Let’s Talk About Mental Health

[Originally a tweet-storm made on 25th November 2017]

Let’s talk about #mentalhealth.

Nearly 20% of the American population suffer from some form of mental illness each year. This is a rampant epidemic. Everyone is affected directly or indirectly.

See Nearly 1 in 5 Americans Suffers from Mental Illness Each Year article in Newsweek.

It is the same story (or worse) in other countries.

There is nothing special about mental health issues, as compared to other types of health issues. We are organic beings and our brains are “made of stuff” just like everything else. Sometimes they don’t work as they should. Very often, in fact 🙂

But the stigma is real.

You’re mad! You are crazy! You are a lunatic!

But worst of all is … You are a liability. I cannot trust you. You cannot do your job. You are a disappointment. Why don’t you just snap out of it? Cheer up. It can’t be that bad. You aren’t even trying.

I have suffered from serious spells of depression for the last 12 years, but in retrospect can see that this began as far back as my teenage years. It has likely always been an aspect of my biology – but only one which manifested in seriously self-harmful ways under stress.

I have lost months of my life to the Black Dog (probably around two years cumulatively) where even getting out of bed or doing ANYTHING other than avoiding the world was a challenge. Defer. Avoid. Hide. Sleep. Don’t eat. Constantly worry and self-reflect.

I will never feel better. I am useless. I am a horrible person. I am so selfish. I will never feel better. Better for everyone if you just end it right here. Why continue?

But it is bullshit. It is all bullshit.

Sure, we hit hard times, but what is happening with mental illness is not logical. Your brain just isn’t working correctly. Or, as a “user”, you are using it in a way which makes these issues more likely.

For somebody whose work is thinking and logic and problem solving, mental health episodes are devastating. I can attest to this first hand.

The thing which I do, which I am best at, which is my very essence… Can’t do that right now, and it might be months before I can.

My most recent spell of depression lasted from October 2016 to early January 2017. I was basically “off the grid”. It started with this, which utterly knocked the stuffing out of me:

Hyperledger Project reflects on blockchain politics. Hyperledger’s Brian Behlendorf discusses abortive attempt to relicense the C++ Ethereum client to the Apache 2.0 licence.

I joined ConsenSys to start working on Enterprise Ethereum Alliance but within less than a week it was clear to me that I was broken and needed to take some time off. Like all my previous bosses, Joe Lubin was superbly supportive, as were my other new ConsenSys teammates:

lubin

By mid-December 2016 I felt able to join a dial-in call for a face-to-face meeting in NYC talking about preparations for the EEA. That was the first time I had popped my head up for about two months. I was just lurking on a call, but it was a good start.

On January 10th 2017 we had another face-to-face meeting about the EEA, including presenting our roadmap to Vitalik. The prospect of being in these meetings was really intimidating, but it really helped in the end. My beard here was a hiding method.

enteth

Anyway … I just wanted to share this insight into my life because mental health affects us all. I want you to know that nobody is immune. People in very public and influential positions are just as prone to mental health issues as everybody else.

Sod the stigma.

I expect to suffer from spells of depression for the rest of my life. I have been taking antidepressants for years. They probably help, but are no silver bullet. Some people find CBT very helpful.

I have been to a psychiatrist (who actually quit the profession because he came to the conclusion he was hurting people more than helping them, by “medicalizing” the issues.

There is a huge waiting list here in BC. Waiting 6 months to talk to somebody when you are in the pit?

I have been to a psychologist, who was more helpful, but was $200 per hour and not covered by medical.

I have been to a Psychic/Medium/Medical Intuitive (over Skype). That was actually the single most useful session I ever had in terms of personal impact.

Perhaps THE biggest uptick I had in my whole life though was making a good new friend who told me all about blockchain, and who inspired hope in me that I could use my professional experience to make a major difference in the world. That is the path I am still on.

Drinking heavily and smoking was helpful too (in the very short term!)

When you are heavily depressed you don’t enjoy things as much as you did, so battering yourself with “experience” in that way can help to spark you a little.

I imagine that going on a hedonistic rampage would be “helpful” too, but with a wife and kids that really was never on the agenda for me!

ANYWAY – If you are having a tough time yourself and feel that talking it through with me would be helpful (whether or not we know each other), please feel free to HMU.

Seriously. Open offer to the whole world. My DMs on Twitter are open.

Or any of these means of contact.

I am feeling great now. I am utterly inspired and enthused by Sweetbridge.

But I know that it won’t last forever, and the Black Dog will likely come and visit me again at some point in the future. But I am slowly getting better at coping. Peace out!

SPACE

The events which made my day emerged by accident and were delightful. Letting the universe take the lead has been working very nicely for me recently.

I had to go to Canadian Tire to get a new spare tire for our car prior to a long weekend roadtrip. I needed to wait for an hour and a bit, so I took the opportunity to visit Solly’s Bagels, which was my go-to lunch spot while working at Roadhouse Interactive in 2014. While there, I took some photos to share with my friend Jonathan Polak, who I had been scheduled to meet at 11.30 but we rescheduled:

jon

He said “You should come to my new co-working place on Clark Drive. The mayor is here visiting.”

Sure. Why not. Jump in cab. Done.

And so I have spent the last 3.5 hours discovering a new nest of “new paradigm” friends I did not know I had, as well as befriending Gregor Robertson about the potential blockchain has for Vancouver, BC and Canada.

gregor

A key part of that economy is Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, who oversee the Port of Vancouver, the #3 port in North America and #1 in Canada. I hope we can get those supply chains running on Sweetbridge rails in the not too distant future.

Meet Pat Christie, who kicked things off at SPACE. They already have connections and crossover with my buddies at DCTRL and are completely aligned with where us decentralists are going:

They have great industrial buildings on Clark Drive which host a mix of different individuals, bound by their humanity and common dreams of finding better network models for business and society.

Thank you, Universe, for another fantastic day where the new human connections formed are going to lead us all to a better future.

Monday is Family Day here in BC, so I have a great long weekend with my wife and boys planned. I hope everyone else has some quality time with friends and family this weekend. There is nothing more important.

Love and respect, Bob

Helping Purism not to make the same mistakes

I spoke to Ash Nazir, Carsten Munk and Carsten Haitzler and a few more people last night about wanting to help Purism NOT make avoidable mistakes with the Librem 5.

I had contacted Zlatan Todorić, who is the technical lead for Purism OS, a few days back. I told Zlatan that I love Librem’s approach, but that I felt that Librem 5 would fail because their approach looked like a naive port of Desktop Linux.

I offered to organize a get-together here at FOSDEM to get all the:

  • Psion
  • Symbiant
  • OpenMoko
  • Maemo
  • Neo900
  • Moblin
  • LiMo
  • SLP
  • Bada
  • WebOS
  • LuneOS
  • MeeGo
  • Tizen
  • Mer
  • NemoMobile
  • SailfishOS
  • AsteroidOS
  • Jolla
  • Zipper
  • Ubuntu Touch
  • KDE Plasma Mobile
  • GNOME
  • Qt
  • FirefoxOS
  • Replicant
  • CyanogenMod

… people who we can muster while we are all in the same place here at FOSDEM.

To share our learnings from previous failed attempts at building sustainable mobile Linux platforms. I think that Purism have good hearts. They have done a great job on desktop with the Librem line, but mobile is another beast. It is weird. Really weird. But we have people with deep mobile Linux experience in the world and many of them are here today. We need the greybeards to help mentor and buttress Purism’s mobile efforts!

There is still an army of us who want an open hardware, open OS mobile platform, though we are currently fragmented. I saw a lot of N900s today. So let’s build bridges and collaborate and help each other.

I think that Purism have the best chance of succeeding here, and I think that we should help and support them. It they are to fail, let’s ensure it is at least in a new way!

Hope you guys are all around on Sunday afternoon and up for it?

Two birds of a feather sessions on Sunday:

  • 2pm – Blockchain – H3227
  • 3pm – Mobile Linux Devices – H.3228

There is a session on Monero earlier in the afternoon and this blockchain BoF immediately before the Mobile Linux Devices one if that is of interest too? A number of us are working in both mobile Linux and blockchain now.

Please come and help. We are stronger together!

Bob Summerwill, Brussels, Belgium, Sat 3rd Feb 2018.

Bob Summerwill for Headhunters

downtown[Downtown Vancouver.  Image via Flickr Creative Commons, by JamesZ_Flickr]

[Originally published on LinkedIn on 20th December 2017]

This is a follow-up to my Bob Summerwill for Recruiters article, written in October 2015. My circumstances have changed since then. I now have a wealth of job opportunities open to me through my own professional network, and I don’t really have any need for recruiters anymore. Sorry, my friends!

I have started to maintain a full Conflict of Interests statement which enumerates the many roles and professional relationships which I have, whether financially compensated and otherwise. I also list all of my cryptocurrency holdings.

My Resume page is out of date, but my LinkedIn profile itself is very up-to-date.

What does Bob need and want?

  • I am only interested in global-scale moonshot projects which move humanity forward. Ethereum, Sweetbridge, Tesla, SpaceX, OpenAI, etc.
  • As I have enjoyed working with Vitalik Buterin, Joe Lubin and Scott Nelson, I would love to work with Elon Musk, but for very few other individuals or corporations on the planet. If Elon would like a blockchain group then I would love to take a leadership role there!
  • Short of that dream, I would likely only work for global non-profit organizations (Ethereum Foundation, Linux Foundation, Internet Society, W3C) or United Nations organizations.
  • I have no interest in working for companies whose business models are walled gardens, such as Apple, Alphabet/Google, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon, Alibaba, Tencent, Facebook.
  • I am Vancouver-based. That is non-negotiable. That is where my home and family are. I have been remote working since October 2015. Travel is becoming more possible as my children get older but is always an imposition on my family life. See my travel history and planned travel for a taste of my current tolerance.
  • I have no interest in being an employee ever again, and am only considering Consultant, Contractor or Advisor arrangements. Or better yet, friendship.
  • I deplore software patents.  I am not willing to sign NDA agreements.  Trust me or do not trust with private information as you see fit.  Companies do not own their employee’s brains.  Ideas should be free.  Unnecessary secrecy is repugnant.  It is execution which has the real business value, not the ideas themselves, which are two-a-penny.
  • Money does not motivate me. Being in a position to progress humanity does.
  • I am willing to accept cryptocurrencies or cryptoassets as payment for my services, as long as I have sufficient $CDN income to make my mortgage payments and to pay for the cost of raising my children, and of my modest middle-class lifestyle.

What does Bob have to offer?

  • Two and half years at the heart of the Ethereum and blockchain ecosystem, with key roles at the Ethereum Foundation, ConsenSys, the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance and now Sweetbridge. Extensive connections and positive relationships. Great breadth of blockchain knowledge.
  • Over two decades of varied professional software engineering and problem-solving experience. See the Projects section of my LinkedIn profile for a full accounting.
  • Work on application teams, in central technology roles, technical leadership, on shared initiatives, and on global-scale open source projects.
  • Huge breadth of technical knowledge. Always learning.
  • Deep knowledge of configuration management, automation, DevOps and software engineering best practices.
  • Optimistic, enthusiastic, friendly, social, chatty demeanour. Good interpersonal skills.
  • A completely open book.  Not afraid to ask hard questions and to point out “elephants in the room”.
  • Blogging and social media presence. Loves to write.
  • PSA – Bob is already living in the future paradigm to a certain degree, which sometimes causes some tensions with the present.

Love and friendship

hearts

I have stepped down as an advisor to Finhaven (formerly Frontier Foundry).

Why? Is there some terrible problem there, which we need to run away from? No. Just the opposite, in fact. I actually co-located with them in January and am working closer with them than ever before.

Being an advisor meant that I was tying my financial incentives in with Finhaven. I had the option to purchase 0.5% of their Common Stock, but I never exercised that option. I never claimed any expenses, nor received a single penny in any other form. I was “informally” advising them for many months before we had any formal relationship.

“It isn’t about the money. It was never about the money” ™
Bob Summerwill 2015-2018

I am also too busy with other world-changing projects to do much more than talk with FinHaven (lots, every single day). However, the fact is that I am willing to talk to anybody in the world for free wherever I see value anyway. I don’t need to be an advisor to do that. Those numerous conversations are likely providing a lot more value than many “advisors” just in themselves.

I have a similar dynamic with RightMesh, Zipper and Status.im, which are all projects and teams which I love to death, and would jump with joy to advise. But the truth is that I can provide even greater value from the outside. That has been the case for me on the Ethereum Project too, where I have been able to do much more to help the project from the outside of the Ethereum Foundation then when I was working for the EF.

Being a friend is the best relationship of all. It trumps employment, contracting, consulting, advising.

Here are some examples of being a friend trumping any formal relationship just in the last few days:

I will forever be a friend of FinHaven and do everything I can to help them.

I love you guys!

New Year. New Role. New Office.

Happy New Year, everybody!

2018 sees a few changes in my daily routine. All good ones 🙂

Maker:S,Date:2017-8-31,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

Maker:S,Date:2017-8-31,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-ve

The first change is a physical one. After a year or so working out of coffee shop turned Mexican cafe Tapatio Mexican Cafe and Bar in Kitsilano, I have switched to an office in the Vancouver Financial District with Frontier Foundry. It’s got a great view, and it is a nice change of pace to be Downtown.

I am telling myself that I will force myself to cycle in each day (only ~15mins ride) so that I am doing at least a modicum of exercise each day. We will see how that goes! I’ve not cycled in yet, but do have the doorpass to be able to access the bike cage now, so should probably do so very soon!

My role at Sweetbridge changed just before Christmas too. I started work for Sweetbridge on 23rd October as Principal Developer. When I was first talking to Sweetbridge, I was absolutely certain that I had to drop everything I was doing at ConsenSys and the EEA to go and join this amazing project. What was not clear to me, though, was exactly what position at Sweetbridge would work best for me and for Sweetbridge.

There were two main options – joining the Sweetbridge Alliance side with Mac McGary, or join the R&D/Product side with Glenn Jones. I was a little hesitant to put myself in a position with the Alliance where I was ineffective (or indeed a liability) because of my complete lack of supply chain experience, despite having worked in a similar role at the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance for the previous year. Joining the product team looked like a much safer bet. I have been a software engineer for 20+ years, working on Ethereum for 2.5+ years, wanted to help build a real product, so my choice was made.

Only a week into my time at Sweetbridge though, I was off to Cancun for DEVCON3 (which I still owe the world a blog post about!) That trip had been scheduled for months, and is not something I would have missed for the world. I offered my services, despite being brand new to Sweetbridge, for media interviews, talking to potential partners, alliance building, etc. I do love all that kind of work.

Then I took my first trip to Phoenix (which I also owe the world a blog post about) to meet the team, and the media focus and alliance building continued, in addition to what was meant to be my primary job at Sweetbridge, helping out in numerous roles on the product team (Agile, DevOps, technical leadership, architecture, protocol work). There was no way that I could do all of these things at the same time.

On my second trip to Phoenix on November 20th I got to speak to Scott Nelson face-to-face for the first time. In a conversation I had with Hamid Moutawakkil, Hamid made an excellent point. “Bob, with all the experience you have and value you can bring to Sweetbridge, why are you writing Jenkinsfiles?” He was spot on. I was in the wrong place in the organization. Scott agreed, but it has ended up taking another month or so to get from that conversation to my switch of role. So I am delighted to now be:

Screen Shot 2018-01-05 at 4.20.36 AM

This could be seen as me finally “hanging up my boots” as an individual contributor and professional software engineer and moving “into management”. In paradigms past I would be a miserable middle manager now. In this new paradigm it actually means that I get to spend my time talking to fascinating people around the world about the cool projects they are working on, and connecting them to others doing similar things. It means I am spending time engaging with our community, and building alliances and bridges with the EEA, Hyperledger, Microsoft, IBM, ConsenSys and building up the Sweetbridge Alliance. It is going to be absolutely delightful 🙂

Please do come join our Rocket.Chat and our Telegram. As well as my new physical work home, those are my new online homes. I am delighted to have the opportunity to work closer with Melissa Gilmour, Jason English and Ryan Charleston as part of my new role. Melissa has been focused on Events, Jason on Protocol Marketing and Ryan on Social Media. We will work together to tie all of these elements together in a more cohesive message and dynamic community. WATCH OUT WORLD!

So my new office is at Frontier Foundry, who are the only company which I advise (see my Conflict of Interests statement). I first met Boris in 2015, and I am delighted to be part of the Frontier adventure. In addition to the primary product which Frontier are developing, Frontier are acting as the catalyst for growing the blockchain ecosystem here in British Columbia, which is something very close to my heart, and which I am also actively participating in.

See my schedule for 2017 and 2018 to get an idea of the number of Vancouver-focused events and meetups which I am attending. I am making a conscious effort to attend just about every Vancouver-based conference or event, all the BC Blockchain Forum and Blockchain for Product Developers meetings, and will be adding Blockchain @ UBC engagement onto the slate imminently.

During 2015 and 2016 I was hardly part of the Vancouver blockchain scene. All my time was spent remote-working on global initiatives. Well I am changing that focus, and I will also be doing the same for Canada-wide initiatives. I see a huge opportunity for Canada to be world-leading for blockchain. Vitalik is from Toronto. Lots of the Ethereum story has Canadian roots. I want the “next Ethereum” to stay in Canada and not have to move to Switzerland to come to fruition. We should encourage and foster innovation. There is a fabulous opportunity given the state of “South Canada” for us to take the lead here. Both Toronto and Vancouver have great pools of technical and business talent. We should take advantage of that, and turn the tide on the Silicon Valley brain-drain. I plan to be a big part of that.

I will blog more about Frontier Foundry and these BC and Canadian initiatives in the future. In the meantime, here are a few photos of Boris Mann (CEO), Tom Carchrae (CTO) and Chelsea Palmer (Community), just a few of the growing Frontier gang.

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Maker:S,Date:2017-8-31,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E:Y

Maker:S,Date:2017-8-31,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E:Y

Maker:S,Date:2017-8-31,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E:Y