Useful Distractions is JP Cutter's corner of the internet.
After a lifetime of tinkering with computers and online, this site represents a repository of projects past and future. It is still very much under construction, don't mind the rough edges.
Growing up in Los Angeles, JP was always a big fan of technology and entertainment. An early devotion to video games represented the perfect cross section of technology and storytelling.
Open Source Software
I have a big soft spot for the ethos and community behind open source software. Not only does it feel like admirable example of altruism, contributing free work to improve the whole... but I literally couldn't do my job without it. The sheer number of libraries involved in the grunt work of building a modern web application is mind-boggling, it's standing on the shoulders of giants.
Hopefully I can increase my contribution and participation over time.
The first open source library published by Useful Distractions, built to support the Loan Payoff Calculator (returning soon!). Written to easily compare different loan situations, the library generates the amortization table and related details for a given set of terms.
After graduating UCLA and a brief stint as a video game tester, JP got his first professional programming job in 2007.
When people ask me questions about starting out, like what language they should try to learn, I emphasize the importance of finding a fun project. Some of the earliest hobby projects I remember include a movie fan page for The Matrix, and a "random fun" page that would pull from a database of quotes and links I liked. One of my proudest and most irritated high school moments was when the computer teacher didn't believe I actually made that Matrix page. Despite the inconvenience, it introduced me to the invisible author nature of the internet. Some light tinkering and dedication was enough to overwhelm the person teaching me the topic in question. Looking back, it was an impressive lesson in real-world results.
Focusing on something that matters to you personally is a big deal; it can be the difference between giving up and having eureka shower moments. I've often heard advice to find and do what you love, but didn't understand the most important aspect... that when you love what you do, it'll keep you up at night to do it poorly. Instead of building resentment from external pressure, positive reinforcement is achieved when persistence and care improve the thing you care about.
Tixr Inc. (Feb. 2013 – Present)
- Founding Member
- Lead UI Architect
BlackLine (Oct. 2012 – Feb. 2013)
- Front End Developer
- Lead UI Architect
- The closest I've had to the perfect job schedule, these precious months allowed me to work regular hours and bike to work. It was only the temptation to take a big swing helping for a startup while still in my 20s that convinced me to leave.
Beachbody (Feb. 2012 – Oct. 2012)
- UI Engineer
- One of my briefer experiences was with the company behind such exercise systems as P90X. This experience was watching a successful company struggle with growth. I had to park blocks away from the office and take a shuttle, because they had overgrown their new office so quickly.
- This struggle to grow became a defining part of my job there. Despite a successful interview and job offer, they insisted that I wasn't ready for the senior job title, but it would be reviewed shortly. In less than a year, my two direct reports had quit, and all their work started falling onto my non-senior plate.
FOX Sports (Feb. 2010 – Feb. 2012)
- Software Application Engineer
- Despite a lack of interest in sports, I worked for two years on the FoxSports.com website. This was the first job that was focused explicitly on the front-end interface side of things, and where I began to specialize on the what's happening in the web browser.
- It's also where I met some of my most important collaborators. Addam Driver was a mentor, that I eventually followed to my next two jobs.
Animax Interactive (Sep. 2008 – Nov. 2009)
- Web developer
- One of my most formative jobs, Animax was a studio trying to pull off a mix of animation and casual games. The most recognizable property I worked on during this period was the Beany Babies virtual world for Ty. There was also the Bakugan website, and the now-defunct casual game site FunNugget.
Game Show Network (Aug. 2007 – Sep. 2008)
- Jr. Web Developer
- A subsidiary of Sony, working on the website for Game Show Network was my first corporate gig. The biggest project launch during my GSN tenure was their live Bingo game, where you could print out cards to play along.
BNQT Sports Video (May 2007 – Aug. 2007)
- Web developer
- Acquired by USA Today
- My first real programming job was for an extreme sports streaming video website called BNQT (pronounced "banquet"). Also my first start-up experience, it was a great introduction to waearings lots of hats to solve problems, working crazy hours, and having to quickly shift priorities when things changed.
- There were full stack responsibilities, working on the PHP back-end and custom front-end.
UCLA Capital Programs (Jun. 2003 – Jan. 2007)
- Student helper for the IT department
- My first real job was as a UCLA student assistant to the IT department of UCLA's Capital Programs. It was a short-term job, cataloguing and cleaning up thier old computers systems, so they department could get clearance to sell them. My presence must have come in handy, as the short-term summer job ended up lasting almost my whole college tenure.
- Luckily for me, the job I've had with the most down-time also coincided with the earliest release of podcasts. My own solitary room full of old computer hardware was made infinitely better, by the newfound ability to consume countless hours of audio content while doing data entry and tech support.