Thanks to The Nerdery for underwriting our new series ‘Know this Nerd?’
Michael Maddox is an independent software developer and confessed Tina Fey fan from Shakopee. Known for his analytical mind and outspoken nature, you may recognize Maddox from a number of the local tech user groups he’s known to frequent.
To nominate a nerd for future consideration, drop us a line.
When and how did you originally become interested in technology?
My Dad brought home an Apple II computer when I was a kid and I somehow got my hands on a programming book around the age of 13. I absolutely fell in love with being able to get a computer to do things of my choosing. That love remains to this day.
At what age did you write your first computer program? What did it do?
Age 13, I think my first computer program was the standard:
10 Print “Hello”
20 Goto 10
The first computer program I really remember being fond of was a graphic of a duck sitting on water that contained a fish. I “animated” the fish to swim across the screen. I wrote this before I knew about loops, so I was basically hand drawing 80×40 pixel screens.
Which do you prefer in programming, the struggle or the achievement?
Struggle? There is no struggle! Hah. I most enjoy the feedback loop. I would like the computer to do X. I type some stuff. Moments later I see X. That kind of quick gratification is pretty hard to come by in life outside of software development. It’s super addictive and I always wonder how developers manage to leave that behind to become “managers” or whatever.
Honestly, software development is a never ending treadmill of keeping up with technology. It’s very much a double edged sword. I can’t see living life any other way though, constantly learning and doing new things motivates me to get out of bed in the morning.
What people, groups, projects, or resources were most influential in your development as programmer?
I was a solo programmer for a long time before I really met other people that did it. I meet a guy through a BBS who was a programmer and I totally idolized him. He was a mail carrier during the day and
a self-taught programming genius at night. In college, I became somewhat involved in the Linux community that was just starting out at the time and it was great to experience so many people who were passionate about software development. I still find it hard to believe you can get paid, and get paid very well, to do something that is so much fun.
What do you do now? What languages are you proficient in?
I primarily develop custom, non-public facing websites and applications as an independent consultant. I work in .NET, generally a lot of C#, jQuery, and SQL.
What do you enjoy about it? What do you dislike?
The work is generally awesome. The tremendously high rate of failure of IT projects is not awesome. The best projects are those with the best people.
If you were to be doing anything else, what would that be?
After software development, entrepreneurship is my second love. It’s not really an either / or problem. For non-software passion projects right now I am looking into co-creating a vegan restaurant in the Twin Cities, and also helping launch a meetup group where entrepreneurs can meet potential co-founders. Time only appears to be infinite, though, so…baby steps.
Where do you spend most of your time online?
Not Facebook. Anywhere but Facebook. Probably Hacker News (from the YCombinator folks) and Twitter. Does meetup.com count? I’m an addict. I love using technology to meet new people in real life – I no longer self-identify as an introvert.
What concerns you most about where technology is headed?
Technology enables a lot of good scenarios, but also a lot of evil scenarios. Hacking (banks, whatever), especially, is basically impossible to adequately prevent and we are at the mercy of the creativity and skill of determined evil-doers. It seems like just this year it has become a big deal that people’s tax returns and refunds are being hi-jacked in large numbers. That seemed obvious years ago. So many things in the news right now are just the tip of the iceberg as far as what kinds of evil technology can enable.
What excites you most about where technology is headed?
Honestly… that I will be quite employable for quite a long time. More hopefully, that social media makes it easier for progressive ideals to spread. More compassion, less hate.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Thanks for this opportunity and to The Nerdery for supporting this series. I love the entrepreneurial community growth that is occurring in the Twin Cities right now, let’s keep it up!