For the last two years, OLPC has been more a second home than workplace. My coworkers were another family, and we all worked harder than we thought possible. I learned what it meant to believe in a mission so much that nights and days blur together, and the prospect of success keeps you going even when your brain begins to defocus and your body craves sleep with desperation.
Looking back, it’s been a demented ride: I’ve worked on everything from advising firmware development to debugging nasty kernel threading issues, improving data storage, chasing down Sugar problems across the entire stack, school server development, internal organization security and the software security platform, and interfacing with developers and executives both about our mission and technology. I designed OLPC’s entire back-end server infrastructure, created its staggered software build process, came up with Bitfrost and the datastore, and had the incredible pleasure of personally deploying our very first laptops and bootstrapping the second deployment. I’m pleased with the work I’ve done, and I’m humbled to have received such strong recognition for it from the wider community, culminating in the MIT TR35 prize and eWEEK’s recent honor.
Not long ago, OLPC undertook a drastic internal restructuring coupled with what, despite official claims to the contrary, is a radical change in its goals and vision from those that were shared with me when I was invited to join the project. Adding insult to injury, I was asked to stop working with Walter Bender, without a doubt one of the most stunningly thoughtful and competent people I’ve ever worked with. Following Walter’s demotion from OLPC presidency, I was to report instead to a manager with no technical or engineering background who was put in charge of all OLPC technology. (Left: “cry why” graffiti, Lima coastline, Peru.)
I cannot subscribe to the organization’s new aims or structure in good faith, nor can I reconcile them with my personal ethic. Having exhausted other options, three weeks ago I resigned my post at OLPC.
It’s been an outstanding experience, and I truly wish OLPC the best in its future endeavors. My belief in the mission is in no way compromised, and I will miss my coworkers dearly. (It would not be productive to belabor this further, so please don’t ask.)
Going forward, I wish to continue doing what I’m best at: solving impossible problems in systems architecture, scalability and security. I have yet to decide where I’ll do so, but the siren song of academia grows louder by the day. If you have ideas you think I’d like, my e-mail address is next to my name on the front page.