Our latest Big Nerd of the Month is a brilliant guy, a prolific speaker (perhaps you saw his closing keynote at RubyConf India?) and an open-source expert. We are incredibly proud to name Andy Lindeman Big Nerd of the Month for July 2013.
BNR Blog: Hi Andy! Congratulations on being named Big Nerd of the Month. How does it feel to hold the coveted (and highly decorated) trophy?
AL: I’m honored and also humbled. I admire the folks who have received it before me, and I also know there are many others at Big Nerd Ranch who are deserving.
BNR Blog: How did you come by employment at Big Nerd Ranch?
AL: I came to Big Nerd Ranch when Big Nerd Ranch and Highgroove Studios merged last year. I joined Highgroove two and a half years ago when it was comprised of only around five people. I wanted to work for a smaller company building web applications with cutting-edge technology. It was a really good choice: I’ve gotten to work on some very interesting problems with some very smart people.
BNR Blog: We’re all nerds here, so what’s the nerdiest thing you’ve ever done?
AL: At Big Nerd Ranch, we can unlock our office doors with an app on our phones. The initial version was built by a team of us in a few hours during a Hack Night. While the app has since been improved, I was simultaneously proud of and horrified by the Rube Goldberg machine we created that first evening.
A Mac Mini in the office ran a small Ruby web server that, when a valid “open door” request was received, wrote a byte of data to a serial port connected to an Arduino. This byte of data prompted the Arduino to set a pin high that in turn prompted a disassembled remote to actually unlock the door. On that Hack Night, though, we were not able to coordinate with our administrators to allow requests into our network. As a temporary solution, I set up a persistent reverse SSH tunnel through a Raspberry Pi in my own living room. For a few days, some of us opened the door by proxying through this device.
BNR Blog: That is definitely a high level of nerdiness. We heard about your recent 5k run at RubyConf India. I’ve seen the pictures, and it looks like a lot of people ran it! What’s up with the 5k at a conference? Is it a tradition or a new trend?
AL: Many conferences, especially those in the Ruby community, are holding runs alongside the conferences. I think it’s a great idea. In India, I got to see other parts of the city and make new acquaintances. Exercising in the morning is also a nice way to get energized for a day of learning and meeting new people.
BNR Blog: It must have been really exhilarating to see India that way. I guess it’s safe to say you’re a runner?
AL: I am! I try to get out for a few miles a few times a week. For me, it relieves tension and allows me to catch up on news, politics and technology when I listen to podcasts.
I was teased (in a friendly way) when I first started at Highgroove because pretty much everyone else was into cycling.
Big Nerd Ranch still has lots of bicyclists, but there is now a growing subset of runners. I usually run with other Nerds at 6 p.m. on Wednesdays starting from our office in Inman Park. It’s open to those outside Big Nerd Ranch, too.
BNR Blog: Very cool. I may have to join in one Wednesday. Other than running, what do you do when you’re not writing code?
AL: Running is what I do most regularly. I also enjoy backpacking and have hiked segments of the Appalachian Trail and other wilderness areas in Alabama and Georgia. Pine Mountain Trail is a favorite of mine in Georgia.
I also enjoy reading, normally science fiction or technothrillers (think Michael Crichton or Orson Scott Card).
BNR Blog: What advice do you have for developers who are looking to expand their knowledge and help out others in the developer community?
AL: Getting involved with open source is the best way I know. Open-source software drives a huge amount of the software we write in the Ruby community.
Open source is also a lot of fun. I meet and interact with people from diverse backgrounds and learn from some of the best minds. Some open-source projects are not as inviting as others, but with a little bit of persistence, I think it’s pretty easy to find one that will value your talents and help you grow. The best projects to start contributing to are the ones you’re already using: the next time you find a bug or a missing feature, try following through on it yourself.
BNR Blog: You won Big Nerd of the Month not only because of your skills and your contributions, but also because of your willingness to help out everyone at Big Nerd Ranch. Where do you get your helpful spirit?
AL: Helping others solve problems is exhilarating to me. Seeing a lightbulb go off will never get old. I also know that I almost always learn something myself in the process of teaching.
BNR Blog: Thanks Andy! Congratulations again on being Big Nerd of the Month for July 2013.
Alas, Andy is leaving Big Nerd Ranch for a new endeavor. We’ll miss you, Andy, and we wish you good luck on your next big adventure.
We’ve got some shoes to fill, and if you think you could be Big Nerd of the Month in the future, check out our careers page and apply!