DuckDuckHack Interview: Brian Zwahr
We're finding out more about contributors to DuckDuckGo with a series of developer profiles. Here's an interview with first-time contributor Brian Zwahr who's creating an Instant Answer for looking up Dota 2 heroes and items (currently running on our beta server).
Tell us a bit about where you live and what you do to relax.
I live in Texas, born and raised. Lately, my down-time is spent watching Twitch.tv streams with my wife, streaming on Twitch.tv myself, and coding hobby projects. I play a lot of Minecraft.
How did you get into coding?
In 6th grade, I was in an “advanced” class where we learned to program in BASIC. I’ve been hooked ever since. In high school, I taught myself QBasic, then Pascal, and eventually dabbled in C. By the end of high school, I was working part time as an ASP3 and PHP4 developer.
Why did you decide to make an Instant Answer? What are you planning next?
I decided to make an instant answer when I found myself searching for the same data over and over on DuckDuckGo. In the Dota 2 scene, there’s a yearly tournament called The International. It is basically the World Cup of Dota 2. While watching games, I would look up heroes and items that I’m not familiar with. I found myself wishing there was an instant answer for that, so I decided to try writing one.
As for what I’m planning next, honestly I’m not sure. I’m pretty busy lately but if I find myself searching DuckDuckGo for something that feels like it should have an instant answer available, I’ll certainly give it a shot.
Any advice for new contributors starting out?
The best advice I can give is read the documentation and get your PR out as soon as you have a minimum viable product. The review process in the PR was extremely helpful in filling in gaps of knowledge I needed to complete and improve my answer.
How would you improve DuckDuckHack and Instant Answer development?
I don’t really have any advice here. The Codio setup is awesome. The documentation is good, not perfect but getting better. The people I worked with were nice, helpful, and patient. The only thing I could suggest is to make the documentation so verbose and detailed that anyone, even someone with little programming experience, can write an answer.
Many of us have side projects and code for fun, as well as studying or working full-time. Do you have any tips for managing your time?
I’m not a good candidate for this question. I’m pretty terrible at time-management. I tend to do things when I feel like it, unless I’m actually under some sort of time-constraint. What I will say is this: Do not let yourself get too stressed or too overworked with things. If you’re writing an instant answer, or working on a hobby project, or playing a video game, or anything really, and you start to feel stressed by it, stop and take a break. These things are supposed to be fun. When they stop being fun, they start becoming a detriment. That said, that’s not an excuse to be lazy and not do things; I have to tell myself this every day.
Finally, if you could code anywhere in the world, where would you choose?
England. My wife and I both love it there and are total anglophiles, so it is a goal for us to move there one day. Unfortunately, that’s easier said that done.