Seven Questions for Developers: @simon_w

This is the latest in our weekly series Seven Questions for Developers on, where we ask a different developer the same set of questions to learn a bit more about the people behind the apps. 

Our fourth Developer is @simon_w, who “hails from The Middle of Middle Earth – a.k.a Wellington, New Zealand” – where he works for a startup called PocketRent. He has just completed his Bachelors of Science with honors in computer science and math from Victoria University of Wellington.


Tell us about your app. What are you looking to accomplish with it?

TreeView started as a way to view threads so that you could follow the replies, rather than having a flat representation and guessing which post in the thread is being replied to. Since then, it’s grown to include the global, personal and mentions stream, as well as showing your interactions.

I’m using TreeView as a sort of playground for me to try out the API and new ideas I have. As a part of this, I’m looking into making it a fully-fledged web app.

I also have some other ideas for things I would like to try building on top of the API, though those are going to have to wait until the new year.


What qualities make a great app?

For me, a great app is one that you can learn the basics of really easily and then pick up the more advance features as you go along. It also needs to be able to fit into your workflow with little effort, rather than requiring you to restructure how you work to be able to use it. This also means that an app is great sometimes, and for some people, but not others.

It also has to feel polished (developers: hire a designer. Seriously.) and do what it’s designed to do. A lack of bloat is a plus.


What tools are important to you as a developer?

A whiteboard and a music collection I enjoy listening to. The actual tools I use are less important (my editor has changed three or four times in about as many years) as being able to plan something without having (much) of a space limitation and then having something to help zone out background noise so I can concentrate on my code. I also have a couple of notebooks for going into more details with my ideas and for doing some planning while bussing places.

Beyond those, I just need a system I’m familiar with. Currently, that’s a Mac with Sublime Text 2 for PHP projects; Xcode for Objective-C and C projects; Terminal for deployment, server setup and monitoring, and VCS usage; Sequel Pro for MySQL-backed projects; and SVN as my predominant VCS.


Why did you decide to build something on

The API looked interesting and was rapidly developing. I wanted to see how nice it was to work with (turns out it’s great) and use it as a way to try out some newer technologies.


What got you started writing code? 

Back in primary school, my teacher introduced me to Frontpage and a website creating competition. I quickly discovered that just using HTML was rather boring, so I taught myself PHP so that I could have more fun.


Any advice for aspiring developers (all the young coders out there)?

Try out different languages and frameworks so that you can pick the best one for the job, rather than being stuck with just a single language. Try to include different types of languages too, i.e. a functional language, an imperative one, an object-oriented one.


When you’re not coding you’re…

Until a couple of weeks ago, I was working on whatever my uni courses gave me. Now, I’m recovering from that by zoning out in front of a movie, or curling up with a decent book. I help run a local youth group each Friday, and I’m trying to get back into gaming after having almost no time for it. Since almost all of my down time is spent coding, I’m also looking into trying out new things so I can diversify my lifestyle more.