The Artisan Files / updated: September 01, 2014

The Artisan Files: Dries Vints

Dries Vints

This week I’m happy to have Dries Vints featured in the Artisan Files. Dries is a developer, open source activist, and is now responsible for laravel.io – The Laravel community portal.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? How’d you get into web development?

Sure! I’m a 25-year old web developer currently living in Limburg, Belgium and working in Antwerp.

I think my first experiences I had with web development was almost 10 years back and consisted of writing some basic web pages for an online gaming community called “Bunkergaming” which I was member of. I got to learn some basic HTML and CSS with that and also some JavaScript. Besides that I also played a game called “Hearts of Iron II” a lot back then which offered quite an extensive modification tool kit which enabled you to modify the source code of the game so you could tune it the way you want. I used to tinker with it a lot. Those two were definitely some of the things which got me into web development.

When I left high school I enlisted in college for a course called “Communication and Multimedia Design”. But I quickly noticed that I didn’t belong there. You got so much theoretically stuff and very little practical learning. Studying that much wasn’t really spend on me so it wasn’t big of a surprise that I dropped out of college at the end of the year. Frankly, I never looked back. Two months later I enrolled in a program for a small basic course closesly to home which thought the basics of web development. I learned more from those 4 months then an entire year at college. I got much more practical knowledge and the 6-week internship we had to do at the end of the course landed me my
first job.

After 4 years working at an agency in Antwerp and 6 months at a small agency in Limburg I got a new job at BeatSwitch in Antwerp. BeatSwitch is a startup which offers a platform to artists, agencies and promoters to manage everything about their business. Although the job sometimes requires irregular working hours I really love my job here. Awesome co-workers, a great place to work (center of Antwerp) and exactly the kind of work I love to do which is working on a SaaS application.

How did you first find Laravel?

I first discovered Laravel when we were in need of replacing our old legacy framework at my first job with a dedicated PHP framework. We had a look at the most prominent ones and eventually spent some time trying out CodeIgniter. While it was a good framework at the time, it didn’t took long before I stumbled onto Laravel.

Something which immidiately caught my attention with Laravel was its elegant coding style and the easiness of getting started on coding with the framework. It didn’t took long before we decided to use Laravel for our future projects.

I was in luck because at the time when I started out with Laravel, which was by the end of 2012, version 4 was about to hit beta and we were going to start on a new large project which I’d be developing on for several months. Since Laravel 4 would hit a stable release soon I decided to start building the project on top of the Laravel 4 beta. It was a great choice because it enabled me to program the project fast and in the meantime contribute to the Laravel 4 beta because I was using it to actively build a real project. I really learned a lot during that period.

You run a very popular newsletter “Laravel Weekly”. Can you tell us how that got started?

Laravel Weekly started out as a weekly blog back in March, 2013 where I was sharing all things I learned from using the Laravel 4 beta. The early posts are still up there on my blog. After a while I started talking with Shawn McCool about posting them on the Laravel IO website and soon enough Laravel Weekly moved to Laravel IO.

Because the blog posts started to receive more and more attention the most logical step for moving forward was creating a newsletter format which would exist alongside the blog posts. It was a good decision because the current newsletter counts no less then 2600 subscribers. The blog posts at Laravel IO stopped for the moment because the Laravel IO platform is currently going under an extensive overhaul.

I know a lot of people must be wondering what happened to Laravel Weekly in the past few months because it’s been quite a while since I posted a new issue. Maintaining a weekly newsletter which you run for free and put so much time into each week can get tiresome fast. Finding the energy to write a new issue each week can be exhausting when you have a lot of other things on your mind. Until recently I also worked as a part-time freelancer. Combining this all with doing open-source work and still trying to have time for a personal life leaves very few time for other things.

Because I recently took over the management of Laravel.IO I’ve decided to put Laravel Weekly on hold for now. My plan is to make Laravel Weekly an integral part of Laravel.IO. If everything goes as planned, Laravel Weekly will return bigger and better than ever before.

Can you share what your typical day is like?

My typical day starts at getting up at 6:30AM and catching my train at 7:30AM. I start working at our office in Antwerp at 9AM. During the day I mostly work on new features or perform maintenance on the BeatSwitch platform. My breaks vary from time to time during noon but I usually go out for a walk in downtown Antwerp and get lunch in one of the many food places across the city. It’s a real joy to work in such a wonderful city. I leave work at 5:45PM and catch my train at 6:10PM. I get back home at 7:40PM, eat something and try to do some open- source work. At the end of the day I try to watch an episode or two of some series I follow (currently I’m watching The Sopranos) and usually go to bed at midnight. Needless to say, I’m having quite some hectic days but I love my job so that makes up for it. I also get to work 1–2 days at home each week so that really helps.

Because I quit my part-time freelance job recently I slowly have time again for the things I like to do like blogging more or contributing to Laravel. I’m slowly finding my pace at this so I hope I can get to that again soon enough.

Can you tell us about your local environment?

Dries VInts Desktop

I used to be a real Sublime Text 2 addict but then PHPStorm came along. It scared me off at first with it’s cluttered UI but after watching some screencasts (Laracasts, what else?) I tried it out and frankly I never looked back. A good IDE like PHPStorm will always wipe the floor with a text editor like ST when it comes to developing more rapidely. So yeah, PHPStorm is by far my most used app.

Besides PHPStorm I’m also a big Tower fan, which is a GUI for git. It’s probably the most powerful git GUI application out there for Mac OS X. Tower really makes it ridiculous fast for you to do actions which you’d otherwise have to spend much longer on to type out on the CLI. Plus you get a great overview of you current changes. Tower 2 came out recently so definitely give it a try if you haven’t yet.

For the rest I use Iterm2 for CLI duties, Sequel Pro for MySQL database interactions and Transmit which is still the best FTP client for Mac OS X out there. I also bought Paw today for performing HTTP request and inspecting them and it does a mighty fine job at it. Could really recommend it for anyone who’s looking for a good HTTP client.

As you can see from my desktop I’m eagerly anticipating the next OS X release. I thought of switching to Linux a couple of times but OS X makes it a joy to work in so I don’t think I’ll switch to anything else fast.

Do you have any hobbies outside the computer?

Although I probably spend too much time on the computer as I should I still have a few outside-work hobbies.

When I go out I mostly go to hardcore shows (the band thing, not the rave thing) which are usually small club shows where a few local bands and the occasionally foreign band(s) play. The entire hardcore culture if something that’s really grown to me over the past 8 years. It’s kind of like a second home for me where the vibe is always good and you’ll always meet some friends no matter which show you go to. It’s also something that helped me go through a difficult period in my youth. Mostly quitting drinking and becoming a vegetarian is something that gave me a lot of fresh perspective in life and a positive mental attitude to help me cope with life’s hard times. So there’s that.

I also love to collect vinyl records, which are mostly hardcore records. I’m getting better at BF4 on PS4 on a weekly basis but I bet I’d still get my ass whooped on 1vs1. I love to read as well. I’m a huge “A Song of Ice and Fire” fan which are really the best books I’ve read so far. Mostly reading Sci-Fi and Fantasy books. One day I’d really love to write a book of my own but that’s for someday when I find time for it. Love to watch series as well, again mostly Sci-Fi and Fantasy although I love the occasionally drama as well. Band of Brothers is still the best series I’ve ever seen but Breaking Bad comes in on an very close 2nd place.

If you could be a superhero, what superpowers would you want?

To freeze time. Not to have extra time to do stuff but just to have some extra moments of quiteness. So you can relax a bit more to make it through a day. Have that extra moment of quiteness as a speaker before you address the crowd. Or just have that bit of extra time to enjoy a break.

Imagine what a joy that would be.

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