The Open Source Revolution

The Maker Revolution

We don’t often hear about the underlying technology powering Silicon Valley’s successful companies, much less about the makers of these technologies.

A revolution, not well-recognized by many, is powering our everyday lives—and it’s happening on the biggest shared platform of the modern age. Much as the stonemasons of the Middle Ages created churches that connected people to something greater than themselves, these makers who build the web platform of today enable a sense of connectedness in the world that otherwise would not be possible. And they do it through something called open source.

In open source, the technology created and shared powers the bank applications we use to transfer money, the apps we use to share experiences, and the tools we use to communicate with loved ones. It’s the technology that enables companies like Facebook, Google, Netflix, Uber, Lyft, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Pinterest—and practically any company touching technology—to exist.

One thing that might surprise those outside the immediate scope of this world is that all the work done in open source is for free. And the tools built in open source are free for all to use.

What Motivates These Makers

It might sound counterintuitive to spend hundreds of hours building software that will be consumed for free, but participating in open source can be seen as taking a stand against the silos created within organizations. Choosing instead to work on tools that enable people in the corporate structure to reach well beyond their immediate purview is empowering. And helps change the status quo.

The web platform is one of the biggest creative collaborations in modern history, but though it provides the foundation for everything we do online, it itself is often disregarded. And yet it is more significant than many large-scale projects outside the web—building a dam for example. A dam may affect a million people, but open-source code likely affects billions.

“Open source is access to being able to impact billions of people through your work,” says Taras Mankovski, one of our featured open-source contributors. “The impact you make with the code you create is disproportionate to effort, because you can contribute to a library that is going to be deployed to millions of applications.”

Just as the printing press revolutionized the transfer of knowledge, the tools these makers create enable us, collectively and individually, to have experiences beyond what we would otherwise be able to have.

Each of the people featured here has contributed to the creation of the platforms we depend upon now every day, both at work and at leisure, and we’re proud to introduce you to six prominent technology leaders of the next web generation.


Tracy Lee

Learning how to code changed the way I think about the world and how I interact with it. You don’t know what you don’t know.

By happenstance, Tracy, a serial entrepreneur, discovered her passion for code two years ago while selling her last company, Dishcrawl. She now spends her time working with new technologies and speaking at conferences evangelizing JavaScript frameworks and libraries.

Tracy believes in the importance of creating an open dialogue, through mentorship and apprenticeship, between the contributors of frameworks and junior developers. She publishes content through blogs and podcasts, and she hosts events to help facilitate learning in the JavaScript community.

Tracy is a Google Developer Advocate, the founder of Modern Web, a cofounder of This Dot, Inc., and a former board member of Hacker Dojo.


Jeff Cross

I love open source. It’s a pretty good feeling when someone I’ve never met tells me how much something I’ve made has helped them. And when someone complains, I tell them to shut up and send a pull request.

With a vision for how software tools should be designed, Jeff was most recently the tech lead of the Angular core team at Google. He has a zealous spirit for making development easier for engineers, which has translated to open-source contributions in technologies such as Angular. That same spirit has also driven him to create Deployd, an open-source “backend as a service,” and to help facilitate progress in the higher education open-source software field.

Jeff got an early start in the world of coding. At the ripe age of 12, he learned HTML from his mother. Later, his career focus in visual communications led him down the programming path when he realized he would be too limited in the things he was able to make without learning how to code.

Jeff is cofounder of Narwhal, an Angular-focused company.


Hans Larsen

I love enabling people to reach their full potential: they always come back with impossible things made possible. This is our future.

Like most of his peers in engineering, Hans began hacking at a young age. At age five, he was already hacking the computer games he was playing. Pursuing his career in computer science and computer engineering, he went to university for formal training.

Before joining Google, Hans successfully cofounded a company called Spaces and sold it to Slack. At Google, he serves as a leader on the Angular core team and facilitates projects such as Angular-CLI and Angular Material. He has made contributions also to other open-source projects, such as webpack.

Hans is senior software engineer at Google.


Jay Phelps

Why do I contribute to open source? That’s fairly easy to answer—I enjoy it.

Jay is on the core team of RxJS, co-author of redux-observable, and a contributor to the JavaScript framework React. Though he began his career in the music industry, Jay has been programming since he was a child. In his mid-20s, he turned back to his coding roots.

Jay started his open-source career by submitting a pull request to fix a bug in a jQuery plugin that he needed for his job, and since then his open-source contributions have enabled developers creating user interactions at large companies such as Netflix, Facebook, Uber, Microsoft, Airbnb, Pinterest, and Yahoo to scale their applications for faster consumption and deliver great user experiences to consumers.

Jay is a senior software engineer at Netflix.


Taras Mankovski

Coding is the shortest path to solving real business problems. It’s a good balance between being practical and being able to push forward a vision.

Known as a “sherpa” in the JavaScript community, Taras enjoys enabling people who otherwise wouldn’t have a clear path into the tech industry to cross the chasm and fulfill their career dreams. He’s contributed to various open-source projects revolving around the Ember.js ecosystem and HospitalRun, an open-source platform for managing hospitals in developing countries. He finds passion in writing code that impacts the world.

Taras is the cofounder and CTO of This Dot, Inc.


Ben Lesh

I like giving back to the community and enjoy being able to mentor others.

Ben has been programming since he discovered PET BASIC on a Commodore 64, but went to art school to follow his dream of becoming an artist. Soon after picking up a job as a graphic designer at age 20, he realized that he had a unique gift for programming and began building websites.

With initial contributions to open source that involved building better features in Angular, Ben is now the lead author and development lead of RxJS 5, a library that allows developers to compose complex asynchronous tasks and do complicated things in a maintainable way. He has contributed also to open-source projects Redux and Falcor.

Ben is a senior software engineer at Netflix and a cofounder of This Dot, Inc.


Introduction by Tracy Lee
Photography by Daniel Garcia

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