Hi, I’m Aaron. Welcome to adl.io, the place where I organize my writing, speaking, and a selection of recipes I’ve posted here to make them easy to share with friends.

Professional Bio

Web 1.0
I started building webapps around 1996 with a JavaScript tax-day countdown ⏱ for the local accounting firm’s website. Instead of summer jobs between high school and college, I built a custom CRM, time tracking, and billing system for my dad’s architecture firm, called Design Administrator. Version 1 was a mess of Visual Basic and Microsoft Access. Luckily, I found Ivor Horton’s books, learned a bit about proper code structure, and built Version 2 as a web application with MySQL, Java Servlets and JSP. Two and a half decades later, it’s still in use. Meanwhile the accounting firm figured out tax day isn’t something most people look forward to 😜.

Internet Radio
I turned a college internship at an interactive radio startup called πŸ“» XACT Radio into a consulting gig with its investors and later a lead engineer contract to migrate XACT’s VB6 and Visual C++ platform into .Net services for Canada’s first online music subscription service, Moontaxi.

Freelance Consulting
For the next decade I ran my own consultancy called New Media Logic. I started with J2EE architecture and development, building some of the foundational infrastructure at Exclusive Resorts πŸ„β€β™€οΈ and other startups. DHH’s 15 minute video convinced me to switch from Java to Ruby, and the arrival of Drupal 4 convinced me to stop custom-building web sites and start using a Content Management System. I got heavily involved in the Drupal community, where I found my love for Open Source and released some of my first open source modules.

I mostly worked solo, but occassionally joined forces with other freelancers for larger projects. I learned a lot during these years as the clients and the work were incredibly varied. One week I’d be building a e-commerce site for yarn 🧢 and the next I’d be launching a fantasy sports platform for CBS Sports. In 2008, the social network I built for Platinum Lounge even beat Twitter in Mashable’s 2008 Open Web Awards πŸ₯ˆ (Twitter seemed to recover from the loss just fine).

CTO at Claremont Information Systems
In 2009, I joined a client’s startup as CTO and built out the engineering and product teams for a real estate data aggregation and analytics platform covering the entire western US, Texas and Florida. Despite being ahead of the curve on the data science πŸ“ˆ revolution and building 3 really impressive product lines, we failed to raise enough investment to outlast the slow sales cycles at the large banks we believed would be our best customers.

Failing sucks, but it’s the best teacher. The experience at Claremont was my crash course in large-scale engineering management, boardroom negotiation, term sheets and cap tables, and I’m grateful for the experience.

CTO at Culture Foundry
Claremont’s demise quickly led to a flurry of new work. I joined Trevor and Hans full-time to become Culture Foundry’s first CTO. I arrived with a new client from a previous life, the co-founder of XACT Radio. Ten years later, he wanted to give interactive radio another go, this time as a mobile-first, consumer-branded application (Mad Genius Radio). At the same time, we grew Trevor’s freelancing relationship with Churchill Downs into a wholescale digital transformation of KentuckyDerby.com, supported the launch of their online wagering platform Twinspires.com and migrated all the web infrastructure to Amazon Web Services. The success of those initiatives put us on the map, and we repeated the feat a few years later with the New York Racing Association’s BelmontStakes.com and their online wagering system, NYRABets. After 6 years of rapid growth, both in the scale of our all-remote engineering team and the complexity of our client’s projects, I reached burnout in 2018. In trying to keep the company’s promise of ensuring work/life balance for the staff, I recognized I’d become completely unbalanced myself. I sold my stake in the firm to the other partners, took some time off, and went looking for a “regular” job outside of agency life. Ideally something that would feed my soul.

Afghanistan πŸ‡¦πŸ‡«
Serendipity can be a weird companion sometimes. After interviewing for roles at established companies like Mozilla and New Relic, and startups like Stackery, I ended up turning down several “regular” jobs for a very unusual one: a contract to lead a project for the πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ US State Department in Afghanistan. I joined a former colleague from XACT Radio on a proposal to build version 2.0 of the Case Management System tracking every civil and criminal court case from 500 offices across Afghanistan. We got the gig despite having no experience in government contracting. That worked in our favor, as the goal was a handoff to the Afghan government and it was imperative that we build something that would be effective for the Afghans, not something built in the image of the US bureacracy. We ran the gig like a startup that knows it’ll be acquired in 2 years. We built the team from scratch and heavily emphasized maintainability and good documentation rather than cleverness. We tested our approaches by repeatedly bringing code school interns onto the project to ensure our approach to onboarding worked well. In July 2021, we completed the project on time and within our original budget. Less than a month later, Kabul had fallen to the Taliban.

Open Source Projects

I’m currently maintaining the following projects:

Contact Aaron

You can email me at [email protected] or on Mastodon.