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make prs, not war

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Everyday we’re faced with a choice – some glaringly obvious, others more subtle. The choice to give, or to take, is something that I believe is deeply rooted in each of us, and choosing to give, to contribute no matter how big or small, almost always ends up bigger than ourselves.

Imagined by us, and illustrated by the amazingly talented @christidutoit, I’m excited to show you “make pr’s, not war” – our 2024 SensePost artwork.

artwork, but from the other side

I want to tell you a little about the idea and symbolism if you’ll indulge me. I promise I’ll try and keep it short.

The yearly artwork at SensePost has always been something that I’ve looked forward to. There have been some truly amazing works put out, each with significant symbolism and meaning. It’s always been something we can relate to and be immensely proud of as the Plak.

This year however, was different for me. I got to see the other side of how these ideas come to life. Optimism quickly turned into anxiety when I realised that whatever idea, symbolism, style comes out this year, it’s on me. Prior work did not help either. How do you top “JASH“, “Rooted” and others? With almost an anti-climax, I think I realised how: you don’t. They each have their place; their purpose; their symbolism and style. There is nothing to compete against. They were true and honest – from the heart. And that is what this year’s art is too. From my heart (almost literally).

your contributions, today

In November 2023, I delivered a keynote at 0xcon as a call to arms for all of us to get involved, and contribute at large. That talk was hard to build for many possibly not-so-obvious reasons; the hardest being that I realised that you need to put yourself into an almost uncomfortably vulnerable position to be honest and sincere about your convictions, from the heart. Mine being that if we simply continue consuming like we have been, nothing good will come of this.

Thankfully, many people already are contributing in various ways, and celebrating those contributions is worthwhile. It was one such celebration that formed the idea for this year’s art. I had made some commits to the amazing Project Discovery Nuclei, to support issue reporting to more version control systems, when @shifttymike made this comment: “Make PRs, not war”.

It was fitting. The world is an angry place sometimes, and only getting more violent, and this comment stuck with me for some time. Coupling that with my belief that giving back more than you take is a moral imperative for each human being who can, is what ultimately resulted in this year’s art coming to life.

the brief

One of the many things I learnt from this process was how hard getting what’s going on in your mind onto paper for another person to read can be. Writing, it’s oft been remarked, *is* thinking. We’ve all experienced it, but it seems harder when you *feel* quite strongly about it. Combining a fairly verbose brief (which itself felt like it took 1000 iterations), with ChatGPT Dalle3 generated ideas, I got the following extract together for Christi to work with:

Every day, we are challenged with the decision to either contribute to or take from society. Contributions take many forms; from writing code to spending time with someone to show them something new. It is obviously virtuous to want to contribute and many will signal this, but being merely cognisant of this is not enough to make any meaningful impact. It is arguably worse than being honest about not doing anything, but at the same time we all are and have struggled to live up to the task. There are many reasons not to contribute, and that will always be the easiest way out. Instead, the challenge to contribute, to make your contribution, is a true form of joy and self-discovery. It builds us as people, as an industry and ultimately as society.

Make love, not war (and by extension, make Peace, not War), has a long history of counterculture from the 60’s effectively protesting war (the Vietnam war at the time) with many people trying to claim themselves being the inventor of the phrase. Regardless of this, a re-imagination of the phrase as “Make PR’s, not War” is symbolism of the message that we should be contributing (via Pull Requests as a metaphor for contributions), while also living in a time where there are violent conflicts going on in North Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. 


To symbolise the above message, the following key elements could help with that. Each includes a description and intention of each.

  • A heart as the centrepiece. As a core part of being human, together with the idea that contributions can have a profound impact on other humans around us, the image should ideally be centred around a heart. We are a technology company, filled with hackers, meaning a heart filled with electronic elements and geeky references to it would be best. The overall message is something I believe is deeply rooted in us as humans. A classic “good” vs “bad” message is often something that comes from deep within. The use of a heart serves as a reminder that the best way for you to discover where and what you can contribute is to search deep within yourself (your heart). At the same time, strong, meaningful contributions can affect others around you in a significant way, beyond surface level interactions, but something that can through the heart.
  • The heart should be divided into two distinct parts. A “good” (make PRs) part, and a bad (not war) part. This should symbolise the contrast between the two ideas of contributing or taking. Ideally, the bad part should be a smaller ratio to the good part. Both parts need to flow freely between each other. This could, for example, be done with some wires flowing between the two sides/chambers.
  • The good side should symbolise a world where we all contribute, how we flourish not only as an industry, but as humanity as a whole. This side should have symbols well known by people in the industry. Programming language logos, hacker tool logos, etc.
  • The bad side should symbolise a desolate, “each to their own”, isolated world should we choose to ignore the call to contribution. This part is not meant to be a horror piece. Elements making it “creepy” is ok, but there is no need for monsters or anything like that.
  • A “human element”. The mock-ups have this as the young leaf now. The intention here is to symbolise that we each have this choice to make, both from an early age, but also daily in which side we’re going to operate in. This part of the symbolism is the least clear to me. 

The “Feeling”

When seen for the first time, my hope is that a person would:

  • Think about why the heart. Realise that this is something deeply engrained in being human.
  • Read the “Make PR’s, not War”, and interpret it as “Make Peace, not War”. Experience it as a contextualised call to action for our industry.
  • Consider the choices. Do I contribute, or do I take? It looks like if I contribute the outcome is more desirable. How can I do that?
  • Realise that we might be in the technology industry, but consider that contributions come in many ways, and span far beyond writing code.

Together with the brief, I sent along the following AI generated images to help portray the idea.

The design phase with Christi was great, and we had quite a few concepts to work with in no time.

I hope you enjoy this art as much as I did the process of making it come to life.

Make PR’s. Not War.