Jenn Sandercock


Jenn Sandercock

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Jenn Sandercock and I'm a game designer. I've been working in games for 8 years now, mostly in digital games, but I have a passion for all kinds of experimental games, including real-world/physical games. I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, but I'm currently based in Seattle. I love the weather here (rain is awesome) and the snow-capped mountains. I also love how tech obsessed most people are.

For the past year I've been working on a variety of projects from digital to completely analog games.

The majority of my time has been working on Thimbleweed Park, a Twin Peaks-esque point-and-click adventure game. We're a small indie team that's distributed across the world and I got to put on a lot of hats on the team. I helped out with code, design, production, customer support, social media, booth creation, merch & Kickstarter rewards and more. I got to work with Fangamer to create a wide range of amazing merch for the game.

I also got to work with Sensible Object (of Beasts of Balance fame) on a new type of board game: one that uses voice-powered devices. It was part of the Amazon Alexa Accelerator, powered by Techstars. I worked next to other tech companies and got a real insight into the startup world. My job was to help design and produce a totally new board game that relied on the Alexa and used it in interesting ways. The game we created was called "When in Rome" and I got to talk to a lot of really interesting people from around their world about their cities.

As the new year begins, I'm ramping back up on my personal passion project: a series of edible tabletop games. That is, games where you actually eat the pieces and eating changes the gameplay somehow. I've already come up with over half a dozen edible games and my current plan is to develop more of them and then put them into a cookbook that tells people how to bake them and then how to play them!

What hardware do you use?

I mostly work from my 2015 MacBook Pro. I don't like Macs, I only use it because I used to make mobile games and you can't make iOS games without having a Mac. Note that's not entirely true, but they make it so hard that's it's just easier to get a Mac.

I have a large TV monitor that I've borrowed from the Thimbleweed Park booth set up. Anytime we show somewhere, I pull down the monitor and pack it up. It takes up a lot of deskspace, but is really pretty. For testing, I have access to an Xbox dev kit, a PS4 test kit and a Switch test kit. Each one has its own issues when trying to get the latest build of the game on it – so I generally avoided doing this if I could.

I have some large headphones from our booth as well. They've got Franklin (the ghost character) on them. I used to have better headphones that I won at some point, but I lent them and never got them back. I got my own Thimbleweed Park mousepad, which sounded silly when I got it, but I really love.

For my edible games, I use a variety of things from board game supplies to ovens to cookie cutters to ingredients. My current coworking space has an amazing board game supplies wall. They have all kinds of meeples and other tokens you could use for prototyping. They also have a laminator, so I can quickly create boards that food can go on top of and be cleaned!

When I'm doing cooking, I just use my home kitchen which isn't fantastic. There's not much counter space for everything. After having 2 hand-held beaters die on me in the middle of making gingerbread, I searched to find one with more power (UPDATE: It just died on me too, but I blame myself). The good thing about this is that it was the same brand as the underpowered ones and so my beaters fit in it too. It may not be obvious why this is so good, but the reason is about being able to beat flour-based mix and then switch to beating egg whites without having to wash beaters constantly. I love my Silpat baking mats that are easy to clean and reuse (although hard to dry in terms of finding hanging space); and my stackable cooling racks. I recently got sick of my digital scale since it kept eating up batteries and turning off in the middle of me trying to weigh things. I upgraded to this one which has an off button and a dash that pulls out when I put large bowls on top. I'm currently experimenting with a new oven thermometer and so far so good. I prefer it to the analog hanging ones since it doesn't fall down in the hot oven all the time. Disposable piping bags of various sizes are great and end up being handy for so many different things. I recently and finally learnt how to temper chocolate and now I'm doing it super frequently. The problem with tempering is you have to temper a lot more than you need and then you're stuck with a bunch of leftovers. So I bought a chocolate bar mould and then I just pour my leftovers in there and can break them into small chunks and eat – I mean reuse for tempering again.

The best thing about my kitchen set up is my partner… He'll often come into the kitchen after I've been cooking and do all the cleaning and washing for me!

And what software?

Trello is both my super power and my weakness. If something doesn't go on Trello, then it basically won't happen. I can get a bit obsessed with it… Sometimes I've done a task that wasn't on Trello and then created a Trello task just so I can mark it as "done". I've thought long and hard about how I set up my main Trello board and I have a system that goes from left to right. I have lists for the next 4 weeks of to dos, backlog, "do today", "doing", "done today", "done this week", "done this month". I use Card Counter so I can feel a sense of accomplishment, rather than having tasks just disappear. I've been keeping track of cards completed for my personal life for 2 years now and I can see when I have a big month in tasks.

I use a lot of Google Drive. Particularly Google Sheets. I love spreadsheets. I also can't remember how it was attempting to work on the same file with someone else without Google Drive. Recently I learned about "SUMIFS" and it seriously upped my spreadsheet game.

Working with remote teams and coworking spaces means I have to have Slack. Although I think I'm on too many different Slack communities now for me to keep up with all of them.

When I have to help hack together art for a quick Thimbleweed Park promotion, I use PhotoShop. I wish I was better at using it, I feel like I'm only just beginning to understand it. I'm sure it will be useful when shifting to work on images for Edible Games.

While working on Thimbleweed Park as a coder, we had custom tools called Wimpy & Compy. Wimpy helped us position items in rooms, set hot spots, trigger boxes and walk boxes. Compy helped us put together the frames from our animators and check that animations were set up right. I use BBEdit to write the code, and Slicy to break up layers from Photoshop into sprites.

For Thimbleweed Park, we use Square to run payment transactions at our booth. We used PledgeManager to help us manage Kickstarter & new backer information and pledges. We use Sprout Social to manage all the social media sites and Zendesk to manage customer support. We only started using Zendesk a few days before our launch and I can't believe we didn't start earlier – we really couldn't have survived launch without it.

Dropbox to share files is essential as well. I have so much on Dropbox, that I usually use the selective sync function. To help with this, I use DaisyDisk since my hard drive seems to always get too full. It helps me find out where the big files are. I use 1Password to help create and keep passwords and other private information.

As I start to work on my book editing and layout, I'm sure I'm going to add a whole new slew of software to my list.

What would be your dream setup?

Firstly the location: A coworking space with some likeminded people who I could have lunch with every so often, within one ride on public transport (no transfers!). Currently, it's two buses for me or a bike ride up a hill or I end up driving (and I hate commuter driving).

On the technical side of things, I don't really need much in the way of computing power. I'd love to go back to a Windows laptop, but I can't justify the cost right now, so I'm stuck with my Mac. If I did have more money, I'd get a Microsoft Surface for all my personal work and leave my Mac for professional work, so I could separate work and normal life even more.

What I'd really love is an oven in the workplace!! That's super impossible to find. Perhaps a hybrid commercial kitchen rental space with an office space next door?! Although I'm not sure how much I'd get along with professional chefs – I'd be overwhelmed by imposter syndrome. Even at home, I'd love a double oven and enough countertop space to leave out mixers and scales without having to put them away all the time.



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Kate Lacour


Kate Lacour

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm a cartoonist and art therapist. I run creative arts workshops for young people with autism and other special needs here in New Orleans. About 15% of that is actual hands-on art therapy, the rest is management, supervision, grant writing, advocacy and planning, planning, planning. I recently gave a TEDx talk on inclusivity through the lens of autism and Mardi Gras. My personal work is creating comics about the body. The best ready-made category for it is "body-horror", since it involves a lot of grotesque, disturbing and sexual content. But the effect is not scary so much as sickening and funny, hopefully beautiful as well. My ongoing series, Vivisectionary, is based on biology diagrams, and The Disciple covers the metaphysical degradation of a would-be mystic.

What hardware do you use?

I draw everything in archival ink on the cheapest watercolor paper available, then paint with a blend of watercolors, colored inks and watercolor dyes. I have finally transitioned to a high-quality watercolor brush, and it's transformed my art, not so much in terms of the final product, but the ease with which I can arrive there. I use the tarot occasionally for guidance on The Disciple and anatomical references or high school biology texts for ideas for Vivisectionary.

And what software?

I use Photoshop to make minor tweaks to my scanned artwork. By far, the most useful piece of technology is Google image search on my iPad. I'm old enough to remember a time in high school when I kept books pasted full of magazine clippings that I'd use for visual reference when drawing- some gross, some beautiful, some merely useful. Nowadays, I can Google anything I need to see in order to complete a page. My search history is pretty strange and embarrassing: horse testicles, barber chair, 1970s blender, vulva, human heart, ham are some of the most recent queries.

What would be your dream setup?

I finally have my ideal physical setup – a tiny desk, an iPad, an expensive paintbrush, a quiet little room for art making. I'm also lucky enough to have a nice little suburban house, two children and a full-time job. My dream would be having a babysitter or housekeeper to cover for me while I make more art.



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merritt k


merritt k

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm merritt k. With my producer Nic Bravo, I run a podcast network called Stay Mean and host a couple of shows. With Daniel Shannon, I'm a part of Ignota Media, a publishing endeavour for and by underrepresented voices. And sometimes I write about internet culture, relationships, and labour — right now I have a column at MEL Magazine.

What hardware do you use?

I spend most of my day on a 2011 MacBook Pro that I bought for $400 from an acquaintance in 2014 and upgraded with the help of Stay Mean producer Nic Bravo. I will likely continue using it until it becomes untenable. The same goes for my iPhone 5C. For reasons that are partly necessity and partly a bizarre form of self-flagellation, I am not the kind of person who replaces things on a regular schedule.

When recording, I speak into an Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB mic on a RODE PSA1 boom arm and monitor with Sony MDR-7506 monitor headphones. I record and do most other work on a cheap IKEA desk in the closet of my small Crown Heights bedroom.

And what software?

For episodes with guests, I use Skype with Ecamm's Skype Call Recorder to grab my side of the call and a backup of the guest's. For solo episodes, I use Piezo. I use VLC to review episodes and TextWrangler to write show notes in Markdown. I also write in TextWrangler, though I've been experimenting with Cold Turkey Writer. I'm trying to do less writing in Google Docs because I'm touchy about losing access to my work, but it's still how I communicate with my editor about revisions. My producer and I share files, solicit file uploads, and take notes using Dropbox and Dropbox Paper. Finally, I have Cold Turkey set up on a schedule to keep me offline in the morning when I do my best writing.

I've become a religious OmniFocus user thanks to my friend Henry Faber. I use the contexts feature along with blocks of time set aside in my calendar to work on different kinds of tasks — writing, communication, research — throughout the day, rather than dedicating time to specific projects. Without this division of time (and let's be honest, even with it), it's too easy to just be kind of working 24/7, a very stressful but not incredibly productive arrangement.

Daniel and I use Asana to coordinate on our work, since OmniFocus doesn't support shared projects. We also use Slack and 1Password, the latter of which I use at Stay Mean and in my day-to-day, though I still sync my vaults over Dropbox rather than using the 1Password subscription service.

I was running CrashPlan — which I loved — until they discontinued the personal user service, at which point I switched to Backblaze. I also regularly back up to an on-site Seagate external drive.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm not interested in a maximalist audio setup, and my machine still runs fine, so I'd be happy with a recording space/office outside of my home, a slightly nicer mic, and a hardware audio mixer.



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Sarah Werner


Sarah Werner

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Sarah Werner (although sometimes folks know me better as @wynkenhimself). I've recently started calling myself an independent librarian, basically a made-up job that sounds better than "independent scholar." I trained to be an English professor: I got a PhD and wrote a dissertation about Shakespeare and performance and feminism (it's also a book!). And then life happened. I didn't get a tenure-track job, I got married, I had a couple of kids. Through some making of my own luck (I hate talking about being lucky; it's hard work to be ready to seize opportunities) I ended up working at the Folger Shakespeare Library as director of their undergraduate program, and so I turned into a book historian and digital media scholar. I fell in love with rare books libraries and how we today interact with old books, and so I quit that job to write and to work as a consultant for special collections libraries.

I've just finished writing a book about how books were made in the first centuries of the printing press and how we work with them today; Studying Early Printed Books, 1450-1800: A Practical Guide will be out from Wiley Blackwell in spring 2018. While the book is in production I'm developing a website that will host images of early printed books and teaching resources.

What hardware do you use?

I rely heavily on my crappy old laptop, a Dell Latitude 6430u that I bought I don't even know when — I think 2013 when I had to take a research trip to England and it was pretty new? The trackpad clicker only works in its sweetspot and I've worn through the coating on the "n" key, but other than that, it's trucking along just fine and it's where I do all my work.

I also rely heavily on my iPhone — I'm using a 6s Plus at the moment, which was a hand-me-down from my spouse after I dropped mine in the toilet. I love the camera but it's way too big for my hands. I do a ton of reading, browsing, and tweeting on it, though, so I manage. I recently got one of the new Apple Watches so I could take walks without having to carry my phone with me, since it doesn't fit into my pockets — I worry about being out of touch if something happens to one of my kids, so this has been freeing. (Pockets, by the way, are an important hardware issue that drive women nuts.) Rounding out my Apple ecosystem is an old iPad; my son tells me it's an iPad Air 2. I use primarily to read PDFs on; when I was teaching it was a godsend. Now I still use it for reading journal articles, but it lives mostly as a device to display recipes and to play music through while I'm cooking.

Other odds and ends: I do a lot of pleasure reading on my Kindle Paperwhite — I think it's the 3rd gen, but it could be the 2nd. The ability to adjust the font size and read at night without a light shining in my aging eyes is fabulous. If I didn't have this, I wouldn't be able to read nearly as many novels as I do, and reading is part of what keeps me sane.

Finally, the biggest category of hardware that I depend on are all my books. I read novels on my Kindle, but work books are always paper codices. I find them easier to take notes on, to refer back to, and even just being able to stand in front of my shelves and stare at them can be helpful.

And what software?

I wrote my book entirely in Scrivener and it made the whole thing possible. Since the book is largely constructed out of chunks of information (these are the steps for laying out type, this is how books are bound, here is how you understand catalog records), using Scrivener let me start out with an outline that I could then slowly build up into blocks of coherent text. I could rearrange blocks as I needed, mark sections as incomplete, and easily move between different places in the project. If I hadn't had it, I don't think I could have really grasped both the large picture of what I was writing and the smaller details.

Shorter pieces, like talks or manuscript reviews, I still do in Word, even though I know everyone hates it. I also use some of the other Office 2013 things, like PowerPoint for my image-heavy talks and sometimes Excel to track various things. But I'm also an inhabitant of the land of Google products for collaborative or public documents, such as the lists I maintain of digitized Gutenberg Bibles and early printed books that aren't available as open-access digital facsimiles.

It feels like most of what I'm doing these days is creating this Early Printed Books website. It's a fun project and a super exhausting one. I spend a lot of time searching for usable images that (a) show features I need, (b) are a high-enough resolution to see details (at least 1000px and preferably around 3000px), (c) that can be downloaded as jpg, jp2, or tiff files, and (d) that are either public domain or use CC BY or CC BY-SA licenses. Oh, and I like to have images of works that cover the entire period of hand-press printing (1450-1800), that come from across the early modern West, and that are produced and hosted by a range of institutions. I have a secret Pinterest board of images I've come across accidentally (my rare books librarian friends post some great stuff on Twitter), and I have long lists on Workflowy of categories of images that I need and links of places to find things. I've been using Pinboard for years and have accumulated a bucketload of links for everything connected to these projects and other projects and just about anything I come across online that I might want again (it's connected to my Twitter and Pocket accounts, so things I fave or save there are bookmarked as well).

Once I have specific images and time to download them, I use Tropy to organize them. It lets me add my own metadata — I need to track both the details of what the imaged book is and the institution providing it, not to mention the licensing terms and tags of book features. Tropy is an open-source project from CHNM and is designed for researchers who take a lot of images in archives. It's only just been released, and I can already see it will meet my photography needs the way Zotero meets my reference organization needs. Once I've got the highest possible resolution of the images I want downloaded, I use IrfanView to resize and compress them so I can then upload them to my site. (I still download as hi-res as possible because sometimes I need to zoom in on a specific detail and it's easier for me to download things once rather than to have to go back and start over again.)

The website itself is built on WordPress with a whole lot of modifications from the standard themes. I use an AMPPS Stack to develop this thing on my local computer and spend a lot of time fiddling with bits and pieces in Notepad++ to get things to work the way I want them to. I often feel like I don't know quite what I'm doing, but between the WordPress Codex and the PHP and CSS tutorials in W3schools, not to mention the assistance of my teenaged programmer son, it's going pretty well. Plus, you learn by doing, right?

I keep all of this and everything backed up on SpiderOak, because I am a packrat and a hoarder and if I lose my work it will never get published and I will never get paid.

What would be your dream setup?

Oh, man. I would love a computer with a bigger screen because my eyes are getting old. I work at home at a built-in standing desk now, but ideally I'd like one that had adjustable height and even an adjustable seat because sometimes you just want to sit down. I always need more bookshelves, and books. If I could get full access to all the online databases I need without paying an arm and a leg, I would be thrilled. (It's hard to do research when you don't have an academic affiliation.)

But what I'd really really like is a magical filing system where I could drop a pile of paper on my desk and it would just put itself away instantly. And my own printing press would be fun.



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Ana Breton


Ana Breton

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Ana Breton and I'm a Digital Producer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. I film and edit videos, take behind the scenes photos, and co-manage our show's social media accounts and website.

What hardware do you use?

At work I edit on a Mac Pro desktop and two Samsung monitors; at home I work on a 27" iMac; and on the road I edit on a 17" MacBook Pro. For filming, I use a Canon EOS C300 with Canon lenses; for photos I use the Canon 5D Mark III. If Apple or Canon people are reading this, please send me free stuff. I love you.

And what software?

For Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, I edit videos on Avid Media Composer. I edit photos in Lightroom and make mockups in Photoshop. For script-writing, we use Scripto, which allows our entire team to collaborate at the same time. At home, I edit freelance projects on Premiere Pro under a Snuggie.

What would be your dream setup?

My ideal set up: for filming, a small studio with a green screen, white cyc, and endless equipment to play with. For editing, as many monitors as humanly possible. I love monitors. If you're someone who makes monitors, well, you know what to do.



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Kate Stark


Kate Stark

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Kate Stark and I am a Twitch Partner and full-time broadcaster at twitch.tv/kate.

What hardware do you use?

I use a LOT of hardware for my job. I'm currently using a two PC setup – one for streaming and encoding and a second for gaming. I've just built a new dedicated gaming PC, and it's an absolute beast, which is what I need to be able to stream at 1080p and play games at a high graphics setting. That includes an AMD Ryzen 7 1700 processor and a ZOTAC 1080 graphics card.

For streaming console games I'm using a Magewell Capture Card, which has been incredible for streaming games off the Nintendo Switch.

As far as lighting goes, I've got an 18 inch ring light mounted behind my Logitech C920 webcam that provides great even lighting on my face, and then 2 separate LED panels mounted to provide fill light on my green screen.

I find headphones to be really important as well. It's not something that people generally think about, but for a long time the headphones I was using were causing headaches. Since I switched to the Steelseries Arctis 5's that hasn't been an issue, because of the elastic strap they have which alleviates the pressure on the top of your head.

Beyond that, I find a good chair with decent lumbar support to be super important, as well as having monitors mounted at eye level to reduce neck strain. You really don't notice how much strain you're putting on your body until you've streamed for 8+ hours and you're sore the next day.

And what software?

Streaming software is pretty simple. I use Open Broadcast Software, AKA OBS. It's basic and easy to use but it does exactly what I need it to.

For music I tend to use Spotify. I've also been using Pretzel Rocks recently for royalty-free music to avoid muting on my VODs and avoiding content-ID claims.

My backend alert system is run through Layer One. It was developed by a team of people who work with streamers and know their needs. They're really open to listening to feedback and I find they really take it to heart, and the service is constantly improving. It's totally replaced the need to use other third-party alert websites by having all the information I need in one place.

What would be your dream setup?

My dream set up is basically exactly what I have right now. In September 2016, streaming became my full-time job and since then I've found it very important to spend money on good equipment dedicated to improving the quality of my stream, because I want viewers to have the best possible quality and experience when watching.



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Erin Kissane


Erin Kissane

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Erin Kissane. I'm a writer and editor who lives inside the tech ecosystem, kind of like the clownfish that live in anemones. I edit Source, an online magazine/community site for OpenNews, which is a nonprofit that supports open code and open process in newsrooms. I also edit books, and I've written one, so far. I recently moved from NYC to the woods.

What hardware do you use?

I use Apple laptops that are light enough for me to carry around easily, the same Logitech trackball I've had for 15 years, and a big bright high-res monitor because of eyestrain. I use the smallest viable iPhone at any given point, and lots of interchangeable pairs of low-end Sony earbuds. At night I plug in one in one ear and set the Audible app to read comforting dull books to me, which prevents my brain from freaking itself out so I can fall asleep.

My desk is a glossy IKEA thing my partner fitted with a wooden keyboard tray. It replaced a cast-iron 1914 Singer sewing table that was completely terrible and that I loved. The new one is much better.

Other good machines: Until this fall I had never had my own washing machine and dryer, they are seriously underappreciated, oh my god.

We live near a major faultline and in a place where the power goes off a lot, so we have water storage barrels, a camp stove, and a bunch of easy food stashed in the garage. Also manual coffee grinders, because I intend to live.

I use a fountain pen with a slightly bent nib, and no one but me can get it to write, which is my favorite kind of security. I carry tiny Swiss Army knives, which also have the best splinter-removing tweezers built in, but I have never used the toothpick. The big knives live in the kitchen, and I have opinions about them, but the metal object I'm really into right now is a 36" ripping bar.

And what software?

Back when you originally asked me to do this, I was really psyched about some software and mostly now I don't care. I'm writing this in Byword, and I write a lot on paper. Long things go in Scrivener, heavy research in Zotero. Google Docs for collaborative editing, Pandoc for format-juggling. It's all pretty clunky. I track Source editorial in GitHub and we also use it to make our household work. I use public library databases a lot, especially for medical and historical research. Some of them offer excellent access from home with a library card.

Clue is a good app for tracking menstrual cycles. I don't use a basal temp thermometer anymore but I highly recommend one to anyone who has a.) menstrual cycles and b.) imperfect mental or physical health, because they help establish patterns in things like pain and anxiety levels as they relate to hormonal change.

There are no music or mapping apps that don't make me want to throw my devices into the fire, everything is overfitted and terrible.

I'm cold all the time so I wear a lot of merino wool stuff and I am super into having a heated mattress pad and wool blankets.

I travel in merino and Arc'teryx super-light quick-dry technical clothing and just wash things in the sink, so I have almost nothing to carry. (This is the geekiest thing left in my life.) Extratuf boots are great for the climate I live in, which is technically a kind of rainforest.

Our medicine cabinet has fever reducers and asthma medications that are basically magic. This is all amazing. I have a few dozen herbal potions to deal with all the things that don't work well in my body, and that's a constant process of tweaking, but I'm many times healthier than I was 15 or 20 years ago, so something is working.

What would be your dream setup?

Sticking to technology, I want a sauna, an internet that isn't destroying democracy and society, and a cure for pain.


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Zach Gage


Zach Gage

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Zach Gage, I make videogames and art.

What hardware do you use?

I actually just did a total overhaul on my extremely-aged digital setup a few months ago so it's all probably a little boring — I use a 13" 2017 MacBook Pro, a 5K LG UltraFine display. I prop my MacBook up on an old IndieBox box. I keep cool with a Vornado Zippi fan which was harvested from a friend's company when they moved offices. It sounds exactly like a physical hard-drive reading and writing a ton of data when it's on. I also have an old Vew-Do balance board for keeping me focused on long calls.

I work at a standing desk that is built out of a desk my dad made a long time ago with some MultiTable legs on it. I use a Drobo 5N2 for backup.

I use a Magic Mouse 2 and a Apple extended keyboard (wired).

And what software?

I develop my games with Unity, Visual Studio, Dash, and obviously Xcode.

For the art and web stuff I use Adobe Creative Cloud (mostly Photoshop and Illustrator. Sometimes Dreamweaver and InDesign) and Glyphs (in most of my games I use fonts as my sprite-sheets so I can use Text Mesh Pro to handle their scaling).

For day to day FTP stuff I use Transmit and sometimes Coda.

For font management (super important!) I use FontExplorer X.

For building sound effects I use Logic Pro X.

For trailers, Final Cut Pro X.

Direct Mail is a lifesaver for sending out big press blasts.

I spend a lot of time on Slack to keep my sanity while working alone in my apartment. Also Tweetbot helps there.

I keep all my to-do lists in TextEdit.

Backblaze has saved my bacon once or twice.

ColorSnapper 2 is so handy for matching colors when moving between Unity and the Adobe products.

And Fantastical 2 keeps my schedule organized!

What would be your dream setup?

I wish my NAS could run Plex adequately, I had an external thunderbolt GPU for my laptop, and someone would come over with a magic box that would compile my Xcode builds faster.


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Jaiden Mispy


Jaiden Mispy

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Jaiden Mispy! I'm the lead developer for Our World in Data, a project at the University of Oxford which explores the quantitative side of human history. We cover many different subjects, especially big global changes like child mortality rates, population growth or life expectancy.

My role is to make the work of our research team easier by automating tasks for them wherever possible. Having your main users also be your coworkers is a satisfying position to be in as a programmer, and everyone is super nice to me! I'd love to see more of these tech-academia collaborations happen.

From day to day, I'm usually working on the code for our visualization tool owid-grapher, which we use for exploring the data and creating embeddable interactive charts like this. This system has grown pretty big: we have some 23,000 variables in the database, aggregated from a whole bunch of different public datasets.

The data we see is often surprisingly positive and my worldview has become much more optimistic over the course of this job. Of course, the world also faces vast new challenges like carbon emissions, so we cannot be complacent. I encourage thinking of humanity's past progress as motivation to push forward– it is now conceivably within our power to eliminate poverty and disease entirely.

In the past I've worked on a few other projects, most notably the preprint peer review site SciRate, and my Ruby twitterbot framework twitter_ebooks.

What hardware do you use?

My work computer is a 2016 MacBook Pro, the first piece of Apple tech I've ever owned! I like that I can install most webdev stuff natively using Homebrew and don't need to fuss with VMs as much anymore. Not sure if it is worth the huuuge price tag though: it's my most expensive physical possession by far.

I usually work from home with the MacBook connected to an Asus external monitor, a Razer mechanical keyboard (nice clicky sounds!), and a cheap Microsoft mouse. The new Macbooks do need a lot of USB-C adapters to connect external hardware: I use a HyperDrive Hub.

I also have an older Windows 10 PC I use for gaming and testing things in Internet Explorer or Edge. It bluescreens a lot so I should really replace it one of these days…

And what software?

I write a lot of TypeScript using Visual Studio Code, both tools I discovered earlier this year and really love. I can't imagine how I ever lived without type-based editor autocompletion. It works best in TypeScript, but even if you're writing plain JavaScript, VSCode makes a valiant effort at it by automatically downloading type declarations for libraries when they're available.

I've gone through a lot of different frameworks and libraries– my particular favorites right now are MobX and Preact. These both solve very broad, abstract problems. Mobx lets me do reactive data processing, e.g. parsing a CSV file and transforming it based on some options into JSON. Preact takes the output of that and efficiently updates the SVG in our visualizations using the new data. They're excellent building blocks for frontend development.

I'm a big fan of Netlify and would host everything there if I could. Static sites on Netlify are fast, scalable, and need very little security or maintenance work. It's great!

When I absolutely need a server, I fall back to DigitalOcean droplets running Ubuntu and use a Cloudflare CDN caching layer to minimize the risks involved. This is how ourworldindata.org currently works: a small backend server and then a lot of s-maxage headers to offload most requests to Cloudflare.

Since the OWID team is distributed around the world, we use Slack for general communication and Basecamp for organizing tasks. I recently discovered that you can integrate DigitalOcean's monitoring alerts with Slack to get messages about problems like excessive CPU consumption, which is handy!

My life is deeply entwined with Twitter, for better or worse. The bird website is how I found my current job, my wonderful boyfriend, and many of the people I'm closest to. My main client is TweetDeck and I use lots of different accounts, lists, mutes and search filters to extract happiness from the chaos.

What would be your dream setup?

Owning one of every device with every major browser for testing would be nice…

More realistically, I'd love to have an iPad Pro or a similar tablet I can easily do little sketches and mockups with. My art and design skills aren't anywhere near as good as my programming, and it'd be great to practice more of that side of things.

As for software, my "dream setup" is really just a question of making everything I want to make. I'd love for all of ourworldindata.org to be a statically generated PWA universal Preact site hosted on Netlify which lets you do fine-grained filtering of a full annotated database by topic and region with beautiful responsive variable-height interactive visualizations… maybe one day!


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Courtney Stanton


Courtney Stanton

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Courtney Stanton, and I'm a member of Feel Train, a creative technology cooperative. I volunteer at Stream PDX, a recording and podcast studio. That's where I record the weekly podcast, JoJo's Bizarre Explainer, where I talk about the manga and anime JoJo's Bizarre Adventure with Darius Kazemi and Eliz Simins. Because I work from home, I've taken to alternating working out in my apartment while watching television with running around the park a block from said apartment. I also read a fair amount every day.

What hardware do you use?

Oh gosh, this is where I'll begin to disappoint you, reader, because I super don't care about computer hardware. I'm writing this on… some kind of… PC tower? I grew up in a Cult of Perfectionism about a lot of things and I finally wrote myself one big blank check of "it's okay if it's good enough" and I've been free ever since, and unfortunately for y'all, "hardware specs" appear to fall under this umbrella. There is apparently a CyberPower PC keyboard involved, because I can read the logo. I assume it's also a CyberPower PC mouse because the logomark matches. Oh hey, it's the same logomark on the tower too, there we go, mystery solved. My husband picked this computer out and he felt very passionately about the keyboard and mouse being wired instead of wireless so that's some more information for you. He also cares a lot about how clacky the keyboard keys are. I couldn't give a fuck.

I performed the correct rites and rituals to access this information from the Tower, and it tells me there are 48GB of RAM within it, and it has an Intel Core i7-6700K CPU @ 4.00GHz processor. I hope we all feel good about that, I'm sure the computer does.

I also have a laptop but it lost the ability to charge itself a month ago and I haven't gotten around to taking it in to get fixed yet. Said laptop is a Lenovo ThinkPad, which are secretly really wonderful machines IMHO.

My desk is a vintage tank desk I bought second-hand, and my desk chair is a rather fancy home office chair that we got for free years ago when some friends who have a startup ran afoul of the City of Boston's fire codes for business furnishings. (All office furniture has to be treated with flame retardant chemicals that home furnishings don't have on them — who knew! Free Aeron chair for us.)

For podcast recording, the Stream PDX studio is itself a piece of hardware full of hardware — a vintage Airstream trailer turned recording studio with 4 Sennheiser e 835-S, studio headphones, and a Zoom R16 multitrack recorder. I do podcast episode planning in a notebook that was a piece of speaker swag at a conference (I think?)… I honestly have no idea where this thing came from. It's a blank notebook and it's an odd size.

For the working out in front of my TV, I use this weight bench and these weights. (I tried to buy weights and a bench off Craigslist, but somehow everyone thinks their weight bench that's coming out of their garage is mint and worth the same price as a new one. Also those weights are incredible and take up basically no room, which is what I need for a small apartment.) I've got this TV because I'm a silly big TV person, and either you're one of those people or you aren't, and you probably already know that about yourself and have that sorted in your own home. I track my workouts in a little Field Notes graph notebook and I use a Uniball Vision Needle micro pen (I guess… we have the most of that one in the drawer so that's what I end up grabbing). For the running around in a park, I've just started using these shoes and have had great results (read: faster times), so do with that what you will. I use PowerBeats wireless headphones when running because reviews said they had better bass than most models and I listen to a lot of hip hop when I run. The larger "lifted weights/ran/lifted weights/ran/rested" calendar tracking happens on a wall calendar that hangs in our home office.

I do almost all of my reading on my 4-year-old iPad Air and the rest happens on my iPhone 6 Plus, neither of which I plan to replace any time soon. (I feel the same way about computer hardware as I do about cars and other depreciating assets: buy outright and use until total failure.)

And what software?

This PC tower I'm on is running Windows 10 Home, which I jumped to from Windows 7. The only thing I regret about the move is that I can no longer play The Sims Medieval, which was an incredibly weird, underrated game. Like all good product-humans, I use a variety of Google services (Drive, Mail, Docs, Sheets, Calendar), with Boomerang added onto Gmail so I can actually keep track of correspondence and follow up with people (and just archive everything so it's out of the way). I also use GitHub paired up with ZenHub to manage the main Open Source project our company is working on right now. I cannot say enough good things about ZenHub — it essentially fixes Github and makes it usable for people other than programmers.

I use Spotify both at my desk and while running (and while running I pair it with Runkeeper). I use the default Apple Podcasts app/Netflix/Hulu/Amazon in a roulette fashion to find something to keep my attention while weight lifting, because counting to 10 gets dull fast.

What would be your dream setup?

I don't really have a lot of "gear" fantasies. My biggest dream setup is probably Universal Basic Income at this point, and/or health insurance that covered transgender healthcare. That sort of thing would help my work out a lot more materially than if someone released Yet Another To-Do List App. That said…

For 2018 I'm planning on using a Hobonichi Techo planner to consolidate my various scheduling/tracking/planning activities (both the stuff I've mentioned here and all the stuff I haven't), and that's a tiny dream come true right there.

I also eagerly await the day Apple actually gets the Watch to the place where it's a real Dick Tracy Wrist Phone. At that point, I think my ideal computer hardware setup will be Apple Watch, iPad Pro, PC Tower. I don't actually like being "bothered" by apps or using them when I have idle time very often — I'm a "default to no notifications" person, I don't need a lot of apps on my phone, etc. But I do want to be reliably available, so the idea of having a sort of hybrid pager-phone on my wrist that lets me make calls when I need to (and go running without a damn phablet strapped to my upper arm), is incredibly appealing to me. Then the super-iPad for all the things I currently use my laptop for (and traveling a few pounds lighter), and the PC honestly just for videogames. (I'm struggling to think of work applications for a mouse and keyboard… I suppose I do still have times when it's easier and faster, when working in giant spreadsheets for hours. So occasionally that.)


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