** Please note that this is a transcript of the unedited version of this Podcast Episode.  Timings and content will vary from the audio version. **

Kevin Garber: [00:01] This week on the It's a Monkey Podcast.

Anil Dash: [00:03] If you go to Gomix, what you'll see is what looks like an app store. Here's a sample Slackbot, and a sample Twitter bot, and a sample Amazon Alexa scale. You click on it and immediately it opens up the code in this full development environment.

[00:15] What's happened in the back end is, it's automatically spun up a brand new web server for you, in the Amazon cloud, running node, and connected to this code, pulled down the latest version of the code, and has it deploy live to the Web. That's happening in about a second.

[00:28] [background music]

Kevin: [00:28] Good morning. Good evening. Hello. Thank you for joining us wherever you are in the world. It is Wednesday the 8th of March, 2017. International Women's Day. If you're an international woman it's your day. If you're a local woman though, out of luck Kate.

Kate Frappell: [00:50] Why's that?

Kevin: [00:50] It's International Women's Day.

Kate: [00:53] [jokingly] Aww!

Kevin: [00:53] Sorry, bit of a dad joke.

Kate: [00:56] [laughs]

Kevin: [00:56] Thank you for joining us, this is episode 84 of the It's a Monkey Podcast. We talk about everything relating to tech, startups, entrepreneurship, all those exciting bits and pieces.

[01:07] Boy, do we have a fantastic guest for you coming up today. Very, very excited to say that later on in the podcast, we're going to play an interview that I did.

[01:16] I spoke with Anil Dash who is the CEO of Fog Creek Software. He's also one of the first well-known bloggers. He got into blogging in pre-2000 and he's an incredibly insightful thinker about the tech industry.

[01:33] What I like about him, Kate, besides the fact that he's incredibly smart and incredibly articulate, he knows which questions to ask in terms of self-reflecting about our industry and the place in the world, so very excited to play that interview.

[01:48] It is quite a long interview so, because of that, we're going to get straight into only one news item and not to the normal postmortem analysis to try and make it into the one hour. Because Anil is such a fantastic guest, I did want to let the interview run, and he was very generous with his time.

[02:07] As always, my co-host, Kate Frappell, design lead at ManageFlitter and soon to be ManageSocial, and boy, is that looking good. We won't tell you too much about that.

Kate: [02:16] It's very exciting.

Kevin: [02:18] Very exciting. It's a project we've been working on for a long time. If you're interested in finding out more, go to managesocial.com. At the moment, I'm offering people, if they send a donation to their favorite charity, I'm giving them a sneak peek of that video that you did, "Walk through."

[02:33] We've had a couple of people do that already, so 10 to 25 bucks, send me a receipt of a donation you make to your favorite charity. We get nothing out of it except doing a little bit of good in the world.

[02:45] We'll give you an exclusive sneak peek to the ManageSocial product. Very few people outside of our company have actually seen it in action.

Kate: [02:54] Only a handful?

Kevin: [02:55] Only a handful. Evan Dunn, who's a very well-known growth marketer, I gave him a peek into it. I just want to read you quickly what he wrote after he looked at the new system ManageSocial.

"[03:08] I love it so much I watched it twice. I love how the search functionality, central foldering, organizing, and editing searches. Beautiful gorgeous UI. Well done." We're very pumped for that. Feel free to go to managesocial.com.

[03:17] Let's get straight into it. Big story over the last little while, Kate. Snapchat, or as it's known now, Snap, listed on the Stock Exchange. It listed to all sorts of wonderful hype. It listed at $17 and sold 200 million shares. That means it's got $3.4 billion into its kitty. Immediately the shares bounced all the way up to...

Kate: [03:49] I think it's about $28 on Monday.

Kevin: [03:53] 28, and has since come crashing back down into much more reasonable territory, but still pretty much up there. Let's just talk a little bit about Snap, all their numbers, and what's going on with Snap. It's interesting when you're comparing it to Twitter, comparing it to Google, comparing it to Facebook.

[04:25] Snap or Snapchat -- if you've listened to the show you've probably heard us talk a little bit about it -- was the first to provide what's called ephemeral messaging, messages that don't stick around. When you list, you have to release a whole bunch of information about your company, which is quite interesting.

[04:46] What they released is that they have 158 million average daily active users as of the end of 2016, which is still a lot less than Instagram, a lot less than Twitter, a lot less than Facebook. It was growing pretty fast up until about 2016. Then it just started plateauing.

[05:05] A lot of people are saying 'That's a red flag." An impressive number is it got revenue up. We call it in Australia "turnover." 2015 turned over nearly $60 million for the year. Last year though, $404 million. Huge, huge jump.

[05:24] Of course it's making a huge loss. Just because you're bringing in money doesn't mean that you are actually making a profit, so it made a massive, massive loss.

[05:34] The losses, in fact, are growing. $373 million in 2015 and $514 million in 2016. However, if you look at Twitter, if you look at Facebook, if you look at Google, they were all in similar positions. They all started out tech companies. You generally have to build out your infrastructure, build out your value proposition, and then find a way to monetize.

[05:58] At least, that's the Silicon Valley model. That's not the bootstrap. We had David Heinemeier Hansson a few shows ago. His model is very different. It's bootstrapping, making money pretty quickly, making a profit pretty quickly. There are different metaphors for starting and growing a business, but this is the Silicon Valley metaphor.

[06:14] They are actually losing money, and a lot of analysts say it's only really worth about $15 a share.

Kate: [06:26] On average.

Kevin: [06:26] Yeah.

Kate: [06:26] Could go as low as $10.

Kevin: [06:28] Yeah. Share prices are definitely something that's in the eye of the beholder. Just to compare the market caps, which is a very interesting number, a market cap is the share price times the number of shares. That's generally indicative of the value of a company, because if you buy all those shares, that would be a big chunk of the company, and that is indicative of what that company is worth.

[06:56] Facebook's market cap is nearly $400 billion. It's huge. It's the big kid on the block. Snap's market cap, at the moment, and probably at the peak, was about $28 billion. You can see a huge, huge gap between nearly $400 billion and $28 billion.

[07:20] This is interesting. Snap was worth more than Twitter's market cap is only $12 billion, which doesn't quite make sense. Twitter's got far more significance in our society at the moment than Snapchat. What often happens with shares, you're buying into the promise of it.

[07:39] That's when shares become overpriced. It's the view that you take, whether you believe that it's going to do great things, whether it's going to land up being a Facebook or a Google, or it's going to land up being something like Digg or Orkut or one of these things that a lot of people haven't even heard of.

[08:00] To compare also the market cap Google, which is the real big, big one on the block, Google's revenue is nearly $100 billion a year. I'm just looking up all these stats. It's 90 billion US dollars. Facebook's revenue is $27 billion, compared with Snapchat's revenue of eking out $500 million.

[08:26] You can see why these companies, Facebook and Google, are absolutely massive. The scale of them is quite remarkable and Google's market cap...I'll just quickly see if I can pull this up.

Kate: [08:43] On that note about buying into the promise or the potential of something, a lot of the articles I've read so far, investors are primarily concerned with the high running costs and the ability for Snapchat to compete with Facebook, and the fact that everything Snapchat has done right has just been copied by Facebook, which is not a promising outlook.

Kevin: [09:08] Copied particularly by Instagram, which is owned by Facebook.

Kate: [09:11] Yeah.

Kevin: [09:11] I'm just looking here. Google's market cap is $580 billion.

Kate: [09:18] Giant.

Kevin: [09:19] Yeah. They're giants. Compared to Google and Facebook, everything looks tiny. Not to diminish the success of Snapchat. They've achieved huge things, but obviously, compared to Facebook [laughs] and Google, no one really compares.

[09:36] Snapchat's got a real big challenge on their hand. They're up against Facebook. They're up against Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. What they do have on their side is something very powerful, which is the Millennials. People love owning the Millennial market, because they're about to get into that sweet-spot demographic, that 25-to-40-year-old, where people spend money.

[10:01] That's why advertisers always love to market to that group of people, because they're active, aspirational, they're starting to make a little bit of money, they're starting to live life a bit, and that group is where you can sell stuff to.

[10:14] The Millennials might be under that now but they'll grow up and they might stay with the platform if they do the right thing, if Snapchat innovates and iterates in the right way.

Kate: [10:26] Maybe, but one would argue they're also the most, I guess, the riskiest demographic to...

Kevin: [10:33] Fickle.

Kate: [10:33] Yeah, fickle. They're going to change their mind every 10 seconds and their loyalty can be easily bought.

Kevin: [10:42] Yeah and look, Snapchat could potentially buy Twitter, Twitter could buy Snapchat, Google could buy...There's a lot of these companies and it is a lot of politics in these companies. Twitter tried to buy Instagram, and of course, Instagram sold to Facebook.

[10:59] Jack Dorsey apparently -- he was one of the founders of Twitter -- was incredibly heartbroken by that. He was a very big Instagram user and the day that deal fell through, stopped using Instagram.

Kate: [11:12] Wow.

Kevin: [11:12] [laughs] Hasn't used that since.

Kate: [11:13] What else does he use?

Kevin: [11:16] He uses Twitter.

Kate: [11:16] I suppose. It's not the same.

Kevin: [11:20] Yeah, it's not the same. Every social media network has got its own DNA so to speak.

Kate: [11:26] If Facebook continue copying Snapchats or Instagram do, or they spin off another product which is even closer to Snapchat again and directly marketed at Millennials, it would be interesting to see where the market stayed or went.

Kevin: [11:46] As a CEO and entrepreneur, the exciting and terrifying thing about having a business is you don't know what the future holds. There's so many factors. There's internal factors, there's external factors, there's macro factors, there's technological factors, and no one knows.

[12:06] Facebook almost sold to Yahoo for about 1.3 billion dollars. Looks like an absolute bargain if they could have got it for that price. Google at some stage we're trying to sell themselves for just in the millions I can't remember the exact.

[12:20] It's because these companies, no one has the foresight to know...They didn't know they were going to be a 94 billion dollar revenue business. With Snap, well, could go the way of the company that grows into something. Remember that companies are living breathing things. The Snapchat today doesn't have to be the snapshot of tomorrow and of next week.

Kate: [12:41] Very true. They've changed their take as well. They're a camera company now, so they could come up with all sorts of additional products and not just rely on their app.

Kevin: [12:49] Sure. People love those Snapchat filters?

Kate: [12:53] Yeah, the filters but also, they've got glasses now, like physical glasses that you can...I'm not sure how they work, but I'm pretty sure you can click them and it go straight to your snap story.

Kevin: [13:05] The Snapchat of today could be something totally different. If you look at Facebook, the first version of Facebook didn't even have newsfeed, right?

Kate: [13:15] Didn't it?

Kevin: [13:15] Nope.

Kate: [13:15] Sort of like MySpace, right?

Kevin: [13:18] Yeah. I remember when newsfeed came out and I remember then when they put in algorithmic newsfeed and all these changes. You look back and you just can see all these changes that they rolled out.

[13:29] When they upped their mobile version from HTML5 to a proper mobile version, that was another. This is why these companies a lot of the time to go for raising money, so you can execute out and these.

[13:42] This requires smart people to do all of this and resource is very hard to bootstrap. As I mentioned that the two different metaphors of bootstrapping and trying to build out as you go versus having a big chunk of change and just, as they say in Silicon Valley, swinging for the fences, going for it all.

[14:02] You need money for that but then when you get it right, and you have the Facebooks and the Googles and they want in or even the sales forces and the corporate sort of world, the sky is really the limit. Google makes so much cash, makes so, so much cash. Nearly a hundred billion dollars' worth of cash. I haven't bought Snapchat shares so I can't be...

Kate: [14:26] Not yet.

Kevin: [14:27] No, not yet. I don't know if I will so. It's good to disclose when we're talking about shares whether we own them we don't own them. That way people can take the advice in context because they can be seen as...

[14:40] Not that our podcast has any influence whatsoever in terms of reach, but people do want to...It's fair to know if you've got a vested interest and you try to push the price up or the price down in your own interest, but none of us own Snapchat shares. It's not in our interest at all.

[14:57] As Australians if you buy American shares then you're exposed to two risks, the share price risk and the stock exchange risks. A lot of Australians don't like to get into American shares. I do.

Kate: [15:10] I'm yet to get there. Stick to Australia for now.

[15:12] [laughter]

Kevin: [15:15] Anyway, we'll leave it there because we want to get to the chat with Anil Dash. You're listening to episode 83 of the It's a Monkey Podcast. My name is Kevin Garber, CEO of ManageFlitter, and we've been getting a couple of emails in at podcast@itsamonkey.com. Thank you. Some people that are pitching to be on the show, would love you to continue to pitch on the show.

[15:36] We also have some people that are going to be on the startup minute in the next couple of weeks, where you've got a startup, you can tell us a little bit about it and we'll give you a link in the show notes.

[15:46] We'll give you a shout out as well. Podcast@itsamonkey.com, so feel free to drop us a line there. We're going to take a short break and we'll come back with my chat with Anil Dash after this, so stay with us.

[16:00] [commercial break]

Kevin: [16:00] You're back with "It's a Monkey Podcast". My name is Kevin Garber. I am the CEO of ManageFlitter. On this podcast, we talk about everything relating to tech, startups, entrepreneurship, our industry. Sometimes one of my favorite things to do on the podcast is to zoom out on our industry and have a bigger picture look at what's going on.

[16:38] I'm very excited to say at the end of my Skype line, I have Anil Dash, who is the CEO of Fog Creek Software, and Anil has got the great honor of once being named in a core answer as the Obama of tech. Anil, thank you so much for joining us. I'm not quite sure what that means, but it's a great title to have nonetheless.

Anil: [16:56] Thank you. I'm glad to be here. I'm not sure what it means either but it sounds flattering, so I will accept it as true.

Kevin: [17:02] Fantastic. Anil, you're based in New York which is a little bit...Not unusual. There's a lot of big New York tech companies. There's Etsy, there's some of the other more fashion tech and Fintech startups. Tell us a little bit about this. I'm sitting in Sydney and I'm actually looking out onto the Atlassian HQ offices. We'll talk a little bit more about the link...

Anil: [17:26] Yeah, that will come up.

Kevin: [17:27] With the trailer and Atlassian. In Sydney, there's this great mythology around San Francisco and Silicon Valley. I've been really impressed with my trips to New York the last couple of years. New York is very quickly becoming an epicenter of tech as well.

Anil: [17:43] Yeah, very much so. I had spent some time in San Francisco now more than a decade ago, 2004, 2006, somewhere in that timeframe.

[17:50] I liked it very much and learned a lot but one, in the states where you're from, in terms of you here on the East Coast with New York and Washington DC, and the like are very different than how the West Coast is perceived, with San Francisco, and Seattle, and Los Angeles, and those sorts of cities.

[18:09] There are substantive cultural differences, but for me, the biggest was that what I felt, living in San Francisco and in the Bay Area in general, was that it was almost a one-industry town, or felt that way. If you worked in technology, this was what everyone was paying attention to.

[18:24] The example I always say to people is I would take my dog for a walk in the evening, and walk by people talking about their startup, and their podcast and [laughs] these sort of things.

[18:35] The contrast to here in New York, where I had found a broader community to be part of, was that people could, as you had said, you look at Fintech, and you look at fashion, and some other things. Also, those are just standalone industries.

[18:52] They might have a technology component, but for somebody to work in media and publishing, somebody to work in finance, somebody to work in fashion, somebody to work in education, they might not be concerned with what the latest trends are in the tech world at all, and only just care about them in terms of what it could do for helping them make something interesting, or create something in the world.

[19:12] That was immensely appealing to me, especially because I think it led to a bit of a social conscience, or a civic mindedness, to the technology community here in New York that I didn't find in San Francisco.

Kevin: [19:26] It's definitely in New York, you feel like you're a New Yorker first, and everything else second. In San Francisco sometimes, as much as people are very community-minded, sometimes it feels like it's epicenter of technology first, and everything else second, right?

Anil: [19:42] Yeah, I think that's very fair. I had a friend years ago say all of San Francisco tech, or the Silicon Valley, is one company that has different divisions that are called Google, and Facebook, and whatever else.

[19:58] That does feel true. People change seats within that arrangement, but they don't get outside of it. Whereas I know so many people that I work with, even I think of one of our team at Fog Creek, where I joined a few months ago.

[20:11] People are former school teachers, and people that have worked in construction, and any manner of completely different industries, not, "Oh, well, I was at one technology company, and then another."

Kevin: [20:24] When I was in San Francisco, one of my first trips, I was not used to the fact of that technology saturation. I had an older cab driver who also happens to be female. She asked me what I did. I said, "I have a product that works with Twitter." She then threw out to me, "What do you think of the latest Twitter API changes?"

[20:47] [laughter]

Kevin: [20:47] I had to do a double take. I was like, "OK, yeah, well, thanks for pointing out that I'm making assumptions about your level of depth of tech understanding." That really made me smile.

Anil: [21:02] Yeah, I think that epitomizes exactly the cultural thing that...On some level, that's fascinating. It does, for people who are entrepreneurs, reinforce that idea that you're the center of the world, if even the cabdriver cares what you're talking about, and they have an opinion about the change to OAuth, and the streaming API from Twitter, [laughs] these types of things.

[21:25] It must be critically important if all these people are paying attention. Depending on how healthy your sense of self is and your prospective on things you may or may not be taken in by that.

[21:37] I think that's something that in a long run is actually very dangerous is to have that much of reverence for an industry that is still so young and still figuring its way into the world and still making a lot of mistakes.

Kevin: [21:51] One of the great things about San Francisco is they do talk a lot about industry is about changing the world. You've spoken a lot recently about how our own industry, that being the tech industry, has to self-regulate.

[22:05] We have to hold each other accountable and also set the bar higher in terms that we're not setting the bar high enough maybe, perhaps in terms of putting more than lip service to changing the world and really self-reflecting, if it's just we intend to change the world to make it better, or we're actually investing real resources into our intentions, and it's more than just a statement.

Anil: [22:34] Very much so. It's a big concern for me and I don't say it is anything accusatory toward others. I just sort of reflect on mistakes or shortcomings of my own where I thought, our intentions are good and therefore our results and our outcomes will be good.

[22:51] As you get older and more experienced -- and I've been in this industry 20 years or so now -- you realize, yeah, you mean well, but that doesn't mean the system you design, technology created or the community that you created necessarily has only positive impacts.

[23:08] Even if some of them are good that doesn't mean everything overall is good. That took a long time to learn and to really accept because I think for so long I at least, and maybe others, have envisioned the only way something bad would happen is you have have some sort of villain that's twirling their mustache and thinking, "Let me do something bad in the world." [laughs]

[23:27] That's seldom the case. It's much more often that we create something...The example I would use, I built blogging software in content management systems in social media platforms for many years, some of the early tools. We were always very, very invested and passionate in the idea of giving people a voice.

[23:49] I still feel that way. One of the most meaning things we were able to do is to help make the tools that people use to launch Huffington Post and Gawker, literally millions of other sites.

[24:02] That was something we were very proudly look at, oh, these two people were having a conversation in the comments one day, and they met each other, they fell in love, and they got married. That's what our platform enables people to do, connect around their ideas and form a real connection, all these other good things.

[24:19] Then, as time went on, we started to see, oh these people are being quite awful to each other in the comments and stifling conversation by being abusive and harassing and all the other things that pretty much everyone in the Internet knows about now.

[24:36] We pointed these things out or had them pointed out to us and, "Well, that's not our fault. The technology is neutral. People use them in different ways, it's not [laughs] anybody on our team's responsibility to fix it if people act like jerks."

[24:56] I didn't connect the dots for a long time to say I can't take credit for the good things and say, "Our technology enabled that," while completely ignore the bad things and saying, "It's not our fault" and "Who could possibly blame us for these people acting this way?"

Kate: [25:11] It is also because our industry...We're technical people. A lot of the products that were built, whether it's Facebook or Google, there were engineers that got into it for the love of solving technical problems initially at least, and that's, in a way, the DNA that our industry comes from.

Kevin: [25:32] Yeah, very much so. Part of this is going back to even before I moved to San Francisco. We still have conferences in New York 2002 about what was called social software. Nowadays we would call it social networking or apps or whatever. It was figuring out what this realm was going to be.

[25:51] The only language and context we had for it was we had all been introduced to technology through it, which was the conventional software industry, which was even then mostly packaged software. You literally would buy a copy of Microsoft Office or Photoshop or something on a DVD-ROM, CD-ROM, or...I'm old enough that we had floppy disks.

[26:13] Software was, for a lack of a better word, a single player experience. You had it on your device, you would create something, and that was how it worked. The understanding of what software was a tool that you use on the way that a carpenter uses their saw and their hammer.

[26:34] What it took a very long time to realize was when we made network systems that were very large-scale, some of the first open platforms that have a million users on them...I helped work on things like LiveJournal.

[26:48] It wasn't just software that happens to have a network behind it. It was different in kind. It was a community and it almost a place, and it had to reflect all of the cultural obligations and social obligations, and just even social norms, the behaviors and things that you would expect very large human community.

[27:11] All of a sudden, I think it took us a long time to realize this has nothing to do with whether we were fixing bugs, if we know algorithms, and whether were adept at these technical considerations like managing memory or how our server performs.

[27:28] This is much more about how do people act in large groups and do we have the background in anthropology, sociology, behavioral sciences and even ethics training to be able to act responsibly as stewards of a community that has millions people in it?

[27:44] That was a very, very different mandate than that we thought we were doing when we set out to build some pretty icons for little app.

Kevin: [27:52] What concerns me is that on so many levels, we are not having conversations around the ethics of the technology that we're creating and techs' place in the world. I saw a video earlier this week -- you probably saw it -- I think the company is a Boston company, Boston Dynamics, that robotics company.

[28:08] They released that video of that robot with dexterity, leaping other things and running other things and what first comes to mind if that thing holds a gun. What's capable and...We don't have to get into the whole Trump politics side of things, but the area that I wish whoever is leading starts having a discussion around technology, automation, AI, robotics.

[28:35] I don't think that most people or even people in upper echelons of the executive realize that this wave of change that's coming that we're just not quite ready for and we have no idea how it's going to impact us.

Anil: [28:48] Not at all. The people creating these technologies who are in the Googles and Facebooks of the world, and Boston Dynamics which I think...

Kevin: [28:58] That's right, Boston Dynamics.

Anil: [28:59] I think they were owned by Google. I don't know if they still are, but they are struggling with the ethics of this.

[29:08] To think of an ordinary politician, especially at a local level, at a city level, municipal level, having the fluency and literacy to make intelligent policy decisions about these things, when even the people who create them barely can, is unlikely to the point of absurdity. This is a conversation we're going to be able to have across many different disciplines and many different areas of society.

[29:34] Yet that's not happening, we don't have large conversations about this. Here in New York city where our police department has unfortunately a very long track record of excesses and abuses and all kinds of biases, one of our city council members proposed a policy of civilian oversight which surveillance technologies are deployed.

[29:57] To my mind, seems eminently reasonable. Any policing system should respond to the citizens that it serves and proposal is actually fairly modest.

[30:08] It was that civilians would have oversight into things like which camera systems were used, how data was retained. Some of these new social media and surveillance tracking systems and other technologies would have a way for people and community to be able to look at them and make a decision in collaboration with the police.

[30:30] This is, I thought, a very modest reasonable measured proposal. The immediate response from the person in charge communications at New York Police Department was, this would empower and embolden Al-Qaeda if we were to take these steps towards having a measured approach in how we deploy technology.

[30:58] The extraordinary thing about that, one, at this point an al-Qaeda reference feels very dated, compared to even Isis. [laughs]

Kevin: [31:06] It's very loaded as well in any case.

Anil: [31:09] One, it's the anachronism of that. Two, the completely, wildly, intellectually, irresponsible part of that too, which is to say there has never been any scenario in which these technologies were related to anything remotely having to do with that kind of extremists, terrorists or anything else. Obviously, this was something where they couldn't even have a reasonable response.

[31:34] They just took it well out of the realm of any reasonable conversation. I think about this and I despair at...If that's the kind of almost beyond parity level of response to this, how are we going to have a conversation about whether the way that we're maintaining records of video cameras is respecting of people's privacy and civil rights?

[31:58] We are so far from even being able to have a grown-up, adult conversation about that, that a lot of it is going to evolve to what we as technologists create. We can, as it turns out, preempt that entire conversation simply by building the right ethical choices into the platform as we invent them.

Kevin: [32:19] Why is there no push from the tech industry? It will be easy enough. If Trump can get all of them sitting around a table, why is there no push from Facebook and Twitter?

[32:29] Even you, the CEO at the moment of a significant company, why is there no push to sit around in a room and go, "Right, let's create a lobby group, a something that we can talk about these issues and present a paper around some thinking?" Why is that not happening? It does actually seem quite ridiculous that that's not taking place.

Anil: [32:50] It took me a long time to think about what the answer to this could be. Sometimes you feel like you're in the madhouse, where you're, "Does everyone see this thing that I see?"

[33:03] What I came to realize is for some of the bigger companies in Silicon Valley, the position that the technologies we create are neutral, and it's not our fault how people use them or misuse them, is a very intentional political choice.

Kevin: [33:24] Is it also a commercial choice as well?

Anil: [33:26] Yes, exactly. What I had thought was merely ignorance or a lack of forethought, I've come to notice it's a tactic because if you position your technologies as being completely neutral, then any to misuse of it is not your liability.

[33:47] That happens in a small way, not that it's minor, but the things like harassment on social networks, something like that, is a first step. The bigger steps are you think about...Well, entire industries are being disrupted. We have our truck or our lorry drivers that drive the tractor trailers that we call the big rigs.

[34:06] There are millions of those drivers here in the States and they'll be replaced by self-driving trucks, if I had to guess, probably in the next 5 to 10 years, very quickly. You're talking about massive economic displacement and...

Kevin: [34:21] It's the biggest employer in the world, transport.

Anil: [34:23] Yeah, and the most expensive parts of it are the most expensive because they are well-paid labor for people that otherwise wouldn't really have a skilled job to be able to take its place. Incredibly essential to the communities that they serve, the highest earners, and the communities that they work in.

[34:45] When, not if, when this transition comes to the self-driving trucks, it is going to be incredibly dramatic and very stressful for these communities to reckon with.

Kevin: [34:59] Of course, we had a bit of a use case when Uber came along and it disrupted the taxi industry and then people in Paris, France burning it, etc. That's certainly a taste of what's to come. Taxi drivers in most countries are driving taxis because they don't have much of a choice to earn a living and wage anything else.

[35:17] As you mentioned, the truckers don't always have a choice and if they suddenly disappear, there could be a -- in a way rightly so -- a backlash. In my opinion, this is where the role of government should be to smooth out these bumps, right?

Anil: [35:32] That's exactly right. One, we have a bigger problem in the States where, obviously, even that idea that that's the role of government is a big point of contention, apparently. The most radical opposition to that are people based in Silicon Valley, the Peter Thiels of the world...

Kevin: [35:52] In fairness, Peter Thiel doesn't represent the typical Silicon Valley view, though.

Anil: [35:56] No, I don't think he does it all but I think the problem is that that's who has an outsized influence. If you look at Peter Thiel, if you look at Travis Kalanick, Uber, they are not typical in terms of the politics of most of the founders or funders in Silicon Valley, but they are the ones of the most influence. Right now, everyone is trying to make Uber for what have you, whatever you can imagine.

[36:21] Whatever Uber does is seen as a model. Anyway, the end of that thought is, by positioning themselves as neutral, saying the technology is neutral, and denying essentially that technology has ethics built into it, they avoid becoming culpable for this amazing change, this dramatic change in any associated unrest that comes as a result of it.

[36:44] Understanding that took me a long time. I was perhaps willfully naïve thinking, no, they really want what's best. When you realize, they would rather not have to be concerned.

Kevin: [36:57] You can understand why, though, the contentious nature and the gray areas and where do you draw the lines?

[37:01] It would almost be great is for every technology company, whether it's a gun and ammunition company, or even a tech startup, at a certain market capital revenue, has to have a representative on some ethics think tank and we can thrash out these issues and find that area of compromise of that, we can find this pathway forward.

Anil: [37:23] That's right. I think they would if the regulators, the legislators, and the politicians knew what was happening. The people in office that are national level are members of Congress. There's 635 of them. There may be six of them that know how to install an app on a Smartphone out of that entire cohort.

Kevin: [37:44] Is it that extreme, really?

Anil: [37:46] Very much so. They're wildly out of touch. They're not slightly illiterate. When you talk about the sharing economy and Uber, Airbnb, or whatever the other examples are of it, they've never seen them.

Kevin: [37:58] Things like the Blockchain, you're not even going to attempt to...

Anil: [38:02] Exactly, right. This thing that we find, as technologists, somewhat complicated in the abstract, and took a little bit of time to understand, is inconceivable to them.

[38:10] When you look at why are there problems around net neutrality, we can casually as technologists say, "These are the layers of the stack. This is the layer you want to have innovation happen, with the application layer, and not be locked down at the transport layer," whatever things.

[38:24] That's this like I said, so far beyond the realm of what conversation they could have with their literacy in these things. For many years I worked in politics and created a non-profit organization and non-government organization here, that was designed to drive public engagement with policymakers through social networks.

[38:44] I spent a good bit of time talking to policymakers and even elected officials here. There were some that are very good intent, but the level of fluency in the technologies was shockingly low. Shockingly low.

[39:00] There's a thing I always use an example, and actually, even Trump has done this when he was referring to his 10-year-old son, where we would have nationally elected officials, very, very prominent people, considered cultural leaders. They would just say casually, "Yeah, I don't know anything about technology. I always just rely on my nephew to tell me how the Internet works."

[39:20] You think about if you were a regulator in charge of the banking industry, the finance industry, and said, "Well, I've never had a bank account. I don't know anything about economics, but I asked my cousin." You would think it would be so obviously irresponsible, they would be ashamed.

Kevin: [39:39] What was Obama like, though? He had signs that he had some sense of the lay of the land.

Anil: [39:46] A couple of things. I was an advisor to the Obama administration's Office of Digital Strategy, so I got to see first-hand how they worked. There are a couple things. First, at a personal level, he had a curiosity and interest in it. You saw that in his campaigns which were very digital-centric.

[40:05] He said this publicly, one of his great regrets is that we're unable to carry forward that digital strategy and social strategy into the actual operations of the presidency, because they had not anticipated the amount of obstacles to doing so, like the lack of flexibility and being able to do that.

[40:21] The example I always go to is when I first started working with the White House on social media engagement, their team who was using Internet Explorer 6 in the White House, and were blocked from accessing Facebook.

Kevin: [40:35] The famous Internet Explorer 6, right? Known as the buggiest version. [laughs]

Anil: [40:39] Exactly. There was no chance that they could have been good at it. Of course, they changed things as quickly as they could and eventually ended up creating the US Digital service, other national level projects that were bringing in very, very qualified technologists. One of whom, the last head of the Office of Digital Strategy with the chief Digital Officer of the United States was Jason Goldman, who had been a...

Kevin: [41:03] Of course, from Twitter, right?

Kevin: [41:05] Exactly. One of the seminal figures in Twitter and Blogger and helped found Medium, so incredibly, incredibly literate in these things. That leap to go from essentially no digital function to having somebody who's as hands-on with having created modern social media as almost anyone, it showed what they could be.

[41:22] That's very, very impressive, but what you come back to is they were putting in process all the ability to have...You still can actually do this. I don't know if the Trump administration is going to keep it running, but they have a Facebook Messenger bot where you could at that point write a letter to President Obama through Facebook Messenger, and then we get a response.

[41:43] It would be read and he read ten letters from citizens every day, or from Americans every day, and one of them would come in through Facebook each day.

Kevin: [41:51] Fantastic.

Anil: [41:51] That was the kind of thing that was possible and then you start to imagine there was this literacy. By the end of it, they had an iOS, an Android app that did an augmented reality history of the White House when you pointed it at our dollar bill, the currency. They had gone all the way forward into cutting edge.

[42:08] That's, of course, all been walked back. Instead, we now have...Trump has said, he knows all about the cyber because his ten-year-old is good at computers. It's a ludicrous state of affairs.

Kevin: [42:21] Well I think is a ludicrous state of affairs, because he came in on a mandate from the middle class in a way, and the middle class is at threat from this automation the most. Even jobs like lawyers, accountants, and as we mentioned, transport people, and they're right in the firing line of all this radical change that's about to just sweep on through.

Anil: [42:46] I do think there definitely is a cross-class boundary where we...I don't want to draw on the political part too much, but a lot of the rhetoric was about we're losing jobs. The narrative he created was that it's to China or to Mexico, or something.

[43:05] Of course, what the facts show is that it's actually to automation. Of course, in a world where Amazon's already doing delivery by drone, that's not going to be improving.

[43:18] Then to the point that you point out of the lawyers and the accountants and those things, I think that is more of an offshoring/outsourcing concern because the immediacy of communications will allow companies to take those roles probably to cheaper markets like China, and India, and the Philippines, and other areas.

[43:37] There are two parts to that. The fact that they can even have that conversation in a nuanced way, it's something that tech is using to hide under so that we don't get the finger pointed at us either.

Kevin: [43:49] Even the accounting, the lawyer, the machine learning, and the AI, I wasn't even referring to the offshoring side of things. I was even just referring to the AI machine learning of being able to...And the bots where you can just have a chat with them, and then they whack out the contract for you and...

Anil: [44:07] You think about something like accounting where tax code is a knowable and codable thing, it's called code for a reason. Being able to imagine an AI that learns, at the very least what looks you've done the accounting correctly, and flag the right things, that seems eminently doable.

[44:22] The reason I point out the offshoring first, followed by the complete automation, is this two-stage process of essentially dismantling an industry and taking the labor out of an industry, is a pattern that keeps repeating. Uber, their step one is take people out of the ordinary cab system and have been be dispatched entirely through the Uber app.

[44:46] Of course, the promise to the drivers is the old taxi system is corrupt, this is more predictable, and maybe they will make a little bit more money up front in the beginning. OF course, the second step is self-driving cars. We'll see the same thing with firms that today are saying, "Let's move our accounting to this cloud-based service."

[45:08] I was in New Zealand recently and got to talk to some of the Xero folks. Their product is very good but you can imagine the step one, outsource your accounting to them, and two, have that all be replaced by AI as well. This two-step process by which you first centralize and optimize a market and then two, completely automate it, is going to keep repeating.

Kevin: [45:33] Now let's chat. I know it's getting late your time in New York. Let's just talk about your real-world side of things. You were named CEO of Fog Creek Software. Now, some people might not be familiar with actually that brand, Fog Creek Software.

[45:48] That was created initially by Joel Spolsky, who started the first product FogBugz, and then, of course, the very well-known Stack Overflow, and then the even better known Trello. Now there's something that you guys are involved with called Gomix.

[46:04] Fog Creek has taken a slightly unusual approach in this federated approach, again back to the Silicon Valley model of co-founders, one product, one brand, go big on it, and they don't quite like this federated approach of "don't put all your eggs in one basket." You guys have seemed to have made some success out of it.

Anil: [46:24] This is really a fundamentally different thing. Fog Creek was co-founded by Joel Spolsky and Michael Pryor, both of whom are still good friends of mine. I was a fan, I feel a bit like the person who comes up seeing the hairbrush in the mirror, singing along to a song, and then gets invited to join the band a little bit.

[46:43] That's been just extraordinarily exciting for me. I had been -- I think as many of us that were around at the turn of the century in the tech industry -- reading Joel's blog on software. Joel Spolsky was one of the first voices, really, talking about tech culture broadly but also how to be a good programmer, how to make good software, and how to build a team.

Kevin: [47:05] And importantly, how to hire and manage developers, and I say regularly many of his phrases like, "When we're hiring, we're looking for someone who's smart, and gets shit done," right?

Anil: [47:15] [laughs] That is so true. This is the thing, is to sit in the seat of the man who wrote that and then be hiring at the company.

Kevin: [47:25] Fantastic.

Anil: [47:26] It's a heavy weight. It's exciting but it's a bit sort of, "What am I doing here because I wouldn't have..." I remember at the time reading what Joel was writing in 2000, 2001, and saying, "Wow, I would never pass that test."

[47:38] That's something that I thought a lot about but because the company is constructed that way, which is -- and this is still something I think about literally every day -- we hire people who are talented, motivated, and genuinely empathetic and thoughtful, and empower them to be able to create.

[47:59] The first thing they did is they made FogBugz, which is still our flagship product, and it is the product that invented modern bug tracking and [indecipherable] tracking. That's something that I think is an incredible legacy.

[48:11] A couple years later, the team said, "What would be a simpler way to take just the one immediate problem that every programmer has around answering the questions that we have, and not have the barriers that are on the other sites that were on the web at the time?"

[48:24] They teamed up with Jeff Atwood and they built Stack Overflow. I'm on the board of Stack and that was actually when I started really working regularly with Joel.

Anil: [48:31] Joel is CEO of Stack Overflow, right?

Kevin: [48:34] That's right, and then Stack spun out on its own. Joel's CEO of Stack Overflow. It's a standalone company. They've got hundreds of employees, an absolutely incredible business around recruiting talent.

[48:46] Really, it was taking these ideas about how you respect programmers and how you respect people as individuals, creating a technology company, and building them into the very business model of what Stack Overflow is. I love that that sense of you carrying the values through all the way through into what the product is and how people help each other, even little things.

[49:07] Every bit of content that anybody's ever answered on Stack Overflow, they own. They own the intellectual property rights to it.

[49:13] It's licensed to the site, but if you want to take everything you've ever answered, every question you ever answered on Stack Overflow and make a book of your own, you don't have to even get permission. You can just go and do it. There's an API, you can download all your stuff and you could do that.

Kevin: [49:26] That's very different to a lot of other content-type sites where...

Anil: [49:29] That's exactly right.

Kevin: [49:30] Once it's on there, it's theirs, right?

Anil: [49:31] Yeah. That was something that was really important, was the thoughtfulness. I've been on the Stack bored and you would go...Initially, it worked out of the Fog Creek office and so I would go and visit. "Wow, what a beautiful office."

[49:44] They have these great lunches and this incredible view of the New York City skyline from...We're all the way downtown in New York City, you can go out literally see the Statue of Liberty where we lunch.

[49:54] Now, working at that company, to be able to sit there is just absolutely incredible. I'd see it and one of the times he said, "Michael's got this thing that we came up with that he wanted to show you." Long story short, it was Trello.

Kevin: [50:07] I was actually at the TechCrunch when it launched, I was at TechCrunch.

Anil: [50:11] Yeah, at TechCrunch it just dropped. It was a week before that in New York I got to see what they were going to demo at TechCrunch. They were, "We're going to go out to San Francisco, we're going to show this thing off," and I thought, "Wow, this is really good." [laughs]

Kevin: [50:26] It was really polished, really slick from the get-go, right?

Anil: [50:29] Yeah, they had done the work and the interesting thing about it was, it was no outside investment. They had built it on their own and their team had built other things along the way. There was a screen sharing tool and some other things that they had built that were also...Each of them successful for a time.

[50:46] They made a blogging app that was successful for time and then also they let them run their course. They didn't try to drag it out. When one of them said, "OK, we don't need to be making a blogging app anymore. That sort of solves..." Then they would shut it down. They said, "We're looking for a next project to make."

[51:01] That made Trello, they realized they had gotten it, almost immediately. They went all in on launching at TechCrunch and building this great product. Actually, it's funny, that's the only angel investment I've ever done, as it were. They said, "We're going to get a little bit of funding so we can make its own company and start to grow it."

[51:21] It's funny because they didn't do that until it literally had millions of users. They did it on their own inside Fog Creek. It got to a couple million users, so they thought, "We should get some more resources so we could..."

Kevin: [51:31] Wanted to double down on it?

Anil: [51:33] Yeah. At that point I said, "Yeah. You know, I would to be an angel investor." Still to this day, it's the only time I've ever done that in my life. It was so obviously a great tool that people would love, and then that spun out on its own.

[51:47] There's a really unique and surprising thing that happened that I don't think most people in the world know, which is Trello spun off of Fog Creek and became its own company. Michael became the CEO of that, so the other cofounder went to run that.

[52:00] Yet to this day, Fog Creek and Trello still share an office. Our headquarters in New York is both teams together. We have lunch together. We have a single table that everybody sits around that holds 40 people on a long table.

[52:12] We bring in lunch every day, these really wonderful catered lunches with a window behind us, the view of the Statue of Liberty and all the rest, and sit around and talk while we're doing our products, what's going on people's lives, who had a birthday, and all these usual things. That's true today. That's something that I think no other company could do.

[52:30] In fact, we regularly have people from Stack come by the office. I go over there. We have board meetings, I go talk to their marketing team. There's a connection between these companies around these values, around this set of principles about how we treat people and what the ways are that we work even to the point of...Joel wrote a blog post in 2001.

[52:49] It was called "The Joel Test" and it was these rules about how to make software. They were somewhat very prosaic. "Make sure you have that version control system." That was half a decade before GitHub existed, so that was still a radical thing to say. Even the simpler point of every programmer should have an office with a door that closes so they can concentrate...

Kevin: [53:10] I remember he said, "If I can do this in New York, the most expensive real estate in the world, wherever you are in the world, you can do that too." I remember reading that. [laughs] There's no excuses.

Anil: [53:23] To this day, we do it. 100 percent. The only has changed since then is we do a lot of remote workers now, but we give everybody the tools they need at home too. We tell them, "We'll get you the noise cancelling headphones and the adjustable desk if you want to stay at a desk. We'll get you all the gear you need to go and do it.

[53:42] That's still something that we hold the line on all these years later. I said to Joel to the other day, I only wish he had said on his list, "Don't illegally collude with your biggest competitor in order to depress the wages of your workers as Google and Apple did."

[53:56] [laughter]

Anil: [53:56] If you put that on the list alongside the "Have a nice lunch," and, "Have an office with a nice desk," I think maybe that would've helped.

Kevin: [54:03] What are his thoughts about remote work? There seem to be two schools of thought. There's the Marissa Mayer, "Well, no remote work. All come in," and then there's this other school of thought, which is Basecamp, where our industry lends itself so well to it, and there's a lot of advantages later I could go for.

Anil: [54:19] I think there are strengths to both, and it depends on what you're trying to do. I had a little bit of a window. I used to have a strategy consulting firm, and my co-founder was on the board of Yahoo!, and helped recruit Marissa, so I got a window into her joining at Yahoo!

[54:35] What I saw was they were a company at a point of reckoning, and one that had not had a lot of innovation, or a lot of output in a long time. I think if you're going to be in, call it crunch mode, or focused mode, or whatever it is, it does make sense, especially if you already have the offices to use, to have everybody in same place and that, "We're in this together," kind of thing.

Kevin: [54:59] A bit of a war room type. That's been in the war room...

Anil: [55:00] Exactly. That was my strong sense of it. I don't think she was saying nobody can ever be remote again.

Kevin: [55:05] We've got a lot of work to do. We just want to keep things simple, not introduce any more variables. Let's just get on with it."

Anil: [55:12] I think it was a company culture where the worst case you could have is people are disconnected, have no sense of urgency, and they're remote. They're just floating in space, and people become very unhappy.

[55:23] I think people need a purpose, a sense of connection, and meaningfulness to what they're doing to be satisfied in their work. Already hard with remote, even if you are doing a great job. I think that's one part to it.

[55:35] I've always looked to Basecamp, and I still think of them as 37signals. I always look to David and Jason at Basecamp, and other similar companies that I learned a lot from about how to run a company. I'm pro-remote. Two-thirds of Fall Creek is remote employees. I would say five years ago, it was five percent.

Kevin: [55:55] What's the time zone spread of those two-thirds?

Anil: [55:59] It's not as big as I probably would like it to be. We have one of our folks in the UK, and then every US time zone, which is three. One of the team members in Mexico, I think, is one further time zone over. In terms of hours, it's about eight hours...

Kevin: [56:16] That's something we struggle with being in Australia. We try and push towards some of the remote workers, and of course, Australia's in the time zone of no one. [laughs]

Anil: [56:25] It's quite hard. I used to work on the blogging tools with Will Type and Ty Patton. They were the early content management systems. We had our biggest office, it was in San Francisco at the time. The second biggest office was in Japan. It was in Tokyo.

Kevin: [56:41] Similar thing, similar story.

Anil: [56:42] That was very hard. Then I moved back to New York while still working at that company. That was incredibly hard.

Kevin: [56:50] It's literally the opposite time zone.

Anil: [56:52] Yes. You're completely opposite from Japan, but then to be able to find a common time between Japan in Tokyo and New York and San Francisco's pretty much impossible.

Kevin: [57:02] It's like when I'm in New York, I feel like I'm working day and night. I do the two shifts, the New York shift and the Sydney shift, and they're at opposite ends.

Anil: [57:09] I see that now, where the end of the Trello story...I guess it's been about a month or six weeks or so, Trello as an independent company sold to Atlassian.

Kevin: [57:17] Atlassian must have really wanted them, which is great for you guys, but Atlassian paid a lot of money for that. They didn't even have that cash on their balance sheets, and they're obviously funding it by some instruments or so. They must have been incredibly hungry for that product, because ultimately, it would have been a significant competitor to JIRA.

Anil: [57:39] Yes, it's quite interesting, because in the very early days of JIRA, JIRA and FogBugz were the two market leaders. It's an interesting thing to watch. We still have a very successful business with FogBugz, but obviously not on the scale of what JIRA is.

[57:54] There was, I think, a bit of rivalry, which may, I'm not sure, but may explain why the logo of FogBugz is a kiwi.

[58:02] [laughter]

Anil: [58:03] I think that might have been a little bit of a jab. I'm not sure, but I have my suspicions. It was also friendly rivalry. I think these are all very thoughtful, good people, and I think very much in the manner of how Aussies and Kiwis tend to take shots at one another.

[58:24] It was something where I think there was an interesting rise of watching, "Oh well, this model is working very well for JIRA and they're succeeding, and what would it look like to be the sort of new era of that?"

[58:37] I have to imagine, and I wasn't there at the time except to see the product, I have to imagine that was some of the inspiration for Trello, was this, "What would the new kind of thing look like?" There's this sequencing of a bit of a back and a forth of let's keep it, each of us, between these companies iterating on how to solve this kind of problem.

[58:58] I actually haven't had a chance to talk to Joel and Michael about this since the transaction happened, but I have to imagine there was some sense of satisfaction of these erstwhile rivals having to acknowledge that what they had made was so good, that they needed to have it as part of their company.

Kevin: [59:15] It's the ultimate form of flattery. When the student beats the teacher, that's the ultimate, right?

Anil: [59:22] At the same time, I think there was also a nice sense of that put a wonderful bookend on the sense that there was a rivalry, because now I think Michael reports directly to the founders of Atlassian and Michael still runs the Trello team.

[59:37] That's also a unique and unusual thing to have happen in the industry. I think only that grounding in the values of what they are, of "We're going to still hold true to them," I think without that, it would never have been able to work.

[59:50] There aren't a lot of parallels to that in the industry. The interesting thing for me, in the last few weeks, has been we now share our office with Atlassian New York.

Kevin: [60:03] Terrific. I don't think they've had a New York office up until now, have they?

Anil: [60:06] No. They tried, very, very early on. They were going to put their office in the States in New York, and the [indecipherable] scotched that, and so they ended up going to San Francisco after a very short period of time. This is the first time they've had a substantial presence in New York.

[60:20] The interesting thing about this is, although obviously the team here is working on Trello, nominally, the biggest competitor to our key product of FogBugz is JIRA, and yet we are roommates with them in our cozy little office downtown, and so that's a fun...

[60:35] Who knows how that'll resolve, but I think for now it's a really fun state of affairs. We do still have lunch with them every day.

Kevin: [60:41] There's times to collaborate and times to compete. [laughs] You guys are in an interesting and unique situation. Tell us about Gomix?

Anil: [60:48] I'm so excited about it. Honestly, I had talked to Michael and Joel about Fog Creek for a long time, and I was also, "I love the company but I don't know I qualify for this." I saw what would become Gomix and I sort of lost it.

"[61:05] This is the best thing and I have to do whatever I can do to help this thing exist in the world." I just was so taken with it. The short version of it is, it is a programming environment, a development environment, that lives in your web browser and lives in the cloud.

[61:23] I say that, and people say, "We've had text editors in the web browser before, and we've had very good tools like CodePen and JSFiddle and we've been able to edit that code. How is this different to that?"

[61:34] And you say, "We've got a lot more tools around being able to collaborate." They say, "GitHub, you can kind of edit in the browser." You say, "Yes, but what's happening, as soon as you make a change to your code that you see in Gomix, it immediately deploys it live on the cloud as real code because there's a complete server running behind it. Running Node."

[61:57] The ability to do that is essentially brand new because of the advancements that have happened in containerization, virtualization, orchestration, the drop in cost of deploying those things in the cloud, the maturity of Node as a platform to be able to host that, improvements in the browsers to being able to do the real-time collaboration, all those things.

[62:17] All that has changed so rapidly that it's only in the last, maybe 18 months that you can make this system where if you go to Gomix, what you'll see is, it looks like an app store. Here's a sample Slack bot, a sample Twitter bot and a sample whatever you want to make, the Amazon Alexa skill.

[62:32] You click on it and immediately, it opens up the code in this full development environment. What's happened in the back end is it's automatically spun up a brand new web server for you in the Amazon cloud, running Node, connected to this code, pulled down the latest version of the code, and has it deployed live to the web. That's happening in about a second.

Kevin: [62:49] Is it all the equivalence of a WYSIWYG editor or development?

Anil: [62:52] Yes. What we keep thinking about is a couple of things. One is I wanted it to be Google Docs for writing code. Again, I'm old enough where I came up using Microsoft Word and track changes and what a lot of pain that was.

Kevin: [63:11] Google's done a good version with their suggested edits.

Anil: [63:16] That's right.

Kevin: [63:16] It's a lot better.

Anil: [63:18] That's right. It works quite well and also...If I were writing a book, I would use Microsoft Word, but for any normal business document, I would rather use Google Docs. One, because it's easy and it's there and it's in my browser, but two, if I just send the link to you and you want to add some edits, it's effortless.

[63:33] That model, the challenge we had in my last company, we were an open-source project and we had at some points, a lot of contributors. Teaching people who were new contributors how to rebase on GitHub and make a proper pull request and review their code and do all these things, felt like using track changes in Word.

Kevin: [63:53] Cumbersome.

Anil: [63:54] Yeah. If I can just invite you in and we can edit together, live, it would be a completely different experience. It would be what I'm used to in everything else. That's what I do in Google Docs. That's what I do when I'm chatting in Slack. Why can't I do that when I code?

Kevin: [64:11] Is your target market developers or non-developers who want to create something?

Anil: [64:16] It's a little in between. Certainly for developers, what I think of is, if you're a current developer, I think this is where you're going to everything that you find fun, because any other development environment, your normal text editor on your desktop is going to feel lonely compared to Gomix.

[64:33] I think in the States here, I think we have about a million people who are working developers or programmers or coders of some kind, but I think we probably have 10 times that number who are people that, in the old days, would have made a GeoCities website on their own, today has probably edited a WordPress blogpost's HTML, or they have made a formula in a spreadsheet.

[65:00] They've got a little bit of technical skill, but the barriers to being a proper coder have been too high, especially because coders are often really rude to new developers. They're very hostile to it. I think about what Stack Overflow did to make coding accessible to people.

[65:19] That's a lot of the mission of what Gomix can do. We say, one, be the place that a million working coders in the US -- I think it's 20 million coders around the world -- can go and say, "This is a less lonely place to do my code."

[65:35] Then the next, the adjacent audience of another 50 million people, who have some technical skills, will be able to come in, start from a working project rather than a broken pile of pieces, and remix it, change it, and tweak it into exactly what they want.

[65:52] Then, the things that we're working on, this is revealing a bit of our upcoming roadmap, is the minute they get stuck and they get an error message, being able to raise your hand and say to the entire Gomix community, "Can somebody come in here and help me understand what's wrong with this app so I can fix it and maybe we can suss it out together?"

Kevin: [66:09] Are they working on apps for themselves or are they collaborating on apps they're both going to use?

Anil: [66:14] We're seeing a range of different things there. One of the first communities actually that's really taken to Gomix here, especially in the States post-selection, are activists. We have a lot of people saying, "I want to build a tool to help organize my community or to respond to a social issue that I care about."

[66:32] In many cases, one, they have an immense amount of drive and motivation. Two, they have a little bit of technical skills. They've built websites and things before and they've played a little bit with interactive code but they don't fully know how to program.

[66:45] Then, we've found a really interesting latent audience of developers who are saying, "I have this technical skill and I have a couple hours free each evening and I wish I could put it towards a good cause, but I don't know which ones."

[66:59] What we've been doing is matchmaking in some ways and pairing those people up. Especially because they can find each other because we've got a community where you can discover the apps are there and remix them and see who created them and even just ask to join, if you like, "I know how to code, I can help you out."

[67:14] Those gears just started to turn. That's something I think we're incredibly excited about. Literally the top priority we have is to build that ability for somebody to say, "I've gotten just the basic bones of this thing working and I'd like to raise my hand and ask somebody to help me turn it into something really powerful.

Kevin: [67:29] It's almost like an improved social layer across open source.

Anil: [67:34] Very much so. We did a bit of surveys on those. I even just informally asked on Twitter. The phrasing I used was, "What made you stop learning to code? Or trying to learn to code?"

Kevin: [67:45] Good question.

Anil: [67:47] Yeah. What had happened, because I think for so many years, we'd always heard, "Do you want to learn to code?" It was even a bit of a fad where we had the mayor here in New York City, the last mayor, Michael Bloomberg, saying, "I've signed up for a coding class online," and this kind of thing.

[68:02] I don't know why he did that, but OK. I thought the opposite. I think many, many more people have thought, "I'm going to learn to code this year. This is going to be my New Year's resolution," and then abandoned it, and what you find out is, about three-quarters of the time, the fundamental reason somebody stops learning to code is because some guy was a jerk to them.

[68:20] They asked a question on a mailing list or as a contributor to an open source project and got shut down. "You don't have enough knowledge. You don't know what you're doing. We don't want you here." All those other sort of things that we hear far too often.

[68:34] I'm old enough to remember when open source was a radical idea. We thought, if we just make everything open then everybody would be able to collaborate together. We'll fix all the bugs and all the problems and make great software.

[68:44] What is directly paralleled to all the issues we had in tech is, that solved the technical issue or even the legal issue but not the social issue about what it takes to get people to work well together.

[68:54] We look at it really deeply. Gomix is this broader solution of creating a social context where people are oriented towards helping one another and it's effortless to collaborate. Then, the stuff that we already have in open source, the code that people have been writing for decades now, will come alive in a way that it hasn't before.

Kevin: [69:11] I hope this feeds into the very important issue, which in a way is related to what we first started telling about at the beginning of the interview, the ethics which ties into the diversity in our industry, which is such an issue.

[69:24] I have a small startup and we feel the symptoms. The problem needs to get resolved at lower down the food chain of the training and of people feeling comfortable from diverse backgrounds, feeling comfortable to go and skill themselves up, and learn the hard skills of coding and engineering.

[69:40] When I'm at the opposite end, we have a pool to choose from and it gets a lot easier to create those diverse companies.

Anil: [69:48] Yeah, very much so. I think these things are directly related. What I hadn't understood for a long time is when we made tools that were thoughtless, or that didn't anticipate how they would be misused or leave people behind, part of it was because our teams wasn't diverse enough. If we had people with other perspectives, they would've anticipated those issues.

[70:07] The idea that the ethical failings of the industry, and the diversity failings of the industry were directly connected, in retrospect feels really obvious, but it took me a long time to learn.

[70:18] We think of this as one of the core missions of building this Gomix community is that it's inclusive and friendly and welcoming from the start. It means that we will make better software in the community.

[70:30] There's a really nice thing where a lot of what we're looking at for how to make Gomix sustainable over the long term is partnering with companies that have APIs, and that have software development kits that they want community to use.

[70:45] Oftentimes, their process right now is to go to a meet up, and tell the group there, "We'll give you a t-shirt, will you please come to our GitHub page and download this code and maybe get it running on your laptop? Then try our platform."

[70:59] That's a lot of work and a lot of risk, and actually doesn't do a good job at getting out to people who are not at that event in the first place. So we think, if instead you go to the site and you just have a button that is "Try this now" in Gomix, like tomorrow, or instantly today. You can do this, and got live running code and it's there.

[71:18] Then, when you get stuck you can ask for help and maybe that company that makes the API will help you. Maybe somebody else in the community will help you. Because you are doing it in Gomix and it's a community where we value inclusion, you've already got diverse viewpoints and people that are there, that are from a different background.

[71:33] They'll help you identify what you might not have thought of when you built that software. That's a better solution for everybody. That's a lot of what we think about of how to grow the community but also bring it into solving this problem. Not just for our company, but across a lot of companies in the industry.

Kevin: [71:49] Do you code?

Anil: [71:51] I do. I try not to exasperate all the other coders at our company, because they are all better at it than me. Actually, that's where Gomix has been great. This is one of those "eat your own dog food" things.

[72:07] If you go to Gomix.com and you see the community site where it looks like an app store and there are [indecipherable] apps, that is itself a Gomix app. We used the tool to make the tool.

[72:18] That's where I get to tinker. I like to go in and play. I'm not setting up the editor for people because I'm not a good enough coder where I would feel like what I'm doing is shippable to users. On the community side where it's much more design oriented, I'm a much stronger front-end developer. I can have my way there. That's really fun. It's a great outlet for me.

[72:46] Also, it gets me using the tool to make real production software for our company every day. That's something that I think gets right to the heart of what I understood Fog Creek to be when I first became a fan 15 years ago. It's nice to have that connecting through into how we run day-to-day today.

Kevin: [73:06] Fantastic. I know it's getting late there I believe you are in one of my favorite parts of Manhattan, the Lower East side? East Village?

Anil: [73:13] Yes, that's right!

Kevin: [73:13] That's a wonderful part of the world, maybe on my next trip I'd love to catch up.

Anil: [73:21] I'd love that. Love to host you here, would love to have you come by Fog Creek as well.

Kevin: [73:25] Love to see those great offices. Really appreciate your time in the podcast. We've been talking to Anil Dash, who's the CEO of Fog Creek Software, and a well known blogger and tweeter. We'll put in links to all his books and pieces on our show notes. Thanks so much for joining us.

Anil: [73:39] Cheers! Thanks so much for having me on.

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