Backstage – Episode #14

Experimenting with Elixir Radar

featuring Hugo Baraúna

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We’re joined by co-founder of Plataformatec and curator of the excellent Elixir Radar newsletter, Hugo Baraúna. We talk Elixir podcasts, the start of a new chapter for Hugo, his experimentations with Elixir Radar, curating content, how to make money, stuff like that.


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Alright, we are here, we are backstage at Changelog. Jerod is here - that’s me; Adam is here - that’s you, Adam…

What’s up?!

And we have a special guest with us in Backstage, Hugo Baraúna, but we’ll probably just call him Hugo, because that’s easier. What’s up, man?

Yay! I’m great.

Happy to have you. You’re here to talk content, newsletters, you’ve got Elixir Radar… We wanna hear a little bit of the story of Elixir Radar, because anybody who’s been following along knows that Elixir the language, which was born out of Plataformatec and the team there, and José and everybody, has been transitioned out, and Plataformatec was acquihired… And Elixir Radar, which is the best Elixir-focused newsletter around - I read it every week - also kind of transitioned out, and it’s your thing now. So we do wanna hear that story… But we were talking about podcasts, we were talking about Elixir podcasts, and you reminded me of the Ruby5 podcast, which had to be like 5-10 years ago now; I don’t know. When did that podcast stop?

Yeah… I think Ruby5 was from around 2012, something like this… From Gregg Pollack, the founding folks from–

Yeah, was it Code School, or what was Gregg’s company…? Adam, do you remember?

I think it was from the pharma company, the previous one. It was a Ruby consultancy.

That’s right. And the cool thing about Ruby5 is it was five minutes, five topics, I think…

Five minutes. Around five minutes. It was just really like reading the news of the Ruby community, [unintelligible 00:01:49.02] and Gregg always had this good humor way to talk about things… So it was interesting.

It was a quick hit, and it was five minutes, and it kind of had five topics, if I remember. Their UI was cool on the website. I remember there was a play bar, and there was five almost radio buttons, notches in the bar, and you could skip to that part… As if five minutes was too long and you had to skip into it. But anyway, it was a neat UI… The reason I brought that up is because we were talking about Elixir podcasts, and we’ve talked about doing an Elixir podcast here at Changelog, and we’ve had a lot of people ask us to do an Elixir podcast…

Ultimately, I always say no, mostly because I feel like the Elixir community is pretty well served in the style of podcasts that we do, which is conversational/interview-style podcasts. There are a lot of them out there. We had the Elixir Talk fellas on our podcast last year, keeping us up to date with what’s going on in Elixir… But you had mentioned that someone’s maybe interested in doing a Ruby5-style show, which I think - if you’re gonna have a new Elixir podcast, I think mix it up, right?

Change it up.

Change it up. Don’t follow that same formula. There might be some value in that.

Yeah, I think so.

There’s value in that kind of show though, because you can almost not miss it… Or I suppose when you do click it, it’s not a big commitment. So even if you just listen to two minutes - hey, that’s almost the whole show. So you can sort of get away with just dipping your toe in, and keeping – you can almost maybe even read the headline or the show notes of it, and listen if you want to, or provide chaptering, so you can just jump right to that spot… That’s the kind of show where an audience that would wanna listen to it could almost listen to it very often, very consistently… Whereas longer-form shows is more like “Well, that’s a big commitment.”

Once a week, yeah.

“I really have to wanna listen to it.” Or the show has to really deliver on its promise of like every show, regardless if it’s in your wheelhouse or not, is entertaining, educational, informative, enjoyable, whatever. That’s the hard thing, I suppose, about longer-form shows… Whereas a short form like that can really keep an audience, in my opinion. I’m assuming this at least.

[04:08] It fits in, yeah.

Yeah. And just one thing that came to my mind while you were saying about this is even in our current context, with Covid and everything, I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve been listening less to podcasts, because I used to listen to them while commuting to work. But since I’m almost 100% of my time at home, now I don’t have this types of time that I used to listen to podcasts, like 30, 40 minutes, or one hour… So a 5-minute podcast - maybe it’s a thing for this point of time that we’re at.

Yeah, that’s a really good point.

The challenge I would give too then to those listening to this, and people with that perspective, is how has your life changed? So if you were a die-hard podcast listener when you had a commute, do you feel more or less connected to the community? Do you feel more or less behind in terms of trends, or waypoints, in terms of the industry and tech? Do you feel like you’re still keeping up? Do you feel behind? Do you feel isolated? Or do you feel like “You know what - that actually didn’t really matter to me”? I would actually challenge everyone to do that, because… I know I’ve listened less as well, and I think that’s where I’m at. I feel a little bit more behind the curve, or just sort of like a little bit more of an island, whereas before I was more connected, more on top of things… Now I’m very selective with what I choose, because I’ve got less time.

Yeah, I definitely had to do a culling of my list, because certain podcasts no longer made the cut… And I think a lot of people are doing that. Maybe you listen to a third of the shows that you used to listen to, or maybe two thirds; whatever each person’s threshold is… Well, you had to make some hard decisions, right? Like, who’s gonna make the grade and who’s not.

I know we’ve talked about this maybe on Backstage, we had a drop-off, like everybody… An industry-wide podcast drop, 15%, during the first few weeks of the lockdown; just right off the top. You could even see it in our stats. Just gone. All of our shows, right down. And the commute is obviously the big reason for that, but also just huge life changes; all of a sudden, habits are broken, things that you’re used to doing, you’re not doing… So that happened. I definitely had to cull my list a little bit.

And then we started thinking “Well, what do we do in this brave new world?” We put out 5-6 shows a week, and we wanna be in people’s ears, so how do we combat that as podcasters, as a business? And our desire solution is “Well, we just have to be better.” We just have to be indispensable. We have to be the show that you do wanna listen to, and we’re gonna make that top third, or that top 50%, or whatever your cut happens to be… So we’ve been trying to do that. And how do we do that? Well, great guests, great content, put as much TLC into it as we can, and just hope for the best… And that’s kind of been our strategy in light of that.

But one thing I wanted to mention, before we get to newsletters - we’re still talking about podcasts - is we’ve thought about doing a Changelog Weekly podcast… And in fact, we’ve had people request it once, such person; I gave it a shout-out last Backstage, but I didn’t pronounce his name correctly. He’s since corrected me, so I’m gonna give it a shot… Lars Wikman. My good friend Lars, rhymes with Sars… And he was saying he’d listen to a show, or he’d like a show. He’s an Elixir developer, he’s on the Elixir Mix podcast, I believe, so he’s a podcaster as well, and he’s been doing a lot of dev for us. He would like a show where it’s like literally just the news read out loud.

[07:54] We had some ideas around that… Adam, remember we were working with our friend [unintelligible 00:07:57.27] and now he tragically passed away, but he was gonna do a version of - speaking of Rails Envy - he was gonna do a Changelog Weekly podcast where he reads our headlines, and just… He was gonna say silly things, and make jokes, and stuff. But I’m curious if you guys have any interest in just merely the news read to you, developer news; like Elixir Radar, but not commented on… Literally, just reading Elixir Radar. Is that something that’s attractive to you guys? For me it’s not, but I’m just one person.

Yeah, I asked myself about this, because of this guy that I mentioned who approached me with this idea, maybe like reading Elixir Radar and distributing it as a podcast…

And I don’t know, I think I’m more of for that kind of content. Before Elixir Radar I used to subscribe to Ruby Weekly as a radar of newsletters. [unintelligible 00:08:55.28] Ruby Weekly from Peter Cooper. I like to read, because then “Oh, I like this link”, so I click on it, and then I read more… So I don’t see myself that much consuming that kind of content in podcast format. But that said, I also used to be a subscriber of the Ruby5 podcast back in the days, and I liked it, actually. So I don’t know if I’d change it…


…or there’s no option out there, in the Elixir world at least… But I don’t know, I’m not sure.

I think of it like clothes, or fashion. It’s different for everybody, right? Not everybody needs all the things. So just because you produce a show that’s shorter-form, or it maybe doesn’t fit you, Jerod, like you had said, and you admitted it that it might fit others… I think that the only thing you can do really is just try. And maybe dip your toes in the water and put some investment out there and commit to 10-20 shows, or a quarter, a certain amount of weeks. 12 weeks, or something like that.

In that way, even along the way too, put out a form in the show notes and say “Rate this show. Would you listen to it again? Would you recommend it to a friend?” Whatever would give you an indication that it’s successful. And then obviously, watch your stats, as it makes sense. But I think that with podcasts what I’ve seen is the more variants we have – there’s obviously some big hitters, like Serial, or story-based podcasts have a wide mainstream appeal. But I think when it comes to the kind of shows that we produce and the kind of information we’re delivering, you need something that’s quick, informative… There’s not a one-size-fit-all, basically. You’ve really gotta try a lot of this stuff. And I think when you do that, you’re gonna see some benefits from it.

For example, Jason… Gosh, I really wish it had worked out, in both ways. I miss him as a dude, and I miss the fact that we didn’t get to work on that show with him; that it didn’t make it past the…

He recorded a pilot for us, and it was really good.

Yeah. And I’m so bummed, because I couldn’t find that pilot.

Oh, you went looking for it?

Yeah, I wanted to go find it… You know, nostalgia, and I miss him, that kind of thing; I wanted to go back and listen to it, and maybe even release it as a never-shipped version of Weekly, a memorial to Jason.

That would be actually really cool, yeah.

Yeah, and I couldn’t find it. That kind of show, I think for Changelog Weekly, would be pretty cool. Someone that isn’t me or you, Jerod, reading that. And then Jason, the way he was - he just had that really interesting humor, I would say…

He’s a character.

Yeah, he’s a character for sure.

And he had just the voice inflections to make it interesting. By the way, for the listeners’ sake - you’re backstage. Things happen backstage that don’t happen on other podcasts, such as, you know, people are vacuuming backstage sometimes.

Yeah… I can’t help that. Sorry about that.

Maybe we can gate it out and you won’t even know what I’m talking about… But if you hear some humming on Adam’s side, it’s just – there’s someone vacuuming, so no big deal. I think experimentation is really the spirit of what you’re talking about there, Adam… And that’s one thing, Hugo, that impressed me with what you’re doing with Elixir Radar. You’re really experimenting with the newsletter. You’ve been doing a lot of different things, and seeing what sticks and what doesn’t, and asking for the community feedback…

[12:10] I would love to talk to you about some of that experimentation and how it’s been going… But catch everybody up with the radar itself. Maybe tell just briefly the story of it inside the Plataformatec, and now it’s your own thing… Tell us about that.

Sure. For those of the listeners who don’t know me, I was or am (I don’t know, since the company is no more) one of the co-founders of Plataformatec, the company where Elixir was created. I’m a computer engineer, but as an entrepreneur I did lots of different things at the company, like marketing, sales, and everything… And Elixir Radar was one of these projects that I came up with back in 2015, I think, as a marketing idea, actually.

So we created Elixir in 2012, and after a few years – so we were a consultancy company… We did development and consulting for Ruby companies. We were very strong in the Ruby community, too; we created Devise, and Simple Form, which were both very popular Ruby packages in the open source community. Then we created Elixir, and Elixir was starting to grow… And we noticed that Elixir and José Valim - my partner and co-founder at Plataformatec - names were getting more popular. But Plataformatec, the company - not that much. So we wanted to show “Hey, this is the company behind it. Yes, Elixir is open source, it’s gonna be forever, because we love the open source idea… And we offer services for companies who could benefit from it.”

We wanted Elixir companies around the world to know about us, so I came up with this idea inspired by Ruby Weekly, to create a content curation newsletter focused on Elixir. Interesting - there was no kind of newsletter in the Elixir community back then. There was one before called Elixir Fountain, but it was not in operation anymore… So that’s how Elixir Radar was born, with the idea to bring content producers [unintelligible 00:14:19.19] to others, and also by showing that this was a project by Plataformatec, the company behind Elixir.

So this was back in 2015. Five years after that, at the beginning of this year we sold the company to a company in Brazil, a big fintech in Brazil… And we were very active in the Ruby and Elixir communities, and we didn’t want our efforts and work in both communities to die. So we have all these open source projects, not just the language, which was the biggest one… It was not a project from Plataformatec since the beginning; it was a community project. So yes, José was there and everything, but there was an Elixir core team which was not composed just by Plataformatec engineers.

But there’s Elixir, there’s Devise and Simple Form, but I thought also Elixir Radar was very good for the community, and since at the beginning of it I had a kind of emotional attachment to it, I wanted to continue. I talked to my partners, and we decided I could continue this just by myself. So since around March or April or something like that it’s just me behind it. Before this it was people from our engineering team, and from the marketing team… The engineers were doing the content curation, and the marketing folks were doing the publishing and promotion. Now I’m doing everything - curation, and publishing, and everything.

[16:09] One of the things that I decided with this is “Hey, I’m going to do some experiments.” Since the beginning of this year, once we sold the company, I decided to take a break from full-time employment; not exactly from work… I should say that I’m working, but I’m not employed. I’m in a sabbatical period, and I’m doing some side projects here and there; Elixir Radar is one of them. But I’m also doing lots of self-inquiries and self-knowledge exercises. And as I rediscover my values, I want that to reflect in my work.

What a great opportunity.

Yeah. So Elixir Radar is one of my laboratories to express my work in the new kind of ways that I’ve been reflecting on. So that’s not a fast way to explain it, but that’s the idea… That’s the story, from the beginning to nowadays.

It was a good story. I just think it’s cool to look behind the scenes… And one of the things you’ve been doing as you step out - because I have been a long-time subscriber - is that you are putting more of yourself into the newsletter. It’s no longer this – I would say it was sterile, but it was business. Even Changelog Weekly, which is our weekly newsletter - the content isn’t business, but it’s uniform, it’s designed, it’s for readability, and we don’t put too much personality into the newsletter intro, or the styles. We try to put the personality into the commentary, of course… And of course, our personalities are injected into what we select to cover, and all that… But you’re really kind of coming out from behind the veil as you’ve taken it on. Is that something that was natural for you? Was it a challenge to say “Hey, it’s me, Hugo! I’m your Elixir Radar host”, because it was always – I mean, it was you and your team, but it was a Plataformatec thing, and now it’s the same thing, but kind of a different thing now.

Yeah. It was intentional, but not natural and not easy. One of the things that I value is what I call humanized work; or people say in the business “human-to-human”, instead of business-to-consumer or business-to-business. And I have this idea that this can be not just interesting from a personal point of view, but even from a business point of view, because it can be a good differentiation element… Because only you can be yourself. So if your audience or consumers value your services and your content and your products not just because of the products or services, but also because of the people who are behind it, they connect in some way with them - that’s a very good differentiation from a business point of view.

And from a personal point of view, it’s just that I want to be myself in all the different aspects of my life. Work is a very important aspect of my life, I love to work. I have this privilege to work on something that I love, and I just wanted to show that it’s just a human behind everything, and be more personal, more human.

But I’ve gotta say, it was intentional, but not that natural, and it’s not easy… Because some people like it, some people don’t. And when people don’t like it, it’s not that they don’t like your product; they don’t like you. So it’s kind of hard not to take these at a personal level.

[20:02] So I’m learning as I’m doing this, and as I said, it’s a good lab, it’s a good experiment for me. I did some changes in the newsletter. I was starting the newsletter - instead of the curated content and blog posts from the community, I was starting the newsletter with an intro; a little bit of what I had in mind, like “Hey, now I’m trying to make some money of this thing, because I want it to be financially sustainable, and everything. This is the story behind the main thing, which is the curated content.” But some people like it, others don’t. “I don’t wanna hear this. I don’t mind about it. I just want the content…” [laughter]

I noticed that people subscribe in the first place to receive the content, not what I’m thinking… So I put it at the bottom, maybe in the blog posts… I’m learning about that, I’m receiving feedback… But most of the feedback is good, so it’s been an interesting experiment, and hopefully for the better.

So is the negative feedback literal replies, people saying “I don’t like the way you’re doing this”, or is it just unsubscribes? How are you getting that feedback loop?

Yeah, unsubscribes didn’t change, in terms of unsubscribe rate. It’s the same as usual. Very small, 0.2%, 0.02… I think the engagement of the newsletter is very good… But the feedback comes from email replies, and there was this one tweet from a person who used to subscribe to it also… And I’m using that kind of feedback as also a way to develop some skills.

I don’t know if you’ve heard about this non-violent communication thing; there’s a book about it. So as people ghost you, and say things that you don’t like, and you feel attacked, or maybe you feel the person is a little bit aggressive, I try to stay calm and give – I tell them that I received the feedback and I’m thinking about it, “Thank you for this, but hey - what’s the motivation?” And even the people who said they didn’t like it, I was using this in a constructive way, to improve myself. So both the nice feedback and the bad feedback were useful… But not that easy, because again, it feels that it’s not about the newsletter or about your company, it’s about you… So it’s not that easy. But I’m learning. It’s been a good experiment to keep growing.

Criticism is tough to take. It’s multi-faceted, pretty complex sometimes… Sometimes from a position of the person’s experiences, so not so much from a position of empathy. So they may give you feedback, or criticism, or however you wanna frame it, not so much based upon even real reality; it’s their experience, which is real for them, but it’s not based on them knowing you, knowing your intentions. And in particular the newsletters - a newsletter done right is a deliver of a promise. So the reason why people subscribe is because you offered them a promise, and the newsletter is a delivery of that promise. What we’ve found and what we’ve seen is because we hold real dear and close to that - I suppose only one time recently, Jerod, did we break that rule, and we would never do it again…

Don’t remind me…

[23:56] If you say “I’m gonna email you weekly, and never, ever otherwise”, and you deliver that promise, that newsletter is a manifestation of that promise to your subscribers. And if you don’t break that promise and you deliver on it consistently, you’ll be rewarded with awesome open rates, awesome engagement rates, awesome clickthroughs, or whatever the metrics are that you’re trying to optimize for - whether it’s readership, or replies to it… You’ll see those benefits if you clearly state your promise and deliver on that promise.

Yeah. That’s interesting, and I agree 100% with you. This is a newsletter that’s in production, it’s live for five years - more than five years, actually. Almost six in January next year. One question that came to my mind is people evolve… And shouldn’t we also keep evolving our promises? It’s hard.


Yeah. One of the things that I’m doing in my sabbatical is I started to study a field of science called positive psychology. It’s just a sub-field for psychology. And humans tend to – they both like stuff to stay the same, but also to change a little bit, because if things stay the same forever, they start to disengage. So in terms of newsletter, I’m thinking “Okay, if they want something different, should I do it or not?” Because yes, people like consistency… But maybe we should also keep evolving. It’s hard… It’s not that simple.

No. So how’s it been going? You’re six months in now, I guess, maybe seven months in of being solo, Elixir Radar…

Would you say it’s going well?

Yeah, I think it’s going well. I think it’s going really good, in terms of being a way to keep myself involved in the community. I had lots of different motivations to keep Elixir Radar up and running by myself. One of them was keep being involved in the community. I was a co-founder when Elixir was started, so definitely I love Elixir and I want to keep being involved in it, and Elixir Radar gives me a very good excuse to do this every week… An excuse to go back to coding. As I said, I’m a computer engineer, but [unintelligible 00:26:24.13] I was more into marketing and sales and business, but I continued to study and just play with it. But now that I have the time and the need, I’m going to rewrite the Elixir Radar website, and Elixir itself is absolutely a good opportunity to code more.

In terms of engagement it’s going really well. Since July, I also started to experiment with monetization. And this comes to my thoughts around sustainability of working in the open source world. At Plataformatec we started as a consultancy specialized in Ruby, and Ruby is open source; and then Elixir. And we always invested in open source software, in blog posts, talks, members from our company wrote six books, three in the U.S. and three in Brazil… I myself wrote a book about TDD and BDD in Ruby, in Brazil.

[27:42] So we invested a lot of our time with content in open source. But it wasn’t easy to make it more sustainable, in the way that we could invest more in a work which wasn’t generating revenue directly to us. So Elixir was an example. José - we were able to afford having him working full-time on Elixir since almost the beginning; since 2012 at least. He started to play with Elixir in 2011, and then in 2012 it was his mostly full-time job. We wanted more people to work on it, and our engineers could work in our open source projects between client projects, and also in their free time. Some of them did lots of open source work in their free time. Besides José, we had two members on the Rails core team, too [unintelligible 00:28:35.28] and Carlos Antonio. But if we as a company wanted to invest more in open source, we had to come up with ways to make more money with it. It was not easy.

And lots of years after that, in 2019, I think, or 2018, we created this service called Elixir Development Subscription. The idea was basically “Okay, all the money that we’re gonna make with this, we’re gonna invest again in open source.” And it worked. After we came up with this service, we hired two more engineers to work more than 50% of their time in open source. They created more cool projects in the Elixir community, like MyXQL, and Broadway…

Broadway, yeah. I’m curious, did you hear our most recent José episode? Did you listen to that one?

I was gonna say, that probably hit close to home, because it was lots of talk about the development subscription, and the acquisition, and Broadway… So I’m sure you were probably close to the metal on that one.

Yeah, yeah. Exactly. So I saw this happening - if we come up with ways to make money, it’s good, because we can keep investing more. So I thought “Okay, I’m working on this thing, Elixir Radar… I think I need to come up with ways to make money with it.” This could be my job, or at least my part-time job; I don’t know yet. I’m figuring it out. Or I could hire someone for some parts of it, and I could do just the curation. Or increase my accountability… I don’t know. But since July, I’ve been trying to monetize it, and I’ve been having a little bit of more success in that area than I thought. So I’m happy with that, too.

Are you open to share any of that information, like how many people…?

So you’ve done both routes, which is the direct support - it sounds a lot like Changelog++. Check it out, listeners. There’s that…

Yeah, I checked that.

Yeah, check that out. So direct support of Elixir Radar, which is like, you know, human-to-human… And then also now you’re experimenting with sponsorship, or promoted posts, which is the format that we use for Changelog Weekly, and our Changelog News on our homepage, is promoted stories in the feed and in the newsletter. So yeah, share with us what’s going well, what’s not going well, how many people have hopped on board and supported you with their cold, hard cash…

Yeah. So the first thing that I did was this thing that I call Elixir Radar individual sponsorship. It’s basically donations; people can support Elixir Radar, they can support my work with three different packages: $3, $5 or $10/month. It’s a subscription. But I’m not giving anything in return to these people, specifically for them. They’re already consuming the newsletter for free, and they don’t have anything yet, at least, just for them, that is different from the other readers.

[32:09] So that was the first part. My goal with this part was to stop losing money in terms of finance. I was investing just a little bit in terms of servers, like Heroku, and email marketing, that kind of stuff, from my own money… And I just wanted to stop losing money. Right now I have 41 individual sponsors, and they make together $234 in MRR (monthly recurring revenue) for Elixir Radar.

There you go.

There you go.

And that’s enough to pay for infrastructure bills and everything; so at least I have the peace of mind that I don’t need to invest.

You’re no longer bleeding.

Yeah, no longer bleeding at least. And it was very good. My inspiration for that part was this guy called Caleb Porzio. I think you guys already interviewed him with the Sponsorware app…

Say the name again? Oh, Caleb.

Caleb, yeah.

Yeah, Caleb Porzio with Sponsorware, yes.

Yeah. I think last year I was reading his blog post; he wanted to be a full-time open source developer, and I think he’s the guy behind – what’s this PHP project thing? Livewire?

Livewire, yup.

Yeah… And he came up with ways and evolved his business model to be able to be 100% working on this, and also have an income which looks like it’s even higher compared to when he was a full-time employee in a company that I don’t know at the moment.

It was very inspiring to me; I just kind of copied his idea in terms of theory… But he’s offering something in return for these sponsors, and I don’t have that yet; maybe in the future… I’m still thinking about this. That was a first try, and it’s going well for my goals, which was stop bleeding money.

What kind of things might you offer?

I don’t have any good ideas yet. I was thinking about keep copying Caleb and maybe do some –

Hey, if it works…

Yeah, if it works, why should I just try to come up with it 100% by myself…? I was thinking about curating educational videos, and make it private just for the people who are individual sponsors. Screencasts basically, yeah.

Yeah, that’s a good idea.

That was one of the ideas.

Another one that I haven’t quite – he hasn’t freemiumed me yet, but he’s close… It’s Ben Evans, whose newsletter I subscribe to for years, and he just recently added a premium tier, a paid membership to his newsletter. And what he does is he’s an analyst, so a lot of why you read him is, first of all, the links, but also his analysis of why this is interesting stuff. He’s a technology and analyst; he used to work for Andreessen Horowitz, so he’s like a startup guy. His paid tier is two things; the first thing is he releases it two days earlier, which for me, I’m like “I don’t care about that.” Again, maybe some people are like “I want in first.”

I think in his case, some of his tips are like “You can probably make some money knowing that before other people.” If his analysis is correct, you can maybe make some market moves, so maybe there’s some advantage there… So there’s that, and I think that’s a small thing, but it’s a thing. I know some people like early access. For me, I’m always like “I’ve got so much content… Whenever it comes out, it’s fine”, but that’s just me.

[35:46] And then the other thing he does is he actually writes an essay every week. So his free newsletter is all of the stuff he was doing in the past, two days later… And then his premium newsletter is all the stuff he was doing in the past, plus an essay that only paid members get, and it comes out two days before. So it’s similar in terms of yours would be like members-only screencasts, and his is a members-only essay. But now you have a new job, right? Your new job is write essays once a week, or make a screencast once a week… So these are things to experiment with, but it’s not like turning on a faucet. You’re giving yourself more work, and maybe that’s – if that’s something that you already wanna do, then it makes total sense.

Yeah, yeah.

Have you guys heard of this article? It’s pretty popular… The title of it is “The truth is paywalled, but the lies are free.”

Ooh… I have heard of that one, yes.

Yeah… And it’s, I would say, less on the actual content and more on the analogy of that. You know, you start to get into this “Keep the main thing the main thing.” I’m sure maybe in Evan’s case it makes complete sense for him to do analysis in a full-on essay.

He’s also experimenting, by the way. He may back out of this too, but…

Right. But we’ve even talked about this on Backstage too, Jerod, in regards to Changelog++ and the feedback we’ve gotten so far of that most recent typeform has been we want extended content, we want additional content, but give it to everybody. And almost everyone so far has said that they want us to do that, but to give it to everyone, because the truth should be free, they say. And that’s what made me think of about–

How is it extended then? Isn’t it just content?

Well, I suppose it is, but it’s more like extended from the–

Longer shows?

Well, less like longer shows, but more like if it’s ancillary to the content, or in addition to…

Right. Additional things, yeah.

…yeah, then it’s extended. So feel free to do that, but please, give it to everyone. And they said some of the feedback was in the line of Evan, which is maybe give it to ++ subscribers early, and then release it to everyone later… But still give it to everybody. But this idea of the truth being paywalled and the lies being free I think is interesting, because maybe in the case of this analysis, maybe in the case of Evan it isn’t exactly true, but you’ve got deeper thoughts in there that – the world always wants the information to be free…

…But I think if you’ve got particular domain knowledge that can make somebody money - in this case of Evan we assume potentially is an option for people who subscribe…

I never made any money off the guy, but I do appreciate what he has to say…

Yeah, exactly.

And again, I’m not a paid subscriber, so I’m probably not getting the good stuff. I think maybe a more gracious way to think about that model is like third-party content is free, but first-party is paid. So in Hugo’s point, he’s curating Elixir Radar, so none of the pieces in there are by you, right? Maybe once in a blue moon you write a blog post.

Similar with us, with Changelog News, we have posts and we’re doing more and more of our own writing, so we’ll throw our own writing in there, but generally, what we’re doing - we consider ourselves pointers to interesting things, with a little bit of commentary or a joke here or there. So the third-party content free, and then maybe like “But if you wanna know what I think - is it worth a membership for you?” So maybe one way to think of it… But it’s true, the lies are what sell the newspapers, so… I guess I would not make them free.

The fake news…

The old model of selling newspapers. Now you give the newspaper away.

So yeah, lots of different ideas, and that’s on the direct side. But you’re about to go into the other avenue, which I think honestly could be more sustainable - it sustained pretty well for us - the promoted posts model. You’ve been experimenting with that as well.

Yeah, yeah. And in terms of amount of money, it definitely made me more money than the direct sponsors. So I experimented with two other ways… So after the individual sponsors - and I keep doing this; I’ve just stopped promoting more, but I would like to keep them, because they make sure that I won’t bleed money… But after that - I was calling it “Company-primary sponsorships”. It’s basically sponsored content or ads.

[40:12] So a company can reach out to me, “Hey, we have this piece of content or landing page of our product, and we’d like to promote it on your newsletter.” And I charge companies for that. I just make sure that it’s suitable and it’s interesting for my audience, which is made up of Elixir developers. So I’m not gonna promote Snickers, or that kind of thing…

Right. Burger King…

Yeah. [laughter] It’s gonna be either services or products or content that’s gonna be useful or interesting for Elixir developers. During August and September, one of my clients has been AppSignal. [unintelligible 00:40:59.17] software for a long time. I even know the founder from my Ruby on Rails days… So I experimented with it, and it was very good.

And the third way is paid job listings. Elixir Radar promotes Elixir job listings in two channels - in the newsletter, and on the web job board. And the web job board - I kept it free, but the newsletter now is paid. This was the last one, and I’ve been experimenting for one month, since the end of August. This week actually I finished what I called “Experiment” [unintelligible 00:41:46.05] It was good. My success criteria was selling just one job listing for $100, and I sold five…

…so I made $500.

There you go.

Yeah. And a good thing also was the conversion rate. Basically, when a company posts on the job board, I say “Hey, I noticed that you posted a job here. [unintelligible 00:42:18.24] it’s about Elixir, so I’ve just publish it. You can’t publish it by itself [unintelligible 00:42:23.18] make sure that it’s about Elixir… And it’s published on the job board, and we’re gonna contact you in 30 days to know if you wanna keep it there or not, because maybe you already hired someone… And there’s also this other paid option that you can promote in the newsletter here - the stats, the number of people that subscribe to it, the open…

I love that.

…and the estimate of people… And some of them - actually 26% of those converted into paid. So the conversion rate was very good. The absolute numbers are not that big, but it’s not my full-time job; at least not yet, I don’t know. And it was a good experiment.

So in August and September I sold all the newsletter ads. I’m keeping just for one per newsletter… And the job listings - I also sold five. So it’s been interesting.

After all those three lines of experiment, I decided “Okay, I think I should invest my time in rewriting this web app, and make it easier – like, do some kind of SEO, make it more usable for a developer who’s looking for a job…” It’s not that good yet, because it’s a kind of an old UI… And I also was proud, because I was making money with this… So I bought an open source product from [unintelligible 00:44:03.14]

…from the Tailwind CSS guys to rework the client-side part… So this is how it’s going. It’s interesting.

Yeah, the Tailwind guys are just killing it right now. I think it’s quite time to get them back on a show, Adam… Adam, you logged their –

They just found a way to make good money off of that. It’s pretty cool.

Yeah, I logged that one; I couldn’t believe that. And I’m glad you reminded me of that, because I wanted to get Adam on again, either on Founders Talk or something, to go deep into the economics of things, and just to… Pick a show. I’m sure he’d fit on any of them, honestly…

The Changelog would be great… Yeah.

So that’s really cool. I feel like the job board is – that’s really impressive. I love that upsell, where it’s like free on the website – that’s a great lead generation tool for you, because it’s providing value for everybody, and it’s the obvious upsell… “Hey, your job listing is live. If you want this to go out to X number of Elixir enthusiasts guaranteed, in the best newsletter for the Elixir community, make that easy. Pitch me this hundred dollars.” That seems like it makes total sense.

And the thing about job listings in a newsletter - there’s something about paid content which we are very guarded about, or we care about… It’s like, the promoted posts have to be good. They can’t just be there because they’re paid for. They have to be there organically. They have to be just as good organically, or at least above a threshold that Adam and I decide… Like “Yes, this is interesting enough.” Otherwise, it’s making the newsletter not as good.

That being said, there’s still a notch there where you’re like “This is organic, this is here because it was paid”, where you’re like “Well, which one’s better? Probably the organic.” And that’s just reality. Not always… We’ve had actually some paid spots that actually topped the newsletter; so there’s great content that we put in there, and that’s our job, that’s our desire.

That being said, there’s a difference between a paid job listing and a free job listing in terms of it’s a job that’s available, right? I wouldn’t be like “Oh, I don’t wanna go for the paid job listing.” Those people might have more money than the other people, right? Like, that’s actually the company that’s succeeding, and they’re willing to pay. And there’s just so much overhead in hiring. The amount of money that recruiters make is nuts, because it’s hard work, and you’ve gotta headhunt. And if you can shortcut that and find a great employee without going through a recruitment company, that’s worth serious dollars for a company.

So if you’re gonna continue experimenting, I think the idea of investing in a web app and making that job board awesome is great. I would also – while you’re experimenting, maybe double the price of those and see if the drop-off is there or not. Because you may find that your price per ad for jobs is way higher than what you’re charging right now. Maybe not, but that’s the experiment, right?

Well, I think the economics of it… Someone’s willing to pay at least $250 or more - because we see that on other job boards - just to be on the job board alone. So they’re getting that for free; and if they give you at least that much – because you said $100, right?

Yup. He sold five of them.

Yeah. And we know that just based on existing job boards out there, people are willing to pay at least $250 or more, in some cases $300 or more, just to be on the job board. You’ve given them one piece for free, so you said “Here is me giving to you, and here’s one way you can reach a wider audience, for sure distribution, and maybe pay just as much.”

So I think Jerod’s right, you could be under-selling your value… Which isn’t a bad thing.

No. I’m just saying experiment.

Because you can do that for a while while you experiment and while you fine-tune what the actual value is you give… And once you’ve got that for sure locked down, then you can easily double down on your price, because when you sell it, you can say “Yup, I don’t give discounts. This thing is valuable, this is the rate for it.”


[48:07] And you can be so much more sure about what you’re selling, and why, and for how much, because you have your own assurances you’ve done through experimentation and just knowing.

Yeah. And let me add something from the readers’ side, as a reader of the newsletter. I’m not looking for a job, so that section of the newsletter is worthless to me. I do not care that it’s there, it doesn’t bother me. I either scan by it, or when I reach the job section I just tune out and hit “Archive”, whatever. If I was interested in a job, if I was that reader – so you have the reader who wants a job… Why would they want just one opportunity when you have multiples available for you? So I was wondering why you limit it just to one. Maybe it’s for the experimentation point of it. But what’s the difference between one or two? I’m saying you could probably increase that inventory. Maybe you set a limit and say “Look, I can only have five job ads at once, because I don’t want my newsletter to get too long”, or whatever your goal there is.

I think you can parallelize those pretty easily without having any drop-off in usability or readability. For the people who want jobs, they wanna see all of those; and of course, you’re probably linking out to the job board from there as well… And for the people who don’t want jobs, I just scan right over that section; I just never read it, so it’s not a big deal.

I’m with you, Jerod. I would even suggest maybe just making the spots in the newsletter all paid. Do five spots, all paid, and say “Hey reader, this is how we sustain ourselves.” Tell your story, people empathize with that; say “This is how we make our money. If you know other people who have jobs, tell them to put them here.” But then also say “If you wanna read all the jobs, link back out to the site”, so that way the value-add is you’re always – you can fill your inventory, for one. As Jerod said, no one’s gonna really be upset about it, because if it’s relevant, it’s relevant; if it’s not, it’s not. I’d sell all five…

Yeah, yeah.

I’d make all those spots in there, five, and just let your readers know “This is the way we’re sustaining”, and they’ll be happy with that.

Yeah… So the limitation is in the number of what I’m calling “Sponsored content”, or primary sponsorship. So the paid content goes within the curated articles… So this one is limited to just one spot. But in terms of the paid job listings, there’s no limit yet.

But probably as the demand increases - and I hope it will - I’m probably gonna put some limit, otherwise the newsletter would get bigger; so maybe three or five… But there’s no limit yet. One week it was just one, the other week was two, the following week was two again… So something around 3 or 5. But I always also [unintelligible 00:50:57.00] pointing to the web job board of all the job listings… Because that’s one of the ways that I drive traffic to the companies who are not paying for the job listing on the job board. Most of the traffic to the job board comes from Google, but the second-biggest source is the newsletter itself, because people click on the – I wanna see All Jobs button go to the job board. So yeah, I definitely think – and it’s good to hear your feedback, Jerod.

No, you bet.

Yeah, thank you for this.

I’m a rare person who’s on both sides of the equation. I think about creating the content, and I also think about how I consume it. I wouldn’t be so self-aware of my consumption if I wasn’t thinking about it from a creator’s side. I’m thinking “How is this put together?” etc. And I just know for a fact that the job section - I just scanned right over it… I like that it’s not the first thing right upfront. It makes sense. The best content upfront, or the most relevant content for the most people upfront… And then organize it from there.

[52:05] But we have similar limits. We’ll allow up to four sponsored posts in Changelog Weekly, but we have a lot of content. So we have 20 items and four sponsored. So our newsletter is generally longer than yours… And it’s generally too long; so long that we have to trim it down for Google every single week, because Gmail clips it, which is stupid… It’s like, “Come on guys, just let us send whatever length email we want”, right?

You’d think so…

Gmail has this weird deal… Have you ever hit that, Hugo? …where Gmail will actually clip your content if it’s a certain – I think it’s kilobytes, isn’t it Adam?

I’m pretty sure it’s page weight. It’s like full-on weight of the thing.

We tried to actually calculate it out, and have our page weight always be slightly under it, but it doesn’t work the way they say it works, so we never figured it out… So now we just have to go and delete–

Manually produce it.

Yeah, we produce what we want it to be, and then we send it to ourselves… This is the [unintelligible 00:53:00.10] mostly Adam that does this… Adam sends it to himself, and then sees if Gmail snips it, and then if it does, he has to take an item out… That’s pretty much how you do it, right?

Fine-tuning things…

On that note, while I think that doesn’t scale well, I think one thing behind the scenes – so if you’re listening to this and your read our weekly email, that’s a bit of a behind the scenes of the care and attention we put into it. Now, we may eventually be able to automate that out and it doesn’t need to be there, but we care so much that the email looks good, reads well, looks good etc. Because sometimes we have internally user-generated content, so sometimes things get wonky or look weird, or an image fits for this item or it doesn’t fit for that item, so we are willing to put that work in at send, and then also to ensure that it doesn’t clip for you, so that you can actually read it and not be upset that you read it via Gmail and it’s clipped, or something happens…

So we take that care and attention… Now, I didn’t think about it – just now though, Jerod, that we do that only for Gmail. Because at least as far as I know, Apple doesn’t do that. Or other mail clients.

No, Gmail is the only one that does it.

But it’s huge.

Yeah, so many people use Gmail that it’s worth it to us to do that.

Yeah, true.

And we get actual – I use Gmail, but I read it inside of Apple software. So the Apple software doesn’t – with an IMAP client it doesn’t do the snipping, so I would have had no clue that it’s even happened… But we had actual readers who forwarded it to us and like “Hey, look at the way this looks.”

Right. And the open rate and engagement rate would drop too whenever we didn’t pay attention and we didn’t know that that was happening, or just shipped it anyways.


So we’ve actually had to take that close care and attention to ensure that that doesn’t happen.

All the little things, the TLC…


One other thing I wanted to ask you about, Hugo, before we let you go - I’m just curious how you curate. We have our own little tools and workflows, and Adam and I have our own methods of going out and finding this stuff… One of the things we’ve done is create a submission process. So the stuff comes to us, although lots of that stuff is people trying to advertise their companies in India. There’s lots of spam in that flow… Which is dumb, because there’s no auto-publish on our system, but they just don’t care. So there’s no way that spam gets through.

But there’s also some low-quality posts… There’s some good stuff that comes through. So that’s been one route that we have incoming submissions. I know when I write something in Elixir, or we do an Elixir show, I just email you and say “Hey, you should throw this in the Radar.” But I’m curious how you curate, what’s your flow.

Yeah. Before I say the way that I’m doing, I have this dream or idea to do some kind of automation in the future, and it’s probably a good excuse to do some coding, too… I was thinking about – I already have almost a thousand (a little bit more, a little bit less) RSS feeds that I subscribe to, that publish Elixir content… And I use Feedly, I subscribe Feedly Pro. That’s one of the two that I have to pay to do my work on Elixir Radar. Because there’s a limit there.

What’s the Pro get you? Just more subscriptions?

[56:13] There’s a limit in terms of number of RSS feeds that you can subscribe to in the free tier. A couple hundred, I think… And I subscribe to more than a thousand to do the curation process. So I have this list of websites, and I was thinking “Hm, maybe I could come up with some way of doing Google PageRank, and the links between those different websites could help me to surface which are the ones who are the most popular, or something… That’s an idea for the future.

But right now, I’m doing this all by my hands… So I subscribe to a thousand RSS feeds from different blogs. I read Elixir Reddits, I read Elixir Forum, I read Twitter hashtag [unintelligible 00:57:00.11] and I have content submitted to me directly through email, like what you do, and it already worked in the past… And that’s the way that I find content.

Every Monday morning – so I have these days that I work on this; at least what’s recurrent work on Elixir Radar. Every Monday morning I use around two or three hours to go through the ones that I like the most, read, and then choose five of it. That’s basically how it is. I have different sources… But in the future I’d like to do some automation, because it’s simple, but it takes work.

It takes a lot of time, yeah.

Yeah, it takes a lot of time. There are lots of small activities that I do that I’m like “Oh, I can’t automate that… Should I do this or not?” And I’ve been doing this for months, and probably now that I’m more certain that I can keep this more sustainable, that’s one of the things that I’m planning to do. I’m probably gonna do some automation, because the more creative part is around the curation, and reading, and everything… But from that to publishing is also more 2-3 hours of work on Wednesdays. And promotion, and tweeting about it, and thanking all the authors, the content creators that were promoted…

Yeah, that’s one thing you do well, that we don’t do at all - when you send the email out, you mention most of the content curators, you @ mention them on Twitter so they’re notified that they’ve been featured in the newsletter, which I think is a really nice touch.

Yeah. That’s good in lots of different ways. It’s good to expose the newsletter to more readers, but also, as I said, before Elixir Radar, I loved to read Ruby Weekly, which is basically kind of an Elixir Radar, but in the Ruby world. I used to do this when I was almost a full-time engineer, coding every day, every hour… And I was writing articles too on [unintelligible 00:59:18.15] about Ruby, and everything… And every time one of my articles were chosen by Ruby Weekly, I got so excited, because “Hey, it’s Ruby Weekly. It’s big, and they chose me and other people from my company.”

So I think that’s a smart tool - when you curate content from one of these people, they feel appreciated. So it’s good, because we win. The feel happy, because their content was chosen, and also they get lots of traffic from the newsletter… And sometimes they help me to promote the newsletter, too… It’s very good. It’s what I like in terms of open source - trying to design it in a way to make a virtuous cycle, in terms of not collaboration, but in a business way.

[01:00:16.26] Appreciation.

It’s a win/win, totally.

I think we all craved closed feedback loops, right? Of course, we also crave being appreciated, but in the case of us, we don’t really – I suppose there’s some ways we do mention being in our newsletter, but we don’t actually thank them via Twitter or things like you’re doing, Hugo… And I think that’s a feedback loop nicely closed. So they did something out there, they put something out into the world, and somebody appreciated it and said that. And that is – more of that happening I think is what this world needs… And it’s great for our newsletter, obviously.

We used to do that – we had weekly MVPs, which I did for a couple of years… I’d go back to last week’s newsletter and I’d find the top three most clicked links…

That’s true, yeah.

…and then I’d go find their authors. I would announce the MVPs from Changelog Weekly, and do the metal emoji and try to make it a cool thing, a commemorative tweet kind of a thing… And that was really good, in that same way that you do it… Again, because we have so much content, I think doing everybody is not as feasible. But maybe the best-performing stuff.

We do tweet each author, throughout the week. We cover it on Changelog News throughout the week now, so we’re not just putting it together at the end of the week… So they get that tweet, like “You’re on Changelog News”, they get an email thanking them, but they don’t get anything for the newsletter.

And the weekly MVPs thing was cool; I would have kept it going, but you know, things fall by the wayside. It was a lot of effort, and it just was something that I couldn’t sustain. I did it for a couple of year…

Yeah… People think that it’s just lots of small activities here, but when you sum that up…

When you add it all up…

Yeah, it’s work. This tweet - I’d like to automate it in some way in the future.

There was this one like “Hey, these are the most popular content creators in Elixir this year”, and there was a rank by the number of clicks that each author got. It got lots of popularity on Twitter. So that’s one way too, if you have too much content… Maybe the five people, five websites that got most engagement from the newsletter.

One thing that would be cool, that we could even collaborate on - I’m just literally riffing right now - is what if you did roundup posts every once in a while on Like “The best of Elixir Radar for…” - maybe it’s quarterly, maybe it’s at the end of the year… Like “This is the best stuff from the Radar during this timeframe.” Maybe we could do more around it. It’s like a roundup post that is good content for us, and it’s summary content… Because we don’t cover all the Elixir stuff; we link to one Elixir thing a week, or every couple of weeks we’ll throw in an Elixir project… But we’re not covering the same stuff you’re covering. That’d be good content for us, and it’d also be a nice back-link, as well as just promotion of the Elixir Radar in general for you. Maybe that’s something we could collaborate on.

I like that. I like that.

It’d be like Elixir Radar Greatest Hits, like Rich Hickey?

Yeah, exactly.

Or it could be “The best of Elixir Radar, Month of…”?

Yeah, exactly. We could figure out the frequency. In the spirit of experimentation, we would just try it once and see if it’s something that our readers like, and if not, then don’t do it again…

But that’d be a way that we could cross-promote each other. One thought I had, real quick… When you talk about automation, which – I think this dog might hunt… You mentioned “What if we PageRank my RSS feeds?” Go out to Google, get the PageRank.

I like that idea. I think it might fall down with new stuff, because it hasn’t been indexed and ranked very well… Or things change over time, so maybe that won’t be as good for brand new content, which a lot of the stuff you cover is new content, right? But what would be cool is – remember when Flickr used to have a “Sort by interesting”? Do you guys remember that?

So on Flickr – remember

[01:04:09.13] I do, of course…

There’s no e at the end… Yeah, the Web 2.0 darling…


The progenitor of Slack, at least the same creator…

Flickr used to have “Sort by interesting”. I’m sure Instagram, or – I mean, they always sort by interesting at this point, or engagement… But what would be cool is your RSS feed sorted by interesting. So not based on PageRank, but what if you could just have a program consume the content, all your RSS feed content, and then there has to be models trained on quality, or interesting writing; like well-written… It might struggle with people who put a lot of code into their posts, so maybe my dog is not hunting as I describe it… But it’d be cool if you could just take all your RSS feeds and sort them by interesting before you start curating.

Some program is basically similar to what you’re thinking, like PageRank them for me. Then at least you’re starting with some programmed things as the top of the heap. I think instead of PageRank, some sort of model that’s trained against the content, that can do a rough approximation of what’s good writing, or what’s interesting writing… Then you can start at the top and work your way down, and maybe that saves you some time. Anyways… That’d be something I would wanna have.

Yeah… That kind of thing that I was thinking about - because as curators, you guys probably… I actually do have this kind of heuristics already in my mind, like a motto in my brain… But it takes time. So if I could get help from some software that I write to at least sort it, so I can start…

There are some downsides, because then you could not surface some good content producer who doesn’t have [unintelligible 01:05:57.03] at this moment yet… So what I’m doing, my mental model when I’m doing curation - I kind of also try to have at least one piece of content from a person who was not curated in previous issues on the newsletter, too.

There are some people there who keep getting content, because their content is just very good; I think it’s Alex [unintelligible 01:06:24.26] or something…

I’m not familiar.

Alex, I do remember… But he’s producing those tweets now, with Elixir tips, and everything… He’s very good. His content is awesome.

Put it in there.

So basically, every time he writes something, it’s probably going to Elixir Radar.

Yeah, fair enough. We have those.

Well, that’s the whole point of the RSS feeds, too - you’ve done all the work, I suppose, to some degree, in terms of curation, finding out…


Yeah. So that’s one of the reasons why we capture the RSS feed of people - we try to - of sources… But not individual people, actually, that I can think of. And having that is like an exhaustive list of RSS feeds you’ve covered in the past, writing software against that to find the most interesting things. It at least gives you a leg up on previously done work even. I’ve previously vetted this person for being a good human, sharing good information, caring about the community - all the necessary checklists that you put people through, or content through, to ensure it meets your criteria. We’ve kind of done that, so why not leverage it?


Do you guys have any kind of software that assists you with that?

No, I was hoping you would. [laughter] I’m trying to talk you into writing some stuff here. Come on, you’re on a sabbatical, man; we’ve got jobs here. Nah, I’m just kidding…

Yeah… [laughs] I’m probably gonna use my time to write that… So when I have something, I’m gonna shout out to you.

[01:07:54.13] That sounds great. I mean, if you can make it generic enough that we could reuse it, that would be awesome. We do a similar thing that you’re doing. I don’t subscribe to that many feeds, but we’re checking all the regular channels that you’re checking. My favorite writer - this is a persona, not an actual literal human - is the person who writes once a month, or once a quarter, and every time they write it’s just gangbusters. Like, you wanna read the entire thing. And those are my favorite subscriptions. That’s where RSS is just magical. Because you can just forget about that person until they write that amazing thing, and then you’re right there with them… And yeah, they make it in Changelog News every single time… So I know what you’re talking about there with certain people; they just make great content, and it’s like “Well, I’m not gonna exclude it because they wrote too much good content. I’m just gonna keep posting them in there.”

Thoughtful. Really in-depth, thoughtful people like that.



You asked me before we started recording if I wanted to talk about anything… And there’s this topic I’d like to know your views and opinions - this thing of monetizing in the open source world sometimes is kind of polemic, some people don’t like it, “No. No one should make money in open source”, and everything… And I’m kind of in the middle of it - not open source software, but in the open source community…

So I’ve been on that kind of role for more than ten years, and you guys too, so I’d like to know your views about it.

We did this recently.

Oh, yeah?

We’ve covered this recently, yeah. In the words of the title for episode 405, “It’s okay to make money from your open source.” There you go.

[laughs] There’s your answer.

I have to listen to this. Okay, thank you.

Yeah. To expand on that, we are pro open source; we see the impact it has on the world, and we see the – I’m saying “we”… I think I’m speaking for Adam, but he can correct me if I start to go off into Jerod land… We wanna see more of it, and we wanna see the people that are doing it thrive… And not just sustain, but thrive. Live fulfilling, enjoyable lives in the open source world. So we are totally okay with people making money off of open source. A lot of our shows are like “Hey, you have this open source… Can you also make some money off it? Because that would be great.” Like, let’s not destroy it in the process, let’s not compromise our morals or whatever it is in the process of doing that… But if we can get more open source out there, then everybody benefits.

If you, Hugo, can become more sustainable in Elixir Radar, that provides you the time to write this RSS analysis tool, and open source that, versus keeping it to yourself, then all of a sudden our newsletter becomes better, because we can use the tool that you built. And you’re making more money, and we’re making more money, and our readers are all happier, because they’re reading better content, and our sponsors are all happier because there’s more readers… Where is the downside in that? So we are pro finding routes to not just sustainability, but to thrive, and we realize the challenges there… And the main challenge is that you’re giving your stuff away for free. You’re giving a gift to the world, and let’s not forget that it was your decision to give that gift, so you’re not entitled to make money off of this… But if we can find routes to that, then yeah, let’s do that. Some people find it, some people don’t… Some projects will never make money, and that’s okay. But if you can, I’m not against it.

I almost said earlier, don’t burn out in the name of sustainability… Because Hugo being new to finding ways to make money with this, you’re willing to experiment and sometimes you get yourself into a direction that isn’t exactly sustainable, because it takes too much time… And you’ve promised sponsors or whatever, you created this business model… And I’m all for finding ways to sustain, but don’t do something that gets you into the position that you’ve gotta burn out to sustain.

So I think of it more like thrivability, Jerod, not sustainability… And I wanna promote that.

[01:12:12.26] Thrivability… I like that.

I think it’s totally cool to make money from your open source, for sure, if you’re not compromising the nature and the socially-accepted desires from open source. I think if we can keep that promise of open source, but at the same time thrive… Let’s do it.

Let’s do it.

Let’s do it!

Yeah, amen to that. Good to hear.

And now I’ll just say, as we close out there - and I’ve said this to José, I believe; if not, I’ll say it to you - we’re grateful for Plataformatec and for the work that you all did there. Our platform is on Elixir, I’ve made money off of Devise back when I used to write websites for people… That was part of my career, that I appreciate the work that you all did, and the work that you continue to do through Elixir Radar; I read it every week, I’m a huge fan, if you haven’t heard yet… 10 out of 10, would recommend. All Backstage listeners, if you’re into Elixir, go give it a subscribe, absolutely. Like and subscribe.

And specifically, Plataformatec has done a lot for open source. You said a few things earlier… I just wanna echo that, and maybe put an exclamation mark next to it; because the open source world and the developer community is better off because of Plataformatec, no doubt. No doubt. So you all deserve praise, and you have my admiration about it, and I definitely hope that you have lots of success post-Plataformatec, post-sabbatical, whatever is next for you, with the Radar. I think you can probably turn this into something that is sustainable and thrivable if you just keep it up, keep experimenting… And yeah, get the community behind it.

Yeah. I just wanna thank you for this compliment on the work that we did at Plataformatec. It was a long journey - 11 years of our lives and works there; 78 people, a lot of work, and everything… It was a great and amazing part of my life, and the work that we did in the open source community, we are very proud of. And receiving that kind of feedback, I just want my friends that work with me at Plataformatec to hear this and feel appreciated too, because it was not – people know about José, or Devise… Those are the symbols. But it was a whole team and company there sustaining everything. So thank you for this feedback, and… Yeah, let’s keep working and making it better.

Let’s do it.

Let’s do it. Thanks for coming backstage, we appreciate it. It was fun hanging out.

Break: [01:15:16.14] to [01:16:25.26]


Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚

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