Jef Claes

On software and life

27 Apr 2016

Pieter Hintjens

Writing doesn’t necessarily always come naturally to me. It often takes me days, weeks or even months of toying with an idea, before I think it’s mature enough to put it down into writing. I can’t afford that luxury this time though, I wouldn’t think of myself as much of a friend if Pieter didn’t get to read this in time.

I met Pieter the first time in a bar in Vilnius, December 2013, I accidentally ended up sitting next to him during the traditional pre-conf drinks. The first thing that stood out, was what a comfortable warm sweater he was wearing - I still cherish the memory of that grey woolen sweater on cold winter nights. I’m still unsure whether it was the sweater or his undeniable radiant charisma that made its way into my memories. When Pieter talks, people tend to listen, or at least pay attention. That’s what I ended up doing that night - listening, sipping in the knowledge, afraid to make a fool out of myself joining the conversation.

That next day Pieter opened the conference with probably the most motivational keynote I ever attended, aptly titled “Building stuff changes everything”. Him being a fellow countryman and me having a few Lithuanian beers in me, helped me gather enough courage to properly introduce myself and talk for a bit.

From that moment on, we would only meet a few times a year, traveling to Vilnius with the Belgian delegation or as a guest at the Domain Driven Design Belgium meetup. During that time, we had a few - far from enough - lengthy conversations. Me mostly asking questions, him sharing his point of view, and me trying hard to keep up, taking it all in. Although he was always more than happy to entertain each question you would throw at him, I would always feel a bit selfish keeping him to myself for too long.

The most memorable talk I had with Pieter was during a tête-à-tête in the Vilnius sky bar. We would mingle Dutch and English, whichever language made the next sentence sound best. We shared some personal experiences, he laid out most of the groundwork for what a good year later materialized into “The Psychopath Code”, but most importantly he allowed me a peek through his eyes, looking at his playground we like to call life.

You don’t need his Mensa membership card, to realize he is a highly gifted individual. He could have pursued anything he wanted and been good at it, but he chose all-out for people, freedom and love - making it his mission to evangelize his core beliefs.

His words - both spoken and written - have inspired me more than he can imagine. And they will likely continue to inspire others for many more years to come. His work has given me a framework to build on for the rest of my life. There’s so much to learn from how he is capable of dissecting the world, to document things that are broken and his tireless effort to make it whole again - one protocol, one word, one hug at a time. Where I would often feel overwhelmed by dark hopeless sentiments, he has given me enough tools to overcome those. From his mouth to my heart: “We’re not much more than a pile of ants, but together we can achieve tremendous things”.

Pieter, I’m not half the writer you are, but I hope these words can serve as a testimony to your children what a great dad they had. If your time comes, know that I’m grateful that I’ve been able to call you my friend.