Laura DeGroot


Laura DeGroot

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Laura DeGroot. I'm a web developer, designer, thing-maker, and poet. I work at Format as a front end developer. I like making fun art about space and nature.

What hardware do you use?

For design and web development I use a 2014 15" MacBook Pro. When I'm using that computer as a TV, I usually write or look at Twitter with my 2014 11" MacBook Air. My phone is an iPhone 6. I recently traded a stranger 6 cans of beer in exchange for a Kindle – I've been reading way more than ever as a result! I just finished reading The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick.

And what software?

For development I use Atom to edit text, Hyper for the command line, and Slack integrations for deploys.

For design I use Sketch. It's a weird choice for creating anything that's going to be printed, but I have a licence from work and I've learned it the most recently! It works for me, I usually just make sure everything is tens of thousands of pixels in size before I try to have it printed – so far so good! To edit photos I use Affinity Photo – it's a great bit of software and the price works for me as someone who only edits images once in a while.

My favourite writing app is OmmWriter. It takes over your screen to minimize distractions, and has lots of cute features like a choice of background, music, and even keypress sound effects. I love the sound effect that makes every keypress sound like a rain drop, it motivates me to keep typing! When inspiration comes randomly, the Notes app on OS X and iOS is always in use.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm pretty happy with what I have! I've been thinking about finding a scanner so I can import some drawings and handwriting into Sketch. I don't have an external monitor at home, and that's something I'd like to change. Overall though, I'd enjoy less tech in my life – especially in my free time. Unfortunately it's very useful for accomplishing my creative goals 🙂


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James Turnbull


James Turnbull

Who are you, and what do you do?

Hi! I'm James. I am an engineer and author. I love building products and teams.

I work as CTO at Empatico, a not-for-profit educational technology company. We connect elementary (primary) age students from different backgrounds and geographies with a focus on developing their curiosity about others and their communication and empathy skills.

Prior to that, I was the CTO at Kickstarter, the VP of Engineering at Venmo, and was an early employee at both Docker and Puppet. I've also built product and run teams in finance, telecommunications, biotech, gaming and technology companies.

I write technical books about topics in engineering, operations, and security. I've written ten books, including The Docker Book and The Terraform Book.

I'm originally from Melbourne in Australia but my partner and I have been living in the United States, most recently New York City, for a number of years now. I am deeply in love with the city. I love the subway, the noise, the people, and even the rats and the smell of stale garbage. 🙂

What hardware do you use?

Day-to-day I use a 2016 Macbook Pro with Touchpad and my phone is a Google Pixel XL 5.5.

I do a little bit of gaming and I have a Windows-based Puget Systems PC that basically just runs Steam.

I read a lot and I am a huge fan of the Kindle as an e-reader. I have owned one of pretty much every Kindle model released and currently use a Kindle Oasis. The battery life makes it great for travel and the lighting and crispness of the screen make reading in low light – planes, bars, cafes, badly lit hotel rooms – super easy.

And what software?

My life runs out of a combination of G Suite, Postbox, Remember The Milk, 1Password, and Evernote.

I have multiple Chrome profiles for different purposes and usually have way too many tabs open at a time.

I also use way far too many communications tools. Seemingly like everyone in tech, I belong to more Slacks than I can manage, including being one of the owners of the NYC Tech Slack. I use Signal, Skype, Trillian to consolidate GTalk and Facebook (and checking my accounts in there I still have some Jabber accounts, ICQ, and AIM too), and AirText. I was an early Twitter user – my first tweet was something like "Huh. I don't get it." – and it's a platform I both like and loath, depending on the day.

I write every day, both code and prose, and I've used a number of editors over the years. Recently, I've settled on Visual Studio Code, Microsoft's open source code editor/IDE, which I use both as a text editor (my books are Markdown with a bit of LaTeX for higher level formatting and use Pandoc to turn them into formatted artifacts) and an IDE. Code has got vim bindings and excellent Git integration which, since most of what I write lives in GitHub, works out pretty well.

I can't escape the command line though and I use iTerm2 running fish and will often jump into vim on the command line for quick edits. I also use Weechat for the handful of remaining, fairly quiet, IRC channels I am still resident in.

What would be your dream setup?

In my old house in Melbourne, I used the master bedroom as an office. I bought a huge antique dining table for the center of the room and every wall had bookshelves. That was amazing and I loved being able to move around the table, spread out books and papers, and work from different angles. I'd love to recreate that again.


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Leah Finnegan


Leah Finnegan

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Leah Finnegan. I am the features editor at The Outline and I write a semi-regular newsletter called Leah Letter about how the media is bad.

What hardware do you use?

I use an 11-in MacBook Air, a 23-in Dell monitor, an Apple Magic Keyboard, the cheapest Logitech wireless mouse Staples had in stock which is very small and I love it, a mouse pad with wrist support, an iPhone 6s which I can't wait to get rid of because the battery life is one minute, and a 6-ft iPhone charging cord.

I have a rolling desk from CB2 and some matching filing cabinets that I store sweaters in. I don't have any actual files. I have a lot of chairs. My desk chair is a vintage green velvet cantilever chair that I got at a store called Coming Soon. It has improved my working life considerably.

For six years I lived in a shoebox studio and basically did all my work on my laptop in bed. Now I live in a shoebox one-bedroom and having space for a desk and a chair and all the things you can put on a desk has been a revelation. I also have a one-cup Keurig which is very important to me.

And what software?

Gmail, Feedly, TextEdit, Google Docs, Slack, Twitter, Kindle for iPhone, Brainium Solitaire for iPhone, and iTunes because I still buy all my music like an elderly person.

What would be your dream setup?

My apartment, but in a silent place, with a constantly replenishing supply of Diet Coke.


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Milena Popova


Milena Popova

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Milena Popova (pronouns: they/them), and I'm incapable of saying no to a shiny project, so I have many fingers in many pies. The current day job (which I love!) is PhD researcher. Depending on who I'm talking to, I'm either a porn researcher, or I research sexual consent in erotic fan fiction. I'm also a blogger and activist (on a whole bunch of issues), I'm running a couple of academic side projects, I sit on the board of the Open Rights Group, and I do some volunteering for the Organisation for Transformative Works. I think those are all the things that I do? PhD research is quite a solitary activity, but a lot of my other work involves collaborating with people, most of whom are probably not even in the same timezone as me.

What hardware do you use?

My desktop is a fairly generic Acer machine, about four years old now. I've also got a 13" Asus laptop (one of those shiny, thin, MacBook wannabe ones). I do a fair amount of work on the go, so my Samsung Galaxy tablet, and especially my phone (currently Samsung Galaxy S8) are super-important to me.

I use a couple of assistive tech pieces. I have a daylight lamp to get me through the interminable UK winter nights without losing the will to breathe and a HandShoe mouse to help me deal with occasional bouts of RSI.

I also really like pen and paper, particularly for thinking tasks and for getting organised. I have a bullet journal which is actually probably the one tool that keeps me on track and enables me to get stuff done. (For the fellow bullet journal geeks out there, I use the Leuchtturm1917 A5 dotted notebook, with Muji rollerball pens, Preppy fountain pens, and plenty of washi tape to help me find things.) I also carry around an A6 notebook with me where I draw mind maps and make notes of my word count and just stick random transactional notes in that help me think in-the-moment.

And what software?

Both my PCs run Linux Mint – I've been a big fan of Free Software since the late 90s. I was a poor student then so free-as-in-beer was a bonus, but the free-as-in-speech aspect has always been important to me. A lot of my work is writing, which to be honest happens mostly in Google Docs, though a fair chunk also happens in xed (the default Linux Mint text editor). I occasionally have to resort to LibreOffice when working with editors who like Word files and comments or tracked changes. I wouldn't recommend using any of these for actually producing a finished 80,000-word thesis though, so as I put the final touches on mine I'm about to embark on the journey of re-learning LaTeX, which is a typesetting mark-up language that produces gorgeous documents.

Reference management is another key part of academic work, and I use Mendeley for that. It's a really cool tool that can output bibliographies in lots of different formats as well as store and file your PDFs of academic papers for you. Importantly, it has a desktop app for Linux and a mobile app for Android, so I can read and manage papers on the go. The only downside of it is that it's owned by Elsevier, who are basically the supervillian of academic publishers, so one of these days I'll bite the bullet and migrate to something else. Speaking of academic publishing, while my university library is amazing, I won't have access to it for much longer. Sci-Hub is a great way of getting access to academic research without the exorbitant pricetag, so I use that a lot.

When it comes to my more collaborative projects, Slack is probably one of my main tools for working with people across continents and timezones. As long as whoever you're collaborating with also makes it part of their systems and routines, it's a really great way to meet, chat, share documents, etc. (even if I'm old enough to know that it's basically glorified IRC for hipster start-ups 😉 ). Again, that it comes with a desktop app for Linux and (more importantly) a mobile app is super-important for me: if I can use it on my phone I can integrate it into my life much more easily.

One really cool and unique piece of software I use is to do with my work for the Organization for Transformative Works (OTW). The OTW is a non-profit run by fans (in the widest sense of the word), and one of its biggest projects is the Archive of Our Own: an online archive which currently hosts over 3 million fan works. To organise that volume of stuff, you need metadata, but the OTW is really big on letting users create their own metadata in ways that make sense to them. This way, the OTW is not acting as gatekeepers or roadblocks to the evolution of fannish culture and language. That leaves us with a challenge though, which is that if one fan calls a thing an "Alternative Universe – Coffee Shop" and another calls it a "Coffe Shop AU" it's difficult to find all the fan works containing that concept. Which is where I and a few hundred other volunteers come in: we tag wrangle. While we let users put whatever tags they want on their works, we do some behind-the-scenes work to tell the Archive that "Alternative Universe – Coffee Shop" and "Coffee Shop AU" mean the same thing, so someone searching for fan works containing that concept can find all of them. And for that we use this internal tool called… The Wrangulator! 😀

In my fannish capacity I am also a podficcer: I record audio performances of other people's fan fiction works. I use the Linux Mint sound recorder for the recording, and Audacity for audio editing.

I'm also a big fan of something my friends and I term "care robots" – various apps that make our lives easier and help us look after ourselves. I have Twilight on my Android devices and f.lux on my PCs to filter blue light after sunset. I use Sleep as Android to track my sleep patterns (and make me go to bed on time) and Relax Melodies to help me clear my head and fall asleep. I also use Zombies, Run! to keep me from getting bored while running (nothing quite as motivating as being told there's twenty fast zombies coming your way!), and I'd probably also class Pokemon GO as a care robot as it gets me out of the house, at least as far as the nearest Pokestop, even on those PhD days when I just want to sit around in my pyjamas and bury myself in some reading.

What would be your dream setup?

One of the things I'd like to get into at some point is video, for which I'd probably need a better camera, a better lighting set-up, and more RAM. Also, video editing on Linux is dicey, so that's something to (reluctantly) think about. In an ideal world I'd probably also have a better mic, a screen, and maybe even a sound-proof recording space.


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Candy Chan


Candy Chan

Who are you, and what do you do?

I am Candy Chan, an NYC-based urban designer, architect, and graphic designer. I am the creator of Project Subway NYC, a project about New York City's subway system, which consists of sketches, photographs, 3-D architectural drawings, and an Instagram component. The project started by being mainly about the visuals, but it has slowly developed into a comprehensive thesis about signage, wayfinding, and infrastructure. The blog chronicles my studies, with an ongoing collection of diagrams, trivia, and more.

What hardware do you use?

My process has two parts: on-site data collection and computer graphic production.

The first part involves me physically going into subway stations and taking notes. (I refer to the physical copy of the NYC subway map on my wall to decide where to go). I usually have with me a backpack, a clipboard, a mechanical pencil, white letter size paper, and a keychain that's also a mini measuring tape. I used to use a Sony NEX-3NL camera for pictures, but have recently switched to iPhone 7 since the quality of the pictures are great and it's one less thing to carry. I read on my Kindle when I am riding the subway.

For the second part I sit at my white work desk from Overstock.com, and I use a Microsoft Surface Book and a Logitech MX-310 wireless mouse. I print things with my Canon MG6800 printer.

And what software?

For drafting, I use AutoCAD for 2D and Rhino for 3D. After I export the line work from Rhino I edit the line weights in Adobe Illustrator and add colors and texture in Adobe Photoshop. The collages on my Instagram are done with Photoshop, in which I crop and resize the pictures, and overlay my hand sketches. The filters are done in Instagram (I use the "Lark" and "Luna" filter most). My website is hosted on squarespace.com.

What would be your dream setup?

In an ideal world, I would have a giant empty studio (which is not my home) with wood floors, high ceilings, a giant desk, and multiple large monitors like these. It'd be nice to have a light box for tracing drawings as well as a large format printer for me to test out different print settings. Also my right hand has been hurting from time to time from holding the mouse for too long, so it'd be great to upgrade to an ergonomic mouse!


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