Michelangelo in the Age of Open Source

After a long review process, a talented but unknown painter by the name of Michelangelo was awarded a huge contract to paint the Sistine Chapel for Pope Julius II.

After a few months of back and forth, the Pope and the artist had agreed on the design of the paintings for the Chapel. Now it was a matter of applying paint to the walls and the 20-meter-high ceiling, and Michelangelo chose the to enlist the help of the Volunteer Guildsmen of Drupalo.

It was well-known that the town of Dupalo was home to some of the best scaffolders in the world. Their building was impeccable, it was flexible, and could be adapted to almost any situation. The Guildsmen were quite amiable and included some of the best structural thinkers of the age, brilliant men and women who volunteered their free time to developing newer and better structures.

Work progressed, the walls were nearly done, and the project was running ahead of schedule. The Guildsmen had built a scaffold that reached 15 meters from the ground in record time. I was modular, functional, and elegant in its simplicity.

In fact, the team from Drupalo had built a wooden platform so perfect, so smooth, that it could have been a basketball court.

Michelangelo met with the Guildsmen and announced, "Tomorrow we'll start working on the ceiling. When can we get the next level of scaffolding built?"

The Guildsmen seemed puzzled. "No one's ever built scaffolding above 15 meters. we've never had to."

"If you want, you can add a feature request for your 20-meter scaffolding to our issue queue," added one of the friendlier scaffolders, pointing to a well-worn suggestion box. "One of our volunteers may build a module for 20-meter scaffolding over the next few months," she added cheerfully.

It was starting to get late, so the Guildsmen filed out to the local winery.

Michelangelo went white. He could see his dreams of becoming famous with the Chapel contract vanishing before his eyes. After hunting around the Vatican, he found a rickety, old 4-meter ladder that would get him close enough to the ceiling. Late that night, he climbed up the ladder and starting applying sketches to the ceiling himself.

The next morning, the Guildsmen came in and were horrified.

"You can't use a ladder! It's unstable!" Worse still, it was scratching the beautiful floor that the Guildsmen had built.

"It's - it's - it's... deprecated!"

"How am I going to get the ceiling painted, then?" asked Michelangelo in a panic.

"Uh, anyone could tell you: on a unicycle, of course!"

In fact, the town of Drupalo featured some of the best cycling talent in the world. From the tender age of three, the young Drupaleri would learn to ride a bicycle. By age ten, they were masters of the unicycle.

In fact, unicycling was so much a part of Drupalo, the Guildsmen couldn't fathom how Michelangelo had gotten so far in life without learning the unicycle. He must be uncoordinated or a hack, they thought. How could the Pope have given a contract to this guy?

Desperate, Michelangelo signed himself up for a crash course in unicycling. He was actually pretty good at it, and within days had worked himself up to a 1-meter unicycle. In his heart, though, he knew he could never master the 5-meter unicycle he'd need to reach the ceiling.

After a month, Michelangelo realized that his only hope lay in the Guildsmen of Drupalo. They would have to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, under his direction. They weren't anywhere near as talented as his own painters, but he found Gianstefano, a young Guildsman who showed promise of painting as well as one of his more junior apprentices.

Gianstefano would climb on his 5-meter unicycle with his paints, wheel himself into position, and apply the paints to the gesso. Michelangelo would lie on is back on the scaffolding and shout directions at Gianstefano.

It wasn't long until Gianstefano started tiring of Michelangelo's shouted commands. Now that he was a painter, Gianstefano started to wonder about some of Michelangelo's concepts.

"Dude, you've got a fully grown naked man lying down with a 12-year-old's thingie flopped to the side. That's not really manly. And then you've got this old geezer in a cloud doing the pull-my-finger thing. What's up with that?" asked Gianstefano.

By now, Michelangelo's schedule had slipped and the Sistine Chapel project was running hopelessly over budget. He had exhausted every possible favor he could with Gianstefano, and the project needed to be finished, somehow.

"Alright, do it your way," Michelangelo said wearily.

Gianstefano quickly painted an Adam and a God standing next to each other, smiling. God's hand rested on Adam's shoulder, and a buff Adam sported a pair of swim trunks. In fact, Adam looked remarkably like Michael Phelps. The result was a bit trite, but the Pope approved it.

Once Michelangelo tired of giving orders to Gianstefano, the rest of the ceiling went quickly. Michelangelo broke even on the contract, and submitted picture of the Chapel to a few awards competitions. The Chapel won a few minor awards, but most of the judges felt that the ceiling seemed a bit uninspired. Michelangelo and the Chapel were quickly forgotten.

The Guildsmen returned to Drupalo, and brought the art of unicycling to new and greater heights. Three years after the Sistine Chapel was painted, a module was released for 20-meter scaffolding.


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