15 Years of Open Source Experience
I believe that participation in open source as a movement takes all of us working in whatever capacity we can. There are a lot of avenues to engage, and I've occupied roles as user, contributor, maintainer, and mentor during my career. We are part of something larger than our current issue, project, role, or company.
It's the contributions, large and small, sustained and one-time, that add up to more. I share some of my work here as a chronicle of this spectrum of engagement. GitHub timelines only tell part of the story, so here's the rest:
I started like a lot of folks in the web industry did: by scratching my own itch on hobbyist websites. A life-long passion for Star Wars led me as a teen to flight simulator clubs. I built basic HTML and frames websites for my squadrons, and even wrote a course on dogfighting tactics. Here, and early in school I learned of jQuery, web standards, and the broader web around me.
A pivot point for me was attending An Event Apart Atlanta. It was there I met so many of the folks then and still impactful to my career. Ethan Marcotte signed my copy of Responsive Web Design. It was there I created my Twitter account. It exposed me to systems and tools to create component-based web designs. These were proto-design systems, and I was hooked.
My first open source work was compassro.se, circa 2011. It, and much of my work and play at the time, was jQuery-based.
I participated in the early exploration into the
<picture/> element via the Responsive Issues Community Group, demos, and polyfills like picturefill. Web standards, being built in the open!
I dabbled a bit in component-design tooling, soaking up these Bootstraps, Foundations, Material, and more. Somehow, I found Pattern Lab.
More and more, professional work exposed me to open source software. Helping others learn the react ecosystem at Target led to small contributions to a whole host of new-to-me tools, like
postcss, Auth.js, pnpm, Next.js, turborepo, and Target's in-house CI tool Vela. Not all of these efforts were large, and that's the point!
Revisiting the spirit of my early involvement with foundation tech, I improved the commons at mdn, and waded into the world of Node.js, joining their org as an issue triager and reviewer. Open source runs on the healthy intersection of community and backlog, so helping in this small way feels great. Best of all, I am exposed to a lot of different perspectives and learn a lot via osmosis, all while on the clock.
With Pattern Lab I found an outlet for an itch I had really just began to scratch. Sustained contribution through my fork Pattern Lab Node taught me so many things—chief among them the balance between done and perfect, the iterative necessity of open source engineering, the value of unit tests, how to build a community, and how to wrestle with burnout. I could go on and on. I owe my current job, this house, and so many friends to this little open source project.
Pattern Lab work extended to my time at Roydan Enterprises . I am grateful for this early investment of open source software from a tiny company.
Marty Henderson and I open sourced a tool called
markdown-inject, which has been a fun outlet for learning things like GitHub actions. I'm so glad that Target understands the value of open source software.
This work also re-invigorated my desire to maintain software again, which I've re-approached with makeapullre.quest and
eleventy-plugin-inline-link-favicon. You can see the later's output prominently on this page.
I was fortunate enough to participate as a mentee in Mozilla's Open Leaders program. This was my first exposure to organized community-building and professional development. It was inspiring to learn and connect with others looking to build one another up.
My opportunity to mentor came from the experience of a lifetime, volunteering during Open Source Day at Grace Hopper celebration. I worked with dozens of attendees to get their local environment setup and ready to make contributions to the Node.js project. This felt so intimidating, (even to me!) but wow was it energizing to see new faces just as eager to engage in open source software. Again, it was so so great to be empowered to do this by my employer.