Azer Koçulu
June 8th, 2024


It's been 8 years since the the left-pad incident happened. I've tried to avoid this topic but it's seen as a notable event mentioned in books, and I want to share some facts about what exactly happened.

In most of 2016, I spent almost every weekend camping in remote areas without any signal. If you're curious how I felt when making the decision to unpublish; it was a choice made during self-reflection in nature, guided by my heart.

Not driven by logic, anger, or greed.
It was a decision from my heart.

And it came from a simple principle: if NPM breaks its own rules to remove one of my packages, they should remove all of them.

Not that I'm an inflexible "rules" person — quite the opposite. The spirit behind the rules matter more than the rules themselves to me. In a different context, we could be asking NPM to take down a package without owner's permission for a "good" reason. However, in this situation, a company like Kik Messenger was just posturing and exercising power over the open source community NPM was built on, sending threats such as "we'll bang on your door" and "take down your accounts". This is the context in which NPM went against the rules they wrote themselves, to serve something they deemed "higher" than the soul of their company and the community.

I was not afraid of Kik's threats,
but NPM was afraid of losing Kik.

Many people oversimplify this event, framing it as "an angry man protested corporate interests". This narrative shows us three things; first, they didn't look at the dates of the emails. They don't understand the timeline. Second, they can't relate to standing your ground in a high pressure situation involving threats. And third, they haven't read Al-Ghazali yet, don't quite understand how (free) people make decisions.

There was nothing sudden or unexpected for NPM. I asked NPM to remove my modules, waited their response. I didn't set any deadline; NPM had the opportunity to adjust their APIs and tooling to make this transition smooth. Interestingly, they chose to provide me a script that removes all my packages at once. On the NPM side, I observed general condescending attitude towards developers, which led them make series of unreasonable decisions and ultimately blame me for all the cost.

Most of my open source work followed Unix philosophy, so the packages did one thing at a time. There was 350+ of them. In the surface, it looked like nobody used them. NPM didn't show usage stats, and there was almost no activity on Github. As a user, it was impossible to know the impact of unpublishing packages; but I still don't understand why NPM didn't take the time to find out if any of my modules were widely used and consider ways to handle the unpublishing without breaking anything.

8 Years Later

Several months after the left-pad incident, I quit my job and left US permanently, spent a year in Morocco, Jordan, Türkiye and Indonesia. I walked trails like Lycian Way, found new camping spots nobody knows about.

Left-pad was like a "death" and "re-birth" moment for me. It marked a significant point in my life timeline. Now, I'm passionate about business, marketing, running companies / teams in different ways, as much as I'm about programming.

I hope this post provides more factual information and some personal perspective about the left-pad incident.

Thanks for reading.