Posted by: Matthew | April 3, 2007

My Interview With Matthew Baldwin From Defective Yeti

As a project for my homeschool, I am interviewing people about their jobs. I asked Matthew Baldwin from defective Yeti if I could interview him. He said yes. Here is the interview. Thank you. Mr. Baldwin, The Other Matthew.

Where do you live?

I live in a one-story house in Seattle, Washington, with my wife, my three year old son, two cats, and a mole. (The mole lives under the back yard, actually.)

What do you do?

I am a programmer and technical writer. I am also a freelance writer for various magazines, websites, and companies.

What do you write about?

For my main job I do technical writing, which basically means that I write about programs and computer systems. Many of the best programmers in the world are not very good writers (or just don’t like to write, preferring to work on programs instead), so they need other people to help explain what their programs do.

When you get a new video game, for instance, there is usually a manual which tells you how to play: you press the A button and your character kicks, you press the X button and he jumps, etc. That’s a kind of technical writing, explaining to a user (the player) how a program works. That’s essentially what I do, except you probably wouldn’t find the stuff I write about as interesting as a video game.

For my freelance writing, I usually write humor pieces and essays.
What does a programmer do? What do you program?

Computers are both very smart and very stupid–smart because they can do math calculations incredibly fast, stupid because they can’t do anything without being given exact instructions. You can’t just say “Computer, give me report on our annual sales,” you have to given it precise instructions on what you want: which numbers, how the layout should look, what color you want the various sections of the bar chart to be, etc.

Programmers basically translate human requests (“I want a report”) into step-by-step instructions for the computer to follow. So if you told me “I want to go through this 1000 page document and find every instance of the word ‘pineapple’,” I might write this program:

open (DOC, “/path/to/document”);
my $count;
foreach my $line () {
$count++;
while ($line =~ /pineapple/ig) {
print “Word ’pineapple’ found on line $count.\n”;
}
}

That might look like gibberish to you, but it’s basically your request (“find pineapple”) written in a language the computer understands.

What is your favorite job that you do?

I like the freelance writing better than my regular job because I get to choose what I want to write about; I like the regular job better than my freelance writing because it allows me to buy food.


What is your favorite thing that you program?

My favorite type of program to write is one that solves a problem that people didn’t even know they had. Let me give you a hypothetical example. Say, for instance, that your boss emails you 50 numbers every day, and one of your jobs is to add them up on your calculator and send the sum back to him. After you did that for a few days / weeks/ months, it might never occur to you that there might be a better way to do it—in other words, you don’t even know you have a problem. I like coming into a situation like that and saying, “Hey! You’re spending a lot of time on this” and then writing a program that helps them out. In this case, it might be a program that automatically extracts the 50 numbers from the email, adds them up, and provides the sum without you having to do anything. Maybe it would even email your boss the sum, so you could skip work entirely and spend the day at the water park.

What do you like to write about best?

I’ve just started writing short mystery stories, and, right now, they are my favorite thing to write. This isn’t really my “job” since I haven’t sold any of the stories yet, but I have sent out two of the stories to magazines and hope that they will be bought. I like writing mysteries because it’s fun to write stories with surprise endings.

Do you like your job?

I like the people I work with, and that’s ultimately more important than liking the job itself. You can have the best job in the world, but still be miserable if you work with jerks.
If you were to choose any job to have what would it be?

That’s a tough question. There are a lot of things I really like to do, but I don’t think I’d want to do them all the time as a job. For instance, I used to want to be a movie reviewer, because then you get to watch movies all the time and that would be great, right? But I tried that for a while, and watching five movies a week is not as fun as it sounds—especially when three of the five are bad. I also wanted to be a board game designer, because I love board games and thought it would be fun to play board games all the time. But, when you design a board game, you then have to play that game, like, 100 times, to make sure everything works. After you play the same game 20 times in a row, it is no longer very fun.

I think things are pretty good right now: I get to do a lot of the things that I like to do, but not so much that I stop liking them and begin thinking of them as “work.”


Would you rather be an airline pilot, mechanic, or a Marine? (If you had to choose.)

I think I would like to be an airline pilot, because I like to travel.

I don’t think I would make a very good Marine, but I would like to be able to say that I had once been a Marine. I guess I could if I was a liar, but I am not.

***********************************************************************************************
That was our interview. You should go read his blog. My mom says it is funny.


If anyone would like to let me interview them, leave a comment or email me, please. Thank you.

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Responses

  1. very informative interview. Great questions. What you would rather be, an airline pilot, mechanic, or marine?

  2. Wow, well done, Matthew! Maybe you should be a reporter when you grow up and interview lots of people!
    – Angel

  3. Hi, Matthew. Thanks for interviewing me–it was a lot of fun!

  4. Hi

    Good interview technique.

    You are welcome to email me some questions about my job, I run a Pub in the UK

    xc

  5. nice interview, Matthew.

    i would certainly be willing to be interviewed by you if you would like, but i’m not famous of anything 😉

  6. Hi Matthew,

    Well done. I’m sure you’ll get great grades for this project. Hey, like Sean I’m not famous or anything, but if you ask the right questions, goodness knows what answers you’ll get. So I’m up for an interview if you want.

  7. Great interview, Matthew. Very good questions.

  8. Hi Matthew,

    I am the other Matthew’s father. Great interview! Would you believe I actually learned a couple of things about my son today?

    Your future looks bright. Keep up the good work.

  9. Well done, Matthew. This is an interesting school project. Good luck with everything!

  10. Hey Matthew,
    Great, great interview. Keep up the good work.
    Was it fun for you to do?
    🙂
    Tina

  11. Hey Mathew,

    New to both of your sites, but already bookmarked and sure to return. Great interview.

    Interestingly (enough), two nights ago I was asked at a dinner party what computer programs I enjoyed writing. My answer reflected Mathews – things that help everyday people out! Admittedly, my response was far less elequent and may or may not have contained a few slurred expletives. Who am I to say? I was drunk.

    Keep it up mate, hope all goes well with the assignment!

    d.

  12. Very nice detailed interview. I love your ending comment about Matthew Baldwin’s site, “My mom says it’s funny.” I’m with mom, I think it’s funny too. Please feel free to check out my website . I don’t post very often, but I have an email list for notification of updates. Just ask me and I’ll add you to it. If you want to interview me about the site or my work, I would be delighted. As my career/paying job I work as a clinical chemist for a hospital in Albany, NY.
    -Tracey

  13. […] April 13th, 2007 in interviews After my interview with Matthew Baldwin, I got to interview another writer, Sarah Brown. Her blog is Que Sera Sera. […]

  14. I’ll sign up, if you still need work for your project. I’m a sucker for cute kids and school projects. I have a really boring job that I don’t like but I like interesting things and interesting people. 🙂

  15. […] yeah. Okay then. In all fairness, he has been doing some interviews with some awesome bloggers (and non-bloggers), and a few of them have resulted in some serious […]

  16. Hi, Matthew!

    Great interview. I’m pretty amazed at your blog…I wish my 13-year-old would s how as much interest in writing as you do.

    Keith is a cute cat…I have three myself, and they are very funny. If you’d like to interview another writer, give me a holler!

    (sue)

  17. Again, great questions. Terrific job Matt!


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