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Versioning Show, Episode 0, with M. David Green and Tim Evko

By Tim Evko , M. David Green

Episode zero? We recorded a test episode of The Versioning Show, and had so much fun doing it we thought we’d make it public. In this episode of the Versioning Show, hosts Tim and David introduce themselves to the audience, and discuss the meaning of the name “Versioning”, the future of web technologies, and their visions for the future of the podcast.

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Show Notes

Tim Evko and M. David Green

Transcript

Tim:

Hey, what’s up, everybody! This is Tim Evko — @tevko on Twitter …

David:

Hi, and I’m M. David Green. I’m mdavidgreen pretty much everywhere …

Tim:

… and you are listening to episode number 0 of the Versioning Podcast. This is a place where we sit down every two weeks to discuss the industry of the web from development to design — with some of the people making it happen today and planning where it’s headed in the next version.

David:

And normally, at this point, we’d introduce our guest. But this is our pre-release episode, so today we’re going to introduce each other — and let you know who we are, why we’re doing this, and what we have planned going forward.

So, let’s go ahead and get this version started …


Tim:

What does that mean to us? What is the Versioning Podcast? How would you define that?

David:

Well, the term versioning is talking about moving from one stage to another stage, and how you define what it means to be at version 0, version 1, version 1.1. And the reason you apply a version number to something is so the people who are using it understand a little bit about where you are in your own development process, and where you are along your trajectory.

Tim:

I like that. That’s really good. I’m going to choose that as my answer as well.

[Laughter]

I’m kidding. I like the title Versioning for those reasons. I also like it because, to me, it feels like not only are there incremental versions, but there are different versions for everybody on the web continuum — or web platform, as some people choose to call it.

So for me, the version of the web that I use is this development space, where I build software, and work with people to make business goals happen — whereas, to someone else, their version of the web might be making beautiful designs, or making new and intuitive business decisions, or creating different things.

So I like the title Versioning for another reason, just because it’s a different version of creative space for everybody.

David [2:10]:

I really like what you brought in there, because, when I was talking about versioning, I was almost thinking about the sequential — almost the melody line — and you’re talking about the harmony, where it can be multiple people in parallel using different versions of the same thing simultaneously from their own perspectives.

Tim:

I like that dynamic.

This is going well — I like this!

[Laughter]


Tim:

Speaking of us, who are we? I guess that’s a good question, right?

David:

Yeah, who are we? Who are you? Who am I?

I know that your name is Tim. I know that you’re @tevko on Twitter, and I know that we’re sitting here talking about versioning.

But tell me a little bit about your background. What got you into this, and why are you here?

Tim:

Yeah, definitely. So, as long as I can remember, I always wanted to do something different as a career. I wanted to be in the military at one point, I wanted to be a doctor at one point … Still kinda do want to be a doctor, but … later on, maybe!

But I ended up going into a community college, still having no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And I eventually just fell into the web. I knew that I liked writing, and so I wanted to start a blog. And I had this idea — I had this thing on this drag-and-drop editor, and it was completely Flash based.

And I sent a preview to a friend of mine who had an iPhone, and he returned back to me a screen shot of nothing. He was like, Use WordPress. And I had no idea what WordPress was, and so I looked into it, and I saw this blogging platform.

So, OK, I’ve got to install stuff, I’ve got to make a website, I don’t know how to do that. And slowly but surely I just started picking away at different things, and building this blog that I wanted on WordPress, and slowly learning how to do more. And at one point it just all clicked, and I was like, Oh, I really love this!

I really enjoy building and creating and making things on the web, and I decided, You know what, I’m gonna learn as much as I can about this.

So every single day I would come home from my part-time job at a warehouse or a dollar store — wherever I was working at the time — and I would study CSS and HTML, and soon that led to JavaScript. And soon that led to a real job, working for the web. And since then, it’s just been the same thing — building stuff, and coming home, and learning more. And, so far, I really haven’t gotten tired of that.

David [4:48]:

I like that. That means that, in your career, you’re basically self taught as an engineer.

Tim:

Yes, yes. I have a few semesters of community college under my belt, and a lot of googling for Stack Overflow!

David:

And, so, now that you’ve started down this path, I’m going to ask you the philosophical question that we like to ask all of our guests. In your current career, what version are you, and why?

Tim:

OK, I knew this was coming, but I’m still unprepared for it! Let’s see: I would see myself as version 1.0. When I build software, I don’t like to release 1.0. I like to release 0.1, or 0.01. I like to do that, because this is in development, it’s not ready yet; this is just a thing that’s in this space publicly, but it’s not done. Done is 1.0, and then everything after that is iterating and making it better — to me, at least.

And so, I would say I have passed the development side. I have a good foundation, a good knowledge of this space, and now I am iterating. Every day in my career I learn something new — like O, I had no idea this worked that way, or I had no idea about this part of the language or this part of the web. And so I would say I’m there right now — 1.0.

David [6:20]:

So, what are you doing these days, other than hosting podcasts?

Tim:

Yes, so, these days I have a full-time job at a company called BaubleBar, where I am a lead front-end engineer, which means I make the part of the website that people interact with. It’s a lot of HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and we’re also working on building a new platform for our ecommerce site. And, so, now I’m writing a lot of middleware-level type of stuff, with Node and Express in JavaScript.

So, that’s what I’m doing there. I also like to write a lot. I write articles every now and then, and I tweet … if that matters!

[Laughter]

David:

That absolutely matters these days.

Tim:

O yes it does, it does. So yeah, that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m an avid sideprojecter. So, whenever I can, I’m working on a side project.

David:

Cool. Can you tell us about a side project of yours that you’re particularly pleased with?

Tim:

Yes. In fact, the last side project I launched was a project called restaurantmenubuilder.com.

Tell me, David, if this situation has happened to you before — where you’re looking for a new restaurant to eat at, and you pull up something on your phone, and you’re looking through, and you see, ah, a menu link. So I’m gonna click that, right? And what happens? You have to download a PDF.

Now, probably, to most reasonable people this isn’t much of an issue. But I just don’t want to download a PDF and lose storage space on my phone. So I built this thing that allows you to just fill out a bunch of form options, and it creates live a menu — out of HTML and CSS. And it’s a serverless application, and it just runs in your browser, and it creates this full menu. It saves it to local storage, and at the end, when you’re done, you can download it and save it on your device.

David [8:28]:

Interesting! How are people using this? How is this being distributed?

Tim:

Right now, it’s just restaurantmenubuilder.com. I promoted it a little bit; I sent some tweets out, and I made some posts around the web to different communities to say Hey, this is a tool.

I have Google Analytics on it, but I don’t look at it that much. This was one of those projects where it was so tough to wrap my head around just the logic that I took a break after I built it and bought the domain and launched it. I was like, Enough with that for now, I’ll promote the rest of it later.

But I haven’t seen anybody use it yet. So far it’s just a thing that exists that I’m very happy about.

David:

I know how it is when you’ve got an itch like that, and you just [figure], I know how to build this, and I want to put it out there, and I just want to give it to the world.

Tim:

Yeah, definitely.

David:

Cool. What did you use to build that, by the way?

Tim:

I developed that at first in CodePen — which is an online IDE that is released by Chris Coyier and his team. It’s very intuitive. It’s used in a lot of spaces from conferences to teaching. A lot of my side projects start out that way. If they’re just HTML, CSS and JavaScript, I’ll just pop over to CodePen and demo something out. And once I have a working product, then I’ll open up a repository in GitHub and just code it out.

So, it’s all vanilla — plain HTML. I’m using Sass — or SCSS — and JavaScript, and local storage, and web workers.

David:

Very cool. And so that’s very versatile. It’s not reliant on anything outside itself.

Tim:

Yeah. I like to build that way as much as possible. I’m very opinionated that way — and I’m sure we’ll get into it one day.

David [10:13]:

[Laughs] Well, we might find ourselves on the same side of that argument.

Tim [10:22]:

Nice!

So, what about you, David? How did you get into this industry?

David:

[Chuckles] Well, it depends what industry you’re talking about. As a developer, or as a podcaster?

Tim:

Oooh, that’s a good split there. So let’s start with development.

David:

OK. Well, I’m not a developer [chuckles] … but I used to be. I spent many years working as a front-end web engineer, and also as a designer in some roles — because companies don’t really know the difference sometimes between front-end engineers and designers. So I’ve gotten that title, even though I don’t think I necessarily deserved it.

But as a front-end developer, I got into it just because I was fascinated by the code. I started as a writer, and the web happened around me. And I looked at it, and I said, That is something I want to play with. And I taught myself what I needed to know.

Tim:

That’s really cool. So you said you’re not a developer any more? As in, you don’t develop full-time, or you just don’t really code any more?

David:

Well, I don’t really code professionally any more. I code for fun; I’ve got some little projects that I do for myself. But I used to do it full-time. I used to work in startups, and be part of the team, and I built a lot of the front-end code for StumbleUpon. I’ve done stuff for insurance companies, things like that. Way back in the day, I was webmaster of www.apple.com, as a matter of fact.

But, in recent years, I’ve found myself attracted more toward the project management side of things. And I became really enamored of scrum and agile processes. I saw how the people on my team were able to improve the way that they worked together, improve their productivity, improve their ability to estimate things, and I wanted to get more involved in that, and help more people find that.

So, I’ve transitioned myself out of being a hands-on developer, and, right now, I run a little company called Agile That Works. And I go in as an agile coach, and I help companies with their agile process, and help them improve the way that their scrum works.

Tim [12:38]:

That’s really cool. Wow, first of all, webmaster of apple.com! That’s a very exciting thing!

David:

Well, to be fair, it was back when apple.com — well, www.apple.com — was a new thing. Apple.com was around a lot longer than that, because Apple’s been on the backbone for a very long time. But www.apple.com came around in 1994. It was being hosted by somebody in the Apple library — Dale Mead, as a matter of fact — who kept it on a Power Macintosh 850 under his desk … because the web didn’t really exist for a lot of people at that point, and nobody knew it was there.

And I proposed a project to the VP of Corporate Communications to bring it into Apple’s Corporate Communications group, and give it a formal presence, and create product libraries, and a lot of other information that people needed, and then centralize a lot of the different little segments of www.apple.com that were showing up around different parts of the company.

So it was fun, and for about a year and a half I was the webmaster of that site, with a team of wonderful people working with me, who taught me so much about [chuckles] HTML, and about web analytics, and about redundancy …

Coming into it from a background in corporate communications, I learned a lot, and it sucked me in. And by the time I left Apple, I was a full-fledged engineer. [Chuckles]

Tim:

That is incredible — really cool. You said you do a lot of stuff with agile. What else? It seems there’s a lot of things that you’re involved in now. So, what are some of those other things?

David:

Well, agile has been taking over a lot of my life these days. I recently published a book with SitePoint, called Scrum: Novice to Ninja, and it’s all about the value of scrum — in particular, for web and mobile development teams, because I feel like that’s really a place that scrum shines, and it’s one of the reasons why I think scrum is becoming so popular, because so many people are working in that area.

But I also write courseware for SitePoint as well, and I just published an introductory course on JavaScript. I’m working on an intermediate course on JavaScript. I also host another podcast called Hack the Process, where I help people figure out how to move mindfully from planning something into actually doing something.

Tim [15:09]:

Wow, so, podcasting, authoring, coursing

David:

The hard part for me seems to be deciding where I want to focus. Because, up until a couple of years ago, I was a full-time employee. My job title was Senior Front-end Engineer, or Senior Platform Developer — or whatever — at various companies. And that was where I felt comfortable.

But I realized, as I started moving into more agile work, that it’s something that I can benefit the world more. And I feel more comfortable working independently, and moving from company to company, sort of sprinkling the fairy dust of agile around.

Tim:

Yeah, definitely. That’s very exciting.

So, alright, it is now time for the philosophical question. In your current career, what version are you, and why?

David:

Wow. My current career, I am going to have to say I am version 0.1 — because, as I said, I’ve go so many different things that I’m trying to do. And, while I’m attracted to the development work, and I’m attracted to the courseware authoring, and I’m attracted to the podcasting, and I’m attracted to the agile coaching, none of these things has yet become the one thing that I do. And I don’t want to let go of any of them, and it feels to me, in my heart, like there is a correlation across them that I can find, if I just keep pursuing each one of them — until I no longer feel like I want to do something.

So, because of that, I’m going to call myself 0.1 at this point, because I’m still trying to find how they all fit together — without necessarily letting go of anything that’s still attracting me.

Tim:

That’s really cool. Yeah, definitely. One of the things that I love about the web is exactly what you’re doing: there are so many facets, there are so many different parts of the industry, whether it’s development, or podcasting, or just reaching people how to work better with it. That’s really cool.

David [17:13]:

It is interesting. And there’s a good reason why I host a podcast about moving mindfully from planning into action, because it’s been a very important part of my own career development — coming to the point where I realized that what I do needs to be shared, and it needs to have an audience. It’s like the painting is not art until somebody reacts to it. It’s not really out there until there is an audience, and until there is a reaction.

Tim:

Definitely.

David:

So Tim, what about this podcast that we’re doing? What do we want this to be?

Tim:

What do we want this to be? That’s a very good question. So, we first opened this up by talking about what versioning meant to us. In light of that, one of the versions of the web that I really gravitate towards is building it. I love web development, and just getting my hands on different projects and building things that are interesting or exciting.

So, one of the things that I really want to accomplish with this is to talk about building for the web. How is it done, what’s coming up, what’s new, what new things are coming out in terms of versions, as increments? Whereas ten years ago there was tables, and now it’s divs, and flexbox, and floats, and things like that.

So I definitely want to spend time talking about the mechanics of it. What are the things that we use, what are the new and exciting things coming up, what are the things that we’ve seen built lately? That sort of thing.

David:

That’s interesting. That’s something that a lot of people are going to be interested in following and keeping up with on a regular basis.

When I think about versioning, I get very philosophical, actually, and I start thinking about what are the implications for our lives, about the way that this is changing. I’ve had amazing conversations with people about the fact that, for example, a lot of our social communication right now is moving from systems where things are being recorded and permanently archived and will always be there on some server somewhere in the cloud, to new ways of communication that are more ephemeral, where what we say will disappear, just like a conversation that we might be having on the street. And what are the implications for that in terms of the way that we’re communicating, and how we’re using these technologies?

Tim [19:43]:

Yeah, definitely. That’s a big one right there, especially in terms of communication. We could have a whole episode just about that! [Chuckles]

David:

So what I’m hoping is that we’ll bring on some guests that might be able to talk not only about what they are doing now, and how they’re responding to things, but also what the implication of the work that they’re doing are for all of us, since we’re basically building this huge shared communications medium.

Tim:

Yeah, I like the philosophy angle too, because the web is just exploding right now. I seldom get the chance to talk about what it means, you know. Whereas I can tell you how to build the thing, but I don’t often get to sit and muse about what that means, what effect that’s going to have, how that’s going to play into the bigger picture.

David:

I think that there are a lot of us — and I know that this has been me for years — who get so caught up in this is the latest framework, and I need to spend all of my brain cycles in learning it.

And I don’t have time to pull back and think, wait a minute, what are the implications of this spending all of my time learning something that I know is going to be outdated in at least six months to a year? And I’m thinking about what I’m building with it, I’m thinking about how to build it.

Tim:

Yeah, I’m guilty of that, definitely.

David:

I’m sure that there are a lot of people out there as well, and we’re all caught in these waves of how communications technology is changing our lives, and the internet is at the core of so much that we do these days.

Tim:

Yeah. And for a lot of us — for me, for example, my job is only just to think about “How do I build this thing?” Not much about “What am I building? And what does it mean?” So, that’s an exciting development. I like that.

David [21:40]:

A lot of that thinking for me came out of the fact that I was mistaken for a designer, as a developer, because I was working on front end. And that forced me to learn a lot about design, and what concerns go into design.

And I learned a lot about user experience testing, and finding out what we’re doing to our users, and what they’re expecting; what pains we’re causing, and what pains we’re solving. And it kind of brought me out of my head a little bit, from “I have to build this widget that does this thing,” into “What does it mean for somebody to interact with another human being through a widget?”

Tim:

That’s a very good point. We don’t often think about that. And I like that you brought up design, too, because I think that highlights another goal for this podcast — that we don’t just want to talk about what we’re building and how to build it. We also want to talk about the processes that go into it: what design is, in terms of the medium of the web, or what user experience is. Or even from the business side of things, right?

David:

Absolutely, the business of the web in general. I don’t know about you, I’m in San Francisco. And San Francisco in 2016, which is where we are and when we are right now, is this amazing place where startups are happening all the time. And it’s like the gold rush of technology.

You can walk down the street and hear conversations about people talking about, “I’m going to acqui-hire these people …” And there’s gentrification happening all across the city, because people are being moved around so that there’s room for all of the technology companies. And it changes the dynamic of how people are interacting in real life.

Tim:

Yeah, that’s very interesting. I am in Brooklyn. And, in Manhattan where I work, very often I hear some of the startup language, but I hear a lot of people talking about specific technology. Sometimes I’ll be just walking down the street, and I’ll hear somebody talking about code. And it’s still a little bit surprising to me. I feel like that’s a dynamic between the two coasts. Whereas in San Francisco you hear a lot about the startup world, in New York City, I’ve been hearing a lot about just general technologies, and “website this”, “CMS that”, “JavaScript this”. I’ve seen very much this pattern of, you think of a product that is based around the web, and that’s your company.

[Chuckling]

And that’s always been a strange thing to me to think about. You think about your traditional companies — your IBM, 3M — those types of companies, where they just have a multitude of products. Just think of the different amount of things 3M makes, for example.

And then think about the latest app billboard that you saw on the subway. The the latest one I’m thinking of is a platform that exists just so you can have someone come and clean your house. That’s a company now. And that’s it! And that’s very interesting, whereas technology enables you to do that quite seamlessly, I might add, but is it good? Is it safe? Is it something that’s sustainable?

David [25:00]:

And there are definitely implications for all of our lives. I don’t know about you, but I’m old enough that I grew up in a time when the ideal career was you go work for one company, you stay there for 40 years, they give you a gold watch and you retire.

And by the time I’d been at my first company for about 12 years, I realized that was not the world I was living in anymore. When people look at my resume these days, and they see that I was at one company for twelve years, they say “Why did you stay there for so long?”

Tim:

Yes, it’s weird how much that’s changing. I’m growing up in the end of that era. And now I’m hearing people who grew up in that era telling me, it used to be this, but now you stay for a year, you bounce around.

And just processing that is strange, because there are times when I go to work, and I feel like this is something that I want to support, that I want to help, that I want to do. Obviously, I’m getting a paycheck at the end of the day for this. But for me, there’s this fight between, “Of course I don’t want to stay in the same spot for 40 years,” but at the same time, the industry is pushing towards “Stay here until you just get what you need out of it for a year, six months, year and a half, and then move on.” And that too, I think, has its implications.

David:

Absolutely. And in fact, what you mentioned about working for a place because you want to support what they’re doing: I know at least as many people who are working at companies because they like the free lunch, or they like the open-floor-plan workspace. Or it’s something about the yoga that they have every day. And they really couldn’t care about what the company’s vision is. They’re just employees, they have stock options on all of these things, but it’s not like they’re going to realize these stock options. They’re only going to be staying at these places for a year, maybe two, and then they’re moving on.

Tim [26:56]:

Yeah. And for some people, that works. I’m someone that — I get tied very, very closely to my work. And sometimes it’s a weakness, but sometimes that drives me to really pour out my heart into the work that I’m doing. And sometimes stay the late hours, and actually care about the thing that I deliver at the end of the day. And some people, the exact opposite helps them do the same exact thing.

But, I find for me, if I don’t really care about the work that I’m doing, and really sometimes think about it while I’m at home, not even at work: if I’m not in that mindset, it’s very hard for me to keep coming back and giving it my all.

David:

It’s funny: I hear you, and I feel like I’m of two minds about it sometimes. Because I’ve worked in those startups where everybody has to stay until 9:30 or else they’re looked at as slackers — and not in the good current sense of being a “Slacker” who communicates using Slack, but in the bad old sense of being a slacker, or somebody who’s not working as hard.

But, on the other hand, now that I’ve branched off and I’m working independently, and I’m going from company to company and I’m coaching, I miss the established sense of having a team that I’m a part of.

And it’s hard to get both of those things working together. It’s one of the things that employees have that independent people don’t have.

Tim:

Yeah, when I first started in the industry, I was doing a little bit of freelancing, and going from client to client, and I absolutely loved the freedom. I’m sure you can echo this sentiment: there’s nothing better than looking at your watch, it’s 3 PM on a Friday, and you’re like, “Well, I’m going to call it a day.” I get to do that, driving home and the highways are empty — or the subways, depending on where you are. But there was always underneath it the sense of “it’s just me out here.”

David [28:55]:

Yeah. For example, today, I was able to go to a conference. And I didn’t have to ask anybody if I could go to this conference, and I didn’t have to file for budget for this conference. I just said, “This is a conference I need to go to,” and I went to it.

And it’s great to have that independence, but it also can be good to feel like you’re part of something larger than yourself.

Tim:

Yeah definitely.

[Interlude]

So, it seems like we have a pretty good roadmap for the types of things we want to talk about — everything from specific types of technology, to what that technology means, and then to just different facets of the industry.

David:

Wow. It’s going to be difficult for us to narrow down our guest list, because we could talk to practically anybody who’s working in technology … [chuckling] … and still have something to say about these philosophical questions.

Tim:

We can; I like that. And I think no matter what type of guest that we bring on, we can highlight every single one of these individual topics. We can talk about how that affects technology, and then we can talk about the specific technology that they’re using to create it.

David:

I think that would be fascinating. And I have a feeling that our audience is going to be split a little bit. There are going to be some people who are more hardcore technologists, who might appreciate the chance to think a little bit more about the philosophy of what they’re doing.

And then there are probably going to be people who don’t have a technology background themselves. And they might be enriched by having a chance to hear a little bit more about what goes into building the things that make their lives what they are.

Tim:

I’m glad you brought that point up, because one of the things that I like to do when talking about specific technology is give the best from the beginner point of view that I can.

I like being able to describe technical things to non-technical people and very technical people alike. So, that’s one of the goals that I also have for this podcast: regardless of what level you’re at, I would like for us to be able to explain very complicated technology. And even for me, I’m not very big on design, so maybe I’ll need someone to explain a complicated design philosophy to me.

But I want to make sure that, whoever’s tuning in, they don’t feel like “This episode isn’t for me, so I’ll just skip to the next one.”

David [31:10]:

Learning how to explain things in terms that people can understand is really critical.

Actually, I just came across the other day — we’ll put this in the Show Notes too — an online word processor created by the the the author of the webcomic xkcd, and he recently published a book called Thing Explainer. And what he does is take complex concepts, and explains them using only the 1,000 most common words in the English language. And he created a word processor that you can use that will alert you any time you use a word that is not part of the 1,000 most common words in the English language.

So it forces you to take abstract concepts, and complicated issues, and put them into terms that anybody who’s familiar with basic English would understand.

Tim:

That sounds very difficult. Man, there’s a side project idea right there.

[Laughter]

David:

Well, as I said, it’s online, and it’s worth experimenting with. I have tried writing a blog post or two using this thing, and I have been stymied. [Laughs] But also challenged creatively, and it does force me to think about, well, “Do I really understand what I’m saying if I can’t put it into words that everybody would understand?”

Tim:

Yeah, that’s really good. That’s a great case where technology is helping to improve communication — something that we could spend quite a bit of time talking about, that would very much fit into this format.

David:

Well, we could spend a very long time talking about a lot of these things, but I think we’re coming close to the end of this episode zero.

I think we’ve covered a good breadth of what we might want to talk about, and I think given people a little introduction to who Tim is and who David is.

Tim:

Thank you, David, for joining and for interviewing me.

David:

And thank you, Tim, for interviewing me. I think I might have said more than I was expecting to say about myself. [Chuckles]

Tim:

I certainly learned a lot, and I think our guests have, too.


Well, thank you so much for listening, everybody. We always enjoy getting to talk technology with all of you.

David:

We would also like to thank SitePoint.com, and our producers, Adam Roberts and Ophelie Lechat. Please feel free to send us your comments on Twitter — @versioningshow — and give us a rating on iTunes.

Let us know how we’re doing.

Tim:

We’ll see you next time, and we hope you enjoyed this version.

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