Why I’m here, doing this thing

Last week, I called an Uber to the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, where I was recently visiting. My driver pulled up in a Toyota Corolla, sporting a ginger beard, white head wrap and a white robe. A solid silver band dangled on his wrist.

As we drove, he asked what brought me to town. I told him I was here for “a conference about Python”, adding, “a programming language”.

He smiled. “I tried learning that once, but then I gave up. It was tough.”

Then his eyes lit up. “I started learning Drupal, though.”

My driver explained he was building a social network for Kundalini yoga practitioners. He learned Drupal so that he could build the site himself. His hands waved about excitedly as he explained his love for Kundalini yoga and how he hoped to connect fellow practitioners around the world.

I asked why he decided to learn Drupal over any other similar technology. He paused, thinking.

“It was the community. I had a very clear vision for what I wanted to build, but it was hard to know what to ask for. Everyone in the Drupal community was really nice and supportive and helped me figure out what I needed.”

He went on to tell me he just came from DrupalCon, in New Orleans, where Drupal’s creator, Dries Buytaert, had presented about Drupal 8 and the road ahead. He said that Dries had highlighted two important aspects of Drupal: accessibility and functionality. Drupal appealed to him because it was easy to use, yet flexible enough to build what he wanted.

Excited now, he began to tell me about how Drupal was going to be compatible with Amazon 1-click and different interfaces, like smart watches. We pulled up to my destination, and he parked the car and turned around to face me, looking me seriously in the eyes.

“It’ll go beyond the laptop. You can build whatever you want, on anything.”

I thanked him and got out.

People often ask me why I care about the open source ecosystem. I care for the same reason I support my friends over at Product Hunt, the same reason I think Kickstarter is one of the best things to happen to creators, and the same reason I feel so lucky and jazzed every day to work in this industry.

I’m here because I want to make it easier for other people to build, do, and express themselves however they want. To me, that’s the heart and soul of tech. Technology is about making tools for us to express our humanity. To make our creative expression frictionless.

Open source tools are incredible because they are free to use and modifiable for any purpose. But they require maintenance, too. As Dries pointed out, tools that are accessible and functional help people build more things, faster. Reducing creative friction unlocks unimaginable human potential, whether it’s my Uber driver making a Kundalini yoga social network, a $25B company like Tesla Motors, or the White House: all of whom use the same tool (Drupal) to express themselves.

I’m currently exploring better ways to support open source infrastructure. If you want to stay involved, you can sign up here to get updates when I post something new, or follow me on Twitter.