thinking about things from eight sides


Benjamin Turner

phone: (503) 406-8192

I’m a software engineer who is keenly interested in the human side of computing. I like working on projects that enable people to leverage technology to help them in their tasks without having to get bogged down in the details of the technology itself. I write code and build systems that not only solve the problem at hand, but that also are easy for other developers to understand, use, and extend.

I have special interest in topics related to user-centered design, information visualization, human-computer interaction, and user interfaces.

Work Experience

August 2008 - present

Senior Software Engineer

Gist (acquired by Research In Motion in 2011)

Full-stack developer using HTML, CSS, Javascript, Ruby, Java, MySQL, and Cassandra, responsible for many pieces of Gist architecture. Designed system for efficient synchronization of public profile data between users’ accounts. Developed algorithms for automatically merging contact data from different sources into a unified address book. Integrated Gist with IMAP servers, Google Calendar, Google Contacts, Facebook Messages, and many other services. Designed and built systems for aggregating community input about the quality of the data that Gist finds for users’ contacts.

After Research In Motion acquired Gist in February 2011, I worked to scale up Gist’s cloud services to handle millions of users for RIM. I was responsible for the architecture of the Contacts database and infrastructure in the BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 release. I split my time between QNX-based mobile development in Python, and SQLite, and Linux- based server-side development in Ruby/JRuby, Java, and Cassandra.

July 2006 - August 2008

Software Engineer, Lead Software Engineer


Managed a team responsible for supporting partner websites based on the Jobster technology platform (a service-oriented architecture involving multiple Ruby on Rails and Java applications using XML-based interfaces to communicate). Designed and implemented features for the jobster.com job networking site involving user-generated content, tagging, social networking, AJAX, and Facebook integration. Developed features for Jobster’s social recruiting tools using Java, JSTL, Spring, and Tomcat.

November 2002 - July 2006

Software Development Engineer

Amazon.com, Ordering and Monitoring Teams

Designed information visualization tools for automatically discovered relationships between software and hardware components, integrated with both high-level and detailed visual displays of the “health” of all hardware and software components. This tool used AJAX to provide fast access to more detailed drill-down graphs and data from the server on demand and allow the user to explore the distributed software network. Responsible for development of many features in the Your Account section of the customer-facing Amazon website, including past order history and password recovery.

November 1998 - October 2002

Software Engineer

Terra Lycos, Mountain View Office

Implemented a fault-tolerant service for handling customer-purchased add-on features in Lycos Mail using Java, XML, JDBC, and TIBCO Rendezvous. Built an internationalized web development environment that allowed non-programmers to build the interface for software that was implemented and translated independently. Designed and developed a single-sign-on and registration service for integrating login for applications built on different technology platforms by companies inside and outside of the Lycos Network.

January - May 1999, 2000, 2001

Associate Professor

University of San Francisco, Dept. of Computer Science

Designed and taught one- and two-unit classes about Unix and Perl over 3 semesters, including general usage, system administration, TCP/IP networking, and security concerns.

June 1996 - August 1997, May 1998 - August 1998

Build Support Engineer

Apple Computer, Global Software Release Operations

Enabled faster turnaround of software build requests by extending the automated build system for all Apple application and operating system releases. Automated the process of assembling internationalized installers using both file fingerprinting and heuristics to map between filenames in different human languages.

August 1994 - May 1996

Network Applications Specialist & Webmaster

University of San Francisco, Information Technology Services

Maintained University of San Francisco web site and assisted university departments in providing content on the web. Maintained and administered other network services, including mail, news, ftp, and DNS servers.

Specific Technology Experience


Ruby/JRuby, Python, Javascript, HTML, Java, C/C++, Perl, Pascal. Some experience in Objective-C.

Platforms & Environments:

Linux (including kernel work), Mac OS, Apache HTTP Server, Cassandra, mod_perl, CGI, DBI, JDBC, MySQL, Oracle, Postgres, MPI, XML, HTML, CSS, AJAX, Prototype, script.aculo.us, REST, ActiveRecord, Rails, Web Services, SOA, mobile development.


B.S. in Computer Science from University of San Francisco (magna cum laude)
Certificate in User-Centered Design from the University of Washington