Go Big or Go Home

I cross-posted this in my blog on the Yocto Project website, you can follow up there with comments or here.

A couple of months ago, the Yocto Project reached a kind of strange milestone. Some of my friends like Bill Mills suggested I should be blogging about it, but for some reason it was hard for me wrap my head around it. Here's my attempt.

It was on May 19, 2010 that someone sent an email (Hi, Sven!) suggesting the name "Yocto" for our new embedded Linux project. We had been really struggling to come up with a good name, something which would not be offensive in other languages and which was not already taken.

A year later, when you google the term "yocto", the first result listed is the Yocto Project website rather than the definition of the scientific term.

Granted, the "yocto-" prefix is not the most commonly used scientific term, and I'm not sure how many of the uses of the scientific yocto prefix link link back to the Wikipedia page. Google ranks its search results based on some proprietary and ever-changing algorithm, but I have heard that it's based on the number of pages that link to yoctoproject.org. So this does represent a bit of a threshold or tipping point of awareness of the project on the internet. Huzzah!

Personally, though, I've never felt really comfortable with the idea of getting big just to be big. There is a danger to it. You set expectations that may not be realistic, and you may find yourself having grown too big and needing to retrench or reset expectations.  In the US, we call this getting "too big for your britches" for some unknown etymological reason.

So I dislike anything which sniffs too much like hype. I would rather offer something of true value to people, and when people learn about it, they will want to take advantage of it. But at the same time, without the awareness which comes with being big, you might never reach the audience who could benefit the most from what you are doing. There is a beneficial reinforcing cycle which kicks in when there is awareness which comes from size.

I took a job 25 years ago at a little technology startup. The company started hiring a bunch of people and I remember telling a manager there that I was a bit nervous about the company getting too big. His response was, "If you don't think we should grow, then you should be getting your resume together about now." Implying of course that in order to survive and make an impact, we really did need to grow and I needed to get on board with this or find someplace else to work.

I'm still resistent to give in to hype. It's tough because I have a lot of enthusiasm for embedded Linux and the Yocto Project. But  I'm not afraid to be bigger.


(For the sake of completeness, as of the time of this writing, bing.com and yahoo.com still had the project below the scientific term. For now!)

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