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Jakob Attkinson
Jakob Attkinson

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From piracy to open-source: my story

Upfront note: this is my first personal post on Dev.to. Any constructive criticism is more than welcome.

I grew up with a computer from the age of 6. Even if I was born in a modest family, my dad understood the potential of technology and wanted to make sure I have everything I need growing up. However, most other things available for a computer were a bit more than my parents could afford. So, what's a PC good for, for a kid, if you can't play all the games and watch all the animes you want?

That's how I got into piracy, even before I was 8. By the time I was 12 I already had a huge collection of pirated stuff, most of them nicely labeled with color printed covers and customized support. The entire neighborhood was reaching out whenever something new was released. (Note: I never looked for profit or ask for money)

When I turned 14, World of Warcraft was released. A subscription-paid game? What the hell was wrong with Blizzard? I can't afford that, I can't crack that... What am I supposed to do?
And that's how I got into modding, custom servers and other random stuff. I ended up spending time reading and trying out scripts rather than asking my parents to pay a monthly subscription.

Long story short, by the time I was accepted at the university I was already deeply rooted into "crack it or script it" kind of unwritten rule. But soon all was about to change....

In my freshman year I befriended another student that assumed most of the organizational responsibilities, but never went to parties other fun stuff young students are into. He grew up in a family where piracy was a concept they just couldn't understand. "If you need something others worked for, buy it or trade other services for it", he used to say.

I guess you can only imagine his surprise the first time he visited my place and realized nothing was "legit", not even my Windows license.

It took him about a year to open my eyes. He changed the way I was thinking about software completely. In less than a year I dumped everything I had installed or used that didn't have a valid license. I donated my entire collection of pirated stuff to an old friend (yeah, I know... I should have thrown it away...), I started volunteering to a local association that had ties to Microsoft to get my first Windows license (all volunteers got one). I gave up Office suite and learned to write all my school stuff in LaTeX. I stopped playing games that weren't free to play and adopted a "if the software doesn't have a freeware alternative and I can't afford it, then I probably don't need it either" attitude.

In the upcoming years I went one step further. After 1 month at my first job I re-negotiated my contract to include an IntelliJ IDEA license for home, since the company wasn't using eclipse anymore and I insisted I keep my personal development environment in sync with my work environment. I even launched a start-up as part of a plan to get myself more involved with something tech related during my free time. And many companies offer huge discounts (even free licenses) in the first 1-2 years of a start-up.
Moreover, I even dedicated 2 years of my time to work as a volunteer in the gaming community and try, one way or another, to give back for all the games I pirated as a kid. Heart and soul, I dedicated my entire attention to do as much as I could during that time.
I like to believe that some of the things I touched got better over time and that I got to change at least a couple of small things for the better.

What does this entire wall of text have to do with anything?, you might ask yourself if you had enough patience to read through. Well, the answer is quite simple: I'd like to get involved with open-source.

While I haven't contributed to Github yet, I realized that lately most of the tools I use are open-source. There are things I think are "cool", but haven't found on Github. "Why don't I start on a project?" was one of my thoughts a couple of days ago. But then fear and other negative feelings kicked in. "I am not as good as a developer as all other people there", "I wouldn't know where to start", etc. While I haven't yet figured out if these are just excuses or legit concerns, I decided that the best approach would be to open up here and take it one step at a time.

My next post will be, probably, about getting started with open source. Or why I don't do it.

P.S. Next time I'll include images and gifs, to make the wall of text easier to parse :)

Top comments (14)

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nestedsoftware profile image
Nested Software

If you have an idea for a project, and have time to work on it, I say go for it! Don’t worry about not being as experienced or knowledgeable as someone else. If you develop something that gains traction, you will find ways to improve it over time. The truth is that plenty of successful companies and projects begin with less than perfect code or technology choices.

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attkinsonjakob profile image
Jakob Attkinson

An idea I had recently was to built a basic web app that allows a regular user to create a basic, but stylish, resume.
There are a bunch of similar apps out there, but those either require some form of payment either had some major design flaws that prevent me to use it.

I could make time for it, but I didn't know where to start. What technologies should I use? How do I start working on it without have to re-invent the wheel etc.

Sadly, I allowed myself to be overwhelmed instead of putting down all this concerns and working on solutions. And that's how I ended up here.

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nestedsoftware profile image
Nested Software • Edited on

I'd probably start by figuring out how to generate an export from html/css that generates pdf (and ideally word) format documents. These formats still seem to be pretty locked-in, so I think you'd need to do that for something that other people will use. The next step would be to create some pleasing template designs using html/css. Polishing this will take time, so I'd just get something reasonable working first. Once your platform is up and running, you can keep improving existing templates and adding new ones. The last step would be to create an easy-to-use form wizard that allows people to enter in their own data for the resume. Once you have at least a reasonable minimal implementation for each of these 3 steps, you basically have the core of your application.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, just focus on each task as its own separate thing, without worrying about the weight of getting the whole project done. I find breaking things down and just concentrating on getting individual pieces done reduces my anxiety a lot!

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kataras profile image
Gerasimos (Makis) Maropoulos

Great article, I have similar life experience too :) That's how I created the (nowadays) popular Iris web framework [iris-go.com] so yes, I agree with @nestedsoftware , go for it Jakob and if you need any help don't hesitate to contact other FOSS contributors (including myself) too.

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Rohit Prasad

One nice thing is pirating of musics in my region has reduced considerably with the availability of high-speed cheap internet and apps like Spotify many people don't mind listening to the occasional Ads as long as you don't have to pay for it.

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thecodingalpaca profile image
Carlos Trapet

I mean paying for Spotify nets the original artists about as much cash as pirating the music. I just share my music both on Spotify and for free online, it honestly makes close to zero financial difference.

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Jakob Attkinson

IIRC lately things have changed considerably. I mean, I do know that in Spotify early days Lady Gaga made about 16$ with her hits. But it's my understanding that nowadays artists are paid proportional with the # songs played. If it's a fair trade, that's not for me to judge.
For what is worth, 2019 was the first time Spotify registered a profit. After ... what? 13 years-ish?
I imagine the music business it's a bit more complex and harder to monetize, but to each his own.

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attkinsonjakob profile image
Jakob Attkinson

I discovered Spotify in 2012. Have been a loyal subscribe ever since (except a short 6 months break when I tested Google music, before Spotify introduced podcasts).

Worth keeping in mind that there are planty of services that offer free music. Including YouTube.

While gaming has Humble Bundle, it's not really the same and those games are mostly a couple of years old.

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devmount profile image
Andreas

Thanks for your honesty and sharing your personal story! Awesome first post!

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attkinsonjakob profile image
Jakob Attkinson

Thank you for your kind words and support.

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phlash profile image
Phil Ashby

Kick-ass 1st post Jakob, and deja vu for me in a few ways too :)

Many, many open source teams/projects are looking for help outside the core codebase, typically things that will help with understanding the project and it's culture/goals/style/... and build your confidence to contribute too.

As with many things in life, having an itch to scratch gets me involved, and my occasional pull requests for others are usually a result of adding a feature I need, or fixing a bug that annoyed me. In all cases small changes that I'm prepared to be slated for! Sometimes someone else uses my fork and even gives me a star - that's a nice feeling :)

Go for it I say!

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Jakob Attkinson • Edited on

Many, many open source teams/projects are looking for help outside the core codebase

How do you find such teams / projects?

To begin with, I'd be very happy to find a project where I can properly set up my development environment and get to fix very minor bugs...

Would be interesting to see if there are some sort of "mentors", that could mentor someone like me to Kickstart contributing to projects by making sure the basics are well understood

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codemouse92 profile image
Jason C. McDonald

Thank you for sharing this! I concur.

I wrote up something similar a while back in regards to eBooks and other media:

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Marquel

I got the same life story like you too, everything in my laptop were pirated stuff. Now, I even used Ubuntu as my OS just so I don't need to crack Windows 10πŸ˜‚

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