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Interview with Brent Simmons(@brentsimmons)

Well tomorrow is the first day of school, summer is officially over. There is a light in all of this back-to-school madness. That light is an amazing interview with Brent Simmons. 


Brent Simmons was recently linked to by Daring Fireball's John Gruber for his post about Glassboard. 

If Brent had to describe himself in 5 words they would be:

Cocoa developer who loves words.

Brent describes his workspace as such: 

I write and code in a corner office in my home, with two big windows, a skylight, and three giant Boeing surplus desks — earthquake-proof, I’d bet — arranged in a U shape. The desks are clean but not obsessively so. One of them holds my guilty pleasure, a cheap Fender Squier which I play un-amplified (usually). There are a couple book cases, a closet with a hidden door to a sub-basement, a small and ancient TV, and so on.
The most important thing is a mat by one of the windows where my cat Papa carefully watches birds, butterflies, and squirrels in the back yard.

Here are my five questions with this great coder and blogger.

How did you get into blogging?

When I saw the web in 1994 I was astonished that my dream had come true: there was now a way for writers to publish and be read by anybody, all over the world, without having to go through a newspaper, magazine, or book publisher. And do so cheaply — it was only a few dollars a month for an account and a place to put HTML files.

We take this for granted now, but it’s still a miracle, something truly new under the sun.

In 1995 my wife and I created a little web magazine that nobody visited, called Station. A little while later I started working on publishing software, and in 1996 I started working for UserLand Software — for Dave Winer — on blogging software. This was before the words “weblog” and “blog” had been coined, but the form already existed.

I started and abandoned a couple blogs in that era before starting in 1999, while I was working on UserLand’s blogging-app-and-CMS called Manila. (I also worked on Radio UserLand, a blogging app and RSS reader, a little later.)

I got into blogging because I saw the web as the greatest publishing platform in history, and blogging was the form we created. (It’s a pretty natural form: it’s what’s-new in reverse-chronological order.)

What was it like when you were linked to by John Gruber of Daring Fireball?

I don’t recall. It was so long ago, and Daring Fireball didn’t then drive the amount of traffic it does today.

But here’s what I remember: in 2002 I left UserLand, went indie, and started working on NetNewsWire, an RSS reader. Around the same time Daring Fireball appeared, and I liked it a ton: it was precise and well-written, and the author seemed dedicated and reliable. (In those days probably MacInTouch was the big blog on the Mac block.)

So when I went to choose the 16 or so default feeds for NetNewsWire, I added Daring Fireball. Back then NetNewsWire was a hugely successful app, and for a while it was the *only* Mac RSS reader. I like to think that it introduced a lot of people to Daring Fireball — but, at the same time, Daring Fireball was going to be as huge as it is even without that nice placement in NetNewsWire, because it’s so good. (I’m not just saying this because John is my co-worker at Q Branch. He’s my co-worker because he’s so good.)

What's your favorite food?

#26 Panang Nuea, 4 stars, with a side of white rice, from Thai Siam on 15th Ave. NW about 15 blocks from my house in Seattle.


I’m lactose-intolerant, and so it’s hard to find anything *creamy* I can eat. That big bowl of coconut milk, peppers, beef, and rice makes me ridiculously happy.

That said, I’ll take a good steak at any time, at any meal. Or between meals. Or in the middle of the night — I’d wake up for a steak. (Medium rare, which should go without saying.)

If you could go back in time to your 15 year old self what would you say to him?

The things I would tell him aren’t necessarily right for every 15-year-old. But I’d say this:

Don’t be confused by Keats’s line “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.” Aim for *truth*, as it’s the necessary condition for beauty. It’s more difficult and more wonderful than you can imagine — and more painful, too, both in what-it-is and in the struggle to find and express it.

Don’t be impatient. Consider Hemingway: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” Start there. You’re not going to publish a novel by age 20, but, if you work hard and keep working, you might write one true sentence by then. There are no shortcuts, and *sounding* true is not the same as true.

Also: start talking to girls now. Don’t wait till you’re 16.

And: almost all the people around you in high school are going to disappear forever from your life soon and you’ll utterly forget them. Don’t worry what they think of you. Take risks and learn from them.

What can we expect from you in the future?

More work on Vesper. I live in developer paradise: I have great co-workers, cool stuff to work on, and people who love the work we do. I can’t ask for more.


Thanks so much Brent! 

David Silverman