Links with bygone days of yore

[Photo of myself]
A long, long time ago I was approached by O’Reilly Media to work here as an editor of books on DCE. We don’t publish books on that technology anymore (but it manages to stick around, hidden under other things such as Microsoft .NET). So I cover lots of different topics, mostly concerning free or Open Source software. (I prefer to call it free software, for reasons I explain in an article.)

My background includes studies in music and mental health, and a stint as a technical writer at computer manufacturers, where I developed a system for designing and creating programmer’s documentation.

Particularly interesting projects

I have positive things to say about every book I’ve worked on. They also tend to get fine reviews, and two books won Dr. Dobb's Jolt Awards. Here are some of the more interesting products of my editorial career.

So what qualifies me for this job?

I never did any programming on a professional level, but managed to pick up the skills I needed to write about programming. I’ve paid my dues in Fortran, C, Perl, PHP, and JavaScript. The largest number of lines I’ve done (embarrassing to say) is probably in Emacs Lisp.

My best autodidactic undertaking was to study journals and books on software engineering. They not only helped me to understand how tools and languages are used on real projects (which I could not learn by working at computer companies) but gave me models for the development of documentation.

My introduction to O’Reilly was through a classic old-boy network. Steve Talbott had been my manager at a real-time computing company (still remembered fondly by many) called MASSCOMP. He was impressed with my use of the make utility on some complicated projects. So he asked me take over his task of revising his book Managing Projects with make. I didn’t realize at the time what an honor that was (or what a pain in the ass, either) but I finished the project to everyone’s satisfaction. I then started reviewing drafts for other editors, and Tim O’Reilly was sufficiently impressed with my comments to ask me to start editing. According to my records, I came to the Cambridge office full-time on November 9, 1992.

Looking at the larger picture

Politics are vital to me. I care a lot about the environment—I’m worried that we’re slashing and burning our species out of existence. But all the experts on the environment have come to the conclusion that we can’t stop the devastation without improving the status of poor and oppressed people, particularly women around the world. And since a major aspect of promoting social change is to protect the lives of those who promote it, I take a strong interest in human rights issues.

I donate money to Amnesty International, and write a lot of protest letters (which really work) about mistreated and imprisoned people.

Since I’ve derived a pretty good career from the computer industry, I felt it’s my duty to help computers be used to serve the public, so I joined Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) when it was active.

My spiritual affiliation is with Temple Shir Tikvah of Winchester, Mass., a very progressive and open synagogue.

Having survived a research project on Nathaniel Hawthorne for The Bug in the Seven Modules, I entered into even more demanding efforts covering history, ancient epics, and religious texts for Code the Obscure and my last parody (where I stretched the bounds of the medium further than they’re supposed to go), The Disconnected.

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