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Meet The Speaker: Rich Harris

As part of our preparations for YGLF 2019 Code Camp we're excited to share with you another interview, in the series of interviews, with this year's amazing speakers. Hear their stories and their professional insights. This time we're with Rich Harris.


Q: Tell us a bit about yourself


Aquarius. Yorkshireman. 6'3". I like dogs, karaoke and being outdoors.

My entire career has been spent in the news industry — I started out as a financial reporter just before the 2008 crash, and eventually drifted towards JavaScript as a means of doing journalism that was more interactive and data-driven. That helped me get a job at the Guardian (a British newspaper) where I stayed for a few years, first in London then in New York.


Today I work as a graphics editor at the New York Times, on the investigative desk. It's a job that's hard to summarise, but the basic idea is to use technology to find and report things that would be difficult with the traditional tools of journalism. Often, that process culminates in some kind of interactive graphic or data visualization, which is why I spent a lot of time thinking about ways to create compact, performant JavaScript apps on a deadline.


As a result I've created a few different open source projects. The most well-known of these is Rollup, a JavaScript module bundler that's used by most major frontend libraries. At present my main focus is on Svelte, a UI framework that compiles your components into optimal JavaScript at build time, instead of doing what most frameworks do which is lots of unnecessary work at run time.


Q: Who is your favorite tech thought leader and why?


I'm not going to make any friends by saying this, but most soi-disant thought leaders produce little more than hot air. There's too much of a cult of personality in the JavaScript ecosystem, and too many people trying to sell you something — usually themselves.


The term 'thought leader' implies someone on a pedestal bestowing their knowledge upon the masses, while in reality our advancement as a community is built on dialogue. The more people feel like active participants, sharing their ideas and experiments with the world rather than waiting to be told what to think, the stronger we all become.


Q: What advice would you give yourself at the outset of your career?


Work in the open. For a long time I was hesitant to put code on GitHub because I had 'stage fright' — I was worried that people would think my code was bad. And it was bad, but that's okay, because a) all code is bad, and b) the best way to make it better is to let other people see it.

Partly because they'll help (if you're lucky) but mostly because you will naturally do things in a more careful and considered way if other people might see you doing them. For example, if you're thinking of creating a library, write the README before you write the code. It forces you to see the problem through someone else's eyes, and it has never not resulted in a better outcome.


Manage your time. You can't do everything, so do the things that matter. (Figuring out what they are is the hard part.) If you create open source software, embrace the people who use it, but always remember that you don't owe them anything.


Don't get too attached to particular technologies, even ones you create. They all have a shorter shelf life than you think.


Q: What will you teach us at YGLF Code Camp 2019?


We'll be discovering new ways of thinking about reactive programming, and rethinking our relationships with the tools we use to build web applications. Specifically, I'll be presenting some of the ideas in Svelte 3, which reimagines what writing web apps should be like.


Thank you, Rich!

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Exciting things ahead,

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