311: Marketing Matters

Episode 311 · October 5th, 2021 · 37 mins 37 secs

About this Episode

Longtime listener and friend of the show, Gio Lodi, released a book y'all should check out and Chris and Steph ruminate on a listener question about tension around marketing in open-source.


CHRIS: Our golden roads.

STEPH: All right. I am also golden.

CHRIS: [vocalization]

STEPH: Oh, I haven't listened to that episode where I just broke out in song in the middle. Oh, you're about to add the [vocalization] [chuckles].

CHRIS: I don't know why, though. Oh, golden roads, Golden Arches.

STEPH: Golden Arches, yeah.

CHRIS: Man, I did not know that my brain was doing that, but my brain definitely connected those without telling me about it.

STEPH: [laughs]

CHRIS: It's weird. People talk often about the theory that phones are listening, and then you get targeted ads based on what you said. But I'm almost certain it's actually the algorithms have figured out how to do the same intuitive leaps that your brain does. And so you'll smell something and not make the nine steps in between, but your brain will start singing a song from your childhood. And you're like, what is going on? Oh, right, because when I was watching Jurassic Park that one time, we were eating this type of chicken, and therefore when I smell paprika, Jurassic Park theme song. I got it, of course.

STEPH: [laughs]

CHRIS: And I think that's actually what's happening with the phones. That's my guess is that you went to a site, and the phones are like, cool, I got it, adjacent to that is this other thing, totally. Because I don't think the phones are listening. Occasionally, I think the phones are listening, but mostly, I don't think the phones are listening.

STEPH: I definitely think the phones are listening.

CHRIS: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Bike Shed, a weekly podcast from your friends at thoughtbot about developing great software. I'm Chris Toomey.

STEPH: And I'm Steph Viccari.

CHRIS: And together, we're here to share a bit of what we've learned along the way. So, Steph, what's new in your world?

STEPH: Hey. So we have a bit of exciting news where we received an email from Gio Lodi, who is a listener of The Bike Shed. And Gio sent an email sharing with us some really exciting news that they have published a book on Test-Driven Development in Swift. And they acknowledge us in the acknowledgments of the book. Specifically, the acknowledgment says, "I also want to thank Chris Toomey and Steph Viccari, who keep sharing ideas on testing week after week on The Bike Shed Podcast." And that's just incredible. I'm so blown away, and I feel officially very famous.

CHRIS: This is how you know you're famous when you're in the acknowledgments of a book. But yeah, Gio is a longtime listener and friend of the show. He's written in many times and given us great tips, and pointers, and questions, and things. And I’ve so appreciated Gio’s voice in the community. And it's so wonderful, frankly, to hear that he has gotten value out of the show and us talking about testing. Because I always feel like I'm just regurgitating things that I've heard other people saying about testing and maybe one or two hard-learned truths that I've found. But it's really wonderful. And thank you so much, Gio. And best of luck for anyone out there who is doing Swift development and cares about testing or test-driven development, which I really think everybody should. Go check out that book.

STEPH: I must admit my Swift skills are incredibly rusty, really non-existent at this point. It's been so long since I've been in that world. But I went ahead and purchased a copy just because I think it's really cool. And I suspect there are a lot of testing conversations that, regardless of the specific code examples, still translate. At least, that's the goal that you and I have when we're having these testing conversations. Even if they're not specific to a language, we can still talk about testing paradigms and strategies. So I purchased a copy. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

And just to change things up a bit, we're going to start off with a listener question today. So this listener question comes from someone very close to the show. It comes from Thom Obarski. Hi, Thom. And Thom wrote in, "So I heard on a recent podcast I was editing some tension around marketing and open source. Specifically, a little perturbed at ReactJS that not only were people still dependent on a handful of big companies for their frameworks, but they also seem to be implying that the cachet of Facebook and having developer mindshare was not allowing smaller but potentially better solutions to shine through. In your opinion, how much does marketing play in the success of an open-source project framework rather than actually being the best tool for the job?" So a really thoughtful question. Thanks, Thom. Chris, I'm going to kick it over to you. What are your thoughts about this question?

CHRIS: Yeah, this is a super interesting one. And thank you so much, Thom, although I'm not sure that you're listening at this point. But we'll send you a note that we are replying to your question. And when I saw this one come through, it was interesting. I really love the kernel of the discussion here, but it is, again, very difficult to tease apart the bits. I think that the way the question was framed is like, oh, there's this bad thing that it's this big company that has this big name, and they're getting by on that. But really, there are these other great frameworks that exist, and they should get more of the mindshare.

And honestly, I'm not sure. I think marketing is a critically important aspect of the work that we do both in open source and, frankly, everywhere. And I'm going to clarify what I mean by that because I think it can take different shapes. But in terms of open-source, Facebook has poured a ton of energy and effort and, frankly, work into React as a framework. And they're also battle testing it on facebook.com, a giant website that gets tons of traffic, that sees various use cases, that has all permissions in there. They're really putting it through the wringer in that way.

And so there is a ton of value just in terms of this large organization working on and using this framework in the same way that GitHub and using Rails is a thing that is deeply valuable to us as a community. So I think having a large organization associated with something can actually be deeply valuable in terms of what it produces as an outcome for us as consumers of that open-source framework.

I think the other idea of sort of the meritocracy of the better framework should win out is, I don't know, it's like a Field of Dreams. Like, if you build it, they will come. It turns out I don't believe that that's actually true. And I think selling is a critical part of everything. And so if I think back to DHH's original video from so many years ago of like, I'm going to make a blog in 15 minutes; look at how much I'm not doing. That was a fantastic sales pitch for this new framework. And he was able to gain a ton of attention by virtue of making this really great sales pitch that sold on the merits of it. But that was marketing. He did the work of marketing there.

And I actually think about it in terms of a pull request. So I'm in a small organization. We're in a private repo. There's still marketing. There's still sales to be done there. I have to communicate to someone else the changes that I'm making, why it's valuable to the system, why they should support this change, this code coming into the codebase. And so I think that sort of communication is as critical to the whole conversation. And so the same thing happens at the level of open source.

I would love for the best framework to always win, but we also need large communities with Stack Overflow answers and community-supported plugins and things like that. And so it's a really difficult thing to treat marketing as just other, this different, separate thing when, in fact, I think they're all intertwined. And marketing is critically important, and having a giant organization behind something can actually have negative aspects. But I think overall; it really is useful in a lot of cases. Those are some initial thoughts. What do you think, Steph?

STEPH: Yeah, those are some great initial thoughts. I really agree with what you said. And I also like how you brought in the comparison of pull requests and how sales is still part of our job as developers, maybe not in the more traditional sense but in the way that we are marketing and communicating with the team. And circling back to what you were saying earlier about a bit how this is phrased, I think I typically agree that there's nothing nefarious that's afoot in regards to just because a larger company is sponsoring an open-source project or they are the ones responsible for it, I don't think there's anything necessarily bad about that.

And I agree with the other points that you made where it is helpful that these teams have essentially cultivated a framework or a project that is working for their team, that is helping their company, and then they have decided to open source it. And then, they have the time and energy that they can continue to invest in that project. And it is battle-tested because they are using it for their own projects as well. So it seems pretty natural that a lot of us then would gravitate towards these larger, more heavily supported projects and frameworks. Because then that's going to make our job easier and also give us more trust that we can turn to them when we do need help or have issues.

Or, like you mentioned, when we need to look up documentation, we know that that's going to be there versus some of the other smaller projects. They may also be wonderful projects. But if they are someone that's doing this in their spare time just on the weekends and yet I'm looking for something that I need to be incredibly reliable, then it probably makes sense for me to go with something that is supported by a team that's getting essentially paid to work on that project, at least that they're backed by a larger company. Versus if I'm going with a smaller project where someone is doing some wonderful work, but realistically, they're also doing it more on the weekends or in their spare time. So boiling it down, it’s similar to what you just said where marketing plays a very big part in open source, and the projects and frameworks that we adopt, and the things that we use. And I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing.

CHRIS: Yeah. I think, if anything, it's possibly a double-edged sword. Part of the question was around does React get to benefit just by the cachet of Facebook? But Facebook, as a larger organization sometimes that's a positive thing. Sometimes there's ire that is directed at Facebook as an organization.

And as a similar example, my experience with Google and Microsoft as large organizations, particularly backing open-source efforts, has almost sort of swapped over time, where originally, Microsoft there was almost nothing of Microsoft's open-source efforts that I was using. And I saw them as this very different shape of a company that I probably wouldn't be that interested in. And then they have deeply invested in things like GitHub, and VS Code, and TypeScript, and tons of projects that suddenly I'm like, oh, actually, a lot of what I use in the world is coming from Microsoft. That's really interesting.

And at the same time, Google has kind of gone in the opposite direction for me. And I've seen some of their movements switch from like, oh Google the underdog to now they're such a large company. And so the idea that the cachet, as the question phrase, of a company is just this uniformly positive thing and that it's perhaps an unfair benefit I don't see that as actually true.

But actually, as a more pointed example of this, I recently chose Svelte over React, and that was a conscious choice. And I went back and forth on it a few times, if we're being honest, because Svelte is a much smaller community. It does not have the large organizational backing that React or other frameworks do. And there was a certain marketing effort that was necessary to raise it into my visibility and then for me to be convinced that there is enough there, that there is a team that will maintain it, and that there are reasons to choose that and continue with it. And I've been very happy with it as a choice.

But I was very conscious in that choice that I'm choosing something that doesn't have that large organizational backing. Because there's a nicety there of like, I trust that Facebook will probably keep investing in React because it is the fundamental technology of the front end of their platform. So yeah, it's not going to go anywhere. But I made the choice of going with Svelte. So it's an example of where the large organization didn't win out in my particular case. So I think marketing is a part of the work, a part of the conversation. It's part of communication. And so I am less negative on it, I think, than the question perhaps was framed, but as always, it depends.

STEPH: Yeah, I'm trying to think of a scenario where I would be concerned about the fact that I'm using open source that's backed by a specific large company or corporation. And the main scenario I can think of is what happens when you conflict or if you have values that conflict with a company that is sponsoring that project? So if you are using an open-source project, but then the main community or the company that then works on that project does something that you really disagree with, then what do you do? How do you feel about that situation? Do you continue to use that open-source project? Do you try to use a different open-source project?

And I had that conversation frankly with myself recently, thinking through what to do in that situation and how to view it. And I realize this may not be how everybody views it, and it's not appropriate for all situations. But I do typically look at open-source projects as more than who they are backed by, but the community that's actively working on that project and who it benefits. So even if there is one particular group that is doing something that I don't agree with, that doesn't necessarily mean that wholesale I no longer want to be a part of this community. It just means that I still want to be a part, but I still want to share my concerns that I think a part of our community is going in a direction that I don't agree with or I don't think is a good direction.

That's, I guess, how I reason with myself; even if an open-source project is backed by someone that I don't agree with, either one, you can walk away. That seems very complicated, depending on your dependencies. Or two, you find ways to then push back on those values if you feel that the community is headed in a direction that you don't agree with. And that all depends on how comfortable you are and how much power you feel like you have in that situation to express your opinion. So it's a complicated space.

CHRIS: Yeah, that is a super subtle edge case of all of this. And I think I aligned with what you said of trying to view an open-source project as more generally the community that's behind it as opposed to even if there's a strong, singular organization behind it. But that said, that's definitely a part of it. And again, it's a double-edged sword. It's not just, oh, giant company; this is great. That giant company now has to consider this.

And I think in the case of Facebook and React, that is a wonderful hiring channel for them. Now all the people that use React anywhere are like, "Oh man, I could go work at Facebook on React? That's exciting." That's a thing that's a marketing tool from a hiring perspective for them. But it cuts both ways because suddenly, if the mindshare moves in a different direction, or if Facebook as an organization does something complicated, then React as a community can start to shift away. Maybe you don't move the current project off of it, but perhaps you don't start the next one with it. And so, there are trade-offs and considerations in all directions. And again, it depends.

STEPH: Yeah. I think overall, the thing that doesn't depend is marketing matters. It is a real part of the ecosystem, and it will influence our decisions. And so, just circling back to Thom's question, I think it does play a vital role in the choices that we make.

CHRIS: Way to stick the landing.

STEPH: Thanks.

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STEPH: Changing topics just a bit, what's new in your world?

CHRIS: Well, we had what I would call a mini perfect storm this week. We broke the build but in a pretty solid way. And it was a little bit difficult to get it back under control. And it has pushed me ever so slightly forward in my desire to have a fully optimized CI and deploy pipeline. Mostly, I mean that in terms of ratcheting. I'm not actually going to do anything beyond a very small set of configurations.

But to describe the context, we use pull requests because that's the way that we communicate. We do code reviews, all that fun stuff. And so there was a particular branch that had a good amount of changes, and then something got merged. And this other pull request was approved. And that person then clicked the rebase and merge button, which I have configured the repository, so that merge commits are not allowed because I'm not interested in that malarkey in our history. But merge commits or rebase and merge. I like that that makes sense.

In this particular case, we ran into the very small, subtle edge case of if you click the rebase and merge button, GitHub is now producing a new commit that did not exist before, a new version of the code. So they're taking your changes, and they are rebasing them onto the current main branch. And then they're attempting to merge that in. And A, that was allowed. B, the CI configuration did not require that to be in a passing state. And so basically, in doing that rebase and merge, it produced an artifact in the build that made it fail. And then attempting to unwind that was very complicated.

So basically, the rebase produced...there were duplicate changes within a given file. So Git didn't see it as a conflict because the change was made in two different parts of the file, but those were conflicting changes. So Git was like, this seems like it's fine. I can merge this, no problem. But it turns out from a functional perspective; it did not work. The build failed. And so now our main branch was failing and then trying to unwind that it just was surprisingly difficult to unwind that. And it really highlighted the importance of keeping the main branch green, keeping the build always passing. And so, I configured a few things in response to this. There is a branch protection rule that you can enable.

And let me actually pull up the specific configuration that I set up. So I now have enabled require status checks to pass before merging, which, if we're being honest, I thought that was the default. It turns out it was not the default. So we are now requiring status checks to pass before merging. I'm fully aware of the awkward, painful like, oh no, the build is failing but also, we have a bug. We need to deploy this. We must get something merged in.

So hopefully, if and when that situation presents itself, I will turn this off or somehow otherwise work around it. But for now, I would prefer to have this as a yeah; this is definitely a configuration we want. So require status checks to pass before merging and then require branches to be up to date before merging. So the button that does the rebase and merge, I don't want that to actually do a rebase on GitHub. I want the branch to already be up to date. Basically, I only ever want fast-forward merges on our main branch. So all code should be ahead of main, and we are simply updating what main points at. We are not creating new code. That code has run on CI, that version of the code specifically. We are fully rebased and up to date on top of main, and that's how we're going.

STEPH: All of that is super interesting. I have a question about the workflow. I want to make sure I'm understanding it correctly. So let's say that I have issued a PR, and then someone else has merged into the main branch. So now my PR is behind me, and I don't have that latest commit. With the new configuration, can I still use the rebase and merge, or will I need to rebase locally and then push up my branch before I can merge into main but at least using the GitHub UI?

CHRIS: I believe that you would be forced to rebase locally, force push, and then CI would rebuild, and that's what it is. So I think that's what require branches to be up to date before merging means. So that's my hope. That is the intention here. I do realize that's complicated. So this requirement, which I like, because again, I really want the idea that no, no, no, we, the developers, are in charge of that final state. That final state should always run as part of a build of CI on our pull request/branch before going into main. So no code should be new. There should be no new commits that have never been tested before going into main. That's my strong belief. I want that world. I realize that's...I don't know. Maybe I'm getting pedantic, or I'm a micromanager of the Git history or whatever. I'm fine with any of those insults that people want to lob at me. That's fine. But that's what I feel.

That said, this is a nuisance. I'm fully aware of that. And so imagine the situation where we got a couple of different things that have been in flight. People have been working on different...say there are three pull requests that are all coming to completion at the same time. Then you start to go to merge something, and you realize, oh no, somebody else just merged. So you rebase, and then you wait for CI to build. And just as the CI is completing, somebody else merges something, and you're like, ah, come on. And so then you have to one more time rebase, push, wait for the build to be green. So I get that that is not an ideal situation.

Right now, our team is three developers. So there are a few enough of us that I feel like this is okay. We can manage this via human intervention and just deal with the occasional weight. But in the back of my mind, of course, I want to find a better solution to this. So what I've been exploring…there's a handful of different utilities that I'm looking at, but they are basically merged queues as an idea. So there are three that I'm looking at, or maybe just two, but there's mergify.io, which is a hosted solution that does this sort of thing. And then Shopify has a merge queue implementation that they're running.

So the idea with this is when you as a developer are ready to merge something, you add a label to it. And when you add that label, there's some GitHub Action or otherwise some workflow in the background that sees that this has happened and now adds it to a merge queue. So it knows all of the different things that might want to be merged. And this is especially important as the team grows so that you don't get that contention. You can just say, "Yes, I would like my changes to go out into production." And so, when you label it, it then goes into this merge queue. And the background system is now going to take care of any necessary rebases. It's going to sequence them, so it's not just constantly churning all of the branches. It's waiting because it knows the order that they're ideally going to go out in.

If CI fails for any of them because rebasing suddenly, you're in an inconsistent state; if your build fails, then it will kick you out of the merge queue. It will let you know. So it will send you a notification in some manner and say, "Hey, hey, hey, you got to come look at this again. You've been kicked out of the merge queue. You're not going to production." But ideally, it adds that layer of automation to, frankly, this nuisance of having to keep things up to date and always wanting code to be run on CI and on a pull request before it gets into main. Then the ideal version is when it does actually merge your code, it pings you in Slack or something like that to say, "Hey, your changes just went out to production." Because the other thing I'm hoping for is a continuous deployment.

STEPH: The idea of a merge queue sounds really interesting. I've never worked with a process like that. And one of the benefits I can see is if I know I'm ready for something to go like if I'm waiting on a green build and I'm like, hey, as soon as this is green, I'd really like for it to get merged. Then currently, I'm checking in on it, so I will restart the build. And then, every so often, I'm going back to say, "Okay, are you green? Are you green? Can I emerge?" But if I have a merge queue, I can say, "Hey, merge queue, when this is green, please go and merge it for me." If I'm understanding the behavior correctly, that sounds really nifty.

CHRIS: I think that's a distinct but useful aspect of this is the idea that when you as a developer decide this PR is ready to go, you don't need to wait for either the current build or any subsequent builds. If there are rebases that need to happen, you basically say, "I think this code's good to go. We've gotten the necessary approvals. We've got the buy-in and the teams into this code." So cool, I now market as good. And you can walk away from it, and you will be notified either if it fails to get merged or if it successfully gets merged and deployed. So yes, that dream of like, you don't have to sit there watching the pot boil anymore.

STEPH: Yeah, that sounds nice. I do have to ask you a question. And this is related to one of the blog posts that you and I love deeply and reference fairly frequently. And it's the one that's written by German Velasco about Say No to More Process, and Say Yes to Trust. And I'm wondering, based on the pain that you felt from this new commit, going into main and breaking the main build, how do you feel about that balance of we spent time investigating this issue, and it may or may not happen again, and we're also looking into these new processes to avoid this from happening? I'm curious what your thought process is there because it seems like it's a fair amount of work to invest in the new process, but maybe that's justified based on the pain that you felt from having to fix the build previously.

CHRIS: Oh, I love the question. I love the subtle pushback here. I love this frame of mind. I really love that blog post. German writes incredible blog posts. And this is one that I just keep coming back to. In this particular case, when this situation occurred, we had a very brief...well, it wasn't even that brief because actually unwinding the situation was surprisingly painful, and we had some changes that we really wanted to get out, but now the build was broken. And so that churn and slowdown of our build pipeline and of our ability to actually get changes out to production was enough pain that we're like, okay, cool.

And then the other thing is we actually all were in agreement that this is the way we want things to work anyway, that idea that things should be rebased and tested on CI as part of a pull request. And then we're essentially only doing fast-forward merges on the main branch, or we're fast forward merging main into this new change. That's the workflow that we wanted. So this configuration was really just adding a little bit of software control to the thing that we wanted. So it was an existing process in our minds. This is the thing we were trying to do. It's just kind of hard to keep up with, frankly. But it turns out GitHub can manage it for us and enforce the process that we wanted. So it wasn't a new process per se. It was new automation to help us hold ourselves to the process that we had chosen.

And again, it's minimally painful for the team given the size that we're at now, but I am looking out to the future. And to be clear, this is one of the many things that fall on the list of; man, I would love to have some time to do this, but this is obviously not a priority right now. So I'm not allowed to do this. This is explicitly on the not allowed to touch list, but someday. I'm very excited about this because this does fundamentally introduce some additional work in the pipeline, and I don't want that.

Like you said, is this process worth it for the very small set of times that it's going to have a bad outcome? But in my mind, the better version, that down the road version where we have a merge queue, is actually a better version overall, even with just a tiny team of three developers that are maybe never even conflicting in our merges, except for this one standout time that happens once every three months or whatever. This is still nicer. I want to just be able to label a pull request and walk away and have it do the thing that we have decided as a team that we want. So that's the dream.

STEPH: Oh, I love that phrasing, to label a pull request and be able to walk away. Going back to our marketing, that really sells that merge queue to me. [laughs]

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CHRIS: To be clear, and this is to borrow on some of Charity Majors' comments around continuous deployment and whatnot, is a developer should stay very close to the code if they are merging it. Because if we're doing continuous deployment, that's going to go out to production. If anything's going to happen, I want that individual to be aware. So ideally, there's another set of optimizations that I need to make on top of this. So we've got the merge queue, and that'll be great. Really excited about that.

But if we're going to lean into this, I want to optimize our CI pipeline and our deployment pipeline as much as possible such that even in the worst case where there's three different builds that are fighting for contention and trying to get out, the longest any developer might go between labeling a pull request and saying, "This is good to go," and it getting out to production, again, even if they're contending with other PRs, is say 10, 15 minutes, something like that.

I want Slack to notify them and them to then re-engage and keep an eye on things, see if any errors pop up, anything like that that they might need to respond to. Because they're the one that's got the context on the code at that point, and that context is decaying. The minute you've just merged a pull request and you're walking away from that code, the next day, you're like, what did I work on? I don't remember that at all. That code doesn't exist anymore in my brain. And so,,, staying close to that context is incredibly important.

So there's a handful of optimizations that I've looked at in terms of the CircleCI build. I've talked about my not rebuilding when it actually gets fast-forward merged because we've already done that build on the pull request. I'm being somewhat pointed in saying this has to build on a pull request. So if it did just build on a pull request, let's not rebuild it on main because it's identically the same commit. CircleCI, I'm looking at you. Give me a config button for that, please. I would really love that config button.

But there are a couple of other things that I've looked at. There's RSpec::Retry from NoRedInk, which will allow for some retry semantics. Because it will be really frustrating if your build breaks and you fall out of the merge queue. So let's try a little bit of retry logic on there, particularly around feature specs, because that's where this might happen.

There's Knapsack Pro which is a really interesting thing that I've looked at, which does parallelization of your RSpec test suite. But it does it in a different way than say Circle does. It actually runs a build queue, and each test gets sent over, and they have build agents on their side. And it's an interesting approach. I'm intrigued. I think it could use some nice speed-ups. There's esbuild on the Heroku side so that our assets build so much more quickly. There are lots of things. I want to make it very fast. But again, this is on the not allowed to do it list. [laughs]

STEPH: I love how most of the world has a to-do list, and you have this not-allowed to-do list that you're adding items to. And I'm really curious what all is on the not allowed to touch lists or not allowed to-do list. [laughs]

CHRIS: I think this might be inherent to being a developer is like when I see a problem, I want to fix it. I want to optimize it. I want to tweak it. I want to make it so that that never happens again. But plenty of things...coming back to German's post of Say No to More Process, some things shouldn't be fixed, or the cost of fixing is so much higher than the cost of just letting it happen again and dealing with it manually at that moment.

And so I think my inherent nature as a developer there's a voice in my head that is like, fix everything that's broken. And I'm like, sorry. Sorry, brain, I do not have that kind of time. And so I have to be really choosy about where the time goes. And this extends to the team as well. We need to be intentional around what we're building. Actually, there's a feeling that I've been feeling more acutely than ever, but it's the idea of this trade-off or optimization between speed and getting features out into the world and laying the right fundamentals. We're still very early on in this project, and I want to make sure we're thinking about things intentionally.

I've been on so many projects where it's many years after it started and when I ask someone, "Hey, why do your background jobs work that way? That's a little weird." And they're like, "Yeah, that was just a thing that happened, and then it never changed. And then, we copied it and duplicated, and that pattern just got reinforced deeply within the app. And at this point, it would cost too much to change." I've seen that thing play out so many times at so many different organizations that I'm overwhelmed with that knowledge in the back of my head. And I'm like, okay, I got to get it just right.

But I can't take the time that is necessary to get it, quote, unquote, "Just right." I do not have that kind of time. I got to ship some features. And this tension is sort of the name of the game. It's the thing I've been doing for my entire career. But now, given the role that I have with a very early-stage startup, I've never felt it more acutely. I've never had to be equally as concerned with both sides of that. Both matter all the more now than they ever have before, and so I'm kind of existing in that space.

STEPH: I really like that phrasing of that space because that deeply resonates with me as well. And that not allowed to-do list I have a similar list. For me, it's just called a wishlist. And so it's a wishlist that I will revisit every so often, but honestly, most things on there don't get done. And then I'll clear it out every so often when I feel it's not likely that I'm going to get to it. And then I'll just start fresh. So I also have a similar this is what I would like to do if I had the time.

And I agree that there's this inclination to automate as well. As soon as we have to do something that felt painful once, then we feel like, oh, we should automate it. And that's a conversation that I often have with myself is at what point is the cost of automation worthwhile versus should we just do this manually until we get to that point? So I love those nuanced conversations around when is the right time to invest further in this, and what is the impact? And what is the cost of it? And what are the trade-offs? And making that decision isn't always clear. And so I think that's why I really enjoy these conversations because it's not a clear rubric as to like, this is when you invest, and this is when you don't.

But I do feel like being a consultant has helped me hone those skills because I am jumping around to different teams, and I'm recognizing they didn't do this thing. Maybe they didn't address this or invest in it, and it's working for them. There are some oddities. Like you said, maybe I'll ask, "Why is this? It seems a little funky. What's the history?" And they'll be like, "Yeah, it was built in a hurry, but it works. And so there hasn't been any churn. We don't have any issues with it, so we have just left it." And that has helped reinforce the idea that just because something could be improved doesn't mean it's worthwhile to improve it.

Circling back to your original quest where you are looking to improve the process for merging and ensuring that CI stays green, I do like that you highlighted the fact that we do need to just be able to override settings. So that's something that has happened recently this week for me and my client work where we have had PRs that didn't have a green build because we have some flaky tests that we are actively working on. But we recognize that they're flaky, and we don't want that to block us. I'm still shipping work. So I really appreciate the consideration where we want to optimize so that everyone has an easy merging experience. We know things are green. It's trustworthy. But then we also have the ability to still say, "No, I am confident that I know what I'm doing here, and I want to merge it anyways, but thank you for the warning."

CHRIS: And the constant pendulum swing of over-correcting in various directions I've experienced that. And as you said, in the back of my mind, I'm like, oh, I know that this setting I'm going to need a way to turn this setting off. So I want to make sure that, most importantly, I'm not the only one on the team who can turn that off because the day that I am away on vacation and the build is broken, and we have a critical bug that we need to fix, somebody else needs to be able to do that. So that's sort of the story in my head.

At the same time, though, I've worked on so many teams where they're like, oh yeah, the build has been broken for seven weeks. We have a ticket in the backlog to fix that. And it's like, no, the build has to not be broken for that long. And so I agree with what you were saying of consulting has so usefully helped me hone where I fall on these various spectrums. But I do worry that I'm just constantly over-correcting in one direction or the other. I'm never actually at an optimum. I am just constantly whatever the most recent thing was, which is really impacting my thinking on this. And I try to not do that, but it's hard.

STEPH: Oh yeah. I'm totally biased towards my most recent experiences, and whatever has caused me the most pain or success recently. I'm definitely skewed in that direction.

CHRIS: Yeah, I definitely have the recency bias, and I try to have a holistic view of all of the things I've seen. There's actually a particular one that I don't want to pat myself on the back for because it's not a good thing. But currently, our test suite, when it runs, there's just a bunch of noise. There's a bunch of other stuff that gets printed out, like a bunch of it. And I'm reminded of a tweet from Kevin Newton, a friend of the show, and I just pulled it up here. "Oh, the lengths I will go to avoid warnings in my terminal, especially in the middle of my green dots. Don't touch my dots." It's a beautiful beauty. He actually has a handful about the green dots. And I feel this feel.

When I run my test suite, I just want a sea of green dots. That's all I want to see. But right now, our test suite is just noise. It's so much noise. And I am very proud of...I feel like this is a growth moment for me where I've been like, you know what? That is not the thing to fix today. We can deal with some noise amongst the green dots for now. Someday, I'm just going to lose it, and I'm going to fix it, and it's going to come back to green dots. [chuckles]

STEPH: That sounds like such a wonderful children's book or Dr. Seuss. Oh, the importance of green dots or, oh, the places green dots will take you.

CHRIS: Don't touch my dots. [laughter]

STEPH: Okay. Maybe a slightly aggressive Dr. Seuss, but I still really like it.

CHRIS: A little more, yeah.

STEPH: On that note of our love of green dots, shall we wrap up?

CHRIS: Let's wrap up. The show notes for this episode can be found at bikeshed.fm.

STEPH: This show is produced and edited by Mandy Moore.

CHRIS: If you enjoyed listening, one really easy way to support the show is to leave us a quick rating or even a review in iTunes, as it really helps other folks find the show.

STEPH: If you have any feedback for this or any of our other episodes, you can reach us at @_bikeshed or reach me on Twitter @SViccari.

CHRIS: And I'm @christoomey

STEPH: Or you can reach us at hosts@bikeshed.fm via email.

CHRIS: Thanks so much for listening to The Bike Shed, and we'll see you next week.

All: Byeeeeeee!!!

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