Backstage – Episode #22

Helping Grafana set up their Big Tent

with Tom Wilkie, Mat Ryer, & Matt Toback

All Episodes

For the first time ever, we’re producing somebody else’s podcast! Our friends at Grafana asked us to help them launch a show for the observability community. It’s called Big Tent and on this episode we are backstage with Tom Wilkie, Mat Ryer, & Matt Toback talking through what they’re up to and why we’re helping out.


Notes & Links

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Play the audio to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧

We are backstage. I’m Jerod, Adam’s here…

Hey! What’s up?

Not too much.

We have more people here than just you and I, Jerod…

It’s getting crowded.

It is getting crowded.

It’s actually a loveseat, we don’t have a full couch, so with the five of us, it’s getting really awkward. But anyways, here we are, sitting very closely to Tom, Mat and Matt. Hey, guys.

How’s it going?


It’s going very well. How are you all doing?

It’s cramped.

Yeah, awkward.

You’re rubbing my elbow. Get off, Mat.

What’s that? Whose is that? What is that…?

We need a bigger tent, actually… [laughter]

If we had a bigger tent, we would be doing much better. I should say, we’re backstage at Changelog. We’re also backstage at the Big Tent Podcast, because we’re hanging out with the hosts of Grafana’s Big Tent. How does that sound…?

I like to think that all the backstages are connected in one sort of universal open-the-door-through-the-cupboard and then you’re backstage for every podcast in existence.

Right. Like Monsters Inc, you can just go through the door and there you are.

That’s it.

I like that, yeah.

Does that make this the Scream Factory? [laughter]

Well, it’s not the Scream Factory, now it’s the Laugh Factory. Because laugh is actually the power that you’ve discovered.

You’ve just ruined the film for me.

Sorry about that.

Spoiler alert…

Tom hasn’t seen 2

Is this like Monsters Inc. part 3, or something?

The podcast… [laughs]

The others were podcasts, I’m sure, as well…

Is there a podcast? There probably is…

Sulley’s got a podcast, for sure…

A rewatch? To go back to the old episodes…

Monster University…

Yeah. But being backstage with y’all, with this show - I think it’s cool, because it’s been a journey to get to here. This didn’t just begin yesterday; this has been legit a journey to think about, one, the philosophy that lives upon, but then also what it’s like to have a podcast that embodies that philosophy, encapsulates it with some folks from Grafana, but also invites those in the community to share their voice around this big tent philosophy and what it might mean to observe software in production, and all that entails…

Mat Ryer, I know you from Go Time and other places, that you’re super-funny, and Tom Wilkie, I can’t talk to you without you cracking a joke of some sort, so… There’s laughter to be had, which is always fun.

I promise I won’t…

Take us back, guys. Take us back to the beginning, the inception of this idea. Why a podcast, why does Grafana wanna do a podcast, and then how come this podcast that we ended up producing?

I’ve known Mat for quite a long time. Actually, should we tell the story of how we met, Mat

Shall we? Is it time?

Shall we? It’s quite topical at the moment…

Is it a good story?

Yeah, that’s really the question.

Well, how long have you got? [laughter]

Just go ahead and talk. We’ll cut you off if it’s too long.

Yeah, we’ll edit this out.

I will just say, of all the people I’ve met in an airport, Tom is my favorite.

You didn’t really meet me in an airport, did you?

We literally met in an airport, yeah.

We met in an airport. We were on our way to Ukraine. Is that true?

Yeah, to speak at a conference in Ukraine. And we missed the connecting flight through Vienna, or something like that. And you know, I’m going to rebook a flight, and I hear a thick British accent behind me… And the rest is history, really.

You don’t mean intelligence thick, do you? You mean it in the British way.


Actually, I remember being in line, because we had missed our connection, it was a nightmare, and I remember there was a gaggle of people behind me talking about tech… And I was like, “Oh, no…” You know, when there’s just strangers around, and they talk tech…

It’s like being in San Francisco.

Yeah. And I was just like, “Oh no, I hope I don’t get dragged into this…” And I did, in the end, because… I think, Tom, you said something that I completely disagreed with about Go, or something. [laughter] You made a criticism about Go…

[04:02] Probably.

…and then I have a duty, don’t I, to –

It’s a sworn art.

I think you were literally wearing the T-shirt.

Yeah, probably. I probably had my Go Time T-shirt on. And I turned around and…

Punched him.

…corrected him, obviously. [laughter]

Laid him out.

A nice, thick correction.

Verbally punched him. Verbally.

We settled our differences in the hotel bar, waiting for the next flight, and then the next flight, and the next flight… It was good, and I think the rest is history. Then Mat had me on Go Time. It must have been almost a year ago now, Mat. No, six months maybe.

Was this the microservices debate? Which show were you on, Tom?

Yes! I think it was probably microservices architecture… And that was a really good – it was with the chap from Monzo.


That was a really good one. I think that was the first time I met Go Time, and you two, and this whole kind of process… And afterwards, I think I said to Mat – oh, no, no. Afterwards, it was Matt with two t’s…

Oh, that’s me.

That’s you, yeah. You started an internal podcast.

Oh, I did, yeah. I did. We were growing at a pretty good clip, and it just felt like there was so much Slack stuff going on, but not a lot of – I wouldn’t say not a lot of personality, but I think what was lost was just a little bit long-form conversation… And I thought “Oh, let’s just do this.” And cut it, threw it up there, I think I just pasted it in Slack maybe initially, or threw it online… For no other purpose than just letting other people talk.

Then I think you reached out, Tom, and you were like “Why don’t we do this for more people?” I was like, “Let’s not do that. That’s terrible. There’s already enough out there.”

“That’s a terrible idea!”

And it was just after being on Go Time with Mat, and seeing how the sausage is made. And listening to your podcast, Mat, I’m like “We should definitely do one.”

Yeah. You thought, “This looks way easy.” [laughter]

So easy.

You can do it.

That’s why it took so long to get this thing together.

We had that Dunning-Kruger thing going on, right? [laughter]

Mat Ryer, did you work at Grafana yet then? Had Pace been acquired yet when this conversation happened? Or was it sort of behind the scenes? Maybe this is sharing too much about your personal entanglings, but what was the timeframe?

I think it was part of the terms sheet, that you had to host me on Go Time.

Yeah, but that was me insisting that. [laughter] I was only gonna accept the deal if… Yeah, well –

Let’s try and get into the details, but more try to figure out in terms of like if Tom shared the idea, was it like a “we” at that point, is what I’m trying to get at…

The internal podcast that Matt was doing was already underway.

Right, of course.

Then I joined, and listened to one of those… And I’ll tell you what - it’s such a great way to start to talk about and share company culture, and things…

It’s a cool idea.

Yeah. So I do recommend it. When you do a public podcast, there’s a lot more pressure to do that, to get it right and make it interesting. When you do an internal one, a bit like this, kind of backstage, it can be more informal and more relaxed, and you can talk openly about company things that you wouldn’t wanna talk about publicly. So yeah, I thought that was a really nice way, and I felt like I knew Matt a little bit from listening to him.

And it’s funny, because we didn’t meet until - Jerod and Adam, when I met you, I had met Mat prior.

Oh, okay…

So I think we were on the same Google Meet

It’s pronounced Ryer… [laughter]

Is that a nickname? Mat Prior.

Yeah. That’s my comedy stand-up name. [laughter]

Have you two met in person yet?

No, we haven’t. I have a whole sheet next to each podcast where I try to guess how tall Mat is, and–

Oh, like a bedsheet.

[07:56] You’ve got my outline.

Why do you guess every episode?

I have a different feeling every episode.

His height is the same every time.

No, not in my mind. Sometimes he’s a giant.

His height is very surprising.

Is that true?

Yeah. It depends how close I stand to the camera.

Surprisingly short or surprisingly tall?

Don’t ruin this for me, please.

I’m gonna leave it there, I don’t wanna spoil it. [laughter]

The first Monsters Inc.

Can I put a guess in here then? Can I add maybe a guess onto your sheet, Matt?

Yes, please.

Or maybe I can concur, or maybe you can agree with one of my guesses…

Are you gonna do it in metric, or imperial?

I’m gonna guess Mat Ryer is 6’2.

I was gonna go 5’10.

Yeah, I think that’s a good guess.

5’10 is my guess.

Tom, that laugh was good. I liked that.

Is that your guess? Okay.

Yeah, 5’10 is my guess.

And I’ve never met Mat either. Nor do I want to.

[laughs] None taken.

I hope someday never to have to.

I thought we were gonna have a lunch one day.

Nah. It’s not gonna happen.

I never agreed to that.

5’11 is the answer, unfortunately.


And apparently, no one ever admits to that, because they always just round it to the nearest 6-foot –

Oh. Well, Mat, I’m with you, man, because I’m 5’11 and a half… My whole life, pretty much.

For our European listeners, what is that in non-freedom units?

Yeah, what is that in metric?

Is it T-shirt sizing?

A medium amount of centimeters?

Let’s ask Siri. “Hey Siri, what’s 5’11,5 inches in metric?” [Siri: “I’ve found this on the web.]

Oh, gosh… [laughter] Can’t even do basic maths? Come on, Siri…!

Come on, Siri… Well, I jacked it kind of up, so… I’ll use Google instead.

Honestly though, how long has Siri been alive? It’s gotta be like eight years.

She should be able to do basic math conversions at this phase of her development, but… I digress.

Do we judge how long since she’s been inceived – conceived, or the total breadth of information that she has?

Well that’s infinite I would bet.

It could be Adam’s accent that doesn’t make any sense.

That’s true. It could be my Texan drawl. In centimeters it’s 180 centimeters.

180 centimeters.

That makes it sound tiny, for some reason. [laughter]

You can say 1,800 millimeters if you wanna be bigger.

Oh, thank you. There we go. Yeah, 1,800 millimeters.

1,800 millimeters does sound pretty good. I like that.

I only use centimeters when it’s little things. And millimeters when it’s even littler.

Right. If it was in meters, it’d be 1.8.

Hey, you can say “I’m almost two meters tall.”

Yeah, exactly. That sounds big. Because a meter is big.

What’s it in miles? Hey Siri, what’s 5’11 inches in miles? [laughter]

How many meters per hour are you?

Let’s see what she can find on the web.

She’s not listening.

I’m 0.001121 miles tall. Get used to it, baby! [laughter] That does sound tall there, doesn’t it?

Yeah, it does. It sounds nice.

There’s lots of numbers in it as well. Very precise.

Do you use miles in the U.K. though?

We do, yeah.

Yeah, yeah.

That’s how we get places.

I thought you used kilometers.

No, kilometers on the continent. Miles in the U.K.

It’s too confusing.

We use a mix of imperial and metric because we’re stuck halfway between the two.


Are there fancy coffee shops in the U.K. now? Or is everything still a fancy tea shop? [laughter]

I don’t know where to start with this… I think we had coffee before you did, Matt. [laughter]

Well, we invented America, didn’t we?

Yeah. I think my house is older than your country. [laughter]

With doorknobs falling off…

That’s why it’s got glass doorknobs.

So maybe we’ll edit that bit out, because I expect some of our audience might be American. [laughter]

“Didn’t we make you…?!”

Or some of your co-panelists might be American…

[11:54] We’ll get letters, Tom, assuming they can write… [laughter] You can cut that one out as well.

No, it’s all staying in. No one is gonna listen to your guys’ podcast.

This is backstage.

Yeah, no one’s listening…

This is somewhat a preview… An unedited preview of Grafana’s Big Tent.

This is the kind of stuff they do on Big Tent, all the time. Well, I would like to know, on a more serious note, but yet still not that serious, how do you guys navigate on Big Tent having two Matts/Mats? It’s quite cumbersome, logistically.

Well, we’re never allowed to have both Matts on at the same time. That develops a singularity and it envelops the whole podcast.

That was also in Mat’s terms sheet. “Any meeting needs one Mat.”

Simple solution, I guess, to a complex problem. I like it.

Yeah. It is actually quite awkward, isn’t it?

Yeah. Well, I assume they’re always talking to you. When they say “Mat, I have a good question”, I just assume they’re talking to you.

Is that why you just stay quiet and stare at the screen for several seconds before answering?

Yeah, I listen.

Oh, yeah.

Common courtesy.

He’s being polite.

We edit out the silences.

So you kind of described why a podcast, because you liked Matt’s internal podcast, you liked Go Time quite a bit, and you thought this would be fun and interesting to do. But then why Big Tent, why work with us…? How did it all come out? Because there’s lots of ways to make a podcast, and there’s lots of different podcasts you can make, but you decided to work with us and you decided to make the Big Tent Podcast, which maybe you can also talk about what it’s gonna be like.

Yeah, so I think for me one of the things that makes Grafana Labs quite different is our approach to inclusivity of ideas, almost. We don’t think – you know, I’m one of the Prometheus maintainers, but Grafana Labs doesn’t just work on Prometheus. It works on Graphite, it works on… You know, everything, basically. Every time series database out there can be visualized in Grafana. And we call this whole kind of philosophy of not picking favorites, not picking sides, the big tent Philosophy. The idea that – I think the other way of saying it is like “The rising tide raises all ships.” We want everything to work together, and we wanna not pick favorites.

And for us it isn’t just about data sources in Grafana. It pervades the company culture. We’re always looking for ways to be more compatible, to work better with competing technologies and competing organizations. And what better way to kind of get that message out than a podcast? We actively invite on our friends from other organizations and other companies. It’s not just the Grafana Podcast; you’re not just gonna hear from people who work at Grafana, about projects they’re working on. You’re gonna hear from people who don’t work at Grafana, but who maybe work with Grafana, or they maybe work in tangential spaces.

I also think it’s a reflection of what our (we’ll say) users, or even customers are dealing with. They don’t have a single solution… So I think just acknowledging that and being able to bring these people on to talk about it I think is closer to the way that they’re thinking about it and the problems that they’re trying to solve. So to us, it just kind of feels easy, because we get to go and highlight different people. And if someone’s doing something new and cool, in the same way that we would share it with the user or customer, like “Let’s bring it on and let’s talk about it. Let’s figure out how it fits together”, and then we could ask the questions that maybe some people are thinking… Or these dumb questions that we’re thinking.


Yeah, and working with Changelog - that’s you, people…

That’s us.

I could say “working with you…”

Thank you. Yeah.

Either way.

Yeah. You know, when you look at the family of podcasts that you get from Changelog, and the quality of it… This was always the thing that struck me - with the transcripts, the little preview clips that go out on Twitter, the editing quality… In fact, we did a recent episode of Go Time with Ed Welch, who’s actually from Grafana. And he was kind of really worried after that we’d just not produced anything; that we just had a conversation. He felt like there was a lot of stopping and starting, and he felt like there were big gaps, and he was a bit worried about that. And then he today told me he listened to the polished episode and it’s amazing.

[16:23] Honestly, that editing, cutting things down to the – distilling it down to the bare essentials, that process, whatever goes on… You know, we don’t talk over each other on the podcast; I mean, you do when you’re recording it, because in real life you do. But it all gets sorted out for you in the edit. And I think the listening experience that that delivers is just really high, and it means you can listen to it on two times speed, which some people do… And I think that would be difficult if there was a lot more talking over each other, and things like that. So I think the quality was a big pull for doing it with you.

I also hope it compliments your other podcasts. I listen to Go Time, I listen to Changelog, and I just think what we’re trying to do with Big Tent is similar, but different. Complementary. And so I’m hoping that it fits with the catalog.

That’s why we felt good also about working with you all, because this is obviously not something we do every day for many different brands. I think we have a desire to do it in smaller swathes, not “Let’s produce every possible Grafana-like brand’s podcast for them.” That’s not really our desire at all. But we felt so strong about who you all are, and your beliefs in this big tent philosophy.

We had Raj on Founders Talk a little while back, I got to know the deeper innards of the long history of his entrepreneurship journey, from the Vox Mafia to Grafana, the whole entire journey. And I really gained a great respect for that direction.

And then also just getting the chance to help produce a good observability podcast out there. That’s another thing I think you can answer - is there a gap/desire to be filled in the observability landscape with this podcast? It may not be a weekly show like traditional shows, or every two weeks, seasonal… But is there a gap there that is aimed to be filled?

I hope so. That’s why we’re doing it. You’ve heard the four, maybe five recordings… What do you think so far?

Amazing. When I listen to it, it’s almost like what Mat Ryer just said… Because I can imagine – I’ve been involved in many podcasts, and the process, because this journey has been long… It’s not that it’s been difficult by any means, but it’s sometimes hard to see the fruit that will come out of a process. So when I first heard the very first episode, and the music, and the end, and the personalities, and all the details that come together from a beautifully produced podcast… Like, for me that’s my passion, but it was like “Wow. This is an amazing show, and the community is gonna love this show.” The music, and everything just comes together so perfectly. And I’ve gotta say, when I heard the very first episode, I was on cloud nine. I was super-giddy the rest of the day. It was a good day for me. I was like “This show is gonna rock.”

I still haven’t heard it.

You still haven’t heard it.

Yeah, I wanna listen to it.

We should play it now, and just listen to it, and then we can react.

Oh, like Mystery Science Theater?

Yeah, exactly.

Yeah, just like a 45-minute break, and then we all come back and keep going.

Yeah, yeah. Just leave the gap in though. Actually - yeah, if you can leave the empty space, so that the listener can also go and listen in real time… That’d be good.

In real time? [laughs]

Yeah, yeah. Tom and I are – you may have noticed… We’re British. We’re not very used to being –

Well, speak for yourself.

Oh, sorry. What are you? Which are you, mate?

I identify as European, actually.

Yeah, okay. That’s nice.


I can’t tell if he’s joking. You just don’t know.

We’re not very good at being nice to each other. So this has been a lot of us all being nice. Can we just have two minutes of hate?

[20:14] We’re quite good friends in real life. We hang out outside of work, and everything… But yeah, the constant bickering might come across wrong.

It feels like an unfair advantage, particularly getting to record with you guys. You get to hang out, you get to go to the pub, have a relationship… I don’t think this is gonna work.

Yeah… A real connection, Mat, is what you’re saying. Real meeting. IRL.

Real meeting. Tom knows the answer, or knew the answer as to how tall Mat was.

That’s true.

You were saying, Mat Ryer…? What were you saying? British…

Yes, British… I was saying –

Were you bragging?

No, no, no.

I don’t understand what the point is.

Yeah, where were you going with this, Mat?

We know you’re British, guys.

Yeah, I was just gonna say - we aren’t very good at being nice to each other, and we’ve all just spent ages being nice to each other. So could we now just have two minutes of hate to counter-balance it?

He’s not really 5’10.


5’10 around…

I vote no. No vote.

We can’t all be winners… The other good thing about the editing that Changelog does is if you do have an idea and you take a little risk, and it doesn’t pay off just then…


…hopefully it’ll get cut out.

Yeah, but we’re keeping that bit in for sure, right?

Or it gets left in and we just point the finger at you.

Well, first of all, Backstage is not edited, like our other shows.


And that one’s staying in for sure. And secondly, anytime Mat mentions the edit or the editor, our policy internally at Changelog is to leave it in. Because we’ll make literally anybody else sound good on our shows except for Mat Ryer, because he constantly is asking to sound better. And it’s just – life is too short to take commands from a Brit who’s over there just telling us what to do. We’re not even in the room and he’s giving us instructions. I mean… How presumptuous.

He’s too likable in real life, we need to take him down a peg.


I’ll tell you what though, Jerod… In the last episode of Go Time I just on-the-fly made up a segment, and –

That’s true.

…in the edit it got its own little theme tune, which was brilliant…


Yeah, seriously. And it was a whole little proper thing.

What was the segment, Mat?

It was Quiz Time…! [laughs] We could do it now. It’s Quiz Time!

[22:30] to [22:49]

I couldn’t help myself; I have fun with that kind of stuff… And whenever you make up something ridiculous, I think “Well, let’s just lean into this thing. Why not?” This is the kind of stuff that we like to do; make every episode have something that’s different or special, or just like that little extra something where you don’t know exactly what to expect. Sometimes we put Easter eggs in at the end, or ridiculous things, and try to keep people on their toes. Because the conversations are good, but if you can sprinkle in something extra in the post-production, it just shows that we really do care. And I love when people do that with their podcasts. I think it’s so neat. So yeah, if you make up something on the spot, I’m gonna try to riff on it and see if I can make it even better.

Yeah, it’s that “Yes, and…” attitude, which is great. And you can take risks too, which enables that. I love it, yeah.

Yeah. Well, we do appreciate y’all working with us, honestly. We’ve wanted to do this for a while, we’ve wanted to produce a brand’s podcast, and help something like this come to life. Because I think given our journey to here, you can probably appreciate all the hurdles in front of producing a podcast. You can get the people together, you can give them good mics and give them things to say, but that’s not a podcast. There’s a lot more to it than that. And there’s a lot of hurdles in front of producing a well-formed, well-produced podcast. I’m not saying it’s impossible, by any means, but you really have to want it to get there. And I think we all came together in the right way to make this show possible.

[24:23] Yeah. All warm and fuzzy.

So hopefully it doesn’t suck. [laughter]

So now we’ve recorded five episodes, right?

The sixth is being recorded on Wednesday, yeah.

And then you’ve recorded how many, Adam and Jerod, in your lifetime? Hundreds, thousands?


So what would you tell us as newborns?

Don’t stop.

What do we do for the next little bit?

Have fun, don’t stop, keep going, dig in… Get in the trenches…

Yeah. Diverse voices… Obviously, you have the core, but it is a big tent, so go out of your way to invite people in that you normally might not, or you don’t know personally… And have that diverse voices. I think it’s so enjoyable and necessary. Consistency, community, and…

Quality content.

That’s the three C’s.

Can we use this as an opportunity to invite people?

If anyone wants to be on Grafana’s Big Tent, get in touch with mat@grafana…


Not anyone. Anyone that thinks they should be. [laughter]

“Literally, we’ll take anybody.”

What’s your public email address, Mat?

Who, me?

Either one.

Which Matt?

Why do I get to be the –

Just email matt@grafana.

I don’t want the spam.

Either one t or two t’s. It should land at the right place.

No, I get too much from recruiters. I’ve got recruiters filling my inbox.

Well, do you have a email address? Because that’s what you could do. That’s easy.

Oh, that’s a good idea.

If we don’t, we’ll have one by the time this podcast goes out.

Yeah, I think that’s a really smart idea, because then you can tell anybody “Hey, if you’ve got questions, if you’ve got ideas, if you’ve got negative feedback, we wanna hear it.”

For sure.

I personally welcome negative feedback. It’s such a humbling thing, one, to accept it… Which is not very humble, to accept it. But then two, to evolve because of it. So I would recommend that.

That hat looks ridiculous, mate.

Thank you.


Does he have to evolve on the spot? Are you expecting him to just take the hat off immediately?

I have another over there… Should I put it on?

Yeah, just quickly build it imagine that

That’s my evolution, is just swap the hat. How about this hat, Mat? [laughter]

Wow, he meant that.

No, I love that hat, really.

And I would say would be a good email… Because you can all share the inbox, too. If the team grows, then obviously it grows, people can manage the inbox and whatnot, but… Everybody has actually email, not a form on the internet… So there you go. But formalize that kind of stuff, like “Hey, reach out.” Put the invitation out there.

That’s one thing we say here, is like – we have had a community for a while, we have a community Slack, and we say “No matter where you’re at on your hacker journey, you’re welcome here. Come hang your hat here, it’s free. Be a part of this community. You’re welcome here.” No matter where you’re at; whether you’re as smart, or not as smart.

Any hats are welcome.

Right. White hats, black hats…

Oh, you know what? I’ve already created in November.

Look at that. See?

Yeah, look at that.

I’ve used it, actually. I remember that.

You’re already that smart, Tom.

Is there any feedback in there?

There is nothing in there. I think even I’d forgotten it existed.

You’re gonna get recruiters filling that up now… [laughter]

Or PR people. That’s usually what you get if your podcast is –

Or tent companies.

Yeah, imagine that… [laughter]

Are they buying or selling? I mean, you have a big tent. Do you need more?

I’m gonna need a big tent from Grafana over here… We’ve got a ceremony happening…

Do you guys deliver?

It’s gotta be a big tent, okay…? We need a philosophy around this thing; it’s gotta be a big tent.

[27:59] One of the jokes we were gonna have on this was that we were gonna send everyone that appears one of those little tents that you get in the tent shops. Because the tent shops can’t have the big tent, because it’s too big, and the shop would be too big, so they make little model tents.

Are there tent shops, like all they sell is tents?

Yeah, sure.

Tom, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I was recently in – we have a store here called Academy, and it’s like our sporting goods store, basically… And we were in there, and they have camping tents, and they’re miniature…

Little mini models.

They’re cute little tents.

They’re tiny, but they’re legit tents. And I was like, “I can’t believe this.” First time I saw this, it was like two weeks ago. And I couldn’t believe it.

But I can’t find a place to buy them.

Yeah, you need to know somebody on the in of those companies, and be like “Hey, can I buy one of these mini-tents?” They should really sell them. They’re missing out on the opportunity, honestly.

So if anyone listening to this podcast will send me a mini model tent…

Or maybe you have a nice pivot for Grafana. You could sell the tents.

Right. A side business.

A little side business. I mean, if there’s a need in the market, which there clearly is a need…

That could be at least 2% of your revenue.


At least. Venture capitals would love that. Your next round could depend on these tents.

Playing a tent heist.

Tent heist now…? I thought you said you were gonna plant a tent hiest. I thought you were actually proposing to plant some tents. Because they’ll start small, and then grow from there.

Matt Toback is suggesting we go to the store and steal the tents. Is that what you’re saying, a tent heist?

No, I’m saying a heist.

Get it unrecorded so no one knows it’s us.

When you steal something, it is low-class. When you plan a heist, it is world-class. That’s the difference. [laughter]

I like it. Everything we wanna do is world-class around here.

Yeah. We’re gonna do it Ocean’s Eleven style, right?

Yeah, exactly.

Matt Toback has been arrested because he planned a heist to steal mini tents from a sporting goods store. [laughter] What?!

Bit tent controversy… [laughter]

I thought he was talking about he was gonna steal from a tent. Because I think that would be easier than stealing from a shop that’s made out of bricks and wood and that.

[laughs] You just go and lift up the bottom of the…

Flap up the cover, yeah.

I think that’s where shoplifting came from, the term. We call it shoplifting, and I do think it comes from there.

It’s like moving house, right?

Yeah. [laughs]

It’s tentlifting, obviously.

Another idea - we could get just a normal-sized tend and just have it far away. If we can’t find any little ones…

Put it in the wash, on a hot wash?

Yeah, would it work in the wash?

If it’s a woolen tent, it would.

Oh, those classic wool tents…

Yeah. [laughs] They’re good in the winter.

Well, we can’t let you guys leave without explaining and describing the Big Tent in excruciating detail. So what does this tent look like? In excruciating detail, please.

I think it’s a circus tent. I think it’s that kind of big tent. And it’s full of clowns.

It’s a three-ring circus…

Full of clouds?

There are three of you.


Well, you don’t need a big tent for clowns.

Same, same.

Because they can all just squeeze in.

Is it a magical tent, Tom?

Oh, what was that TV program with the tent that’s bigger on the inside than the outside?

There is in Harry Potter one of those…

Oh, was it in Harry Potter? Okay, there we go. That’ll do.

I was also thinking Dr. Who as well.

Well, not a tent thought.

No, this is not a tent.

You’re painting the opposite picture though, Tom, because the tent, at least for the artwork’s sake - which I think is amazing, by the way. Erik did a great job… It’s more of a campfire tent.


So I could tell… Erik, who worked on that on our team, I think originally the first design was very circus-tenty. But the shape didn’t really work, and then he came back and it was more of a camping tent. And it was like “Oh, it’s right”, and we kind of talked about the proportions… And his idea was that it was kind of somewhat of like a journey also, in that wherever you’re going, you can provide shelter. And it wasn’t a spectacle, it was this place for lots of people to commune while you’re going somewhere. And I was like, “Oh! You got me!”

Yeah. Which was a good idea. And then he had the campfire stories thing going, and you’re outside the tent…

This is why he’s good at what he does.

Tom’s like, “It’s a bunch of clowns!” [laughter]

[32:03] That ain’t gonna work. Erik’s like “Scratch that idea. Here’s a campfire tent, Tom…”

That’s a great first idea, Tom. [laughter]

“Let’s iterate on that.”

But if we do ever do a live version of this - which we will do, probably, at some point - are we gonna be clowned up? Like, one of us could be a sad clown…

We could say yes, Mat, and then everybody else say no at the last minute, and you never get the memo, so you show up as the clown.

Yes, but…

Yes, and…

Yes, and only you should do it.

I’ll do it. I won’t check. If we agree to do it now, I won’t check back in. I will just turn up in full clown garb.

So you mentioned the live episode we’re gonna record… What episode are you most looking forward to?

Mine probably is the live one. If we can do one – we may have the whole company together, circumstances permitting, at one point… And in a big room, and doing a podcast. We’ve done some with Go Time at conferences, and the energy and the atmosphere is…

It’s fun.

It’s amazing, yeah. And it does add, obviously, because it’s live and there’s actual humans there… You know, when you’re doing the podcast, it’s just like you’re doing a Zoom call, really. It’s quite intimate and private. But when you do it in front of real people, you really do see that everyone’s there, they’re looking at you and listening.

Hundreds of people, which is kind of crazy. It’ll be a large room.

Yeah. Big tent.

So you’re planning maybe a company gathering sometime soon, or that’s the hope, is you can do it live at a company gathering?

That’d be cool.

That’d be cool.

GrafanaFest is the name of the company gathering.


And it’s gonna be in a big tent, isn’t it? A big marquee.


And Mat, we’re gonna do the team song live, is that right?

Yeah, I’ll tell you what - I want to. I want to just get that, yeah. Just get everyone that can play bass, get them on stage… And just turn it up to a foul. Turn it all up to eleven and crack it out.

Yeah. Sam plays bass, doesn’t she? I think…

Yeah. And drums.

And Mick probably plays guitar… He’s got guitars in his background.

He does. He was in a touring band.


He has a Wikipedia page about him.


He does.

I did not know that.

Yeah, he’s got proper – I’ve heard his music. We can put it in the show notes.

I’m googling him now.

Well, Jerod and I are on IMDb. We’ve just found this out recently. Jerod and I are famous.

We are. We’re on IMDb.

Oh, yeah? What film was it? One of the Marvel ones…

The Changelog…?


Yeah. I don’t know if they added podcasts, or what happened…

Podcasts on IMDb, and hosts of podcasts on IMDb. So I was like, “Okay…” Christopher Hiller (b0neskull) found that out for us. He’s like, “I didn’t know…” It was Chris, right?

Yeah, it was Chris.

Or was it Kevin Ball?

No, it was Chris. He’s like, “Hey, you’re on IMDb.” I’m like, “First of all, how did you find that out?”

And secondly, “How do I get a cool picture of me put up there?” Because right now it’s just that shadow face…

Oh… Are you gonna do it with like proper headshots?

I think we should probably do headshots… You know, like glamour shots at the local mall. [laughter]

Feathered, lasers in the background…

I think whatever David Hasselhoff would do, that’s what I would probably do.

Yeah. WWDHD.

Yeah, that’d be cool.

Yeah, pretty much. It’s gonna be in HD. Is that what you said?


Oh, I thought you said “You should do it in HD.”

No, I think you should do it low-res.

Which I immediately agreed with.

It’s a great idea, Matt. It’s a great idea.

I think low-res would be good.

Speaking of music though… So let’s come back to this music. This is something I didn’t expect as part of the process. Normally, for our podcasts, we work exclusively - and I guess, in your case, Mat, with Go Time, there’s been a lot of crossover there, where it hasn’t been solely Breakmaster Cylinder doing the production and the…

Mat even did a few jingles for JS Party.

[35:51] Precisely, yeah. And I was not surprised, but very happy with the outcome. There was a Beatles song I believe Jerod, wasn’t there? That this was kind of framed after. There was a certain idea for the way the track would come in, but Mat Ryer, you’re the one who produced this music track.

Yeah, I like doing it. I used to be in bands, and stuff… Basically, a failed pop star, so I have to do –

Do you have a MySpace?

No, but I am on IMDb, because of Go Time. [laughter]


So I love doing it, and I said – when we were discussing the idea, of course, people were saying “Oh, these are ideas for the music, and we’ll get a proper person to do the music, and things…” And you know, some days you’re just feeling confident. I must have been having one of those days, and I said “Well, I’d like to have a go at making something, and see what happens.” And people were like, “Um, okay, sure… Yeah, you do that…” Which was really nice.

People like Jerod and I, or who are these people you’re speaking of?

Oh, I mean, I was in that first meeting that we had, and you were like Breakmaster Similar…Break– Breakmaster Similar - we know what we’ll call Mat.

That’s my name, yeah. [laughter] That’s a tribute act to him.

The tribute band. Very similar, but not the same.


But I was psyched, and I was like – just a little fanboying. I was like, “That’s cool. I never thought that my world would intersect with theirs.” And then Mat’s like, “I’ll do it”, and I was like, “Shut the f*** up, Mat!” [laughter]

Tell us how you really feel, Mat…

Geez, Mat…


And then it felt like 45 minutes later Mat sent over the first version, and I was like, “This is awesome!” And it was pretty much all there at the beginning. And then there was little modifications and tweaks, but it came out kind of fully formed, and I was psyched. And I’m psyched every time I hear it now, so…

[37:56] to [38:21]

I solicited claps for it on the internal Slack. I just said, in a random channel, “Who here–” And who hasn’t, if we’re honest…?

“Who here can clap?” [laughs]

…wants to contribute a clap?

“Who has both hands?”

“If you ever dreamed of having a clap on a song…” That’s my opening line.

Dar to dream.

“Because if so, I’ve got a proposition for you.”

Yeah. “Send me your claps.” And people did, and I got loads of people who were just clapping… Some of them were terrible, which was amazing.

How can you possibly be bad at clapping?

Well, you know, if it’s just too close – somebody must have been in a church, because the amount of reverb on one of them was just phenomenal. It was like 12 seconds of reverb.

Do you wanna name names? Anybody in particular who’s bad at clapping that you wanna call out?

No, I don’t want to do that.

Yeah, don’t clap-shame.

Yeah, don’t clap-shame. But I put them in a – I just popped them all in a folder, and then shuffled them up. Because I didn’t need all the ones I got. And then I picked a few randomly, so I don’t even know whose they are. There’s like an element of “Your clap could be in that song”, as far as anyone knows

Would you recognize your own clap, if you heard it?

Good question. Really good question. “Would you recognize your own clap…?”

These are the kind of questions that you’ll hear on Big Tent. [laughter] These are the thoughts we ponder.

We’ll get to the bottom of it once and for all.

This is the kind of high-quality content you can expect!

[39:53] But that song - it did come out fully-formed, and that’s how it happens. It’s like, I need like a reason to do it, and then there’s like a bit of pressure to do it, and then it’ll happen. It either happens, or it’s just nothing. It’s one of those things - it’s not like I know what I’m doing, so I can’t think melodically or think methodically and sit down and write it and do it properly, using science and computer music theory and all that stuff. It’s just, if it sounds good, it happens and we’re like “Okay, yeah.” And I have to check that it’s original as well, so I have to play it to some people and be like “Is this a thing already and I’ve just copied it?”

Yeah, so Adam had mentioned the Beatles song… So from our perspective, I was talking with Mat, and I had my idea of what I thought the music could be, and what I was gonna tell Breakmaster Cylinder - not Similar, but the real one - was I was gonna say “How about a glitched out homage to the Mr. Kites song off of Sgt. Peppers. I don’t know the whole name of the song; it’s longer than that. But it’s Mr. Kite.

“Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite.”

Yeah, “Being for the benefit of Mr. Kite”, which is like – it’s a very interesting song. That whole album has craziness going on. I like it quite a bit. And I told you that, Mat, and you were like, “Actually, I was just listening to that earlier today, or thinking about it as well”, so we were at least on similar wavelengths with that. It has a circus feel to that song. It’s about a show… So that was what I was gonna go with. But I loved the fact that you made the song for the show that is your guys’ show. How cool is that? It’s 100% homebrewed in that sense. It doesn’t get any better.

And every time you play it, the guest, or whoever we’re with, everyone starts bouncing along. It’s got a very kind of bouncy vibe to it.

Yeah. And the claps are very necessary, too. It’s the beat. It essentially replaces the snare. Or maybe there is a snare in addition to claps. But it’s the snare part of the beat.

Yeah, it is.

I’m gonna be so disappointed when I find this on some sort of audio thing that you can buy, and Mat has just spent the last couple months –

Audio Jungle?

Yeah… Telling us “It just poured out of me. It was just – I channeled the Universe and it just felt exactly how it needed to be. And I played all instruments at once.” [laughter]

Right at the end though there is a little weird sound I hear… It’s like, “By Audioriver.” Something like that. [laughter]

Like a watermark. We faded out before that bit.

Yeah, you faded right before the watermark.

Yeah, right at the end there. I wasn’t sure…

I thought you were gonna say you’re gonna find it on Audio Jungle because Mat’s out there trying to sell it royalty-free… You know, just to get some extra side cash with this. I mean, he put all the work in…

What he’s saying is it’s so good that it could be a royalty-free song.

Right. Well, that makes me think about you guys’ live show, and how you could have everybody clapping. Like, the whole company clapping along as you–

Well, we already know that might not work so well…

Well, you’ll have to ask a few people… Pull them aside and say, “Honestly if you could just – we’d rather have you not, but…”

Not passed the audition.

Well, if you sell tickets, you could say “If your ticket has this color on your ticket or badge, you must clap.”

You’re on the one and three.

And you’ll sprinkle those folks throughout the crowd. So they’re contractually obligated, otherwise they might get let go.

Yeah. It was in your terms sheet, Mat…

That’s right. [laughter]

It was a very long set of demands that are now coming to fruition.

It looked weird at the time, but I’m glad I put it in there.

It’s more like a writer than a terms sheet.

This is the mistake of having a terms sheet in Google Docs, that you can just edit anytime… [laughter] You just go and sneak some extra bits in there…

This is a question for us - should we have people find someone that’s like an arms’ length contributor to open source projects, as opposed to just the companies, the people that are doing it? Like, the random person that we don’t even know, and say like “How did you start contributing to open source?” You guys must have done episodes on that, Adam and Jerod… Or no?

Oh, sure. We have.

Is it interesting?

[43:55] I mean, a lot of times it’s people who end up being maintainers of projects. Now, we’ve done obscure projects where the person is therefore still not like a name in the industry, and asked them how they got into it… We had a series called Maintainer Spotlight, which is really like the life stories of maintainers. Really interesting stuff, especially I think even just users of open source software or observability tooling, and how they’re solving their problems and what problems they have. Almost like you would have a conversation with somebody at a conference; really interesting things can come out of those, because they’re like real-world, rubber hits the road situations that they can share, that you’re not gonna get from like the library maintainers, or the people working for large companies, or whatever. The typical people you hear from.

Even at large companies, that wanna – this is something I hope we can do an episode on, but… When we’re talking to customers, potentials, that are Grafana users, they’re like “How do people do this? What happened? Tell us the recipe.” And really, more often than not - Tom, Mat, keep me honest, but the person who did it just did it, and just started doing it, and just created the thing, and then it gained some momentum. So when someone’s like, “Well, how can I do this?”, we’re like, “Well, maybe you’re not the right person to do it…” No. [laughter] But it does feel similar to that open source ethos. You just kind of go. You create value, and people start attaching to it.

Yeah, there’s something about solving your own problem that’s important with that…

The best open source is scratching your own itch, right? The skills to teach other people how to do it, and how to do it yourself, I’ve seldom found in the same person. I think it’s more your point, Matt… I find it quite easy to scratch my own itch, but to teach someone else - that sounds really weird now. I’m not gonna continue that line of thought… Teach someone else to scratch it? Yeah, hm… [laughter]

I wanna do that episode, too. Tom teaches to scratch.

Yeah. Just turn your video off first.

It’s like nerdy podcasts versus dirty podcasts. You just can’t do that, okay?

They’re so close, but oh so different.

Save it for Backstage, and late.

Well, I get that - to be able to solve your problem is what you’re saying. So you know how to solve your own problem, but to teach somebody else how to solve their own problems is challenging.

Yeah. Or a different set of skills that honesty I’m not sure exist in the same people often.

I think it starts with being your own scientist though. If you can have a sense of awareness about the pain you’re feeling, why you’re feeling it, what an application is missing - that’s some of the beginnings of solving our problems. It’s like, just scraping up data.

Right. I think listening to others and the way they’ve gone about things, even if it doesn’t apply to you, that’s one way I learned a lot in my career, through podcasts. I’m a podcast junkie, I listen to them, and I love to just listen and hear the way people do things, because it just broadens my potential possibilities when I have a problem. It’s like, “You know what - I heard about somebody that did this thing…” And sometimes you can’t even remember where it came from, but through osmosis you’ve been exposed to all these different ways of going about, all these different tools and perspectives, and then you can draw upon those when you need them… Wither consciously, and be like “I remember on this episode I learned this thing”, or you’re like “I can’t remember why I know this, but I do.”

So I think the value of sharing those things, even if it’s like a very specific problem that was solved, is gold. You just kind of accumulate it over time, for it to be worth something.

Even sometimes - as silly as it sounds - it’s about just permission. You listen and you’re like, “Oh, I can do that?” Or whatever my version is.

Yeah. “Didn’t know that was possible.”

Yeah, “I didn’t know that it was possible.” Like, “That’s allowed?” Like, “Yeah, nobody said no. They said thank you.” And you’re like, “Wow! Alright.”

Especially if it’s somebody that you respect, or that you look up to a little bit, and you’re like, “Okay, that’s the way they think about this.” It really does give you permission to think outside the box, or try something a little more daring, or it gives you a little more courage when somebody else has gone in front of you and done the same thing.

[48:03] Yeah, that’s especially true if there’s already something out there that’s solving a similar problem. It’s very easy to think, “Oh, what’s the point? This has been out there for years…” But very often, a fresh approach, and from scratch - you have a lot of advantages over well-established projects. So it is worth doing.

I think you’re right, people need permission. Everyone should do it. Just do your thing, and talk about it, and do meetups, and write blogs about it, and tweet about it, go on Instagram, go on TikTok, do a podcast, go on IMDb… You never know, you might end up on IMDb.

Just get yourself on IMDb, yeah. You have permission.

Matt Toback, can I just say - if someone says something funny, and you’ve got like a quiet laugh…

I know… I knew, I knew it, I knew it… Because you said something funny and I didn’t laugh, and then you gave me that look across the – I saw it. I saw the daggers, and you’re like –

You do laugh, but it’s silent laughing. It’s like, “Come on, mate…”

I laugh inside my heart.

Someone tickle him.

You laugh at the audience, I laugh for me.

You know, there’s the Wilhelm Scream. Is there the Wilhelm Laugh, that we can just substitute in whenever Matt silent-laughs?

Yeah, the Toback… That’s a good idea.

Or maybe you could give Matt a button that he pushes anytime something’s funny. So the button will make the sound for him.

He can fake-laugh visually.

Actually, I could make that myself just by – there must be a clip on one of the recordings, of Matt laughing. I can have that and –

You sub it in.


Probably. Or you could go to all your companions at Grafana and collect laughs, and then do your anonymous munging and create a collective Matt replacement laugh.

That’s a great idea. [laughs]

The surrogate Matt laugh, yeah.

Can we put it through a processor and figure out who are – kind of like unstable? Because laughs, I feel like, tell a lot… Because if someone has a –

Outlier detector.

Yeah. A laugh detector, a lie detector… You know, like a stability detector…


You’re going too far, Matt.

Yeah, that’s a bit far.

You’re going too far. Rein it in.

Way too far.

Rein it in.

These are the kind of questions you could expect to hear on Grafana’s Big Tent. [laughter]

Originally, we were thinking of doing – when I wasn’t involved, it was just gonna be Toback and the Wilk… [laughter] I really wanted to make the podcast for that one. “It’s Toback and the Wilk…” You know, you could imagine it.

The morning show… [laughs]

“I’m Toback.” “And I’m the Wilk!” You know, loads of wacky, zany sound effects, and stuff.

Well, before I knew Tom was involved, I thought it was gonna be “Matt and Mat in the morning!” [laughter] You guys could be a morning show on AM radio.

Yeah. I’d love that.

Except for you’re in different timezones, so syncing up on that would be tough.

Well, while he’s saying morning, I’ll be saying afternoon. There’ll just be that. We should try it now, Matt. Just say “Mat and Matt in the morning.” Are you ready?

Good morning!

No, you have to say “Mat and Matt in the morning.”

On three?

Yeah. Ready?

I’m not gonna do this… [laughter]

Three, two, one… Mat and Matt in the –

I’m not gonna do this. [laughter]

Nah, fair play to him.

He’s silent-laughing, for those who can’t see. He’s silent-laughing right now. Insert laugh track.

It wasn’t silent-laughing, I was really laughing!

Well, we have one minute, because Matt has a hard stop… Two t’s Matt.

I do…

But any final words, fellas? Check it out,, obviously… It’s in your podcast player, search for Grafana’s Big Tent…

Do we know when we’re putting it live?

It is live.

By the time this goes out, it’s live.

Yeah. Next week, Tom. Well, in the past, when people are listening, in the future to us…


But we’re here in the present now.

Presently it’s not launched… This is part of the launch, so… If you’re listening to this, the show is out there, so check it out, Man, what a joy it has been producing this with you all. Behind the scenes it’s been so much fun, just seeing it all come to fruition… And that’s my favorite thing with podcasts. Same thing with Ship It, we’ve launched that show last year. All the years that went into producing that show, the same here… All the years of your careers, Grafana’s journey, but then also the actual journey of producing the actual show… It didn’t begin yesterday, it began last year, and it’s been a bit of a journey to get here.

[52:15] But I’m excited for the listeners to hear this, I’m excited for us to keep producing it, and you all having the fun you have. I think it’s fun even being here and – I feel like I’m behind the scenes of the actual Big Tent, because Jerod and I are just bolted on here; it’s the three of you, and other casts of folks that come in and join you… But it’s been fun seeing the chemistry behind the scenes as well.

Thank you. It’s been great working with you two as well.

And even just to add a little bit, I think knowing that you had everything on lock from the show perspective, I think it allowed us to figure out who we were going to be and what we were trying to do, as opposed to getting hung up on saying “Oh, what should this be, or that be?” or kind of in the weeds. We didn’t have to do that, and we didn’t get to do that. Instead, we had to look at each other and go “Oh, what are we gonna create, and who are we gonna have on?” And that felt really, really cool, because it wasn’t what I expected.

That’s awesome.

So yeah, thank you, both.

It’s been a journey. Thank you for letting us play a role in it. We very much appreciate it. We’re obviously big fans. Big fans of the production itself, and where you’re going with it, so we appreciate you letting us be part of the journey.

Thank you.


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