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JT Smith

User: snapcount
Date: 9/5/2006 7:41 am
Views: 7900
Rating: 33    Rate [

Age: 32
Location: Madison, WI
Profession: WebGUI Geek
Favorite Color: Black


In what way(s) do you contribute to WebGUI or the WebGUI Community?

I'm the lead developer for WebGUI, and the President of Plain Black.

When did you first hear of WebGUI?

When I came up with the idea for it back in the late 90's. =)

How and when did you get involved in WebGUI?

Early in 1999 I wrote the first version of WebGUI, which then was called Web Done Right. It was built on the Minivend e-commerce server. However, at the time Minivend's future wasn't very certain, and it also didn't provide the flexibility that I was ultimately looking for. Early in 2001 I wrote the second version of WebGUI, based upon CGI::Application, but that too was too limiting for my tastes. In June of 2001, I started writing WebGUI as we know it today, and the rest you can see in the change logs.

Are you paid to work on WebGUI?

Yup. All the R&D I do is funded directly from support contracts and hosting. So if you want to see me adding more features faster, please buy support and hosting!

How much time do you spend on WebGUI?

That depends upon the week. I generally spend no less than 60 hours per week on WebGUI / Plain Black related stuff. During heavy R&D times, it's not uncommon for me to work between 16 and 20 hours per day on WebGUI. A lot of people ask me how I can work so much, but when you love what you're doing, it's easy.

What do you think is still missing from WebGUI or the WebGUI Community?

There's lots missing from WebGUI. If there wasn't, I'd be out of a job, cuz there'd be nothing left to write. I think we need to re-invent how commerce is done to make it easy to set up a really powerful online store. I think we also need to start building more hard-core business applications similar to the Project Management app that we put into WebGUI 7.0.

The growth of the community has been slower than I'd have liked. But I think that's mostly my own fault. The community was really starting to take off just before I started development on WebGUI 6.x. The constant changing API really killed  the community. People didn't know how to support it, write code for it, develop themes for it, etc. I'm still glad we did the rewrite in 6.x, but if we do a rewrite in the future, I'll be much more mindful of how it affects the community at large. Now that we're on to 7, I think that the community should start back with a healthy growth once again.

What keeps you motivated to keep working on WebGUI?

Getting to build cool features based upon feedback. I love the challenge of figuring out how to solve the problems posed by the community's desires, and by our customers' needs.

What's WebGUI's killer feature and why?

I think it's the power we put into the hands of the user, while still keeping it fairly easy to use. A lot of developers these days believe that less is more in web apps. A minimalist approach makes the software easy to use by 90% of the possible users. The problem is that it only suits 50% of their needs. True power is in getting both those numbers as close to 100% as possible. Though I haven't achieved that goal entirely, I feel that WebGUI is closer to that than any other system out there. And that is WebGUI's killer feature.

What's WebGUI's greatest weakness and why?

There are many areas of improvement, but the biggest weakness at the moment is that WebGUI's not known to a lot of people. Going forward we must do more to get the word out.

What makes you work on WebGUI over the competition?

If I ever saw a system that is flat out better than WebGUI, I'd switch. WebGUI's not the best at all things, but what makes WebGUI the best system out there is that it does a lot of things really well. Competitor X may do something better, or have a shiny new feature that WebGUI doesn't have. So what? WebGUI is flexible enough that we can pretty much add any feature our competitors have if our clients want it badly enough.

What's your most brilliant WebGUI hack?

I think that the design of the asset system (starting with WebGUI 6.3) is pretty cool. It gives developers a common way of creating all sorts of content, and it gives users a very standard way of managing content.

But honestly, with each new release, there's always something I like. With 7, I'm really happy with the workflow system. And I've got some really killer features that I'm working on for the 7.x series.

Have you attended the WebGUI User's Conference?

Every one.

Where do you keep your Gooey doll?

One on my mantle, two in my car, one on my desk, and several hundred of them in a storage closet at my office.

Personal Stuff


How would you describe yourself?

I overcome a lack of intelligence and talent through large amounts of drive and willpower. =) I'm 6'2", wear only black, and am overweight from working on WebGUI too much and exercising too little (though I'm working on that). And finally, I often come off as angry, rude, and downright mean, but in reality I just have very little time so I talk fast and write faster, and often don't give any thought to how my words or tone will be interpreted by others.

Are you married, dating, or otherwise involved?

I'm engaged. We'll be married in October 2006.

Do you have any kids?


Do you have any pets?

Just a whole pile of Gooeys.

If someone visits your area, what's something they must see or do?

Get a Teddywedger , take a walk through the Capitol , pick up a copy of the Onion and the Ithsmus, and get tickets to what ever's going on at the Overature Center.

What do you hate?

Wasting time. Examples: small talk, meetings that reach no decisions and/or offer no deliverables, rituals for the sake of tradition.

What do you love?

My fiance, WebGUI, the color black, and pizza. Oh, and playing games (board, video, card, bar, sport, it matters not).

What's the last book you read?

Cradle to Cradle, by William McDonough & Michael Braungart

What's the last CD/MP3 you bought?

50 Cent - In Da Club

What's the last movie you watched?

The Da Vinci Code

EDITORS NOTE: We dragged JT out to watch "Crank" although he begged and pleaded to watch "Snakes on a Plane" 

You're stuck on a train/plane for 6 hours and bored out of your mind, what do you do to amuse yourself?

If I have my laptop, I'll code or play a game. If I've got my iPod, I'll listen to some music. If I've got something to read, I'll do that. And barring all else I'll either sleep or people watch.

Any last words?

Thanks for making WebGUI what it is today. Though it's my job to add features to WebGUI, if I didn't have you supporting me through purchasing services and providing feedback, WebGUI would still be at a 0.x.x release. So thanks.


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