Building a Community around Cloud-Native Content with Bret Fisher
Bret Fisher, DevOps Dude & Cloud-Native Trainer, joins Corey on Screaming in the Cloud to discuss what it’s like being a practitioner and a content creator in the world of cloud. Bret shares why he feels it’s so critical to get his hands dirty so his content remains relevant, and also how he has to choose where to focus his efforts to grow his community. Corey and Bret discuss the importance of finding the joy in your work, and also the advantages and downfalls of the latest AI advancements.
For 25 years Bret has built and operated distributed systems, and helped over 350,000 people learn dev and ops topics. He's a freelance DevOps and Cloud Native consultant, trainer, speaker, and open source volunteer working from Virginia Beach, USA. Bret's also a Docker Captain and the author of the popular Docker Mastery and Kubernetes Mastery series on Udemy. He hosts a weekly DevOps YouTube Live Show, a container podcast, and runs the popular devops.fan Discord chat server.
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/BretFisher
- YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/@BretFisher
- Website: https://www.bretfisher.com
Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.
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My thanks as well to Sysdig for sponsoring this ridiculous podcast.
Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn, a little bit off the beaten path today, in that I’m talking to someone who, I suppose like me, if that’s not considered to be an insult, has found themselves eminently unemployable in a quote-unquote, “Real job.” My guest today is Bret Fisher, DevOps dude and cloud-native trainer. Bret, great to talk to you. What do you do?
Bret: [laugh]. I’m glad to be here, Corey. I help people for a living like a lot of us end up doing in tech. But nowadays, it’s courses, it’s live trainings, webinars, all that stuff. And then of course, the fun side of it is the YouTube podcast, hanging out with friends, chatting on the internet. And then a little bit of running a Discord community, which is one of the best places to have a little text chat community, if you don’t know Discord.
Corey: I’ve been trying to get the Discord and it isn’t quite resonating with me, just because by default, it alerts on everything that happens in any server you’re in. It, at least historically, was very challenging to get that tuned in, so I just stopped having anything alert me on my phone, which means now I miss things constantly. And that’s been fun and challenging. I still have the slack.lastweekinaws.com community with a couple of thousand people in it.
Bret: Nice. Yeah, I mean, some people love Slack. I still have a Slack community for my courses. Discord, I feel like is way more community friendly. By the way, a good server admin knows how to change those settings, which there are a thousand settings in Discord, so server admins, I don’t blame you for not seeing that setting.
But there is one where you can say new members, don’t bug them on every message; only bug them on a mentions or, you know, channel mentions and stuff like that. And then of course, you turn off all those channel mentions and abilities for people to abuse it. But yeah, I had the same problem at first. I did not know what I was doing and it took me years to kind of figure out. The community, we now have 15,000 people. We call it Cloud Native DevOps, but it’s basically people from all walks of DevOps, you know, recovering IT pros.
And the wonderful thing about it is you always start out—like, you’d do the same thing, I’m sure—where you start a podcast or YouTube channel or a chat community or Telegram, or a subreddit, or whatever your thing is, and you try to build a community and you don’t know if it’s going to work and you invite your friends and then they show up for a day and then go away. And I’ve been very lucky and surprised that the Discord server has, to this point, taken on sort of a, its own nature. We’ve got, I don’t know, close to a dozen moderators now and people are just volunteering their time to help others. It’s wonderful. I actually—I consider it, like, one of the safe places, unlike maybe Stack Overflow where you might get hated for the wrong question. And we try to guide you to a better question so [laugh] that we can answer you or help you. So, every day I go in there, and there’s a dozen conversations I missed that I wasn’t able to keep up with. So, it’s kind of fun if you’re into that thing.
Corey: I remember the olden days when I was one of the volunteer staff members on the freenode IRC network before its untimely and awful demise, and I really have come to appreciate the idea of, past a certain point, you can either own the forum that you’re working within or you can participate in it, but being a moderator, on some level, sets apart how people treat you in some strange ways. And none of these things are easy once you get into the nuances of codes of conduct, of people participating in good faith, but also are not doing so constructively. And people are hard. And one of these years I should really focus on addressing aspects of that with what I’m focusing on.
Bret: [laugh]. Yeah, the machines—I mean, as frustrating as the machines are, they at least are a little more reliable. I don’t have anonymous machines showing up yet in Discord, although we do get almost daily spammers and stuff like that. So, you know, I guess I’m blessed to have attracted some of the spam and stuff like that. But a friend of mine who runs a solid community for podcasters—you know, for podcasts hosters—he warned me, he’s like, you know, if you really want to make it the community that you have the vision for, it requires daily work.
Like, it’s a part-time job, and you have to put the time in, or it will just not be that and be okay with that. Like, be okay with it being a small, you know, small group of people that stick around and it doesn’t really grow. And that’s what’s happened on the Slack side of things is I didn’t care and feed it, so it has gotten pretty quiet over there as we’ve grown the Discord server. Because I kind of had to choose, you know? Because we—like you, I started with Slack long, long ago. It was the only thing out there. Discord was just for gamers.
And in the last four or five years, I think Discord—I think during the pandemic, they officially said, “We are now more than gamers,” which I was kind of waiting for to really want to invest my company’s—I mean, my company of three—you know, my company [laugh] time into a platform that I thought was maybe just for gamers; couldn’t quite figure it out. And once they kind of officially said, “Yeah, we’re for all communities,” we’re more in, you know, and they have that—the thing I really appreciate like we had an IRC, but was mostly human-driven is that Discord, unlike Slack, has actual community controls that make it a safer place, a more inclusive place. And you can actually contact Discord when you have a spammer or someone doing bad things, or you have a server raid where there’s a whole bunch of accounts and bot accounts trying to take you down, you can actually reach out to Discord, where Slack doesn’t have any of that, they don’t have a way for you to reach out. You can’t block people or ban them or any of that stuff with Slack. And we—the luckily—the lucky thing of Dis—I kind of look at Discord as, like, the best new equivalent of IRC, even though for a lot of people IRC is still the thing, right? We have new clients now, you can actually have off—you could have sort of synced IRC, right, where you can have a web client that remembers you so you didn’t lose the chat after you left, which was always the problem back in the day.
Corey: Oh, yeah. I just parked it on, originally, a hardware box, now EC2. And this ran Irssi as my client—because I’m old school—inside of tmux and called it a life. But yeah, I still use that from time to time, but the conversation has moved on. One challenge I’ve had is that a lot of the people I talk to about billing nuances skew sometimes, obviously in the engineering direction, but also in the business user perspective and it always felt, on some level like it was easier to get business users onto Slack from a community perspective—
Bret: Mmm. Absolutely. Yeah.
Corey: —than it was for Discord. I mean, this thing started as well. This was years ago, before Discord had a lot of those controls. Might be time to take another bite at that apple.
Bret: Yeah. Yeah, I definitely—and that, I think that’s why I still keep the Slack open is there are some people, they will only go there, right? Like, they jus