Yin meets yang
Blog Authors: Valerie Skinner 060000VKGS is part of the IBM developerWorks team, getting to know the real developers who make up the My developerWorks community and exploring the world of social networking. I'm enjoying learning what makes developers tick! I'm very interested in exploring online communities and social media and understanding real world application - how they can help people solve problems and work together.
vskinner 060000VKGS Tags:  java japanese my_developerworks mobile iphone mydw android mobile_development web_development interview japan 6 Comments 5,601 Visits
In this week's interview, get to know Byron Kidd, an Australian born software engineer working in Japan since 1996. Initially employed as a web applications developer he branched out into mobile development as it was taking off in Japan with the release of i-mode in 1999. He is currently employed by Acoustic. Inc. as a Senior Software Engineer, primarily developing video streaming solutions for Japans many mobile devices. He's keen to assist foreign developers and businesses who want to understand and enter the Japanese mobile market.
Learn more about Byron in the interview below, invite him to be your colleague on Byron's My developerWorks profile page and check out his blog, The Gaijin Coder.
What project are you most proud of ?
I take pride in all my projects and don't like to ship anything till I'm 100% satisfied that its the best it can be, much to the frustration of those around me. Rather than the big achievements I'm most proud of little utilities, applications and hacks I've developed over the years for myself and my team to improve the speed and quality of our work.
Tell me about the biggest problem you've solved?
How to balance an advancing career with being a husband and father of two. Once you've solved that you've done it all.
What are you currently working on?
Having immersed myself in the development of mobile Java applications for Japanese mobile phones from NTT Docomo and Softbank over the past few years I'm currently taking a break to investigate Apples iPhone SDK. While the iPhone still has a tiny market share in Japan its not a platform to be ignored.
Google's first Android phone made its debut in Japan in July and at times when I'm butting heads with Objective-C I think I should have made the decision to roll over my Java skills into Android development instead of tackling a new and foreign way of doing things.
I'm a firm believer of getting on board while the technology is young as the learning curve is a lot less steep when a technology is in its infancy than after it has become established and matured. There is less to learn in the beginning and once you've mastered that you can grow along with the technology. A newcomer to development today faces a wide array of established technologies, languages and frameworks so that simply knowing where to start is a challenge in itself.
Are you a gadget person? What type of gadgets do you use?
Japan has some of the coolest gadgets in the world and I love those gadgets but rarely purchase them for myself. Once I get over the wow factor of a new gadget I step back and realize my "want" for he gadget is much greater than my "need" for it. When I first settled in Japan I had a thing for electronic dictionaries but, as my knowledge of the language increased, and I didn't feel the need to carry dictionary everywhere, I went back to a printed as its so much more comfortable to use. (Japanese gadgets aren't renown for their intuitive user interfaces.)
I've owned a stack of bicycling computers (cyclometers) over the years, but have outgrown the need to know every last statistic about my ride. Preferring now to enjoy the ride and listen to my body instead. Recently I've taken up running but have resisted the urge to purchase running related gadgets.
I think as many of the functions various gadgets provided in the past move online all you really needs is a single simple gadget that can access the internet and we all already have this gadget, its your mobile phone.
How do you use developerWorks?
I began using, and continue to use, developerWorks for the tutorial articles. I had found myself a comfortable job utilizing the skill set I had developed over the years, never having to step outside my comfort zone, but around me technology continued to advance at an astonishing rate. I was slowly turning into the modern day version of the gray bearded mainframe jockey. "These kids and their Ruby on Rails, in my day we coded CRUD by hand, in the snow, the way God intended, and we enjoyed it." When I finally came to that realization and snapped out of it I discovered IBM developerWorks. The introductory articles on various topics were a perfect size and written to a level of detail that allowed me to sift through the details of a lot of technologies very quickly before determining which ones to focus upon more deeply. As I devoured the content I realized that I should have been setting time aside to read one or two articles per week to keep my finger on the pulse of new and advancing technologies. I still try and peruse a few articles per week often, on topics removed from my specialty to build a well rounded view.
What are some of your favorite websites/feeds/twitter accounts to follow?
When it comes to websites I show very little loyalty. My RSS reader is full of feeds all grouped into individual topics to the point that I've forgotten the names of most of the sites providing me with information. I now have a much more article based, rather than site based, view of the web.
I use delicious for my online bookmarking, tumblr for simple hassle free blogging, Google reader for my RSS reader, and of course developerWorks to keep up with technology outside of my specific field. As for Twitter .. I still don't get it .. but automatically duplicate my blog posts there for those who do get it.
Email or text messaging?
Japanese mobiles have used email since the introduction of i-mode in 1999 and as such I've never been a fan of SMS. When I returned to Australia for a short period I could not get my head around SMS nor the need for SMS to email gateways. I was unable to fathom why you couldn't attach photos to your messages, or why sending an SMS to certain services cost an arm and a leg. The concept of not using email was totally alien to me.
As for the state of the mobile web outside of Japan at the time I was astonished by the sad state it was in, but what has been even more astonishing is the rate at which the west has been catching up over the last 2 years.
I blog about the state of the Japanese mobile internet from a foreign developers point of view on my blog The Gaijin Coder.
Star Wars or Star Trek?