Elsewhere here, in an earlier post, I remarked on tools I use. In that post I noted that many of these are developed, each by one man, or one guy and a small team. In discussion with others for my own project's code, I've noted my attraction to a concept that Mark Bernstein calls NeoVictorian Computing. It is probably not the best term — elsewhere he and others use artisanal — and Mark's focus is a bit different than mine.
The basic idea is unique personal inspiration of a tool creator, enabling similarly unique and personal creation by a user. It is all personal, part of crafting a life. I love this sort of collaborative creationthing and my work environment is cobbled together from the products that shine in this way.
Every day, I implicitly collaborate with these tool craftsmen; I should do more to reflect back to them the joy in my environment they help bring.
One of these is a system-wide spell checker called Spell Catcher. I use it in its most quirky modes and it makes my machine impossible for someone else to use. (Well, other things do as well.) I've used Spell Catcher for at least twenty years, so long that I cannot say. I first bought it as Thunder and used it on System 6.
The NeoVictorian developer for all those decades was a guy named Evan Gross. Even recently, he added some rather fabulous improvements to the utility.
I never met the guy, but I did communicate with him over the years, asking for help to stretch his work in ways he had not imagined. But even if I never had shared messages with him, I surely shared words — every word of mine you might have read.
So he is gone now; I am ignorant of the circumstances. Probably his tool will be more or less abandoned, and may not even work with the new system upgrade due next month.
I have two thoughts on this.
The first is that I wish I had sent him thanks as full as I actually have for how he made my life better. I will work to do so with the other craftsmen in my environment.
The second has to do with my own creations. I am creating tools for others to use. The progress is (currently) slow and it is unlikely that someone will use them for twenty years before I go. Whenever I do go, I want the work to continue as a living system. That is one reason why this web infrastructure is so important to me; it is designed to support collaboration and getting useful results out there.
I got email from a reader the other day that said I should just abandon the collaboration stuff. I didn't need collaborators — this fellow reasoned — and should instead just get on with the core work. I could. I see others doing that, but I like my way better. It is harder for sure. But we are playing here for important prizes, and the only prizes that could be important are those that are shared.
In my FilmsFolded work, I focus on the filmmaker as a sort of single creator of the film. It is a handy fiction for the approach I am taking. Often I downplay the contribution of the performing artists — the actors — in this.
It is unfair, I know. But today I celebrate what they do as similar to these lone toolmakers.
They practice their craft with the intent of creating art that affects souls. But those souls are remote, on the other side of a boundary, across time, space and commercial transactions. There is only an intuition about what will carry power across those boundaries and actually change the lives of the viewers.
My hat is off to actors today, those who make this commitment and who put themselves on the line based on this best guess of what in them can matter when shaped just so.