I read Manga, pretty much like every comic book nerd from the 1980s. I got hooked on some fairly grown up stuff as a tween, and today I read the stuff with entertaining and semi realistic stories. One of them I read is called “Space Brothers” about, get this, two brothers who decide to become astronauts. When the story starts, the younger brother, Nanba Hibito, is poised to make his first trip to the moon, while the older brother, Nanba Mutta, is fired for head-butting his boss. As the story goes on, Mutta overcomes obstacles and is accepted into JAXA, Japan’s version of NASA.
It’s during his first lecture as a newbie wanna-be astronaut that the lead of the support staff draws the Japanese character of Person on the white board:
And he tells them a famous person said this:
The character of person shows that people are living by supporting each other.
I was unable to verify the quote, but it sounds somewhat reasonable to me. Still, in looking at it, I thought that the stroke on the right seemed to be supporting a bit more than the one on the left. So did the character in the manga, who went on to explain that some people support more than others, but they do so with the intent of boosting the others higher. That’s why the leftmost stroke is taller.
Now, Japanese has three written languages: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. For those unfamiliar, you can read a brief explanation from Ancient Scripts, but the person character I used above is from kanji. There’s a historical basis in kanji that look like their meanings, so this interpretation isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
When I look at WordPress, I see that leftmost character as being the path taken by the people who manage to write amazing code. And I see myself as the rightmost character, who tests and debugs and supports them. I feed information into them as I find it, I help others to do the same and solve their problems. I am, indeed, a support guru.
There’s nothing wrong with this. If it wasn’t for me, and people like me, WordPress would fall over. I said this at WordCamp SF in 2012: If there weren’t users, there would be no WordPress. All of us, the users and the support people and the random one-plugin developer and that person who edited a theme once, we’re all the reason WordPress is still being used as well as it is. The app was made useful and deemed useful.
But consider the modern version of the character.
This may seem strange if you’ve never read about kanji before (I was once deeply into a manga about caligraphy), but it has it’s own version of print and cursive. Here are all the various ways one might write ‘person’ in kanji:
Now you may notice that’s a Chines Kanji exemplar. It’s the same thing for around 70% of the characters. And in this case, it happens to be the same.
If I was to extend my previous thought, that the support arm of WordPress helps it reach new heights, I would look at the modern character and say that the two arms keep each other from falling over and, only when combined, can they reach the future of marvelousness.
That’s a bit cheesy, I know, but the point is that we’re not alone. We don’t work on open source in a vacuum, we work together, relying on each other, to make everything better for everyone. We’re equal partners in the work of creation, even if we don’t see it as such all the time.
I don’t know what the kanji is for Open Source, or if there even is one, but I hope it represents people for being the crux of it all, always helping people.