Wednesday, October 31, 2012

5 Questions with Justin Crawford, CEO of dojo4

By Roderik Nelson Saleh Alvarado, mechanical engineering major at CU-Boulder
A retro rocketship is a prevalent graphic on your company website. What's the story behind this rocketship and how does it relate to dojo4?
Our CTO, Ara Howard, traveled to dojo4 from a distant galaxy in a pedal-powered retro rocketship. We all arrived at dojo4 one morning and he was standing on the porch in silver spandex. We put him right to work.

Seriously though, we like the rocketship because it represents launching. We think the best thing entrepreneurs and innovators can do is launch their ideas into the world and refine them in partnership with their audience. If you're trying to build something the world will value, the fastest way to do that is by letting the world guide your efforts.

On August 15th Boulder2140 hosted a Professional Development Lunch on Why You Need to Know Code and we were excited to welcome you as our guest speaker! How did you convince young professionals that programming is yet another skill they should acquire?
Like Ara, I sometimes consider myself a missionary from a different planet when talking to folks who've never dug into programming. When I mention I'm a visitor from the planet Computar, folks immediately ask whether I know how to fix their printer (I don't). After that, once we've overcome a few minor language and cultural barriers, I will try to convey the most important message I have for non-programmers: Do not be afraid, it is much easier than you think.

Dojo4 has an expansive set of capabilities; some of its projects have included branding the ambitious Big Boulder Conference, designing Boxcar Coffee Roaster's visual identity, and producing the website for Robert Sinskey Vineyards. Personally, what type of projects do you enjoy working on most and why?
I personally enjoy building information and content products. Is that too vague? Could I make it vaguer somehow? Hmm.

The entire internet is just a means of conveying information. Depending on your audience, you have to structure your information in particular ways. For example, if your audience is people who are curious about your product or service, then you structure it one way; whereas if your audience is thermostats that are waiting for you to adjust them remotely using your iPhone, you structure your information in a totally different way. In either case, I really enjoy designing the conversation so that it can be successful.

This fall HUB Boulder - the international hub for entrepreneurial collaboration - is opening its doors and is co-founded by dojo4! How does this partnership align with your company's goals?
Unique electricity crackles in the air of any place where smart people gather to work together. Folks show up with their small businesses packed inside a laptop computer; they share ideas, problems, solutions, customers, and energy; and a certain magic occurs that benefits the broader community and economy in powerful ways. We started dojo4 with the hope of making that kind of space, and we've succeeded beyond our expectations. But we're an active services firm with lots of customers, lots of projects, several employees, and a single, tiny bathroom. We're proud to be a part of HUB Boulder, enabling entrepreneurial collaboration in a dedicated space.

Your favorite tools include regexes also known as regular expressions, which are frequently used in programming. Why do they interest you so much?
Here's a regular expression:

/You.+?\./

The slash at the beginning and end simply signify the beginning and end. The stuff in between means, "A string of text starting with 'You,' with some text of nonzero length (.+?) in between, and ending with a period (\.)."

When used in a computer program, this regular expression would match any sentence that had those characteristics. So, for example:
- You might use it when writing a computer program to find sentences in a big block of text that look like this one.
- But you wouldn't find sentences like this one.
- Your regular expression would find the first sentence here. Not the second or third, even though this whole bullet point begins with 'You' and ends with a period. That's due to the question mark in the regular expression, which says, "I prefer the text in between to be short," which in this case means, "only match up to the first period."

There is something wonderful about this. A regular expression is a simple way to describe incredible complexity (like the written word) using just a handful of characters. Once you've described it, you have created a pattern that you can apply to other instances of complexity, with predictable, powerful results. A regular expression is a general-purpose tool for describing textual patterns. You can use the above regular expression to pull out every matching sentence from Charles Dickens' novel. You can use it to strip the last two sentences from this paragraph because they're making this interview too long.