Smashing Spotlight: Kevin Carroll, Senior Developer

Ever wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Kevin Carroll, Senior Developer, to talk shop, his perspective on what industry will see the greatest advancement through voice-activated technology, the pros and cons of the Swift development platform, and why his inner Burt Reynolds may make an appearance this Halloween.


Have you seen a change in the way developers work since Apple made Swift an open source platform?

I’ve mostly noticed the same pattern that usually happens when developers are introduced to a new way of doing things: young developers adopt it wholeheartedly without properly scrutinizing it and the seasoned developers hate it without giving it a chance. For Swift, the reality lies somewhere in the middle – seasoned developers will have to change some of the paradigms they’re used to in order to use it effectively, and new developers will eventually learn some of the disadvantages of using it.


What is your favorite programming language to work in and why?

Swift. It basically has stolen all of the best features from modern languages and combined them into one. However, Swift still has problems. It has slow build and run times, but that tends to be less of an issue with how fast modern CPUs are. Also, it tends to be a little too pure for my taste when adopting computer science principles, which can affect ease-of-use (Swift’s String class is a good example). Of course, being open source, these kinks tend to be worked out over time.


What industry do you think will have the greatest impact from Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant and how will technology realize this change?

Alexa will have the greatest impact on ecommerce, without a doubt. And Alexa itself is the technology that will realize that change. The whole point of Alexa is basically to make consumer transactions as easy as possible.


What are the top 5 tips developers need to know when working with the Alexa platform?
  1. Learn and/or use node.js for a quicker ramp up – most examples and tutorials are written using that language.
  2. Alexa is designed to perform tasks, not have open-ended conversations.
  3. Developers do not currently, and most likely will never, have access to the voice feed (due to privacy concerns).
  4. Alexa will not speak unless spoken to; you have to prompt her for interactions.
  5. Alexa is a service that exists in the cloud, there is no local storage.


If you could redesign/rebuild one piece of technology, what would it be and why?

Considering how much time I’ve spent in my life developing for iOS, Xcode for sure. It is the worst modern IDE I’ve used. Apple is so good at making consumer products that it’s surprising how bad they are at making developer tools. I’m still waiting on reliable refactoring, even though it’s been over a decade since iOS was introduced.


What do you wish you would have been told about working the tech industry when you were first starting out?

Technology advances at an exponential rate – innovations help improve productivity, which in turn increases the rate that new technology is developed. Because of this, Software Developers must always be learning new things in order to stay relevant in the industry. While learning new things is great, it can become tiring after a while – there is nothing more frustrating than finally getting a solid understanding of a platform only to have it become obsolete a short time later.


We are now fully in the second half of 2017. What are you most excited about, from a technological perspective, for the remainder on the year?

To be honest, I’m a bit of a Luddite – contrary for a Software Developer, I know – so I mostly don’t get that excited about technology, at least from a consumer standpoint. However, I am anxiously awaiting hoverbike technology to go mainstream.


Favorite piece of technology you can’t live without?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how people in the past used to get by without technology that we now “can’t live without.” I even purposefully went two years of my life without having cell service or data just to see how it was. So, in short, there is no piece of technology that I can’t live without, unless my Leatherman counts as “technology.”


You’re known to rock a stellar Halloween costume. Any hints at what you might have in store this year?

I’m actually really bad about procrastinating when it comes to Halloween costume ideas. So, I haven’t made any definitive decisions yet, but I have been thinking about an idea I’ve had for the past couple years involving Burt Reynolds.

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