The Setup


What do people use to get stuff done?

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Hilary Mason

Hilary Mason

Chief scientist (bitly)


Who are you, and what do you do?

I'm Hilary, and I'm the Chief Scientist at Bitly. Our data captures a slice in time of the content that people are sharing socially on the web, and it's my job to understand that data and build systems on top of it. I love working in a field where we use quantifiable tools to understand human communication.

What hardware do you use?

For math, I'm a fan of whiteboards, Moleskine notebooks, and Muji .38mm pens and pencils.

For everything else, I use Apple machines. I have a nearly two-year-old 24" iMac at the office that I upgraded to have 4GB RAM and a magic mouse. It keeps up! At home I have a 15" MacBook Pro with the extra high-res screen and 8GB of RAM, which I use with an external display. I also recently picked up an 11" MacBook air for travel, which was an indulgence, but I really love it!

My phone is an unlocked HTC Nexus One, and my servers run Linux.

And what software?

Chrome is my browser of choice. I use gmail for e-mail, through for long-winded responses or the web interface for quick things. I also have a bunch of command-line scripts for making e-mail easier to use and faster. I use Adium for IM, and Evernote for things I'd like to remember.

After my browser I spend most of my energy in a text editor. I split my time between TextMate, MacVim, and vim in the terminal depending on the task. I like TextMate for working on projects with lots of files and dependencies, but my fingers think in vim commands, which explains why you'll occasionally see a ":wq" from me in chat windows.

I've recently become a huge fan of iterm2 instead of the default Terminal. The transparency is lovely, and the visual tab alerts tell me when long jobs have finished running. It's Bash under the covers, of course, and I'm a heavy user of screen, particularly for monitoring long-running processes and being able to use the same session from different locations.

Programming languages aren't strictly software, but I'm a huge fan of Python along with the numeric computing libraries. I do occasionally dip into C or R, along with a bunch of sed, awk, and grep.

What would be your dream setup?

In the SciFi World of Tomorrow, I would love to run everything I need on one tiny machine with ubiquitous connectivity that I can fit in my pocket, then seamlessly use with available monitors and input decides.

If I have to choose something that exists today, I'd probably use just my 11" MacBook Air and have one of those huge amazing Apple Cinema Displays both in the office and at home. Along with a comfy chair and a cup of coffee.