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How I met Pieter Hintjens


I wanted to write it when I realized Pieter is dying. Thanks God he have been waiting on my article all the time! It is not well thought or structured, just a simple dump of my memory.

Chapter one

Unce upon a time there was a small software development team in a small city near Prague. The team has been strugling with a lot of things. But the most important problem that time was we did not know anything about messaging, ZeroMQ and how to design and develop code around that.

So we contacted Pieter and his reply was amazingly positive. He have offered to do the ZeroMQ workshop for free weekend before. Despite a lot of troubles he have had that time, around 9:00 the almost bald and tall man entered the room.

Live coding

The first amazing thing you will notice is the huge amount of energy he has. He asked us about our project and immediatelly we started coding session with him to prototype something. I was baffled. In 10-15 minutes I lost the track and I am sure allmost all of us did the same.

I was upset - we paid him to teach us and all he did was to write some code! And what is worse, sometimes it crashed or did not work well. I still remember his tone when he said "Interesting" and went to live debugging session. And of course, sometimes he claim - this is problem in zproto and sent a pull request to some place at github.


Nowadays I do use the same way of teachning new members inside the team. To specify a simplified problem and to solve it by writing the code. And I am making mistakes, so I usually show people the live debugging session too.

There are several advantages of such method, comparing to traditional presentation style:

  • people will learn, that making mistakes is a normal
  • they will immediatelly learn the most effecient way of debugging (debug prints, gdb only to read the backtrace)
  • it is more fun for developers to write the code
  • you can show them the most effecient way of building programs

Life after Pieter

Actually I saw only one brave man, who was able to fight and survive his charm (and 9 biers, such strong person!). The rest of us were hopeless. Changed in mind and totally addicted to his way of thinking!

It is not possible for me to name everything he learned me. Especially as most of his lessons are related to interactions with humans.

  • Problem/Solution approach
  • Focus on one problem
  • Be welcome
  • Accept bad patches (either they cause problem, or they are fine)
  • Merge fast
  • Do not focus on consensus
  • Use small repositories
  • Let people self-organize
  • How to recognize and fight psychopath
  • ....

So long ...

Dear Peiter, me and others owe you a lot. Talking to you have changed our minds. We become more happier and productive. Thanks for beeing so great teacher. And a friend. We will miss you.

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