SitePoint Podcast #100: Our Live Anniversary ShowBy Kevin Yank
They are joined by special guests Miles Burke (Bam Creative, The Principles of Successful Freelancing), Alex Payne (BankSimple, Twitter), Jina Bolton (Engine Yard, The Art & Science of CSS), Jeffrey Veen (Typekit), Matt Mullenweg (WordPress), and Chris Wilson (Google TV, Internet Explorer).
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Here are the topics covered in this episode:
- WordPress’s victory over Movable Type
- Facebook’s new page design and features
- How The Huffington Post works
- The evils of Hashbang URLs
Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/100.
- Stephan: Google for Weddings
- Patrick: Call of Duty Black Ops: Death by Crate
- Brad: YKombinator
- Kevin: Reeder for Mac 1.0 beta
Kevin: February 18th, 2011. We take the Podcast live to celebrate 100 amazing shows, with a parade of guests from podcasts past. I’m Kevin Yank and this is the SitePoint Podcast #100: Our Live Anniversary Show!
And welcome everyone to SitePoint Podcast #100 broadcasting live! Wow, this feels so weird guys, we’ve got 41 people in the chat room as I record this, listening along with us, welcome everyone from the chat room and welcome back you guys. Congratulations on #100!
Patrick: Congratulations to you guys as well.
Kevin: We are up right now on a service called Tinychat which means we can all see each other’s faces for the first time recording a podcast remotely, and yeah we’ve got an audience. We also have a packed schedule of guests, we went back through the archives of the SitePoint Podcast and looked at all of our favorite guests and who we wanted to get on and there were just too darn many, so the reality is rather than get people on that we just had two weeks ago on the show I went right back to the beginning and sort of picked the first 25 episodes and invited just about everyone from that list. So we’ve got a whole bunch of SitePoint old-time podcast guests, many favorites, I don’t think I’ll spoil the surprise just now, but plenty to look forward to. But in the meantime we’ve got a little time to talk about the news, I’m sure you guys have brought some stories, I have too, so who wants to start us off with a news story here?
Brad: Yeah, so there’s a pretty interesting article that was posted by a gentleman by the name of, and I’m sure I’m gonna butcher it like I do with everybody’s name, Byrne Reese, who was a former project manager of MovableType and TypePad and worked at Six Apart for about four years, and the article is essentially titled How Did WordPress Win?, and it stirred up a lot of conversation because it’s not someone on the WordPress side that wrote this article it’s somebody on the other side of the fence and I think that’s what made it most interesting is he actually went into quite a bit of detail on why he thought that WordPress, it feels that WordPress kind of won the battle if there was a battle between the two blogging platforms, and he points out some different reasons why he thought that WordPress has ultimately won that battle, and I think a lot of people might agree with him. A few of those items were, the biggest one is the licensing issue, in 2004 Movable Type changed up their licensing so you could have a free blog but there were limitations to it, I think you could only have three free blogs with a single author and anything above that cost money, so that immediately turned off a lot of their users and a lot of them went over to WordPress, which at the time was a fairly new blogging platform, I think it had only been around for about a year, maybe a little bit more, so I don’t know, I don’t go that far back in the WordPress community, most people know I’m pretty involved in WordPress, but I got started around 2006 so it was after all the dust had settled from this, but going back and reading some of the articles and some of the people’s different viewpoints, I mean this was definitely a major shift in what people were using for the publishing platform, this is what ultimately gave WordPress that huge boost into the spotlight and it’s just kept growing every since, so it’s an interesting article, did you guys have a chance to read it?
Kevin: Yeah, I did. I was surprised at the bottom to, well, I was wondering the whole way through because I don’t keep that much track of Movable Type at the moment, but all the way through I was kind of in suspense over what this guy’s current state of employment is because at the start of the story he kind of gives a little bracketing, he says, look, back when I used to work at Six Apart you couldn’t really just go and post something that had to do with Movable Type online without running it past the marketing department and this person and that person, but what the heck I’m gonna do it now, which gave the impression that he still worked at Six Apart and he was flaunting the authority of his superiors by posting this. But it turns out he is still in the Moveable Type business, at the bottom he’s working these days for a consulting company that consults primarily on Movable Type, which I found interesting because one of the points that he made in his article was that one of the big missteps he thinks that Six Apart made was acquiring the major Movable Type consulting business out there and bringing it in-house and therefore killing off this ecosystem of support companies, giving the impression that no one was in the Movable Type business. I know that would hurt you, Brad, if for example— well, you know, it might not hurt you if Automattic went and acquired WebDev Studios, but if Automattic were to acquire a major WordPress development house and started offering WordPress ad hoc WordPress development services to anyone that would be tough for you to compete with.
Brad: Yeah, I mean definitely. And you certainly wouldn’t want someone from that shop going and publishing an article like this which like you said is kind of interesting, but no you’re right, it would be tough to compete with that, and who’s to say it won’t happen, I have no idea, but it is interesting it went that route. He also works with Melody, I believe that’s how it’s pronounced, which is a fork of Movable Type platform, I don’t know that much about it.
Kevin: That’s how WordPress got its start, right; it was a Fork of B2 wasn’t it?
Brad: Right, yeah, it was a fork of B2, and because of that B2 was licensed under the GPL Open Source license, and so WordPress inherited that because it was a fork, so since the beginning WordPress has been Open Source freely available. And then like I said back in 2004 when Movable Type switched their license they were no longer free, and so that caused this big rift in this big migration over to WordPress.
Kevin: It’s an interesting story, he has a few choice words for the boffins at Automattic for how they supposedly won this war and the fact that their community is not as positive or fostering of positive discussion about competitors as it could be. We’ve got a guest on a little bit later who is going to talk about WordPress with us and I look forward to chatting with him about this story. But we’ve got a couple of other stories to get through before our first guest, Patrick, what did you bring?
Patrick: Well, I brought a story about the new Facebook page updates that came online a few days ago. Facebook pages if you are a business or if you have a website, SitePoint has a Facebook page, facebook.com/sitepoint, and it’s really the only main way to promote your business or your website or your non-human identity on Facebook, so Facebook launched a series of changes that are noteworthy and very useful to people who manage pages, and I’ll summarize a few of them here, but one thing you can do now is you can log in as a page so what you can do is you can switch from your personal account to actually being a page and that allows you to interact with other pages as that page, so for example you can go to another page and not comment as Kevin Yank, for example, but comment as SitePoint, that page on this other page you can’t comment on any personal profiles that are not enabled to allow everyone to comment, but it does allow you to better interact with other pages through comments, through liking pages, and gives you a better way of highlighting your other pages, so if you have multiple websites or related products then you could better highlight those now. Another change is that you can notify or have yourself be notified whenever there is a new like or new comments on your page, so now you can be notified of specific mentions or specific posts on your page, not just the summary that you would receive weekly as I receive as some of the managers of our pages I just get an email that says, oh, 47 likes this week, well now you can be notified when that stuff actually happens. Another noteworthy thing is better moderation tools really, like a block list of vulgarity or profanity that you can enable on three different strength levels, and also a block list that you can yourself set to block certain terms from the pages. So that’s just a couple of the main things and there are some articles on SitePoint that will be in the show notes as well that will detail some of these changes.
Stephan: Is this just for the administration of pages?
Stephan: But I notice some things changed too with just the user interface too, like now if you hit the enter key on a comment it leaves the comment, right, so if you wanted to leave a multi-line comment now you have to do shift-return which is kind of annoying to me.
Patrick: Yeah, that’s interesting, I actually noticed that the other day, I don’t know if that’s related to this pages thing, but yeah, it is a little annoying.
Kevin: A lot of these features seem geared toward beefing up the pages to turn them more into a full fledged— adding sort of features you’d expect from a full fledged forum community, would you say that’s right Patrick?
Patrick: I would say that’s basically more or less right; I think some of these features are things that I really would have really liked to have seen earlier like the block list of words or profanity that you could enable, that’s just kind of I would say not a common sense feature but a feature that does make a lot of sense, and the tools that Facebook allows for moderation right now are really very primitive and not as powerful as one would like to be, not even near forums but just some basic comment moderation where it’s difficult to stop someone from posting this specific term, now at least these tools will help but there still needs to be some changes to the permission system I feel where you can grant people access to manage your page without granting them access to everything, give them the ability to close the page or remove other admins; that’s something really limits my use of Facebook pages where I’d like to have someone else post stories from my site maybe, but I also don’t want to give them the keys to the castle either.
Kevin: Stephen you’ve got a couple of stories in your list, what’s your favorite?
Stephan: Well, I’ve got this Huffington Post story about what they’re actually doing at the Huffington Post since their AOL acquisition and how it works internally. And I think the way I read the article is they’re kind of admitting to being a content farm— Sorry Patrick! (laughter)
Patrick: Why sorry to me?
Stephan: Well, because of the story last week.
Patrick: Okay, I’m not a content farm. (laughter) Is that what you’re implying?
Kevin: He is! He is a content farm! (Laughter) No, I see what you mean, it’s weird, the author of the story kind of says, look, everyone accuses us of being a content farm and not paying our authors, but the truth is that we do pay some of our authors, those that we expect to be at an office and that we expect to be able to take a phone call and send them out to cover a particular story, but we also create this content in order to create this vibrant space that gets a lot of traffic so that people, anyone can come and write a story for us and not get paid for it.
I actually don’t mind the story, and I can see why people are kind of going “Aha! We accused you of not paying your authors and this is you admitting it.” But I follow his logic which is that if you’re going to write on Huffington Post and you haven’t been invited to do so, you know, you just want to come and contribute a story, that even if they paid people like that 50 bucks to do it I’m not sure what that would achieve; the reasons for people wanting to contribute to Huffington Post usually they’re worth a lot more than 50 bucks and they aren’t necessarily valued in money, people want to participate to build their profile, to build a portfolio of writing, to, I don’t know, just to get themselves out there as writers, and I think that although they might not have the balance quite right I don’t necessarily think not paying people who they don’t necessarily invite to contribute is a problem.
Stephan: The people who are causing a fuss about this aren’t causing a fuss about Newsvine which is mostly user contributed stories.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s the same thing, just less successful, right?
Stephan: Exactly, it’s not as big and they still have aggregated content but it’s the same thing on its face. So, it’s kind of funny to me that people aren’t causing a stink about that but they want to go after The Huffington Post over the same thing.
Patrick: I didn’t read this post at The Huffington Post, so just fair disclosure there, but I have been looking at the stories after the sale regarding people not being paid, and really there are plenty of examples online of communities that are growing, making money, being sold that are largely contributors that do not receive some sort of compensation, but they do receive some benefit; they have some desire to do it or they wouldn’t do it, and I mean I’m totally for looking out for people and making sure that people don’t get taken advantage of, but at the same time people make the decision to write for The Huffington Post or to post in forums or to contribute something online in some way that is on someone else’s website with ads on it, it’s been going on since the beginning of the popular Internet. So to me Huffington Post is not even a bad example of that, it’s an example where you have all these people, these celebrities and different people who go there to get some attention off of The Huffington Post because of their traffic, so I don’t feel there’s anything really wrong being done here.
Kevin: And I brought a story as well which has to do with Hashbangs; anyone else been reading about Hashbangs this week?
Stephan: A little bit.
There’s been a couple of good stories about this, I’ll post the best one I found from Tim Bray into the chat room here, but I look forward to talking with one of our guests about Hashbangs, any thoughts from you guys?
Brad: I mean if there’s no benefit then what’s the point? That’s what baffles me; it seems like this is a big red flag for search engines because the whole point is when you land on your site you don’t want to have a redirect happen in any manner even if it’s behind the scenes with Ajax.
You mentioned search engines, Brad, and the way they’re getting around the search engines with this is basically they’ve gotten from Google a concession that Google will recognize these HashBang URLs, these fake URLs, convert them into big, ugly real URLs when it’s indexing the site, so the site that Google indexes is kind of a fake, static version of the site that no one ever sees except Google, and then when Google delivers search results pointing to those pages it automatically converts those fake static URLs into the dynamic HashBang URLs and directs traffic to them. I’m kind of surprised and shocked that Google did this, my only guess is that someone at Google built an app that worked this way and they needed to make it work with their search engine and now the Twitters and the Gawkers of the world are taking advantage of this and it’s really weakening the Web as a platform if you ask me.
So I think it’s about time to get our first guest on here, guys, we’ll come back to these stories if and when we can make it fit in, but our first guest here today is Miles Burke so let me give him a call here.
Miles: Thank you for inviting me!
Kevin: So for our listeners who don’t remember Miles, Miles is the author of the SitePoint book The Principles of Successful Freelancing, and we had him on a while back to discuss that book and freelancing in general, so welcome back to the show, Miles.
Miles: Thank you, Kevin, it was a while back, it was back in December 2008. How time flies.
Kevin: Oh, geez, did they podcasts back then?
Brad: That was number five. I think, Miles, you might have been our first interviewee actually.
Kevin: Yes, I think you were our first ever guest on the show.
Miles: Yes, and could you guys imagine that we’d be celebrating 100 episodes by now?
Brad: I thought they’d pull us off the air by now.
Patrick: I’m a pretty confident guy, Miles.
Stephan: I thought they would’ve fired me by now. (laughter)
Kevin: So, Miles, the last time we spoke to you, you were kind of wrapping up if memory serves the final stages of converting your freelancing business into a web development … I guess would you call yourself an agency?
Miles: Yeah, we definitely call ourselves an agency, I think I had pretty well started that before we last spoke, but yeah certainly now we have a team of 15 and I have very little to do with actual on-tool work and I miss the days of Photoshop and Apache but now I’m spending the majority of my day with new business, with clients and managing projects behind the scenes.
Kevin: So, Miles, your company is called Bam Creative.
Miles: Yes, that’s right.
Kevin: And do I remember you chatting to me a few months back and maybe even longer now that you were restructuring a bit to give your fellow Bam Creative staff a little more equity in the company?
Miles: Yeah, that’s right, that’s good memory there, Kevin, that was the beginning of last year so we’ve just experienced our first 12 months, what we did was we went to the current employees at the time and offered them shares in the business, so instead of a traditional here have some shares what they did was they actually purchased shares and became stakeholders and equity owners in the business.
Kevin: Yeah. So what was the thinking behind that move?
Miles: It was really driven by a few things. I guess my experience has been that I’ve always wanted to empower everyone that works for me to feel like they actually own a part of the business, and that’s something that I guess I’ve learned over the years in working for other people; I’ve always had that sort of underlying personality trait of feeling like I own any business I’m involved with, which as you can imagine I butted heads a number of times (laughter), but yeah, starting afresh with a new year last year, 2010, it seemed like the perfect time, and the result has been that I now have nine colleagues that are shareholders in the business and not literally just employees.
Kevin: Is there a name for this sort of structure? I mean do you call it a co-op or something like that?
Miles: It is very similar to a co-op, there’s a few—
Patrick: Do you trade groceries? (laughter)
Miles: There’s a few names and few acronyms for it but employee invested organizations tends to be one that’s used as well as an employee-shareholder groups, so it’s worked out fantastically well. We’ve ended up with nine people that are happy to put blood, sweat and tears into the business and feel like they’re reaping the rewards as well.
Kevin: So would you say it was a bit of nostalgia for the days when you were working solo and you were responsible for everything? Did you find you wanted to get everyone on the team working with that level of intensity?
Miles: That’s true. That is I guess a by-product of it was I felt like it was an exciting new business and that I was freelancing again, I just happened to be freelancing along with nine others under the same name, so it’s turned out really well; it’s one of those experiments that I had a number of clients say to me, oh, this is gonna be interesting, assuming the worst, but there touch wood hasn’t been a real argument yet, so it’s all worked out and everybody gets to vote on the direction of the business, what sort of projects that we take, what marketing activities we undertake, yeah, it’s worked out very well.
Kevin: We’ve got a question in the chat room from mmamedov, one of those difficult to pronounce screen names. mmamedov is asking what your advice for people wanting to start their own agency. Do you think the start as a solo freelancer route is the best way into running your own agency?
Miles: I believe so, yeah. I guess the difficulty, and this is worthy of a book in its own that we could put together later, but the difficulty is going from a one-man show upwards, so the first step is obviously hiring that first employee, and there’s a lot of work that needs to be involved there, and suddenly you feel that you’re hitting the pavement or working for others as well as yourself because you’re obviously having to keep them fed and clothed and employed. So, that tends to be the big jump going from a zero employee business to having one that you’re hiring, and then obviously the taxation and business structure elements that come with that. But I would thoroughly recommend that you start off freelancing first and see where the business takes you, and the other step there is also you don’t have to think of full time. So when I first started my first employee came on at one day a week, within a month he was two days a week, two months later he was full time, so having people that are flexible in as far as how many hours they can give you is very important at that phase of the business as well.
Kevin: Great. Do you think the Web is getting so complicated that pretty soon a one-man freelance operation is not gonna be practical?
Miles: To a degree I feel like that way already. I couldn’t imagine starting freelancing again and having to deal with the plethora of different issues that the Web faces now. When I first freelanced back in I think it was 1995 I was it, so I had the relationship with the hosting company, I did the design, I sold the projects to clients, I even made the coffee and vacuumed the office (laughter). And times have changed, the days of a simple sort of approach to SEO there was really no social media in any sense back then, now you’re faced with a million different issues that really you’re looking for specialists in these areas and trying not to be the all rounder for everything.
Kevin: Great. Well, thanks for answering those questions, we’ve unfortunately got plenty of guests to get through so we’re gonna have to let you go, Miles, but thanks for joining us for #100.
Miles: No problem, guys, and congratulations again on 100 episodes and I’ll be sitting around watching the chat room and keeping involved that way, thank you again.
Kevin: Plenty more questions in the chat room for you Miles. If people want to catch up with you on Twitter or elsewhere where can they find you?
Miles: Yeah, certainly, I’m always interested in chatting with people on Twitter, so my username there is @Milesb.
Kevin: Great, well thanks a lot, Miles, we’ll let you go.
Miles: Thanks guys.
Kevin: Bye, bye.
Kevin: Alright, our next guest is Alex Payne who many developers may remember from Twitter, he ran the Twitter API team and these days he’s working at a new startup called BankSimple, let me just get Alex on.
Kevin: Hello Alex!
Alex: How are you?
Kevin: Good. Welcome back to the SitePoint Podcast.
Alex: Thank you for having me.
Kevin: Alex, I had a good chat with you in the hallways at what was it, Edge of the Web 2009 I think it was.
Alex: Yes, in lovely Perth Australia where I was jetlagged out of my mind.
Kevin: (Laughs) Well, you did well on the Podcast, I remember it being one of my favorite sort of geekiest episodes because you were at that conference sort of chatting about where the Web as a platform was going.
Kevin: Yeah. And since then you have left your work on the Web as a platform at Twitter and have started a new startup called BankSimple.
Alex: Yes, yeah, I joined as the third co-founder in mid-2010.
Kevin: So tell us a little bit about BankSimple and what was the string that led you from one place to another.
Alex: So, BankSimple is trying to be an alternative to retail banks, first in America and maybe eventually elsewhere in the world. And it was started actually by an Australian and an Indian who met at business school at Carnegie Mellon. And they were frustrated at how backwards banking in the U.S. is, we really have a lot of catching up to do particularly to Europe and the rest of the first world; people still use checks, not as much is done electronically as it could be, that sort of thing. So, BankSimple is kind of an experiment in seeing if we can build the next generation banking service for America, and I haven’t abandoned the platform thing entirely because part of what we’re offering will be an API.
Kevin: Ah, excellent. I have to say I’m not surprised that an Australian is on the co-founders list because as a native Australian these days myself, well, not native, I’m from Canada, but living here in Australia and banking here in Australia it’s a nightmare as a tech geek.
Alex: Yeah, and amazingly Australia is still better off than the U.S., I mean there’s more electronic bill presentment and that sort of thing in Australia from what Josh has told me, but even that still is really underused here.
Kevin: Yeah. Well, there are things that I envy about the United States as well, and I think they do fall in the realm of APIs, the stuff that you’re interested in, because you know just the industry standard for allowing your desktop personal finance app to communicate directly with your bank—can you refresh my memory, it’s OFX? Yeah, that’s right.
I have roughly every six months I sit down and Google and Google and Google looking for an Australian bank that supports it, and every once in a while I’ll find sort of a headline of a bank saying they’ve announced that they will support it but it hasn’t happened yet.
Alex: Yeah. Well, and some banks in the U.S. while they’ll provide OFX they’ll charge people a monthly fee for it and then archive any data older than about three months off in their system to where it’s inaccessible to the user. So that’s the sort of thing that we want to change, I mean everyone should have access to their own banking data indefinitely and nobody should be charging for API access to it, that’s ludicrous.
Kevin: Hmm. So would you say BankSimple is going to be a bank for geeks initially or are you trying to cater to the market as a whole?
Alex: We’re looking at the market as a whole and I think our focus is definitely not on geeks initially, although it’s been mostly geeky friends of ours who’ve been interested in the business and have signed up so far, we’ve gotten some good press coverage in more of the mainstream business press and the banking industry press but not so much the mainstream just yet. I think we’re really interested in people who are anywhere from their early 20s to their early 40s, generally a little bit more educated and professional as kind of the initial folks that we try this out with, people who feel like their financial lives are just a little bit too complicated and they’re wondering why banking can’t be more like just an app that you install and you put your money into it and it works on your behalf, that’s sort of the idea.
Patrick: And, you know, Kevin kind of asked something and I was kind of thinking because I looked at the service and it looks really neat so congratulations on that, and I thought this is a service that I, myself, could be interested in. But then I saw the requirement of Smart Phones, and so that made me think that okay is this a service that is more or less aimed at techies, which Kevin asked; I mean if you think about it in this light it’s okay we’ll charge less fees but you have to carry that data plan. So for some people, right, it might not actually save them money because I don’t use a Smart Phone myself, I have a lower technology phone, we’ll say that I pay $10.00 a month for, and save more money then I actually put in the bank, right, I get more money in the bank that way, right, so that’s a good thing, but I can’t use your service. So, I guess I’m curious on two points, first, from a development perspective why was that requirement important, and then second, moving forward how do you see that changing if at all?
Alex: Well, sure. So, that’s sort of something we’re planning on doing for the first year or so that we’re in operation, we’re gonna be completely closed, invite only for a good long while, while we gather people’s feedback about the service and kind of change it accordingly. So the Smart Phone requirement hopefully gets us a class of user that’s gonna be more likely to give us feedback and hopefully to get instant notification so that if we’re having issues with the system or we want to alert them early about fraud and that sort of thing, all of those factors that kind of make them lower risk customers and make us a less risky proposition for them, that’s why we want to mandate Smart Phone usage at the beginning. I could see that kind of tapering off over time, although I think by the time we’re ready to open up Bank Simple to more people the average person will probably be carrying a Smart Phone, I mean in the next couple of years Android phones will be so cheap and subsidized in the U.S. that it’ll be difficult not to buy a Smart Phone, so I’m not too worried about that one.
Kevin: It feels a bit like the days when Apple first launched its iMac with no floppy disk drive and people were up in arms, but they were quite open about the fact that they were building a product that was going to be relevant for 10 years, not for the past three years, you know.
Alex: Exactly. We’re definitely playing the long game with this business, I think all of us imagine that this is what we’re gonna be doing for a good long while, and if it takes a couple of years for more people to get Smart Phones in their pocket we’ve got a couple of years to build a lot of exciting stuff.
Kevin: You mentioned anti-fraud being sort of one of the drivers of technology in the BankSimple platform, and I have to say if there’s one place where my Australian bank does invest in technology it’s for anti-fraud, things that reduce the risk of fraudulent transactions and effectively save the bank money; I can get SMS alerts confirming ATM transactions and things like that on my phone, that’s stuff that my bank is investing in. How are you going to keep BankSimple’s priorities from veering off in the direction of being in the bank’s interest not the customer’s interest?
Alex: Well, the thing that makes us really different is that we’re not a bank ourselves, there’s kind of a different structure that we operate under still very much within the realm of banking regulation, it’s not a new model at all. But we’re not a chartered bank, we don’t manage our own treasury, that kind of thing, we actually partner with multiple backend banks who hold deposits. So we’re in the business of developing technology and getting customers and keeping those customers happy, our partner banks are in the business of managing money, loaning that money out, that kind of thing. So our priorities are very distinct from those of our partners but ideally they’re mutually beneficial.
Stephan: Would you say then that you’re kind of the competitor to Mint in some way?
Alex: Not really, actually we’ve already exchanged emails with folks at Mint about making sure that we open up our data to them as soon as we launch. I think tools like Mint are great for people who want to get the 10,000 foot view of their finances, the thing that we found frustrating about Mint is that it lets you view a lot of interesting information about your money but it doesn’t really let you take any action on it because they can read from your bank but they don’t have read/write privileges to your bank. So the thing that we’re doing a little bit differently is that we actively manage our customers’ money, and the things that Mint will send you an email about once every few weeks we actually just kind of do for you by default so that you’re not having to worry about that.
Stephan: Oh, cool.
Kevin: I was hoping we could shift gears a little bit and talk about a story that we touched on at the start of this broadcast that has to do a bit with your previous employer Twitter. And this is the stuff that’s been going around about Hashbang URLs in the past week. Have you been following that?
Kevin: Yeah, so the HashBang URL story has been going a bit nuts; in my imagination when I was reading these stories I was like, wow, so Twitter decided to put Hashbang URLs in, Alex Payne went “I can’t deal with this, I’m outta here, starting my own company!” (Laughter) You say you’re not a front-end guy, do you have a position on this stuff, do you think it’s a good idea or bad idea or is it just people trying stuff with the Web as they always have?
Kevin: Yeah. Alright, well, it is coming up on quarter to 12:00 so we’ve got a whole lot more guests to get to, Alex; I wish we had more time.
Alex: Well, no worries at all, I hope the rest of the show goes great and thanks for having me back on.
Kevin: Thank you very much, look forward to having you on for, oh, say #250?
Alex: Sounds good. (laughter)
Kevin: We’d love to get you on when you’re ready to show off BankSimple to just anyone who wants in.
Alex: Oh, yeah, that would be great, love to do it. Take care.
Kevin: Alright, bye, bye.
So the thing about HashBang URL’s that really burned me, like I was kind of thinking alright, maybe it’s not the best choice but I got to congratulate them for trying stuff, but then I read and experimented and verified that one big thing that it breaks, and to me this isn’t getting enough airplay, is referrers. You know when you look at your Google Analytics stats and they tell you where people are arriving at your site from, that’s the HTTP
Referer header that is providing that information, and it is completely missing form sites that are using these Hashbang URLs; if someone mentions your site on Twitter and people click through from the Twitter website all your stats will say is that they arrived from the homepage of Twitter, they don’t tell you which particular Tweet.
Stephan: I noticed that because I was looking at Google Analytics stats and I noticed that, it’s useless to me, you know, was it a specific Tweet or what did I do?
Kevin: Yeah. Alright, well, our next guest is Jina Bolton, let me get Jina on.
Kevin: Hello Jina!
Jina: How are you guys?
Kevin: Very good, thank you. Good to hear from you. Alright, just Tweeting that you’re on with us here.
Brad: Can I just say that I love your website URL sushiandrobots.com.
Jina: Thanks (laughs).
Brad: That’s a great domain name.
Jina: Thank you.
Kevin: Alright, well, Jina last time we had you on it was kind of a double feature, we had you and Elliot Jay Stalks on to talk about design, and I’d say if there’s one part of the web development universe that we don’t talk enough about on this podcast it is design, so it’s great to have you back on.
Jina: Yeah, definitely. I think we were talking about the 40-something shades of blue or something.
Kevin: Yeah, we were talking about Google’s 43 shades of blue.
Kevin: Has Google improved its design much since we last chatted?
Jina: You know, I don’t really use a whole lot of Google products, but Gmail’s definitely gotten a lot better.
Kevin: Yeah. I know the skins for example are a big change, it seems like everyone I know has a different Google— Gmail skin these days. My girlfriend Jess likes the little ninja one.
Kevin: So, Jina, you’re a hard person to keep track of. It seems like every time I look in your direction you’re doing something different, you were at Crush + Lovely the last time we spoke having moved there from Apple, and now you’re where?
Jina: I’m at Engine Yard.
Kevin: What is Engine Yard?
Jina: So, Engine Yard is basically a, they call it platform as a service, it’s kind of like a hosting company but it’s still in The Cloud, and it’s focused on Ruby so if you have a Ruby application you would put it on Engine Yard.
Kevin: So Heroku being the big player in that space, but they got gobbled up, so are you the heir apparent?
Jina: Well, you know, we’re targeting different markets I think. I think Engine Yard’s kind of going after the bigger companies; Heroku kind of has like small companies that use them a lot.
Kevin: Alright. So as the UX designer at a hosting company what exactly do you do? I don’t think of my web host as providing a lot of design to me.
Jina: (Laughs) Yeah, I work on the product itself so it’s basically like if you were to login and manage your applications through the dashboard that’s basically what I work on, I’m a team of — it’s basically a team of two, there’s another really talented guy I work with named Andrew and we work iteratively to make sure the product is more and more awesome everyday.
Kevin: So I guess it’s the interfaces that people are using to fire up their sites on Engine Yard, that’s what you’re trying to make as smooth and easy to use an experience as possible?
Jina: Yeah, basically.
Kevin: So what drew you to that?
Jina: Well, I’ve worked on projects that were on Rails before so I was looking around for jobs in San Francisco because as much as I really loved Crush + Lovely they are in New York and I live in San Francisco, and I came across them on, well, I had seen them before but GitHub had just launched a jobs page, so I was checking out some of the jobs listings and it just all kind of was good timing, they were hiring about the same time I was looking and I really liked the culture there and the people that I work with so it worked out really well.
Kevin: That’s wonderful. So it must be a big shift from working on a lot of different projects as you did at Crush + Lovely to really focusing on polishing the same app as much as possible over a long period of time. Is that a fair characterization of what you’re doing?
Jina: Pretty much, yeah, I’ve kind of bounced back and forth between the agency environment where I’m working on multiple client projects to working in-house like I did when I was at Apple. And I guess I see benefits to both sides, there is a lot of nice variety you get when you’re working on client projects, but then you’re dealing with clients so (laughs) I do like being able to iterate and constantly improve a product, so right now that’s definitely what I’m more interested in.
Kevin: Alright. Now you’ve gone back to school at the same time as all this.
Jina: Yeah, I’m pretty busy. (laughter)
Kevin: Yeah, it’s weird, I don’t have a lot of people in my Tweet stream who are Tweeting about the day-to-day work of web development and also Tweeting about the stuff they’re studying for at school, so why that mix, obviously you’re an accomplished web designer, you’ve got a bright career ahead of you already, how does school fit in the mix?
Jina: Well, basically the number one reason I went back to school was because I want to teach, and a lot of American Universities, I’m not sure how it is outside of the U.S., but a lot of them require Masters Degrees so I had a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Web Design, but I wanted to go ahead and get the Master’s Degree now before I end up settling down into something where I can’t, like maybe a job elsewhere or marriage or any of those factors. So, yeah, I decided to do a Master’s program and I do night classes because I work full time during the day, so yeah, I’m pretty busy most of the time.
Stephan: You’ve got a full plate, geez.
Jina: Yeah (laughter).
Patrick: Simuk in the chat says that he or she just realized that your book The Art & Science of CSS was the first SitePoint print book that he or she bought and that’s how they find out about SitePoint, so that’s pretty cool. Thanks for that.
So thanks for that. I just went a totally different direction, but what do you think of the HTML5 logo?
Jina: You know, I don’t mind the logo that much; I don’t know that I would ever use it on anything but—
Patrick: I don’t mind it but I would not be caught dead in it is basically what that amounts to, right?
Jina: (Laughs) Um, no, I actually think it’s kind of— It looks cool I just— I was surprised that they did it, I didn’t know a markup language needed a logo, but I think it looks alright, like it’s great on a t-shirt.
Patrick: It’s cute and adorable but just in a way kind of stand over there away from me sort of way. (laughter)
Kevin: So it’s an elitist logo is what you’re saying.
Jina: Uh, you’re putting words in my mouth now. (laughter)
Kevin: I’m putting words in Patrick’s mouth technically. So, Jina, something I’ve always wanted to ask you but have never really had the courage, you used to work at Apple and I think there’s this mystique about Apple, it’s a secretive place, I’ve always wanted to ask you and I figure now live on the air is the best possible time, what is it like to work at Apple?
Patrick: We can’t edit this, now, we can’t edit this. So be careful … and go!
Jina: I think it’s awesome and I do hope to one day go back.
Kevin: Okay. Because I assumed if you left it was because it was no fun to work there.
Jina: No, if you’re interested in speaking at conferences and writing books it’s not really the place for you unless you’re super, super high up the chain and you go through a bunch of PR hoops, but if you’re into that maybe it’s not the best place to work, but otherwise it’s fantastic.
Kevin: So you have to spend your time making awesome things and you’re not allowed talking about the awesome things you make, is that a good summary?
Jina: Like I think we talked about before, there is this mystique to Apple and they like to keep it that way, so they’re very protective of their brand and they’re very successful because they’re protective of their brand, and some people are okay with that. I want to talk about what I do, so, yeah.
Patrick: You can get a start there; you can go out, leave, make a name for yourself then come back later and be a higher up. That’s how it works.
Jina: Yeah, maybe, we’ll see if that ever happens but I do hope to one day go back when I’m kind of done doing the speaking thing.
Kevin: Great. Speaking about the speaking thing, the stuff you’ve been going around to conferences speaking about lately has been very much in the CSS arena.
Jina: Yeah, you know I have to be honest I was getting a little burned out talking about CSS because obviously I prefer design and my passion is in design, however, the last few talks I did were a little more in line with what I like to talk about and that’s workflow with CSS because I think there are a lot of people already out there talking about CSS3 and different techniques and things, and I don’t know how much more I have to contribute to that aspect of things, but when it comes to actual workflow and productivity I think that that’s something that needs to be talked about more.
Kevin: Right. So I would say I like to describe a person’s journey with CSS in terms of stages, you know, there’s this stage where you understand the syntax but you’ve got more features then you can keep track of and you can’t figure out how to use them together to do anything useful. Then you start to understand how features like floats can be used to produce page layouts and you get your head around that and you start to wield CSS in anger, and then you get to this stage where every site you work on becomes 5,000 lines of CSS and you can’t remember which parts of it still are needed and belong on the site and you can’t find anything in all this code, and I suppose that’s where the workflow becomes important, right?
Jina: Definitely. And having, well, going back and forth between large companies and small companies you definitely start to learn where to create your own patterns and things to help make things faster and more efficient. Like right now at Engine Yard we actually use SASS which is amazing, if you’re interested in variables and mixins and I used to want to, I don’t know, I was kind of reluctant to use SASS at first because I was very picky and wanted to write my own CSS the exact way I wanted to write it, but I’m really embracing variables and I was super excited to see that that’s something that’s being talked about again in the CSS 3 world.
Kevin: Yeah. So SASS is this sort of language on top of CSS that lets you — it gives you a whole bunch more powerful language features and then you point this compiler at it and it turns it into CSS the browser can understand, right?
Jina: Pretty much, yeah.
Kevin: So what’s your workflow with all that if you can take us through it like one minute or less?
Jina: Well, one of the things I worked on when I first came over to Engine Yard was sort of clean-up I guess, and there was a lot of repetition and things so I was trying to find areas in the UI where I can create patterns or variables that could be reused, and I actually just wrote a blog post at the Engine Yard blog about how you can actually use that to do an online style guide, it’s been super helpful because you can use the very variables that you’re using within your style guide and it will generate the visual design that you need for like color palettes, buttons, all those things. So, yeah, I kind of sweep through looking for things that are used over and over again and turn those into either variables that makes sense so I can use those whenever I need it and then I update the style guide so that the developers I work with can also use those same variables.
Kevin: Do you find this sort of workflow is something that everyone on the team has to be doing for it to work? Because I know once or twice I’ve been working on a team of developers and I’ve broken ground on the UI and started this style guide, but to get the whole team into the discipline of updating the style guide with any new user interface elements it wasn’t practical for me; how do you tackle that?
Jina: Well, you know, it’s definitely something the men and women that I work with have to get used to because they may have had their own way of doing things before Andrew and I came on board, but we’ve kind of taken the approach of bringing it up every time we can, and it’s like when they ask us questions like hey we need to do this it’s like, well, did you check the style guide, maybe it’s already there. (laughs) And I hate to use the world police but occasionally we kind of joke around about being like the design police, and just as they would make sure that we’re writing quality template code in the Ruby application we would do the same with them if they ever touch CSS, we would just bring it up and say hey please make sure you do this next time; you know you can only be called out so many times before you kind of start to remember the patterns and things.
Kevin: So it helps if your job description makes you the one in charge of this stuff.
Jina: Yeah, and it’s kind of — I kind of like that that’s sort of become the case where anytime there’s markup or CSS now that needs to be written if the developers are writing it we have to kind of look at it first. And some people may not like that responsibility but I think it’s good because I can be a control freak especially for CSS, so as long as I get to look at it before you deploy it I’m happy. (laughs)
Brad: I have a quick question regarding the design trend that I’ve been noticing a lot lately, in fact, a lot of our host spotlights recently have been sites that have done this technique and I was just curious to get your thoughts on it. And I’m not sure of the official term on it but it’s basically where the website is one page and when you click on a menu item it scrolls down further on the page to that section that talks about whatever it was you clicked on. I’ve been seeing this a lot lately, in fact, Alex Payne’s new company BankSimple their homepage does the exact same thing so I’m curious to get your thoughts on, one, do you like that, have you noticed that as well, is that something you were starting to use or how do you think that looks, works?
Jina: The Crush + Lovely website is like that with an exception to the blog and the portfolio which kind of click off into their own domains, but the rest of the site is a one-page scrolling site. And I think for certain aspects it can be really cool like announcement websites or small promotional websites, but as long as it’s developed in a smart way because what we found when we were working out the prototype for Crush + Lovely’s website it can be slow to load especially when you have a ton of content, and so there’s a couple different techniques I guess you could try like, what do they call it, infinite scrolling techniques or things like that. Yeah, I like them for the most part, I guess I found a couple times where I didn’t see any benefit to it and it just made the site load really slow, but for the most part depending on as long as the content is minimal I’m pretty fine with it.
Brad: If done properly then it could be a nice technique.
Jina: Yeah, yeah.
Kevin: Alright, well thanks for joining us for #100, Jina.
Jina: Thanks for having me back.
Brad: Thanks Jina.
Kevin: Talk to you again soon.
Jina: Alright, bye.
Kevin: Bye, bye. Alright, always nice to get a designer’s voice on the Podcast.
Brad: We need more designers.
Kevin: Yeah, the world needs more designers.
Patrick: And a woman’s voice also, we need some diversity in this thing.
Kevin: Good point, good point. Alright, I’ll just get our next guest on here. You probably know him from Typekit but he’s been on the Web for a long time, our next guest is Jeffrey Veen.
Jeff: Hello, hello.
Kevin: Hi Jeff!
Jeff: How’s it going?
Kevin: Great! Welcome to the SitePoint Podcast.
Jeff: Thanks. Happy birthday, anniversary, how are you guys marking this event?
Kevin: (Laughs) We’re spending two hours chatting to people like you, it’s exhausting!
Jeff: I can only imagine. That’s awesome and you’re doing this all live which I think is pretty impressive.
Kevin: Yeah, we sure are.
Kevin: Well, welcome to the show, I think last time we spoke to you it was in the early days of Typekit, I’m not even sure you’d launched yet.
Jeff: No, I don’t think so, it seems like forever ago. Well, we’ve launched. (laughter)
Kevin: I’ll say. You guys have made a big splash and Typekit I’d say is looking pretty mature at the moment, meaning that in all the best ways.
Jeff: Yeah, well thank you, I think so. We have been working on it as a project for about two years now, and I guess we launched, well, let’s see, we launched three days before my son was born so that’d be 18 months ago, and that was in fact a busy week for me. But, yeah, I mean in this time sure Typekit has certainly grown a lot, but I think also any speculation that fonts and typography were gonna come to the Web in a big way and be supported by all the browsers and be embraced by designers, I think that point has been made, like in the last year and a half just everywhere fonts, you see fonts, and that makes me really, really happy.
Kevin: There’s no question. So, what I’m thinking, what I wanted to ask you about first is when we first talked about Typekit you started a new company to launch Typekit and it was called Small Batch, is that right? So it seems to me the idea there is Small Batch would be going on to do more things like Typekit. Sitting where you are now roughly a year into Typekit’s life, and Typekit has exploded and is hugely successful, you, Jeffrey Veen, are you on to the next thing at this point or has Typekit become this swirling vortex that has sucked all of your time and there’s no getting out of it?
Jeff: (Laughs) Oh my God, no, we’re not doing anything else. In fact, now the company is called Typekit Incorporated, we’ve totally changed over to that and focused to Typekit 100%, in fact, we have 15 people, or 16 actually now, working full time on Typekit so, yeah, it is all of our attention. I wouldn’t so much call it a vortex that sucks my time so much as a thing that I could not be happier devoting all of my energy into, right, like it just— and honestly it is so rewarding because we have not only a fantastic kind of set of customers but a community has been forming sort of around our blog and around our Tweeting and all that kind of stuff, and around the gallery and the sites that we showcase; it barely feels like work. I mean it’s a tremendous amount of work but it’s just incredibly fun, we’re having a blast.
Patrick: Sounds like a child, right, a child doesn’t suck up your time it’s just a delight.
Jeff: That’s right. Actually both of those things are totally true, you have no time for anything else and it’s absolutely delightful so, yeah, it’s great.
Patrick: So, we had a couple of questions in the chat room here on the live show, and one of them comes from Mohammed and he asks, I guess referencing Google Web Fonts and the launch of that, how did that affect Typekit in any way and how do you see it as competition?
Kevin: So is the idea that the Open Source technology enables very specific fonts solving very specific problems but companies like Typekit make money out of the generalized fonts?
Jeff: Well, sure, it’s a little bit. The analogy doesn’t hold perfectly but think about it a little bit like how — like what GitHub has done, right, that’s Open Source software freely available but they’ve turned it into a service so that all of the sort of difficult parts, running your own server and keeping permissions up and keeping the latest build installed and all that, like they do all of that, they build on top of Open Source software, and so in some ways that’s similar to parts of our business as well, and that’s a business model that I think is interesting and more and more prevalent as Open Source software becomes more robust.
Brad: We got a question from the chat room, user name BWformula would like to know how many fonts are you up to now.
Brad: It looks like it’s growing.
Patrick: We want an exact count so find the number and come back (laughter), just kidding.
Jeff: I need to login to the database a minute, I’ll be right back. It’s well over 4,000 now, I don’t think we’ve hit 5,000 now. I mean that number to me is less important as the user experience of finding the exact font that you want, right, so we could have another 200 handwriting fonts but at some point they start to get — it starts to get more of the same, right, so what we’re trying to do is find the best fonts for the Web which is significantly different than the fonts that have been out there for the print world forever. They perform differently, there’s different use cases, and all of that kind of stuff leads me to believe that it’s not the size of the library that matters so much as the quality of the fonts that people are really selecting. And as you can imagine, like if we go look at our own analytics and how fonts are being used and the traffic that those fonts see, it’s that power curve there, there’s a core set of fonts that everybody loves that works really well in browsers and then this long tail for very specific instances where people need something that’s a little outside of the norm.
Kevin: Now in retrospect how prepared would you say you were for the world of web fonts going into this? Were there a lot of surprises for you along the way? I guess was Typekit harder to build than you were expecting or easier?
Jeff: Uh, well, I will say that it is a truism that if an entrepreneur knew what they were getting into we would never have any entrepreneurs, like if you had any idea, like you never know, but that’s actually part of the thrill of it is that a year or two years ago we clearly saw like web fonts is gonna happen finally, the browsers are there, we started talking to foundries, they were starting to get excited, and we were like we can put this together and this is totally gonna work. Having no idea what the problems would be, I mean we knew it would be a lot of work, we just didn’t know exactly what the problems would be and now those have really become evident and it’s been — it has been a ton of work; I don’t know if it’s more work than we thought, it’s just it’s different work than we thought. Nobody really understood the degree to which fonts would render very, very differently in different browsers, in different operating systems, in different versions of operating systems, and I think that has to do with the fact that lots of designers have always worked on a Mac and fonts have always just kind of looked good on screen on a Mac, and there weren’t a lot of settings, right, where you can turn aliasing on and off or only use grayscale aliasing or ClearType instead or any of that kind of stuff that is common in the Windows world. So you would think, right, like we thought two years ago well of course you would put a font on the Web and you’d link it up via CSS and it would show up in the browser, and it turns out there are probably 32 different ways that it can possibly render and so we need different font formats and different hinting styles and all that kind of stuff just to get some level of consistency and rendering across all these browsers. So it’s a little bit like when we first started with remember dynamic HTML back in the 90s, right, like we thought this is gonna be amazing! And we start working with it and go it works differently everywhere and there’s bugs everywhere and oh my, God, like you know 60% of our time ends up debugging and doing all the different versions for the 40% of creative energy that we put in, and that’s certainly been the case with rendering for fonts as well.
Kevin: And how successful do you say you are on the current browser technology, do things mostly look the same after you put all your work in or is it a best effort still?
Jeff: It is really a best effort, and one of the things I’ve learned that really resonates is that the fonts actually don’t need to look the same in every browser to the designer working on the website, even though you would think that would be the case, right, the reality is the fonts need to be what your end users expect to see. So if they’re expecting to see things that only antialiased in grayscale, suddenly seeing things shift into ClearType is sort of disorienting for people who especially considering we’re working with text and paragraphs and like reading and legibility and readability, and that kind of stuff is incredibly important to people. So I would say there is no solution, there is no end state where everything works perfectly, and I don’t think there will be until everybody has a retina display on every device, right, like on your laptop and your desktop and your every phone and tablet and everything, because at that point then you have enough resolution so that it kind of looks like print, right.
Kevin: I don’t care what it costs I’m first in line for that when it comes out.
Jeff: When there’s a retina display everywhere.
Kevin: A desktop retina display.
Jeff: Yeah, yeah. And we’ll get there, right, and just like we’ve done with processor speed and RAM and broadband and every other technology that sort of follows these curves of adoption.
Kevin: So when we last spoke the biggest question in my mind was whether you guys were going to be able to successfully wrangle or get the signoff of the people actually making fonts, that was the big question, licensing; would the people making the fonts hand over the key and trust you with distributing their product online. Is that battle fought and won now or is that something you’re still dealing with day in and day out?
Jeff: There’s still plenty of opportunity that’s out there, but I think having some of the really big names behind Typekit now and working with us and being really good partners has proven that we sort of proved the model, right, so we’ve FontShop and we’ve got Adobe and we’ve got Type Together and Process Type Foundry and all these amazing people doing fantastic work while at the same time we’ve seen a lot of competitors spring up which we expected to see and realized that that would be the case, so Monotype and that whole collection of fonts is doing their own font service and I think that’s fantastic, it keeps the momentum going when there’s healthy competition in place.
Kevin: Alright, Jeff, well it has been all too brief but we’re gonna have to let you go.
Jeff: Well this has been wonderful.
Kevin: Thank you. Do you want to let you know where to follow you these days?
Jeff: Oh, you know, you can follow us on Twitter, we’re @Typekit, and at typekit.com you can check out all the web fonts and see everything we’re doing over there.
Kevin: Alright, well thanks again, Jeff, look forward to speaking again soon.
Jeff: I hope so, thanks guys.
Kevin: Bye, bye.
Patrick: Thanks, Jeff.
Kevin: Gosh it was great to hear from Jeff again. I’ll just get to work on getting our next guest on; Brad, this one I expect you’re a little excited about, we’ve got Matt Mullenweg from WordPress on next.
Brad: Yeah, definitely, it’s always fun to talk with Matt and see what fun things they have going on.
Kevin: Hello Matt!
Kevin: Welcome to the SitePoint Podcast or welcome back I should say. Great to have you on again. And for those who don’t know him, the man who I doubt needs much introduction in these circles, but Matt why don’t you introduce yourself.
Matt: Sure, my name is Matt Mullenweg and I’m co-founder of WordPress which is blogging and CMS software, and about five years ago I founded a company called Automattic which runs WordPress.com, Akismet, PollDaddy and a few other things.
Kevin: So, last time we talked about WordPress I can’t remember, Brad do you remember if 3.0 had come out yet?
Brad: Well, when we initially did the interview it was back in August of 2009 so, no, 3.0 was definitely not out, I think we were right around 2.8, Matt might know better; it’s been a while since we’ve chatted.
Kevin: So, Matt, for me looking in the rearview mirror at the WordPress landscape 3.0 is still the biggest milestone that I can think of, and that’s from like a developer perspective, that for me signals the biggest shift in the platform. For you looking from the inside at how WordPress is used on the Web was 3.0 as big a deal as we developers think it was?
Matt: I think 3.0 was really a signal to folks that we were becoming more serious about WordPress as a CMS, so a lot of the infrastructure and code for the things that we talked about in 3.0 has been there for four or five years, it was really the first time we built the APIs around it that made it easier for people to use.
Kevin: Yeah, and it seems like for me the reason 3.0 was such a big deal was the shift from WordPress is focused on blogs as a blogging platform to WordPress is now being designed as a generalized content management system and a blog is just one of those configurations.
Matt: Yeah, I think what we saw is just we’re continually amazed by what people do with WordPress, and just calling it a blogging system really doesn’t do justice to the amazing things people are building with the software.
Kevin: Well, Brad, you’re our resident WordPress expert, do you want to field some— or, uh, serve a few questions Matt’s way?
Patrick: Or if Matt wants to ask Brad some things, he’s welcome to as well! (laughter)
Brad: Yeah, I definitely have some questions. I’m sure you saw the study that came out that essentially said WordPress powers is about 13% of the top million sites which is an insanely impressive stat, so my question would be knowing that WordPress holds that large of a chunk of those large sites how can WordPress keep it going five years from now, what’s going to keep WordPress on top, it’s already I think most people would say it’s at the top now as far as publishing platforms go, it’s one of the most widely used; how can it stay there, how can it keep growing?
Matt: My first thought when I saw that number is that we have 88% to go. (laughter)
Brad: That’s a good way of looking at it.
Matt: I think the way to look at it is it’s a natural trend of what we’ve been doing already is WordPress as a platform, you see things that are being built on top of WordPress, and they almost just use it as a development framework. They sort of bootstrap the user and content management stuff and then build something completely else on it from ecommerce to real estate management to almost anything, and WordPress can become a very efficient distribution mechanism for that. So the beautiful thing about that is that people don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel especially with regard to GPL, PHP software, you get so much for free inside of WordPress, the update system and the frameworks for everything, the user management, that you can just include it essentially just like you would one of these—the Zend framework or something like that—have a really neat app that people will already know how to use if you follow WordPress’ design and user interface conventions. So we’ve definitely got maybe like another 10 or 15% to go of the Web from the CMS point of view, but beyond that I think you really start to get into these other applications, other things that people make websites for.
Kevin: What are your thoughts on developers who are starting up and considering sort of it seems like as a web developer once upon a time the first thing you learned once you wanted to go past front-end development was PHP, and these days there seems to be this new path that people can learn WordPress first and then learn PHP from WordPress out, did that surprise you that WordPress became so successful that developers were starting their careers on WordPress and in some cases you can have a years-long career as a web developer without ever working on anything except WordPress.
Matt: Actually I’m surprised so many people are able to do it because our documentation is so bad and it has so far to go with regards to the documentation and everything.
Brad: There are some good books out there.
Matt: They’re starting to be but, for example, there’s plenty out there of good Open Source books, how come there’s nothing under the same license of WordPress itself…
Matt: …that we can point to, that people could still sell…
Patrick: Ouch, ouch.
Matt: …but this is something we’re thinking about. And as we grow I think it’ll be interesting to see will the same sort of incentive structure and sort of methods that have allowed the ecosystem for WordPress to become so big with the core and with … (inaudible) … will also be able to apply to the things around it, like services, documentation and books … (inaudible) … that’s still pretty much an open question.
Kevin: Yeah, definitely. Speaking of the ecosystem of WordPress, one of the news stories we touched on at the top of this program was the blog post by the ex-member of Six Apart, and he talked a bit about how one of the reasons he felt WordPress had triumphed, if you will, in the blog platform race was that WordPress’s community, its—I suppose community is as good a word as any—it’s ecosystem was really focused around promoting WordPress as the best solution to the detriment of its competitors, what would you say to that?
Matt: Well, I don’t know if I agree because if you go back eight years when WordPress was just starting I mean Movable Type had a much, much, much, much better community, it had plugins, themes, a number of the things that make WordPress popular weren’t even around. I think part of it comes down to the tenor of the community, so— Actually, I don’t even know if it’s that; it’s very hard to look in hindsight and see why one thing did well and why something else did well. If I had to look at what we did well then I would love to continue, it’s really being responsive to our users and talking to users as well as listening to as many people as possible and trying to keep the software one step ahead.
Brad: Would you agree that the licensing that Movable Type implemented probably had a negative effect on their growth and ultimately led to a lot of users coming over to WordPress?
Matt: I mean maybe but they went Open Source a few years ago, so a lot of these things that you could point to it’s hard to say this is the definitive one. If I had to pick one thing above all others I would probably say that, it was maybe a matter of focus or at Six Apart they had a lot of brilliant engineers and designers and everything, but it seems like their focus was sometimes divided between their many platforms, between our general type ad box and Movable Type, and probably particularly Box; it seemed like Movable Type wasn’t getting as much attention within the company which is pretty hard, 150 to 200 people, as everything else and so users can kind of tell that.
Kevin: Yeah, is that something that you’d say you’ve had to be very deliberate about at Automattic, is maintaining that focus? I’m thinking of things like merging WordPress MU back into WordPress Core, that has neatly avoided that split focus between those two products. Have you had to avoid the temptation to work on new things when the other choice is to reinvest in WordPress, which is this project that you’ve had going for years now?
Matt: That’s a good question. I should also say in my last answer I have no inside information about what happened there or even if that’s the thing that really matters, but for us I think that it’s partly just that we’re definitely if you go to automtattic.com the homepage, they have a lot of different products, but we only have one that does blogging. (laughter) So although we’ll have like PollDaddy and Akismet and VaultPress and a few other things, they tend to be very, very complementary to WordPress as a core platform so everything we do is built around WordPress. And a really key decision early on, even prior to the merge of MU and everything, was that WordPress.com would run the same code that you could download off the website on WordPress.org, and that’s been a little more work but I think that alignment of the platform, the technical alignment, has meant that every additional engineer of Automattic and all the investment we put into the platform really all goes back to the Open Source. And, combined with really focusing on growing the Open Source community as well, so making it more open, bringing in more developers from the outside, making more of the decision making processes community driven as opposed to just being me, these sorts of things are tough and sometimes it bugs me a little that I can’t just go in and change anything I want in WordPress like I used to, but it also makes it a lot more robust because there’s a lot more people getting involved in the creation of WordPress and that really have ownership about it beyond me, beyond even Automattic, beyond even just the people getting paid for it; you have a really large community around WordPress that’s very invested in the development and it’s really smart folks too, I enjoy every single WordCamp, every single Meetup, meeting these people.
Patrick: Well, speaking of other things, I wanted to ask you a little bit about bbPress because online community is sort of my thing, I’ve been managing online communities for 10 years as an area of interest for me, and when people ask me about forum software options, and I’m of the opinion that we have a lot of great options out there, and one of the options I include sometimes when people ask is bbPress, and once in a while someone will respond and say well that’s not being developed or nothing’s happening there, so I was kind of curious what your thoughts were on kind of the future of bbPress from this point.
Matt: So, bbPress used to be its own distinct platform, in fact if you download it from the site today it is. The downside is that that platform is like 80% code copied from WordPress so we were having to maintain it in two places. So we sort of came to a juncture much like the merging of MU in WordPress into the multi-site feature where it’s like this doesn’t really make sense as a stand alone thing.
Kevin: You broke up there for a little bit, Matt, were you saying that the vision is to hopefully turn bbPress into a plugin or a set of plugins for the core WordPress?
Matt: Exactly, that’s what we’re working on. So it would maintain all the features and there’d be a data migration process and everything but it became a plugin for WordPress using WordPress as a platform, much like I said earlier. We have probably 30 or 40 different bbPress installs that we run ourselves with millions of millions of hosts and users between them, so bbPress is really important even just for our own use. And I think once it becomes a plugin we’ll start to see a lot wider adoption from everywhere because if you look at it you never have a forum on its own. I mean at SitePoint the forums are such a huge part of the community but there’s also an amazing website; if you run WordPress with a website then you’ll have something to integrates with the user system everything else, as just a drop-in for the community aspect.
Kevin: Alright, well thank you very much for making time for us today Matt.
Brad: Thanks Matt.
Matt: My pleasure. And I also really appreciate how SitePoint has been developing, you’re just doing more around WordPress; I love it when you guys— I love to see you guys around the community so keep up the good work.
Kevin: Great, thank you very much! Bye, bye.
Matt: Bye, bye.
Kevin: Alright, great to hear from Matt, he made time for us, he was coming to us from the road, I think he was using Skype on his mobile phone there, so a couple of dropouts here or there but it’s marvelous that he could be on for us at all, so just thanks again Matt Mullenweg for joining us.
We have one more guest here today, and I can’t wait to get him on, he’s been on a couple of times if not even three on the SitePoint Podcast. We’ll have our regular wrap-up afterward, we’ve got host spotlights and a bit of reflection on the past for you here, but up next is Chris Wilson, so let me give Chris a call. Hello Chris.
Kevin: Welcome back to the SitePoint Podcast! I would have to check my records but I would say you would be tied for first place for a person who’s been on our show the most often so it’s great to get you on again. So Chris you come to us from a different part of California today than you would have last time.
Chris: Well, actually I didn’t move so I’m still up in Seattle, but I definitely do have a different employer.
Kevin: Oh, wow, okay. So why don’t you break the news.
Chris: Sure. So back in September I left Microsoft, I’d been there for about 15 years and it was kind of time to try something different, took a little bit of time off and then I started working for Google and my current project is Google TV.
Kevin: Wow, okay, so that was a huge move for you because you have been at Microsoft for as long as Internet Explorer has existed if not before.
Chris: Almost, yeah, I actually started and started working on the IE team on IE 2.0, so I actually think I did one check-in in IE 2.0 but definitely had been there a long time, had seen a lot of changes and a lot of— gone through a lot of cycles particularly with Internet Explorer.
Kevin: So we have plenty to chat about but let’s start with Internet Explorer. We’re looking at just this past week, Internet Explorer 9’s release candidate came out and I think you’ll agree it’s looking pretty great.
Chris: Yeah, actually there are a couple of surprises in there even for me, I was happy to see geolocation made it in because that’s something I’ve felt kind of passionately about in IE for quite a while.
Kevin: Right. So how much did you have to do with Internet Explorer 9, was it well under way before you left?
Kevin: So the other thing you were working on around that same time was the HTML 5 Working Group. And you were co-chair of that working group.
Chris: I was co-chair of that working group for quite a long time, and I guess it was summer before last so just about a year and a half ago I passed that off to a couple of people actually, I’d been co-chairing with Sam Ruby who I think is still co-chairing, and Paul Cotton from Microsoft a guy who’s been around the standards world and Microsoft for a very long time, super smart, very motivated, and he took up the co-chairship as did Macie from Apple.
Kevin: Alright. So now that you’re no longer involved day-to-day in that standardization process I was wondering if I could pick your brain on your thoughts on sort of that process as it exists because when we last spoke you— There was some stress in your voice when we talked about this stuff, put it that way.
Chris: (Laughs) I can imagine, yeah. You know HTML is a pretty tough thing to standardize, frankly, because there’s always been a very strong tension between the need to actually get stuff built, get it delivered and just work together and crank it out as quickly as possible, and of course actually having a standard that is very, very meticulously designed and has tests for everything so it can actually show whether you’re doing it right or not. And I think the current way of building that has been, well, I mean a lot of HTML5 was really take what’s already out there that all the browser implementers have had to go reverse engineer what the behavior is anyways and figure out how to exactly specify that behavior so that the next person who comes along to build a browser engine doesn’t have to start by reverse engineering, they can actually say I’m just gonna go read the spec and the spec will tell me everything I need to know. But for the new features and the new functionality that’s in there you know anytime you move really fast of course you end up with some interoperability issues and you have to resolve those over time, you know the current thinking on that at least from the WHAT Working Group perspective is kind of we’ll just keep refining the spec as we go and it’ll be this living standard and change over time, and to some degree that’s very attractive, that’s in a lot of ways you do need to make sure that your standard isn’t in stasis, right, that it does change over time and it does improve and it does— it is actively being developed. But at the same time that’s really hard to target in a market where web developers need to build content and have that just work at point A in time, and point A plus two years it probably still better work and hopefully without more intervention or the customers and clients are gonna get kind of upset.
Kevin: Yeah, it’s a weird sort of blip in the standards landscape that we exist in at the moment where the best standard for someone building a browser to consult today is also the standard that contains the most experimental sections as well, the sections that as a browser developer you would probably want to stay away from for the moment.
Chris: That’s probably true. I mean one of the challenges of course with standardization has always been you can’t really declare something done and right as a standard until you’ve tested it, right, and by testing it I mean you have to build implementations, multiple implementations, not one, not two, three or more preferably, and then you have to deliver it out into the wild and you have to get people to use it and you have to get them to pound on it for a while and see if it’s actually working for them, like if it’s the best way to design that functionality, and of course that’s really hard to do because nobody wants to be just the experimental browser builder, like you actually do want a real user market, and of course developers don’t really develop for the experimental browser anyways, right, they want an actual consumer browser that people are using in the real world to build really cool stuff on.
Kevin: The standards body itself, The Working Group, the public mailing list as it became, it’s a noisy place and the impression from someone who’s given up on monitoring it, speaking for myself, is that it’s a noisy place of big egos attacking each other but hopefully that ends up producing a reasonably good end product, although anyone who’d been involved in it would feel like they’d gone to war. Do you think that’s the only way to do it?
Chris: Well, I mean I think that when we got into, when we sort of revived the HTML Working Group we had a very, very big challenge which was there was this view of HTML at the W3C as very ivory tower, right, that it was all on XHTML 2.0 and it was really not focused on the real world of what browsers wanted, what web developers wanted, what engine people out there wanted, and the best thing that we could think of to do at the time of course to attract those people back in to try to build it under the very important, by the way, patent policy of the W3C was to open up The Working Group as much as possible and to make it very easy to join and very low-cost to join, low-cost meaning like it didn’t take you a ton of time, you didn’t have to sign up to travel to a Working Group meeting once a quarter or anything like that. And the challenge with opening it up for anyone to join of course is that anyone can join and there are tons and tons of people who are interested in HTML, lots of people who are getting their opinion out there, and I think the challenge with anything like that is you can either build a standard with a very small set of people in the room and maybe you don’t have enough people in the room, maybe you don’t have the right set of people in the room, or you can actually open it up to everyone and then try to deal with how you drink from that fire hose of talk and chatter on The Working Group list. And you know in retrospect I’m not sure if there’s something that I would change about that particular aspect, I think it’s pretty hard to, you know, it was very hard to try to keep on top of everything that was going on in that working group and do would be several other jobs, my day job, but it’s pretty important I think to be open in that respect; I think most of the working groups it was interesting for a while not working for Microsoft or Google because I took about six weeks off between my jobs, and looking at those conversations not just the HTML working group but the other working groups and seeing what I could still look at and what I couldn’t because I wasn’t a member because of Microsoft and I wasn’t a member because of Google, so what conversations could I still watch and how did that make me feel about standard development.
Kevin: Boy oh boy, if I had six weeks off between working at Microsoft and Google I probably wouldn’t spend it reading standards conversations I have to say (laughter), that is dedication my friend.
Chris: Well, it certainly wasn’t all of my break.
Kevin: So speaking of Google, you work on the Google TV team now.
Chris: I do.
Kevin: So that’s a big move for someone who’s been at Microsoft for as long as he has, would you say that move had more to do with what you were looking forward to working on or more about you felt like you’d done everything you could at Microsoft in your time there?
Chris: You know, a little bit of both. I spent a long time at Microsoft and I certainly, I never expected myself to be at Microsoft as long as I was, I never expected to be anywhere that long, and there are a lot of things about Microsoft that are very attractive as a company to work for, I think they treat their employees pretty well, they have some really good internal systems that help kind of manage people and manage things that you have to do there and it’s very well supported in that respect. I think that there’s a tremendous opportunity for Microsoft to affect people because they do tend to have huge, huge user markets, I mean the hardest part about leaving Microsoft was thinking about the fact that Internet Explorer has like three-quarters of a billion users, and I’m giving up the opportunity to work with those three-quarter of a billion users and maybe will build that into whatever products I work on in the future, maybe we won’t, but that was always a big attraction was affecting that many people’s lives and how they could use computers. At the same time I kind of felt like the things that I’d been championing at Microsoft and in Internet Explorer particularly you know they were kind of, they were coming back around, I think IE9 sort of proves that they’ve got a lot of skin in that game, they’ve built some really impressive stuff, and I think that it was sort of time for me to think about what I wanted to affect next and where I wanted to go next.
Brad: I’ll ask the obvious question here, when you made the move to Google I guess the obvious department for you to be a part of would be the Chrome section; was that ever discussed or was it when you went over to Google TV was what you were going to Google to work on?
Chris: Well, I mean the interesting thing about Google is that more than any other company I’ve worked for before they tend to hire people, and the way that they set up their internal structures I mean everyone’s heard of Google’s 20% time, and really that’s about a way to get people to build cross pollinating projects that are maybe riskier than you would normally get into. And just the idea of the set of people that I would go to work with because obviously I know a ton of people who work at Google, I’ve worked with a bunch of people who work for Google now, a bunch of people in the Seattle office actually are people that I used to work with or for at Microsoft in the past, so it was really compelling to know I was gonna go to this place where there were tons of super bright people and they have this way of kind of encouraging people to take on different roles and different projects at the same time.
Now, as for going to Google TV versus Chrome versus something else, I mean getting right back into something that I just did didn’t seem like a really great idea for a variety of reasons, and the interesting thing about Google TV to me was really that it’s kind of a catalytic project, like the idea of Google TV is not “Hey let’s go build this device that everyone is gonna go want to buy immediately,” it’s really you know right now all of the televisions and Blu-ray players and everything else they’re all getting into this “connected TV” thing, right, they’re all getting Smart TV, Connected TV, Internet TV, IPTV, whatever they want to call it, but the problem is a lot of these are using platforms that aren’t consistent, and when you look at somebody like Netflix, for example, who’s been tremendously successful in deploying to a large number of those devices, they have to build an implementation of their code for each one of those devices and ship it. And Google TV was really into the idea of saying hey number one, well, let’s build a device based on Android because just like Android is doing in the mobile phone space where it’s unifying a bunch of platforms that were previously built, it can do that for the TV space and on top of that as well, of course, hey let’s make the Web the platform, right; if you go and look at Google TV as it is today a lot of the applications that we put on Google TV, that we put in our spotlight which is what we call kind of the, well, the spotlight, right, the set of things that we push to people on a regular basis, users, on a regular basis, those things are built on a web platform, like that’s the easiest and to some degree right now certainly the best way to deliver new applications to people is build a web application, make sure that it’s optimized for the TV space but go push that to people. And one of the super attractive things to me about that was the web platform on Google TV is just the web platform; like when I go and work with third parties to get them to optimize their sites or applications for Google TV it’s really not optimizing for Google TV, it’s optimizing for TV, right, it’s optimizing for the user is ten feet away from their screen, they’re not two feet away from their screen. They probably don’t have a mouse or they don’t want to use it, they want to use a directional pad to navigate around, you know, don’t put small hit targets all over the screen, make sure text is pretty big, your resolution is gonna be 1080p or 720p, and oh TV’s tend to over-saturate colors so try to stay away from pure white on pure black kind of thing.
Kevin: So it’s a repeat of the process we’ve seen with Smart Phones, where people need to—
Chris: It is exactly that, yes. It’s exactly that idea, and this is something that I’ve felt strongly about for a long time is that the web platform has had this ability to sort of be applicable to multiple media spaces for many years, right, I mean like we designed this in CSS a super long time ago, and most people haven’t really used that until the sort of onslaught of mobile devices accessing the Web and using the Web platform, because prior to that you could pretty much presume, oh, people had a 1024 x 768 window so use that and size things to that and they’re gonna be able to use scroll bars and all the rest of it, and now some of those rules are changing both for the mobile space and I think in the near future for the TV space.
Kevin: So in a way you can say that Chris Wilson has not left the Web behind in his role at Google TV you’re just bringing the Web to a new screen.
Chris: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I mean I don’t think I could actually leave the Web behind in my professional life, it’s something that I’m extremely passionate about and don’t see that passion going away anytime soon.
Kevin: Great. Well, we have to let you go again, Chris, I’ve been saying this to every guest, it’s a pleasure to chat and I’m sorry we didn’t have more time for you today.
Chris: It was always a pleasure to talk with you and to be on the Podcast so thanks.
Kevin: Alright. We’ll let you go, bye, bye Chris.
Patrick: Thanks, Chris.
Brad: Thanks, Chris.
Kevin: And if you’d like to follow Chris and his movements you can follow him on Twitter @cwilso, and you can follow him on just about any other web community at that same name. If you want to get the story behind that name you’ll have to go back and listen to previous episodes of the SitePoint Podcast where he was a guest. And that is it for our parade of big names from the past of the SitePoint Podcast. Wow guys, I am overwhelmed and at the same time I wish we had a full hour with each of those voices.
Brad: We pretty much pulled those all from the first 25 so imagine if we grabbed every interviewee we ever did, we’d be here all night.
Kevin: We’ll have to an eight-hour episode for #250.
Brad: A 24-hour marathon. (laughter)
Kevin: Guys, what do you remember of #1 and everything that went into making that happen, our very first episode, or I should say your very first episode?
Patrick: I remember that Brad was sort of the kind of the lead on it—
Kevin: Brad was the lead host.
Brad: Yeah, I went back because it’s been a while since I’d seen when exactly we started, when the conversation got started, and the original post was on June 27, 2007 and this was on the admin side of SitePoint, this wasn’t a public post this was a kind of internal discussion on hey what do you think about podcasts and it actually all stemmed from Sarah who interviewed Matt and Mark who were the co-founders of SitePoint, which I listened to and really enjoyed, I was like why don’t we do this every week so it kind of went from that. But I think the first episode came out November 10, 2008, so over a year since the conversation had started to get episode one out the door.
Kevin: It was a year of people going oh we should have a podcast; yeah we should definitely have a podcast, let’s do something about having a podcast, and then three weeks of silence.
Patrick: And then Brad to his credit kind of took the initial kind of thing there because I remember I said, and this is what I said, I’m on two podcasts and this is what I said to both, I said I will show up and I will be prepared and I will talk but I will not edit anything, so I’m like I will be there but I’m just not gonna edit anything, so you know that was not necessarily the boldest of commitments but I think Stephan maybe made a similar comment and we got it together and once everybody proved they were — Kevin waited until everyone was like we’re gonna do this and then okay now I can jump on board there.
Kevin: If you think you guys were talking about it for a long time let me tell you here at SitePoint Headquarters we were talking about it for years and years, and it was very similar that we thought it was a good idea but I wasn’t gonna make it happen by myself, so I owe a great debt to our man Brad Williams for actually making something happen and giving me no choice but to sign on or have it happen without me.
Brad: It’s funny because when you listen to a podcast you’re like hey this isn’t — this sounds like it would be pretty easy to do, get a couple people together that enjoy a topic and just talk, well it’s really not quite that easy, like you get on there and it’s very easy, and I’m sure if you go back to our first handful of podcasts and listen there’s probably a lot of um’s and ands and silent awkward pauses which, you know, Karn and Carl are great at chopping those out so they may not be as obvious, but we’ve obviously gotten better over time just getting to know each other, getting more comfortable around each other and then really realizing what all does go into a podcast. I mean obviously it’s much easier for us now, but back when we first started I mean it was every episode was a lot of preparation.
Patrick: Yeah, and it’s worth noting that it’s a volunteer team of six behind this not just the faces, so to speak, Kevin, myself, Brad and Stephan, but also Carl Longnecker and Karn Broad, our editors and producers, and they edit the show every week so they alternate, they trade off.
Brad: They do a great job.
Patrick: And they invest probably about as much time as any of us invest in it to put it up there and make it sound right, and then we have a transcriptionist on top of that.
Kevin: Kelley Johnson.
Patrick: But that person’s not volunteer, so not in the volunteer team, but it’s a seven person outfit.
Kevin: Stephan, we haven’t heard a lot from you here today, but I would say that is typical of your contribution to the SitePoint Podcast. I remember having a talk with Shayne our marketing manager at the time, and he was in the chat room a little bit earlier, and Shayne said you know that guy Stephan, make sure he doesn’t get away because he doesn’t say a lot but when he says something it is gold.
Stephan: I keep little notes of when I’m gonna jump in and say something funny (laughter), no, I’m just kidding. I like to listen because I learn a lot from a lot of our guests and when we interview people, and I learn a lot from Brad and Kevin and Patrick, I learn a lot about communities from you, so I like to jump in when I know something and I don’t know a lot, so (laughs).
Kevin: So the best way to listen to the SitePoint Podcast is to get yourself a front row seat as a co-host.
Stephan: There you go, yeah, exactly.
Brad: You get it a couple days early!
Patrick: I think one of the great things about the show for me has been getting to know you guys better, I knew Brad a fair amount, Stephan pretty well, I knew Stephan really well, and just getting to know Brad and especially Kevin, I got to know Kevin better which is one of the highlights of being a part of this whole thing for me because it’s funny because I was at SitePoint for like eight years before we started this, I was on the staff, forum staff, and I really couldn’t tell you much about Kevin; that’s not anybody’s fault it’s just that we’re different circles, right, Kevin is technical officer, writer, does all this other stuff, he’s not really in the forums in the staff area, all that much is not his responsibility. So, yeah, it’s been a lot of fun I think and, you know, it’s an eclectic group.
Kevin: So I don’t know, has it been everything you hoped it would be going in, I know it has been for me.
Stephan: Yeah, the bar was low for me.
Patrick: I had low expectations so (laughter).
Kevin: It’ll never last. It’ll never last.
Brad: I’ve enjoyed it a lot too. I mean it kind of goes back to what Stephan said, like we don’t know everything about all the topics but generally at least one of us knows something, hi Andrew. But it’s great when we get somebody on that I don’t know anything about, or much, and then I come out of there actually knowing quite a bit or even being excited about a topic that I really had no idea about, so we learn as much from doing this show I think as our listeners do so that’s why I think it’s gone on as long as it has, and I hope it goes on just, you know, I hope we’re doing episode 200 in a couple years.
Kevin: So, yeah, what’s been the highlight, let’s go down the line, what’s been the highlight for you in our 100 episodes?
Stephan: All of them. I really enjoyed doing the show at BlogWorld Expo, I thought that was cool getting to do a bunch of shows and sitting around and talking and getting to know each because we’d never met in person all of us in the same area, so that was fun. That was a highlight for me. As far as regular shows, man, I got a bad memory, I can’t remember last week!
Kevin: BlogWorld Expo is a great highlight, I think you may have stolen Patrick’s; Patrick what’s yours?
Patrick: I enjoy our news shows every other week, I think it’s a fun thing that we do, it’s not totally work, it’s spending a fun hour or two talking about the news and it helps me stay updated and informed. Highlight-wise, I think that BlogWorld Expo obviously stands out just because it’s the first time we all four met in person so I think that’s meaningful but that’s kind of the copout answer, right, because that should be a highlight. WordCamp Raleigh doing the first live show was fun, Kevin wasn’t there so it wasn’t a total highlight. As far as my guests, Gary Vaynerchuck, Paul Boag, Derek Powazek, kind of three interviews that stand out to me that were really good and really fun to talk to and very informative.
Brad: Yeah, BlogWorld, is that what we’re all saying? (Laughter) No, that was definitely a good one. I think I definitely enjoy doing the shows, for me probably one of the highlights is doing some of the one-on-one interviews I’ve done, and nothing against you guys, but before the Podcast I’d never done a podcast interview or a radio interview, nothing like one-on-one where I was the interviewer. In fact, Matt Mullenweg was the first interview I ever did, I don’t even think he knows that, but so it’s fun doing it because to prep doing a one-on-one interview is completely different than a group chat or a group interview because when you do a group interview you can expect your co-hosts to kind of also have a lot of questions and bail you out if there’s some awkward silence, but when it’s one-on-one it’s all on you, so I’ve had a lot of fun doing those and I hope to start doing a lot more throughout this year and next year, so it’s been fun for me.
Kevin: My highlight has been all of those moments where we’ve gone off script. For those who don’t know, we prepare sort of a rundown of the news stories and the major links that we’re gonna talk about in each episode, we usually do that in the 24 to 48 hours before we actually record. But every once in a while either there hasn’t been a lot of news that week and that script is looking a bit thin or one of us just hasn’t had the time to get on top of doing that, and we end up just getting together and chatting about whatever’s on our mind that particular day, that particular hour, and that to me has led to some of the most spontaneous and fun and exciting moments that I’ve ever had in all my time working on the Web, so thank you guys for that. I’d have to agree, Brad, though that some of our one-on-one interviews also are a big highlight for me; it never ceases to amaze me how much people like Chris Wilson and Jeff Veen and Matt Mullenweg and Jina Bolton and all of the people we’ve spoken with today and in the past hundred episodes are willing to say yes when you just drop them an email and say hey would you be on my podcast that you may or may not have ever heard of. That people like that are so giving of their time is such a big reason for why I continue to enjoy working on the Web, and yeah, I just want to thank everyone who’s ever been on this show whether as a co-host or as a guest.
Stephan: We can’t forget the .net Awards.
Kevin: The .net Awards! Yes.
Patrick: Oh, my gosh! Do you have it nearby, we’ve never seen it?
Kevin: Speak amongst yourselves; I’m gonna go get the trophy (laughter).
Patrick: We’ve got a couple chat room questions here; first, how many episodes did it take before you finally felt relaxed about doing them? Stephan in the chat answered “I’m still not relaxed.” You look relaxed.
Ten episodes? For me anyway, five, ten.
Brad: If you go back and listen to the first few they were stiff, so yeah, I would say like five to ten episodes.
There it is.
Kevin: Okay, I’m back. Here it is the .net Awards trophy.
Patrick: Wow. Is it wood?
Kevin: It is plastic, it is black shiny plastic, I’m sure there’s a technical name for it.
Patrick: Now out of curiosity where was it sitting?
Kevin: It was sitting pride of place on the countertop at the front door of SitePoint. So you walk in to SitePoint, you arrive at reception and sitting right between you and the person who welcomes people to SitePoint was this monolith.
Brad: Pretty prominent position.
Patrick: But it wasn’t alarmed in any way or there’s no GPS tag on that thing, you can just run in and grab that like a football?
Kevin: I’m not really sure, yeah; I may have set off an alarm.
Yes, it is very pointy, I was worried getting it back from London when I flew back, I thought maybe airport security would confiscate it as a deadly weapon because it’s very heavy and very pointy. They had to confiscate my nail clippers but left me with this; it says a world about the state of airport security at the moment. (laughter)
So, I think we need to wrap this up with our host spotlights as usual, this is #100, it only happens once guys, so let’s start with Stephan and work our way down.
Stephan: So mine’s kind of goofy but my wife helped me pick this one out, she came across Google’s wedding planning software that they just came out with, it’s Google.com/weddings and it basically is a bunch of tools to plan your wedding when you’re getting ready to get married, and we don’t have any use for it, we’re already married, but just looking at it, it would’ve been really helpful because you have things like Google Docs document formats for like collecting addresses, for your budget, for your Picasa web albums, for your website, I mean it’s pretty neat and it’s all wrapped into one little package, and it’s free from what I can tell, pretty sweet.
Brad: It’s so cute that your wife picked out your spotlight.
Stephan: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Patrick: How long has that been happening? (Laughter)
Stephan: She’s the brains behind the operation.
Stephan: Yeah, you know, a lot of when we looked at our wedding planning a lot of our stuff we just said forget it we’re not gonna hire anybody we’re just gonna do it all ourselves, so I had a Google Docs set up anyway that we shared, I had a bunch of stuff set up, I did the website myself, so it was a lot of work and it would’ve been nice to have some kind of central, and there’s all these websites out there that they say they do nice services, I don’t find it to be all that nice and it’s kind of ugly. I mean I have a Flickr album so why can’t I just use the pictures I have on Flickr, and that was part of it, and so now if I had Google Picnik and all that stuff I could do it all in one place, and no I’m not getting married again. (Laughter)
Kevin: I think the secret nightmare of a lot of startups is for Google to go oh yeah we’re gonna do something like that too, and Google sucks all the air out of the room. I would say as someone who has no stake in the wedding industry this seems like a really good thing that there is potentially no industry more set for disruption than the wedding industry, but if I were a part of that tightly wound machine I might be pretty worried, shocked and worried, that Google is moving into this space.
Stephan: And don’t forget Google just bought ITA not that long ago.
Kevin: The Travel Authority, yeah.
Stephan: Yeah, the travel website, so there’s a lot of issues with that because I’m big into ITA and there’s a lot of issues, now Google they’ve silently got their fingers in a lot of stuff so it’s interesting.
Patrick: Yeah, and let this be a lesson, if you make it difficult to interact with your industry Google will come in and take your industry. And I think this is really smart because this is basically a way to get people hooked on their products more or less, it’s wrapped in a fancy wedding package but this is pushing you towards Google sites, Picnik, Google Docs, Picasa, versus Flickr or other competing products, so it’s all in this tight package and if you get married with this stuff chances are you might stick around.
Kevin: Plus you get Google Analytics from everyone of your guests at the ceremony. Patrick, what is your spotlight?
Patrick: Okay, so in my kind of quintessential style I guess is my off-topic fun spotlight, and what it is, is you need to look carefully at this, okay, it’s a specific link to a portion of a video, the last 20 seconds of a Call of Duty Black Ops game clip. It was posted by actually a SitePoint user, username Crowe, real name Crispian, and in the clip he’s playing Call of Duty Black Ops and something funny happens. If you play the game you’ll think it’s really funny, and I guess I’ll describe it, it’s funnier to watch; basically a crate kills his brother more or less in the game, and it doesn’t sound as funny but if you watch the clip and you look at that close, everyone spend the 20 seconds, it’s hilarious.
Kevin: It’s the in-game equivalent of a piano falling on someone’s head in a movie that has nothing to do with pianos or people dying; it’s just in the blink of a moment it’s just like—
Patrick: It’s just splat!
Kevin: (Laughs) Yeah. I had to watch it a couple of times to see what I was looking for, so yes Patrick I do appreciate the spoiler, I think it will help a lot of people spot the funny moment in that clip. Brad, what is your spotlight?
Brad: My spotlight is a funny little site called YKombinator, and that’s with a K, and basically what it does is generates a random startup for you, so if you want to make a web startup go to this site and it will generate a name for you and a nice little pitch on what your startup is going to do, and then you can enter in your email and subscribe to it. So it’s actually released by YCombinator which is the startup funding company, or I don’t know if they’re a company or they’re a service, but it’s a fun way to kind of show off what they’re doing, so they fund a bunch of small startups and then coach them into becoming a product and pitching to investors, so it’s kind of a fun way to auto-generate a web startup, and honestly the site looks like a lot of kind of web startup sites, you know, the coming soon pages, it definitely has that look and feel.
Kevin: See when I first saw this I thought it was a parody poking fun at YCombinator by someone else, but YCombinator themselves did this, well, it speaks of a great sense of humor, it also speaks of a little bit too much time to waste between you and me, ha-ha-ha. Which one did you get? I got NetCloud, a vibrant performance oriented travel Wiki.
Brad: I have PingSense, a unique way of buying staplers and other office supplies.
Kevin: (Laughs) Staplers. Respect to whoever put staplers into their random startup generator, that was great. My spotlight is one that I have— The best spotlights are the ones you forget to put on because they become such a daily part of your life that you forget it’s something that everyone isn’t using. So mine is Reeder for Mac 1.0 beta. I have mentioned in passing previously on this podcast that I had moved my feed reading on my iPad and my iPhone to a product called Reeder, and since that mention Reeder has now created a desktop version, it is in beta but between you and me it is super stable, the only reason it’s in beta is because the developer wants to add a few extra features before he releases it as a paid product. So if you head to the website http://madeatgloria.com/brewery/silvio/reeder, which is with three E’s, I’m posting that in the chat room now for the benefit of those watching. It is kind of a semi-hidden link, if you go to the official Reeder website there is no real easy to find link to this beta because the developer really wants to kind of keep it under wraps until it’s ready for the world at large, but between you and me this is the best desktop feed reader around. What it lacks in features it makes up for in polish for what it does do, and for my money what it does do is everything you need for day-to-day feed reading. It sync with Google Reader so all of your subscriptions and all of your read and unread stories reside in your Google Reader account but you access all of that content through this desktop app Reeder. What it’s missing is organization and subscribing and unsubscribing from feeds, so when you find a new feed that you want to subscribe to you’ll have to go to Google Reader to do that, and I do that with Google Reader’s nice and easy subscribe bookmarklet, but when you want to sit down and actually read some content this is the way you want to do it; Reeder for Mac is excellent, it integrates with all the services you’d expect, be that Delicious or Pinboard, be that Instapaper or Read It Later, all of these different services, Twitter, Facebook, all of these things are built right in and you can pick which ones you actually use and the rest of those buttons disappear from the interface. It’s really slick, really great and I can’t recommend it highly enough even though it is still in beta.
So that is my #100 spotlight, thank you guys for your #100 spotlights. It is quarter past 1:00, we’ve gone 15 minutes long which to me is a remarkable achievement given how much we had to get through, how many guests we had on; congratulations, guys, we did it.
Brad: Yeah, congrats.
Patrick: Thank you and congratulations to you guys as well.
Brad: We’re gonna have to do the live stuff a little more often.
Kevin: Yeah, yeah. It’s not bad if we can figure out how to keep the spammers out of the chat room I think we’ll be on to something here.
Who’s cracked a drink, I see Stephan is saluting the camera with his beverage of choice. We’ve got Coca Cola from Patrick; we’ve got, wow, what is that?
Stephan: It’s a mineral water from Mexico.
Kevin: It looks like beer, what a letdown.
Stephan: No, this is the beer.
Kevin: Oh, you’ve also got the beer (laughs)!
Patrick: So you’ve got beer, you’ve got soda, you’ve got a mature mug of tea, and then you’ve got frat boy cup.
Kevin: Yeah, the frat boy cup from Brad.
Brad: I’ve got a kegger over here, I don’t know what you guys are doing (laughter). Playing beer pong in between guests (laughter).
Kevin: Alright, well once more guys let’s go around the table from right to left, Stephan?
I want to thank everyone once again for joining us in the live chat for our 100th episode, and thanks as well to everyone listening at home. I hope this show turns out great in editing and a special thanks to our editor, our producer Carl Longnecker, who will have to deal with this two-hour episode. It’s been great and we look forward to number 101 next week. Once again I’m Kevin Yank, thanks for listening, bye, bye.
Theme music by Mike Mella.
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