Category > Me

Birthday for Water

25 October 2011 » In Me » 2 Comments

This year I’m turning 35 years old, and I’m giving up my birthday for water.

What does this mean? There is a water crisis in the world. I was vaguely aware of it, but as with many causes and charities, I didn’t feel compelled to act. Then I heard Viktoria Harrison, the co-founder of charity: water, speak at Brooklyn Beta about delivering the salvation of clean water to third-world countries and it drove the point home. Clean water not only saves lives; it enables education, jobs, and personal dignity. So, this year I’m foregoing any birthday celebrations and instead asking everyone to help me raise money for charity: water projects. Check out more on my campaign page.

Ideas of March

15 March 2011 » In Beer, Me, Opinion, PHP, Tech » 4 Comments

I miss blogging and the conversations that used to go with it. My friend Chris Shiflett probably feels the same way, because he is trying to start a blog revival with his Ideas of March post.

I used to blog much more actively, but with Twitter gaining momentum in early 2008 I found it easier to fire off a quick thought, observation, funny link, or another short piece there rather than put it on my blog. It helped building up an audience on Twitter was much faster due to the one-click nature of creating relationships and keeping track of content. I feel that the problem of doing the same for blog conversations has not yet been solved, despite services like Disqus.

Still, I think regular blogs are still relevant and valuable, because they do what the microblogging services cannot. Here are a few reasons why I like blogs:

  • Blog posts usually present a more complete and rounded point of view rather than a quip.
  • Blog posts require time to research, ruminate on, and rewrite before publishing, which leads to higher quality content.
  • They are indexed by a real search engines (Google), rather than the half-baked solution Twitter uses that cannot search more than 2 weeks in the past.
  • Posts can be saved to Instapaper or a similar service.

I want to get back to blogging, but a couple of things are slowing me down. Most of the things that I like to blog about fit into 3 broad areas: tech stuff — coding, architecture, interesting problems and solutions to them, etc; opinion pieces on various topics; and food & drink. So far I have been mixing them all in one blog, because I am not sure if it’s worth breaking out each one into a separate blog on the main site or even into a different site. I would be really interested to know if people mind reading mixed content like that or if they prefer more compartmentalized approach. I also want a better design for my blog, because I don’t feel that the current one allows me to present richer content well, like embedding photos, videos, code samples, and so on. Hopefully, I can find a designer who can help me with that.

In the end, really, it’s all about overcoming inertia and actually writing posts rather than just thinking about them. So I promise to write at least 2 blog posts before the end of March and resolve the abovementioned issues soon to help me blog more.

The blogs are dead. Long live the blogs.

On Beer

31 May 2010 » In Beer, Me » 3 Comments

Hi, my name is Andrei and I am a beer enthusiast.

To some of you this may not be news, but beer is something that has become a significant part of my life during the last couple of years. That is not to say that I didn’t drink beer before – I did, but somewhat indiscriminately and without paying much attention to the actual product. And while I do enjoy other fine adult beverages, such as wine, bourbon, whisky, gin, and well-crafted cocktails, beer is what I feel passionate about and I finally want to start writing a bit about it, on this blog, for now.

Beer is the world’s oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic beverage and the third most popular drink overall after water and tea. Many anthropologists and historians believe that beer is what made early hunter-gatherers finally settle down and become sedentary farmers, because well, they needed barley to brew it, so one can say that beer was one of the driving forces behind the rise of civilization. Moreover, most fresh water wasn’t exactly safe to drink back then and beer provided both hydration and sustenance.

Beer has more styles and varieties than any other alcoholic beverage, and though almost all beer is made using the same 4 ingredients (water, barley, hops, and yeast), the sheer number of additional ingredients that can be used to brew beer and the creativity that goes into the process can put almost everything else to shame. Despite this, there is still a widely spread perception that beer is that pale, cold, “subtly flavored” beverage that is marketed by the giant companies collectively known in the brewing circles as BMC. I’ll let you guess what that stands for. Thankfully, there is a thriving craft brewing industry both in the United States and abroad now, and beer is finally starting to be treated with respect.

About a year and half ago I got into homebrewing, thanks to the efforts of Brien Wankel and especially Sean Coates, who has been instrumental in answering a bajillion questions I had when getting started. I never thought that I could actually make beer myself, but after reading the online version of How to Brew by John Palmer, I was immediately fascinated by how easy and yet how sophisiticated the brewing process can be. The more advanced part of it has to deal with biochemistry, thermodynamics, fluid dynamics, and even metallurgy and this appealed to the geek in me. I bought the starter kit from MoreBeer and made my first batch, which was a Best Bitter English-style ale. When I opened a bottle 4 weeks later and found that not only was it not bad, but actually pretty drinkable, I knew that I was hooked. Since then I’ve brewed about once a month, exploring various techniques and styles. I’ve also sent some of my beers to competitions and even won a 3rd place in the American Amber category at Puget Sound Pro-Am last year.

Crafting a beverage that can be enjoyed by yourself and others is a great feeling, and I hope to share more about it in the coming posts. Additionally, I plan to review various beers and write about the beer industry, events, places to find good beer and hopefully much more.

Cheers!

Please Start From The Beginning

11 January 2010 » In Development, Me, PHP » 4 Comments

Please Start From The Beginning is a video series that explores the career paths and experiences of web industry professionals. I was honored to be interviewed for the series along with such interesting people as Eric Meyer, Joe Stump, and Elliot Jay Stocks. If you to hear about how the heck I started in Web development, this is a video for you.

Say Hello to Analog

18 December 2009 » In Analog, Me, PHP, Work » 8 Comments

Wow.

That pretty much sums up my feelings about the response to the announcement of Analog, a web design and development co-operative that I started with a few of my friends. I am stunned and humbled by the many kind words of congratulations, praise, and encouragement that we received about our launch via Twitter, Facebook, and personal communication. Thank you. Many have been wondering what I’ve been up to since leaving Digg in early September, and organizing and setting up Analog has been a big part of it.

The first time I discussed the idea for such a company was when Chris Shiflett and I went to Iceland in June. During that time of renewal, reset, and inspiration, we talked about our desire to work on interesting projects with a great team of peers. People like Jon and Jon, who Chris had worked with on a few occasions. From the start, we wanted to be a bona fide co-operative: an organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit and adhering to the principles of equality and equitability.

Co-operatives, especially tech ones, aren’t very common — though they are much more prevalent across the pond in the UK — so it took us a while to work out the legal and tax issues of having an equitable company comprised of people from multiple countries. This time was also spent refining our brand identity and brand promise, both of which we believe strongly in. We also needed a short statement to explain who we are and what we do, and in the end it became this (the last part of which harkens back to our original motivation):

Analog is a company of friends who make web sites. It’s a co-operative where imagination, design, and engineering thrive; good people doing good work.

The part about “making web sites” may sound simplistic, but we believe in taking back simple, honest phrases like web site and web developer. They are precise and descriptive despite having been shunned or dismissed by people in favor of things like web application, front-end/back-end engineer, and other seemingly sexier nomenclature meant to sound more important. It’s time to call things what they are. Say it with me, “I am proud to be a web developer.”

Analog origins

Of course, the most difficult thing to decide on was the name. We had a lot more latitude within the .coop top-level domain (TLD), but even then, we must have gone through a hundred or more names looking for one that would somehow reflect our philosophy while being memorable. The flash of inspiration struck while imbibing the potent Bee Sting cider at the inimitable Duke of York in Bristol. The name had an instant appeal, and I imagine we all thought, “Yes, Analog is it.” Jon Tan even left a mark on the table, since he couldn’t wait to see what Analog would look like in type.

Analog appealed to us because of its association with handmade things, craftsmanship, and a “warmer” feeling in general. Somehow it felt good to think that we were going to do digital things the analog way, where a personal touch of each of us would be evident in our work and communication.

The team at Analog is one of the best that I’ve had the honor to be a part of. Alan Colville is an accomplished UX designer and customer experience and usability researcher. He has helped a number of clients in the past, including Vodafone, Virgin Media, BlackBerry, and Visa. Chris Shiflett has extensive background in web development, specializing in web security, and has worked on projects for Ning, National Geographic, Digg, and many other clients during his time as principal of Brain Bulb and OmniTI. Jon Gibbins is an ace developer and web accessibility expert who most recently lent his skills to OmniTI as well. And Jon Tan is simply the best designer and typography maven that I have a pleasure to know, with an extensive body of published work. Between us, we have many years of experience and a bountiful font of creative knowledge.

The type of work that we want to do is twofold. Firstly, we want to take on client projects that are built on an inventive concept, where we have as much creative freedom as possible. By this I mean that, as a group, we want to be part of the initial discussions and brainstorming, so that we can inject our own ideas into the process. We want the projects to utilize both our design and development expertise, involving aspects of the programmable web in a way that supports and enriches the original concept. Secondly, we want to incubate some of the ideas we’ve been knocking around into products that can be spun-off later, if necessary. We’re especially interested in possibilities presented by geo-location, geo-tagging, and other geo-things. We also want to share what we learn and produce as a team. The first thing we’re releasing is the JS grid overlay used on the Analog site; look for it shortly.

We’re on Twitter as @analogcoop. Get in touch if you have a cool project in mind and want to work with us to make it a reality, or use our nifty contact form at analog.coop.

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Goodbye, Digg

10 August 2009 » In Me, PHP, Work » 25 Comments

I will be leaving Digg at the end of this month.

Reset point

The launching point for this decision was my visit in June to Iceland, where I had many opportunities in sublime surrounds to reflect on my life and aspirations. Standing on top of the world  at Sjónarsker, I realized that though my career has spanned some great companies, the next step in my professional life would have to involve building something of my own. Later on, watching a never-ending sunset from the hill at Stykkishólmur, I understood that this something has to happen sooner than later, and serendipitously, an opportunity to do just that has arisen recently. My friend Chris Shiflett, who visited Iceland with me, has similar aspirations and likes to say “good work, good people”, and that is definitely what I intend to do.

Thank you, Joe Stump, for recruiting me. My 8 months at Digg flew by quickly, but the friendships I made there will last for a lifetime, I hope. I have been privileged to work with and next to some of  the best and brightest people that I have met in my life. There is a great road ahead for Diggers as the company advances to stay on the cutting edge of the social news industry. I am sad to be leaving when some very cool developments are afoot, but excited for my own road ahead. By the way, Wine Wednesdays were the best.

I am planning to do a bit of traveling at the end of August and then start September afresh. There is plenty to be done to bring these ideas to life and I cannot wait to share the news when the time is right. Oh, and I’m still going to be involved in PHP, perhaps even more than usual.

Reset. Restart. Renew.

And, seriously, visit Iceland if you have a chance. It is another world.

Re-branding

30 July 2009 » In Me » 9 Comments

What happened to gravitonic.com?

For a very long time, I’ve been downplaying my last name, deeming it too hard to pronounce or type for the majority of people out there. Well, no more. I am bringing it back and using it as part of my online identity. Gravitonic.com has served me well over the past 10 years, but from now on, my main domain will be zmievski.org. All the links to the old domain will silently redirect to the new one, so nothing should be broken. If you see that it is, please let me know.

7 Things

11 January 2009 » In Me, PHP » 7 Comments

This 7 Things meme has been going around, and despite having been tagged by a couple of people I tried to stay away from it, but Chris Shiflett proved to be the proverbial straw to my proverbial camel, so here goes my entry.

My 7 things, in no particular order are:

  1. I have an affinity for languages. I can start to pick up words and phrases after being in a new language environment for a couple of days. This usually leads to me getting a book or taking lessons, and this is how I randomly know some Norwegian, Korean, and can read most of Katakana. The language I’ve invested most into – about a year of classes – is French. My reading comprehension is good, but definitely need to keep studying to improve hearing and speaking ones. The love for languages is also responsible for me doing a Master’s degree in Linguistics at San Jose State University, which, sadly, I had to abandon halfway through due to moving to San Francisco.
  2. I know how to sail. I love being on the water, and I always wanted to try sailing, and once I moved to Bay Area I had no more excuses, because this is one of the best places in the world to learn that. I got my first level certification at Spinnaker Sailing, which means that I can take out boats up 27 feet long for a day sail. So not that I’m going to enter America’s Cup anytime soon, but I am pretty confident on the water and I will probably take some more lessons this year. My dream is to cross Pacific on a boat someday.
  3. I have knack for identifying Polish accents. Not sure where this particular talent comes from, but I’ve done it a few times on a bet. It works particularly well when an attractive waitress or barmaid is the subject of such a bet. :)
  4. I am not really from Russia. My friends love calling me by the nickname “White Russian”, and Shiflett went an extra mile and made a t-shirt featuring this, but I’ve misled them all. I am actually ¾ Ukranian and only a ¼ Russian, and I was born and grew up in Uzbekistan. So I wonder if I can concoct a drink called White Ukranian. Any ideas?
  5. I met my ex-girlfriend at a PHP conference, specifically the awesome PHP Cruise to Bahamas, put on by PHP Architect. Some of you were there, and some of you heard stories. All of them are true. Or none of them. I don’t remember anymore.
  6. I’ve never been skydiving or bungee jumping. And I’m not planning on doing either one. But I did enjoy the glider flight that Jeremy Zawodny took me on.
  7. Even though I was always interested in computers, I wasn’t planning to end up in Web stuff. My passion back in the days was computer graphics, and my dream was to work on visual effects for films. I took Fine Arts classes ending up with a minor in that subject, went to SIGGRAPH for 6 years, interviewed with such companies as ILM and Sony Pictures Imageworks, and spent a lot of money on graphics gear and software – hey, I even had an SGI O2, if you remember what that was. In the end, I was fortunate enough to realize that my talents lay elsewhere and that I would be more successful if I applied them properly.

I think I might be the last person in the PHP world doing this, so I am not going tag anyone.

PHP Meritocracy (PHP Advent 2008)

16 December 2008 » In Me, PHP » 6 Comments

I wrote a short article for PHP Advent site, which is run by my good friend Chris Shiflett. The article is a reworked version of my This is not “American Idol” blog post.

PHP Advent was born last year and its format echoes traditional advent calendars. Each day in December an article written by someone in the PHP community is posted to the site. The topics range from technical to philosophical, and the content is excellent. The second year of PHP Advent has brought us some great posts from the likes of Marco Tabini, Paul Jones, and Ed Finkler. I  didn’t have time to contibute one last year, but I’m glad I made myself sit down over the rainy weekend and write one for this December.

I only wish the site allowed comments. Go ahead and leave them on this post, if you’d like.

I’ve been Dugg

04 December 2008 » In Me, PHP, Work » 51 Comments

All things come to an end, and so does my free, unemployed, wake-up-at-11-if-you-wish bum time. I’m happy to say that come Monday morning I’ll be starting at Digg as their Open Source Fellow. This is an exciting opportunity which will let me dedicate more time to PHP and other open source software, not to mention helping shore up my dwindling savings account.

Digg has a heavy investment in the open source stack and a bunch of really smart people working on it. I’m looking forward to joining the team and sinking my teeth into some very interesting problems. Plus, a major portion of my time will be spent working on PHP itself – yes, that does mean PHP 6 will be a reality that much sooner.

And now I should go take a bike ride and enjoy my remaining leisure time…

UPDATE: This post now really has been Dugg. Oh, the irony of recursion..

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