Interviews: Robert S

Company

This is the fourth post in the 2016 FastMail Advent Calendar. Stay tuned for another post tomorrow.


FastMail has a global team working on internal and open source products. Today, we’ll hear from Robert S., one of the major contributors to the Cyrus IMAP project, the free, open-source, mail server FastMail runs on.

Robert S

Name: Robert S.
Time working for FM: 1.5 years

What I work on

Cyrus and JMAP. This year, I’ve spent most of my energy on calendaring, search, and the code that improves handling of non-latin character sets. I’m happiest working on low level code.

How did you get involved with FastMail?

About two years ago, I was working on implementing a CalDAV server on my own, and realized how complicated it was. After I had already invested all that time understanding the spec, I learned about FastMail’s involvement with Cyrus, and reached out to them. Two days later, we were having a Skype call about how we could work together. Since then, I've been doing work for them from Austria, but we got a chance to work together for a couple of months in Australia this year, and it was incredibly productive.

What’s your favourite thing you’ve worked on this year?

Xapian and the search code, particularly the language constraints around making search work. I love technical problems that lead you to learn about topics outside of tech, and working on this gave me the chance to learn a lot more about how Chinese, Japanese and Korean languages work!

What’s your favorite FastMail feature?

I always give businesses a unique email address at my domain, so I love the catch-all feature for personal domains.

What’s your favorite or most used piece of technology?

Probably my alarm clock on my mobile phone.

What’s your preferred mobile platform?

Undecided! I am a longtime iOS user, but switched to Android because of the cost. But I just broke my phone, and the calendaring on the iPhone might be drawing me back.

What other companies, people or projects inspire you in your work?

Pinboard is a very great service, and Pobox was actually something I admired for many years, even before FastMail bought it. In terms of projects, I like to look at redis; it’s nice to look at clean C code.

What are you listening to / watching these days?

When I'm working, I'm almost always listening to the Drum Code and CLR techno podcasts. I have been catching up on the live streams of the Bouldering World Cup.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I love bouldering, and try to go climbing at least twice a week. When I was in Australia, I got to take a trip out to the Grampians, which are a world-famous climbing location.

Any FM staffers you want to brag on?

Having been to CalConnect, JMAP is something people in the email and calendaring community are really excited about. I hope it gets momentum; Bron and Neil should be very proud of what they’ve done. In our Cyrus work, Nicola has really pushed us to strive to be a model open source community by making us more transparent and welcoming of new contributors. It's easy to assume high-level technical conversations should happen in more closed channels, but even our core contributor weekly meeting is open to community participants.

What are you proudest of in your open source Cyrus work?

The calendaring Ken and the rest of the team has added to Cyrus is really cutting edge, as are its contacts. Everyone knows Cyrus for its IMAP mail handling, but with these new additions, I think there are many new communities that can benefit from it.

-——

Thanks, Robert! Robert and other FastMail developers are a huge part of the Cyrus core team. We are always happy to welcome anyone into the Cyrus IMAP project who is keen to bugfix, develop new features, test, document or just share your knowledge. Experience with email servers is helpful but if you're up for the challenge of learning all about it, we're happy to provide guidance. The Cyrus team has mailing lists, IRC and a regular weekly hangout. Come and talk to us. You might just come away with a side project and a newfound appreciation for Vegemite and the TimTam Slam.