#TPBTH Meet: Jared Smith
Name, craft/industry/blog/passion, most popular handle/website:
Jared Smith, a software development manager at BoomTown and weather nut. @chswx on all social platforms (most notably Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), chswx.com on the Web.
How did you get started?
In spring of 2008 I realized I started tweeting about the weather on my personal account. I also got into the habit of doing occasional Ustream broadcasts of me narrating weather radar through rough events. Eventually I realized that Twitter’s real-time nature, plus its brevity, would be a great place for quickly disseminating weather data with minimal hype.
The early days were very rudimentary. I would get National Weather Service alerts forwarded to my BlackBerry via Weather Underground. From there I would manually type every warning into Twitter, sometimes via text message. It took almost two years for my first radar screenshot to show up attached to a tweet; many more would follow as services like Twitpic (and eventually Twitter’s own media support) got fleshed out. Eventually with the help of a really good friend I got a little automation for forecasts, but I continued to manually update with warnings until 2012, when I finally put some automation in place for those.
What or who influenced you the most as you were developing your craft?
There were a few stages. First, seeing how the early adopters of Twitter interacted with each other on the service proved to be very influential. Then I began to study broadcast meteorology techniques much more closely; I will still often spend a night or two a week watching YouTube videos of long-form severe weather coverage to monitor delivery and how threats are communicated. As time has gone on, @chswx has become very much a software engineering project in its own right, so the techniques I was learning and refining at BoomTown really helped inform my growth of the small but useful tools I was building. Plus, I am able to take things I’ve learned from scaling the @chswx tools and bring them back to BoomTown, to help grow my overall software development discipline.
Why do you love your job?
Software engineering is a tremendously rewarding career. It is just so much fun to build things that help make others’ lives easier. I got into management last year and it was the best thing I could have done for my career, because now I get an opportunity to help build up the skills of tremendously talented people. Doing the @chswx account gives me another way to experiment with new technologies to help people make their lives a little easier, and this experience can be very informative when working on projects at BoomTown.
What inspires you?
Knowing that people count on my weather work is a big inspiration to keep it going (8 years in April!) From a more tangible perspective, I can’t resist a nice, clean data visualization — legibility and ease of use are big considerations for @chswx. Sometimes I do OK at those things, and I’m always trying (as time allows) to rectify when I fall short.
5 words that describe who you are:
Nerdy, enthusiastic, eccentric, inspired, humbled.
When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a broadcast meteorologist after moving to Charleston when I was 4 and realizing that the skies did much more here than they did in San Diego, where I was born. My interest in computers came around age 10 and then I realized that I could have a lot of fun doing programming. As it turns out, both interests have intertwined nicely over the years.
I’m pretty close to being in exactly that, honestly, but if we were talking about a different life path, it’d be doing weather on air.
3 things you aspire to be or do:
Be good to my family
Be an asset to my community
Do great things that make an impact
(Fill in the blank) I appreciate __________ in my life, because__________.
I appreciate the small details in my life, because they add up to make a big difference.
What was one of the hardest lessons or toughest obstacles you had to overcome?
You can’t please 100% of the people 100% of the time. Internalizing this was freeing.
Advice for someone who is looking to begin a new hobby/job/life pursuit:
If you want it bad enough, you’ll make the time to do it, so make the time. Take risks. Meet people. Social media helped me break out of my shell — I’m really not sure where I am in this life without it.
Something your followers would be surprised to learn about you:
I always forget my umbrella or rain gear when I forecast rain. Do as I say, not as I do.
Ziti with meatballs. I’ve come to appreciate the Italian tradition through my wife; my waist and my butt, not so much.
Mountain Dew Code Red for the hard programming problems. Tradesman Agave Wheat when the hard programming problems are solved.
There have been a few of these over the years, but you’re hard pressed to find a better, more interesting, more emotional track than “Every Other Way” off BT’s 2010 album These Hopeful Machines. Ten minutes of electronic excellence. You’ve got to get the iTunes version for the extra drum breakdown at the end, too.
— President Barack Obama, March 11, 2016