When Ben Halpern (@bendhalpern) decided to start another business, he set a very unusual expectation: He gave himself 10 years to succeed. In this episode, we discuss how Ben's patient approach and obsession with understanding things from his users' point of view helped him grow as massive following on Twitter and parlay that into fast-growing online community for developers.
What's up, everyone? This is Courtland from IndieHackers.com and you're listening to the Indie Hackers podcast.
On this show I talk to the founders of profitable Internet businesses and I try to get a sense of what it's like to be in their shoes.
How did they get to where they are today? How do they make decisions both at their companies, and in their personal lives? And what makes their businesses tick?
Today I'm talking to Ben Halpern, the founder of Dev.to. Ben, welcome to the show and thanks for joining me.
Yeah. Thanks so much for having me Courtland.
Dev.to is an online community for programmers, where programmers can go to swap ideas and help each other grow is that an accurate description?
I think that describes it. We act as a social network of Professional Network for software developers, but the way coders really want to get together and interact is about their craft, their ideas, and stuff. So, we really just try to be there for the humans behind the scenes.
As I also run an online community for Indie Hackers, for basically developers who want to learn how to start companies.
So this is super fun for me to be able to have you on the show and really just pick your brain about everything you're doing related to your community. But first, let's talk about some of the basics behind Dev.to. How long have you been working on this, and who are you working with?
Yes, so it's amazing how long it's been at this point. It's since I started working on this project in any capacity, it's been about four years.
But we've been working on it as a true, earnest business for about a year and a half, and there was probably another year squeaked in there when I was taking it quite a bit more seriously.
So about two and a half years since I really started thinking it could be a really cool great thing, and about a year and a half since we officially thought of it as a real ‘this is our company, our startup, our business.’
This is an actual business. What are some of the ways you measure your progress at this point? Are you tracking how many members you have for your community? How many page views you're getting, how much revenue generating?
So, I think we track a lot of the same stuff any other Internet entity has in terms of expected daily users daily, or metrics as they grow and stuff that, but I don't think we're, from a business strategy perspective, the most metric driven company in the world.
If we can cause a lot of really great anecdotal stories, a lot of success just have an idea that the mechanics are really working for people, I wouldn't say that we are the organization that drives too hard on on numbers and stuff, but we do track everything. So happy to chat about all that stuff.
What are some of those those metrics that you track, just to give listeners some context, as to where the have to is and its growth?
So in terms of registered users, we have nearing, depending on when this podcast comes out, we may be nearing about a hundred thousand registered developers on the platform.
We're currently going to get about 1.5 million unique visitors to the site and those numbers are pretty far off because you can use the website as a lurker, as an information seeker just on your own.
So a subset of folks have really joined and become part of the community, and then a much bigger selection of software developers are using it in some capacity to get their job done, to keep up with the scene and stuff that
That's huge, and a year and a half really of taking this seriously with your co-founders. Is that 1.5 million uniques total? or yearly? Or monthly?
Cool that's humongous. Congratulations!
Yeah, and it's really been picking up crazy lately. Just I think at the start of the spring it was less than half of that, or not the end of the spring just a few months ago.
We've been really tracking about 15% to 20% growth in that area for several months in a row now, and we really started to grow on top of ourselves, that really hit that inflection point, which is really really incredibly fun.
We’re definitely gonna dive in to exactly what went into that growth spurt.
I talked to Ryan Hoover recently, the creator of another online community called Product Hunt and I asked him, what are your favorite parts of running an online community And what are your least favorite parts?
So let me ask you the same thing, Ben. What do you like most about running an online community? And what do you like the least?
My favorite and least favorite things about the process, and the whole community thing, and I think you can probably relate to some of this, as the two sides of the coin, in terms of magical collaboration. And then just trying to keep things healthy, keep toxicity out of the community, encourage healthy debates while discouraging pedantic arguments, things like that.
This is, really our highest level of focus on anything is just can we keep people in the mindset of encouraging one another instead of tearing each other down. That's what the whole point of the business was to improve on what seemed like not the best we could do as humans who write code.
So the best part is the magic that comes out of our efforts, and the worst part is the day-to-day grind, or any times we let the wrong conversations happen. We really just need to let things flow naturally. We can't really tell people what to do, but we can really do everything we can to avoid toxic behavior, harassment, anything that's unbecoming of our community.
The two sides of that coin are the best part of the whole job, and the worst part, and anytime we get feedback, people are really.amazing, appreciative of how hard we work about on this stuff. That's really the best days is anytime we get that feedback.
So one of the most challenging parts of running any online community is just getting it started.
It's hard to bootstrap community from scratch because the entire value of a community, what gets people to join are the other people and at beginning there are no other people. How did you get around this problem and start the Dev.to community?
Absolutely. So, a big part of the success is having been in these spaces, the two-sided marketplace idea, on several previous occasions in my professional career before this, and recognizing how difficult that chicken-egg problem is. So in recognizing that this was something I wanted to pursue, I really started with the basics.
I took a long time before even attempting to fill that second side of the equation. So, a community like this needs people to on both sides of the conversation. Early on it was all about that one side of the conversation.
It was really much more of a broadcast, with the idea that eventually hopefully it would be important enough that more people would want to take part in different ways, and play different roles and stuff that. But not trying to be a true network or community off the bat was really the only way I thought that this could ever conceivably work.
That makes a lot of sense, to just get one side of the equation taking care of, and running on its own, and then worry about the other part and not try to go for the gold from day one. What was the first part of your community that you worked on?
So the whole thing started with an, I mean, it's hard to even say that this what we are now, was necessarily ultimately the goal. It started out as really an experiment in the software development space. I knew I wanted to, grow something of value to the software community.
It was unclear what that was going to be at the start but I started by just registering this Twitter account called The Practical Dev, which really was me and my mindset at the time really wanted to wanting to offer some practical software advice.
I thought there was a lot of people getting on stage and shouting about really impractical solutions to software. At the time I thought that was the approach I wanted to take I wanted to take a more down-to-earth meaningful approach to talking about code and my day-to-day life and stuff like that. That started off as just me sharing useful links. I found on the Internet and it went through a few phases after that.
I mean the Practical Dev Twitter account, for those who don't follow it, is humongous.
I think today, what are you up to something a hundred and fifty thousand followers? So this wasn't just a tiny effort. This is something we put a lot of work into. How do you grow a Twitter account to be that huge?
So first of all, I really I've done this thing in the past. I had a few other online Twitter accounts turned into businesses. It's a pattern. I've done a little bit, actually in college, when Twitter was new. The businesses eventually fell flat, not because they didn't really grow, as because I thought I had to grow faster than I was. So I made too many big changes and let things spiral and then I ultimately didn't do it the right way.
I had the realization, about four years ago that damn, these things I'd been doing before there's no reason this wouldn't still work. Nothing in the environment has changed, the platforms haven't changed people's behavior haven't changed. I just need to not give up on the project and I need to take my time. So I told myself I had ten years to make this work and it was just going to be a side thing and maybe in 10 years if it wasn't working at I'd quit but I wouldn't do that.
I wouldn't quit at any point in between then in 10 years. I just made that deal with myself. And since I was in the software space, and really just doing whatever I wanted to be doing, I knew I wouldn't get bored of it. I wasn't I didn't think in 10 years. I wouldn't want to be in the code space anymore.
So really taking my time early on was the key, but then also in taking my time, I really didn't actually put a ton of effort into it right away, I really just posted links I found on the web every once in a while. But with enough of a regularity that it would grow occasionally.
So it was really a whole year of just being a useful Twitter account, before I even really started giving it any of my conscious mind for about a year.It was just me once a day, scrounging around the Internet, Hacker News, Reddit stuff that for what I thought was the most interesting stuff and. Just scheduling a few posts to go out and that was about it. It was a very mindless and uninteresting but useful and it grew from there.
Ten years is, I was going to say, ten years is a long time to give yourself to work on something. I mean, that's an incredible amount of patience. Most people want to be successful right now today, if not today next week.
All right at the most maybe a year or two from now. And it strikes me that setting a bar for yourself is going to work on something for 10 years is the patients that comes as a result of these past mistakes that you made, where you rush into things and not really giving yourself enough time.
What is the story of one of those past mistakes one of those past businesses our endeavors that you went through and some of the lessons that you learned from that?
So my first real foray into the magic of entrepreneurialism that can grow Beyond yourself. I've always been, i'd gotten into some freelance stuff, I've never been one to really hold down a full-time job even through high school and college. I did some freelance stuff, but then I got into a real company mindset just on my own in college.
Just having realized entrepreneurialism is a thing that can you can do on the Internet without having to go into the office. I think the same realization a lot of people listening to this went through. In college, I started a sports nutrition website, not too dissimilar from what Dev.to is now, in a way.
It started as a just a platform where people could right and stuff and it was just hosted on WordPress. It was not the most technically amazing thing in the world, but it was just the place that was growing and interesting and I constantly felt though that if I didn't do everything with perfect efficiency, that Amazon would crush me.
A weird thought, that I was racing against this giant which at the time 2008 wasn't Amazon wasn't even nearly as big as it is now. And yet I had this gigantic concern, that. I had to be the ultimate efficient operation.
So I really didn't allow much the growth I was having to be a good answer for me. So I kept trying to push the envelope which I think is healthy and I think the mindset that a lot of startup founders should have they shouldn't think that they can just be complacent but I was way too far on the other side of the spectrum and just.
Did all sorts of wacky stuff which ran my expenses up. I turned it from something that was purely a website to then dropshipping nutrition supplements and stuff and it wasn't even necessarily something I wanted to be doing and I was still in college and it was just way too much and despite all the success.
It was really successful. It was paying my rent for a while, I just eventually completely burned out and had to stop working on it all together and then I took on other interests. I graduated college, I did some other stuff for a little while.
What lessons did you learn from that that helped you, when it came time to grow your Twitter following for The Practical Dev?
I really look back and realize that had I just kept things simple, I would have been gigantic by now and I it wouldn't have mattered whether Amazon was going to crush certain parts of that industry and stuff because none of my other competitors are doing anything particularly more interesting.
Had I just kept a growth mindset with a little more patience everything about that business would have remained valuable for years and years and years and years and years, had I really stuck with it and cared about it. And so the lesson there was that nobody out there is doing anything that much more interesting than you. Even the biggest most gigantic companies in the world.
So, unless you're trying to do it something, create a new smartphone or something. You really be surprised how much value you can bring just by improving the little things. I think if people even tried some truly daunting things creating their own search engine.
I think they could, as long as they knew that they're not trying to rebuild Google, they're trying to solve a problem that Google's actually missing out on in a small subset of the world. And if you're able to have some realistic expectations about the size, and the long-term wins, you've no reason to give up on something. You just need to have constraints so it doesn't grow too in too many weird directions.
I love that. I think, ultimately, most businesses fail because the founders quit. There's all sorts of external reasons, it's hard to grow your running into issues running low on money.
But ultimately unless you quit your business, it is still going So that persistence is really key, and it's hard to have that persistence if you have unrealistic expectations, if you're burning yourself out, if you're trying to move too fast, and so anything that you can do to help yourself keep going really pays dividends in the long run.
And I think it shows with their Twitter account as well when you're getting this community off the ground you gave yourself years to work on it and for the whole first year, you're just posting links and not taking it super seriously. How did you transition from that to growing this thing to the massive size that it is today?
So it’s a certain point, I made a realization that there is enough total attention there that I could justify devoting my time to it. I'm really economically minded in a funny way in that sense, partitioning my time more so than really strategizing too much.
So I just thought that there was enough total value being captured with that crowd, that it was worth the time, commitment. So I started thinking harder about what software developers were really looking for on Twitter. What answers they were trying to come to?
What was really, burning at them, because I knew this is a becoming a microphone that I could use at this point. It was about ten or twelve thousand followers, which seemed an unbelievable success at that point, because I've been delivering value I just had a mechanic that was working.
But I knew now there was enough there to take the next step and really start being thoughtful about it a little bit more additive. So I started looking at what was working creating some custom content a little bit, but also getting into writing jokes and stuff, and that's really when it started. really hockey sticking in terms of the Twitter account. I started creating just different jokes.
It was all original material. I really wasn't trying to be another joke Thief which I felt most any humorous Twitter accounts really were they were just reposting stuff from the rest of the web which really bites at me.
So I started creating parody O'Reilly book covers, which were a real smash hit in the industry, and that's really when when it started to become a lot of fun and then incredible amount of growth.
I've seen some of those tweets where you take these O'Reilly programming book covers, and then you remove the text that you put in something funny.
What’s cool about it is I think most people on Twitter are just posting the self-interested material, here's a link to my website, here's an update about something that I'm working on and most people don't really care that much about it.
But when you're tweeting really funny jokes that everybody can enjoy and appreciate and retweet and between really practical advice that everybody can share with their friends say, this is really awesome. Then I think that unlocks the ability for your actually to grow and build an audience.
Absolutely. It was a lot of empathy. What do people want when they look at their phone? and what might people what make what might make people feel more connected with their fellow practitioners of this very complicated field we’re in.
This type of humor really does bring people together. It really makes them realize that they're not the only one going through some of these hilarious pains, or operating via hacks, and just just trying their best to do things right. People really really appreciate that and it was a really big smash hit.
What are some of the things you learned while doing this, besides the fact that these jokes could be super effective were there things that you tried to grow your audience that didn’t work perhaps?
I mean, I feel I tried all sorts of stuff that didn't work ,and really tried to pay attention to what did and didn't along the way I really had a real strong opinion, without any actual evidence though, that if I use Twitter itself, and not tweetdeck or some non native platform i’d have a much better feel for what people needed in the moment.
This is a funny little feeling thing. It's hard to justify this and now I've coworkers and I have to still just tell them I don't really want to schedule things. I'd rather tweeted now. There is just just being native to the community, being one with a platform, understanding people's genuine feelings about things and paying attention to the vibe in the room. Even if the room is the whole world and the outcomes from doing that. I think really go a long way.
So it was so much more about the input. I was receiving then the output so I spent so much time just, observing what people were caring about, what people were joking, about what people were concerned, about nervous about ,what people thought were the stupidest things in the world.
I was reflecting a lot of that back into the universe as much as I could and that felt what I was the thing that I was giving back was people's own deepest feelings and concerns about their careers and their craft.
Listening to what you're saying a lot of your success really just comes down to the fact that you spent almost all of your time focused on this singular thing. You weren't building a Twitter Community, on the side of some bigger project that you're working on.
That was your project. I think most people when they go to build an audience, when they go to work on some marketing channel. It's a thing. They can't devote that much time to, and so they don't really take as much time to listen to what the community they're really cares about.
It really feel one of the people that they're talking to you. And so, the result is they don't produce that great of content the tweets aren't that interesting and they find it very hard to grow. At What point in time did you decide to take this Twitter following that you've built and use it to build a community elsewhere.
it's a tough choice because we did become a lot worse at Twitter when we did that so it I am only one person I don't try to do everything so. I stopped being such a presence on Twitter we started doing other things and to this day we don't really have as great a presence on Twitter, but I thought actually, more through feedback, I started realizing more and more people were excited about some of the other things we were doing.
I started the website itself as another experiment. I knew I didn't want to just be a Twitter account, not just a joke account as well. So I knew I wanted some evolution even if people really loved the Twitter and so that was another just experiment, understanding what people needed, what they were looking for, and also, telling them what I thought they might need, and getting some feedback and stuff that.
So the website which was named Dev.to, because I really like short domain names. I was really trying to center on this dev content and I also thought the Practical Dev. just it wasn't the was in a slick as I wanted to be in devs weird, but it's it works and it's been it's been fun. And so. It started out a little bit more just a publication, as I mentioned, even though I had all these Twitter followers at this point not as many as we have now, but a ton, enough to really feel we had momentum.
Knowing the Universe, I still didn't think people would just start using another platform as a community. It's hard enough to get your friends and family to use your new thing. Let alone enough people to actually build a network.
I really took my time with that try to understand ways we could deliver value, tried to just put things in front of people and ways, they would really appreciate, and not try to tell them they needed to sign up for anything, not tried to tell them they needed to be part of our network in a different way.
Just trying to give them more things to chew on help more people and it was actually when I started to realize, that some people really love the platform 10 times more than they love the Twitter account.
As much as the Twitter account was popular, the platform really became capable of touching people in really personal ways. people felt when we started letting other people post, they really felt we were uplifting them, we were giving them a voice and it was awesome.
Just hearing that back just a few times, and feeling we were a positive force in the universe just by putting our values out there, just by standing up for the types of software developers that do not necessarily always find their in-crowd so easily.
And by doing the stuff we thought was the best thing for software people really really took to it in a really strong way and even the platform itself is not really the abstraction we're looking for.
It's that feeling of of inclusiveness, and it's just continuing to follow the feedback and follow the awesomeness without getting too caught up in the numbers and things that has consistently been the way to go.
I want to dive into some of these details behind your early community, and really get into your head and what things were for you back then. Communities obviously have existed since the dawn of time.
Communities have been online since the beginning of the Internet to but you're not only building the community you're building the actual software the platform that the community uses to communicate and I think that's pretty rare. Most people just use an existing platform if they're going to build a community.
So they'll use Twitter like you did at first or they'll start a Facebook group or Whatsapp group or Slack channel or something. What did the early Dev.to website look like?
What were some of the decisions that you made? And how you can structure your community? Because the fact that you're building it from scratch by yourself means you have no constraints. You can look anything you want it to.
So early on the reason for building it fairly from scratch, and the phrase from scratch really means a lot of different things, software you can pick any layer of abstraction, but we built from scratch from a software Frameworks that made doing this thing easy enough, but I really had the thought that if we want to do this right, we need to get our hands dirty.
If this is going to be our core competency, this platform, whatever it becomes, we should have our hands in the clay and be able to make it anything we wanted. That being said, I tried to make it valuable right away. And what I had been doing was sharing links from all over the web.
So I started off by making the platform look a lot medium, which was a platform I noticed programmers are really taking to, besides people's individual blogs medium is definitely the winner in terms of shared space and shared platform, but I thought medium.
For all its goodness of bringing a network together, and giving you notifications you might care about, and sharing stuff really was not the best reading experience, especially for software developers.I had the thought that they're never going to get better for software developers.
Their core abstraction is publication, and software development is the smallest use case they have for all the software developers publishing on medium. There's probably a thousand times more traffic coming to general purpose news and commentary and stuff that.
So right I thought no, innovator's dilemma Medium just cannot become a great software publishing platform and it's still big and great, but I think some of this success in that hypothesis is really coming to fruition, and software.
Developers should have a custom solution, even if that custom solution isn't all that custom right away. It's just the idea that it can become a custom solution come the ideal space for specifically sharing software development, and if we were going to do that, the best thing to do is write it all from scratch.
I've always been confused why people think that, "reinventing the wheel" is a bad thing in software because, you're basically what you're doing is getting up to speed with your own code and having a platform to build two in any direction you want in the future. We probably could have gotten V1 up in WordPress in one day, but, then we'd be stuck on WordPress’ abstractions for the rest of the universe.
That is definitely not what we were building. we were building an abstract concept around solving the needs of software developers and you can't do that on someone else's platform unless it's fairly low level, and also since it was just me working on it, I didn't really have to convince anyone of this.
I really got to just get my hands dirty, treat it a project that didn't have a high, risk of failure, there was really no downside to trying and at this point I had a solid nine years left in my plan. So it took nine years to get this up and running, that's fine.
Cool. So let's talk about some of these specific design choices that you wanted your platform to look and the reason why you aren't using an existing platform.
One of them you mentioned, is that you wanted the reading and the writing experience to be specifically tailored to developers, and other larger blogging platforms like Medium were never going to do that. They had to be general purpose. What are some other goals that you had in mind for the Dev.to platform.
So a big goal, I thought, as a general thing that would ultimately bring value, even if some of the marketing efforts or something we're failures, was delivering a platform that was extremely high performance. So being very performance conscious because I observed as a software developer that the web was extremely slow and bulky.
So right off the bat I just thought if we could shift this whole thing and fewer bytes and actually pay attention to best practices, it felt the best practices are out there but nobody was listening.
Everyone is looking for get rich quick schemes in terms of performance instead of actually going down to the basics, and understanding that the laws of physics have some constraints the speed of light.
If I'm going to get you a whole experience quickly, I'm going to have to pay attention to some of those things. Also the idea of shipping a page where you read words on it really is not so complicated that you need to bag it down with a lot of heavy programming. So it was really an effort and minimalism, and effort in defining some really simple constraints that we still stick to today.
That was a huge deal and I also thought if any group of people in the whole universe would actually pay attention to that, and actively notice how fast it was. It was the software development community.
It might not be worth it to make those optimizations if your community isn't going to appreciate or care about it. But I knew that this group would, and that was a lot of fun doing I learned a lot of lot in making that the core technical objective.
So I assume in the beginning it was you writing all the content for Dev.to how did you open things up and get it so that other people were helping you contribute to the articles and blog posts you can find on the website.
I just gradually started trying to make that happen one one thing at a time. I tried to make the technical objectives mirror the growth objectives. So I tried as soon as I thought there was a few people in my in my universe, I thought might want to write on it.
I didn't even build the features in advance of getting them involved that built half built all the features needed. And as soon as I thought that there was a few people who might want to jump on board. I just put scrambled and put together some of those features.
Actually looking back, a lot of the earliest accounts have major bugs on them that just if those people haven't come back and fix up their accounts, they're broken. So those first those first days for were real shit show in that regard. But I didn't wanna write a ton of new stuff before anyone was using it.
So it's a real give and take between anyone who is showing up to write a few things here and there, and then do the things that I needed to do to let them do that stuff. So I've even looked back on some of those conversations early on and it was really funny.
I was just mostly, I was always telling them if anything doesn't work, just let me know and I'll fix it. That was my my instruction that I had to give everyone because even. It was just a basic blog editor.
It's not the most complicated thing in the world, but bug-free code in any regard is really hard to do and that's why people tell you not to reinvent the wheel because it is hard but over time, we really ironed some stuff out.
What were these people writing about and where are they coming from?
Are these people that were following you on Twitter? And you were saying hey come to our website and write an article or were they friends of yours. How did you find these people?
It was mostly Internet friends. Not a lot of people in my direct life even knew about the project necessarily. I have this thing where I don't really tell anyone what I'm working on unless I have teammates involved.
Just because, I saw a TED talk about this forever ago, and it really stuck with me that you should keep some of your stuff secret so you don't get the satisfaction of telling people before it's done. So I didn't really have a lot of personal connections who really were deeply involved in it.
I had folks who followed the account, which I felt were a lot closer to me, and would maybe reach out through DM's a little bit more. I remember, I think the first person. In that regard was someone named Jennifer Konikowski who I had never met in real life.
She just DM’ed me asking if I could share something on Twitter and I thought I thought it was the perfect opportunity to say, hey, can you just actually post this on Dev.to and then my next sentence was let me know if anything's wrong, I'll fix it. And I think she was the first-ever publisher besides me and one other person whose account got broken and it's hard to even track down at this point.
But it just happened and I just played it as calmly as I could trying to pretend. It wasn't the first I don't think she noticed that no one had ever done this before. I just made it seem it was a thing and and I knew that if she said nah, I don't really feel it, somebody else would come along and and and be interested.
I just had this thought that at this point. I had a half years left and if I had a few more of these overtime, I thought that the platform would eventually take off.
How do you get people to write interesting, good content for your community? Because I think anyone who's running a community is well aware of this quality control problem.
Where there might be some people who their interest or line up with what you want the community to do and they're contributing great things, and other people are just writing whatever they want and the quality bar is not that high. How do you make sure and the early days of Dev.to that the articles you're posting were good. And how is that evolved over time?
So, early on the quality bar really wasn't that high, and I didn't even really say yes or no. I just said yes, and yes, I just took everything I could get and I didn't share everything on Twitter and that was really differentiation.
But we also just let things through we weren't sure about as long as they the author was making a pretty good attempt because we just wanted everyone to be having fun. And what happened is we got surprised consistently about what was interesting to people what was really taking off and stuff, but we didn't just let it grow wild. We tried to really guide people through just leadership in our own content. So we dried in the style. We hoped other people would do and.
They really did work that way the people really copy other people, even if they don't realize it. They they adopt something that isn't a rule as the rule, the guideline. So, I started signing my posts with the phrase happy coding, and I noticed immediately so many other people started doing that.
It's really funny that people look up to other people, and you think you have no idea what you're doing and you're just being yourself and doing your best, but then other people are looking to you for guidance and just unaware, a sense of awareness that people were doing that and trying to work to that and have a monkey see monkey do mindset, and knowing that people would really.act the right way. We wanted them to if we just set a good example, and we really took pick up from there.
One of the things you've told me before we started this interview was that in the past you've done the whole startup treadmill thing where it's an endless effort, month after month trying to show traction and growth to your investors, or yourself, and it can get exhausting.
How have things been growing Dev.to? How hard has it been to actually increase the number of people who were members of your community, and what are some of the phases you've gone through?
so. Of course, it's been easier with less pressure with that 10-year plan, but the actual mechanics haven't been that much easier and what we did was just take a lot of time early on to get it right.
Then also we became a company there was a point where I had another full-time startup I was working with and I was the technical co-founder of a different company and I was loyal to both things, and that's long, that's history at this point, but that was a big thing and we wound up actually turning this into a company by taking in the founder of the other company as the third founder.
So it's myself, Jess Lee, and Peter Frank. Now, and that's a whole different story but at this point we decided we, Jess and I were, burning ourselves out doing this as a side project and still being devoted to our respective companies. And so we had to do something different. We had to go full time or let the project die in a sense, even though it had a ton of momentum. We didn't think that would really happen. But we had a feeling it could happen if we didn't go full time.
So we did a major shift in our whole lives. We got we recapitalize the whole thing. I had to let go of tons of my equity just to make sure every we were fair to everybody. So now we're real startup. And now what we don't want to do is get back on that damn treadmill. So I really think so much of that was just remembering that we had a shared understanding in all of our lives that we done that before.
And it wasn't what we were going to do this time around so there's just a few times here and there where we just realize we're getting on the treadmill, and we have a deep long conversation about how to get off of it, and I felt in the past that was never a thing. It was always so clear that we had to just keep pushing on that never-ending death march. To try to show numbers, to try to keep the company alive.
We'd hire more people to speed up the growth, which would just make it even harder to reach numbers because we needed to show numbers that could justify all the people we had, and it was incredibly brutal. We've gotten some of that back in our lives now that we hire a staff.
There's now a six total people including myself and Peter and Jess. So there's there's the three of us, and then we have three Employees who earn real salaries and stuff. So there's a ton of pressure, but we have consistently stayed ahead of that treadmill mindset to the best we can, and much much more so than we ever had before in our professional lives.
So it's just been a lot of communication. Myself, Jess, and Peter have a lot of meetings where we really just try to et back to basics focus on communication drop projects. We don't care about even though we seem to always pick up 10 more that we do care about.
There's no silver bullet, but a shared principle of understanding that we don't not want to be doing that again is a big one. So we have to finance the project at several different ways, and we make it all work and we're constantly approaching new different ways to do it.
And we also give up on things that don't seem to be working at the time so we don't get so convinced that we had this idea, this is how we're going to make all our money and if it doesn't work we don't know what we're doing. So we remain pretty experimental, we remain pretty opportunistic.
We haven't hired someone new in about 6 months, which is great. It's been no new cost, and it's we've really been able to grow a lot in that time span and stuff. So we just have a more principled Approach at this point. We're not trying to play the game the way some TechCrunch article tells us to we are trying to play the game our way.
So let's talk about how you been funding your business and paying to hire people. What are you revenue streams? And how are you able to turn this into a real business?
So our only real strong substantial gigantic revenue stream right now is a monthly sponsorship we do with a few companies.They put their logos on the Side Bar, we give them a shout out at the beginning of the month.
That's about it. And we've been able to make that work because we have, what we think, of as a ton of unsold inventory, a lot of brand respect ,and a lot of attention on the platform and we're able to make it work with with organizations. And that's been really great. It's not really what we think our hundred percent long-term solution is, but it's also not just some dumb advertising model.
It's a little bit of a respectful in between, that really helps a lot of different parties by letting people know what's available, who our friends ,are what's good out, there while also staying true to our ultimate Vision, which is I think a little more complicated.
I think it takes a lot longer to make your revenue the way you want to do it when you're also just growing a really big community that's so abstract, and everyone has different values.
We really don't want to do wrong on the software community. So we've been pretty slow and careful there and just trying to make good friends and grow revenues that way.
How did you find your first sponsors? Because I know it's tough when you've got a website, you're not making any money, and you have to make those first calls or those emails. You don't have a process for doing it. So, what did it look like in the beginning and how is that process change?
I just say we tried to back channel and find the right connections and stuff. It's it's definitely always just working progress as I mentioned. It's also not the type of business we care to be the best in the world that absolutely is in terms of sponsor relationships.
So, we haven't scaled out a brilliant process there. We've just made it work as we go and had a lot of good emails. And and this is really the awesomeness that I think Peter brings to the business. He really is good at just handling those things and making it work, and pulling it together and every month we could work. And we have some new things on the go. We have a few other ways.
We make money. We have a simple pay-what-you-want membership, just that we don't even really advertise. But if people really want to find it they can and, ultimately though, we keep our eyes on the prize in terms of growing the community, and find creating actual success stories within the community.
People who really feel they've found their people, found new jobs, even through connections made on the site and all these really natural things which I think. Focus more of the business I think around these real key success stories people are achieving but not in a way that we want to, hurry to do overnight.
We're really trying to find the ways that people people really, find the most satisfaction and success on the site, and and the monetization really is a somewhat secondary thing, but we haven't gone out and raise the bajillion dollars. So we have to really disciplined about that as well. So a little bit of both those things.
So you got a million-and-a-half different people coming to your website every month. That numbers is just humongous.
Getting there requires a winding path.It's very rare that you can just find one way to grow, your Twitter account, our search traffic and that just last you forever.
What are some of the different phases you've been through with growing Dev.to? And what kinds of things have you tried that worked and what kinds of things have you tried that didn't work quite as well?
So it really is the thing that we establish some good distribution channels early on with Twitter and elsewhere, even just natural stuff people posting to other platforms like Reddit. Although Reddit has consistently banned our website for some reason.
So we have we established that we knew this is the same thing other people are doing the distribution channels aren't the most complicated part even though we both have one good one on Twitter. But the bottleneck is that people can do anything in the world with their time and why the hell would they write on your stupid platform?
And so we just examined what writing on the platform really meant, what the partnership we were making with people was really true being super duper respectful of that being really explicit that we welcome the idea that you can maybe own your own content and just cross post it to our site, so we encourage people to who had already just written something on their own website to just cross post it and we early on we said kit how will even just do it for you as it just sign up for your account.
And we will make this post happen on our site and you'll reach a lot more people, it’ll be fun, there might be a conversation and we didn't try to convince people of the deeper values behind posting.
We really just tried to make it easy for them, and this this idea that cross-posting is a perfectly okay and even encouraged use case or pattern, people were using really I think was a big inflection point in terms of our growth. Where we didn't think every single thing needed to be unique to the platform because people write I wrote about this on my blog and I'm sharing it here.
That's actually great. That was actually a it's a really nice way to use the site and it just becoming really good at knowing, that thing, and consistently trying to offer a product which fit the needs of people at the time and stuff that. So there was the phase where we were really early just trying to experiment with anything.
Then there was a growth phase, where we really honed in on consistently being able to reach out to people and ask them to take part in our little game we were playing with with this community.
And then there was the phase where that was working, and we actually just needed to keep scaling the platform mechanics so that people were getting enough of the good stuff, and not too much of the bad stuff, and that the bad stuff wasn't really considered bad.
Unless it was really bad and harassment and stuff like that . So we have a lot of acceptance of people attempting to write interesting stuff, but it's just a long-term effort, and really thinking through these problems over and over again, and never thinking you solved it once and for all.
That's all really interesting. Like I want to talk about so much of that. How do you reach out to people and get them to write for your platform?
Are these people who are really accomplished in the world of programming you think they could write a great article or are these people who've already written things and you just want them to cross-post to Dev.to?
So, We really focused on just people that are, even things that were that we could vet as interesting ourselves, because if it's right there in front of us, and we just would reach out in a very polite way through public channels they’d provided us and said, ‘hey, I think our community would find this really valuable as well. Would you be interested in cross-posting it? Let me know I can give you a hand.’. That was that, but we've also completely stop doing that all together. We did that until it became less necessary, and now we have such a great thriving community that every day. It's just a matter of moderation , and growth and continuing to improve the features and and stuff that because our home page.
We have a the very top posts are the very top post is is basically determined by us. But the rest is all an algorithm and that's just how we roll, and we have developed a platform that really fits our needs, and that goes back to doing it from scratch.
We bought all our own anti-harassment software because that was our core competency. We wanted people to have a decent time, and we consistently have to keep working on that. We took that as our as something we cared about from day one, instead of realizing two years later that, ‘Oh my God, we've created a cesspool.’
I think a lot of other platforms do we focused really hard on on people being treated well, and therefore wanted to hang out and talk about code. So the effort continues. that actually is becoming more and more important now that we doesn't we have a steady flow of content.
It's not really so much about that mechanic, it's really about being true to our values and wearing them on our sleeves, and not letting people be total assholes to one another, but also letting them be creative and funny and silly and stuff that. So it's all just it's all just a matter of the day-to-day really caring about this stuff.
What are some things that you believed to be true during the course of running Dev.to, but you ended up being wrong about?
Early on I was really fairly obsessed with grammar, and I mean not for overly obsessive, but I really thought it was really important to have really strong editing for every post, and ultimately that's important enough. You want to make sure people are not totally disregarding their writing quality, but largely people don't seem to care that much about that, so that was a realization.
Early on, I remember going through this with people and that just I stopped doing that because it was just so much time to do and then realize at no point. Was it ever a big problem? So. There is that it's just a little thing but it was all about time commitments as I was working on it on my own.
I had a lot of things that I'm glad I never did, and I'm glad I really stuck to a certain constraints. For a while I thought the economics would be so good that I could maybe pay for a certain growth, like areas. I never actually did any of that, and I'm glad I didn't, because I think forcing myself to do it all very naturally would be really turned out way better.
Even if some of the economics do work out that forcing yourself through the need to automate things, and grow as a one single person working on something, and then just two people working on something and things that, those constraints were phenomenally important. So we have a lot of great automation in the back end, and I think that's because we never thought we could just hire two people to do this job.
Give me an example of some of those automated things you've got going on.
At this point. It seems it's fairly typical stuff. I'd say it's more early on I would just write a lot of scripts for myself, too gather information I needed and stuff that. So when I was just tweeting out articles early on in the days, I could have done some of that manually, but I did a I made just made my own link gathering script that I could then parse through just on my computer, and it really was fairly simple and straightforward.
I didn't need to do it because I could have just opened up a bunch of tabs, but that.spending an hour writing that script made the whole thing. I don't know if I would have kept up the project if I didn't have a document sitting, waiting for me when I needed it, and had to run through all these different platforms, looking every time which I think people are little slow to do sometimes.
Or obviously if they don't have the software skills, they aren't really capable of doing but little things that have been really big. Otherwise, recently we've we always put a lot of care into in to support into just answering peoples questions, fixing their account issues when things break and stuff.
So we have really been putting a lot of effort into providing great support, but limiting the number of hours we have to put into it. So just getting to bugs that cause more support issues as a really important objective, creating features that even create fewer support issues. Just even if we think a feature is the best in the world, if it causes way too many incoming support issues we're going to consider. scrapping it.
We also have our own custom support back end instead of a ZenDesk because, it's maybe silly and I'm not sure it's the right idea but, we are able to see the whole context right within our app, and if ever need to change something to make it one fewer click or just slightly more efficient because we're doing the same thing over and over again.
We're not beholden to other peoples interfaces and and ways of doing things, because we could actually do this whole chunk of type of support tickets as single buttons instead of whole workflows and stuff that. So we just pay a lot of attention to that and as a company we know if we do those things well, we are going to be successful.
I mentioned earlier that I can sometimes obsess over those things, and I don't think I'm nearly that as much as I used to be but it's still comes through, so it's a little bit of the just the right amount.
You mentioned earlier when we were talking that you've had this explosion of growth since the end of the spring. What do you think going into that?
Why did that happen? And have there been other times in the past where growth has been stalled and you had to figure out a way out of it.
Growth has always been consistent, but difficult. Never did we seem we were really flowing we are now, and we are incredibly paranoid that this is just a temporary thing. So we always need to keep working on it. These days a few things have happened. It's just like the consistent work we put in in terms of the ideas behind network driven things,where every new person enhances the value for everyone else.
They're supposed to pick up speed and momentum and get better and better and better, and we don't think it's anything new. It's a lot of a lot of culmination of a lot of great effort in the past, but we've also had a lot of really good things that have happened.
In terms of just encouragement from big people in the community, just opportunities have come up, and we've really stuck to just working hard. But we also, I mean the reason things in August were doing so well is just last week we went open source with the whole code base.
I saw that that was crazy.
That's another effort in in becoming a more efficient organization.Things run much more smoothly when all the code is out there and people have eyes to find help you fix bugs and stuff. We're not out there looking for everyone to give us free work and stuff.
A lot of people really genuinely want to contribute as just a side project, as just something they're interested in for their own learnings and otherwise just fix issues they run into. But also open source is the greatest thing in the world, and in our tiny little software Universe were talking about, but the goodwill that came from that it's just we're sharing our code with the whole community.
We're really showing some of that transparency we've really been going for from day one in terms of just putting our principals out on our sleeves, and really showing our values and stuff. And and this was just a huge amount of momentum so if we're growing 15% to 20% every month, that's a that's a harder number to hit every month. So this month we have 250,000 new people who didn't visit last month.
That's a lot of people, and it's just been pretty great, and we think the things we're doing with open-source are some of the, it's new and we're not doing it all right now ,yet, but I think we're we've got some of the more interesting, innovative ideas that in open source, just in terms of the long-term feedback cycles you can create, in terms of people contributing back to projects they actually use and stuff that.
So we really think, I'm frankly blown away by the whole thing. Like we were number one on GitHub for the whole week, and I don't know how much that number matters, like stars on GitHub and stuff. But if you're going to measure anything, being number one is the best place to be on the whole on the whole website. It's a pretty massive pretty massive platform.
So we are blown away by some of the goodwill and success. and some of the messages we got about how this platform is really just changing people's lives, and then for some people it’s just the lame this lame software website that doesn't really have content they love or stuff that nobody, it doesn't touch everyone the same way, but the growth has just been crazy and it's just been a culmination of a lot of hard work, plus a really a few great opportunistic ideas, that that my team has done such a great job at buying into, and really working towards.
We really had to basically feature freeze for a while to get this open source thing happening, just to make sure we were, crossing our T's and dotting our eyes in terms of security measures and stuff, and it took a lot of buy-in from the whole team to think that was a good idea, and I'm just super proud of everybody who is working on this project both within our company and the whole community has been, it's been fairly magical.
What does the future look for Dev.to you? And where do you go from here?
So we're going to continue to stress like crazy that we are really being a community in every sense of the word, really scaling these things right, not taking for granted that at this scale something works and at 10 times the scale won't work.
We are really really trying to stay ahead of things, and do things better than some of these other environments which just become toxic or unhelpful. And we really think that's the way to provide the most valuable environment for programmers of all experience levels, all backgrounds.
The best environment is one with professional attitudes and stuff that, and we are leaning crazy into these ideas, while also we plan on evolving our business strategy. I think we want to become a less solely beholden to the sponsorship relationships, which I think we've kept really healthy, but we just don't want this to be our true scalable business. And, so we've got some ideas.
We may be raising some money at some point just to make this happen Not some massive series a or anything, just a little bit of wiggle room to maybe hire one or two more people. And I'm really glad we put that off because we are in a great position to just do everything in a really healthy way, and just find some true partners along those lines.
So the future I think is pretty bright, but it's a lot it's a lot more of the same, and a lot more of just being 10 times better at the things we already are good at, as opposed to trying to capture 10 more things to be good at, we're going to try to just be better at the things were already trying to be good at.
One thing I'm curious about is what it actually looks to be working on a site this?
How much of your time and how much of the people that you're working with, their time, do you spend to maintaining the status quo, moderating post, keeping the site running?
And how much what percentage of your time do you spend on growth tasks and doing things that push the site forward and take it to the next level?
I would say we don't focus on growth very much, especially these days. So I'm constantly having to recreate some pretty weird hypotheses with my co-founders and stuff like that and they're bringing the same to me about just what is important for us and.
We really don't feel this whole thing is going to grow because we have the perfect call to action to sign up or anything, or any really great marketing pushes or anything that would going to maybe some growth hack mechanics. We really focus on success of people feeling they belong, and feel they they've contributed and the community has responded graciously.
So when we think about growth, it's how many people who are already on the platform and maybe just hanging out at this point can we turn into just lifetime fans, and to do so for all the right reasons.
So not tricking them into becoming part of some loyalty program or anything, but just making them feel so welcomed by the broader programming community that they wouldn't want to go anywhere else and that their needs are being taken care of, but we also aren't saying you can't you can't spend other time elsewhere.
So just being welcoming, try not to be too walled-gardeny. Trying to play well with the other platforms that we work with in a sense, people sharing things on Twitter, so Twitter's a de-facto partner in a sense. We're on GitHub as a code community, so just try not to be too much of everything for everyone, but everyone within our community, in terms of sharing those ideas, getting feedback.
Just expressing thanks for the community for anyway like, if we can create more success stories, that. That’s how we win, and that's just little mechanical stuff, little words here and there.
We try to softly give people guidance in terms of being better community members, and stuff that and we really empower the top five percent of contributors to really feed the cycle of just happy, healthy software development ecosystems and, and that's where any future growth will come from, so we don't really think growth all that much.
In the past, maybe we have a little bit, but these days it's all just about the fundamental principles of the goodness we're bringing to the world, which is really a great exciting thing to be having meetings about. I love that I don't have to push back against ideas because I'm the only one holding some of these values.
I really the whole team and the whole greater community is is sharing and holding these values with us. So we know we can't do the wrong thing because the community is has this shared understanding that we're going to be doing some of the right things, and we also have a shared understanding that we're a business.
We have a shared understanding that whatever choices we make we're going to do with it for the good of the whole community, and the growth of this platform, and how much we, the founders really care about it. And so that's really the day-to-day
It's just a lot of little things, that and none of it really is super growth focused except for new features, which can make people's experience better,and frankly, I couldn't imagine a better healthier way to grow something.
I'm really just curious about the amount of effort it takes to keep Dev running. If you aren't going to do any major new initiatives, if you weren’t to go into open source or anything.
If we're not going to add new features or fix any bugs, if you just wanted to site to keep going as it is without any changes, how much time would that take? How much manpower would that require?
That's interesting. I feel I can do it myself, honestly it's a pretty scalable thing. We have a pretty small team and I think if, unless this universe was such that I couldn't build support automation then, or fixed bugs that cause support issues, then it would take more people.
The overall operation of the whole thing at this stage is pretty pretty low-maintenance besides trying to make it better and stuff, and knowing that we won't reach we don't have the features for bigger scale and and new things we want to do. But in the theoretical universe, where it was just growing on its own, with no new features, and no major initiatives or anything, I think I can pretty safely do it myself ,which is pretty interesting to think about.
That's really awesome. You mentioned earlier that you want people who come to Dev.to to have a great experience, and you want as many of them as possible to have great experience.
This is one of the things that's tricky with online community because your homepage can only show so many articles, every page on your site can only really show so much content. How do you strike a balance between getting more people to contribute more to Dev.to, and also ensuring that people actually have the things that they write read by other people come to the site?
Yes. so, we don't, we have this but much less so than other sites. We don't have a strongly, super heavily optimized winner loser dynamic in terms of the posts. I think we try to mix things up, show posts and show every, give every post a little bit of a chance to breathe, and to live, and to stick around on the new post page for a little while.
So I think most efforts get their fun in the sun, and we don't create these threads with a bajillion comments. We really more keep it more threads with five or ten comments. We even have certain types of tags ,actually the rules are built so that once a few people have talked about this, it sinks and those are just the technical details of some how the site runs and i’m surprised.
I think a lot of sites just take for granted the idea that everything should be winner-take-all and stuff that, and I really feel early on, and we don't get everything perfect but it was a much more principled approach.
What's a natural way for people to try to get the help they need, have the conversations they want to be having? And not every single element needs to like go big. The best things don't need to be seen by bajillion people, or the worst things don't need to be never seen by anyone.
So I really like striking I think just a little better balance than some other platforms, and just having the confidence to do that, because it's easy to say oh we have to the best things have to be the best and stuff, but it's such a feedback cycle the stuff that rises to the top of some other platforms is random.
It's once it got steam it kept going, but it doesn't mean that thing that got 10 times less up votes or whatever it was 10 times worse, it just didn't totally catch on so we just tried to build an ecosystem that reflects the natural Nuance of the real world, and has some some variance built-in, where more people can achieve more success.
We also really just encourage people to express thanks when they've read a post, so if only 10 people read my post but one person actually literally thanks me, i'm pretty happy. I don't need it.
I don't need 10,000 people to read it necessarily, but if if a hundred people read it and two or three have something positive to say or anything that, it's a pretty great outcome, and I don't think our community is all optimizing for the most possible views on anything. So, we really just try to help people, kind of, achieve small wins and feel welcome, and feel they got their stuff out there, and they had a good time writing it, and stuff that.
There are tons of other online communities and websites where developers and other types of people congregate, what are some things that you've learned from other people? What are some ways that other committees have inspired you?
And on the flip side, what are some things that you guys are doing that you think other communities are doing wrong? You mentioned not being obsessed with these Network effects and promoting the most popular posts are there any other things you guys do differently than the community to see online?
so firstly I have talk about the things we definitely copy. I think we really tried to pay attention to what works for some other people, also not try to reinvent the wheel in terms of the way the interface looks. I think if you go to our site and then you go to a site like Twitter or Facebook or Medium or Product Hunt or your site.
There's a lot of shared dynamics there. So we try to like copy good applications and stuff that. And then we also try to pay attention to little things other people are doing so well that we're actually jealous of them, and stuff that and not try to player hate too much on the people doing really well, and just try to learn from everybody.
I think the things we do differently, I think we don't quite take for granted some some concepts that have come to be on the Internet. I really think we take our time on the lower-level mechanics much more than I see elsewhere, or just have a feeling other people are doing, where a lot of stuff is really top down from the interface, and I think our ideas about the platform haven't changed a lot even if the interface changes from time to time.
Sometimes we'll have a conversation where we might change something in the interface, but the conversation we're really having is what's the purpose of this? And this is just a feeling I have that maybe we're taking a different approach than other people. It's hard to say I know that this is what we're doing it differently.
I really think we've paid attention to the platform mechanics and the purpose of different parts of the site, and wanting to do features that will have lasting value, and good reuse and stuff, and I think some other platforms do this really well, but some definitely really don't.
What are some examples?
Well, I think Facebook was pretty principled and have good ideas early on, but have just as a platform completely gone off the rails in terms of features and stuff. It's really hard to.
Us as a company and as a principal the zero respect for the users at every stage. It's really, and I'm just even saying that I don't really love Facebook's overall ethos is a company, but even just from a product management perspective I just feel they've totally gone off the rails. But also they’re so big I can't say it's easy.
I think it's we have a hard time just serving a hundred thousand people, they they're so much bigger, and so there's a lot of respect there. But we totally use a lot of that stuff as a cautionary tale. Without delusions of grandeur, but we're definitely trying to just do things a little better than we see elsewhere, and a consistent eye towards performance, just we are built by software developers, we're not software developers taking orders.
So continued principled approach to it, being good about that because over time we've had to ship more bytes, because we have more features, and more complicated features, and we have websockets, and so like things that can make a page heavier, but we still stick to a pretty reasonable budget and consistently grow within our means, and I open up the dev tools, on some of these platforms and it is just crazy how much is going on just to serve essentially the same type of page we're serving.
There's nothing there's no technical reason they need to be so such resource hogs, but it's really tough when you have a lot of different teams, an engineering organization of 500 people.
We have an engineering organization of four engineers in our company, which I think seems pretty big, but we also, two, myself and Jess, some weeks we don't even get to code. So sometimes you'll have two engineers, and then Andy actually does all the support stuff, not all of it, but he leaves that all up. So on some days we only have one engineer, I think.
We really can't get up. It's impossible for us to not be on the same page. And so we haven't gotten into that trap of just growing and adding all sorts of random crappy features, and all sorts of different things that don't go together. We have one solid unified code base. We don't have microservices. We we've have a minimal approach to things, even if no software development is truly uncomplicated, but we really try as hard as we can to stay pretty minimal in that sense.
Part of how you learn to build your company is through experience, but you can also learn by taking other people's advice and learning from their experiences. What are some things that you've learned from others? And also what's your advice for other people who might just be getting started with their own companies?
I am certainly a student of the advice channels out there. I think Paul Graham's essays are really wonderful, even though I actively disagree with a ton of that stuff, I think it's all really good reading material.
I remember one random interview I saw, I wish I could track it down but it was back when I was in college, and this has stuck with me forever, and I think it's totally something I've continued to do, is that you don't need to.
The first version of something doesn't need to be all that Innovative. You can actually just copy somebody else as your first version, with the idea that once you go through the practice of cloning their thing or just catching up with them
You can you therefore have the context to grow to something else and I think a lot of people, for one thing, they expect that they should be innovative or something, or they have an assumption that if they are too generic at the start they can't grow to be something more special and, as specific advice.
That's really stuck with me and is exactly what we did with this project. The first version of Dev.to could not have been more uninteresting. There was Zero Innovation going on, besides maybe some approaches to performance, but it was such a great platform on which to build. Just conquering some of these problems in the most simple way and then going from there
The problem is you can't possibly pitch someone on your random future idea. Itt's literally no one would ever believe you if you came up with a basic clone of Craigslist, but said, oh no, this is actually the future of the web because I just started here, and I'm actually going to I'm gonna bring people on who are comfortable with the Craigslist interface, but I'm actually going to evolve it to be a much more mobile first, new experience over time,
My strategy is that people will be very comfortable interfacing with the Craigslist style thing because they've been doing that for 20 years. That's really hard to sell people, because if you pitch them on the thing you built and it looks Craigslist, they're gonna laugh you out of the room.
I personally think that's a really great approach and I think there's so much time wasted on just I don't know like, v0 things that are a little too Innovative and not serving the basic needs, and just the boring things that can work early on, and I don't know if people have the confidence to come out with something boring and and with their own confidence say that it will someday be innovative.
I think that makes a lot of sense because ultimately a lot of startups are winding path. It's a staircase or stair step approach where what you ultimately want to build doesn't necessarily look what you first start building. And it's hard for people to, I think really internalize that and so they start trying to build their ultimate end goal in the beginning and that causes all sorts of problems.
So I totally agree. Anyway Ben, it's been great having you on the podcast. Thanks so much for joining and sharing your stories, and your learnings, and experiences. Can you tell listeners where else I can go to find out more about Dev.to you and about what you're working on personally?
so. My personal website is basically Dev.to/ben at this point. Everything I do in Dev.to can be found there. My Twitter is @BenDHalpern and that's where you'll find a lot of, just me, hanging out with the rest of the developer community and stuff like that. A lot of just, meta conversations about Dev.to because it's all I care about these days and that's about it.
Although I think I want to be spending a little more time on Indie Hackers, just hanging out. I have an account and I've liked played around a little bit, but maybe I'll hang out there a little bit more because I think I really would to, I just haven't haven't really done it enough.
And vice-versa I should hang out a little bit more in Dev.
Anyway, thanks so much for coming on the show Ben.
Thanks so much for having me.
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