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Podcast 018

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Podcast 018

Revision #5, 8/20/2008 11:13 PM
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Spolsky: edit me!

Atwood: edit me!


 

in the 18th episode of stack overflow, we finally get to meet michael [prior], the co-founder of fog-creek software, and joel and jeff discuss the progress of the stack overflow beta in some depth. From IT Conversations.


Hi, This is phil wendly, the executive producer of IT conversations.  Today I'm excited to bring you another episode of stack overflow with jeff atwood and joel spolsky.  Here on IT Conversations.


By becoming a paid member you'll help keep the non-profit conversations network on the air.  And you'll have access to the premium edition programs without promotional messages, just click on the join button on our website to learn more.


Our audio files are delivered by limelight networks, the high performance content delivery network for digitial media.


And now, here's stack overflow.


jeff Hi joel

joel: hey, it's jeff

jeff: yes, you're back

michael: you're back

jeff: oh and michael's on the line, nice

michael: yes, it's me

joel: today we got two fog creekians, for those of you who don't know michael prior is the co-founder of fog creek software, and...

jeff: yes, well welcome to the call, it's good to finally meet you

michael: thank you.  Are you going to the business of software conference?

jeff: I am not. 

michael: oh [disappointedly], I thought you were.

jeff: no, I'm not in the business of software

joel: we should get you as a speaker next year.

jeff: [laughter], Ha ha ha.  Well, I'm gonna have to start my own conference, man, and I'm gonna compete with you... Like right across the street from where your conference is, that'll be my conference.  Be like the business of software by jeff.

joel: it could be like the business of software camp.

jeff: yes, that's right.  A competing conference

joel: Umm.  So we've got a big week today, 'cuz I've been away for weeks and weeks.  

jeff: Yes.  How was your trip by the way?

Joel: Well there were two trips involved.   The first trip was [uh]... The first week I couldn't do it because I had to go up to Boston to talk to the Y-Combinator startups and tell them how venture capital was bad and that Paul Graham was setting them on course of self-destruction and conflict with venture capitalists, which is something that he always likes me to talk about.  And uh, uh, the last week was just my vacation.  I was off in israel where it is hot.

jeff: right, you mentioned that.

joel: But, I do want to say that the opera mini is an excelent browser for looking at stack overflow.

jeff: well good.  What kind of success did you have browsing stack overflow with opera mini?

joel: uh, well first of all it worked great. well, I guess the main thing I want to say, and this is sort of initial feedback, is that I am shocked how good stack overflow is. 

jeff: Well that's good to hear. I was curious, I was actually dying to talk to you this whole time because I was curious.  We were just never able to schedule a face to, not a phone a call for you to look at the site and give me your initial feedback.  Literally you guys are hearing the first thing I've ever heard from joel, specifically directly on stack overflow, the actual site.

michael: I heard him exclaim, he said it was awesome.

joel: it really  is.  I mean, the first thing I noticed is that like the minute that you open it up, people sort of floated in and started asking questions, and they were getting answers, like right away.  Even with a very small number, you know, even with a very small community of people. 

jeff: right

joel: and uh, so that was pretty awesome.  That was a sign that it was going to work, really.  But then you know I asked two questions, and the first one I got an answer in 30 minutes and the second one you had answered an hour previously, coincidentally, [laughter] and the search worked great, so as soon as I typed the subject, and hit tab, it found the answer to my question. 

jeff: cool

joel: it's really amazing.  I was trying to make.. What was I trying to do? I was trying to make, oh, one of those [uh], oh, I needed a regex for a URL, that excluded trailing punctuation.  

jeff: uh huh

joel: is that the one you answered? everbody knows about that problem right? You're trying to make regular expression for a URL,  and dots and commas and question marks are all legitimate and common in URLs, but if you're trying to take some text that somebody writes, and make the URLs into hyperlinks, they will often write a URL and then a period or a question mark or a comma, that they didn't mean to be a part of URL.

jeff: right.  Well actually to be fair, I copied that.  I used a great tool Regex Buddy, which I still think is by far the best tool on the market.  And it has a library of common functions.

joel: Oh so this is actually a tool not a web site?

jeff: Well, regex buddy is a tool, and it has a corresponding website.  If you do a search on regular expressions it has pretty much the highest page rank of all the sites on just regex information, and for good reason.  It pretty much kinda wrote the book on, I mean he wrote his own regex parser because it can...  There's differences in the flavors of regular expressions on different platforms.  This is an engine that's flexible enough that it can actually emulate other libraries. 

joel: [laughter].  So it's like.  It reminds me of borland when they wrote turbo assembler, there was a command-line argument that that emulated the bugs from microsoft macro assembler.

jeff: right [laughter]

[5:18]

jeff: and some of them are prety common, like in javascript regex for example you can't do backwards references, like backwards matching. When looking for things that preceed the match you can't really do that.

joel: Oh.  

jeff: For example.  I mean there's all these little quirkly little differences.  I mean the core functions are all the same in most javascript libraries.  

joel: I have to say, once you get to anything more complicated than, like, you know, "Is this a number?" kind of regex, it always looks to me like...  I don't even want to say a heiroglyphics.  It looks to me like a puzzle, like one of those puzzles you find in the back of Make magazine.  

jeff: I've been, since I'm at home a lot more, I've been trying to explain to my wife Betsy, just show her smoe of the things we're working on.  And it's interesting because she really loves puzzles, she does crosswords and all these kind of puzzle things and I have no patience for puzzles like that, but a regex, or coding stuff

Michael: I need a puzzle.

jeff: that's right, you're a puzzler.  You're a puzzle guy.

Michael: Yeah, I have to write an article like today, so if you have any good puzzles tell me.

jeff: But to me a regex, a regex to me is a puzzle that's actually facinating.  Not to an absurd degree, I don't want to create something that's actually hard for other programmers to maintain.

joel: Oh, but it always is.  It's like those guardian cryptic crossword puzzles.

jeff: It can be.  I mean it's definitely a trade-off there, but I think you made the same argument about like lisp for example where it just looks like this indeciperable jumble of parens.  You know? But to some people that's facinating, and they really enjoy that, and there'es sort of a puzzle factor to code that I think there's an interesting cross-over there.  But I'm glad you got an answer to your question. And I did see that you posted.

joel: Yeah, um, I posted, not on that one, I asked a question on something else I think.  I thought I would go in and answer a bunch of questions but they were all too hard for me.

jeff: [laughter]

joel: I don't know any of the answers.

jeff: yeah, the community has been great.  I think it's really a testamate to how the quality of the audience we've been attracting, you know, it's about them really, it's about them having a place to go to do stuff that's, you know, it's easy and it's fast and it's simple and clean.

joel: yeah

jeff: It's really a very simple proposition to me, umm, that we're doing.

joel: Yeah really, this is going to sound, and our listeners are going to think we're the most self-self-smug-self-satified people that have ever blessed the world, but I mean it really is clean and it works, and it's so simple and clean, and works.  I dunno.  It looks clean, it doesn't have, uhh... Maybe that's just like every new website starts out looks clean and there's all these people always trying to think [good?] things.

Michael: I have a question about stack overflow, jeff, for you.  So, when I was playing around with it, and I know there's already a topic about this, What are you planning to do for the discussion versus answer issue when somebody's like coming on and they start having a discussion and it's not clear the chronolgy about the discussion and it screws up the ... You know what I'm talking about right?

joel: the discussion gets all chopped up because the voting.

jeff: Yeah, well I think the central problem is, and it was a little disconcerting, it's partially understanble because [sigh], it's a new sight so people are trying to figure out how it works, but it was a little disconcerting that the first week, almost the highest number number of tags, as high as any other topic in the system, was the system itself.  So, I was a little disturbed that we've built a system for discussing the system, you know?

joel: [Laughter] That all, well that'll wear off.

jeff: Yeah, that'll wear off, that's my hope that that will all wear off as I actually need to codeify a lot of that stuff in the FAQ, and the reason I haven't is honestly that I've been changing the rules about how stuff works, like pretty rapidly as people start doing things.  But one of the core issues that does come up a lot, and joel, I know you and I talked about this a lot when we were setting up, initially talking about doing anything like this was This is not necesscarily a place for programmers to just come discuss random topics, it's supposed to be focused around questions and when I say questions, and when I say questions, I mean a question that actually has some kind of objective answer.  Not, you know, what's your favorite, like here's one I saw, What's your favorite RSS feed on java? What's your favorite java blog? I mean, this isn't really a question that can be objectively answered.  I mean, it's an okay question, but it's technically not what we built the system to do.

joel: Well you know, umm, that would work... That particular question would work well if everybody answered with one particular answer, and they just voted, and then it becomes a vote on you know the favorite java rss feeds.

jeff: some of them can work, but there's even more discussy type topics coming up, and I think the less focused the question is, the more you're going to have this intra-answer discussion, that I think people kind of get confused 

[10:10]


 

Spolsky: edit me!

Atwood: edit me!


 

in the 18th episode of stack overflow, we finally get to meet Michael Pryor, the co-founder of fog-creek software, and joel and jeff discuss the progress of the stack overflow beta in some depth. From IT Conversations.

Hi, This is Phil Wendly, the executive producer of IT conversations.  Today I'm excited to bring you another episode of stack overflow with jeff atwood and joel spolsky.  Here on IT Conversations.

By becoming a paid member you'll help keep the non-profit conversations network on the air.  And you'll have access to the premium edition programs without promotional messages, just click on the join button on our website to learn more.

Our audio files are delivered by limelight networks, the high performance content delivery network for digitial media.

And now, here's stack overflow.


Atwood: Hi Joel.

Spolsky

: Hey, it's Jeff.

Atwood: Yes, you're back.

Pryor: You're back.

Atwood: Oh and Michael's on the line, nice.

Pryor: yes, it's me.

Spolsky:

 Today we got two fog creekians, for those of you who don't know Michael Pryor is the co-founder of fog creek software, and...

Atwood: Yes, well welcome to the call, it's good to finally meet you.

Pryor: Thank you.  Are you going to the business of software conference?

Atwood: I am not. 

Pryor: Oh [disappointedly], I thought you were.

Atwood: no, I'm not in the business of software.

Spolsky:

 we should get you as a speaker next year.

Atwood: [laughter], Ha ha ha.  Well, I'm gonna have to start my own conference, man, and I'm gonna compete with you... Like right across the street from where your conference is, that'll be my conference.  Be like the business of software by Jeff.

Spolsky:

 it could be like the business of software camp.

Atwood: Yes, that's right.  A competing conference.

Spolsky:

 Umm.  So we've got a big week today, 'cuz I've been away for weeks and weeks. 

Atwood: Yes.  How was your trip by the way?

Spolsky:

 Well there were two trips involved.   The first trip was [uh]... The first week I couldn't do it because I had to go up to Boston to talk to the Y-Combinator startups and tell them how venture capital was bad and that Paul Graham was setting them on course of self-destruction and conflict with venture capitalists, which is something that he always likes me to talk about.  And uh, uh, the last week was just my vacation.  I was off in Israel where it is hot.

Atwood: Right, you mentioned that.

Spolsky:

 But, I do want to say that the opera mini is an excelent browser for looking at stack overflow.

Atwood: Well good.  What kind of success did you have browsing stack overflow with opera mini?

Spolsky:

 Uh, well first of all it worked great. Well, I guess the main thing I want to say, and this is sort of initial feedback, is that I am shocked how good stack overflow is. 

Atwood: Well that's good to hear. I was curious, I was actually dying to talk to you this whole time because I was curious.  We were just never able to schedule a face to, not a phone a call for you to look at the site and give me your initial feedback.  Literally you guys are hearing the first thing I've ever heard from joel, specifically directly on stack overflow, the actual site.

Pryor: I heard him exclaim, he said it was awesome.

Spolsky:

 it really is.  I mean, the first thing I noticed is that like the minute that you open it up, people sort of floated in and started asking questions, and they were getting answers, like right away.  Even with a very small number, you know, even with a very small community of people. 

Atwood: Right.

Spolsky:

 And uh, so that was pretty awesome.  That was a sign that it was going to work, really.  But then you know I asked two questions, and the first one I got an answer in 30 minutes and the second one you had answered an hour previously, coincidentally, [laughter] and the search worked great, so as soon as I typed the subject, and hit tab, it found the answer to my question. 

Atwood: Cool.

Spolsky:

 it's really amazing.  I was trying to make.. What was I trying to do? I was trying to make, oh, one of those [uh], oh, I needed a regex for a URL, that excluded trailing punctuation.  

Atwood: Uh huh.

Spolsky:

 Is that the one you answered? Everybody knows about that problem right? You're trying to make regular expression for a URL, and dots and commas and question marks are all legitimate and common in URLs, but if you're trying to take some text that somebody writes, and make the URLs into hyperlinks, they will often write a URL and then a period or a question mark or a comma, that they didn't mean to be a part of URL.

Atwood: Right.  Well actually to be fair, I copied that.  I used a great tool Regex Buddy, which I still think is by far the best tool on the market.  And it has a library of common functions.

Spolsky:

 Oh so this is actually a tool not a web site?

Atwood: Well, regex buddy is a tool, and it has a corresponding website.  If you do a search on regular expressions it has pretty much the highest page rank of all the sites on just regex information, and for good reason.  It pretty much kinda wrote the book on, I mean he wrote his own regex parser because it can...  There's differences in the flavors of regular expressions on different platforms.  This is an engine that's flexible enough that it can actually emulate other libraries. 

Spolsky:

 [laughter].  So it's like.  It reminds me of borland when they wrote turbo assembler, there was a command-line argument that that emulated the bugs from microsoft macro assembler.

Atwood: Right [laughter]

[5:18]

Atwood:

 And some of them are prety common, like in JavaScript regex for example you can't do backwards references, like backwards matching.  When looking for things that preceed the match you can't really do that.

Spolsky:

 Oh.  

Atwood: For example.  I mean there's all these little quirkly little differences.  I mean the core functions are all the same in most javascript libraries.  

Spolsky:

 I have to say, once you get to anything more complicated than, like, you know, "Is this a number?" kind of regex, it always looks to me like...  I don't even want to say a hieroglyphics.  It looks to me like a puzzle, like one of those puzzles you find in the back of Make magazine.  

Atwood: I've been, since I'm at home a lot more, I've been trying to explain to my wife Betsy, just show her some of the things we're working on.  And it's interesting because she really loves puzzles, she does crosswords and all these kind of puzzle things and I have no patience for puzzles like that, but a regex, or coding stuff

Pryor: I need a puzzle.

Atwood: that's right, you're a puzzler.  You're a puzzle guy.

Pryor: Yeah, I have to write an article like today, so if you have any good puzzles tell me.

Atwood: But to me a regex, a regex to me is a puzzle that's actually facinating.  Not to an absurd degree, I don't want to create something that's actually hard for other programmers to maintain.

Spolsky:

 Oh, but it always is.  It's like those Guardian cryptic crossword puzzles.

Atwood: It can be.  I mean it's definitely a trade-off there, but I think you made the same argument about like lisp for example where it just looks like this indecipherable jumble of parens.  You know? But to some people that's facinating, and they really enjoy that, and there'es sort of a puzzle factor to code that I think there's an interesting cross-over there.  But I'm glad you got an answer to your question. And I did see that you posted.

Spolsky:

 Yeah, um, I posted, not on that one, I asked a question on something else I think.  I thought I would go in and answer a bunch of questions but they were all too hard for me.

Atwood: [laughter]

Spolsky:

 I don't know any of the answers.

Atwood: Yeah, the community has been great.  I think it's really a testament to how the quality of the audience we've been attracting, you know, it's about them really, it's about them having a place to go to do stuff that's, you know, it's easy and it's fast and it's simple and clean.

Spolsky:

 Yeah.

Atwood: It's really a very simple proposition to me, umm, that we're doing.

Spolsky:

 Yeah really, this is going to sound, and our listeners are going to think we're the most self-self-smug-self-satified people that have ever blessed the world, but I mean it really is clean and it works, and it's so simple and clean, and works.  I dunno.  It looks clean, it doesn't have, uhh... Maybe that's just like every new website starts out looks clean and there's all these people always trying to think [good?] things.

Pryor: I have a question about stack overflow, Jeff, for you.  So, when I was playing around with it, and I know there's already a topic about this, What are you planning to do for the discussion versus answer issue when somebody's like coming on and they start having a discussion and it's not clear the chronology about the discussion and it screws up the ... You know what I'm talking about right?

Spolsky:

 the discussion gets all chopped up because the voting.

Atwood: Yeah, well I think the central problem is, and it was a little disconcerting, it's partially understandable because [sigh], it's a new sight so people are trying to figure out how it works, but it was a little disconcerting that the first week, almost the highest number number of tags, as high as any other topic in the system, was the system itself.  So, I was a little disturbed that we've built a system for discussing the system, you know?

Spolsky:

 [Laughter] That all, well that'll wear off.

Atwood: Yeah, that'll wear off, that's my hope that that will all wear off as I actually need to codeify a lot of that stuff in the FAQ, and the reason I haven't is honestly that I've been changing the rules about how stuff works, like pretty rapidly as people start doing things.  But one of the core issues that does come up a lot, and joel, I know you and I talked about this a lot when we were setting up, initially talking about doing anything like this was This is not necessarily a place for programmers to just come discuss random topics, it's supposed to be focused around questions and when I say questions, and when I say questions, I mean a question that actually has some kind of objective answer.  Not, you know, what's your favorite, like here's one I saw, What's your favorite RSS feed on java? What's your favorite java blog? I mean, this isn't really a question that can be objectively answered.  I mean, it's an okay question, but it's technically not what we built the system to do.

Spolsky:

 Well you know, umm, that would work... That particular question would work well if everybody answered with one particular answer, and they just voted, and then it becomes a vote on you know the favorite java rss feeds.

Atwood: some of them can work, but there's even more discussy type topics coming up, and I think the less focused the question is, the more you're going to have this intra-answer discussion, that I think people kind of get confused 

[10:10]