My long-term career goal is to become a system architect, while still writing code.
My even more long term goal (some twenty or thirty years off) is to retire with Kristin to a woodworking shop on a farm we'll buy near my family cottage. There I'll spend my days happily building wood sculptures and Gothic follies, while remodelling the landscape into Escher-inspired optical illusions.
At the beginning of 2004, I joined a social networking startup. It went through a variety of
names, including "MMIM Networks" and "Social Streams". Social networking is a neat idea.
Each user is provided an online area in which they can list their friends and create one or more
profiles describing themselves. When their friends also create lists of friends, each person
can see all their friends' friends and friends' friends' friends, and so on until you have a
really huge network of people.
The problem is, the first crop of social networking systems were passive, in the same way that an address book is passive. Here are all these people; you can see their profile information and how they're related to you via common acquaintances, but you can't interact with them.
MMIM created tools for interacting with the people in one's social network. Various modes of interaction were proposed and a bunch of code was written, both on the web (PHP/MySQL) and in a Windows client application (C++/MFC). At one point there was a somewhat functioning prototype.
Although there were some promising ideas, the company failed to attract financing soon enough to keep the team together, and most of the people involved went their separate ways. I hear the founder is still exploring what might be done to move the idea forward.
Although I thought the interactive tools approach was a good one, I was also interested in giving users a richer vocabulary for describing their social network. What does it mean to be someone's buddy? If you have a rich set of tools for describing the your relationships with people, it becomes easier to create interactive tools
My wife, we were married at my family's cottage on 16 August 2003. She's a computer science student at the University of Toronto.
A pleasant five month contract in the spring and summer of 2003, which I spent learning about the Jakarta Struts framework and producing JSP's. Special thanks to Jamie Macdonald and Vadim Harpetyan for a good time.
Transend (sic) wanted to provide an automated online billing process for companies that still mail out paper bills in this, the 21st century. One of the founders was a friend, William Hogan, who had the whole problem mapped out. Unlike a lot of geeks, William was savvy enough to have come up with a solution deploying interlocking technical solutions and corporate relationships. I'm convinced his approach would have worked, had it not been for the inability of the other partners to: get a business plan together; show up for work; raise cash; answer their 'phones... Ah well. One of these days William is going to conquer the world!
Like Hotline, this project was ideologically attractive: the idea was to provide a tunnelling network through which anyone who wanted to surf the web anonymously could do so. This would free both dissidents oppressed by hostile regimes and workers groaning under repressive surfing policies at work.
Went to the 1999 and 2000 Burning Man parties in the Nevada desert.
Although many are bitter about this company and its more-than-usually dramatic flameout, I quite enjoyed my time there. Many of the people around me were having to deal first-hand with the scheduling craziness inherent in creating a product without a design, but I was happy crafting visual widgets and a multifont, multistyle word processor that was used for labels and window titles as well as the text boxes in chat rooms and the mail composer.
The best thing about Hotline was the large number of skilled and interesting people they employed, including Dave Smith, Mike Daum, Yanick Dufresne, Kent Wong, Jeff Hill and Terry Gregory. I still go rock climbing regularly with Terry.
Working at Hotline was also a way to participate in one of the big ideological debates of our time, about the ownership of creative works. Although I never entirely bought into the "property is stealing" / "information wants to be free" beliefs of many of Hotline's user community, I do think copyright law has gotten out of control.
Although this particular company failed, the increasing power and storage capacity of people's desktop computers is going to make pirating movies and all smaller creative works fairly easy. Digital Rights Management software is going to be difficult to make work in the open computing environments that are becoming increasingly popular. Sure, Microsoft can impose DRM on the world for a while, but I think the tide is finally starting to turn on Microsoft. It's a pleasant thought, anyway.
Six and a half fun years. In my first few years at G&G I wrote much of the
Macintosh user interface for three versions of 'Amicus Attorney', a legal productivity package.
My manager was Mike Parsons.
Tom White contributed a couple of modules to the Mac version before moving over to the
Windows team. The head of QA was Joel Roff, who eventually followed me to Hotline.
In the latter part of my time at G&G I took over the cross-platform database layer when Vic Kulikauskas left to go to RIM. This was the first point at which my job started to take on an architectural dimension.
Some other fun people from G&G: Libby Telford, Radu Constantinescu, Matt Mazur
For a look at Amicus Attorney's user interface see here.
Founded by Peter Penev and Aina Tilups, this intrepid troupe brings together recreational rock climbers with professional and amateur dancers. The company has put on an average of a show a year since 1993, when the first show which was staged at Joe Rockhead's climbing gym. Although we didn't start dating until much later, this was where I met Kristin.
This was my first job after graduation, and a fascinating introduction to the social aspect of programming. I reported directly to David Holgate, who had founded the business with a couple of other people a couple of years earlier. The idea of using software to sell software was still pretty radical back in 1992, and Dave had a number of ideas that were before their time. In particular, he wanted to store information on as much of the software on the market as possible, then give customers the tools to find what they wanted. In the beginning, customers could call, describe their needs and one of our salespeople would do the search for them, but Dave wanted to put the search capability as close to the customer as possible. This was before the web came into wide use, so custom solutions had to be created.
One original idea was to allow users to dial in and test drive software already installed on our machines. For big clients we installed an SQLWindows application that gave buyers the ability to search our database directly.
Although most customers ended up buying stuff from the top hundred or so vendors, the wide choice and cutting edge solutions gave SoftChoice geek appeal.
After university, my life became much more interesting.
Paul, Rodney Litigio, Joey deVilla
While I was in high school at Northern, I studied Karate for three years with my mother at the Toronto Academy of Karate and Judo. My geekiness was already well advanced by this stage, so Karate provided a positive balance for my otherwise sedentary habits, improving my posture, self-confidence and general health. In this period I became mildly interested in Japanese culture, developing a taste for sushi, reading and re-reading James Clavell's far East novels, and generally approving of Japanese aesthetics, architecture and philosophy.
My folks took my brother Hamish and me on family trips to Barbados, St Lucia, Eastern and Western Canada, around the Great Lakes, Venice and Northern Italy, Switzerland, the USSR (Kiev, Moscow, Leningrad), Sweden, and Kenya.
Gordon Holmes, Alan Choi, Bill Liu, Daniel Copeland
Significant teachers: Hall, Tinning, Westwood
William Woolrich, Kevin Elhart, Aman Patel, Stephen Marsh
Significant teachers: Dawson, Elkington
Largely spent staring at dust motes floating in sun beams. Remaining time was spent playing with Lego.
Born 28 July 1968