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Q&A with Peter Gasston

Developer and technologist

I’m Peter Gasston, a veteran (i.e. old) developer and technologist, working at the digital agency rehabstudio in London. I’m the author of two books, The Book of CSS3 (second edition out now!) and The Modern Web, and I’ve written for magazines and websites including A List Apart, Smashing Magazine, and Net Magazine. I also speak at grassroots meetups and professional conferences, often on CSS3, Web Components, and other emerging standards. I’m married to Ana, am an Arsenal Football Club fan, and love to read - about history and technology in particular.

How did you get started in front-end? 

I’m a self-taught developer, started by building my own page on Geocities using Microsoft Frontpage, and got into professional development through a route that’s much harder these days: I blagged it. I claimed I had more experience than I had, then just made sure I did as good a job as possible so I didn’t get fired. That was 15 years ago, and while I don’t do so much hands-on production work these days, still make sure I’m aware of all the newest technologies and practices on the Web.

What software and hardware do you use for your work?

All I really need is a terminal and a text editor, so I work on a Macbook at work, and a combination of Macbook and Ubuntu desktop at home. My code editor of choice is Atom, I use Firefox as my default browser, GIMP for the occasional graphics work (and ImageOptim to optimise the results), and the command line for pretty much everything else. At work we use Slack for communication, which is brilliant. Not directly work related, I have a Nexus 5 and LG G Watch for keeping in touch on the go.

What is your ideal work environment?

Anywhere with the right level of background noise (not too loud, not too quiet), and where there are other people I can talk to when I need a break from the screen. I worked from home for six months, and it drove me round the bend. I need interaction.

Top-3 your favorite books / resources about front-end

Like everyone else of my generation of developers, Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing With Web Standards was a huge influence on me, and Dan Cederholm’s Web Standards Solutions was another huge help for my career. The best book I’ve read in the past few years is Stephen Hay’s Responsive Design Workflow, which has the balance of dev and process that I need in my job. Most of my reading nowadays is from blogs - I love my RSS feeds. I’m particularly enjoying the blogs of Paul Lewis and Paul Kinlan at the moment. But I recommend people read broadly, not just tech/Web blogs - you need perspective and opinions about life, and an understanding of the context your work will be viewed in, to be a really good developer.

Who are the developers you admire most?

The developers I admire most aren’t the ‘names’, but all the ones who write code that works everywhere; that is, mobile-first and progressively enhanced, that try to ensure access to the Web for all. They’re the developers that work at, The Guardian, the BBC, and many, many other sites and companies. Sorry if that sounds disingenuous, but I really believe that!