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Pieter Hintjens (zeromq) diagnosed with incurable cancer (twitter.com)
128 points by insiderinsider on Apr 18, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments

Just found out today, after a week of tests and six weeks of feeling gradually worse. I'll try to answer your questions. I'm on my phone.

I never used zeromq but you were a cool guy last year at Pygrunn + at the bar after the event!

Groningen is a fun place and Pygrunn a unique and good event. I loved being part of it.

Thank you, Pieter. You have made my job much easier and enjoyable.

I am sorry for the news...

Take a look at his Protocol for Dying


Specifically, the fourth bullet point under "Talking to a Dying Person" is

> "There's this experimental cure people are talking about," Which gets the ban hammer from me, and happily I only got a few of those. Even if there was a miracle cure, the cost and stress (to others) of seeking it is such a selfish and disproportionate act. With, as we know, lottery-style chances of success. We live, we die.

Don't really know Pieter.

But zmq really played a important role in my life. I was burned out with programming two years ago and took a long extended break. Then in the depth of my lull, I took a look at zmq and really took to its minimalism and the do-it-yourself philosophy.

I really liked reading the documentation too. Actually it is the most memorable experience, my interpretation was that the zmq User Guide ("Zen of Zero") has a particular attitude: that everything has a singular focused purpose, yet it is also unpretentious, knowing full well the limitations of its circumstances and limited scope; and once a particular role has been decided for a particular situation, one should try do one job simply and well and get out of the way of others.

Perhaps this attitude is already expressed well in philosophy books. But for me, it was applied and ingrained in grokking zmq and coding with it. I could go on and talk about building a zmq demo helped me in getting my next job or created a Github repo on an zmq adaptor for protobuf. But just technical details behind the "Zen of Zero".

If you know my work, like the Guide, you know me. I've never been so pampered with an abundance of talent and will as in the zeromq community.

I'm really happy to hear that this project brought you out of a bad place. I think it did that for me too (after AMQP).

Thanks Pieter for following up. I'm humbled by your words. Your reply made my day.

Although I've never got the pleasure of meeting you in person, your open-source work (and yes, the zeromq User Guide too!) has made an big impact on me and I want to say thank you for what you've done.

Internet hugs...

Pieter, I spoke with you back in 2013 at CodeMesh, about OSS development. I remember asking "if you default to merging PRs even if you don't agree with the, how can you assure quality control". And IIRC your answer was something along the lines of : "Why should I assume that I have the only answer for what quality is".

The frank humility of that answer has stuck with me over the years. And that simple 15min conversation has resulted in hours of contemplation. So thank you for making me think.

My pleasure. Read my blog if you want a lot more on the same kind of topics.

About 6 months after working as the sole developer on a large, multi-threaded project I came across ZeroMQ. In my work, I ended up using message passing as the primary communication between threads and unknowingly (and poorly in many cases) re-invented various message-passing mechanisms. After going through The Guide, I wished that I had known about ZeroMQ earlier! It would have provided a much better infrastructure for my work. I was reassigned to some other projects, but whenever I am given a chance (i.e. when I'm working on a full-Linux environment instead of in a microcontroller) I try to use ZeroMQ for multi-threaded communication. It is truly a pleasure, and I thank you for that.

There are several people whom I have been following and consider to be my "embedded systems heroes", and you are one of them. I am so sorry for your diagnosis.

It may not give much consolation, but perhaps there is a blessing in being given a chance to say good bye.

I'm not sure how much it will mean, but I will be keeping you in my prayers.

I believe that being aware and in control of one's impending death is a great gift.

Pieter, I am so sorry to hear about this. Not sure if you need it, but I (and maybe others) would like to offer some money to help your family. It's not unheard of for people at your age to have debt, etc. Anyway to set this up?

I cannot begin to say how much I love your work. Thank you!

Well this is really kind. Yes, I'm pretty broke and have three young children who will be semi orphans. Cue violins.

Happy to receive on PayPal at ph@imatix.com. I will give my family the keys to that so they can put it aside for ma wee bairns...

Thanks for suggesting this.

Just make sure they regularly withdraw the funds, Paypal have a habit of freezing accounts. Perhaps a bitcoin address too?

Understood, thank you.

Thankyou, it's time we give you something back.

Also, it would be good if you could post the address and fact that you are broke with three children prominently on your blog. It's already buried here. I suspect there are droves of people who really want to help but don't know how. #justfkingdoit

gifts are welcome. my kids will appreciate the love from strangers. one does not ask for gifts...

Thank you!

I'll prompt people at companies where I've used ZMQ in the stack.

"The Guide" was one of my favorite ever rainy day reading experiences, irrevocably changed my approach to my work. I'm sure I join with others in saying thanks so much for your generosity and what you continue to bring to us all.

It was genuine education for me.

I've been thinking about this as of late and I was wondering if you have a plan for keeping your blog up and running even after you are gone? It'd be a shame to lose all of the valuable insights you have provided. Also, is there anything else that wish to share?

I've always thought that were my time to come, I'd want some way to pass on any last bit of valuable knowledge to those who come after me.

I'm thinking about it...

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. - Isaac Newton

If it's any consolation, I think that you are definitely in the category of giants. I hope that your remaining time is as pain free as it can be.

Just wanted to thank you Pieter - 0mq is an amazing piece of engineering (that BTW, we are merging in our TASTE work at my section of the European Space Agency). I didn't have the pleasure of meeting you face to face - but I have seen your work, and you are leaving behind a magnificent creation... you definitely made a mark on our world. Thank you!

I'm sorry to hear this, Pieter. I don't have a question, but would just like to wish you well - as much as possible under the circumstances.

Excellent question! (can you tell I'm bored in a hospital)?

Well, it all started when I was about three, and I discovered ants. Fire ants, to be specific. Biting me all over cause I'd chosen to hide right on top of their nest. There's a lesson there.

Looking back, is there anything that stands out as something you should have done differently? Or not done? Or just done? (intended to be as open-ended as you care to interpret it)

Working on closed source and building up a business was an utter waste of time. I spent a lot of time with my kids the last years and should have done that before.

Other than that, and about a thousand fuck ups that seem inevitable on the road of life, I regret nothing, and admit nothing.

Thanks. Does anything come to mind that you should have done more of (or instead)?

Probably more frequent checkups, to be honest. Though it's probably moot.


I didn't know there were Fire Ants in Belgium :)

This was in Karen, Nairobi almost half a century ago.

Good to hear that you have visited my home country before.

All the best.

Pieter inspired me to explore the "0" in other things through the success of the simplicity of 0mq and what it brought to my work. Things are simpler and easier for me, thanks to Pieter. I hope everyone gets to see the beauty and power of minimalistic approaches. I'm humbled to know him.

Lost for words on your diagnosis. I hope and pray, for you and your family, that you will squeeze as much out of the short time left.

I'm not lost for words on your contribution to open source, how we think about systems, and the great legacy of building blocks you've left for the rest of us to carry on building with. Your work and writing was like a sledge hammer to the way I thought about systems. After I was exposed to the ZMQ Guide and years of building systems with ZMQ, I saw the problems and their solutions in a very different way. Thank you for being that hammer - I owe you and am sad that I won't get the chance to say thank you/buy that beer in person.

I always think that as long as my children, and their children etc. live then there is a part of me that will never die. I think that if I ever produced anything that had near the impact of ZMQ, then I would include that in the list of things that told the world that I was here after I am gone.

The only question I have for you is, what made you realise that an open source approach was the way forward for your work?

All the best Pieter, and thanks for all that you will leave behind - especially the community.

my first free software is from 1991. i realised the power of community gradually from 2005 when fighting software patents in europe. i refined and tested the techniques in the ffii for projects like digistan. i saw the failure of money and power in amqp. in zeromq it took years to find the right patterns. i documented much in culture and empire. sorry for the lower case, i am on my phone without erdogansk spell check.

Thank you, Pieter, for making your ideas public. I learned many valuable lessons from your designs, all the way back to Libero and the SFL. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.

I've thought a while ago about what would I do in a similar situation, besides you know - the common idea of spending more time with the loved ones, and I would probably write a memoir, maybe a book even, and leave it to descendants or to whomever will ever hear my name. I like to think that the mark people like you left on human development would warrant future interest.

Sorry to hear about the sad news. It's the kind that usually leaves one speechless.

I'm lucky enough to have done all that since my first round, five years ago. So now it's wrapping things up and saying goodbye.

Darn, but you seem to be quite a stoic.

Anyway, I want to thank you for the Imatix webserver (blast of the past), Libero and the first few chapters of Scalable-C and all the other snippets of knowledge and wisdom which I'm happy to carry around on my head. Good stuff.

I'll try to continue work on scalable c. Seems like a useful thing.

It is, for me at least. But don't feel obliged :)

I started to read your blog and ...discover you, in a way! All I've known before was ZeroMQ. I wish to have found your blog-posts earlier, maybe posted here on HN.

(I can not edit any longer my parent comment, so I reply)

I also started reading "The Psychopath Code". It got over my expectations, so far. It may be one of the books I'll recomend to my children when the time comes. Till then, I guess it'll just make me a beter psychopath. I haven't considered to be one myself, but (unfortunatelly for others) I partially fit the psychopath profile described by you. Interestingly, I found the detailing on emotion-evolution idea to be close to one of my convictions, which I've briefly mentioned in a comment a few days ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11496916

i like your comment because it fits my hypothesis :) yes, good. i went into the use and abuse of every different emotion... quite surprised this had never been done before.

you can relax, you're not a psychopath even if you have, as we all do, some of the talents.

Man, sorry to hear about your troubles. Zmq was a refreshingly new idea in a sea of otherwise cookie cutter message passing frameworks. Take some quick selfie videos wishing your kids happy birthday, congratulations on graduation, wise wedding words of advice, and general parental guidance. You'll live on for decades through your children, and they'll love you more getting to see you at choice moments in their life. Peace be with you.

I got to know zmq while doing my master thesis, I got interested in the way zmq makes complicated stuff simple. I followed the track and read a couple of your books and articles, learned about C4.1 and whole the community. I liked the way you welcome new comers and your quick replies. One feels close without even knowing you much.

The net is a better place with people like you.

Thanks for taking that journey. I've never had such joy in coding as since we started using C4.1 in our projects.

Funny, I read Culture and Empire before I got to use ZeroMQ at work. Small world. For what it's worth - all but nothing, I guess - I am sorry you are ill.

I loved the book. Thank you for your contributions to the world by writing it, and your contributions to open source. I'm sorry I never got the chance to meet you.

Glad you liked the book. Even though I'm not an economist :)

Damn. Damn, I'm sorry. Your work is excellent and you will be remembered for it, wish I could say the same.

Now go have some fun.

Now you made me all weepy.

I'm fighting off a resistant infection that has decided to invade my lungs as well. My definition of fun is to get the doctor to turn up the oxygen one more notch. "5 litres per hour man? Are you crazy? Ye cannae handle it!"

I'm shocked. What's the prognosis? I must say you are a great inspiration for making stuff that's become so complex simple again. We really need that in a world full of people who understand less and are being abstracted away. I was/am really looking forward to a zmq hackathon again.

Prognosis is so shitty my spell checker can't deal with it. Chances are I've less than a month. I'll slowly choke to death. Happily Belgium has euthanasia and I've already told my doctors to plan for that.

That's bad. Any chance to go home?

Yes, I'll be home for a while at least until I need oxygen and morphine again.

Your writings are always inspiring. May I suggest a book for the boring hours? Good luck!


Maybe an odd, somewhat morbid question, but I dare to ask: what is to become of your digital legacy - your websites, trademarks, contributions, entitlements, books, twitter/facebook account, etc ... ? Have you given this any thought?

I hope it's understood that I wish Pieter to stay with us for a very long time. Yet, this news made me reflect on my own digital legacy and wanted to hear what his thoughts were about this subject.

fund the main domains forward a few years, give admin control to trusted friends and then trust the community to do what they want.


I didn't know who you were before today, but I now know you are a badass sir. Had a very close friend last year diagnosed with same disease / prognosis. My heart goes out to your and your family.

All the best.

You may say goodbye but you'll never be gone.

Many thanks for sharing your ideas and views on the world, they have planted a seed in many a mind. Your influence is far greater than many could imagine.

I'm so sorry. Like many others, I'd like to thank you for your ideas, passion and generosity. The world is a better place because of you.

ZeroMQ and its descendants will outlive us all. Pieter, you should be proud to have achieved so much.

Hi Pieter,

I did a small PoC for my team using zeromq a few years ago. The performance was way above other related systems.

Thank you for your contributions.

Sorry to hear this pieter,no words to express ,you are an great human being

Thank you Pieter for your work! Also, I wanted to thank you for your great and inspiring talk at Euro SciPy 2015 in Cambridge!

Thanks, and don't forget all my talks are now on Amazon Prime at $9.95 each!

Just kidding, they're on hintjens.com.

It'd be worth it if you weren't. You are truly one of the great reads/listens in this or any community.

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