Pieter is dying. My memories of a living legend

It’s 17 December 2013. I’m at the 4th DDDBE meetup and Pieter is also there. I have my ZeroMQ book with me to get it signed and that’s my first interaction with Pieter.

Later that evening, a few of us are talking on how we can organize the user group officially so we can collect money to pay for paper, markers, speakers etc… Pieter overhears this conversation and challenges us: what’s the problem we’re having with our “new” community? If it’s about the money to pay for expenses, wouldn’t the attendees contribute a small fee if we asked? Or maybe a location sponsor could provide some markers and post-it’s?

Today, we’re still running a user group with more than 800 members without an official structure and it’s been fine so far. Maybe we still organize more formal in the future, but at least we didn’t jump to a premature optimization because of that small intervention of Pieter

A few weeks later Pieter is a speaker at DDDBE. He talks about “Global Mutable State” that evening. We didn’t record it but a similar talk is available on YouTube and there’s this blogpost

One specific statement got pickup up by my brain that evening: upfront consensus is expensive: trying to find agreement on something upfront is difficult and often results in slow, bad or no decision making.

It happens that I have a situation at home that matches a lot with the problem Pieter exposed that evening: after we’ve rebuild most of our house, our nice white walls lack some decoration. My spouse doesn’t like the previous poster we had, I’m fine with it but not emotionally attached to it. I just want something nice on the wall.

Time goes by but nothing happens… “Yes, I know we should put something up, but I didn’t find the time to look for something else yet” is the answer she’s giving me time and time again. One evening when she’s not at home, I decide to try the approach Pieter talked about during that meetup. I drill a hole in the wall, put a screw in it and hang the poster we had before.

When she comes home, she’s annoyed by my actions: “I told you I didn’t like that poster anymore, why did you put it up?” I tell her gently I already drilled the hole for our new poster and that she can replace it with whatever she wants. Until there’s something else, this poster has to stay (because it’s better than looking at the hole itself). A few evenings later she asks me if we can go through our pictures so we can selecting some nice shots from city trips we’ve made together. Another few days later we’re having beautiful framed pictures against that wall and the poster is gone. Applying the C4 contract worked, even when it wasn’t applied to code collaboration…

However, the best memories of Pieter have been created at BuildStuff last year (or DrinkStuff as Pieter likes to call it). Like last year many of the Belgians take the same plane to Vilnius and so does Pieter. I sit next to him and we start talking about his new book. I learn not every Psychopath is a murderer and he explains the patterns Psychopaths use.

Soon we’re in the air to Vilnius. Time to think about what I’ve just learned…

During the Get Together party we meet again. It’s late at night, people have been drinking and it’s interesting to see how people start to behave under these circumstances. Pieter shows me what’s going on in the club and I’m amazed how accurately he can predict the interactions between people.

A few hours later we take the cab back with some people from the crew and have a last drink at the Skybar. It’s quiet and we’re overlooking Vilnius peacefully. I’ve seen him at his best that evening, being the “Social Architect” he is.

Every interaction I had with Pieter was interesting and fun. Almost always I learned something I still use at home or at work. Thank you for that Pieter…

I’ll miss you when you’re gone!