Ah, the glamorous life of a director – having a vision, putting together a team to fulfill that vision, and in your spare time attending parties and mingling with the glitterati. Nate Oostendorp is product director for SourceForge, and sadly, this is not what his life is like. “When I first got the job I figured I’d be sitting around in one of those canvas chairs with the megaphone yelling ‘action’ and watching people build a web site,” he says. “Reality is not so glamorous. I end up spending a lot of time writing and re-writing specs, reviewing interface, monitoring our engineering ticket tracker, and on conference calls and meetings with some very smart people who are equally, if not more, pressed for time.”
Oostendorp joined the company now known as Geeknet in the summer of 2001. He first worked on SourceForge’s sister site Slashdot, then on a now-estranged cousin site, Everything2. He held the title of site architect for SourceForge for a long time, before being promoted to product director nine months ago.
While the job may not involve red carpets and pneumatic starlets, that’s not to say it’s not exciting. “We’re in the middle of some very very cool changes, which our new download service is on the leading edge of. Right now I’m working on a product that includes next-generation versions of the SourceForge tools. It’s really great to be able to start out on a modern tech stack and have the time and the manpower to rethink what we can offer projects to collaborate. Coming from a long history with SourceForge, it’s great to see these pieces getting some love after a long dry spell.”
Oostendorp enjoys “designing software, working with engineers, and after countless revisions having a really cool new app. The worst part of the job is figuring out which features you have to cut, just because you don’t have the time or they aren’t going to be helpful to as many people as other stuff.”
In his spare time, Oostendorp is a tinkerer. “I’ve been dabbling in electronics lately, so I’ve been doing some of the kits from ThinkGeek. I currently have the Larson Scanner in my office window keeping surveillance over the tiny Village of Dexter, Michigan. I am an aspiring maker, so my basement is full of barely started projects, robots in semi-functional states, and various warrantee-violated equipment.
“I’ve got the RepRap/Makerbot bug, and have been spending a good deal of my evenings and weekends with my 3-D printer making random stuff that fits in a four-inch cube. This is some seriously cool open source technology, and it’s staggeringly awesome to see the convergence of open source mechanical, electronic, and software engineering into a product. I honestly think the open source microcontroller phenomenon (Arduino et al.) could be a lot more everyday-life-changing than the PC. It wouldn’t surprise me if in the very near future we start to see ‘computers’ in everything.”