#2020-10-30: I'm going to see a man about a bicycle

A few months ago, I was out bicycling and spotted an older couple on a bicycle-built-for-two. I did what anyone would do: I pointed accusingly at the rear passenger and shouted loudly, "She's not pedaling!" The front rider yelled back "I knew it!" and we continued on our ways. It was my peak experience on a bicycle.

Similarly, after five and a half years at Wikimedia, my career here has peaked and it's time to go. My last day is Friday, November 6th.

I want to thank everyone who helped me achieve my dreams in part:

  • Work on completely open-source software using Linux. Everything in production is open-source and the organization truly understands the value of it.
  • Contribute to Wikipedia, one of the last great websites online. A real chance to make a positive impact in society and to have a meaningful life as a programmer.
  • Be with others who cherish truly valuable work. You just can't beat that mission. We're all here for the same reasons, and the baseline assumptions around core beliefs are beyond compare.
  • Get paid for the above! It was the kind of job I had dreamed about since becoming a programmer. I couldn't believe my luck.

For Wikimedia, my sincere hopes for the next few years are:

  • Vue.js becomes standard practice for MediaWiki frontend development. I hope also that it's kept as canonical, reusable, and easy to develop as possible.
  • Backend Vue.js isomorphic rendering support is added to the MediaWiki stack. This will halve the user interface code maintained and expertise needed, and significantly improve the no-JavaScript and initial page experiences among other things.
  • Standard development practices and tools like build steps and TypeScript will be embraced by a broader, more inclusive body of engineers. Further, that any disagreements are settled using experimental and iterative development approaches instead of discussion-driven development to prevent MediaWiki from becoming a walled garden and to keep the “soft” in software.
  • Big, progressive changes to the culture enable all contributors to be the best versions of themselves. If enough people are the culture they want to be in, it will become the culture. Guard culture doesn't scale to Wikipedia, but guidance does. Say no to no-culture and other anti-cultures wherever you see it. Culture is not you, it's us!

Some of my favorite silly and personal moments here at Wikimedia are:

  • Wikimania 2016 in Esino Lario. This short event is a great treasure in my memories. My only regret is that I will never know if Nirzar was joking that the mule was aggressive and did not wish to be petted. He seemed happy enough to me. I ultimately didn't pet the mule but I also didn't get kicked either.
  • A day in the life in Piotr's hometown, Wrocław, with Jan and driving to Prague. It was a beautiful experience to share together.
  • Max's dad subtly indicating that he would be requiring some of my (third) super pretzel at the circus. Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all super pretzels. I do!
  • Geeking out over Linux configurations and going on long walks at gatherings. It was particularly wonderful to tour Barcelona with Joaquin and Olga guiding. We talked and walked for hours.
  • Jan always choosing the most widely understood language and the least appropriate times to curse his constantly malfunctioning high-end audio/video hardware. The quality of his exasperations: crystal clear.
  • Alex's official banana team shirts, pretzel gift, and team quiz night.
  • Jon's unfailing ability to geolocate ramen restaurants.
  • Danny's amazing All Hands speeches always left me speechless. I'm a YouTube subscriber.
  • Jazmin and Max always trying to explain that it somehow makes perfect sense that every team is their favorite team and that they've never felt this way about another team with Web in the name before.
  • Sam's fortitude and level-headedness in all matters. Sometimes all it takes for a change to become real is a +2 from someone who believes we can do better.
  • Jeff the video gamer getting stranded on a steep hillside in Colorado. It wasn't his quickest speedrun.
  • Jon Katz's baby speech, which I wish I would have recorded.
  • Chris's detailed presentation on the history of MediaWiki skins which is exactly the richness of culture I value so deeply.
  • The ASCII barnstar Antoine gave me in a Gerrit patch back in 2015. It meant a whole lot to me actually.
  • Some of my favorite emails:
    • The email I got in 2020 that contained the passage "You are receiving this email because you've said (in 2018) that you would like to help out..."
    • The email that said "Can't wait to test it out tomorrow!" that was sent over a year after a product announcement. They could wait. They did wait.
    • The Wikitech-l thread where Joaquin argued for the right to use bananas as the subject of technical documentation. The importance of bananas and bananaologists cannot be overstated.
    • All of the emails when the San Francisco office was infested with (literal) bugs. While I'm certain this was a terribly upsetting experience for some of the on-site staff, know that it was quite entertaining for select remote staff to follow the adventures of Rhys, the bug-sniffing hero-dog.
    • …And many others I haven't the time to write about but I get to take with me.

I wish I could have done more. I'm going to miss a lot of you a lot.

Stephen
Senior Engineer