Roy Tang is a freelance software developer with more than a decade of experience. He maintains his blog at roytang.net.
Who are you, and what do you do?
My name is Roy Tang. Professionally I'm a freelance software developer, but I'm on a bit of a work hiatus now and am in a bit of a "wandering around and trying out things" phase. I write a blog on my personal site at https://roytang.net/blog/. Some of the things I've been trying out over the past few years are sketching, game development, and streaming on Twitch
How did you get interested in that?
Software development has always been an interest for me since I was young; I really enjoyed the whole problem-solving aspect of it. As a bonus, it turns out you can earn a decent living from it too! Even outside of actual work I'm always doing some kind of programming-related side project and I love trying out new technologies, programming languages or frameworks.
Blogging is a thing I've been doing for a long while, even before I started working. I love blogging and think more people should be doing it. Preferably not for profit or marketing or other commercial purposes; there are many benefits to having a body of work online that you can reference and point people to.
What tools & gear do you use? (Could be hardware, software, something else entirely.)
Hardware: My main computer is a custom-built Windows desktop I put together way back in 2015; it's definitely due for an upgrade soon. For mobile purposes I have a Macbook Air I got in 2017 and also an iPad from 2019. I have a page on my site with details about the hardware I use.
Software: I do most of my personal writing and coding in Visual Studio Code. My preferred programming language is Python and my preferred web framework is Django. (Though of course for actual work, I'll use whatever the project requires.)
Besides the tools, what are the routines & habits that help you get your work done?
Two of my favorite routines are:
Daily writing: I use a webapp called 750words to write morning pages, typically first thing in the morning after I wake up. My entries typically involved a rundown of what happened the previous day and the things I plan to do for the coming day. I find that doing this first thing in the morning helps ground me and preps me for whatever needs to be done on that day.
Daily walks: I don't walk a lot as some people, usually only around 4-5km a day (often split into two shorter walks in the morning and in the afternoon/early evening). In addition to being good exercise, I find it relaxing and gives me some "offline time" to let my thoughts percolate in my brain for a bit.
You log a lot of personal content — your media diet, where you've traveled, what you've done, etc. What sparked your interest in logging it all for everyone to read?
While all that stuff is publicly available to read on the site, I still write primarily for myself. I've been writing all kinds of things publicly on the blog even before social media exploded and let everyone post their thoughts on the regular. I could of course just write all of this privately, but I find that having a bunch of your thoughts and adventures catalogued online can lead to some interesting moments or interactions even with internet strangers. This interview is one of them!
One of my favorite things to go through is the books, movies, TV shows, and games you've logged. How have your interests changed over the years? Do you still enjoy the same kinds things you enjoyed a decade or more ago?
I don't think my interests have changed much through the years. When I was young I was interested mostly in sci-fi and fantasy stuff, and I still watch/read a lot of that kind of thing nowadays. I have tried to expand my horizons over the years though. For books I've been trying to read more nonfiction and dipping into some new genres such as mystery novels. For movies, during the recent years I've tried to get into franchises I never followed too closely before like the James Bond and Jack Ryan films. IDK if I'd ever get into romance or dramas though.
You've written ~1,500 blog posts and ~14,000 notes since 2002. Do you think of what you've written mostly as an archive, or do you often go back and read what you wrote years ago?
I go back and reference content on the blog all the time! It's one of the benefits of this huge archive, I can easily look back in time and see what I was doing at a particular time or figure out when I watched a particular movie or help remember a particular article I linked to, etc. I think of the site as a kind of "second brain" to help my human brain recall things it's not very good at remembering.
What are some of your favorite books, movies, games, and shows?
My top 10 favorite movies of all time: https://roytang.net/2018/10/my-top-10-favorite-movies-of-all-time/
My favorite fiction book of all time is probably Shogun by James Clavell: https://roytang.net/2018/11/shogun-and-the-rest-of-james-clavells-asian-saga/
Favorite game of all time is a much more challenging question, but my usual answer is Final Fantasy Tactics (the original for PSX).
How do you relax or take a break?
I think a lot of things I've discussed above already count as relaxing, but my favorite way of relaxing has to be spending time with my nieces and nephews. They're all still young and innocent so it's always fun and refreshing to spend time with them.
What are some of your favorite things that you've created?
Easily the site and the blog, though I would guess its value is more to me than anyone else.
Who or what inspires or motivates you; or, alternatively, that you admire?
This was a bit difficult to answer; there are a lot of bloggers whose site designs I like and enjoy, probably way too many to mention here. I will give a special shout out to old-timey bloggers like Cory Doctorow, Seth Godin, or Rands who have been blogging since forever (and I've been reading them forever too!) but unlike me are way more prolific and manage to cover much more interesting topics.
What would be your dream setup?
Aside from needing to upgrade my desktop, I think I am more or less set. Though I would like to have an extra laptop to install Linux on, it's not a big priority.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I'm generally amenable to talking to strangers on the internet, maybe to give advice or for a quick consult on something technical or even just to chat! Visit the contact page on my site for details! And if you have a personal site or blog I'm always willing to check it out!