Programming Motherfucker or how I rediscovered my hacker spirit

Dec 12, 2013

When I was 18, still living at my parents house, a good friend of mine and I volunteered for Europe’s biggest internet radio #Musik to rewrite their website. I was still a trainee at my current company and had a normal 8 hour working day. Right after finishing that, I arrived home and started hacking the website. It was a hilarious time, but I learned a lot and we had so much fun! We also made a lot of mistakes, like writing our own framework and implementing every shitty component on our own. And even if PHP 5.3 was there at the time, we didn’t give a fuck about name spacing our code and such.

The site launched right before our final exam. When we were done, we parted ways. I became a Lead Developer at the company we were working at and ended up with much less time to hack on things I enjoy. I had way too many managing tasks back then. I just lived my programmer’s life and had some good and some bad times, including awesome inspiring conferences, some cool projects and a shitload of new things I learned.

In the middle of 2012 I had my very first public speaking gig at the phpunconference here in Hamburg. It was so much fun for me that I decided to do this more often. I submitted my talk here and there, ending up with my first international speaking gig at TakeOff Conference 2013. I went there with 2 friends of mine and we had an awesome time in north France. The Take Off Conf organizes were running that conference for the very first time, and they did an awesome job, but there were still a few little things which annoyed us. It made us think:

If we were running a conference we would do it different

This is what happened eight months later. We spun up our very first conference and So Coded 2013 was a thing! Organizing this was a rollercoaster ride, and right in the end sprint of organizing the event, my two friends became unemployed for (conference) unrelated reasons. So our default chit-chat topic was about what kind of business we could create. What could we do for a living? What would be fun?

In the middle of the discussion I thought of a thing which has bothered me for quite a long time. Over the previous year I started speaking at conferences because I enjoy teaching and spreading the things I have learned. And for every conference I spoke at, I always wanted to upload my slides and give that link to the audience so they can check out all the stuff I mentioned later on. But for me as a speaker uploading slides on a shitty conference wifi was always a hassle. The platforms around really bugged me. Some were not free and didn’t followed the FLOSS principles. Others had bad UX and viewing the slides on your tablet or mobile device wasn’t possible at all (from a point of UX and because of iframes and stuff). Think about how often you are checking stuff on your phone or table on a conference. So I came up with the idea to create a slide hosting platform that does not suck. This was the moment that the idea for slidr.io was born. I just wanted to get rid of that pain I experienced so often.

While still in that same Cafe, I immediately registered the domain (on my phone thanks to DNSimple). And due to that fact that 2013 was the year I finally wanted to dig deeper into ruby, I decided to use Rails as a framework. I had the complete software stack in mind. It didn’t cost me any effort to think what I would need, I just knew what I wanted to build. So as soon as I got home I started hacking away. I hacked the whole night till the early morning hours, no matter that I had to go to work the next morning again. I read a lot of documentation, played around with Rails, searched for a plugin for handling auth, and figured out how to run a rails app on Heroku. I had a very very basic setup running by the end of that first night. That was now about 50 days and 80 commits ago. And since that day I have rediscovered my hacking spirit. I just want to get things done, I want to see progress on the tool I want to build, the tool with which I want to change the industry.

As I mentioned before, I’ve attended so many conferences and I always saw so many fellow nerds hacking (not surfing Facebook) with every free minute they had. I was kind of jealous, because I knew that feeling but it had been for a very long time. But now I’m also one of these people. I grab my laptop with every free minute to improve what I’ve built so far. I hack when I wait at the airport for my next flight. I hack at night and when meeting friends in a cafe with the sole purpose of hacking together.

I asked a bad ass UX expert and friend of mine (Fabian) for help, and lucky me, he also really liked that idea and the challenge of creating something new on a green field. So as of now we are a team of two passionate developers / designers getting our own playground for new technologies we always wanted to play around with. And we aren’t just making a demo for the purpose of testing things, we are building a real app.

In the past few days, I’ve been thinking about what happened over the last few months, and I realized that whenever I share this story I inspire people. That’s also why I am sharing the story here. Sometimes I’m afraid that I’ll lose this feeling again, and I don’t want it to take me another 3 years to rediscover it.

I cobbled together this logo so that I don’t forget that,

Programming Motherfucker

I decided to use the term made popular by Zed A. Shaw: “Programming Motherfucker”. It has a different meaning for me than being against all the Agile stuff which is happening in our community.

It’s more about doing what you love, focusing on why you started doing this kind of job, remembering the reason why I work in this industry. It’s about programming, having fun making things, and creating software and maybe changing the world!

I want to make stickers out of it, use it as wallpaper and place it everywhere in my life. Anything to keep myself from forgetting what I am really passionate about.

Programming Motherfucker!

Note: please feel free to use this ‘logo’ and to place it in your office, bump it to your co-workers screen or paint your wall with it!