Technologist

I have been engaged with the use and development of technology in one form or another since I was young, and am currently pursuing a career as a software developer. It's not all roses, however: I take a fairly radical and critical stance towards the adoption of technology in society.

Software Development

I'm currently working as Director of Ecosystem & Integrations at the San Francisco-based cloud testing company Sauce Labs. At Sauce, I've worked on many aspects of the architecture of our web and mobile testing cloud, from backend infrastructure (Python) to frontend interactivity (JavaScript). Most recently, I've been building the Ecosystem & Integrations Team. Our mission is to make sure that the open source ecosystem that surrounds our core products receives as much attention as it deserves. Did I mention that we're hiring?

My CV is available for download here:

Open Source Contribution

I am passionate about open source and have contributed to a number of projects. Most notably, I am the architect and project lead for Appium [source], a popular cross-platform, language-agnostic mobile app testing framework.

I'm also an active member of the Node.js and Javascript communities, and maintain the following projects:

The best place to find up-to-date information about my open source involvement is my GitHub profile.

Public Speaking

I've spoken at dozens of conferences and meetups around the world on various topics, mainly to do with automated web and mobile app testing. Here are a few links to videos and slides of presentations I've given:

Entrepreneurship

I have co-founded two companies and have several other side projects which I maintain:

Comendi
I was the CTO and co-founder (with Daniel Conrad) of this social recommendations startup. Rather than giving people a list of business to try, we approached the recommendations problem with the idea that recommendations are highly relative to someone's needs and desires. So we built a mechanism for succinctly stating those desires in the form of a question which people answered---these answers were recommendations which were reused around the site.

Backlight
I was the CTO and co-founder (with Brad Wolfe) of this startup designed to bring creativity and inspiration to online engagement. We encouraged people to add their own creations to the community; along with each creation was its "backlight", i.e., the story of what inspired that creation. We built an amazing community of people and a library of inspiring content. We were also a part of the 2008 fbFund REV accelerator class.

Expenseus
Expenseus is a side project that arose out of a frustration with group expense reimbursement. When you go on a trip with your friends, or when you live in a house with 5 others and share expenses throughout the course of the month, it can be difficult to remember who owes who what. Expenseus keeps track of things and will calculate the smallest possible reimbursement graph that evens everything out. Over 3,000 happy monthly active users of this free service!

Taskr
This is my take on task management. The primary insight is the use of deadlines and priorities to create a color-coded list of tasks. Taskr aims to answer the question "what should I work on next"?

Philosophy

I enjoy thinking critically about the technological enterprise in the modern era, and write about this topic frequently on my blog. I am currently blogging through a book on the philosophy of technology by Albert Borgmann, called Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life. I recommend starting at the 'Blogging Borgmann' series overview.

As listed above, I've also started trying to give presentations on the philosophy of technology. My first bid in this area was at LXJS 2014, a talk called The Internet of Nothings.

Musician

I've been playing music for as long as I can remember. Starting with a few years of piano lessons as a child, I opted to switch to trumpet when it came to school. From 6th to 12th grade I practiced just enough to stay involved in the marching bands, concert bands, and jazz bands at my high schools. I also composed for piano and full wind ensemble.

In my junior year of high school, I had two life-changing experiences: first, I took Music Theory AP. Second, I began playing guitar. These two things defined my musical experience through the present. I explored pop, rock, alternative, punk, and ska music for the first time, and started writing songs with words. That meant that I also sang them; and eventually, my voice got good enough for me to appreciate my own music. In the last 15 years since I started playing guitar, I've written and recorded over 60 different songs, and have performed at numerous venues, most notably while on tour with my friends' band, The New Frontiers.

Splendour Hyaline

Splendour Hyaline is the indie rock band I started with my brother David Lipps in 2003. I write the songs, play guitars & bass, and sing. David plays drums, produces, records, mixes, masters, and plays a bit of synth. Some of our music is available for free at our NoiseTrade page. Here is our discography:

Hope: A Sliver, Like the Moon (2006, rereleased 2014)
iTunes · Play · Amazon · Spotify · Rdio · Beats · NoiseTrade
This EP was recorded with full band at Spareroom Studios in Orlando, FL.

  1. So Talk About It
  2. The Restless Slumber of Dry Kindling
  3. Liability
  4. Waiting (Fugaz)
  5. Arctic Wastelands in the Quest for Character
  6. Arid Deserts in the Quest for Companionship

Regarding Present Fears (2004, rereleased 2014)
iTunes · Play · Amazon · Spotify · Rdio · Beats · NoiseTrade
This EP was recorded at Spareroom Studios in Orlando, FL.

  1. Regarding Present Fears
  2. Escapism Is Fantasy
  3. Love is Around
  4. One Day the Future Will Be Tomorrow

Between (2003)
The very first Splendour Hyaline record, and the inaugural Spareroom Studios project.

  1. A Veiled Hope
  2. So Talk About It
  3. Winter's Hold
  4. Escapism Is Fantasy
  5. Of Fire and Chains
  6. Intermission
  7. A Pixelated Life
  8. I Win Again
  9. Affectionately Yours
  10. Regarding Present Fears
  11. Hear This
  12. Small Are the Words

Splendour Hyaline Christmas

Christmas is probably our favorite holiday, and so we've occasionally produced little EPs of our own renditions of Christmas music.

The Holly and the Ivy (2008)

  1. The Holly and the Ivy
  2. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Holy Night (2006)

  1. We Three Kings of Orient Are
  2. Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  3. O Holy Night

Christmas (2005)

  1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  2. O Little Town of Bethlehem
  3. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

Bird & Babe

Speaking of Christmas, my wife Jessica and I collaborated one year on an advent album, under the moniker Bird & Babe. It highlights the contrasting emotions and experiences of waiting characteristic of the advent season.

Northern Star (2012) [NoiseTrade]

  1. Northern Star
  2. Hallelujah Sings the Choir
  3. This December Evening
  4. Behold! The King Has Come
  5. Good Tidings of Great Joy

Other Projects

I've also worked on several other projects in a solo fashion:

Suite Apocalyptique (2007) [Download]
I wrote this album while on sabbatical at Schloss Mittersill, a castle in the Austrian alps. It was inspired by NT Wright's Christian Origins and the Question of God series, a magisterial work on the origins of the Christian religion within its historico-cultural context. The album is thus accompanied by a bit of an explanation.

  1. Mvmt I: The Sky Darkens
  2. Mvmt II: The Body Sleeps
  3. Mvmt III: The Heavens Stir
  4. Mvmt IV: The Earth Groans
  5. Mvmt V: The Birth Concludes
  6. Mvmt VI: The Sun Rises
  7. Mvmt VII: The Promise Holds

Science Fiction (2006) [Download]
This album is the result of a lot of experimentation with composing using electronic instruments and the exploration of more subtle emotional landscapes.

  1. The Wayfaring Aesthete Engages the Road in Conversation
  2. Logic Stumbles While Climbing the Steps to Your Heart
  3. A Storm Of My Own Devising
  4. Winter Brings the Rain of Nostalgic Innocence
  5. Walking Away and End Credits

Linguist

I have loved learning and playing with languages ever since I was young. Like many, it was discovering the wealth of creativity in J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional tongues that opened up a world of fascination with language. It showed me language as a vehicle for expression and exploration, not just communication.

Of course I ended up creating constructed languages ('conlangs') of my own, though none of them ever became very complete. The most fleshed-out project was a language called Enaselvai, which has some pretty obvious affinities with pre-existing natural languages like Latin. I even wrote a paper about constructed languages and the structure of Enaselvai. You can see some of its script to the right.

Oxford

Eventually I felt that I wanted to approach language and the study of language itself in a less amateur fashion. So I did an MPhil in the Faculty of Linguistics, Philology, & Phonetics at Oxford University, supported by a scholarship at Jesus College.

In this program I had several areas of focus:

  • Syntax - understanding how words can be put together to form larger units of linguistic structure.
  • Morphology - understanding how words themselves can be put together from smaller bits.
  • Computational Linguistics - using computational techniques to answer linguistic questions.
  • The History of Ancient Greek - charting the path of the Ancient Greek dialects through roughly 1,000 years of ancient history.

Thanks to the wonderful instruction I received from my professors, and especially my supervisor Mary Dalrymple, my MPhil thesis was submitted to the Oxford Research Archive for digital publication, and featured on the department's website as having earned a distinction.

Selected Works

Philosopher

When I went off to college, I was planning on majoring in computer science. I'd taken all the computer science AP classes in high school and wanted to be a programmer. The trouble is, I'd also taken to exploring and debating some Big Questions (at least, what were Big Questions to kids in the suburban Bible Belt), like God's existence, faith "vs" science, creationism vs evolution, etc... Nothing was quite so stimulating as trying to get to the bottom of the cosmological argument for God's existence, to see whether it really worked or not.

So, when the computer science department couldn't figure out where I should start when I asked them on my first day of college, I decided to focus on philosophy for a while. Ultimately, I had such a good time I stuck with it. I've still never made any money as a philosopher, but I certainly feel like a professional!

Stanford

I got my BA (2004) during some wonderful years as an undergraduate at the Stanford Philosophy Department. I can still remember mind-exploding moments in the Philosophy of Mind or Logic courses I took. And the Philosophy of Language seminars no doubt had something to do with my eventual studies in linguistics.

While at Stanford I also took advantage of their co-terminal degree program, which enabled me to work towards and receive an MA in Philosophy as well, also in 2004. As a grad student, I had the rewarding experience of TAing a course on medical ethics, as well as some truly fascinating exposure to the philosophy of quantum mechanics, wherein I finally learned some linear algebra.

In my MA I had several areas of concentration:

Philosophy of Technology

One of the most interesting philosophical subjects for me in recent years, and I think one of the most currently relevant for modern society, is the philosophy of technology. In this (nascent) subject, we ask questions about what technology is in essence, and what our relationship to it is. We could also move into ethics and ask what relationship technology has to pre-existing norms, whether it imposes its own norms, or whether there should be any norms for us in our engagement with it.

As a computer programmer by trade, I've spent a lot of time with technology on the ground. More recently, I've been trying to view it through a more critical lens. My favorite guide so far into this world is Albert Borgmann, author of Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life. It's so insightful I decided to blog through each chapter in the hopes of making it more accessible to a less academically-trained audience: Blogging Borgmann.

I've been trying to engage my community of software developers with conversations about issues in the philosophy of technology. Most recently, I was able to give a keynote presentation at LXJS 2014 in Lisbon, where I communicated ideas from Albert Borgmann and Jaron Lanier.

Philosophical Theology

I also have a strong interest in theology. You might say that I'm a theological philosopher (rather than a philosophical theologian---man, those guys can get pretty boring!). Theology for me is the study of the ground of meaning, which is why it deals with God. For many, including myself, God is a ground of meaning, but even if that weren't the case, it wouldn't turn out that we didn't have a theology (in the way I've defined it). Matters of ultimate personal concern are thus theological in this sense, whether someone believes in God or not.

It's for this reason that I'm interested in 'theology' rather than 'religious studies'. It's not that religion isn't interesting, it's that 'religious studies' takes a perspective which tends to not acknowledge that there might even be matters of ultimate personal concern, or that if there are, they can even be talked about! I prefer to bite the bullet and talk theology.

Selected Works

Photographer

I like to take pictures when I go on trips. I think the secret to good photography is having something nice to take a picture of, and when I'm on trips I tend to be a bit more observant of such things. I'm certainly not as good at remembering to take pictures as my wife, however, and I have a small fear of photographing people. But I love photographing nature and architecture. Ever since I got a decent camera I've been playing around with angles and lighting.

A fair amount of my photography can be found at my Flickr profile, but for some reason I haven't been keeping it up to date. So I've put some low-quality highlights here for your viewing pleasure!

Gallery

Some uncaptioned photos I've taken over the last 10 or so years, roughly in order of date taken.

About

Welcome to the online homepage of Jonathan Lipps! Harking back to an era before social media rendered personal pages superfluous, this website is meant to inform you, dear reader, of everything (indeed, probably much more than) you need to know about me.

If I were to be self-deprecating (which I too often am), I'd say this site is designed around the embarrassing theme that I can't be interested in just one thing. Of course, you and I both know that, far from being embarrassed, I like to imagine that this multiplicity of pursuits leads to a more satisfyingly integrated life. So I've selected some of the most prominent of these interests to showcase in their own sections; simply click on the links to the right to get where you need to go.

Miscellanea

It's hard to say where I'm from. Before I was 6 years old I'd lived in Arizona, California, and Papua New Guinea. I spent my growing-up years in a little town outside of Dallas called Cedar Hill, TX. When we moved there it was a small town of about 10,000, and now it has become a booming suburbopolis, replete with all the big box stores your heart desires and a Macaroni Grill.

Anyway, I finished up high school in Orlando, FL, and went off to college in sunny California at Stanford University (BA/MA in Philosophy) in Palo Alto. Since then I've more or less been based around the San Francisco Bay Area, with two notable exceptions: I spent the better part of a year in Kenya at the Tumaini Children's Home in Nyeri, helping to start Hope Runs. And then I spent two years in Oxford, UK, working on another masters degree, this time in Linguistics.

In the middle of all these adventures, I met the woman who eventually agreed to marry me: the wonderful Jessica Kuras Lipps. Now I get to go through life in a way that, while it might be more confusing (not least because we are different in so many ways), is full of growth and adventure. As much as I consider myself a philosopher, Jessica lives out her radical ideas in practice; she's my philosopher of the heart.

Delights

You might think that the 5 categories to the left are more than enough for me to be interested in. Ha! Here are some other things I love:

Colophon

It seems fashionable these days to talk about what goes into making a website. Luckily for fashion, I also find it fun. So here's all the tools and technologies that were involved in the making of this lovingly hand-coded page: