The Artisan Files / updated: August 09, 2014

The Artisan Files: Matt Stauffer

Matt Stauffer

This weeks Artisan Files features the ever friendly Matt Stauffer. I had the pleasure of meeting Matt at Laracon this year and I haven’t slept in months because a few certain people have said he is happier than I am. But what can you do? :)

Hi Matt, can you tell us about yourself and how did you get into web dev?

Sure! I’m from Ann Arbor, Michigan, I live in Gainesville, Florida, and I spent a few incredible years in Chicago. Also, my wife’s from Miami. So I’m a Midwesterner living in the South married to an incredible part-Southern-part-whatever-Miami-is woman. We have an almost-two-year-old son who’s cooler than I am and a tiny little furry black dog.

My brother and I ran a Renegade BBS from our family’s spare bedroom when I was in middle school. He ran the tech, and I drew the ASCII interfaces using TheDRAW. So, even from day one I wanted to help people use computers. Over the years, I’ve realized I’m much better at–and more interested in–making things work well than I am in making them look good.

I started in frontend (HTML/CSS/JS) development, moved eventually into PHP and then CodeIgniter and ExpressionEngine, and I’ve been working with Rails (a little) and Laravel (a lot) for the last year or two. I’m still more of a frontend guy–responsive Sass, hand-crafted JavaScript, that kinda stuff–than a backend guy, but I’m learning.

In school I studied English (creative writing), and I worked for a non-profit for five years doing decidedly non-techy stuff, but I’m currently Partner and Technical Director at Tighten Co. and Founder/CEO at Karani.

How’d you first find Laravel and what you made you start using it?

I don’t know for sure how I first heard about Laravel, but I know for sure that Jeffrey Way was the person who got me really interested. I’ve long held the opinion that he’s one of the best, if not the best, teachers on the Internet, so I avidly followed his videos when he was at Tuts. I’d heard of Laravel, but I’d also heard of a half dozen other potential CodeIgniter successors; but Jeffrey’s insistence that Laravel was it was what got me really involved. We were actually looking deeply into switching the core of our shop to Rails at that point.

For me, I work with a variety of clients, with a variety of needs and levels of technical competence, and I have developers working with me at varying levels (and areas) of development experience. I wanted a system that is not purely optimized for one level of geekdom or another, and it was clear to me immediately that Laravel provides the capabilities and practices for advanced developers but the kindness, community, and simplicity that will help beginner and intermediate devs to use it well, too.

Also: When I realized that learning Laravel had made me a better developer–that creating a positive and beneficial developer experience was a core part of Taylor’s vision–I was sold.

You are happier than a woodpecker in a lumber yard. What makes you so happy and you have any advice for the grumpy devs?

Ha! Well, I think there are a few pieces to that question. Most simply, genetics: My mom is probably the happiest and kindest person you’ve ever met. My dad’s also a great and friendly guy, but my mom is extraordinarily friendly and happy. I think I’ve always been pretty happy without trying.

But there’s another piece. I grew up Lutheran, and Lutherans (among others) hold to a tradition called Lent; as a part of Lent, people will often give up some pleasure or addiction for 40 days. I knew I was supposed to be nicer and happier–we’re taught to be content whatever the circumstances–and I knew I was neither nice nor happy, at least on average. So, I gave up being mean for Lent in my senior year of high school (and yes, it sounded as absurd then as it does now). But it totally transformed the way I experience life, and I just decided to try to keep it up.

For me, all grumpiness comes from focusing on myself. Either I’m only considering what I want in the situation, and I’m grumpy because I’m not getting my way–which means I need to let go of my own needs and desires and start valuing others more–or I’m nervous or insecure about how people perceive me and I use my grumpiness as a shield to keep me from getting hurt. Honestly, the grumpiest people I know really just need more love and affirmation… and hugs… so, if you’re grumpy, I would just say: You’re great. I like you, even if I don’t know you. Let’s be friends.

What is your typical day like?

Wake up at 6:30, sneak past my sleeping family and set up in the living room with my Bible. At 7 or 7:30 I make breakfast (some days my wife makes me hot breakfast and I’m pretty sure I’m the ruler of the world), and I’ll usually have breakfast with my family before I bike 1.25 miles into my office, which is a tiny little office containing only me for the moment (but I’m hoping to move to a coworking space.)

I usually start my day with email, looking over my schedule, making a task list. Watch a Laracasts or another dev video. Get some work done before our West Coast clients get in, address any emails from our European contractors and clients, do a little bit of dev work. For lunch I either walk over to a restaurant with whatever latest programming book I’m reading, meet up with friends, or work on my side gig (Karani). Afternoons tend to be meetings with my developers, clients, or business partner Dan, and I sneak as much work as I can in. I’m usually out the door by between 5 and 5:30, bike home, and I get a good hour or two to play with my son and my dog, help my wife with dinner, and just hang out with the family.

Right now my wife takes care of my son during the day, so I take responsibility for him in the evenings and put him down for bed, which is usually 8:30-9:00ish. Then it’s time with my wife, doing dishes, cleaning the house, working on Karani, going to the gym, and whatever else I can sneak in before it’s time to start it all over again.

Can you tell us about your local setup. What apps do you use everyday?

Matt Stauffer Desktop

Sure! I’m on a Retina 15″ MBP, latest model–I used an Air for years but it just wasn’t quite powerful enough to run my dozens of tabs, Photoshop, an IDE, chat, etc. Plus, it only had a single monitor output, which was terrible. I have my MBP on a stand next to my external 1080p monitor, but I’m on the verge of buying two new displays and mounting them above my desk. Apple Magic Trackpad, Apple wired keyboard. M-Audio studio speakers.

I had a Humanscale Float Table for a few weeks, and then it broke, and then its replacement broke, so I’m back to a normal person sitting desk. I’m not tough enough for a full-time standing desk so I’m still dreaming of a convertible desk one day. Maybe a NextDesk.

I live in PHPStorm (formerly Sublime Text) and Vim, iTerm2, Sequel Pro, MAMP Pro and Vagrant, Campfire (buddies) and Slack (work) and Adium (clients) and Textual for IRC (#laravel), Tweetbot for Twitter… I write with iA Writer and Marked, I use Concentrate to make myself get stuff done and Breaktime to make myself stop getting stuff done, Things for when I’m organized enough to manage my tasks, iTunes and Rdio for music and Busycal for calendar.

Oh, menu bar apps! Screenhero for pairing, Dropbox, TextExpander, 1password, Quickcast, CloudApp, Day One, Crashplan, f.lux, and Bartender to keep it all sane.

I use Chrome for development. I want to use Firefox because of privacy but always get too irritated with the UI and speed; I want to use Safari because of speed and the tight integration but always get too irritated with the UI and the weaker dev tools.

I have 7 Google/Google Apps email accounts (!!) and I manage them with Mailplane. I wish I had a better solution but I don’t.

Do you have any hobbies outside of the computer?

Too many. I used to do a lot of photography, but now I just shoot the occasional cute family photos.

I play bass guitar, occasionally professionally but usually just at church or conferences. If I ever have more time, I’m probably going to get back into playing bass more, and maybe even set up a little studio at my house. I’ve always had a dream of buying an upright bass and learning to play that too…

I have a few friends who are into carpentry, and creating something real with my hands is amazing. I keep saying I’m going to pick that up, too.

If your life was made into a movie, who would you like to play you?

Ha! Well, when I wore my hair short I was often told I looked like the younger brother from Prison Break or like Channing Tatum (but, of course, less Hollywood/muscle/etc.), so I’m guessing they would be natural choices.

However, neither of them strike me as wildly flexible actors. I’m not stoic enough to be the Prison Break guy and not “bro” enough to be Channing Tatum… And, my wife absolutely can’t stand Channing Tatum, so that’s not an association I think I want to make.

My wife thinks I look like Matt Damon (this shows you how much she loves me) and Sam Jaeger. I’ve never watched Sam act much, but I don’t think I can get away with claiming Matt Damon, so let’s go Sam Jaeger. Yes.

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