my view of what software is and how to make it. Had a huge impact on software development including Scrum. He is the reason I do Design by Contract and why I acquired what I think is a really good architectural sense.
                                                        2. Alan Kay - Huge influence on my beliefs about what software can be, systems thinking, and systems building. Also a big influence on what I think education should be. Influenced my project Fire★
                                                        3. Ted Nelson - A constant reminder that you should follow your heart instead of following fashion. That computers and the internet today could be so much more.
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                                                          Martin Fowler comes to mind, mostly because I find his blog posts so god damn informative and interesting.

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                                                            I think it’s worth also talking about who has been a role model in the past, at least it is for me.

                                                            Right now, I’d say Dan Luu, James Hague, John Ousterhout, and Guy Steele are my bigger influences. Dan Luu writes well considered essays that examine many assumptions in the software industry, and he’s. James Hauge because in all of his writing, there’s a beating heart of practicality that I value. John Ousterhout wrote both TCL and A Philosophy of Software Design, both of which are very interesting, and which I’ve spent some side-time with. Guy Steele. because like him, I’d like to be a bit of programming polyglot if I have anything to say about it.

                                                            Johnathan Blow is probably the most intriguing figure right now, but I don’t know that I want to develop towards where he is right now. I do know that I have a bit of a sense of software minimalism that lines up with his, if only a little. I am a lot less strict about memory usage than he is, but where he’s going with Jai intrigues me.

                                                            Honorable mention goes to the writers at ithare, Jon Skeet, and the Albahari brothers (authors of C# in a Nutshell). All of them taught me a fair amount about some of the more subtle bits of computing (how to think about concurrency, threading, and the edges of what is possible in C#), and that knowledge has been useful in quite a few occasions.

                                                            In the past, I considered Jeff Atwood and Scott Hanselman role models, but I consider them less so these days, mostly because I’ve switched gears from the sort of tech lite content that Scott tends to do, and Jeff Atwood hasn’t been writing on his blog much, and from a tech perspective, he zagged (going to Ruby on Rails with Discord ) when I zigged (learning Go). Neither of them quite represents what I’m looking for as a technologist at the moment.

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                                                              I’ve left out the folks in meatspace I’ve known personally, to protect the innocent. They’ve been wonderful folks and good influences, but I respect their privacy here. :)

                                                              Technical leadership role models:

                                                              • Mike Acton – Probably somebody whose advice I most appreciate, in addition to just being a delightful presenter and just really knowing his shit technically as well as socially. I honestly consider him a more well-rounded and successful engineer than Carmack, given the differences in shipping titles between Insomniac and Id Software.
                                                              • Rands, a.k.a. Michael Lopp – Probably one of the first blogs/article writers in our space that I really decided it was worth it to read, refer to, and share with others. There’s some great stuff about how to manage people, how to grow software, and just generally how to deal with the chaos of making products ship without ruining your entire team.
                                                              • Tom West – Reading about how he managed his team, managed his project, and managed outwards and upwards in The Soul of a New Machine was something that left a big impression on me, and his approach to doing things well-enough is something I try never to let slip from my mind.

                                                              Sysadmin/ops role models:

                                                              Engineering role models:

                                                              • Jamie Zawinski – The engineer I want to be when I grow up, burn out, and cash in. Grandpa Zawinski combines an understanding of the machine and the code with an belief in getting things to work on real projects, and he is one of the few examples I can point to of an engineer cashing in his chips and going on to do something really cool. I wouldn’t ever use him as a business role model, but the fact that he still ships updates to important projects makes me warm and fuzzy inside. Plus, he was where I learned about the important of hyperlinking.
                                                              • John Carmack – Another engineer who helped start a business, cash in, and then do really cool stuff with it. He’s also probably the best answer (other than Acton) to anybody who complains about how unreasonable it is to know their whole stack when developing.
                                                              • Charles Bloom – Every time I want to be reminded that I have a lot more math to learn and that I have a lot more low-level programming to learn I just pull something at random off his blog. A lot of his really neat personal stuff–struggles about getting older in dev, inspirational and raw–under the rambles section is gone, but he was one of the most interesting folks to read the thoughts of.
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                                                                A bit surprised no one has mentioned Don Knuth.

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                                                                  Guess I could never aspire to model myself on him… It would be leap too far for my abilities, and a leap too far from my day job too.

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                                                                    Definitely, I feel the same way if we’re talking about achievements. In my mind he brings together a surprising mix of things: technical ability, humility, dedication and a surprising amount of self-deprecating humor.

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                                                                    “‘If you think you’re a really good programmer… read (Knuth’s) Art of Computer Programming… You should definitely send me a résumé if you can read the whole thing,’ read a quote from Bill Gates on the cover of the third edition of the first volume.”

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                                                                    Liz Fong-Jones. Her activism within and outside Google has been a constant inspiration. If you’re in tech and you haven’t heard of her, you’re probably cis. ;)

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                                                                      role model in your capacity as technologists?

                                                                      Could you be more specific on how Liz Fong-Jones answer the OP question?

                                                                      I noticed Fong-Jones is a site-reliability engineer.

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                                                                        I don’t notice anybody else being asked this question. You’ll forgive me for assuming it’s because I named a woman.

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                                                                          Actually I was about to ask a similar question…

                                                                          Perhaps let me phrase it differently….

                                                                          I haven’t heard of, or come across, Liz before. Whereas I have heard of most of the names mentioned in this thread and could tell you something about them.

                                                                          Possibly, because I do not operate in the realm of site reliability. Possibly, as you suggest, because I’m male cis. ;-) Quite likely it is (yet another) symptom of the bias in the industry.

                                                                          However, if you say she is worth listening to… I’m more than willing to believe that she is.

                                                                          A casual google pointed me at site reliability stuff… not my field.

                                                                          Could you point us at stuff she has done / said / written that you feel would be a good introduction to her?

                                                                          I’d appreciate that.

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                                                                            Thank you for your question. I’d like to note that, while it might seem superficially similar to the parent comment, you’re asking for information, whereas that comment is kind of half-seriously challenging whether I have the right to post here. Even though the details I’d provide in response are the same, answering your question makes sense, whereas nothing I could possibly say to the parent comment would result in anything but escalating frustration.

                                                                            Liz has done a great deal of work to make the tech industry a safe place for trans people to exist, and more broadly to remind everyone that being a technologist is not just about building things, it’s also about considering the consequences. Some of that work has been behind closed doors; some of it has been outreach to the public; some of it has involved educating the press on the human challenges our industry faces. When I gave this speech it was Liz’s example that convinced me it was worth doing.

                                                                            I don’t know how to provide a fast introduction to that kind of thing. It’s not like if I’d said Donald Knuth, and then I could link you to his books. I’d note that even for somebody like Knuth, his impact was first and foremost on people - inspiring them, in his case, to follow a path of rigorous mathematical analysis of computing. Different leaders inspire people along different paths, and it’s never truly possible to capture everything.

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                                                                              Liz has done a great deal of work to make the tech industry a safe place for trans people to exist

                                                                              Let me tell you some ancient history…..

                                                                              I was conscripted into a very aggressive, very macho military, as young man deeply part of a very aggressive very homophobic culture.

                                                                              When I reported for duty… a beautiful young lady was ahead on me in the queue.


                                                                              When she reached the head of the queue and presented her papers….

                                                                              …I’m deeply ashamed that I witnessed all the humiliation and hurt dealt to her… but didn’t speak up at the time.

                                                                              I was still part of the culture that believe she was the wrong one.

                                                                              After a time, and witnessing the cruelty and viciousness, she and folk like her were exposed to…

                                                                              I realized I had been lied to.

                                                                              The LGBT folk were simply not the evil ones in this picture, not even close, they were bright sparks of beauty and kindness and mercy in comparison.

                                                                              So I’m glad people like Liz (and you) are speaking up… like I wish I had done years ago.

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                                                                                As somebody else said about a very different set of role models elsewhere in this thread, most people do what they’re told. Your response was perfectly normal, and I think you should be kind to yourself about it.

                                                                                Thank you very much for the kind words.

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                                                                                  Actually I hope the pain of that memory will always sting and make me smell the disconnect between words and actions sooner, and then not be silent.

                                                                                  1. 2

                                                                                    Then, I’ll hope that too. Pain can be important sometimes.

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                                                                            Most people included links for us to follow to learn about their role models. They were also often IT celebrities. Your name is unknown to most of us with no link. A follow-up question asking what she did and/or links to her work is the most inclusive thing a person could do in that situationto give her equal attention to other linked people inthis thread. There was also a follow-up questions to a male in this thread who similarly provided no info and someone was curious.

                                                                            So, I assumed the person just wanted to learn more about her and/or thought you might have links to her great work. I didnt see it as a challenge. Thanks for giving us more information in the other comment since she sounds like a highly-effective activist.

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                                                                              I understand why it wouldn’t be perceived as a challenge if you aren’t used to everything you say in public being challenged in similar fashion. That’s why I’m taking the time to highlight that it was one.

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                                                                                I experience that all day at work. We’re set up to fail, almost all results or responses get a negative interpretation, our customers continue to demand more every year, and so on. Tiring as it is, I still try to practice presumption of innocence and principle of charity facing uncertain situations. I slip up for sure but I still try.

                                                                                In your case, I just was wanting someone to show dissenting opinion that one of two follow-ups might just be a follow-up. Plus, an opportunity to bring attention to a woman’s work regardless of intention behind the question. If good, they get some info. If aiming at suppression, their question is fliped into promotion opportunity.

                                                                                Just doing a benefit of doubt thing rather than starting something. If anything, you’re typically way less likely to read negative things in or overreact to people’s screwups. So, I was surprises more than anything. My guess (all I can do cuz no data) is activism work you referenced has gotten you much more negative/discriminating responses than usual, you’re kind of in fight mode with mind optimized to counter it quicky, and you just reacted to the statement like that. I wasnt really holding it against you since I do that on occasion when I have more shit coming at me than normal (esp non-stop).

                                                                                So, I dont think less of you or want a war. Just saw 3 downvotes on a comment that might have been well-intended. Had to point out it might. That was all.

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                                                                                  While we’re making meta comments about other people’s comments, can I point out you’re spending paragraphs dissecting another user’s single-sentence comments and speculating on psychological motivations behind them? It has nothing to do with the topic. Give it a rest.

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                                                                                    One person asked for information about a person, they were accused of discrimination, then others attempted to censor the accused, and then using the benefit of the doubt got me accused of something.

                                                                                    You’re saying people should be able to make negative accusations about others but other side shouldnt speak or receive a defense. You also didnt tell them they were off topic which means saying it now is you likely censoring folks you disagree with instead of caring about what’s on-topic. A recurring theme in these tangents.

                                                                                    Far as paragraphs, Im known to be wordy. Double true whem Im trying to be careful criticizing a comment by someone I respect with some care and context. Dismissive snipes like yours are good for fights but not civil discourse. I mean, I was done with the thread but you couldnt resist prodding at me, eh? I’ll try again.

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                                                                                    I respect your position and appreciate your weighing in.

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                                                                                      Thank you.

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                                                                                I am sad to read that your interpretation was quite negative. My question was sincere and based on the imprecision of your statement.

                                                                                Your comment was pretty ambiguous to me: you hinted about Fong-Jones’s activism in gender identity (which I will classify as political), but vouched her citing her employer’s name, which make me look in her website to find out it is full of talks on SRE topics (which I classify as technical).

                                                                                If you’ve chosen to cite Fong-Jones for political reasons, I think it is as valid as people citing Stallman for his political position on FOSS.

                                                                                But if you’ve chosen her for technical reasons, I would be curious on the reasons because I haven’t seen many citing SRE people in here.

                                                                                About me, I come from a blunt culture, so I am pretty straight forward with my questions and answers; however, I dislike when people use it against me with prejudice about my motivations or beliefs: it isn’t cool.

                                                                                But if you would have said Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, Barbara Liskov or Julia Evans (as few did) as your role models, which are all women, I wouldn’t have asked you the reasons: they are pretty obvious. :)

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                                                                            Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates

                                                                            I look up to these guys because they were all doers / visionaries in their various fields, I could elaborate how but I think it’s fairly obvious.

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                                                                              That’s funny, you’d usually see people either list

                                                                              Linus Torvalds, Richard Stallman


                                                                              Steve Jobs, Bill Gates

                                                                              but not both? I get that they all do things, but isn’t there more to being a role model than just doing in general?

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                                                                                I don’t think so, being able to realize your own vision is pretty rare. In my experience, for whatever reason, most people are incapable of doing anything substantial they aren’t told to do. So I look to these guys as success stories of forging your own path.

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                                                                                  I tend to disagree. I mean, Hitler realized his vision for many years, but (hopefully) not many folks would list him as a role model. What the vision is, and how they attain it is, IMHO, more important than them just accomplishing a big vision they have.

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                                                                                    Lots of people have visions of great features or great things. I have regular discussions with a friend on ideas which could bring bags of pure gold with not much work from our part. Or discussions with colleagues at work about some revolutionary features that nobody wants to take responsibility of and nobody wants to push those ideas to management. Or I myself have lots of ideas what to change in my life to make it a few times better than currently. What’s the worth of those “visions” without a skill to execute them? Those guys @rian pasted had the ability to influence their environment so much that they’ve started to stand out from the crowd. I’d say that’s a pretty good skill to have, and a good trait to look into in others.

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                                                                                      I don’t disagree that what they did was impressive, but I believe there’s a moral aspect to what they do, and how they do it, that should be accounted for. History is full of people who were ‘game changers’ that did horrific things to accomplish their vision. If you just judge based on ‘did they do the big, impossible thing they wanted to do?’ then you also rope in folks who horrific things. That seems wrong to me.

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                                                                                        We talk goals and techniques to achieve them a lot here. They’re a bit different. I think comments mentioning even folks doing evil are just giving them credit for their focus, technique, and will that made stuff happen. That these might be worth emulating for better causes. We don’t have to say they’re great, human beings or anything. They can even be monsters.

                                                                                        However, many monsters know people so well they can get them to do about anything. It’s worth remembering. Hell, given their effectiveness vs their “good” opponents, it might even be worth copying what techniques worked with focus on results that aren’t so damaging. The bad folks keep copying what works for sure. So, why good folks gonna handicap themselves in such an environment? Worth at least considering even if not adopting due to one’s ethics.

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                                                                                    That’s a really interesting connection. I certainly agree that you’ve named four people who found their own paths, and that’s an ideal I share as well. I would not have put these four together but that’s my own bias, and I feel like seeing your list caused me to question it a bit, and I appreciate that.

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                                                                                Besides a couple that are already mentioned (like Alan Kay and Rands)…

                                                                                • Hernán Wilkinson. He radically changed my view on what my job (and now my passion) is. He also lead me to the discovery of other great role models (like Alonso Church, the father of lambda calculus). Hernán and his pals have and promote my favorite way to organize a company. If you have some time to spare, you should check how 10Pines works.
                                                                                • Robert Virding. I had the amazing luck to work with him, teaching one of the languages he has created (Erlang). He is such a smart but down-to-earth fellow, he transpiles that inspiring feeling of I’m no special, you could totally do what I did. Just put yourself into it.
                                                                                • Jordan Mechner. I could never understood (even after reading the books) how two floppy disks could contain such an inmersive experience as Prince of Persia. I’m not a game developer nor a UI expert by any means, but I always admired the talent of people that can do so much with so limited resources.
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                                                                                  I was fortunate enough to be Hernán’s boss for a couple years and we’ve remained friends.

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                                                                                  I have many technical role models but a couple folks here on lobsters have been especially influential to me personally:

                                                                                  dbp - you inspire me a lot. I admire how you do what’s right, share and build power with people, and create environments where people can grow. You’re also a pretty good programmer :)

                                                                                  Julia Evans - I think of your “how to be a wizard programmer” every time I run into a tough problem and feel paralyzed by doubt, and it helps me dig in and work to find a solution!

                                                                                  And one (afaik) non-lobster:

                                                                                  Sandi Metz inspires me because I love how her teaching both encourages excellent programming and makes excellence incredibly accessible. Her work is so pragmatic and useful, but she writes and speaks in a way that makes it fun and makes it stick. Whenever I write Ruby, I’m thinking, “what would Sandi Metz do?”

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                                                                                    I like substack and Mike Bostock a lot. Both are 1) very imaginative and 2) really good at making small, understandable parts work well together.

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                                                                                      Kenneth Reitz: https://twitter.com/kennethreitz, https://github.com/kennethreitz, https://www.kennethreitz.org/

                                                                                      Wrote the requests library for Python, created pipenv, and turned responder from idea -> published library in just a few months, and a bunch of other stuff including a really nice ohmyzsh color theme that I use. He’s got cool interests outside of software as well including photography, tatoos, and electronic music production.

                                                                                      He’s got a cool list of values as well, and an overall very aesthetic website: https://www.kennethreitz.org/values/

                                                                                      He’s just an all-around inspiring guy and someone I’d love to be more like. Compared to academics or people you read about on Reddit, he feels much more down-to-earth and relatable with, if that makes any sense.

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                                                                                        I’ve been lucky to meet many of them. rms, Ted Nelson, timbl.

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                                                                                          Mine are the people who captured my imagination and did so much with so little.

                                                                                          Doug Neubauer who designed the POKEY chip in the Atari 8 bit computer line and wrote Star Raiders, one of the first computer games to utterly eat my brain :)

                                                                                          A bunch of the main folks behind the Commodore Amiga:

                                                                                          RJ Mical who designed the Amiga’s “Intuition” graphical API. It’s beautiful, whimsical and has a sense of humor about itself I’ve rarely if ever seen elsewhere. I still have delusions of finding the time to sit down and actually develop a full Amiga app someday. Maybe when I retire :)

                                                                                          Leo Schwab - Mr. Schwab was somewhat of a child prodigy, creating some of the more irreverently awesome Amiga animations and myriad beautiful little hacks called “Schwabbies” by his fans.

                                                                                          Seymour Papert - I played around a bunch with other programming languages on the Atari, but Atari LOGO was the first programming language with which I built complete, usable systems - mostly graphics toys and games. But Papert’s ideas about computers being tools to accelerate learning and allow kids to explore ideas they’d never otherwise have access to still blow me away.

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                                                                                            RJ Mical who designed the Amiga’s “Intuition” graphical API.

                                                                                            I still have a boing ball decal signed by RJ.

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                                                                                              OK I’ll admit I’m a smidge jealous :)

                                                                                              One of the projects on my TODO is loading the amiga emulator onto my Gameshell - it’s clearly doable because others on the forums have accomplished it, and the idea of a handheld / ultra portable Amiga is delightful :)

                                                                                              (Also since I’ve gotten VNCserver running great on it, I wonder if I could even do honest to god ultra portable Amiga development? I can’t see any reason why not as PIC-80 runs great :)

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                                                                                            John von Neumann and Bob Beck (@beck of OpenBSD fame)

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                                                                                              Interesting take-away from this thread: Carl Sassenrath. Wow what a career this guy has had!

                                                                                              I didn’t know he was so key in designing the microkernel / MP aspects of AmigaDOS! Very cool.

                                                                                              Kind of interesting that REBOL never really attained critical mass. I wonder if its commercial aspects hindered it.

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                                                                                                I wonder if its commercial aspects hindered it.

                                                                                                That was my hypothesis. Many languages were available for free. They were good enough for what businesses needed done and/or had hype waves pushing them. Then, there were a few that were mainly intended to be commercialized. The risk goes up with rewards that may or may not be worth it. So, most places ignored those languages.

                                                                                                Too bad because I’d love to have seen whatever would result from a huge wave of people using REBOL.

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                                                                                                Nikola Tesla and Ada Lovelace

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                                                                                                  I would say a lot of my friends, i look up to a lot of them because of their amazing tech skills.
                                                                                                  Should really add in Paul Graham for his essays!

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                                                                                                    Fabrice Bellard (qemu, ffmpeg, tcc) for his productivity and Richard Stallman for his vision and adamancy.

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                                                                                                      • Big names: RMS for persistence & principals and epic amount of delivered utility; Ted Nelson for living the crazy visions and maintaining big picture views through and knowing he’s right even when he’s clearly not; Turing for unashamed genius and paying the ultimate price; Woz for excellent diligent engineering work whilst maintaining unwavering sense of humour/good nature and principles.
                                                                                                      • Small names: That person in your company / FOSS project who is calm and organised and friendly, and quietly gets things done 10X faster than most others but still has time to talk you through how/why/what they’re doing or help talk through a complicated issue. There are only 3-4 of these that come to mind from my life/career and they’re memorable, notable people whose behaviour and attitude always contains valuable learnings.
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                                                                                                        Guido van Rossum is definitely high on my list. amazing work on Python. Salvatore Sanfilippo from Redis is another.

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                                                                                                          Anders Hejlsberg. I’ve used and like all languages that he designed (TypeScript, C#, Delphi, and Turbo Pascal). Funny thing is when he releases something new I’m always skeptical (C#: “Java for Microsoft? Bad idea!”, TypeScript: “Types for JavaScript? JavaScript is crazy, do not touch!”) but then again and again he proves his ideas were right. I also like the approach of designing the language that allows better tooling to help the user, not for technical purity.

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                                                                                                            Mark Watson for continuing to remain passionate of programming and technology.

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                                                                                                              BWK and DMR

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                                                                                                                J.C.R. Licklider and most of the Bell Lab folks.

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                                                                                                                  Guys next floor who are making next wireless standards.

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                                                                                                                    My first manager in IT.

                                                                                                                    He was the CTO, lots of experience and responsibilities but always friendly and there for me. He showed me that being knowledgeable and the “boss” didn’t necessarily mean being a dick.

                                                                                                                    On top of that, he would alsp stay up taking care of his slepless daughter, playing videogames all night: a total boss!

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                                                                                                                      Venkat Subramaniam. I love his upbeat nature and raw excitement for Java. Got me really interested in practicing with Streams API. Bret Victor as others have mentioned.

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                                                                                                                        Hadley Wickham: Did an amazing job of providing simple, consistent packages in the R ecosystem that together transformed the way the language is used. Matz because he focused on joy for his end users (programmers) when writing ruby.

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                                                                                                                          Mike Acton is the one who I consider a great role model in the classical sense of how I strive to be. He is also the developer who most changed my view on software and development as a whole with his Three Big Lies and Data Oriented Design talk (which includes the 3 big lies).

                                                                                                                          Other people who I respect and admire but are far less role models to me are Alan Kay, Herb Sutter, Joe Armstrong, Ken Thompson, Rob Pike, Rich Hickey, Robert Virding and Yukihiro Matsumoto.

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                                                                                                                            I’m surprised no one mentioned Micah Elizabeth Scott @scanlime. Making hardware projects is great, making them while making high quality and nice to watch live streams is just amazing.

                                                                                                                            Not that I’m planning on doing similar things, but re: “what aspects of them” – I admire her… neutrality?? The way she shuts down arguments about text editors/operating systems/etc. She’s never an evangelist for the stuff she uses. I’m not entirely like that, sadly :D

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                                                                                                                              Michael W. Lucas - I have learned a lot with his books.

                                                                                                                              Shawn Webb - I like his work with HardenedBSD

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                                                                                                                                Chandler Carruth is pretty awesome. He works at Google on LLVM and his multiple talks at CppCon are brilliant and enlightening.

                                                                                                                                I also follow Eli Benderski’s and Ian Lance Taylor’s great blogs.