Ben Collins-Sussman (born January 1973) is a programmer, engineering manager, and musician. A lifelong native of Chicago, he still lives there with his wife, kids, and cats. His friends tease that he is a "collector of hobbies", but his interests tend to cluster around activities that are collaborative, social, and often require balancing technical problem-solving against artfulness.
Ben began working as a professional programmer in the mid-1990s. He's best known for his role as a co-founder and co-designer of Subversion, a popular version-control tool to help programmers collaborate. Ben also co-authored the the main O'Reilly manual for the software; the complete book is online.
Ben is currently the engineering site director for Google's Chicago office. He joined Google in 2005 as one of the first two engineers in Chicago. He 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, Ben managed two different Display Ads teams, Search serving teams, and today manages teams in charge of Google Search's overall latency/speed.
Over the course of a decade, Ben has collaborated with his friend Brian Fitzpatrick on multiple talks and books regarding the social challenges of software development. They'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
Music and Composition
Ben spent his childhood learning piano, trained mainly in jazz and improvisation. In high school and college he participated in multiple choral groups, taking a particular interest in barbershop quartets. In his 30s he became interested in folk music, and now enjoys playing bluegrass and old-time banjo in local jam sessions.
Ben has a long-standing (moonlight) career as a composer for Chicago theaters. With his collaborator Andre Pluess, they've won multiple awards for composition, sound design, and new musical theater works. Their 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). Their most recent musical -- Eastland -- debuted in 2012 at Lookinggglass Theatre and received three Jeff Award nominations. In 2013 is was selected to perform as part of a new musical showcase in New York City.
Photography and Art
Ben has a keen interest in photography, posting his favorite work to his Flickr stream. He occasionally does professional work, shooting events, weddings, and headshots. He also has a popular Introduction to Photography page that he wrote for his friends getting into the hobby.
In late 2014, Ben picked up a lateral interest in drawing as an alternate means of capturing a moment in time. Though not formally trained, he worked through a number of books and online classes, posting his progress on Instagram. Ben enjoys working in graphite, ink, and watercolor, and participates in various Urban Sketching events.
Ben is a participant in the Interactive Fiction scene, a indie game community that produces and plays pure-text computer games similar to those developed by Infocom in the 1980s. With his friend Jack Welch, Ben 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.