howell.io

…as unprincipled as the gods, and as much a jack-of-all-trades.

Hi! I'm David Howell.

David Howell, enjoying a coffee.
This was a very good cold-brew, courtesy of Brio Coffeeworks

Thank you for visiting.

I’m a software architect with more than decade of experience engineering and operating reliable distributed systems, in applications domains spanning content management, analytics, and programmatic advertising. I’ve led teams through the stabilization of fragile legacy systems, the development of innovative new products, and everything in between.

I came to software from experimental nuclear physics, after realizing that I was drawn more to writing code than reading physics papers. The fundamental nature of reality is neat and all, but there’s at least a lifetime of fascination in the dynamics of software-enabled organizations.

My current operating theory is that the future of software has as much to do with queuing theory, the archeology of corporate politics, and business ethnography as it does computer science.

Software is a messy, interdisciplinary art. I aim to find joy in the chaos and help others thrive in its practice.

Get in touch on Twitter or by email.

Best Articles

Favorite Projects

in.c

In collaboration with Jeffrey Pierce, I built the installation “in.c” for the Burlington City Arts’ “User Required” exhibition. Jeffrey and I wanted to open up the hypnotic experience of performing Terry Riley’s composition “In C” to non-musicians. The original piece consists of sequence of musical phrases, repeated at the discretion of the performer. In our installation, software instruments perform the segments of “In C”, but leave modulation of their voices and the overall structure up to the human performer.

in.c
in.c, by Jeffrey Pierce and David Howell

Codex Vitae

Following the sterling example of Buster Benson, I maintain my own Codex Vitae as an ongoing record of my philosophical scaffolding. While I love a good conceptual abstraction for its own sake, I’m most interested in philosophy as something to be lived.

I read my Codex Vitae as part of my weekly review, as a way of re-centering on my values and lessons I’ve learned.

Personalized Oblique Strategies

Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt created the Oblique Strategies for getting unstuck in art; I’ve my own derived my own for getting unstuck in life.

Personal Oblique Strategies Deck
Personal Oblique Strategies Deck

D3 Annotated Bibliography

D3 (Data-Driven Documents) is a JavaScript data visualization library created by Mike Bostock. Unlike charting library that provide pre-baked chart types, D3 is a toolkit for building up your own novel visualizations from geometric primitives.

d3 logistic
Time series visualization of the logistic map, with r = 3.76

I documented my own journey through the D3 learning curve with an annotated bibliography. I hope you find it useful!

Analog Index

I scribble diagrams, sketchnote while reading, and journal profusely. Whenever I fill a notebook, I flip through it to log bulletpoints on it’s highlights and to capture any images that stand out.

analog index
Digital index of my notebooks

It’s a nice review practice that makes me feel grateful for all the interesting things I get to learn.

An Ontology of Demented Java Types

Oblique jokes and cross-domain encoding are my favorite ways to learn. If you’re a software developer, you may enjoy my set of interfaces inspired by the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges and various features of the Java Virtual Machine.

/**
 * Attempts to use the Java Reflection API on objects that
 * implement Obtuse will always provide unhelpful, but
 * technically correct, type signatures.
 */
public interface Obtuse {
}