The Stack Overflow Podcast

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Episode Summary

What if the future of great discussion around software looks like broadcast television from the last century? And what if the next generation of students think in pull requests and commits instead of book reviews and pop quizzes?

Episode Notes

This week on the pod, we chat about, a 24/7 streaming channel dedicated to discussions of software, startups, and technology. 

We also dig into a new offering called Github Classroom. Do pedagogy and programming mix well? Can this approach to collaborative work be useful beyond the computer science classroom?

So, you want to delete half your database? Well, I can guarantee this method will delete about half your database...most of the time. Thanks, as always, to our Lifeboat badge winner of the week!

Episode Transcription

Ben Popper There's some, there's something in the physics of, I haven't moved for a long time, then I was cold, then I was really hot, then you held me. [Ben makes explosion noise]

Sara Chipps Yeah!

Paul Ford God, you just described my entire working life. [Sara & Ben laugh]


BP Nothing's more important than a great customer experience, but sometimes services get disrupted. xMatters helps teams resolve issues fast, before they impact customers. Learn why millions trust  xMatters to keep their digital services up and running at

SC Heeyy.

BP Welcome to the Stack Overflow Podcast: Ben's audio sounds crappy edition. I have actually the nicest mic set up of all of us. I took it from the office before we left, but it seems as though a small rodent may have chewed through one of the cables. 

SC Nooo!

BP That's the perils of country living, but it doesn't, for some reason, it's not being offered as an input, even though it's plugged in and powered on. So we'll have to address that. 

SC That might be a garage band thing. I run into that too. 

BP Yeah. Am I gonna need to reset my MIDI drivers or take care of my pest problem? One of the other, yeah. [Paul laughs]

SC Yeah.

PF Honestly, those are the same thing.

SC Both with a hammer.

BP Yeah. You reset the MIDI driver pretty much the same way you take care of a, uh, a mouse problem.

SC With a glue trap.

PF What is MIDI, what is MIDI still doing in our world? Why are we still dealing with it? It should just be called like the USB audio interface, plug in thingy. And we're still thinking MIDI.

SC Yeah. Someone needs a rebrand MIDI. 

BP I feel like Mr. Midi has been collecting royalty checks for far too long. I agree with that.

PF That's, that's right.

SC Kevin Midi. [Ben laughs]

PF Oh, it's definitely a Kevin.

BP Let's not assume. Katrina Midi. Let's not assume. 

PF No, this one's a Kevin.

SC [Sara laughs] It's a Kevin. 

PF And I know Kevins. Some of them are great, but it's, is Kevin the Karen of the current era?

SC Ohhh good question. Yeah!

PF What is the current? What is the male equivalent of the Karen?

BP Kevin and Karen.

PF I mean it's probably... Paul.

SC Steve. [Sara laughs] Paul!


PF I'll take it. Let's just do it. Make me make me the guy. So what the hell are we going to talk about in this crazy mixed up world today?

SC Yeah!

BP Well let's get start with CloudFlare TV. So on a past episode, we mourned the end of O'Reilly Conf and talked a little bit about how that was such a formative, like series of live events and web events and books before that for, you know, the kind of web 1.0, web point web 2.0 world. [mhm] So today CloudFlare announced they're going to be doing a 24/7 live internet TV station, which is nothing [woah!] but technical talks, technical talks and like keynotes. And then like kind of like CSPAN level, like procedural things where it's just like, I don't know. I'll I'll let's let's, let's jump to the programming list here and read a few of them. Shall we?

PF I'm going to tell you straight out. I looked at this list. I mean, a lot of these are things that have come out before, right? Like, is it all new content? It's not.

BP No, there's re, there's reruns. There's definitely reruns. 

PF Yeah. They have curated this as from a pure nerd perspective. Like Sara, you're going to at it and it's good.

BP Yeah. You can tune in at three for cyber, the new frontier then stay tuned for next generation security. And why not stay at four at four serverless storage starts. So you got gotta, you gotta keep watching.

SC I've got a different take. I mean, I don't know isn't this why we have YouTube? [Ben laughs]

PF Oh my God, wait, you make a really strong point. [Sara laughs]

BP You're saying it's better to look for the topics you're interested in and watch them whenever you want, as opposed to having to tune in at a certain time?

SC Yeah. Unless the talks are happening live, if they're happening live, then it makes sense. Cause then like you can ask questions, I think? It's possible I'm not the audience for this too. I mean, I don't know who is the audience, but it's really interesting.

BP You can just dip in and out of the stream when, uh, you know, you're feeling bored maybe as the idea, I don't know.

SC Yeah. They were inspired by 3-2-1 Contact. So I could really respect that because that's an amazing show.

BP And then they've also shout out to MTV, original broadcast, 1981 here. So somewhere between 3-2-1 Contact and original MTV is [Ben laughs]


BP I mean, let me make a point. You go, you look at this, it kind of looks like TV. And actually the talks are pretty well curated. Could it be a YouTube list? Yes.

SC Yeah.

BP Yes.

PF Yes. Boy, could it. However, what are we talking about right now in the Stack Overflow podcast? 

BP That's right. 

PF CloudFlare TV.

SC Yeah. But that's a lot of work to get people to talk about it. Like 24 hour.

PF Naaaahh nah, this is a marketing victory. They got us. They got us good.

BP There's probably something in here where like all the bandwidth they're pushing somehow helps them like DNS protect other people. This is probably just something they had. They were like, we need to do some work on the backend. What's a good reason for us to be broadcasting 24/7?

SC Yeah.

PF CloudFlare is cool. CloudFlare workers, all that stuff. CloudFlare is sort of creeping up on the single... AWS is an operating system in a, like a really intense way. But you have to know what every process is. [Yup] CloudFare really feels like with the workers and stuff that they're, they're aiming towards this sort of simple, small cache based OS. [mmm] It's pretty fascinating to watch. And I just, I get a kick out of somebody. Like I know a lot of these talks, a lot of them are like the Risks of a Consolidated Internet by Tim Bursnley. And there's actually Sophie Wilson who worked on the arm processors Inventing the Future in 1983, absolutely worth watching, because I mean, this is someone who was doing little tiny micro computer chips.

SC Yeah! That's cool stuff!

PF And then that turns into ARM, which powers everything.

BP Yeah. Alright. Well, yeah, obviously for the first two to three weeks, you're going to have a strong programming list because you can fall back. So we'll see what this looks like in a month or two, if it's really gotten down to the drags or if they can keep it going. But I also like the slogan here, Tune In, Geek Out is a good slogan.

PF Just a concept of a month or two is, is almost fiction at this point. Like if this still exists in a month or two, God bless us all. [Ben laughs]

SC God bless us all!


SC Yeah. It looks like there are a lot of live content. So maybe that's the big sell, right? [yeah] Is that because I think seeing these, this stuff live and being able to ask questions, if that's an ability, that seems interesting to me, that seems like something I can't do just by Googling.

BP Yeah. Some classics from the past, but some interactive live stuff in the present. That's a kind of a good idea. [yeah] Are they going to have Cascading S-show on here? Sara, if they don't, they've made a big mistake. 

SC Oh yeah. Cascading S-show. [Sara laughs] I don't think so.

BP I had to, I had to tape that several times. 

SC Did you really? That's great. 

BP See I think Stack would be such a good TV show. Like we're here and we talk about stuff, but like Stack Exchange, like with, with an anchor behind the desk, Sara, maybe it's you.

SC Yeah! Just those great questions.

PF Just sort of talking...

SC Especially on the interoffice politics website. 

PF Oh, it's so good. And just imagine the little animations you could make. I mean like this sort of VOX style explainers, but it's already kind of explained, that's all I'm talking about. You just need to get a couple million dollars together and an enormous amount of time.

SC Oh great. I'll call a meeting today.

BP And totally like if you look and it's like cyber, servers, this, and then if you go to Stack Exchange, it's like cyber security, servers, software, workplace, you know, it's the same, same jam.

PF Hell yeah! Listen to the Stack TV show could be part of basic cable. Like it's just it's time. The world's ready.

SC This is a great question in the physics Stack Exchange...

BP Oh my god, so good. 

SC This will be great for the TV show. Why doesn't water boil in the oven? [Ben laughs]

BP I had an argument...

PF Oh that is a great question. 

BP Yeah. I had an argument about this 15 years ago, which I settled with a great kitchen experiment, man. You guys are, this is going in the show notes because it is awesome. 

PF This is excellent. Oh my God. I'm reading it now too. [yeah] Sara, you brought this up. Give us that first paragraph because it really, once you get to that first paragraph for that top rated answer, you're like, Oh yeah. Okay.


SC Yeah, this is so fascinating. So someone put a pot of water in the oven, put it at 500 degrees, Fahrenheit. It's 260 degrees Celsius, 533 Kelvin. And over time, most of the water evaporated away, but he never observed or they never observed it boil. Why didn't it boil? And the answer for this as fascinating. It's from Rob and it is around the rolling boil. And he says the rolling boil as a mechanism for moving heat from the bottom of the pot to the top, you see it on the stove top because most of the heat generally enters a liquid from superheated surface below the pot. Oh, fascinating. This is so interesting. 

PF I know.

SC But in a convection oven, whether the heat enters from above or below or from both sides equally depends on how much material you are cooking and the thermal conductivity of the container.

PF Sara, isn't a little basic physics incredibly comforting right now? [Ben laughs]

SC It really is.

PF Because I'm just reading this and I'm like, Oh yeah, the world works along principles that are rooted in natural phenomena.

SC Yeah. I kind of feel like anything could go, like anything could happen right now in 2020. Like I might put a pot of water in the, in the oven and it'll just explode. [Ben laughs]

PF It'll just boil. 

SC Or it would turn into a cat.

PF Or it'll scream. 

SC Yeah!

BP I have a question that I'll put on physics. I don't know if this will be in the podcast, but this happened. So I got to this house, which hadn't been touched in like several years. And so there was all this like glassware that hadn't been touched and then we used it and then we put it in the dishwasher. And then my dad took a glass out of the dishwasher and was walking to put it back on the shelf. And it just exploded in his hand. Like it literally exploded.

SC Yeah. That happened to me too.

PF I exploded!

SC [Sara laughs] Yeah, I exploded. The end. Yeah, I took something. I took a hot glass pitcher out of the dishwasher and decided to cool it off with water. And that was a bad move because it has just exploded in my hands.

BP Exploded in your hands. So scary. 



BP I saw a link that I wanted to talk about. It's called GitHub classroom. So apparently they have a new tool where if you're a teacher, you can run your stuff this way and it's like GitHub, but it's for, you know, your average high school or college digital Blackboard, like the, the logo is like a Blackboard with the octo cat on it. I wonder about this. Like, it's interesting because like the language that they use on, on it is very the language of GitHub. And I wonder if teachers will relate to this. I mean, obviously if you work in computer science or data science, like you'll get it. But like, yeah. I don't know, track and manage assignments with the dashboard. Sure. All while using GitHub, the industry standard tool developers use and it's like, well, okay, but what about students? And it's like, save time using automatic, automated testing to grade assignments. It's like what? You're going to automatically grade my English paper? Or what I, I just don't know at some point, this kind of breaks down for me a little bit.

PF I mean, okay. So what does it actually do? That's what I can't figure out.

BP You make a classroom, you invite people, and then...

PF Oh okay, I'm in it. I make, okay. [inaudible] So, look, I mean, what this looks like to me, what it really looks like to me is, this is GitHub organizations and merging and all the regular stuff you do with some education and pedagogy features, right? [right] This is just Github.

SC Why do I have to, this is strange. Why do I have to, it seems like a totally different domain or what's happening here? Why did I have to grant it permissions when it's my Github account?

PF That's a really good point. This is an amazing fishing attempt. [Ben laughs]

BP Sorry guys. My bad. No, I don't. I think maybe there's a lot more rules around like students and teachers, Sara. So they might just be in being extra careful about permissions. But yeah, when it says like bootstrap assignments in a snap create individual and group assignments, prime them with starter code, like, okay, is this just for computer science students? Like, that's the only thing. Like I get it if it's for computer science students, but when it's like latest commit passed and they show somebody like in an art class, I feel a little bit confused.

SC Yeah. Maybe this is because we don't know, we don't do this for a living.

BP Anyway. It could be interesting. And I do think that there's going to be a huge, huge amount of remote learning come September. Some schools are even talking about trying to restart in dear Lord. This would be the worst thing ever. Some schools are target restarting in July and August to like kind of finish off last year that we missed and then like push people forward. So like, if you miss the last three and a half months of this year, we'll do it a month in July or August, and then move you from second to third grade or fifth to sixth grade or whatever it may be. You know, they, they want to give people some chance to transition and keep going so that we don't have a completely lost year. But there's going to be a ton of remote teaching. And it does seem like the Github workflow like that is kind of been polished to a sharp diamond. Right? 


PF Look, I think it's worth saying this is really just for teaching code and programming. It's a, it's a sort of meta workflow around classic Github process and Git processed rather like this, this won't work for your English paper. This will work for your intro to Python class.

BP Right.

SC Yeah. That seems right to me too. Yeah. 

PF So which I honestly it's like, this is a deep argument, right? Like, is it better for people to learn scheme the language of the gods lisp or is it better for them to learn Java because that is the language of enterprise software that they need. And this, then you get a new to debate between the practice of programming and the study of computer science and actually understanding how the computer really works, which luckily as a self-taught autodidact complete hack, I've been able to avoid my entire career. 

SC Yeah. And if they really want to learn, they can go to developer C-SPAN or whatever.

PF [Paul laughs] Yeah. Yeah, that's right. I'm sure like 80% of those, uh, of those, uh, shows in some way, connect to this problem.

BP Lisp language of the gods. That was my favorite Neil Stevenson novel. I loved that one. [Sara laughs]

PF Ugh. Honestly. I think that is a Neil Stevenson novel. 

BP It's the prequel to Snow Crash, I think. 

PF There is a, well, this is always really tricky. Do I care about how to be a working programmer? At one point MIT restructured its core EE programming class around Python. And it made everybody really upset because they were focusing more on kind of real world programming using lots of libraries, moving little robots around. It was more practical and less abstract. And I mean, it's still very MIT. Like I couldn't do it, but that was moving away from the structure and interpretation of computer programs approach, which was this very dense book based on scheme and about, about programming that really defined a certain approach and mindset related to engineering for years and years and years and years.

BP Yeah.


PF So this is a pretty deep debate in the industry. And I, I, we don't talk about it a lot, but I, you know, I subscribe, I'm a member of the ACM and I read the transaction of the association for computing machinery and, and this that's a very academic work, but this flares up all the time, what are we teaching and why?


BP Alright, great. It's uh, yeah, we're closing in on time. So let's do a lifeboat and say our goodbyes. 

PF Yes, sir.

SC Yeah!

BP Awarded one hour ago to Greg Hughgill. Want to delete half of the records from my SQL database table. He wants to get rid of half. 

SC Oh no, oh no, don't do it. 

BP Yeah. [Ben laughs] Which half?

SC Well all know how that ends. 

PF Yeah, this is like, I went to erase half the records for my, my SQL database table...

BP Yeah. And then Greg's answer is very funny. This will be about half the records most of the time. 

SC Oh no. Oh no. 

PF Mmm so many bad days coming [Ben laughs]

BP Anyway, this got a life boat because it has 25 upvotes, but it hasn't been accepted yet because it has a little bit of a dicey answer. So we'll see. 

SC Nice. 

PF Alright. Good lifeboating. 

BP Alright. I am Ben Oopper, director of content here in Stack Overflow. And you can find me on Twitter @BenPopper. 

SC I'm Sara Chipps, director of community here at Stack Overflow. And you can find me at SaraJo on GitHub.

PF And I'm Paul Ford cofounder and CEO of Postlight, a digital product company. And you can find me on @Ftrain at Twitter.

BP Awesome.