Monday, March 21, 2016

If I die tonight 1: legacy, letting go of a community I love, serve and was too attached to

Dear friends, readers and supporters around the world:

At least once in our lifetime, we confront the following question: if we die, who’ll carry our legacy forward, and what exactly is death? I myself have experienced this moment today, what I found out and my plans. Because I will be touching a subject that might be sensitive to some readers and quite extensive, I’ll divide this question into two parts: part 1 will address death, legacy and letting go, and part 2 will discuss why I made my decision and my philosophy regarding administering and serving a community.

In case you are wondering why I’m writing this, it’s because the following statement will need further explanations: I will be stepping down from various NVDA community positions by end of this year. Let me tell you why:

As I lay in bed (dealing with a common cold and with muscle aches) and listening to some piano music, I was struck by an intriguing thought: if I die (as soon as now, sometime today or tonight), who will carry on my legacy? Although I thought about this question in the early months of NVDACon planning, it came stronger today: perhaps this week is CSUN conference (31st annual technology for people with disabilities) and missed going there, perhaps because I’m preparing for midterms, perhaps I’m tired after busying myself with NVDACon planning or what not. Of these, I think the thought of NVDA’s tenth anniversary celebrations, coupled with recent activities on various mailing lists have made this a stronger question today.

So I decided to meditate and pray over this question:

Dear God, if you recall me (if I die) tonight, who’ll take on my legacy? Who’ll take care of my family, friends I love, the communities I love and serve (including NVDA community and the Groups.IO Win10 forum)? Is there someone who’ll love the people and the communities I serve through various positions, someone who’ll shower them with more love than I did? Am I willing to let go of my position if that benefits the community in the long term?

I also added:

Dear God, what would your Son (Jesus) do if given this situation? I do know that he came and died many years ago to save me and others, and I know that he did it willingly. I look forward to a personal counselling session with you through your words

Surprisingly, the answer was simple yet counterintuitive:

Don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Remember what Paul said before his execution: “I’ve finished my race”. Although he didn’t say that, he was talking about today, the job he was given. You’re worried about tomorrow because you are too attached to the communities you are serving, and one way to not worry about tomorrow is letting it go – give it to the hands of the next generation.

At first, I didn’t understand what this answer meant, so I prayed again:

But God, letting go means a lot to me. Although it would mean less stress and one less list to moderate, I don’t know who’ll take care of the communities I love.

An unexpected reply:

Why did Jesus die on Good Friday? Did he do it willingly, or because his Father told him to? He did it because of both reasons: as the Word, he was present when the world began, thus he had powers over creation and took part in a grand plan to save you and others. He did it because he have subordinated himself to God, as his prayer before his execution shows. He knew what was better: dying (or sacrificing himself or letting go) to save everyone.

Not only this reply answered my original question, it answered another question, which is the subject of the next blog entry.

In summary, the reason why I wasn’t ready to confront the question of dying and passing on my legacy was the fact that I was too attached to the community I love and serve, too much attachment to a point where I set out succession plans (even before it happened). Sometimes, I felt that I should be the one to do something (including giving voice to the voiceless), stemming from the fact that I can become forceful and zealous for a cause. I also thought that the next generation should have an easier time managing a list, running a project and so on, which (and I admit now) led to failures of some initiatives (as they say, I was feeding fish to the next generation instead of teaching them to fish). Lastly, I haven’t seriously considered stepping down if it’ll improve a community in the long run until now (which naturally connects with the next blog post on leadership and mailing list/forum administration).

To correct these errors and to serve as a reminder to myself that I’m vulnerable and to show love to communities I love and serve, I decided upon the following:

1.       NVDACon International 2016 (April) will be the last conference I’ll serve as the head organizer. I’m glad for the fact that we do have passionate people who are more than ready (I think) to embark on this journey.
2.       I’ll be stepping down from my moderator position on NVDA users list (on Groups.IO) effective May 31, 2016.
3.       I’ll pass on my position of quarterly community add-on release coordinator effective August 31, 2016.
4.       NVDA 2016.2 tutorial will be the last what’s new tutorial I’ll produce, seeing that there are others who are better at producing tutorials than I am.
5.       I’d like to request that someone else who have better technical knowledge and teaching skills than I am to produce 2017 edition of Welcome to NVDA tutorial series.

I’m not doing this lightly: for some time now, I thought it is time to pass on the baton of list administration to someone from the next generation who’ll love the list more than I do and to teach them about effective ways of running an international list. I also believe that it isn’t right for one person to start organizing an international conference such as NVDACon (I originally envisioned various regions rotating around to organize NVDACon, and I’d like to start this process this fall, starting with regional NVDACon’s around the world). Although the acts of planning, announcing and releasing quarterly maintenance versions of community add-ons are tedious, it is rewarding in the end and is something that people should put in their resumes. Producing tutorials is a hard job, but it is also rewarding in the end – you get to learn how something works.

I’m not doing this to receive publicity; I’m doing all this because I love NVDA community, and know that letting myself go is something that’ll benefit this community for a very long time (perhaps the community would turn out influential advocates in the next ten years or more). As it stands, I believe I’ve done my best to love and serve this and the wider community. I do admit that I made numerous errors (both small and huge) and that I’m vulnerable; sometimes seen as an influential advocate, sometimes seen as a ruthless list administrator. In the end, what matters is the fact that tomorrow will worry about itself, and I should do my best in the job I’m given that should be accomplished today, even if it means stepping down from various positions in favor of the next generation.

To the next generation of NVDA enthusiasts: first, thank you for your continued support and enthusiasm. I’m sorry that I fed you fish all day long – I should have been better and teach you to fish. Although I’m stepping down from leadership position, you are more than welcome to ask me and other enthusiasts questions. Stepping down from the position of power doesn’t mean I’m leaving the wonderful NVDA community: I’ll try my best to serve in my new roles, whatever they might be. Thank you.

Joseph S. Lee
Translator, code contributor and community add-ons reviewer, NVDA screen reader project
(to be former) Chair, NVDA Tenth Anniversary Planning Committee
(to be former) Moderator, NVDA International Users List