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Posted on: Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"What are you up to these days?"

Throw this question to people you meet and observe.

I threw the casual question at an acquaintance working in a large IT department of an organization. From then on, he took over the conversation holding me hostage to his story as he described his recent tour to Australia; his recent promotion; how he now had seven people reporting to him and a truck load of crap which was supposed to make me look at him in awe as I heard him speak.

If you ask me honestly though, he was boring.

If I could have yawned without insulting him, I would.

The same question led to a very different answer from a passionate developer whose organization had just removed him from a project that he had started a year ago and had asked him to work on another project which, according to his organization, was much more critical.

He held me hostage too. He talked about how his management didn't understand software development, how is boss was an ass-hole and how nothing ever worked out as well as expected in his organization.

Frankly, he was equally boring.

If I could have yawned without insulting him, I would.

The same question asked to a distant relative also working at a software development shop; resulted in boring stories of his a vacation with his wife and his friends. He held me hostage as he gave me a boring account of how he and his wife did a lot of shipping during this vacation and how they managed to land up with the best prices.

Yawn.

That same day, around a thousands of individuals answered the same question on my RSS aggregator; without even being asked to answer it.

Some of them talked about a nugget of wisdom they picked up in their management life; some of them shared their neat code; some published a tool; some talked about an open source framework they were releasing; some talked about a neat idea which would make their build and deployment process better; a couple of them had read a book and were recommending it with a warning about specific parts which they found slightly boring.

A huge number of these discussions were remarkable

None of them bragged about their promotion; their position in the official pecking order of their mediocre organization; their salary and how they saved a few dollars during a boring vacation.

Even when they indulged in rants, they did it in an uncanny classy style brimming with passion, cause and described the lessons learnt along the way; rather elaborately. They took their rants, made them interesting, packaged them with humor and shipped them with an intent of passing on what was learnt from a rather ugly or painful experience.

There were no boring monologues.

I did not know any of these individuals personally.

Honestly, I wasn't interviewing them. They were not answering my question.

They were building stuff; remarkable stuff; software, stories, experiences and communities. They were creating remarkable tools; building applications that would change the world; tweeting nuggets of wisdom; writing articles, doing blog posts and then when they are done; they were pushing whatever it is that they were building live.

They were building stuff; and shipping it. Without whining; without excuses; without cribbing, bitching or moaning. 

Some of them worked at prestigious names like Microsoft and Google; some were independent consultants; some were working in insignificant companies that you wouldn't be able to locate on the map if you tried to; some were leading teams; some were managers; some merely college students and a couple of them were even single moms; but none of that mattered.

What mattered was that they were building stuff in ways more than one.

What mattered even more; was that they were having fun.

They were having a party and anyone who cared to join in --- was invited.

These were not whiners; talkers or boring employees who do what they are told to do. 

These were relentless workers, story tellers, rule benders and people who make small and big dents in a really large universe of 'normal' human beings that is generally hostile towards the idea of things changing. They were what I like to refer to as --- builders; and they were at work.

Look around you; and if you are lucky; you might have a few of these amazing builders sitting around you.

Think of people you work with; and you might know a few of these guys yourself. 

This dear reader; is their book.

If you are one of them, dear reader, then this, is a book about you.

These are the gripping stories from the strangest corners of organizations where remarkable things get built by builders who indulge in the process of 'building' for two reasons in particular --- because they love building things --- and because they 'can' build things which are genuinely remarkable.

Note: This article is a part of a Work In Progress Book. To Read connected articles read the Builders At Work category of this blog.