Hackathon Interviews: Jesse and Chad


Published on April 6, 2007 at 10:59 AM EST
In the Discussions category.

Sort of like the poetry readings at coffee houses, we have interviews at the EDSMT cafe.

While at the Hackathon a few weeks ago I had an opportunity to interview a few of the people there. Below is an interview with Jesse Gardner of PlasticMind Design and Chad Everett of Everitz Consulting. Jesse might be best known from his work on The Style Archive, and Chad from his MT-Notifier plugin.

I intended to try to make podcasts out of these, but the audio as absolutely horrid. Barely intelligible in many places, in fact! So, I transcribed them.

Dan: Tell us what you did today. Jesse?

Jesse: I don’t think I want to! Can I tell you what I was supposed to do today?

Dan:
Sure, go for it.

Jesse: I was supposed to be working on some of the default templates for Athena: going through and making sure the HTML was kosher and making sure the CSS is as lean and mean as it ought to be… and hopefully there’s still a little bit of time to accomplish that today.

The problem is I’ve been trying to set up a local install of [Movable Type and a web server] so I can work through it, and needless to say I’ve been unsuccessful!

Dan: Alright, so we can count on you for nothing!

Jesse:
Absolutely. Well, I’m almost finished with an icon for Notifier.

Chad: Woo-hoo!

Jesse: So obviously that’s made Chad happy.

Dan: Chad you finished a plugin today?

Chad: Sort of. I have a nagging issue with Notifier. I found a bug with the help of Byrne where if you set a certain value in the plugin, Movable Type will always ignore it. I’ve had to set that aside because there’s nothing I can do about that right now.

Dave had a request for sorting categories. And so I put a plugin together—it’s not done yet—but it may work well enough for the time being. It probably could use a little more work, though. Maybe I’ll try to do a little more with that in the next hour or so.

Jesse: Show off!

Dan: Right! I know I didn’t do anything today. I brought cookies, that was the extent of my progress! Chad, do you have other plugins you’re known for?

Chad: I just recently completed the oddly-named MT-SPA plugin, or “Snap! Preview Anywhere.”

Jesse: Oh, that wonderful thing! Like MT-Mudbath!?

Chad: No, that’s the follow-up!

Jesse: Next will come MT-Massage. It’s a whole wellness and well-being holistic healing suite for Movable Type!

Chad: The Snap! Preview Anywhere works when you hover your mouse over a link and it’ll show you a little pop-up window. The plugin allows you to easily integrate that to your Movable Type blog.

One of my oldest plugins is MT-SomeDays. In fact Su just showed me a project he’s doing that uses it. A calendar with events, I think. He said he probably couldn’t have done that otherwise.

Dan: Jesse, you’re mostly a design guy, right?

Jesse: Mmm-hmm. Yes. That’s why I didn’t ask many questions in [the Hackathon war room], I didn’t want to be ridiculed.

Dan: I take it then that you bounce around creating a lot of different designs then. Do you get into MT’s backend at all?

Jesse: Yeah, believe it or not, I do a lot of work with smaller businesses, which need it. I’m really pragmatic—that’s why I always ask for the “best practices” list—because I’m sure if I’d show off any of my work you’d say “you did that!?” So yeah, I set up a lot of stuff on the backend, and that’s why I like RightFields, ‘cuz I’m all about the user experience.

Dan: I appreciate that point of view, let me tell ya!

Jesse: I think it’s easy to overlook that fact, that a lot of the people using the software aren’t the same as the people sitting in the Hackathon room, hacking away.

Dan: My point of view isn’t even “how advanced are you?” It really comes down to “how hard are you going to make me work to do this?” Adding just one extra step is… dreaded. I hate it!

Jesse: If you can make something easier without limiting functionality, then that’s great. RightField’s lets me do that. For example, I had a client who had a typical blog, but they had a picture at the top of every post. That was their format. So I used RightFields so they could simply upload it along with Brad’s old plugin [MTEmbedImage] to create a thumbnail, so the whole process is automated: They just pick an image to upload, the thumbnail is automatically generated, and they’re done. It makes the whole process painless.

Dan: That’s definitely an improvement to the user experience! Notifier is much the same way in that regard: if I don’t have to go back to a post to see the next comment, that’s a great improvement to the user experience. Chad, was that a driving idea when you create Notifier?

Chad: Originally, someone just asked if something like that could be developed… it was ScriptyGoddess. She had a PHP-based “subscribe to comments,” and so I just kept hacking features on and trimming it down and making it work a little better. There’s a new version on the way, I’ve just got to put the finishing touches on it. The new version has integrated MT’s junk filters and an integrated management tool, so that’s at least two new worthwhile features. I just have to get all of the documentation done—that was one of the things on my list for today, and it just didn’t make it.

Dan: Thinking about design and all the work that has to go into that, Jesse, the default Movable Type installation is pretty plain and simple. So let’s imagine I’ve just set something up here and I’ve got that blue set of template pages. I know you can’t help me write any content, but those blue pages are driving me nuts. Can you help by recommending what I could do to spruce that up a bit, and maybe differentiate myself?

Jesse: There are two big things you can do. First of all, you can go use Arvind’s Style Generator where you can go out and change the colors and columns and stuff like that. It’s basic in what it can do, but it’s still a good tool.

The other thing you can do is use the Style Catcher plugin—it’s a part of later versions of MT, or you can download it. With the Style Catcher you can go out to thestylearchive.com, and their is at least 150 styles out there that you can point the Style Catcher to the URL of any theme—it’ll download and install it for you. So that’s a good way to jump to a new design.

Chad: And the best part is, it’ll backup all of your templates for you before it does that.

Dan: Let’s shift gears a bit here. Biggest mistake in the ’80s?

Chad: Oh, probably parachute pants.

Dan: Was that an occasional thing, or every day?

Chad: Oh, every day!

Jesse: I think it’s a toss-up between the comb-over and Jams. Remember Jams? The shorts with the different crazy patterns and colors.

Chad: We’re trying to make up for it now.

Jesse: The square sock ties—those were pretty bad. There were quite a few big mistakes back then. Pretty much all of the music of the ’80s. Except the electric guitar solos, those were great. I miss those.

Dan: Alright, before you embarrass yourselves further, I’m going to stop you now. Thanks, guys.