Aardvark’d: 12 Weeks with Geeks
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Aardvark’d: 12 Weeks with Geeks


[Soft Piano Music] I was working and Juno basically that was at the peak of the
boom when the market was starting to dip. A lot of my friends from that office
left, and Joel was talking to me he said you know
I’m thinking about starting something up and I said okay sounds like a good idea
let’s do it and I’m so that’s how we started Fog Creek. It’s gotten to the point where I can
pretty much keep myself busy all day long merely telling people what to do.
As opposed to actually doing things. For the first time has gone
beyond the point where I can really be expected to have any time to sit and code for a long- long stretches of time.
So the idea for
selecting interns for Fog Creek is that we wante people who hot could
certainly eventually come here to be full-time developers
or in the case or marketing intern be a
full-time marketing and sales person and also someone who can jump directly
into the job and start doing it and start writing code in the in the of
the programers. So I really love my summers at home outside of Boston. I love my friends I
love doing bonfires and having that whole type of experience. So at first I was like I don’t wanna go to
New York City but I read about the internship and realized it’s an
amazing opportunity I mean he said something like there were
800 applicants so I mean these guys are probably amazing programmers and so it will be interesting just to see
what type of guys they are, what type of ideas they have how they work together [Guitar Riff/Piano Music] I’m really excited just it’s very
different from anything I’ve done before and that’s really good New York City is like having caffeine IV
plugged into your arm all day long Joel’s made several enteries on his blog
recently about how he really value’s creative employees he’s had a lot of interesting stuff on his office design.
It’s well-respected people who work there are very
intelligent, and it’s in New York City which means I’m going to have a lot of fun [Soft strumming guitar] I love it, I mean the small school I’ve developed a lot of personal relationships with the professors here If I have trouble they all know my name I can stop by anytime and get help with that stuff.
And there’s really not a whole lot to do here so I come up with my own fun. And I’ll probably look like a shut in in New york city but I hope to get out and do as much as I can [Guitar riff] I’ve known about- Joel’s blog, Joel on Software for a while I’ve read it regularly for like several years when it came down to it I actually had
an offer from Microsoft and Fog Creek, but the Fog Creek one was
so much more exciting because Joel wanted to have these interns
create their own project and do something from scratch that will
be released to customers and become a real product while Microsoft, I don’t know if I
will be working on shipping code and things like that. I just wasn’t sure I’d have the same impact. [Singing] I love my computer- cause it doesn’t give me no grief. I love Macintosh users I appreciate PC’s. I see my movies when I want hear my music anytime see my best friend when she’s on AOL. [Guitar strumming] Please tell me it isn’t true I thought we had something so good I really thought it could be you- But there’s no desktop in your room. Can you watch your movies anytime? Hear your music when you like? See your best friend when he’s on AOL? I love my computer! Oh- This is the kickoff meeting for Project Aardvark. So the basic idea of what Aardvark does although you’ve probably gotten the idea roughly
it that it’s a remote It’s a help your mom with her computer kind of
product. Virtually every home user these days is behind firewall that doesn’t really
allow them to be controlled remotely and so that’s what we’re gonna
build it something that fits this particular market niche and make it sort of
a consumer grade cheap product that the average college kid can use to help their
average mom or dad with his or her computer problems as appropriate and so
the architecture roughly is- My original vision for Aardvark was to
solve a very specific need which was the need of tech support here at Fog Creek to help
people install Fog Bugz and when I actually mention this to a
couple of the interns I think 2 out of 4 of them told me Oh I could really use that to help my mom
with her computer that design is meant to be absolutely as
simple as possible so to the end-user this is the way it
looks we’re calling this codename Project Aardvark the real name the product probably
won’t be Aardvark. The helper says alright I’m to go
to Aardvark.com The helper goes to Aardvark.com
and says I want to help my mom for example and they type in as little as possible and so the victim and the helper both
connect back to the reflector automatically by running a little executable
program and once they both get connected lo and
behold the helper is helping the victim with a low countdown clock ticking the time remaining on their dime before they have to disconnect and that’s
pretty much the whole story. When we were having our introductory a
discussion but what exactly project Aardvark was going to do and we’re going over
the spec Yaron’s sitting there hunched over
like this cuz he had cut himself shaving that morning. It just wouldn’t stop
bleeding and all the usual q-tips you know and toilet paper
wasn’t working and then I see you coming around with your camera
and I’m like I’m going to be gushing you know on the video so I try keep you know
you in a corner of my eye and whenever the camera came around I just like- you know it’s very interesting yeah
just blocking it, but on you know apparently that’s all thwarted now.
Thank’s Ben. Read these by tomorrow. I just got a few random books. We’ve also got a a large collection of books over there
in the library and just about anything you want,
that goes to Yaron. You get a a smaller pile of books because you’re the marketing dude.
You not responsible for performance you’re not a programmer so you don’t get a stopwatch.
But- Wait, performance is everyone’s responsibility. Alright, alright. Fine. You get the marketing stop watch it’s got
fewer digits of accuracy. [laughter] We have a really good interns. We never quite know when we first
start recruiting for interns every season We always get a huge number of reumes
that just don’t look like have any potential at all, a huge number resumes you wanna keep in
the possible pile because they sort’ve seem like you might be able to make
something out of these people but you just don’t now and then very rarely a resume
comes across that just sort’ve glows like you try to put
the resume down on the desk and it floats in the air because it’s so good,
or like you go home and and and turn off the lights and this resume is actually glowing!
They’re that good. The big risk a lot of people have with
interns is are you don’t if they’ll finish there’s a story I heard about creation somebody said
that actually the first time God created
the world it was the first day, the second and third
day, the fourth the fifth and sixth seventh eighth ninth- It became a total mess, so God scrapped the
whole thing started again and the big thing we learn is that after six days got shipped.
Now whether they’ll actually be able to get it done in the time allotted I don’t know. They have others there who are
experienced who can help them do it and that depends on how much those
people really want to help the interns. How do you complete it? That’s the problem I mean, you get a very small amount of time. You show up,
you get the assignment, and when the time’s up the time’s up and if
your code isn’t quite there too bad. So they’re dealing with beta releases press kits
and all these things that I don’t really have to deal at
all the publicity is way different for them. They’ve gone to CF United and a
documentary is being made about them and they’ve got the project Aardvark blog so
they’re getting a lot more attention than we got so it’s gonna be kinda different for them.
I really enjoy publishing and having that many readers. I really
enjoy writing and already we’ve got four hundred
people on Bloglines who are listed as active subscribers, and if
you do the math and you assume that okay will Joel’s blog has
10,000 people listed on Bloglines has around three hundred thousand
active readers, if you assume the same ratio holds we’ve got about 10,000 active
readers right now. In the entry in the post I basically just
said that I’d achieved feature completeness on the reflector.
The reflector’s feature complete Ben has finished it but the complexities
will come we start to integrate that with the VNC client and with the load balancing
capabilities of Aardvark. [Guitar strumming] My sister’s boyfriend grew tomatoes
in his garden out back at his apartment. He’s got some terrific tomato plant source that he has to meet in some undisclosed location in the
East Village to get the seedlings. So these are
supposed to do well in low light. That’s a Burbank, and this is
a Harbinger. It would’ve been cool to train a webcam on these and we coould’ve done a timelapse or just kept an eye on them you know
check on the tomatoes. That would’ve been fun but it’s too much of
a hassle to set it up and I don’t know- I think you’d
have to put the webcam outside for it to work well and it just wouldn’t work out. We had a meeting talk about what we wanted
to name the product. We started with a list of names and someone, I don’t remember who
threw out the name Co-Pilot which we really like and so I that the name we really want to get.
The trouble with Co-Pilot is it’s an English word and that means that the
domain name is already registered and we’re unlikely to be able to get a
domain name unless we bribe the person who owns it. On the initial email I talked to him
and he wanted twenty thousand dollars initial offer, I mean that’s not gonna
happen for starters. I don’t think he expects to get that
he’s just lousy at bargaining to throw out a really large number.
I really like Co-Pilot but I really have to imagine it we could
get better name than that that’s not that’s not going to cost $20,000
It’s better- We’re not paying more than $6,000.
Whatever they’re charging it just strikes me as pretty insane. Let’s put it this way we’re really
taking a risk. And the way to calculate these things
is you say that we spend X dollars, lets say $10,000 for the domain name,
times the probability that we get to keep it- How much we really willing to spend on this domain name and before we start
negotiating with this guy we have to know what’s our final offer you know.
So worst-case scenario the guy says ‘tough’ and we have to pay
twenty grand- are we going to do that?
We should decide that now. No you have to say wait a minute 20 grand
I came back with 5 thousand- That’s not what I’m asking though, fine
negotiation, whatever we’re going to try to pay the least amount
we can for the domain name the question is what if none of it works?
And you’re left with- Sidepilot.
No, what’s the cutoff point? Is it $10,000? What’s your maximum
willingness to pay? $10,000. $10,000? Nothing above?
$10,500… [Laughter] [Music plays] More filming.
Except it’s me this time. Did you film Lerone filming you?
That would be too redundant. What are you doing? I’m coming up with a preliminary logo for
Sidepilot. It doesn’t really come across on the video very well. Side-Pilot. Side-Pilot. Cool. With the swoosh. Cool. And what’s that for? So we can throw it up on the website
and have something there that way if it needs to look like we
have stuff there it can look like we have stuff there.
[Laughter] So you can trick the guy?
Basically. Like ‘We don’t need your stinking domain
name we already got one’! We’ve got SidePilot.
We’re ready to launch. Exactly. Right now I’m faxing this contract for the CoPilot.com domain He’ll get it, sign it, fax it back to us
transfer the funds and then we’ll have the name CoPilot which will be sweet cuz
it’s much better than SidePilot. I told him that I could use my
entire marketing budget of five thousand dollars on the domain right now without talking to anybody.
He came back to me saying that right now the highest bidder was CoPilot Live with $9,500 and that he was hoping to get closer
to 20,000 but he would sacrifice at for $10,000 if we want to outbid them. And I mean he might have
been lying, he might’ve been saying that to you know 9500 you guys get 10,000- but I didn’t want to bank on that.
I didn’t want to be like I don’t believe you, here’s $7,000 $10,000 was our maximum budget for a domain that’s as high as we possibly wanted
to go but the name CoPilot is so much
better than SidePilot It definitely seems like it’s worth it. One of the biggest challenges is working with
existing code that’s there. It’s not really our code so first we
have to go through and understand it figure out what the other person’s
stylists and all that stuff and then getting everything put into
that so it it works the way we wanted to and making
changes so it still works and all that.
So I have no idea what the stopwatch is for. Joel gave us each one of these on the first day and I can’t remember what the website says
he mentioned that it was to make, to time things to make things go faster
something like that but I have not used it yet so I have no idea but a I’m waiting like one day I’m going
to use it for something. We’ll see… [Pop/R&B beat] This is Michael and my apartment
we kicked the RA’s out so here’s where we are. We’ve got actually a lot of space for a New York apartment. We’ve got one bathroom
which is kept in pristine condition byt the fact that we
basically don’t have anything in here. The kitchen which is not very furnished- We’ve got your bachelor’s typical dirty
pans and pots and a microwave that’s good at burning things,
and slightly rotten bananas and a fridge that’s currently unfortunately
totally devoid of alcohol. Here’s my room. We all got TV’s
with built in DVD players which was really nice,
and then it’s supposed to be a double so there’s actually
a lot of space for us so we’ve got the TV, computer a stack of books that Joel gave us and a few of my own, and lots of
entertainment stuff. And we’ve got a great view out here of
buildings and a huge A/C unit. [Music beat] It’s a pretty phat apartment. Come on in, I’ll give you a tour. We’ve got Yaron’s room in there, a pretty
cool setup he’s got a projector up there, full surround sound speakers and he’s got the wall blank over here so
we can watch movies and all that stuff. [Music beat]
And my room, just somewhere for me to sleep. My bike there, and a computer That’s all I need. That’s pretty much it.
It’s not the biggest spot in the world but it does for the summer. [Record scratching] When you look out of our back window
there’s a little ledge. It’s about one floor lower and it really
looks like you might be able to jump across but there’s sort of a scary gap before
you hit that ledge and so ever since we moved in
here we’ve been trying to figure out what we would do literally if there was a
fire and we couldn’t get out of any of the main staircases. wW’ve talked about this three times like
very seriously like taking out measuring tape and
measuring between the buildings and whether it’s better to- jump to the building across that’s lower or
to climb up the fire escape and jump over and higher or
to make a net out of ethernet cables or to buy buoy things and have them in the
supplies area, or to make a net, oh a slide… yeah for some reason the regular fire escape isn’t an option. We have to come up with a
better solution. I definitely believe in the
jumping method. From the very beginning I’m like “I think
I could make that.” and like people were saying it was like 20 25 30
feet but like it’s nowhere near that far
we’ve measured it and it’s like 15 as I’m pretty sure you can make that with
a good jump. If we were close I’d just go for it. I think we can just tie a rope around Tyler and we’ll light his pants on fire
to give him the adrenaline rush he needs and he’ll go jump out of the window,
and we’ll hold onto the rope. Is that fair? No, the whole my pants on fire thing
is not acceptable. I think that I would
just be very angry and you may be the one going out the
window in that case. I never claimed I could make it,
I’m quite adamant I cannot make it. Yeah that would be the point of putting
you out the window. Ben knows a lot, and here’s pretty confident in what he
knows and so he can kind of be a little too assertive sometimes
when he offers his opinions. I don’t know, you have to
get used to the way he suggests things. Tyler was very insistent that the distance was
small enough you can run out the window and jump and I thought that was
complete bull and we got into an argument and then
basically we finally decided we’ll just go outside and actually measure the distance. [Guitar strumming] There’s always a better way to do
something and an easier way to do something that’s what they’re always trying to figure
out – whether it has to do with computers or like what subway route, you know?
There’s always a better way so it gets very humorous when you talk about in detail you know what
star trooper is going to kick some other
superheroes butt and how they’re gonna do it or what’s the
best way to hold a lightsaber, which was today’s lunch conversation. So yeah, I enjoy laughing…
with them! Right here. We went out and measured the-
went out to the street with measuring tape and measured off
the distance between, kind’ve estimated the height difference because the other ledge little lower than
our window. And then we laid measuring tape out on
the floor and saw how far we could jump from a
standstill vertically and horizontally and took all that and ran some physics on it see what our trajectory
would be and how far we could get with that – we think a 10 foot drop.
And if you get a good start You can make it. There was a feeling of
satisfaction that my theory was at least plausible and
not- so insanely out of proportion as the
initial feedback had been.
I don’t like to rejoice in other people’s downfalls
so I try to avoid that Every once in a while when he’s like- tells me “No, this is definitely the way that it is”
and turns out he’s wrong it like feels a little good to be
like “Yeah I was right.” But I don’t try to rub it on
or anything like that The best way to get to the building next
door is to wait for the firemen to hoist you over. Alright. So that was a very useful hour of our time. I’m going to
get back to work. I can make it. I don’t like to just like to talk about
things like in theory. Like “Sure I might be able to jump across
and make it to the other side,” I wanna get down and find out for sure
I want to like, get a very practical “Yes it’s possible” or “No it’s
not”, and so sometimes you just gotta try things
rather than just a talking about it. How did you end up backwards? I kind’ve jumped out the window and
flipped around and grabbed back onto it using cartoon physics. Um I don’t know. There’s something in a company this size,
a level of camaraderie it’s almost like a very extended family they’ll give you feedback and not breathing down your neck at the same
time it’s really good. If I’m offered a job I’ll take it here.
I would really enjoy working here. So coming from Indiana I’m used
to I don’t know I can like walk down the
sidewalk and have a conversation with somebody without like having to dodge people
coming the other direction and shout over horns and stuff and I kinda like that. I
like being able to I don’t know just like relax and I don’t know in
New York everything seems a little bit complicated just because there’s so much going on all the time
and I don’t think- I don’t really want to live with that all the time. [Singing] There’s a pillow on
my face and I cannot see the time [Singing] and everybody’s woken up
still I cannot feel the vibe. [Singing] They won’t call me back
because my resume’s a mess [Singing] And everybody’s found a job And I’m sitting on my fence. [Piano music] When it was just Joel and I and we were- that was the entire company Everything had to be done by us,
the programming all the bookkeeping you know
somebody had to take out the trash if the toilet broke somebody had to fix that you know
there’s things that you don’t even think about when you’re
starting a business that somebody’s gonna have to handle but when it’s just the two of you do.
I do actually met miss the ability to sit and write code quietly. It’s taken me a while to adjust the fact
that I’m not gonna be able to do that so there’s still a lot of bugs assigned to me that
will involve several weeks of sitting down and writing code and it’s probably not
gonna happen I hate to tell you. There’s not something that we’re
maintaining all time There’s not a any of our sites
where we lose with a lot of money if the uptime
isn’t 100 percent if you compare that Amazon where if website goes
down for a couple minutes we’ve lost a lot of money So it’s more laid back in that sense now that’ll change a little bit once we
release Aardvark because that will be something that
if it’s down that’ll be a major thing. So there will be a
lifestyle change at Fog Creek once the release Aardvark. We are expanding pretty aggressively it’s
very strange that at the beginning of the summer we were
about four people here or lets say in April or May and
Fog Creek was pretty much four people every day and
now we’re about 12 people every day The phone won’t stop ringing
anymore, sales have gone through the roof basically and, I
wouldn’t through the roof I mean it’s been a pretty steady climb and
it’s not like we’re out of control with it but yeah I mean just the incoming
emails and and telephone calls have just increased a lot we just need to keep on
hiring people to keep up. There’s going to be a point where you’re
going to walk down the hallway and there’s going to be someone and they’re
going to say “Hi Ben!” “Hi, I don’t know you” and it’s going to
happen and it’s going to start resulting in changing corporate
atmosphere but I think that happens to every startup company and I’m very happy that right
now that I had a chance to get in before
that happens. That’s really cool. Did you give him that idea for the-
No. That’s cool. It’s hard to underestimate
how much people respond to things that they see very
very quickly and form judgments very quickly before they really study
something in depth so it’s extremely common for someone to
look at a website for product that might be exactly what they want and
decide that it looks amateurish or that it doesn’t look trustworthy in some
way or that it’s just offensive in some way or
unpleasing and immediately get a whole negative
reaction about that particular product. That’s kinda hard to animate actually.
I think that what we’ll end up doing is have like four images of this that we’re cycling through.
Instead of having a fade here they’re just either blue or green. That would be the easiest way to do that.
And use a timer. It’ll make a big difference to people’e
perception. Yeah. Nice. You got this cool blue and green screen
that was designed by a graphic designer and illustration and some blinking a little progress indicator showing you’re
getting connected and it just looks so much more professional and so much
richer and everybody has a much more positive reaction to that says this is a really cool
professional thing this isn’t a little dinky thing. So what have you got lined up for
the weekend? We’re doing a comedy club. Saturday I will have gone out every single night. No one in our building ever socializes
so we talked about hosting a party in our room so that we could actually
meet some people and get know some people in the building. We’re doing a party on Friday night to meet some people in the building so I’m
making a flyer Hey can Lerone come to your party? Who? Lerone. You know the camera guy.
Lerone can come to our party. I want to invite one person so we’re down
to 4 people we can bring but we’re still good. Later that night this guy comes up and rings the doorbell he
doesn’t tell us who he is or anything like that he just comes up and says I need to talk to you guys.
They sit us down and then they’d say like Benjamin Po-lack
you know, Tyler Griffin Hicks Wright and they give him a sheet of paper a
Xerox copy of the handbook with certain phrases
underlined and emboldened. We can’t have more than one six pack or
a bottle of wine for our entire apartment, and this
is usually four guys in the apartment so it’s like a beer
and a half each that’s all you get and that parties aren’t allowed and
we have to follow the 21 and over rules and all kinds of
stuff like that and finally says okay this is your warning you know just keep it in mind that we
really don’t allow that kind’ve thing and sent us on our way. We’re getting the world’s first demo of Aardvark actually up and running. Alright so we’ve got two computers here this is the guy that needs help he
got confused and put is task bar over here and can’t figure out how to get it back
down here so he’s gonna ask me for help so I’m gonna
go to the Aardvark website here and type in my name – Michael I’ll accept
the Terms of Service and click go. It gives me an invitation code which is right here which I then give to
the helper or the victim, whatever the guy that
needs help and he enters it- I can paste- OK. He accepts, clicks go. This is too easy.
That’s the idea. so I’m thehelper I’m gonna run this
executable. Let Michael control your computer – Yes!
Error Sound] Crap! Why does that only happen when we demo
to you? Didn’t I tell you Lerone? The end to end demo would not work
the first time they tried it. [Singing] Bright lights, big city. Where I got my binary code. Comes with me wherever I go. Makes sense of whatever I know. [Guitar strumming] The main problem in software is the
difference between something that kinda works most of the time
and a full-fledged product is very big. The fun on most software
products is kinda front-loaded in that writing this stuff initially is
a really great time and it’s just getting all the details in place that make
it a real hassle. Okay so it’s here. We’re going to put it on his computer. What you have to do is make it
really wide. Then they’re like “My screen is
all blue” [Laughter]
“My screen is half blue. Help me!” Odkay so this guy needs help he messed
up the start menu. So he asked me to help him, I go to
this website Aardvark. I type in my name. Click go. It gives me this invitation code which I give to him and so he can just go to the
same website and enter the invitation of the code, click go and
now we both have a program to run. I start mine, and it’s waiting for him to
connect So he has to run his. “Let Michael
control your computer?” Yes. Oh yeah, it’s working! So now I can see his computer from
my computer and I can see that he made
his start menu huge put it on the bottom Like that, and now he’s happy because I
fixed his computer and we can disconnect. Well this is good enough to demo I think.
It would be nice if it were more stable. Yeah.
Joel and Michael basically only want to deal with people who are
the best and expect the best out of them and that’s
just a high expectation and if you impress them in an interview enough that
they think you’re the best then what if you’re not? If I was one of them I’d be like
“well what if… I don’t live up to their expectations?”
Like I said they’re dealing with a lot more of the stuff, the stuff that
you have to do to release a full software product they’re dealing
with you know how do different stages of beta releases and just a ton of things that that you have to know to go from start to
finish in a software product which I don’t know, I would’ve picked
it up just along with them. We finally have something we can demo, and show to people. It runs well
it doesn’t crash in weird places.
We’re gonna go to Washington DC to a trade show where we will have a booth
and will try to sell Aardvark to people actually [Soft music] [Humming] I’m not even really sure I know what Cold Fusion is…
It’s some web programming thing that I guess is kind’ve a half real language according to the hardcore
people and is the best thing ever according to the Cold Fusion people. These are my theories of what it takes to
go beyond having a product a great product to the level of being the super duper
extra cool blue chip thing –
Number one make people happy. Number two think about emotions and number three obsess over aesthetics. It’s
no wonder that people think that their computers hate them. This is actually one of those point-counterpoint editorials
where there’s ne side and they have the other side debating them so let me
just show you the other side…
[Laughter] We’re launching a new service code-named
Project Aardvark which is designed to make it really easy for people who have
friends or coworkers who have computer problems to help them out. One of the pitches I’ve been using is
Have you ever gotten someone who has called you and said “Can you please
help me fix my computer?” And everyone’s face when I said that says
“Oh yeah, I’ve had that happen a lot!” So I think this it really is the
audience we’re going for the helper side of Aardvark. It asks me to let Benjamin control your
computer I say yes. And we’re connected. Now we have the ability I can
see immediately what’s wrong and I can say “Oh, well this is easy to fix.”
So I’ll drag this down here And Now the problem is solved. He moves the
mouse and it moves on my screen two we both control it so I can move the mouse as
well. People seem interested but it’s hard to tell because they have this system where you get a
stamp for every booth you see a demo for pretty much and if you get a for every single booth you’re
entered into a raffle so a lot of people are just going uh huh,
yeah, stamp. But other people seem
generally interested. You can tell because they ask a lot of questions.
The ability to ad hoc, help other people
I think could be a real boon. One of the main
changes in the software industry is in the old days was a very esoteric
thing only either people on Wall Street if
it was big cared about or people who were very
technical cared about and the big change has been that regular
people care about the software industry now that they care about it because
financially it’s huge and because it affects their lives they
actually buy software and use software themselves that was something we just had no
comprehension of way back when that you know your mother literally
would be buying software and using it that was something
we hoped but we really didn’t think would happen anytime
soon. [Mysterious music] [Drumming] [Radio sound effects] I found this site that this
really paranoid guy was talking about covering his window with aluminum
foil to protect them from like microwaves or something that
people were projecting at him through this window specifically at him
and so if you put up aluminum foil ungrounded
then apparently you’re safe. Barely any light gets in my room at all and so now I can sleep in and not
be bothered by the sunlight. [Guitar music] Everyone is always very quick to say “Oh well
why did the interns do it this way? What were they thinking what was going
to their had this is so stupid this is so trivial.” All of the sudden you have people who really
don’t know what we’re doing don’t know our spec or what we’re trying to build
but saying “You shouldn’t use Tight VNC
you guys want to use Ultra VNC” and this morning the interns all piled into
my office and they said “What about this Ultra VNC? Maybe we should do that.” Ultra VNC might have been
a better starting point might not have but you really can’t get swayed by random anonymous people coming in on discussion groups and
second-guessing technical decisions without actually having been there having been here. It’s hard. Not only is the issue for me they
they don’t like me very much at least the vocal ones don’t and I’ve always cared too much about what people
think about me and trying to take it with thick skin. It’s a
complex situation as they walked into. You’re young kid you’re a smart kid,
went to a great college doing a great internship and everything
you do is getting publicly scrutinized for better or for worse.
When I made the poster, I did it from scratch pretty much and it had various flaws
I was going to get to. It was too aliased, just little things
here and there but things that didn’t really show up on print anyways. And like within like 10 minutes some guy
gives a list of 10 reasons it sucks and just like crapping on my
Photoshop skills and I’m not a graphic designer I’m the marketer. I’m trying not to
let it get to me. I laugh it off and just be like I’ll be the one laughing when
this thing is selling like hotcakes, because it’s a fantastic product I think- they’ve got some pent-up you know not
anger but you know wanting to prove people wrong
but then they just realize that they’re just bigger older people at
work that wish they had a cool internship
like they did when they were younger I mean I
know I did The tomatoes have been doing really well I had to turn them because
the one closer to the sun was doing a lot better. This one the Harbinger was kinda shading the Burbank which
is over here I think that’s why the Burbank hasn’t
grown as much but I don’t really know too much about the species so maybe not. But
they’re both doing great now we got tomatoes you can see them under here so this is like the biggest bunch we’ve
got right now this guy’s I don’t know about an inch across now so this one’s doing really well this one
isn’t quite as big and doesn’t have many tomatoes but you’ve
got a few coming in down here too so little ones
over here. But it looks like we’re going to get yield
off of both plants so that’s good. I’m stoked on that.
Yeah, it’s coming along. The usability test will involve Random strangers sitting down and
being given a task to do while we watch them. The idea there is to
identify any problems that people may have with our software because they
don’t understand things or because that’s it’s not made clear or
because they clicked cancel instead of reading the actual dialogue box. You could put on the-
if you have a Windows program you could display a little message box
that says “Please click the OK button. Okay Cancel”
and 50 percent of the people will click Cancel. I suspect we’re going to find that there’s a lot of bugs that we didn’t
know about that people are going to find in a few minutes I’m also slightly concerned that the
entire server is going to come crashing down when we were demoing at CF United something went wrong with the database
and that we couldn’t figure out what it was for sure but I have a hunch that under heavy load
when we’ve got a lot of people using the system whatever the problem was it’s going to resurface really fast um so I’m hoping that’s not
true but I’m ready for it if it is. We are helping with the usability testing of CoPilot we make a software product
for usability testing and we have some testers from New York City that need help with software and computers.
How would you rate your experience and efficiency using the internet.
Would you say – 5 is excellent 3 is average, 1 is poor. Where would you rank yourself?
Half. Average?
No, half of one. Half of one? Yeah. A one.
OK. I’ll put you as one. You mentioned you typically use your computer for paying
bills and making copies do you ever use it for playing games or – Music.
Music? Music. The legal music, not the illegal. The legal music. The legal music!
[Laughter] OK. Do you ever download software?
Again, trying to get me with the music. No! No.
No! Good. Good to know. Do you normally call people for help sometimes
when you’re using software on your computer?
Of course. Yes. OK. So same sort of scenario today.
You’re going to have a problem and you’re going to need some assistance.
So we’ll have the other person who will be testing with you will play that role. This top layout part seems kind of,
I don’t know… just runs together a little bit. If I was being helped that would be kind’ve weird I wouldn’t
want my friend to pay and spend his or her time helping me. Alright Danny Boy what’s up?
Yes sir. OK. Click on the Start you’re going to see like this bluish box open up. Oh, wow. Alright so this is the Internet. Welcome. Run? Do I want to run or what?
Do I want to hide? [Laughter] [Error sound] Problem loading Fog Creek Copilot. We’re having a problem here.
The Fog Creek Copilot service could not load a file… this will now close. OK. That’s not good. [Guitar strumming] Somebody ran it before it’s
still on the desktop. So somebody had run the program on the
computer before and it left a file laying around that prevented
it from running again and so he got an error message when like normally you wouldn’t have run it before so that shouldn’t have happened.
It’s partially our fault for not clearing the computer before hand. It’s also Ben’s fault because it’s supposed to delte itself but there’a
bug. and he knows about it and just
hasn’t been able to figure it out yet Oh that’s you? Wow. Cool. Alright. [Singing] I can see your problem,
and I can help you fix it. [Guitar strumming] [Singing] Can I be your Copilot? [Singing] Glad I could help you out. [Singing] Glad I could help you out. [Singing] Glad I could help you out. [Singing] Glad I could help you out. [Guitar strumming] [Singing] Glad I could help you out. I kind’ve assumed it would just be a long day just watching people use
it not really coming up with anything new probably pointing out the things that we
already know about changing it and it turned out to be really helpful. Joel called me up and said and basically
said to me we’d like to offer you a full time position, we want to skip grad school and-
He’s been doing a great job here we’ve been very impressed. We might as well give him
a very early offer and the chance to
spend the rest the summer deciding whether he’s going to go to graduate school or come
work for us full time. [Cheerful music] I don’t think I’ve ever actually met
Joel Spolsky I don’t think of him as a rival at all.
I suppose I’d be bummed if if there was something I was planning to
write about and Joel got there first and wrote this great essay about it and then anything I wrote it would seem like it
was a.m. you know some kind of imitation or something. This is some of the only fiber these guys get. Going to work for some giant company is
kind of a rip off so I think the relationship between
hackers in business guys at least in the beginning is that you need hackers and you don’t
need business guys [Laughter]
Then you add some spices… I gave a talk about how to
start a startup and in the process of giving the talk I told them that I’m they they should go
and get their initial funding their seed funding from individual rich people preferably ones
who had gotten there money from doing technology stuff
themselves and then I’d said don’t come to me! I don’t want all these
people bothering me with their startup pitches. Then afterwards I felt kinda guilty and
also afterwards I had dinner with some of these guys and I was talking to them and I
thought you know these guys probably could start a successful start-up even though
they were still college students. They gave us money to live here for the
summer and maybe pay for some servers and things
and we’ve mostly been spending our time in our room programming away and once a week coming over the Y Combinator
offices for dinner and getting advice from people. After coming
off something like school where you work on a bunch of different projects
it’s weird to sort of have to sit and focus all day on one thing.
Personally being in school and I think this is relatively common, you have this
experience to this outside world right? And lake to set down and
you’ve built up for that seems useful you feel like well you could be part of
that outside world right? You don’t have to be in this sort of fake world of school doing some
silly assignment that has no real purpose. You can build something that actually
useful you can go put it up on your website and people could really use it. So I think that’s what you’re like if you you can build something real why spend
your life doing stuff that’s fake? Hacker in the sense of someone who
breaks into something means someone who’s kinda clever and a
little sneaky and does things he’s not really supposed
to you and you know that’s actually a pretty good
description of a very innovative solution to a problem to you through clever sneaky and not really
what you’re supposed too. Sort of clever or sneaky so for example you know Einstein and relativity saying Okay my theory works as long as you
discard Euclidean geometry you know that’s pretty clever and sneaky
and not doing what you’re supposed to right? So hackers would say that was a
great hack [Birds chirping] Paul is very own in one person he is
his own good cop and his own bad cop and there’s this amazing
dichotomy between the Paul Graham that we often get emails from and the
Paul Graham we know in person. Don’t be fooled actually, there’s this
custom among programmers of being nice
just like there’s this custom among Wall Street people of seeming like
a dick and presumably there are some Wall Street people who underneath are
kinda warm and fuzzy and they think if they don’t act like a
dick no one will take them seriously- well in the programming world
the customers that you’re supposed to be kinda benevolent. Paul and Joel… I would argue that
they’re both popular at least partly because they both kinda give a community –
there’s like this community of programmers and hackers and they both give them kind’ve the same voice and
they both kind of glorify programming and so of course every every programmer who thinks he’s any good
identifies with what Paul and Joel are writing. I myself went to a private school that
was very small and so while I was a nerd, I wasn’t unpopular. I had this horrible dream that our site
was hacked. I did sleep my laptop for a while so I could check it. I would wake up every
two hours and have to stumble out here to make sure
our site was up so I finally just took my laptop into my room with me but now they have cell phones that can
do the same thing. So that can at least ease my fear that the site is up.
It seems like the hardest part about starting a company is the actual starting. It’s not so
much can we develop this idea, it’s can I quit my job, do I have enough
money to pay my rent and really get started
working on this. You don’t need much money these days
especially if it’s a web-based company or software company,
you just need enough to pay the rent and then once you have a product then you will get the interest of a lot of investors.
You’re never done. A product is never everything it could
be to every possible user. There were all sorts of features I
wanted to put in VisiCalc but we figured out how to get out the door we had to
ship and we had a say enough’s enough this is
what fits in memory in this is what we’re going to do. It could have had a whole lot more
things we knew to do those things but it was more important to people to get it
out the door so they could use it. It isn’t until you have a a real working
prototype that you can sort’ve poke it and say what I
really wanted was this its kinda like an instant messaging
was an important thing that’s different than email, different telephone there’s different capabilities we’re
expecting out of communication and computers and this
is an attempt to do a particular one a particular way, and we’ll see whether
it’s the right one. At the end of this week we’re gonna
call it code complete, which is basically the
code is done the only thing that will open up
to make changes for is if we find bugs that really need to
be changed. But this is readline plus OCH which is
going to be… OK… W just ran into some weird but that was
only happening in the release builds, never happened
before and nothing changed that we could tell and there’s just no where to find it. An uninitialized
variable that caused it. I’m not pointing fingers but if I’m going to point thumbs…
Look no developer likes to have a bug show up in their code its a hurt to the ego because every developer that
I know works as hard as he can make sure that has bug- that his code is free of bugs so whenever
someone finds one you’re going to first be a little bit sad
or annoyed that you missed it and that’s just a part of the way of
life. One of the things I can be proud of even though fingers may be pointed in my direction is the
reflector it has overall been unchanged architecturally since it was initially brought into production on my third day
here. That said
if there was something that was going to go wrong in the connection sequence it was
SSL related it’s going to be my code. You always get
this thing where you don’t think a problem can’t possibly
be in your code but you both think that and hit may it’s not even an issue of ego but you can’t figure out how the
problem you’re discussing could be your fault because you don’t you never
saw them scenario you don’t understand how it could happen and you’re getting
into these arguments that are really stupid about who is responsible instead of actually fixing the bug. [Singing] Streets are made out of
silicon chips and he rides along on a keyboard. [Singing] His face is made out of random memory and he holds a mouse like a lasso. [Guitar strumming] [Singing] Digital cowboy Where you gonna go? Digital cowboy. Say it ain’t so. [Guitar strumming] So I warned the interns when they first
got here that you know if people said things about them that
were mean or spiteful or hurtful to just ignore it because Joel more so than me because he’s got
the public presence out there but both of us have been taking jabs since the company started.
There’s a whole post called the anti Aardvark haven. This one is all dedicated to up why there’s no
interest in project Aardvark and why it’s not
going to work and why you know it’s just a PR stunt and how it can’t be a- can’t make a good movie of people whose job
it is to sit at a computer yet they sit at a computer all day and give free publicity about Aardvark. There will always be second-guessers out
there who either anonymously or even not anonymously are happy to come up
with their idea how we could have done it better that doesn’t take into account something
that we actually have to take into account but which we can talk about
because it’s boring so Don’t crack up! [Laughter] What? [Laughter]
Oh. [Laughter] [Upbeat guitar music] Go! The pressure is killing me here. [Laughter] Who did that?
Theres a smoke ring! [Laughter]
This one here. [Laughter] [Upbeat guitar music] [Singing] All I did was wait. [Singing] All I did was wait. [Rock song]
[Singing] Sophisticated geek. [Singing] That’s who you want to be. [Singing] Gonna teach your laptop to say I love you in Japanese. Here’s to a great summer in New York.
Cheers. [Singing] Sophisticated geek. [Singing] Sophisticated geek. [Singing] Sophisticated geek. [Phone rings]
I’m wearing a hat today because it’s my birthday. I went to buy my own hat
and all the hatssay happy birthday to you but it’s not happy to you, it’s
birthday to me so I had to pick a hat that had no words on it.
Last night we all want to see the play Glengarry Glen Ross and it was-
[Shushing sound] [Laughs silently] and it was fabulous. [Singing] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
I am counting down the end of the world. [Music continues] [Singing] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
I am counting down the end of the world. [Singing] Since Y3K- is going to happen any day. [Singing] Since Y3K is going to happen any day. [Singing] It’s what they tell us all. [Singing] 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 I am counting down the times in our lives… [Music continues] Oh Brett it’s so good! Yay!
(Yay!) Tomatoes! [Music continues] [Singing] And if the end is so near
why don’t we all share the love that we’ve got. [Singing] And if the end is so near why don’t we all share the love that we’ve got. [Music continues] Yaron got all of these graphic designers
to make these really nice changes to our application
to make it look very pretty and very soft for users who- much more soft and
user-friendly than what currently had. The problem was I had to implement
it all by today. So yesterday I ended up staying really
late in the sense that I got in at 9:30 in the morning went home at 11:15 at night.
I’m like okay I’m going and I had my bag all packed and I wanted to go to the bathroom. Suddenly he emits this blood curdling shriek. I open the bathroom door and I see a cockroach the size of a poodle
and these other cockroaches come swarming out and they’re huge I
mean they’re ginormous! And they’re flailing around and I just scream. I’m standing pretty far away from the bathroom but
Yaron decides I should be the to kill it on the grounds that I’m closest.
I’m not getting near them because I’m not afraid killing one, I’m afraid of the
other ones seeing me kill that one and just swarm and
who knows how many there are. So Ben got the magazine and started beating it and this thing was dinosaur age
type stuff [Suspenseful music] Owned! I have no idea why they showed up I
think I think they just wanted to be part of the usability testing everybody needs help using their
computer especially cockroaches. They probably can’t really press the keys and stuff so I think Copilot is for everybody including
cockroaches In the recent issue of Make there’s this dude that makes – he puts these giant
cockroaches- like hissing cockroaches, they’re
hissing cockroaches. They’re like the largest cockroach Like this big. So he takes them and then grasps
this thing their optical nerve or something and
it turns them basically into little cyborg cockroaches. He puts them on a a big, wheeled, robot thing. They can control this giant thing
the size of a person but it’s a little cockroach that’s
driving it. [Laughter] The driving force is usually a
combination of the desire to get rich, the desire for power, and the desire to sort of make something. Those are the three big driving forces, and they kinda overlap you
know for example the reason hackers want to get rich is not so that
they can buy luxury items it because they want
freedom you know and and what they want freedom to do is
often to hack things where they don’t have to worry about money.
So as the cockroach walks the entire contraption moves forward and as the cockroach
turns the contraption turns. So he’s driving this big thing but
if there’s a wall there’s sensors on the vehicle that detects when there’s walls and then it he flashes light into the cockroach’s eyes which I gess tricks it into thinking
it’s really close to a wall So this thing will like drive
around the room and bump into walls.
That’s really weird. Yeah. So the tomatoes have
got some kind of problem you can see some of the leaves are getting this purple dots on them and
the whole plant is just kinda more yellowish less green than it
was they’ve been watered really well you know they’ve maybe they get a
little dry towards the end of the weekend so I think it’s some kind of tomato
sickness that they’ve somehow contracted up here even on the eighteenth floor but in the meantime the end and the tomato
crop is looking pretty good both plants. I’m going to pick some today and I think I’ve been pretty stingy with them so far this year I had plans for the ones we picked up to
this point but these I’ll just offer around the office and
see if anyone wants some [Singing] This is the tomato song. Hey buddy won’t you sing along? saying I [Singing] They come right off the vine and they are looking mighty fine. [Singing] And we go doo doo da da
doo doo da daa. doo doo da da doo doo da daa. [Singing] This is the tomato song. Hey Bobby, come on won’t you sing along with me? [Music Continues] [Singing] We put them in a bag and aren’t you very glad that we are singing the tomato song. [Singing] We’re singing the tomato song. And it goes doo doo da da doo doo da daa. [Singing] Doo doo da da
doo doo da da One more time…
Doo Doo da da doo doo da da. The guys are really cool. I got
along really well with Tyler because we lived together. He
already has moved out of the apartment, the dorm, and moved into
his apartment and its weird his room is all completely
empty and put back the way it used to be. I mean we keep to ourselves for
the most part in our rooms I’m off doing my thing he’s off doing his thing
but you bump into each other a lot in the kitchen walking around stopping
watching TV and it it just feels really empty there now. So I’m definitely going to miss that.
Even though obviously in any given project when we reach 1.0 you’ve got a lot of work
still to do it is a kind’ve finishing point it
means that you’ve gotten it done well enough and completely enough
that regular end users are ready to give it a try.
It’s just one of those things- where it’s not going to be you know
instantly adopted by a whole bunch of people I don’t think it’ll be a you know I think that the Joel on
Software readers will use it and you know it’ll
slowly the spread but I don’t expect some sort of you know instant
huge adoption, no. I’ve never had software go out and actually be sold so it’s really nice.
We made a little pool on when our first purchase would be
and how long it would take. What’s Doug say? Oh, fourth wall let’s not go there. It’s not like there’s a swarm of people waiting
outside your door to hand over their cash because they’ve been waiting on this product
their whole life it takes some time for people to find out
about the product it takes some time for them to actually need the product so
all the people that even know about Copilot as we speak there’s only some small percentage of them that could use it have a need for it. One of the most surprising things that
I’ve learned is that a lot of these tech startup founders who are extremely
successful back when they were getting started they
were terrified and they were very unsure of what they were
doing and they questioned things and and I’m sure doubted themselves or doubted what they
were doing might work and so to see these people as
vulnerable people at one point in time is interesting to me. [Piano music] The first order is really
vindication because it means that someone valued our product enough to actually buy it and although this may sound really corny whether you’re making something with
your hands on a computer the first time that someone buys something
is their way- your kind’ve validation that the work you’ve
done is high enough quality someone values it, someone can make use of it.
It was just really exciting to like- after all the work we’ve done and all the
like time we’ve put into this and all the late nights to finally be to the point
where we can just say say like we’re done. [Singing] If I can see your problem [Guitar strumming] [Singing] Then I can- help you fix it. But I cannot see your problems and I cannot be your copilot today. [Singing] They invented something great [Guitar strumming] [Singing] They created something beautiful We need to celebrate or something. Champagne! [Music continues] [Singing] I can be your copilot now. Congratulations its great, cheers, et cetera. I haven’t prepared a speech so to Copilot. [Cheers] It’s a little bit sad when you realize
you’ve put all your heart and soul into figuring all the stuff out trying to get
it all to work really well and now you won’t have a chance to see it
through because there are so many little things still that I know I could do better I
wish I could go back and redo and improve. So many features and tiny
components that I’m not going to have a chance right now to
actually get done either because someone else is going to complete them
or I just won’t have time before I go hom for the summer. It’s a little bit sad it’s a little
bit like abandoning a child right when he’s starting to grow up.
Copilot.com actually we just rolled it out now so it is completely live. The product is out there. Yeah, Fog Creek will keep it going once we’re gone and Tyler, who is working full time will stay on the project as well.
The way I described it to my friends when they said are you ready to come home is I could use another month
here and another month at home school starts. Soon money will be pouring in! Monday there will be an article in the New York, New Yrok
section of Crain’s. Cool. New York section of Crain’s. New York, New York. Which article is that?
That’s the one on tech internships. It’s very frustrating knowing I won’t be
around here to continue where I left off because
I started the website and I wrote all
the copy I wanna see where it goes I don’t want to just hear about it you know maybe in an email as to what
it’s doing I’m gonna miss like just having like a
project to work on that I’m into and excited about like school’s great but sometimes you
just don’t quite have the same motivation and aren’t quite into things as much and I’ve really enjoyed having
Copilot to like be my motivation for working on stuff
this summer [Emotional piano music] The thing I’m going to miss most about
the interns here I think is our overall sense of camaraderie.
I like the fact tat we all live together and work together
and it’s kind of nice that we all know each other both at work and at home.
I know it’s fun being in the same space there so we get bored with work at all we
can always just bug somebody else so I’ll miss that a lot and just having that peer group and people to go hang out with.
We hire these incredible interns. We hire people who are you know are really like brilliant individually and do incredible work but that’s sort’ve
what we expected and so I don’t really feel like it’s necessary to puff up their ego
too much by saying wow you did an unbelievable great thing nobody else
could have done this What I really wanna say is that’s what
we expected. [Piano music concludes] [Guitar music] [Singing] We’re the guys you kicked in high school and now we sell computers. It sucks but we’re cool and we sold your wife computers. We’re warriors in a digital realm and we will save the world with just ourselves. We’re warriors in a digital realm and we will save the world with just ourselves, uh huh. [Guitar strumming] We’re marching forward better versions of ourselves yeah We’re moving to the future and we will bring humanity forth. We’re warriors in a digital realm we’re warriors in a digital realm and we will save the world with just ourselves and we will
save the world with just ourselves uh huh. If you want to roll to Silicon Valley baby why don’t you ride on my mind? Uh huh, if you want to get to Silicon
Valley baby why don’t you ride on my mind? Why don’t you ride on my mind, why don’t you ride on my mind?

About Ralph Robinson

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18 thoughts on “Aardvark’d: 12 Weeks with Geeks

  1. Great documentary! But …

    1) "We have 12 weeks to code a program, let's start by all arguing about the product name." is not quite the attitude to get you there. 😉

    2) I wouldn't eat those tomatoes! The street downstairs is so loud you can't hear your own words. Pretty sure that has some effect on the air condition.

  2. Great documentary. One question though. Who is in charge of setting up and maintaining the versioning systems, bug trackers, feedback, etc. Say it was a real start up. Project Manager?  System Admin?  Developer? How does one manage this?

  3. Am totally amazed by this movie and whatever it takes am going to let other geeks watch this. It has it all….kudos guys you did well.

  4. being a programmer, doesn't mean that you are a geek. it's like saying that being clever is weird. if you beieve otherwise and you are older than 16 then you must be really stupid

  5. It's crazy how they interviewed Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman when they were unknown. Who knew they would found Reddit

  6. What the hell? Not knowing what type of living situation they were in but the scene at 31:00 or so is strait up Gestapo. Only one bottle of wine and 1 six pack per apartment? What kinda place did they rent where the landlord can even almost entertain trying to enforce such rules? Fuq dat.

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