I am Alex Russell. Ask me anything.

Alex Russell is a software developer working on Chrome, Blink, and the Web Platform at Google. He serves ECMA TC39 (the standards body for JavaScript) and is an elected member of the W3C Technical Architecture Group. You can find him blogging at Infrequently Noted on browsers, standards, and many different tech topics.

Ask Alex Russell about:

  • Chrome
  • Working at Google
  • TC39
  • ECMAScript
  • Blink
  • Web Platform at Google
  • Contributing to OSS
  • And more…
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73 discussions

What does your average working day look like?

Tried to answer parts of this in another question, but it varies quite a lot -- but safe to say that if I'm at work, I'm in a meeting. Early meetings from home, then commute, then more meetings, then hopefully some make-time (but mostly meetings), and finally commute home by 6 or 6:30.

These days, most of my creative work happens in design documents, github design reviews. That said, there's nothing I like better than a day I can "steal" to go try a new approach, scratch a code itch, or help a partner improve the performance of their site.

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Hey Alex, what do you think about Safari/Webkit and how it lags behind Firefox, Chrome and (even) Edge? Has Apple lost its interest in Webkit?

Apple staffs the WebKit team at a much lower level than other browser engine teams (which is not a critique of the engineers on the team; to a person they're brilliant!) It has gotten so bad that we're starting to re-invest in fixing some of the worst compatibility issues in WebKit...which, as you can imagine, is not where we'd like to be spending our limited resources.

It's hard to say what the intent is, but the effect of Apple's decisions haven't been great for us as a community.

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What are your thoughts on transpilers and new JavaScript language features that have not yet landed in all browsers being treated as the "industry standard" way to write JavaScript?

I feel some guilt about the current state of affairs. A team I led ("Parkour") built an early (the first?) ES.next -> ES.now transpiler -- "Traceur" -- in the ES6 timeframe...so to some extent, we started this fire.

And it is on fire. I see so many traces where the combination of Babel transpilation overhead and poor WebPack foo totally sink the performance of a site.

I'm happy that babel-present-env is now the norm, but I'm sad that we're still playing this game. To some degree I think it would be prudent for most developers to make a hard cut: only support browsers that support ES6 natively and give other users the progressively-enhanced experience (which you were doing, right?). Transpilers should fade away, not get more central to our workflows.

I less kind thoughts for proprietary, non-standards-track forks of HTML and JS (e.g., JSX), but will keep them to myself = )

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What techincal skills one should have to work in google?

Understanding of systems, networks, and CS basics. Beyond that, we're a technology company. Getting things done means writing code and collaborating in big teams. So being able to write good code, take feedback well, and work with others to improve theirs (without being a tool about it) matters a great deal.

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Hi Alex! 👋

I would love to know your workflow. How do you manage to contribute to OSS, participate in events and also work at Google? What is your typical day like at work?

"Workflow" sure sounds grandiose!

Truth be told, I do less OSS these days that I think folks would assume. Most of my work day is taken up by meetings, and there's enough stuff rolling in on different fronts that I now explicitly try to have folks schedule time to chat when there's something important to do or work out.

Travel is a huge part of the job. Between standards, conferences, and the worldwide distribution of the Chrome team, I'm probably on the road one week a month. Making that work has mostly been about lowering expectations: when you're congenitally slow to respond to email, people start taking your advice to schedule time on your calendar ;-)

When I'm in the Bay Area (home), my day starts about 8:30am (meetings with Europe/US East Cost). I usually take the early ones from home then go into the office. I do meetings, email, and fire-fighting (chat/slack) through lunch (I tend to eat at my desk while working). Afternoons are a mix. On light meeting days (monday/friday), I try to set aside make-time for performance work, writing design docs, and coding.

I'm out of the office and shutting work out of my life by 6-6:30pm. I used to be terrible at this, but putting limits on the time I'm thinking about work has made me realize how much I need the people around me (and has transformed my attitude towards them). Nobody does anything important alone, and acknowledging that you're part of a team means taking care of yourself enough such that you're there for the team when they need you...so go home. Play some video games. Do anything but work when you're not "working".

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