Ben is a new Technical Support Specialist at Equinox, expanding our tech services department to meet our growing clientele. Ben comes to us with a sizable amount of library and Evergreen-specific knowledge. Ben received his MLS from the University of South Florida 1998.
We asked Ben a few questions about open source, Equinox, and, of course, pets!
What interests you about working for Equinox?
I’m in my element here, working among library-loving geeks whom I adore. I’ve already used Evergreen for over a year and have gotten to know the folks who hang out in the #openils-evergreen IRC channel. I’d probably do this for free, but for heaven’s sake don’t tell Brad, because my landlord would be furious with me.
What is important about open source software?
Open source software, just like Creative Commons licensing, is a simple and fantastic way of building the culture we want to live in tomorrow. By explicitly allowing you to use the things I’ve contributed to the commons, I’m giving you the tools to do whatever you find most valuable. The more people who contribute to the commons, the more likely it is that someone has already solved a problem for you!
I can also poke around at the source code and see what’s going on. To paraphrase Audubon, I can solve problems more quickly by eliminating doubt as to which one is telling the truth.
Where do you see open source development in the next ten to fifteen years?
I’m going to answer “where” literally: kindergarten classrooms. In ten to fifteen years, little kids will earn grades (and not reprimands) for hacking in school.
When you get stuck on a problem how do you solve it?
1. Try to describe the problem — to yourself, and possibly to someone else.
2. Look for someone else who’s already solved a similar problem.
3. When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout. The squeaky wheel gets the worm, or something like that.
4. If, against all conceivable odds, the problem really is novel, break it down into its component parts. What steps should be happening? What processes should be taking the situation from one step to the next?
5. Examine your assumptions. As my high-school gym teacher said, when you assume something, you make us both look foolish. (He was never too sharp.)
6. Once you’ve made a change that you think has fixed the problem, consider breaking it again. That is, undo the supposed fix and make sure that the problem comes back. If it doesn’t, then you haven’t really found the problem. But make sure you know the likely consequences of breaking it again.
7. Write something, briefly, about the problem and how you solved it. Put that knowledge safely into a place where it can be found and archived by search engines. One of these days, someone else is going to desperately need to find that information-and if your brain is anything like mine, that someone else might be your future self.
What do you keep on your desk?
Not much — though this is historically unusual. Would anyone like to donate a chumby?
What do you do to chill out?
I find cooking very relaxing. When all the ingredients come together like an A-Team plan, there’s a Csíkszentmihályian sense of flow. Plus, at the end, you get to have a great meal.
Do you have any pets?
I have two cats. The youngest, an orange tabby named Tabula Rasa — my wife Jodi is a philosopher, and it was either that or “Sophia” — joined our family last year. She had been abandoned in a bathroom by a departing tenant and found by the landord, days later, curling up in the sink. Tabula (“Beulah” for short) still loves bathroom sinks, and any other sources of running water. She also loves using her claws on Pied.
Pied has seniority over Beulah, but a previous owner declawed Pied, leaving evasion as her best defense. So instead of settling into a dreamy retirement, asymptotic to oblivion, she’s pounding ground in amazingly acrobatic chase scenes across the living room, my lap, and the china cabinet. Our kitten seems to have put a spark back into Pied’s life — if perhaps only a spark of mortal terror for her very hide.
Despite all this, they do miss us when we’re at work, and so I occasionally catch them during a moment of detente.