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Speaker interview: Mark Otto

Speaker interview: Mark Otto

About Mark

Mark is co-creator of Bootstrap and works at GitHub. He once designed Britney Spears’ website, plays a lot of Destiny, and is a huge nerd.

What project have you worked on recently that has really excited you?

One of the projects I really enjoyed working on in 2014 was adding split diffs to GitHub.com. For over six years folks using GitHub had no way to visualize diffs in a horizontal, two pane layout. It was one of the most requested features we ever had. Having spent two years at Twitter where split diffs were the de facto, it was something I definitely wanted to see added. It took two months to design and implement with a small team – and it’s changed the way folks use GitHub in a real way. I love that.

What piece of advice do you wish you’d received when you first started out in development?

Don’t give up on programming.

It sounds funny to hear that from a developer, but I consider myself a designer first and front-end developer second. I don’t know a lick of programming, but I tried it half-heartedly a few times in college. Nothing stuck and it all felt wrong to me. Today it’s almost a requirement to be able to walk into any code base with minimal ramp up time and know how everything works. Relying on others is part of being on a team, but I wish I had more experience to offer. The good thing is it’s never too late :).

What’s your favourite underrated tool/piece of software/resource for development?

Hands down, JS Bin. It’s the best tool for the job when I need to prototype something or test a reported Bootstrap bug. It’s a super powerful and stable code editor right in your browser. Write your HTML or Markdown, add your styles in plain CSS or a preprocessor, add some JavaScript, and live preview it – all in one page. There are other live code tools like it, but JS Bin’s interface and approachability makes it the best in my mind.

How do you balance work and life, with so many new FE dev tools coming out all the time?

It’s tough working on the web. It’s so easy to be online and working all the time because we’re already spending all our days there. Finding something else that speaks to you as much as development does is super important. Whatever it is, you have to break out of your normal flow with it to make your mind work a different way for a few hours. It’s super healthy and keeps you interested and excited when you come back to development.

What new/upcoming browser features do you think will most change the future of web development?

I don’t know about the future of web development overall, but the biggest improvement browsers can make will continue to be around speed and performance. As front-end developers, we spend a lot of time optimizing our own projects for selector performance, smooth scrolling, and buttery transitions. As that time continues to be saved by browser improvements, we can focus on creating better products and content for our users.

Beyond that, more incremental improvements to existing tools and techniques could be huge for front-end developers. For example, component-based media queries – instead of today’s viewport ones – would flip an old approach on its head.

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