Better Know a WebDev: Greg Koberger aka gkoberger

James Socol

Welcome to another thrilling installment of your favorite, and only, recurring series on this blog: Better Know a WebDev!

This is a special week, as we’re featuring someone who just moved from web development into a product role with our Add-ons team. Give a big welcome and congratulations to Greg Koberger!

What do you do at Mozilla?

For the past year and a half, I’ve been a web developer working on the Mozilla Add-ons site. I wrote both front- and back-end code, and every once in a while I managed to sneak in a little bit of design work. I recently traded in vim for Google Docs, however, and made the switch to a more product-centric role. I still get to work with the same people on the same projects, however I’ll be writing specs and designing flows rather than writing code.

Any fun side projects you’re working on?

One of most recent (and relevant) mini side projects is a Firefox Quine. It’s not a true quine, since it loads some external assets (like jQuery). However, the concept is the same: if you were to copy and paste the code that makes up the logo, it would output itself. We’re currently getting the design printed on t-shirts.

How did you get started in web development or programming?

I was lucky—my parents always made sure I had a good computer. I started by tinkering with HyperCard, and eventually decided to try making websites. I still remember how asking my parents for my first hosting account went: “Why do you need other people to see it? Can’t you just play with it yourself on your computer?” Luckily they finally agreed, and I started teaching myself PHP and JavaScript.

How did you get involved with Mozilla?

While in college, there was an alumni talk about working at Mozilla. I missed the talk, however I emailed the guy after since I was curious. He encouraged me to apply, and I flew out to California to interview. I fell in love with the company. The people I interviewed with were awesome, and I was amazed by the company culture. Everyone just wanted to make the web a better place.

What’s a funny fail story or mistake you can share?

Back when I first started at Mozilla, I managed to delete all my private keys. So, some of the other webdevs set up a tissue-box-based “Computer School Fund” for me. I made $20 for deleting my private keys, so I like to think I got the last laugh.

What’s something you’re particularly proud of?

Back in November, awareness of SOPA was just starting to pick up. The day before the initial hearing, a bunch of us decided to try to raise awareness. It was incredibly last minute, but we knew we had to do something. We could get the message out via the snippet on about:home, which serves about 300MM requests a day. However, we had nowhere to link to. SOPA was new, and there wasn’t a definitive source with a few easy-to-digest bullet points. Plus, we couldn’t really send millions of hits to a website without giving them fair notice. So, we made our own. I sketched it out on paper and wrote out the copy. Then, as I designed it in Photoshop, my fellow webdev Potch sat next to me and wrote the code. We didn’t even have time to share files; he just watched what I was doing and wrote the code. It took us about an hour—which is all we had, since it still had to be deployed and tested. We couldn’t have gotten it out without help from all the different teams at Mozilla—everyone from legal to QA to IT to webdev worked late to make it happen. It was a huge success. We got the word about SOPA out to millions of Firefox users within 24 hours. We were able to use the same site a few months later for the SOPA blackout.

What’s coming up that you’re excited about?

I’m really excited about my new product management role. I love new challenges. It’s a great time to start this job, since a lot is going on with AMO right now. “Marketplace” (apps and add-ons combined, with the ability to charge) is going to be a huge project in the upcoming months. I can’t wait to see what our team can make in the upcoming months.

What software do you use day-to-day for the work you do?

My main machine is a 13″ Macbook Air running OS X Lion. I use vim for writing code, which all ends up on GitHub. I rely heavily on Firefox and Firebug for testing and debugging. I spend a good amount of time in Photoshop, mocking things up before I start coding. I couldn’t survive without either Rdio or Pandora playing in the background.

Mozilla WebDev: April 2011