Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

FOWA pre-interview: Tim Bray

By Simon Willison, Program Chair, Developer Track

Tim Bray is the Director of Web Technologies at Sun Microsystems. He has a long history of involvement with technology standards, including co-editing the XML 1.0 specification and more recently co-chairing the IETF Atompub Working Group. Tim will be presenting the morning keynote on Friday the 10th of October.

Your keynote is titled “The Fear Factor: What to be Frightened of in Building A Web Application”. Can you give us a few hints?

Based on the events of the last week, we may be called upon to get useful work done without any capital investment for infrastructure. Seems scary to me. The other front-of-mind worry is the yawning disconnect between the way enterprise software development is done and the best practices emerging in the Web2.0 and OSS spaces.

Are there any skills a web programmer should be developing now that will better prepare them for the next few years?

Most obviously, don’t be “an X developer” for any value of X, whether it’s Java or .NET or PHP or Rails. A command of more than one technology makes you more employable and also deepens your understanding of each individual one.

You’ve long been a champion of developing with multi-core systems in mind, but parallel computing is still too complicated for many developers. Are there any silver bullets on the horizon, or are we all going to have to hunker down and learn Erlang?

No silver bullets. For conventional shared-nothing web deployments we’re in pretty good shape, but compute-intensive and communication-intensive programming is getting tougher and tougher.

What’s the most interesting new idea you’ve seen in the field of web development in the past year?

New database architectures: CouchDB and friends.

PHP is the web programming language that refuses to die. What will it take for an alternative such as Ruby or Python to rival it in popularity?

PHP has sufficient deployed base that it’s never going away. Plus some truly great apps, like WordPress and MediaWiki, are written in it. On the other hand, for new app development, I think things like Django and Rails, with better maintainability stories, are already stealing market share fast.

Are there any emerging web technologies you think don’t get enough publicity? Any hidden gems?

Well, I spent the last few years of my life working on AtomPub and I think it’s a real winner, but it’s catching on pretty well so I wouldn’t say it’s “hidden”.

What’s the one piece of open source software that you really wish someone would write?

A library or framework to make concurrency easy in high-level languages like Ruby or Python.

Speaker Spotlight: Jon Aizen (Dapper)

By Mel Kirk

Sorry that it’s been a while since we updated our speaker interviews, sign ups have gone nuts, so it’s been slightly frantic…. forgive us?

So, next in the line-up of speakers to give us an insight to their lives is Jon Aizen of Dapper.

Jon Aizen

Let the interrogation begin…

1. What did you want to be when you grew up? (ie. did you ever think you’d end up doing what you’re doing now)

At first I wanted to be a commercial airline pilot. I collected “wings” from every flight I took and always made a point of visiting the cockpit.

By the time I was nine though, I had started programming and dreamed of leading a company that would make an impact on the world using technology. So, yeah, I guess I saw the road ahead at an early age, though I never knew it would be this fun.

2. What’s a typical day in the working life of Jon?

There’s a lot of variety in each day. I spend much of the day working with the team, making architectural coding decisions, thinking about Dapper’s future, and planning our next steps. Eran and I spend a lot of time talking, synthesizing the ideas around us, meeting with potential and existing partners, and developing new business related features.

I get up early and catch up with what the rest of the world did while I was asleep, head into the villa, and spend most of the day with the team (and some time on the exercise machine and the bicycles).

3. What’s the best thing about working in the web industry?

That everything is evolving so quickly. I love the fact that the web is so widely used, but is still so young. We are seeing business models evolve every day. Almost nothing stays constant, and being on the cutting edge is a thrill.

4. And the worst?!

It can be hard to sift through the hype and see past this week’s fad. It is sometimes hard to decipher if something is a trend of it will be long-lived. This makes business decisions more difficult.

5. In terms of technologies, what do you think is really exciting right now that could have a big impact on the future of web apps?

I think web-services (XML, RSS, REST, etc.) have dramatic potential to change the way we use and consume the web, from our computers, hand-helds, and other devices. Making content portable and disentangling content from its presentation will enable non-developers to realize their creativity in new ways.

6. Whose work do you admire?
Brewster Kahle’s work with archive.org has had a big impact on me. His never-ending desire to leave something meaningful behind for our children’s children has inspired me to do the same.

7. Clean or messy desk?

Mostly clean. See photo.

Jon Aizen’s Desk

(Jon, hate to say it, but I think that’s actually a guy’s version of tidy!)

8. Beer or wine?

Beer. I love Anchor Steam, Boont, La Chouffe, Leffe, and many others
.
9. Mac or PC?

Mac

10. Do you have a secret talent?

I am bilingual (English and Hebrew), am conversational in French and Spanish, and can get by in many other Asian and European languages

Don’t miss Jon’s presentation. He will be presenting with Eran Shir on “Practical Semantic Web” at 14.05pm on 4th October on the developer stage.

Speaker Spotlight: Daniel Waterhouse (3i)

Continuing with our series of FOWA Expo speaker interviews, we take a look at Daniel Waterhouse of 3i…

Daniel Waterhouse

1. What did you want to be when you grew up? (ie. did you ever think you’d end up doing what you’re doing now?)

A. I did not imagine I would end up doing a job where I spend most of my time asking people what they want to do when they grow up!

2. What’s a typical day in the working life of Daniel?

A. There isn’t one. Only common thing is my head hurts a lot and my mind cannot keep up with the wild number of different things that happen each day.

3. What’s the best thing about working in the web industry?

A. Having to mess about with websites and pretending it is work – really tough checking out what is happening in the online dating industry

4. And the worst?!

A. The results from checking out what is happening in the online dating industry

5. In terms of technologies, what do you think is really exciting right now that could have a big impact on the future of web apps?

A. Semantic web technologies, silverlight/AIR

6. Whose work do you admire?

A. All of the successful entrepreneurs I meet – unbelievable

7. Messy desk or clean desk?

A. Er, clean

8. Beer or wine?

A. Both please

9. Mac or PC?

A. PC – all credibility destroyed I know

10. Do you have a secret talent?

A. Yes – but I’m not telling until after we get through Q8

Speaker Spotlight: Michael Kowalski of Kitsite

With so many speakers on the line-up, we wanted to give you all a chance to get to know them a bit better. We’re not talking about their professional biographies, but more along the lines of what makes them tick, what they enjoy about the web industry, what they drink and even how messy their desks are.

We’re planning to give you an insight to one speaker each week, so where better place to start than with…

Michael Kowalski of Kitsite

Michael Kowalski of Kitsite

Q1. What did you want to be when you grew up? (ie. did you ever think you’d end up doing what you’re doing now)

A. Astronaut or writer. No, astronaut AND writer – the first space-poet. What I’m doing now didn’t really exist.

Q2. What’s a typical day in the working life of Michael?

A. 7am start, coffee, walk daughter to school, squeeze onto the tube, coffee at Monmouth in Borough Market (plug: best coffee in London), a reflective hour before the rest of the team straggle in, then a long surge of work/talk/IM/research/coffee/facebook/doodling/email (interrupted – on a good day – by a nap on the sofa) till 6, then home again, dinner, read bedtime story, bit more work till 11, open a bottle of wine with my girlfriend, crash some time after midnight.

I’m functionally a workaholic.

Q3. What’s the best thing about working in the web industry?

A. Terra incognita. There’s always a new frontier, not just in technology but also in ways of working.

Q4. And the worst?!

A. The democratising power of the web has given a voice to mass stupidity.

Q5. In terms of technologies, what do you think is really exciting right now that could have a big impact on the future of web apps?

A. Facebook Platform is an intriguing pointer to how application aggregation might finally work, if not quite there yet. The iPhone is interesting too.

Q6. Whose work do you admire?

A. I admire Steve Jobs, warts and all. I like his ruthless, even shark-like, perfectionism.

Q7. Messy desk or clean desk?

MICHAEL KOWALSKI DESK

A. This is what it looks like this morning, but it’s not usually quite this messy. It’s a cyclic thing. There’s a framed portrait of JG Ballard hanging above my desk – a present from the Guardian. Visitors usually assume it’s my father, which I find weird.

Q8. Beer or wine?

A. Wine.

Q9. Mac or PC?

A. Mac. Got a PC too, but use it with gritted teeth.

Q10. Do you have a secret talent?

A. Yes. But everyone knows you should never give away your secret identity, unless it’s necessary to save the city or something.