This week on The Data Stack Show, Eric and Kostas chat have a conversation with Bart Farrell, a CNCF ambassador, and a community leader for Data on Kubernetes Community. Together they dive into the ins and outs of communities in tech and discuss what can make or break those groups.
Highlights from this week’s conversation include:
Follow the Data on Kubernetes Community at DoK.community and on Twitter at @DoKCommunity. You can follow Bart at @birthmarkbart.
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Eric Dodds 00:06
Welcome to The Data Stack Show. Each week we explore the world of data by talking to the people shaping its future. You’ll learn about new data technology and trends and how data teams and processes are run at top companies. The Data Stack Show is brought to you by RudderStack, the CDP for developers. You can learn more at RudderStack.com.
Eric Dodds 00:27
Welcome back to the show. Today, we’re doing something very different in terms of content; we’re still going to be talking with someone who’s heavily involved in the data space. In fact, they manage and build a community called Data on Kubernetes. Very technical, but Bart Farrell, who’s our guest today, is not a developer himself. He just builds and manages the community there. And so what we’re going to talk about is community, which I’m really excited about. So I think we’ll talk about it in general, just because I think Bart’s philosophies on community are really interesting to talk about. And then we’ll get really practical and talk about communities in the tech space and hopefully get into the good, of course, but also the bad, and maybe even the ugly, if we’re lucky. I think my burning question for Bart–I’m really interested in his philosophies on community, especially based on his experience doing this as a full time job. Which is interesting, you can think about communities as sort of like, a lot of times you think about them as organic, or on the other extreme, you sort of create a community, like maybe a business creates a community. And so I’m just interested to know how Bart thinks about communities since it’s his day to day job. So that’ll be really interesting. Kostas, how about you?
Kostas Pardalis 01:45
Yeah, I think, Eric, after 50-plus episodes, where we pretty much, in each one of them, we talk about Kafka streams, Snowflake, Databricks …
Eric Dodds 02:00
… data governance … data mesh …
Kostas Pardalis 02:04
We also need it, I suppose, but I also think like our audience, and to focus a little bit more around the people who enable all this technology, like the people that they work around that and building communities and maintaining communities is like, a very important dimension of whatever we’re doing in technology. So yeah, I’m super happy that today, we are going to not be that technical. But we are going to talk and learn more about communities, why they exist, how we can operate them, how we, how it happens, that they get abused, and learn all that stuff from someone who’s probably like the best person to talk about that, which is Bart. And yeah, I don’t have a question right now, to be honest. I want to get into this conversation, and listen to him and naturally come up with whatever questions that will be triggered because of what he’s going to say.
Eric Dodds 02:57
Awesome. Well, let’s dig in and talk with Bart Farrell, who runs the Data on Kubernetes community. Bart, welcome to The Data Stack Show. We’re really excited to chat with you about all things community and beyond. Thanks for giving us some time to chat today.
Bart Farrell 03:17
Thanks so much for having me. Really happy to be here. So many questions to talk about. This is going to be a great show. But first, give us your background, and then tell us what you do for your day job and outside of your day job.
Bart Farrell 03:31
All right, good. So yeah, my name is Bart Farrell. I’m originally from the United States. I’m from a Northern California city called Santa Rosa. It’s about an hour north of San Francisco. And I grew up there. I went to high school there. And then I went to university at the University of California in Santa Barbara, and in Southern California. And while I was there, I didn’t know what to study. And so I spent a few years trying to figure that out. And then I ended up, which is an interesting tidbit about my academic background, is I ended up studying religious studies, not because of planning on, you know, becoming a priest or anything of that nature, but mostly just out of, you know, curiosity for different cultures in the world and seeing the impact that religion has had over the years. And so yeah, so through that, I mean, we can say that’s also an interest in anthropology, sociology, history, lots of different things of that nature. It’s not really exactly one of the best things to study if you’re looking for a job right out of college. And I also finished college in 2008, which is when the financial crisis hit. And so I spent my first few months out of college playing music in the street in New York and working at a restaurant, which was a really good experience building character. And then I moved back to California. And while I was there, I started to study Arabic, because I was interested in the Middle East. And through that I was able to travel to Cairo in 2009. And I was originally only going to go for one month and I ended up staying there for a year. And also very importantly, while I was there, I met the person who is now my partner and she’s from Spain. So after a year in Cairo, I traveled around the area for a few months, and then moved to London, where I got my master’s degree in conflict studies specializing in the near Middle East. And then after that moved to Spain, like I said, where my where my partners from, and I’ve been living here now for the last 10 years.
Bart Farrell 05:22
About seven years ago, I started to get into tech. I would say tech kind of found me while I was working for a British software development company that was specialized in retargeting and remarketing, for e-commerce based on the big data technologies at the time, Hadoop, Spark, Kafka, Kylin. And obviously, on the infra side, DevOps team working with technologies like Puppet, and also a company that had moved to the cloud. So seeing that whole transformation of moving to the cloud in a very, very short period of time. And all the difficulties that came along with that, as well as I was there when they were making the decisions about container orchestration, and deciding between Mesos and Kubernetes. So it was around 2017. But my role was not technical. My role is always focused on talent management, not just in the sense of recruiting more talent development inside the company, through training, through relationships with other companies and universities, and also organizing meetups, talks, things of that nature. So I was there for three years. And also, while I was there, I started getting involved in audio/visual production by starting a YouTube channel with a friend that was a complete disaster, but learned a lot about content creation. And after, like I said, about three years in that company, I decided to start working on my own as a freelancer doing what I had been doing in that previous company, but for other companies.
Bart Farrell 06:42
So I stayed in touch with the tech community and in the north of Spain, where I live, a city called Bilbao. And, like I said, I continue to make connections. And staying in touch with, like I said, the local ecosystem, also things related to entrepreneurship. And then it was last year that through a a friend of mine, who was also American, who’d been living in Spain, and had also got into working in tech, had reached out, and let me know that he had started a community called the Data on Kubernetes Community, and that he wasn’t going to be able to continue because of getting another job and some other commitments. And so at first, I thought there was no way I could do this. And here we are today talking about it. So last year, in August, like I said, when he reached out, I thought about it a lot. And I came to the conclusion that this will be a challenge, but I think I’m ready for it. I’ve been in other environments where I haven’t necessarily been the number one practitioner. But I can navigate this through other means and through different things that I’m able to bring to the table. And so like I said, almost one year later, I’m still with the Data on Kubernetes Community and very happy with what I’m doing. And I think that’s kind of what we’re going to be talking about today. Right?
Eric Dodds 07:53
Yeah, absolutely. What an incredible story. Two comments: one, graduating in 2008, sort of right at the beginning of the collapse in the US, well I guess really in many ways around the world, you probably put your religious studies degree to good use with a lot of prayer.
Eric Dodds 08:17
In a certain way, with a lot of reflection, it is true.
Eric Dodds 08:22
You sort of were able to use your degree in an immediate practical sense, right after school, which is great, and then before we get into discussing community stuff. We just have to know, playing music on the street in New York City. Do you have just one really interesting story or experience from that? Because that’s, that’s so cool.
Bart Farrell 08:43
That’s a really good question. I was 22-23 years old at the time. So it really brought out the energy that New York has as a city. And so since then, I feel like that gave me an extra special feel what that was like, and that the energy is different in every city that you go to. New York demands a lot of energy, but it also gives a lot. And one of the cool things through that actually. And that’s still relevant today is, it wasn’t just playing music on my own. It was the fact that I got to meet and connect with other musicians, people I’ve never met, but you see somebody playing and you start talking to each other things like that. So I think the networking aspect of that is something that very much helped me then. And it’s still very relevant now working on community where you find people with common interests and you’re able to build bonds because of something that you share in common.
Eric Dodds 09:31
Absolutely. Well, that anecdote is a perfect segue into discussing community and I want to talk about community in tech specifically. But before we go there, we’re really interested in your perspective on what community is. It’s easy to think about the tactical, sort of incarnations of that in tech space, oh, a Slack channel and there’s a community on Slack or forum or whatever those incarnations are. But community is sort of a part of life really, like you said. I mean, playing music on the street in New York City and connecting with the community there. So Bart, give us your definition of community.
Bart Farrell 10:21
This is great. And I think, when we’re thinking about this, and I like that you mentioned, we can think of this in the confines of a Slack channel. Like this is a word that’s being used a lot. And so that’s why I think it’s a word that needs to be taken seriously, or at least, needs to be examined closely. And once again, through a process of reflection about what does this mean? What does it provide? Why are we doing this? Before we get to that, because all three of us are from different places? I mean, well, the two of us are from the same country, but Kostas is definitely not. So I kinda want to start with him in terms of how he sees community, or how he grew up with community. Kostas, could you give an example of a community that you remember being a part of growing up, and let’s try to remove it from … it could be something computer science related or something related to tech … but anything that comes to mind when you think of the word community in terms of early memories of your childhood?
Kostas Pardalis 11:09
That’s a very interesting question, to be honest. And I think it’s also, it has a lot to do with culture. And by the way, I have to, I have to say something before I answer your question. All this time that you were talking about your past and your studies, it seems that one way or another, you were always involved in studies that had to do with communities. That’s my feeling, at least, because religion in general, and like how I’ve seen it, at least in the West, I don’t know about the East, but I have seen the religion where I come from to how religion is practiced here in the United States. And I mean, okay, like the major religion, which is Christianity, a lot of community related activities are happening around that, like, you see, communities rise because of religion. And probably that’s also like my first experience, as a kid. I mean, outside of my family, the the community that I was exposed to, because of my family, of course, it was, again, related to religion, and it was like going to the church, for example, and seeing like an extended group of people who, obviously have something in common that as a kid, you don’t really understand, because you don’t really understand what religion is or what God is or whatever. That’s probably one of the first things that I was exposed to. And after that, I would say, communities, I would think of groups of people at schools that are self organized, because they have some common interest. For example, this can be for example, a sport that you participate in, right? You see, like the people, they have something in common there, and they don’t just play the sport or just go and train, right, they also engage outside of the activity itself, and they become a group, because they have this thing in common. So yeah, I would say that probably these two things are the first, these two activities, the first that’s exposed me to the concept of the community as being part of it, of course, and not like understanding the mechanics or whatever.
Bart Farrell 13:22
I think it’s a very, very good answer. I think it’s an answer that we would probably hear from a lot of other people, maybe some folks had different experiences growing up in terms of what kind of other groups they would be a part of. I think it’s interesting, too, that you commented that a family is a community in the sense that what you share in common is bloodline, or DNA, or if you have adopted siblings to that they form part of that bond. What I find curious there too, is that you have a couple of different things that you mentioned, one would be a series of accepted beliefs, that can be something and that can be in a religious context. And that can be in a non-religious context, too. And just for the record, as well in tech, what do we hear about evangelizing the product evangelizing like this religious terminology has worked its way in there as well. That’s no real surprise. Going back to the term religion, right coming from Latin, which in Latin is religio, the word which means to tie or to bind. The idea is, it’s something that connects you to something right. So then, once again, there is a bond there. I think it’s interesting, too, when we talk about things, whether it’s church or sports, that there could be one core element, but as human beings, we also like to socialize. So I also remember growing up, and having similar experiences to what you mentioned about family and also the thing of going to church. But a lot of times going to church was one thing, the fact that you have coffee and doughnuts afterwards was another and so that was sort of like a natural extension of one thing to the other.
Bart Farrell 14:44
But the other thing I would say there too, is that it’s groups of support. And particularly, I think sometimes in the US, people tend to move around a lot. So like those can be different centers of support. It’s not the only one, obviously there are different sports like if you play certain sports, if you move to a different city, you can meet people and become part of a community based on that. So I think that, in general, what community seems to most … and if you look this up on the internet you’ll see, generally a group of individuals that have something in common. But like I said, then these other things that will go along with that, in terms of support in terms of learning, sometimes there can be questions of leadership, there can be these questions of beliefs. And you see that as well. I mean, we were talking about open source, open source is very much connected or bringing these tie-in or are bound to a certain set of beliefs or principles about how things should be done. So I think scratching a little bit under the surface there and thinking about it, because I just say this word is getting used a lot, and I feel like sometimes maybe it’s being used with not necessarily the sense of care that I think that it deserves. Because for me a community is something that I take quite seriously in the sense of the potential that it can have for good and for bad, obviously. But that is something that makes us unique, and something that forms part of our lives, whether it’s once again, in tech or outside. So now that we got to that part, I guess, yeah, Eric, in your experience, when we move this more into, let’s say, a technical context, or a business context, what has your experience been with communities?
Eric Dodds 16:16
Yeah, that’s a great question. The very first thing that comes to mind is, and actually, I’m very thankful for this, thinking about it, several of the people that I work with every day. And it’s not always the case that you feel like that’s a sense of community. But when you’re trying to solve really hard problems, and you’re doing that next to people who are very supportive, and who, because of a shared experience, can empathize with whatever you’re facing. Sort of commiserate over challenges, or things that go bad and celebrate the things that go good. I think that’s really great. I think the other thing that comes to mind, I would hope, but I know not everyone has this necessarily, but I also think about people who I’ve met over the years who I’ve grown to respect their input on just business things, business challenges, challenges in your job, you face decisions around your career. I mean, you have people who you can call because you have some sort of either a shared experience, or you really respect the way that they look at the world. And it’s really, that’s kind of how I view my community professionally, at least those are the top two things that came to mind.
Bart Farrell 17:44
I think those are both solid points. I mean, like, on the one hand, like you said, the more you get into a certain field, in some ways, the more specific, narrow, and even sometimes isolating it can be because you’re doing something so specific that, for example, when when the two of you go out into, let’s say, a normal social interaction, you’re around people that that don’t know what RudderStack is, or don’t understand these kinds of things when we’re talking about machine learning and data and all this kind of stuff. It can be quite challenging to express or explain in layman’s terms, exactly what you know, your job involves. And obviously, in my case, I’ve written the Data of Kubernetes Community, trying to explain this to my family and people back home is quite challenging. It’s difficult to do it here in Spain as well. Like you do that, like full time. I’m like, Yeah, I do it. And I actually really like it. They’re like, you’re not a technical practitioner and I’m like yeah, that doesn’t matter. And like, it’s actually encouraged in some ways to have people from different backgrounds. But I also think, like you said, people that can help you can really empathize, because they know what you’re going through. Somebody cares about you a lot. And their ability to really understand it, of course, is going to be limited, because they haven’t gone through that, right? It’s the same thing with me, because my partner is a teacher. And so teachers have certain challenges and go through certain difficulties with students, as well as parents, and I would say, it changes on the day of who’s more difficult students or parents, but when she’s with other teachers, they very much speak the same language. In my particular case, I don’t know, I mean, I’m meeting more and more people that are leading communities, when you meet some of those people, it just clicks and you know, they are speaking the same language, and they really get it. And that’s really comforting because it’s difficult. And then you also said it is to celebrate the triumphs as well, because those folks that are going through a similar set of circumstances, they really understand the amount of work that goes in there. The learning curves, the difficulties. And so then when you celebrate that together, it’s the best validation you can get.
Eric Dodds 19:36
Yeah, for sure. It’s been really fun already to have this conversation, just reflecting, but I think that whether you call it community or close relationships, deep relationships, I think, in the defining moments of our life, they often involve people from our close communities. And so just to, at least in my life, has been a really consistent quality, or really consistent characteristic rather, of some of those big defining moments. Bart, I love this. Kostas and I love getting philosophical and digging deeply into concepts. Let’s talk about technology and community. And I 100% agree with you. I was thinking, actually, you said that the term community isn’t necessarily used with care. And I was thinking about that in my own life with my kids, where you take a word like “love” that, I could say, oh, I love that flavor of ice cream. But then I tell my child, I love you, those are two very different, very different things. And I’ve actually thought before, I mean, I need to be more careful about that. Because if you don’t use a term correctly, or you sort of abuse it in a context where it loses some of its meaning, that can be unhealthy. And I’ll start this sort of topic off by saying, I think in a lot of cases, the term community has lost its weight in the technology space, because it’s a lever to drive commercial growth in a business, right. “We need to build a community as part of our go to market motion,” or whatever version of that. And that’s sort of an interesting thing that can kind of cheapen it. But we’d love to know, talk with us, what’s your perception living in a day to day of communities in the tech space, especially as it relates to organic communities that aren’t related to a company, and then also companies who have pursued communities or building communities, maybe successfully, and then unsuccessfully?
Bart Farrell 21:57
Wow, great, great points. And I’m very much aligned with what you said about that. That’s why I feel that the cheapening of the term comes when it looks like a community is just a cow that is supposed to be milked until the very last drop. And that’s like, let’s build this space where we can absolutely exploit all these people and get all this information that we want and extract all this stuff that can then help us turn a profit. And do we all need to pay our bills? Yes, we do. But there are different ways that you can do it. And I think there are more ethical ways of going about it, that I think in the short term might take more time and care to really construct it properly. But I think long term is much healthier and more sustainable. So I think that that’s why I say that I take that word seriously. And what I would say as well is that in terms of a lot of what I find communities to be about are spaces where people can learn. And really, as well as what communities come down to is a sense of trust. If you don’t feel like you can trust this group of people, you’re probably not gonna hang out there very long. And only first impressions are important. Guiding people and onboarding people is extremely important, really listening expecting to receive feedback that you might not like all the time, but it’s still really important to do it.
Bart Farrell 23:11
I was listening to a podcast the other day and talking about the importance of leadership. And if you’re surrounded by people that are just saying, Yes, that’s not really healthy. And very often, I have lots of ideas, and most of them aren’t that great. Some of them are decent, and others occasionally might be pretty good. But by surrounding yourself with different inputs for feedback about how something’s going or whether or not it makes sense. There might be some times where you have to ignore the group and say, like, I don’t care, we’re going in this direction. But generally speaking, getting some healthy kind of consensus and feeling out there. Because this is important as well. Not every community is going to work for everybody. Right? You have to have that if you want to call it buyer persona or target market very, very clear. And based on that, that persona, what are the issues that I have? What are their pain points? I really, really insist on this, find things that are making people suffer, that make them frustrated, that cause them uncertainty, that cause doubt. And how can you respond to those? That is how I believe you create meaningful experiences? And are you going to get it right the first time? Almost certainly not. It’s gonna involve trial and error.
Bart Farrell 24:16
And that’s one of the very frustrating things about community. You will put your whole heart and soul into it, which is also why you have to balance how much you’re thinking with your heart and how much you’re thinking with your brain. And like I said, getting a good team of people, that’s helped me a lot, so that you’re not just going at it alone. But I think that there are a lot of different things that we see here. Some communities are designed so that companies get direct feedback, and people are finding bugs and suggesting improvements. Communities also have a huge benefit for a lot of companies because of talent. If you see that someone is an active contributor and really tackling the big hairy issues, it might be telling you that this person is interested in your company and is someone who certainly has the skills to be able to work there. It’s a cultural fit or not that yet, but that’s something that’s yet to be decided.
Bart Farrell 25:01
Our community is a little bit different because it’s vendor neutral. So we’re just focused on the technological aspects of working with staple workloads on Kubernetes. Whether we’re talking about databases, whether we’re talking about storage, things of that nature. So it’s very specific in that sense. Another community that, for me, has been a huge source of inspiration in terms of how this can be done the right way, is through the CNCF. And I say that in, we have the whole technological side, but really insisting on the human side. I couldn’t believe how welcomed I felt when getting involved in the CNCF, openly telling people that my technical experience was extremely limited. And having them directly say like, Oh, that’s wonderful. Like, you definitely have a place here. So because of having felt so welcomed, I feel like it’s not a duty, it’s a privilege to be able to provide the same experience for other people.
Bart Farrell 25:51
And particularly in a time where I think because of the pandemic, isolation, loneliness, and uncertainty are probably stronger than ever, creating spaces where everyone feels welcome that they have a place and that they can contribute as well. Because I think one of the beautiful things about communities is not just that you learn, but giving people the opportunity to teach. I think that’s extraordinary. And that’s one of the best ways to show true fulfillment. And we can say, true understanding of a topic is when you’re capable of transmitting that to somebody else. And what I always tell people as well, is that because people ask like, how can I start contributing to the CNCF? or How can I start contributing to the Data On Kubernetes Community? Number one thing that I’ll say is be friendly. Being friendly in 2021, goes a long way. Because you don’t know what somebody’s going through, you have no idea what their family’s going through, you have no idea what the current, you know, economic situation is in their country, or the political situation, or whether or not they have access to vaccines, or if they’ve lost a family member to COVID. And all these things, and many, many other things are possible.
Bart Farrell 26:54
So just providing that basic human connection, even if it’s through Slack, or if it’s through Zoom, or it’s through some kind of a forum, like I said, that just genuine human honest kindness goes a long way. And then make, like I said, that establishes the trust that makes people more excited about coming back. It means that you’re creating something … someone who I look up to very much, his name is Hippy Hacker, and he’s very, very involved in the CNCF, and you should definitely get him on a podcast, what he calls viral generosity. Creating communities where viral generosity is happening that because people treat you so well, you feel really excited about doing the same thing. And we also say that about paying it forward. So that’s why I find it to be very interesting. Now, when we take that over to another level. I want to ask both of you, let’s start with you Kostas, in your case, have you used communities to help you on your learning journey with any particular subject? Can you think of any examples?
Kostas Pardalis 27:50
I’m not sure if I have used the community to directly learn from there. But what I have certainly experienced is how a community and the sense of belonging somewhere and not being alone in what you’re doing, fuels your desire to continue to do what you wanted to do. Okay. Like, for example, I remember back in Greece, when I started, like, interacting with network technologies and the internet, like in the middle 90s. That was, very, very early times in terms of like, at least for Greece, when it comes to the internet. Actually the first time that I got online, there wasn’t the internet in Greece, there was just like bulletin boards that you would dial up and connect there. And of course, the experience was pretty miserable, right? It’s nothing compared to what we have today. But what kept people going back to this stupid thing where it was breaking every couple of minutes, like when your mother was picking up the phone, you were like, what the fuck mom why did you do that? Like I was in the middle of a very important conversation with someone that I’ve never met in my life. But it’s very important. And I think that the reason that the people keep going back and keep, like fueling the desire to build these technologies and move forward, was exactly because it was very, very easy to build communities. You were feeling that you belonged somewhere. And it was something special because it was so different, right? Not many people knew about that. It was like, a very small amount of people were involved. At some point you met in person, you had the chance to meet people that were far far away, especially a little bit later when I started chatting with people from the States, something that I’ve never done before, right and interacting with them. And just because some of the first communities there for example, I remember IRC and mp3 exchanging channels, right where there wasn’t BitTorrent available back then, of course, there wasn’t like streaming technologies. And you would see that people were creating small groups with the same interests in music. And they would exchange music. And it helped me get exposed to stuff that I, if I wasn’t, let’s say, part of these communities or groups of people, I would never have done because I didn’t know what’s going on in the music scene in New York, right. And we are talking now not about pop or whatever, I mean, I’m talking about a bit more obscure things. So one of the reasons I think that, like at that young age, I kept going back to the technology and trying to learn more and understand more, it was also because I was feeling that in this cool new thing, I wasn’t alone. There were also other people, and I could interact with them, and I could have a beer with them. And I could go out and talk about the technology and all those things. So, okay, it’s not like someone taught me something from there. But I don’t think that I would have done all these things at the level that I did back then if there wasn’t like an active community around it. Same thing happened later with wireless. I remember, like, I tried, like, I created my own campaign at some point to connect wirelessly with a friend that was living a few kilometers away. And again, there was a whole community around that. You were feeling that like, if I create this, I could become part of a network and the network was a community. Right? So that puts me like, trying to figure out, Okay, how do I create a directional antenna that I can connect to my computer and then I can point it somewhere and start exchanging data with this and communicate and play games together? Right? Same thing with the first group of people that were playing Quake Arena together.
Kostas Pardalis 31:52
Oh, yeah. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Kostas Pardalis 31:58
Yeah, so the reason that this technology that’s gone to the internet became so successful is because some of the, like the first use case of it was like to connect people together and create. And the next thing that happened after that was to start seeing communities getting built there. So yeah, I mean, it’s, I think that communities played a very important role in my life and just don’t recognize it. That’s the thing. Like, it’s not such a conscious outside experience. And we do it all the time. I mean, even like, for startups, we are talking about the startup scene, like what is the startup scene? What is the scene? I mean, it’s business, right? Why is there a scene for startups, but not for people that open restaurants, right? It’s because we are the same thing. We want to identify differently. And yeah, we are a community, we have our own meetings, we are talking about the go to market motions. Like we’re not the only people on earth, and they’re the only businesses that they go to market. Every business goes to market, right? But we create our own language. Like all these things, I think that identifying a community with the community, let’s say it’s like something not so strictly defined as 10 people in one channel on Slack talking about very, very narrow, because how you can manage state on Kubernetes.
Bart Farrell 33:17
I think those are all really good points. I think that what you were mentioning, as well, too, about the early days of the internet, because that’s always fun to try and time travel, like you said, the modem breaks and stuff like that, mom get off the phone, or things like that, which is true that happened to loads of people. But I think also as well, like what is the really fun thing that I find about it is true about communities that are online, is that it breaks down borders, and puts you in touch with tons of people from different places. And obviously, there are language challenges there. But more and more people because of some of these things are able to learn English quite quickly, as well as other languages. Because if it’s in a written format, it’s generally a little bit easier. But still, and I think that one of the most powerful things that I’ve seen in general is, and also one of the biggest strong suits of the CNCF and I hope that they continue to do that. And also something in our community that is, is to be as international as possible, because you learn so much about yourself and as well as about others by getting exposed to how people tackle problems and deal with issues in different countries. And I think that’s one of the most enriching experiences that you can have. So I always tell younger people that are getting started out in the Kubernetes community, like, get in the most mixed group that you possibly can as quickly as possible, because you’re going to learn not just stuff about Kubernetes, but about a ton of other things. And that’s something that you’re never going to forget. When we’re talking about the startup scene, I find that particularly interesting just because I’ve seen different sorts of cohorts that go through accelerators, or that are participating in similar events and get grouped together because I’ve done pitching training for some of these kinds of things. And you often tell them, like create a WhatsApp group or share phone numbers because these people like you have no idea that they’re very much going through similar experiences of trying to get financing and all the talent issues and legal issues and things like that. So that kind of network is extremely, extremely helpful. Because once again, you have people who are in a very specific situation and what they’re going through, and that are just at that point, and also very excited and passionate about what they’re doing. So I think that’s where a lot of magic can kind of come alive.
Bart Farrell 35:25
Eric, we want to hear about you, though, what kind of communities have you been interacting with lately? And what are some, I don’t know, positive experiences that you would be able to share?
Eric Dodds 35:35
I would say this is probably an area that I need to work on. I don’t I beyond the the communities that I mentioned earlier in my professional life, they’re sort of the people that I work with, and sort of my close friends or mentors over the years who I have connected with, I wouldn’t actually say that I’m an active member of a community, sort of professionally, especially online. And I think part of that is because I observe a lot of communities. But I don’t necessarily contribute back, if that makes sense. So for example, there are a number of communities out there, where they’re sort of either in the data space, so they’re very relevant, where I get to learn and see what the latest news is. So for example, DBT’s community, very active, tons of smart people, lots of people doing really interesting things, a great place to pick up on sort of what’s happening in the market. But I never post in there. And I think that it’s interesting, just hearing you and Kostas talk. Communities, I think in some ways, require investment from the members, or at least a core group of the members. And so when I was thinking about, okay, what communities and I’m kind of just thinking online here in the context of things being remote and a lot of communities interacting in digital spaces. And I thought, Man, it’s interesting. I’m like, if you were just talking in conversation, you said, Oh, are you part of this community? Right? Or there’s people working on product-led growth, and there’s a community around that, there’s a DBT’s community, there’s this community, there’s that community. Yeah, I’m involved in all those communities. But I guess that this conversation is actually making me sit back and say, I don’t know if I would say, I’m actually a true part of that community. I’m just kind of lurking and watching the interactions there that sort of provide informational value to me, but I’m not really giving anything back. And I’ll actually use that context to, to put the question back on you, because you do this day in, day out. But what are those dynamics, like maybe in Data on Kubernetes, or other communities that you’re involved in, where you have a nucleus of people where it’s a two way exchange of value, and then you have people sort of on the periphery who get value from the community, but it’s kind of one way, not that they’re necessarily like abusing the community, but they’re not actually getting back?
Bart Farrell 38:28
That’s a really good point. I think it’s important though, just to give it some context, and give it some shape is that there are lots of different ways to be interacted by or to be to be to be interacting with or to be impacted by or have an impact on a community. And so the very fact that you’re mentioning the ones that you mentioned, whether it’s DBT or others, that’s contributing in a way, because of the experience that you’ve had, you’re talking about it now. And there very much can be that profile of a lurker, if we want to use a sort of social media thing, there are plenty of people that consumed the social media, and they never post a single thing, or there’s some people that only post one kind of thing, or whatever, they just, they just don’t feel that and that and or that that’s not, it could be a comfort zone, it could just be by my involvement is up to here. And that’s it. So it’s not to mean that you need everybody constantly commenting and sharing and things like that. I mean, you do want a certain amount of interaction.
Bart Farrell 39:20
One of the things that’s been challenging about our particular community is the fact that there are not millions of people out there who are day in and day out working with stateful workloads, databases, and operators, and storage, and all these things with Kubernetes. It’s also interesting as well, even though there are over 100,000 people in the Kubernetes Slack. If you walk down the street anywhere in the world where you live, and you start asking people if they know what Kubernetes is, most are going to look at you like you’re crazy. Kostas would have a different story. Because in Greece Kubernetes is a Greek word. So they’d be like, why are you going to sail a boat or what’s going on here? But it’s true, it’s still very niche. And so Data on Kubernetes is even more niche. So getting people that actually have practical experience and that come into the community asking for advice, because that’s a traditional sort of typical thing of like, Hey, I’m having problems working on this cluster, or Has anybody used this database before? or things like that. There are only so many people. They’re going to be asking those questions. So it’s very important, when those questions come up, you have identified certain people that are more actively participating, for whatever reason, based on the fact that their knowledge level is higher, or they have more experience, or they’re just passionate about this stuff. And sometimes people ask questions, I can honestly say that I have answered some people’s questions, Googling, and just if they say this word, this word and this word, I put that in Google, and I find something and say, hey, maybe this will work. But also try to tag a couple of other folks that I know can kind of back me up and then have much more technical experience. So like I said, it just goes to show that sometimes I contact somebody on LinkedIn asking them to join the community and they’ll be like, No, I’ve been following you for six months. I had no idea. So that’s interesting, too, is that there’s more going on than you probably realize, and like I said, is that there’s tons of different ways that people can be involved, you know, like, you see this with a lot of different companies or foundations, about having folks that are, you know, labeled as ambassadors, you know, like, what does that mean? Do they give talks? Do they organize hackathons? It’s different for each organization. But thinking about, and this is interesting, as well, too, is thinking about things by design. It’s really fun to reflect and think, Okay, what kind of experiences do I want my community members to have? Ideally, when they go out there, what is it that they’re going to be telling other people, that tells you to a certain extent how well you’re explaining this, because it’s happened that people think like, Oh, just about Kubernetes, I can go in there and talk about whatever I want on Kubernetes. Not saying you can, but our primary focus is this issue of data on Kubernetes, which is becoming more and more of a thing. But we still know that this is early days, this is still very innovative. And that’s why we exist. So this stuff can sort of tame the beast. And that things will be easier for end users as well as vendors to get on board with the technological stack that’s going on there. And to be able to overcome the kind of issues to people and then once again, like I said, suffering from in the past, because as you mentioned, as well, Eric, is that these are people, that commiseration factor or the success factor, like I got a database on Kubernetes. All the people that have done that and know how challenging that is. They’re the first ones to congratulate you. Yeah. So like I said, I really think there are lots of different roles that people can have. And so yeah, so it’s not to restrict yourself to only be seeking a particular kind of user, at least in our case. In other communities, it might be different. That’s true.
Eric Dodds 42:39
Yeah. But question for you. And this is, I know we’re sort of talking about communities in tech. And several more things I think we should cover there. But zooming out a little bit. You mentioned some communities in tech can be niche. And then Data On Kubernetes is sort of several layers of hierarchy down into being pretty niche. How do you think that being a fairly niche community impacts the community? And I’ll just go off the top of my head give two extreme examples, right. So let’s use Data On Kubernetes. On one end, where you have a group of people who are trying to solve problems or get support around a very specific part of technology, there’s a sort of a very specific technology and very specific sort of usage of that technology. Versus say, like, a community that is gigantic, and where an individual voice is, you know, probably going to get lost in the fray. So let’s just say a Reddit community that follows the Manchester United soccer team. There’s millions and millions of people following worldwide. Of course, they have a shared connection. It is a community, there’s also just exchange value, all that sort of stuff. What is your perception of how the level of niche-ness business impacts the community?
Bart Farrell 44:06
Oh, that’s a great point. And I would use first and foremost, the example of the CNCF, because once again, we’re talking about over 100,000 people that are in the Slack channel. If you look at the CNCF landscape, it’s absolutely overwhelming. Chris Aniszczyk who is basically the CTO of the CNC has even said he doesn’t know all the projects, and how could he possibly know all the projects because they’re just so many. So you do have this greater umbrella organization. But then inside that there are lots of different niches where you can, you can really hone in that’s why I also tell people if you want to get involved in the CNCF type, whatever technology that you’re into, whether it’s Python, whether it’s Go, whether it’s Rust and type the word CNCF in Google and see what appears and that will help you get better directed to where you probably eventually want to go. Because not every single part of that larger community is just going to be for you. Thinking about Manchester United, that’s a really good point for any major sports team in different parts of the world; however, I think there would still be segmentation. There’ll be some folks that are really into the good old days or the classics, others that might be more into the training aspects, some of that could be more into the business aspects, some of those would be very interested in the women’s team, the youth development programs. So as much as you can kind of help people get guided to those endpoints, I think you can kind of, you’ll still have the general sort of, you know, channels where they’re just going to be a lot of clutter, and probably spamming and things that are unrelated. And as a community leader, you have to try to find ways to filter that out. Because that can get annoying, just as we all know with Slack, disable the function so that–and I only learned this not that long ago–disable the functions so that people can’t tag/ping an entire channel on a Sunday, things of that nature is really you don’t want people to have negative experiences, because after so many than you’ll say, hey, this isn’t for me anymore.
Bart Farrell 45:52
So I think that that’s been in, in our particular case, that once again, is that you can kind of do the kind of litmus test when you talk to people, if you start using certain you’re going to call them buzzwords or technological terms, you get it pretty quickly and people understand what you’re talking about. And that’s something that I kind of suffered from in the beginning because of not getting enough background on really, the kind of practitioners when we’re talking about DBRE, which is database reliability engineer, which is still very much a growing term, if SRE is something that you still talk to some DevOps folks who are like, what’s SRE? Then there’s a debate? Is it a job profile? Is it a set of principles? Is it a book? Is it this or that? So I think that once again, though, the segmentation factor is going to be important to understand who are my stakeholders? And that perhaps not all the content that you’re going to be releasing is going to be relevant to them, but sort of channeling that. So like, if I post on Twitter every week, if I have 10 posts? How do I divide it up so that I’m able to reach the different sorts of segments? Like I said, there’s not one buyer persona or one target that you’re going for, at least in our case. So thinking about who are the different folks that are out there? And how is this going to be relevant and meaningful for them? And that’s also where metrics come in. And so if you’re not using metrics, you definitely need to start, but then also metrics based on your objectives, right? What kind of engagement do I want on YouTube? Are my videos released at a time that’s convenient to my audience? Is my audience based only in the US, is the base in another country, in other countries, other languages, all those other factors?
Bart Farrell 47:23
And this is the challenging thing–you really have to be thinking about a lot of these deeply important questions. And I’m also glad that I have worked in like I said, in, in an event organization, things like that, where if you have an event, and I’ve made mistakes with this in the beginning of like, okay, let’s have an event on Friday with pizza and beers, and we’re going to have one person talking about virtual reality, another one talking about blockchain, another one talking about UX, and everyone’s gonna like it. I mean, people all like beer and pizza. But obviously, not all those … like those talks address very specific topics, that maybe if you’re just into technology, in general, you will find that more often than not it’s easier to have things that are more specifically focused. So I think that it’s really just a question of designing your community to respond to those needs, getting the proper feedback to make sure that you’re doing everything that you can if there’s some other things and rewarding that feedback as well. And particularly when somebody tells you you’re doing something that they don’t really think works, the fact that they’ve had the courage to tell you something that’s relatively inconvenient means that you’re doing a good job to make people comfortable enough to address you with those things.
Eric Dodds 48:27
Yeah, absolutely. That’s super interesting. And the point, this sort of segmentation within a community, right, where the different focuses or even sub communities within a community, you could say, I think is such a good point, because it’s easy to think about the Manchester United, you know, community on Reddit or wherever it is, and the Data on Kubernetes Community as sort of drastically different, right. And certainly there are, there are drastic differences, right? Soccer is very different from containerization. I guess I haven’t thought about that. I’m sure something could probably create some sort of analogy there. So you can be working on that, Kostas.
Kostas Pardalis 49:12
Yeah. But if you think about it, Eric, like the way that the communities are organized are not that different, right? Because we were talking about Manchester United. And the first thing that I started thinking about was about the Greek football clubs and soccer clubs, and how the fans were organized and the most straightforward way is geographically, right? You have, for example, in Greece, you have each neighborhood pretty much they have their own chapter there in a way, I don’t know what they call them. But this is also like what happens with technology like I remember we had in Greece, we had meetups about Python, and you would have a meetup for Python in Athens and another in another big city. So I think that there are some basic principles or like basic rules, around communities that are universal at the end, regardless of what the topic is, or how many cities, you are going to see these patterns can emerge in any type of community. What do you think about this? Does this make sense what I’m saying, Bart? You’re the expert here.
Bart Farrell 50:23
Hardly an expert, only a beginner. I think this is something actually is what we’ve talked about, as with the Data on Kubernetes Community, because also we look at the pandemic, and we see, okay, we’ve done everything virtually since we got started, we’ve done over 75 live streams. And we know we’re working on our second co-located event and Kube-con for October. But eventually, we know that on a local level, there is a desire to bring back the good old days of pizza, beer meetups or things like that. And we would love to have Data on Kubernetes chapters in different cities being led by we want to call them ambassadors or, or outreach or people in those kinds of capacities, because some people do prefer the online element. But I think a lot of people also like the in-person part of it. So it’s finding the right balance of what’s going to work best for my community. Also, I’ve been a big proponent of using different languages since we got started. Also, because I have been living in Spain for 10 years, I speak Spanish. So from the very beginning, it was very clear to me that like because I’ve seen time and time again how in tech events in Spain, there are more and more that are in English, but there are lots of them, where people would still prefer to have it in Spanish just because they’re more comfortable. And so as a result, we’ve done sessions in Spanish, we’ve done sessions in Portuguese, we’ve done sessions in Hindi, tried to get some people from the Netherlands to do it in Dutch, but they speak English so well that they refused, and maybe even got a little bit offended. But anyway, so I think that there is a lot to be said for that.
Bart Farrell 51:52
I think another thing as well to both relate to whether it’s Manchester United, or also, you know, very well, like major teams like Manchester United will have a fan club in Tokyo and tons of other cities, as fans from FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, etc. But I think that’s also one of the things that we’ve been developing recently in our community is really reaching out to young people. And we’ve been doing that through the CNCF students group. And one of my thoughts behind this is that if data on Kubernetes is so difficult, but if we’re able to get young people to be able to explain it to other young people, is it really that difficult? It’s difficult in a lot of ways, because people have to unlearn what they’ve learned, or this paradigmatic shift that you’ve been working on things, it’s the same thing that happened with cloud. Developers, DBAs, and infrastructure people have these things changed to be breaking down silos between, you know, Dev and Ops and things of that nature, there’s a lot of resistance, because you’ve been doing something your entire life in a certain way. And that’s super normal, whether it’s how you drive your car, or that you have a 70-year-old person who’s never used a cell phone before, all these different kinds of changes are always going to add resistance. And so we know that Data on Kubernetes is going to be challenging. But if we can bring young people into the equation, so that a generation that’s starting right now, in their tech journey is conscious and aware of these technologies. And that if we are able to explain them in such a way that they are able to understand them, consume them, and share them with each other, that for me is a huge indicator of success. Because as well, too, is that I’m in talks sometimes with people that are talking to high school students. And they’re getting into really technical, low-level details about the Kubernetes API. There are high school students that understand the Kubernetes API, don’t get me wrong, but for a lot of them, they may have only had contact with WordPress and things like that. So bring it down to their level. I think that’s really, really important. And whether it’s Data on Kubernetes, or blockchain or anything else, until you’re able to explain it … in the American context, at Thanksgiving, when everyone’s talking about what they’re doing, are you going to be able to tell them about how this stuff works using a napkin and a fork in a cup or something like that?
Bart Farrell 54:00
I think until you’re able to do that, you probably need to think more about what you’re doing. So once again, this becomes more accessible and then more people can be involved. So like I said, it’s been very energizing for us to see the response of young people that are really energetic about doing this. I think it’s also part of I think an important thing about communities is making people excited about it. And that’s been one of the things that I would say we’ve done quite well, since the beginning of being committed to mixing art and music and other components of regular human life. But it’s like, why can’t you mix those things in there? So I think that’s given us our own identity and also has created a celebratory nature around this, that it’s like, okay, Kubernetes and these kinds of things might be really challenging. But if we’re able to mix in art and music at the same time, it brings down the stress level, it increases engagement, people that learn in different ways, are able to do so. Also inviting community members to share their artistic talents, that’s been really fun and rewarding too, particularly when you have people from all over the world. It’s absolutely incredible. So like I said, I think that’s worked for us. Is it going to work for everybody? Maybe not. We have the luxury of the fact that we don’t have to have a super corporate or formal look and feel or tone. But I think that’s something we’re very much going to stick to, because it’s worked up till now, and I imagine it will continue to work in the future.
Kostas Pardalis 55:22
Bart, I have a question. You mentioned at the beginning, at some point at the beginning about how we can build communities and we can do that in an ethical way. So can you elaborate a little bit more of that? How do you build a community that keeps a balance around that, that doesn’t turn into let’s say, just another, go to market goal or whatever? And whose responsibility is that? And the reason I’m asking is because we talk all this time, and you mentioned also the beginning that you went to the Middle East, talking about communities, and I cannot stop thinking about something very specific. And this is WeWork. WeWork, I think which ended up like being the kind of cult of the end, but the success of WeWork was really at a great level was like, based on creating this very strong sense of community for the people that were going and working there. Okay, and it wasn’t like the healthiest of the communities that could be created.
Kostas Pardalis 56:29
And at the same time, I remember because the founder is Israeli and at some point, he was referring to the concept of a kibbutz which is a very interesting concept, because in a way, the kibbutz built the State of Israel, and they were communities. And when you have this, like completely opposite concepts that you have the kibbutz, which is something healthy, it pretty much became the foundation of bringing a new state from scratch, right. And on the other hand, you have WeWork which takes the concept of the community, and turns into like a cow that we milk as much as we can. And we end up in a situation where we have more of a cult-like behavior, which is very, very unhealthy for its members, right outside of the people who are making the money. So how do you balance these? How do you find the right direction? And whose responsibility is it in the community to take care of that stuff?
Bart Farrell 57:28
That’s a great question, I would say, okay, so they sort of unpacking that piece by piece, because there’s some really interesting things that you commented on there. And in the case of WeWork, it’s very obvious that the the person who is leading it, Adam Neumann, I believe his name is, is very much his own biggest believer, and so if you trace a little bit about his life, in terms of his failed businesses that he had before getting into WeWork, and how he got into that, and that was just generally not really considered to be the most ethical people from reading the New York Times articles and things like that; however, he was very good at convincing people and had a lot of charisma. And one of the things because of reading about him, they say that he jumped on these ideas that were used by Steve Jobs and Apple to change the world. And knowing an audience very well, primarily targeting millennials, even though he was born in 1979. So it puts him just a little bit outside the millennial window. But regardless, very much in touch with that generation, and I know he spent some years living in the United States before going back to Israel, being in the military, and then moved back to the US again, so was very much in tune with that idea of, of some of the things that millennials like, and this notion of, you can drink beer at work, you can play video games at work, you can do all these things and yoga classes, and this and that and creating this kind of a vibe, and did that successfully. But all the while, the idea of, okay, if I give all these people reasons not to leave the office, then they’re going to be working more. And then also at some very bizarre ethical things of making people take shots of tequila and smoking marijuana and all that kind of stuff.
Bart Farrell 59:05
It’s like I said, that’s kind of in an odd league of its own. But I think that’s precisely what you said is to build something of how I can exploit this as much as possible, and people who work with him can definitely tell you that. And he himself would refer to the notion of the the kibbutz in Israel, that came out in a very specific context of a group of generally young, fairly well educated and with the socialist, communist leanings of like, hey, let’s live in, in small groups, and we will share the responsibilities in the work. It’s going to be really hard for a very long list of reasons that we don’t have enough time to get into today. But using that once again, is that the success of that is creating a myth and creating like, once again, the sense of beliefs that people can be involved in. A very dangerous thing about that and how that can be avoided is that of not having a strong governing board. And we kind of said this actually in the very beginning, is that if you’re only surrounded by people that are telling you your ideas are amazing, or that there’s such a hostile culture that if somebody goes against that person, that they will suffer severe consequences. That’s really dangerous. And that hasn’t just happened at WeWork. That’s happened in other corporations too, with very fiery tempers, and people that are quite tyrannical. So I think how can communities avoid that? A good governing board and a good solid team of individuals that can provide that sense of checks and balances. And that’s the thing, something that I learned from my dad a long time ago, is to be the owner of your mistakes as quickly as possible. And I know that there are many things that I’m very bad at. And so I always try to be as transparent about those things as possible in order to control expectations, but also to invite other people that can compensate for that lack of skills in different areas, so that we can balance things out and be much stronger. So I’m very, very lucky that in my case, I’m working with several different people who I admire very much. What they often say, as well, too, is that I think it’s also a Steve Jobs quote, I feel bad in some way like maybe I’m getting paid for every quote that I say, right. But you know, I don’t know if it was him or who it was, but “you should never be the smartest person in the room.” And when I find myself being with other people who I’m like, Wow, so and so’s really intelligent, or I love their ideas or, or how they approach things and seeing the experience that they have, that really humbles you, makes you grateful to be where you are, it makes you even more motivated. So I really think though, that the key there is, is a strong governing board with strong well-stated principles. And I’m really glad you mentioned this, because for some companies that have been interested in working with us, we have to explain very clearly that like that other communities have a model where it is to get email addresses to be directly sending people the information and, of course, with consent and GDPR coverage, and all that kind of stuff. But our community isn’t really built on that. We’re built on knowledge sharing related to Data on Kubernetes. So that doesn’t mean that you just send your marketing deck or your product pitch or things like that. We’re really trying to do this based on empathy. We know that it’s difficult to learn this stuff. So let’s pool our resources so that this learning journey isn’t so frustrating. So I hope that answers the question to some extent, but I think that it really is a matter of choice, you do get to choose those principles, we based our code of conduct by and large on things that you’ll find in the CNCF. And obviously, these are things that we’ll be building out over time. But I think if you build those checks and balances in from a very early phase, you can potentially avoid this sort of I don’t know if you want to call it cowboy management taken to the extreme or tyrannical sort of approach that ended up being the undoing of WeWork when there weren’t enough checks and balances. And that created that really unhealthy dynamic that led to the catastrophic situation that happened.
Eric Dodds 1:02:52
Yeah, reading their S-1 was quite interesting. There was some very philosophical content in there. So we’re closing it on time here. I have two more questions for you. One is just briefly. So we talked about tyrannical leadership, cowboy management, a couple of different flavors of that, which obviously is very harmful to a community. What are some of the other things that kill community? And I mean, there’s because we’ve talked about lots of good examples of community. And unfortunately, I think everyone could come up with some bad examples of community, especially online. But what are some of the other key things as people are thinking about communities? Maybe that they’re involved in, managing, starting? What are some of the other key things that are, you know, sort of sure killers of community?
Bart Farrell 1:03:44
Oh, that’s a really good question. Other things that can kill it. Yeah. I mean, for example, with certain things, I think really not having enough of a vision, I think that’s really important. One of the things that we’re seeing more and more often is that what we’re trying to do is to drive and create a space where the conversations about the next decade of data will be taking place. And having that sort of aspirational thing, don’t just think about this in a, you know, three-month phase, yes, there are things that are important, but simultaneously have a vision that extends beyond that. So that you really take to heart what the potential is here and what can be done. And that gives you the motivation. Yes, there’s the day-to-day stuff, you got to have all your tweets programmed. And you’ve got to contact me on LinkedIn. And you have to make sure that the new users are being on-boarded. But continuously reflecting and applying that sort of critical thinking about what are the things that are going to be necessary to take this to the next level. And like I said, also as well, it’s really important to get the right metrics in and not just the metrics, but then action points based on those insights, extracting real really valuable information, which also I think should be done with a group in mind. The other thing is, the selflessness that I think is important–it’s not about me, it’s about us, and what can I do that’s best for us? And sometimes there aren’t easy answers to that, which is also why going back and when I’ve asked other people in community management and community leadership, like, what are some best practices? One of the number one things that come back to me is feedback. People will give, you know, red flags, and if you’re asking people to fill out two-hour long surveys every week, then that’s not really gonna be helpful. And there’s a whole thing of like, oh, should you give people swag if they fill out a survey or things like that. That’s another debate too. But really reaching out and making sure that you have identified people that, you know, will tell you things, even if they’re inconvenient, but you need to hear, but then also to be encouraging, and fostering as much of a culture of feedback in general. So that it’s just, it’s just something that you really feel like you’re in touch with the pulse of your community to know what’s going well, and what can be improved. Because guess what, there’s always going to be stuff that can be improved. It’s never gonna be like, oh, we’re absolutely perfect wow, we don’t need to do anything. No, it’s like a garden, like, you’ve got to be constantly gardening. This plant needs a little bit more sun, this one needs a little bit more water, this one needs to be moved over into a different area, I got to change the soil on this one. There are all those different factors. And that’s what’s exhausting about communities, but it’s also really exciting because you get to be touching all these different things simultaneously. And that’s really enriching.
Eric Dodds 1:06:20
Yeah. What a great answer. Love the garden analogy. We’re getting close to the buzzer here. But one more question for you. And we probably won’t have quite enough time to answer it exhaustively. But I’ll pose this to both you Bart and to you Kostas because I think you both have lots of experience here. When you think about tech communities, a lot of times you default to an open source mindset, I think, in part because communities have naturally sprung up around open source projects, open source technologies. And sort of the community mindset is in very many ways, sort of ingrained in sort of a pure sort of open source approach to developing technology. You also have communities in tech that aren’t necessarily open source. The two that come to mind are communities around Microsoft. Right. And I know that they’ve open sourced a lot of stuff, and that’s changing rapidly, you have sort of developer communities where in context, and in some ways, Apple’s the same way. Again, I know they’ve open sourced some things, but you basically have to pay to get a developer’s license. And so there’s sort of an inherent commercialization component to the community that’s in there, but they’re still very much aspects of community. I would love your perspective on, both of you, in technology. How important is the open source component to a community? And what are the sort of dynamics that drive that? And do you have any experience with non open source communities in tech?
Bart Farrell 1:08:09
Kostas, you go first.
Kostas Pardalis 1:08:11
Okay, thank you. Okay, first of all, as you said, Eric, there are many open source communities out there, like probably the first that comes to mind, to be honest, I think, is the community around Salesforce like Trailblazer or something? I was thinking the same thing? Yeah, like there is a huge, huge community there like you go ask a question. And most probably, it’s going to be answered by someone who’s not directly paid by Salesforce, right. But I think what differentiates, let’s say, the open source communities with the communities that are very tight, tightly integrated with a company, how they came into existence, and how they are governed, right?
Kostas Pardalis 1:08:56
When a community’s driven by a company, one way or another, it has to align with whatever goals the company has. And that’s okay. I mean, as long as it is clear, and there’s nothing weird happening there, as we were talking about WeWork, that’s fine. Because having a community can certainly help in ways that like the company itself cannot do it. Open source communities or open source projects, it’s very interesting. Also, I think that’s a whole conversation on it’s own, and probably we need, I don’t know, but you’re probably much more experienced with that. But open source has, let’s say a big history that goes back to, I don’t know, like the 90s maybe earlier. There are many things there that happened with GNU, the Linux Foundation, then you have the Apache Foundation, all these foundations outside of being, let’s say, we keep thinking of Apache Foundation because of its projects, but actually Apache Foundation is like also a governing body, right? It has rules. It has people over it. It has a very specific way and approach that the projects are governed. So it’s a very different style and type of governance from the project. So that’s, I think it’s like the main difference. And of course, there’s a difference in what’s the end goal, right? In the company, when you build the community, the reason that you build the community is because you want people to help each other when they’re trying to use your product. And in a way try to scale up the way that support around the products can happen. And it has also some other benefits, like virality, blah, blah, blah, whatever. But you start from that.
Kostas Pardalis 1:10:45
Now, when you have something like an open source project, especially projects that are quite complex, there are a lot of decisions that cannot be made on an individual level. So it’s not like we just commit code, and we put it there. So you need to govern this, and it starts from there. And the goal is how we can build and maintain the project, the code, right? And these are like two very different approaches and reasons for existence for these communities. So yeah, that’s my feeling. I think that we have, in our minds, that open source is some kind of natural hand by hand with communities. But I think that the community actually arises out of the necessity of governing and managing the maintenance of a very complex project, it cannot happen otherwise, you need some structure and the most natural way to structure this is by building a community that has a very structured approach. At least that’s my feeling. I don’t know, what do you think about that Bart?
Bart Farrell 1:11:48
I think it’s well outlined. And I like your mention of Salesforce. Because if we take it outside the tech context, as well, I would really recommend to anyone who’s interested in community to get the book by Jono Bacon called People Powered. And he goes into deep analysis, both on the side of like he’s talked plenty about open source and plenty of information about that, but also looking at those other ones as you mentioned, Kostas of Salesforce, but also products like Harley Davidson which has a very, very active community in its own way. Is it a community of enthusiasts, practitioners? That can be debated. But if we look at other things as well too, like folks that are really into electric cars, my partner’s cousin is really into it. And then a group of people that meet all over Spain to check out new developments in electric cars. So like I said, there are lots of different things that can kind of unite people. In the case of open source, I think I agree with Kostas’s point about how it is because it doesn’t have the same structure as something that let’s say is, you know, totally paid for that you need this sort of volunteer input. But you also need that, like I said, in other types of communities. I think another thing that I’m not sure about, this is just my guess, and I really need to fact check this as well, so please do not quote me on it, I think this is a good opportunity for all of us to see what’s out there. But 98% of open source projects fail. And that can be despite having really good communities, there are obviously different factors that will play in there. But I think it’s well known that it’s an essential source, an essential ingredient, that you do need people that are willing in their spare time to meet and work on these things. In order to do that, you need to drive some kind of passion or like I said, beliefs. And it’s crazy to see that once again, just going back to the CNCF seeing how much time people are openly donating in their spare time because they really believe in something. And obviously, like I said, that’s not unique to the CNCF. There are other communities where that level of belief is very, very high. But I think what it says is that, whether it’s Harley Davidson or Salesforce or Python or Postgres, it doesn’t matter, that there needs to be an element of passion that’s being driven consistently. Because if not, people end up leaving. So I do find that to be interesting. But I think that’s a big question that, like both of you rightly mentioned, could be easily tackled in a series of 10 different podcasts. So I think it’d be interesting to hear what other folks out there might have to say about it.
Eric Dodds 1:14:14
Absolutely. And of course, you can always email us, Eric@datastackshow.com. If you want to weigh in on the conversation, we always love to hear from our listeners. We are right at the buzzer. We may have got a little bit long because Brooks wasn’t here to give us the warning. But this has been a fascinating, really helpful conversation for us. Loved taking a different perspective on data and technology and learning about community. And we again, just appreciate you taking so much time to teach us about community today, Bart.
Bart Farrell 1:14:51
Oh, and likewise to both of you. I learned a lot and that’s one of the cool things about these conversations that you get to sit on and digest this for a while. So I’m very excited to get to think about different things that I’ll be able to take out of this and, and share with people in the Data on Kubernetes Community as well as the CNCF.
Eric Dodds 1:15:06
Cool, and just really quickly, if people want to check out Data on Kubernetes, where do they go?
Bart Farrell 1:15:14
Oh, pretty good question. Twitter: @DoKCommunity. Also DoK.community is our website. I’m easy to find on LinkedIn, Bart Farrell. And my Twitter name is @birthmarkbart. And so if you check us out on Twitter, you’ll see all the art, music, we have rap videos, we have lots of different things going on. Trying to be as dynamic as possible. Always interested in meeting new folks. So yeah, happy to interact. So feel free to reach out.
Eric Dodds 1:15:44
Awesome. Thanks so much Bart.
Eric Dodds 1:15:46
That was a really fun conversation. It was long, but it did not feel long. And I’m going to actually say my biggest takeaway, there were so many takeaways, but I didn’t mention this because we were running long. But the more I thought about Bart’s questions about interactions I’ve had with communities, I was thinking back to my first aha moment in being part of a community centered around a technology. And probably similar to a lot of people who are trying to build a website, it was with the WordPress community. And very briefly, I remember I was trying to get footnotes to work on my blog. And all the footnotes plugins were horrible. And I remember just connecting with some people online in a WordPress community. And not complaining, but just saying, I’m trying to get this functionality. And it’s really hard. PHP is weird, and I’m not a developer. And it was amazing. People just jumped in and helped. And someone actually even said, Hey, let me just whip up the fix for this. Here’s a link to a gist. And you’re off to the races. And I actually think that code is still running on my personal site today, which is neglected. But I just remember thinking this is amazing. I mean, it is truly amazing that there are these people who will interact with other people who are having challenges and just help them. So that’s my takeaway in anecdote form.
Kostas Pardalis 1:17:23
Yeah, I think that’s we all one way or another, interact with community, and we are part of communities, even if we don’t identify that actively in our lives. It happens, because it’s part of our nature. But I mean, that’s what I figured out from the conversation that we had with Bart. Communities are just like a side effect, let’s say of human nature, and how we connect and how we work together, how we try to survive together, and how we are building stuff together. So we all do that. And to be honest, I’m not sure if I had realized that before the conversation we had today. Like he really put me into the position to start thinking and realizing that Oh, yeah, back then, for example, when I was talking about the early days of internet, like, we were a community, that was a community, that’s the definition of a community, and it still happens, we just don’t pay that much attention, especially people like us, because Okay, there are other people that are probably because of their personality or whatever, they are much more active, they have these, they have the need to have this feeling of like belonging somewhere more. But yeah, it happens. And it can be good and bad. There is all that stuff, like talking about open source and the communities there. It’s not like there’s no drama, right. There’s a lot of drama. I think one of the things that we should do at some point is get some guests and Bart together and go through all the drama that has happened in, like, some of these communities. And yeah, talk about it. Yeah.
Eric Dodds 1:19:00
That’d be great. That’d be a great episode. Yeah, it is. It is pretty wild. I mean, in both good ways, and unfortunately, bad ways. But I agree, it was really good to step back and think about community in general. And I think there are just a lot of lessons that all of us can take both into our lives and our day to day work. So thank you, Bart, for all those insights, and we will catch you on the next episode. Thanks for joining The Data Stack Show.
Eric Dodds 1:19:27
We hope you enjoyed this episode of The Data Stack Show. Be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast app to get notified about new episodes every week. We’d also love your feedback. You can email me, Eric Dodds, at Eric@datastackshow.com. The show is brought to you by RudderStack, the CDP for developers. Learn how to build a CDP on your data warehouse at rudderstack.com.