In Aid of the Atlases of the Software World

, a 3-minute piece by Dev Mukherjee Dev Mukherjee

I can think back to a discussion with one of my most esteemed colleagues Edward Stow on why people seek a career in the software. Ed had formerly been a lecturer at Charles Sturt University and when asked to address commencing students on why they should choose a career in software, he would say to them "Do it because you like solving difficult problems". He'd rightfully point out how many days of their professional lives would be consumed by a single issue and the job was to stay at it and find the solution.

Most people interact with the product of application software projects. Software products aimed to serve the problem of the end user, be it an on-line service, a productivity application or a game you played on your phone. All of these were built on the shoulders of giants. Invisible pieces of software often referred to as "Infrastructure Software". Extremely specialised and difficult pieces of the puzzle, most of them demanding a set of skills that tickle the fancy of the very few.

Many of our current projects are primarily written in Python, a rich microcosm of micro-frameworks dedicated to solving specific issues. Two that we couldn't do without are Graham Dumpleton's mod_wsgi and Mike Bayer's SQLAlchemy. They are massive efforts on behalf of their maintainers and contributors and form the backbone of countless Python applications.

Anomaly's core piece of intellectual property joins this cohort of software projects. We identified the need for building a micro-framework that let developers build client agnostic REST APIs right on top of WSGI, we didn't find anything that did so we built it and added it to the mix. Prestans like many infrastructure is subsidised by our commercial efforts.

It's important to recognise that some of these projects are run by a handful or in the case of something like mod_wsgi an individual solving an extremely difficult problem for the love of it. The days of charging for such projects have come and gone and we're ever more dependent on these building blocks to deliver applications to our customers. The understanding of the specific technologies to maintain some of the projects are outside our commercial reality, preventing us from dedicating developer resources to these projects.

At Anomaly recognise the weight we've put upon these projects and we believe that it's our responsibility to support them. Anomaly has a policy of financially donating 1% of our annual revenue across projects that we actively use and are unable to contribute code to. It goes a long way and we urge others to do what they can.

These projects need all the support they can. I am amazed by people like Graham, he's maintains a project like mod_wsgi and actively writes documentation, responds to people like me on his lists whilst contributing to other's projects. These individuals or small teams have taken upon an enormous burden, one partially placed by us using their amazing software, one we all need to extend a helping hand to.

Seek out projects that affect your business the most and actively attempt to assist.

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