Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in web development.
What are some of your favorite sites that you have in your rss feed?
I like to keep up-to-date on science and technology. Actually, I read the science news at least six days a week. Physorg, Technology Review, and New Scientist are my favorites. Keeping on top of the news helps you discern patterns and identify trends, both of which are incredibly helpful for your career. I also visit design sites every once in a while. The CSS Awards, Best Web Gallery, and The FWA are all great.
Which technologies are you not proficient at; that you’d like to improve on?
One of the amazing (and frustrating) things about technology is that it doesn’t stop moving forward. It’s a constant unfolding not only of what we know, but what we don’t know. Every day, I learn a few new things and develop even more questions. That’s a good thing because it makes my job exciting. To answer concretely, however, I’m actively working to learn new and varied programming languages and paradigms. Learning to think in different ways helps make you a more well-rounded developer.
Are you self taught or did you study development?
I am completely self-taught. I was working in New York in communications and decided that I wanted to be an Interactive Designer. I was living in New Jersey at the time, so I got a laptop and sat on the train every commute pouring over books. In a few months I learned Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere Pro, and Flash. That’s when I learned to love programming. I wanted to do more with Flash and that meant learning Actionscript. I haven’t looked back since.
What type of work do you do to stay creative? Can you provide a pic?
Why Development as a career? What were your inspirations for that profession?
Developers are rated among the most content workers. We get to define and solve problems. And, usually, we get to do it in our own way. Employers are more likely to keep our tools up-to-date and give us resources to keep our skills current. Even in the midst of a recession there are more IT jobs than qualified people to fill them. So, there are a lot of objective reasons to get into development. My inspiration for choosing this profession is simple—I get to take my ideas and turn them into tangible, useful results.
Do you do more front end or back end web development?
How many years have you been in the field, and how has the field changed during that time?
Can you describe a day in your working life?
We usually work in cycles and my work varies depending on where we’re at in the cycle. Sometimes we are in the midst of building a new feature so all of our work is aimed at getting that done. That usually means more intense, directed work. Other times, when we’re between features things are more laid-back. We fix bugs or research for future features. It’s a great pace because it means we can get excited about doing new work and once it’s done, we have some downtime to recuperate.
What does your workspace look like?
I prefer to work from home where computers outnumber humans 5 to 1. It’s usually a pretty big mess with books and computer parts laying everywhere. You start out thinking, “I’m going to put this router on the floor now, later I’ll untangle the cables and put it somewhere safer.” Then, after it’s sat there for nine months you think, “Maybe the router belongs on the floor.” It’s a cliché about developers, like Dennis in Jurassic Park, but it’s usually true.
What one piece of advice would you give to an aspiring web developer just starting out?
Make sure you love what you do. Intellectually demanding work takes passion. If you feel that you’re no longer interested in what you’re doing find a way to change jobs or even fields. If you’re passionate about your work it will be obvious to everyone. You’ll never want for a job.
Mac or PC, why?
I use Linux. It’s powerful, secure, and free. It also has a massive repository of free software. That means I can design and develop an incredibly complex project with zero investment. It’s also experiencing a huge popularity upsurge with smart phones and tablets increasingly using Android—built on top of Linux.
What is your favorite type of work? And, what has been your favorite project? Can you provide a pic?
I love working on teams where there is a certain controlled collective effervescence. Being able to discuss problems, find solutions, and celebrate successes with others is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. It makes the work exciting and you often perform better than you thought you could. Recently, I’ve been working with an international team on a project called Thimbl. It is a distributed micro-blogging platform which means no one can control or own your personal data. It’s been a lot of fun thus far.
What design tools do you use? Which tools would you suggest to fellow designers/developers?
I prefer to use free, open-source tools. For design, Inkscape is a great vector editor. It lets you output SVG images so you get true vector images in the browser. It’s free and available for every operating system. Gimp is a pixel editor with all sorts of plug-ins. It’s also free for every operating system. For development, I use Eclipse IDE. It supports nearly every language you could possibly want to program with.
What are some of the design and development blogs you read on a regular basis, why?
Web Designer Wall, Nettuts, and iA are good. Stackoverflow is a cool site for asking and answering questions about design and development. I also read the professional magazines JS Mag and PHP Architect.
What can students who take you class expect?
My aim is always to teach students the foundational theory behind what they’re learning. You just can’t learn everything there is to know about these subjects in one semester. But, if you can grasp the theory behind the technology and know where to go for further information, you can begin doing good work immediately. Experience then deepens your knowledge. That’s why I take an application-oriented approach to teaching. We’ll start out by asking “what is a program supposed to do?” “what is Flash?” “how does HTML work.” Then, we’ll learn the specifics of each technology—how to design for the web, how to query a database, etc. We’ll put that knowledge to use by building real applications that students can show off immediately.
Anthony Shull will be teaching CE 9555 Digital Short Course – Adobe Flash Fundamentals, CE 2416 Server-Side Web Development with PHP + MySQL and CE 2413 Web Design II during the spring 2011 Continuing Education semester.