Dramatis Personae: Software Developers

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Illustration by Crystal Frasier

Cave raptors are sated; it's time to blog!

As we all know, the business environment changed radically when the Internet achieved sentience back in '03. Suddenly, the clean, predictable world of code became a tangled, heaving jungle of logic chains and creeping ads. Companies suddenly found themselves in want of both a competent programmer and an experienced survival expert. Luckily, Paizo has both.

This week I caught up with Ross Byers, Paizo's assistant software developer. Though he rarely disconnects his neural link to the server, he agreed to share what he could about the inner workings of Paizo's cyber-bwanas.

"It's a blast! I love working here." Ross had just finished carving out a virtual farmstead for the PaizoCon '10 protocol, and allowed me to interview him while he relaxed with a few protein pills. Originally hailing from the primordial swamps of central Florida, Ross is no stranger to life-or-death struggles against an oppressive environment. Now instead of wrestling 'gators, he turns his life experience toward Paizo's digital settlement. Like any small settlement in a strange world, the Paizo website and forums can be challenging to oversee, but Ross considers them among the better places to code a family. "Sometimes people get a little crazy, but generally [they] keep it on an even temper. They're nice to one another."

Software development is no easy job: from plague-bearing mosquitoes to deadly jungle predators, Ross risks his health and safety keeping Paizo.com prosperous. Though his duty is life threatening, he still finds time for fun. The smurf filter, beloved by the messageboard regulars, started as an April Fool's Day gag, but is now maintained and lovingly updated by Ross. "I also get to see the blogs 12 hours before they go up."

Ross first approached Paizo during the 2008 RPG Supersar competition, where he landed as one of the top 32 finalists. Having been a regular face in the frontier saloon that is the Unofficial Paizo chat room, Ross and his rugged style impressed the Paizo founders, and he eventually found himself shanghaied to the remote digital outpost he tends today.

Paizo's web presence, even in these turbulent times, is a factor in its success. Or, as Ross phrases it: "We require the [online] store for people to give us money. If we didn't have the store, people couldn't give us money. That's very bad for a commercial enterprise," although even he readily admits that Paizo's success hinges entirely on "high quality products to sell." Still, the Paizo website combines quality products from dozens of companies, including treasures that even the Amazon.com Imperium doesn't stock. With Ross's loving care and everything carefully organized by Jeff Alvarez and Vic Wertz (more on them later), this holdout frontier town has blossomed into a thriving community under some of the worst conditions.

Ross serves as the right hand of the unphotographable Gary Teter.

Crystal Frasier
Production Specialist

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