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the full interview with Ben Evans  RSS feed

Jeanne Boyarsky
author & internet detective
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Eclipse IDE Java VI Editor
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Due to space constraints (hey, people will only read so many bytes in a newsletter), we only published snippets of the interview in the December Journal. This post contains the full interview. Do check out the December Journal for snippets of our author interviews, the Countdown to 2014 promotion and links to the other author interviews.

Ben on Books
Jeanne: Why did you decide to write a book?
Ben: "It seemed like a good idea at the time". In all seriousness, it was while I was working at Deutsche Bank and one of my first jobs was to prepare training material for new starters. Then I met Martijn at a conference one day, and that was that.
Jeanne: Do you prefer to read e-books or paper books? Why?
Ben: Paper books. I find it hard to read on e-readers - the latest generation of Kindles are better (& I haven't tried a PaperWhite yet) but I still can't manage on them as well as I can with a real paper book. I find the physicality of a real book comforting - especially the smell & weight of it. Having said that, there are disadvantages to physical books as well. I can imagine that as the technology of e-readers improves over the next few years that I might get one, but it will never fully replace paper books for me.
Jeanne: I've had an iPad since the first generation came out and still prefer paper books. I do prefer reading a manuscript on the iPad to the computer (which is why I got it), but for books that are complete, it is a different story.
Jeanne: What is your favorite book that you didn't write?
Ben: In computing - Expert C Programming by Peter van der Linden. Outside of it, probably something by Neil Gaiman.

Ben on Technology
Jeanne: If you had a magic wand and could universally improve one software development pratice, what would it be?
Ben: I would make the pendulum, which has swung so far in favour of developer productivity, back towards other non-functional aspects. Efficient use of computing resources, robustness, debuggability, security, stability, backwards compatability and long-term fitness for purpose have, in my opinion, all been seriously compromised in the name of developer productivity and the cult of the new - and whilst those chickens have not yet truly come home to roost, the migration is well on its way.
Jeanne: If someone was going to learn one language other than Java, which would you recommend and why? And no picking SQL, HTML, CSS or JavaScript?
Ben: Clojure. It is a JVM language, and so has aspects which will be familiar to the Java programmer. It is also enough of a Lisp to provide the benefits that most programmers derive from learning to code in a functional language (and no, for my money, Scala does not count as one) - but it also benefits from a tiny bit of extra syntax compared to other Lisps, which makes it considerably easier to learn. I expect very few people will ever use Clojure in a professional project, but that doesn't matter.
Jeanne: In the forums, some people who aren't yet working have a goal of becoming a "Java developer." Do you think this is a good goal? Why or why not? [yes, this question is leading - nobody does just java, etc.]
Ben: If it helps them to focus, and to achieve goals they have set for themselves, then it could be a good thing. Whilst I would always encourage people to think in broader terms about the profession and themselves, I know that some people find a more definite self-image to be useful.

More Ben
Jeanne: Do you have a favorite quote? If so, what is it?
Ben: "Simplicity is prerequisite for reliability." - Dijkstra
Jeanne: Tell us about a hobby you do in your free time.
Ben: Well, I recently conducted my own edition of Mythbusters, where we investigated the various methods for quickly cooling a bottle of champagne to drinkable temperature. That was pretty good - but like any good scientist, I think we should gather more data, so if anyone fancies a repeat at a conference some time... I'm not sure it counts as a hobby, but it sure was fun.
Jeanne: What is something cool about London and/or the London JUG?
Ben: There are many great things about the LJC - but one of the best is that we work hard to keep it an open & inclusive environment, and one in which we can allow special interest groups to thrive, and to help incubate the successful ones until they're ready to become independent.

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