Brad Fitzpatrick (LiveJournal, memcached & Camlistore founder) AMA

As part of our Code For Cash community, we invite guests to come into our Slack channel every once in a while for an AMA session. Recently, our guest was Brad Fizpatrick.

Brad Fitzpatrick, creator of Camlistore

Brad Fitzpatrick is a programmer best known for creating LiveJournal, and he is the founder of open source projects like memcached, PubSubHubbub, OpenID and Camlistore.

The AMA!

The transcript...for search engines :)


bradfitz [4:00 PM]
hi hi

zackburt [4:01 PM]
@klintzz has a question.  How did you find the initial user base for Livejournal? (edited)

bradfitz [4:01 PM]
College friends (fellow dorm mates) & high school friends.

[4:02]
Actually, even a few years later when we did stats about which US states and countries were most popular users, it was places where I had lived.

zackburt [4:02 PM]
So word of mouth was really important for its success

bradfitz [4:02 PM]
Indeed. We never really advertised.

zackburt [4:03 PM]
A lot of VCs say those are their favorite startups to fund.  Those are that are just growing organically without any ad spend

bradfitz [4:03 PM]
I also never had a VC.

[4:03]
I only invested into it the money it made.

[4:03]
So when I sold it, I was the 100% owner.

zackburt [4:04 PM]
What was the deal with the acquisition?

[4:04]
Do you regret selling it?

bradfitz [4:04 PM]
Naah. I was stressed out wearing a dozen hats and needed help & a change.

[4:05]
I couldn't be CEO, CTO, head of HR, product, office manager, t-shirt inventory manager, head of support, etc.

[4:05]
didn't scale.

[4:05]
I could've hired, I suppose, but I either didn't know where to find people and/or didn't trust or respect the people who wanted such positions and were offering themselves to fill those roles.

zackburt [4:06 PM]
Understood

[4:06]
It sounds like you didn’t have formal management experience prior to leading LiveJournal and that was a severe source of stress

[4:07]
For me that was a seriously big problem at AwesomenessReminders

[4:07]
I lacked management skills and yet suddenly I was thrown into a “do or die” situation and I… died

[4:08]
So, now you’ve been at Google for about 10 years.  I apologize for potentially crossing a boundary but we are all really curious.  Do you make more money by virtue of your being a tech celebrity??

[4:08]
We also hear that spending 10+ years at a bigco like Google can lead to huge salaries

bradfitz [4:09 PM]
I imagine LJ helped me get my Google job, and Google pays well, so probably.

[4:09]
At least, LiveJournal caused me to write a bunch of software I needed, and that software got famous enough to make me an easy hire for Google.

zackburt [4:09 PM]
Speaking of which.  I have a question.  What’s it been like seeing memcached take off and become such a huge phenomenon

bradfitz [4:10 PM]
If I were just a famous speaker or something, I don't think Google would've been such a sure thing.

[4:10]
I'm still tickled by memcached's success but even at the time I remembered realizing it was inevitable that this would be a thing, which is why I BSD'd it. I'd rather get "famous" from it than try to sell it and only sell a dozen copies because everybody else used the open source version.

[4:11]
That is, it's not magic sauce. I was at the right place at the right time to write the pretty obvious software and open source it. Anybody else would've later.

zackburt [4:12 PM]
Are you on  an individual contributor track at Google or are you doing the management track?

[4:15]
Do you intend to stay at Google?  Honestly, I’ve never been offered a job there (I’ve interviewed).  I think that would be a lot more straightforward to a supremely lucrative career in software.   Less risk.  Less stress.

bradfitz [4:16 PM]
IC track. I've had interns a few times, but that's about it.

[4:17]
I'm coming up on 10 years in August and I'm also have my first child in August, so I'll take a little paid baby leave and thing about it.


[4:17]
s/thing/think/

[4:17]
I'd be bored not working, though.

zackburt [4:17 PM]
What do you work on?

bradfitz [4:17 PM]
Go (golang.org)

[4:18]
Its standard library, http1/http2 client+server, its build system, releases, bug reviews, code reviews, etc...

zackburt [4:19 PM]
I’m seeing an increasing amount of demand for freelance and fte go developers

[4:19]
There is a reputation in the developer community that the Go community is filled with assholes.  I think that’s because it attracts a more skillful level of programmer

bradfitz [4:19 PM]
Yup. I was just hanging out and writing code with two people in SF today who are Go contractors.

[4:20]
That's unfortunate. There's definitely a lot of opinionated gophers, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as long as they're polite about it.

zackburt [4:22 PM]
How do you recommend people who are interested in learning Go dive into that?

[4:23]
When I was learning Perl, the `Learning Perl` book (the Llama) was amazing

bradfitz [4:25 PM]
I remember talking to my dad in the parking lot of Mt. Hood about the Perl books as the author (Randal Schwartz) walked by holding his skiis and overheard us. He was super excited to encounter readers in the wild.


courtland [4:25 PM]
Hi Brad! Do you think you'd ever go back to the entrepreneur role? Why/why not?

bradfitz [4:25 PM]
For Go, I imagine Alan Donovan's book is best, but I haven't read it all.

[4:26]
@courtland, yeah, that'd be fun. I was about to a few years ago with a few friends, but one bailed out at the 11th hour, so the plan was aborted.

[4:27]
(I was going to commercialize Camlistore.org)

[4:27]
the whole distributed storage marketplace in people's homes, own your own data, etc.

courtland [4:27 PM]
Very cool, I think I'd use something like that if it was easy to set up and maintain

[4:28]
Do you find that devs at Google are pretty entrepreneurial? Do lots of them have side projects or ideas for side projects?

[4:28]
(I like asking entrepreneur questions b/c my job at IndieHackers.com is interviewing entrepreneurs ;-D)

bradfitz [4:28 PM]
We continue to make Camlistore easier to deploy. Automatic DNS & LetsEncrypt is coming with the next release and will available from https://camlistore.org/launch/ in the next week or so.

courtland [4:28 PM]
Nice

bradfitz [4:29 PM]
Not sure percentage. I gravitate towards those who are, so selection bias. I'm sure plenty just do it as their day job and have a good work/life balance and spend time with family.

courtland [4:29 PM]
Very cool, I'm trying to convince a few of my developer friends at Google to take the plunge

[4:30]
How did you grow and market LiveJournal in its early days? Did you pay for ads or anything like that?

zackburt [4:30 PM]
@courtland Asked and answered … word of mouth

[4:30]
No advertising!

courtland [4:31 PM]
Ah missed that

zackburt [4:31 PM]
@bradfitz Do you know Dave Wurtz?

[4:32]
He’s really into entrepreneurial side projects.  He’s the PM of Google Fonts and was the “cofounder” of Google Drive

[4:32]
He did YC, as did @courtland

[4:32]
@bradfitz Was LiveJournal ever profitable?  @courtland Would you interview @bradfitz on IH?

bradfitz [4:33 PM]
No, don't know Dave Wurtz.

[4:34]
LiveJournal was always profitable (for about 8 years?) until I sold it.

[4:34]
We never had investors and I didn't sink any of my own money into it.

zackburt [4:34 PM]
That’s pretty cool

bradfitz [4:34 PM]
Once I sold it to Six Apart, they had different ideas and wanted to make it host ads and stuff.

courtland [4:34 PM]
Sounds like you were living the dream, except for having to do all the work yourself

[4:35]
@zackburt I'd for sure do an interview for IndieHackers.com if @bradfitz was up for it! (edited)

bradfitz [4:35 PM]
yeah, it was fun times. I even miss the stress in retrospect.

zackburt [4:35 PM]
@courtland tab completion :stuck_out_tongue:

[4:35]
@bradfitz haha I understand that, it’s addicting but unpleasant

[4:35]
Like most addictions, I imagine

courtland [4:36 PM]
@zackburt haha I need to get better at Slack :wink:

zackburt [4:36 PM]
Your IRC skills don’t transfer?

[4:36]
God, I can’t believe I didn’t see Slack coming.  Especially with the amount of time I spent on IRC...

[4:36]
Just FYI, I think if you can get a job at Slack today, it’s like getting a job at Facebook in 2008

[4:37]
or Google in 2007 and staying there 10 years :smile:

courtland [4:38 PM]
A friend who I taught to code just got a full-time front-end job at Slack

[4:39]
I told him he owes me 1% of his stock if it goes public :wink: (edited)

zackburt [4:39 PM]
Did he consent?

[4:39]
What happens if there’s a private sale?

[4:39]
@bradfitz Congrats on the newborn

bradfitz [4:40 PM]
don't count my chicken before it hatches!

[4:40]
but so far so good. thanks.

zackburt [4:40 PM]
Did you meet your partner on LiveJournal?

[4:41]
I know livejournal facilitated a *ton* of relationships

bradfitz [4:41 PM]
Nope. I met her on a 23-hour layover in Munich en route to Brussels for FOSDEM.

courtland [4:42 PM]
@zackburt He just laughed, so I took that as a no haha

zackburt [4:42 PM]
My go-to joke whenever I meet a german person is “What comes between fear and sex?”  ....

[4:42]
“Fünf"

[4:42]
(Vier = 4, sex = 6, fünf = 5)

bradfitz [4:42 PM]
(intentional 23 hour layover. If you book a layover even 1 minute less than 24 hours, it counts as a layover and you can enjoy a "day" in a city for ~free)


courtland [4:43 PM]
Nice tip

bradfitz [4:43 PM]
anyway, she worked at Google. I went to the office to round up people for dinner & Bier and met her in the process.

zackburt [4:44 PM]
nice....

courtland [4:44 PM]
@bradfitz What would have to happen for you to consider going full-time on Camlistore? Are you trying to grow it slowly/steadily on the side? Sounds like you're putting a lot of work into it

zackburt [4:44 PM]
And I don’t want to dredge up the past too much but I am curious if Livejournal was a major “leadgen” channel for you, datingwise :stuck_out_tongue:

bradfitz [4:44 PM]
I just want Camlistore to exist and want to use it for the rest of my life & to archive my life. So I keep investing in it.


[4:45]
I pay another guy to work on Camlistore ~full time in addition to my side work on it, so at least it's always making progress.

zackburt [4:45 PM]
Wow...

[4:45]
So you’re doing… awesome

[4:45]
It sounds like you could have retired after the lj acquisition ? maybe?

bradfitz [4:47 PM]
Well, I didn't utilize LJ as a dating source to the extent many of my friends at the time did.

[4:47]
Retired--- well, it depends on the life style & city, I suppose.

zackburt [4:47 PM]
good answer!

[4:48]
Can you explain to us/me what camlistore is?  To me it seems like memcached except for big files.  Is that right? (edited)

[4:49]
But it’s all run locally, so you’re just storing data on a server in your local LAN?

[4:49]
I really don’t understand it.

courtland [4:49 PM]
Looks like an open-source self-hosted S3 to me?

zackburt [4:49 PM]
It’s like tarsnap but without the encryption and without the s3?

courtland [4:49 PM]
Or maybe Dropbox is a better comparison

zackburt [4:49 PM]
But is it a client? a server? both?

bradfitz [4:49 PM]
Camlistore can do encryption & s3 too.

[4:50]
Camlistore is also a data model / scheme & importer for all your digital artificats.

zackburt [4:50 PM]
What’s an artifact

[4:50]
a .DS_Store file ? (edited)

bradfitz [4:50 PM]
your twitter

[4:50]
your facebook

[4:50]
your instagram

[4:50]
your runkeeper

[4:50]
all your upvotes on reddit

zackburt [4:50 PM]
Interesting

bradfitz [4:50 PM]
all the shit you produce

zackburt [4:50 PM]
Your digital footprint?

[4:50]
All the information you generate?

courtland [4:50 PM]
Ah, so basically social media data?

bradfitz [4:50 PM]
slurp it all in and archive it and make it searchable

zackburt [4:51 PM]
Whoa

bradfitz [4:51 PM]
yes, and files

[4:51]
it can also be your Dropbox

zackburt [4:51 PM]
What about keystrokes?

bradfitz [4:51 PM]
in theory

zackburt [4:51 PM]
What about keystrokes on all my devices?

bradfitz [4:51 PM]
no importer for that yet

zackburt [4:51 PM]
k

bradfitz [4:51 PM]
you can write searches like "Show me all photos that I took within 1 hour of a check-in of a venue of category 'Pub'"

[4:51]
and merge your photos from your Swarm check-ins and your tweets

zackburt [4:51 PM]
None of this is clear on the website.  not to be rude.

bradfitz [4:51 PM]
and mash up you rown data

[4:52]
We're not targeting users yet.

zackburt [4:52 PM]
Just being candid

[4:52]
k

[4:52]
:+1:

bradfitz [4:52 PM]
It's in the video if you watch the youtube video embedded on the front page

[4:52]
not to be rude.  :stuck_out_tongue:

zackburt [4:52 PM]
Didn’t see it

[4:52]
below the fold

[4:52]
So it sounds like it’s an encoding schema for digital content

bradfitz [4:53 PM]
https://camlistore.org/doc/overview has a story

zackburt [4:53 PM]
It’s like MIME ^ 2

[4:54]
Question: is this going to be the next bitcoin?  Can I buy Camlistore coins now for the equivalent of 1btc=~ 0.001¢?

courtland [4:55 PM]
I saw the video but didn't watch, it's an hour long. I'll have to set aside some time to watch it, though, because it seems pretty cool!

zackburt [4:56 PM]
You know it’s just like Brad has tons of credibility.  So even if I don’t understand it yet, I believe in it.. because of his reputation

[4:56]
@channel There’s a lesson there.

courtland [4:56 PM]
It's hard to find the right balance between working on marketing stuff and working on the product itself. It really depends on what your goals are

zackburt [4:56 PM]
(When dealing with clients, you no longer need to explain the techno-ese if you’ve established credibility)

courtland [4:58 PM]
So I just talked to Nathan Barry of ConvertKit for the Indie Hackers podcast, he had a lot of good stuff to say about that

[4:58]
Mostly about building an audience/credibility before trying to launch a SaaS product, and how much that helps

[4:59]
And his steps for going about doing that. Thought his advice was very sound and simple, too

[4:59]
Although not sure most people are willing to do that, because it takes a year or two

bradfitz [5:01 PM]
It wouldn't be its own coin. You can imagine doing federated storage marketplaces using Camlistore (or as a Camlistore backend), but your Camlistore instance would be doing the bidding & negotations on your behalf, using a different coin.

[5:01]
Anyway, gotta run.

courtland [5:04 PM]
Cool, thanks for talking with us Brad!

[5:04]
Consider coming on IndieHackers.com for Live Journal :wink:

zackburt [5:12 PM]
Thank you Brad!

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