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Part One: Cap Watkins (@cap)

Published 9/21/2015

In today's episode, I had a chance to talk with Cap Watkins, the VP of Design at Buzzfeed, about quite a few things - most importantly, collaboration.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone, I'm welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. Today I have the pleasure of talking to Cap Watkins Cap is the VP of design over at Buzzfeed of course Cap used to be a Etsy He's worked with people like Amazon. He is a very knowledgeable guy He writes quite a bit about design and about teams and all of these things that most of you are probably interested in and if not you should be so I will include a link in the show notes quite a few links actually which you can find at spec.fm So let's get to the interview with Cap Watkins Thanks so much for coming on the show Cap. Yeah, sure. Thanks for having me Absolutely you were on on design details twice now So I feel like it's it's time that you've made the round on to Developer Tea. I'm really excited to have you yeah totally I am looking forward to the hat trick You tweeted that you would have some hopefully some software development jokes up your sleeve. Oh, I forgot to look those up That's really upsetting. I Can tell you the joke I always use at I've used it at Etsy and at Buzzfeed a few times now whenever there's like an argument going on about database stuff I hear you know you hear like Developer Talking about this stuff that I'm totally understand I'll always break into it and just say like hey like what like and if you consider trying an outer left join database and It and the responses range from laughter to just looking at me like I'm a complete idiot You know you could be right sometimes well actually it's funny. I sent I at Etsy. I probably shouldn't tell a story but at Etsy I I pretty early on there. I'm on the tech on the tech threads with all of engineering. I don't know how but So there's an email to this day Now pretty early on at Etsy I was on this thread and the thread was about something to do a database It was going back and forth much of engineers replying all and then I reply all I'm pretty new still like nobody really knows who I am I reply all and actually and that's all I write I write the like has anybody considered an outer left join And everybody ignores me for like Maybe an hour like they just keep talking which is what they totally should have done until suddenly the CTO calendar applies and Right, so a couple paragraphs about why we don't do joints on the database and I was like I was mortified I was so upset. I was like oh my god. I just I just totally screwed myself with this job And so I emailed him back privately and was like hey, so I'm the new designer at lunch Yeah, I'm the new designer. I'm so sorry. I was just telling a joke And he finally he laughed if at some point I think he now whenever he and I talk it comes up like that He you know he makes a joke you're enjoying guy. That's right. I'm that guy So yeah, it's like a you know On parks and wreck how bin gets the gets the he's always talking about calzones Yes, right if you're familiar with this Yeah, anyway people hate calzones in that show for some I love calzones. I do love a calzone It's like a it's a pizza sandwich. I don't know what else you want what else can you ask for? Well, I first found you cap through Through your blog and on your blog you write lots of stuff That's the easy way to put it and you write quite a bit how long have you been actually writing and publishing content? That's a good question So that I mean I feel like I've been starting blogs since I was very young using word I watch doogie houses a kid and I tried to do like my own little like journal and word perfect You know like the blue screen word perfect. It was great. It was of course I lasted like 10 seconds and I stopped doing it This particular blog so you ever since then I've actually had different blogs about different things I blogged through college About just personal stuff to so I wouldn't have to call my parents every week And that's what I used to use Twitter for yeah, I wouldn't have to know where I am. I'll just tweet my location no Twitter I went no Twitter in college. Yeah, yeah, but Yeah, so then this blog I started in 2012 I think so maybe like early 2012 and so yeah, I guess that makes it three years now almost almost three years The interesting thing that I found is that so many of your articles end up applying not only to designers But pretty much anybody in business Including developers. So if anybody's considering Whether or not you should read cap's blog definitely do but There's been a couple of articles that I've really enjoyed one was the scope I think it was what was it scope snow scale the scale Discussion which I think you had on design details, but can you Kind of share that epiphany moment that you had with the listeners of Developer Tea of the scale That took me that actually too. I was like what this like I was thinking you meant like Scaling something. I was like, yeah, I was like I don't know what he's talking about I know what I thought you that's what I thought you meant when you were on design details Like who's gonna talk about why it's not a good idea to scale something that never needs to be scaled or something. No So yeah, so there's this uh Uh, I guess I'll start with the story so uh, that's you I was still I was managing folks, but I was still designing for a while Uh, because I just didn't have them any people to manage and you know, I was kind of spinning up and uh And so I was working with this engineer named Andrew who uh was very very talented and uh, I it's funny like as a designer I think For a long time, I've had a chip on my shoulder about design, you know being like a respected discipline and like I mean I don't know when I was a young designer like it was very much like hey, can you just like make this look good was something you got asked a lot Uh, yeah, and so I've spent a lot of time really early on kind of fighting Like engineers or like product people or whatever to try to like you know be like no, no, no, this is important And it's not just that So you know Andrew and I would you know, I'm gonna use the word discuss very lightly Uh, we would discuss feet the features we were developing together and sometimes they would just go on and on and on and it was He's like really I mean at times very stupid like my new things like like where should this button go and we would talk about it for I swear to god like 30 minutes Like that chip on my shoulder thing was really making me feel like it was important and one day Andy Or in the middle of something you know about that and he just goes he just stops me and he's like whoa He's like I'm a two out of ten on this. What are you? And I was just blown away. I had no idea that I could rate my feelings About things I didn't really like and it's binary. No. Yeah totally. It's I always felt like it was zero one Yeah, I felt like this is like either I have nothing to do with it or it's really important You know, it's like that's yeah, that's the it's a little hubris I think I said uh I mean, I guess I'm a six and he goes okay great. We'll do what you want to do and he walked away and And ever and like you know, I thought about that for a long time and ever since then like I've Taken to kind of rating my feelings about things on this scale from one to ten The article is about like basically how many fucks do I give about this? It's okay to curse right Some people feel a little friction and feel like they need to Push it back against that As opposed to I think there are a lot of times where It's probably a better idea In the short term and even the long term to kind of let stuff go To just be able to say like look like I actually don't feel that strongly about this This isn't that important to me and it seems to be really important to this other person So I'm just gonna let this you know, I'm gonna let this thing happen And I think people get really nervous about that idea like when I talk about it because they think oh Well if I give a little bit here and a little bit there and a little bit over there like you know All of a sudden that adds up to this huge terrible thing right But it is to in practice it never happens that way It just so rarely happens that way because these little things just As long as everybody's in it for the right reasons and they're all trying to make things better Which generally I think people are even like a decision to disagree with is not like the worst decision There are definitely worse things that could happen yeah So it's actually really interesting that you talk about that that way because You know as a software developer a lot of the time I feel like the decisions that I make or the opinions that I have Are either right or wrong because you know performance is a thing and code actually functioning That's in you know, that's an important part But there's a lot of opinion that goes into even software design. I mean have we have we heard the term refactor Exactly how many engineers like getting to somebody else's code or into their own code a month later I will go to refactor this. It's not that good You know it's just like this stuff. It's never you know perfect. There is no right answer Well, and the reality is and this is this is really kind of the theme that I want to focus on here at the in the first part of the show Uh, it's it's all writing right so whether you're writing a blog post or you're designing something You know you're designing a system or if you're writing software a lot of it is is some kind of writing is involved some kind of You know taking your thoughts and putting them into a form and whatever that form takes has a lot of your fingerprints on it Sure So if you're you know what it could even be as simple as you know how you name your variables and quite honestly That is most of what CSS ends up being right It's the naming structure of your classes. It's not you know Is it going to function or not if your CSS doesn't function well? It just literally won't work right so we all right Good CSS in the in terms of functionality it will work Sure, but then you know sometimes it's uh, you know two megabytes or something. Yeah. Yeah, it could be huge But even if it was small and you wrote a bunch of you know gibberish then that's not really you know quote-unquote good CSS Sure anymore Even if it has the same functional effect. Yeah. Yeah totally. I mean it's it's all degrees right You know, it's uh, you know I someone told me once uh What what ships wins And I think that's pretty interesting. I think uh So you know, it's better to ship gibberish. It's not if it's functionally correct Like if it like works. It's better to ship that than to then maybe to spend a lot more time shipping not gibberish Um and to unpack that over time, you know That's I think I think people think about this stuff in terms of uh, you know, we'll never touch this again Oh, yeah, I mean, I know designers feel that way a lot of the time and you know, I mean sometimes I mean, you know So it never is a long time. That's You know, that's a very long time and I mean a year is a long time a year's a long time And I think that that's actually that's sometimes true um Mm-hmm about you know, yeah, we're gonna ship this and you know do a couple iterations them. We're out Uh, it's what people feel a lot of pressure to like Make it the best thing it possibly can be and I think that's where a lot of attention comes in as opposed to like What is the best version of this in the time that we can a lot to it? You know, I mean, and then like also sound like again as long as it's working Do we really need I mean how much do we really need to squeak out of this or eke out of this thing? Uh, yeah, you know, so I think Again, it's just all degrees right if some I mean there's a difference between like oh, this is so terrible It doesn't work at all or this is so terrible and the page load just doubled versus like oh like it's terrible and I would write this a little bit differently, but there's really no gain You know like to try yeah, yeah, and and it's like a You know, there's a little bit of pride involved with it too, right? So especially in that very beginning, you know, if you if you actually are not going to be shipping this thing You know if this isn't the only time that you're going to ship right if it is indeed like most web projects are iterative Just naturally you're going to change this thing next week or next month or even next year Well getting it right the first time is a product of a couple of different things I think one of those is certainly you know, craftsmanship pride I don't want to write code that's bad And so if I ever let code out into the wild that has an inline style and somebody sees it surely I'm going to lose my job and be crucified You know, I can't do that right we've heard of react right we're all working with react. Oh, that's not fair I actually ran into a really interesting problem the other day We were talking about that about having react and doing inline styles I said well, how do you do hover effects? And it was like a moment of wait a second That's where this thing kind of breaks away from our traditional thinking of CSS interesting is you know Now you have to write a function for responding to hover rather than just a rule huh Yeah, I've been played with that much that that actually makes a lot of sense though Yeah, because basically what it does For those of you who are interested in this I'd I recommend going and going and watching the talk about it that kind of justifies The reason why I loved the talk is because he talks about like questioning your assumptions and questioning best practices That you accept just because they're there right and because a lot of people have said their their best practices and so he You know he looks for ways of applying styles in realistic and you know acceptable ways that kind of go with the methodology or Philosophy of react which is you know everything has a state and we're bundling it all together There's a lot of view stuff that goes along with state So why not go ahead and throw the styles in at the same time It's basically the same thing as writing CSS and that's true up to a certain point right and hover is one of those points That's curious Yeah, yeah overall I think that is a really interesting direction. I would love to see How that particular problem gets solved if it gets solved at all now I know that a lot of the Intention behind pretty much any web framework now is to focus on mobile and hovering isn't as much of a thing on mobile Although I'd be interested to know what you think about this about 3d touch Enabling some kind of mobile hover state. Oh boy. I feel like that's probably I mean we just invented a double click for There are phones which doesn't oh sorry right click for our phones, which doesn't feel I feel bad Ignocking it without using it. I feel like that's something I wouldn't I shouldn't do but uh I mean just keep it watching you right well. Yeah, but even watching in the demo where it's like oh you Press on this icon and you get us fly out menu. It is it is right click Um, which means that most people won't discover it or if they do it's an accent they will be trying to do something else Um, and then they'll be like what is going on like what is this thing that I just did again Like without feeling it it's hard to know But it feels like a little bit mystery meat to me like how many things am I gonna press on to just see You know, I mean like what do we just have a thing like how would it invite me to do that? Well on how frustrating it will be when you see a UI that you think should do it and you try it nothing happens Right where it does like a soft touch action right exactly or like it does something unexpected that you It's something that is not what you needed right. It's gonna There's just a lot there where like I feel like phone UI. What made it so great So far is that it's like It's so it made it so important to be so incredibly articulate in your design right your design has to be so clear and like Consisting about what's happening and this is just one of those things where like oh, we're gonna add this extra layer on top of it I mean, I mean, I guess for power users, but I don't really I mean, I don't know Context menus are a fix to a problem that never really existed I feel like like the issue is all of that stuff is hidden until you Until you dig right and and we know from So much research coming out about things like the Whatever the hamburger menu you even said you know on the discussion on design details about the cogwheel it being a flower And I just didn't know what it was you know obvious design very often wins over you know Whatever you want to call it non-obvious or hidden or obscured design So I feel like these contextual menus are gonna be difficult to access. I mean, I think you're right I think at the end of the day what'll wind up happening is and Apple kind of showed this anyway was everything that you could do with that already existed at the like Like in a very obvious way in the UI. So the apps that won't do so all the ones are gonna like very functionality underneath this thing and the ones that do well are gonna be like oh well This is like an extra way or like a shortcut to get to where you want to go And that's all we're gonna do and I think that'll be fine. It's fine You know what I mean like I just don't I hope it's I actually hope it's super useful and hope helping you use my phone faster But I don't know we'll see and it could be even that it's really useful for some people and they may not even be the power users You know, I saw a tweet the other day Somebody has an Apple watch. I can't remember who it was But they said even to this day they've had it basically since you know since it launched or whatever and to this day They haven't used the the crown at all. Oh wow. That's so interesting Yeah, and I thought that was I was so enlightening because you know not here you have this device. It's already pretty limited Right and you would think that you would have to use everything on it for it to be useful But that's not true. That is interesting. Yeah, I've been tried the Apple watch yet. I like my wife has and You know she wore it for a few weeks and then I think she spent a weekend without it and never went back And my personal feeling about it is just like the reason I don't want it is and I know you can control this But it kind of I feel like loses its function like it's function if I do this is a I mean I leave my phone on Do not disturb all day like it's a 24 hour thing So my phone doesn't buzz ever because I don't want it to I don't want anything vying for my attention You know, I think like for a long time it was in my pocket and buzzing and that was nice But I'm at a point now where I'm kind of like I want to check this when I want to check it and not Check it because it's buzzing at me and I feel like that's the thing that the the watch does is like it says Okay, well you can check it without taking out of your pocket, but I don't want to check it You know anything like I don't want to get yeah, I do not want to get alerted. I don't want to know I'm the same way. I literally right now I have my phone on do not disturb. It's really magical life changing If anybody out there has not done this I I I guarantee you like go for like Oh two weeks just like put it on do not serve to want you can set it up in settings 24 hours just set up for 24 hours For like two weeks and it's just like it's magical It's so freeing and you realize all of a sudden that like nothing really matters that quickly Because like if someone's in your VIP and they call you twice you get the call and if it's super important right and if someone text you It's you know, it's on your VIP list It still comes through and like everything else just kind of is there for when you're ready not for when they are ready Do you know what I mean? Yeah, I've talked about this quite a bit actually on the show the the concept of focus Which you actually talked about turning your phone. I do not disturb in your post about focus So I thought that was interesting overlap But I basically everything that can push to me I turn it off and and instead I have this concept of Pulling rather than pushing so going and getting my email going and getting my text messages You know listening to voicemails rather than answering unknown numbers But much rather if if you really need to get a hold me leave me a voicemail, you know Yeah, I don't know I actually like the notifications on the lock screen So I don't have to open my like it's one of the things I can look at my phone when again when I'm ready I can look at it and then make a decision Yeah, I think that's kind of conceptually the same thing though, right of like limiting the incoming noise Yeah, no totally I just think there's like you know like logistically like when you're if you don't get notifications and you open your phone You just start pulling for all that stuff Um to figure out which apps have stuff in them. You know what I mean? Then like I think like what I like about the lock screen and what I don't like is the buzzing what I do like about it is like I can quickly like scan it No, I don't care. You know, yeah, it makes it really easy for me to say I don't care about this And I put it back Well, and the only one that I really leave on is text messages and then I think I accidentally recently turned on Twitter again Twitch You know, I'm blessing it of course, but I'm blessing it of course Yeah, well, you just press okay to so many, you know things that pop up By the way be aware of those things they mean something You know when you give something access to stuff it has access to stuff now I have text on my home screen you said something very salient I think you you open the lock screen and you say oh, I don't care about that I found myself saying that constantly and I still do this with my email inbox I just check all unread and mark is read yeah Constantly, yeah, well, why am I even getting these emails? I feel like I get a little uh and like a Adrenaline rush by saying I don't care about this They're putting it away. It's like one of those like endorphin hits right? Just like I pull out to look at and be like I don't care and then I feel good It's like you can say notice something and that makes you feel like you said no something today I'm told my life I turned off my phone. You know, it's like how sad is that It's stealing your life away cap. I'm okay with that. I've come to terms So the idea of everything being writing now that we're back after that The version there, you know, you write a lot of blog posts, but you also Internally listening to the design details post you talked about how you write justifications for your designs And this kind of works as documentation of the work you're doing I'd love to explore this idea a little bit with you and ask you, you know Why do you write justification for designs number one and number two? What does that look like? Is it like a quick note after you work or is it you know something more in depth? Yeah, I think there's a couple reasons to do it I think the biggest reason that we do that stuff at BuzzFeed and And we did that at Etsy as well is like actually I did that at Amazon too, I guess, but A lot of it at Etsy and BuzzFeed was a lot about transparency You know, we're working on teams and in a lot of cases like working with Like across teams or working on things that touch other people's stuff or working, you know In an environment where someone may not know why you're making the decisions you're making And so I think like one of the biggest things about documenting not just writing down like justification for The designer even the product that you're working on it's important for you But it's also really important for other people to see So that they can contextualize the work that you're about to share Do you know what I mean? So like swiss based camp to document all the design work at BuzzFeed all the designers are on all the threads The engineers for each team are on the individual threads for the products that they work on with those designers The product people are on those threads Whoever basically whoever wants to have Inside into what's going on has access and every post So every thread the designer starts so a designer will start a thread for a new feature right be like oh We're gonna redesign this page. We're gonna redesign the homepage, right? I think a lot of designers do this thing where like they're gonna redesign the homepage They have a conversation they start designing like they start like working in sketch or Photoshop Or Illustrator or whatever and then you know a couple weeks go by they have some review meeting They show this work to the product person who's like what what is this? Let's make these changes whatever or try again and then you know two or three weeks later They're like okay, everybody feels great and then they throw it over the wall to developers and then the developers go There is no way We can do this. Yeah, we we cannot do this. Are you crazy? And also we think you're wrong You know, it's like there's like all these pieces to it and so By pulling everybody into the base camp thread First of all you get this transparency But the second thing that happens is when you write these this first post in the thread every single time has no design work in it Like you haven't started doing design work yet. You've had a conversation with your engineers and your product person You're writing down Three things you're writing down the problems you're trying to solve So you give a quick intro then you write down the problems you're trying to solve the strengths of the current Thing that you're replacing or trying to improve on if it exists right if they're if you're trying to improve on something You want to not lose what was good about it right And then the third thing is Like we call antennas with a really goals right like design goals. I think it also be product goals So it's or engineering goals right so it's like a goal could be wouldn't increase conversion on this page Right, that's like that's a goal. That's a measurable goal Like another goal might be like make it clearer what's going to happen when you submit this form You could probably measure that with conversion right but like the design goal is to make it clearer And so you start to set out these tenets Around what you're hoping to accomplish and so now like before you've done any design work right you post this thing The engineer see it the product peoples via the designer see it and this is that moment for everybody to like disagree Or to say you know your product person might say oh actually you misunderstood like in our conversation what I meant I actually meant this and the engineers might say oh well actually like I don't think this thing is as important as this other thing All right, here's a problem you didn't think of You know and you can have that conversation up front before you've done any work So you have that conversation and then like you know you kind of lock in And now what you have is like something you can refer back to with every single iteration of design that you do To measure basically are am I solving these problems right with this design? Yeah, am I adhering to these tenets and if not why not Right and there's been so many times when I've done that as a designer that like You wind up changing those things as you go because you start to you know you're uncovering things You're just it's like discovery and exploration and you start to understand more about what's happening And so you change or add or delete from those lists as you go Based on what you're finding right or what an iteration would tell you it's a really nice Way of including people and articulating and also documenting for transparency like the design process for junior designers Particularly I think it's a really good way to force yourself to Think Daniel Berkhoppost of this the other day that he had he found something where it was like the difference between a junior designer and a senior designer And like it was a chart of like the process and how long designer spending each part of that process and like The junior designer spent less time and discovery more time doing the you know design work like in Photoshop In sketch or whatever and then you know the last bit kind of like you know iterating or whatever and then like the senior designer the like time spent thinking was like exponentially longer Right and the time actually executing was shorter And then you know iterating also was like there and I think it's just like how do you take a junior designer into like towards that? Is like this is the way to like this is the forcing function right to be like we're going to write these doc this documentation So sit down think about it that actually touches on a few different things that I think are really important Especially when it comes to how this intersects with you know developers or whatever system admin Is this idea of like you said transparency, but overlapping this feedback loop so that the the problems can be addressed early Because design is everyone's problem right like you don't have an engineering team just to execute On a visual thing right that's not the point the point is that you all are kind of working on one problem together and When you have a a team of people that have the ability to you know seed into this concept or seed into a conversation about something It as long as it's moderated well and you aren't doing you know the evil design by committee Which I'd be interested to hear how you avoid that but That that kind of conversation can help the design actually you know avoid some of the pitfalls that otherwise would fall into and it's not Design is no longer just sitting in Photoshop right it's it the design it sitting in Photoshop is just an expression of the design Yeah, I mean I think I think people tend to have a little trouble when it comes to I think the term ownership tends to be a problem. Yeah Across all disciplines really so I think what this starts to break down a little bit Like even just the space camp thing like it starts to break down these walls between not even just design and engineering a product But like product and design engineering right because like that first post isn't about design I think it's not like it's about the product right and like what we're doing and why we're doing it and You know, this is the chance. This is like an opportunity for First of all the designer wrote the post so like they are clearly trying to articulate the product vision Right and then the engineer is now if they didn't before Also have an opportunity to respond to that you know respond to that and to engage in a product discussion and not an engineering discussion and not a design discussion Um, right and I later we're gonna talk about designers kind of working in code with the engineers, but like I think the goal Like a goal that I have with teams and I think a lot of people I feel like a lot of people share this is like trying to break down the silo Right like just trying to break like these things aren't just touching. They're actually right on top of each other You know, it's like every decision An engineer makes has impact on the user experience right and the product and the future of that product and how easy to Is iterate or how fast it is or if it works in a certain way or how it throws errors or whatever Um, this is these are all things that matter and are part of this I mean like kind of what you're talking about this like singular thing that Like there's no owner of a discipline. It's just owners of the product right of final product So you mentioned the throwing over the wall and I for whatever reason had this kind of a vision of like You know a product being like a child and the design team being the mother or the father Whichever one I'm not trying to make a big deal out of that But and then the development team being the other right and you can't Parent you know one versus the other or one completely separated from the other Without actually communicating like you can't look at things as completely separate as much as we want to Componentize everything because it makes for whatever better efficiency or you know We have plug-and-play kind of conceptually we can work on our own silos And then you know interface them together Ultimately all of that is just a facade for one big working system And in each thing definitely affects the other things and it's all just framing right? I mean it's I think uh Framing things as I think we say things like product owner or You know these the engineers own the code base or whatever I think there's these like these words of ownership But it's really more It's it's expertise in a tool right in a way of thinking and using that tool right So for an engineer that tool is code and for a designer that tool is you know use a research or You know sketch or whatever right and then You know product manager is I mean This is no small feat is gonna sound somewhat sarcastic But it's like jira is something is very part to you And it's like and it's a really powerful tool that can really help your team right or um You know even just like the soft skills that a product manager comes in with expertise right to help Manage things and make sure everything's on track and stuff. I think there's just like everybody has these expertise Bits but it's not ownership right like it just because Engineer owns the code doesn't mean or is the expert in the code doesn't mean that like a designer can't do that or just because a designer works in sketch Doesn't mean that they own the design That seems crazy Yeah, well because again, it's it's it's viewing it as discrete things right and while certain expressions Maybe like technically, I guess you could say that a code file is not the same as a dot sketch file or whatever They all are contributing to a final I don't want to use the word experience But really that's that's what it is right. It's it's a final thing that you know Everything culminates to that when the user interacts with this thing what happens. Yeah, sure Okay, how often are you actually designing because I know as VP which you mentioned there's not a P of design But as VP of design a lot of your job is is hiring right? I mean it's hiring and Management and strategic thinking for the team and the organization. I've been doing a lot more Work on developing like our professional development stuff for tech for the tech team generally I'm just kind of like how do we support people as they grow and what You know what kind of stuff can we put in place for people to do you know to feel like You know they're progressing in their job and career at Buzzfeed um and like so my job is actually I don't do very much design work anymore at all. I am like I'm still working pretty closely with the designers on the CSS framework and style guide that we've been working on but other than that I'm not really doing I'm not really opening sketch anymore or Or doing any I mean also like I was doing some branding work, but we've just I just finally hired If I hired someone who's much much much more talented at that And so it's good thing to be able to say is no guy. I feel so good I you know that thing where you're doing something in the entire time you're going like I shouldn't be doing this I shouldn't You just know it's not gonna be good But he's amazing and so he's like spinning up and starting to take on more and more of that stuff So like there's going to be a day not that soon from now where I'm pretty much just you know managing period So it's actually a very exciting day. I'm pretty pumped about it That speaks to what we were saying earlier about design not just being and the execution moment necessarily But the entire kind of holistic team that's an important part of what happens to the design right like You have to have that backing experience first of all to be in the position that you're in But also you know by by putting the team together in the way that you were doing it That actually has a lasting and cascading effect on the ultimate thing that you're building Yeah, I mean it seems to be that way um I don't know I think this is why people either get into management or don't get into management I think or they get an management and hate it. I think I'm very good at knowing that I'm not very good at things Um, I'm like I maybe some sort of everybody has this imposter syndrome But mine may be you know one of those things where I just I'm always concerned that I'm not doing it so well And so I get very excited when I find people who are very good at what they're doing because it just takes a whole ton of pressure off of me Uh, you know, and I think it makes it really easy to empower people you know to hire well like makes it really easy to empower folks when they come in It makes it really easy just to like kind of give them More more rope, you know, and just give them more and more ownership over what they're doing And I think when you there are managers who have a hard time with that I think the the folks that are very Are more into making things they have a hard time letting go of that, you know And I think uh, especially the folks I particularly think the people who are extremely good at this stuff Like have a much harder time right because like all they want to do is go like no give that to me You know, and they want to like do it or like direct it like very like you know At like a micro level and I think you know, it takes practice I think and uh to kind of just again like rate those things from one to 10 Yeah, yeah, great. This is kind of okay Like they probably know that I probably know that but how much do I really care and can I let them kind of like have this experience RCTO at Buzzfeed after nine years just recently left the company and he was giving his last lecture In his last week before he left and someone asked him what the hardest thing Or really what the most important thing he learned was or one of the hardest things he had to like figure out how to do And his response was I had to learn to let the people I manage fail Like that has to happen like I have to let them fall down and pick and like actually pick themselves up And like does themselves last one keep going and then be there for them to like Help them obviously But if like you know if I tried to make every decision for everybody or tried to you know be impact every decision for everybody Like I would like I would go crazy and then I would drive them crazy And they wouldn't ever learn because they would never have actually like Experienced what I've experienced and you know, I mean like I've been really lucky to experience like I'm talking about me now like Just like hopeful like Failure. Yeah, I was actually gonna ask you a question about that But go ahead and finish and then I'll ask a question after we're done No, I mean that's kind of it. I mean I think uh Yeah, I just think being able to hire people Yeah, I think like it just like that makes me really excited because I like to hire people who who are resilient and Who can fall down and you know just keep going you know like they just won't they they have too much Uh momentum and energy to like To just lay there, you know and like right. I think it's really important and when I hire on my end I have experienced people who are too afraid to do anything for fear of early failure Right, so like you know and that often is debilitating and so and part of that is creating a Well, creating a culture I guess but making people feel safe in their failures. Oh, yeah, you I mean the goals should be to fall down as fast as possible Right. Yeah, that happens like the better right with the understanding that your goal isn't to fall down Right, but that it will probably happen. Yeah, totally. I think Etsy did a very good job of that I think BuzzFeed does too, but I think uh that's kind of where I learned that was um I mean Running experiments like actual like web experiments will like if your company does not have a culture that Can absorb failure like you're you're gonna have bad time because like I would say A vast majority of the things that we tried at Etsy like didn't work Like you know, I mean didn't do what we expected or didn't like it did poorly or didn't do anything Right, just like zero like just like a total neutral change that didn't help her hurt the company and what a bummer was just there It was just there and it was like oh, okay um But because like Etsy And didn't just like say that was okay, but encouraged that sort of thing People like sped up to fail like in fact like we started trying to break down problems To find out like what's the smallest thing we could do to be wrong the fastest It was the fastest way we can learn how wrong we are um and I think If it's baked into the culture like that even down to like the product level where that is how you do product planning Even like that's where it starts to become like it's not failure anymore right it's learning Because the goal in the distance is success Right and if if you're looking at these microcosm like these micro failures as like the end then Yeah, you're screwed But if like if these little micro failures are actually like because you are working our way towards as much bigger Tor up this bigger hill like then it'll it all is worthwhile Well, that's the point of iteration and the point of you know refactoring is that the first time you do something It's not going to be the best right and and there is no best You're constantly improving because the world around just is around you is changing So if you were to create the original iPhone now Who use a very obvious example it would be considered a failure sure but not in its time not in that context. Yeah, it's totally true So I think failing is is just an inherent part of progress but Failure in and of itself like you're saying it's not the end right like if you stop at failure then you failed But if you use failure then it's not really failure as much as it is like you're saying learning It really did I think that is a very good language shift that people should adopt more often failing is really just stopping in the middle of the learning process right now totally and it's all part of it's yeah I mean looking at it as a process is actually the most probably important thing yeah That it's like steps and not you know Again, you're right. I mean like I've seen it like people stop like people stop and Then it's over Right and it's actually sometimes that's the right thing to do right sometimes like you you know We took a bunch of steps and this happened at that C2 you take a bunch of steps You wouldn't get where you wanted to go and you would stop and you would like yeah, okay We got to step away from this like this path actually is not producing divin or investing. Yeah, we're not finding. We're not finding the we're not finding any purchase here So like finding another path or even coming back to that Some other time when maybe we're fresher and we're thinking differently That's probably the textbook definition of actually failing is like no. Yeah, we tried all this stuff nothing worked So we stopped but at least we knew enough to stop I guess No, I think the idea here is that like you aren't typically unless you are I don't know working on your life's thesis or something I don't think that you're working on one thing necessarily because a lot of the time you know you're balancing five initiatives and If one isn't working then cutting that one gives you more resources to put into the other ones usually right like It's about knowing your portfolio I guess of efforts. Yeah, totally and that's probably especially true for managerial roles is you know What is the energy of my team going towards and I need to be aware like keep my finger on the pulse of when we need to cut something and And move move that person in a different direction. Yeah, I mean yeah, I mean people get tired right and burnt out and like You can only withstand so much of the same and you know pursuing the same thing I think and not and not actually being successful before It's kind of time to try something else. Yeah, I actually recently had that same discussion with somebody We and we came to the conclusion that there should always be at least one pinch hitter on any given effort So like you know if one day you need to pull off of that project and go and do something totally unrelated Then somebody can step in and and help right like even if it's just minor progress a lot of the work that I do You can have somebody step in and just carry the ball forward a little a little ways while you're you know Recoupping I guess yeah, so we started actually doing we haven't used it in that way yet I don't think but um one of the like professional development things that we're starting at Buzzfeed next day I totally full disclosure ripped this off from Etsy Um Is that we started this thing we're calling it residences that Etsy they call them rotations where anybody in the in the tech org can Talk to their manager about working on another team for six weeks They'll talk to that manager to talk to their team that team will come up with you know What makes sense for them to work on for six weeks and we'll schedule it and we'll do it That's really interesting. Yeah, it's cool. We just recently implemented it What's really funny is we if anybody that ever asked we would have probably done it anyway But like but it's but we're you know we let people know that it's actually a thing you can ask for and that's you know hilariously I love those wins because it's like I didn't we didn't do anything Yeah, it was already had we sent we sent an email that just said this is okay and We have a label for this. Yeah, and we look like geniuses so But yeah, so like a lot of people are starting to ask about that now and it's interesting because there's different reasons for doing that right There's some reasons which is like oh I've been working on this team for a long time And I don't want to leave this team, but I want to try something else for a little bit or um I some people like I just want to know About how this other team works or I want to know more about How this team does team does a be testing right and like and these are like the kind of reasons people do that and What's interesting is like some teams are used are I think thinking about using it As a way to kind of like oh well there's these things that we've been kind of churning on and able to get done like this person's fresh and can like Rock through this or like there's this thing that we can't do because there's no one to do it And it's bothersome to us that we can't you know and actually it's really funny is the teams themselves are starting to send emails at times That are like if anybody wants to do a residency on the growth team Please contact you know Jon at busby.com and You know that they're actually like trying to pitch Work that someone could do in a six-week residency on their team Which is actually even more magical because then now everybody starts to even have a broader sense of what's going on in those teams What's interesting and impactful about those teams? I don't know it's it's actually working out In ways I didn't expect but yeah, I mean it's that way of like kind of like letting people get past the burnout and like get Like try something else for a little while and come back Was this influenced by like academia and the idea of a residency in academia? I have no idea. I so at let's see they they were doing it just with the engineers And they were doing it all with just the senior it called it senior rotation for a long time Or a senior level and up engineers could do that once a year And I think recently they rolled it out to all of engineering and then a bus feed. We're doing it for everybody So there's not like a person who can't who can't do it So like design can go and beyond the engineering team for six weeks I mean, there's no like we don't divide it up like that. So what winds up happening is so we break The busby product team down into like feature areas. So we have um What's the example the mobile app team that has You know smaller teams inside of it, but it's just it's engineering design and Product all in the same team Right, there's no like there there's an engineering like discipline But there's like and there are engineers and there's definitely like an organization to that But the organization is actually like that organization secondary to the team organization So when like someone goes to join different team it'll be like an example would be a designer from the data team Coming over to work on the growth team Right, new engineers new designers new product people or like an engineer from the Web experience team going to work on the ads team right for so it's not so much cross discipline as it is just cross subject right exactly and like so we have um it's also something I ripped off just not just from it's I guess a lot of people do this but like we did uh we had our first hack week over the summer and uh like our attack wide hack week And there were a lot of people that did things that weren't things they usually do So like a lot of the project managers actually had further hack week project had an engineer teach them Django and they did a project altogether over the course of a week And they all had these they all wrote their own blog by the end of the week they had a blog they'd written and deployed like by themselves It was pretty cool um and I had my project my hack week project was titled teach captive code uh Which didn't work out so well I got I got distracted by other projects I didn't mind it so you don't know how to code then I guess uh, you know, I don't know I actually so actually if you if anybody's interested in getting deeper into that into like coding at all and they aren't that's listening to this Actually, I over the past few weekends I've been Reading this book called hello web app by Tracy Osborne. Oh, it's an introduction to web development um and it's Django like she's a designer and she's she's explaining things Like I've wrote a lot of programming books. I think I've tried to learn to code many many times and I feel like the uh The concepts I always feel like they're right. I might write on the edge of understanding mm-hmm, and I just in the book. Just don't go far enough to explain to me what's going on It's like a slightly missing vocabulary something like that right and then and then she just frames it in this like perfect way where I just like it just clicked on for me and I was like oh Yeah, I understand why this is happening now and then she also like when she talks about like snippets of code or something like she explains like line by line what's happening and so it's nice because you like especially for someone like me who like I never took a csc s course. I've never you know I mean I've never done this before to like really be able to like read what she's saying and look at the snippet and be like okay, like I see what's happening here I can kind of intuit how to mess with this if I wanted to and there's something she says not to worry about right now Which is like rejects like she's like don't don't she's like just just copy this like we'll get into it in another book Like this is how you need to worry about it, but just stay away from it. This is a beginner. This is not beginner stuff like But it's actually super useful and so like it's actually she's just she's kickstarting the intermediate book That would be great. I'm pretty pumped about it because like the beginner book was great and actually like did I have a app I've deployed. I'm like kind of building this like little recruiting app on the side. Oh nice Yeah, I'm pretty pumped about it actually works. It's it's really stupid because it's like I got something to Is really dumb. I can I have some I have this like this app that you can like it's basically a form You can type into the form you submit it it puts in the database. I can read from the database I like sort the information and I feel so like powerful Yeah, yeah, yeah, well, welcome to welcome to the software engineering world. God. It's beautiful I thought CSS was great. This is like it's pretty pretty magical It's funny to hear that from somebody who is at you know in the position that you are in Because it's it's there is a wonder still about How this stuff kind of makes us feel it's it's a new way of expression right and I know that design has always talked about in those Kind of terms, but a lot of the time computer science isn't and when somebody gets a hold of it and really sees You know what you can do with it right like the app that you built as simple as it is It could be very powerful like for you or for BuzzFeed or for whatever You know and it could be very simple at the same time. Yeah totally. I think that's Starting to become more clear to people. Yeah, I think so too. I think it's it's becoming more clear because you know code is Continuously more and more in the spotlight right we have you know the app store probably is highly responsible, but Beyond that just just the common you know the hour of code and all these things that are coming out to kind of make society Aware that code is important I guess. I don't know. I don't know how we didn't catch on to that earlier But you know you don't have to do this for a job to be able to explore it sure It's kind of interesting. I mean we talk about user experience designers and stuff But I mean when you're writing the code for an app or whatever Like that kind of user experience and user path has baked into even writing the code for how obviously for how it all works and puts together And so what you wind up with is like actually in my experience like To about some a lot of developers I talked to or work with I've worked with in the past are like some of the Best user experience advocates because actually like the shortest path for the user is the shortest path for the code a lot of time Right and like and they're and they're thinking about that because they're building it And so we're starting to get into a place where decent design is becoming more commoditized. I think yeah Like I think it's becoming easier to do pretty good design like good enough design for sure Uh, like I mean how many apps have we seen that had no designer that have done pretty well? I think not to say that I mean this is I mean I'm the VP of design. This is sacrilegious But like I mean not to say it is not important or that like you you know again having someone with that expertise Doesn't help you right? I think it does the part that is hard for has historically been hard for developers isn't the Or what they get knocked for hasn't been the user experience design so much Uh, because I think that just kind of happened But it's been more of the like oh well, you know the visual thing the thing that all the designers hate being Vision hold for Is the visual design thing and that's just becoming like super commoditized I think um If you look at like apps that you know before they had you know before they blew up and got money and had been hired a bunch of designers and like before you know and after that like you can see like Big difference, but like just being able to ship a good product that helps people is like not Actually that hard for developers anymore. Yeah things that work tend to continue working right like How many different iterations of a form or how many different iterations of you know Notice or alert or modal do we have to do before we say okay? Let's just reuse that one You know totally at what point do we say let's let's take it back a step and look at you know How are how are we spending our time? Where we spending our time making this modal? You know our own personal expression of what a modal should be or are we spending our time really thinking about you know How are we going to get people to even come to this site? Yeah, yeah Which is actually why I think it's I think this sort of thing is good for design too. I think it like helps Let's change our focus a little bit into a more for Developer To be like for designers It means you have to be more strategic You know you have to start thinking in a different way because it's not important anymore To be thinking about how it looks or even sometimes not just feeling about the one thing you're working on works How it works like it needs to be like more holistic than that more broad than that like I think like design Has a lot to say about questions like where people gonna come from like where should we be putting our marketing like What should the marketing copy say like how you know what is the entire flow going to look like what does that mean for the design Over time as we add features. Did you know I mean it's like there there are harder questions than The feature you're working on and I think oh yeah the more that that can become Easier for everyone to get involved in and collaborate with the more more designers are gonna have to kind of redefine their jobs And like again like just put peel back You know peel up another layer Um, and I think it's really cool. I think it's actually really important Well, it kind of starts to overlap with marketing right like and and we're as as I said earlier this all becomes one Big effort, you know You have designers that are talking to marketers What are the channels that we're advertising on how do we maintain continuity between the different voices or you know If somebody is coming from a specific ad should we show them specific voicing because we know something about them based on what ad they came from You know, I mean there's so many questions and Analytics can you know be thrown into this conversation as well But really it comes down to you're you're building one thing together and is something if there's a problem like for example If you have a very low you know visitor number if you have a very low page hit number and you need to solve that well You can't just solve that by designing a better looking thing right like That maybe that would help but that's not the only solution to the problem. Oh, God. I hope not Maybe bounce rates are more affected by designing a prettier thing. I don't know. I mean, I you know I mean obviously we're approaching a singularity where there's only one type of person on a team Is that what we're saying? I hope not Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea I hope you enjoyed my interview with cap at least almost as much as I did it was such a such a blast to talk to cap If you enjoyed this episode and you don't want to miss out on future episodes of Developer Tea Make sure you subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use Most of you're probably listening on your on your phones and most podcasting applications on your phones You can subscribe in if you like using rss feeds There is an rss feed available at developertea.com of course all of the relevant links And show notes will be available at spec.fm And you can find all of the past episodes of Developer Tea at spec.fm as well Again, thank you so much for taking some time out of your day to listen to today's episode and until next time Enjoy your tea