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a blog by ken pardue

The Year End Blog Post

The procession of fireworks crackling in the distance this evening reminds me that 2009 is unavoidably approaching and that we will crash into it in just a few hours. Since Wes is supposed to be writing has written an annual post for the end of the year, I suppose that I’ll do the same.

It was a productive year, primarily marked by my becoming a father and adjusting to the life of a new parent.  Our boy is 9 months old and flourishing.  He’s got four teeth, jabbers “mama”, “dada”, and, more recently, “good,” and is starting to take his first unsteady steps.  I’ve lost a lot of the uncertainty that I initially had about parenthood and have fairly well come to terms with the loss of personal freedom that comes with parenthood.

I also established myself with a new employer where I re-invigorated my interest in web development, recoded large portions of our flagship product to make it work more efficiently for our specific needs, dug into video editing, converted a lot of our material to a vendor-neutral open standard (OpenDocument), and finally wrapped up the year by actually making some progress in learning Blender 3D.

What’s that leave for next year?  I hope to continue the process of learning new development techniques and 3D modeling.  I would love to learn either Python/Django or Ruby/Rails (I’m leaning toward Python since it’s more ubiquitous than Ruby is) and begin working on a 2.0 of our product based on one of those frameworks.

I would also like to continue to ensure that all work (personal and professional) is in open standard formats where possible, but I’m coming to recognize that I am a much stronger supporter of open standards than I am of open source.  At least for now.

Open source and Linux seem to be excellent tools for personal freedom on the surface, but I am now aware that nearly 75% of the contributions to Linux comes from corporate interests funding development of lower level functions for enterprise usage.  That’s fine enough, but that kind of focus tends to detract from the desktop experience, which is all about getting things done as effectively as possible.  In order for a project to be successful, it has to be fairly tightly controlled by a person or group of people entrusted to make commits to a project in the best interest of the project.  And people don’t really like change, so in many cases the tight-knight group of project owners (or owner) disregards changes that might be beneficial to make the software more usable.  After all, software developers tend to make awful user experience gurus.  The recent retirement of desktop-focused kernel contributer Con Kolivas seems to be a good case in point.

So for now I’ll maintain that the strength of open source remains the lower level frameworks that it produces, and the weakness remains everything on top of that.  After all, what offers better freedom (for someone who has a finite amount of time on their hands): a program where a company has hired usability experts to make the software intuitive, useful, productive, and uses an open standard file format, or a program where the source code is available for all to see but where no such feature exists or is mired in complexity?  I’ll probably continue to use OS X for the near to moderate future, even if Steve Jobs does bite the big one, because it is designed for the user, with user experience and productivity at the forefront, more so than Windows and certainly more so than desktop Linux.  Of course I’ll still use and support open source software.  And hopefully we’ll see a point where communities do agree on a consistent, strict, and intuitive HIG in Linux, but I don’t see everyone adhering to it, and rightfully, I suppose they shouldn’t.  But if anybody can achieve such a task, it’s Mark Shuttleworth.  Canonical is, as far as I can tell, the exception to the rule.  They’re small, nimble, desktop-focused and committed to bringing intuitiveness that’s actually useful to the desktop (as nifty as it looks, there’s arguably nothing productive about wiggly windows, flaming window closes, or rotating cubes).

On a more personal level, I would love to complete the document that I’ve started where I outline the doubts, concerns, and questions about spiritual matters.  With that as a tool, I would hope to provide that to theologians and laypeople more knowledgeable than myself in such matters for constructive feedback.  The ultimate goal is to address the largest of my concerns to the point where doubts about spirituality hold me back from embracing it as a mind set.  I would also like to discuss spiritual matters on personal, scientific, historic, and above all philosophical levels with peers. So many in the Bible belt use religion as a crutch to put life in a pretty package, maintaining the status quo by rejecting progressive ideals and refusing to accept the complex, chaotic, beautiful world in which we live.  Life is a bazaar, not a cathedral.  A spiritual mindset should always be intended to challenge its adherents to promote social responsibility in oneself and in the world.

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