Building in the open: Being comfortable under the sun!

I love going on long walks. It could be a long walk through a garden, forest or a busy street. I find walking for hours very meditative, even more than any meditation routine. My thoughts on walking echo those of writer and activist Rebecca Solnit in “Wanderlust”.

I suspect that the mind, like the feet, works at about three miles an hour. If this is so, then modern life is moving faster than the speed of thought, or thoughtfulness.

I was never regular at this walking thing, until 2020. I started to go out for 5km walks everyday and knew a fixed particular time would not work for me.

I had tried and failed at it many times.

So I decided to walk whenever I felt it was most convenient. The best time for me seemed to fall around noon. And now every week, I walk for several dozens of miles in the afternoon, all under the bright sun.

Photograph of a garden pathway taken during a walk with bright sunlight casting share shadows.

Okay, What has all this got to do with building in the open?

You might ask this question and it’s a fair question. But stay with me a bit longer. 

Now if you are living in India, it is not the most ideal time to go out in the afternoon sun for a walk. But over the past two years, I have managed to get comfortable walking 5km under a scorching sun. So comfortable that I have now stopped even thinking about the sun.

Building a project in the open, under the user feedback and community expectations, requires getting comfortable in that space. So comfortable that you relish it or not notice it too much.

Last month, I wrote my thoughts about open-source and why I spend time contributing to the project.

One of the things I mentioned that I learned was getting comfortable building in the open.

How does building in the open help?

Building a project in the open is almost sacrosanct for any open-source project. This is especially true for very large projects like WordPress. Millions of people are building on top of the foundations setup by open-source software. 

Gains from an open system

Gains from an open project might seem chaotic but this chaos has significant value. One of them is there are not as many monolithic power structures, or definitely a lot lesser than closed systems. This makes open systems more likely able to last a long longer.

For example, a small town or village seems to often easily outlast the most well designed corporation often over centuries.

  1. Gains from size: With many eyes, we shall squash all bugs. A open system allows larger number of participants in building software, this allows diverse views and ways of testing and scaling software and making in robust.
  2. Validation: Got a great new idea or a new way of doing things, share it in a open system and people with different expertise will chime in and validate ideas.
  3. Access to Feedback: While validation is great, sometimes our ideas might not be really as good as we think. An open system encourages robust discussions and gives a good level of feedback that is educative and also often actionable. I often get advice, help and counsel from industry experts with decades of experiance, often just because I asked for feedback!
  4. People vs Actions: Building in the open relies on looking at a particular problem as a bug. Which means we learn to label actions, not people. Ofcourse toxic people are everywhere but it helped me put into perspective that it is better to debate actions or situations not people or their personalities.
  5. It is a lot of fun: An active open system often looks like a group of musicians who are jiving togeather and having a lot of fun.It is a lot of fun to collaborate, learn, teach and make friends from around the world.

Don’t forget to carry a hat!

Remember that an exposure to an unrelenting sun can be unhealthy. It helps to find some shade and sit under a tree from time to time, and also to carry a hat.

Working in open porjects can consume you and it’s very important to get some time off, some share and do some self-care and not burn out.

Last thoughts

I am now wearing my shoes and taking my daily walk under the sun, after I hit publish on this post. Being involved in an opensource project like WordPress has given me some of the best experiances of my life and great friendships.

If you are thinking of taking a tumble into an open source project especially WordPress, I highly recommend it.

It will change your life! ❤️

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