I've been friends with Richard for years. In between sending funny links back and forth to each other, we've been able to kick out a few projects (Are My Sites Up, LyricSift). I design, he develops. I've always been impressed with Richard's work ethic, problem solving ability and how he always has his finger on the pulse of the tech industry.
CHRIS: You can program in PHP, ASP, VB, ASP.NET, varieties C (including Objective-C), and Ruby (on Rails). Was learning all these languages a result of deciding to learn a wide variety of languages, or a result of working in situations that required them?
RICHARD: It was definitely a result of working in situations that required them. Once you learn C++, you can pretty much program in any object-oriented programming language, so I've been able to pick up new ones fairly easily. I've worked at several different places, and usually I'm not building something from scratch, but building on existing code or at least connecting to existing systems. When that's the case, I have to pick up a new language and learn how to get things done, instead of rewriting the entire app in whatever language is my current preference.
CHRIS: I could see knowing many languages as being an advantage in that it increases your capacity for abstract thinking in general. I could see the flip side being that it might be difficult to "switch modes" when jumping between projects in different languages. What is your take?
RICHARD: These days, I honestly don't have much of a problem jumping back and forth between languages, but it was a sizable hurdle to get over when I first had to do it. Right now I'm developing applications for the iPhone like LyricSift (iTunes link) and AreMySitesUp (iTunes link) that connect to Rails applications, which I also write. At work these days I'm writing some PHP, so on a given day I'll be in TextMate writing HTML, CSS and PHP, then jumping to a Rails project, then to XCode to write some iPhone code and right back into TextMate to write some more Ruby. Since I do it all the time, I've gotten better and better at it.
CHRIS: Despite knowing a variety of languages, Rails is your go-to lately for new projects. What is it about Rails that keeps you coming back?
RICHARD: Rails makes it easy to get an application from idea to a fully fleshed out website in no time. I love the clean, concise syntax of Ruby, especially as it compares to something like Objective-C, which is much more long-winded about declaring things or getting much of anything done. Rails lets you get in and do what you need to do, without having to write every little thing from scratch, unlike vanilla PHP, which requires you to build everything from scratch each time. I've developed entire Rails applications in a matter of days (LyricSift, for one went from idea to production web app in a couple of days.)
CHRIS: As a self-described Neophiliac, any new gadgets coming out you are excited about?
RICHARD: Of course! The new iPhone, which hasn't even been officially announced is on top of my list. I've owned at least 10 different phones/PDAs in the past 7 years, but the iPhone is the only one that has literally blown me away with its potential, application selection, platform robustness and ease of use. Other than that, there's not anything on top of my list. I have every gadget I want, until I see a new one that's awesome :)
Other than your own or ones that you've worked on, name your five favorite web applications.
Google Reader - I read a ton of blogs everyday, and Google Reader helps me catch up on them as quickly as possible.
Instapaper - Every now and then, I come across an article that is longer than a standard blog post. I add them to Instapaper so that I always have something good to read when I have extended reading time. Since it works on the iPhone, it's great for filling little pauses in my day with quality reading.
Netflix - Netflix's UI is just amazing. It's one of the most well-thought out web apps I've ever used.
Windowshop - Amazon has an experimental interface for browsing the newest items for sale on their site, and I love it!