Face-to-Face with Brennan

Meeting Brennan.sg

I must be getting weak. As I met up with Brennan yesterday, a pounding headache suddenly hit me. I think it must have been the heat from the day before where I was literally waiting under the hot hazy sun to collect my passport from the US embassy. My winter-trained body compensated by drenching me in my own warm sweat. Not particularly exciting especially when you’re all dressed up from a meeting prior that day.

Using my new found meditation ability, I focused on my matter at hand which was to get to know who the Brennan fellow actually is. As a blogger, I’ve read up on his life online, but I wanted to know who he was in real life. Having rendezvoused at Borders bookstore, we proceeded up to the NYDC upstairs for a chat over drinks. Brennan opted for an Elephanccino while I went for my all-time favorite, Lemon Shiver.

The first thing I learnt about Brennan was that he was in a polytechnic majoring in Electrical Engineering. That struck me as kind of odd since he was too good-looking to be an engineer. As stereotypical as it sounds, my impression of a Singaporean engineer revolves around lots of Hokkien, an equal literacy with dialectic profanities and mathematical equations, as well as countless packets of cigarettes. At least I got the last part right; he admitted that he smokes… way of the land as they say.

As with most engineer friends I know, his personal interests revolved around things other than engineering. For one he was into web development and told me how he’d picked up Ruby on Rails (RoR). Being open source made things interesting as most corporations simply still think that if something is expensive, it must be good.

There’s a stigma towards open source software, mostly revolving on the idea that there’s a lack of professional support, no guarantee of longevity, and that it’s probably buggy. Well, the same can be said for most commercial software, so it’s really all in the head. What’s interesting about RoR is that it’s compatible with almost all known databases out there, which means that simply by learning how to use it, you can work on almost any information management project in existence.

Beyond the geekspeak, he noted how he was able to chat directly with RoR developers to solve issues he encountered. Over time, the developers told Brennan that there wasn’t any Ruby on Rails user group in Singapore and that he should consider starting one. I told him he should really get to it. Bringing people together is something which I’ve been doing all my life and it’s paid off handsomely. Back in ’97, the local music scene was just growing and I got together some friends to start substitute.com. The same thing for the progressive dance music scene back in 2000, where I got friends together to start frontallabs.com. I got to know a titanic-load of interesting people along the way. It’s not hard work if you love what you do, and if you have friends who are as serious as you, they’ll help out as well.

Forming user groups can be a powerful on many levels:
• For social networking (make friends, sponsors)
• Sharing ideas, experiences and resources (collaborate on projects)
• Personal career advancement (looks good on CV)

I gave him some contacts I knew who might be into Ruby on Rails, and if you are into it, give him buzz so you can all start something awesome together.

Being ten years my junior, I saw myself at his tender age and realized how much more each generation becomes more apt with computers. At 19, I was merely doing HTML, a bit of javascript, Macromedia Director scripting and lots of non-linear audio and video editing. At 19, he’s already writing web applications. I do wonder what the next generation of 19 year olds will do… produce and sell their own next-gen videogames?

Before we parted, I made sure to ask him how he was in his love life… something I had picked up bits and pieces of via his blog. He mentioned that he went through a break up a month ago, citing a difference in expectations from both sides. The reason why I’m telling you this is because this is one guy who’s got a bright future ahead of him. Ladies, time to make that call…

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