In this special episode of Request For Commits we close out the first season with a look behind the scenes of the show. We talked about how the show was formed, who’s involved and why, how we approach producing this show, our theme music, as well as our plans and timing for season 2.
- The theme music for RFC was created by Breakmaster Cylinder — Listen to it on Bandcamp
- The Changelog #193: Funding and Sustaining Open Source with Nadia Eghbal
- If you haven’t yet, read Karl Fogel’s book — Producing Open Source Software
- Open Source, Then and Now with Karl Fogel (author of Producing Open Source Software) — Part 1 and Part 2
- Grant Funding: What Happens When You Pay for Open Source Work? with Max Ogden, creator of Dat
- Funding the Web with Brendan Eich
Click here to listen along while you enjoy the transcript. 🎧
Alright everyone, welcome to this special episode of Request for Commits. We wanted to close up the first season with a look behind the scenes of the show. We’ve got the entire party here - myself, Adam Stacoviak, editor in chief of Changelog, Jerod Santo, managing editor of Changelog, and also the hosts, Nadia Eghbal and Mikeal Rogers. Everyone say hello…
Request for Commits - this show was uniquely unified in terms of how we came about it. Nadia, we had you on the Changelog, January of this year, 2016, talking about sustainability in open source; we were huge fans of that topic, but we knew we couldn’t do every single episode of The Changelog specifically on that, so when we were done with that show we were like, “Hey, we should do a show… You really should podcast about this.” What were you thinking at that moment? Can you kind of go back to that early stages of it?
I think I was definitely like… I think I was just like, “Hell, no!” [laughs] Because it was the first interview I’d done – definitely the first interview I’d done on open source, and I was just not super comfortable with recording online, or whatever. So yeah, I put it at like the back of my mind; it was nice to think what would that be like in my head, and I think as I was continuing to meet people and talk to people, I kind of kept that in the back of my mind, like “Oh yeah, it would be kind of cool if it was just this conversation, but published…” So yeah, it definitely planted a seed in my head.
Well, I listened to that podcast actually, and it was funny because at the time that I was listening to the podcast, I hadn’t met you yet but we had on the calendar that we were going to meet, I think like a week later, or something. And I remember listening to that podcast and being really frustrated, but like in a good way, because it was this really kind of high-level, broad thing, and every one of your answers, I was like “I wanna spend an hour talking about just THAT thing.” Just… That two-minute segment, like every two minutes. [laughter] And then we met up and talked for like a couple hours, I think, about stuff like that.
There’s been some people, Mikeal, that had described your position on the show as like “stories from the battlefield”, so to speak. Can you talk to that a little bit?
Well, I do think that the difference in our perspective is that I tend to talk about my experiences or just stories that I’ve heard from other people as well - you kind of take everybody’s experiences and you learn from them… But Nadia was like this amazing researcher, and goes out and finds way more stories than I have just for my own kind of personal perspective.
I tend to tell a lot of stories and come from that end, and then Nadia is much more analytical and tends to really keep things on track in terms of always focusing on sustainability and keeping a much more coherent narrative in the story that we’re trying to do about sustainability.
Well, I think we could definitely give props to Nadia on her note-taking. First of all, your paper for the Ford Foundation was an epic in the actual sense of the word… Very long. Real quick, I’m just looking at our show list and thinking, “Man, we just met in January of 2016, and here it is, December 2016 and have 11 awesome episodes of a show, that we all can be proud of.” So I wanna congratulate you all on doing that, it’s excellent.
Nadia, tell us about these notes, because you all gotta see some of the Google Docs that Nadia can crank out…
I think the word is “thorough”…
I think I should stop sending them to the speakers, because I worry I’m scaring them… [laughter]
They might be like, “So we’re gonna talk about all this stuff?”
“All that…?!” Yeah, I might stop doing that.
I think it helps them, because it refreshes their memory about, “Oh, I may have to talk about that.”
That’s what I think.
No, I think it’s good. Things are going very well, don’t change it up.
Okay, alright, alright… I’ll keep doing crazy docs…
In the worst case scenario, you’ll keep them on their toes. It’s like, “Wow, these people are serious… We’re gonna podcast about this.” And I think, to that note, one of my most favorite - not because it’s the best one, but because I just love the way he came in with passion - was Brendan Eich. It was like the [unintelligible 00:04:46.03] and let it go, and then Brendan just told the story, the history of open source, the web, how it was funded… I think he’d have done that anyways, but maybe the notes… It was like, “Hey, this is serious… We’re gonna talk about the history of the web here”, and he was ready for it.
Ten minutes, I think.
Nadia essentially just does a lot of research and has a lot of possible discussion points. We never hit all of them, but it’s this amazing guide that we can continue to fall back to. We try to have a conversation and move naturally, but also one of the reasons why the show continues to move forward really easily is because we always have that guide to fall back to. The notes are amazing and super thorough.
Honestly, I’m terrified of talking off the cuff, which is why I do them… With live presentations or podcast stuff, I’m always afraid… I know Adam always says embrace the silence, but I’m just like…
…I have to have something ready.
Can we talk about the design of the show a little bit then on that note? Since off the cuff is something you’re scared of, we kind of come into the show a little differently than maybe other podcasts where they sort of say, “So, I guess, tell everybody who you are” and they ran for it ten minutes, and burn ten minutes of show time, whereas we come in and it’s like you go right into the heart of the story.
I mean, there always is that first section where we do get into the person’s background, but we always where we get into their background specific to what we wanna talk about later. We really just wanna provide the audience with their credentials and credibility around whatever side of sustainability we’re gonna go at.
We rarely talk about somebody’s entire history, because it’s usually not relevant. I mean, there are some exceptions… Heather Meeker has an amazing legal history, and I think all of it is probably relevant to her views on the legal side of open source. But for most people we don’t do that at all, because so much of what they do isn’t really relevant. And we almost never ask them about the project that they’re working on right now, which is what most podcasts do, because usually they are on to talk about a project they are promoting but we’re like, “No, no, no… This thing that you’ve been working on for ten years, that is sort of like an underpinning of open source sustainability - let’s get into that.”
[00:08:11.02] They’re very - I wouldn’t say “timeless”, where you could just listen to them forever, but it’s not like you can say, “Oh, that was recorded November 2016” or “That was in October, for sure.” From the perspective of the show it’s not really like a timestamp on it; it’s almost timeless to a degree.
Yeah, and some are better than others for that. You know, Brendan is working on a lot of really relevant stuff right now, so I think that his one is probably a little bit more timestamped, especially the third section of that one. I think that discussion we had with Karl Fogel will basically…
…go down in history.
Yeah, that one… Well, I think his book is still relevant ten years later, so I think that conversation probably has some longevity of a few years at least.
And you even said – I forget what you were working at at the time, but you were saying that that was like the bible that everyone put on their desks for open source and how to run governance, and how to do open source, basically.
Yeah, it was.
What’s the book’s name?
Producing Open Source Software.
According to him, there’s gonna be an inversion coming up, but we’re still waiting on it.
And since we’ve been working with O’Reilly too, we’ve gotta give thanks because they did let him do some unique… I think the license is a Creative Commons license.
There’s like a website, ProducingOSS.com. That is the whole book, in its entirety.
We have to do better with our show notes. I’m going to our show notes now for both of these shows and the book is not linked up… Why!?
Yeah, I don’t know why the book is not linked up. I’m looking at it… I know I did this, so it’s my fault.
Gotta fix it.
This is my fault. We’ll fix this. If you’re listening to this, it’s considered fixed, okay? [laughter] The links will be there. It’s available online, you can read it online, and I believe it’s creative commons. That’s a unique thing for O’Reilly, because they obviously paid to get that book produced, but it was like, “This is so important, we should give it away.”
Let’s talk about some favorite moments then from this season. I know that I’ve got a couple myself… We’ve kind of talked around a couple of them to some degree just now, but anyone wanna start off with a favorite moment from this season that they can share with the listeners?
My favorite was episodes #1 and #2, what I would call the somewhat heated debate between Karl and Mikeal about many things. Mikeal, from your perspective, were you having a lot of fun during that conversation? Because I had a lot of fun listening to it.
It was great, it was great. I think there was actually one moment where both Nadia and I sort of landed on… We very much disagreed with Karl’s perspective, or we had a different perspective, but it was just such a great conversation that we could disagree and not be angry. And we were really trying to understand his perspective and how he was coming at it. I think I learned a lot more from that than I would have from somebody who just agreed with it.
Yeah… What I really respected about Karl - and I have to go back and listen again because I think it was the first episodes that I listened to, probably back in August or maybe even July, so I don’t remember the exact details… But there was a specific moment where you kind of changed his mind about something, and he even said it as he was debating. He’s like, “Well, I’m kind of changing where I stand, as we talk…”, which was really admirable and neat to see.
Yeah, yeah… I mean, we scheduled that one for a two-parter, because we knew that it would take so long. Me and Nadia both talked to Karl before, and had an understanding of how long that it could go. With most of these people, like we were saying, there is an aspect of their work that we wanna talk about, and so that’s gonna be an hour, because it’s not all of their work. But with Karl, he has views on every angle of open source sustainability and community, so it was gonna be huge.
[00:12:14.07] I don’t know if you felt like this, Nadia, but I felt like we didn’t have enough time…
Oh, yeah… I mean, he was the original inspiration for this show, and we were like “Oh, we should just do a podcast with Karl”; we could have done every episode on him. [laughter]
This was actually the same day, too. I recall this. Didn’t we do back-to-back, part I, part II with Karl?
Yeah, it was just a straight up, three-hour block, yeah.
Yeah, and I really wasn’t exhausted afterwards. I was just like, “Alright, let’s go again.”
Any chance to get him back on in season two?
Hopefully his book is done and we can bring him on and talk about it.
That’d be cool.
Other favorite moments? Mikeal, what’s a favorite moment from you?
I really liked having Max on, because… I mean, Max is one of my really good friends and I talk to him pretty often. We used to have a company together and kind of talk every day, and very few moments in that were things that me and Max had talked about before. It was all really new stuff, the kind of stuff that we would have only talked about in this kind of setting, with this podcast… And certain things that I just never thought that I’d know. Nadia knew all this stuff, but…
But I didn’t know the other stuff that was on there.
Yeah, but I had no idea. I did not know that grant funders love convenings, and that they’re called convenings. I didn’t even know that. [laughter]
Wow. That’s where you go and you network and shake hands and meet new people, and stuff like that…?
Yeah, but it’s never a networking event, it’s always a convening.
Convening, okay. There you go. So that’s episode #6, that was Max Ogden talking about grant funding. Now, Nadia, when we had you on the Changelog, we talked a bit about grant funding, to some degree, around sustaining open source, and you had some pretty unique perspectives around VC and also grant funding in that show there. What thoughts can you share here, behind the scenes about that?
About Max’s episode, or…?
Yeah, that episode there, about grant funding and that process.
I was super happy that we had an entire episode dedicated to that. I think that was what I’ve been excited about with this show in general - we organized season one with each episode focusing on a different topic, and just being able to go that deep on a topic was really fulfilling. I talked to Max a couple times before, but you know, when you’re meeting someone you’re talking about all sorts of things, you’re trying to get a complete picture of someone… And to come back and be able to talk about a topic that we had both thought was important, but we knew that wasn’t well understood by the rest of open source - that was just deeply satisfying.
Real quick, can I talk about VC funding for a second? Because I feel like we’ve been a year from your first post back in January, and the conversation that we had on the Changelog, wherein you talked about the potential of VCs being interested in the funding of open source… Now you can look back at the year, you’re at GitHub now, you’ve been in the trenches, having these conversations with developers… Have your thoughts on that congealed or changed since January?
Yeah, a lot. I’m kind of curious to go back and listen to that episode, because I think a lot has changed. The thing I felt really solid on this whole year has been that there is a problem that should be talked about. Figuring out what to do about the problem is obviously the hardest part, and I think takes a long time. Over this – I mean, doing this show too has been an excuse to think really in depth about some of these ideas. I don’t know that venture is the right place to start, I’ll put it that way.
[00:15:55.19] When I was first thinking about this stuff it was like, “How do you just get money into the problem in the first place and coming straight from VC?”, that was my first thought. But I’m thinking more about “How do we create a sustainable system of support?” and that’s not gonna be the best-aligned place, in my opinion.
So looking back at those deep conversations that you were able to have during season one, what are some highlights from your perspective, favorite moments or episodes?
I think Heather was my favorite one, or at least one of my favorites. Heather is one of those people I’d had I think one conversation with before, and I remember coming away from that conversation and just scribbling down all these notes because I just didn’t know all these things. She was so understated about it, and she’s just like, “Oh yeah, you know…”, sharing all this history and all this interesting legal stuff. So I knew that I wanted her on the show.
And being able to go that deep on licenses - and not just licenses in the sense that… I think talking about licenses can get very politicized in open source, but with her I felt like it was more about history and it was more about understanding the broader landscape, and having that kind of conversation I think was great.
Yeah, that one surprised me more than any other episode. I definitely thought that we were gonna have one conversation, and then it turned into something much more.
How do you mean?
I really thought that it would end up being more about the licensing side of things, and it ended up being really about sustainability at the end of the day, and how licensing plays into that and is an aspect of that. And I thought that we would end up talking more about free software licensing, just because she has such a history in that, but we actually ended up getting into a lot of really, really good other stuff.
I think we ended up following that conversation a lot; more than most of them, we fell back to the notes a little bit less.
Yeah. I remember one thing she said that stuck with me… It was about how licenses themselves are these reusable documents where instead of every project having to pay a whole bunch of legal fees to get their docs in order, you just had these documents you can essentially copy/paste into your projects and you know that you’re legally covered. I hadn’t really thought about how revolutionary that is, but coming from startups, for example, you have to hire a lawyer if you wanna…
Everybody’s really giving the same thing every single time, because there’s some unique experience for each and every company, and everybody ends up doing the same thing, just copy/paste the business name, to some degree. I mean, they’ll probably even hire the same firms, same attorneys…
And in open source it’s like anybody can just access the text, copy it, put it under your project, and you’re done. That’s pretty nuts.
That certainly speaks to the dry mentality of the software development world - not just software developers, but those that operate in open source, everyone from evangelists to those who help with documentation, to those who actually write core code… There’s appreciation for “Don’t repeat yourself if you don’t have to.”
Well, I think the difference in perspective between developers and lawyers looks really interesting, too. Like, I’ve never heard somebody say, “What do you mean ‘license proliferation’?” There is no standardization around any licensing in the proprietary world.
Yeah, that was interesting. So you have the authorship side from the lawyer perspective or from the business perspective; if you have proprietary license, you have to hire somebody (a lawyer) to write that, and on the receiving side as well. So if you say “This is MIT”, we have a preconceived understanding of what that means. But if every proprietary license is different, you have to actually have lawyers vet it on the receiving side, even if it is like Adam said, a copy/paste from a previous proprietary license; it doesn’t matter. So you have costs on both sides, which I had never even considered.
[00:19:56.04] I also appreciated - and this isn’t exactly accurate, but something she said was pretty funny… “I’m not a lawyer, but I play one on Reddit.” [laughter] Which is not true; I mean, she’s a lawyer…
She is a lawyer!
I wasn’t really sure why she said that, but I thought it was funny. We pulled that out as a pulled quote for that episode, as well.
I’m not sure, but I think we’re talking about how everyone just has these really strong opinions about legal and licensing stuff in open source, because you kind of have to… But in the end you’re not actually a lawyer, you’re just sort of like taking your opinions and beating other people on the head with it.
So we zoom out a little bit and we look at all of season one, we’re done with it. We’ve looked back at the beginnings of it, so to speak… There had to have been some sort of overarching message that the two of you were hoping to get across to the audience. What was that message, and did we achieve our goal of doing that?
For me it actually just kind of crystallized two things that… Well, actually I shouldn’t say “crystallized”, because I hadn’t really come to this until we started doing the podcast, and I don’t know if it was just the podcast or also other conversations that I had with Nadia. But there’s kind of two points.
One is that just the notion of sustainability and sustainable practices needs to become part of the general developer mindset the way that testing became part of the general mindset. Open source developers did not write tests when I started doing open source. That wasn’t a thing, and there was a conscious movement to get people to value testing, and for testing to become part of the process. And I think this notion of sustainable practices around how you manage a project needs to become a part of the same thing.
The other one, which is somewhat related to what Nadia was talking about with venture is that we need companies to understand how dependent they are on open source, and to then develop a relationship to open source that is based on how much they are actually dependent on it for their business, rather than charity, which is where it is in most businesses right now.
If they put money into open source, it’s in this weird charity bucket, and it’s disconnected from the actual business value.
Very much, yeah. I can agree with that.
… and that’s not sustainable, and it doesn’t connect properly, and it doesn’t give the people who work there the right kind of flexibility they need in order to contribute and to be part of open source.
A lot of people are gonna be mad for me to say this, because it’s a lot of people’s job and it’s definitely been my job in the past, but I don’t necessarily agree with having this one open source person or this group of people that work on open source that are detached from the product and detached from the rest of the engineering.
If all of your product and all of your engineering is dependent on open source, all of your engineers for some portion of their time should be contributing to open source, should be involved. Because if you don’t have a seat at the table and you don’t get to direct where it’s going, you eventually won’t be able to use that technology anymore for your use cases. And it’s harder to teach that… It’s actually probably easier to walk into an organization and say, “You need to cut a check for this amount of money to this foundation, because they deserve it and you’re dependent on them” - it’s actually easier to do that than to get them to reassess the value of what they’re using. I think in the long-term that’s what we need to do.
Yeah, I think thematically Mikeal kind of stole my answer!
Oh, man… [laughter]
But that’s a good thing, it means we had the same message for this show. Again, Mikeal had said when we started this about how it’d be really interesting to talk to these people who are known and accomplished for certain aspects of their life and they don’t get to talk or think about the other aspects… That was my goal with this show - bringing sustainability to the forefront of the conversation and showing that there are a lot of different facets to that as well. It’s not just about, “How do I get paid for the work that I do?”, but it’s “How do you think about your community? How do you think about grants/business stuff, if that interests you?” There’s a lot of different aspects to it, and being able to explore all that really deeply in a sense just helps legitimize that this is something you should be thinking about if you work in open source.
[00:24:08.10] In the beginning of this year maybe that was less obvious, and now I feel like it’s becoming more obvious. We’ve talked about how there’s some people who think this stuff doesn’t matter at all, so there’s a lot of history that has to be overcome to say “This stuff actually matters. It’s a really big part of the work that you do, and we should be talking about, we should be going in-depth about it”, instead of just talking about the code or the technical side of your work.
In light of that, who is the listener of this show? What types of people? Is it maintainers, is it people inside of companies, CTOs, executives? Who should be listening to this show? Who’s our audience?
I mean, are you asking who we want the audience to be, or who seems to be listening to it?
Yeah, I think both… Who’s this show designed for, in terms of the preparation and the admiration and the hope for this show, but then also who listens to it and who should listen to it?
To me, the most important people who listen to it are those that are in some position of leadership inside a community. I wanna reach them first and foremost, and then from there reach more people.
I’ve been getting feedback from people from all over the place, but when I think about who I’ve mentally designed this show for, it’s people that are some sort of community leader within open source in particular, who have some sort of responsibility to a project or to a set of people, and who are similarly craving that depth of conversation that we were when we started this.
We touched a little earlier on - to some degree - how this show was formed, but the question I’m sure a lot of people ask is why the two of you together. Mikeal, you mentioned you listened to the episode we did with Nadia back in January, you had a meeting with her later that week; you hadn’t actually met yet, so… Take us back to why the two of you, why together, why do you both have a passion for this show on this topic?
Well, for me, I just wanted to be able to talk to Nadia all the time. [laughter]
We don’t really… I mean, even though we live in the same city, it’s hard to schedule time to just be like, “Hey, let’s sit and just chat for a while.”
So podcasting is a new way to meet. I like it.
Basically… Yeah, I mean, I remember thinking – I had talked to so many people, and plenty of conversations resonated with different people, but I felt like with Mikeal it was someone I kept coming back to again and again. I think in our first conversation I realized he had seen so many different types of communities, types of situations that I could read about and try to understand, but that I hadn’t experienced myself, so that was really interesting for me. And then reading some of his older writing, there was that same level of vision, or just wanting to zoom out and say, “What does it mean that we’re doing all this?” Not just doing it, but kind of zooming out and asking the questions of “Why?” So whenever we would talk in person, I was just like, “Oh wow, he can get really deep into where is the world actually going, why is it going that direction, what can we do about it…?” and he became someone that was really formative for me in terms of how I think about sustainability, and I just wanted an excuse to keep going deeper on these topics.
I remember, Jerod, when we got that email from Nadia… Take us back, Jerod, if you can help me share these details… I recall Jerod and I having this perspective – and it wasn’t against Mikeal, we were just so pro-Nadia at that point. We were like, “I’m not sure we really wanna do a show that has a host along with Nadia…” We felt not that you couldn’t do it on your own or you could do it on your own, it was just more like… We were just really pro Nadia, I think. What do you think, Jerod?
Yeah, I was calling it “The Nadia Show”… [laughter]
It’s still The Nadia Show, by the way… [laughter]
[00:27:57.27] …and I was like, “No, Nadia’s fine.” But then Nadia’s like, “Well, I really think Mikeal would add to it”, and I was like “Wow, I mean… I’m willing to give that a shot, as well”, and I actually think, Nadia, you were probably right and we were probably wrong. I think the show definitely is better for having you and Mikeal as a team. You guys are making a great team, I think. You guys bring the alternating perspectives, with the battle-hardened veteran of open source and the thorough journalist asking questions… Kind of from the inside and from the outside, so I think it’s turned out great. But yeah, we were a little pro-Nadia at first… We needed to be convinced.
I’m gonna share - hopefully, Nadia, you’re not worried about this, or get any anxiety about it - a little piece that was in the original email from Nadia back to us.
This is 7th April.
This was all shared on the show already, so it’s nothing new… She said, “I’m circling back because last week Mikeal and I were talking/joking about doing a podcast with Karl Fogel, and to nerd out about open source history and culture”, and that was… It’s so funny to look back in the past and see where we came from and see where we’re at now, and all that to actually follow through with that - getting Karl on the show and having those Part I/Part II conversations which are shared with the world now, and deeper conversations between you two actually taking place. That’s cool, I like that.
I was kind of nervous, I remember… Because I wasn’t sure whether Mikeal is actually serious about wanting to do it, but I guess… [laughter] It was like, “We were kind of joking about, but…”, but I think I got a DM like a week or two later being like, “So, are we doing this?” I was like, “Okay, cool! I wanna do it, too.”
And what about you, Mikeal? Were you excited about working with us, or what were your general thoughts on doing a podcast? Had you done one before? I know you’ve been on plenty, but have you actually produced a show before yourself or been a host?
Yeah, I’ve produced a couple, and this inevitable thing happened where I get too backed up in order to put them out… So I record them because I wanna have that conversation, and then I would eventually lose track of actually publishing them.
Then when Node first started, there was a podcast called NodeUp that I hosted for the first few years, and that was also produced by somebody else, so it actually made it out on time, because I wasn’t responsible for it. So as I was looking at that and trying to do one again, it was really important that somebody else was responsible for getting them out, because I actually want them to be released. We recorded a bunch of these before we ever put them out, and then I remember getting a message from you all, really worried that you hadn’t gotten them out yet. Like, are you guys [unintelligible 00:30:39.07] I think me and Nadia both had the same response, which was like “We would probably do these even if they weren’t published.” We were really enjoying having these conversations with people and digging into this stuff.
So did we mention the music at all by any chance? I mean, I know we – is anybody a fan of the music that is the theme song for Request for Commits? Jerod, I know you are, so…
So I don’t get to say anything?
No, you can say whatever you want, but…
I’m a fan.
…we know you’re a huge fan of that music, because we were a part of creating it. [laughter]
…which is a back-story no one else knows about, so maybe share that.
So now we want Nadia and Mikeal to tell us how much THEY like the music.
Well, I love it, but I was already a Breakmaster Cylinder fan before you all played it, so…
You were primed.
I didn’t know who Breakmaster Cylinder was until this, but then I looked Breakmaster Cylinder up, and that was pretty cool. To Mikeal’s point, by the way, about getting stuff out on time, and everything… Honestly, having you guys produce the show and keep the trains right on time is the huge part of why we’re even doing this.
And the sound quality.
…and the editing, and everything. I listed to a lot of podcasts, and it’s noticeable how ones that don’t sound as well or aren’t as well put together, I will start listening to less, just because it takes more mental energy to listen to them. So yeah, that’s just been phenomenal.
[00:32:07.19] Awesome. Well, that’s a big part of producing podcasts, we feel - quality content. There’s so many facets to the idea of quality content. It’s not only the content you’re creating and making it engaging and informative, but also taking a positive stance towards good mics, good post-processing, good EQ, good mixing, and the awesome website we’re launching on now… All the work behind all these things - there’s so many moving parts… I never thought I would ever be part of producing a podcast. Jerod, my mind is blown by how far we have taken our desire for quality content. [unintelligible 00:32:48.24] But it’s fun, though.
So let’s wrap up with the plan for season two. Unless there’s anything else y’all wanna share about season one, let’s move on to some plans on season two. Anything before we open that up yet?
Could we talk just a little bit about the reaction that we’ve gotten so far?
Yeah, please. That’s a good point.
I know that you all have seen a lot… I was at Offline Camp, and Max Ogden was there and he was doing sort of a passion talk version of what it takes to get grant funding for open source, which was great. When he finished, Gregor, who runs the event was like, “Oh, and if you’re really interested in this, you have to listen to this podcast that Mikeal did” etc., and then two other people were like, “Yes, everybody should listen to this podcast”, so I was like, “Oh, wow, this is awesome!” It was a great response from these people… But that’s really kind of subjective, so… [laughs]
What about you, Nadia? Any favorite moments from people you’ve met in the community that were like, “I love this show, it’s so great! Keep doing it!”
I’m just amazed that people are listening to it. [laughs] Because I didn’t wanna be really annoying about promoting the show all the time. I talked about it when it came out, I think I’ve shared out a couple of episodes, but I wasn’t being overly promotional, so it’s always a delight when someone randomly reaches out or drops me a line that’s saying they enjoy the show. It’s just really nice. And it’s nice to do something different from writing too, but still putting content out there. I’ve kind of been writing a lot less since starting to work full-time, but having this out there is a great way to keep sharing ideas out into the world.
Anybody reach out and give you a hug, Jerod, on this show? Did you mention this show at OSCON or different conferences you’ve been at recently?
Absolutely. I think even our member’s chat - The Changelog members, we have a lot of people who love RFC. I think Justin Dorfman is one of them who’s constantly saying Request for Commits is his favorite Changelog show, which is a love/hate response for me. [laughter]
Yeah, me too.
As a co-host of The Changelog, you know… I love hearing that and I hate hearing that, but… It’s been good, it’s been good.
The response… There’s been a lot of people when I was at Node.js Interactive recently - there’s been several people who were similar, like “I love The Changelog, but man… That new show, Request for Commits - it’s just… It’s really good. Don’t stop doing that.” So that must be some pretty good motivation for the two of you, Nadia and Mikeal, to keep doing that.
Let’s talk about that, then, unless we have any more before we open up the expectation for season two for the listeners. Nothing else?
Okay. So the plan, roughly, for season two is recording and producing in quarter one of next year, so January, Februaryish, and then working towards late March, Aprilish (quarter two) season two out there. What do you all think about that?
That seems doable. [laughter]
We’re gonna try hard.
We’re gonna try hard. I think what’s different too about this, and it’s helped me see a different side of podcasting, because I’ve always been like “You gotta do it weekly for it to be successful”, and I think something this show has helped me realize is a different side; this is to anybody out there who produces podcasts - maybe you don’t always have to produce a weekly show. Maybe it can simply just be seasonal, maybe it can be 11 awesome episodes that stand on their own for several months, and they’re timeless, and then you can come back a few months later and record some more…
[00:36:25.19] As long as you set the expectation to the listening audience and do a good job of being top of mind at some point in the near future, like Nadia, the work that you do, Mikeal, the work that you do - you’re both relevant in the community, so your personal relevance keeps the DNA of the show live because later on whenever we produce the new seasons, you all can share that it’s out there again and anybody who’s a fan of you will be a fan of the next season. I think it’s helped me change my perspective on the cadence of a show.
I’m glad it’s worked out that way, because I don’t know that we could have done it weekly, but I love the idea of having these nice little bundles of information… Like with season one, we were thinking about a theme for each of those episodes, and they all kind of fit together into this one complete package. I’m always a fan of TV shows, like I cancel it after one or two seasons, because they end up becoming these cult favorites, and everyone just like dissects every single episode, so maybe I’ll end up doing that.
Right. One of my favorites, on that note, is The Newsroom from HBO, and it’s three seasons long; Aaron Sorkin wrote it, and the writing and the cinematography is phenomenal, and I’m upset that it’s three seasons, but at the same time I’m glad it’s over, because I don’t know if I can handle seven years of Newsroom.
It’s perfect. [laughter]
Yeah, too much Sorkin can be a bad thing. He’s best in small quantities.
Yeah, that’s true.
I think also how we think about this show changes with this kind of seasonal mindset, because it’s not just that it’s hard to schedule us and that we travel a lot, it’s also the kinds of guests that we’re getting and how we wanna approach them. Some of them we talk about how to approach for months, actually… Like what angle do we take and what do we kind of stay away from, because there are certain topics that the person can and will talk about for 20 minutes, but if we start to touch on that, it’s not really relevant and not really where we wanna go.
There’s one guest that we’ve been talking about for at least three months, and I keep thinking about how to approach this person, which angle to come at it from. We wouldn’t be able to do that if it was a weekly show where every week we’re like “Oh, who’s doing something cool that we can schedule in and just kind of get him to talk about it?”
Yeah, we’re not just trying to fill a slot… Because our time is precious, everyone’s time is precious on this show, and we’re trying to really think through what does each episode say and what does it stand for.
Which I think is the exact thing I personally needed on the perspective of podcasts, because we feel like – maybe it’s more of a me thing (I don’t know, Jerod, if you share this feeling or not), but we almost have this pressure in our position to create blockbuster podcasts… Good podcasts that get – it’s not even about listens, it’s more about the popularity of it. And to not have simply the popularity to focus – to laser focus on a single season, an overarching topic across that, the right kind of guest to share that message… To me it shows a depth and thoughtfulness that I hadn’t – not so much not considered, but hadn’t considered mostly because the cadence of podcasts typically is like any podcast you listen to out there, 9 times out of 10 it’s weekly. And to sort of be free of those shackles was very refreshing with this podcast.
[00:40:04.25] Yeah, it’s just different. I love both… I love Saturday Night Live, but they don’t put together sketches because they’re all the best sketches, they put it together because it’s Saturday and it’s midnight and they have to do a show.
And there’s something to that - they get to be much more topical and they get to be part of the culture of now, but also I still watch old episodes of the Chappelle Show in a way that I don’t watch old episodes of SNL.
Right. Yeah, the constraint requires them to be creative in certain senses, so that will squeeze out creativity where it otherwise would not have. At the same time, it also means that you’re shipping a bunch of stuff that is half-baked, you know? So it’s constraints…
I’m just a fan of podcasts as a medium because there aren’t any rules; we decide how this show is gonna run, and hopefully we can find ways, just like in software, of sustaining that or not, but it really is a bit of a playground or a place where you can experiment, and different shows can have different feels and different production schedules and all sorts of things.
In light of all that, tell us what your thoughts are for season two. I know we have a bit of a working theme that we’re trying to focus on, but give us some insights on what people can look forward to.
We’ve been putting out this call - I know Nadia’s been asking for people on Twitter and so have I… We’re trying to get people to tell us about more unsung heroes, people that we wouldn’t necessarily already know about that we can feature on the show, that have done really important work around sustainability. The previous show, we had a long list of people that we were considering and we kind of pulled the people that we thought were the best in that. But again, it’s all people that we somehow know about or have somehow talked to before, or credited in some way. And so much of the feedback that I’ve got from the show is people are finding out about these people that they didn’t know about… So then how many people do we not know about that are out there doing great work that we can talk to? So we’ve been soliciting that.
That’s not what the whole season will be about. There’s a bunch of other great people that we’re planning on having and that we’ll continue to consider, that we actually do know about. But you know, continually soliciting these sorts of unsung heroes is a way to get at that research that we really can’t do on our own.
Yeah, totally. I mean, again, selfishly, it’s also an excuse to find new people that I just have never heard about who are doing interesting work and already from putting out a call for that I’ve been hearing about new people and that’s been awesome. I think because I’m fairly new to this space, when I started - you start having these sort of go-to stories that you come back to, and the go-to people that you go back to… You can only keep so many people in your head at one time, like “These are all the people I know who know other things that are relevant”, and when we planned season one out, it was a lot of people that we already knew, which made sense; being experimental, they were patient with us… But I’d really love to go forward and always continue to meet new people; I think it’s important not to get overly comfortable in the same set of stories or the same groups of people or the same way of thinking. I think that’s just a recipe for anything dying out, and I’m always looking for what is happening that I’m not thinking about, and how can I push my current thesis about how I think the world works through alternative stories and viewpoints. I think that’s a big part of what we’re trying to do for our next season.
And then also the concept of unsung hero is not just people that we don’t know, but also people doing the kinds of work on open source projects that might not always get attention. So when I put out a request about this, a couple of people were talking about conferences and events, and events being a really big part of any thriving open source community, whether you’re launching your project in person or you’re meeting other people… Developers are really big on in-person events, and that’s something that people don’t always think about; it’s not that events in themselves always sustain your projects - although they do sometimes - but it’s more just that there’s all this other necessary work that isn’t just about code that we kind of take for granted… So I think I would like to dive into some of those perspectives, as well.
[00:44:32.23] How about a place or a way that people can contact and give the unsung heroes an opportunity to be on RFC season two? If you have somebody who you know is perfect for this, or they’re doing something that they haven’t gotten much spotlight, or respect, and they wanna reach out to either Nadia or Mikeal, how’s the best way to submit those? Twitter?
Twitter’s fine, yeah. Send it to us on Twitter. Also, don’t hound us… We’ve had a couple people that are a little bit too persistent. There’s a lot that we consider when we think about a guest.
And it’s not just, “Are you interesting or not?”, it’s the higher themes and things, so it’s not personal…
So don’t be offended if you don’t make the cut, so to speak.
That’s a hard position to be into - to have to tell people no. But with 11 or 12 or so episodes in a season, you really have to weigh each decision wisely, to match what you’re trying to get across.
That’s a good point. We get 52 shows a year, and you guys get a handful every season, so it’s very selective.
We are Saturday Night Live, Jerod. We just… [laughter]
We need to ship a show every week because we got to.
But you have a much broader topic base as well, so…
Yeah, we do… [laughter]
I was just jabbing you, Mikeal, because you said that. I was like, “Oh, that’s pretty much us.”
I love Saturday Night Live.
We’re like the Dana Carvey, Mike Myers and then Will Ferrell era.
Yes. The one you go back to listen to or watch.
Or like the good SNL, right? [laughter]
There’s a space in between those two eras, by the way.
Yeah, well I’m just picking the best parts and putting it all together.
Well, if that’s it for this, we really wanted to just to a behind the scenes of season one and this show and the people behind it and what goes into it, so that you, the listener, can appreciate the quality which we attempt to bring with each new season, and kind of get a look at Mikeal and Nadia from maybe a perspective you haven’t really gotten, or even Jerod and I, being producers of the show, behind the scenes with Mikeal and Nadia.
I’m proud. I’m proud of the work for season one, I’m looking forward to season two, I’m really excited for it, so if you’re listening to this, go to changelog.com/rfc, click Subscribe. Do not miss a show, season two is set for quarter two of 2017. We’ll be recording in quarter one, so lots of fun happening there. If you’re that die-hard, you might as well go to changelog.com/weekly, because that’s where we share all of our announcement; when Request for Commits has updates, or a new show is out there, that’s the best way to subscribe, other than obviously Overcast or iTunes or whatever else.
Anything else y’all wanna share? If not, we’ll say goodbye. What else have we got? Nothing?
Nothing. Bye, thanks! We’ll see you soon.
Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚