This week we’re joined by Christina Warren, Senior Developer Advocate at GitHub, and a true tech and pop culture connoisseur. From her days at Mashable covering the intersections of entertainment and technology, to Gizmodo, to Microsoft, and now her current role at GitHub we talk with Christina about her journey from journalist to developer, and the latest happenings coming out of GitHub Universe.
BTW, we’re planning to get Christina on Backstage in the new year to talk about Plex, MakeMKV, and all things that go into hosting your own media server. Drop a commment on this episode with a +1 if you want to see that happen.
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|1||00:00||This week on The Changelog|
|3||02:05||Start the show!|
|4||08:22||The start of Christina's journey|
|5||15:55||The state of streaming|
|6||20:14||Adam loves the Apple TV|
|8||26:33||We have a Mastodon instance - changelog.social|
|9||28:12||From Mashable to GitHub|
|10||36:20||Fighting for your authenticity|
|11||40:31||What excited Christina at GitHub Universe?|
|12||45:53||Did you have to deal with imposter syndrome?|
|14||54:55||That cool new tech at GitHub|
|15||1:00:05||Mona Sans & Hubot Sans|
|16||1:03:26||Will Codespaces be a daily driver?|
|17||1:13:28||We've been fans forever|
Click here to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧
So we’re here with Christina Warren, finally on the pod. Been a fan for a while; I’ve been a fan of you for pretty much forever… I can remember –
…the oldest of days, I would say; maybe Mashable, to Gizmodo, to Microsoft, to GitHub… That’s sort of a paraphrase of your journey… But welcome to the show.
Thank you so much for having me. I’m so excited to be here. I’m also a fan. And you two had pointed out beforehand, we met, I guess, like four and a half years ago at a podcasting meetup?
Yeah, 2017 or 2018, at Microsoft Build, which feels like forever ago. But it also feels like yesterday. And we had a great conversation about podcasting stuff. So I’m a big fan of the podcast, and I’m very happy to be here.
We’ve got similar roots too, I believe… Did you begin at 5by5? Or was that like one of the first podcasts you had done?
Okay. Because Jerod and I were even trying to like go back in our history to see like when things began, and he was “I think she was before that…”
Yeah, I was thinking you were on TWiT, for some reason. But it was 5by5.
Oh, I’m not actually sure which one I did first. They might have been around the same time… Because I was friends with Dan Benjamin, and before he started 5by5… Ironically, I actually think the reason I have a GitHub account is because of Dan Benjamin; because it was 2009, and he was big into the Ruby world, and we were using it for something. So I think that was why I originally signed up for GitHub, back in 2009, when the service was about a year old. And before he formed 5by5, he kind of had the idea of what would this look and he and I would be on instant messenger all day… He’d throw ideas off of me, back and forth, and so I had one of the first podcasts on that network. It didn’t last very long, but we did do a show together. And I don’t know if I – I don’t know if I had been on TWiT yet or not. But 5by5 was definitely one of the first.
Yeah, it’s just interesting… There’s so many roots… We’ve just talked to bdougie actually, speaking of GitHub… And he and I have a history I was not aware of; when I met him for the first time at All Things Open just a few weeks ago, he reminded me that he actually interviewed for a job with me at a nonprofit I was working at. He didn’t end up taking the job, because it was just circumstances and whatnot, but I don’t even remember any of it, honestly. And I was like “Wow, I sure hope I wasn’t a jerk”, and just all that good stuff… It’s like “Was I – I was kind. Thank you very much, I appreciate that.” But there’s these rich histories that, I guess if you’ve been in the game long enough, and we have been in the game for quite a while, it’s there’s a lot of history there… That is interesting, one, to just remember, but then two, just to sort of bring up. Because we’ll have brand new listeners come to this show, or old-time listeners who are like catching up and they’re “What’s Christina up to? What’s her journey? How do we all intertangle with our histories and whatnot?” And 5by5 is one of ours, because we were on 5by5 for a little bit. We began as our own show, and we thought, “Let’s migrate to 5by5”, because Dan was so prolific, and doing so well, and we needed a better home than, I think, the janky Tumblr we were on, or… I forget what our podcast setup was. But he was really helping –
I think it was Tumblr, wasn’t it?
It was Tumblr originally, but I think we were – what was the actual podcast? We were using, I believe, Buzzsprout, which is still around, and actually has gotten like a renaissance for Buzzsprout. they were lingering for a while, not so much innovation, and now they’re really big into podcasting. But it’s just interesting… We thought, “Well, 5by5 and Dan will help us to build our bigger audience”, and stuff like that. And we ended up coming back to ourselves, because we had different motives and different trajectory… Because we really wanted to be a self-contained brand, and we realized that we couldn’t be that; we’d be a [unintelligible 00:06:07.23] or in the shadows in 5by5’s world… And that was okay while the timeframe made sense, but Dan helped us, like you, as well.
[06:18] No, totally. Yeah, a show that I still do called Overtired originally started at 5by5, and then we migrated to our own thing, kind of similarly. It also – it’s a smaller show… But no, I mean, I think for so many of us it’s interesting how small – I mean, it’s such a big world, but it’s also a small world, the tech space… And there are people that you run across, like you said, all the time, and people who help you on your journey, and sometimes you remember those interactions, sometimes you have to be reminded when you catch up again… But that’s one of my favorite things, I think, kind of about the world that we’re in, is that lives and stories intersect and overlap, and sometimes in ways you don’t expect. And for me, it’s always a reminder… I am not always successful, but I always try to be kind to people, and to be helpful people, because I always remember, and I’m always grateful to so many people who’ve been helpful to me, and who have given me chances over the years… And I always want to do what I can to try to like pay it forward for them. And I’m sure you two feel the same way, because those people who help you out, really, really help you out, and don’t often know that they’ve made an impact. So I think that that’s one of the best things we can do, is try to pay things forward when possible… Because you never know, this person you meet – this has happened to me a number of times, where I meet someone, and they might not have a name, not be anybody, just working on a small project, and then a few years later are like a BFD, or like a major, major person, and you’re “Wow, that’s amazing.” You never know; you never know who somebody is going to become, or where your journey is going to take you.
It’s a good reminder to not be a jerk, to be kind, but more importantly, value the relationship, and the smallness, yet bigness of our tech world, because… We’ve said this recently, I think even on an All Things Open podcast, the anthology we just released recently from the conference, “The hallway track”, we call it… It’s just this idea – I mean, obviously, to just not burn bridges, and to be kind… Because the word is small, and the shoe does go to the other foot. So it does happen, but…
It really does. I love that.
What I think is interesting too is your journey. I mean, you were not always in the developer world. You were, I would say, more so – I knew you from the pop culture; your handle, @film_girl, kind of alludes to that, right?
I mean, it didn’t turn into dev_girl. It’s still film_girl.
Although you may be a developer today, you know?
Yes. Well, so it’s funny, because my background, like going all the way back to when I first got into anything, when I built my first website when I was 12, I’ve always – for as long as I can remember, the two things I’ve loved the most in the world have been movies, pop culture, TV, and technology. Those have always been kind of my two biggest passions. And I was lucky enough when I was a journalist, and the story there is that I graduated from college in 2008, right in the middle of the Great Recession, and I’d always thought I was going to go to law school, and wanted to be either a technology attorney or an entertainment attorney; ideally, an entertainment attorney, because I figured “Well, I could leverage that and maybe be a producer, and work at a studio, or for a TV network, or something, and use my power to get projects I want to get made…” that was the big pie-in-the-sky goal. But in 2008, going to law school and taking out loans didn’t seem like maybe the best idea. It was a little bit – I think that I totally understand the hesitancy of kids who are graduating now, or who are going to be graduating next spring, you know, about the uncertainty in the world… And so I did the very logical thing, which - I’m being ironic here, because it’s not logical at all… And I was “Well, I’ll just go into the very stable career of journalism.”
She’s rolling her eyes, by the way, for those who don’t see the video. She’s kind of rolling her eyes…
[10:01] Yeah, I’m rolling my eyes and being very sarcastic. I was doing some freelance web development stuff, but I was “Okay, well, I need to make some money.” “What can you do?” “Well, I can write.” And blogging, and new media were really starting to kind of take hold, and I knew that there was no way that I was going to - even though I was a very good writer, that I would never get a job at like a major magazine or newspaper without that sort of pedigree, because I didn’t study that in school. And I didn’t live in New York, and there were just a lot of things that at least back then were not going to be aligning to me immediately being able to go into that sort of career.
So I had this feeling, I was “Technology, this blogging thing, this social media thing is really taking off…” And so I was early on Twitter, I was early on a lot of other platforms, and I sort of was lucky enough to build a name for myself in those spaces, and blog. And I blogged about technology, and about pop culture. I was “Well, write about what you love. Write about what I know.” I know the entertainment industry, and that world, and I know the tech world, both gadgets and some more developer-focused topics.
And then that ended up merging into me getting a job at Mashable, which is a website that - it’s still around, but it used to be a very, very big website; like one of the biggest in the social media, web 2.0 world. It’s hard for me to explain, I guess, how big Mashable was at its peak, but we were like BuzzFeed, before BuzzFeed. Buzzfeed wound up taking over Mashable, and became much, much bigger than Mashavke ever was, even though we still tried to think that we were competitive; we were not. But we were a really, really big site, that went from being nine people - I was employee number nine when I joined in 2009, to, I think at its peak there were 300 people employed across all departments, and across…
That is big.
Yeah, it was. We had offices in London and in Australia, and we had an operation for Mashable Asia out of Singapore. And our base was in New York City, but we also had a San Francisco office and a Los Angeles office. And yeah, it was a real company, and we had a real dev team, and real stuff. It started out as a WordPress blog, one of the largest actually, that migrated to our own stack, and had our own kind of product team and all that stuff… But when I started there, it was small and I got to kind of see the rise of everything, but I was lucky that I got in at kind of the right time, and then kind of rode the wave… And then I wrote about pop culture, because that’s what I liked. But I always tried to write about – my favorite thing to write about was always the intersection between digital and entertainment… Which wound up, honestly – I don’t often like to give myself too much credit, because predictions were often wrong, and we remember the times we were right, but I have to also remind myself of the many, many times I was wrong. But in 2011, when I started the entertainment section at Mashable, I have to say I was dead on, because what would become one of the biggest stories of that decade was, I think, was streaming media and the intersection of technology and entertainment, and how those two worlds would collide… And I knew it. I knew that that was going to be a thing, and I really wanted us to be the place that would be the definitive site for that. We were not, to be very clear. It didn’t work out that way. But we tried and, and it was a lot of fun.
Those were all the fun days. That kind of journey is fun. I mean, from the outside, I would say you were. To me, Mashable was the place. My wife’s homepage was Mashable. she would send me links all the time. And my wife is also in tech too, and it was just funny… that was a different day. From the outside it seemed like you very much were. I know BuzzFeed eventually came around, but…
[13:52] Totally. No, at our peak we definitely were. I just mean like in terms of where things went, and obviously, everybody else caught up. I remember having a conversation - I think it was in 2011 - with some of my colleagues at Mashable, and realizing “We need to become The New York Times before The New York Times becomes us.” And I actually – I know I said this, because it’s quoted someplace… And I have to give The New York Times credit, they became us better. It’s interesting… I don’t want to go on too much of like a digression on this, but when I think about company pivot stories and transformation stories, Apple is obviously the gold standard, and one of the best examples. But I have to say, from 2014, where The New York Times was then, and what they are now, and how they completely pivoted their business and became digital-first, and actually now are an incredibly strong tech company… A lot of what they do really is tech; a lot of their stuff is product focused, as well as being fantastic journalism. I have nothing but respect and admiration for that, because it’s rare for large companies to make those sorts of pivots, let alone like the biggest, and to do it so well that you wind up not only succeeding, but beating all of the digital-first companies that were nipping on their heels, right? Vice, BuzzFeed, Mashable, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Vox Media… All these really big, high-investment things are smaller than the New York Times. And the New York Times has managed to actually also be profitable.
So I guess the way I said we didn’t succeed is because they did become us before we could become them. But back in those days, the web 2.0 kind of era, back when things were starting to become siloed, but it wasn’t as siloed as it is now - that was a really fun time to be on the internet, both for people making things, and people just excited about experiencing the web. And I’m really glad that I was able to be part of that.
That statement reminds me of Reed Hastings, which you’re probably well aware of what he said about HBO back in the day…
…which is that Netflix has to become HBO before HBO becomes Netflix. We’re like a decade past then; the streaming wars have somewhat peaked and settled, and I don’t know… I’m curious, as another digression - here we are, almost 2023… What’s your take on like the state of streaming? The Disney moves… What’s going on today, and where is it headed?
Yeah, I think that’s great. And I have to say, I probably was ripping off Reed Hastings when I made that statement about Mashable and New York Times.
It was a smart thing to say, in both cases.
I was probably unintentionally ripping him off… They famously bought Game of – not Game of Thrones; they famously bought House of Cards. HBO was going to buy it, and then Netflix said, “We will pay an amount of money that HBO cannot pay”, which I think was 100 million, which was kind of a record at the time… And it totally transformed their business. Streaming is an interesting place right now. Obviously, it’s the future, but…
It still sucks, though…
Right? it’s supposed to be better.
Tell it like it is, Jerod. Tell it like it is, man. No sugarcoat.
Well, it sucks, but there are benefits. I have to say, if you think about how we watched TV a decade ago - we had some streaming services, they were nascent. There was –
Oh, I loved TiVo. I loved TiVo.
Yes, but in comparison to what we have today, I’m saying…
On-demand is better, but TiVo was cool.
Well, not only that, but TiVo - and we’re now going back more than a decade. We’re talking like the oughts. TiVo had a service - I remember this because I was one of their beta testers, because that’s the sort of nerd I am… And they would send me like pre-production units to test, and I would test software things… But they had a server option where you could run software on your computer, and you could basically stream, from your home TiVo, your recordings on your computer. And then I think they eventually released like an iPad app, like years later, and it was never a big thing for them. And they are a great example of somebody who has the best product, the best interface, but because of the price, and because they didn’t license, which is a whole other digression, the generic versions one out.
[18:03] But if you think TiVo notwithstanding how we watched TV a decade ago, you had a couple of streaming things, but you had to mostly watch it on the terms of the content creators. And there was some video on-demand stuff, but it was not a great experience. So you had to be there live, and that could be great, but it also meant you had to be in your house, even if you wanted to stream stuff. I couldn’t be – I’m at my parents’ house right now, as I’m recording this… So I wouldn’t be able to watch stuff that I paid for, because I was in a different location. And we’ve taken that for granted. I think that now we can watch things on our own terms, and I think that is a huge benefit.
But the challenge, obviously, is that the content budgets have blown up so much that it’s not sustainable. And if anything, I think also as consumers, I think a lot of us have been overwhelmed by all the choices… And so you had this big boom, and now what we’ve seen happen over the last year with Netflix, and some moves with Disney Plus, and some other things, is the reconsolidation of – the second acquisition of HBO, and whatever that story is going to be, is that I do think that there will be a little bit of a reckoning and probably less smaller content budgets, maybe fewer shows… But I hope that – also, I hope that we invest more in UX and discovery.
Right. When I said it sucks, that was what I was referring to. The shows are better than they’ve ever been. I’m not complaining about shows. But gosh, the experience is not… It’s not good.
It’s awful. It’s not, and it’s because we know it could be better. There is something to be said I think about curation, about discovery, about making it easy to access things, and not always be some A/B tested, you know, who’s going to tap on this more, or click on this more with a remote; you know, just what is going to be a better user experience. I wish that could be prioritized more. Because I think that if companies did that - maybe this is wishful thinking; this is probably wishful thinking, but in my part, I’m thinking, if you gave a better product, you probably have lower churn rates and could maybe even charge higher prices. But that is probably wishful thinking.
Well, the one thing that has improved at a different layer of this is - you mentioned Apple. I think the Apple TV to me is by far my favorite platform to TV on. I will buy one for every TV. I wish they would actually make a TV, so I don’t have to actually buy a TV and then attach a device, but whatever; then you’d have to replace your TV when you want the newest chip, or something like that, so maybe that’s a good thing, but…
Right. Yeah, some of the LG TVs have it built in. I think some of the Samsung ones do, too.
It’s not the same though, really… I mean, it’s the app. It’s not really the Apple TV itself, though… So I kind of get that. The Apple TV itself is a phenomenal piece of technology.
No, I totally agree. The interface – yeah, you’re right. I wish that my LG TV had that interface. It has Airplay on it, which is great.
Well, the horsepower. The bionic chip, the A15 chip is amazing… You know, a lot of stuff they’re doing around 4k… I wish they would get lossless audio, because I’m the kind of person who rips my stuff to Plex, lossless, via MKV… See? Kindred spirits here…
Me too! I’m exactly the same way.
I’m a die-hard Plex-for-life person. I will not put a disc in; I will rip it before I put a disc in.
But you’re probably like me; I still buy a lot of stuff on disc, because I want the best quality, and I want the extra features…
…and then I have to use MakeMKV or something else, and rip it… And I have scripts that have a whole process. Yeah. Adam, you and I, we should have a separate podcast sometime about how we could manage media.
Yes. Let’s do a Backstage on this, because I think there’s a lot of people in our audience who would love to hear more of this; this is not more of a Changelog topic, but we should do it. We have a show called Backstage; it’s the inside of the Changelog, basically. The things we’re interested in, so…
We just nerd out on stuff.
[21:51] Let’s nerd out on some MKV and Plex stuff. But okay, so the Apple TV is by far the best interface, in my opinion. So at least on that front, we are innovating, the UX is amazing there… But when you get to the streaming, then it’s like - jump from app to app, and no unified interface… And even the things that Apple is doing I don’t think unifies all of them very well.
No, because they can’t get everybody to agree, right? they have some partners who can be part of it, and other people don’t, and it’s –
Have you used the Amazon Prime app? It’s awful.
I have. I have.
I think the app as paradigm - ,like it’s no longer channels, it’s apps. I think that was wrong.
Yes. I agree.
I think it should be unified. It shouldn’t be apps. I don’t want to switch between Amazon Prime and Netflix, and have two different UIs, two different experiences…
Right. It’s interesting, because I think in a lot of ways this is actually what sort of – the halcyon days of Web 2, and a lot of things in web development was to have kind of these open standards, and to make things interoperable. And in a perfect world, you could just have a feed that you could get, an API that you could call, and pull in those shows into an interface of your choosing. But instead, it moved into this very –
…app by channel design, where everybody wants their own silo… And it’s been interesting to see a lot of the discussion around Mastodon, and… Look, I have plenty of issues with Mastodon, but I think like ActivityPub, and I think that a lot of these open standards around federation, and being able to syndicate, and subscribe to people’s services on your own terms - I think that’s actually going in a really good direction, and I hope that there’s more appreciation of that.
Yeah. Well, we can talk a lot of crap about it now, but there will be innovation. We just had Eugene on the show - five years ago, was it, Jerod? We want to have him back on sometime soon. We have an email invite out to him…
There was nobody using it back then. I mean…
Yeah… We said “Federation is here”, something awaits, Macedon awaits. It was–
“Join the Federation?” And then no. The answer was no.
You know, sometimes things take a decade to really get to the place it needs to be at the right moment, which I think is the case there.
Yeah, I do, too. But I think that that’s sort of the story of open source, right? …which is also sort of the GitHub story in some ways too, is that it’s slow at first, and then the momentum builds, and then all of a sudden, it’s just ubiquitous.
Well, at this point, open source just keeps winning… And that’s our story, too. we began the Changelog similar to you. Our inception date was November 19th, 2009. So we just celebrated our 14th birthday, or I don’t know what it was… November 19th. So we began this a year after GitHub was formed, and time and time again, open source has won, again and again. We began this show around open source, now it’s become more of the direction, the future of innovation around software; not just simply open source, but – because open source has won. Of course it is open source. So everything is open source now.
Right. I was gonna say, the reason your focus changed isn’t because you care any less about open source, but because you no longer have to make that distinction, because it’s just the accepted – you just expect… The expectation becomes the de rigueur goal, which is it’s going to be open. And people that aren’t – it’s no longer people asking “Is this on GitHub? Is this open source?” And I’m not trying to conflate the two, to be clear; I’m just saying, can I have access to the source control? Can I see this? That’s no longer the question. It’s more, if it’s not there, it’s people questioning, “Why isn’t this?” That’s changed… Where it used to be people having to almost beg, to almost beg to be open. And now it’s “No, you have to defend your choice if you’re going to not make some of your stuff available.” And look, there are valid reasons people can do what they want to do… But yeah, to your point, this is just now the ethos of how it works, which is incredible.
Let me share a quick related win… So I did set us up a Mastodon instance at @changelog.social; and you know, I’ve been on Twitter since I think back to the same time, ‘09… I can’t remember the age of my Twitter account, but just forever, and I’ve used it in enjoyment, and anger, and all the different places Twitter has been, for a large – pretty much my entire adult life, which is kind of strange to think about. But I set up a Mastodon instance, and then I went to our homepage there, and I was “Why is nothing trending?” I’m “That’s kind of weird.” It’s only Changelog accounts. There’s only nine accounts, so it’s not like everybody… And I wanted to know why nothing was trending. So you know what I did? I just realized, I can clone the repo, I can load up the code into my editor, I can find the code that runs the trending page, and I can read it. And I can know exactly what’s going on. And it’s “Hello, Jerod. You’ve been in software development for a long time. You’ve been in open source a long time.” But I feel like I’ve just been stuck in this proprietary land, and kind of forgot how cool it is to just have the code of the website that you’re currently running, of the app you’re using, even if you’re not going to change it.
Now, I got to there, and I realized, “Oh, you’ve got to have at least five interactions before it trends.” And I’m “Well, I would like that to be lower, because we have a smaller account. I could change that code and deploy it.” I mean, I’m preaching to the choir here, but it’s just so much cooler.
No, it is. It is I mean, that’s fantastic. I love that so much.
So I guess we’re far afield here, talking Mastodon… But it’s on our minds…
Getting closer to GitHub though, closer…
We are getting closer to GitHub. Bring us to GitHub; bring us from Mashable to GitHub like in 30 seconds or less.
Gotcha. Okay. So I worked in media, I enjoyed my life there, and wrote about a lot of tech things; I kind of shifted away from doing kind of pure entertainment stuff to mostly doing a lot of tech coverage… And I often wrote about developer experience stuff, and we’d go to developer conferences, and often attend the technical sessions too, which not a lot of – you know, some journalists do that, but it’s not a super-common thing, because most people who write about that stuff don’t care about all those intricacies… But I’m a nerd, first and foremost, so I always did… And Microsoft reached out to me in 2017 about a job, and that ended up turning into a role where I was there for about five years. I was a cloud developer advocate, working in developer relations, and working on some video strategy and content strategy stuff, speaking at a lot of conferences, doing hosting for things like Microsoft Build, and Microsoft Ignite… And also, my last year there actually was focused on trying to kind of be a bridge in some ways between all the various Linux groups at the company, and focusing on trying to improve the developer experience for Linux users on Azure.
And I’ve always been a huge GitHub fan… As I mentioned, my account goes back to 2009. And was a fan before the acquisition, and I think I even sent an email to some execs when the acquisition happened, and I was “Don’t mess up my favorite website.” They’re “We-we-we won’t, we won’t.”
[29:49] And then the opportunity came for me to join GitHub this past spring. And so I joined the developer relations team there, and… You mentioned that you talked to bdougie at All Things Open… He was my manager until he left, but I work with Martin Woodward, who’s fantastic. He actually originally created Microsoft’s GitHub instance, account, and was the first person to really fight and get Microsoft using GitHub, which - even before the acquisition, they were a really big customer and user, and he really fought hard for that. And I really, really enjoy it.
What we do in, developer relations, developer advocacy specifically is – bdougie used to call us like the hype house for GitHub, and I think that’s a pretty good approximation insofar as… We’re working a lot with the product and the engineering teams, and giving them feedback based on what we’re hearing from users, and from customers, and community members… But we’re also directly engaging with the community, right? when I say that I’m a developer advocate, a lot of people wonder what that means, and they’re “Oh, are you just like a paid shill for GitHub?” No, no. If anything, I kind of think it’s the inverse. I’m actually a paid shill for our users, because those are the people I care about, the community members. So if there are problems, then I want to be able to know that, and do what I can to bring it back to people who have the places that they can reach out to that… But sometimes – we all know, when you’re in the middle of a development cycle, you have your own ideas about how something is going to be used, and you might not be aware of some of the edge cases, or you might not be aware – you know, some people might use things in some ways you didn’t anticipate… And so it’s useful for people to get that feedback. We can offer that.
We can also show off cool things that we’re doing, because there’s so much stuff going on, it can be hard to keep up. So we’ll create videos, or do live streams, give talks… And then beyond that, also just trying to kind of find and celebrate all the amazing things that are happening within the broader open source community, because so many cool things are happening… And that’s my favorite part of my job, honestly, is being able to give shout-outs, and to highlight the great stuff that people are building all the time… Because I love that. I’ve always loved that. When I was a writer, I used to love to help people discover cool things. That was always my favorite thing, was to get an email from someone who said, “This article bought my car”, or “This had a big impact on how my business was able to grow.” And I’ve never tried to take that lightly in terms of what you can offer when you have an audience, and showcasing others.
So I love being able to find really cool projects happening in the community, and hopefully share those out and get them more attention, or more support through things like GitHub Sponsors, and working in other ways to try to make things more sustainable. So that’s the – longer than 30 seconds, but that was kind of the journey.
I liked the idea of the hype house, honestly… And I think bdougie hit it on the head, because I think that that’s the line between… It’s almost like… You’ve said it a couple of times - dev relations, dev advocacy. What is the difference? Can you just say one of them? It doesn’t have to be both of them. And what does that role even do? We’ve had several shows on that in the past, but it’s a fine line, really. And then people want to say you’re a paid shill… Well, I think it could be true if you didn’t opt in to work there, and if you didn’t really love the thing, right? And if you didn’t, then you would be a paid shill, because you’re literally just collecting a paycheck to just do this stuff. But if you have a true passion for it, it’s different.
It is. Also, to be totally honest - look, if that is what you are, you’re not going to be successful. When I joined Microsoft, I was a well-known Apple user, and like an Apple pundit. That was what I was known for. So when I said I was joining Microsoft, people were “Wait, are you joking?” And when I made my announcement tweet, I had to have a follow-up, “This is not a joke.” Because people thought that I was joking. I was “This is not a joke. This is real.”
[34:00] So I still obviously was a fan and user of Apple stuff. In fact, I primarily – they gave me a Surface, but I primarily use a MacBook at Microsoft. And then like I said, my last year there, because of what I wanted to do, it was my choice, I wanted to focus on Linux stuff. I’m not a big Linux on the desktop person. I mean, look, I’ve been there, I’ve done that many, many times over the years. I have respect for it, but I’m a Mac user. But I’m a huge proponent of Linux in the server, and in that ecosystem, and I really wanted to do what we could to improve our tooling there.
People would know if I suddenly started saying, “Oh, use this particular tool or package.” they would know that that wasn’t authentic, right? But if I’m finding things that I find are really interesting, like the Windows Subsystem for Linux, which genuinely to me is one of the coolest and biggest things that’s happened in a long time, and I think has hugely made the development experience for people who use Windows so much better… The Windows terminal, things like the remote extension for Visual Studio Code… These are all things that I genuinely am excited about and so I was happy to talk about them. Also happy to take feedback and to let people know, “Hey, when something’s broken, or if it’s not working, I at least can find the right people to yell at”, right? Like “Yell at me, I’ll find someone else to yell at.” Right? That’s sort of how that goes.
But you have to be authentic about it. And if you’re not, if you don’t really care, it’s not going to work. Because developers - they smell it immediately. we are a very discerning audience, and if you don’t really care about what you’re talking about, people will know and it won’t work. And I’ve turned down jobs before, frankly, that I’ve had, about things that I just wasn’t passionate about, because I was “I can’t fake this. It’s not me.” That’s what was so great about me joining GitHub, is that again, I’ve been a fan, a genuine fan, through many of the different iterations of GitHub as a company and as a service. And for me, it was kind of a dream in some ways, because I was “Oh, this is an opportunity for me to–”
Come home. You’re home finally, right?
Exactly, because I get to work on stuff that I love so much, and I get to share the cool things happening. And ideally, I also get to represent and highlight and help people in the broader ecosystem, broader communities, you know?
I do know. Somewhat of a potential side tangent, but still on point… In terms of like fighting for your authenticity inside of a company - let’s say with Microsoft, if you’re… I don’t know if you’re still super pro-Apple, or how your position has changed, but how do you fight to maintain your own DNA inside of a place where you’re “Well, I’m really a fan of this direction, the Linux and the Apple direction, not so much the Microsoft direction”? Did you find it challenging to fight for your own personal taste?
Yes and no. So I was lucky enough that – like, part of the reason they hired me, and at least as I saw it, it was like “Okay, well, you’re hiring me for me. So if I change, that’s not necessarily going to be useful for all of us.” And Microsoft especially, at that time, was really trying to make entries into communities that had historically not had any strong affiliation for Microsoft at all. And you do that by having – the only way that works is if you make changes that are actually positive, and if you show that you’ve changed and evolved, and that you can do things for those communities. So my personal rule of things has always been – there are always exceptions, but in general, I will… And this is not just specific to Microsoft or GitHub; this was even when I was a journalist, working at media companies… I’m not going to use my platform to insult or criticize the place that I work. There are exceptions, but I’m generally not going to do that. There are people who can do that, and I think that’s great… That’s just not my thing. As we were talking at the very beginning, don’t burn bridges. That’s just not my thing, right? I’m not going to use it to insult things I don’t like. Having said that, I’m also not going to promote things on my own personal channels that I don’t think are cool, or that I don’t like.
[38:00] So for me, that was sort of the balance, right? Like, if you want to pay me to make something better, or to promote something, or write a talk on something, and I realize that there are some problems, then that is my opportunity, because I’m an employee, to then find a way to make this something that I can emphatically support and promote, right? But just because I work for you doesn’t mean that I’m going to use my platform and my name - because it is my name, at the end of the day, to again, sell something or record something that I don’t like, or that I don’t agree with. I will do the courtesy of abstaining from making any comment on it, but I’m not going to promote it, right?
Now, of course, that isn’t to say that just because I don’t talk about something on Twitter, that means I don’t like it. I’m not saying that. I’m just saying, to me that was always sort of the balance, which is I will do the courtesy of taking all of my critique and the work that I want to do to improve, I will keep that private. I’m not going to do that publicly. I don’t think that’s effective. But I’m not going to promote something under my name, and show something off and get excited about it under my name again. If you want me to create demos or tutorials for something that I think could be improved, that’s completely different. But stuff that is under who I am, I’m not going to do that if I don’t believe in it. So that was always how I kind of, I think, accomplished that.
That’s awesome. I’m glad to shared that, because a lot of people just need that framework, permission to say no, almost… Especially the newer up-and-comers that don’t have the pedigree and the history that you have, and been down those hard roads, because it’s like “Well, you know, I’m still trying to make it, so I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do.” It’s like, well, if you stay true to yourself, then you can make it.
Yeah. And that’s the thing, right? And that’s the thing, too… And this is what I always try to say – and again, there is a difference between channels and things that are owned and operated by your company, versus your own channels… But even if you’re brand new, don’t forget, it is your name that you’re putting this content under. So at the end of the day, it is you. So never forget that, right? That’s ultimately who you have to be, I think, true to and responsible for. And it’s completely okay to say no.
But also, again, what I would kind of use is that, okay, I have an opportunity now to do what I can do internally to make this into something that I’m excited about. And maybe I’m successful, maybe I’m not. But for me, reframing it that way, and making it a challenge, and making it an opportunity also, I think, really kind of changed my thinking about stuff like that.
Well, let’s turn to things you’re excited about them.
Yeah. I love that.
So GitHub Universe just happened recently…
There was some excitement there… What was – let’s set aside the GitHub excitement and talk about your excitement. What was it that got you excited from Universe?
Well, I loved it. First of all, it was a hybrid event, which was great. So we were in-person, we were back in-person for the first time, I think, since 2019, it was the first in-person Universe… But we still, I think, had a good hybrid experience from people I’ve talked to. It was in San Francisco, it was really great to see people… I’ve been to a couple conferences since 2020, but up until March of 2020, I was on an airplane almost weekly. I was in the air all the time, and speaking at tons of conferences, in lots of countries… As I know many of us were. And then it stopped.
So I’ve been to some conferences since then, but this was definitely the biggest one I’ve seen. And so for me personally, even putting aside all the products that we’ll talk about, just being able to – I was doing, along with Antoine Simmons and Damien Brady, I was hosting the event for our audience online, and we also had like a big stage that was available to people in person; that was outdoors, it was really cool.
And when I would step off of sage, and kind of go mingle in between setups to a time, I would just immediately would run into people that I hadn’t seen in years; or people that I’d only met online. And that to me was the best thing; just being able to – you know, we were talking before the pod about how you two hadn’t seen each other in three years before All Things Open. And I imagine that with your hallway track stuff that you did, that it had to be similar, where you’re running into people that maybe you met them over the last couple of years, maybe you haven’t seen them in years, and just that kind of… To me, that’s what conferences, the really special thing about them – the content is great, the new products are great, but it’s those connections with people that are really incredible.
[42:26] Interesting for us was we got new listeners since we last saw folks face to face. So we had new listeners since the last several years come up and say “I’ve been listening for the last several years. Nice to put a face to a name. Wow, you guys are so awesome” etc. or whatever. And that’s super-cool.
And then we always apologize for letting them down. [laughter] Sorry…
No, no…! No.
[laughs] The reason we’re podcasters… Just kidding.
Right. Well, okay, don’t be mean to yourselves. But that’s amazing though, right? You have all these new listeners, and people who joined. You were talking earlier about people who are new to things like dev rel… What’s so interesting is that a couple of my colleagues who are brilliant, and they’re so good at what they do - they got started in dev rel during the pandemic. And so for them, some of the things they’ve been doing - like, they haven’t given in-person talks; they’ve given countless virtual talks. They haven’t done those things, and haven’t been around people. And that’s been really exciting to observe. That’s been really exciting to see, because it just shows how much the job that I do has changed. Software, a lot of things have changed; podcasting, things like that… And you’re kind of reminded about, when we’re back, the way things used to be, you know? It’s fun.
You know, one thing I was telling Jerod about in, I guess, our preparatory call for this, when we were saying “What are some of the things you want to cover? What are some of the things I wanted to cover?” And I was thinking about you particularly and then this role of dev rel, and dev advocacy, is that you have a particular skill set that sort of - not so much transcends, but you’re confident with being on a microphone, you’re confident with being in front of a camera… That’s a skill that’s just not in every dev rel’s backpocket… And I think that’s admirable. I was watching some of this stuff – I’m giving you a big company, by the way…
Oh, thank you so much. I really appreciate this.
I was watching some of the stuff on Twitter, and I just – I love seeing you with the microphone, roving around… That was so cool to see, one, as a fan of GitHub, and a fan of Universe and the things that come out there, and the announcements and whatnot… But just the level of professional coverage. And then like you doing the role, but – that’s so cool, to get that. Because that’s things that we wanted to do forever ago; kind of like, go to a conference and in real-time cover this thing. And think it came off really well, and you did a great job. But that’s a skill you develop over many, many years, and not many people can do that very well.
Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate you saying that, because it is something I’ve worked really hard on over the years. And I’ve been so lucky over the course of my career in different jobs that I’ve had the opportunity to, I think, hone in on that skill. And it was funny, because I didn’t realize how useful – like when I joined tech originally, it only lasted like three months, and then I went into developer advocacy… But I was hired as a PM, and so I thought I was kind of going to be giving up some of that stuff, and that wasn’t going to be part of my job anymore. And Microsoft, to their immense credit, recognized that it could be useful… And to your point, that this isn’t something a lot of people have lots and lots of experience with, and let me do more of it; my skills, I think, have only improved. And GitHub, to their immense credit, absolutely has encouraged that. And I think it’s been really great for me, because this was part of my life I thought I was gonna be giving up, and if anything, it’s only grown… But I’ve been able to take it into a different direction, and about different topics, and about other things that I’m really passionate about. So thank you very much for saying that.
Do it again next year. Keep going.
Yes. Yeah, that’s definitely the goal. That’s definitely the goal.
I’m curious about the technical side, Christina, because we’ve had a lot of conversations over the years, and there’s been two refrains that we hear a lot, and they both are basically imposter syndrome. But one of them is “I’m not really a developer.” And usually, you find out that person has this amazing thing they built, and they just don’t consider themselves a developer, because they’re not, I don’t know, a big name, or whatever… And the other ones I’m not really a maintainer.
Yeah. “I’m not really a maintainer”, and it’s usually, it’s because their repos only have a few people using them, and they’re not on the jQuery core team… Now I’m dating myself. They’re not on the Deno core team… There we go. Relevant again.
Yes. I was gonna say, there you go.
Yeah. I’m curious from your perspective, coming in as a journalist, as a pop culture, as a writer, and covering stuff, and playing with stuff like Linux, and stuff… But did you have to face your own imposter syndrome coming into dealing with software developers every day?
Oh, 100%. 100%. I felt confident in – look, I’d always say this… I was, I think, one of the more technical technology journalists when I was working; I feel confident saying that. I could go to developer sessions, I had a background in mostly web development… I even took classes in C, and I had a math tutor teach me Fortran, and I knew Python, and I would dabble with languages… I would say I’m not a deep dev; I’m definitely one of those T-shaped developers. I felt confidence that I knew more, at least surface-level things. So I was higher-skilled, and in some regards more technical than a lot of my peers… But when I joined Microsoft, that was one of my biggest fears, and like a big thing I had to kind of focus on… A, improving, but be also kind of getting over it a little bit was “Okay, am I good enough to stand toe to toe with these people who oftentimes maintain amazing projects, and have massive experience, and are real 10x engineers?” They might not call themselves that, because they are actual 10x engineers, and that means that you don’t ever –
It’s a douchy thing to call yourself… [laughs]
Well, it is. If you call yourself that, you’re not one. But if you are one –
Yeah, you’re not one. You just qualified.
Exactly. You don’t have to, because everyone knows that you are, right?
It’s like the word “luxury” 0 if you say you’re luxury, you’re not really luxury.
Exactly, exactly. If you have to advertise it, you’re not it. So there was impostor syndrome with that. And one of the things that helped me a little bit, a) was just continuing to learn and to improve, and to play around, and to be okay with things breaking. And even making that public sometimes. Because everybody goes through a journey, whether you’ve been at this for 20 years, or 20 weeks. But b) was talking and meeting so many amazing people who are so good at what they do… And when they would share with me their imposter syndrome, I would go – and weirdly, that would almost make me feel better, because I would go “Man… If Sarah Drasner, who is one of the smartest and most talented people I’ve ever met”, she’s just a friend of mine, and I love her… If she feels not good enough, and not strong enough, then you can’t win, right? So why bother holding yourself to these things? If everybody feels this way, then it’s okay. And I think that – you know, when we think about what is a developer, and we kind of ask that question, I think that if you are building or are excited about contributing to things, or playing around with things, you can be a developer, because so many people… You know, the lines get blurred all the time, and I think that trying to hold anybody to any specific definition really lessens people experimenting… Because how most of us got into this was that we had an – look, some people were very pragmatic and said, “This is how I can make money, and this is what I’m studying in school.” But I think for a lot of us - I don’t know if I can say most, but definitely a lot of us, it was because we were passionate about something, and wanted to build something and do it, or needed to figure out a problem, and so we looked into “How can I do this?” and we experimented and we played and we tried, right? Maybe it was “I love video games and I want to know how can I build my own?”
Video games - yeah, exactly.
Right? For me, that was kind of a big one. For me, building a website - that was the click with me. Because I loved writing. I was like “Oh man, I can have my own online zine, basically. That’s amazing.” And for some people it might be like “I want to have a YouTube channel, or a podcast, but I want to figure out how I can make that work more efficiently, more technically. Maybe I want to customize my Tumblr.”
The same thing as you were saying about maintainers. Okay, so you have 50 stars, and only a handful of hardcore users. You’re still updating and releasing, and doing security updates, and making changes based on feedback, and solving issues. You’re a maintainer, right? Don’t hold yourself to some standard, because - going back again, I’ve talked to people who are on those core teams for things like npm, or Deno, or whatever, who many of them still have impostor syndrome. So I don’t think it ever goes away, but it does, I think, make it better when you realize that it happens to everyone. That makes it, I think, a little bit easier to be less hard on yourself.
Yeah. If the best out there struggles, it’s okay if I struggle a little bit too, because hey - par for the course.
Well, and the other thing too, I’ll say - and I don’t remember who it was who framed this to me this way, but when they did, it unlocked so many things in me… I used to be really – especially when I was a kid, I never wanted to admit that I needed help. Or that I was struggling with something, because it almost felt like admitting a weakness, and admitting defeat. And then I thought to myself, I was like “When someone has admitted to me that they don’t know something, or they’re struggling with something, have I ever thought any less of them?” No. If anything, when somebody says, “Oh, I don’t know what that is”, or “I don’t know how to do that”, your first instinct for most of us is to help them, is to inform, is to teach. But we’re not thinking, “Oh, you don’t know what this thing is, you absolute idiot.” There might be some jerks who do that, but I think by and large, most people don’t have that perception. So why are we so afraid of admitting when there are things that we’re not as good at, or that we can improve at, or that we don’t know about, right? Because we’re afraid of people judging us, but in our real life, when we’re faced with those same situations, that’s not our response. Our response is to want to help and inform…
And so I think that that’s part of it too, is being okay with not being the best at everything, or knowing everything, and being open to learning. And for me, when I made my transition, because I love to learn, that I think was the most helpful thing, was – and I’m never going to stop. I’m a much better developer than I was five years ago. I will be an even better developer five years from now.
There’s no easy segue back to GitHub Universe; we’ll take the hard path back. You said the thing you were excited about was seeing people, but you didn’t touch on any of the cool new tech that’s coming out. Surely there’s cool, new tech…
There’s amazing new tech. Well, you told me other than the new tech, okay? So let’s be very clear on that, Jerod.
You told me not to mention the tech, so I mentioned the people first. But–
Okay. Well, we’re now giving you permission; you can mention the tech…
Okay, thank you. Okay, there was some amazing tech stuff. Some of the first things… Codespaces is now available to everyone. And it’s been in beta, at this point it’s gone through a couple of iterations, but it’s now available to all users, and free accounts get 60 hours of usage a month, pro accounts get 120 hours of usage a month for free. Codespaces, and just the whole movement of cloud development environments, whether using Codespaces or something else - it has fundamentally changed the way that I spin up projects and try things out now. That isn’t to say that I don’t still have local instances of things that are running on my own machines, but many, many times, if I’m wanting to check out something, if it has a Codespace attached, or a devcontainer.json file attached, that I can turn into a Codespace, I would much rather use that as a way to explore and test things, rather than doing the old method of installing the Docker file, or trying to run locally with my dependencies, and whatnot.
So Codespaces is going GA for everyone. I think that was huge. Really excited about that, especially – I’m glad that we have a free offering for people to get started, and to figure out if they like doing development from a cloud VM or not… We also announced - and I think this is really great, especially when it comes to accessibility and helping more people get more out of coding… We announced an experiment that’s taking place within GitHub Next, which is sort of our incubator for some of our next ideas. And it’s called, Hey GitHub, and it’s like a voice assistant for GitHub Copilot. And so you can use Copilot, but you don’t have to type. This, I think, has massive potential.
I was hit by a car a few years ago… I was crossing the street, and I was hit by a car and thrown underneath a bus; it was a whole thing –
Yeah. And I broke my right wrist and [unintelligible 00:57:18.15] my shin. But I’m right-handed. And once I got on the cast, once the swelling was down enough and I was in the cast, I could kind of use my fingers, like kind of type a little bit… But there was like a 10-day period where I only had use of my left hand. And that made typing and doing any coding work very, very difficult. And I hate to admit this, but I hadn’t really thought much about a lot of accessibility until that happened. And I hate admitting that, but what can I say; sometimes we’re selfish beings, and we need that personal experience. Now I think a lot about it. And so I look at something Hey GitHub, which - to say, “Hey GitHub, show me how would I write a function in Ruby to do X?” and it can do that, and can complete things with your voice, and can do add-on parameters on top of that.
[58:07] I think that that has a ton of potential for people who might have sight issues, or might have RSI, or might have other accessibility issues that make typing not great. So I’m really excited about that. That’s still an experiment, but I think that the learnings from that are really, really exciting.
We also open sourced some fonts. So as a font geek, that was really great. So our logo font, Mona Sans, and then we have another more robotic font called a Hubot Sans; they’re both open source. They’re available under the – I think it’s the OFL license. And - what’s the term…? Not monospaced. What is it…?
Um, monospaced is a term…
No, no, they’re variable fonts. So these are variable fonts.
Variable fonts, yes. Those are cool.
Which I love. And they’re open sourced. A number of companies have done this over the years. JetBrains Mono, which is a mono space font, is open source. Cascadia Code, which is one that the Windows terminal team did… There are some others. There’s some great ones… Google obviously has a lot, but… I was really happy to see that happen. And we also use the – Universe has the opportunity to share the annual Octoverse Report, which is kind of our annual report of everything that’s happening kind of in open source, and in the ecosystem, amongst users, and the trends and the things that come out of that are really interesting, too. Scripting languages, shell languages are back, baby…
Shell, of all things, actually, had a real glow-up. It was like one of the –
Like SH. Not Bash, or anything… Shell.
Shell. Shell script was one of the top –
Automation. A lot of people building automation things. The fastest-growing language of 2022 was HCL from HashiCorp. And so I think that that’s what it is, is people writing more and more scripts to automate things using DevOps, and get things running maybe through their IoT devices… I don’t know. I was surprised, too…
But I’m also a big shell script fan, so I was like not mad about it.
That’s cool. What’s old is new again.
That is cool.
Adam, have you had a chance to take a look at the – Adam’s a font nerd. Have you had a chance to take a look at Mona, or Hubot?
I saw them, yes. And speaking of JetBrains Mono, I’m a JetBrains Mono for life kind of person, so it’s gonna be a challenge for me, because I like it.
Well, these are not mono fonts. So you can still use that as your coding font. These are Sans Serif fonts.
Right. It’s weird, isn’t it, that GitHub doesn’t release a monospace font, though… Shouldn’t you guys have one?
Yeah, kinda… You know what, we should. We should. That’s a good idea.
Next year, maybe.
Or do a pull request and say that we need like Mona Mono.
Mona Mono, for sure.
We’ll just assign that to some design, yeah–
File a PR, Mona Mono, and… Yeah, maybe next year, but yeah…
So I briefly looked at these Jerod, I thought they were very cool… Didn’t see a particular use for me right now, and I filed it under “To be used in the future.”
There you go…
So that’s where I’m at with GitHub fonts Mona and Hubot. I’m a big fan though. I’m a big fan of well-done fonts that are open for everybody to used, well-licensed, that are good for real. And the Hubot font… Hubot Sans – is it Hubot sans, is that how you say it?
Yes, Hubot Sans. Yeah.
It looks a lot like the font you’ve all been using for Universe’s font for a while. I think it’s an evolution of a font. Right?
It is, it is. So I think we worked with a foundry who created fonts specifically think for us, and then made our own modifications, which is often the case with custom, brand fonts… Because we worked with [01:01:32.08] And so I think it was an evolution of that. But we’ve been made it open source, which I think is really great.
Right. Alliance was the font you had been using for a while.
Alliance is their font, their typeface… And I’m a big fan of that typeface, so just by nature, I’m a fan of Hubot Sans, right? Because it’s the next evolution of Alliance, which is super-cool.
[01:02:00.19] And I’ve been a big fan of the design for Universe, the site for every year you all do it. So the last several years - I don’t know who’s behind that, but whoever it is, given them a big high five from me, because I’ve always been a fan of the uniqueness of it, and it’s just a really well done site for a conference, every year.
Well, thank you for saying that. I will pass that along. I cannot take any credit, but I totally agree with you. I love the design and the work that goes into that stuff. And it helps. GitHub has kind of a brand, and kind of a thing we’re known for, and a little bit of a swagger. It’s why a lot of us were drawn to working here, and it might be one of the reasons why people are interested in trying our products out… So I appreciate you saying that. I totally agree with you. I think that the team did a great job with the design this year.
I think you have to be a fan – well, I guess, have to… I guess you don’t “have to” be a fan. But it would be nice to be a fan of GitHub if you work at GitHub, right?
I mean, that would make sense. Like, for you it’s a homecoming, right?
Oh, for me it’s a complete homecoming. And I’ve actually met a couple of hubbers this week… You know, working remotely is interesting, because the serendipitous meetings and employee things happen over Slack, rather than in an office… But I’ve met a couple of co-workers for the first time this week, on Slack, and we’ve all bonded over the fact that we were really big GitHub fans before we joined GitHub. I’m like “Yes. My people.” That’s really fun. That’s really fun.
What’s interesting though about Codespaces I want to mention is that, you know, there’s a lot of people who push back on this idea of coding in the cloud, but I think of people who asked for that super-beefy Linux machine, and it costs us so much money… And then the idea of like to tinker with a new thing, like you had said, like “Would I rather run it in the already-made Codespaces container that I can just spin up, rather than changing my local environment?” I don’t think it’s a daily driver for a lot of people, but I think eventually it’s a daily driver for specific projects, and things like that… Because I’ve been thinking about that; I’ve been doing a lot of Linux work behind the scenes here. I tell Jerod about this all the time. Right now I’m playing with Debian; I’ve got a fun thing I’m doing right now - I turned a Mac Pro, a 2013 Mac Pro, into a Debian 11 machine running Proxmox…
…virtualizing containers, running Pi-hole in it… Like, it’s super-cool. And this is a beefy 12-core, 128-gigabit, 2-terabyte SSD machine that back in the day cost 7k, 10k, whatever thousand dollars… And now it’s dated; it’s basically useless technology, because it doesn’t even run the latest macOS. However, it does run the most latest Linux, and it can run ZFS, and it can do RAID, and all this fun stuff… But I’ve been doing a lot of this fun stuff behind the scenes, long story short… But I’ve been thinking about this, like this idea of like having my dotfiles everywhere I go, and like this environment… It’s kind of like that, but very specifically. And I feel like Codespaces, or coding in the cloud, or a VM in the cloud is not going to be the daily driver, or the daily dev environment for everybody, but it might be for very specific concerns and areas. Like, if you have a massive test suite, are you gonna run it locally on your MacBook Pro? It might run; but what if you have a super-beefy Codespace, right?
No, I mean, I think you’re exactly right. And I think that you framed it perfectly. Like, it’s not necessarily going to be a daily driver for everything. For example, at GitHub we use it for our GitHub/GitHub repo. So we have a big monorepo; the codespace that we have set up and configured to use it is a 32-core dev machine, and it can load the entire website. And the thing is, I can spin that up – we also have a process to pre… I guess, basically, have the container pre-spun up, so that even the spin-up time when you start the codespace is much faster. That happens daily. So I can in 90 seconds have access to this massive monorepo, and this really big codebase, that if I were doing this locally, could take – even on a very beefy machine, it would take a tremendous amount of time, unless I was just using that machine just for that purpose, and I was taking the latest version and merging my branches frequently, right? It would be a big lift, I think, for most people’s machines.
[01:06:15.28] Like, if you have an M1 Pro Max, or something, or a Mac Studio, maybe you’d be okay. But this is still less of a lift than having to do all of that… Or on the converse, having to say, “Okay, well, I only need these branches. I only need this subset of code”, which is typically how you would deal with that.
So I think that even us internally, it’s changed things a lot. But I think you’re exactly right. It’s not like – and I don’t see it as for every person, like replacing your daily dev environment. But if something does require the power that you don’t have… Because you don’t have an $8,000 Mac Pro in a closet, running Debian and Proxmox; or the project might even exceed that. Or, as I was saying - you know, I want to try something out, but I do not want to have to go through the drama of getting all the dependencies installed, or making sure that the Docker setup is going to work with what my local networking things are. I think this is a really, really great option.
It’s the future for large bases like that. Codebases like that need this, because – even to accessibility, right?
If you’re a drive-by contributor that can do it, but your daily machine is not that, and you can add value - it’s ultimate invitation to add the value.
No, I’m so glad you mentioned that, because that’s actually something – we’ve had a lot of conversations with maintainers about how we can make Codespaces better for them, and how they can use it more… And honestly, one of the challenges we’ve run into is a) I think that there just hasn’t been enough awareness about it, and that’s slowly changing… But b) I mean, this is one of the reasons I’m glad that we have a free offering for everyone, because I really do think that this will be so good for drive-by maintainers. I see something and I want to make a change, but the process – this is what we hear from maintainers all the time… People want to contribute. But the process of allowing them to contribute can be so onerous, for both people, right? It’s onerous for the person wanting to get up to speed, but it’s also a lot of work for the maintainer to have to walk people through what the process is, and make sure that things are formatted a certain way, and work through troubleshooting with people who are maybe trying to set up their environment. If we can make that a lot easier, where somebody can just clone something and open it in Codespaces, make the changes they want, and then submit their PR, my hope is what we’ll see over time is that this will enable way more people to contribute and not have to either go through the setup process… Or, when we talk about accessibility, I think that not only refers to the things that we can do for people who have different disabilities, but also people who live in different parts of the world, and have access to different types of machines, right?
So if I’m somebody who’s in South America, and I want to contribute but my machine might not be powerful enough, or my primary machine, if maybe I’m a student in the United States, and I use an iPad - this is something that will allow that person to still contribute without having to have access to a full-bore Proxmox beast.
Well, it’s the ultimate setup, because if you’re an open source maintainer, one, it takes a lot of time to lay off documentation to get the environment spun up, but then two - GitHub already has my public key. It’s the ultimate gift to verify commits too, because you’ve already got my public key… If I’ve got GPG setup, or [unintelligible 01:09:31.13] set up, then you can just assume that from my profile when I spin up a codespace for a drive-by contribution…
And for the – what is it called…? The supply chain, the open source supply chain, whatever that is… The security of that to me - if GitHub can enable that to become more of a thing that is available for open source repositories, or whatever - I think that has a benefit, a net benefit for the future of security for open source software.
[01:10:02.24] No, I think you’re exactly right. I think you’re exactly right. Because like you said, you can use – and also, you can now sign your SSH commits with GitHub, using various password partners, like 1Password; if you use 1Password, you can use that to sign your SSH commits to GitHub. You can use other services, too. But I think, to your point, that really does make things more secure… And I think it also if you have kind of a base where you know everybody is working off of – or maybe you don’t know everybody, but you can say that for a new person coming in, you’re giving them a base, a codebase base setup image to work off of, that’s going to eliminate some potential security vectors.
For instance, if they’re trying to build something and maybe they don’t have – some of their libraries aren’t up to date, and whatnot; maybe they introduce another problem… I think you’re right; I think that it can do a lot for security.
One of the other things too, when we’re talking about kind of like larger codebases and productivity - and this is also really useful with Codespaces, but useful in general… We’ve done a lot of work, and this was also announced at Universe, around improving code searching. So the new code search experience is really, really slick, and I’m hoping that will help people, too.
For sure. It’s the ultimate no excuses, right? If I can give you an environment that I know works, then it also requires you zero effort really, aside from understanding Codespaces and how it works, some knowledge basically that you’re gonna pick up no matter what - it’s the ultimate saying like “Hey, you don’t have to change your machine at all. You don’t have to do anything to your local Postgres, or your local Homebrew, or wait for a Homebrew update to finally run and be done…” You know, whatever happens when you run Brew updates; no offense to Homebrew, I love it, but there are some challenges when it comes to the ceremony of spinning up any project, whether it’s your own or somebody else’s. And all those hurdles are just more hurdles to contribution, really.
They are. You’re dead on. You’re dead on. And again, like I said, when we’ve talked to maintainers, that’s what we’ve heard from them. I’ve also talked to the Codespaces team, and they’re really doing their part to try to make that as easy as possible, and trying to work on kind of some templates, and kind of base images for Codespaces to help people contribute to things. Helen Hou-Sandi, who works at GitHub - she’s fantastic; she’s been a core contributor to the WordPress project for a long, long time… And she is working on having an image codespace setup that’ll make contributing to WordPress easier for folks. And WordPress famously still uses SVN as their version control system–
Infamously, yes. So again, this also even makes that somewhat easier, because you can make the changes, do it on the GitHub site, and it’ll handle the things on the track SVN side. But I love this, because - going back to what I was saying before about getting rid of this idea of who is and who isn’t a developer, I think the way we do that is by breaking down barriers, and by making it as easy as possible for people to contribute. And that’s how - to go back to way, like an hour ago when we were talking, is kind of the idea around your podcast about open source… This is how it continues to be ubiquitous, and how it continues to be the thing we all use, is by making it the easier way to contribute, and the easier way to be part of things, by making everybody be able to hopefully contribute, by eliminating that friction, as you were saying.
Well said, well said. Well, Christina, we’ve been fans forever, pretty much. It was fun going down nostalgia lane with you; it was fun to even hear it from the person themselves, you, about your journey and your history. You are a developer, you’re here now, you’re killing it… I’m a fan of what you’ve done recently with the Universe, and your coverage, and the kind of work you do, and I’m so happy you do that kind of work, and that you have advocated for yourself to say no, and keep your DNA, and promote the things that you’re really excited about, and the things that you really are happy to see out there in the world… So thank you for coming on the show. It’s just been a bummer, I guess, that it’s taken this long to get you on the show… But finally here. I’m happy.
I love it. I’m so excited. Thank you so much for having me. We definitely need to do another podcast, Backstage, so that we can geek out about media stuff…
Yeah, let’s do it.
Let’s backstage on Plex, and media, and… Oh my gosh, yeah.
I would love to do that.
It would be nice to have a friend in that room, because Jerod not so much. MakeMKV I use myself. I have a license that I paid for, because I love the software; it’s just amazing.
I do, too.
Change my mind.
Well, look - you know what? You don’t always need to do it yourself. You can sometimes have friends; like, there’s balance. But I’m totally team Adam on this one, in terms of doing all of that stuff myself. But I also find it fun. But I also understand when Jerod’s like “No, I have too many other things to do.”
Too much to do… [laughs]
What we need is we need like a Codespaces type of thing for – a way to kind of automate the process of doing something like MakeMKV, or Plex, or whatnot. That’s what we need to work on.
Yeah, for sure.
Containerize that Codespaces for me, and then I’ll look into it.
[laughs] Well, Christina, it was so awesome having you on this show. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much for having me. This was great. Thank you, Adam. Thank you, Jerod.
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