Better Know a WebDev: Michael Kelly (AKA mkelly AKA Osmose)

Live* from New York, it’s Friday Morning!

* Recorded with no audience. Laugh track may be used.

This week’s special guest on Better Know a WebDev, Michael Kelly!

 What do you do at Mozilla?

I work on engagement campaigns, like Firefox Flicks and Firefox Affiliates. I also work on the snippets service, which powers the small messages you see on about:home in Firefox. Most of my work is in Python on the backend side of our Django-based sites.

Any fun side projects you’re working on?

Most of my side projects are mediocre javascript games. I also have a few smaller things on my Github account.

How did you get started in web development or programming?

I got started with programming when I was around 8 years old, when my brother got a copy of ZZT installed on our home computer. ZZT is awesome! Not only does it come with a set of cool games to play, it lets you make your own games and program objects to do all sorts of cool things, like teaming up against the player, sending the player on a quest, or controlling a role-playing-game simulator.

I got into web development specifically when I was a teenager and learned HTML. I would eventually learn PHP and start making interactive sites in my spare time, which landed me a job for my Computer Science department in college working on their website.

How did you get involved with Mozilla?

Unlike a lot of Mozillians, I didn’t start off as a contributor. I got involved with Mozilla when they showed up at a job fair at my university. They were the only web-focused company there, and I rushed to start talking to them about the side projects I was working on. That landed me an interview, which led to a job after I graduated a year ago.

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

Once, while interning at Electronic Arts, I was working on a feature that made a database query once for every page across the Sims 3 website. We had set it up to be heavily cached, but I still managed to take down the entire Sims 3 site for a day. Oops!

Turns out, my database query, which we thought was running directly on the database, was actually running through Hibernate, the ORM we used on the site. This was frightfully slow, and caused all of our database connections to freeze up due to the massive amount of traffic the site got. Luckily, all that caching helped free up the site in the afternoon, and we were able to push a fix that night.

What’s something you’re particularly proud of?

I’m very proud of how Mozilla was able to get together with other companies across the internet and join the blackout on January 18th to protest SOPA and PIPA. My part to play was to create the snippet that blacked out about:home and sent our message to more than 30 million Firefox users.

The coolest part was that we were able to get this snippet and the blackout pages for other Mozilla sites ready in the space of a day. It was awesome to see how quickly everyone was able to mobilize in order to help stop SOPA and PIPA from censoring the web.

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

I’m really excited about Gladius, a Mozilla-developed 3D game engine for the browser. It provides a lot of the plumbing needed to get a game off the ground in Javascript. I’d love if there were a similar effort going on for 2D game development as well, given the positive response we got to BrowserQuest.

Other cool things to watch for are the Gamepad API, Pointer Lock API, and Full Screen API, all of which are helping make open web-based gaming a reality.

What question do you wish you’d been asked?

I wish I’d been asked about what games I am currently playing. 😀

The answer, by the way, would be “The Longest Journey” by Funcom, “Minecraft” by Mojang (of course you never really stop playing Minecraft), and (in 2 days when it releases) “Fez” by polytron.

Next time we rewrite all of our websites, what will the platform be?