2015 – My Year in Review

I originally began drafting this post 900 miles away from my current location. It was an hour until the New Year and I was trying to put together a rough outline of the things that made 2015 such an incredible year for me. However, for reasons I don’t really know, I never followed up on finishing this draft. So now, I’d like to present my Year in Review post looking at my 2015.

My Year in Review

With an hour left until the New Year, there never seemed a better time to begin writing my Year in Review article. While it is a stereotypical kind of thing to do, I also think it’s a great opportunity to reflect on the gifts, changes, and special occasions that this past year has presented to me. 2015 is special to me in many ways because it marks a significant milestone in my life of moving away from home and beginning my journey into full adulthood.

There are many important and special people in my life that have made this year incredible, and I want to reflect and make note of this.

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Graduation with my family

My high school graduation day.

This past May, I graduated from high school. Looking back, it’s interesting to see how much has changed in my personal life and even in my own interests. Some friends have come and gone, but there are an important core of people who have always been present in my life, and I am privileged to have been one to know them deeply over the past four years.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until my junior year when I realized that I wanted to spend my life working in computer science. I remember when I walked into the classroom of my AP Computer Science teacher asking how I could get going with only one year left. Now, here I am immersing myself in digital technology in countless different ways. I feel like I am where I am meant to be.

Software Freedom Day at the Rochester Institute of Technology

Software Freedom Day at the Rochester Institute of Technology. I’m in the middle!

These four years haven’t been easy either. I worked hard to get to the place I wanted to go. Despite having the odds stacked against me, I was fortunate enough to afford an education here at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Just in the semester and a half that I have been enrolled here, I’ve met countless people who have affected my life and helped shape the direction of where I’m going in the world. Special shout-out to the FOSSbox and RITlug, and everyone involved with both.

Coffee and Doughnuts

Cinnamon Roll Queen

On occasion, I might model for the Dutch Monkey Instagram as the Cinnamon Roll Queen.

For most of 2015, I worked a not-so-typical job at Dutch Monkey Doughnuts in my hometown. Dutch Monkey is an important part of my town and they have helped create a name for people visiting the region. They’re well-known for their homemade doughnuts and Counter Culture Coffee, both of which are legendary within their own right.

During my time at Dutch Monkey, I was able to attend workshops and classes at the Counter Culture Coffee Training Center in Atlanta. Throughout the eight or nine classes I took, I was able to further my understanding and appreciation for an extremely complex and fascinating beverage. My appreciation and love for coffee has become a part of my being. The coffee industry is a wild and exciting place, and it is very much an ethical hotbed of all kinds of issues. I joke to myself that if sysadmin doesn’t work out, the coffee industry could always make a good fallback…

I was also fortunate to have some awesome co-workers who helped make the 4am shifts a little more enjoyable. Special shout-out to Jordan Hughes for the long talks about music, the music industry, and so many other things. I learned a lot from you and you’ve had a big impact on my own music tastes.

MINECON and SpigotMC

This was single-handedly one of the most profound events of the year for me. If you weren’t aware, I am a community moderator for the SpigotMC project. I have been a moderator since April 2014. Spigot is my true first open-source project, even though I wasn’t a contributor of code, but a community builder (or so I like to think).

MINECON announced

In February of 2015, Mojang announced that MINECON 2015 would be happening in London, England. Instantly, I thought there would be no way I would ever be able to afford a trip overseas for a two-day convention. However, I found the application for a MINECON Agent, which is the small group of “interns” that volunteer to help set up and prepare MINECON for over 10,000 people with the Mojang team. The only benefit to being an Agent was a waived ticket cost (around $120 last year). I applied for the program, unsure of what would come of it, doubtful I would be able to go even if I were accepted.

April rolls around, and I finally hear back from Mojang! “Congratulations, you are now a MINECON Agent!” It was difficult to believe at first, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to go regardless.

Getting in gear for MINECON

SpigotMC Booth Shot at MINECON 2015

A photo of the SpigotMC booth at MINECON 2015.

I began talking with the rest of the team at SpigotMC. We were also getting in gear for MINECON 2015 and were planning to attend as an organization with our own booth. We had arranged to have a booth and most of the team knew who was going to be there. Michael, our project lead, would be in attendance, along with Matthew, the other lead developer; Jordan, another community moderator like myself; Cindy, our local wiki staff, IRC staff, and contributing developer, or also the official “Spigot Mom”; and Miguel, our witty Spigot volunteer who has an ambiguous position with Spigot. Cindy’s son Alex was also going to be in attendance.

I didn’t think I would be able to attend. However, a very unique set of events happened one after another, and suddenly, the possibility of me attending MINECON this year began to materialize. Thanks to awesome people behind Spigot, I was fortunate enough to make it out to this year’s convention. When I figured out that I would be going to London, I was beyond stoked.

Going to London and MINECON

I would be there from Saturday, July 4 to Wednesday, July 8, 2016. Saturday and Sunday were the days of MINECON. Together with the team, we helped represent the SpigotMC project among thousands of convention-goers. We had brochures, bracelets, and a video running in the booth for visitors to take and see. I met some incredible people from our community, and I am privileged and honored to have met some incredible people there.

Thanks to Michael being the incredible individual he is, we went to a few dinners and meet-ups with others in the Minecraft community. I met two of the major Minecraft developers, Nathan (Dinnerbone) and Erik (Grum) and countless others in the YouTube and development community. It was almost unbelievable. The entire time I was in London, the experience felt surreal. Six months before this, I would never have believed any of this would ever have happened.

SpigotMC Lunch in London

At the SpigotMC lunch on the Saturday of MINECON.

The Monday and Tuesday we were there, Cindy, Jordan, Alex, and I went around London doing our proper duty as tourists. We went to see Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, rode a double-decker bus, went to the Queen’s castle, and indulged in what Jordan called a “proper British meal”. On Monday night, Jordan treated me to a short trip around London hopping between bars (although everything closed so early)! We ended up crashing in some late-night diner, had a meal, and headed back for the next round of sightseeing on Tuesday.

Thanks to the team

This was truly a life-changing experience that was bestowed upon me. I was honored and privileged to have met the other members of the Spigot team that I’ve been working with for the past two years. I wouldn’t trade my time in London for anything else, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to help host the crew this upcoming MINECON if it ends up in the northeast US.

SpigotMC Team

You guys all rock.

Open Source and Fedora

I have used the Fedora operating system on my laptop since December 2013. I began using it on my desktop I built in November 2014. I have used this operating system for almost two years and I never had thought too much about the community behind the Fedora Project. I knew that it was a large and complex community, but I was never sure where to take the first step. I had always wanted to be an Ambassador, but questioned my usefulness or whether I was a right fit for the program.

Flock to Fedora!

I learned that Flock, Fedora’s annual contributor’s conference, was to be hosted in Rochester, NY in 2015 from August 5th to the 9th. I would be moving right next door to Flock just a week after the conference! After contacting a pair of people who seemed knowledgeable about the details back in February 2015, little did I know I was setting in motion an entirely new track of events in my life. The two gents I emailed, Remy DeCausemaker and Prof. Stephen Jacobs (SJ), helped give me advice on travel details and how I would get myself into Rochester in time for Flock.

Come August, I am back from MINECON, packing my bags for Rochester, and ending my last few days at Dutch Monkey. When I arrived in Rochester with my mother, it was an exciting and new experience, something I had looked forward to for a long time. Once Flock rolled around, I was almost instantaneously immersed in the Fedora community, and over the course of the week, I would begin to feel a part of a Project that I had questioned how to enter for almost a year.

Remy DeCausemaker (decause) and Matthew Miller (mattdm), Fedora partners in crime

Remy DeCausemaker (decause) and Matthew Miller (mattdm), Fedora partners in crime.

The talks were fantastic, the speakers were passionate, and the community was welcoming. I was jump started into Fedora at Flock 2015, despite walking in a stranger. At first, I questioned whether coming was such a grand idea. It was obvious everyone knew someone already and I was only an excited Fedora user and fan. These were the people who did all the heavy-lifting to make this operating system and its community run. What was I doing here?

I distinctly remember Pete Travis (randomuser in IRC) coming up to me, introducing himself and asking me a few questions. In retrospect, I probably looked like I was feeling a bit out-of-place. He and I began talking a bit about his role in Fedora and some of my little experience in open source. After he spoke to me, I began to feel a little more attached to the conference. After a while, I began speaking up at some of the talks I attended, or trying to share some of my perspective or thoughts as an outsider. These were the stepping-stones that got me involved with the project.

One thing about all else stands out to me about the conference. I remember Remy saying to me towards the end (with minor paraphrasing), “You should check out this Community Operations thing that’s coming up soon. It’s going to be awesome.”

Fedora Magazine

Over the course of the next few months at RIT, I started working with Paul Frields, Ryan Lerch, and a few others on the Fedora Magazine. I began contributing as a writer, with my first article about using Spigot on Fedora. As time went on, I began helping as an editor, revising and reviewing other people’s articles to help get them published for the Magazine. By the end of 2015, I believe I would come to establish myself as a permanent member of the editorial team behind the Magazine.

CommOps

Additionally, during the months after Flock, I would follow up on what Remy told me, and I checked out this whole Community Operations (shortened to CommOps) thing. It was in the early formation stages, but the core idea behind CommOps was that they were the supporting team to offer support to all the other sub-projects in Fedora. Or in my eyes, a team focused on building and supporting the community with resources and assistance. This was something I thought I could contribute to. My programming skills were not at a level where I’d feel comfortable hacking on to Fedora either on the Infrastructure or as a Packager. But CommOps was that kind of thing that hooked me from the start. I wanted to help build Fedora up, and I could see what exactly CommOps was trying to target and how it was wanting to fix the long-term issues.

Fedora Community Operations (CommOps) logo

The Community Operations (CommOps) logo.

Now, months later, my involvement with CommOps has resulted with many tickets filed and many tickets closed. It has been a productive time while I have been with CommOps, and I never feel like there is too little to do. Our horizon is vast and there is much work to be done… 2016 offers great promise to the success of our sub-project, which in turn offers great promise to the Fedora Project. I am looking forward to seeing where this year takes us. I am also happy to work with such an awesome and dedicated group of people as those behind the CommOps team. There are too many to name, but I’m thankful for the leadership of Remy to keep us all together, focused, and driven.

2016

2016 will have a lot of ground to cover over 2015, but there is a large potential for this to be done. My own personal story with open source continues to grow, and I am beyond excited for what the future may bring. I am exposed to a unique group of people and minds here at RIT, and I am actively pursuing the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) minor.

This self-reflection has turned into a much longer post than I anticipated, but I think this reflection is necessary and useful for my own purposes. Taking a moment to reflect on the events of the past year helps remind me what it’s all about and why I’m doing what I’m doing, especially at the times where everything seems confusing and I begin to question what I’m doing. But the path is illuminated and I am driven to succeed. There are a lot of things at stake for me and my family, and I hope to be able to meet many personal goals and better support the people closest to me in my life.

I would also like to give a special thanks to all the people who have made this year so incredible for me, and for those who have ridden the ride with me. There are so many names to list, and it’s hard to come up with this list in the dark hours of the morning when I know I should be sleeping. But to all of those who play a special and important role in my life, I want you all to know that none of what has happened to me would be possible without your support. Your continued guidance, counsel, and companionship teaches me much and inspires me greatly. My only wish is that I will someday be able to repay all the good deeds that others have bestowed upon me. If not to the original giver, I hope to someday inspire others and help others in the same way you all have shown and taught me. Maybe this is less of a 2016 thing and more of a “crystal ball into the future” moment… but I think it’s worth mentioning regardless.

Thanks for a fantastic 2015. I’m looking forward to seeing where 2016 takes us next.

Year in Review - Justin W. Flory

Looking forward to 2016 and all that it brings.

2 Comments

  1. You are most definitely a permanent part of the Magazine staff, Justin — thank you for everything you do as a member of the team!

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