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unimatrix (1124)

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Journal of unimatrix (1124)

Monday April 09, 2001
10:28 AM

Open Source and Artistic Movements

[ #15 ]

It's easy to make plans when you're on holiday or have some
spare time, but once you're back home the day-to-day chores
will quickly catch up with you. Nevertheless, I think I've
learned something in the past year. Those two months in the
summer of 2000 that I've taken as more or less a sabbatical
have shown just how far you can get and how much fun it can
be when you're don't have to go to a regular nine-to-five
job. And experiences in London, meeting the open-source
community, namely in the form of the London Perl mongers and
taking part in the London Perl conference, have shown me
that, unless you're part of some culture you can relate to,
the life of a hacker can be a solitary one. However, when
you're engaged in open-source activities, you can immerse
yourself in this hacker culture, and it feels good and gives
you energy.

There are some concepts which may appear initially unrelated
to computer programming, but are compatible with that
mindset. The idea of living a bohemian lifestyle, of
exploring the artist within yourself (and hacking certainly
can be an art form), the comparison with the French painter
or poet around the fin-de-siecle who takes part in new
artistic movements, maybe even political discussions with
other artists in some Parisian cafe, drinking Absinthe (the
poet's third eye), is very appealing. In his talk at the
yapc::Europe 19100, Simon Cozens related the open-source
hacker to such artists. But how do you achieve such a state
of the free spirit?

The principal downside of programming for fun is the lack of
income. Only rarely can one find a job, temporary or
permanent, that allows oneself to indulge in open-source
projects. My rather temporary solution for this has been a
three-month visit to London, in a rather well-paid project.
London is expensive, Vienna is not, so the idea was to earn
money in London and spend it in Vienna. Back in Vienna, I'll
try to find similar set-ups; well-paid, short-term
commercial projects followed by periods of practising your
own hackerly art. Unfortunately, income taxation in Austria
is very high, so it would pay off a lot more working in
London, but then again that's not home.

There are, of course, other ways to make a living. Having
taught a few small Perl-classes, I found that to be
challenging and fun at the same time. So I might offer some
open Perl training with the and Linux user group
folks, hoping to build up experience and a reputation, so I
can then offer these services to companies. Speaking of the
Vienna Perl mongers, they seem to be lazy beyond virtue when
it comes to organizing meetings and other activities, so I'd
like to encourage socal contact between those hackers.