Wondering who’s working on the website behind the pufferfish? Look no further - this month’s employee profile highlights our lead front-end developer, Jeff Tierney. Jeff’s known around the office for being our meme aficionado (he suggested hanging this piece of artwork at our HQ), being a dad to two adorable little girls and having great comedic timing (there are few questions that Jeff can’t answer with a strategically placed gif).
Jeff has been filling the bitly chatrooms with viral videos and dogs since September 2010. When he’s not sharing these things with us, he’s focused on making bitly (and the internet as a whole) a better place for everyone.
Jeff is often adding funny memes to our hipchat conversations.
What are your main responsibilities as a front-end developer?
My primary responsibility as a front-end developer is to build and maintain the web app. However, I feel an important role of front-end developers in general is to kind of be a bridge between product teams and engineering teams. We keep both sides on the same track in terms of what’s technically possible and what the product’s goals are and combine that into a feasible, buildable product.
What cool things have you worked on at bitly?
I think the new info page is pretty cool. It’s a way for users to come and see how their links are performing once they’ve shared them out on the web. It’s an interesting area of the site that not everyone who is familiar with bitly is aware of, but it’s the primary way for [bitly] users to really gain insight into all the data we have about their links.
When people ask me what I think is the coolest part about working at bitly, I often find myself telling the same story. Just over a year ago, we relaunched our consumer site, a project that I had put a great deal of effort and energy into. When we finally launched, we watched as feedback from our users started to come in and it, unfortunately, turned pretty negative pretty quickly. It was an extremely hard thing to watch, but we learned a number of lessons from the experience. We learned just how much people loved and relied on bitly, and that one of the big reasons they were upset was because we had changed something that was so important to them.
One of the most interesting things that came of this is that some of the users who were the most vocal about the changes were names that I recognized. There were comments coming in from some famous people such as Roger Ebert and Patton Oswalt. It was eye-opening to me to realize that the work that I was doing on a day-to-day basis was impacting the way that these people used the internet. Understanding the reach that bitly has, and knowing the products we have built are products [used daily] by people whose work I admire, made me realize that the job that I had was pretty cool.
What have you learned while working at bitly?
I’ve learned a ton. One of the things that’s great about the bitly culture is that it fosters knowledge sharing and learning. It’s a culture that really prioritizes making sure you have the knowledge you need to do a job properly instead of doing it in a quick-and-dirty way. I feel that I can learn something from every person that works here and to me, that’s a really cool environment to be in.
What did you do before working here?
A few years back, I went back to school to get my MBA, thinking I wanted to get out of the tech-world entirely. I was working in the IT department of an insurance company and it turned into something that I dreaded facing each day. Around this time, a couple of my friends had started building a sports website and had gotten to a point that they were finally able to hire someone, just as I was becoming increasingly frustrated with my job. So I started working with them just to do something a little more interesting while i finished up school. But it didn’t take long before I fell back in love with the internet and became hooked into the startup life. I quickly realized how much more important it was to me to love what you do than it was to do something you hated just to make more money. Also - it didn’t hurt that for the first time in my life after college, I could go to work in a t-shirt and jeans.
You have a lot of experience in the field of computer science - what changes have you watched the field go through?
It’s amazing to me, as a front-end developer, to see the types of things that modern browsers are capable of these days and what developers are doing to take advantage of this. Things that you used to only be able to do in applications native to a specific platform are now becoming increasingly possible to do on the web, and that has opened up a whole new set of doors in terms of what can be built and made available to entire groups of users that might not have been able to be reached previously.
Mobile is also something that has always greatly interested me; the combination of more capable web browsers on mobile devices and the emergence of patterns such as responsive design have only served to make the mobile web an even more fascinating and powerful thing. Things used to be pretty strictly divided between the “desktop web” and the “mobile web,” and now it’s increasingly just becoming one experience that adapts to the way you are viewing it. There’s a lot of great work being done to give users a better overall experience on the web regardless of how you access it.
As we’re once again re-envisioning the future of bitly, we’re getting back to pushing the envelope. We’re working hard to make the internet a better place by improving the tools people use to find and share content, making it easier for people to have an impact on those around them on the internet in a responsible way. And hopefully this will empower people to share more interesting content in a more timely manner, which ultimately will enrich the overall internet experience for everyone.
Do you have any interests or projects outside of bitly?
My biggest interest is my family - my wife and two daughters. Pretty much all of my time that is not spent sleeping or working is spent on some sort of family outing (like this trip to Disney World). As important as the work that I do is to me, it’s not nearly as important to me as my family is.
The Tierney family representing bitly in Disney World.
I have some little, fun side projects, like the Gifhorse. Gifhorse is a fun, easy way to keep track of and find images or gifs you’ve saved so you can share them again in the future. I love to share funny gifs on the web but I always found it difficult and almost tedious to remember and find the ones I thought were appropriate for certain situations. Rather than stashing a bunch of files with silly names in some folder on my hard drive, I wanted to create a way that made it easy to keep track of, find and share the images I had seen before.
You’re known around the office for being a jokester. How did you get so good with viral content and what do you think the next big meme will be?
I’ve always had a good associative memory. I [have] a knack for remembering what I’ve seen in the past and associating it with situations or things I come across later on. As I’ve become more intertwined with the internet, it’s manifested itself in memes that are popular.
In terms of what’s going to be the next big thing - cats are pretty tried and true. Every time I think a particular genre of meme has reached its end, a new variation comes out and takes the internet by storm - like Grumpy Cat recently did with cat pictures. I would like to see some more memes take off that are mashups of different types of media, even from different eras. One of the meme’s I’m most fascinated by is the “Guile’s Theme Goes With Everything” meme, where the song from Guile’s character stage in Street Fighter is mixed into a variety of videos - and it amazingly does go with everything.
If you’re like Jeff, and interested in making the internet a better place, you’d be perfect for our front-end development team. Take a look at the responsibilities that go with being a front-end developer or check out our other job openings here.