Eddie Jaoude

An Interview With Eddie Jaoude, Open Source Consultant
Ben Rometsch
June 11, 2024
Ben Rometsch - Flagsmith
Ben Rometch
Host Interview
Host Interview

Instead of wasting energy on dealing with trolls on the internet, spend it on helping people who want to learn from you.

Eddie Jaoude
Open Source Consultant
Eddie Jaoude
Open Source Consultant

Success is not just about focusing on the grind. It is also about applying yourself every single day and letting your efforts compound over time. In this episode, open source consultant Eddie Jaoude shares how he applied this mindset in his own career path. Joining Ben Rometsch, he explains how he successfully built a strong online following through his edutainment content about the open source industry, especially on Twitter. Eddie also opens up on how he takes care of his mental health as he deals with online trolls, toxic feedback, and negative comments on social media every single day.


I have Eddie Jaoude with me. Hi, Eddie.

How are you? It’s great to be here.


You finished up a fairly long video with two of my colleagues, Kyle and Matt, that people can watch on YouTube. Do you want to maybe give us a bit of a back story? You’ve got a fairly formidable Twitter following, YouTube following, and GitHub following. Do you want to give us a background of where you started and how you got to where you’re at?

Again, thank you so much for having me here. It was great to geek out with your colleagues on a live stream. We went for like two hours, which is so much fun.

It was pretty spent by.

I bet. A lot of pressure was on him. We did some Docker, some next, and blacksmith. It was all great. I learned so much and the community did as well. A bit about me, I started in tech. I should make it back a bit further. I did Engineering at Uni. I wanted to do computer science, but my parents said, “Computers are fad. It’s never going to stick around,” I did traditional engineering and didn’t enjoy it.

I didn’t know what to do afterwards, so did a master’s in engineering, which again, makes no sense at all. It was my way not to work and came out with more debt. Probably not the best idea at the time looking back. I started doing a bit of coding in my master’s and started to enjoy it. In my undergraduate, I avoided all the coding courses as much as possible because I didn’t get it.

In my master’s, I didn’t get it either but I enjoyed the challenge a bit doing a few loops like basic stuff. Came out of Uni and worked in electronics for two years and didn’t enjoy it. A friend of mine who was in Hong Kong at the time said, “Why don’t you join a hackathon remotely?” This was slow internet, so the screen share was very choppy. There was no video. I did a few CSS styles and a few HTML elements.

I was like, “Why didn’t they show us this at Uni? Why am I sorting data over and over again when you can go dot sort on the database?” It was too theoretical back then, but this hackathon showed me what you could see it on a webpage and my world changed. I thought, “I want to leave electronics and get into coding.” I quit my job and took a just to teach myself and that was amazing.

I got my first role locally and learned with the team and spent every spare hour I had. You’re looking back, it wasn’t the most healthiest for me or the family but I wanted to do well. I felt it was a bit behind everyone else because I was cutting what age I was at the time, but it was a few years after Uni by now. A few years on, I got some bigger roles and more responsibilities. I remember being at one company and we were mostly using open source all the time.

I didn’t know what open source. I knew what it was but didn’t at the same time. We found a bug in documentation and one of my colleagues who had more experience than me said, “Why don’t you do that contribute it back?” I was like, “That sounds good. Makes sense.” Didn’t know what I needed to do but made sense. Back then, there was no GitHub. It was a very different landscape. We were happy to be using SVN, for those of you who are old enough. I remember those days.

It was much better than CVS. We were happy to have it. You had to get access to people’s servers and give them your public SSH keys. Everyone had different tools that they use on top. Now, at least there’s a standard, which is GitHub. There are alternatives, but the most widely used one is GitHub. I did that. I fixed that typo, then I fixed a few more typos. We’re all friends here, so I fixed about ten typos over the next few months. I was like, “I understand the workflow. Now it makes sense.”

We found a bug in one of their date functions and with my colleagues help, fixed it. He didn’t want to contribute it back. I said, “I’ll do it. I know how to do the workflow and you’ve fixed it.” I did that and I got into open source. My world again then changed. I just loved it. Many years ago, I went freelancing and haven’t looked back since. I’ve been focusing on open source and even more doing defer as a service.

I’ve grown my team and it’s been so much fun. I do everything in public. I share my journey. I don’t create content. I do occasionally, but I feel like more document my journey like what I’m learning at the moment. That’s what helped me grow so quickly on Twitter. I was trying to always keep it a bit of, they say education and entertainment in one. That’s what I try and do without realizing as if I had a friend next to me and tell them about my day and what I learned. I shared that on Twitter and that helped me grow.

A few years ago when I started taking Twitter seriously, scheduling tweets. By seriously, I mean scheduling tweet because prior to that, I’d been on Twitter for like many years, but I’d go to an event one weekend. I’d tweet about 50 times and not touch it for three months. It was all over the place. A few years ago, a client said, “Can you do a tweet for me? I’ll pay you.” I was like, “Okay.” It was related to open source and all on brand. It seems strange and I thought, “Let me take this seriously. Let me schedule tweets around the clock so I’m covering all time zones.”

I did that for a year and went from 4,000 followers, which I had been at for like probably seven years. They’re probably just friends and family that I had for so many years then suddenly went to like 100,000 a year. I started getting a lot more paid sponsored content. It was all on-brand as well, which was great. For me, that was easy to create content on open-source projects because it’s what I love and do all the time. What I do in my open community is a hobby and with my client work. We’re all tied in together. That’s about it.

It’s interesting you say that. One of the things that I feel the industry or software engineering open source has a bit of a problem with. I’m going to maybe unfairly call out like hacker news comments now. It’s a mixture of people being too serious, a bit too technical bravado, like making people who maybe aren’t as experienced as them feel like imposter syndrome, lack of confidence, and not good enough. Find like people flexing about obscure functional languages and frameworks. That’s not come up on this show ever before but I feel it.

You know it when you see it. You’re like, “You know this a guy, he’s an asshole.” No one’s going to read that. Most of the people reading that comment are going to feel like they’re not good enough. You’re doing the opposite of that. I’ve been doing this a long time and I don’t feel like I’m that great a software engineer. I don’t think my code’s that great. I know how things fit together and I don’t care if I don’t quite understand why that language is more useful in this situation than the other. Was that a conscious decision you made to go in the other direction or is that more your personality or work?

It’s my personality. In my younger days, I maybe did have a bit of that bravado, as you said. Maybe not on socials, but always trying to appear, I suppose. I wasn’t the weakest link in the room. As I got older, I did start getting serious on YouTube and Twitter a few years ago. I had run teams. I had hired people. I knew the challenge. I wanted to be authentic. I would say that I got stuck on things and things are hard and so forth. People could appreciate that.

The years before that, it was very much the Instagram life on every platform and how everyone had the perfect life. Maybe I got tired of seeing that, so I thought in the tech side, because all my content is on the tech side. I will focus on my challenges. As well as successes, but also my failures and challenges. To be honest, with all my open source projects, that’s what taught me to be humble.

I always felt that I’m not a great engineer. I felt that I could start the conversation. I was confident enough to know what I knew and I could get something working. I could put something out there on open source. Even on projects that we’ve done in the community is I start the projects. I get things going and working. The community comes in and makes it so much better. With my public speaking gigs, I always say, “I’m here to start the conversation and share what I learned but we’re going to learn together. I want to improve this talk after your feedback and questions.”

I always feel I’m still learning and that’s part of the fun. That’s why I enjoy it so much. It worked for me. It’s great to see other people doing that, being humble and not trying to have all that bravado. I suppose it’s being more inclusive without realizing and therefore, it’s becoming more diverse, which then makes it more inclusive. It’s a win-win. You will always have it on all the platforms, those idiots that try to pick holes in everything.

I’ve consciously made the effort to remove anything toxic in my life for a few years. For me, at the beginning, if there was a troll and you can clearly see if there’s a language barrier and someone doesn’t quite understand. Maybe they haven’t phrased something in the most friendly way, but you can see they’re not trying to be a troll. A troll stands out for a mile. At the beginning, I used to try to engage with the troll. Try to see what they’re trying to say and maybe convert them over, if that makes sense.

That took a lot of energy and did take a toll on my mental health. After doing that for months, it was like, if someone’s a troll, hide, comment, block, done, and move on. That energy could be spent helping people who want to learn and have some of those challenges. I don’t think it’s worth spending any effort or time on anything toxic.

Instead of wasting energy on dealing with trolls on the internet, spend it on helping people who want to learn from you.

Negative Comments And Trolls

YouTube now is an enormous platform. I still have to remind myself how much Google paid. They basically bought television, didn’t they? Whatever it was many years ago. I always forget the number. I think it was $4 billion. YouTube’s so big and there’s such a large audience you know that an awful comment is not far from the top of the video. There’s always someone who’s going to say something. You’re watching a video and you’re like, “There’s going to be some terrible racism or misogyny or something in the third comment down.” Being there, it is, which doesn’t happen.

I’m not saying it never happens on like GitHub or whatever. Do you find that you have to mentally reposition where you’re at when you’re like, “I’m going to dive into the YouTube comments now?” Rather than the GitHub ones. Maybe a discord or a Slack where people are generally quite and a bit more respectful to each other. I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s YouTube or the asynchronous nature or Twitter as well. A community on Twitter is generally quite well behaved but do you feel you have to check or did you notice that there’s a difference? I’m not saying that the platforms are toxic or your channels are, but a different level of behavior.

All the platforms have a similar toxicity to it. Some are a little bit more than others. Twitter and YouTube and an Instagram right there at the top. LinkedIn and GitHub are probably a bit lower because people see that as a bit more of a professional network. They don’t want their boss, or future boss or future colleagues to see it. It does still happen more under the radar per se.

People try and do it a bit more discreetly, but they still try and have that dig. Again, to be honest, at the beginning, it used to take a toll on me. Now, it’s water for ducks back. I just go, “That’s a troll. Hide or delete.” Whatever platform it’s on, block, done, and move on. It’s reduced because I’ve had DMs from people on other platforms saying look, “I’m sorry, you blocked me. I know I was trolling but I didn’t think you’d block me.” It’s like, “Sorry, that’s it.”

I have a code of conduct in our Discord community. If someone blatantly breaks it, then that’s it. There’s no like second tries. They were trying to be a troll and that’s what they get for being a troll. I have no time or energy for anything that’s toxic. It might be harsh but I go look after my mental health. I also love my community members as well, which is why EddieHub is such a safe place for people because the moderators are strict.

Eddie Jaoude: It may require some harshness to drive away online trolls, but it is hard work that leads to better mental health.

We will make mistakes in our language sometimes that isn’t the most-friendly and that’s fine. Someone might say something then they might go and edit it. That’s fine. It happens but you can clearly see if someone’s trolling. I don’t think it’s worth anyone spending any time on that. Those trolls want to waste our times and we shouldn’t give them that benefit. There’s so many good conversations we can have from people and learn from people. That’s what we should focus on. We can make the platforms better by doing that.

Do you feel like things are slowly improving like moving in the right direction in that regard? GitHub is interesting, isn’t it? It’s such a vast platform now. It’s important to someone like to you and the projects that you work on and to players with so many people. I still feel like you’re reading an issue and someone asks something that they clearly don’t quite understand it. They get blasted by the following comment and you have to grit your teeth and you go, “Jesus Christ. You didn’t to put it like that.” Do you think it is getting better as time goes on?

We have waves. Overall, it is getting better, but then we do have waves where you might have an influencer who’s a bit bro-like, let’s say. Their community going to copy and follow along when they do put something out. There as an example and people copy it or misinterpret it, then it can have an effect. With lots more diverse influencers out there, that’s helping and people seeing what’s allowed and isn’t allowed as well.

It’s not a solid line. There’s such a great area. Even in communities that are friendly and so forth. There is still a great area. For example, at EddieHub, we don’t have memes. We have a meme channel or a random channel because we felt that made someone laugh and make someone else cry. Whereas some communities, they’re still friendly, but they allow the meme channels. They have that bit more flexibility and not as strict. It is a bit of a gray area, but overall, it is getting better the more we talk about it and the more we highlight what is allowed and what isn’t. That becomes a lot better. We go in the right direction because we’re having those grown-up conversations.

Open Source As Learning Tool

Do you think one of the great things about open source is that it’s such a great way of learning? I’m going to be 50, so I’m a little bit experienced with CVS and sub-version as well. I’ve got those nightmares from time to time. Back then, it was hard to find code. I remember I started my careers writing ASP, VB 6, which I mentioned this on the show several times before. I love that platform.

That was amazingly ahead. In my opinion, that was so far ahead of its time in terms of the developer experience. It was hard. I was writing code with my team members and I had no idea if that was how you did it. You go and buy those massive rocks press books, weren’t they? I was like, “Is this the way to do this in ASP?” I’ve got no idea. Now, there’s almost too much to look at. That’s something that we haven’t talked about too much on this show, how valuable it can be as a learning tool.

I’m in the same bed with you. I had a whole shelf of tech books that I’m would read. They would get out of date fairly quickly and a new version would come out. It was interesting. You got a book and you see some code. You have to type it out. You can’t copy and paste it. That was hard and you’re right. Now, there’s a lot of content, which is probably a good problem to have.

I have learned everything from open source. I feel code is such a small part of open source. People like think I’m crazy when I say that. We have a discussion. It might be on Discord or Slack or a GitHub discussion. We talk about an idea or a bug or a problem, and that’s a collaboration and communication. There’s no real code involved.

We raise an issue of what it’s about, a bit more tangible, and a bit more focused. We collaborate on it. We say, “It could be solved like this or like this. I want to work on it. Can you sign it to me?” Again, it’s all communication and collaboration. A pull request gets raised when changes to the project have been made. A pull request is effectively like an issue or a GitHub discussion. It’s got a title and description.

The only thing different about pull request is it’s got some changes to the project attached. Even with those changes, you then do inline comments. You review the pull request and you’re communicating and collaborating. It’s communication and collaboration. A bit of code changes or project changes, I should say, then code and collaboration. It is such a small part that I have learned so much in addition to my tech skills like the core skills, the soft skills, which has helped me to improve as a whole.

We work in teams. We do work asynchronously, especially in the current climate. We are working remote, which is amazing across different time zones. I’m in London now, but I might be in Thailand and in Portugal. The communication is important. Open source shows that real world experience because if you work on a side project by yourself. That’s great. That’s good tech practice, but you’re not communicating and collaborating with someone else.

Eddie Jaoude: If you work on a side open-source project by yourself, it is good tech practice. Nevertheless, you must still know how to communicate and collaborate because a real project involves those things.

A real project does involve that, which is why I always say this on Twitter space and some people get upset. I would rather hire someone who has got involved in open source in any aspect, coding or not coding, by adding values to the project. Rather than someone who’s done what they called those little challenges you do. I forget the name now.

You get to like level 6 and 7, but I’m level seven. I can’t think what it is now, but I can always like DSA challenges. That’s not real-world examples. It’s great. You can write this for loop in ten different ways and one’s more efficient. The loop is like ten big. There are some roles like if you’re working in a database and you’re writing the core function of a database. That stuff becomes important. In the web’s day of space, it is less important, I believe, and writing readable code being able to collaborate with someone is one of the highest priorities. Lead code is one of them and there’s a few others.

Twitter Following

I know. Stripe used to do some security ones as well, where you had to get increasing levels of difficulty where the last question you’re de-writing a decompiler. I’m like, “I’m not going to be able to do that.” I’m curious, that massive growth in your Twitter followers. Did that happen by accident or did you suddenly stay, “I’m going to spend every day tweeting seven times a day?” What was the story there?

I had quite a strategy for that and documented it on my YouTube channel because I wanted to show different things I tried. I always thought maybe tweeting more would help. I went too far where I tweeted too much and it had a negative impact. Either the algorithm didn’t like it or my community and audience didn’t like it. My strategy was to tweet every 4 to 6 hours. I think the best was every four hours, but it’s a bit more work and to tweet a variety of content types and media types.

Sometimes it just be text. Sometimes it’ll be with a photo or a video or a GIF. By GIF, I don’t mean a meme. It’s a GIF of something code related. Those are my different mediums. In terms of the types, I would have a tip. I would have a behind the scenes. Again, it’s in the video. I forget. I do it without thinking now. I’ve reduced it because the notifications got too great for me. I would spend probably four hours a day during that year going through notifications and replying to everyone. That helped them feel welcome, I suppose. They would engage more next time.

The engagement grew. I invested in the people commenting and they invested more in my Twitter account and my post. It was a compounding interest. It just grew. It came to a point, towards the end of that year, I started spending like eight hours a day going through notifications and I couldn’t cope. Funny enough, Twitter was 0% of our business’s income. After that year, it became 90% of our business’s income.

We had gone from one extreme to the other then we were like, “This is great.” For the following year, we rode that wave so much so that I had to turn down so much client work on my Twitter account for open source projects because I didn’t want to do more than one out of the six posts I did per day. Only one of those was going to be sponsored.

It was on brand. People probably wouldn’t recognize it was a sponsored tweet because I was saying, “I’ve discovered this new open source project. I’ve built a hell of world of it.” I’ll show them what I built. It was more about awareness about that open source project. It wasn’t salesy or anything like that. It was more about awareness. I didn’t want to do more than one of those out of the six per day.

I remember October Fest a few years ago maybe. I had one every day. One sponsored tweet every day out of the six. I had clients saying that, “We’ll double your pay. I need this tweet once a week.” I was like, “There’s ten of you waiting.” You know who bought Twitter and it went a bit downhill from there. That’s why it’s important to put all your eggs in one basket. We’re still super busy in that front, but it reminded us that we need to balance out between the other social platforms.

It’s still our biggest earner, but maybe not a 90%. Maybe at like 75%. We’re going to try, reduce that and increase the others if that makes sense. A bit more of a balance. It was very interesting. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. You can do it as a strategy. You can do the same on YouTube and other platforms as well. YouTube is probably quite a stable one. It doesn’t seem to change too much, which has that longevity. Whereas Twitter and Instagram are a bit more volatile. We’ll see what happens over the next few years.

Authentic Content

It’s interesting. The answer is that there’s no shortcuts. The same as a lot of things in life and work, you got to apply yourself every day, day after day. That’s the compounding thing. You might be lucky with that number of followers. You’ve got a fairly big responsibility. I follow a lot of politics on Twitter and it’s pretty bad. There’s lots of pylons and large following journalists basically abusing their followers and their position by throwing them around. Did you start to feel like at some point, when you started racking up into the tens of thousands that you had to be a little bit? Did it start to weigh on your mind at all?

Not at all because I like to think that I’m just me. I don’t get into politics in any shape or form. I don’t know anything about that. For me, that’s fine. From the tech side, I never would put another project or person down. For me, I’d rather lift them up because when they succeed, they’ll recommend me or bring me along and I do the same.

Even at the 4,000 followers, I felt the same responsibility as I did with 160 or something. One thing I did do, which I wasn’t happy about but I had to do for my mental health and my time. I had to reduce my notifications as an option on Twitter, where you can say, “Only send me notifications from people that follow me.” That stunted my growth because I was no longer engaging with people who didn’t follow me that then would go, “He replied, brilliant. Let me follow.”

That had the biggest impact in terms of growth, but then also had the best impact on my time. My eight hours a day at my busiest went down to like one hour. It was a massive saving. Unfortunately, it does affect the growth but I needed to invest time elsewhere. I couldn’t spend eight hours a day on Twitter. I’ve always been on average. It’s like 1 to 2 hours a day now on Twitter. I think that’s still quite a lot, but it’s still one of the biggest earners. I can justify it at the moment.

It is interesting and you’re right, a lot of people, no matter what their size on Twitter or YouTube. They do that controversial posts because that’s what gets them the engagement. You’ll have some people saying, “No,” and some people saying, “Yes.” I see that all the time. I’ve unfollowed a lot of those people on Twitter and YouTube because they’re clearly doing it for the engagement and the growth. They have grown massively because of it but I don’t see any value in that.

I see that as having a bit of bickering with your friends or at school. It doesn’t seem like it adds value to my life. I want to watch a show or a YouTube video where someone’s had a challenge and this is how they got over it so I can learn from it. A bit like with the Flagsmith’s story. I enjoy listening to how you are bootstrapped, open source, and successful. That’s great. That adds value to me because that gives me hope that one of my open source projects can turn into a SaaS.

Unfollow people online who are creating content just for engagement and financial growth. They will never add value to your life.

Whereas all that bickering like TypeScript, JavaScript, or whatever other thing they do. Which UI framework is the best? It’s reactor angular. It’s going to change tomorrow anyway. People are still doing it to this day. I’m sure back in the day, maybe I did do something like that as well, occasionally like, “JavaScript or TypeScript?” All the times, some people do it relentlessly and they don’t even respond to people but it gets that engagement for them to grow.

That’s why people should do their due diligence and check out the accounts timeline before they follow. I remember being at a conference. We were checking out people who were tweeting about the conference and said, “I want to follow this person they have like 50,000 and that person has 60,000.” Check out that timeline. It might not be the content that you want to see you as well. I’m quite ruthless. I’ve been following a lot of people who are quite small accounts from like 10,000 or less because I feel their content is more authentic.

I’m going to see the challenges that they have. Therefore, I can think of the content that I can create. One of my successful YouTube videos was searching on GitHub for repost and issues to look into. For me, I didn’t think that’s interesting for people. I remember doing the video and it did well because everyone’s like, “This is crazy. This is what I need.” You could search for a good first issue and you might filter by JavaScript. They might not think to use the date. When was the project last active? Has it been active in the last month? Great.

It filter out the stuff that’s effectively archived but not archived, then check closed pull requests. The ones that were not merged. Were they closed in a friendly way? It’s fine that they were closed, but were they closed in a friendly way because there was no issue aside and the project owner didn’t want it. That’s fine. Rather than hit close and they moved on and closed.

People can do their due diligence before they contribute to a project. That did well. For me, following those people gives me a lot of ideas. Also, I love to see those authentic posts that they do. I’m not saying that the bigger people don’t do that, but some people want to grow for the sake of growing. Whereas, “I love the authentic content.”

Content Creation

Speaking to those big books, my mate, Simon. He edited those books for many years and still works in non-content. I remember him telling me they sell ten times as many copies back in the day, the beginning JavaScripts. Especially if you’ve been doing writing code and doing engineering for a while. You forget the huge majority of people browsing GitHub or they’re trying to learn from the start. Most people aren’t experts.

I remember that blow in my mind because when you’re in it and you’ve been working for many years. You tend not to meet people who are learning if you’re building something complicated. Is that something that you feel like you’re very conscious of that aspect when you’re thinking up things to build content about?

I mentioned that I document in my journey. When I see like there’s a conversation in Discord or there’s a GitHub issue where people have struggled with something. I’d create content on that. For me, I feel like I’m documenting the things that I’m seeing and learning. People don’t realize that being new to tech or new to a project is a superpower.

For example, the BioDrop project. People say, “I t’s friendly. I can get started. The documentation is great.” For clarity, I started the documentation, but I didn’t write it, if that makes sense. As in, if they look at documentation files, they’ve got hundreds of contributors. I started it. The author of the project isn’t the best person to finish it, let’s say.

The reason why I say people are new to a project or new to tech have a superpower is, as you said, someone who’s been in the project for so long. You’ve got these assumptions and you do steps automatically without realizing. Someone who’s new to the project can go through the documentation and can say, “This step’s missing.” You said, “NPM get cloned. NPM install,” which I see on so many projects.

The people who are more experienced will remember to navigate into the directory that got created by cloning the project. People new to tech literally follow it exactly as is. They’ll do NPM install and say, “Package JSON not found.” I started improving the documentation that way when I saw those questions come up. That’s something I recommend for all projects. People who are new to a project or new to tech have that ability to not make any assumptions.

After a while, they’re going to be onboarded and make those assumptions. They lose that superpower. They gain other superpowers, but they lose that superpower of being new. When people come to my open source projects and say, “Eddie, I want to contribute to your open source project. I want to collaborate with you. Can you tell me about project A?” I say, “No. Can you tell me about project A?” If you can’t, there’s nothing wrong with you. There’s something wrong with our project, but with your help, we can improve it.

Ask some questions and we’ll answer, then you can add it to the documentation. Some of our documentation files have thousands of contributions. They’ve been smoothed like one liners or an extra screenshot. Maybe there’s too many screenshots and they reduce it down. I find with onboarding contributor guide documentation, it starts off small, grows big, then it grows too big. It starts reducing down and does this. Eventually, it starts doing this until major changes happen.

It takes a while to do that. I’m trying to think from school, the sign of wave reduced. There was an extra word that I’m missing. It’s not a sign wave that repeats. It does get tapers off. That’s why having new people to a project is important. I know there are some projects that only want senior people to their projects but then they’re missing out on a great talent there and a fresh pair of eyes. Sometimes we get stuck in our ways and we do things because they work. It doesn’t mean they’re right and things could have moved forward.

Eddie Jaoude: Having new people to an open source project will give you a fresh pair of eyes who can help identify your old ways that do not work anymore.

I’ve said this to some colleagues in the past, which I pay a lot of money to be able to remove all knowledge of Playsmith from my head just so that I can look at the onboarding experience and feel it in a completely legitimate way. A lot of the code that I write is on the documentation and you’re so close to it. You feel like it’s basically impossible to attach knowledge and experience of it.

There was a brilliant post I saw on hack news about how you should almost never have words like simply or just in your documentation. That set off a light bulb in my head and I was like, “That’s condescending in a way.” I immediately opened up my editor and started searching for synonyms of words like simply. I was astonished because there was dozens of them. I’ve written all of them. There’s now just do this, or you can easily do this by blah or whatever.

People don’t realize.

The thing that’s stayed with me is not. I don’t use words like that anymore. It’s more like a vibe and a mindset. Similar thing happened when I was at KubeCon. I hadn’t been to KubeCon before in Amsterdam. KubeCon’s pretty hardcore technical infrastructure like Go. Kubernetes itself is like incredibly complicated platform. Half the people I spoke to didn’t or hadn’t used feature flags.

Community Building

I was like, “Holy shit.” I assume that everyone’s at least heard of them. That was another light bulb moment. I find it incredibly hard to try and detach yourself from that and to try and see the eyes of someone who doesn’t know what a feature flag is. There’s nothing wrong with that at all but I wish there was a button I could press to temporarily delete all that knowledge from my head. Have you got any things that you do to try and drag yourself back from launching into some complicated initial steps?

Let me come back to that because I always touch on the two points you mentioned before. There’s the whole just, this is easy, it’s quick, and just do this. We’ve got a tool that helps us with that in our Discord as well in our documentation. There’s a library called AlexJS. It uses all these terminologies. Also, gender identifying rather than saying he or she. Why not just say they?

We wrapped our Discord bot around that and we used that for our Discord, which is amazing. It doesn’t take any action, but it says, “You might want to use folks or friends instead of guys.” That changed the tone of our discord. Some people got annoyed and they left then they came back when they realized the discord grew.

Funny enough when I implemented that bot on a live stream, but at the time, we had like 600 members on discord. I turned the bot on then within 1 or 2 days literally so quickly we went down to 300 members. One of my mods is saying, “Eddie, turn it off.” I said, “He’s not kicking anyone. It’s not doing anything. It’s just saying maybe you want to use hey friends or folks or something else. Don’t say guys. We’ll say hey. You don’t have to put guys at the end.” I said, “If they want to leave. That’s fine. We’re going to be an inclusive community. We’re going to be actively inclusive. Not just say it like so many conferences and communities that say it.”

Word got around and within a month, we were like 5,000 or something. People are like, “This is the place we want to be.” Now we’re like 15,000 or 16,000 or something. It was interesting how you took one step back and into like ten steps forward. For our documentation, you can get a VS Code plugin for AlexJS which also highlights those words which is super helpful.

I’ll check that out. I remember clicking on that hacker news link. I was curious, but not going to change my life but it did in a way. Again, you have to work on that cultural side. You have to constantly plug away with it. I’d like to think that. It’s tricky as well like with Playsmith. Especially with Discord, for example. Someone might ask a question that. They could probably find the answer to in the documentation. It’s probably hard to find or you need to know what to look for and where to look. It’s effort and energy to not just say to someone, “It’s in the doc.” It’s the domain name for the documentation constantly is hard. You’ve got to invest energy, time, and effort into that.

Building a community is hard and it is almost a full-time job until you get that momentum. By momentum, I don’t mean adding random channels and mean channels so you get that activity and everyone’s dumping in content. That’s just noise. Momentum in terms of the community carries itself is in the members want to host calls. They want to help each other. It could be sending a link to a specific link in the documentation with some feedback.

Say, maybe next time you let us know what you’ve searched for and why you couldn’t find. Maybe we could improve it in the system and make it more positive rather than looking at the docs or read the manual. You can put a bit of a positive spin on it, as well as giving them their answer. It is a lot of work. Notifications, I love them and I hate them because I get maybe a thousand gear notifications a day. I can’t keep up on everything. It’s not me watching repost apart from the ones in our community. If I’ve created poll requests for someone else’s repo or an issue, then I naturally watch that.

I’m not watching the project to get every notification. I have maintained as a do amazing job. Luckily, a good chunk of that, when I get to them. They’re done in my notification inbox. I can tick done because I can see them as complete. That’s hard. I probably get like 20,000 Twitter notifications a day. I can’t keep up with those. YouTube is more focused, which is good. It’s not too bad but it is hard.

With Discord, I do sometimes want to always jump in, but then I’m not empowering the moderators and community members to do it themselves. We like to promote people to be a moderator or someone who can have like a badge or a role to show that they’re there a long time. They know what they’re talking about. They might not have the power to boo anyone if they’re being a troll but they can be support other people. That helped to empower people to do that.

To touch on your second point about feature flags when you went to KubeCon. It’s quite interesting because I’m not surprised. Having done government departments in the UK, multiple over the years and having done high street banks in London and all the rest. They never use feature flags or we rolled our own crappy config system where we have to deploy every time or we had an environment variable and we thought it was super smart but then you still had to redeploy the app.

It was the same code but you had to redeploy it as it were or Kubernetes would rolling an update. That’s why the livestream for me was such an eye-opener because it could do more than I thought. When I thought feature flag, I thought, “Boolean like on or off.” I didn’t think that you could do it per group of people or per person identity as well, as you call it in FlagSmith, or even having messages like on BioDrop.

We have a banner messages that are sent to everybody. I can’t think of an example now, but an event conference next week. We were doing that as a config file. We thought that was great then realizing you can do it by a feature flag. It was like, “Where has this been all my life?” It’s open source as well. I think it’s great. More people should be aware of it. It’s great you’re doing all this content. I’ve watched your videos and livestreams of Kunal as well. That is good that you’re making the awareness.

It is going to be a hard struggle because a lot of the decision makers are setting their ways. Now, what type of config file? Add feature flags like a third-party feature flag system like Flagsmith. Later on, and later never happens as we all know, like write tests later on. It never happens. I think it is hard. The people who are new to tech, who are more interested in doing those sorts of things will eventually move up the ladder and be more decision makers.

When I see that with open source. I’ve been in open source for over a decade and how many people at the beginning said, “Eddie, why are you wasting your time with open source?” Now I’ve got a business around it and a team of three of us. It is going to be even more important as time goes on. We have TDD test-driven development, for anyone reading who’s unaware. Domain driven development like DDD. I did try to docs driven development. I don’t know how that would work and DCDDD.

You could have like FDD like feature flag driven development, which is what Kyle was saying on the livestream. You need to do ahead of schedule. When we’re halfway through the livestream, I was thinking, “I’ll write a code. I’ll get it working and I’ll wrap it in a feature flag.” Funny enough, a few minutes later, after me thinking that, he said, “You should think of the feature flag before you do the code.” I was like, “This is like feature flag driven development.”

That’s something that could take off and it is important for people to think of those architectural decisions. Especially with the whole defensive programming in that as well. It’s not going to be easy for you, but everything’s going in that right direction. A bit like an electric cause. You’re like the feature flags of electric cars, I suppose. I don’t know if that’s a good example.

Dealing With Innovations

It’s interesting. If you’d have said to people many years ago, we do like five production deployments a day. They’d all be automated. No one would be looking at the computer to make sure that other servers and make sure it hadn’t fallen over. All the sessions have been like what are you talking about. There’s no way we can do five. Do you know what I mean? You’re going to do a production deployment on an API that’s getting thousands of requests a second. You’re not going to have someone looking at the service returning to hundreds.

It’s interesting as well because I wouldn’t say it’s timidity, but something being conservative or overly defensive because you can be overly defensive in engineering. It depends what you’re writing code for. Writing a code for a heart rate monitor or a car braking system. Most people don’t do that. It’s similar because it would be the same feeling in your stomach of like, “We can’t do that.” Why not? It just feels bad.

Some people we speak to, they’re like, “Oh.” They pull that face of like, “There’s something wrong with that.” What? There’s some downsides but engineers all about trade-offs. Constantly, everything comes down to trade-offs and design decisions and whatnot. It’s not a silver bullet. We don’t use them on the server much because we have very highly trafficked platform.

There’s a bunch of others you could reel off in engineering. You’re talking about CVS. Having a version control system where two people could write to the same file at the same time. If you suggested that many years ago, people would have been like, “What the hell are you talking about?” Eddie goes on holiday and he’s locked half the files in CVS. No one can get anything done.

People have done that. I do remember my one of the first roles that were used in CVS. It was like, “Come in. It’s all locked because someone.”

You’ve got to find the sysadmin who can manually break. Sometimes those paths and the discipline goes down. It might not be quite right for everybody or not be right at all, then they back up. Again, it’s the age that I’m at now. It’s interesting because you get these echoes of things. We’ve gone from client server to like desktop heavy thick clients, the thin clients and back. That’s fascinating. The same thing with frameworks as well.

I don’t know if people know about HTMX, which my background is server side development. I love those sorts of frameworks because I can’t write JavaScript. Not like I can’t write react for applications, but things like HTMX. I think it’s brilliant because you’re thinking still in HTML and the server paradigm. I’m not sure where I’m going with this thought, but it’s great to see these things.

When you do get those reflections and those things repeating, you’ve then got the hindsight of the previous time that happened and the learnings about that. I often wonder like maybe some of the technical detail and level that reacts or single-page app frameworks to go in through seem to blow my mind. Maybe the tool takes time to keep up.

Again, going back to like classic ASP. That was like, you’ve got one file, which is your page. You upload it to the server and it runs. That’s it. Do you feel like to start a reacts projects or something, there’s so many layers of abstraction that it’s building on top of? Do you worry that things like that are getting a little bit?

We do have a lot of abstractions now but to go back to your previous point in terms of seeing things come around. I remember when I got into tech, it was all about functional programming, then it became objects. If you’re not writing object-oriented, you’re not a real developer. You need classes, then functions are much lighter weight. Much better the way to do things. Forget big and heavy objects and the rest. I agree with you and you gave some great examples from server side to client side to server side again. Things go round with little twist each time.

You’ve got Next.js where no one’s quite sure where.

I have a love-hate relationship with Next.js. It’s amazing but sometimes this error is so generic. What have I done wrong? In terms of the abstractions, you’re right. Things are so massively abstracted and you see people jumping in. Maybe just writing react straight away, so a bit of HTML, CSS and JavaScript doing some react and not understanding what’s happening on the hood. A lot of the time that’s okay but then later on, that can come and bite you in the butt because places things like React and Kubernetes got such a buzz and such a following.

People are specifically looking Kubernetes people and React people. People want to learn that to skip to the front of the line. Whereas back in the day, we did have tools to use but we would go through more of the foundation then add the tool on top. Everyone nowadays wants to run before they can walk. I’m guilty of that as well sometimes. Hopefully not as much as what is happening now.

When people get stuck, they don’t get the answers to solve the problem because they’re like, “I haven’t done any Linux commands or I’ve been running this Kubernetes config.” It’s interesting. It will cause some challenges. Bootcamps are great because the degrees are at our date. Bootcamps are promising people a job at the end and they’re teaching them reaction. They’re part of the problem.

The same with recruiters as well. I had Patrick Debois, the Founder of DevOps on my YouTube channel years ago. The way he was talking about DevOps was more about collaboration and it’s not a job role. Recruiters jumped on and said, “We can get you a developer and an ops person together. It makes DevOps. You pay one price. It’s a bit higher but you get two people.” The recruiter sold him like that.

Now people say, “I’m a DevOps engineer.” If you read it, it’s never what DevOps was about. It was to remove the silos, collaboration, and people working together. Unfortunately, people jump on these bandwagons and twist it a bit to suit their needs. It does hurt the industry a bit because it causes that confusion.

We work with what we’ve got and hopefully, we can impact it with the content that we create. That’s how we can make a difference in terms of trying to put out of that education and keep learning ourselves because things are changing all the time. It’s a fun space to be in tech and you get to meet amazing people. You get to learn new things every day.

On the live stream, as I said with Kyle and Matt. I learned so much and seeing how they did things in Next.js. I was like, “Why if I do things a bit differently? I’ll try that next time.” I might not like it or not do it in the future, but I’ve made a conscious decision to do it one way or another way. Rather than I’m doing it one way because I know no other way of doing it. That’s important. That awareness is super important.

Closing Words

It’s super interesting talking to you. You’ve got a fairly large number of active projects and URLs. You’ve probably got more than anyone else that I’ve spoken to on this show.

I can give you a BioDrop URL, which will list all my links like free courses on open source, and open source projects that I’m actively working on YouTube and Twitter. I can send you one link and it will have everything in there.

Are there any particular places you want to mention before we wrap up in terms of like where can people go to join the community and see what’s going on?

On my BioDrop link, you’ll find the EddieHub Discord or an open-source community. Come and geek out with us. I’m literally there every day working full-time on open source. I want to bring people along on a journey. I want to see what people are working on as well. You can catch some amazing people there. There are so many amazing maintainers, moderators, and community members. They do stuff in Open source that I don’t understand, but it’s great to try and follow along.

There are so many people from different backgrounds, technically and physically as well in the world. There’s always someone there 24 hours because of time zones that we cover from Hawaii all the way to Australia. I would say come and geek out then chat with us. You can see what projects you want to get involved in or maybe people want to get involved in their projects. We’ve got a few more projects coming out soon as well. Kicking this off very soon. Lots of things going on. It’s going to be exciting.

Eddie, great to chat, and thanks again.

Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

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Eddie Jaoude

Eddie Jaoude focuses on providing educational and entertaining content online so that more people can understand the benefits of using open-source technology in this digital age.

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