Thank you 2018

I was on Twitter the other day and someone had posted a set of old Tweets about how bad the year sucked. One tweet was “2014 sucked, let’s hope for a better 2015” and the next was  “2015 sucked, let’s hope for a better 2016,” and so on. I felt really bad for those people because I’m of the opinion that every year you spend above ground (aka alive), is a good year. Sure, there are good and bad times but you can’t truly understand the joy of the good without the pain of the bad.

2018 is about to wrap up and I’m grateful to have been a part of it. I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the year and practice gratitude. It’s an important thing that I do nearly every day in my life because doing so has changed my life. I no longer ‘sweat the small stuff’ but find those important ‘big rocks’ in my life.

Family BAE

My family. What else is there in my life? My family is BAE. What’s BAE? It’s Before Anything/Anyone Else. Of course my niece informed me that BAE is no longer used but it’s an apt acronym for how I feel.

My wife and children remain the bedrock of my life.

I loved all the camping trips, game nights, and time spent together this year. I’m grateful for my cooking class so I was able to cook them nutritious meals and actually get a ‘thumbs up!’  when they loved it. I will cherish the many “I love you Dads” from my kids and the “I love you ” whispers from my wife late at night. My wife and children remain the bedrock of my life.

I’m grateful for my parents and the fact that they’re still alive and kicking. Time moves way to fast these days and I’m happy to spend time with them.  I’m grateful for my sister and nephews, my cousins, and extended Asian family. We’re spread across the world like seeds. How lucky are we?

Work

I’m grateful for the work I do. I use my mind to solve problems and I love it. I work in an exciting field where I get to travel and make impacts in the world. I’m grateful for the education I received many years ago and I’m even grateful for spending 20 years in the wrong career. It was my passion the drove me to start a successful blog in machine learning that launched me into a new career at age 44.

I’m grateful for learning the lesson of ‘being true to ones self.’ It was a hard lesson and first I felt like I was jumping off a cliff but in reality, I was just stepping off a curb.

Life

I’m thankful for everything in my life. I’ve learned to simplify and find peace. I’ve learned how to make sourdough bread from scratch. It feels wonderful to make it by hand. I learned how to make pasta from scratch and be a better cook in general.

…I felt like I was jumping off a cliff but in reality, I was just stepping off a curb.

I have good friends at my Karate Dojo and two close friends living far away from me.  I have a roof over my head and a refrigerator stocked with food. I live in woods, a place I’ve always dreamed about as kid. I go hiking and have adventures. I’m grateful to be writing again.

I’m truly blessed.

Thank you 2018, you were wonderful.

I hope yours was too.

Makers vs Takers

The best startups have a ‘Do It Yourself attitude. When a problem arises, no one gets assigned the task to solve it. The team jumps right in and gets to work. There’s always a sense of ownership and a sense of pride. They build new things because it’s cool. They think of ways to make things better and make them happen. They are the ‘Makers’, and for lack of a better word, they make $hit happen.

The Makers are usually a small group, they are creative people. A larger group of consumers are the ‘Takers.’ The Takers are both good and bad, so let’s discuss the Makers and Takers.

Punk Rock

Years ago, and I mean years ago, I was in a Punk Rock band. I play bass and we gigged around New York City back in the early ’90s. New York City seems so much grungier than it is today and many of my old haunts have closed up and gone away. My bandmates and I even recorded our songs and we printed a few 7″ records. This was back when CD’s just came out and there was no such thing as Apple Music. You actually had to go to a place like Tower Records to buy music.

Ah, memories!

Marty was our first singer and he was the classic punk rocker. He had a mohawk, some self-made tattoos, never showered, and lived to prank “the man.” He was cool to hang out with when you’re in your early 20’s, but not so cool when you have to work a 9 to 5 and need to support a family.

One night, in a flash of Marty clarity, he said something to me that I’ve never forgotten. He said,

“All those kids that used to pick on you in school for drawing, making art, music, whatever. Those fuckers are going to buy that shit from you one day. You’ll have the last laugh.”

Boy, was he right.

Takers

If you’ve read my articles on Open Source here and here, you’ll undoubtedly realize that there are a lot of Makers out there that make free machine learning software. They give their creative spirit and brains freely to build ‘cool shit’ and release it to the world in an unspoken ‘look what I made’ way. Of course, there’s a lot of Takers out there because it’s FREE!

If the free software is awesome they’ll get a lot of Takers! It’s a great feeling once your software or library gets recognition, but it’s also a double-edged sword. Especially when I read things like this:

If you use Pandas, Matplotlib, and Numpy, know that about 15 people — worldwide — maintain those libraries. Sure, there are a lot of makers that add to those libraries but all those changes need to be reviewed and accepted by the maintainers. When you look at the millions of dollars ($) and millions of downloads, compare it to the developers and maintainers, you can quickly see the problem.

Donations and Support

There are people and companies that just take the open-source software and never give back to the community. They never develop fixes they need, they just wait for someone else to do it. Most Takers never pay for things like support, or they skip over the suggested donation of $1 or $5, cause ‘Fuck it, someone else will pay. I can’t right now.’

Have I been guilty of this? Yes. But I’m getting better. Now, I pay for open source software I like and use. I’ve written countless tutorials and given back to the community (it’s the only reason why this blog still exists). I try hard not to be a Taker and more of a Maker.

On the flip side, the Takers can help if they stay involved. They can develop the fixes to the codebase and create pull requests, or show the Makers a radically new way of implementing the software. There are good Takers out there that realize that the Open Source ecosystem thrives on a continuous feedback loop and that investing money is a good way to keep that loop well lubricated.

Flip the Script

Makers vs Takers is a very adversarial view and I purposely titled this article that way. In reality, it doesn’t have to be this way. In an ideal world, it should be Makers and Takers.

However, the reality is that many a great open source project either dies or becomes the closed source. It’s very rare that someone else takes over the project and keeps it going. Often, it has a decent Taker base, it’ll convert to Closed Source or some weird Chimera called Open Core. This quickly pisses off the Taker community and you end up losing them to other Open Source (free) software.

The way to flip the script is to offer paid support. It doesn’t always work out this way, but if you have a big enough community that uses your work, you can get a royalty for it. You are the expert, the creator, and they’ll pay for expertise. Especially if they use your creation in production and millions of dollars are at stake.

Flipping the script in my mind is imperative to keep many open-source projects alive. It has to be. What if those 15 maintainers of NumPy, Matplotlib, and Pandas just redirected their free time to doing something else? Maybe some group of people will step in, maybe not. When you have such a disproportion of Takers vs Makers, a cynical person will say “no one will step up and volunteer to make free stuff for me.”

So the question is, can we change a Maker vs Taker society to a Maker and Taker society?

Let’s hope so.


Originally published at Neural Market Trends.