i… love my job? wait what

lots of incomplete emotional self-analysis here, multifaceted, spanning years and with some things left unsaid. in other words, it’s a mess, i repeat myself, i’m not sure i’m sure of the statements i make

job search criteria

Age 14

I want to work with computers (and get a computer of my own.)

🌟 computer repair tech


Okay, I like computers, but this time I want to focus on software.

🌟 online news, graphics and tech


Okay, improving, but I really want to make software. And use Linux.

🌟 big media, java programmer


(Actually, hang on, I should go get a degree.)

🎓 bachelor’s, comp sci


Okay, I want to keep making software, on Linux, but not with Java anymore.

🌟 marketing, python programmer


Okay, I like python on Linux a lot but I want to do open source.

🌟 big media, programmer


Ahem, I meant I want to contribute to open source. Not just use it to build proprietary stuff.

Maybe I can do that by working on automation and tooling as dev/ops? Since that’s not the jealously-guarded “secret sauce.”

🌟 big media, ops


Okay, for real this time: I insist that my work contribute directly to a real open source project.

🌟 networking giant, programmer


… Uh.

I got what I wanted and it wasn’t at all what I had hoped it would be.

So what have I been working toward all this time?

Sigh, maybe I’ll go back to dev/ops for now?

🌟 analytics, ops


This isn’t the right direction for me. I know programmer-philosophers want “Dev/Ops” to be an organizational culture shift, but in practice it seems to mean only: “do ops in the cloud.” I don’t belong here.

So, scrap my career goals for the past 14 years; Now I just want to make something good.

Good for humans, not billionaires.

It doesn’t even need to be computer related. (But it kinda does because that’s where my skills are.)

But lol that shit doesn’t exist. I have no idea what to do about this. I guess I’ll be unemployed while I try to figure things out. Nonprofits? Start a company? Consulting? idfk

🌧 unemployed


acquaintance: “hey, my employer has an opening”

me: “sigh, ok thanks i’ll take a look… wait. this is fucking amazing”

🌟 restaurant, …programmer?

Wow, there goes a cool 25 years of my life.

I’ve become more and more convinced that the problems in my industry, (not to mention my government, society, and culture) are ultimately due to capitalism.

And I’m not optimistic that I will see a different economic model come about.

Software could be like mathematics – a noble pursuit of the most elegant and efficient ways to model processes and solve problems – but capitalism twists it with perverse incentives, making the purveyor the adversary of the user.

Assuming that I’m stuck with capitalism for the forseeable future, I must sell my labor.

I love the craft of software, and that’s where I’ve built up all my marketable skills.

But it seems like my labor with those skills will only ever be put to use for negative things that capitalism promotes, like

Every time I have to go looking for a new job I become more despondent. Is this all there is? What the hell am I going to do with myself, if I don’t want to further enrich a Zuckerberg, if I don’t want to contribute to making the world shittier, if even working on open source makes things worse?

But now: I work for a restaurant, whose goals and politics align with my own.

At last I feel like I can sell my labor while making a non-negative difference in the world.

They software I work on is just what they needed to build because there was no pre-built product that fit their needs. It is not (yet) their “proprietary differentiation point”; they compete based on the quality of their food, and would continue to if the software went away. They pay me 20%-50% less than I could be making elsewhere, and I still love it.

I want to cling to this until the Youth dismantle capitalism itself.

I hate capitalism. How can I say “I love my job?” when it is for-profit?

I don’t call myself a socialist or a communist or even a democratic socialist because I haven’t studied the subjects enough. But I am left-leaning and I agree with or am sympathetic to pretty much every leftist statement I’ve encountered:

Given that, and that I blame capitalism for the subversion of my noble craft to exacerbate massive inequality, am I allowed to say “I love my [for-profit] job”?

I think maybe what I mean is,

Am I being naive about any aspects of this job?

i’d prefer for my labor to do something positive, or at least non-negative, in the world.

over time that preference has become more of a necessity. because i’m a stalwart defender of justice? perhaps. but mostly because when i’m being paid to make things worse, i get depressed, unproductive, burnt out, and unemployed.

my skills are in software. so for most of my career, i have been grinding away, trying to level-up such that someday i might be experienced enough to be considered for one of those rare jobs which would pay me to “do open source.”

because open source is good right?

but i’m over it.

“doing open source” sucked

i think i have a previous job to thank for this adjustment:

there i was, finally, finally getting paid to do “open source” work.

but who benefited from that code? only corporations. no individual would ever use the software i worked on.

was there any sense of collaboration, community, or code re-use? no way.

was it developed in the open, with third party input? nope, closed until release-ready then thrown over the wall.

was there an open culture? absolutely not. even though the code was destined to be open, if any bit of it were to be released before a careful vetting, heads were gonna roll

did it promote copyleft? absolutely not. the corporate lawyers were terrified of it. we had to run our code through one of those dependency-license-inspecting services to ensure no “viral code” “snuck in”

was my knowledge of licensing and open source issues useful? no, they saw it as a distraction and it even got me into trouble. just having a conversation about how copyleft might be useful for business was interpreted as motivation toward sabotage.

was the code useful to put on my resume? very little; my homebrew tinkering is more demonstrative of my skills.

“but,” you might say, “those are criticisms of that particular employer, not of ‘working on open source.’ there are companies that do positive things for people. mozilla, red hat, …”

perhaps, but, very few. and they might come with their own issues. and i didn’t get far with mozilla or red hat last time i applied. i think i’ve run out of motivation for this. or rather, “open source” does not adequately describe the employment situation that would make me happy, so why strive for it? (but what would make me happy?)


i think i’ve come to accept that copyleft free software is something that i must do on my own time, to ensure that it is done right, and for the right motivations.

even the for-profit companies that do release copyleft code often subvert it with CLAs so they can do “open core.”

i shouldn’t have my heart set on my capitalist for-profit employer supporting my goals for software, which will always be misaligned.

the idea that i might attempt to blend my day job with my activism for free software when most businesses are so opposed to copyleft just sets me up for failure and frustration.

but i have so little free time. so what options are left for selling my labor? work for evil until i make enough money to retire, then work to offset the evil i’ve done? even if i became convinced that i had no other option than to work for the likes of Google or Facebook, i’d burn out in months and get fired, or quit.

what happened to my Free Software activism?

because i care a lot about (copyleft) free software, but permissively licensed code is what the industry has become convinced is the only “business friendly” option, if they’re even progressive enough to release source code at all.

so “open source” is likely the closest i’ll be able to get to my goal.

but at my new job, “open source something” hasn’t felt like such an urgent need.

and with this particular employer, that doesn’t seem to bother me.