Engineering is drinking from the fire hose. Software is performance art. This week, we caught up with Robert McDonald: our resident software-developer-slash-tv-producer-slash-coder-slash-clown-academy-grad.
Herewith, his story.
What do you do here at BitTorrent?
I’m a software developer. I write and test code that works on all BitTorrent’s clients, with a focus on embedded Linux systems. I also develop BitTorrent clients on Android devices, and develop µTorrent Server for Linux.
What’s the most interesting part of your work?
The BitTorrent clients are multi-threaded, handle high volumes of network traffic, run on multiple platforms, and have lots of users; I find those challenges interesting. I also enjoy the challenges of working with embedded systems. I’ve come to appreciate how effective the BitTorrent protocol is at distributing media files.
I think of software as a performance medium, a stage on which the software developer must create a world that makes sense to the user, while also making sense to other developers that work on the code.
Any advice for people who want to get into software dev?
Don’t go into software engineering unless you like drinking from a fire hose. Because that’s how much you’ll need to learn to stay current.
What do you like about working here?
It’s fun to work on a product that is used by so many people, and it’s fascinating to follow how society deals with the promotion and distribution of creative works in new channels. I like working with bright people: people with interesting ideas, and varying areas of expertise. And I appreciate the integration of visual designers, user experience designers, engineers, marketers and dealmakers.
What keeps you busy in your free time?
My family. I have an 11 year old son, to whom I pitch baseballs so he can practice batting. My family likes to go camping and traveling. We’ve been to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, and gone kayaking at lakes in the Sierras. I’m also a member of the volunteer production crew for live shows at a local PBS TV station – running cameras, audio board, video switcher, CGI server, and video server. I’m hoping to work up to directing live shows.
Secret fun fact:
I have a hobby I started doing as an adult, involving movement as performance art. Over the years, this has included juggling, clowning, capoeira, mime, post-modern dance, jazz dance, and ballet. I performed in a ballet for three seasons and the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival two years. I also attended Mooseburger Clown Camp, run by an amazingly skilled, entertaining, and diverse set of clowns.