tiConf speaker Stephen Feather

Stephen FeatherNext up in our series of interviews with tiConf speakers is Stephen Feather. He will speak about Using BLE to Enhance User Engagement on May 11th at tiConf US.

Tell us something about yourself

Professionally, I left AT&T in the early 90s to start my own consultancy. We focused primarily on foreign language labs. We entered the market on the cusp of the change from analog (cassettes) to digital, pushing one of the first all digital solutions. After 14 years great, I took some time off. When Apple released the iPhone in 2007, saw it as a similar market advantage that we had been through in the lab market.

So, with all that in mind started a new consultancy, Feather Direct, with the mobile market being our focus. We build apps from those needed by the 1 man startups through enterprise.

Personally, I offset my desk time with hiking, kayaking and until old age caught up with me, soccer.

How did you get to use Titanium?

I started developing native apps in Java and Objective-C. Found that there was a lot of time being wasted and a lot of our code logic wasn’t even very common. Started looking at cross platform solutions. Because we had work in progress, didn’t have the time to really set aside and learn a new-to-me language let alone some new-to-everyone-except-the-guy-who-wrote-it language. Was a crazy time, really expected to see an ad for ‘Cobol x-Platform Development’ pop up as all these platforms began to emerge. In 1995 I’d been blessed with the opportunity to work with Netscape on a project for Airtouch Cellular using LiveScript on a NES to bring data from a backend database to engineers on-site at a tower. In 1996, Netscape recommended to QUE that they ask me to write one of their first books on JavaScript. Keep in mind, I didn’t learn the ‘make your text blink and change color’ JavaScript. This was nodejs before there was nodejs.

So the next thing was Titanium?

I’m brutally honest, so will be in regards to Titanium as well. When I first evaluated Titanium, it was this mess of python scripts and this ‘editor’ called Developer. There was little or no documentation and much of my time was spent going through the source code to figure out how an api worked, what was being exposed, etc. We tried to push an app into production using TiSDK 1.5 and ended up doing a quick native rewrite. We evaluated the other ‘solutions’ but in the back of my mind something about Titanium had got my attention. TiSDK 1.7 goes into ‘beta’ and I took one of our native code bases and ported it to Titanium over the weekend (ios only). Monday we spent all day running performance tests comparing the two binaries. Success! We could build a Titanium app with the performance matching a pure objective-c app (for the features we required). At the time, android was a beast of its own.

What is it you do in the Titanium community that people might know you from?

Most likely either from the Q&A or from a module of mine you are using. In the Q&A, I’m the guy that will both climb all over your backside by inconsiderately wasting volunteer time by posting an incomplete question and yet also spend time in an email exchange getting you working.

How do you see the future of Titanium?

In 4 months I can take a new developer and have them proficient in app development for not just one platform, not just 2 platforms, but 3 (ios, android, bb). Coming this year we will see the addition of Windows as a target. Despite their growing pains, Appcelerator is a company that continues to innovate and the have a great team of engineers. I’v been fortunate to meet many of them in person and I know that has definitely effected our decision to stay with Titanium.

Sell us your session at tiConf!

You should come to my session because it is immediately following lunch and you can nap there. In all seriousness though, BLE (think ibeacons) is a huge new sub-market of mobile. The session will be an introduction to BLE along with how you can use BLE in some of your client projects. I’v pulled out the bits about indoor location tracking, but Martin Hudson will be demonstrating that at #ticonf EU in June.

And what is it you look forward to yourself?

I enjoy conferences, not so much for what I can learn (although one is never too young to stop learning) but for who I can spend time with. TiConf in Baltimore was amazing in that we had developers from not only the US show up, but also from across the pond. Was great to just hang out, have a beer, and talk tech with friends. Boydlee and Hannah do an exceptional job with their events. The meals have been great, the venues amazing, the sessions hand picked and appropriate.

I’m looking forward to New York. It is an amazing city, friendly folks, great food. My family lived in NY for part of a year while I was working on a project in Manhattan a few years after 9-11 so for us, a trip to New York is like going home.

– Thanks Stephen!

App imagineer: Imagining, Engineering & Speaking about Native mobile Apps with Appcelerator Titanium & Alloy • Meetup organizer • Certified Expert • Titan