Joe Mabel - software professional

As of December 2020, I am retired from hands-on software development, program and project management, and managing software professionals, but I remain available for half-day and full-day consultations in areas where I am expert, including:

  • User Experience (UX)
  • Overall database design
  • Internationalization and localization ("i18n & l10n")
  • Scoping software projects and defining participant roles
During my career in software:
  • I led the pioneering PC-based 3D architectural modeling at MegaCADD.
  • I worked extensively in telephony, including some of the earliest systems that allowed someone to rent a phone when they rented a car (1988); then at Active Voice I led a small interdisciplinary team that integrated voice messaging with email and fax (c. 1993) and with PC-based customer-relations tools (c. 1994); and led a much larger interdisciplinary team that built a 60-phone-line, fault-tolerant PC-based voice mail system (incorporating all of these earlier integrations).
  • I served as Director of (Software) Development in the late 1990s for the legendary Saltmine Creative (later Saltmine). I managed a group there which at times grew as large as 42 full-time employees, and I also led projects such as the Microsoft Troubleshooters and the first playable online version of Wizards of the Coast's Magic the Gathering.
  • I spent about half of my career as an independent, contracting and consulting at a variety of companies including several of my former employers. Several times I filled in "acting" roles at director level in both development and QA (test). Clients included Microsoft; the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, England; and Tableau Software. In the early 2010s I built a builders' "take-off" tool for the Builders' Exchange of Washington that pushes HTML Canvas to its limits; I believe the only other people who have done anything of the sort with Canvas were building games. In particular, the "magnifier" in the members-only take-off mode remains the most sophisticated tool of its type on the Internet, allowing precise selection of a point in an image whose size greatly includes that of the screen; the zoom feature, also, creates a considerably better zooming experience than most of the major map navigation systems on the web. I implemented both singlehandedly.
  • Over this span of time I became pretty expert on internationalization and localization of software. This was a big area of focus at Active Voice: internationalizing a "voice snippet" telephone interface is a specialty unto itself. Outside of Active Voice, I internationalized the code base of Tableau Software's flagship product in its early days. On contract at Microsoft in 2005, I extensively interviewed members of the "Dr. International" team and wrote or rewrote most of the Microsoft SDK's conceptual documents and API references (Win32 PSDK for C++ and .NET Framework) on internationalization and on typography.

I've written numerous public-facing tech-related articles, think-pieces, etc. Most of these date from the 1990s and early 2000s and are hopelessly outdated, referring to long-resolved controversies in software development, expressing the project-management methodology of a long-gone organization, or giving advice that was accurate in 2003 but which would be misleading today. However, I remain particuarly proud of my still-relevant self-published 2002 article The Interview Brainteaser and Its Discontents, discussing the use and (more commonly) abuse of brain teasers as job interview questions.

Two recent articles (December 2020): UX: Some thoughts on User Experience and Pair Programming and Code Review.

Of mainly historical interest: a paper on technical aspects of Internationalization and Localization (2001) and a bit of a think piece on XML (2001).

photo self-portrait, 2006
Joe Mabel
Please see my resume as a software development consultant.

Last modified: 23 February 2021

My e-mail address is Normally, I check this at least every 48 hours, more often during the working week.