Developer Happiness with Brian Douglas - Director of Developer Advocacy at GitHub

Let's talk about Developer Happiness! Developer Happiness impacts project success, team dynamic, productivity and so many other dimensions of a company's life. Yet this concept is still very new and many are struggling to define how to define developer happiness and which perimeters does it apply to. Fortunately more tools and more initiatives are coming into the picture to generate developer happiness. Our CTO, Baptiste Bouffaut, welcomed one of the leading companies when it comes to developer tooling, GitHub to discuss developer happiness. Find out what they have to say about it in the following video.


Baptiste Bouffaut: Hello everyone I’m Baptiste Bouffaut CTO of Ponicode and today we will be discussing developer happiness with Brian from GitHub. So Brian could you first introduce yourself to everyone.

Brian Douglas: Yeah my name is Brian Bdougie on Github and that’s where I work as a director of developer advocacy and focused on engaging our open source and free users and teaching them how to use some of our coolest features.

Baptiste Bouffaut: So Brian we talk about developer happiness but what does it mean for you and why is it so important in 2021 according to you.

Brian Douglas: So developer happiness from my gaze is all about sort of improving developer productivity and getting things out of the way. So what I love about Github is that you can use to manage your pull requests and manage your issues, you use GitHub cli if you want to be working from there.

You can use git as well but the biggest thing that I want to point out is that GitHub gets things out of the way for you. There are no blockers in the way when it comes to GitHub and I believe it should be the same thing for every developer tools and companies as well.

Baptiste Bouffaut: So you talk a lot about tooling. Does it mean that for you tools like GitHub Action or even Ponicode, what we are currently doing on our side, you think it’s key and it’s the only way to bring developers being happy in their day to day activity?

Brian Douglas: Yeah definitely. Not the only way to get happiness. Github actions is a tool that we’ve built after years and years working on GitHub. As well as some other features such as Github Codespaces. The goal there with GitHub Actions is we provide a bunch of different permeatives that people have been using for years like the API, authentication, web hooks. Those are all things that people want to leverage to build their own features on top of GitHub, build their own companies on top of GitHub. And what GitHub actions does is that everybody has access to the actions if you have a repo.  Day 1 you can add new actions, you can use open source actions you can check out 10k actions on the marketplace but the goal there is not to give you the solution to be successful, not only prescript the actual  playbook on how to be successful at GitHub for a developer but more just hand you out the tools and let you choose, decide. You went from case studies and blog posts and hacker news of how people increase their deployment time from ten to 5X so the point I’m making is that GitHub provides these features and tools so that way you can choose your own adventure. And I think that Developer  happiness is not always about having a prescriptive road that everybody use this CI or this tool but should more be that everybody is sharing and when you find cool ways on how to improve productivity and share it publicly that’s where GitHub focuses in a lot of features that we have been sharing recently.

Baptiste Bouffaut: Ok. Would it be possible for you to share a bit how internally within GitHub do you / what do you do for your own developers so that they are happy?

Brian Douglas: Recently we ship on the blog post around how we use GitHub to build GitHub and specifically GitHub Codespaces. So GitHub Codespaces is the way you can have VS Code in the browser and historically because GitHub is 10+ gigabytes of code and it’s powering so many developers. 71 millions developers worldwide have become cumbersome that when a new engineer joins the team he joins GitHub—  so historically you have to clone the repo for an hour and then set up your environment through a bunch of different scripts which - hands off to all the people who set this up in engineering ops to be able to set up your environment very quickly but realistically it takes a couple hours before you can only get into the codebase and it’s a lot. With Codespaces any engineer who starts on day 1 can  go ahead and open Codespaces on GitHub repo , the same repo on GitHub that runs GitHub and can get ready to go Day 1 within a few seconds. With that it makes it a lot easier for folks to go to their onboarding, you have a laptop and you are good to go and you can start being productive right away as opposed to warning the cumbersome of the information of trying to figure out how to deploy and how to engage and this part of the codebase, instead you are able to get started right away.

Baptiste Bouffaut: That’s great so we are talking about onboarding there and I completely agree that’s key as a developer, as a new developer coming into the team, having a smooth onboarding is just great. And what about the more experienced developers, the ones who are there for many years . How do you keep them happy?

Brian Douglas: There’s always an opportunity to improve workflows. 60+ millions developers worldwide so we have some really strong problems for people to solve and I think there is always an opportunity for someone to peel things off and improve productivity by solving the small problems. SO internally GIthub we have this team focused on performance. Engineers spend time on how to make this page faster and how to make this deploy faster and some of our most talented developers spend time working with this team making sure that the experience for developers internally has a great experience through and through and there are no hang ups and no hold backs for them.

Baptiste Bouffaut: I really want to have your vision on what would be, according to you, what would be the developer in 10 years? DO you think that the way of working of developers will drastically change in the future?

Brian Douglas: Yeah I think that as we see more and more tools, libraries and frameworks being built. We are seeing new languages be built like Julia lang specifically for science that powers all the testing for moderna. We are seeing the level of programming moving up so I think that we have the conversation about full stack developers and what that means and we are moving further and further away from a full stack approach. There is no way for you to actually know bitcode to css. That’s not a possibility. And if you do know from bitcode to css then there is a high chance that you are probably severally underpaid so my thoughts for the future is that we will have highly specialised folks, you see that in data science, you see folks that know how to leverage python and machine learning to analyse data and produce really good outputs and able to solve problems. You see it with other companies like Shopify whose folks might not necessarily know how to run servers but they are capable of putting together an e-commerce website very quickly. Same thing with Wordpress, specialisation in specific areas because I think as the world becomes more educated on code and sort of create that aptitude we have 63 millions users worldwide and I say 63 developers worldwide because I truly believe that folks that just do design are now doing design system and folks who are doing spreadsheets are now data scientist so the term of developers is going to be way more fluid to the point where we are going to see way more folks with initiatives like and code2040 be educated with code and go in the direction where everybody is connected through code and know how to write a quick script to interact with a machine learning algorithm or some sort of interface or IoT device.

Baptiste Bouffaut: At Ponicode we are really concerned by code quality, this is what we want to improve and we want developers doing some really good quality code without any effort. What is your personal vision about that? How shall we improve even more code quality overall. Because there is more and more code everywhere in automotive etc but there are still a lot of bugs, it costs a lot of money to everyone around the world. How do you see it evolve?

Brian Douglas: The way that I got into programming is through things like stack overflow and open source documentation and I think now with tools like Ponicode and various other tools and our recent ship this year which is Github Copilot we were able to as developers share information and level up So I think that the rising tides raises all boats and as we build more features like Ponicode, folks won’t have to always look for a up to date and the latest secure release that’s built in to the frameworks or that’s built into the integration and the more we can do that the better we will be across the board because I think at the end of the day I personally. When I go to cook a meal I don’t microwave everything but I do have things that I can airfare or I do have a rice cooker. I don’t know how to make rice from 0 to get it on the plate but I know what the way and how much water and how to clean the rice and then put it in. And I think its the same thing with development I know what pieces I should put together so If I use a javascript framework or a leverage a rust framework I know where to pick the pieces up to make an actual feature or product and I think that if we can build more of that machine learning into the stuff that we are reaching for I think we will all be better for it.

Baptiste Bouffaut: Thank you Brian for sharing your insight with us, any last word you want to share with us?

Brian Douglas: Yes Last word is I think that the future we have been talking about there is home for all developers and I’m really proud to be part of GitHub making that home for all developers, making stuff accessible packages, repos. Code quality is something we are also really proud of internally and externally. So folks if you don’t have a GitHub account definitely sign up and check out all the features we have been shipping out for the past couple months.

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