I’m Alan Schaaf, Founder and CEO of Imgur, and This Is How I Work.
Imgur is nothing more than an easy way to share images on the Internet, and yet it has quietly grown into a huge community that rivals any social network in scale. He became the basis of our visual puns, our many GIFs and a haven for our memes.
Alan Schaaf founded the company in 2009 while still in college with the obvious goal of sharing images online, building a website himself, studying computer science. Now that he has a team of engineers at his disposal, the site has recently updated Android and iOS apps , efficient GIF transcoding, and more. We spoke with Alan to learn a little about his workflow at Imgur.
Current position: Founder and CEO of Imgur. One word that best describes how you work: Zone Current mobile device: Nexus 5 Current computer (and what OS is it running on?): Razer’s Blade laptop, dual boot Windows 8 and Ubuntu. When I’m not on my laptop, I work on a custom built PC with three Dell ultra-clear monitors.
What apps, software or tools can’t you live without? Why?
I can’t live without my simple 3×5 moleskines. I have about 30 of them, scattered around my office and home, filled with meeting notes, personal thoughts and random activities throughout the day. Every week I go through all of them and take a photo of every page I don’t want to forget, and then send the photos to Evernote. It really helps to reduce stress levels. I don’t have to worry too much about forgetting something, because I always write it down and I always know where to go back and see my notes.
How is your workplace arranged?
I really enjoy working from different places and surrounded by different people, so I usually go with my laptop from place to place, being in the office. However, I have a special room, which I call “The Cave,” completely private, with subdued lighting, comfortable furnishings, and a bit like an old whiskey bar. This is probably my favorite part of the Imgur office because it allows me to step into the area and focus.
What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I use Google Keep for small notes when I don’t have Moleskine, and Wunderlist for larger things to keep track of.
What device, besides a phone and a computer, can you not live without and why?
Simple clock. I used to use my phone to keep track of the time, but when you are in meetings or interviews, this is inappropriate. A watch is much easier and helps me stay on time during the day.
What are some of the things you do best in everyday life? What’s your secret?
Fried steak, and a nice try to steal my secrets.
Imgur is now practically the basis of some sites – how do you feel about that?
Imgur has grown into a community of its own. Over the years, Imgur quickly evolved from a mere image host, and today Imgur is a huge global Imgurian community. I may be biased, but Imgur is very different from everything else. Millions of people visit Imgur every day to express themselves and watch an endless stream of visual stories from people around the world – people they don’t even know! There is no other place on the Internet where you can experience this kind of intuition and discover visual stories that will make you learn something unexpected, feel uplifted or supported, or just make you laugh.
I think GIFv is great, but some people really don’t want to switch to MP4 based format. Do you think there will always be good old GIFs, even though they are less effective?
Yes, I do, and it should be so. GIFs (pronounced jeef) have many wonderful qualities. They are self-contained muted looped little bits of instant gratification that work all over the place. They are almost perfect. What GIF lacks is in quality and file size. We’ve created GIFv to provide a high quality GIF alternative that holds the file and starts playing immediately before it’s fully loaded. This means viewing Imgur is much faster and looks better than otherwise. It also allows us to do some pretty cool things with GIFs in our mobile apps. However, for daily sharing outside of Imgur, regular GIF is still good, and GIFv was not meant to be a complete replacement.
What do you listen to while you work?
I have a subscription to di.fm and am connected to their Trance channel. I would never work without him.
What are you reading now?
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
How do you replenish?
What is your sleep pattern?
I always found it much easier to concentrate at night, so I went to bed late and woke up late. However, the normal work schedule changed everything. Now I am sad to say that I usually go to bed by 11 o’clock in the evening.
Fill in the blank: I would like _________ to answer these same questions.
Neil de Grasse Tyson.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Trust your intuition.