Someone I admire and respect has taken it upon himself to do a remarkably painful thing to make his community better. Ed Finkler is trying to raise $3,000 so that he can give a talk at a series of conferences about his experiences with open source and mental illness.
The rest of this post is going to be a quick explanation of why you should support this cause.
Why This Cause
I’m biased, obviously. Mental illness and open source are two things that hit very close to home with me. But I think this is an issue that the entire internet community should be concerned about.
I can’t speak for everyone with a mental illness, but I know that the internet is my crutch. The amazing people, the ability to do anything I can achieve with my own skills, and the culture that encourages us to share and help each other is really, really helpful. I don’t know what I’d do without it. And I don’t think I’m alone in that.
Working in front of a screen all day, the level of self-awareness and critical approach to problems required, and the lack of interpersonal communication all make software development and open source in particular environments in which mental illnesses can be cultivated. And it’s time that we began to have a dialogue about it, in the open.
We were all so upset when Aaron killed himself that we eagerly demanded a prosecutor lose her job. We were ready to place the blame squarely on the justice department. And now we have the opportunity to put our money where our mouths are. We have the opportunity to take responsibility, rather than placing blame.
Let’s start fixing this.
I think the cause is worthy, but the fact that it’s Ed that’s running it removes any hesitation I have in donating to it.
Ed’s was the first open source project I ever contributed to. The people I met while working on that project are some of the best friends I have. Ed, personally, went out of his way to make me feel welcome and included, taking the time to help bring me up to speed until I was actually productive and useful. He made sure I felt like part of the team, and my involvement and devotion to open source today is largely because of that. Had Ed been anything but a phenomenal open source developer, I’m not sure I’d still be part of that community. I was so nervous to put myself out there, anything but a warm welcome would have crushed me. But Ed, and the people who gathered around him, gave me a warm welcome.
That is what open source is. I can’t think of anyone better qualified to speak about it.
I’ve spoken briefly with Ed in the past about depression, anxiety, and general mental illness. Those conversations are never fun. It always feels like you’re admitting a weakness, purposefully holding aloft all the undesirable parts of yourself for the world to see. If Ed has the immense courage to do that on a national scale, we can find $3,000 to make it happen.
Sign Me Up
I’ll put my money where my mouth is. I’ve already donated to the cause, but I’ll also match up to $100 of other people’s donations. I know it’s not much, but it’s what I can safely promise right now. I may be able to double-down and do another $100 by the time funding closes. In the meantime, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll match it. I’m good for the first $100 worth, and I’ll do what I can with the rest.