Building Together

I’ve always loved this reflection from Orson Scott Card in the Introduction to Ender’s Game:

[All varied interpretations of this book] are “correct”. For [all readers] have placed themselves inside this story, not as spectators, but as participants, and so have looked at the road of Ender’s Game, not with my eyes only, but also with their own.

This is the essence of the transaction between storyteller and audience. The “true” story is not the one that exists in my mind; it is certainly not the written words on the bound of paper that you hold in your hands. The story in my mind is nothing but a hope; the text of the story is the tool I created in order to try to make that hope a reality. The story itself, the true story, is the one that the audience members create in their minds, guided and shaped by my text, but then transformed, elucidated, expanded, edited, and clarified by their own experience, their own desires, their own hopes and fears.

The story of Ender’s Game is not this book, though it has that title emblazoned on it. The story is one that you and I will construct together in your memory. If the story means anything to you at all, then when you remember it afterward, think of it, not as something I created, but rather as something we made together.

I love this idea of a story being something that we construct together, storyteller and reader.

I can’t help but think of this idea but carried over to software.[1]

Great software helps produce a story we tell together. I am given a tool and a hope. I use it within, and often beyond, the bounds imagined by its original creator. And it amplifies my ability to re-shape and re-make my own world, often in ways that could have never been imagined by its original creator.

The result is something we build together, software author and user.

I love software like this.

It's what I love about the story of the web. Individuals across the globe following their passions, finding each other in those passions, and fostering the birth of something new from their disparate stories — all enabled by great software whose output is something we construct together.


  1. To be clear, I’m not talking about the class of software that’s provided by corporate entities to its customers for self-service, e.g my home insurance portal I log in to once a year to pay my bill, but rather software that serves individual creativity and empowerment. ↩