SitePoint Podcast #183: Social Login

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Episode 183 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week we have 3/4 of the panel, Louis Simoneau (@rssaddict), Patrick O’Keefe (@ifroggy) and Kevin Dees (@kevindees).

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You can download this episode as a standalone MP3 file. Here’s the link:

  • SitePoint Podcast #183: Social Login (MP3, 35:48, 34.4MB)

Episode Summary

The panel discuss topics such as a new paid social network, user testing and several typography related topics!

Here are the main topics covered in this episode:

Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at

Host Spotlights

Interview Transcript

Louis: Hello and welcome to another episode of the SitePoint podcast. We’re back with our every other weekly roundup of the latest news and events in the world of web design and development. I’m joined on the panel this week by Patrick O’Keefe and Kevin Dees. Stephan is away this week. Hi guys.

Kevin: Hello.

Patrick: Click and drag continues.

Kevin: Yes.

Louis: Yeah, clicking and dragging still.

Kevin: Let’s just pull this joke out of the way longer than it needs to be.

Patrick: Stretch it.

Kevin: Stretch it.

Louis: All right, so, Patrick, you were saying you were asking around on Twitter for what stories we should cover and you came up with a lot of people who replied with the same story that I had identified as being something I wanted to talk about on the show. So why don’t we dive right into that?

Patrick: Yeah. I asked on Twitter and Dale McGlathery, Joe Anzelone, and Andy Con all responded with the same story. When I saw it I thought very strongly that at least one of you would have it, if not both of you, just because it seems like it’s being talked about like crazy today. So, let’s talk about it ourselves. It’s It bills itself as an open community of developers building resources for a better web regardless of brand, browser, or platform.
In the launch blog post which was made today they said that they aim to have accurate, up to date, comprehensive references and tutorials for every part of client side development and design with quirks and bugs revealed and explained. Now, this isn’t just another online community. This is being backed by Microsoft, Opera, Google, Facebook, Mozilla, Nokia, Adobe, HP, and the W3C.
They said they wanted to put out this alpha site, which is what they’re calling it, in the earliest possible point in the spirit of release early, release often. So they want to improve it in public with the web community’s help. Now, the organizations I mentioned are called stewards. They’re stewards for the project and it says they’ve enabled the W3C to convene the community and grow the site.
Those organizations have put a lot into it and they’re basically pledging to put people, content, money, and effort into this site. But this blog post stressed they’re doing so as peers with the same privileges available to anyone else who builds up trust and becomes a site admin. Right now, is mostly a wiki. It also has a forum, a chat room, a blog, but their focus is really on the wiki and on growing it to become a comprehensive and authoritative source for web developer documentation.
So, I know you guys are both web developers. So, how do you look at this site? Is it yet another resource or do you feel like this really has promise?

Louis: Yeah, I mean right at the moment, again as you mentioned, it’s a very early release. A lot of the parts of the wiki are not fleshed out yet, so there’s sort of a lot of missing chunks in various sections. But it does seem to have a lot of tutorials, a lot of different pages on just about every aspect of JavaScript and HTML and CSS and SVG that you could imagine.
I would love to see this become as good a reference as possible. It’s great to have a place where you can get access to really good quality documentation and guides that step you through everything you need to know about using a particular aspect of the technology. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Rails Guides. It’s part of the Ruby on Rails community documentation effort, which has just been a stellar piece of documentation…

Kevin: Yes.

Louis: …since Rails 2.3 when they really decided that getting the community involved in the documentation was as important as getting the community involved in working on the code for an open source project. I think that, yeah, it’d be fantastic to see something of that quality for sort of the regular front end open web stack.

Kevin: You’re talking about, right?

Louis: No, I’m talking about…


Louis: I don’t think so. No.

Kevin: Okay.

Louis: I think that’s just the API docs. Yeah, that’s the API documentation, which is fine. I was referring to the work that goes on or the content that is available at which contains some sort of longer form pieces just sort of explaining each sort of section of rails.
So if you have a look at that page and scroll down, you’ll see there are these big… Yeah, pick any of them, say layouts and rendering, and you’ve got this – it’s essentially a book I guess that covers all the content. But I was just bringing that up as an example…

Kevin: Okay, yeah. This site is really good.

Louis: …of a community documentation effort that I see as sort of a really, really high standard and I would love to see, like I said, this thing reach that level of quality. It’s definitely not there yet. But I think it’s good of all these companies to come together and put together a website like this.
As I’ve it mentioned, in the past for a lot of these things what you’d wind up doing is you’d wind up on either the Mozilla Developers Network which has extremely good documentation for a lot of JavaScript stuff. Or you’d wind up on Microsoft’s website where they have some content about various CSS3 stuff and JavaScript stuff.

But they’re always presenting it in sort of like, “Oh, in IE 10, you’ve got this thing, and it’s awesome,” but not explaining it as a standard. So, it’s really great to see a place where it’s kind of free from any of that branding effort, as they say in the pitch.

Kevin: Yeah. I mean the site to me, again, feels very alpha. I think that’s the hard part about talking about a site that’s this new too is the fact that it is so new. There’s just not all the content. The video kind of really, I think, is the best part of it where it explains where they’re headed and what they want to do.
But as far as the actual content goes there are a lot of things that can be done to make it better. But they have all the pieces there that show the potential. I think that’s the coolest part of it is the potential that this does have.

Louis: Yeah, one of the things that does strike me though – I guess it surprises me a little. I can understand the involvement of some of these other companies or organizations. It seems odd for Mozilla because they’ve put so much effort into making the Mozilla Developer Network site an amazingly useful reference with complete information and cross-browser compatibility information and really making it something that it never felt like it was trying to push Firefox or trying to push Mozilla as a brand. It just felt like it was trying to give developers all the best information.
So, I guess it’s a bit surprising to see them also throwing their weight behind this other project although I guess the more options there are the better for the community.

Patrick: Yeah, and it’s almost like if they were not there people would wonder why. They’d ask W3C and Mozilla, “Why aren’t you there if Microsoft is there and Google is there? Opera is even there.” Because Firefox is, at this time, the third most popular browser in the world and falling – falling behind Chrome and Internet Explorer with Chrome being number one now.
It’s almost like that omission would be strange. I think it would be a lack of credibility for the project in a way but also why isn’t Mozilla coming to the table?

Louis: Yeah, for sure.

Patrick: Because Mozilla has that reputation of being very community- minded, community-centric, as you said, great developer resources, very good resources in general for using the browser. Yeah, it would seem weird for them not to be involved. So maybe it’s just a guilt trip. But I’m sure it’s more than that.

Kevin: Well, on the, it does have Mozilla’s logo down there so I don’t know.

Patrick: Yeah, they’re involved.

Kevin: Okay.

Patrick: But we were just discussing the possibility of them not being involved because they have such great resources already. So, if they spent that much time, why be involved here as well doing the same thing potentially?

Kevin: I always have conspiracy theories and that kind of thing. I always like to talk about the subliminal and the unreal.

Patrick: Microsoft’s behind it. It’s really just Microsoft. They put their logos there illegally.

Kevin: So, outside of that, I actually feel like this could possibly be part of the browsers and these entities trying to – almost the removal of the W3C? I could be crazy for saying that, but if you have a hub where all these entities can come and build a community and get feedback from authors then basically they’re getting the most valuable information they can get, period, which is, “How can we make our browsers better?” Right?
So, this community just isn’t about documentation. It’s the old Microsoft technique of, “Hey, we just gave you this error message. Would you like to send a report to Microsoft?” It wasn’t that if something crashed on Microsoft computers it would say, “Would you like to send a report and tell us that it broke?” But it wasn’t that that bug was necessarily being helpful to fix the problem. It was letting them know, “Hey, these are the applications that you are using.”
So if the browsers get in here and they say, “Well, here are the bugs and these are the ones that people are complaining about,” it’s like, “Well, these are the features that people are using,” right? So they can start implementing things earlier and earlier and kind of scratch the itch that we have and be kind of more competitive and more rapid in their progression of development.
So, instead of having these things on Mozilla’s site and the W3C and over here and over there, they can have this one hub where they can just pull any idea they want and implement it within their rendering engine. So, to me, this almost feels like they’re trying to get information from us so that they can… I mean, this is good for us I guess.
But basically kind of take the W3C out of the equation to where they’re going to be like, “Hey, this is what people want. We’re just going to do it, and then the W3C can try to fix whatever we break.” I don’t know. I mean, it’s again a conspiracy kind of thing going on there.

Louis: Yeah. I was just going to disagree with all of that.

Kevin: Come on, Louie, aliens are real.

Patrick: So, the counter to that I guess is that the site obviously goes to great lengths to say that it’s convened by the W3C and it’s made possible by these people. How I view it is that the W3C is saying essentially, “There is so much out there that can be written about these topics and there are so many things that we can write about, so many resources we can provide. We really maybe can’t do it ourselves. So, we want people who have to work in this space, who influence this space, to support this project so that we can do it together.”
I don’t know that the W3C should be expected to put together what they are dreaming of putting together with this project. So for me it’s just backing for the W3C more than anything else.

Louis: Yeah, there’s a big difference between the kind of specification work that they do and the kind of documentation work that’s expected to take place here. It’s never been in the role of the W3C to write educational material.

Kevin: Yeah, that’s not what I’m saying.

Louis: Yeah. No, sorry, I was just responding to what Patrick was saying there.

Kevin: Yeah, sorry.

Louis: With respect to your larger point, I don’t know. I’m not sure I buy that. I think from spending any amount of time looking at the bug trackers that both Mozilla and the Chromium project and Opera – and I’m sure also IE but I haven’t looked at them, but at least the open source projects – and seeing how developers request features and how decisions get made about what goes into the next version of a given rendering engine.
I find it hard to believe that a documentation website would be the place that a browser maker would want to go to find that stuff rather than relying either on the new specification work that’s coming out of the working group or the direct feedback that they get from developers in their bug trackers and in their issue trackers and feature requests coming in through there.

Kevin: I think the point is there is no silver bullet to picking a new feature. You don’t like, “Okay, we’re going to use this one metric and that’s going to decide our features.” It’s a combination of everything.

Louis: Yeah. I think by and large, though, at this point the browser makers are more or less implementing everything that the working group presents as a new specification relatively quickly or at least as face as they seem to be able to and as well as that working on any other sort of new experimental features that they want to drive and bring to the open web. But, yeah, like we were saying earlier, the most interesting part of this is going to be if it does get filled out with more documentation overtime and really becomes a useful resource.
I guess, like with any wiki or community project, there’s sort of a tipping point or a critical mass that if a lot of people get to it and get involved and start writing good documentation then that brings everyone else to it. That really allows it to maintain a really up to date reference and really good and well- written information.
So, it’s just a matter of building up that community and obviously having all of these big backers behind it sort of lends it that credibility that might get people on board initially. If people are on board initially then it can just snowball up to the size where it really becomes the core online reference that you first think to go to when you want to look up, “Oh, wait. How exactly does CSS border radius work? Or how does JavaScript garbage collection work across different browsers.”

Kevin: Yeah.

Louis: Right now there is no place to go and find all that information and it would be fantastic if this thing takes off. So, yeah, if you’re a documentation-minded individual who knows a lot about how browsers handle things or even just feels like writing up some content to explain how a particular CSS property or a particular JavaScript function works then this is a great blank slate to get involved and start helping out the community, so exciting times.

Kevin: Yes, it is. It surely will be interesting to see how these companies operate together and what role they try to set a play.

Louis: Yeah. I somehow get the feeling, or at least the vibe I get out of this is that it’s really aimed at being a community project. I think they just want to build up a community and then hand it over to some maintainers in the community as quickly as possible so they just put their name on it and then step back. Maybe people internally in those organizations are going to contribute a lot of content, and that’s certainly possible.
But it feels like the kind of thing that they just want to sort of – they want it to exist and they think the best way for it to exist is if they all put their name on it and that lends it enough legitimacy in the wider community that people do get involved and start building it. Then, it becomes a self- sustaining thing.

Patrick: Some of the content is coming from these companies, like you said. One of the most obvious examples of this off the bat is on the Microsoft page it says that the Web Platform Docs community initiative was provided with over 32,000 topics seeded from MSDN, the Microsoft Developer Network. So, we talked about Mozilla and their work. Obviously, Microsoft has their own major developer resource as well, and so a lot of that content has been pulled into this as well.
Though, the Mozilla page doesn’t say that explicitly it wouldn’t be surprising if those resources were also coming over in some form. That’s basically the collaboration we’re talking about. How do we want to wrap it up?

Louis: I don’t know. How do we want to wrap that up?

Patrick: Okay, wait. Okay, I’ve got it. Stop, collaborate, and listen.

Kevin: Hey, I just noticed something really fun about this.

Louis: Ice is back with his brand new invention. How can you flow on anything, but that from that, Kevin? I’m disappointed.

Kevin: No, I just wanted to point out that I noticed under Home Stewards that they have Apple on this list. But it’s just a hash. There’s no Apple. They have Apple in here, but nothing’s under Apple.

Louis: Where am I supposed to go to find this?

Kevin: So, Home, and then click on one of the logos at the bottom. Then under Stewards on the breadcrumbs it’ll have Apple.

Louis: Oh, right.

Patrick: That’s a good point. It’s almost like that page needs to be edited. Someone should fix that wiki.

Kevin: Yeah, Apple, come on. Anyways…

Louis: Oh, yeah, interesting. So, it’s in the list but there’s no logo and there’s no sort of spiel about what they’re involved.

Patrick: That should lend to the conspiracy theorists right there. Apple’s there but they’re not there. It’s sort of like the ghost.

Kevin: Yeah, I think these other companies are trying to say something about Apple. I’m kidding. But it’s always fun to say that. Anyways, I’m sorry. I did ruin the awesome segue there.

Patrick: Don’t collaborate with me again. Just stop when I say stop with the first. Don’t follow the collaborate and listen part of it.

Kevin: Oh.

Patrick: I’m just kidding.

Kevin: Yeah, I’m sorry. So, to even butcher this segue even more, as I do, because I’m great at segues.

Louis: Here it comes.

Kevin: Yeah. So, if you’re looking to do these social log-in buttons on your website, you’re doing it wrong according to Aarron Walter. So, social log-in buttons aren’t worth it is what the article says.

Louis: Wait. We transitioned a bit too fast there. I think we needed a bit more time.

Kevin: Okay, time lapse.

Patrick: Bathroom break.

Louis: I’m just messing with you. So, what are we talking about when we’re talking about social log-in buttons?

Kevin: So, we’re not talking about Like buttons as you had alluded to earlier, Louis. We are talking about the click to log in with Facebook and Twitter and maybe LinkedIn or Google, or OpenID, or whatever it is. Basically, there’s been this article written,, and I’m sure the link will be in the show notes.

Louis: The link will be in the show notes.

Kevin: It’s a post on October 2nd, so that will give you enough context to kind of find it for yourself if you want to while you’re listening. Basically it goes through and talks about how failed log-in attempts were not necessarily crippling MailChimp, but kind of creating this annoyance within them internally like, “Hey, wow, this is a real problem,” right?
So, all these attempts happened from April 12th to May 12th, 2012. There were approximately around 340,000 failed attempts. So they thought, “Hey, maybe we should put Facebook and Twitter in here to help lower this number.” So, they pushed a bunch of updates, Facebook and Twitter were part of that, and they saw an enormous decrease in the amount of people that were having these issues.
If you read along the story you basically come to find that it wasn’t due to the log-in buttons from Facebook and Twitter. It was actually due to better error messaging, kind of letting people know what was wrong with their log-in attempt. For example, if you typed in a bad password it would tell you, “Hey, your password is wrong,” not email and password. So, they were basically saying, “Hey, instead of obfuscating the error messaging, we’re just going to tell you what’s wrong,” and it really helped people out.
So, basically this blog post went on the scene and I believe they tested the social media buttons for about a month is what I get from this article. Then, they removed them because the CEO was like, “Hey, these aren’t really helping us with our log-in attempts.” So they saw a dramatic increase. But the comments in this were actually really, really interesting if you read through the people’s opinions on whether or not social media log- ins should be used, are they secure.
There were points in here that, “Hey, we don’t control the security of these log-in buttons,” that kind of thing, like the API and all that stuff. So there was an interesting kind of conversation around all this, and so I was just wondering, hey, maybe we could talk about social media log-in buttons, if they’ve effected sites positively that we’ve made. I guess you could go as far as comments with this. But basically, the whole premise of this was that they didn’t want to have Facebook and Twitter branded on their log-in screen.
They wanted to say, “Hey, this is MailChimp. We’re not MailChimp plus Facebook and Twitter. We are MailChimp, and we don’t necessarily want these buttons. You know what? They’re not actually helping us all that much.”

Louis: Yeah. The one thing that resonates with me and I think it’s in one of the comments in the updates is that if you can create an account with the username and password, or you can log on to Facebook or you can log on to Twitter, what inevitably is going to happen to the user is they’ll get to the page the third or fourth time, and then their session will have expired. They’ll be like, “Oh, now I have to remember how I logged in last time,” right?
You might think, “Oh, well I probably just used the username and password because I do that on every site.” But maybe you didn’t. Maybe you clicked Log In with Facebook. So, unless the user is really consistent – and I know I’m not, especially if I’m on my phone and I don’t feel like bringing out the onscreen keyboard and typing stuff in if I want to just hit Log In with Facebook because it’ll be easier, and then I get an account created.

But the next time I come to the site, I don’t remember that I did that and I think that’s one of the big struggles here.

Kevin: Yeah. I totally agree with that statement.

Louis: Yeah. I think to some extent, if you’re working on a service that is or can be tightly coupled with one of these other services in your users’ minds – and a good example of that is something like Klout, which really sits on top of Twitter. So in that case it makes sense to just use Twitter as the log-in because your users will have Twitter accounts and it’s the only reason they’d be using your service.
Likewise, a project that I’ve been working on recently is really sort of an extra dashboard view that sort of sits on top of Google Analytics, and without having a Google Analytics account, you won’t really get much out of it. So, we’ve provided only Log In with Google as the only option. We don’t even let you enter a username and password, because that is easier. You click one button, you get redirected, and you’re there.

Kevin: Right.

Louis: So, that’s great as long as you keep it simple, and keep it from being confusing. If you only provide one option, then I think it’s legitimate. But that means you have to be really convinced that all of your users are going to have accounts on this service, and that’s a rare situation. You don’t want to usually tie yourself to, “Oh, sorry. If you don’t have a Google account, you can’t use our thing.”
So, I think under normal circumstances, you would need to provide multiple options, and then as soon as you start providing multiple options, you face that difficulty of confusing users. But I think we haven’t seen the end of this. In podcast #173, we talked about this other blog post from a web development company called XOXCO in Austin, who were writing about trying to implement password-less log-in, where it’s really just an email reset.
Basically, every time you click on a button it sends you an email, and then you click on a button to log in as if you were doing a reset every time, rather than trying to remember a password. But all this goes to show that this is still a really, really open question and there are a lot of ways to approach it. It’s great when you have a big site like MailChimp with a lot of data come out and sort of experiment with things and provide the results of those experiments, like in this case.

Patrick: There are a couple things that come to mind as I see this. You mentioned, how you might not remember what you used. I, myself, am meticulous about this and it goes back to the SitePoint podcast days with Kevin Yank, where we used to joke about mistrusting OpenID. I just don’t do that stuff. I use a username and password. It’s in KeePass. Every password is different for every site, very meticulous. But I think what is important to consider with this sort of decision is the type of service you are.

With MailChimp I almost don’t really see the need for that, because – I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my view of consumer products, mainstream products, versus niche services, enterprise business, more niche tools. I don’t really see the need, the necessity, for MailChimp, a mailing list service provider to provide Facebook log-in and Twitter log-in. I mean, I understand it can be convenience, but I don’t see that as necessary.
I don’t want Facebook Connect on Amazon either. I have an Amazon password. I’ll log in there. That’s not to say others wouldn’t want it. But that’s just not going to be as popular as, say, using it with a mobile app that’s brand new where people might now want to create the username and password on this throwaway app and they’ll just do a Facebook Connect.
I know Gary Vaynerchuk did a talk recently and he said that if you don’t have Facebook Connect on your mobile app he’s not going to sign up. He might be exaggerating a little bit.

Louis: Yeah.

Patrick: But the point is on that medium people are far more inclined to use your app if you have Facebook Connect. Whereas if you’re more of a, I don’t know, not a mobile app but a consumer facing website, a public facing website, I don’t know. It really depends on what you’re about, what you provide, and who your customers are. With the MailChimp I don’t really see it as being as meaningful as with sort of a generic mainstream website or service.

Louis: Yeah, I think that actually does raise a really interesting point. In my mind – and I’m going to try and express this with a thought I just had and you’ll have to bear with me – but for each business, I think you just have to think realistically about how your customers are going to think about their accounts with you.
I think in the case of MailChimp, and I think you hit on this point exactly, MailChimp users expect and understand that they will have a MailChimp account because their stuff lives in their MailChimp account. That makes sense and it’s not in any way strange. But like you said, for a lot of mobile apps, like, I get some app and it expects me to sign up just so that it can save my data or sync my grocery list to my girlfriend’s phone as well.

That is one of those things where, “Do I need an account for this? Do I really need a username and password to make this work? I don’t have an account. I’m not going to log-in on their website and go look at the thing. I just want the app to work.”

Patrick: Right.

Louis: That’s a situation where it’s hard to create a mental model in the users mind of, “I have an account on this site, or I have an account with this service.” You might think, as the developer or as the business owner, “Well, of course everyone wants an account on my service, and then they’ll come and sign up and change their account setting on the website.”
But you’ve really got to take a hard look at what you’re doing and think, “Well, maybe they don’t actually want that. Maybe that’s not something that people are going to want to do.” In those cases, that’s a great time to think, “Well, is there, for example, based on my users, do I think that 99% of them are going to have a Google account? If so maybe I should just do log- in with Google.”

Patrick: Well said.

Louis: That way they don’t have to think about, “Do I have an account to sync my grocery list? My grocery list syncing password is,” whatever.

Patrick: So you don’t keep that grocery list on lockdown, like two- factor verification?

Louis: Exactly, I’ve got two-factor authentication on my grocery list app. That would go swell.

Kevin: Right.

Patrick: Every time you need to add an item to your grocery list, you should have to have a special ID texted to you. Then you have to go to the website, enter that ID alongside your username and password just to ensure that that grocery list stays as secure as it needs to be.

Louis: Yeah. I wouldn’t want to accidentally have someone hack in there and get me to buy all kinds of unnecessary peanut butter.

Kevin: Wow. Modify your… “Why did I buy all of this pizza? I don’t understand. This app has brainwashed me.” Patrick shows up at your place it’s like, “Did you get my pizza?”

Louis: All right, I thought we were being a bit too serious so far this show, so thanks for kicking it back.

Kevin: Oh, you’re welcome.

Patrick: Absolutely.

Kevin: Hugs all around. To bring it back serious – boohoo – to further the point that you’re making, both of you, is the fact that MailChimp lets you sign in with Twitter and sign in with Facebook for the comments for their blog. So, it just goes to show that it is based on the context of what you’re trying to do and how far you’re willing to go do some of these things because comments are agnostic, right?

Louis: That’s another great example though. Yeah. Comments are great because when you want to leave a comment on a blog that’s not something you think of as requiring an account. I don’t want to sign up for an account on your blog.

Kevin: Right and you’re not. You’re not. I mean, you just punch in a name, email, website, comment – boom, done.

Louis: Yeah. But if I can just pull in an avatar and then link off to my Twitter where people can find me, it’s a social thing commenting on a blog, I think Twitter is a great way of doing that.

Kevin: Yes, absolutely. I think that it really is what it comes down to and if you read just the title, if you read, “Social Log-in Buttons Aren’t Worth It,” and then you go leave a comment, of course you’re not going to understand. It’s like, “Oh, I’m going to go leave a comment,” and then it’s like, “Oh, sign in with Twitter.” Oh, well, you just totally contradicted yourself from title but you skipped everything in between, and you really can’t do that.

Louis: Yeah, there’s a lot of content there and I think unfortunately just the nature of news on the web is that those kind of titles really do tend to get a lot of attention so I think there are reasons why.

Kevin: Absolutely, they’re the best. I mean how would we have a podcast without these kind of blog posts? I mean, really?

Louis: Well, would it have to have had that title? We’d never have seen it if it hadn’t had that title.

Kevin: Yeah, exactly. I would have been like, “Oh, great. Yeah.”

Louis: All right, well do you guys want to do some host spotlights? I think it’s around about that time of the day.

Kevin: Absolutely.

Patrick: Kevin, hop on your segue and let’s hear your spotlight.

Kevin: All right, so speaking about MailChimp and log-in stuff, there’s this YouTube video.

Louis: You’re not even trying anymore.

Kevin: I know. Hey, man, there’s no way to transition that.

Louis: All right, let’s see it.

Kevin: Yeah. So, I guess I can start off the spotlights today. I have found a wonderful video on YouTube that I have yet to watch. It was shared to me on Twitter by one of my dear friends, though he didn’t actually share it with me. I just kind of found it on his feed. But anyways, I guess I should give credit to Mr. Brad Garrett and it’s just this sweet little video that I haven’t watched yet, but it’s cool.
He always sends cool stuff so I know it’s good even without having seen it yet. But it’s How to Destroy Angels, “Keep It Together” Official. It’s a music video.

Louis: I’m trying to figure this out. Yeah, it’s a music video. There’s actually very little happening in the video. The entire video is just tape reels spinning while the song plays.

Kevin: That’s so hipster. It’s so cool.

Louis: This band, How to Destroy Angels, is a new project from Trent Reznor, who most listeners would probably know from…

Patrick: “The Social Network”.

Louis: What? Was he in “The Social Network”? Oh, he did the soundtrack, didn’t he? That’s fine. No, I think you’re right.

Patrick: Yes, he did “The Social Network” soundtrack and he did it with Atticus Ross.

Louis: Who is also in How to Destroy Angels, right, also widely known for his work with Nine Inch Nails which was his band – or still is his band. But anyway, so he has a new project, How to Destroy Angels. I had not heard of it before. I’ve now watched the video of some tape reels spinning while some rather somber electronic music plays.

Patrick: What’s also interesting about How to Destroy Angels and we were just talking about this on the Copyright 2.0 is that Reznor made a lot of headlines splitting from a major record label. How to Destroy Angels actually represents the return to a major as he signed with Columbia for this project, so proving that there is a lot of diverse routes to take your project just like anything else.
Like a book, there are benefits to going with major publishers. There are benefits to going solo. So, it should be interesting especially for fans of his work. I’ll take it from here with my spotlight which is a book. I’m taking us on a trip of enlightenment for this spotlight.

Louis: Oh, boy.

Kevin: Here we go.

Patrick: No, the book is called “The Art of Explanation” and it’s by Lee LeFever. Lee is from Common Craft, who a lot of people will know from their Paperworks videos, “Explaining Things in Plain English”, “Explained by Common Craft”. One of their first really big videos was “Twitter in Plain English”, which was featured on the Twitter home page for a long time. They’ve gone on to build this really great successful business around very high quality explainer videos.
So, this is Lee’s first book and I think it’s going to be great. I say that I think because I haven’t read it yet because it’s not out. But what I would say is that Lee is the type of guy and Common Craft is the type of company where it’s not even a point of me needing to read it. I have it already coming.

It’s in the mail on the way to me now. Everyone needs to know how to explain and I think that’s where this book is going to help people with a lot of good tips on how to communicate ideas clearly, very good for developers talking with clients for example.
But really anyone needs to know how to explain and I’d recommend just giving this book a look if you are someone, as we all are, who needs to communicate with other people. So, check it out. It’s called “The Art of Explanation”. You can pick it up on You can pick it up wherever books are sold and the website for the book is

Kevin: That’s interesting.

Louis: Fantastic, yeah.

Kevin: You did a very good job explaining that.

Louis: Maybe you don’t need this book. That was very clearly.

Patrick: Thank you. I’m sure I still need the book.

Louis: All right. My spotlight for this week is a little Ruby library or gem as they’re called. If you’re a Ruby developer, especially if you’re a Rails developer, it’s a gem called Zeus which was released quite recently I believe. It’s at B-U- R-K-E is the user’s name and the project is Zeus, Z-E-U-S, like the god.
So, what it is, it’s a gem which will pre-load your entire Rails app in the background, and then once Zeus is started and running, anything else you need to use that requires loading the Rails app, and that includes starting up a console or running your specs or tests, takes place a lot faster.
So, whereas usually you might look at that usual ten to 15 second start-up time before your console drops you at the shell or before your tests start running, if you have Zeus running in the background and you try and run these things with Zeus rspec or Zeus Console, the start-up time is reduced to less than a second. So, especially if you’re doing test-driven development and you want to switch back and forth between writing code and then running your tests very frequently…
That period of time when you just sort of sit there staring at a blinking cursor before your tests start running is probably one of the more annoying parts of your day, at least I know it was in mine. Zeus especially in combination, he recommends if you go to the page you’ll see some information there. But there’s also a new version of Ruby that you can get. That’s Ruby 1.9.3, but they’ve back ported a couple of performance fixes from the upcoming 2.0 release into Ruby 1.9.3.
So if you’re running that patched version of 1.9.3 along with Zeus you’ll definitely see those cycles of running specs or starting up a console get a lot faster. I think it’s really good for productivity and for focus because you do get distracted during that time. Even if it’s only 20 seconds, if it takes one minute to remember what you were doing then you’re a lot worse off. So if anyone is a Ruby developer check it out. The link will be on the show notes.

Kevin: Very cool, I’m going to have to check that out.

Louis: All right, so I believe that brings us to the end of this week’s episode. Who are we? Why are we here?

Kevin: Yeah. So, I’m here because I like to do podcasts and I’m Kevin Dees at and @kevindees on Twitter.

Patrick: I am Patrick O’keefe. I taste soda at and on Twitter @ifroggy, I-F-R-O-G-G-Y.

Louis: I’m Louis Simoneau. You can find me on Twitter at @RSSaddict. You can also find SitePoint on Twitter at @sitepointdotcom. That’s sitepoint d-o-t-c-o-m. You can find the podcast on the web at You’ll find all of our past episodes there. You can download them. You can subscribe to the RSS.
Obviously, you can leave comments, let us know what you thought, and you can reach us by email, We’d love to hear what you think. Thanks for listening and bye for now.

Produced by Karn Broad.

Audio Transcription by SpeechPad.

Theme music by Mike Mella.

Thanks for listening! Feel free to let us know how we’re doing, or to continue the discussion, using the comments field below.

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