From The Source: Wynn Netherland

Each week we bring you an interview with a different open source developer or designer in the community. This week’s interview is with Wynn Netherland, a web developer and designer, CTO of PureCharity, and co-host of The Changelog podcast. You can follow Wynn on Twitter and on GitHub.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

As of this week I am CTO of PureCharity, a non-profit seeking to help people raise funds for projects and charitable causes they care about. Our technical team is a small group of Ruby on Rails developers building web and mobile platforms.

I’m a geek at my core and like to play wherever the user meets the machine. I love creating, so I straddle the line between developer and designer, but I’d consider myself a full-stack developer.

What open source projects do you work on? Which one are you spending the most time on these days?

I have an interest in (addiction to?) APIs and mashups so a lot of my time goes into creating and maintaining Ruby wrappers for popular APIs. I help maintain the Twitter Ruby Gem, and I created and now help maintain the Octokit wrapper for the GitHub API and the LinkedIn Gem for the LinkedIn API. Each of these projects uses Rick Olson’s excellent Faraday REST toolkit as well as Faraday Middleware, a project I created to bundle common patterns for API libraries to handle things like OAuth as well as JSON and XML parsing.

On the design side, I’m writing a book with Sass and Compass creators Nathan Weizenbaum and Chris Eppstein so I’m creating more Compass plugins, such as Compass Formalize, which brings Nathan Smith’s excellent Formalize project easily into Compass.

Lately I’m hacking on Ti by Robert Evans (@revans), a Ruby gem that brings Rails-like generators, a command line tool chain, and a CoffeeScript framework to Titanium Mobile development.

What inspired you to work on Ti?

After building several mobile applications and refining approaches for building CoffeeScript, defining view factories, incorporating Sass, deploying beta builds, testing with Jasmine, and other techniques, we decided to bundle up our patterns for reuse and share with the community.

What plans do you have for Ti?

We’d love to see Xib support for Ti. I’m hopeful we can incorporate something like Xib2js to let developers lay out their Titanium views using Apple’s Interface Builder and have them compiled into CoffeeScript.

If you started a new open source project today, what would it be?

I’d love to build a robust data access and API library for Titanium mobile. Something along the lines of Backbone.js but with no cruft that comes from targeting the browser.

Also, I’m dying for GitHub to release a real-time API. I’d love to create an interface to let me see activity on just the projects I care about, in real time. Most of the ideas I have for new projects involve making better use of GitHub and what’s going on in the community.

What attributes make for a great open source project?

I think great open source projects meet a common need and are usually a by-product of some other success. Often, the greatest open source projects are a means, not an end. Without 37 Signals’ suite of tools we wouldn’t have Rails. Without Document Cloud we wouldn’t have Underscore, Backbone, or CoffeeScript.

Do you have any advice for aspiring open source programmers?

Like most endeavors, software is ultimately a people-centered economy. You’ll get farther with friends. Seek out people smarter than you and learn from their code. Browse the issues for a favorite project and submit a patch. Find a designer that can help create a brand or identity for your project. Trade off your skills and time with someone who complements yours. Encourage participation so that your project has shelf life longer than your own time, commitment, or attention span.

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Comments

3 comments on “From The Source: Wynn Netherland

  1. I have a question. I´m an IT engineer from a far away country (venezuela) and here te community and open source development is kind of obscure. I wanna help and this open source history inspireme to help… but I don´t know how to start. any ideas?