If you're not a fervent doomsday prepper awaiting the end of all of humanity (You have 48 hours, folks! Make a beeline for the bottled water!), you're probably taking stock of the year you had and getting ready for the new one that starts in less than two weeks. Here at the ASO blog, we'll be closing out 2012 by looking at some of the more interesting posts we've shared this year, among other things. But before we turn back the clock, we wanted to share a brief chat we had with Steven Schattenberg, who spends his days as the Principal Architect at Turner Broadcasting, specifically CNN.com. Why? Since Steven has over 12 years of experience as a Developer and Senior Web Producer for places like the New York Times, we wanted to know what kinds of tools he used in his day-to-day, and the practices he followed to keep himself safe online. Here's the transcript:
You're the Principal Architect at Turner, so you're clearly a busy man. Can you tell us a little bit about the different roles you play in your position?
I wear a few hats here. Primarily, I am focused on preserving the integrity of solutions that we develop for CNN.com. Its harder than it sounds, because a site of this scale has a unique set of challenges that simply don't exist for smaller sites. Every product and solution that we build has to be able to withstand the traffic load of our peak times which are completely unpredictable. As a media company, we also don't have the freedom to be continually re-engineering products and features, so, typically our first or second build is the one that we stick with which means the solution has to be a good one. I also play a part in guiding product development from a technology perspective to prevent mistakes before they happen or before too much money is spent. I get involved in a lot of SEO-related conversations and newsroom workflow related conversations.
Are there any specific blogs, writers, or publications you follow to keep yourself abreast of the latest trends related to web/application development or security?
I really like the Google Webmaster blogs, Yahoo Performance blogs, and the open.nytimes.com blog. Stack Overflow provides an invaluable service to the developer community, so I find myself there quite a lot. Also, my colleagues and I all follow Steve Souders like a bunch of 80's hair band groupies.
What tools and/or best practices do you utilize to keep yourself safe and secure online?
I take passwords very seriously. I always attempt to make them long with a mixture of alpha numerics and some punctuation. Shakespeare phrases or character names can also be a good source of material to base a password off of, much better than repeating your mother's or wife's name. I avoid using the same password for everything and deliberately keep bank passwords unique and different from all other passwords. In this day and age where we have a password for everything, remembering them is a challenge- but I've found that the more complicated the password, the easier they are to remember. I avoid the practice of over-sharing on social networks. Our privacy these days is like virginity, once you've lost it, you never get it back. My advice with social networks is to avoid sharing information that is not likely already public.
For example, its probably not a good idea to publicize your mother's maiden name (or even your own) since a lot of credit card security is based on that. I would avoid things like publicizing where my kids go to school, when I'm on vacation, pretty much any details at all. Believe it or not but most folks will be just as happy to see your vacation photos AFTER you've returned then while you're still on holiday. You make the burglar's job very easy when you tell the world you're leaving for Europe tomorrow and won't be home for 2 weeks. I believe that social networks make a good place for stating an opinion about something like your happiness or frustration over a sporting event or movie rather than telling folks where you are at all times. I never use a service like Foursquare. Also, when checking sensitive information on public computers, including your workstation at your job, make sure that you log out before stepping away. Finally, use a different profile altogether before visiting websites of ill repute.
Are there any specific development tools you prefer?
I'm a fan of Sublime Text Editor, iterm, and Hipchat. Google Chrome is the best browser for developing internet applications, and I'm still learning about some of the advanced features that it has. JSONView is the only extension in Chrome that I really use. Charles Web Proxy is very cool. Bitbucket and GIT are the way to go for source control. For the command line I use curl daily and I often include some kind of curl question/problem in interviews. JQuery is powerful but if you are looking for a job make sure you know how to issue an AJAX call without it. Oh, and don't put Unix on your resume if you do not understand how to use the find command.
What websites or site elements have served as sources of inspiration for you?
NYtimes.com is always a destination for me. Not only is their content good, but their technical staff and product are top-notch. Gmail always impresses me. Bitbucket.org has some neat features, the buttons always seem to be right where you need them. I think the Twitter bootstrap project is interesting and I've implemented it on my wife's website. Of the many bank websites I've used Charles Schwab is the best. Linkedin is doing some neat stuff with client side templates that has caught our attention as well.
What's coming up for you in 2013?
2013 will be an exciting year for CNN.com. We have a number of interesting projects in the works and its an exciting time to be here. Personally, I'm going to be searching for an opportunity to learn something new and/or off the beaten path like Erlang or nodejs or something. At home, I'd like to impress my wife by rebuilding our home network and make my Linux machine something that she wants to use and finds easy.