What I Do
For money, I develop web applications. I manage projects and help people and organizations get their goals organized and accomplished; I create and manage budgets and timeframes. On the technical side, I mess with Linux servers, users, permissions, filesystems; I wrangle APIs, integrating interesting technologies into web application back-ends; I build with the explicit goal of compatibility, interoperability, and ease of understanding, but with equal or more attention to program efficiency; I document well.
My favorite application language is Typescript. While the newness and instability of the ecosystem is a little frustrating at times, I have never felt freer defining my applications than when using Typescript. I dislike frameworks because they turn coding from deep and interesting systems designs into endless blimp hacking. At the same time, I recognize their value both as functionality providers and—more importantly—as a common environment in which to build apps that others can easily understand and modify. Ironically, for as much as I dislike using frameworks, I love to build frameworks, and so I leave behind me a trail of experiments. The framework that I used for this website was a highly experimental framework that I built in PHP, which I learned a ton from and promptly deprecated. I'm currently in the works on a new framework in Typescript - a microservice microframework - which I'm having a lot of fun with.
For more about my professional pursuits, see my CV
For Fun, I do much the same thing that I do for money. I'm currently building a couple little open-source utilities (many in bash) to make managing my digital life easier (see my github page, linked above), as well as trying to contribute to Darktable, an open-source photo editor that I adore.
Beyond programming, I sing and write songs, I bake artisan bread, I photograph things, I sew, I volunteer with empowerment organizations, I bike, I hike, I fix houses and plumbing and electricity, I learn languages, I explore.... I used to say I travel, but the truth is I don't. I lived abroad for 6 years, 3 of which I spent hitch hiking through Latin America, but it had nothing to do with "travel" in the classical sense. I don't get on airplanes and fly to places for a week or two, see the sights and then leave.
Who I Am
I am an optimist and a Millennial. I'm a family guy, a musician, a lover and a dreamer. I am ambitious.
Questions of identity have always been hard for me. So often we identify ourselves by what we do, and there's a lot of merit to that. But there's much lost in translation, too. While what we do is certainly a major part of our story, focusing on it misses important details, like the values that guide what we do and how we do it.
In other words, what we do is an oversimplification. While it may reveal how we interact with the world in specific contexts, it fails to capture the full motion of our trajectory. Because it doesn't necessarily reveal where we're going, and much less where we came from, it can't possibly tell the whole story of who we are.
So my best answer to this question of identity is that I am an "improver". I program to create better software; I bake to create better bread; I sing to make better music; I read to tell better stories and make better decisions; I think to create better ideas; I change to create better conditions; I learn to be a better person.
This is a long and serious page so far, but I don't think it would be complete without recognition of the values that I've spent years trying to define and respect. To me, maturity is to define your values and make decisions that consistently reflect them. Here, I'm taking a stab at the first part of this. The rest, I'll spend the balance of my life on.
(Note: Unsurprisingly, these values are almost identical to those on which I attempted to found The Operations Institute, a now-defuct non-profit management consultancy. The process of defining those values was largely the process of defining my own values—an interesting notion when considering the dynamics of a corporation with relation to its founders and executives. Also note that below is a simple list. If you'd like to read more deeply about why I've even bothered to write these values down and what they really mean to me, take a look at my post on the subject.)
- Hypertransparency—Because sharing creates accountability and accountability creates progress, I will open my life to the fullest extent possible.
- Humility—Because he who knows all learns nothing, and because we must continue to learn to improve, I will never profess to know—only to believe.
- Diversity—Because a diverse system is a robust system, I will strive to create diversity where I believe it is lacking.
- Vision—Because to walk without knowing why and to where is to waste every step, I will always remember to look up from the road. I will look around, look both behind and ahead, that I might leverage my steps in pursuit of a better world.
- Collaboration—Because others are the source of our power, and we, the power of others, and because collaboration is the guarantee that our power is not unnecessarily limited by our own lack of vision, I will always seek and create opportunities to collaborate.
- Courage—Because we must turn as the world turns and we must dance with the fire of knowledge, I will always find the courage to move on.
- Compassion—Because we cannot be truly grounded without touching others, I will remain committed to creating for others the opportunities that we all deserve.
In all this writing about myself, I don't want to forget that one of the things I've always wanted was a world freed by technology to share ideas and have personal conversations that matter. Toward that end, I'd like to offer my personal email address, and I encourage you to reach out if you feel you have something to say or if there's something you think I can help with. Please use it wisely :). kael-(DOT)-shipman-(AT)-gmail-(DOT)-com