Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get the job done?

Christine Yen

Christine Yen

Engineer, co-founder (Honeycomb)

Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Christine Yen, an engineer and co-founder at Honeycomb in SF. I like working on developer tools and building beautiful, effective ways for smart folks to do their jobs. I've worked at a series of now-defunct startups (either via acquisition or failure) since leaving MIT with a CS degree, and have the most fun being a generalist, hopping around between thinking deeply about the product down to the storage layer.

Besides software, I like making things (fabric, wood, and craft foam are my favorite mediums) and get anxious if I haven't started planning my Halloween costume by late September.

What hardware do you use?

My hardware needs are pretty simple: I use a 2015 15" MacBook Pro for everything. My favorite keyboard for the last 10 years was a Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000 but I recently switched to the Sculpt (and am not loving the spotty wireless reception). Mouse-wise, I use an Evoluent VerticalMouse.

My monitor is an LG 34" UM95 and I don't know if I'm ever going to be able to go back to a smaller screen - I finally feel comfortable operating my laptop in clamshell mode with this much width, real estate-wise. And finally, I keep my laptop stickers minimal but collect them profusely on my laptop case (which, many layers ago, was a bubblewrap mailing envelope):

Christine's laptop case.

And what software?

On the software side, I love my tools to be powerful but streamlined. I do all my development (on OS X) in MacVim, and the vim plugins I currently can't live with are: CtrlP, Surround, The NERD Tree, YouCompleteMe, delimitMate, and vim-go. (The unsung hero in this list is, of course, pathogen.) If a newfangled text editor doesn't have smooth split-screen support out of the box, it's dead to me. I work primarily in Golang and JavaScript these days, and have been particularly impressed by Hugo and d3 lately.

Other software I use to be productive: iTerm2's visor/hotkey mode is great and I'm a big fan of ack. I finally started using Dash to organize various bits of documentation or API references - it's super useful when the internet is spotty, and especially powerful in conjunction with Alfred workflows. (I used to be a Quicksilver devotee back in the day but have been really impressed with the Alfred team's continued devotion to a fast, smooth experience.)

I store my life in Evernote. I have plenty of problems with it (unreliable syncing, feature bloat, terrible text formatting) but it's the best solution for me so far in terms of being able to mix screenshots and photos inline with plaintext content, alongside great search and straightforward organization.

As I transitioned out of being a cheap college student, the first few pieces of software I happily paid for were 1Password and iStat Menus. Through its many update cycles, 1Password has stayed beautiful and highly functional, which is a rarity I appreciate. The best software utilities are the ones that do their job and then get out of your way, so I only ever find myself thinking about 1Password when forced to use another option for work. iStat Menus, on the other hand, I love talking about. I'm not sure why anybody would use another method of monitoring their daily work machines. Yes, it's a pretty skin on top of top or various other command-line utilities; being able to literally keep an eye on my development machine's performance without having to move a finger is worth it.

After having tried what feels like all of the to-do applications out there (graphical, text-based, project-based, and other), I've settled upon Clear on both iOS and OS X for being the right mix of simple but structured. I've been using libpurple-based chat applications since the early 2000's but have settled on Adium these days. (I'll be holding out against web-based chat until Google finally turns evil and makes the Hangouts product completely incompatible with third-party applications.) Chrome is my browser of choice (with Vimium and Ghostery installed) and Spectacle (a SizeUp alternative I chose awhile back for reasons lost to time) is also excellent.

Otherwise, I regularly use all the other standard pieces of software in today's software startup scene: Slack, GitHub, Quip, Spotify, and Sketch.

What would be your dream setup?

I'm pretty happy with my setup for all practical intents and purposes these days, but I fell in love with Vernor Vinge's vision of augmented reality in the near future from his 2007 novel Rainbows End, and now can't wait for AR overlays and smart contact lenses. I'm also holding out for a light-filled room with a window seat and wireless peripherals with signals that don't get interfered with by USB 3.0.