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Featured on Apr 18, 2011

Aaron Quint

"I live for making things"


I was born and raised in Brooklyn under the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge. I was always a nerd, always will be a nerd. I taught myself HTML in 1994 and have been coding on the web ever since. I'm passionate about Open Source and solving problems. After freelancing and working as a consultant I'm now very proud to be the CTO of Paperless Post - getting to work with awesome people and pushing cutting edge software. In my spare time I'm obsessed with cooking - trying to make everything from scratch - bacon, pastrami, pickles, bread, cheese. I'm a technologist by day, and a new-fashioned homesteader by night.

Can you give us a brief summary of Sammy.js, why you should be using it right now, and what’s in store for its future?

Sammy.js is a small JavaScript framework for building browser based applications. Since browsers have become faster and faster, the web has started to move towards a lot of new approaches in building applications. A popular approach these days is to have a server side platform that just exposes an interface as JSON and then having the majority of your display and interaction logic in JavaScript on the client side. In the old days it was thick server, thin client, now its becoming more thick client, thin server. The new twitter is probably the biggest/most popular example of this. The majority of the site is a JavaScript application sitting on top of their own API.

Sammy.js's philosophy is simple - allow developers to build fairly complex client side applications, simply, and while having fun. I would suggest checking out Sammy if you're interested in writing fully client side applications or you're thinking of ideas of how to give a little bit of structure to heavy client side code. It doesn't solve every problem, but what it does solve, I think it does pretty well.

In terms of the future, theres a lot of different branches going on at once. One thing thats coming in the next version is support for the new HTML5 History, which allows you to change the full path without reloading the page. Combined with Sammy, this is pretty cool, because you can have these applications that could be entirely client side but URL-wise look like traditional server-side web apps.

As a native New Yorker who is now bi-coastal, what is your opinion on how NY and SF compare in the overly general fields of food and technology?

Theres a really funny thing now that SF and NY are basically like the two sides of the same city separated by this giant mass of land and a lot of corn. Theres are similar restaurants, businesses, people - at the same time though they're two very different cities with very different vibes (did I just use the word vibe?!?). One thing that's struck me since coming out to SF is that you really can't judge a book by its cover out here. In NY theres a general air of pretension around good food, which has its good and bad parts. Its good because it lets you easily weed out the mediocre restaurants with uninteresting menus or atmospheres. It's bad because it means that good food is the exception, not the rule. In the Bay area that doesn't exist as much, but thats OK, because even the horribly decorated, mediocre _looking_ indian place on the corner has amazing food.

When I'm in SF, I miss Bagels (theres no such thing as Bagels outside of NY, just bagel-shaped-bread) and when I'm in NY, I miss consistently fresh and delicious vegetables (everywhere) and a preponderance of good beer and wine.

In terms of tech its also very different. I was working in SOMA out here for a while and I was waiting in line for a sandwich and the guys behind me were talking about IE bugs. That would _never_ happen in NY. If you're part of tech in NY especially in a startup, you're more of an anomaly. In the Bay its almost the opposite. Even the taxi driver is learning about Ruby in his spare time.

Being an active open-source contributor, blogger, and freelancer, what was it about Paperless Post that convinced you to take a CTO position and move across the country?

I had been freelancing for Paperless Post for over a year when they finally convinced me to come on full time. I was actually very happy freelancing - I love working on a lot of different projects at once as I feel like it helps spread and formulate ideas. It was a tough decision to quit the freelance hustle, but I haven't regretted it since. They're both very high stress (startup vs freelance) but in the end the kicker was really the team. Alexa and James Hirschfeld (the founders and Co-CEO's) are extremely talented and ambitious. They've managed to recruit a team of like minded and smart people that makes every day a really fun challenge. Even as the company has grown over the past year we've managed to keep the whole team extremely tight and passionate (we're hiring by the way :) ) I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we have a very clear product with a very clear business model - make a beautiful functional service and sell it to a consumer. Having the goal be so direct and end-user focused makes for a really rewarding process.

There's been a shift towards things traditionally being done on the server-side now being done in Javascript. What are some JS projects you are especially excited about these days?

The rise of JavaScript as a first class programming language (it took a while) has lead to a ton of amazing projects but also a ton of hype and its a little hard to cut through (same could be said of Ruby a couple years ago). I'm very excited about the browser as a platform and the idea of full JS applications. Tools like CouchDB and CouchApp make this not only very possible, but easy as well. Theres also a lot of action in the visual/creative js space and three.js is definitely something to follow. Obviously 3d- and complex animation is pretty dependent on the latest and greatest browsers, but I think in very short time there are going to be some really amazing immersive experiences on the web in pure JavaScript. Exciting times!

Ruby Developer, JavaScript Developer, CTO