I’m Jeff Atwood, Co-Founder Of Stack Exchange, And This Is How I Work

Jeff Atwood co-founded and built Stack Overflow in 2008. The site, which features questions and answers on all things programming, grew into the Stack Exchange network — a free, open collection of 89 sites on topics from cooking and photography to IT security and cognitive science.

Stack Exchange aims to make the internet a better, more informed place, and in four short years, it’s doing just that. The network has more than two million users, four million questions and nine million answers. Jeff is also the voice of Coding Horror, where he’s been blogging about programming and more for nearly a decade.

We caught up with Jeff to chat about what’s next (he left Stack Exchange earlier this year), as well as his favourite gadgets, best advice, and why he’ll never use a to-do list.

Name: Jeff Atwood
Occupation: Working on the Next Big Thing after Stack Overflow and Stack Exchange. It’s going to be awesome.
Location: El Cerrito, California
Current computer: Home-built overclocked PC (details here)
Current mobile devices: iPhone 5
One word that best describes how I work: I’m going to assume that an animated GIF counts as one word. Here you go.

What’s apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I’m a big fan of Google’s basic cloud services like Gmail, Calendar and Drive. The only must-have app I need is a global clipboard history application. Bonus points if it allows you to set up typing expansion and shortcut macros, or shares clipboard history across machines. Cut and paste is how the world was built, and it’s a fabulous medium-term memory system. No operating system I know of, no matter how many gigabytes of memory you have, can remember more than one copied item at a time. That’s ridiculous!

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?

Do not under any circumstances keep to-do lists or use to-do apps. If you can’t remember the most important things you need to do every day, you should work on that. And if you can’t remember something you “need” to do, it’s probably not worth doing in the first place.

So… your favourite to-do list manager?

My brain.

What’s your workspace setup like?

Home office with triple-monitor setup. IKEA Jerker desk, the classic and undisputed champ of all computer desks. Most excellent Sennheiser PC 360 USB headset/mic for collaboration.

Pictured above: Jeff’s workspace.

What do you listen to while you work?

Pretty much anything you’d find in the setlist of Rock Band 1, Rock Band 2 or Rock Band 3 — and related artists. I’m also a big mashup fan, so do check out Best of Bootie!

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

Given that I am so invested in Google’s basic cloud services, I really like the Nexus 7 for its almost-pocketable form factor, great battery life, respectable performance, quasi-retina display and awesome integration with Google services. Android was pretty bad for a long time, but it is improving rapidly. And it’s inexpensive too!

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?

I’m a voracious researcher and reader. Rather than endlessly focusing on what’s currently “hot” or in fashion, I love to delve deeply into a topic, to learn from all the prior successes and failures in a given area. Let’s consider the overall arc of what happened in the last five, 10, 20 years rather than fixating on today.

When given a choice, choose the thing that scares you a little. If it’s 100 per cent safe, it’s holding you back.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

When given a choice, choose the thing that scares you a little. If it’s 100 per cent safe, it is holding you back.

Anything else you’d like to add?

If you, like us, love to learn about technical topics in Q&A format, don’t miss Stack Exchange.

We’ve asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.

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