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Forums vs Slack with Dan Moore from FusionAuth Episode 54

Forums vs Slack with Dan Moore from FusionAuth

· 25:58


Dan Moore 0:00
sight as a dev tool practitioner, whether the company you're working for, is going to be part of a devs identity? Or is it going to be just a tool they use that they're going to use it and then hopefully forget about it for a while until they move on to the next project or the next company? That's a crucial discussion to have in the DevRel. Context.

Jack Bridger 0:21
Hi, everyone, you're listening to scanning dev tools, the show that investigates how dev tools go from zero to one, I am joined today by Dan Moore, who is the head of Dev Rel at Fusion off, which is an off provider, kind of a similar, but hopefully a lot better than off zero. And yeah, thanks so much for joining, Dan.

Dan Moore 0:43
Thank you for having me, Jack.

Jack Bridger 0:45
And, Dan, I was kind of shocked that you are bootstrapped. I was dumbfounded when I realised as we spoke, could you tell us a bit about fusion often about the journey? Yeah, so

Dan Moore 0:59
a few shots started at the company started years and years ago, I want to say in that 2006 2007, when the founder, build actually a different tool called Clean speak, which is a content moderation and profanity filtering tool. And they were really focused on a couple of sectors a gaming was one of them. And they realised that everybody we talked to also need a user management system. And so they extracted it out of thin speaker essentially, and built Deb tool, that is authentication and authorization that is focused on a much bigger market than content moderation. And we're able to use some of the profits and some of the revenue from the previous tool to bootstrap. So it is a private company and wholly owned by

Jack Bridger 1:52
the founder. That is amazing. And I wouldn't have put those kind of like to go from moderation to off. Yeah,

Dan Moore 2:01
well, to be fair, they actually tried to do a forum software to, like in between. So they went kind of moderation den forum, and then they were like, no one's using our forum. But people seem to need this, like user management piece.

Jack Bridger 2:13
So Oh, that's so cool. I love those stories. And kind of how is how is fusion have kind of evolved into what it is today?

Dan Moore 2:23
Yeah, so they actually picked a horrible first name and actually picked passport. And I want to say that was in 2016, is when they started to kind of really extract it out and didn't get a lot of traction. And then they went with a model. That was I think they were just doing normal commercial sales, kind of based on where they'd come from, right with the content moderation software, there's, there was no freemium offering. But then they decided to make it free. And it's not open source. It's actually a different licence. But it is free to use for as many users as you want, if you run it yourself. And, again, because of their history, they it's a downloadable piece of software. But there's also a cloud offering. So they have, you know, some people in many of our clients actually run it on prem, or in their private cloud and need that and want that control, while still OS loading some of the worries about authentication, and search functionality. Other people use our cloud offering. And actually, I've had more than one customers say to me, like, we chose you, because we could move between those two, right? So if you're starting out as a small company, you may not have a DevOps team, you may say, Oh, we want to do in the cloud. But we want in the future, the ability to bring it in house so that we can control costs, and also have more assurances about compliance and security and things like that.

Jack Bridger 3:50
Yeah, that's really cool. And I guess, like the whole, like static story probably informs everything today. And one of the things that you mentioned before is that you don't have a Slack channel for your community.

Dan Moore 4:01
So we do have a Slack channel. We talked No, we just don't emphasise it. So here's the thing like this was two years ago, ish when I was on board, and we were starting to actually see some real uptake with a community. And we were faced with a decision of do we support slack? Do we support something that is an online solution, such as a forum, or both. And as a small, smaller bootstrap company, we're about 2530 people now. So we're not that small. But we really had a choice to make. And I pushed hard for and because I was essentially owning it. I was kind of going with a forum, and we still have a slack and it is community Pete members helping community members, which is awesome. I will say it's not super active. The forum is where the staff checks in, and we made this kind of calculated choice So have sacs are really, really Saxon and discords. You know, they're all kind of bunched together, right synchronous communication versus asynchronous communication. Synchronous communication is really awesome for people getting an answer right away for people like starting to feel like allegiances. And for basically people who are kind of running issues getting help as needed. The problem with that is that it's a really a write only medium, especially a free community slack. And we tried to help people on the slack, and we'd see the same questions come up over and over again. And I know there are tools out there that will, like might, you know, pull things out of slack and put them in more defined forms. But, you know, my argument was, why not just do that at the beginning. And so we use a piece of software called node BB, which is a forum software. And we have 1000s of posts there. And I regularly get clients and users who reference things that I've written there to, you know, two or three years ago, which is fantastic, because it means Google's finding it. And it also means that people are able to self serve, without us having to answer that question. Whereas in Slack, I 100% guarantee the 70% of time, it's it works all the time. I mean, people would have to be there to answer those questions. The other thing that is just a benefit for all your listeners is, you know, I will say it's on the order of 10% of our traffic is absolute traffic is coming to the forum pages. So and some of that is garbage traffic, like we have a really popular post about using tar, you know, the tool to extract archives. And we've dealt with some spam stuff, but a large chunk of its people who are finding us longtail keywords, people who are using fusions are trying it out and just Googling for the answer. Because this is something that I'm Taylor Barnett, I worked with her a couple of years ago, she said that, maybe maybe paraphrasing, but she said that Google is essentially the UX for developers for documentation, like, you can build all the nice browsing and all the nice search engines and stuff inside your documentation. But most people are going to just use Google.

Jack Bridger 7:23
So yeah, I mean, that's all I use. You like even like Stack Overflow and stuff. No one really ever searches on Stack Overflow. Totally. Yeah, that's a really good point. So and it always feels like it's kind of at least a step ahead as well. Like, it's like the docks, you know, it's really hard to keep them up to date, but at least if you can find an answer on the forum until the docks catch up.

Dan Moore 7:54
Yeah, we actually have an internal, like in our own internal slack. And I think slack is fantastic for internal communications. We actually have a channel called post a forum later, where I try to capture support tickets, things that we've interact with customers, because we have separate support channels for people that are paying us money and move them to the forum. And thing I love about a forum post is that it doesn't have to be doesn't have that same heavy weight of being 1,000% true for all time, that documentation does, right? Like if I post a forum, and it's like, I posted now today, when someone finds that two years from now, they don't have the same expectation of being correct. And it doesn't enrage them the same way that it would if they found documentation that was out of date, which I think all users should be enraged with documentation that date I am when I'm like, I just spent time wasted my precious time, like falling stock conditions at a date. But a forum post, I think there's a little more relax relaxed nature have an expectation that it may or may not be applicable to the current day.

Jack Bridger 9:01
Yeah, yeah. 100%. And there's also like, that kind of personalization of it to that to someone's problem, like, you know, you can see some someone replies with, Okay, here's how you do it. And they're like, oh, by the way, this is how I ended up using the answer that your team gave me to make it work for my specific case. And so GitHub issues has like, just quietly become such a huge part of developers. And I felt like the forum is probably very similar.

Dan Moore 9:31
I was I was fishing through GitHub issue last night, you know. Yeah, I mean, I think that's just part of, especially if it's an open source project, or a project that's in the open that just becomes part of your developer workflow is, you know, maybe you're using Google to surface the GitHub issue, but you definitely are looking through that.

Jack Bridger 9:48
Yeah. Yeah, it's really interesting. So that's your spicy take ticked off that we should get people on to

Dan Moore 9:56
don't use. Don't use Slack user forum.

Jack Bridger 10:00
Amazing, amazing. And could you tell us a bit about, like, your experimentation and something that you're quite passionate about?

Dan Moore 10:09
Sure. So I mean, obviously, the stack versus forum thing was an experiment with which I feel like it has been successful. We've had some failed experiments to we have a global user base. And we had the idea of trying to get them together. Because I think one of the issues with DevRel is, let me take a step back. I think that when you're a dev tool practitioner, you can think about community in one of two ways, either your Google type of community where people come to find any answer, and then just want to get the heck out of there, or your Facebook type of community where people want to hang out and get to know each other. And, and I feel like, everybody seems to want to be that second kind, right? They want people to hang out and like love their product. We talked about this previously call like OS is, to some extent, boring solve problem, or it's, and we can discuss about, like, what parts of it are broken. But like, there's a big chunk of it, that is a standard that a lot of people implement that, you know, people know about. And there's a tonne of open source, closed source, commercial free offerings that can help people with auth. So, from my perspective, we are much more likely to be a Google type fusion authors. And I think most dev tools that aren't shiny and new and alike are pushing boundaries of technical experience. I'm not saying that fusion isn't doing that, in some ways, I think we are, but we're certainly not. I don't think anyone would say we're sexy is like a door measurement tool, or somebody who's, you know, I heard about a startup that was doing intent based authorization against Kubernetes clusters, where you asked you to, you know, you basically see what the developers want to do, and then you grant access, just based on that, you know. So those things are sexier. And I think those are more likely to get like a Facebook type of interaction. So with that said, we were still trying to decide whether we're going to be a Facebook or Google type of interaction. So we tried to do a synchronous meetup. And so we found a tool. And we actually scheduled a couple of different times, because as I mentioned earlier, we are a worldwide audience. So we had people in Europe, we have people in Australia, we have people in Asia, we have people in North America, and Latin, who are all using our software, and we want to get them together so they could foster community, right talk to each other. And we did that. And I, we posted a bunch of places. We sent out a newsletter, I think we we did some person to person outreach, kinda like retail, and so of wholesale. And we ended up getting two people to show up. We've actually four people, but two of those were fusion, our team members. And it was oh, it was just a tremendous amount of effort for not much. You know, it was nice to talk to them face to face, but it was not going to achieve anything that we wanted to achieve in terms of helping to promulgate that community feel. Yeah,

Jack Bridger 13:19
so it totally makes sense. Like, one of our guests recently was doing like a geo API. And it's like, he was saying something very similar that, you know, it's like you need it when you need it. And then it's just a background thing. And it's there, and it does the job. But you don't, it's not part of your identity. It's not

Dan Moore 13:38
really, yeah, that's a good way to put it is our developers going to be like, if you're a React developer, or a self developer, or you know, Ruby on Rails, I'm big in the Ruby on Rails community, not beginner, sir, I'm big into it. I help support a local meetup. And I like Ruby on Rails, like I said, as part of my identity, off GeoIP other sets of tooling, people stop, are there any is a tool they use? So that's a good way to put it.

Jack Bridger 14:09
Yeah, that's already i like i like it as well. Okay, so that was like maybe one of the experiments that didn't go as well. But I'd love to hear about about some of the experiments that did it go? Well,

Dan Moore 14:19
yeah. So one that I think has been really useful for me and I think helpful for the company and helpful for our users is what I call community stories. And so I think one of the hard things when you have a freemium model, especially since people can use our software anonymously, right, they can download it from Docker or get a Debian file and run it themselves, and we never hear about them, except for if they file a GitHub issue or a forum post or whatnot. Obviously, at that point, you can start to engage, but is finding out how people are using the software and like what are their pain points? And what are the what are the wins the software provides and pay endpoints you obviously can sometimes get from those other areas, right? People will complain to you, but like, hearing how the software went awesome, or solve these great problems is a hard thing. And so what I started to do is, anytime I saw someone post on GitHub, Twitter, in the forum, I would reach out to them and say, No, maybe not anytime that's too strong, but like, at regular intervals, especially if someone's seem engaged, like they didn't just post once on the forum, they posted multiple times. So they posted multiple issues, I'd reach out to them and say, Hey, do you want to do a community profile? And I'd say, This is what looks like it's eight to 10 emailed questions was one round of follow up, and I turned it into a blog post, we get to give you a link back to your app or site or whatever you're building. And we've gotten about 20 or 30 of those on our blog now. And it's just been super helpful for me to make to get to know the committee better and get to know what kind of problems are solving, it's actually helpful for SEO, because it's longtail keywords. And then finally, I think it's really actually been helpful for our sales organisation. Because, you know, PROOF is PROOF OF something that we that a customer said a year ago, oh, they do this really well, is way better than something that, you know, a salesperson might say, to a prospect right now. Yeah.

Jack Bridger 16:25
So such a good point. I used to work in sales a long time ago. And it was like this. So if it's not like, there's so much pushback about like, Oh, this one, that's interesting, but it's not relevant, because they're big, and I'm small. They're not in retail, they all want to know, like, everyone wants to know, like, is there an example that's like, same industry same size as me,

Dan Moore 16:48
totally. And committed stories, or I can be part of that, like, they're not going to be that whole solution. But like, I think as far as like helping the community to know each other, it's a step forward. And it definitely helped help me and my team understand our community better.

Jack Bridger 17:04
Yeah, that's really awesome. So great idea. And one of the other, I guess, experiments, I saw that you had been on screaming into the cloud, which is a massive podcast, and it was really helpful for me to listen to you before speaking with you. So I wondered if you could tell us about how your experience was?

Dan Moore 17:25
Yeah, it was super fun. And I will say, you know, I'm always kind of upfront about this, like, Cory has two kinds of guests. Well, and everyone's interesting, and Cory is a great guy. He's very kind, but his that he has people that are that pay to be on this podcast, and people that are that he selects. And I was definitely in that first category. So the company paid for us to talk about authentication. I had a great time. I think Cory is a great interviewer. You know, one thing that I thought was really helpful from just kind of a generic Dev Tools perspective, is I actually ended up saying some complimentary stuff about Cognito on the podcast, and at the end, he was like, Do you want anything? And and I said, What about that cognitive stuff, you know, should I be seen, seen saying that? And he said, 100%, we'll keep that in because it helps your credibility, and it helps you. And it's, it's true, right? Don't cut don't say if it's not true, but like, it's helpful to be, you know, maybe maybe give a put is, if all you are is rah, rah rah, for your company, and you say, We're the right fit for every problem, and there's no product as good as us. For every single dev in the entire world, people are gonna, like, roll their eyes and move on. Right? So actually, complimenting someone, or a competitor who does something well, is a good thing to do as a dev rel in my mind, because it shows that you're aware of the market, it shows that you're not a hole, it shows that you're not. You know that you don't believe that the right product is is true for is good for everything. And I'll be the first person to say like, there are people for whom fusion not is not the right product. You know, and I think there's a wide swath of people that is good for but there are definitely people that it is not. And so I think keeping that honest truth and the integrity of Oh, yeah, this competitor is AWS can Cognito for example, it's way better if you're totally in the ABS ecosystem, and you need to like, manage im roles and have them coordinate with users, right or access to s3 buckets. You know, Cognito is native. It's going to be better at that than the infusion off or off zero or clerk or any of the other solutions. Saying that is not an admission of weakness. Anyway, I'm going on about that. It was a great experience. Cory is a great interviewer. And if you If we get the chance, highly recommend,

Jack Bridger 20:01
yeah, that's really cool. One of one of the things that Corey mentioned was that you're always like replying to his emails. And that, like you send them loads of links and stuff. And it sounded like, you know, it's like a kind of seems like a good idea, for many reasons. But so they kind of have relationships with these kind of big platforms before you go ahead and say, like, hey, let's sponsor as well.

Dan Moore 20:28
So I would actually take a step back, and I would challenge any one of your listeners to actually go to an email list that you've subscribed to, because I know you all do. And when you find something that resonates with you, right, that there was a great link in there, or someone wrote a great article reply and say, Thank you. And all you have to do is say, Thanks, that article was great. And I guarantee you, you'll be in the 1% of people who actually do that, because I actually have a small email list, I run for a different project. And it sends out emails every couple of weeks. And I guarantee you that I can think of probably there have been 10 People of 1000s of emails I've sent who've actually replied, and so if you reply, you're and that's true, whether it's Cory, or it's me, right? Like inquiry has 1000s of people on his list, or 10s of 1000s. And I have hundreds, but either one, we're going to appreciate that. Because when you're writing a newsletter, similar probably this is true with podcasts to Jack I mean, I into your course of action, but like you're screaming into the in the void, right? Like you don't know what resonates with people and just hearing Oh, man, that article was great. It get it puts fire in your belly, it gets you excited. And the separate thing about like the links and stuff, I think it's always good to like, share stuff around. And by the way, the links and pitching the quarry or I'm sending the quarry, I think probably a very few of them are things that I benefit from, they're just stuff that I run across. And as devils we have this extremely awesome opportunity. Like our job is to be out in the community, finding interesting things looking at stuff like Reddit or slacks or Hacker News, or what have you. When you run across something that you think would be interesting to someone like courier, or some like Chris short, who runs a DevOps DevOps ish are interesting to you. Send it to them. And it's not hard, you know, you don't have to expect any kind of response. But like, I guarantee you that that's kind of low effort relationship building that that one feels good, because you're helping the person that wrote the link, the article, the other link to, and it costs you almost nothing. And I'm just a huge fan of doing that.

Jack Bridger 22:48
Yeah, it's a really, really good point. I love the way that you put it. I kind of framed as very, like, kind of transactional thing, but actually, it's much more about like, being in the communities that you like, you know, obviously, I hope that whatever we're working on, Dev Tools wise, we like that community, we like that technology and kind of engaging with the big people. And then, you know, also learning like, the ones that you care about, probably other people care about. And yeah, it's like, it's really cool.

Dan Moore 23:20
And I know we're coming up on time, but I mean, it's, it's the same reason that I post stuff on Hacker News, right? Like I and again, I post some of my stuff, my own personal stuff, and my company stuff on Hacker News, because I want the traffic and whatnot. But like, there, I can count like at least three or four times when I have posted someone else's stuff, link on Hacker News. And it goes to the front page. And they're like, astonished and super thankful. And it was how much effort was it for me, it was very low effort for me. And if the hacker news doesn't float your boat, which I understand it doesn't float over his boat. There's other communities out there, where you can share knowledge about interesting things and help both sides. Right. The people read it and the people who wrote it at low cost too. So

Jack Bridger 24:08
yeah, really, really good point. Yeah, really good point on. Yeah. Done. I wonder if there's any key takeaways that you have from this discussion?

Dan Moore 24:19
Yeah, I mean, I guess, I think that the two I would say is decided as a dev tool practitioner, whether the company you're working for is going to be part of a devs identity, or is it going to be just a tool they use that they come by and they want, you know, all the things that they want, right? Excellent documentation, easy to use, etc. But they're going to use it and then hopefully forget about it for a while until they move on to the next project or the next company. That's a crucial discussion to have in the devil context. And then the other thing is, you know, give those give right and giving your time mainly energy and your reputation to share links with other people is is a very easy way to give that has dividends and has paid dividends for me.

Jack Bridger 25:09
Amazing. And where can people learn more about fusion off and about yourself done?

Dan Moore 25:14
Sure. So you can find me on Twitter if you're on Twitter still at more DS, M O R EDS. I'm also on Mastodon, but the easiest way to find me on Mastodon is to go to my Twitter profile because it's linked there. And then if you want to come to Fusion off, as I mentioned, we have a free edition a free plan that you can download and run and we've had people run millions of users on this plan without paying us a cent. That's it for us. Not that IO slash download. Obviously, there's docs and other great stuff there too.

Jack Bridger 25:47
Amazing. And yeah, thanks for joining Dan, and thanks everyone for listening.

Dan Moore 25:52
Thank you, Jack. It was a it was fun.

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