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Scuttleverse Newsletter Interviews: Arj
Published on February 23, 2022 by Alexander Cobleigh

 Scuttleverse Newsletter Interviews: Arj


Hello butts nouveau & vieux—it's time for another edition of the Scuttleverse newsletter!

This edition brings another community interview. Like the interview from October, we'll be getting to learn more about one of the butts from the Scuttleverse. This time we are treated to the behind-the-scenes thought of the squirrel wizard Anders, also known as Arj and commonly identified in the community by his squirrel avatar. We'll get to know some of his background, what projects he has contributed to, and some wider thoughts regarding the importance of community. 

In this editor's personal opinion, Anders is one of the unsung advocates of SSB—always helping to push the project forward, and supporting community members whenever possible.

If you want more of these peeks inside the Scuttleverse, chip in to the SSBC Open Collective which is enabling this and other initiatives to take place. Every little bit helps 🖤

arj

Interview with Anders on his contributions to SSB

Let's start with the basics: who are you?

I'm Anders, 39 years old. I live in the northern part of Denmark.


What kind of projects have you worked on relating to ssb?

A lot of different parts of the stack. Earlier I contributed to Patchbay including adding book functionality. Lately I have been helping maintain a lot of the core packages including things like EBT. We also finished the NGI pointer project recently, where we worked on a new database, rooms 2.0 and partial replication. For a good overview checkout https://ssb-ngi-pointer.github.io/.

screenshot of patchbook, showing the books Autonomous by Annalee Newitz and The City & The City by China Miéville


Which projects are you, personally, most proud of—and why?

Probably ssb-browser-core. Getting SSB running in the browser was quite a task that helped spawn the ssb-db2. I'm quite happy that browser-core has turned into a base library that takes care of all the base functionality of SSB and then you can focus on writing your application. For two recent examples check out groupies, private chat groups in the browser and 8K demo for an application platform running on SSB. 

screenshot of ssb-browser-demo, a showcase app for the power of ssb-browser-core

the wonderfully playful 8k-demo, made during ngi pointer. see it presented live at svendsolar 2021


What other kinds of work do you do in and around ssb? It seems like every ssbc PR I dip into there's a not-insignificant chance that you'll be there, reviewing it already!

Yeah, there are a lot of modules. Most of them are thankfully quite small and relatively stable. I view that work as tending a public garden you want to see still being around in 5-10 years.


If we wind back a bit: what got you into ssb at first? What kept you coming back after the initial jolt of novelty wore of?

I studied distributed systems while doing my CS degree at Aalborg University and I always found it fascinating that you can build these super resilient systems without any single point of failure. Back then we build distributed file systems using DHTs in C++. This was before bitcoin. I do remember reading the paper on hashcash and thinking that could be useful for something :-)

Back then, there wasn't a lot of opportunities for working on that kind of technology unless you wanted to work for the big tech companies in the US. Fast forward 15 years and I started reading an article on SSB that had things like signed ledgers, gossipping replication and eventual consistency and I thought that was quite interesting.

SSB has had a lot of ups and downs, people coming and going. I think what keeps me coming back is the wonderful community and the spirit of: yeah we can build these things and we can make it work, it might not be perfect. And we do it for the sake of learning and we share that.


What do you want to see more of in ssb? Inversely: what do you want to see less of?

I want to see more people building stuff. Don't be afraid to experiment with things. Hopefully once the worst of the covid stuff wears off we can have physical meetings again at least in Europe. Those have always been really special, to meet the people you only see online in person.

I would like to see less people leaving because of personal differences or because the technology is not perfect. Considering how quickly a lot of the stuff was made initially it has held up pretty well. If you don't like the feed format, come up with a new one that is better or implement bamboo. Don't like blob replication, then make something better. Don't let the negativity become the norm, we have enough of that already in the world :)


I'm going to hazard an assumption: SSB's important to you. Why?

While the initial hype was very much focused on the technological aspects, what I value a lot about the SSB community are the people. I have met so many great people that I keep in regular contact with.


Do you have any finishing thoughts you'd like to share?

Maybe just a thank you to the people contributing to the consortium that helps fund these newsletters among other things.

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