The Jelastic Spotlight: My Hometown Video
The Jelastic Client and Application Spotlight – June 8, 2012
This week’s Jelastic Spotlight comes to you from beautiful Massachusetts, USA. We are chatting with Christopher Wong and learning a bit about him and his application, HTV.
Tell us a little about yourself, Christopher.
Well, I’m based in Arlington, MA. My day job is working as a server-side Java software engineer at a local startup, having written software professionally since 1993. I developed the application I have at Jelastic, My Hometown Video (HTV), as a side project on behalf of a client. I chose Groovy and Grails as my platform for its powerful combination of productivity and familiarity. I have also written some BlackBerry apps.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Malaysia, where the climate and the food is hot. As a kid, I started programming on a Multitech MPF II, a cute little computer with a built-in BASIC programming language that was compatible with Applesoft BASIC. I brought my love of programming and computers with me to the US, where I got a computer science degree from Cornell University.
So, before HTV, where were you?
I had previously worked at another software startup that used Groovy as its primary server-side language. It was there that I became a fan of Groovy.
How did you get into the startup scene?
In a word, Java. When it came on the scene, I was excited at what it promised — a full platform, not just a language, that ran everywhere — and eagerly embraced it. By 2004 Java was a mature server-side platform, used by many startups doing enterprise software. One of those startups found my Java skills valuable. I have stayed in the startup world ever since. Startups are small companies with big ideas: I have an opportunity to make a difference on a scale that would be hard in a larger company.
So, Java has had a pretty big impact on what you do.
Yeah. Java isn’t just a language, it’s a platform and an ecosystem. It is the last that has been impressing me of late. Old school programming generally required that you build a solution to every problem you find. But Java has inspired a vast community and software universe. In many cases, someone has already solved your problem, and is giving away his solution. Moreover, in many cases that code is distributed under a open source license that permits commercial use. It is Java’s combination of ubiquity, large library of (often free) solutions and friendliness towards commercial use that makes it a great platform for getting things done. That is a longish way of saying that I am more likely to look for a prior solution to a problem than try to roll my own “clever” solution.
What do you like most about your work?
The joy of creating. I can’t think of any other work where the the distance between thought and reality is so small, where you can build stuff by just thinking. The idea that you can make stuff by thinking and wiggling your fingers — no raw materials needed — sounds like magic. Yet that is what we do: it’s the closest thing to pure creation there is in the human world.
HTV is the brainchild of Rob Roddenberry, the true force behind the site. While HTV is not my own idea, I glad I had the opportunity to build that vision. We created something that can draw communities together around their towns or allow people to explore attractions in faraway places. We created something good, not with a hammer and nails, but with ideas and thought. Magic. That is why I like my work.
Tell us a little more about your application, HTV.
HTV is a website designed to showcase videos of towns and local attractions.
It brings together a community around each town, allowing participants to submit links to videos hosted on YouTube, submit requests for videos, comment on the videos or just view and browse.
You can also take a virtual tour of national parks, amusement parks and beaches. HTV is built on Grails and is integrated with Facebook.
That’s pretty cool. What made you choose Jelastic to deploy your application?
I think Jelastic is wonderful. Jelastic features many standard services needed to deploy a Java-platform application. It has a slick console, excellent support and easy deployment while avoiding vendor lock-in. Since the start of commercial (paid) service, performance has improved. I like Jelastic’s ability to scale resources both up and down without intervention.
What are your future plans for HTV?
We will continue to populate HTV with content, and will work on increasing HTV’s visibility. I have confidence that Jelastic will be able to handle the increase in traffic.
Nice. Now, a little on the lighter side, do you have a favorite website?
Not really. I would say google.com, but that would be a non-answer. I do make time daily to look at dzone.com, which lets me scan the trending developer topics.
Do you have a favorite hobby?
I love to read books. For all the richness of the Internet, nothing exercises the human mind for deep learning like reading a book.
So, would your ideal weekend be spent with a stack of books?
Actually, my ideal weekend would involve family, friends and food.
Awesome combination. Last question: do you have a philosophy by which you live, something that you rely on when making decisions or that you use to guide you in tough times?
Yeah. But it’s under development. Needs serious debugging.
LOL Thanks for your time, Chris.