Development Influences

By Steve McCord

CTO | 02.02.2016

< 1.25.2016 Moneyball
2.7.2016 The End >

I absolutely love building products and getting code into an end-user's hands. I find nothing more satisfying than gauging reactions from users (both positive and negative) so we can improve. Constantly looking for new and better ways to build products is very challenging...but isn't this what makes technology fun?

Have you ever thought about how technological advances shape our day-to-day life? Just think, 21 years ago, Sandra Bullock starred in The Net, a good snapshot of how we viewed the internet in 1995. I wanted to be Angela Bennett: she was a badass hacking criminal organizations and saving the world. She could even order pizza online!

Twenty-one years later, our job here is to think of a new way to build a modern-day data company and culture that lives and breathes a data mindset. It not only takes new and emerging tools to create a data company, but also employees with the right mindset. The cool thing about starting a company is that we are working to make the impossible happen and working with huge data sets. Helping artists is a huge challenge, and this organization is more than up to the task of building a great data company.

This is why one of the most frustrating questions I get from people is 'Are you an X shop?' as they try to figure out which language we're using. It's an outdated mentality these days to limit what you're trying to build to which language you're using. Twenty-one years ago, I might have drilled a screw into a wall to hang a picture using a screwdriver. Now? I can use a drill, plastic hook, or even double-sided tape. There are a wealth of options out there to use these days to tackle the same sorts of problems, and to ignore them is limiting what we can accomplish.

This is also a problem for a lot of companies: they become too attached to a language or specific technology and get too scared to move away from a technology choice made years ago. Why? Because "we've always done it that way." It limits what the company can do, and buries the creativity to be able to build (and rebuild) things the right way. I strive to never be in this sort of frozen state, because it prevents advancement of the technology stack if there are new tools out there.

What we plan to do here is provide the freedom for our developers to come up with creative solutions to domain problems and always look to improve. We're building a mindset and culture based on using the best tools to succeed. We never want to limit ourselves or our customers from the opportunities out there, and will continue to push to use whatever resources we have available to build amazing products.

Something I say often is that "I am pretty sure I am going to make a wrong decision at some point." Not that I look forward to those moments or am trying to fail, but going with that mentality tells me that there are always ways to improve and plan for the future. I hope I never get to a point where I made a decision in the past that I can't re-evaluate and reconfigure. Look, if cellphones were prevalent back in 1995, Angela Bennett could have backed up all of her work on the cloud instead of mailing it in. She could have even taken a selfie with Jeremy Northam and reported him to the authorities instead of killing him with a fire extinguisher (spoiler alert).

OK, maybe not every improvement is good for us then.

But this mindset is one of the reasons we picked Clojure as our technology language. Maybe Rich Hickey was influenced by this movie more than we know, because he was looking for new ways to solve problems and focused on domains. In addition to my personal experience with it being successful as a language that promotes throughput, cleanliness, testability and maintainability, a key thing that often gets overlooked is that it forces technologists to focus on the domain problem at hand. Along that same line, Docker and Kubernetes are two technologies that help us keep environments consistent, orchestrate development environments and allow us to push code to production as frequently and safely as possible. These technologies accomplish all of that while allowing us to scale our microservices horizontally on demand.

However, these are just tools that we are using to accomplish our goals. I believe in these tools at this time, and our goal is to architect things to always have the ability to re-factor in the future. I very much expect that there are going to be better tools as we grow, and I really hope there are. When you have that mindset, anything is possible.

Hey, Angela Bennett could barely talk to another human being in 1995, but maybe if she had Tinder her life would be much different. Think about it. Use the tools you're given.

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