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Raganwald's Nifty Fifty (raganwald.posterous.com)
101 points by raganwald on June 14, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 28 comments

Here's a little story for you, as a birthday present.

About four years ago, I was a game programmer at EA in Florida. I liked games, but I was burned out on EA, and on coding in general. I didn't feel like I was learning anything, and the people around me didn't seem enthusiastic about coding. My formerly exciting job was a grind.

Around that time, I stumbled onto this weird site called "reddit". There, I found all these articles where people were blogging about how awesome coding was. They were excited about programming languages, and techniques and just generally seeing how far they could push being a coder. Moreso, the comment threads were filled with super smart people having these amazing discussions around the articles (and also some puns).

One of the blogs, and one of the commenters who always stood out for me as being thoughtful, positive, and an excellent writer was this "raganwald" character. With him and the rest of the reddit community, I felt like I had found My People, and it completely reignited my love of programming, programming languages, and writing.

I got more into programming languages, started blogging, and started coding a lot more in my free time. While I wasn't learning much at work, I was learning a ton of new stuff about interpreters, compilers, algorithms, data structures, and just about everything I could glean from blog posts, wikipedia articles and journal papers that weren't behind academic paywalls.

My blogging led to me getting a book deal (which alas I had to back out on because of the time commitment). All this stuff about data structures and algorithms was enough to get me out of Florida and past Google's fiery hiring gauntlet, and my newfound interest in programming languages landed me my absolute dream project.

So now I'm here in a city I adore, at a job I love, on a project that I'm excited to be on every single day. And, in a strange way, you helped make it happen.

Thanks, and happy birthday.

Happy Birthday!

Thanks for writing :)

I have to say, A Woman's Story[1] is a favorite of mine. It's incredible to hear about a woman overcoming such odds in an industry that still, 60 years later, has a gender gap. To discover that it's about your mother is just delightful.

[1] http://raganwald.posterous.com/a-womans-story

Thank you very much. I’m awed by how her story connected with people. She did so much amazing stuff considering the time and the place. Hackers here may be amused to know that through a friend of a friend from University, she heard that IBM had sold a computer to the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.

She was hired on contract to go and help set it up, and as a single mother she took my sister and I and we moved to Nigeria from 1969-1971 or so. Needless to say, there were many challenges being a single professional woman living in a corrupt patriarchal post-colonial african country :-)

Although the computers have changed (I remember seeing actual core memory at the University), the career probably sounds familiar to many readers here. Big install, travel to a customer’s site, &c.

Wow, raganwald is 50?!

I still remember when he stood up at the first YC Startup School to respond to pg's assertion that startups are for young people with no obligations to say, What better example to set for your kids, than to do something meaningful? This was in 2005; I thought he was in his mid thirties.

(At the time I had two kids of my own; now I have four and a company. And for what it's worth, I think my oldest is proud of his dad.)

We weren’t really arguing, just making two important but somewhat orthogonal points about the same subject :-)

First, when you’re young and childless IS the best time to start a business, you have less to lose and a greater chance of success.

Second, just because you aren’t young or aren’t childless is no reason not to start a business. (Caveat: It may be a reason you will not succeed financially!)

You could simplify this by saying, today is a better day to start following your dream than tomorrow, for any value of today.

The dude is freakin' ageless. I hope to look that good at 50!

Happy Birthday Reg! You're one of the most influential people in my career, even though we've never met. 50 huge thank yous for that!

From a recent blog post of mine: "Raganwald always felt like a programmer, exploring issues that programmers cared about ... Raganwald seemed like a better version of what I could become." - http://www.pchristensen.com/blog/articles/writers-i-love/

Where is that "Lightweight Languages mailing list"? Google only gives me obsolete stuff.

It lasted til 2004:


The closest proxies are Lambda the Ultimate and videos/lists of papers from conferences like the JVM languages summit, strange loop, ICFP, CUFP, and


It was ll1-discuss. It was a good list but I think it's gone now.

I'm the moderator/admin/whatever for ll-discuss. It hasn't been even remotely active for a few years, but it still exists.

Archives here: https://lists.csail.mit.edu/pipermail/ll-discuss/

And older archives here: http://people.csail.mit.edu/gregs/ll1-discuss-archive-html/t...

Lambda The Ultimate (LtU) is a good place to hang out if you find the ll1 discussion stimulating.

Well, happy birthday. Looking forward to many more decades of good, thoughtful comments on whatever medium exists for hackers.

Thanks! I think I’m going to go retro hipster and along with vinyl records and polaroid photographs, I’ll spend more time talking to human beings in person.


Happy birthday! I've been reading your posts ever since 2005, and I've enjoyed a lot of them. Keep on writing. Thanks for showing us youngins' that there is a future in tech even as you age.

I visit Hacker News everyday and read nearly every one of your articles that shows up on this site. I know it will be a thoughtful and original read. Happy birthday Reginald!

Happy Birthday.

At what point do you think you went from "posting essays online" to being a "blogger"?

When I started, news aggregators hadn’t reached a tipping point. There was Slashdot and some other stuff, but the vast majority of people subscribed to RSS feeds.

I posted a few essays and shared the links, but I didn’t have a “readership” until I had an RSS feed and people could subscribe. So I consider myself to have started blogging when there was an RSS feed.

(A few years back I abandoned that, as I felt that the best way to reach people was via aggregators like HN and Twitter.)

Are you still getting the majority of your traffic from RSS readers?

I no longer publish an official RSS feed, so no.

I get most of my traffic from Twitter and aggregators

Interesting. Thanks!

Happy Birthday!

Enjoy that delicious, delicious cake.

Happy Birthday good sir, here's to life and liberty, and blogging good thoughts.

Happy Birthday. Wishing you many more healthy and productive years.

Happy birthday. Thanks for the great contribution.

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday man -- hope the next 50 years are as good and better to you as this 50 was.

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