Artsy Engineering Radio

Season 1 Recap

January 06, 2022 Artsy Engineering Season 1 Episode 43
Artsy Engineering Radio
Season 1 Recap
Show Notes Transcript

Jon Allured, Anna Carey, and Steve Hicks recap season 1 of Artsy Engineering Radio. What did we learn? Who listened? And which were our favorite episodes?

Our favorite episodes

  • SEO with Jenna: https://artsyengineeringradio.buzzsprout.com/1781859/8923775-28-seo-at-artsy
  • WAYAHDYGH with Roop: https://artsyengineeringradio.buzzsprout.com/1781859/8870072-26-wayhdygh-roop
  • Scaling your impact with Ash: https://artsyengineeringradio.buzzsprout.com/1781859/8549214-4-scaling-your-impact
  • Scaling your impact with Orta: https://artsyengineeringradio.buzzsprout.com/1781859/8549218-8-scaling-your-impact-pt-2-this-time-with-orta
  • Refactoring with Jon, Chris, and Laura: https://artsyengineeringradio.buzzsprout.com/1781859/9247721-36-a-conversation-about-refactoring
  • Product Management with Guillaume: https://artsyengineeringradio.buzzsprout.com/1781859/9165963-product-management-and-engineering-with-guillaume
  • Women in Engineering with Laura: https://artsyengineeringradio.buzzsprout.com/1781859/9205283-35-women-in-engineering-laura


Jon Allured:

Hello, everyone, welcome to another episode of Artsy Engineering Radio. This is an interesting one. This is like our end of season one episode. I've got Steve and Anna here. Anna, do you want to say hi?

Anna Carey:

Hi guys great to be here together. I guess we've done RFCs together, but it's fun to do a special episode all three of us

Steve Hicks:

I was gonna say how have we done? Have we done like one episode, the three of us?

Anna Carey:

Maybe. Maybe one. But I'm not I'm not sure

Steve Hicks:

We at least talked about doing one. I don't know if we actually did it. But now we're doing it. I'm Steve.

Jon Allured:

We just kind of realized that we passed the one year mark on the episode on the podcast project. And so wanted to maybe do a little wrap up, talk about the experience and kind of call this some kind of milestone, the end of season one, whatever that means in podcast land. The first thing I wanted to note was that like, it took a long time for Artsy, to have an engineering podcast. There's an Artsy -- there's an engineering hyphen podcast channel in Slack. I went to go look at it and went to the beginning and saw that Ash created that channel on July 20, 2017.

Steve Hicks:

Wow, that's before I even worked in Artsy.

Anna Carey:

Oh, maybe that's why. I'm wondering from your guys perspective, what sort of you think the blockers were that, you know, took, let's say it was that like four years? Before actually actually creating a podcast?

Jon Allured:

I wasn't in the room. I don't know what was happening. Here's my suspicion. Perfect is the enemy of good, like some sort of feeling like we didn't have it quite right yet. We have a notes document that we're kind of following here on this episode, and one of the things we learned is, it's okay to not have a perfect podcast episode, it's okay for them to be short, it's okay for them, you know, the bar should be low. And that's caused us to have a good cadence of content, I think.

Steve Hicks:

Yeah, I also started just wonder, being engineers, how much I guess, originally how much thought we put into like, oh, we have to actually build this website, we have to host it on our own, and then push it out to all these places. And then, you know, all that rather than just paying a service and sticking it on a server somewhere, and not having to worry about that stuff. That's something that we initially, those are discussions that we had when we started it up. And we switched probably, I don't know what, like 15 episodes in from hosting it ourselves? And just, you know, reaching out to the or pushing it out to the App Store, or Apple, whatever...whatever the version of the Apple Store is where you listen to podcasts. I don't know, there, it's all store something, Google etc.

Jon Allured:

So yes, the podcast has evolved in terms of like the mechanics of how it comes to be. I thought maybe I would talk about where we are today. So we have some documentation that helps guide us about how to make a podcast. There are a few players here. There's like, obviously the people that are recording. So there's the people who have volunteered to lead the episode, the people who have agreed to be on the episode, maybe there's some prep on, like some kind of outline that those folks will follow. But when it comes to actually recording it, we use ZenCastr -- zencastr.com. We create a new recording, and we turn video on so we can see each other's faces and have better energy there. But we just record the audio. Then we use otter for transcripts. So otter is a service that you can upload your edited, mixed, file into. And then it uses, I don't know algorithms, and it figures out who's speaking and actually gets better over time as you correct it as you add some tags so that if on Episode One it hears a voice and an episode tenant hears it again, it can learn from the tagging. Anyway, that's been pretty helpful. And then, as Steve mentioned, we have a hosting company -- we're using Buzzsprout to host and publish the podcast.

Steve Hicks:

One thing I appreciate about otter is that it has learned how to say Artsy, or how we say or learned what Artsy is. When we originally started using it, it would always call it RC like the cola.

Anna Carey:

Wait, what was it called?

Steve Hicks:

RC?

Anna Carey:

What is that?

Jon Allured:

It thought you were saying the letters R and C? Yeah.

Anna Carey:

Yeah, the R and C I remember seeing that in the transcription, I mean to the question of how we've been able to pull this off with relatively low lift from an engineering perspective. And sort of dividing and conquering on this project. I think our tooling has been really helpful and making the effort such a low lift for all of us. One thing I always think about with these tools is, the fun part of this podcast is getting on here and having a conversation with someone, someone who I might not have normally talked to or even just chatting with you guys, who I do talk to you more often. That's like the best part of this. And if we can sort of like, ...we've done a great job for someone like me who's really just interested in the conversation, in sort of like pulling out all the other different pieces that this would require to get an episode out. And yeah, I think at this point, if you want that to be the only task you have to do in creating an episode, we're pretty close to that. So yeah, I want to commend us for not being precious about, you know, doing so much of this on our own or taking a lot of that on, because I think it's helped us continue shipping stuff, you know, pretty much weekly this whole year. One other thing that I think we haven't mentioned is the editing.

Jon Allured:

Yeah, so when we began, we were interested in using audio editing tools, and like, merging the streams and doing all of the ums and ands. And um, and um, and um....and I still think there's some interest at Artsy for those kinds of activities. But it wasn't like, not everyone likes doing it. And so it felt like a pragmatic choice to at least talk with a professional, you know, audio engineer and ask them what it would be like to work with them, and how much would it cost? And we found someone, and it worked out great.

Steve Hicks:

I miss that part of it still, for what it's worth. But still, I still think it was the right decision to make. One person editing, we would have got stuck, for sure.

Anna Carey:

Yeah. And I think also, it wasn't interesting debate because I think Steve, you were definitely more excited about that task. I, for example, was not excited about that task. I think simplifying the process as much as possible has been, yeah, definitely a good decision. Even if there's pieces that some of us would have been more excited to do in the end. And I think that's helped also new people come and join. The goal is for three of us to be, you know, doing as little as possible, I feel like, or to have as many voices as part of this process project as possible. So hopefully, we've been able to lower the barrier for that.

Steve Hicks:

Yeah, I think that is probably the thing that is most significant in our ability to actually ship this thing is nobody looking at it and saying, I'm going to make a podcast, everyone has approached it as we're going to make a podcast. And let's just try to smooth all the edges and make it as easy as possible for someone else to come and make an episode to.

Jon Allured:

Cool. So just to say the thing that maybe is missing here is that in terms of how we communicate or how we collaborate with that editor, we would dump out those mp3 files out of zencastr, or at least send the editor a link to the zencastr file. And then we post in a shared Slack channel, the editor does their thing. Aja Simpson was our first one. They do their thing, they kind of send us back the completed edited down that can then go into BuzzFeed. Oh, sorry. Buzzfeed...Buzzsprout.

Steve Hicks:

BuzzFeed, too, if we put it there.

Jon Allured:

Okay, cool. It's possible more than mechanics will come up as we talk here. But I want to move on to another section here, which is firing some stats to feel proud of. So we have recorded 43 episodes of this podcast.

Steve Hicks:

Nine weeks off, basically.

Jon Allured:

That's pretty great. Our first episode shipped on December 16th of 2020. So yeah, we have past the year mark. In terms of activity. I mean, podcast activity is a little weird to try to get some analytics around. But anyway, Buzzsprout does give us download numbers. And they claim that we've had 3140 downloads since we published. We weren't on them from day one. So there's going to be some loss there. And you know, it's possible to download a podcast episode and never listen to it. So take it for what it's worth. But it's still pretty cool.

Steve Hicks:

Yeah, as long as they download it, we're fine.

Jon Allured:

Yeah, that's all Squarespace cares about. Anyway, most popular episode was an episode we did with Kaja and Sarah talking about being a woman in tech. It had 171 downloads.

Steve Hicks:

Such a good episode. There were at least a couple of those. And all of them did really, really well, in terms of downloads.

Jon Allured:

I think Sarah told me that it was shared in social in some way as an experiment. So it's possible too that some of those efforts paid off. We're not the best at advertising our podcast, but that's okay. When I looked at the audience breakdown, it's almost entirely made up of North America and Europe. Not surprising, most Artsy employees, I think are the actual audience, and they live in North America and Europe. So that was 93%. It's like 2961 of that 3000 downloads.

Steve Hicks:

7% is probably just Pavlos when he's outside of North America and Europe, that's my guess.

Jon Allured:

Yeah, as he travels around the world, you do the math and most episodes get around 100 listens. That's kind of the audience we have.

Steve Hicks:

Do we have anybody from Antarctica?

Jon Allured:

I don't know, didn't look

Anna Carey:

Maybe one. I think that's pretty good. And I think that a big shift for me that actually I think was a really positive reframe of this, our podcast, was making the goal first creating something for our team. Getting people, different voices heard, helping other people get to know each other, for recruiting, so why are we even doing this? And you know, of course, we'd love for sort of other people in the broader engineering community to be listening in. But if the core set of listeners that we're making this for are our team, and then maybe potential recruits, that of course has shifted, what we could be talking about and what we wanted to be talking about. And even though that means yeah, maybe our core listenership is largely made up of people who work at Artsy, I kind of love that. And it's been it made the content, liberating. It was liberating once we made that call, because it made the content like, oh, well, what do I want to listen to? What do I want to share with my team? Versus like, okay, how can I come up with something that's gonna be broadly relevant to the broader engineering community? And that would have been a lot harder. I mean, same idea -- like why have we been able to keep this up for the whole year?

Jon Allured:

Yeah, I made a had a heading called some lessons. And the first bullets exactly what you said. And it's actually fine if the audience for the podcast is mostly internal people. I think it's nice, because we cared enough to share the thing with our team, it's actually likely that it is relevant to the wider engineering community. But if we start with that thought, it's so overwhelming, whereas sharing with some of the team is a little easier to get your your arms around.

Steve Hicks:

Anna you've talked about that, in regards to the blog, too, in the past. You've written things on the blog, and said, this might be for other people, but it also might just be here for new Artsy employees that we can point them to this in the future.

Anna Carey:

Yeah, or for us to even like, I feel like I've written a post where I was, like, I'm gonna forget this, if I don't put it down and write it and publish it somewhere. So having that be the primary goal of any of these types of efforts, feels like at least you know, for sure, it's gonna have some utility and someone will get use out of it. Whereas trying to target these broader audiences that you may or don't necessarily know, it's harder to actually know, it's just gonna be worth our effort.

Jon Allured:

People thinking about working for Artsy really got a lot out of us talking about what it's like to work here. And I think maybe this should have been obvious. But when we were on hiring calls, there was a focus in 2021 on hiring, when we got on these calls we often heard from candidates, that they enjoyed the blog, they enjoyed the podcast, and listening helped them kind of maybe think, oh, this is going to be a good cultural fit for me.

Steve Hicks:

I remember hearing that from a lot of interviewers, that they were talking to candidates who mentioned the blog. And I think that's the first time I felt like it was reaching anyone besides those of us who were intimately involved with it. Which was kind of nice.

Anna Carey:

Yeah, I also think, you know, as someone who not so distantly was looking for a job, interviewing, when you're going into a company to do your on site, like when we have those recruits make it past like sort of that initial round, they come and talk to like four people, you want to do as much research as you can. And of course, that can mean reading stuff. But it's really actually nice to offer people something to listen to, and something that provides you a really sort of intimate view on what it's actually like to work at the company and get to know individuals. So if someone is interviewed by Jon, let's say, there's a podcast that's all about Jon. It's an easy way for them to do their research and get to know that person. It's actually like a nice, almost like service that we offer prospects who are interested in working with the company.

Jon Allured:

Cool. The next set of lessons are all about like, that it is valuable to exchange money for services. We maybe started off having these high expectations of ourselves, we had to do the editing, we had to do the hosting, we maybe wouldn't do transcripts, it'd be too much work. And we came to realize through things like understanding that our recruitment efforts were bolstered by this podcast, it was worth money to Sam and the engineering team and the budget owners to pay the relatively small amounts for using some of these services. So I guess just boosting this again that there's value and you can spend some money to get that value.

Steve Hicks:

Yeah, the transcripts are, I guess I just want to call out that. It was more than just the fact that we weren't paying for a service. That wasn't the only reason we weren't doing transcripts. And that's not the only reason that we started doing transcripts. It was one of those things where along the lines of editing, if I could spend 100% of my job working on the podcast, I would do it, or podcast slash blog, whatever, all those kinds of things. But all of us are product engineers on a team where we're working on features that we're trying to ship. And so there's this balancing act of trying to figure out, you know, how much time can you spend on ramping up the podcast versus shipping this feature that people are expecting this month. And so there was a little bit of...transcripts were something that I think we wanted to do initially, but also we knew that we had to take the time and invest it up front and figure out how to do it. So what I thought was kind of a nice forcing function with it was we did an episode on accessibility. And when we did that episode, one of the requirements from Trisha on that episode was, if we're gonna do this, we better have transcripts. So that was like, at that point, I was like, Okay, well, now is when we're gonna figure it out. It wasn't anything we're gonna figure out until then, I'm glad that we did. And then once we did figure it out, and experimented with a couple services and tried to figure out which one would be the easiest flow for us, or most accurate transcripts I guess was also a factor, then it just kind of stuck around. And we're doing it for not necessarily every episode, sometimes we forget, but it's there for most of them.

Jon Allured:

I'm gonna move on to another couple here, where we kind of like, maybe had some guilt about short episodes, and not shipping episodes, and we came to the conclusion that like, it's okay to have a short episode. You don't have to have every episode of your podcast be an hour, there's plenty of appetite for short episodes. And again, it's not the end of the world if we, for whatever reason, aren't able to ship an episode one week.

Steve Hicks:

I would like to hear more about this guilt.

Anna Carey:

I wanted to spend more time on that too, because I feel like the guilt is something that did come up for us a lot. And I think we're gonna get to this in a little bit. But we do retrospectives monthly on the podcast, I believe, as a cadence. Almost every single time when we come together to talk about the podcast, there's like, Oh, I forgot to ship my episode or forgot to send to the editor or I couldn't get this interview scheduled. And I think as time has gone on, we've normalized those occurrences more and more, and therefore, I personally feel very little bad when that happens. And to me that makes it... again, another reason why we've been able to keep this up, is because if we have so much pressure to like, we can't ever skip a week, that I think would be really difficult and stressful and make us not as excited to continue doing this and it's that don't let perfect be the enemy of the good or to quote an Artsy value, "impact over perfection."

Jon Allured:

I totally agree. And having a space to get that guilt maybe off your chest. But hear from everyone else, don't feel bad about it, it's fine, I think is a very healthy.

Steve Hicks:

I still, I don't know what the guilt is about the short episodes, I really don't. Guilt is 97% of my body. But it has nothing to do the short episodes, like short episodes are great. I don't have time for an hour long episode. So I was very excited for us to stick to that half hour, or close to a half hour for every episode.

Anna Carey:

Yeah, actually, Jon, I have not heard that. I've more heard that when we skip or forget.

Jon Allured:

Maybe I'm projecting here.

Anna Carey:

Yeah, I think that 20 - 25 minutes. I think that's actually golden. That's the best length

Jon Allured:

One lesson we learned is that if we invest in

Steve Hicks:

Plus one. getting more voices on the podcast, the returns are huge, because then those folks that either are interviewed or maybe went out on a limb and took lead on an episode, will keep doing that and make the podcast better for it. Steve, you had a point here just that it's harder to get people involved and we thought it would be. Yeah. Plus one on the fact that getting more people involved is hugely beneficial to the podcast and to Artsy and the show and everything. Like we maybe talked about a little bit before, I think that was kind of our goal all along was to lower the bar enough to get more people able to contribute in this way, if it's something that they wanted to do. But I guess...there definitely, it hasn't been as easy to just be like, Hey, do you want to do an episode of the podcast on this topic? If you were to come to me and say that to me be I'd be like, "Yeah, let's do it." And I don't know if that just speaks to how much I love the sound of my voice, which I don't, or what, but I guess people are a lot more intimidated, or scared of the idea of doing an episode like this? Or maybe it's the amount of work that goes into it. All of those things. So yeah, I think the more we work to try to...and we have done this as a group, when someone wants to be involved, just offering support, in whatever ways they want our support. You know, maybe that's the way to keep doing it and get more people involved.

Jon Allured:

Yeah. Yeah, we'll just keep working at it. But I'm wanting to note that I think it's kind of cool to get non engineers on the podcast, it's more like Artsy engineering, and friends. We've had PMS, we've had designers, data people. And there are topics sort of related to engineering that are still totally on topic.

Anna Carey:

Yeah. And former team members as well, which has been nice too.

Jon Allured:

Yeah, former. That's kind of fun too, right? Yeah, we on a couple of our retro documents talked about,

Anna Carey:

I also think it's really hard to talk about like, maybe we should have a very technical episode? Most of our episodes would probably be called not hard engineering, but soft, or people skills. And it was fine. We gravitated towards the topics that were interesting to us, or that resonated. technical topics on audio. It's hard enough to talk about them in writing with code snippets, also difficult, but I think with audio, it's something that I find really challenging to even come up with a way to talk about these types of topics. And seems like I'm not the only one because we've all

Jon Allured:

You're reminding me of the refactoring episode we did and how I maybe spent two to three minutes talking about a coding situation. And in retrospect, I don't think it was very successful, because it's just super abstract and hard to talk about code like that.

Anna Carey:

I do love that episode, though.

Jon Allured:

Maybe just that section didn't quite land for me, I don't know.

Steve Hicks:

Maybe I'm too close to it, and so I knew what you were talking about. But I don't remember at any point feeling like I don't get this, this is totally over my head.

Jon Allured:

See, this is the kind of guilt relief I need in my life.

Steve Hicks:

Midwestern guilt, it's deep in you.

Jon Allured:

Okay, last lesson here I want to call out is that just like in our product teams, we do retros for the podcast. And it's been a really wonderful way to, I think improve it, to call out things that are working, not working, to provide action items to help us move things along. Retros aren't just for product teams,

Steve Hicks:

it makes a huge difference that, I don't know, it's kind of a chicken or the egg kind of thing, but we have very productive retros because it's kind of a psychologically safe experience for everyone. But is it really more that it's a psychologically safe experience for everyone because we have good retros? Or whatever, I don't know. I don't know necessarily how to create that. And also, I'm sure I'm on the side of the power dynamic, where like, of course I think that it's safe, but...so maybe there are people that don't think it's as safe as I do. But having said all that, I think that when you have retros they only work if people can say things that are not all nice.

Jon Allured:

Sure. Okay, cool. Now, we're gonna totally switch gears and talk about some of the favorite episodes. We're gonna have show notes on this episode where we link to them. So if you're interested in finding one, I'm sure you could just search for it in your podcast player. But we'll also try to have links for you. So I'll go first. What I asked was to identify some of your favorite episodes, one that you made, and one that you heard. So for me, the episode I made this year that was kind of my favorite was an SEO focused episode with Jenna my pm on the Grow team. I thought it was just really fun to dig into this kind of wonky SEO topic. And she just has so much information. It was kind of a natural one for me.

Steve Hicks:

Yeah, that one was solid.

Jon Allured:

The one I heard that I liked the most. Well, I mean, they're all my favorites, it's like picking between your children, but the one with Roop where he just talked about how cool he is and has been for years. Yeah, it's just inspiring and fun.

Anna Carey:

Yeah, that was one of those ones where I mean, everyone we work with is so awesome. And the more you talk to people, the more you uncover that and I think a lot of people didn't know some of those stories that Roop was sharing. So that felt like a cool way to share someone who we've all been working with for a long time, and go a little deeper with them. So, yeah, I like that one.

Steve Hicks:

I think that we have talked about this in the past. But I do think that we should make sure that we do more of those episodes where we talk to people who you wouldn't necessarily have had those kind of conversations with just to get to know everybody.

Anna Carey:

Yeah, totally.

Jon Allured:

Alright Steve, you're up. What were your favorite episodes?

Steve Hicks:

My favorite episodes, the episode that I made, it's actually two episodes. But there were some episodes very early on about scaling your impact. One was with Ash Furrow and one was with Orta Therox, both former Artsy engineers, but also both, I don't know, like personal heroes of mine. And getting to interview them on a podcast was basically, in my head, when we were talking about doing this at the start, I was kind of like, the grand finale for me is going to be interviewing these two people, but then I got to do it right away. So now I get to do a whole lot more stuff with it that I enjoy. And then the one that I heard was the episode about refactoring that you talked about, Jon. I think it was you, Laura, and Chris, is that accurate? Those were the three of you?

Jon Allured:

Yeah.

Steve Hicks:

And I just, we had talked about making that episode for probably months before we finally did it. And I think it kind of stalled a little bit, because I think it was maybe I proposed it and wasn't sure who should be on it. And in reality, what it was, was I shouldn't be on it. There are better people at refactoring at Artsy. And so we got them on that show. And it was fantastic. And I learned so much from that. Anna, how about you?

Anna Carey:

All right. I think the same thing, I feel like it's like picking between your children. I love all the ones that I worked on. But one of the ones I really loved to work on was the interview with Guillaume, one of our group product managers. It's been really fun to interview people who are non engineers. So it was really cool to get to know more about product management, which has long been a really interesting kind of career path for me. Guillaume has a good engineering background, so that was really cool. And then also, at the time, I wasn't working super closely with him, but he's my pm now on my team. So it's awesome to get to build that relationship through working on that episode. And then now I work a little bit more closely with him. And then in terms of the ones I've heard, so we've mentioned this episode, because it's also our most popular just generally. But Sarah has been working on this series about women in engineering, and the two -- one where she interviews Laura, and one where she interviews and other engineer, Kaja on our team -- are so inspiring. Those are ones as listening to them and I'm walking down the street being like, wow, I cannot believe I work with these people. So yeah, those are really, really awesome episodes. And I'm not surprised that they are also just broadly the most popular.

Jon Allured:

Yeah, what else can you say? Sarah line those up pretty well. And the subjects did a great job knocking out of the park. Okay, I'm going to wrap it up. We have been talking about the end of season one. I just want to thank everyone who's made podcasts or helped at Artsy and outside, I want especially call out a few people. One is Eve Essex, a former Artsy engineer who made our awesome music. We still run it and still love it. And yeah, she just did a great job with that. I also want to call out Aja Simpson, our initial editor for helping us figure out how to work with an editor for doing great job at the actual editing, and just all around being a great person to work with. And then the listeners. It's fun that people listen to it, and then we get some feedback. And then just a note that we have a bunch of awesome episodes lined up for next year. We're gonna take a few more weeks off here because of the holidays and just people have busy lives. So we'll see you then. And thanks again for listening.

Steve Hicks:

Happy holidays, friends.

Anna Carey:

Yeah, this was super fun. Thanks, guys. Thanks, everyone.

Steve Hicks:

Thanks for listening. You can follow us on Twitter @artsyopensource. Keep up with our blog at artsy.github.io. This episode was mixed and edited by Alex Higgins. And thank you Eve Essex for our theme music. You can find her on all major streaming platforms. Until next time, this is Artsy Engineering Radio.