My First Free Software

You are reading an older blog post. Please be aware that the information contained in it may be technologically outdated. This text may not necessarily reflect my current opinions or capabilities.

This is an English translation of a blog post that was originally published in German.

December 22nd, 2011

There is a first time for everything. I can still remember the first time I compiled program code. It was Turbo Pascal snippets back then and I worked out enough of them in self-study to be able to create my own little games under DOS.

Paradoxically, despite my studies in computer science, I program less today than I did back then. My website is basically my only tinkering project, where I let off steam when I need some rest from the university stuff. Developing undisturbed for myself has its charm, even more if the visitors of my website get great new features out of it.

Just a few hours ago there was another first for me: I just licensed and published some of my source code for the first time.

Keeping in mind my previous programming experience and my well-documented attitude towards free and open content, I guess you'd have to call me something of a late bloomer in this matter. In fact, it just never happened before. Aside from a few scripts for my own use, my only project is my website, as I mentioned before, and the code is unfortunately not in any shape overall that I would release it and stand by it.

However, the last few days I've been building a nice little thing based on jQuery that (after reading up a bit) also abstracted quite well as a jQuery plugin. It now bears the name ReaderBar:

ReaderBar is a jQuery plugin that aims to augment long HTML documents with a few navigational tools. It includes a button to go to the start of the document, arrows for jumping between headers/sections and bookmarking functionality. Along the left side of the document, it shows a “places bar” with quick access to headers and user bookmarks.

You can see it in action in the HTML view of my articles, just click on one of the thumbnails (or one of the HTML links). As always, I would be very happy about feedback on the usability.

The whole thing is now available on GitHub on my website by now. If you like, you can copy the code directly from there or just follow the development. The entire source code is licensed under the MIT license. JavaScript is of course an extremely versatile and dynamic language. I don't have much experience with the conventions in the jQuery community, so my next plan is to get feedback from there and make the code structurally sound so that other people in the field can read it reasonably.

In the medium term, of course, I don't want to stop at this one project. I'll have to think about how to link my content on GitHub to my website in a meaningful way. Maybe a new category titled “Software” is possible here. But what do you think it should look like?

Do you remember what your first free software was? Or did you rather work on existing projects? Who else can you find on GitHub? I'm jfietkau there, maybe I'll see you around.


You can leave a comment by replying to this Mastodon post from your own account on Mastodon, Firefish, Akkoma, or any other ActivityPub-capable social network that can exchange replies with Mastodon.