What's the point?

Occasionally, especially lately, people say something like this: "It's great that you do all this cool stuff, but I don't see the point."

The point is really simple. I'm a software developer. I decided that's what I wanted to do when I was in my late teens, early 20s. I never ask myself why I do it. When it clicked for me at that young age, it was like it probably is for a person who plays tennis professionally, or who plays in a band. We don't question the point of them doing what they do, so why do people question what I do?

I probably know the answer. They see software development as a job. If you don't have to work at it, why do you?

I never felt that software was a job. For me, strange as it may seem, it was a calling. I had great stuff to do. And I'm not finished. So that's the point.

I've been doing it all along. Only now people can see it. Because the platform I'm working on is one that almost everyone uses. It took a lot of effort to get here, I had to give up a lot of good work to do it. But it was worth it.

To me, it's gratifying to have people use my software and for me to hear what they want, the walls they hit, so I can see how to evolve it. That's data, and it informs my work. These are puzzles that I love. To me software is a performing art. I do it even if I'm the only one using the software. But it's much much better if there are others. The more, the better.

That's why it is frustrating to develop something to the point where it's going to take off, and then have people try to take it away from me. Sometimes it's people who work for me who have done it. Other times it's venture capitalists, who fund other people to continue my work (usually with pretty disastrous results). And other times it's big companies who take it over, and as we've seen there, usually with bad results too.

I'd like once to be able to finish a thought. To see it through to the end. To the point where there are no more features to add, no more bugs to fix. Sort of the way Jackson Pollack felt when he looked at one of his paintings. Or when LeBron James wins an NBA title. To reach closure. To win.

I think in a few decades it'll be seen as normal as any other human art form. But change comes slowly. I get that.

Update: More thoughts, the following day.


Last built: Sun, Sep 14, 2014 at 10:51 PM

By Dave Winer, Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 10:37 AM. What a long strange trip it's been.