I heard a quote on the way into work today.
“Sometimes you work too close to the canvas to see the beautiful tapestry you are creating”
No, it’s not some famous quote you can google, it was by a speaker in during an inspire spot on k-love radio. (As I’ve detailed before, I throw everyone off as I cycle between Tool and Christian radio quotes, yeah, I know).
It immediately made me think of another quote by a friend and colleague as we were joking around at the bar one night over a beer. It had been a stressful, but productive week. I was detailing something that was rather ridiculously complicated about how network transactions work in elms:ln and how the spider web of snake calls allows for (theoretically) infinite scale without infinite load. I was boring myself as I was talking about it (wow is it ever a “why is the grass green dad?” and then responding with how photosynthesis works in detail style answer).
“What did you ever do before I came around?”
To which I said I was lonely… cripplingly lonely…
Having a vision of the future and no one to share it with (that would understand what you are talking about at a technical level) is an incredibly lonely feeling. I’ve always had a strong family network and my wife is wonderful, but my excitement over architectural design and how it will influence education isn’t the easiest thing to keep up with beyond “Bryan thinks he can change the world” or “How’s taking over the world going?”. It’s why I sway so violently between sheer joy (like someone over the moon about collecting xAPI statements from their students) and utter despair (like someone being excited about the color of a button while not comprehending where spoken interfaces will take us).
I don’t “just show up” to work, I live it, I take it very seriously (even if I don’t ever take anything seriously seemingly). I don’t just “live to work” though, I live for my children and the world that I think I can help bring about as a result of this social movement.
If xAPI coverage on youtube / video assets is my canvas I’m too close to, and elms:ln at the college I work is a portion of that tapestry, the project as a whole is the rest of the tapestry; but at the end of the day, it is all just a carpet in a large warehouse. By the end, I want to use my voice to stand up and manage the thing that manages the warehouses. So much automation, so much ease of use, so much free and open source software will continue to put pressure on the social fabric that for centuries has dictated that human capability be measured in dollars per hour, where you went to school, etc.
What if systems were free? What if the tools to build them were free? What if the automation setting them up was free? What if they were self-healing, never needing human intervention for maintenance?
More important then “wow that’d be neat”, what would that do to society? What does that do to the cost of education when all the systems powering it are free?
Far from it (actually techno-libertarian but I’ll write about that another time) but the network effects of elms:ln are already out there in the global economy. I want the world (and so many others do) to be better, write more, build faster, deploy more accurately, deploy at higher scale with less human and physical overhead then they did yesterday (and the day after, and the day after). This is a continual building up the infrastructure society has available (for free) to build on. Over enough time (decades here), businesses are effectively forced to offer more for less because people can click a button and get billions of dollars of work for free (and if it needs no maintaining / humans… well.. there need be no businesses in that space).
Code produced for this project (not people using the project itself) has been downloaded over a million times and has 15,000+ reported installs (typically thought to be 10% actual real world usage). This is the real impact of the project, the ability to improve the social fabric of the internet at scale through contribution. There are over 120 listed projects on drupal.org credited to me, which doesn’t count github, elms:ln itself, or the other projects that have benefited from the act of contribution thanks to this project.
But this isn’t just me anymore, it’s multiple full time developers (starting next month 3 full time senior developers, right now 2 senior and 1 junior full time). So project. Project all our open contributions. I’ve been at this for 9 years (elms as a named idea is 9 years old, open contributions around 8 years). We can already produce (today) through a copy and paste, what previously took 5 years to create; minutes to give (for free) what should cost millions of dollars to assemble from scratch.
So focus on those lines on the canvas team. The picture we are painting is unlike anything the world has seen and we’re only growing. Never give up. A more free world is in reach.
Fix education, fix everything.