LearnQ&A with Sam Stephenson – 37signals

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Treehouse
writes on August 17, 2011

Following on from last weeks Q&A with Techcrunch’s MG Siegler, as promised our next bite sized article features Sam Stephenson, a programmer at 37signals.

Since 2005 Sam’s been writing web applications for 37signals that help millions of people communicate and collaborate every day. He’s a prolific open-source author and contributor and has a soft spot for handmade bicycles. Here’s what Sam had to say when we put some of your questions to him:

What’s your opinion on hierarchical CSS code structure? (@robobeau)

“I’m a big fan of SCSS’s nested rule support. It’s a simple syntactical addition with dramatic consequences. The primary benefit of nested rules is that they encourage consistent scoping, which makes it easier to refactor related styles in the future. Nested rules also communicate intent: the path to the style is visually separate from the element being styled, and the stylesheet’s hierarchy mirrors the markup.”

“What I like most, though, is that as a programmer on projects using SCSS nested rules, I can feel confident in any changes I need to make to the styles. I know exactly where new styles should go because the scope is already there waiting for my additions. And I know with reasonable certainty that because of that scoping, my changes won’t inadvertently affect other elements.”

The web is the most powerful creative platform in the known universe. There are so many applications for using it to further science, arts, research and much more yet the “be all and end all” of the web seems to be “social networking” (which generally equates to sharing media). Do you ever get dissapointed that it is generally just used as an aid to business, or for online games? What would you like to see it used for? (@benjambles)

“No, it’s difficult for me to be disappointed with anything that makes the web less technical and more ubiquitous. In the future I hope to see more editorial sites like longform.org. There’s a lot of information out there, and I’d prefer to have it filtered by one person with a voice than a thousand people with thumbs-up buttons.”

Do you think there are any fundamental differences between designing websites and webapps? (@SalilMalkan)

“From a programmer’s perspective, one major difference between building sites and apps is that you generally do not need to concern yourself with search engine-friendliness when working on an app. That frees you to use JavaScript for rendering things you otherwise would have to include in HTML. Whether or not that’s appropriate, of course, is a matter for debate, but it’s often quite convenient and powerful.”

What is the funniest comment you have seen when going through someone else’s code? (@sam_benne)

“Here’s an amazing comment before a block of time zone-related code in one of our apps, courtesy of the inimitable Jamis Buck:

    TzTime is subversive. It even _sounds_ subversive, like sharp
    incisors snicking together in the dark. It sneaks into your app
    from the inside and stuffs time zone support into the cracks. It’s
    like a little ruby-colored rat, poking around in the
    under-basement of your code, but instead of chewing away at the
    infrastructure with its sharp little teeth (and believe me, they
    _are_ sharp), it builds fluffy (and oh, so comfortable!) little
    time-zone flavored nests wherever it can.”

A huge thank you to Sam for taking the time to answer some of your questions. Next week I’ll be putting your questions to Pete Koomen, co-founder of Optimizely and Dan Martell, co-founder of Flowtown.

If you’d like to come along to the show and meet our speakers in person, we’re currently offering a 10% discount on our 2-day conference passes. Simply enter the promo code FLASH when booking online. You can check out the FOWA site for details on the full schedule and book your seat today.

One Response to “Q&A with Sam Stephenson – 37signals”

  1. He might as well have some company on the bench cause he ain’t going to get a starting place.http://slimbodycleansing.net/

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