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One Decade Down: Community

Part 8: Community and Volunteering

Fri Mar 25 21:49:15 2016


This is a bit of a story, a bit of a history, a bit of a documentary, and hopefully a lot of entertainment and theatre about Shadowcat Systems.

We are ten years old and to celebrate that fact I want to write ten unique little pieces about Shadowcat that hold as a memory of our first ten years and a celebration of that decade down. All of these pieces are scheduled to be released throughout the whole of our 10th year.

Loving You, is it a Bad Romance

Lovin' you is more than just a dream come true.
And everything that I do, is out of lovin' you
(Minnie Riperton - Loving You)

I want your everything
As long as it's free
I want your love
(Lady GaGa - Bad Romance)

Shadowcat have always loved community,[1] it isn't just a statement we casually make it is a foundational belief at the core of our very existence. This love is not just for the Open Source community it is shared amongst the other social and cultural groups of which we are members. Almost everyone who has worked at, subcontracted with or associated with Shadowcat has been a community superstar. Sometimes we introduce them into the idea of continuation being a cornerstone of our structure, most times they come as willing builders.

Over the years some of us have evolved into ‘community leaders’.[3] I placed that in quote marks as it is not a term I would normally use, but it is one that has been placed on us. As such we have quite a deal of influence in the community and I hope we make the best use of that, with Matt and I we believe we use our strong understanding and knowledge to connect people. In fact our greatest talent and value is that we can put people together who go on to do really awesome things.

… Is your Community

One of the oddest things I have done is to be asked to write a message on a t-shirt that would then be auctioned. This was an idea by a great ‘Community Leader’ from France who got many people to write and sign the shirts and then used the money raised to fund good community works for the Perl community.

It took me a few minutes to think up ‘Perl is Your Community’. However that message works in any organisation, group or following. You are not just a member of something, it is the shape of your world and that is unique. Programming Languages have many shared elements in their communities, but each one is different, and you are a different person in each one if you belong to more than one of them. We, as humans, have an incredible ability to be social chameleons, to adapt to our environment and be defined as a part of it. We are each a special snowflake and an essential cog that makes up that unique machine while we are a part of it.

So it may be Perl, may be JavaScript, may be the Flange Fanciers Mechanics Institute of Burnley, but that is your community. But more than that. you are Your Community. How you are, what you do, how you interact, change and evolve changes the whole of the community around you. This is just as important if you are very visible, like us apparent ‘community leaders’ or you joined five minutes ago. We are equally important to the community.

Our Communities

The Perl Community

The largest community that we are involved with as a company is the various parts of the Perl Community. All of the Shadowcat staff have done work in both their own time, and in sponsored work time, to support this community. It is hard to think of all the things we do, or have done, in the community and I don’t want to include things that we sponsored as that is the subject of part 10 of this series. So a simple throw at the wall list would be:

...this is just a snapshot over the ten years and was all heavily supported by Shadowcat Systems.

It is easy to argue that part of our membership of the Perl community is good advocacy for Shadowcat, good for the projects, and good promotion of our name (or brand if you prefer to use such terms). That would be fair and it is certainly how we justify it in a business context. However a love of Perl as a language and of the various souls who use it and inhabit the community has really helped as well, those would be our personal reasons.


Aside from the use of this acronym by the U.S. Immigration service it is also used by the Ethical Small Traders Association of which Shadowcat are early, and long term members. ESTA is focussed on the Lancaster district and run by Michael Hallam of the Small Green Consultancy and Pear Trading. It is an organisation devoted to promoting fair trade, local trade, social and community support of business and the local economy.


The Lancaster and Morecambe Makers are the local Hackspace in Lancaster. Originally formed by Darren Poulson, Shadowcat has been involved with them for many years, in fact their first and early meetings were held inside the Shadowcat offices. Most of the Shadowcat staff are tinkerers of electronic, mechanical and crafts so we love being members of the group.

Shadowcat Systems sponsored the formation of the LAMM company, sponsored the building, sponsored time, maintains a laser cutter to be used by the members and others and is a corporate member of LAMM.


FLOSSUK (Free Libre Open Source Systems) is the modern name for the original UKUUG. FLOSSUK put on several events each year the principal event being the Spring DevOps Conference. Shadowcat has been involved with the organisation as speakers and workshop trainers for a number of years. In recent years we have staff who serve on the FLOSSUK council as well as help to organise and run events.

DBIx::Class - Catalyst - OpenNMS

I thought that I would highlight in the title a few of the many projects that we are members of so I could talk about smaller, or sub-, communities. These are projects that have their own sub-communities with a particular identity inside a larger community. Often sub-communities, like the larger parent communities, share more than one parent or grand-parent community.

Let me illustrate. Catalyst is a community inside the Perl Community. DBIx::Class is a community inside the Perl Community who has members who may also be part of the Oracle, MySQL or PostgreSQL communities. OpenNMS is a communities that’s part of network monitoring communities and Java communities, and so on.

We cannot just classify these communities with the identity of their parents, the Rails community is quite different to the Ruby community it is a child of.

In these projects we once again have been, I hope, stand up members. Supporting, helping and contributing towards them as best we can. Sub-communities are as important as their parents and many people only belong to the sub-community and ignore the parent community altogether.

We love being a part of these communities as much as the larger, or broader, communities that gave them birth.

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[1] So I am using Love here to indicate a strong platonic relationship of great regard and mutual respect and compatibility not any squelchy sloppiness.[2]

[2] Though I00 take no responsibility for how other members of the Shadowcat Crew view or enact upon this ;).

[3] The first time someone referred to me as being a ‘community leader’ I was dumbfounded, and this is not a usual state for me. I don’t see myself that way and I don’t think I ever want to. My only desire is to be a good member of the organisations I call affinity to.