James Duncan Davidson—most people call him “Duncan” these days but he’s equally comfortable with people calling him “James”—is a software developer, photographer, and author currently based out of Portland, Oregon USA. He’s lucky enough to travel the world extensively and takes a camera with him wherever he goes. He hates writing about himself in third person, so I’m going to stop this bit of fake-feeling bio-writing formalism right here and now. Ah, that’s much better...
How did I end up being an odd mix of technologist and artist? The foundation was laid in architecture school where it finally clicked that I liked being a geek as much as I liked being creative. The early World Wide Web of the mid-1990’s fascinated me and I spent most of my time outside of class tinkering with Mosaic and Netscape building websites, much to the chagrin of my professors. In 1995, I got an offer to join a web startup to build some of the first e-commerce sites on the web for a ludicrous salary—at least for a college student. I figured when the whole Web craze was over, I’d go back and finish my degree. That never happened, as you might have guessed.
One thing led to another. I became a software architect at Sun Microsystems working on the Java Servlet API, started some interesting software projects—notably Apache Tomcat and Ant—and spent quite a bit of time on the speaking circuit. After leaving Sun, I wrote or co-write several books on both using and writing software, including Learning Cocoa with Objective-C, Cocoa in a Nutshell, Running Mac OS X Panther, and Mac OS X Panther Hacks, all published by O’Reilly Media . I also contributed to Agile Web Development with Rails, published by The Pragmatic Programmers.
Then, in an interesting twist, I had a chance to apply my creative side to photographing the conferences I was speaking at. After a few years, that led to being a staff photographer for TED Conferences where I’ve been fortunate enough to photograph every TED and TEDGlobal event since 2009. I’ve also continued to speak now and then, including at TEDxOilSpill and at the TED@Tunis salon, where I presented a possible theory of why people dislike photographs of themselves.
If there’s any one way I’d love to describe myself, it’s as a professional amateur. At first glance, it might seem strange to put those two words together as they are commonly used as antonyms. Some even see the word amateur as derogatory. Dig into its Latin roots, however, and you’ll find that one of the meanings of the word amateur is to do something for love. I don’t think there’s anything better. I don’t ever plan to stop adapting so that I can continue to work on things that I find important, satisfying, and fun with people I cherish.
Finally—because you’ve read all the way to the bottom—here’s something you won’t find out anywhere else: I hum “hold” music to myself when waiting, such as when I’m in line at the grocery store or at an airport security checkpoint. Usually, it’s the theme song from Super Mario Brothers or a made up variation.