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"Nobody Sucks."
Be Dope caught up with Michael Alderete, Be's Web Content Developer and List Fascist. We talked with him about starting things over and getting them right and the standpoint of keeping things fairly clean, simple, and uncluttered.
What is your title at Be and how does it relate to what you actually do there?

The job I applied for, and have on my business cards, is "Web Content Developer." Which theoretically means that I work on stuff for our web site. And I do, I write a lot, including the Tip of the Week, the IconWorld stories, all the FAQs, and a bunch of other stuff. And I convert it into HTML, massage other people's stuff, like press releases, into HTML, that sort of thing.

Due to an anomaly in his magnetic field, Michael Alderete cannot be photographed. However, it is said this picture bears a striking resemblence to him.
But like everyone else here at Be, I end up wearing a lot of hats. That's the great thing about working at a small company. So I get to be the List Fascist, and keep our mailing lists running. Hopefully smoothly, though there are regular hiccups. No way to avoid that, unless I want to become a Total List Fascist, which isn't very interesting to me. Although it might be fun to put on my business cards...

I also answer a lot of e-mail. Probably several hundred e-mails to customers, prospective customers, and the like each week, along with all the other internal e-mail I read and write. It seems like I spend half my day in e-mail!

That experience is being turned into a huge number of suggestions for Sebastien Bouchex, the fellow who is doing the engineering on MailIt, BeatWare's e-mail client. I hope to see more of them implemented as time goes on, so I can be as efficient in the BeOS.

I try to do that kind of thing, working with Be developers, when they're working on a product I want to use. It's not an official part of my job, but if I can help various interesting BeOS tools get better, that seems like a good thing.

How did you first hear of Be?

I first read about Be right after the Agenda '95 debut, in Stewart Alsop's column in InfoWorld. He wrote about the demo of the BeBox, more than the BeOS, but wrote very convincingly that it was interesting, maybe even compelling. It's still my favorite article about Be.

That article got me to Be's web site, where I sucked down most of the technical information they had and read it all. I was hooked! I decided I wanted to work there, and kept checking the job listings pretty regularly. Most of the jobs were engineering, or too technical, but eventually this position came up. It read almost like my resume, I applied, and was thrilled to get the job.

I came in to sign my offer letter the day after Be and PowerComputing announced their bundling deal, and there was still considerable speculation that Apple would buy Be. It was a really exciting time to join the company!

What/Who made you decided to work at Be? What was your experience in landing a job there?

Well, besides what I mentioned before, Be's philosophy of starting over and doing things right just appealed to me. And the job was perfect. I'd had some experience doing web stuff, but not as a full-time job, just as a part of an existing job. The job involved a lot of writing, which I was already doing a lot of, and Frontier scripting, which I had some experience doing.

I think my aesthetic sense of what makes a good web site was a good fit with Be, too. No one here is really into intensive graphics, JavaScript, Java, animations, or other fancy crap like that. The Be web site is designed to tell you about Be, the BeOS, etc.

Lots of information, hopefully well organized. We work on the design, so it looks good, but from the standpoint of keeping it fairly clean, simple, and uncluttered.

That was one of the interview questions I was asked, what web sites do I like, and why? And I like web sites that are simply designed and have good information updated regularly.

What is your computer background?

I learned Basic on some old Heathkit system. I have no recollection of those systems, other than the screen was small, and the floppy drive was built-in. I talked my parents into getting a computer, an Apple IIe, and we bought a WordStar/StarCard combo pack, which was a Z80 coprocessor card that went in the Apple IIe and let us run WordStar under CP/M.

I loved WordStar! I knew that product inside and out, patching it to make it do different things. I have the keyboard commands burned into muscle memory. I could probably still sit down at a WordStar 3.3 system and be productive. Incidentally, that StarCard thing was a Microsoft product, if I remember correctly!

Then I learned Pascal with TurboPascal on a PC, and went to college, where I used Unix a little bit in some computer science classes I took, and also really got started using the Mac. I learned a huge amount about the Mac while there, when I got drafted at my student job to run the Macs that Apple donated to my department. My full-time job after finishing school was supporting 150 Macs and Mac users, so I learned even more there.

And then the web came along. I didn't "get it" the first couple of times I used Mosaic. It was sooooo sloooooow on the Mac back then, it wasn't worth spending time using. But then Mozilla .90 came out, and I got it then, and got very excited. I learned a lot about the Web, HTML, and started doing web pages for my department. And then came Be! With our Intel release, I've been learning a lot about PCs, and by necessity about Windows. I like the BeOS better!

What is your favorite computer game?

Actually, Pierre [Raynaud-Richard, a Be engineer] got me turned onto a pinball simulation called The Web. It's by Empire Interactive, and you can get it for both the PC and the Mac. Amazing simulation! Pierre's a lot better at it than I am, though...

Before that, another pinball simulation called Crystal Caliburn, Mac only, distributed by Star Play. A two-person outfit called Littlewing does the actual game, and I buy everything they do. Pinball software is what I like to play.

MYST is also really cool. I'm not much into first-person mayhem games, though I have participated in the "network quality assurance" work we've been going for the BeOS recently [using Quake for the BeOS]. I used to play Strategic Conquest and Spaceward Ho! a lot, too.

What books (work-related and otherwise) do you consider a must-read?

I don't know about work-related. I do the copy-editing for the weekly Newsletter, so I have a dictionary and the Chicago Manual of Style. The Llama and Camel Perl books. Learning the bash Shell. Those are all good. Mostly, though, I use a lot of web references.

For pleasure, I mostly read SF. Iain M. Banks is tremendous, I finally collected all of his books. His science fiction (he also writes mainstream fiction) is mostly about life in the Culture, which is an advanced civilization of humans and aliens. It's kind of like the Federation in Star Trek, except where the Federation seems to be driven by science, exploration, and Doing Good, the Culture is more driven by hedonism. The Culture is a little more believable...

I also like a guy named Daniel Keys Moran, whose books are mostly out of print. If you can find them, though, _Emerald Eyes_, _The Long Run_, and _The Last Dancer_ are the start of a series that is really really good. He's my favorite author.

And, uh, I like cook books. I'm too lazy to be a good cook, but I like to read about it...

What are you wearing at work today?

Dominic already took the best answer to this question...

Who is the coolest Be employee and why?

I'm glad you asked that question! That would be my boss, Ron [Theis, the Be Webmaster], of course! You're reading this, right Ron?

Seriously, compared to my last two jobs, I work a lot harder at Be, but I like it a lot more, too, because everyone's working hard, and we pretty much all like each other. At those other jobs, there were people who didn't really contribute, or were just downright...uh, not brilliant. At Be, everyone is really smart and competent, everyone contributes. I like that a lot. I like everybody here.

Who is your favorite muppet, if any, and why?

Beaker. You just know he was the brains behind the whole outfit...

Finish this sentence: "Working at Be kicks ass because __________"

Nobody sucks.

If the BeOS was an animal, what kind would it be?

I thought we had an agreement not to talk about that. That's it, we're through here! [Gets up, storms off the set.]

More Interviews:

Mike Clifton
creator of Moho

Scott Barta
NetPositive author

Joe Palmer
the father of the BeBox

Seth Flaxman
CEO of ABiSoft

Scot Hacker
BeOS Bible author

Michael Alderete
Be's Webmaster

Melanie Walker
Be Web Diva

Dominic Giampaolo
Be engineer and creator of the BFS

Douglas Irving Repetto
creator of geektoys

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