A lot happens.

by Jesse Noller

My last post here was April 15th, 2013; it was my gushing post letting the world know I was joining Rackspace to chase a dream and change the world.

Well, a lot has happened since then - two years is a lot of time to let pass and the world, people, communities and more have changed. This post isn’t about that. This is, well, personal.

I’m not going to start at the beginning - don’t expect a cohesive thread, or narrative. That will come later after I unwind this gordian knot.

Some of you know I’ve become a bit of a recluse. Maybe recluse isn’t the best word but it’s a word that resonates. It’s September, 2015 - a Sunday. Since Friday when I left work, I’ve been shut in my two bedroom apartment doing nothing but playing video games, sleeping, and taking the dogs out. Oh, and sometimes drinking.

Living the high life, I know!

Not really. I dragged myself out to my favorite coffee hangout to write, and be “around” people. Even if I don’t talk to them. It was a mental battle for me to do this, in fact, except for going to work and the store, I don’t really “get out much”. At work, it's a totally different story, might as well be a social butterfly.

Let’s work backwards from the recluse bit.

Personally, the last two, no, three years have been a mental and emotional crucible. I can’t put exact dates and times to things, I can’t say when certain emotions or events took place that in turn caused a series of ripples that have stripped me down to my core.

One of the first things I know, and apologize for, is that I withdrew from the Python community and the people and friends I made there. The reasons are multitude, the drain and destruction my “emotionally all in” behaviors caused my family and I. The fact that I kept smashing my face against the same rocks, toxic people, etc time and again. I’d wake up mad, go to bed mad. I’d snap at my kids, my coworkers.

This isn’t really a blame-the-community thing; its one of the reasons I’m broken - it’s “all or nothing”. When I go into something I go all in. At one point I was blogging, coding, working at a startup, running PyCon, on the PSF board, running various python community project and more. On top of that, I had new baby girls and a wife, a family.

Humans aren’t meant to do that. You can’t be emotionally all in on everything. You can’t make another 24 hours appear to be “present” for everything. Instead, I stole time and ran my emotional credit card like it was limitless.

I stole time from my family, from work, from everything. I stole it from me, I gave time, emotion and empathy freely to anything and everyone.

My values - what I should have been caring about - were, putting it bluntly, completely and totally fucked.

Online communities are an interesting animal; they’ve given me so much, and I’ve made friends all over the world. It’s opened career doors and more for me, it’s supported me when I’m or my family was down.

However, “community” is not the gift that keeps on giving, it is the gift that keeps on taking and taking and taking. If you don’t set clear and absolute boundaries, it will drain you dry and move on.

I know that sounds awful - don't think I'm bitter or angry - but each time some accomplishment would get made, some thing would be done, there was just more to do more people and things to fix. I couldn’t control what I gave - I couldn’t pick my fights. I’d argue on the internet for days; I’d push for changes and things and see nothing for it. No boundaries, fighting all the things at once, not being strategic in my thoughts, actions and what I'd invest in? Good game bro.

I see the warning signs that were posted all over now, looking back. A good friend and mentor warned me, Dusty, my now ex-wife was telling me. The fact I had a rough relationship with my oldest daughter was telling me. All the signs were there.

Take, take, take, give, give, give - for what? To change the world? Can a programming community change the world? Can it hug you when you’re sitting alone at night on the couch staring at a black TV? The friends you make, if you can touch them, can. Otherwise, No.

Will it raise your daughters or be there for your wife?


That was my job; and I bombed. Then I snapped. I remember the day I snapped too - actually, two times. The first was after the last PyCon I ran, coming home from that carrying all the emotion and pain and things that happens like boogeymen all the way home. It infected work, my family, me. The final snap was when I read a single email on a mailing list from someone basically calling me out.

I probably deserved it, but the lizard brain kicked in and said “hey, asshole - I’ve given so much, how about you show some fucking decency”. That’s the key right there, the decent and kind and nurturing people are silent, they see the snake pit for what it is and sit back. Only the most persistent and toxic survive.

That day, I resigned from the PSF, I unsubbed from every single community mailing list. I walked away. I didn’t go out in a blaze of glory, I just gave up. I stopped going to most conferences/speaking, writing & travel.

This series of events run parallel to what was going on at home - I didn’t see it, but I had poisoned my marriage and my family and the chickens were coming home to roost. I “kicked ass” at work still, but I had given everything to everything but my own damned family.

Let’s just say I'm divorced.

Yeah that’s a bit of a punch - but I have no one and nothing to blame but myself. I wasn’t “present” I wasn’t in the moment. I had one job. One damned job. And I failed at it.

Dusty and I parted ways amicably, and sanely. We have two beautiful daughters whose very smile is enough to chase away the darkness, and we put them first and foremost. We’re still good friends, we talk, etc. For awhile, we even co-parented in Texas which worked out well.

That changed (again, amicably) this year when she moved back to Massachusetts. I had to pick between two fundamentally awful choices: “force” Dusty to stay so the girls would be close to me - which would hurt her more than I care to admit, or agree to let her take the girls for the school year and I’d have them during the summer. Least awful of awful choices.

So that’s where we are now - but the things I’m thinking about are all the events and mistakes that have me sitting in a coffee shop on a Sunday, feeling completely alone, just wanting a hug and maybe have a good cry.

Back to the story.

So let’s throw more wood on the bonfire - community burnout/flameout. A new job in a new state that I threw everything in to. Always being connected & online no matter what day or time. It’s a recipe of multiple disasters - and they all happened.

Learn from my mistakes.

I learned too late. Sometimes it takes getting punched to realize something is just fundamentally wrong, rotten or toxic. I had no boundaries, no work/life balance. No balance at all. Like most of my life, I basically lived every day as if I was strapping on a rocket pack, shutting my eyes and saying “fuck it let’s go!”. I wasn’t intentional.

Thing have changed. And so have I.

Lately, I spend a lot of time looking at people’s smiling faces with their partner, family or kids. I admit freely, it hurts. Each time I see a happy couple talking in a coffee shop or a “normal family” playing, it feels like a dull ache.

I joke about “being bad” at people and “adulting”, and the few friends I have reassure me I’m not, but given the carnage and hurt and more I’ve wrought upon my outside of work life, it sure feels like it.

Am I depressed? Yeah, that’s fair. I’m not angry anymore, so that’s a bonus. Yes, I see a therapist (and have been for some time) who encourages me to re-start my life by simply say “Hi” to people outside of work.

I’m trying to rebuild some semblance of “self” - who am I? Why do I exist? Is it right that every day is exactly the same and time really doesn’t exist, it just passes.

What is joy? Should I try online dating? Should I write? Should I get out of bed today?

It’s not all doom and gloom.

Sometimes, total destruction brings about changes that would not have otherwise have happened. I’m not a workaholic anymore - I have strict rules on my devices for do-not-disturb. I rarely work into the night on weekdays, almost never on weekends. I might respond to an email or three, but generally speaking it can all wait until I’m “on the clock”.

The only exception to that rule is I’m now a people-leader. If anyone in my org is in trouble, or needs an ear, I’m there for them.

Oddly, while all of my personal life was burning to the ground, I somehow compartmentalized it in such a way to shift from just a developer/technical leader into now running an org of almost thirty people all of whom I care about. I believe in the things we’re doing as a team, and what we’ve accomplished. I’m sad for the losses we’ve had and the misses.

However, I can be proud of my career in many regards. I didn’t do it on my own, and I didn’t do it easily, but I can be proud of it. I can be proud of my team and take comfort that I can care for them and lead.

So now, here I am.

I’m thirty five, I see my kids on thanksgiving, I avoid getting deeply involved in “large communities” (mostly, tech and programming). In fact, I coach my team and coworkers about the balance they need (I tell them honestly I learned the hard way). I still love making things and creating. I love my girls more than anything in the world.

I care deeply about my team, and my people. Sometimes, I enjoy the quiet solitude that comes with living alone. Other times, its a shadow choking the life out of me.

Not everything is lost and hopeless, I know. I know, in the abstract, that I have friends. I know that I have two amazing, smart, beautiful children. I know my ex-wife is still my best friend.

I know that I like getting together with people and playing games, or just shooting the breeze.

I know I need to keep writing, to spinning all the context and things in my head out. I have to learn what “life” is supposed to be when I’m not valuing my sense of self and worth by the number of things I’m doing at once, or the communities I am part of.

I know I have to work through the all the skeletons in my mental closet. I’ve defined my “self” by the wrong things for most of my life.

I’ve learned a lot, some in incredibly painful ways, some in less painful ways. Some in challenging ways and some things like “I really love leading & inspiring”. I'm going to keep writing about all of it.

Just saying things “will be ok” isn’t enough, I’ve got to start making things better.

Maybe I’ll start by saying hi to someone in this coffee shop.

Joining Rackspace

by Jesse Noller

The Switch

So, as you read in my goodbye post; I'm switching over to a new role at Rackspace starting today, April 15th. The short version is that I am coming on board to help improve and evolve the way Rackspace cooperates with the open source community internally and externally. Of course, I'm crazy excited about this - as I said before:

...if could meld the open source/community work with my "day job" I could do a lot more. I could be more - I could tap into skills I've grown and developed in all of my "lives" and do even more.

If I could bring together the worlds I operate in I could potentially do even more within the Python community, the Open Source world, at my "day job", etc. But things like that don't exist, roles like that are fleeting and rare.

Ah. But roles like this do exist, come to find out, and I managed to be offered one at Rackspace, already working on leading the way with open source and the open cloud in a myriad of ways. They don't just want to be a "big company" - they want to be a great company.


What’s compelling is that Rackspace wants to be/is recognized as one of the world's greatest service companies. This means a fundamental shift away from a “product” driven cycle of development and internal structure - if you’re a service company, you need to hold values like Rackspace's dear:

  • Fanatical Support in all we do.
  • Results first, substance over flash.
  • Committed to Greatness
  • Full Disclosure and Transparency
  • Passion for our Work
  • Treat fellow Rackers like Friends and Family

Interestingly - these values, especially fanatical support directly align with my personal beliefs, and more importantly how you compete with entrenched players in the "cloud" space (see "How do you compete with Google")

But going back to product - we all know services are fundamentally products, but there’s several methods of development. What Rackspace wants to become is “Open First” - this means they see the value in the services they provide, and the fanatical support, but they want develop the software they use for those services and products (especially the Rackspace Cloud) in the Open - this means Open Source all the way down.

Open first means that rather than develop internally and then push externally, development of tools, services, etc will eventually happen in a truly OSS fashion: as open source projects first, and then deployed and utilized internally to Rackspace (as they now do with Openstack/Rackspace Cloud). This means internal changes in development processes, legal processes and much more, much of which is already under way.

This of course means I will be working on internal developer advocacy and changes so that this vision becomes reality: software will be developed in the open, open source will be rewarded, community involvement will be critical for individual developers, support, marketing, etc.

Rackspace doesn’t just want to ship code though: they want to get deeply involved in the developer community as a whole (not just Python). They want to be building products and services that developers want to use and open source projects that developers want to use and contribute to.

Rackspace wants to make itself an awesome place for developers - they want it to be a place where developers can come and write code that doesn’t just benefit Rackspace, but the whole developer community and open source world as a whole. They want to raise the profile of those internal developers who get involved, they want to openly communicate with developers internally and externally.

But that’s just some of the internal pieces.


Externally, Rackspace wants to get more developers involved with its cloud platform and OSS projects. Rackspace wants to support the community as a whole, via outreach, education, code, getting involved in hack spaces, workshops and more.

Rackspace has always been known for fanatical support. What that means for Rackspace as “the Open Cloud company” is that they offer fanatical support for developers. Essentially Rackspace being a great place for developers to work and contribute in every dimension.

Strive to make Rackspace the place where every developer wants to work; make Rackspace services the ones that every developer wants to use. Work to make Rackspace’s Open Source projects the best of breed solutions in their areas (such as OpenStack).

This is important as it represents a shift for Rackspace, but the dedication to this vision comes from all levels within the company. Thats why I’m coming on board - to help drive this vision, bringing together my community work within the Python community, wider developer community and my own development skills.

Some of the things that are on my mind/list:

  • Lower the barrier to entry and friction for internal developers contributing externally.
  • Lower the barrier to entry and friction for external developers to contribute to Rackspace OSS projects (For example, OpenStack and others)
  • Lower the barrier to entry and friction for developers to leverage Rackspace’s cloud services. This means making those services not just easy to use, but robust, compelling and enabling for developers.
  • Supporting outreach groups, workshops, hacker spaces, meetups, conferences, etc - not just within the Python community, but other languages and communities.
    • Rackspace is already supporting conferences, startups and much more - I want to work with them to extend this everywhere within the development community.
  • Internal support for developer/development R&D and more.

Excited Much?

Yeah, I'm pretty excited - nervous, yes - but excited. This represents a huge leap of faith for me. Moving my family across the country, taking on a much larger calling, combining two worlds (product development, community work) and a lot more.

I'm sitting here, outside in San Antonio on a bench waiting for the shuttle to the "Castle" filled with thoughts of the future and what it could hold. I'm shaking, I'm nervous, but it's going to be amazing.

2012: A year in Review.

by Jesse Noller

Well - of course, it's that time again to take a look back at the year and think reflect (if you've got the mental bandwidth) on the previous year. I'm not a huge fan of memes, but I've made it a bit of a self-task to always do something to remind me later. I've broken this up into personal and Python components of course - feel free to skip around.

Overall? I have to call 2012 a bit of a wash. Maybe it's because I'm tired or burned out - I'm not sure. I feel like it's been two steps forward and two steps back. For every good thing, there's been a correlating bad thing or thing that makes me put my head in my hands and go "why?!".

Python & Community Stuff

If I had to write a state of the Python Union talk; it would be "great things are afoot". Python 3.3 was an epic release of Python and Python 3 adoption and porting in general is trending up at a pace this year that's even surprising to me, and I see a lot of stuff behind the scenes.

A lot of this has to do with the general cycle of things - Python 2.7 has been out for awhile, and major libraries and frameworks have, through their natural release cycles, begun dropping support of older versions of Python allowing them to work towards code bases that support 2.x and 3.x. As for Python 3 itself? The number of Good Things in terms of fixes and features is making it more and more attractive. With things like Guido's new async PEP coming around, packaging work and a lot more? Things look pretty good from where I'm sitting. The PSF has been steadily feeding the fire by funding ports of key libraries and frameworks to Python when grant requests come in - and it's growing.

I'm not about to make any grandiose claims like "2013 is the year of the Python 3 x" - but I can tell you with some of the things I personally know about going on, it's going to be a big year.

Community in General

For the community in general - we're seeing growth across the board. The number of companies I know of using Python (and potentially therefore PyCon sponsors) is growing quite healthly despite the concerns of many that newer languages would cannibalize the community and the companies adopting the language. This is, in large part because Python Is Safe. The community is welcoming and open, the language is infinitely approachable. More and more cool things are being made and released in it as OSS every day - continued, steady growth has been Python's story for years now.

It's not trendy; I know. If you frequent online forums you'll see tons of noise about Node.js, Rust, Ruby, etc, etc. Sure, all of those are going to grow and to an extent, we've seen the maturity (I'll call it "slowing down" for the sake of my point) that Python has coming to other communities as they grow older, become safer. No - Python isn't a headline grabber, and no, if you live in the technology echo chambers you probably feel like it's not the Next Hot Thing, but hey - I'll take steady and continous growth over explosive growth and implosive shrink any day.

The community has grown more and more towards a focus towards outreach and brining people in. On the technology front projects like the Raspberry Pi are giving us inroads to schools and education and the maker community in general.

The continued explosive growth of outreach and education groups such as PyLadies, OpenHatch/Workshops, PyStar, CodeChix, LadyCoders, Women Who Code, Code Scouts and many more has seen Python as a community grow more and more organized in probably one of the most important areas we can today. Our awareness has shifted, matured and grown. This, as well as reaching into education more and more and encouraging the next generation of Python Programmers will be our key driver to maintain the growth and increasing diversity of the community. Oh, and don't forget reaching into data science and scientific community even more - the recently formed NumFOCUS Foundation should see nicely to that.

Growing up is hard to do - for example, the recent announcement of the Code of Conduct requirement the PSF put in place (the Foundation is, as far as I am aware the first grant providing organization to do this).

As I say in that post, it's a sign of not just the times, but of an increased inward focus on things we can do better at.

We've also seen more and more discussion and debates about civility within the community in general - luckily, Python has avoided too many of the PR disasters that have affected other communities, but we still have miles to go before we sleep. We have to continue to prove that Python as a language and community is something You Are Welcome in, and Something You Can Count on. I said it long ago - I wouldn't trade this community and all the friends I have made for anything.

Of course, who can forget that we're also growing up on our - I'm sorry to say this - marketing. Everything I've already listed is a form of marketing, but an extentsion of that is our, as they say, copy. Python.org is getting a major site redesign - a project that I've spent probably five years cooking, and would not have happened except for the heroic efforts of a great many people.

All in all; as I've said before, the future looks bright for the community.

Sadly, 2012 was not without it's losses. We sadly lost John Hunter, author of Matplotlib as well as Kenneth Gonsalves, founder and leader of the India Python Software Society. Both will be dearly missed within our ranks.


2012 saw, yes - the largest PyCon US ever. 2300 attendees - almost 200 sponsors. I've spent most of the last few years working on PyCon US, and 2012 was no different. The team and I started working on PyCon 2013 before PyCon 2012's main conference days were even over (well, technically we started working on it before PyCon 2012 even started). PyCon 2013 is going to be even bigger, although we've capped attendance at 2500 attendees. We've got more events such as PyPgDay, PyData SV, the Education Summit, Let's Learn Python (for kids), another PyCon 5k and a stunning list of talks and tutorials. A stunning array of sponsors and partners and so much more.

And I'm, not even close to done yet with things for PyCon 2013.

Ignoring PyCon US for a minute: 2012 also so explosive growth in the number of other Python/PyCon conferences. Just see PyCon.org for an example. The first PyCon South Africa? The first PyCon Canada? PyCarolinas? Too much amazing is going on - this is why anytime someone asks me if we're shrinking I sort of laugh.

New Projects

I've already mentioned the voluminous PyCon 2013 and Python.org Redesign which consumes much of my time - but I've found some time to slip in some new Projects for the community here and there including From Python Import Conference, continued work for the Python Software Foundation (and a FAQ for it), and a cross language/community effort called Speak Up! which I still need to formally announce. Speak Up! is aimed at mentoring new people (and those looking to hone their craft) by leveraging mentorship, teaching and an excellent set of mentors (we're adding more weekly).

Quoting it's mission:

The mission of the Speak Up! project is to assist in the guidance and mentorship of potential technical speakers, tutorial presenters and attendees of conference, user groups and other community events. We hope by providing access to mentors from many programming languages who are seasoned speakers, conference organizers, or other volunteers we can grow not just the gender diversity of speakers at technical events, but the diversity of speakers at technical conferences as a whole.

Through positive, reinforcing, polite, and safe actions - we all can increase the diversity of voices in our communities, conferences and elsewhere.

In Summary

Much of what I wrote in my 2011 wrap up still applies, more than ever. Design and our (Python/Community) interface to the world matters more than ever. Things are growing and new projects and companies are coming online every day. Hacking on Python - the community more than ever - has absorbed more and more of the time I have. It's worth it though. To stand back and see yeild of the labor of so many dedicated programmers, hackers, community leaders and groups have poured into the community continues to make me proud to serve. Even if I have an unhealthy addiction to fighting the fight online and arguing with "the internet".

So yeah. Maybe it's time to update my Gittip page. Somehow, I ignored my own advice in my 2011 wrapup and kept adding and spinning off new projects so much for taking it easy. And these are the ones I can talk about publicly right now.

The Personal Side

Well. Reading back on my 2011 Personal Portion post, well, I've managed to stay healthy (weight lifting, diet, running), I've kept up the standing desk discipline, but lost the time to do Bikram (tradeoffs, they're a thing).

Addison; our youngest has thrived - through a combination of early intervention - and early diagnosis, she's now about to turn 10 months old. She says daddy, and mommy (albeit in the toddler way). Her gross motor skills are impressive, she's a total love bug and has come to be one of the happiest toddlers I have ever known. Abby, now in kindergarten, also continues to thrive - scarily intelligent and perceptive, she's about everything you'd expect in a five year old version of me (she got my personality… Not sure if this is good).

Sadly, the brink my family found ourselves on did not abate. After the turn of the year we realized given the fact we had to lose an income due to everything else going on, climbing debt, and many other factors - it would be best for us to sell our home (our first) at a loss or to give it up entirely. It became a yolk rather than a blessing, and after the bank with whom we tried to work told my wife "we didn't tell you to have a second kid (referring to Addison)", well - that sealed the deal. At PyCon 2012 I was negotiating with them while also doing the conference, and we managed to pull off a short sale.

We're still on the hook for a large sum, thanks to the short sale, but we're in a good apartment, and we're able to do more things and focus more on the girls. We had to go back to two incomes - given the hole we had found ourselves in, it was impossible for one of us to stay home with the girls.

Inside all of this, my wife Dusty got sick - very sick. That incurred more time off, more expenses. Luckily we didn't have the house hanging over our heads, but we passed through some pretty bad times. We spent more time in emergency rooms, asking our friends for help, ducking out of work or comforting the girls that mommy would be ok than I care to admit or discuss.

While Dusty never got a prognosis that gives us resolution or a path forward; she's stable and healthier now (although the migraines that triggered it all haven't abated). Towards the tail end of this year, we've seen things finally begin to stabilize and fall into the rhythm we so desperately need as a family.

2012 has not been an easy year on any of us family-wise. But we're still here, and we still hold each other close and I've got that hope that I can finally begin to say "it's going to be ok" and not to have it feel like I'm lying to myself.

It's been a rough year, but we've grown closer as a family, and we've gotten to spend more time where it counts - with each other. Two beautiful daughters, a beautiful loving wife - I am blessed and I know it.

Just take a look at my Instagram page. My letter to my wife from Feburary still applies more than ever.


I'm so not going there. I've got projects on the burner that aren't public, a conference and a family to work on, and a smattering of other projects (oh yeah, and a full time job I love). I'm not resolving to do anything except "keep it going".

And maybe I can step back after this year. Dunno. I doubt it.

I can't stop watching this.

I can't stop watching this.