Seven Questions with Developers: @swhitley

This is the latest in our weekly series Seven Questions for Developers on App.net, where we ask a different developer the same set of questions to learn a bit more about the people behind the apps. If you’d like to participate, contact @ben.

Our seventh Developer is @swhitley, who is located in San Francisco where he works as an enterprise applications developer for a global law firm.

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

swhitleyDotDot is a Windows Phone client that I created shortly after signing up for App.net.  At the time, a Windows Phone client didn’t exist, so I built one. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so after the initial release, I couldn’t stop adding and refining features.  I’ve been happy to make it available to other Windows Phone users and I have a really supportive group of people who help me with feedback and testing.

Once I feel that DotDot has reached a certain level as a client, I’d like to introduce experimental features and explore new directions. With a background in business apps, I’m thinking about opportunities in B2B or B2C communications.

In addition to DotDot, I’ve added App.net support to my open source authentication project, AuthPack, which saved me a lot of work when it was needed for the App.net Secret Santa website. I also have a WordPress plugin called ADN Profile that updates presence data via user annotations, and I’m currently updating my contact management app, Contaxio, for App.net.

What qualities make a great app?

This is a loaded question, so I’ll answer safely from my armchair. Great apps emerge through reductive design. Take away all of the non-essentials, the over-engineered additions, and the result is a great app.

What tools are important to you as a developer?

png;base64abc0ed3cf9116d7Microsoft’s Visual Studio is my primary tool for developing applications.  Although I use the pro version at work, the free version is just fine for Windows Phone development. I began my career as a COBOL developer, and I’ve worked with a number of decent development tools, but I can’t say enough positive things about the Visual Studio environment.

Why did you decide to build something on App.net?

I’d been building Twitter applications for over five years and was tired of the restrictions and general lack of respect that Twitter has been exhibiting toward its third-party developers. App.net is a refreshing take on what Twitter could have been. I love the freedom of the platform and the potential of App.net. I’ve also discovered a very supportive community here.

What got you started writing code? 

png;base64c619bd5805eb5b42I was really lucky to receive a Commodore 64 as a gift when I was a kid, but as I got older it turned into a dust magnet.  Even though I wrote several BASIC programs, I didn’t see myself as a programmer.  My first few jobs out of college involved writing, but I ended up spending more time developing clever macros and experimenting with digital images.  It took a bit, but I finally realized what I was meant to do. I love creating things with computers, and so I decided coding would become both my career and my creative outlet.

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

For anyone with even a small interest in programming, I always like to correct the myth about programming and mathematics. You don’t need to be a math whiz to be a good programmer. If you’re logical, patient, and love technology, give programming a try. For coders who have already taken the plunge, always experiment and never be afraid to fail.

When you’re not coding you’re…

Besides jabbering on App.net?  I spend a lot of time with my family.  We enjoy walking various Bay Area trails and visiting California’s incredible parks. I love to code, so any additional free time is full of other coding projects.