The Stack Overflow Podcast

Changing of the guards: one co-host departs, and a new one enters

Episode Summary

Our co-host Paul Ford is stepping back from a lot of his technology related duties, including as CEO of Postlight and sadly, as co-host of this podcast. But that means our frequent collaborator Cassidy Williams will be joining us more often. Paul passes the torch on this episode.

Episode Notes

Paul is stepping away down as CEO of Postlight to focus more on understanding climate change and how we can address it. The science hurts his brain. 

Cassidy Williams, currently at Netlify, has published articles on our blog and provides links in our newsletter.

We dig into some of the results of the dev survey, including how kids today are learning to code on the internet. There's so much to learn from now!

Did everyone step back from working full time? Our survey data shows a decrease in full time employed respondents. Was there an existential moment for everyone during the pandemic where they thought that there must be something else?

Our surveyed devs love Svelte but get paid the most for Ruby on Rails. 

This week's Lifeboat badge goes to Suren Raj for his answer to Java convert bytes[] to File.

Episode Transcription

Paul Ford I heard you're calling me!

[intro music]

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BP Hello, everybody! Welcome back to the Stack Overflow Podcast, a place to talk about all things software and technology. I am Ben Popper, the Director of Content here at Stack Overflow. And I'm joined today by two of my wonderful cast of rotating co-hosts.

PF Heeey everybody! 

BP Cassidy Williams and Paul Ford, hello!

Cassidy Williams Hello!

BP So for folks who don't know, Paul, tell him who you are. And you know, for folks who've been listening over the last two years and went through some pretty zany times with us during the pandemic, tell him a little bit about, yeah, sort of what you're doing in terms of work and transitioning and plans coming up?

PF Well, the time has come for me to shuffle off a little bit. Um, I am the co-founder of a software company called Postlight. Client Services, big client, check us out online You've heard me say that. And about a month ago, after quite a bit of planning, I stepped down as CEO, I was CEO and the person who took over for me is Gina Trapani. Well known to many as the founder of Life Hacker, serial entrepreneur, and she's been with us for many years. And my co-founder Rich also stepped down and the new President is a Head of Product at Postlight named Chris LoSacco, both managing partners at the firm. So as often happens when one is middle aged, and doing a career transition, to be frank, a big part of this is to help Rich with a new software project. But also for me, I've been getting more and more engaged with the science underneath and the technology connected to climate change. It's been a real focus of my brain, it's one of the things that has made me feel incredibly dumb. In the last, actually, kind of two years, I've been working towards this, but just really, I am in over my head, just like the rest of society. And I've been taking this subject seriously, frankly, for decades. But I, just for a lot of reasons, including that I started, we started working in Postlight, with a very interesting not-for-profit, I got very into what's coming and how to understand it. And also what our industry can do to respond. And so long story short, I'm cleaning up my life a little bit, riding my bicycle more and stepping back from some of my obligations. And one of those obligations that I'm very regretfully stepping back from is--it hasn't been an obligation, it's been a real pleasure--is doing this podcast. I'm still gonna show up. I still love technology very, very much. And I do love that people get in touch and ask for mentoring and so forth. But I think once every month, once every six weeks, I think that's where I'm at.

BP Okay, got it. Yes. When there's a chance to nerd out about Python or some old user manuals.

PF Listen, we know what I am. [Cassidy laughs]

BP We will call in Paul. 

PF Trust me, that hasn't changed. Hey, I found some scraps of old mainframe something. Oh, well, hey, wait. Hold on a minute there fella! 

CW Hey, kiddo!

PF Exactly, exactly. So, but it sounds like you have some new and exciting talent.

BP Yes. Well, the good news is Cassidy Williams of Netlify fame has been joining us more frequently, and has agreed to come on. Yeah, you know, two, three times a month to join us. So yeah, I'm welcoming Cassidy as a co-host. She was recently promoted from doing, you know, I guess, more independent stuff to helping to manage and working on developer experience. So a great perch from which to evaluate a lot of what's going on the world of software. But yeah, maybe Cassidy, I'll let you explain sort of like where you are right now. And what you hope to do on the show?

CW Yeah. So hello, everybody, you probably have heard my voice at some point or another. But if you haven't, I'm Cassidy. Hello. I am currently at Netlify, Director of Developer Experience there. And I'm mostly focusing on making development better for React developers and next JS developers and people in the web dev ecosystem, and a fun gig. And I also just like, coding, and helping people in general and this podcast is a great way to do that.

PF Yay!

BP Yeah, well, that gives me a good transition. We published our annual developer survey, we got 80,000 respondents and then in the blog post announcing it not because I suggested that they threw in a code pen. And before we went live with this cast, we were working on Netlify as like our little team deploys that we could all check things out, we could change the copy. So I have been playing recently with some tools that I know are near and dear to your heart. But I wanted to ask a few questions. I guess to both of you. See if some of the insights that we gleaned strike you as interesting, or maybe not. The first one, which I thought was kind of cool is that we asked people like how do you how do you learn how to code and then we broke it down by the sort of age cohorts. And so for the rising, you know, generation for folks who are 18 and under, online resources, like videos and blogs were more popular than books and school combined. And that didn't hold true for any other of the, like, sort of four or five, like, you know, age groups that we had. So I was like, oh, that's pretty interesting. Maybe that's, you know, like, sort of the evolution of things over time. And then somebody else is like, no, come on, that's obvious. They're not, there's no like classes available to them. So I guess, does that strike you as interesting?

PF Nooo, that's not true! There's all sorts of high school classes, I think you're looking at a pandemic generation that has gone and poked around and said, I can just take this online class, you know, it's like, and the resources aren't expensive. They're either free, or they're like, you know, 100 bucks. And your mom or dad are gonna pony up and get you that HTML skills class, if that's what you want.

BP I mean, pretty soon, AWS is probably gonna pay you to learn.

PF It's not what language do you know, but it's kind of like, what ecosystem are you connected to? And I mean, you know, Cassidy's world has a lot of that going on. People are very aligned with what what Netlify has them do lets them do the tools it gives them really represents how they code. That plus GitHub, right?

CW So I think the pandemic generation thing is so true, because if I wanted to take some kind of coding class in person right now, I just couldn't, it's all online. When I was in high school, I was able to take AP Computer Science and stuff. And so I was able to get some of that when I was younger, but not nearly to the extent of what is available today. Today, there's just there's just so many online resources free and paid for any language, you can think of any platform you can think of, there's someone teaching it. And so it doesn't surprise me that that's what people are going towards.

PF The other thing too, is the tools are great now, right? So you can go get VS code, and it has IntelliSense and LSP built in--or I don't know if it's still called IntelliSense. But that's what it used to be called. And it will kind of guide you along. Like you can get your Python going or your JavaScript building and follow a few tutorials. And you can get a lot of effect out of like five or six, three hour sessions. You can learn a hell of a lot were in the olden times, you just can you spend all your time configuring and downloading like a text editor? Right? So yeah, it's not just that the resources are better, but the tools are so much better than they used to be.

BP Yeah, the time to get up and running and building something fun or even useful. This is a lot shorter. So that's, that's certainly true.

CW You can you can do a hackathon project in five minutes now. But my first few hackathons I did back in the day, it took the entire hackathon to just make sure like C sharp was installed properly. 

PF Oh, that is the thing. Like installing mono now. And like that whole world, or or just any of it, like any of the you know, that .net framework is just like you hit the two buttons, and it's like, works all good. 

CW It's just done. 

PF Yeah! 

CW Kids these days are spoiled!

PF But you know what? That used to feel impossible. Package management, even though it's still very, very, very bad, is so good. I just switched over to the poetry package manager in Python, and oh my God, it's doing its managing my environment, it's working just fine. I'm doing much less than I used to do. And I'm, like, god. This stuff used to be hours and hours. So I think like that combo, it's gonna, you'll have to make a case for why you should go to school to an 18 year old.

BP I like the sound of that, because I haven't started saving for my kids college. [Cassidy & Paul laugh] So following up on this idea of the pandemic, you know, the pandemic moment and how it may have shifted things. Another thing we saw, and curious to see if it's reflected in your experience of the folks you know, was that a much higher percentage of respondents said they were working part time or in school, and those who indicate they're working full time had sort of decreased. So overall, you know, roughly the same amount were sort of still professional developers, but sort of the breakdown of what they were doing seem to have changed pretty significantly. Among the people, you know, that have a lot of people yeah, sort of taking a moment to step back or doing part time work. You know, the hiring environment, from my point of view at Stack Overflow is super intense. But just curious to hear what you're seeing.

CW Yeah, I'm seeing that everywhere. I think a lot of people I know in the pandemic took this as as an opportunity where they're just like, well, the world's changing, I might as well change too. And so they are either working part time or starting their own thing, or taking classes and stuff. And I don't know if it's just the people I know. But I mean, hey, it's in a survey. It must be significant.

PF I think everybody either you did the same thing every single day for 16 months. And so it wasn't like there was this, it wasn't like, oh, hey, I guess I'll go to Sleep No More, right. It's just like, I am going to be doing the thing I did today, tomorrow, but I'll be doing it at home. And then I've walked my dog. And so and I think at a certain point, your brain goes in that circle, and then you go, what else is there? Who am I? And then you're going to go, I guess I do have career flexibility. Like all of a sudden, all the little internal stories, I think that developers tell themselves, they're like, well, wait a minute, what does this really mean? And then They have options. You have people who are at home with options, you know if anything, defines remote work for developers, it's that. And so, so off they go!

BP Alright, I wanted to ask a quick question. This is, you know, part of the horse race we watch every year, newcomer Svelte takes the top spot is the most love framework. 

CW Whoa!

PF Mmmm.

BP React is the most wanted. And I thoughts on Svelte you want to share?

CW You know, it's one of those frameworks that I know I should try to learn. But I just haven't taken time to do it yet. But they've been making tons of resources and their community is definitely growing a lot.

PF I mean, you know, we've used it for some stuff, mostly internal stuff, I will say there isn't huge client demand for Svelte, I think what you'll see is like startups locking into Svelte and small projects. It doesn't seem to have quite the same large teams of developers love this vibe as, say, TypeScript plus React for big web app. But it's young, compared to React is actually kind of a very mature almost not quite to legacy, but an older technology at this point. But no, I mean, the things we've seen, Svelte, I don't have a strong read on it, except that it kind of, in some ways it like brings the web back to the web. Like it's very big on kind of like eh, just put it in there. Get it. Let's get it done. CSS, HTML. And look that is attractive after a whole lot of virtual DOM and really high abstraction stuff. I mean, where I see it is small, interesting, exciting, very interactive, like canvas driven kind of projects, it seems to, to really line up well.

CW What's interesting is that it's tied with 

PF Is it really? 

CW Yeah, it is. Yeah, those ones are tied for loved in the survey.

BP Yeah. And so then, in addition to our most, we always do most loved, dreaded and wanted, we had a new one, which is kind of like this, what you're working with now, where would you, what would you like to be working with in six months. And we had these, this new thing called like a chord chart, it kind of shows like the flow of where people would like to go. So for example, there's tons and tons of folks working in JavaScript, I think, you know, over 10,000 of the people who responded. And they would like to go, actually, they'd like to go work with Go or Rust. If they don't want to work in TypeScript, which a lot of them do. So these are kind of neat. I thought people might want to check these out. It's something new we did this this year for the first time. And it gives you a sense of kind of like where people are in their journey, like what's the most dominant, but also kind of like where they would hope to head and then in the near future.

CW That's a very interesting visualization. I'm just kind of rolling my mouse over it now.

BP Yeah, it's a really nice visualization. Yeah, it's a little bit sort of like it's soothing, interesting to the brain is a little bit harder to say, like, oh, yeah, sure, this will--now we know how things are gonna play out.

CW It's definitely not something you can look at at a glance. But it's cool to note.

PF I'm not surprised with those two in particular, because I mean, JavaScript means you're maybe doing some kind of classic back end web programming, if you're doing node .Or you're doing front end, right. And then Rust is deeper into the systems world, and faster and more typesafe. And so like, if you're headed towards TypeScript, but you want to kind of have that, but actually talk to the processor, you've got Rust. And on the other side, it's like, I want to make really big servers that have lots and lots of open channels, then Go is incredibly attractive. So now I think those are like, those are very natural progressions. For JavaScript folks, like the one that would throw me as if they're suddenly all like 'I want to learn R because data science!' like it's not, it's still very much in their discipline those two languages.

BP And Paul, sad to say Perl, which was the highest paid language last year has dropped all the way down to fifth. [Cassidy & Paul gasp] Not say that Perl developers aren't doing well, but it's been a tough year.

PF Well that code base is now legacy and now being retired, like it never--Perl 6, which then became another name, didn't quite catch and good ol' Perl.

BP And then when it comes to web frameworks, man, Ruby on Rails is in a class of its own. 

CW Wow, seriously.

BP If you're a highly qualified Ruby developer, you're getting a significantly higher salary, you're in command and then everybody else. Even Svelte.

PF Interesting. No, no, I'm just wondering if if like, that's because Express has taken over. And there's this kind of more Ruby sitting around. But there's still lots of people writing Ruby code? I don't know, I don't know! Maybe the survey would tell me more.

BP We had a couple of the survey, I don't know, we've actually had a couple of conversations, one with like a insurance company and another one with, like a text to speech company. And both of them just talked about, you know, if you were a startup that, you know, started at a certain epoch a certain number of years ago and bet big on Ruby. Now you're hitting a point where you really want to scale. But there's not like a rising cohort of young Ruby developers. So like, there's not enough demand to meet the supply.

PF Yeah. This happened with Perl, too. I mean, this is just but it didn't happen with Python in the same way because Python just kind of found its niche. And so there's always been a good, like a good baseline. But yeah, no, it's Python found like five niches. I think that's the key thing. And like--

BP And became loved as learning language.

PF Learning language, data science, geosciences.

CW Machine learning.

PF Right, so, yeah, that actually I think that's critical. And the same is true of JavaScript. Like, if they have one true niche, sometimes it's like R, where it's like okay, but it's really for that niche. Or sometimes they're really distributed and can be used for anything. It seems like that middle zone where it's like that's really good for like--elixir would be at risk under this hypothesis. Right?

BP Right. Yeah. currently one of the more high paid, so yeah, I think that there's a correlation.

PF Postlight developers love elixir so hmmm. 

CW Yeah, the people who write elixir, they are passionate about it. 

PF Oh my God. Oh my God. Rust was that way but it seems to have faded a little bit. But elixir they're just, I mean, this is an elixir. You can solve it in five minutes. 

CW It's perfect! [Cassidy laughs]


BP Well, that wraps it up. We can dive into more details in the show notes. I'll share the link to the whole dev survey. Definitely check it out and share with everybody. I will pass the hat around in a minute. First, I will do a lifeboat. So every week I shout out the winner of a lifeboat badge. Somebody who came on Stack Overflow and found a question with a score of negative three or less given an answer got up to a score of three or more. Suren Raju 'Java convert bytes[] to File'. Thanks Suren. Awarded two days ago. I will include that in the show notes. I am Ben Popper. I'm the Director of Content here at Stack Overflow. You can always find me on Twitter @BenPopper. You can always find the show And if you enjoy it, go ahead leaving a rating and review, really helps.

CW I'm Cassidy Williams, Director of Developer experience at Netlify. You can find me @cassidoo on most things. Or you could Google Cassidy Williams and you will find me in a Scooby Doo character and I am not the Scooby Doo character.

PF Complicated. [Paul laughs] I'm Paul Ford. It has been a tremendous honor to be involved with this show. Ben, I want to just shout you out for a minute because here's how this started. 'Hi, I'm Ben, I have this job at Stack Overflow, I have to figure out what I'm doing. Do you want to do a podcast?' And I was like, okay! [Ben & Cassidy laugh] 'I think Sara Chipps will do it too.' Okay! You did not have much infrastructure to work from, you did not have a platform to build on top of. And when I look around at what Stack has done in terms of its outward messaging. There's a blog, there's a team, there's support, there's a good podcast and now is about to have a great new co-host and so let me just close out my farewell here by saying that you built that and you should be really proud. There was no infrastructure and now there is and you did great.

BP Thank you Paul. I want to say thank you to you. You came, we met in the kitchen at Stack Overflow and you're like 'So you want to do an episode? I was like no, actually, I think you should be a co-host.' And you're like 'okay'. [Cassidy laughs]

PF I'm gonna tell everyone, sometimes you just say yes. And then I was like 'actually I have to go talk to everybody I work with. I'm not entirely my own person.'

BP You gave a very quick and calm yes. But yeah, it's been a great two year round. We really built it up. I'm glad to have brought it back and I hope to show, you know, like yeah, I hope it has many iterations. You know, Stack Overflow I think is going to be here for the long haul. So it can have many iterations.

PF I have been so very lucky to be involved. If you want to reach out to me in any way, @ftrain on Twitter, you can email me You can check out my company Postlight. All good. But thank you everyone for listening. And I'll be back in a period of weeks or not too long. Just, whenever.

BP I've got lots of Paul episodes in the bank. I'll sprinkle them.

PF Alright, good, good.

CW Great, perfect.

PF Well, Cassidy, good luck. 

CW Thank you. I need it.

PF Yeah, no, no. Heavy, heavy is the responsibility that falls upon you right now. [Cassidy laughs] Great job, everybody. And I'll talk to everybody soon. 

CW Bye!

PF Bye!

[outro music]