The Intro: Mike Patek

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Who are you, and what do you do?

I’m Mike Patek, software developer extraordinare. Before coming to Fusion, I worked at a news company called Vocativ. At Vocativ I met Daniel Bachhuber, who later invited me to take a trial with Fusion.

During my trial, I worked on Slackalytics, a Slack bot that presents a daily digest of GA pageviews, number of Twitter followers, and number of Facebook followers, and allows the user to call up that information in the Slack console.

At Vocativ I did extensive admin and frontend development in WordPress. I also created an API for tracking share counts of posts. The API used the very nice Python-Eve REST framework. Before Vocativ, I worked at an R&D firm called Scitech Strategies where I built maps of science. These maps were used by institutions like the NIH to help find promising areas of research to fund, and by Elsevier as an information retrieval tool. I also worked for a time at IBM’s Watson Research Center where I built a Bill-of-materials matching tool using statistical machine learning techniques.

Most of my recent work has been done in Python, PHP, and Javascript. I like Python for its beauty, and consistency. I really like using list comprehensions and generators, because they are so elegant. In general, I prefer the feeling of reducing the number of lines of code to adding to the number of lines of code. I mainly like PHP because WordPress is written in PHP, and I think WordPress is a fun environment. I love the feeling of adding a feature with just a hook and a closure. I still feel like I am mastering the quirky language of Javascript. I enjoy making things come alive in the browser, and working with Backbone.js to structure things.

I live in Keene, NH with my wife Jen, our 3 children Ben, Kurt, and Chloe. Besides coding, I enjoy running, skiing, and playing the drums on Wednesday nights with a Jazz sextet in Brattleboro VT at the Vermont Jazz Center.

What’s your preferred hardware and software setup?

I like working in POSIX operating systems with Bash. Linux and OS X are fine. Essentially, this means that I do a lot of work from the terminal, and I like to have the standard set of command-line tools available in these operating systems. The tools (awk, sed, grep, piping, output redirection, etc.) provided by these systems makes the command line a very powerful work environment. I’m most familiar with Linux Mint and Ubuntu. These flavors of linux seem to install easily with few driver issues, and I am more familiar with apt-get than any other package management system.

I use Sublime Text with Vintageous (for many years I used Vim) as my editor. Sublime is fast and relatively simple. My setup is pretty vanilla, I do have Flake8 linter installed for Python, and a JSHint linter for Javascript. I certainly welcome any recommendations about Sublime packages.

I’ll usually work with a single terminal window, with a few tabs open. I’ll have a tab in the project root (usually for doing git commands), a tab running Grunt/Gulp watch, and a tab tailing the logs.

For WordPress development, I’ve been using the VVV Vagrant setup. I prefer working on a desktop (a laptop connected to external monitors/keyboard/mouse is also fine).

I do most of my work at a standing desk on an old Dell desktop machine (Linux Mint, 1.8 GHz x 2 with 4GB of memory) with dual monitors (19’’ and 15’’). I’ve had the machine for about 9 years! I’ve had no problems with it. I’ve had the desk for over 3 years, and have had no problems with that either.

How do you consume media? Any favorite formats or publications?

Most media consumption is done on the web. I enjoy reading about science. I guess I’ve always been interested in understanding why the world/universe is the way that it is. Among topics of interest are cosmology and early human migration patterns.

I like The New York Times for the quality of its reporting, nice data visualizations, and nice comment management. Medium has a pretty layout, and is formatted nicely for long-form articles. I really enjoyed keeping up with the FiveThirtyEight blog during the last presidential election cycle, and I like the reporting at FiveThirtyEight because of it’s data-centric reporting which can often provide surprising insight.

I’m a big fan of NPR which is always on in my car. I especially enjoy listening to Radiolab. The topics are always fascinating, and the editing enhances the often trippy subject matter.

I read books, usually on paper. I enjoy science fiction and fantasy, and also reading about topics in programming. Right now I’m reading the Urth of the New Sun tetralogy by Gene Wolfe, and I’m also reading Secrets of a Javascript Ninja.

I enjoy reading to my kids, and we’ve gone through the Harry Potter series, and most of Baum’s Oz books. Right now we’re reading the The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.

The smartphone (a Galaxy S3) is a recent addition to my life. I like Spotify, but haven’t used the phone for much other media consumption yet.

What excites you most about what’s coming next at Fusion?

I am excited about using experiments to determine the best options. I like what I’ve heard from Hong about using data to determine which features actually have an impact. So, I’m excited to use tools like Optimizely and Mixpanel to run experiments, and gain insight from them.

I am excited about helping to build Fusion’s audience, because I think this is essential to the survival of the company, and I’m more motivated when working on projects that matter. I’d like to continue in the same vein as the “Supa-Fan-Finder” that I worked on at the recent hackathon in Miami, because I think that finding the most influential Facebook/Twitter followers could be very helpful in driving people to the site.

I’d like to have more experience in general in WordPress development. I’ve had about 1.5 years of solid experience in WordPress, but I still feel like there’s much to learn.

I enjoy doing test-driven development, primarily because of the peace of mind that it provides. I’d like to better understand how to do TDD for a WordPress application.

I’ve benefited greatly from open source software, and of course I’d love to work on open source projects that could benefit so many people.

I’d like to become more familiar with the Google Analytics API (and Mixpanel), in order to obtain information that can help Fusion to meet its audience-building and engagement goals.

I’d love to do more work with Javascript, working both on the frontend and in the wp-admin setting. I feel like my JS chops are good, but there is much room for improvement, and building JS applications is great fun.


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