Who is Florian Hanke?
Were you to meet me in a subway station, you’d see a tall man with dark hair and that perfect 1000 yard stare that only marines possess. Only that these 1000 yards are compressed into a few centimetres and end in a Kindle or similar implement.
My looks are global (I’ve heard it all: Brazilian, Greek, Italian, Iranian, etc.), but my thoughts are local. Brain area. Mostly. My first twenty years reveal that I am very Swiss, having been brought up on the shores – called “gold coast” – of lake Zürich, going to the mathematical college, followed by computer science at ETH Zürich. Devouring lots of cheese and chocolate, of course.
Interested in many, many things, the workings of the world – why are things and people the way they are? –, and also natural languages, and how they came into being.
Back in the subway station, you’d see me take a calm and measured look up to the platform number – then running off like a colony of rabbits that had been injected by a mixture of chili powder and a gallon of adrenaline, generously spreading half my backpack on the way up the escalator.
Where and when did you start programming?
Back in 1982, when I was around 6, I started sneaking into a neighbor’s house to play games on his C64.
A year later, my dad bought an Amiga, which back then was incredible: 4096 colors! A friend of mine and I celebrated by typing down one of these BASIC programs – fox hunt – that was a printout spanning over 15 pages or so. You kids have it good today with your diskettes, I tells ya!
My own programming started during 1983, where, together with my dad – I wrote a program where you had to do various calculations quicky in order to hit a target with a cannon. It had sprites, and sound! Coincidentally, my calculating and reading skills went through the roof.
You favorite Languages/Frameworks? And why?
Ruby because it matches my internal thinking very well (the POLS – Matz’ principle of least surprise – is strong with me, it seems). And, with Ruby, there’s always a pleasant surprise awaiting, every week.
Also, I can meet up with my Java friends and have them talk about how many bagillions of lines they wrote today to iterate over a collection, while I enjoy a beer and idly think about what half of my program I could rewrite next.
Another thing is that in Ruby I have found some extremely good friends and many very skilled and positive/inspiring people, like (foremost) Kaspar Schiess, Niko Dittmann, Severin Schoepke, Samuel Tonini, Andi Schacke, Eloy Durán and Karel Minařík (to name too few).
What does your typical day look like?
I am gingerly woken around 6:00 by the gentle turbining of flight LX181 as it wistfully turns to land at the near airport. I get up. After noticing that, _again_, a very greedy earlier version of me has drunk all the milk the night before, I sit down at my table, disgusting black coffee in hand.
Then it’s usually an hour of trying to get to the sweet spot of concentration as a lot of apps call for attention (which, yet again, a carefree earlier version of myself installed). Who needs tamagochis when you have gmaitwitterbookirczilla?
These days I am working on Picky (http://florianhanke.com/picky), a helpful and fast search engine with a unique idea behind it. The routine gets broken up a little by quite a few friends showing me code, or asking for help – which I do in return as well.
In the afternoon it’s usually time to go sit in a café – there are many in Zürich – where the creative juices really start flowing.
Or perhaps I am trying to impress the girl next to me by whirling my fingers around really fast while simultaneously showing off my laptop’s chromey beauty and the insane amount of RAMs [sp] it has. Who knows?
What do you do in your free time?
Apart from programming? ;) I’m always trying new things – but I often go back to running, bicycling, mountaineering, skiing, drawing, and plain writing (mostly not at the same time). And of course, meeting good friends.
A few years back I wrote an electronic butler, James, which was commandable by voice to get train timetables, and tell jokes etc. That might some day be all I do in my free time. The programming it, not the being a butler, I mean.
Current favorite apps?
Definitely Pixelmator, a very good drawing app. SketchBookPro, for the iPhone, also a great drawing app. And I really like the TextMate 2 preview I got.
Followed by a myriad of games. I am an addict for these.
What OS do you prefer?
Small picture for your Workplace?
This is my table, with an image of “Stella” watching over it. She’s perfect for rubberducking. If you don’t know what rubberducking is, it’s probably not what you think. Take your mind out of the gutter!
Name something that has inspired you recently?
I’ve seen an earth house – like for Hobbitses – near Zürich recently that has really inspired me to think about architecture and human design in houses again.
In a similar vein, every year without fail I read Alexander’s “A Pattern Language”. That never fails to inspire me to the fullest. I wonder sometimes whether I should have become an architect. But then I don’t like wearing thick black-rimmed glasses.
Finally, tzigla.com, for showing me a way to collaborative drawing.
What do you prefer (and why)? Freelance work or full time employment?
Depends. Sometimes the cozy and well paid cushion of a full time employment is what I need, sometimes this can be too constricting and more freedom is needed.
What are your personal projects and goals for 2011?
I’ve been selected to start a doctorate in Australia on natural languages and computer science in april this year. I’m quite looking forward to that. I also hope to see some of the excellent geeks from Melbourne that have appeared on this blog.
What’s more, I’d like to see more usage of my beloved search engine project (http://florianhanke.com/picky) and am trying to get the idea across to more people, since I think many could profit a lot from it. The current state is a shame. We as computer scientists need to think more about better searches.