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Q&A with Paul Kinlan

Staff Developer Advocate for Chrome and Web

I am Paul Kinlan, I live in Liverpool and I work at Google. I am a Staff Developer Advocate for Chrome and Web and I lead a team of 8-9 people.

Developer Advocate is an odd role name, but briefly my goal is to make web developers more effective and successful, to smooth out the development process for developers whilst also pushing the capabilities of the web as a whole - so getting web developers to build more advanced, deeply integrated web applications.

Right now everything is about mobile, future platforms and emerging markets which means on a day to day basis I spend a lot of time trying to plan of how we make developers more successful and also how the web fits into the future.

Luckily I still get time to do development, so I consider myself a Front End and Backend Web developer still.

How did you get started in development? What is your background?

Well, it is a long story.  My dad tried to get me into programming on the Amiga 500 when I was a kid, however it didn't really stick and I didn't know what to build either other than copying Basic commands from Let's Compute - I have a lot of fond memories of that. It wasn't until a little later when I saw Street Fighter II (92 I believe) being played that all of a sudden everything clicked in my mind and I got how all of the logic bits worked.

Since this time I have always been a tinker and I am have an reasonable idea for products and projects that will get used and help people.

My earliest vivid memory of a program I remember building was when the UK National Lottery was launched (93) and I wrote a QBasic program that would pick numbers for it and it was designed to save my Granddad time.

Jump forward to being commercial. I started a Hosting company when I was 18 and we were exclusively a Perl shop, everything we did was Perl, all the back office, all the Frontend (AJAX wasn't a thing then).  I then moved to Experian whilst at University and I helped build the Hunter 2 Fraud detection systems (.Net and JavaScript), whilst a lot of it was grunt work I did a lot of experimentation and R&D and was doing a huge amount of work in JavaScript that massively differentiated the product from it's competitors at the time.

I left joined a small telecoms company in Liverpool building Voice interaction systems, it was a good job, but I was left wanting more so in the evenings I built and launched many products (Twe2, FriendDeck, Vooices and Ahoyo) and at the same time I was doing a lot of developer education work and I got an offer to build Developer platforms at Google which I have been doing ever since (2010).

What software and hardware do you use for your work?

It's my Apple Macbook, a Chromebook and my Nexus 6.  Software is a long one.

  • For core development: Chrome, Git, Vim, Sublime, Node, Make, Gulp and all the associated ecosystems.
  • For communication and collaboration: Google Docs, Hangouts and Inbox, Twitter and G+.

What is your ideal work environment?

I have two, I enjoy my home office so I can be at home when the kids get in from School.  But I also love being in our office, we are tight-nit team and we are all in close proximity to each other and I like the camaraderie and the pace.  I am the noisy one that annoys people though, so I think my team also like me when I am working from Home.

Top-3 your favorite books / resources about development

I've not read any programming books in a while, everything you need is on the web. I would heartily recommend MDN to any web developer.  I do have a shameless plug, but I do think it is a leading resource if you are getting in to Web Development: - we built this to be a one stop guide to getting the best out of the web platform and likewise

If you want physical books: All volumes of the Art of Computer Programming, and I like a lot of science fiction to get the mind going, oh and A Song of Ice and Fire series which is like a well written fantasy version 50 Shades.

Who are the developers you admire most?

Hmm, I have a laundry list and I am going to miss people off. John Carmack, because he was the superstar developer that I could learn from, he is just a level above, he is vocal and he ships amazing products.

There are a lot of developers that I admire in the Web Industry too. Remy Sharp, Patrick Hamann, Peter Gasston, Andrew Betts, Marcy Sutton, Pearl Chen. There are a lot of really good web developers out there that provide me with a lot of inspiration and I know I missing them out (sorry).

Actually there are a lot of people who I work with directly at Google that are amazing at what they do and also passionate about making great products (Darin Fisher - now VP of Chrome Eng, Dimitri Glazkov, Alex Russell, Paul Irish, Mike Tsao, Peter Beverloo, Mounir Lamouri, John Mellor - sorry, I know I missing lots of people).

Can I mention my team too? Paul Lewis, Jake Archibald, Matt Gaunt, Sam Dutton, Pete LePage, Paul Bakaus, Ido Green, Rob Dodson, Eiji Kitamura, Addy Osmani - actually on the broader team the list is massive.

I suppose the question is why do I admire them?  They all have a very deep understanding of the area where they work and they are all passionate about helping other developers to be better developers. They all want to share their learnings, experience and vision for the projects and they are all great at collaborating and they are very easy to work with.