Dash Open 02: Dav Glass - Building Community and Mentorship Programs through Open Source

Gil Yehuda: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Dash Open Podcast. Dash Open is your place for interesting conversations about open source and other technologies, from the open source program office at Oath. Oath is the home of many leading brands including Yahoo, AOL, Tumblr, TechCrunch, and many more. We're a division of Verizon. Gil Yehuda: Today on the podcast, we have the honorable Doctor Dav Glass, distinguished architect, infrastructure engineer. A man who rarely does podcasts, so we're extremely honored that you're here with us. Dav, welcome to the podcast. Dav Glass: Thank you, Gil. I'm happy to be here. Gil Yehuda: We know each other well. You've been at Yahoo for over 12 years. Dav Glass: Yes. Gil Yehuda: We kind of met day one, doing open source together. You were on the Yahoo Developer Network. You were, way back in the day, doing YUI stuff, on the membership team, and OpenStack. You're now doing a lot of infrastructure technology. Let's start off with some of the things that you're focused on now around OpenStack and infrastructure. Dav Glass: Well, so, OpenStack is an open source infrastructure development system, a compute system. So, you can control your bare metal hosts, and you can control VMs. You can create load balancers. You can do storage. You can do object storage. It's almost like what you would consider AWS or Google Cloud Platform or Azure, but it is 100% open source and available to run on your own. Gil Yehuda: Awesome, so if you're an enterprise or a particularly large business and for whatever reason your workload is really optimized, or for who knows what other reasons you have, you need to run your own data center, you're gonna run it with some sort of infrastructure technology. Dav Glass: Exactly. Gil Yehuda: Right. Dav Glass: And not even that, you don't have to have a large company. Dav Glass: OpenStack is perfectly fine to run small. I run an OpenStack cluster at home. I've got four hypervisors sitting in my garage. I actually use that to heat the garage in the wintertime because it is kinda chilly in Illinois and those machines pump out a lot of heat, but I run a full OpenStack infrastructure in my house. I run, I think, 15 or 20 VMs. My kids use those VMs to practice. My son is currently running Python web servers on it and my daughter runs and administers her own Minecraft server on it, and I have all of my home automation stuff running on those machines, and I have work VMs, and play VMs, and all kinds of stuff on there that I do with it. Gil Yehuda: Wow, so in the city of the future Dav Glass style, every house would have its own data center in it because as you know, every house really should have a data center. Dav Glass: Yeah. Dav Glass: Yes. Well, not just a data center, we're completely autonomous. Right, the house is. Gil Yehuda: Oh, interesting. Gil Yehuda: I was kinda like jabbing at you, but I guess there's something to be said about that. Dav Glass: Yeah, I have a complete smart house, a little over 250 smart devices in it, and most of them are running some sort of data through those VMs in the house. I have custom applications. I've got 22 cameras that monitor the outside and the inside of the house. Dav Glass: And they're all stored on giant disks in that cluster. Gil Yehuda: I've seen your Christmas light display. Dav Glass: Yes. Gil Yehuda: You have somewhat of a famous Twitter feed. Dav Glass: A little bit. Gil Yehuda: Tuned to a radio station or something, right? Dav Glass: I'm actually streaming that from Apple Music. Gil Yehuda: Oh yeah? Dav Glass: On a Mac Mini sitting in my other closet. So I've got two data closets in the house. Gil Yehuda: And as people drive by they can turn on the radio, listen to a song, and watch your house play the song. Dav Glass: Yes. Gil Yehuda: What's the Twitter feed? Dav Glass: It's @HackSI_lights. Gil Yehuda: @HackSI_lights. What's HackSI? That's a project that you do work on, tell us about HackSI. Dav Glass: HackSI is something that I started back in 2013. I had a long history at Yahoo for participating in hack days. Gil Yehuda: Yup. Dav Glass: So I won my first one on my 30th day here, and then I proceeded to win I think the next six or seven in a row. Gil Yehuda: Okay. Dav Glass: And they told me not to do it anymore, so I then had to become a judge. Gil Yehuda: Right, because you kept on winning hack days. Dav Glass: Yes, so I kept winning and then they decided that I needed to be a judge. Gil Yehuda: Now hold on one second. Dav Glass: Yeah. Gil Yehuda: Just for some of the listeners, hacking means to break something apart doesn't it? Is a hack day a good thing? Dav Glass: Yeah, so hacking does mean that in one context. Gil Yehuda: Okay. Dav Glass: But according to Merriam Webster's Dictionary, there are several different definitions of the word hack. Dav Glass: And one of those is someone who is enthusiastic about computer programming. Gil Yehuda: Oh okay. Dav Glass: And that's the one that I choose to use. Gil Yehuda: Right, so hack day isn't breaking things it's actually making things? Dav Glass: Right. So one of the things that we used to call them, we used to call them mashups. Dav Glass: Taking two things that weren't supposed to work together, making them work together and produce something cool. Gil Yehuda: That's chocolate and peanut butter. Dav Glass: Exactly. Gil Yehuda: Okay. Dav Glass: Or peanut butter and bananas. Gil Yehuda: There we go. So, you used to win all those hack days, you judged all those hack days, and then you leveraged that to create hack days for this thing called HackSI. Dav Glass: Yes. Gil Yehuda: Who's that for? Dav Glass: So HackSI, just so we know what it is, means Hack Southern Illinois. Gil Yehuda: Okay. Dav Glass: That's what the SI stands for. Dav Glass: And what I initially wanted was, I had only been back in Illinois about three years. Dav Glass: And I didn't really have a lot of tech friends to talk to in the area. Gil Yehuda: Okay. Dav Glass: So I thought, got together with a couple of people and said, "Let's try to put one of these hack days on at a local college, and see if I can get some of the tech community to show up so I can have more people to talk to", so we did the first one. It was supposed to be about 12 hours, and I was expecting maybe 20 people to show up, right? Gil Yehuda: Sure. Dav Glass: I mean I live pretty far. Gil Yehuda: Rural? Dav Glass: Pretty rural area. Gil Yehuda: Okay. Dav Glass: We ended up having over a hundred. Gil Yehuda: Nice. Dav Glass: And it just blew my mind. And not only was it interesting that we had that many people, but the age range that we get is incredible. I don't have an age range. Gil Yehuda: So it's not just college? Dav Glass: No, I have them from 7 to 65, and that peak goes straight up. There is no plateau. Gil Yehuda: So everybody wants an opportunity to make something. Dav Glass: Yes. Gil Yehuda: To feel empowered. Dav Glass: Yeah, so we decided to break it up into a bunch of small pieces. So we have like a room, it's full of LEGOs, and we have a local high school robotics team come in and they teach people how to build robots out of all those LEGOs. Gil Yehuda: Okay. Dav Glass: Well the robotics kids get to benefit from that because they're teaching other people, and then whoever came into the room benefits from learning how to build robots. Dav Glass: We have an entire room full of drones. I actually own 80 drones. We teach people how to fly them. Dav Glass: But then we also teach them how to program them. The specific model that we bought are ones that you can actually program. So we get them in the room and we teach them, how do you program these things? How do you make them do stunts? And make flips? And change their lights? And just pilot them around. So they can go one step up after learning. Dav Glass: Interesting, you know how you always used to get those pilot wings when you first got on a plane? Dav Glass: We 3D print pilot wings that have little drones in them and we've given them to every person that learns how to fly a drone. Gil Yehuda: Oh, so they earn their wings? Dav Glass: Yes. Gil Yehuda: How awesome. Dav Glass: They earn their pilot wings every time they come in to fly one of our drones. Gil Yehuda: So let me tie this back to work for a moment, 'cause this is really cool. Professionally you think about an engineer who does work and maybe conjures in your mind what you've seen in movies about an engineer sitting in a cubicle with multiple computer screens flashing something, and then I'm hearing you, you go to hack days. You're meeting with young people or older people, building things with LEGOs and drones. That sounds very communal. It sounds very interactive. Gil Yehuda: So the model that we have about somebody coming into work and sitting in front of their computer and just typing into the terminal, that's probably not very accurate, is it? Dav Glass: No. Gil Yehuda: Okay, so how do you bring that spirit of community and building stuff together to the workplace? Dav Glass: One of the things that I actually do that I didn't mention is I also mentor a robotics team. Dav Glass: Three of them to be exact, because we have three of them at our local high school, and First Robotics is actually a really good robotics competition. It's started by the gentleman who invented the Segway, Dean Kamen. Dav Glass: It's not the robots that you see on TV that are beating the crap out of each other. Gil Yehuda: Right, not the BattleBots. Dav Glass: No, these bots, what they do is they have a field, and they have a specific set of tasks that need to be done to earn points. Dav Glass: You have to then design, fabricate, build, and program your robot to accomplish as many tasks as you can to get more points. One of their mottoes is, "Gracious professionalism," which I absolutely love. Dav Glass: We were at a competition, and we had a motor blow out on one of our robots. Dav Glass: We did not have a spare of that exact motor. Dav Glass: One of our kids stood up says, "Hey does anyone have this motor?", three different teams walked over and handed us one of their spare motors. One of those teams was our competition in the next round. Dav Glass: They went ahead and gave us the motor, even though we were their competition. Now the cool thing is the way the event is set up, three rounds later, we were their teammate. Gil Yehuda: Oh awesome. Dav Glass: Yes, so it really gives them a good sense of community involvement alone, right? Dav Glass: Just because that's the way that I look at open source as well, right? It's open source in the way that you work in the business in that just because there's a bug in somebody else's thing, you don't just throw it over the fence. Dav Glass: You can go help them fix it and prove to them why this was an important issue for you, and work together to accomplish the actual goal and just ship cool stuff. Gil Yehuda: So that's a really interesting model, which is this conundrum between the fact that we feel this communal spirit that we're working with people, but on the other hand, we also recognize that there is some element of competition, you know? So here you are competing with somebody and you're giving them stuff. In the world of open source we publish a lot of things knowing that our competitors use it, and that doesn't bother us. In fact, we feel good about that. Gil Yehuda: You've been involved in the developer network activities for quite a bit, specifically Yahoo Developer Network, but obviously well beyond, you know, in terms of the stuff that you do in your local community. Can you share with us your insight into how you work with people who work for other companies, particularly who are perhaps your direct competitors, and yet you can build things together in a communal way. Dav Glass: Well that's an interesting one because I don't usually look at other developers as competitors, especially in the Silicon Valley style, because you could be their deskmate in two months, or you guys could live in the same apartment. Dav Glass: Your kids could go to school together and you're sitting side-by-side. Dav Glass: You never know, with the number of people around, who they are. So just because they work for a different company doesn't mean that they're competitors. Dav Glass: You always want to do what's best for, not only yourself, but the other people involved. That's what makes a project successful, is that if everyone on the project is getting along and they care about what everybody else thinks and does, everybody's happier at that point, right? And you reduce the bickering. You reduce the complaints. And at that point, you also have to learn how to understand that something's not a complaint, it's just that someone doesn't know how to effectively communicate the problem that they're having. Gil Yehuda: So there you go, that's "gracious professionalism". Dav Glass: Yeah. Gil Yehuda: Right? And I guess that's the heart of what you're teaching at HackSI and teaching the robotics teams, and bringing that to work. That is such a great way to describe the open source community. Dav Glass: Yes. Gil Yehuda: Assume positive intent, be gracious, recognize that in a global community not everyone is particularly effective in communicating in the language that they happen to be using at the time, right? Dav Glass: Exactly. Yes. And you can never assume the skillset of the person that you were talking to. Dav Glass: You can never do that. I don't even know how to compare it, but you can never assume that the PR that you just got for this code, even if it looks to you like the most horrible thing you've ever seen. That may literally be their first contribution ever. And you do not want to be the person to shun away a future developer because they did not understand how to do something. Your job should be to help these other developers, right? Gil Yehuda: Right. Dav Glass: I can't tell you how many times someone has submitted a poor request to my code, and they didn't add a test. Gil Yehuda: Oops. Dav Glass: And they just left. I don't let it sit. I actually will pull it down locally. I'll write the test myself. Dav Glass: And then I will either give them a PR back, or I will just merge mine with theirs and then credit them for it. Dav Glass: Just because I have to have a test. I'm not gonna accept it if it doesn't. But if they didn't have time to write it, or they just didn't understand how to right it. I mean, frankly, a lot of my modules have ten times more tests than they actually have codes. Dav Glass: So that doesn't surprise me, but you can't always assume the bad, right? You have to look at it from, they were being helpful. They were trying to get something that they needed that was in their way, and they needed this to get their job done because they're getting paid to do something too, you know? Gil Yehuda: Dav, thanks for your time. We really appreciate the fact that you came here to speak with us. We know that it's rare for you to do something like this, and we just wanna make sure that the folks listening in know the kind of caliber, quality, and character of the folks that we get to work with, like yourself, Dav. So thanks again. Gil Yehuda: If you've enjoyed this episode of Dash Open, and you'd like to learn more about the open source program and other technologies that we do here, please visit us at You can also find us on Twitter @YDN.

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