Archive | Interviews

Interview with Anthony Lieuallen, Greasemonkey Guy

Interview with one of the Greasemonkey Guys You might not know the name Anthony Lieuallen, but I bet you have heard of Greasemonkey before.  It is the Firefox extension that allows you to extend or customize your favorite web sites in a number of different ways.

Anthony is one of the driving forces behind that project, so I thought it would be fun to pick his brain to find out what his part in the project is, and what advice he might have for other hopeful Greasemonkey script writers or Firefox add-on developers.

What all have you done in development for the Firefox Greasemonkey extension?

I’ve definitely lost track of when and how exactly I first learned about Greasemonkey, and when I got involved.  Luckily, I can look up enough old records to get a pretty good idea of what the right answer here is.

I first interacted with Greasemonkey as a user.  Quickly though I graduated to User Script author.  My earliest blog post about a script I authored was in March of 2005.  I wrote a few scripts, some quite popular, for a while.  By June, Mark Pilgrim contacted me about being included in the “Greasemonkey Hacks” book, essentially a cookbook-like collection of existing User Scripts, with discussion about what they were and how they worked.  I was included as a contributor when that book was published.

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One on One with CEO of Web of Trust

web-of-trust-interview

If I named ten extensions I am the biggest fan of, WOT Web of Trust would be on that exclusive list.

Why?  They provide a great service to the public, helping organize the public to alert itself about risky web site.  The real power in WOT isn’t the tools, it is the users.  It is the perfect mash up of the right tools, at the right time.  Anything that is simple to use, and makes users more aware of the risks around them is a good thing.  With that said, I wanted to talk a little more about the service with one of the people behind the magic, Esa Suurio, the CEO of Web of Trust.

What was the main inspiration behind the WOT Web of Trust add-on for Firefox?

Esa: The company was founded in 2006 by two postgraduate students, Timo Ala-Kleemola and Sami Tolvanen, both M.Sc. in Electrical Engineering. Timo and Sami graduated from Tampere University of Technology (Finland) where they had met and studied together.  Sami got the idea while researching reputation systems for his doctoral thesis. He originally planned on using it as a part of an Internet messaging system, but decided to try if it would work for websites too, and it did.

The guys put WOT on the Internet and it started to grow without any marketing, which clearly tells that there is a need for this kind of service.

Where did the name, Web of Trust, come from?

Esa: The name highlights that we are a people-driven service. The nature of Internet is open. No single authority can decide what is good and what is bad – neither has the resources to do so. We wanted to create a common platform for people to share their experience on websites and the services they offer. If unreliable sites were known to people, their lives would be short-lived.

There is no doubt that community is the most important part of your service.  What advice would you have to other add-ons or business looking to build a community around their own product?

Esa: We truly are a community-driven service. For example, when we develop our software, we ask our users what new functions they would like to have added. We read very carefully all the feedback we get from our users and use it as our guideline when we develop Web of Trust further. In our case it’s “product around the community” and not vice versa. The community members need to see that the systems gives them real value – I think that’s what make some communities grow.

We value our members and their contribution – for example, we just gave out Web of Trust Publicity Awards 2008 for users who have helped us to spread the word about WOT.

I’ll say in my personal opinion, I was happy to see you guys come along after an add-on that might be in the same category, SiteAdvisor, kind of got a lot worse after being picked up by McAfee. What is Web of Trust doing to make sure they don’t get too watered down?

Esa: SiteAdvisor is a great service and they are fighting on the same side with us. What makes Web of Trust different is the fact that our website ratings are based mainly on ratings coming from our users. This enables us to be faster and more accurate than computerized testing services. Internet fraud can often be only detected by a human person. Lets take an example: One of the latest trend of security threats against Internet users employs software products which pretend to be security tools that help you remove spyware or viruses. These fake anti-malware products scare users by giving false alarms and then try to deceive users into paying for removal of non-existing malware.

When these threats started to emerge last year, WOT was the first system to warn users about them, thanks to our active users who rated these sites. The quality of WOT website ratings has improved as our community has grown, so we definitely are on the right track.

Are you guys working on any spin-off or side projects right now or is your main focus still on Web of Trust.

Web of Trust is our main focus. There is so much to do. We are certainly not going to stop here – the journey has just begun.

A Chat with the Man Who Makes Your Tabs Colorful

colorful-tabs

Not often do the people behind the absolutely awesome Firefox add-ons, tools and the browser itself get much time in the spotlight.  I recently had the chance to talk with the ColorfulTabs extension author, Shivanand Sharma, to get his views on his creation and a number of other development related questions.

What first inspired you to create the ColorfulTabs add-on for Firefox?

Before I begin I’d like to congratulate you and commend you for the great and popular blog and content you have created. A ‘hello’ to all your visitors and fans of Firefox.

Back in the old days when Firefox caught my attention, there was a page with a walk-through on how to use userchrome.css to style your toolbars and buttons. The article was created by Flexer and I was so fascinated that I spent hours coloring and styling every aspect of the browser. One day the idea just struck – what if every tab was a different color? At least the tab boundaries will be more distinguishable. It was a small idea that gave birth to ColorfulTabs. Initially ColorfulTabs just used 32 fixed colors to color each tab in a cycle (after the 32nd tab color cycle just restarted).

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Interview with Michel Gutierrez of Video DownloadHelper

11 Video DownloadHelper is by far the most popular of the video downloading add-ons out the for Firefox.  Only proof you need is to check out the most popular downloads page yourself.  It gets 480,759 weekly downloads.  With that in mind, I wanted to talk with the man behind what might be one of the most popular add-ons for Firefox, ever.  Who is this man? Michel Gutierrez is the brain behind the Video DownloadHelper and I was lucky enough to get him cornered to answer a few questions I had about the extension.

Out of all the different, “download the video from that video sharing site” services out there – what does it feel like to be the most popular one, right now?

It’s good and that’s even better to be one of the most popular Firefox extensions overall :)

I started computing in the early 80s on a Sinclair ZX81 (2KB of RAM!) and since then, i wrote many lines of code within a lot of various projects but DownloadHelper is by far the application that got the best success. So when you write a piece of software that will be executed one million times everyday, you for sure feel useful but a bit anxious as you have the responsibility to make this code work flawlessly.

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Interview With the Mind Behind NoScript

ss0 So what type of questions would you have for the mind behind NoScript?  I recently got to chat with Giorgio Maone, the creator of possibly the most popular security related extension for Firefox.

Why would the random Firefox user off the street be using NoScript?

Firefox is an extremely safe browser, because it can take advantage of an open and agile development process, a very security-minded core development team and a multi-vendor security coordination group, including people from major Linux distributions and IT integrators, which I’m also a member of. This ensures that many experts with different backgrounds and points of view are steadily discussing about making Firefox safer and stronger, and that discussion quickly translates in bug fixing and enhancement code.

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Chatting About Theme Design with TwisterMc

Interview with TwisterMc

It isn’t every day that we get the chance to pick the brain and converse with probably one of the most popular Firefox theme designers (and all around pretty cool guy) TwisterMc.  He is best known for the iPox series of themes he has done for Firefox, but also has several other projects worth checking into when you get the time.

To many you are only known as TwisterMc, the brilliant designer that does all those iPox themes for Firefox. Where did the nickname come from?

TwisterMc: I’ve always been fascinated with the weather and especially tornados; even though I’ve never seen one. When it came time to get my own domain, I wanted something that had to do with weather. Since twister was already taken, I added Mc from my last name and came up with TwisterMc.

Where do you draw your inspiration or ideas from when it comes to sitting down and designing a theme from scratch?

TwisterMc: I get inspiration from everything. It could be a web site I came across, cool packaging or just the result of trying a few designs and seeing what I like.

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Me.dium Goals, Future and Praise

Me.dium InterviewMe.dium is one of those unique Firefox addons that delivers a service that none so far have been able to duplicate. Giving you a way to chat live with other people on the same page – the idea is simple, yet brilliant. I recently had the chance to get a quick interview in with David Mandell the founder and VP of Marketing at Me.dium.

Does it make you feel nervous at all that your success is so tied into the success of addons for the browser? You have clients for both Firefox and Internet Explorer, but what if addons sometime become “not so cool”.

Sure, industry change always makes us nervous. The key is to continually provide enough value for the user that cool transforms into indispensable. We are trying to provide a tremendous amount of information in a very small space, so there is always the possibility of looking at other ways to display the value, but at this point, the experience of surfing with your friends is so tied to where you are on the Internet, that a marriage between the browser and Me.dium makes sense.

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Interview with “Mr. Adblock Plus” Wladimir Palant

Adblock PlusI think too often the extensions and themes in the Mozilla realm might get more attention than the people behind them.  With that said, I want to shed a little light on the people who make these things happen from both inside and outside of Mozilla. So where to start? How about with Wladimir Palant – the creator of Adblock Plus.

What is the difference between Adblock and Adblock Plus?

Well, usually that’s the point where I send people to the FAQ: http://adblockplus.org/en/faq_project#adblock

Adblock is very outdated, it hasn’t been updated for a while. There is a bunch of ways that web sites can detect Adblock, there is also a bunch of ways that web sites can prevent their ads from being blocked – no such security holes exist in Adblock Plus to my knowledge.

Adblock is full of UI inconsistencies, I tried to eliminate those as much as possible. One extremely important Adblock Plus feature is filter subscriptions – you can subscribe to a filter list maintained by somebody else and just forget about the ads. In Adblock you have to use Filterset.G Updater if you don’t want to write the filters yourself – not the perfect choice if compared to some subscriptions available for Adblock Plus. Finally, I put lots of effort into making Adblock Plus efficient and into avoiding website breakage – both points that were never considered in Adblock development.

That’s only the big differences I can give you off the top of my head.

Have you ever been approached by any of the advertising businesses offering to pay you briefcases full of money to stop what your doing?

LOL – No, I am not that important yet, the advertising industry cares very little about Adblock Plus. It is mostly owners of small websites who care – and suspect that they would earn millions if it weren’t for Adblock Plus. But those would never pay.

How much of your daily life has Adblock Plus taken over? Do you have time for other projects and work or is it Adblock on your mind 24/7?

I have my day job as well, you know? :)

I don’t have any constant amount of time per day that I spend on Adblock Plus. Sometimes I actually used to spend a few days on Adblock Plus only though mostly it wasn’t more than 2-3 hours per day. Recently however other things have taken over so that now I only spend maybe 4 hours on Adblock Plus per week – barely enough to maintain the project yet not enough to develop it further. I hope that I will have more time for it again soon.

As far as development goes, have you done all that can be done or are you still looking at improvements that can be made to the product for future releases?

I haven’t even started. There is very much that can be done. Something that I hope to see happen in the nearest future is a community-driven filter database that will allow classification of filters, and that in turn should allow users to choose which types of filters they want to subscribe to (e.g. graphical ads but not text ads). Something else that is in discussion is a set of rules for “acceptable advertising” and the ways how a “certification” of ad servers according to these rules can work – users would be able to configure Adblock Plus to not block these ads then.

What is the best way for normal everyday users to help with the development of Adblock Plus?

Testing Adblock Plus (also development builds) and reporting bugs is something where I can never get enough help. In particular testing in less popular applications (Songbird, K-Meleon etc) is where we have issues right now. Helping other users (forums) is another area where everybody can contribute.

I have to point to the FAQ here again:

http://adblockplus.org/en/faq_project#contribute

I want to thank Wladimir Palant for taking time out to talk with me here, and please be sure to check out Adblock Plus if you haven’t done so already. I think if there was an extention hall of fame for Firefox – Wladimir’s contribution would definitely belong.