Community Spotlight with Ben Johnson


New Relic’s Community Spotlight blog series is designed to showcase people of interest in the tech community, learn about the projects they’re working on, and find out more about the things that excite them in the community today.

So far, we’ve shined the spotlight on Rails Girls co-founder and soon-to-be children’s book author Linda Liukas as well as Andy Gross, Chief Architect at Basho Technologies.

Now it’s time to meet open source stalwart Ben Johnson. The founder of Skyland Labs, Ben specializes in customer behavior analytics and data visualization, but his passions extend far into a wide variety of projects. Ben is well known in the Open Source community for his contributions to Go, an open sourced language that was originally developed at Google and is now used by large companies like GitHub, SoundCloud, Vimeo, and the BBC. He also started several popular, open source Go projects including SkyDB, go-raft, and megajson.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an open source developer living in Denver, Colorado. I mostly work on database and distributed systems libraries in Go and in data visualization using D3.js. I recently started a side project called The Secret Lives of Data that attempts to combine the two areas and explain data systems through data visualization.

I recently started learning how to write video games in Unity3D with my daughter. It’s been great watching her writing code and using a physics engine. It sure beats the QBASIC games I was making when I was her age.

 What kind of work do you do?

I have an amazingly awesome job. Shopify sponsors me to work full-time on my open source behavioral analytics database called Sky. They’re a great, smart group of people to work with and have really helped move the project forward.

I have a bit of an open source obsession so I tend to get involved in a lot projects. I find distributed systems fascinating and I’m a core committer on CoreOS’ etcd project and the go-raft distributed consensus library. My latest project is a pure Go key/value data store based on LMDB called Bolt.

 How do you stay motivated when you’re stuck on a problem?

I think it’s easy to lose track of the small victories during the journey we take to solve a problem. Those victories are exactly what build momentum and give us motivation.

I have a quirky habit where I keep a small piece of paper next to me during the day and every 30 minutes I write down what I just did. It’s great. If I ever feel like I’m not making progress on a problem I can just look down and see all those little hurdles I just made it through.

 Who are the developers you admire, and why?

I have a huge developer crush on Ilya Grigorik (@igrigorik). When I was originally writing Sky I would stumble across his blog constantly while researching low-level computer science topics. His blog is a gold mine about everything from bloom filters to ZeroMQ to I/O optimization. And while he’s obviously a smart guy, my favorite thing about Ilya is that he’s so positive and genuinely seems to want to help everyone do better.

Another developer that I admire is Kelly Sommers (@kellabyte). It’s inspiring to watch her on Twitter because she genuinely loves to learn and to share what she’s learned without ego. Watching her makes me want to challenge myself more.

Thank you for your time, Ben!

Jana is one of the happiest people you will ever meet. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that she loves what she does. She started at New Relic as their Offline Community Manager and now she manages all of New Relic’s internally organized conferences. View posts by .

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