My first meeting with Pieter took place in Richardson, Texas, many years ago. I was working for Egeniq back then.
It was at the US headquarters of a large mobile device company. My job was to help him, the project's lead consultant, in commercializing a prototype Android app.
That afternoon, he drove me in his Mustang (a rental, upgraded via social engineering) and we had lunch at this divey Vietnamese joint down the road. I remember the broken rice with pork chop that I had. I also remember him asking me feeler questions to try to size me up as an engineer. I gave him my spiel about how passionate I was about BDD (hey, I created Kiwi!), iPhone, and C++ – subjects in which I would later discover our viewpoints were diametrically opposed. So he probably thought I was full of shit.
Still, I stuck around and it was glorious.
In true Pieter fashion, he had seemingly managed to commandeer a portion of the client's office space into his own minor fiefdom. I initially found it strange that an external consultant would wield so much power within such a large company. It came with its own spheres of power and the development of the project was an entangled web of politics, people, plotting, and software engineering. More than once, people broke down. Over several months, shuttling between Texas and Amsterdam, I felt like I was participating in a Korean-American-Tech version of Game of Thrones. Pieter was Tyrion. I was to be one of those expendable characters that just die quickly. Now that I think about it, I think Mikko and I actually referred to Pieter as Littlefinger.
Do not get me wrong. This is not me denigrating Pieter. How many of you would not like to meet Littlefinger in real life? I have.
Pieter's character is a true force of nature onto itself. You read about the phrase "force of will" all the time, but for me, it wasn't until I met Pieter that I witnessed its raw form. Over and over, he would claim that he would make some incredibly ludicrous thing become reality. I would nod my head, patronize him, and think he was full of shit. Crazy fucking stupid shit that would make someone sound like a narcissistic moron. And then it would happen.
"I'm a certified genius.". Bullshit. Shows Mensa membership card.
"I'll get myself upgraded to First Class on my flight back from Brussels. I just have to be nice to the counter lady.". That can't work. Shows boarding pass.
"I'm going to negotiate this crazy hourly rate with the client". Yup. Even higher.
"I'm going to get the top dog of the company to pay attention to me". Yup.
"I'll write a book on 0MQ". Yup.
"I'm going to chat these twin blonde sisters up. Just watch."...
"I'm going to move our base of operations to another country". Yup.
"I'm going to become a certified shooting instructor.". The f...
The lesson was you must never underestimate Pieter.
I'm a data driven person and my data was that Pieter made whatever he wanted happen, however impossible it sounded. His charisma sucked you in with the force of a black hole and I was not one to escape. We had many a conversation at breakfast cafes, bars, and interesting BBQ joints. Somewhere down the road, like the calling of the dark side, I joined him as a consultant in Korea. That was no less crazy than Texas and involved lots of bubbles and lots of cats.
I haven't talked about Pieter's technical prowess, because come on, you don't need me to.
Over my lifetime, I can identify key events in my life that have shaped how I view things and how I do things. Going to UCSD is one. Knowing Pieter is certainly another. Looking back, the absolute amount of time I spent with Pieter was just a couple of years. But what I learnt from him is seared with a hot iron rod into my memory the same way my experience in college was.
I learned a lot about software engineering, yes, but even more importantly, as Pieter would say, social engineering. Software isn't about code. Software is about people. You see his imprint and contributions in the open source world. Long after Pieter, there will still be the 0MQ Guide, C4 and his copious corpus. Even now, I don't grok how he was able to be such a prolific and elegant writer.
I actually disagreed with much of what Pieter said and did. Or rather, I did not want to agree. I may not have liked it, but the truth is that what Pieter said was likely to be closer to reality than my conception of it. No one else has quite shaped my mind more about how the real world works.
Things didn't quite work out in the end. Our paths did diverge, and not on the best of terms. But those bygones are long past forgotten. And for better or worse, where I am today is a result of a journey that began when I met Pieter.
I won't be able to meet Pieter before he leaves for good, though I wish I could. So the only thing left to say is thanks dude and what a pleasure it was.
And dude, Mikko was right - you really shouldn't be using
assert to handle user errors.