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As someone who occasionally entertains bouts of cynicism, I’ve been taken slightly aback by the number of people who’ve volunteered, in these last few weeks, to help with Tarski. These people fall into two camps, which overlap slightly as these things are wont to do.

Firstly, there are people offering to localise the theme: that’s to say, to translate it into German or Dutch or Swedish. Now, people changing the Tarski files so the various bits of English text are replaced by Mandarin or Polish is nothing new, and I have to admit it can’t have been the easiest or most rewarding of jobs, because all that English text was hardcoded into the theme files, so any translations had to be carefully saved or they would be lost with each upgrade.

I noticed this, grimaced, and vowed to fix it at some point. But you know how it is: life is full of happenings, and there are bugs to fix and clients to please and exams to take, and some things get pushed to the back of the queue, or worse yet, forgotten entirely. Which is precisely what happened. Fortunately, at least for my conscience, Tarski has a reasonably big userbase and some amongst them came forward about it.

It’s important to say that they did two things: they raised the issue, and they volunteered to help. This is a game where everyone can win: by bringing up localisation, they put pressure on me to make it easier for them to do something they wanted to do anyway (namely translate the theme). They can then reciprocate by providing their translation to everyone else, which costs them very little effort and gains them the appreciation of their peers (a reward one would do well not to underestimate the value of).

It’s wonderful for me to be able to offer Tarski in a number of different languages, but perhaps even more important for me is to feel that people care, and that they want to help. The feeling of support created by a community is just as important as anything that community actually does.

The same goes for the second group, Tarski’s beta testers. Normally I prefer to test internally, release, and hope there aren’t too many bugs—and fix them when the public find them, as they inevitably do. But because it had been so long since our last release, and because we’d changed quite a lot of code, we decided to put a feature-complete version out for people who signed up to test.

Having people breaking things for us, uncovering bugs we just wouldn’t have noticed (because there are so many things to test, and so many different possible configurations), not only helped polish the final release to a point that just wouldn’t have been possible for Chris and myself on our own, but gave us confidence and support through a slightly dreary process (QA isn’t fun, and is possibly even less so when you’re not getting paid).

People care about things: it’s one of our defining characteristics. We form attachments to the things we use and work on, and that attachment is the glue that forms communities: shared work, shared dreams, shared experiences.

Nite Owl

There’s a lot to be said for bashing out new work at half-one in the morning when you’re meant to be in bed. There’s the illicit thrill of the underground developer, working while the world sleeps. More importantly, there’s solitude—there’s escape.

There are no clients emailing you, no family members on the phone asking for technical help. No colleagues to bother you (especially if you’ve disconnected, which I invariably have). I wouldn’t be surprised if Dan Cederholm had redesigned SimpleBits at this time of night.

It’s late, you’re tired, you’ve relaxed and your mind wanders. Night takes the pressure away: fresh ideas emerge, sure of a better reception than during the hurried day. Not all of them will be great, but jot them all down (or better yet, just build something) and you’ll be able to work out which ones to use and which ones to throw away tomorrow.

9rules member

Tarski: an elegant, flexible WordPress theme