At some point during our volunteer meeting, after announcing the organization had grown too large for all-hands meetings to be our default mode, and after people had broken into groups to work on our Summer of Appsterdam initiatives, I had a really good conversation about that most basic of questions: “What is Appsterdam?”
It, like the question, “Why Amsterdam?” is a hard one to answer, because there are a lot of answers, and the best one depends on who you are. Our movement grows organically according to the talents and passions of its members. We have a lot of initiatives that go in a lot of different directions.
For example, our website serves as a “concert calendar” of events in and around Amsterdam, but we also plan events. We get App Makers together for Meeten en Drinken, but we also offer free work spaces and education. We help people go indie, but we also have a venture fund.
If you try to define the Appsterdam movement by its initiatives, you will quickly run out of words, and the only thread that seems to connect them is Appsterdam itself. Therein lies the greater truth. As a meta-organization, we are not doers, but facilitators.
One good metaphor for Appsterdam is the folk tale of Stone Soup. In a time of famine, when nobody had anything to share, one family put out a huge cauldron of boiling water with nothing but a stone inside, then explained to passersby that it was stone soup, and that there was plenty to share.
Each person who sat down for a meal of stone soup threw something in the pot—a carrot, a potato, a bit of meat—and when the soup was done, they took out the stone, and everyone had a nice meal. We are that way. We take what people are willing and able to contribute. We combine, coordinate, and engineer, and we end up with something nice for all of us.
The purpose of the Appsterdam movement is to bring App Makers together. Our goal is to serve App Makers around the world, and we’ve started that by building a capital in Amsterdam. This is not meant to set off a series of pissing contests over who has the better city. That is the opposite of Appsterdam.
Pissing contests are our biggest enemy. As a developer, I say with the greatest love in my heart, that developers are dicks. Oh, we’re nice to each other, sure, but we’re dicks to most people. Think about it. We insult people who use different languages, different platforms, or even different coding styles. iPhone versus Android. VI versus EMACS. Spaces versus tabs.
Then there are those jerks who can’t even code. We call them biz dev douchebags, marketing douchebags, new media douchebags, the list goes on. We bemoan the dearth of women in our industry, while refusing to hang out with the industries where women actually are.
Our inability to stop picking on each other is holding us back, when threats like patent trolls are looming ready to pick us off one by one. We need to rediscover what we should have learned as lemurs—that if we’re all going to survive, we’re going to need to stick together.
Appsterdam is the first organization that brings together programmers, regardless of implementation detail, marketeers, businessmen, entrepreneurs, scholars, the government, newbies, and anyone else willing to pitch in and be part of a new way of doing technology.
It’s no accident we chose a city with a diverse population whose name stands for tolerance. If you think you get Appsterdam, and you want to have a pissing match about it, you don’t get Appsterdam. We don’t like conflict, and the one thing we don’t tolerate is intolerance.
And we don’t care. We’re bulding a haven for App Makers in the Netherlands because we want to live in that haven. People who have been looking for that, and who are capable of getting along with other people, are welcome to join us here. If you want to fight about it, don’t bother.
The people who get Appsterdam, who will find a first or second home in Appsterdam, are the people who understand that Appsterdam is not a company or a person or a service. Appsterdam is an idea, which has blossomed into a movement, that we are better together—whether you join us here, and build your own little Appsterdam at home.
We don’t care about the naysayers, the haters, and the crabs who would hold us down, because those are the people who make things suck. They’re the ones we’re leaving behind. Appsterdam is what we make of it, and so far what we’re making of it is pretty good, growing really quickly, and attracting a lot of people to this grand experiment.
“What is Appsterdam?” “We are Appsterdam!”