I started my own business yesterday: Queer Types! I’m writing about it here to tell the story of how Queer Types came to be, and what it is.
I’ve worked in tech for almost three years now. The first year was the best, and things gradually went down hill from there. A few factors were at play in that decline.
My awareness of myself and the world around me was really low in 2012. Honestly, I didn’t know much about who I was, what I believed in, or where I was going. I just knew I had to get out of college, and that getting paid was a Good Thing.
At the time, I had no idea I was trans. I didn’t even know it was a thing I could be. I’m suspect I had some white, male-passing privilege helping me along. By the time April 2014 rolled around, I knew I was trans - I was out soon after that. Things gradually got worse at work, as I presented more and more femme, especially in 2014. 2015 was better, in this regard. Still, for every job after my first, I was the only woman on the teams I was assigned to. It’s really alienating to be the only trans person, the only woman, the only X - in any team situation.
Awareness - that spiked pretty quickly after I realized I was trans. I learned about all the different ways people are marginalized and oppressed, that there are irrefutable, intersectional systems that keep people down. Twitter played a significant role in my awareness increasing over time. I saw painful situations unfolding in real time. I listened carefully to people expressing their lived experiences. The first few months of analyzing my privilege were very uncomfortable. It still can be uncomfortable when I run into something I haven’t introspected on before. That got easier. It gets easier.
I couldn’t help but see those structures of oppression paralleled in every job I had. Expectations of long hours, more hours than my health could handle. Credit being taken by company “leadership” for the efforts of the workers. Blame being put on the workers when things didn’t work out as planned. Punishment for the workers when they spoke up about things being shitty, unrealistic, or unreasonable. I didn’t spend much time blaming individual actors, except for a few particularly toxic examples. The non-toxic participants were caught up in these sytems, and they need to make a living, too. My goals were fundamentally misaligned with things like Delivering Business Value, Minimum Viable Products, Profits. I’m not suited to quietly working in companies that want to keep to the exploitative status quo.
In a sense, all that time I’d been working (n+1) jobs: the 1 salaried, the remaining n, unpaid labor. Things like: writing articles about tech, taking extra time and care to ensure the things I made in my day job were of high quality and maintainable, publishing and maintaining open source libraries, crafting tutorials, following and reporting on tech trends. Others have written about all this before, several people, at different times - Unpaid Labor.
Taking inspiration from articles like this one on wages in tech, or this one, and realizing I couldn’t end Capitalism over night or escape it, I decided to seek my own path. I wanted to find a way to: work on my terms, with my ethics and capabilities in mind, and make it sustainable. If anything, that’s the origin story for Queer Types, at least three years in the making.
I want to use the skills I have to help make the world a better place. I also want it to be on my terms.
Some terms I’ve set for myself:
I’ve spent enough time rebuilding CRUD app #37. At large, it’s also notable that we have more than 5 SQL databases, more than 4 web browsers, probably more than 20 text editors, and so on. There’s a lot of repetition, and for what?
I can understand the need for customization and tailoring tools for specific problems. However, what we have as a consequence of copyright and profit-driven-development is a rebuilding of the same fundamental things, over and over again. This is not a technical problem, this is a socioeconomic problem.
I want to avoid contributing to that senseless duplication.
Similarly, for research. Knowledge should flow as freely as possible. It’s easier than ever now, too.
Generally, this means that the source is available and the licensing aligns with the goal of keeping the projects available to all.
As with software. Yes, this includes books I intend to write.
See the origin story in the previous section. That I want to provide freely available works doesn’t mean I’ll allow myself to be exploited. I have to live, too. I do not condone Unpaid Labor, especially in a society that still thinks it’s right for people to have to Earn Their Right to Live.
I’ll be working with others. I’ll respect their terms, too, and if they align, we can work together.
Phrased differently, what can I do? I can write software, technical articles, tutorials, and books. I can also teach, make art, and consult.
So, keeping the terms and boundaries above in mind, I hope to offer the following services through Queer Types:
Notably, for drawings, this would go great with Patreon-acquired funding as a reward. You like what I do, I write you a small program, and then send you a hand-made drawing involving that program. We celebrate, because things are cute, and we both learn things. This line of thinking was inspired by sailorhg’s work on Bubble Sort zines. There’s no reason tech can’t be cute. ❤
On tech work specifically, I have no intention of covering the full software market. I know my specialties and preferences. I love typed, functional programming. I like backend and systems work, and I want to like frontend work. Technology-wise, this amounts to work involving some mix of:
Projects like Support JSON errors for PureScript (or other error reporting enhancements), improvements to cabal or stack, and other infrastructural/library work around any of the above languages, would be suitable for me.
So then, what do I do, and how do I maintain my terms and beliefs while I’m at it? It’s still a bit of an open problem, to be honest. My first two plans, both with short-comings:
Patreon mostly works, especially for requesting donations in exchange for cute things. The primary shortcoming is in the allocation of my resources (hours I can work per month) to various “rewards” tiers for larger scope work.
For example, I can create a reward tier for $1200/month that serves as a promise to a particular funder that I will work on a mutually-agreed project for 4 days. If I introduced more levels (more money, more promised days), the limit system fails me, because it works in terms of rewards given, rather than the global hours-I-can-work-per-month resource. Example:
I can end up overcommitted with:
Also, things like:
would have to happen out-of-band. Might be a worthwhile weekend project to scrap together a site that interacts with a service like Stripe for payment processing but also gives me (and funders) the ability to visibly negotiate and track projects. I dunno. Open problem!
The IndieGogo campaign may be the best short term path. I have plans to write an accessible book on Haskell Web Development. I’d ask for $20000 as a minimum marker for writing such a book over a period of 3 months. That’d cover the cost of living for longer than 3 months, and there’d likely be weekly chapter releases, so funders can watch the book grow over time. Stretch goals would cover additional topics, additional mediums (screen casts?), and possibly an additional book (anything past the $60,000 mark).
Keeping with the previous section on my terms, the book would be freely available. It’d be akin to Real World Haskell or PureScript by Example - people can choose to pay for print copies, and Amazon/LeanPub/etc. can provide them, but the sources to build PDFs/etc. and run code will always be available in some source control repo. Also akin to the Bandcamp model for artists, where some works are offered on a “Name Your Price” basis: you can download it for free if you like, but if you’re able, donations are welcome.
Another possibility for funding would be to look towards something like Ruby Together. It seems that the Industrial Haskell Group is the closest analogue to this in Haskell land. It doesn’t sound anywhere near as appealing or welcoming as the Ruby Together effort. Maybe there’s room for another such organization? I don’t know. More open problems!
That’s the gist of it. I don’t want to work in our current systems, I want to set my boundaries, and I have a plan.
Next steps: figure out funding. You’ll all hear about that part pretty soon.
Long term goals: end capitalism?