Interview with a Digg.com Software Engineer Kurt Wilms

Inside The Webb —  November 2, 2009 — 32 Comments

As a web designer myself, I have found that other web designers I talk to always have favorite websites they go to for inspiration. Not saying they want to copy a specific website, but there are just some site’s that “stick” and really inspire you to create web designs. For me, this was Digg.com when I first found the site in 2007. It has gone through many design changes since then, but it’s still one of the most successful startups for websites in the CA area, and it’s fame is very impressive.

Kurt Wilms - Digg.com Software EngineerI got an interview with one of the software engineers at Digg, Kurt Wilms. A Computer Science major from The University of Minnesota, Kurt is a very intelligent software engineer and provides some insight into the Digg lifestyle. What it’s like on a day to day basis, what it’s like to design applications for Digg, and a whole lot more. Any other fans of Digg will know exactly what I’m talking about when I say I’m very excited to have this interview, and I hope you all enjoy it as well.

How did you first get into software engineering and design?

I studied Computer Science at the University of Minnesota, and I have been working on interesting projects since I graduated.

What type of work do you do at Digg and could you give us an example of a project within Digg you’ve created or helped develop?

I joined Digg right around the end of 2006 as a Senior Software Engineer. I believe I was employee number 18 or 19, and now we are around 80 employees. I’ve worked directly and indirectly on many of the core features the users of Digg interact with everyday. Now we have many more engineers compared to the early days. This is nice because it allows our engineers to work on pieces of the software that interest them. Lately, I’ve been working on the development of various new products that organize Digg’s existing information in new and interesting ways.

Could you go over a typical day at Digg for you?

Kurt Wilms Digg Avatar I typically bicycle to work from Nob Hill which is where I live in San Francisco. The engineers at Digg have a pretty cool large open space where we work in Potrero Hill. It’s really nice; bike friendly, dog friendly, etc. I’ll spend most of my day writing code for the site, planning for new features, or analyzing data to help improve existing features or understand user behavior. Meetings can spontaneously occur throughout the day to address issues with the site.

Everyone has a desk in our office, but a few people spend a good amount of time sitting on the various sofas we have writing code or meeting in small groups. I tend to work at my desk for most of the day. Usually everyone leaves in the early evening. Most nights, I end up going climbing, getting dinner, or hanging out with some of the guys I work with once we leave.

Aside from developing software for Digg do you have any other side-projects you work on in your spare time?

We have something at Digg we call “Digg Ideas”. Every couple of months we get together and employees can show off ideas they’ve been working on outside of their day to day responsibilities. Probably one or two features on the site came to be because of “Digg Ideas” side projects I’ve worked on.

Outside of Digg, I’ve contributed to a few open source projects, and I’ve released a number of small pieces of software.

Ubuntu Machine with Digg Stickers

What is the atmosphere like working at Digg or even just as a software developer in Silicon Valley?

Digg gives their engineers a lot of freedom over both the work and the work environment which is probably pretty typical for an Internet company. There is a lot of flexibility with my day-to-day schedule as well as projects and deadlines. There are exceptions; tasks others ask you to do for them, external deadlines or dependencies, but these goals are set cooperatively with coworkers, taking into account your interests and abilities.

I have total control over my choice of development tools. I write most of my code using emacs on a linux notebook. Others use vim on Macintosh notebooks, etc. As far as San Francisco goes, the number of technology related companies makes the Bay Area a great place for engineers. It seems like every night of the week there is some sort of meet-up, industry party, or tech talk. You’ll meet the people who worked on the software and hardware you use everyday. You’ll meet people who are starting new companies. There is probably no better place to live if you are a technology geek.

What are your thoughts on the social networking / web 2.0 movement that is sweeping the internet today?

Online communities can be powerful and open up new ways to communicate and share information. Of course, there is also the concerns about privacy and misuse. A lot of these “web 2.0″ sites can be fun, but can also be a waste of time. I guess it’s what you make of it.

Fun @ Digg

Aside from surfing Digg what are your other favorite sites to visit?

We have a company IRC where lots of interesting links get shared. So, I see a lot of content during the day. A couple blogs I’ve been into lately: bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com, a hilarious blog dedicated to cycling faux pas and davidlebovitz.com, an interesting blog written by an American baker living as an expatriate in Paris.

Are there any upcoming developments in the works at Digg that you could share with us?

A lot of our focus at the moment is on reworking a lot of the core components of Digg. Right now I am working on a pretty interesting new feature that has been in the works for quite some time. I can’t say much more, but it should be pretty interesting when we release it :)

Digg Bakery

If you had any advice for up and coming programmers and engineers what would it be?

I would say don’t focus on specific languages or technologies. These things change, and they change constantly. The most important skills are the skills that are transferable. Once you have a deep understanding of general computer science concepts you will know where to look for the details later when you need them. Most of the really sharp computer scientists I know are incredible thinkers who really understand underlying concepts and theories.

Inside The Webb

Posts Google+

32 responses to Interview with a Digg.com Software Engineer Kurt Wilms

  1. Wow, this article is pretty interesting.

  2. Wow, that is very interesting indeed!

    JJ
    http://www.complete-privacy.at.tc

  3. nice share.

    this article is inspiring me so much

  4. Sounds like a sweet gig. It would be interesting to find out about some more on other developments at digg such as algorithm research, user testing strategies.

  5. i really enjoy interview. thanks

  6. Sounds nice, but I don’t think he mentioned anything bad (or less than good) about working for digg.

    I’m thinking of applying for some jobs in the US (I am now living in Amsterdam, Netherlands – and cycling to work also btw :)), and would love to hear the bad part of it also…

    Thanks for sharing.

    Pedro

  7. Nice interview, i like it

    Do u want to know more about google wave
    visit:http://freshnewz.co.cc/

  8. Sounds like a really cool job and less stressful than some other programming jobs that are out there

  9. Really really interesting interview. I like it how he thoroughly explains to us what his day to day tasks are and what they do around the office.

    Keep up the great work.
    Regards,
    Jacques
    Creativeoverflow

  10. really inspiring interview, this will definitely help to concentrate.
    thnx.
    keep it up.:)

  11. great read :) been a digger for years.

  12. very inspiring article. wondering what kind of features will digg release in future. just can’t wait.

  13. I wonder how much of the digg site is written in Go?

  14. Looks like they got rid of the ads …I think. Edit I take that back the ads appear randomly now.

  15. Looks like they got rid of the ads …I think. Edit I take that back the ads appear randomly now.

  16. I guess Kurt will never be as cool as Kevin…

  17. Great interview :D Have you got a slot on Front page of Digg?

  18. Interesting about the Digg Ideas. Seems like many of the big innovators are companies that allow their staff the freedom to think and to experiment…

  19. Interesting Interview. Now I want to live in San Fransico and bike to work. Sofas in the office wow. Sounds like a great place to work. A creative environment

  20. this article very inpsiring for me..thank you

  21. Too Bad, He didn’t provide much details on Upcoming Projects from Digg. I just checked out your other Blog (Digg office pics) Great interview. Very inspirational.
    It’s freedom to think creatively is what makes lot of these big social networking companies fun to work at.

  22. impressive Interview I am big digg fan . Thanks for your efforts

  23. This is a very interesting interview Kurt. Digg sounds like a great place to work. I like the concept of “Digg Ideas” where you can leverage the best ideas of the entire group. I think more companies should use a similar strategy.
    .-= The Flight Sim´s last blog ..PC Flight Simulator =-.

  24. We entered to a program as Bayilik Franchise Program. This article gave help us for develop our software. We will send our software for your recommend.

  25. Great interview with software engineer Kurt, I am great digg fan! Thanks.

  26. last time i took interview in the odesk freelancer i am taking interview in first time then i got a project from odesk freelancer.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. designfloat.com - November 2, 2009

    Interview with a Digg.com Software Engineer Kurt Wilms…

    I got an interview with one of the software engineers at Digg, Kurt Wilms. A Computer Science major from The University of Minnesota, Kurt is a very intelligent software engineer and provides some insight into the Digg lifestyle. What it’s like on a da…

  2. zabox.net - November 2, 2009

    Interview with a Digg.com Software Engineer Kurt Wilms…

    I got an interview with one of the software engineers at Digg, Kurt Wilms. A Computer Science major from The University of Minnesota, Kurt is a very intelligent software engineer and provides some insight into the Digg lifestyle. What it’s like on a da…

  3. socialseo.com/socialnews - November 3, 2009

    Interview with a Digg.com Software Engineer Kurt Wilms | Inside the Webb…

    I got an interview with one of the software engineers at Digg, Kurt Wilms. A Computer Science major from The University of Minnesota, Kurt is a very intelligent software engineer and provides some insight into the Digg lifestyle. What it’s like on a da…

  4. Social Bookmarking Software Video For Adding Webpages - December 23, 2009

    [...] Interview with a Digg.com Software Engineer Kurt Wilms | Inside … [...]

Leave a Reply

*

Text formatting is available via select HTML.

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>