Don't put your career in stealth mode

When I started my last startup, I kept quiet about my work. I didn’t tell anyone what I was working on, didn’t blog or tweet or promote myself or my apps.

I put my career in stealth mode.

At the time, I had several reasons to stay quiet. I wanted the freedom to explore multiple projects without the pressure of commit­ting fully to one of them. I hated startup­s’ “About Me” pages, full of smiling people bragging about themselves in the third person. And if my startup failed, no one would know—I could quietly move on to the next project.

Five years later, I see this as a huge mistake, maybe the biggest one I’ve made in my career.

Because I have almost no public presence on the Inter­net, you probably have no idea that I’m a programmer (let alone a good one) unless you know me person­ally. Yet I spent most of my time from 2007 through 2011 writing thousands of lines of code, powering apps used by millions of people.

Now, most of that code is dead. Thousands of hours of my life, literal years of work—gone.

My cofounder and I wrote some pretty cool libraries, including:

  • an iPhone table view markup language we called JSTN (JavaScript Table Notation, or Justin, a play on JSON, the JavaScript Object Notation)
  • a simple command language to allow a server to dynam­i­cally control iPhone app flow, such as pushing a new ViewCon­troller, popping up an alert, etc (called SICC, pronounced sick, for Server Invoked Client Commands)
  • many Rails hacks to allow seamless caching, distrib­uted reads and writes, and database sharding

Some of this code lives on in the apps that my cofounder still runs, but nobody knows about it. Like most of my work from the past five years, it’ll probably languish and eventu­ally die. But If we had open-sourced any of these libraries, I’d wager that at least one (and possibly more) of them would still be living today, because they solve real problems.

I recently left my job to start a new startup. One of my goals is to open-source as much work as I can, because I want my code to be used and improved by others. And I’ll write about what I’m doing, so I can share my successes and my failures.

I don’t want to repeat my past mistakes. I’m going to make my work visible, for better or worse. So I’m taking my career out of stealth mode.

There’s some discussion on Hacker News as well.