How Open-Source propelled me to the Austrian Alps
Ab jetzt international! Unser PHP-Gott und Rad-Profi Dan nimmt uns mit auf seine "Tour de Open Source".
Viel Spaß mit dem ersten MASSIVE ART Blog-Post auf Englisch!
The reason I find myself in this particular circumstance is largely, if not entirely, due to my involvement in the open source Symfony CMF project. When I made my first Pull Request I didn't realise that it would have such a large impact on my life.
How it all started
I have been programming computers for large parts of my life. When I was ten me and my friend used to go round to each others houses and program computer games on our Sinclair ZX Spectrum computers – typing the programs out by hand was actually a necessity in the beginning as we didn't have any external storage. Not losing power was very important.
Programming continued to become a large part of my life – and still is.
I was tasked with creating a new CMS (content management system): YProximité. The company was keen to embrace the much hyped second version of the Symfony framework, a web application framework for PHP. At the time I started, it was still in an alpha (very early) development stage – since then I have seen it go from strength to strength and it has received lots of skill investment from lots of talented people. Now it is hugely popular and well respected.
Around the same time that we started our project, the SymfonyCMF and related projects (notably PHPCR) were also born. Just three years later I would start to invest lots of time in these projects, but at the time they were young and under-developed and there wasn't really anything directly usable. So I proceeded to work long days and weekends building a CMS from scratch.
Working with lots of cool people for three years exclusively on this CMS I learnt many things, but in the end I wanted a change, I wanted a new challenge: What about about writing a new CMS and cycling around the world? I gave six months notice and started making plans.
Rediscovering the Symfony CMF
I decided that the first thing I would do after leaving my job was to work full time on my own CMS and I naturally revisited the Symfony CMF project and made my first Pull Request where I submitted some missing documentation.
Subsequently I began making more and more contributions to the Symfony CMF and its related projects – being greatly encouraged by the project maintainers David Buchmann and Lukas Smith (to whom I am indebted for my current position at MASSIVE ART).
The thing I found (and continue to find) most exciting about working in open source is that you are free to follow your own solutions without being concerned about money and deadlines – that is, you can play out the role of the idealist – in the commercial world idealism sits in awkwardly with business demands, but in open source idealism is encouraged and your code is actively scrutinized by people with the same or similar ideals.
In this way we really try and create the best possible code without compromise and we learn from each other while we are doing it. This was a really big motivating factor for me.
A month previous to moving to Lyon I started German lessons. I enjoy language learning – its a perfect way to keep your mind occupied when cycling – and German seemed the next logical choice. I had learnt French and some Spanish but German and Germany were still mysteries to me. I wanted to get a job in a place where they speak German.
When I finally left it was the intention of doing another cycle tour with the ultimate destination being Germany.
So I once more took off from England, got the boat to Spain, cycled down to Madrid then to Valencia then up to France, back to Lyon where I resumed work for a few days, before cycling east to Switzerland, into Italy, across to Venice then up to Salzburg, across to Freiberg then across to Zürich where I met up with Lukas and David at the Liip open day – before going back to Germany and getting an email from MASSIVE ART.
They asked if I could pass by for an interview, so I cycled back past Lake Constance and to the town of Dornbirn. And I am still here.
Along with Thomas Schedler, Daniel Rotter and Johannes Wachter and until recently Marcel Moosbrugger I am busy implementing new features in the CMF. Thinking about ways to improve our workflow and productivity and generally finding my feet.
One of the things I am aiming to do while I am here is to try and create standalone, generally useful, open source libraries – MassiveBuildBundle and MassiveSearchBundle are two nascent projects being written in this spirit.