Changelog & Friends – Episode #41

The ol' hot & juicy

with Adam Jacob

All Episodes

Frequent guest (and almost real-life-friend) Adam Jacob returns to share his spicy takes on all the recent “open source meets business” drama. We also take some time to catch up on the state of his open source-based business, System Initiative.



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Notes & Links

📝 Edit Notes


1 00:00 Let's talk!
2 00:38 Sponsor: Cloudflare
3 02:55 News Flash! IBM buys HashiCorp
4 03:54 F words & Friends
5 04:24 Vacations cause drama
6 05:14 Matt Asay's article
7 18:18 Products vs projects
8 22:31 Sponsor: imgproxy
9 25:59 Business model math
10 35:20 Linkerd vs HashiCorp
11 37:31 Eric Raymond
12 38:19 Mojo bags & a rubber chicken
13 39:02 An alternate HashiCorp path
14 48:22 Putting the hippie side back in
15 57:38 OpenTofu's odds
16 1:06:45 Sponsor: Sentry
17 1:08:08 System Init checkup
18 1:09:47 System Init disrupt
19 1:14:01 TypeScript? No!
20 1:17:43 System Init v Dagger
21 1:21:43 System Init priorities
22 1:25:24 System Init audience
23 1:29:31 System init ready?
24 1:30:54 Steal this model!
25 1:32:17 Heavy metal recs
26 1:34:49 Bill Joel starts a fire
27 1:39:44 Bye friends!
28 1:41:08 Coming up next (join ++!)


📝 Edit Transcript


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

So we’re just gonna riff for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half.

Great. Yeah, man, let’s *bleep* go.

Alright, sweet.

Sorry… [laughs] You’ll have to cut that one, but you know…

We will bleep you.

Yeah, like Deadpool. Let’s frickin’ go.

Well, if you say 20 F-words, it’s gonna be hard, so we might not, but…

I’ll slow it down.

Slow them down.

Yeah, I’ll slow my roll.

Give us a heads up before it comes; like “Here it comes…!” and then do it.

It’s about to happen… Yeah. I feel it in my throat…

Yeah, “I’m getting worked up over here.”

Yeah. Well, stop going on vacation.

I wasn’t on vacation…

Every time you leave the internet, open source does something.

Yeah, that does seem like a trend.

It’s either vacation, or a break, or something.

Yeah. Anytime I leave Twitter for a second, everything goes down.

Where were you this time? And what happened? Where were you and what happened?

Well, let’s see… I’d taken like a small – well, what was the original one? The original one was HashiCorp, where I was going on vacation…

The relicense.

Yeah. And I sent a tweet that said “Hey, I’m going on vacation. Don’t burn open source down while I’m gone”, something like that. And then of course, all that happened, and then everybody was like “Dude, you burned down open source.” And then now, every time I take a break, the internet burns down.

Yeah, something fluffs up.


So this time was the cease and desist, the OpenTofu cease and desist? Or what happened this time?

Yeah, probably OpenTofu.

Although, I think I was pretty present for that, because it really worked me up.

I was gonna say, you were the first one that I heard about it from.

Ah, I was so grumpy about it…

Twitter for you just said “Here’s one for you, Jerod”, and they showed me yours. [laughs]

Yeah… I mean – yeah, it’s pretty on-brand, I suppose. Man, that article that Matt Asay wrote just got up my nose in a way that really bothered me…

Are you sure it was your nose?

I mean, you told me I’m not supposed to swear… So I’m doing a good job, you know?

“That one went right up my nose.”

I don’t think it was my nose. [laughter] Yeah, I just – you know, I’ve known Matt a long time on the Twitter land. I think we’ve met maybe twice in our lives. And I like him. We disagree about a lot of things, but I always felt like he was – for all of our disagreements, I never felt like he was a bad actor. I didn’t feel like he was acting in bad faith. You know what I mean? I always felt like he was just saying what he thought, and what he thought I happened to not disagree with (sic)… But that doesn’t make you a bad person, it just makes us people who disagree, right?

Yeah, you see the world differently.

And he was always ready to engage, sort of in the back-and-forth, about the fact that we disagreed… Which, again, I appreciate, without a whole ton of vitriol. That article though, it was just – it wreaked of bad faith from the jump to me, where it was like, here’s this really scathing article about this individual engineer… so like if you’d done any research at all beyond what he posted… And what he posted was very much a reflection of what HashiCorp later put in their C&D. So let’s speculate for a minute wildly about how that happened… But you know, he writes this article, basically accuses this engineer of theft… Not basically. He does. He says “They stole it”, right? Which is a pretty explosive accusation. If you’re that engineer and you’re getting paid to write software for a living, and someone accuses you of theft… That’s a career burner. That’s gonna be hard for you, right?

But he didn’t even think about that… Because you know, the outcome aligned. What he saw was what he wanted to see. He wants to see that the large cloud providers, or the consortium of large cloud providers, or whoever it is, are taking the money from scrappy startups trying to do their thing. And so that’s what he saw when he looked at the evidence. And then as soon as everybody started telling him the evidence was flimsy – which was a pretty large corner of the technical internet that interacts with Matt… You know, me, Bryan Cantrill, a bunch of other people. And we weren’t the only ones. There was a ton. Both in public and in private. I think I was more in public than a lot of people were, because it got up my nose so much…

[08:19] And he just was silent about it. That also crawled up my nose… Because I’m like “Obviously, you didn’t actually – either the slander was the point, where you what you wanted was that in the world, for whatever your reason or agenda was… Or it wasn’t the point, you’ve been found out, and you let it hang, which means you just didn’t care at all about the impact on that person’s life, or on those people doing that work…” All of which just hits my justice button, super-hard.

So you’re saying if Matt had gone to bat for his piece in the aftermath, and actually backed it up on social media et cetera, or written a follow-up or whatever, then it wouldn’t have bugged you as much. But the fact that he went quiet afterwards…

At least at that moment you’d have been like “Well, at least you have the courage of your conviction.”


But no. As soon as there was actual work done to actually analyze the source code and respond, which is what the CNCF did, which of course they were going to do, he was like “They responded so kindly. It’s a community I want to be a part of.” And I’m like – I’m going to swear now. Can I swear?

Okay, go ahead. We’re ready.

I’m like “Motherf****r, no. No. No. No. Come on. Come on.”

So this was in the aftermath of the response.

Yeah. “Come on…”

He waited until the response.

Yeah, he waited until it was so clear that you were wrong… And then you were like “I don’t know if I should even retract it, because nobody really read it at all.” And it’s like, “Ugh…”

Yeah, that part was a little bit weird to me. That was weird.

It was just very – like, hi, Matt, if you’re listening… What the heck? Do better. I want you to do better, because I like you. And as your friend, I’m disappointed, because I think you’re better than that. And you know, I try to avoid the conspiracy theory look of it, but I don’t even think it’s that much conspiracy theory. What HashiCorp needed was exactly what they got out of sending that letter… Which is, this is a sales problem for them. They’re like “Linux Foundation has OpenTofu.” It’s not like OpenTofu is like a ragtag band of rebels trying to scratch out a living…

No, it’s pretty serious.

It’s pretty serious now. They’ve got Jim Zemlin money. They got the blessing of the Pope, you know… And so now, when you go into those sales meetings, they put a number out, they’re like “Hey, here’s what you’re gonna pay”, and the response from the other side of the table is always gonna be “Why shouldn’t I just use OpenTofu for free?” And then he didn’t answer. And the best answer is “We can’t trust those OpenTofu guys. They stole from us, we sent them a cease and desist, we sent a DMCA takedown letter…”, on and on and on. It doesn’t have to be true that they stole from you. It just has to exist. They just need the evidence in the universe. Because once the evidence is in the universe, you can be like “Well, some people say… Some folks were pretty sure…”

They. The fictitious they.

Yeah, we stopped short of suing them, because that’s crazy. Like, they’re not going to actually sue anybody over this, because that would be a step too far. They don’t need to sue anybody in order to get what they needed. So what was the phone call like? Where that evidence drops to Matt, and then Matt writes that piece before the C&Ds come… Right? Talks to no one, because he got a hot scoop, or whatever. And I’m like “Man, you got played-played.”

So you’re literally saying this is orchestrated. This is orchestrated from HashiCorp…

He’s theorizing.

Okay. Well, he’s saying it, Jerod. He’s not theorizing, he’s saying it.

I’m absolutely theorizing…

…because I have no evidence, I have no data…

There you go.

I don’t have a smoking gun…

Fine. He’s theorizing.

[12:04] But I am theorizing, because if you look at the evidence that HashiCorp presented, and you looked at the evidence – maybe Matt did his own research. Maybe Matt was hanging out, digging around in the pull request archives… You know what I’m saying? …of OpenTofu. Maybe.

The timing is suspect, though. I mean, who’s hanging out in pull requests in the same timing of the cease and desist…?

See what I’m talking about?

So you’re theorizing, Adam. Now Adam’s theorizing.

Yes. Well, I’m shedding light on the theory, okay Jerod? I’m shedding light.

Okay. All good.

And I’m not saying it happened, I’m not saying that’s what happened… But I am saying that it feels like it might/could have. And that’s even grosser…

It is grosser, because that sounds like Big Corp still has a stranglehold on what was once open source, and what open source represents… Because now, like you had just shared, OpenTofu can seem blemished, because there’s been X, Y and Z.

It does seem blemished. It is blemished.

Exactly. In the eyes of a Terraform would-be adopter.

Yeah, but nobody even read that.

Yeah, but nobody’s even read the piece, y’know. It’s a small thing.

Well, I mean, help round out, help flesh out, for those who don’t know who Matt Asay is… I mean, is he a journalist? I’ve heard he’s a lawyer, I know he worked at MongoDB… But a journalist would go through the evidence –

He’s not a journalist.

He’s an opinion columnist?

He’s an opinion columnist, publishes in Info World Not a journalist. We don’t need to hold him to journalistic standards. He basically writes a blog on Info World. Right?

But he does have a pretty large readership. Previous lives he ran what we would call DevRel, but at the time didn’t exist, for like Ubuntu.

So he’s write been around, he knows the industry very well.

Been around for a long time. I think he had a stint at AWS, I think maybe he had a stint at Microsoft… I don’t have as like LinkedIn up, or whatever, and I haven’t memorized his resume… But it’s a great resume. He’s a lawyer…

He writes interesting, thought-provoking things…

Absolutely. Matt’s an interesting character, who’s been around for a very long time. And I don’t know, I just felt like he should have known better. And you know, whether my theorization is correct or incorrect, I’m not wrong that HashiCorp wins out of this whole thing no matter what happens… Because I am 100% right that that’s the reason you send those cease and desist letters…

Because OpenTofu got dragged – their reputation got dragged regardless, is what you’re saying.

Yeah. And the reputation-dragging was the reason to do it. Somebody replied to me on Twitter and called the cease and desist letter “the ol’ hot and juicy”…

I don’t know that one.

…which I think is one of the greatest phrases I’ve ever heard to describe a cease and desist letter… Because I’ve sent cease and desist letters before. I’ve definitely sent people the ol’ hot and juicy. And this is precisely why you do it. You’re like “Hey, what I need is just a little – I just need you to know that I’ve got eyes.”

“I’m watching you.”

I’m watching you. What I think you’re doing isn’t cool, and your toes are up on the line. And so I’m just gonna send you the ol’ hot and juicy. Make sure you know and I know that your toes are on the line, so if you really leap over the line, I’m gonna get you.


So I’m not upset about the existence of the ol’ hot and juicy…

It was a warning shot.

Yeah. Like, you wanna–

It’s a horse head onto their bed, you know?

Exactly. HashiCorp wants to put a horse head in OpenTofu’s bed… I kind of get it. From a business point of view, I get it. Like, you need to send the ol’ hot and juicy. Fine. The part that really crawled up my nose was the part where we pretended that it was like a magical discovery. You know what I mean? And you know, it’s one thing for HashiCorp to send the ol’ hot and juicy, it’s another thing for anyone to never think about that person’s career. Like, there was a human being on the other end of that PR, and you accused them of theft. And you never even talked to them. You didn’t ask a single question of anyone involved. And journalist or no journalist, it just felt – it’s just gross. It’s gross. Like, you should have at least asked a question. And you didn’t. And that’s a bummer.

[16:03] Well, we don’t know Matt. We definitely appreciate [unintelligible 00:16:04.07]

You should have him on the Changelog show.

We’ve invited him on the show at least three times. Right, Adam? At least three?

Several. Enough, where it’s like “Come on…”

He always declines.

That’s weird. He should come.

I think so…

Because he’s a delight. He’s not a bad guy. No lie, I wouldn’t have been as upset about it if I didn’t like him. Like, I do like him. I still like him. I don’t think he’s a bad person. But boy, it just really felt like he got manipulated here, in a way that’s disappointing to me.

And that might be true, too. I’m glad you said that, because that might be true.

I think it probably is true.

I mean –

But he’s not saying that.

He’s not saying that. Maybe he can’t say that.

He probably wants to just move on to the next –

Yeah. He’s like “Wait, can we just take two steps back and delete that? Nobody read that…”

“Nobody really read it…” Yeah. But it’s not because – like, I can’t say enough… My disappointment in it is because I like Matt. Like, it’s because I like interacting with him, I respect Matt, had respected Matt… This is the first moment where I lost a little respect for him, because I was just like I – oof… Oof… Oof!

Right. And his position at MongoDB… He’s often accused of having this slant against –

Definitely. I mean, accused? There’s no accusing. He 100% has this slant. And I’ve always believed, I still believe that he genuinely believes that he’s right. I think he genuinely believes that the relicensing is necessary, that these companies have to do it, that if they don’t, they’re going to be eaten; that they’re preserving the shape of their fu[ture]… I think he genuinely believes that. And that’s okay. I can respect it. I see how you get to that thing.

I think a lot of people believe that.

Yeah, I don’t think he’s alone. The Sentry guys certainly believe it, right? And again, I like the Sentry guys, too. People. Guys… I have a thing that I’m –

The folks over there.

Yes. We like Sentry as well.

They’re all good people, and very genuine in their exploration of what they want, and what they feel like they need for themselves, and for their business, and how it relates to community, and open source… Very genuine. So I disagree on some levels, but it’s not like I don’t understand their problem, or that it’s a problem… I do.

Well, you’ve long been a loud voice representing your and others’ take that you differentiate on a product versus a project, and that the open source business model is not a business model, but you can make this whole deal work, and people have, and people do… And you’re trying to begin, aren’t you, with System Initiative?

Yeah, for sure.

I mean, you’re going after it using your convictions.

Yeah, definitely. And I’m trying to write down – I’m in the middle of trying to write down how… What I’m starting to come to understand is that when we talk about these as problems, we tend to conflate what I call the open source hippie side of it, which is about principles and about the nature of software, and about how it impacts the lives of other people… All of which is incredibly important. And then we also conflate the business side of it, which is “How do you construct a business model that makes sense where the incentives stay aligned over a long period of time?” And when we conflate those two, we make it very difficult to talk about either one. And I think we’ve been conflating them sort of as an industry, certainly the whole time I’ve been around, which is – whatever, I’m 46. I started at 16, so I’ve been around long enough.

My suspicion is that we have to separate those two, and we have to start talking to people about “Here’s how you align the incentives of your business model over time, in order to use open source in a way that as you grow and you get to the MongoDB level or you get to the HashiCorp level or you get to the whatever level, those incentives don’t flip on you.” And that’s a business model construction problem. It’s a question of “Who’s my target market? What price do I sell it at? How does that impact my serviceable addressable market? [SAM] How do all of those things align, so that the price point of what I’m selling is high enough that I don’t need to eat my young, eventually?”

[20:12] And I think what we see in a lot of these things is that in fact that $0 price anchor that we’re setting when we typically do open source is a mistake. And it’s actually kind of easy to show, because the calculation for total addressable market [TAM] is the absolute number of people who could ever buy your product multiplied by the average selling price. And the trick we love to pull when we’re starting open source companies is we don’t count the zero. The $0 part in calculating the average – we don’t put that in the average. We only look at the part that we sell, and we go “What’s the average selling price for that?” But that’s not true. Obviously, the price actually starts with the – you have to factor in the numbers that are zero. And when you do that – suddenly, you watch the TAM shrink somewhat dramatically. Because the right-hand side there – the left-hand side of the equation is kind of fixed. The birth rate is what it is; there’s only so many people, there’s only so many companies, there’s a global, let’s call them 3000, 5000 companies that are going to buy your enterprise software. That’s kind of it. The right-hand side of the equation though, how much I sell it for – that’s in your control. And that’s what drives the difference between MongoDB and let’s call it Chef, where MongoDB is making 1.58 billion, or something like that… That sounds really specific, because I read it the other day; I think I’m right-ish… But they’re still growing like 30% year over year, on $1.5 billion… That’s a big company. That’s a big, healthy company. And that’s because the right hand side of that TAM equation is high. It’s not because they magically discovered more businesses to sell MongoDB to. It’s because the price they sell for MongoDB continues to go up. And it starts high. Stays high. But we don’t talk about that when we talk about open source and business, right? We talk about how you should relate to the community, we talk about all kinds of stuff, but we don’t talk about how to start the business side of it. So I’m starting to think about “How do I talk about the business side of it?” in a way that I can explain to people how the dynamics actually work.

Are you writing a book, are you writing some blog posts? What are you writing?

I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s gonna be a book. A book feels like a lot of work. So if I think about it as a book, it kind of freaks me out, and I don’t want to write anymore. But maybe it’ll be like another long blog post.

Break: [22:26]

So when you do that math, it seems like our story we tell ourselves – which I guess has some truth to it, because we tell to ourselves – is that we can exclude the zero because those people were never going to buy it anyways. Isn’t that part of the story?

Yeah. Well, when you think about the business model math – so this is not like hard business model math. This is the basics. So you have the idea of total addressable market. That’s all the people who would ever buy your product, times the average selling price. Then you have the serviceable addressable market, the subset of the total market that could buy it today; that given the set of things that it does today, they could say “yes”. So imagine you have a market that’s like the big enterprise, and they need FIPS [Federal Information Processing Standards] support, and you don’t compile a FIPS-compliant version of the software. So they’re out of your SAM. They’re in your TAM, but they’re not in your SAM, right? TAM, SAM. Serviceable addressable market.

Total, serviceable.

Think of it as rings. Total market, serviceable market.

It’s a subset.

And then the inner ring is called the SOM [Servicable Obtainable Market], and that’s the number that you’re actually going to try to sell right now. So out of everyone who could use it, how much do you think you’re actually going to get? So it’s big circle, everybody possible. SAM, everybody who could buy it, because you have all the features they need. SOM, the amount you’ll actually win.

What’s that one stand for?

Serviceable obtainable market.


You’ve got the TAM, SAM and SOM are acronyms for three metrics to describe the market your organization operates in.

There you go. That’s right. So business model kind of 101. So when you talk about excluding the zero, obviously the people who take the software – if I produce a product, and I set the price to zero, those people are in my TAM, obviously, they’re also in my SAM, because whatever it was that the software does, it’s good enough for them; they can use it. They’re also in my SOM. They chose to do it. They took the software from me, and now they use it. They’re by definition in the business model. But we said the price is zero. It’s the same as saying “I have a free tier that’s infinite.” And no one would look at a proprietary business and be like “Exclude all those people you give the product away to for free.” If Kleenex started giving away free Kleenex, and then their business burned, you’d be like –

You’d call that bad business.

You’d be like “That was dumb. We shouldn’t have given all that Kleenex away for free.”

“We should have charged money for the Kleenex.”

So this is the same. So when we do that math to justify to ourselves “Hey, here’s how my business is going to work in the long term”, it’s all fun and games. Chef got to a lot of ARR [Annual Recurring Revenue]. But when you look at the destruction we wrought. The average selling price [ASP] of the people we disrupted BladeLogic, Opsware, all of those people – three times, four times higher than Chef was, or Puppet was. So we decimated that market, we took a ton of money out of it, and we told ourselves that we would kind of grow into it… Which works; you can look at HashiCorp. You can do it. The power of that open source lift is so strong that if you get the SAM white enough, then it’s okay that the right-hand side of the equation is a little small, for a while. But once you reach saturation, once most of the people who could use it are using it, and a lot of those people are using it for free, suddenly – where’s the growth come from? Because it’s not coming any more from the expansion of the SAM. Like, if the SOM and the SAM get too close together, we have to grow by increasing the right-hand side of the equation. We have to grow by raising the price. And the question is the most obvious place to raise the price is not on the people who are already paying you a million dollars. It’s actually all the people who are paying you $0. And if I can suddenly convert those people to $10, now I’m Docker. This is what Docker did. They went from no ARR 100 million plus, probably. And the reason is that they suddenly said “Everybody who uses Docker Desktop has to pay me 10 bucks.” Ta-da! And everybody got really mad. They were like “I can’t believe you’re making me pay for it. I don’t want to do it…” [laughter] But there’s 100 million… Like, you’re so upset… But you still paid for it…

[30:19] And like Linkerd, this is happening to them, too. I talked to the Linkerd folks about this; they decided not to make stable builds. I was like “Will, this is going to work. It’s going to convert. And you should maybe go even further. Maybe stop making any builds at all, that aren’t the ones you sell for money. Because that would work even better. And he was like “That feels a step too far for me.” But I was like “Get that money, Will!” And I think he’s getting it. I think that money’s shown up in a way it wasn’t before. And that’s because what he did was raised that right-hand side of the equation. There were a bunch of people using Linkerd, most of them paying $0. Suddenly, that ASP number starts to climb up, and it’s magic what happens when the number on the left is big, and you raise that number on the right. It’s just multiplication. It’s not rocket scientry.

And this is why I think we have to split the conversation between the business and the open source part. Because the business part is very clear. Those incentives are obvious. You can put them in a spreadsheet, you can see what their impact is. The open source piece of it, you cannot. It’s feelings, it’s vibes… There’s a lot of stuff it is, but measurable is not on the list. And we tend to like things we can measure. We tend to believe things we can measure. And so – yeah, I think we have to start measuring it more.

Yeah. So in Linkerd’s case you’re saying that the lever they pulled was to not put out official builds of sorts, or verified builds?

Yeah, so Linkerd, there were two projects. There was Linkerd and then Buoyant’s Enterprise Linkerd. And Buoyant enterprise was the paid product, and Linkerd was the open source product that came out through the Linux Foundation, through the CNCF [Cloud Native Computing Foundation]. And what they decided to do was to stop producing stable builds through the CNCF. So now, the Linkerd builds are just nightlies. And you can use the nightlies for free, but you’re on your own.

Could be bugs, yeah.

Could be bugs, maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, no backwards compatibility graph…

Regressions… Yeah.

Yeah, you get what you get. Which, their target market is the enterprise. They’re not running nightlies.

They’re not. They’re like “Nah…”

That’s not a thing. And they also changed their pricing, because now they were having more realistic conversations about the actual value of Linkerd. And now suddenly, all those people that you’ve been trying to sell to, who were saying “no”, they’re not saying “no”… Because you built a valuable product, and you’re not giving it away for free anymore, and so now they’re forced to look at the question “Is our life better with Linkerd paying for it, or without Linkerd not paying for it?” And look, that is the sales razor; if you can get it for free, I’m not paying you for it. Some people will, whatever. They’ll be like “I love you. I tip you good for my–” I was in Austin at this team retreat, and I had a big pile of people at this table, and we all just drank tap water for like an hour and a half in this restaurant. And I felt bad about it. I ordered like a coffee, so our bill was like $2. So I tipped them – whatever, $25, because I was like “We didn’t do anything, and that sucks.” And that was nice, or whatever. I tell that story not to show you what a nice person I am, just to say that there’s people who will tip you. You’re not I mean? There’s people who will be like “I got real value out of that”, but they’re tipping you. And it’s a lot better – if your goal is to make money – it’s a lot easier to make it if you’re like “You can’t have it if you don’t pay me.”

What I find interesting that example though is that you said it’s a “no”. I think it was more of a – there was no request for money.

Oh, there was definitely a request.

It wasn’t a “no”…

There was 100% a request for money.

In Linkerd’s case.

Oh, yeah. They’d been trying hard to sell Buoyant Enterprise Linkerd to all the people who use Linkerd, for the entirety of that project’s life.

While also giving the stable builds.

[34:07] Of course. Yeah, because it was an open source project. Because the belief was that the open source piece increases the serviceable addressable market faster, pulls more people into the market you can sell to, the SOM, and that that acceleration is worth it. And my point is, I don’t think it’s worth it if it comes at a price of zero. Like, it’s obviously not worth it if the price is zero. Like, if everybody – like, there’s a lot of enterprises running Linkerd; it is not an unsuccessful project. But they were not making the money commensurate with their success. Of course they weren’t. It was free. Not only was it free, it was free and it came through a trusted third party, the CNCF. Do I trust CNCF more than I trust Buoyant? Absolutely. Who’s Buoyant? Now, the answer is “All the people working on Linkerd, publishing it through CNCF.” That’s all there ever – CNCF’s not doing anything for Linkerd, except, whatever; stamping it. I’m sure there’s some marketing hoo-ha that’s lovely…

Some hoo-ha behind there…

But that hoo-ha didn’t help them against Istio; it didn’t help them against Cilium. That hoo-ha is available to anyone who wants it. So it wasn’t like an exclusive marketing hoo-ha.

Look at what a good job I’m doing not swearing.

I know. These are nice euphemism. These are great. So the difference between Linkerd and what HashiCorp is HashiCorp – they both wanted to raise the right-hand side of the equation. HashiCorp wants to do it through relicensing, Linkerd did it through packaging, or building, or productization.

Right, exactly. So the core problem is the same, which is the right-hand side of that equation sucks. “I need to raise my price. How do I raise my price?” And that’s how. Now, Hashi Corp – in the case of HashiCorp, they did it through saying “Well, the only builds that are available are the ones that come from us under our commercial terms. You’ll see those terms ratchet up over time.” So they didn’t want to freak everybody out. It’s not as soon as they did that, they also ratcheted the right-hand side intensely. But they absolutely will.

They’re preparing for it.

They’re getting ready… of course they are.

Well, now they’re in full control.

Yeah. They just need a little distance between the moment and the ratchet. But the ratchet’s coming, because the ratchet’s the point. They’re not doing it because they don’t want the ratchet. They totally want the ratchet. Same with MongoDB. They were like “It’s the big cloud providers!” No, it was not. I mean, yes, it was; I’m sure. I’m 100% positive that when they sat down and talked about it internally, it was about the big cloud providers, and that’s what worked them into a lather. And there was a whole bunch of people running MongoDB and not paying them a dollar. And there were a bunch of third party hosting providers running MongoDB making more dollars than they were making, and the way they wanted to make money on top of what they did was by hosting MongoDB, which they had not done. And so they needed to, at the same time, raise the right-hand side by making it harder to get a version of MongoDB that you don’t pay for. They needed to eliminate the competition of existing third party hosting providers, so that when they entered that market, they had the best offering… And they wanted to make sure that the large cloud providers didn’t eat into their nut. And they did it all with one smooth relicensing cut of the sword. Yeah? Fair enough! Like, okay. This is why you have to take the hippie part out of it. We talked about it that way, from a pure business point of view, you’re like “Okay, I get it. I see what you wanted. That worked.” And it super-worked. You can’t say it didn’t work. It worked. It’s obvious that it worked. The only time you can say it doesn’t work is if you fall back on the hippie thing.

Eric Raymond, who I’ve never interacted with, but crawled into my Twitter feed, and was like – when I said something to that effect, he was like “You’re looking at the wrong thing.” And I’m like “Well, tell me what I should be looking at.” And then he went silent. Because he doesn’t have anything. Because he has vibes. He was like “Obviously, there’s less MongoDB in the world than there used to be.” I’m like “Is there?”

Who’s Eric Raymond?

Who’s Eric Raymond? Eric Raymond, ESR, he wrote –

The Cathedral and the Bazaar?

That Eric Raymond, okay.

That Eric Raymond.

[38:00] Slid into your DMs with nothing to say?

No DMs. Publicly.


Yes, slid into the conversation, because I was like “Mongo, with the money.” And what did he say? It was something to the equivalent of – it didn’t matter. But anyway, it was funny. And also kind of delightful to me, because… How much did I love The Cathedral and the – what an impact Cathedral and the Bazaar had on my life. So –

Do you believe in the multiverse, Adam?

Are you a multiverse believer?

I mean, look, I’m superstitious about like everything, and I believe in like a vague and personal God that’s sort of Christian, and Buddhist… I’m like a Thích Nhất Hạnh Buddhist. But I have like a couple mojo bags hung above my door with a rubber chicken… It’s been over the door of every house I’ve ever slept in since I was probably 19 or 20… The rubber chicken’s there to remind me that it’s not the mojo bags that keep us safe, you know? And also, it’s the mojo bags. You know?

[laughs] Okay…

I’m not sleeping in my house without the mojo bags above the door, you know what I mean?

I’m not necessarily trying to get at your religious beliefs, but I want to know, if there was an alternate universe, a multiverse, let’s just say, where HashiCorp made a different choice… What would have the choice been different? How could they have done differently?

Yeah. Oh, that’s a good question. Going straight for all this spicy salsa.

I mean, look, let’s start with some recognition that they hit a homerun, and I hit a double. Right? What I mean by that is just – my objective with Chef was to build a lasting public company that lived forever, and I did not. Which, y’know, I don’t feel like a failure about it. We did great, and better than most startups do, and I’m proud of our success. And you can’t – HashiCorp’s success versus Chef’s success… They’re not in the same league. So I just want to get that out of the way first. Then I’ll pontificate about how I think the world could’ve been different. So I just want to make sure people understand; I’m not talking about this –

Yeah. Check yourself before you – yeah.

Right. It’s not like I’m – so what do I know…? And I’ve spent the whole time thinking about it, so I have thoughts. So the first is that when HashiCorp started, and sort of as they grew, for them – and I think they’ve said this publicly – open source wasn’t a thing that they thought about as part of their business model. It was a thing they did, because that’s what all the infrastructure software that they used was, right? They used Chef, or they use Puppet… Mitchell never really liked Chef. But they used Puppet, they used Chef a little bit, they used all kinds of open source stuff… And that market was saturated with open source offerings and tools. So in order to get into that market, it would have been tough to build those tools in and not have them be open source. So they open sourced them. They chose the MPL, which is fine. The MPL, Mozilla Public License, applies to basically individual file copyleft.

Then the next piece of it is how exactly is it that you grow with your own community? So if you think about who’s contributing, how open were you to contributions, what was it like – you know, they’ve never been particularly open to contributions. That was – from the jump, it was sort of either Mitchell’s show, Armon’s show; they made decisions, and you sort of followed them. You can see this with the feature OpenTofu just shipped around state encryption. I don’t know when the first time there was a PR to Terraform that had state encryption for the local data, but it was a long time ago. And that PR was rejected, because it didn’t fit in with the business model. It wasn’t better for HashiCorp. That was a proprietary feature; they want you to use Vault, they wanted you to like tie into the suite… And so you know, somebody had written the code, and done the work, and sent the PR, and got the finger, right? [possibly referring to PR #28603, which was closed by the contributor; see also hashicorp/terraform #9556 —Ed.]

[41:46] That’s a pretty common refrain when you look across the board on their projects, right? They just – they hired teams, those teams worked on the software… This is always what happens. It’s not rare that the primary funder of the project is where all the engineers come from. I promise I’m getting to the answer to your question.

So from the beginning, they were pretty closed. I think one way to think about it would have been you could have started out being more open. So Terraform – there’s a plethora of competitors now in the infrastructure as code space. There’s Pulumi, there’s the CDK, there’s the Azure Resource Manager stuff… Microsoft even built another one, whose name I forget; I’m so sorry, I probably should remember. But there’s a lot of them. And part of the reason that all those things exist is because that ecosystem was so closed, right? So it did grow – HashiCorp, Terraform, lots of people used it, tons of stuff happening there… But if you wanted to build a business on top of it, if you wanted to extend it, if you wanted to collaborate in some way, if you wanted to build a derivative… A lot of those avenues felt pretty closed, because I think they were closed, right? And it meant that as the market grew, there was more space for competition, because it’s not like there was any part of the market that HashiCorp didn’t want. And the growth of that technology and the growth of their open source market covered up the low ASP.

So HashiCorp goes to market, hugely successful with Terraform… Let’s call them base hits on everything else, except for Vault, which was another home run. And Vault’s a home run for ASP, right? So Vault’s more expensive than the others, it’s a security product… like, ka-pow! So now you’ve got Terraform – homerun; Vault – homerun. Everything else is slugging along, right?

They had a press release not that long ago, yesterday maybe, where they were like rebranding the HashiCorp cloud platform, and they were talking about how Nomad was a part of it… And then it was like “But you’ve got to run it yourself. Wa-wa-wa.”

So all of that – the alternate universe theory would have said “What if HashiCorp had been more open? What if they had actually been open to, let’s call it, open governance? What if they had been open to allowing more people to use Terraform? And what if Terraform was a product they produced and they produced exclusively, and they could decide that the side of the market they wanted was the top of the market, instead of the bottom?”, which is the part of the market they care about most. So they could have decided that the price for Terraform initially, for a large swath of the longtail, was essentially free. And they could have decided that the top of that market was very expensive, closer to the ASP that they want now, or that they had hoped to capture… And while they perhaps wouldn’t have grown absolute share as quickly, I would argue that their ASP would be stronger now. And perhaps they could have driven more standardization around Terraform, for example, than they did.

Vault’s a great example of this. Vault’s ubiquitous in the enterprise, lots of people use it, which is awesome… But it didn’t… never became like a standard, in the way that like – think about like Elasticsearch or Redis. Like Redis, pfffft, Redis is like – the protocol of Redis is the protocol for caching. And that didn’t happen for Terraform, it didn’t happen for Vault either. And it’s because they were a little too closed. There was not enough of that ecosystem; you didn’t see the AWS Vault provider. You didn’t see an Azure Vault provider. GCP Vault provider. If you did, Vault would be the standard by which we all get our certificates all the time. But we don’t.

And so now they’re in a much more vulnerable position later in the game. Because now as the game gets later, you’re like “Okay, growth’s slowing. We’ve kind of reached saturation. Competition got harder. Now that competition isn’t with ourselves or with a derivative of us. It’s not “We’re competing with AWS to be the best Vault provider.” It’s “We’re competing with AWS’es proprietary key management systems in order to be better than Vault”, which they aren’t. Vault’s not better than AWS’es proprietary key management stuff; it’s not better than Azure’s proprietary key management stuff, or GCP’s, right?

[46:15] So it’s maybe better if I have lots of stuff in lots of places… But Amazon will get you there. If you’re JPMC [JPMorgan Chase], or you’re Chase, or – they’re the same thing. You’re Citibank, or you’re whatever, you’ll find a way, if that’s what you want to do.

So I think the alternate universe theory is one that says “They should have built a distribution that they sold for money, that was their brand, and they should have operated like an open upstream. And they should have let the rest of the market fill in the gaps.” But that would have implied leaving that space, and having a long-term strategy about how the right-hand side of that dollar equation turns into a giant business. I don’t think they had that strategy. I think the strategy was “This thing’s great. Everybody’s using it. Mash the gas!”, which was my strategy, too. That’s how Chef speed-ran every possible open source business model. We were like “People like it. Goooo!!!” Which – it’s a strategy in arrears only. It’s only when you look in the rear-view mirror that suddenly you’re like “How strategic was I?” In the moment, we weren’t being strategic. You just went for it. It’s not like Mitchell and Armon raised that first round of venture capital, and suddenly they became CFOs, with like a genius – right, no. No. They built software and sold. It was awesome. And they didn’t even think too much about selling it, because it was killing it. Because if you kill it, and the open source part works, you’re picking up leads like leaves; they’re everywhere. You’re just doing stuff, you’re like “Oh, my God. We got an inbound lead from Fidelity, and it just happened. I didn’t talk to them. They just showed up in my life, and were like “Hey, we’re using a bunch of this Terraform stuff. What do you got?” It’s pretty awesome, until it’s not.

And I think that misalignment of long-term incentives is how it could have been different. I think you could have aligned the long-term incentives, not really changed much about the open source part of your growth trajectory, and kept that right-hand side high. And if you had, then I think you’d be able to remain in the community, and of the community, in the way that you hoped you could have.


Yeah, potentially. Who knows.

Potentially. Well, I think part of this is analysis, part of this is opinion, and part of this is like “Well, at some point in the future someone’s gonna look at this podcast and this conversation and say “I need to make a decision about how I orchestrate and organize my open source project/company and building around it. Is the best way a license change? What would an alternate universe be if I had a choice? And what would that example be?” And I think HashiCorp in this example, and OpenTofu, is an example of a fractured community, a fractured project let’s just say, and a community that built itself around it; orchestrators, vendors that were implementers of Terraform. Built businesses around Terraform, and they got the “rug pull, not cool” situation happen to them.

But they did that in spite of HashiCorp, right? HashiCorp –

They did…

HashiCorp didn’t want them to do it. It’s not like HashiCorp ever looked at MZero, or Spacelift, or any of those companies and was like “Glad you’re pushing the Terraform SAM.” [laughs] You know? Like, they were always hostile to their existence, but they could have.

But they could have. Right, exactly. So they disregarded free love, let’s just say. I don’t even – I don’t want to be like that kind of free love. It was like literally free, it was literally love…

There’s the hippie side. Free love…!

But let’s put the hippie side back into it. Like, the thing about it is that nothing bonds stronger for a product than using that product to change the trajectory of your life.

A hundred percent. Yeah.

When I look at the things that have changed my life – and there are numerous pieces of software. Mark Burgess, who wrote CFEngine, changed my life. The entire arc of my whole adult life. My kid’s gonna go to college… Everything I have, because Mark Burgess wrote CFEngine and wrote papers about it, changed my life. And open sourced all of it. And if he hadn’t done that, I don’t know what would have happened in my life. I’m sure I’d have been fine… But it changed the shape of my life forever.

[50:13] And there are people that – I was at Disney the other day… And not to like name-drop, or whatever… But one of the stories that one of the people told me was how Chef changed his life, in a very similar way. He had reached a point in his career, he was a little disenchanted, he wasn’t having any fun… And then Chef happened, and suddenly, open-field running. He was reinvigorated for like a second act in his whole career. And I didn’t do that. Right? You can look at that and be like “Well, sure you did. Like, there wasn’t a Chef, and then there was.” But that’s not true. Like, that person found that product; he fell in love with it. He changed his life, because that’s what he wanted to do with that piece of software. Nothing bonds stronger than that in product land. You’re not that loyal to Kleenex; you’re not that loyal to La Croix. I see you buying Waterloo… Because it didn’t change your life. It just was yummy. But the things that changed your life – they bond tightly.

And what happens when you ignore that hippie side of it is you make it us versus them again. You take this thing that has the potential to bond so deeply into the fabric of someone’s life that it alters them permanently and forever. And you turned it into a thing that was just about extracting a dollar. And… pffft… you know?

Like, “What a bummer.” And how much more possible – how much more money is available if you could have kept that other side, if you could have kept that life-changing impact? If you could have said to all of those people that are in OpenTofu “Great. Let’s make Terraform the industry standard for this thing together. Let’s push that forward together, and improve the shape of what it is. And we’ll compete.” And y’know, look, HashiCorp’s gonna win. There’s no version of that scenario where they don’t win. They win. They win 100% of the time. But they didn’t want it, because that to some degree requires a bit of faith. Like, it does require a little bit of belief in the hippie side of it, in order to get yourself there. And at least in that first moment. Because if you don’t believe that that’s true – well, there is a spreadsheet I can look at that’s deals won or lost, and some of them go to Spacelift. Some of them go to MZero. I don’t like that spreadsheet. “Well, of course you don’t like it, because the ASP was already too low, and you were reaching market saturation, and you can–” You know what I mean?

Right. They’re taking some of your customers. Yeah, it makes total sense.

It makes total sense. One of them’s hippie in love, the other one – hard spreadsheet. Sitting in the room with a sales rep losing their job because they couldn’t make a deal that quarter, because they lost it to MZero. You know? *blows raspberry*

Do you think that OpenTofu has a real chance of doing that?

What Terraform didn’t do.

No, I don’t.

Do you think that they don’t stand a chance to be a viable fork, even?

I mean, I’m sure it’ll be a viable fork. But at this point –

Too late?

Yeah… I mean, look, I’m busy building a product that I think is going to disrupt all of that part of the market. So again, just while we’re laying it all, cards on the table… I’m over here pontificating about HashiCorp could have had a better exit, and Mitchell’s flying in his private plane… Like, yeah, I think that ultimately – I think all of those companies are dead ends, because I think the actual foundational technology is also a dead end, for as beautiful as it was. I’m so thankful that is the direction we went. Again, it changed my life. And… it’s not getting better. I don’t think it gets better because you put a better cloud UI on top of it. I just don’t. I think it’s sort of – it’s as good as it gets.

Sorry, was that too “shots-fired-y”?

Makes for a spicy podcast.

No, it’s all good. You hear that, OpenTofu? You’re dead in the water. [laughs]

I mean, I don’t think they’re dead in the water. I think it’s fine.

[53:59] [laughs] Oh, I thought you wanted to get spicy. I figured I’d spice it up even more.

I just think that all of those companies now have a different problem, which is – let’s talk about the business dynamics of OpenTofu for a second. So there’s all these companies that are contributing to OpenTofu right now. All of them are doing it because they use OpenTofu in their own products. So in my terminology, that no one else but me has ever adopted, I call that situation a “free software island”. So what that means is they’ve all agreed that they’re going to cooperate together on OpenTofu and the CNCF. They drew a circle around it and they said “That’s OpenTofu.” In OpenTofu, where it’s common ground. Every Apache project is also one of these. It’s also a free software island.

So from a business point of view, how do I maximize my ability to make a profit off the free software island, and to compete against other people who are also pulling off the free software island? And the correct move there is to build proprietary extensions. So the winner of the OpenTofu war, which will happen internally to OpenTofu, because they’re all competing now, on top of OpenTofu, for the customer dollar… Right? So they need to grow the size of OpenTofu, they need to grow the right-hand side of their ASP, yeah? The best move there, over and over again – focus as little as you possibly can on OpenTofu, and as much as you possibly can on the proprietary side of your product.

So whoever’s listening, if your strategy right now is “We’re all in on OpenTofu”, you’ve got 20 engineers, 18 of them are working on OpenTofu, and two of them are working on your proprietary extension – stop. It needs to be 18 to 2. Or more. And the reason is that the delta between you and your competitors will never be a feature you put in OpenTofu by definition. So the way that you win in the business version of that market is you build the best product the other people don’t have. It’s not that hard. And somebody else is going to have the opposite strategy. They’re gonna be like “No. We’re the most vanilla OpenTofu’ers. It’s all the open source good times.” This is the Hadoop story. This was – what were their names? This was Cloudera and Hortonworks. Cloudera’s strategy was the one I just described. Hortonworks was the open source one. Their whole thing was it’s vanilla Hadoop, delivered and packaged to you, but it’s all open source and ready to go. And they had a merger of equals. They’re both public companies, both successful. Cloudera bought Hortonworks 60/40 merger of equals. I don’t know about you, but 60/40 isn’t a merger of equals to me. And it was 60/40 because the Cloudera made more money, because they had proprietary features that Hortonworks didn’t have. And so they owned the higher end of that market.

So that’s what’s going to happen to OpenTofu. One of them’s going to figure it out, that the right move here is not to put more effort and energy into OpenTofu; it’s actually to put effort and energy into your proprietary product, because you don’t have a choice. Now, HashiCorp could have had that same energy. It would have actually been a pretty good move, for one of those people to be like “We’re the number two contributor to Terraform.” That’s actually a pretty solid competitive wedge if you’re competing for a segment of the market Hashicorp’s not in. That’s actually pretty great. But OpenTofu? I mean, there’s none of that.

So yeah, I think ultimately, all those companies still have the same basic problem they had before, only now the problem is that they also have to maintain OpenTofu, and before they didn’t. And so that’s going to be a real drag. And everything they’ve put into OpenTofu helps their competitors. That’s going to also be a drag. So yeah, I don’t know… I’m sure they’ll do fine, but I wouldn’t predict it’s a wild, runaway success.

Well, the question is is what are we optimizing for? Are they optimizing for HashiCorp IPO success? Or are they optimizing for “Let’s keep what we were using”? Like you said, the open source island. What are they optimizing for?

Every single one of those companies is a venture-backed startup. There was only one outcome they all wanted, and it was HashiCorp levels of success, or they’re playing the wrong – I’m going to swear again. Are you ready? The wrong *bleep* game. If that’s not what you want, why’d you take that first venture dollar? There’s no version of those companies where what they wanted was not to win, and to win big. That is the whole game. So they might –

[58:17] Does that describe OpenTofu’s direction thought? I mean, they’re users of the technology, not the technology itself, the company. Or am I misunderstanding?

I mean, remove OpenTofu from all of those companies, remove Terraform from those companies – what do they got? The answer is nothing.

Terraform extensions. [laughter]

They’ve got nothing. It’s the heart of what they do.

Yeah, it’s the foundational bit.

It is what drives them forward.

So is the user base of OpenTofu a bunch of competitors, essentially, that integrate Terraform, and they’re all competitors?

Yup. And so now there’s users of OpenTofu, people who use OpenTofu – they’re now getting a great enterprise product at $0, stamped by the CNCF, Linux Foundation… So how much value do I as an MZero, or a Spacelift, or one of those people, get to extract from my investment in OpenTofu? Zero. No dollars. $0. It’s worth nothing. Okay, so it’s worth nothing. So we all have the same problem, right-hand side of the TAM; left-hand side’s the number. We know the left-hand side of that number is really big, but has reached saturation. Right-hand side of that number – quite small. How do we make the right-hand side of the number bigger if we can never extract any value at all incrementally for our investment in OpenTofu? The answer is “Never invest in OpenTofu. Invest massively in the other right-hand side of that thing, and try to capture as much of that market as you can, as quickly as you can.” Any other decision is kind of dumb. Not because of like the hippie part, but just the business part. Like, just think about it. Not through difficult math either. This is just multiplication. So, like, you know… Woof!

So it’s not like it’s not gonna work. It’s gonna work. They’re gonna make money, it’s probably sustainable for the long term… I’m sure that it’ll become an open source project that lives, and people maintain, and there’ll be an OpenTofu you can rely on. And OpenTofu does rely in no small part on the success of those companies that need it to work. And those companies are going to be successful because they can make money on top of OpenTofu. And to do that, they’ve got to compete with HashiCorp, they’ve gotta compete with each other, and they’ve got to get you convinced that OpenTofu is the way, and OpenTofu is gonna become more and more not-Terraform over time. So I don’t know. It’s gonna be a squeaker.

So you’re predicting some form of stasis. So they’ll probably continue to have success, the project will go along just fine… But we aren’t talking home runs, we aren’t talking –

Is there gonna be a breakout winner that goes public? I mean, no.

It is a weird incentive though when you have competitors playing what’s effectively a zero-sum game, all collaborating on their foundational stuff. And like you said, the incentives are perverse, because you are incentivized to invest as little as possible in the foundation, and as much as possible in your proprietary extensions. Like, they’re all incentivized that way.

Yes. Every time I’ve ever looked at anything that worked this way, that’s the answer.

And I guess the kumbaya only lasts so long, right? And then eventually, it –

I mean, at some point… Like, we’ve gotta get paid. And if we don’t get paid –

So given this – let’s just say it’s a fact; given this truth… What is Hashicorp’s move?

I mean, they’re doing it right now. They’re just going to continue –

The ratchet.

It’s the ratchet. They’re going to continue to close up, they’re going to take the free part and squeeze it… So it’s harder and harder to get a thing that’s totally free. So they’ll ratchet down on how much functionality, or how much price you can get for free. If it was me, I’d say you can’t get it for free at all anymore. I would have just been like “Your only choice is my free tier.” It would be worse if I was in the seat. Like, maybe there’s people who are like “If Adam ran HashiCorp… Boy, he wouldn’t do the evil that [unintelligible 01:02:01.26] did.” I’m not sure. [laughs]

What if you made this choice? If you made this choice to relicense, given this choice –

[01:02:11.10] Yeah, given the choice, given the place where we already are… Man, I’d ratchet so hard. Because what am I trying to do? Am I trying to appease the open source people? Man, they’re so mad at me they made OpenTofu.

Yeah, you already did that. You ruined that.

I already did that. I’m already soaking that pain. And it’ll be out of the news cycle in no time. Lickety split. So, man – yeah, the ratchet’s coming. And if it was me, I’d ratchet hard. Because if I could pop – think about it, your growth slows a little, quarter over quarter. It’s not like it stopped. They’re still growing, but they’re not growing like they were. Their stock price is taking a hit, the macro’s tough… You know, if they can pop 10 million more in ARR, 20 million more in ARR, that matters. Like, that changes the game. That’s a big swing in that stock price. And what do they sacrifice? $0? Theoretical market share? Let them go to OpenTofu.

Zero. The zero of the TAM.

The zero of the TAM. So let them be a drain on OpenTofu. Right? It’s only going to make it worse for OpenTofu. Let them have all those people that weren’t paying you anyway. What do you care? What you care about are the people who buy it… And the people who buy it aren’t paying you enough, so make them pay you more, so they care. And then when you sit down to sell it to them, be like “You don’t want to buy OpenTofu. I sent them the ol’ hot and juicy… [laughter] And Matt Asay’s article is pretty sketchy.”

Show title.

Like, it’s not a bad plan. It’s not. Right?

No, it’s not.

It’s like, if you’re gonna go to the Dark Side, you might as well be Emperor Palpatine.

Yeah. I mean –

You might as well.

…what game are we playing?


And you know, everybody likes to believe that in that same situation, with all those pressures and all those people, that they would suddenly be different. I like to believe I would be, too. Would I? I don’t know. I kind of see it. Yeah. So it’s tough. It’s an interesting problem. And I’m convinced that there’s an argument that Matt Asay is making, that the most important problem in open source is actually that we’re not paying the low-level maintainers of all these libraries, and that there’s this small number of people who relicense, and we should not pay attention to the man behind the curtain, and instead we should focus all our energy on figuring out how to get the maintainers paid. That’s sleight of hand. I think they’re two very separate problems. To me, actually, the more existential threat to open source is not whether we can pay the individual maintainers; it’s whether or not we figure out how to rewrite these incentives, and teach ourselves how to build long-lasting companies that take the part of open source that’s beautiful, which is your ability to build a life on top of it in the way that you want or need to… And how do we build companies that their success and their growth and their future sustainability never comes at the expense of your ability to create the life you want? Because that’s the magical part about software. Like, you can do that, and it harms no one. And the supply never runs out. It’s glorious. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the history of the world. And because we can’t figure out how to align the business model incentives, we can’t have nice things when they get big? All of that has to accrue solely to the company that brought you? I just don’t want it to be true. In my heart, I don’t want it to be true. So I’m gonna do whatever I can to prove it. But, like, am I right? I think so.

You think so. You hope so.

We’ll find out. Because to be right – it’s not like you can be right just because you get the business model right. I can be right about everything I just described to you, and System Initiative still fails. Because in order to be great, it has to be a great product, people have to want it, they have to use it… All that stuff has to be true. And in the end, I’m going to be judged on whether or not my business succeeds or fails on some metric.

I had some dude on Twitter the other day – I think he’s the CEO of Oso, a security startup, and somebody had asked me my opinion about MongoDB. And he replied “Why are you listening to that guy? He didn’t build a sustainable business. What’s he know anyway?” And the person who asked the question was like “Well, he did make 75 million in ARR, which is pretty good…” And he was like “But it wasn’t sustainable!” [laughs] You know? I was like “Huh… What are you gonna do?” Like, can’t win for losing.

Well, you’re giving it another shot. How’s it going, man? How’s it going? System Initiative.

You know, it’s going pretty good. We’re creeping up on being able to let people use it in production; I think summer it’ll be ready. The big problem was that it was slow, and now it’s not slow. It’s now very fast. So I think when we show it to people, and they see what’s possible, the response is always fantastic. There’s a lot of incredible things you can do with System Initiative, and I’m really excited to get it into the world more broadly. I think we’ve been really careful, and remain really careful about – because it’s so transformative, I can’t get over my skis in telling you how great it is. You know what I mean?

It’s better felt than telt, kind of a thing.

Yeah. I don’t think you can – you don’t sell things to developers by telling lies, because they’re going to learn pretty quickly that you’re lying, because they’ll try it, and they’ll be like “This didn’t do what you said it did.” And so System Initiative right now – it’s in the middle of basically having an engine rebuild, where we went from some calls taking tens of seconds, to now taking milliseconds. And that’s a humongous improvement that changes the interaction model and changes how the product feels, and I think is really integral to its success… But it just means that when you have things like that in your way, you have to get all the way through them, and you still haven’t gotten to the thing that’s most important, which is “Can I put that product –” I want to disrupt the way that we work, that that entire part of the DevOps industry functions. The game I’m playing is entirely the big game. And so if that’s what I want, I can’t put a product in front of you and tell you should use it in production if it’s not great. It has to be great, and it is really, really great… And it’s right there. So… Summer.

When you do disrupt, who will you disrupt? If you just say “everyone”, that’s cool.

No, I’m not gonna say everyone. What a weasel. Look, first it’s going to be infrastructure as code.

So all the Terraform providers out there.

Yeah, for sure. This is such a better way to do that work… It’s crazy better. It’s not like a little better, it’s ba-nan-as better. And I really believe that that’s true. So that’s the first one. But as a platform, what it allows you to do is think differently about how the – it takes all of the information about all of your infrastructure and your applications and all that stuff, and turns it into data. And then it allows you to interact with that data and then to make that data reactive through writing reactive functions, and then executing them at speed and scale. That capability is bananas when you think about what you can build on top of all that infrastructure information. So if you’re like “I have all this information about what’s happening, because the people doing the work are interacting with the system, because it’s got a digital twin of the real world environment”, now think about all the different things you can build if you could write reactive functions on top of all of that data, and execute them en masse.

And so over time, we’re going to grow to do more and more and more, because it just makes sense that if what I have is all of that data, both about the real world and what you hypothetically propose, that I can start to deliver user experiences to people sort of around the horn in the DevOps lifecycle in a way that no one else can. So eventually, everybody. But at first, infrastructure as code.

Are you coming back to Austin here soon for DevOps days here in Austin?

I’m not…

Or do you tour much?

I will tour more. Right now, my existential problem is I need System Initiative to be good enough that you can use it in production, so that I can sell it to you for money. So I’m kind of all focused on that right now. And me doing more outreach, or being in the world, telling you how cool it is. The next talk I give about System Initiative needs to be the talk that ends with “And you should go use it now, because it’s ready for you.”

Getting it there this summer.

Yeah, yeah. Getting it there right now. It was slow two weeks ago, and now it’s real fast.

And it’s both an open source project and a paid proprietary distribution?

[01:12:04.11] Yeah, it’s completely open source. Every line of code is open source. All of it is open source. System Initiative is a product made exclusively by System Initiative, and sold for money. So you can get it from me, under my commercial terms; it has a very generous free tier. Nobody’s paying any money for System Initiative right now. So right now, the terms are zero for everyone. But yeah, I’m going to sell enterprise products, and I’m going to call them System Initiative. And the doors are open for anyone who wants to use System Initiative to change their own vector, and whatever they want to. What they can’t do is call it System Initiative. The only people who can make System Initiative are me. My company. That’s what we do. But if you want to make the Changelog – you want to pivot the Changelog and do a company that builds a distribution of System Initiative, you’re so welcome to do that. I can’t wait to collaborate with you on that upstream. I can’t wait to see what you build. I think it’s transformative technology, and in order for it to actually transform the way the industry works, you have to be willing to allow it to transform other people’s lives than just my own. I really believe that.

I think that’s cool. I think that you’re really putting your money where your mouth is, you’re putting the model to a test with your baby…

It’s gonna work. Of all the things I have confidence in, the model is the thing I have confidence in the most.

The hard part is getting the product to be awesome, and people loving it…

If the product is incredible, the rest – product-market fit’s the whole game. So can you build something that’s actually great? If you build something that’s great, then the rest will work itself out. Terraform was great. That’s why it worked. It didn’t work because it was open source. It worked because it was great. It also was open source, therefore it grew faster. But greatness was the requirement.

Like all things, greatness is required… To be great.

If you want it to be awesome, if you really want it to be incredible –

That sucks. That’s not great.

Deep thoughts.

Yeah. If it’s not great, it doesn’t matter what your licensing scheme is. It doesn’t matter that you really understood business model math.

Did you hear Kelsey Hightower’s feedback on System Initiative? “TypeScript? No.” He said “TypeScript? No.”

I mean, sure. Like, everybody is going to have an opinion about that. The thing about it is if you pick another language… One of the things about – I learned this at Chef. Chef was all Ruby and Erlang, two very esoteric things. Eventually, they had some stuff written in Go, and then lots of Rust. But the DSL was in Ruby. And we taught a lot of people to program, and that was awesome… But Ruby was a language that over time stopped being as popular as it was at sort of peak Rails. And so when you look at how do you think about your go to market, you could have picked Python, you could have picked Go, you could have picked Lua, you could have picked Ruby, you could have picked Lisp… There’s a million languages you could have written these little functions in. But if you think about it, what’s the one language that’s in every enterprise’s stack? Forget about all the other arguments. You’re a Java shop, you’re a Python shop, you’re a Go shop, you’re a whatever – the answer is JavaScript. JavaScript is in every single stack, everywhere, in every company, anywhere on the planet.

But not really with your SREs [Site Reliability Engineers], and your –

Who cares? Who cares?

Well, aren’t developers gonna choose this?

Ask every single one of them, “Could you write a function-”, just a function, not a program. “Could you write a function in JavaScript?” Every single one’s gonna say “Of course they can.”

Well, of course they could. But do they want to?

They’re gonna crack their knuckles and be like “No problem.” And then they’re going to complain about “I can’t believe it hides – I hate the way the regular expression library works, and numbers are insane.” That’s all true. And most of the time in System Initiative, you’re writing functions that are sub 100 lines long. If you’re at a 100-line long function in System Initiative, it’s an incredibly long one. So is it better in Python? No. It’s irrelevant. And what matters is that it’s a thing that exists in your house, that it’s not Erlang. It matters that it’s not esoteric. And it’s the least esoteric language in the universe. It’s just everywhere. It’s got a pretty solid debugger, you kind of already know how to do it…

[01:16:06.11] Do you know how to write Python? If so, you kind of already know how to write JavaScript. Do you know how to write Java? Well, guess what, you kind of already know how to write JavaScript. Do you know how to write C? Guess what, you basically know how to write JavaScript? Do you know how – JavaScript is just fine. It’s fine. It’s some people’s favorite. Those people are weird. Everybody else, it’s the thing that you just have, and it’s everywhere, and it’s fine.


I mean, Kelsey might be right. I built a little escape hatch. So I could always write another language binding, and be like “And now –”

Well, it’s interesting to me that Solomon Hykes and the Dagger team have gone multi-language with their stuff. And I was thinking “Hmm…”

Yeah. It makes sense a lot of sense in Dagger, because if you think about the way that you describe the products, the pipeline, the way that those things come together, it makes a lot of sense that you would want people to be able to write their delivery pipelines in the same language as the application, right? Because part of the idea there is that the end developer is the one who’s doing that work, as opposed to necessarily like an ops person… Which is fine. But in System Initiative you’ve get this big hypergraph of functions… Like, using a language that runs fast, that you can write a function in, that has a ubiquitous number of libraries if you want them, and everybody knows how to write. And if it’s Python, there’s somebody who’s like “I don’t know Python.” But there’s nobody that’s like “I don’t know JavaScript.” The worst answer you hear from JavaScript is “I don’t like JavaScript.” Or “Not really, but I could do it if I had to”, because every single developer has to sometimes, and does.

Is there a world where both Dagger and System Initiative thrive? Or are these two things competitive?

No, there’s totally a world where they thrive. I mean, a thing that you have to remember is that even in the case where we both go public, and we’re both big, thriving forever concerns… Like, it’s a humongous market. Not everybody is going to do one thing or another. And the pieces of that puzzle – System Initiative is a different way of thinking about some of that information… But I don’t use System Initiative to make builds in my software. I use Buck2 to do that, and I use Buck2 because I need to be able to write a program that understands the shape of this complex monorepo we’ve built, and then makes the CI pipelines and the delivery pipelines easy to run.

Could I imagine a world where you use System Initiative to model that part of the process? Yes. Do I think it would be qualitatively better than what you do in source – no. Maybe… But probably not. And I think there’s that grandness of your ambition… John Lewis Gaddis has this definition of strategy that I love, which is “It’s how you align your limited resources to your unlimited aspirations across time, space and scale.” So I have unlimited aspirations. Solomon has unlimited aspirations. All the people that work at OpenTofu, all those companies – they all have unlimited aspirations. Their strategy is how are they going to align their resources across those things. There’s absolutely a world where we all exist. I hope that world happens, because I like Solomon, and I hope for his great success. I feel the same way about the OpenTofu people. I hope they don’t feel like I did them dirty by saying that they’re now in a precarious situation, because I hope they figure it out. I hope that they win. I hope they all do. They won’t… But that’s not because I don’t hope that they do, you know?

So yeah, of course, there’s definitely a world where they’ll all live. I mean, I think we’re going to be very disruptive to the infrastructure-as-code space. I don’t think that means that those companies won’t matter, or that no one will use them. You know what I mean? It’s not a zero-sum game like that.

Yeah, I was to understand the breadth of System Initiative’s offerings in terms of – like, is CI/CD pipelines something that it would encompass or not?

Maybe. Not out of the gate.

Maybe eventually. Yeah.

[01:20:03.05] I mean, one thing that happens when you have something like System Initiative is that for the infrastructure pieces you don’t need a pipeline anymore, because I have a simulator. So the whole point of having – you don’t need to run tests early in the pipeline to see if it would… Like, it just tells you in real time whether what you’re doing makes any sense or not. So there’s no pipeline there, because it doesn’t make sense to have one, because what you’re doing is programming a simulator on top of the data… Which is mind-blowingly different, but it doesn’t make sense to have a pipeline. It means that we had to go build source control differently for the data. That’s why it’s taken four years to build. But the user experience of not having a pipeline I can tell you is delicious.

So will I want to also have the experience of being able to write a hypothetical model of how my application deploys, that tells you whether or not you’re doing it right or wrong? I think I probably do. That seems pretty dope. But you know, baby steps. We know it’s great for infrastructure as code. I have a suspicion it’s going to be great for applications in the broad, and in more complex use cases, and higher levels of abstraction… But I don’t know that yet, because we’re not there yet. But I don’t see why it wouldn’t be. You know, what’s that mean for CI? Probably nothing. What’s it mean for CD? Maybe a lot. I don’t know. You’ve still gotta run your tests somewhere. But when you have like a remote code execution sandbox, kind of everything looks like [unintelligible 01:21:29.21] You’re like “Well, I could build your code in one. I could. Should I? Probably not. Probably not.” But I don’t know.

What is it you’re optimizing for? Is it speed to production? Is it speed to hypothesis? Is it speed to change of infrastructure and how it would work? What are the main levers you’re trying to optimize for?

I’m optimizing for developer experience primarily.

Given that. That’s kind of obvious.

But when you think about it, the results – what drives good or bad outcomes in DevOps tends to be how good the experience is of trying to get those changes into the world, right? How tightly do we collaborate together? How cleanly can we work together? How quick are those feedback loops? Right now they’re incredibly slow. So think about how long it takes to know that the infrastructure change you made to Terraform was right or wrong. And in System Initiative, it would happen in real time. You would open a change set, you’d change the architecture, the qualifications would run, and they would tell you if it makes sense or it doesn’t make sense, and it happens immediately. That’s a dramatic transformation in the experience of what it means to do that stuff. So the outcomes that we produce are also therefore going to be better, because the collaborative nature of the work – like, one of the things that we saw when we built System Initiative with System Initiative was… Because we’re going to run this as a SaaS product, right? So watching our own team build System Initiative with System Initiative – they did it in real time, not by like being on Zoom, watching one person drive, like you would if you were pair programming, but instead, all three of them were logged into the same workspace at the same time, and they just split it up, and they were like “You go build the VPCs, I’ll go build the ECS cluster, you go build the IAM rules…” And they just all took different parts of this big graph, and they just went to work. And they did it all in real time together, and it was incredibly cool. We had them all share their individual screens. So as spectators – you can’t see this on the podcast, but our faces are like three-up, basically, in the thing that’s actually doing this. And we watch them three-up on each of their screens, and they’re collaborating together in the same change set, in real time, watching the infrastructure come in, things are going red, things are turning green, they’re talking more… It was incredible. I haven’t worked that way since I was building systems by hand for an ISP in the late ‘90s, with my best friend. And I was like “Oh…” That’s something we lost. People don’t even know we lost that, because you have to be old enough to predate the automation we gave you to really remember that there was a time that we did that work together, where that was the norm.

[01:24:05.27] Anyway, it’s beautiful… And I think that that’s the number one most disruptive thing System Initiative is going to do for people, is it’s going to let them see that stuff happen again, in a way that feels more real-time, that feels more iterative, but gives up none of the power or control that comes with the code, and to be able to do it together, which is what we know brings about the best outcomes. And so I think as you climb up the stack, when you start to get to “I’m an application developer”, you’re not going to want to see that the application’s full of stars. You don’t necessarily need to see all the infrastructure that builds your application. But it’d be great if you could dive down to it if you needed to. It’d be great if you could be like “Hey, the application’s not quite doing what I want it to do. Can you come take a look, engineer?” and summon that person to change set and show them directly the changes you’re trying to make. I think it’s very cool.

Coming this summer.

Coming this summer.

Is that right?

Very cool.

God willing and the creek don’t rise.

You plan to be production-ready this summer, is that right?

Yeah, that’s we’re trying to do. So, to be honest, it’s been very difficult to build, because it’s a high bar, because the status quo is fantastic. So it’s not like in order to be better than infrastructure as code – I can’t bring something out that’s mediocre to you. It has to actually be better than infrastructure as code. And infrastructure as code is great. So –

Who is this earliest version for? The summer version, or this first GA version? It will be GA in summer, or will it be production? What are you going to call this summer’s goal?

Yeah, I think we’ll call it production-ready. And we’ll see if we – the software will be production-ready. We’ll see what the right go-to-market is for our SaaS. So whether it’s like we throw open the doors and we’re just “Everybody can come”, or whether there’s a waitlist and we let you in… There’ll probably be a waitlist for some period of time, so we can watch it scale.

And you said it was AWS at first? I think I recall the last conversation we had was –

Yeah, so one of the things you do is you build these models, and then write functions that describe their behavior… And we’ve spent most of our time modeling stuff in AWS. Our expectation is that as it reaches GA, that you’ll see more and more – you’ll see more and more people building models. So sharing the models, for example, that you create. There’s a button in the UI, that as you write those functions, you just hit “Share”, and it’ll automatically publish it. And then anybody can come find it. So if you write the best, whatever, Azure compute resources, you can just bundle them all up and share them, and then there’ll be a catalog and people can pick. So…

And it’ll be like code inside the platform, that will be version-controlled in Git, on GitHub?

Nope. Not in Git, not on GitHub… Because –

You’ve built your own.

Yeah, because all this stuff is data and not code. So the source code part is code, that’s true… But when you think about what it is, it’s a function that’s attached to the data that lives on this hypergraph… And so you need to be able to allow people to then change the code, and then have that change the behavior on the graph. And so it was actually – it was actually a lot harder to try to put it in Git, because the user experience of Git… Right now I have to make commits, I have to push them, I have to pull them, they can change from outside the platform, you don’t really know when things happen… And you start to lose provenance, so I need to be able to let it be like – if you write a resource that fixes up Azure… So right now, Terraform providers are a good example of this. Let’s say that there’s a bug in a Terraform provider and you want to fix it, what you do is fork Terraform – or fork the provider, then write the code that fixes the provider, then publish that code, hope that it gets into a release, then wait for… You know, after all that stuff is done –

Too many cycles, yeah.

[01:27:43.27] There’s a lot of cycles. System Initiative, you literally go to a modeling screen, you could look at the function that Jerod wrote, and edit it directly. So you could literally just open the function and start typing, and it knows that your function is a derivative of Jerod’s. And it’ll track that over time. So when Jerod publishes a new version, we know that we could automatically take your function and Jerod’s and rebase them if you wanted to. We could be like “Hey, Adam, you made changes to Jerod’s. Jerod’s like “Do you want to incorporate those changes?” You could send them directly to Jerod. You could be like “Jerod, I fixed your bug.” Right? And then Jerod could receive it, see how that’s happening, and then Jerod could decide to republish it. And all of that works because the fundamental nature of the data structure is that it’s a giant hypergraph, and it’s tracking all those things over time… Which is ba-na-nas. But very, very cool.

Totally bananas. I almost slipped.

Yeah. It’s a little closer to – most people haven’t tried it, but if you look at how like Unison, or some of those things are designed, which is basically a different way of thinking about storing code, where it basically stores all your code in a big database, and it’s a content-addressable hash… And so if you make a change to a function in Unison, it all happens in real time, but the old functions are still there. That’s exactly what System Initiative is basically doing. Every time you’re writing that function out, I’m actually storing a new copy, with a different content addressable hash, and then building a Merkle tree. So… Anyway, it’s bananas. But very cool.

It is bananas.

Bananas… But very cool.

Sometimes it’s just bananas.

…Bananas meant it is very cool.

It is very, very cool. So yeah, and I think this summer I’m gonna stop saying that who it’s for is for the diehards who are really deep in the soup of how it’s built and how it’s different, and instead I’m just going to be like “Try doing it this way instead of that way, and see how much better it is.”

Is it usable right now? Like, if someone’s listening and saying “I can’t wait for the summer. Can I use a version of this right now?”

If you’re diehard…

If you’re pretty diehard… It’s tough right now. So we’re in the middle of basically swapping the engine… So the core part of that graph was built in a way that just wasn’t scalable. We thought it would, but it didn’t. And so we’ve been in the middle of rebuilding it for speed and scale, and that work is landing now. So I suspect in the next couple of weeks it’s going to be aggressively more stable. But right now if you check out System Initiative off main, it’s pretty tough; you’re gonna find bugs. But bugs that weren’t there five weeks ago, before we merged the new engine to main. But what you’ll see is that it’s incredibly fast in comparison.

So yeah, I’d say it’s a couple of weeks away from being stable again… And then once it’s stable again, then it’s sort of marching toward “What’s that release cadence look like?”, “What’s the SaaS look like?” We’ll probably do all of that at once, because it’s a pretty incredibly good user experience to hit a button, get a new workspace, and then just start working, which is basically what the onboarding experience of System Initiative is.

So it’s all coming. If you can’t wait, then what you should do is come join the Discord. We’ve got a big Discord full of people. You can look at the software now, you can run it, you can talk to us in the Discord, you can use the branch from before we merged the engine, which is slow, but worked, more stable…

Well, if you’d like to steal Adam’s model, which I’m sure he’s happy for you to do, everything is laid out in great detail on This describes both in a really short version, and a short version, and then a long version, exactly how he is laying out the open source, the proprietary, how you can work with System Initiative, how you can not… And so that seems like a recipe for anybody out there building similar software who would like to productize and open source and create a product, create a business.

Yeah. And you can take that page and just run with it. It’s all good.

Global find and replace, [unintelligible 01:31:32.19]

Yeah, exactly. I mean, you probably want to also –

Don’t take it exactly as is, you know?

Yeah, you probably also want to think about engaging some trademark lawyers, and having actual lawyers write your licenses… But yeah, you can. But it’s a great starting place, I think. Yeah, for sure.

[01:31:48.16] So we’ll link that one up in the show notes for folks. I think that’s a great resource for anybody finding themselves in a similar situation, or maybe just thinking about it. Cool. Anything else? I think we could open up a whole new can of worms, but I’m not sure I want to. Maybe bring him back for the next time.

I mean, I could go all day. I love talking to you. And it’s my favorite topics, so it’s not like I run out of steam… Like, “Ask me more questions about myself…” Anyway.

[laughs] Exactly.

Do you wanna talk about comic books? The X-Men?

Well, we know you like metal as well…

I do love metal. Yeah, we could talk about metal.

You and Adam went off on some metal rants last time around, I think…

Right at the end. Guns N’ Roses, I believe…

They’re my favorite.

Axl is not the same, to this day… I mean, obviously. Age happens.

Do you listen to old metal, or is there like modern day things that you listen to? Like, they’re still putting out new music, or is that over with?

Yeah, I listen to all of it. I’m voracious. [unintelligible 01:32:38.09]

So what’s like a modern day heavy metal band that’s like putting out new content, new songs that you love and would recommend people check out?

Oh, that’s a good question… So in the last couple of weeks, I would say there’s a band called Necrot. They put out an album called “Lifeless Birth”. Necrot. It’s a Bay Area band that has been putting out pretty traditional-sounding death metal for a really long time. Necrot’s fantastic. “Lifeless Birth” is a great record. There’s a band called Midnight. Midnight’s like the solo project of this one dude, and he writes kind of filthy… It’s like a little punky… But yucky, in a way that’s weird, you know? But also good. He wrote an album called “Hellish Expectations.” If you haven’t listened to Midnight, Midnight’s pretty great. The new Taylor Swift record is not metal at all, but it is quite good. Judas Priest put out a great record in the last year called “Invincible Shield”. That record’s really good. There’s a band that doesn’t tour a whole lot called Shy, Low, that is like no vocals, but like great, rhythmic heavy metal…

Shiloh like the place, or like -low?

No, like Shy, comma, Low.

Okay. It’s a play on words.

Oh, there’s a band called “Go Ahead and Die”, that is a Max Cavalera kind of joint… So if you liked Nailbomb back in the day, Go Ahead and Die is pretty great. They’ve records called “Unhealthy Mechanisms.”

What about “You Suffer” from Napalm Death?

Of course. Who doesn’t love Napalm Death? Yeah, yeah.

It’s like a one-second song.

Yeah, exactly.

Is that a Silicon Valley reference?

I knew it. I’m onto you now. You’re sneaking them in. I’m catching them.

Nails is another band that’s kind of similar… But I listen to all kinds of stuff. The dude from Firehouse, if you remember Firehouse… Firehouse was a metal band, had a couple of big ballady hits… But he died not that long ago. I was listening to Firehouse records. Dickey Betts just died. Love the Allman Brothers. I loved the Allman Brothers Band. He started playing in the Allman Brothers Band. There’s a guy named Marcus King, not metal; super-good.

Here’s a guy who’s metal, but is not metal at all, but I’m thinking about him because you’re talking about people dying… Billy Joel. Not dead. 74 years old. Just played his one 100th consecutive sellout of Madison Square Garden.

It’s incredible.

Yeah. And I watched a little bit of it the other night with my dad, and it was just… I mean, the guy is such a showman. It’s amazing at the age of 74 what he can still do.

Yeah. I have a confession to make… I hate Billy Joel.

Okay. That’s fine.

Which is wrong. I know it’s my problem. It’s my problem.

What do you hate about him?

I just – I would always rather be listening to Elton John.


Yeah… I’d rather listen to anyone but Billy Joel.

So I went to a Elton John/Billy Joel mashup concert…

Yeah, they used to tour together.

Yeah. And I went and saw both of them, and then they came on stage together… And I will tell you this; you’re gonna hate this. Billy Joel just completely wiped the floor with Elton John. He was so much better.

I believe you. I do.

It just was true. It just was obvious. You’re like “Wow…”

In what way was he better? Was it the song, and the way it was played live, or was it –

More energy, more entertaining, the way he sung was better, the way he played was better… Elton John was still very good. I’m not mashing on him.

I mean, he’s still Elton John…

Yeah, exactly. But Billy Joel was just like “Holy cow.” This was a decade ago.

Yeah. I mean, I just – there’s something about… I’ve tried. My wife loves Billy Joel, and I have lots of people in my life who I care about, who also love Billy Joel, and find this opinion offensive to them at like a fundamental level… So I respect Billy Joel.

[01:36:16.15] You just don’t like him. [laughs]

But I just – you know, I think he goes home at night and he’s Billy Joel in a way that I don’t love. I know it doesn’t make any sense. I feel the same way about David Bowie. I think David Bowie was always David Bowie, and I’m like “Ugh…” You know? I don’t know why. I just don’t like – I don’t like David Bowie either. It’s obviously a me problem. David Bowie – obviously amazing. It’s not like I don’t find myself grooving along to –

Well, you don’t sell out Madison Square Garden 100 times in a row by sucking.

Yeah. And there are moments where Billy Joel is on and I’m like “This was fun. That was good. Thank you, Billy Joel.” Just like with David Bowie.

You can’t dislike “Piano Man”. Do you dislike “Piano Man”?

If I never heard “Piano Man” ever again, I’d be fine.


Nothing bad would happen. Like, I wouldn’t even notice it was gone.

It’s like people with “Hotel California” and The Eagles. They just loathe that song; it’s just overplayed.

Yeah. I would rather listen to The Eagles than Billy Joel though.

Yeah, I mean… The Greatest Hits one and two was –

Now I’m starting to get offended. You know how I wasn’t offended at first? Now I’m starting to… [laughter]

Yeah. I’d rather –

The Eagles. Come on…

I would absolutely rather listen to – The Eagles were better than Billy Joel, for me.

Wow. I mean, certainly a tie, in a lot of cases… I mean, they have more people in the band, so they win…

Would The Eagles sell out Madison Square Garden 100 consecutive concerts?

But he has a song called “The (sic) New York State of Mind”. So there’s sort of some inherent love in that state, in that city, too.

I was gonna say, he’s a little playing to the crowd. That’s like being –

Well, he’s literally playing to his own crowd. But still.

It’s like “Would Springsteen sell out in Jersey?” And it’s like, yes… But Bon Jovi – like, if Bon Jovi decided to play 100 days in a row. He didn’t play 100 days in a row, did he? It was just this 100 consecutive sellout.

It’s like once per month. It was like over the course of years. Like one show a month.

Yeah, which is insane.

Really, one show a month? That’s an achievement. That’s a little bit different.

It’s an incredible legacy.

For 100!

For 100. It’s incredible legacy.

100 shows period sold out is an achievement, let alone in the same place…

And not as a young man. I mean, he’s elderly.

And he’s selling out the Garden. There’s a lot of people. It’s not like the Garden is a small venue.

It’s a big venue.

A lot of tourists, though. I mean, it’s not always New Yorkers there going to the Madison Square.

There’s tourists swinging through, visiting there, that iconic place.

Sure, sure. But you can’t – look, you can’t rob the achievement from the man. He’s incredible.

I still don’t like him.

But I still could never hear “Piano Man” again, and I don’t care. [laughter] Or like “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, and stuff. Like, I just – okay, sure…

Not his best song.

I listened to that song, too. Who didn’t…? And like, it was kind of good, or whatever. But no, I’d rather listen to Elvis Costello. Right? Who like gets shaky there in the later years. It’s tough on those later era Elvis Costello records. But yeah, I just – Billy Joel just doesn’t happen for me.

Fair enough.

Yeah. I still like you. I’d go to see Billy Joel at the Garden. I would 100% buy a ticket and be like “Yeah, I’m going to Billy Joel at the Garden.” It would happen.

I think it’d be worth seeing even if you didn’t like him, just to be there.

But if in that same moment it was go see Billy Joel at the Garden, or go see L.A. Guns at like a dive bar in Jersey City, I’m gonna go see L.A. Guns at a dive bar in Jersey City.

I’m telling you, he wiped the floor with Elton John.

I know, but you know… Tracii Guns. You know?

[laughs] Fair. Well, everybody has their taste, y’know. Well, I’m glad we did this. I’m glad we went there.

Me too.

I think we’re actually close. I think we’ve bonded over your disdain and my enjoyment of [unintelligible 01:39:49.08] And that’s a rare thing.

I mean, if we keep doing it, we’re gonna be actual friends.

Yeah, I know. Eventually, we’ll get there.

I mean, we’re friends now, but there’s layers of friendship. You know?

We’re internet friends.

Yeah. If I could have seen Adam – like, we had a shot; we could have been real-life friends, and I blew it.

Well, when you go back on tour, maybe you’ll see us out there, because we will be – we’re out there.

I will definitely, because I’ll be on tour. Well, and I can’t decide. I’ve got to talk about open source business models, so maybe I’ll decide to do it in podcast-land, and then maybe we’ll figure that out. That might be easier than writing. So…

I think Adam and I are more ready for that than even our listeners are ready for it, because we just continue to discuss this thing, over and over again. I don’t know, maybe they like it, maybe they don’t, but… Some of these shows are for us too, and…

That’s right.

Open source/business – that intersection’s just [unintelligible 01:40:38.29]

I agree. I think it’s the most interesting thing. Because it does have those layers of like emotional and human, and then pure corporate, capitalist avarice. And I like both.

Right. So many facets to different little verticals in there.



Good to see you.

Good to see you.

Bye, friends.

Bye, friends.


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