About Lee Daniel Crocker and etceterology.

Lowball tournament at Binion's in Las Vegas, 2010.

Lowball tournament at Binion's in Las Vegas, 2010.

I am a college dropout (math major) who spent the first twenty years of my career working as a computer programmer and playing poker in my spare time. The next ten worked at a poker room programming computers in my spare time. I am probably best known as a free software advocate and one of the primary developers of the software behind Wikipedia.

The job of a poker player is basically to be a rational human being surrounded by people who are irrational, superstitious, or just bad at math. It turns out that these skills can apply to other parts of life in unexpected ways. Etceterology is my personal blog about those insights.

I was born on Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, GA on July 3, 1963. As most military families did, we moved around the country quite a bit, but we spent most of our time at Nellis AFB in Las Vegas, NV and McClellan AFB in Sacramento, CA.

I first started using computers in the late 70s (yes, Hollerith cards and acoustic coupler teletypes) when my father was working on his Masters at the Air Force Institute of Technology. My first personal computer was an original chiclet-keyboard Commodore PET. I later got an Apple II motherboard (back when Apple sold them as bare motherboards) which I assembled in a case consisting mostly of a cardboard box.

Berkeley Free Culture Conference, 2008.

Berkeley Free Culture Conference, 2008.

I have been an active participant in the free software and free culture movements since 1988. One early project was adding features to Fractint, an MSDOS-based program for producing fractal graphics. My own recollection is that I'm the one who suggested the name "Stone Soup Group" for its authors, but I don't have any evidence of that. Like many Fractint authors, I was active on CompuServe, a popular commercial online service at the time when Internet access was restricted mostly to academics, the military, and a few hobbyists. I participated in discussions there on the creation of the GIF graphics format. I also attended the meeting at C-Cube Microsystems in Sunnyvale at which the JPEG file format was created. My interest in computer graphics led to the creation of Piclab, a command-line image processing utility documented in the book Image Lab by Tim Wegner (Waite Group Press, 1992). When I did get onto the net I named my domain "piclab.com" after this program.

I was employed for a brief and unproductive year at Microsoft, where I was working as a QA for Windows NT 3.1. My experience at Microsoft likely added to my enthusiasm as a free software advocate, and I have had a Microsoft-free home since 1996. I also do my best to avoid the other members of the free-culture axis of evil: Apple, Sony, and Disney.

In 1995, I was among the group of engineers creating the new PNG image file format. I created the line-by-line adaptive filtering compression method and the "sum-of-abs" heuristic method commonly used by programs writing PNG files. I appear as a co-author of RFC 2083. I had a brief involvement with the Freenet project in 2000.

Along with being a free software advocate, I have long been an advocate of copyright reform. David Brin mentions me briefly in this context in The Transparent Society, but there he also attributes to me opinions which I don't recall holding. A statement releasing all my creative works to the public domain has long been part of my email signature. Philosophically I am a Transhumanist, and more specifically Extropian. I spoke on the subject of transparency at the Extro 5 conference. I am politically a classical liberal, which is to say left-leaning libertarian. I was briefly the editor of a small libertarian newsletter called "Chain Breaker".

In 2001, I became an early user of Nupedia, and then Wikipedia, initially creating many of the articles related to poker, my primary hobby. When the rapid increase in popularity led to scalability problems with the software being used for the site (written by German student Magnus Manske), I redesigned the database schema and wrote a new codebase to be more efficient, though I copied the visual design and many ideas from Magnus's code. I added many new features such as a new media system for images and sounds, user emails, and a simplified language-translation system. After the software had been running on my piclab.com server for a while and tested by the community, I installed the software on what was then Wikipedia's single server, named "pliny" after Pliny the elder. I later named Wikipedia's second server "larousse", following in the historical-encyclopedists line. Today, this software (now known as Mediawiki), has been expanded by dozens of other authors to the point where there's very little of my own code left. After my software enabled it, I was the first to add sound samples to Wikipedia, in the articles for The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel.

In 2003, I left my 20-year-plus computer programming career to earn my living at the poker table. In 2013, the Phoenix Casino closed its doors, so I'm back at the keyboard working for Ansync Labs.

I can be found in other places on the web:

  • Facebook:  Where I spend most of my time.
  • Google+:  Not there full time, but will get notifications.
  • GitHub: Repository for free software projects.