Hi there, I'm Ben.
I like to do creative things -- see my wikipedia page.
I've worked in tech as a software engineer and manager since 1995 -- see my tech-industry CV, or read my writings over in my blog.
Until 2024, I was the Engineering Site Director for Google's Chicago office. I joined Google in 2005 as one of the first two engineers in Chicago. I ported Subversion to their scalable Bigtable technology, then helped write and launch Project Hosting on Google Code, which hosted hundreds of thousands of open-source projects up through 2016. After managing Google Code, I managed two different Display Ads teams, then Search serving teams in charge of Google Search's overall latency/speed, and then ran a team of researchers studying engineering productivity.
Over the course of a decade, I've collaborated with my friend Brian Fitzpatrick on multiple talks and books regarding the social challenges of software development. We've given dozens of talks at conferences (many viewable on youtube), and authored a popular O'Reilly book on the subject: Debugging Teams: Better Productivity through Collaboration I've also written about the art of software engineering management in my How to Leader talk -- also available in prose form within O'Reilly's Software Engineering at Google book.
I spent my childhood learning piano, trained mainly in jazz and improvisation. In high school and college I participated in different choral groups, taking a particular interest in barbershop quartets. I later became interested in folk music, and I sometimes play bluegrass and old-time banjo in local jam sessions.
I've had a long-standing (moonlight) career as a composer for Chicago theaters. With my collaborator Andre Pluess, we've won multiple awards for composition, sound design, and new musical theater works. Our most successful original musical was probably Winesburg, Ohio, an adapation of Sherwood Anderson's famous novel. It premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, then played at a new-works festival in NYC, then at the Arden Theater (Philadelphia) and at KC Repertory (Kansas City). It won a both a Jeff Award (Chicago) and an Ovation Award (LA). Later on, our musical -- Eastland -- debuted in 2012 at Lookinggglass Theatre and received three Jeff Award nominations. In 2013 it was selected to perform as part of a new musical showcase in New York City.
I have a keen interest in photography, both digital and film. (In fact, I still develop film and make prints in my darkroom!) You can see some of my favorite work on my Flickr stream, and more daily work on my Instagram. I occasionally do professional work, shooting events, weddings, and headshots. I also have a Introduction to Photography page that he wrote for my friends getting into the hobby.
Photography led me to an ajacent interest in drawing as an alternate means of capturing a moment in time. Though not formally trained, I worked through a number of books and online classes, and I sometime post art on DeviantArt. I enjoy working in graphite, ink, and watercolor, and participate in various Urban Sketching events.
I'm a sometimes-partipant in the Interactive Fiction scene, a indie-game game community that produces and plays pure-text computer games similar to those developed by Infocom in the 1980s. With my friend Jack Welch, we've has co-authored several games using the Inform programming language. The game Rover's Day Out won the 2009 Interactive Fiction Competition, and the game Hoosegow won the 2010 JayIsGames "One Room Escape" Competition.
I have an Extra-class FCC amateur radio license, using the callsign NN9S. I enjoy tinkering with radios, talking on the air, and doing low-power morse-code communication from hilltops when traveling.
I'm not a weeb or even much of a fan of anime, but I love linguistics. I studied Spanish, Latin, and German when I was young. During the pandemic I decided I wanted to try a really different language, and thus chose Japanese as a challenge. I'm working my way through textbooks and sometimes practice speaking with natives in social media apps.