Paul Ford, co-founder and chief executive of Postlight, has a delightful paean to open source in The New York Times Magazine. In the article, Letter of Recommendation: Bug Fixes, Fords talks about the joys of open source and the pleasures of browsing through a program’s history with a version control system like Git. He says he likes to read commits like a newspaper. It tells him what he can do today that he couldn’t do yesterday. One of the main examples he gives of an important open source project is Emacs.
He talks about Emacs going back 40 years and how much one can learn by examining how the code evolved. Over 600 people made almost 140,000 commits to make Emacs what it is today. It is, he says, the Ship of Theseus in code form. Ford remarks, “I read the change logs, and I think: Humans can do things.”
None of this is news to Irreal readers, of course, but it is significant that it’s appearing in a general purpose publication like the New York Times. Most often, what we do appears to be mysterious and arcane to the general public. Ford does a good job of capturing the flavor of some of it.
Sweet! It’s a bit Utopia-ish, but I like the shout out for Emacs (naturally).