This last week, I had the opportunity to attend the OpenWest conference. I can’t say enough about how amazing it was. If you have the opportunity next year to attend, you should definitely do it! During the conference, I was able to present on some of my recent blog posts. I was also able to attend a session and a keynote from Rasmus Lerdorf and many other really smart people. I felt like everyone came together with a common goal of sharing the knowledge they had and learning from the experience of others.

If I had to list the most important thing I got out of it, it would be “don’t reinvent the wheel.” As is the case with many hackers, I often find myself with a chip on my shoulder. I see some open source program or piece of code and immediately think, “I could do it better.” The reality is that while I might be able to do it better, the time and effort involved in doing it better takes time away from bringing my own new ideas to fruition.

While there are cases where it’s worthwhile to rewrite something yourself, they definitely should not be a regular part of your programming. The beauty of open source software is that we can leverage the work that someone else has already done. This enables us to make our ideas reality at a faster pace than in the proprietary world.

The goal of my presentation was to provide a perfect example of this. By leveraging the work already done by really smart people, I was able to take an idea (albeit a small one) and have a working concept in just a couple of weekends worth of work. If I had tried to do the same project without AngularJS, Go, and App Engine it would have easily taken months.

In the open source world we have the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants1. Let’s use that opportunity to our advantage and accelerate the rate of innovation.