Update: BitQuill was taken offline, so here is a copy of the content of the interview seen there:
Who are you, what do you do, etc.?
My name is Chuck Skoda and my business card says #developer. I know that’s not very specific, but it’s accurate. I’ve developed video games, apps, and more recently websites and services. I’m a semi-retired amateur photographer. I’m a blogger when I feel like I have something to say, especially if I don’t think anyone else is saying it. When I’m not working, my wife and I are usually enjoying or working on our home, or playing with our niece and nephews.
What tools do you use to get your job done? Software, hardware, etc.
Day to day, I’m mostly using Sublime Text, Xcode, Google, Git, a MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and my iPhone. I use a lot of Apple’s standard apps, and some web apps too. Believe it or not, I often write for Technochocolate with the WordPress Dashboard. This list seems a little short, but there is so much software out there that I’ve gotten tired of trying every new app that rounds the blogging circuit.
Let’s talk Technochocolate. What’s the story behind that name? And, of course, your blog as a whole? Why did you first start it and how do you think things have changed since your first post?
Well, the name comes from an old Strong Bad Email from the sadly-stale Homestar Runner. If you aren’t familiar, it’s a great place to waste a few hours (beware: requires Flash). I emailed the guys to ask if I could use the name, but I never got a response. So, here’s to hoping they’re cool with it, or never even notice.
My blog started as a personal journal of sorts around fall 2002 to keep my family up to date when I moved to Seattle for college. It morphed into what it is today over that long stretch of years. Now it’s mostly an outlet for me when I want to write.
It became “Technochocolate” the day the original iPad came out. I was already writing mostly about technology at that point, and the name has “tech” right in there. Also, my wife likes chocolate. Anyways, rather then spend more time thinking of a better name, I actually wanted to work on implementing a brand for the site. The name continues to grow on me, so it’s probably not going anywhere.
I have to ask: Why do you hate capitalized words?
Hate isn’t quite the word for it, but I do think capital letters are harsh and rigid. I mean, they used to be cut into stone. They just give off a mechanical feel that I find distasteful. I’ve chosen to render my blog and entry titles in lowercase just to make my site feel a little more human. It’s just the style I decided to go with; I’m not trying to force it on anybody. Outside of the site’s header I usually capitalize Technochocolate myself.
From my understanding, you program for both Tagboard and Sky Balloon. How did you end up at both of those places, and how do you delineate time between Tagboard, Sky Balloon, and Technochocolate?
Sky Balloon is a bit of a hobby for me and two of my good friends. A few years in, one of my partners at Sky Balloon co-founded Tagboard. For a while, I just knew it as a company trying to do something with hashtags. But over the course of hearing about it week after week, I really started to buy into what they were building, and they convinced me to come on board. We still build stuff as Sky Balloon on an almost weekly basis, but Tagboard is my full-time job.
Finding time for Technochocolate is hard. I once read Noah Stokes mention how a lot of his hilarious writing at the original motherfuton.com came out of boredom while he was working for Palm. I’ve realized, much of what I’ve written has been motivated by boredom too. I can’t sit still too long, and if I’m not creatively satisfied at work, blog posts tend to start filling that void. Unfortunately for Technochocolate, that hasn’t been happening as much lately. I guess it’s a good sign for my professional life, but I do miss writing when I’m not doing it as much.
How did you first get into programming?
I grew up around computers. My Dad worked with them, and I was one of the first of my friends to have one at home. When I realized somewhere around age 9 that people programmed computers to do things, well that basically was all I needed to hear.
My Dad brought home a few hundred page book called Learn C on the Macintosh. I read it cover-to-cover multiple times — like with a flashlight at night after I was supposed to be sleeping. It just became a hobby that stuck with me, especially once I realized people made video games in much the same way as the software I was learning to build. I started making text based games on my TI-83 during math class much to Mrs. Gilmore’s dismay, and that started me down the path to enrolling at DigiPen where I really cut my teeth as a programmer.
If you could give any advice to a newcomer to developing, what would it be?
First, start your project. Chances are, you want to start developing because you have something in mind. It’s never too early to get started. The things you learn will stick with you better when you’re solving your own problems than when you’re doing an exercise from a book.
Second, become a part of a community. Whether that means going to some local developer meet-ups, or just rubbing e-shoulders with some people who look interesting to you on Twitter. Being in a community gives you more perspective, and the benefit of loads of experience you don’t have yet.
What’s your iPhone/iPad homescreen look like? Single most interesting app and why?
I might have one of the most vanilla homescreens of anyone I know. Tons of Apple apps on there. Capture and Canned, two of my favorite Sky Balloon apps. I still use RSS, and I’ve been using Reeder since the day it was released. And the rest kind of explain themselves, don’t they?
I can’t say what the most interesting app is, but probably the weirdest part of my homescreen is the Tools folder on the dock. I used to have a lot more pages of apps, so it was nice to keep a few things close at hand no matter what page I was on. It hasn’t been as useful to me lately though, so maybe it’s time to switch things up again.
I won’t even bother to show you my iPad homescreen. It’s something I’ve never really put the time into getting right. I don’t feel quite as attached to my iPad as I am to my iPhone.
If you could only install one third party app on your iPhone, what would it be? Mac?
On iPhone, it would have to be Tweetbot — unquestionably my most used app. On Mac, many of the services I use have more than adequate web versions. I’d probably go with Pixelmator. The pixel-level image editor is a big gap in Apple’s default software offerings, and I haven’t been satisfied by any of the web software in that space. Pixelmator is great at scratching that itch.
Any plans for the future, or projects in the works, that you’d be willing to divulge here?
I can’t divulge much. Suffice to say, I’m very excited about Tagboard. Some people pass hashtags off as a fad, but there is a lot of value there. We’re going to continue to augment that for users and brands with new tools and insights.
Sky Balloon is about two weeks into a new project that is really fun. We’re still trying to see if it’s technically viable and something that people would like. I don’t think anyone will get upset by me saying it focuses around one of my favorite things to do on Twitter. Stay tuned…
Single favorite movie?
The Princess Bride. I mean there’s Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and hosts of other geeky movies I like, but nothing stands out to me as a singularly great movie more than The Princess Bride.
If you could have any single super-power, what would it be?
This, as a geek, is a question you think about a lot. So, I have an answer to it that takes a bit of explaining. Basically, the core of my super power is the ability to change my density (and therefore mass) to anything, anytime.
Let me explain some of the reasons this is awesome (allow for some artistic license where the science is concerned): Say I need to stop a train. I can just up my density and become an immovable object. Say I jump with my super dense muscles, and shed the mass as I leave the ground. It’s not quite the same as flying, but it’s darn close. If I’m super-dense I can go underwater without being crushed under the weight of the ocean, and furthermore I’d imagine those heavy lungs could breathe oxygen right out of the water.
Marvel can hit me up on Twitter about licensing this stuff for a comic series and a movie trilogy. I’ve got time for that.