Behind the Scenes: Making a Difference Through Open Source
This post is part of a series of segments we are calling, TEN7 - Behind the Scenes. They provide a peek behind the curtain of the work we do, showcasing the technical and creative energy that is the “secret sauce” of TEN7.
These posts allow our team to showcase their passion, lessons they have learned, and some of the tips and tricks that only come from dedication to their craft. We hope this series will help you understand the makeup of our team, what it’s like to work with us, and how we might be able to help you! Call us.
My name is Derek Wright. I'm a computer scientist by training and by trade, and I've been working for TEN7 since August of 2020.
I've been around the Drupal project for many years now, I think 16 years or something. Deeply versed in many areas of the system, and have been a prolific contributor for all that time and helped get various things done in Drupal core and maintain parts of it. If all else fails, "ask Derek, he'll probably know," kind of person.
I like to think of open source as one of the great examples of socialism working in practice. And people freak out at the word, but if you think about a public library, that's basically socialism. Just have one shared copy and the people who need parts of it can use it and it all works out great.
So to me, open source is another version of that. Instead of a bunch of private companies independently competing with each other to try and make their own profitable version of something, people from all [00:01:00] over the world collaborate and share their research, and share their victories, and their defeats, and help each other out, and build something amazing.
So the skills I bring to TEN7 and to open source contribution in general are a very systematic mind, and I like to think of a hyper attention to detail. I have eagle eyes for looking at code and thinking through what is this code really going to do, and can I find any holes in what it's not dealing with. So that's just a general sort of nerdy way of thinking, which comes in handy when dealing with computer programming.
I have a sick desire to understand weird, complicated problems and come up with elegant solutions to them. A sort of desire for clarity and understanding.
So another skill is ability to communicate clearly and understand a problem, and then refine that down. And whether it's writing up the bug report in such a way that other people can [00:02:00] reproduce the bug and confirm that it's actually a problem, not just that I'm doing something wrong. Whether it's writing up the change record of, oh this thing is now changed.
I come to it also from a performer background, I've been a musician longer than I've been a computer scientist. I never was too afraid to just be up on stage showing people what I can do musically.
So I think that also helped my stage fright as it were of trying to contribute in a very public way. But I think it's a huge range of people who end up contributing to open source, and definitely not all like me, thank goodness. I think that there's plenty of room for everybody.
I really resonate with the idea of building things that matter. I'm proud that's the tagline for the company I now work for. It certainly resonates with me personally. I had many opportunities throughout my career to jump out of academia or open source land and try and land some extremely lucrative job at some [00:03:00] dotcom company or whatever. And I never wanted that, and I never wanted to go that route, because I thought that working on things that to me matter, and that somehow further humanity's chances for survival and for harmony and for understanding each other, that was more important than my own personal bottom line.
That was a big part of what brought me to TEN7 in August, 2020. Right before then, Ivan had posted a blog about overcoming some of the institutional racism embedded in the language of source code.
I was right in the middle of trying to do in Drupal core itself, where through the wake of George Floyd's murder and the resurgence of understanding and grappling with the impacts of racism in our society. Looking at terms like "blacklist" and "whitelist", which we used all the time in computing without even thinking about it.
And realizing, wow, given the context of what black means in this context and what black means in society overall, and context of what white means in this context and what white means in society overall, these aren't really the terms we want to keep using for this.
I was involved in trying to undo some of that language inside Drupal core, and Ivan had just posted a blog. And so when I saw the job offer come by, and I looked at the company and looked at his blog, and I was like, "Wow, what a great thing to be writing about this is awesome. I love that this company cares about this. Yeah. Let me interview with them. Maybe I want to work for them."
And it's definitely been a positive change.