ADHD and Invisible Illness

By | March 3rd, 2017 | Personal Note

ADHD is an asset but it's also a constant source of dysfunction, shame, and insecurity.

It gets better, that's for sure, but damn is it hard. Being diagnosed late and not having had access to treatment has put me so far behind, it's even more destructive than the decade I spent in the closet.

I was diagnosed in 2007 but wasn't treated till 2015. By that time I had already dropped out of college, trashed my credit, burned countless bridges, and been fired from my own startup. As proud as I am of what I've accomplished and overcome, it's hard not to feel a little resentful. After all, reminders of my shortcomings are everywhere. I could've avoided so much unnecessary pain, I could've done so much more.

Most people have no clue just how much of a struggle even the simplest things can be for me. Invisible illness is everywhere and no one cuts us slack, not unless we explain and remind, which takes extra effort we can rarely afford. People assume I'm lazy, or incompetent, or disgusting. You might know better, but you probably have lots of data points. Most people don't.

So what do I expect to accomplish with this? I want you to be a friend and an ally.

What does that look like?

  • be kind to people, we have such a limited window into each other's reality
  • avoid stereotypes, about ADHD, OCD, or depression, whatever, because OMG you know better
  • never practice amateur psychiatry, casually calling people narcissistic, psychopathic, depressed, bipolar, or autistic is profoundly not OK
  • invest time in learning about mental illness, because it is everywhere and peeling back your ignorance will serve you and your loved ones and your coworkers well

You are awesome. You are even more awesome for having read this. And you can be awesomer still. Thanks for reading

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2016: Onward and Upward

By | December 9th, 2016 | Personal Note

It's been quite a year for me, my partner, family, friends, and country. The highs were high and the lows were wretched, but it ended better than it began. I am happier, healthier, more alive and, though there's always something to worry about, more optimistic than ever before.

I have so much to be grateful for and you are at the top of my list. Earlier this year a good friend of mine reminded me that, 3 years ago, I was jobless, insolvent, and very nearly homeless. I owe everything I have to the people who’ve supported me. Thank you.

Try as I might, there is no summarizing this year... but the numbers tell a story:

  • 60,000 people working for my new employer
  • 42,463 miles flown, 17,098 miles driven
  • $12,000 raise on my base pay
  • 500 people working for my former employer
  • 434 days since I began receiving medical treatment
  • 60 posts since I took over the Google Open Source Blog
  • 43 cities visited across 4 countries
  • 29 votes got me elected to the OSI board of directors
  • 22 musical acts, 16 at Coachella
  • 20 pounds gained
  • 11 conferences attended
  • 10 presentations given
  • 5 convention centers
  • 2 weddings
  • 1 engagement to the man of my dreams
  • countless photos of Pico-cat

You are no doubt a part of the stories that those numbers tell, and I look forward to the memories we’ll make in 2017. Onward and upward, right?

With love,

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Stepping Stones and Rocketry

By | March 15th, 2016 | Personal Note

There's being fired and then there's being let go. I was fired from my startup in 2013 because I failed to rise to the occasion of CEO. I was let go from O'Reilly Media last week because the company made strategic choices about its future, and community, at least as I know it, wasn't a part of that.

Both were intense experiences seared into my memory. Both made me extremely grateful for my friends, family, and the communities I run in as they sprang to support me in the wake of a terrible event.

As many people suggested in the hours following my layoff, one door closes and many open. Basically? You nailed it. Many opportunities have surfaced themselves and I received a compelling offer which I am currently mulling over no more than 24 hours after I turned in my badge and laptop. And today, I learned that I've been elected to the Open Source Initiative (OSI) Board of Directors!

While I'm excited for my future and upset at being laid off without a day's notice, I can confidently say that O'Reilly is a company that I still believe in; I drank the kool-aid long before I joined the company. O'Reilly will continue to be the most innovative media company serving students and professionals from programmers to sysadmins and designers to data scientists.

I loved my coworkers at O'Reilly and will be forever grateful for how the company allowed me to grow into a community professional, a speaker, an author, and a traveler. I'm grateful for how O'Reilly threw me into the fire of open source as the community manager for OSCON where I began to serve a world I've long benefited from.

It's been an edifying 2.5 years at O'Reilly and the future is bright. While I may never be a "Foo," I'm what O'Reilly now calls a "Goo." A Graduate of O'Reilly. I look forward to a long career serving the open source communities and collaborating with O'Reilly every opportunity I get.

Friends, family, coworkers past and present, colleagues, fellow community organizers, and community members: Thank you. You've always been there for me and I've never been more confident that I'm in the right line of work.

O'Reilly: Thank you. You were more than a stepping stone, you were a rocket ship.

Here's to what's next!

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When did you start coding and why?

By | March 7th, 2016 | In the Media

I was recently interviewed along with 24 other leading web developers about how I got started as a coder. Here's my response, but you can click through to read all of them:

Eight year old Josh had wild ideas about how computers worked when my family got our first computer, but the reality was even more magical than I had imagined. I spent the next seven years moving from script kiddy to baby coder and the rest is history.

First it was macros and QBasic. My brother recognized my interest and picked up a copy of Visual Basic 6 for me -- being able to quickly build interfaces blew my mind, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover web development.

I was thirteen when a brave MUD made me an implementor and gave me access to my first *nix box and C code base. That's when I fell in love with open source and shifted over to PHP from ASP.

These days I do less coding and more community work, but the die has been cast. I'm an open source citizen and coder for life!

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Failing in Santo Domingo

By | February 21st, 2016 | Presentations

I gave my "Fail Early, Fail Often, Fail Well" presentation for perhaps the last time in February at PyCaribbean. It was my first Python event (which was fantastic) and my first time speaking internationally. It was also the first time I managed to get the talk recorded -- something people have been asking for since I first gave it in 2014.

You can learn more about PyCaribbean, which, continuing the theme of firsts, was the first annual event in the Dominican Republic as well as the first Python conference in the Caribbean, in my partner's blog post: "Python in the Caribbean? More of this!"

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Becoming a Web Developer

By | January 21st, 2016 | Presentations

In this presentation, I cover philosophy, core technologies, the web in practice, gotchas, and how to choose a language -- whether it's JavaScript, PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby, Go, Java, .NET, or functional. I first gave this talk at WIMP in 2015 and refined it to present at Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) in 2016.

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The Growing “Gig Economy” in the North Bay

By | October 2nd, 2015 | In the Media

Bruce Robinson of KRCB's North Bay Report reached out to Melissa Geissinger and I to discuss how work is changing.

Listen to the Story

Tech High alumnus carries the torch

By | October 1st, 2015 | In the Media

Best birthday present ever - my hometown newspaper did an article on me!

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Life After Wimptator

By | August 28th, 2015 | Personal Note

Melissa and I first met at A’Roma Roasters on Wednesday, April 6th, 2011. It’s easy to remember, because the WIMP meetup was registered on the same day. That’s probably the first sign that we were going to kick ass. Since then, WIMP has changed Sonoma County: it’s a far less lonely place to be a technology or media professional now than it was 5 years ago.

WIMP has changed me, too. For all my labors of love, none have been as enduring or meaningful as WIMP. The friendships I forged, especially with Melissa, Randy, and Cole, are ones I can’t imagine living without.

Now it’s time for more change. After four and a half years, it’s time for me to step down from WIMP leadership. Deciding to resign is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, which I recognize makes me one of the luckiest guys alive. But giving up your baby is hard, especially when it’s doing so well.

I have spent the better part of my adult life as a scrappy careerman trying to overcome circumstance — and myself. While the journey continues, my time as a careerman has to end.

I still have ambitions to leave this world a better place than I found it. Hell, I’ll still be a big WIMP supporter. But my priorities have to change… As I approach my 30’s, I want to spend more time with my family and friends. I also want to think about building a family of my own.

And WIMP is growing up. What WIMP needs now is different from what it needed to get started. While I’ve got some skills, I’m no CEO — I learned that the hard way with my startup, Bluebird.

In closing, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for the support. For the creativity. For the love. I’m sure I’ll see you around.

Wimptator emeritus,
Josh Simmons

This was cross-posted from Josh's original blog post for Web & Interactive Media Professionals: "Life After Wimptator."

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Why You Should Doc Code with Eric Holscher & Marcia Riefer Johnston

By | August 8th, 2015 | In the Media

I've been interviewed many times, this was my first time on the other side of the table! It was a great experience and it went well, though I've learned not to wear white on video and to stick to nonverbal cues when the interviewee is speaking.

In this, I speak with Marcia Reifer Johnston and Eric Holscher, organizer of Write the Docs, a conference that's bringing technical writers and documentation practices into the 21st century while promoting awareness of the need to doc.

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