#81 Richard Campbell is simply adding value
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Richard Campbell 0:00 I started being handed around from VC group to VC group as this person who can fix your your startup. And then you know pretty quickly figure out it's never the software. Like the software can do it. The question is why can't this team do it?
Tim Bourguignon 0:20 Hello, and welcome to developer's journey. The podcast shining a light on developers lives from all over the world. My name is Tim Bourguignon, and today, I receive Richard Campbell. Richard started playing with microcomputers in 1977 at the age of 10. And he's really never done anything else since four years he served as a consultant providing advice on architecture, scaling systems, and mentoring development teams. He's a Microsoft Regional Director, and is recognized as a Microsoft MVP for ASP. NET development, among many, many other things, Richard is The co host of the legendary dotnet rocks podcast, and the non less legendary host of the run as Radio Podcast. He also founded the humanitarian toolbox and the dev intersection group of conferences. Richard, a very well, welcome to
Richard Campbell 1:18 dev journey. Thanks, Jim. Excited to be here. And hey, congratulations on jumping into the podcast. Cool. This is a fun swim.
Tim Bourguignon 1:25 Yes, it is. And you're very responsible for that. You know.
Richard Campbell 1:30 I blame myself for it. It's Carl that started all of this. I'm the new guy. We came on five.
Tim Bourguignon 1:38 Yes, you did. Yes, you did. And you got me. Me hooked up with podcasting. And I have been listening to the network's ever since you're one of the reasons this show exists. So a very special welcome.
Richard Campbell 1:49 My pleasure, exciting stuff.
Tim Bourguignon 1:52 But enough about the podcast enough about me. We're here to talk about you. So let's start way back when 19 What got you into computers in the first place at the age of 10?
Richard Campbell 2:04 My father's an electrical engineer and so I was taught to Sodor you know i think that my earliest memory be like six years old burning my fingertips on a soldering iron. He built modular cash registers he was helped design capture the systems that actually had s AP boards in it which very old school bus system for, for communicating and had me soldiering and be soldiering stuff early on big workshop. You know, that's just things I've always done. You know, for as a geek, I'm more mechanically inclined than most people are a little surprised that I have a workshop mostly on electrical and electronic stuff. I'm perfectly happy, you know, installing a light or repairing a compressor like that none of that stuff's a big deal to me. But I first encountered a microcomputer It was a trs 80 model one and it was in a radio shack and I was in there buying parts for an electric tronic rocket countdown timer because even at 10 years old, I was so lazy that I didn't want to actually have to say 54321 I actually wanted a little LED display to count on the numbers for me and then launch the rocket. So we are buying parts for that. And there was a there was a computer in the corner this little gray sad looking box with an RCA TV modify this a you know, terrorists ad on it that I'm pretty sure what is what destroyed my eyesight and a whole 4k Ram in it. And a version of basic that was no Microsoft BASIC was a tiny basic and it only had three error messages. what, how, and sorry. And, you know, I never laughed, I got smitten right away and I typed out those first lines of code 10 print, quote, hello world, close quote. And then the second line was 20 go to 10 and then you ran it and it just kept saying hello world you figured out Where the break key was?
Tim Bourguignon 4:02 Fun. Definitely different time.
Richard Campbell 4:06 The store was really tolerant of me. I came in after school every day after that, like that's all I wanted to do was play with that machine. But the the guy who owned the store the Radio Shack, the manager figured out hey, if 10 year old is programming up a storm, I can talk, you know, your middle aged executive into buying this computer, right? If the kid can do it, you can do it. And so yeah, that was what I did, you know, day after day after day and and by the age of 12, I was working for a local lek tronic shop, repairing those computers and installing upgrade kits. To them the original version of terrorists 80 only had uppercase characters, we had a lowercase kit. We came up with some ram expansion solutions, we could put 16 k into it and be really styling. That it was an eventually you know, I've worked there for a couple of years. This is my high school. My my Middle school high school job was was working in h&s and just repairing machines and you know stripping electronics. When the first shoe guard floppies came along the five and a quarters they made one for the terrorists 80 and people bought those kits because they were really expensive and they would mess up the kit consistently. And Alex the guy who ran that shop, he was really efficient and there's certain repairs you do all the time. And so in the downtime when there's nothing to fix, you would make up bags of parts for being able to rapidly repair the kinds of mistakes that people make with machines. When they've been they burned stuff and remember making up you know floppy drive burn kits was like they put in the wrong they put the switch this is one switch you'd put in wrong and it would fry the same Trent transistor MOSFET on on it every time and so you just you'd have that and the capacitor and a resistor in a bag. So it's like oh, we cooked it, grab that baggie, repair it, you know get it done in less than an hour out the door.
Tim Bourguignon 5:56 Awesome. Did you realize that that point that that was going to be your life?
Richard Campbell 6:02 No, I mean, what do you know when you were a kid, right? It was just fun. We beat the heck out of a paper route, or you know, or working in a McDonald's or something like that. But it's just that I always had electronics skills always had hardware skills, and so it paid better. It was more interesting work. Although aligning disk drives was pretty dull, but they they wouldn't pay me by the hour for disk drives, because it's a skill thing. They pay me by the drive. Now you mentioned this, like I'm 14, and I'm making $20 in alignment, they charge 45 and they give a little less than half to me. So however fast I can do those alignments how much money I'm going to make. So we would often we they This is a different company now that I was working with was called me Kay. And they got the contract to align all the apple to disk drives, and this and that 1541 disk drives for a Commodores in the hole. School the school districts. And so we did them twice a year we did them over Easter break and we did them over summer break, right so sometime in April and sometime in August you'd align the distress because distress got out of alignment, this is back when disk drives cost 1000 bucks, and then alignment cost 50 bucks. And so you'd get there literally be a mountain of drives like hundreds of disk drives stacked up and you just got to go through each one one at a time. And you know, hook it up to the test harness and you adjust the Asmath and you know, get the drive back in alignment over and over again. And then there's there's some stories in there like one one of the things that was another very common failure especially on the apple because it was ribbon cable was a 22 pin ribbon cable and you could be if you plugged it in one row off at one pin over you dump 12 volts or 24 volts into the controller board and it would cook the board. So that part kits for that so I'll be going through the drives and if they ran, I would align them and if they didn't run I put them on another bench and And most of the time you were just dealing with you know burn controller or burn controller controller every so often you'd find a weird one. Because what the schools got used to doing is knowing the drives are going to go in for repairs twice a year, they don't sit call for repair, they just put it on the shelf until the next repair cycle. Remember, you know, sometimes get really bad or dries like you can't rely on this like this needs to be a factory repair. It's it's toasted. And so you sort of put those ones the size most drives just a little line a couple and you know, need the controller repairs, but there was you know, it's like Did somebody kicked this one down the stairs like they didn't want to be at this drive anymore, right? It's like if you pick it up, pick it up in a rattle. That's not a good time. The weirdest one was the one I my guess is that they some kid put a cheese slice in this drive, like that's what I presumed but it sat on the shelf for several months with that cheese slice in it. All I know is I put the four screws out. I slid the cover off and it was all green and fuzzy inside I slid that cover back on screwed down. So that's a factory repair you Just send that to the factory I'm not doing
Tim Bourguignon 9:02 that sounds like fun times.
Richard Campbell 9:04 My strength was always hardware programming was just sort of the thing you did on the side. I didn't think there was any business in it, you know, back then there largely wasn't software came with the machine. You didn't sell software, not until Microsoft came along. Did we really start thinking about selling software? just just just as part of the computer?
Tim Bourguignon 9:22 Um, when did you decide then to really make your career out of it?
Richard Campbell 9:27 In high school? by high school, I was a pretty was pretty good at programming. I wasn't afraid of much, you know, tried a lot of different things and then realized, like people were just willing to pay me to write all kinds of stuff, right? I was working in CPM on Apple twos, so I actually couldn't afford those machines, right. I mean, I got myself a trs 80 model one, which was like 1000 bucks when I'm like, 12. But that's like, I put all my money that I was getting working h&s Do it. And then when, when I was looking at more sophisticated machines, the S 100 bucks machines came out. And like nor the Northstar horizon, and they all ran CPM, and you could buy them one car at a time. So you bought the chassis that was a couple hundred bucks. And then you could buy sort of bear boards and populate them yourself, right? You could assemble a machine. So over time, I built a pretty good CPM machine for myself, and got comfortable in CPM. And then when Apple there was an apple card and expansion card that was a Zed 80 card that allowed you to run CPM on the apple and that's where business software lived, right? You know, before visicalc came out for the apple, which was a revelation that changed everything. We were writing code in CPM, probably the early version of D base like the base one, the base two running on that CPM card and that was sort of the first business software I ever wrote. was running for those machines even sort of real estate markets, things like that. And the fact that people pay you for code just astonished me you know, I i thought you know real work how to set your soldering iron in your hand. But I've okay you know, I'll write code for you if you're going to pay me for it. And that I buy you know, I finished I managed to finish high school I was a terrible student because I just found everything so boring. But you know, I'm a good at tests and terrible at staying in class. So often i'd skip a lot of classes when I can come in kill the test and anger the teachers, like, haven't talked to me and you haven't been here and you still get an A on your exam. It's like, stuff's not that hard, man. I got better things to do. I was pretty much living on my own making a living as a programmer by 1617. I did my last two years of high school, living on my own just because it seems stupid not to finish, but I never been to university and and I realized just like, I like the work too much. And I also, you know, I tend to get a little intense on things. And so I figured if I went to the University, I'd probably never come out. I'd be the guy in the stacks that you go down, you probably don't see me you just ask a question, and I can answer it for you. Because I love research. Right? And, and I'd be very happy there. But, you know, I'd probably never graduate, I just go and go and go, and the software world was fun. So I just stayed with them.
Tim Bourguignon 12:28 What does it look like? Did you find a job? Do you continue soldiering pieces? How did you get this first job and then get your career going?
Richard Campbell 12:36 Well, when I graduated high school, and this is in there in 1984, I graduated high school. It was a recession. Right? That was a time of very high interest rates, sort of the hangover from OPEC and so forth. And so there was very little work. And I was trying to make money. I still live in my, you know, on my own writing software, but you're trying to make more money right? And I I was I'd written some software for bailiffs. So these are the guys who like repossess your car and things. And in that economic downturn, these guys have been seizing computer equipment, arguably for the first time, right? This is the 1980s. So CBM at 32 some of the early deck stuff Wang stuff like very early computers that were spreadsheets and word processing. So company goes broke, you've you borrowed money for on this equipment. And so the bank basically gets the bailiff to go and repossess it, and then they try and sell it. Well, you know, bailiffs, aren't rocket scientists and they broke a lot of the equipment, they repossessed. And so I would go and I knew these guys, I'd help write software for managing things for them and I'm sort of looking at equipment they're bringing in realizing like they're just they've they didn't shut down the hard drive properly, them damage to it, they floppies were mishandled at that sort of thing. So I would buy the equipment from them, repair it and resell it. And you say they, you know, when they get the gear together and they they couldn't turn it on, they couldn't make it work. And so I'm like, well, you busted it, but you know, I can get it. I'll take it for part. So I would buy it up and then I'd repair it myself, and then sell it sell on the market in less than half price. Are you buying it for 10 cents on the dollar, putting a few hours or the work into it to get it straightened away and selling it for 50 cents on the dollar what it's worth, which is a bargain, right? Anyway, there was only one other guy that sort of figured out that was doing the same thing I was doing. It was a it was an older Jewish man. His name is Lionel. And so you know, in some ways, we're sort of competitors and he's but I'm barely 20 right? At this point. And he is in his 60s. And so we're you. You're kind of competitors, too, right? Who buys the best rig. But they got there was a repossession that came in. And it was a huge rig. It was it was a CPM system of some kind and it was like Nine terminals and a central server like a Newman normally never saw equipment like this, like this was, you know, 50 or $80,000 worth of computer equipment. And I couldn't afford it. Like I'd love to buy that thing because I know people would want it like your their return on this would be epic, but it's just too much money. And Lionel sort of came at me and we're both looking at the rig right? And he says, You think you can fix this? I'm like, I know I can fix it. I just can't afford it. He says, Well, I can afford it. I just don't know I can fix it. So how about this? We'll split 5050 I find it you do the work. I think I have a buyer and I'm like dude here on this big rig and took it down to his apartment and it took me a week or so to go through make I think it was correct. Get all the software license, so forth. He had a seller and we made some serious coin and it was a business relationship that lasted for five years, right like it was. It was my real interest. duction to being a business owner. And that's sort of the joke for me is like for the vast majority of my career, I've been self employed. There was there they've had, it's only after that business broke down that I went and worked for a few other companies for a while before I went back out of my own way. 95. So, I mean, maybe four or five years out of 40, in playing with software that I've actually had a regular job. Otherwise, I've always been a business owner in one form or another. And Lionel is partly responsible with that, because his background was accounting. And so he really got me thinking hard about return on investment of software, like how, in the end, what is software do for company? Why do why do companies want this stuff and it's only one of two things or maybe both. It's either automation so that fewer people can do more? Or it's instrumentation that you get insight into your business, you know, you figure out where other customer potentials are like analysis of data is those are the only two things. And so you got to understand the business well enough to figure out Can I automate? Can I instrument and how can I do that? And what's the return on that. And once you've got on that ROI loop, the way you thought about stuff, it was really easy to make money like the, you know, we were still dealing in these economic downturn times, we were consistently making money because you could show your value you were bringing to the table, it's like, he spent $1,000 with me now, I save you $5,000 in six months.
Tim Bourguignon 17:32 So it's really the salesmanship that comes into play.
Richard Campbell 17:36 I'm not a great salesman so much as I am good at convincing people that you should trust me as an advisor and then advise you to buy how do you do that? Well, exactly that understand the problem. Well work closely with them, you know, show that you have comprehension of things they don't comprehend. I mean, we're in the end. The challenge here is you're doing something that most people don't understand. And really, they don't want to know why they don't want to learn it either. So How do you give them enough confidence that you're going to help them make good decisions? And that's just, you know, it's it's part of partly a charisma thing. But it's also, you know, being a good explainer being willing to help them get to a point where they're like, Okay, stop talking. I believe you, you know, make this happen for
Tim Bourguignon 18:17 being an explainer. It seems to be to be a trend in your life. Yeah. Either being a teacher being a podcast host, pulling very nice questions at the very right time. I'm jumping ahead, but the decals you make on on dotnet for me also teaching masteries Thank you. Did, did you realize this earlier?
Richard Campbell 18:35 No. That came later, after the business with Lionel broke down which is its own crazy story, right? I mean, there's other education in business. We started developing a product on the side that started making enough money that we started fighting over me. And ownership and all those sorts of things like I have had I had the experience very early on in my 20s of money is also Poison, like it's you most of time you think I'm just trying to make more money, right? Like, it seems like a good idea at the time. And it comes with consequences. And so as the fights over money started blew up the business and the business failed in a very ugly way, it became more like a divorce than a business ending, and was fairly traumatic for me, you know, what did I know? I was still a kid too. But that all ended, I got bought out, which not a bad thing. I had some money, I did nothing for a year, more or less, until a friend of mine is like, Are you insane? Like, you got to do something, you're gonna die. You're only in your 20s and, and then I fell in, I spent a long time he owned a video game store. So I spent a year in the video game store, which was fun, you know, not the most useful part of my time, but I got pulled into other businesses from there. And so that was the little stretch of four or five years of working for different companies. But it was always the same thing. He spent about a year with the company. He sort of figured out how the company works. you automate the snot out and make it wildly more productive and Once all that stuff works, it's boring, like monitoring stuff is dull building new stuff is cool. So then I go look for the next gig. And I just hop from place to place to place to place until I, you know, I until I my life change which was I was married and I had a mortgage and I had two kids. And I'm like, huh you know, you're set that milestone This is in the middle 90s running it for real estate marketing company, which is a good job. And I and I enjoyed it. But you know, you can your job. Now once you've done all these things is to provide for your family and I sort of looked around the office that I can do better than this. But the big thing I discovered in that was a I was a pretty good talker, like I because I understood the business. I'm good in the boardroom getting additional funds to grow the infrastructure to actually facilitate the business growing, but I was also pursuing tax credits at the time. So in Canada there there is a tax credit you could get Based on doing a sort of original research, you're writing new code you they would credit you back half of the wages of the programmer. So I couldn't, you know, I kept trying to get more money from my team to do more for the company, and I couldn't get any more budget. But when you see these tax rates, you're like, well, that's effectively cutting all my expenses in half or cutting those wages. Now, I can get another dev out of this. So how do you prove you're doing original research? Well, I started out just writing magazine articles, right, because that that was evidence, you know, being published in a trade journal. Like, it's interesting to think about that, you know, computer magazines as trade journals, but that's what the government thought they were. And I liked writing. I thought it was fun. I did it very clinically. I studied my favorite writers. You know, I was reading technical magazines at the time. It's like, why do I like this article so much and sort of take it apart? Like what is it about, you start looking at what how they write rather than what they're writing about. And I adopted the favorite elements in my writing style. And then I did my first conference session, also part of this whole tax initiative was, well, I'll do a talk on this thing. And then I can use it as evidence. You know, here I am at a trade show doing this talk. And that's how I discovered something about myself, which is that I'm applause for that, that when people applaud me, I get a big rush from that. And I'm like, Huh, how do I get more than that? And, you know, the crazy part, of course, is that you think that's normal. And it's like, it's not most people aren't comfortable on stage. And the applause there's nothing for them. But for those of us that are wired that way, this was really exciting. And so I studied speaking the same way I went to conferences, I watched my favorite speakers, I figured out what they were doing and I adopted the pieces of their style that appealed to me right your style and ultimately emerges from this assembly of things, things that twig on you that make you smile and watching his session. He sort of what was that and you pull those pieces together. That, you know, sort of set me on this community path of, you know, communicating through compuserve with different folks and speaking at conferences and writing magazine articles, they all sort of looped together that same thing of how do we sell this story of technology? This is awesome.
Tim Bourguignon 23:16 This is one of the best. The best segues into public speaking and writing articles that I've heard so far. Trying to evade taxes. Well,
Richard Campbell 23:25 well, evading taxes, they were willing to give me money back if I could show that that I was doing something Canada, right, I guess not a crime. And they were happy to do it. You know, we did good things with it. And it allowed me to build more stuff. But I finally hit a point where I was writing enough that I could quit, you know, and the funny part, of course, is I met my wife in that little window of a few years, where I was working for different companies is when we met We met at one of the companies and so she didn't know my past life and self employment, you know, through the 80s and early 90s. So, you know, one day Come to what I say, Listen, I've, you know, I've been writing these magazine articles for a little extra cash and so forth. I've done a couple of speaking things and so on. And well, I've been I've been obviously offered a contract to, to build out the curriculum on how to teach people to do this reporting system. And I think I'm gonna quit my job and do it should quit your job. Like, how would you pay for it? It's like, well, the contracts only 20 hours a week, and it's more than my current salary. So how do you think I'm gonna pull it off you like, huh? But I already had that background in business, right? So, you know, I had an accountant to call I had a banker to call I had a lawyer to call like, all those are all folks, I knew it was not hard for me to assemble a business again, and go to go out on my own with a couple of good contracts and continue to write and, and continue to speak. So that was just the progression. of all of that was the launch all that stuff.
Tim Bourguignon 24:51 When did Microsoft enter the picture?
Richard Campbell 24:53 Microsoft was always there. It wasn't it wasn't they weren't special anyway. I remember in the 80s Look when the IBM PC first came out, which I think is like 8788. I remember looking at it going, huh? Well, it runs CPM. So it'll be useful. It's just kind of a funny machine. I didn't think this MS DOS thing would amount to anything. And then in the early version, when I was still in the consulting practice downtown before the business blew up, people started buying the IBM PC right in big numbers and they bought it for exactly one reason, Lotus 123. And so optimizing those machines to Lotus run Lotus 123 better increasing CPU speeds, putting an expense memory expansion cards, like all that sort of stuff became profitable, right I have a strong background in hardware and so you know, we were and then the first hard drives that came along the five gig and 10 gig hard drives this is back in the early stages of dos when it wouldn't boot off the C drive it only boot off the a drive, and the drive was normally a floppy. So you've got you know, there was this art of installing this external hard drive powering it and wiring it to the PC properly booting off the floppy configuring the drive and then rewriting the BIOS to make the hard drive the a drive so it would actually boot from the hard drive. So that was just you know, I always figured these little tech things out and then milk them they were good money right? It's like I can do this for you I can do that I can do that I can do that. And those would pay well. So obviously Microsoft was there and they had a few programming languages. You know, I remember working in the Microsoft BASIC before Visual Basic, the professional basic, and I saw gates present in the late 80s at Heath kit. Back when Heath kit was a thing, trying to convince people who were going to buy the heathkit PC that they wanted the upgraded version so they could run the Microsoft BASIC is so much better. But it was windows. I you know, I was happily programming in other languages, database and things like that and working in CPM and working in DOS, but I hit a point in the 90s with Windows two and window and then eventually windows three Were we were building systems, I didn't see any reason to use a mouse like it seems stupid to take your hand off the keyboard like why would you do that? The keyboard is your most efficient interface. And so I never liked the GUI like that all that seemed dumb. What I liked was device drivers. So I had a customer who wanted to automate faxing. And the programming the fax was a nightmare until you got into Windows with winfax. Because in Windows winfax, was just another print device. And so if I could control the print device, they know now you didn't have that driver problem, like I made money in the 80s, figuring out the intersection of software and devices, right? So you got like six programs you want to run, right? You've got an accounting package, you've got like Lotus 123, or the symphony suite like these three or four things, and each one of them comes with their own driver disks. And so part of the job was to go through what printers each program supported to find the Venn diagram of what printers will run on all of the programs and then figure out Can You Supply them that printer right? And I was good at that, right? That just sort all this details I'm like, Okay the six printers you can choose from I recommend this one. Then long comes windows takes over the drivers just makes that whole problem go away and then expands it with this ability. So with the winfax of I'm like, Okay, I'll use your stupid mouse. Otherwise, like why and but that the print device driver was huge. Like that just changed everything in terms of getting rid of the driver problem. All of those things went away. And now you're working in Windows. And as soon as you're working windows suddenly you know the DOS programs look ridiculous, right? I was this point we're past the base, we're into clipper. But, you know, clippers only can go so far and the Windows version of clipper didn't show up for ages. But Visual Basic did and so I fell in with VB one and it was kind of a toy and then within a year there was VB two and VB two is pretty good. Maybe two had a pretty good control sweet and we had this way. It worked with the windows metaphors. I remember finding a driver for SQL Server for the early version of SQL Server 4.2 called the drivers that was called SQL sombrero. And so we were able to, I was able to build an app that was, you know, forms over data app for a marketing company working against a SQL Server. And that was magic, you know, that that those were moneymakers, like that just turned out the good software. You could turn out rapidly and get people results. So that's, you know, Microsoft is sort of hung around with me ever after that.
Tim Bourguignon 29:31 So you got naturally on the bandwagon with button wind up next appeared?
Richard Campbell 29:35 Yeah. Well, no. I got excited about active Server Pages because the web was coming on strong. This is in the.com. Boom. And again, I have strong hardware chops. So as the web was huge, hugely in demand, and making stuff go faster was really important. And I was good at that. I understand my way around databases. I understood my way around networking. You can't fool with hardware process. problems. And active Server Pages just allowed us to act, you know, invoke calm objects from a from a web page, which is super compelling. So you know, you could use these VB based programming models, a little threading was a little tricky to scale out websites, but pretty quickly figured out that most of the time the problem in a website is not the software so much as configuration in you know, all those other problems. So I spent most of the.com, boom, performance tuning websites, you know, and charging as much as I could the largest number I could say without laughing out loud because they didn't care how much stuff off. And in the process of doing that I fell in because I always had a strong business mind. I fell in with a lot of VCs and equity firms. They liked me because I'm a good firefighter, right? You You got a company invested in they're struggling with whatever problem it is, you know, I can get in there, figure out what the problem is and fix it. And so I started being handed around from VC group to VC group as this person who can fix your your startup and then you know, pretty quickly figure out it's never the software, like the software can do it. Their question is, why can't this team do it? So somewhere in the late 90s, up until sort of the end of the.com, boom, I became a marriage counselor. because really what you're doing is trying to figure out what's wrong with the team? Like, why is this team struggling? The tech can do it. Why is the team struggling? And it's that's all about getting people's stories and figuring out how to share them, gendering trust and applying that to technology. So by the end of the.com, boom, I was sort of in this place where it's like, I remember being stopped by a CEO, I charged a lot. You know, I was an expensive habit, because people love to keep you around when you can fix things. So charge them enough that they really don't want to keep you around. They want you to do your thing and move on. Let's see. Oh, stop me so fine. I looked at your bill from last week. You're really expensive. What is it you do here that you can charge that much for? And I said I stopped the buck. I don't know what the problem is right now. But I'm gonna find it. I'm going to fix it. There won't be any uses, it's like this good sort of pausing as me, okay, carry on. That's good. Because that's back at a time when the programmer blaming the database, the database is blaming the network guy, and I'm like, I'm not that guy. I've used all these things. Every one of them has a role and performance problems, we just have to
Tim Bourguignon 32:17 figure it out. That's a nice place to position to be in. It was
Richard Campbell 32:20 it was a lot of fun, and it paid well. And it, it was exciting. And we ran it, you know, we'd made a few of our own business along the way, and some had more success and less success, but we had a great time.
Tim Bourguignon 32:30 Awesome. I want to fast forward a little bit. I know you're, you're you're writing or maybe finishing writing your history of dotnet Yes, it's a few months away.
Richard Campbell 32:41 I would assume something. No more research I do, the more stuff I find and the deeper I want to get into that. But you know, and I lay all that at the feet of Carl Franklin, you know, he pulled me in a rock. So I got engaged with dotnet you know, as it came out, and you know, studying it is a better way to build websites and things. But you know, really the.com boom was already over at that point by the time dotnet ships in 2002 the.com boom really ended in 2001. So there wasn't a whole lot of need. But you know, Carl and I met in 2004. And I was aware, you know, working in dotnet, and building some things, but it's when we started doing the podcast together 2005 that you just started living and breathing dotnet, right, you're talking to the best and brightest, every week. And so we have the good fortune with that show to have live the entire history of dotnet. And so pulling these pieces together to sort of tell the inside story of you know, I know, just on the outside, but I've been to all these folks that I've interviewed for years to actually sit down to do long format discussions about their experiences in the early days and so forth. We've just pulled a whole new layer out of what it took to make dotnet and how it evolved.
Tim Bourguignon 33:52 How does it feel like to look back at those last 15 years and try to write it down? It's a it's an
Richard Campbell 33:59 closer to 20, right? Like the first ideas of dotnet or 9899. It's it's been, I am inspired every time I listen to the recordings that I've made, until you know, the conversation we had, it becomes very emotional for folks to sort of get back to those early ideas and the struggles and so forth. So there's a real personal sense. I'm delighted because I think it's a great story. I think it's very compelling. You know, dotnet is an exemplar for Microsoft, it was built as a tool to help enterprise developers build software for Windows. And in the course of 15 years, it's transformed itself into a cross platform open source facilitator of code in the cloud, which is also what's happened to Microsoft, you know, they had the same business model more or less for 30 years of selling boxes of software to CTOs, right? And now in the past five or six years years. They, they've had to sell cloud and they have to sell compute, right? You don't get to give people cloud in a box and call it done. It's only when they use it. So their entire business model is transformed. And inside of the company, I think a lot of folks were looking around going, hmm, how are we going to be cloud? Like, how do we apply to this new business model, and it takes something. So originally built around windows and around that old school licensing model, and to transform itself, I think they've helped inspire the rest of the company that that transformation is possible. And if you really think about what they've pulled off with dotnet core, normally, when you build development tools, right, you start with a platform, right? A set of libraries, a language, that sort of thing. And on top of that, you put tooling, right your IDE s debugging, so forth, and and then that platform sort of runs its course, the systems change, you know, vironment changes, and it's like, Okay, well, we need new platforms. So you build a new platform and then you build a new set of tools. Repeat. With core, they swapped the platform without replacing the tools. Like who does that? It's it's almost, I think, a unique moment in history, that they've been able to re engineer the underpinnings of a product stack without having to replace all the tool. This is a nice, pretty
Tim Bourguignon 36:19 cool, I think we we still don't realize the depth of the change Microsoft has pulled off in the next years. This is amazing.
Richard Campbell 36:28 Well, there's a show way back when I did with Mads Jorgensen on dotnet rocks. We were talking at the beginnings of C sharp six, and that was the Rosalind transformation forth and we're talking about what it would do to language and I said, I feel like we're at the cusp of a Cambrian explosion, right that this ecosystem is going to detonate and move in all directions simultaneously, with so much potential. And now you know, several years later and looking at C sharp eight Welcome to the Cambrian explosion like it's happening. We are diversifying and broadening the horizon of this tool suite in a massive way. And having a ton of fun doing it too, right? Like, these are friends of mine. I've talked to them for years and years, they really enjoying their jobs these days. Like they really like what they're doing. folks working in dotnet are excited. I mean, part of deciding to write the book was like the light is shining so brightly on this new dotnet it's probably a good time to look back and see where we came from. Besides all the rabbit holes, you could follow on and dive into what bitten you. And yes, during the writing the book grossly under estimating how much stuff there is, I mean, and how many people I talked to, like you think he knew, as soon as I had this idea of maybe I could write a book on the history of dotnet. I said, but before I start doing research, what do I know? Right? And I just made notes and those notes and from that, I started making, I made a couple of different one hour talks. And I thought, I'll go test this does anybody care? I mean, I'm interested But I'm interested in everything. I am a terrible Judge of what is interesting, right? I'm just because I'm just fascinated by all things. I am one big old pile of rabbit holes. So but I took, you know, a version of the talk out and tried it on audience and got some really interesting reactions and I tool, you know, tweaked it tuned it to see, it's easy to appeal to the old dotnet people. But it was interesting to see younger Microsoft employees going oh my goodness, I had no idea and started trying to reach the broader development community to say, you know, do you care about this? That's been really interesting. But then, thinking I knew what I was doing. I started really researching, you know, I kind of the first thing I did when I thought, okay, I want to dig deep on this. Who do I have to have like, if I don't have them, I am not credible to write a book about the history of dotnet and it was Andrew salsburg. Father C sharp. Brian Harry, the fellow who led the original CLR team, and Scott Guthrie All senior people at Microsoft and all people I've interviewed before, so I just sent them emails that I'm thinking about writing a book on the history of dotnet. What do you think? Being very aware if they say no, like, there's just no way to proceed really like it's you need them? And they all said yes. And then the interview started, and it just talking and talking and just sort of peeling an onion. So now I'm over 100 hours of interviews, 30 people, and there's more. And there's just more and I'm not talking about listing technical features, I'm talking about the interaction between people of how they made this incredibly complex product. So I thought I would have been done last year now. I'm hoping I'll be done sometime next year. I just want to do it justice. I think it's a great story. I fall in love with it more, the more I work on it. But you know, shipping is a feature too. So I've got to take a cut and sort of put it out there.
Tim Bourguignon 39:58 I'm I'm rooting for you haven't really Looking forward to it.
Richard Campbell 40:01 Thank you. I appreciate that. I need all the help I could get so good. Good wishes. I really appreciate them. I need those.
Tim Bourguignon 40:08 That's the least you can do. Um, okay, before the time box runs away from us. Yes. Um, do you want to talk about the humanitarian total toolbox a little bit? Oh, absolutely. Yeah.
Richard Campbell 40:17 That came about back in the old days. My old days. I mean, like 2011. Well, it goes further back with that. We know the first year that I was on dotnet rocks in 2005. Carl put together a road trip, right and we got we hopped in an RV and we drove city city talking, you know, is when Studio 2005 shift. And so we were sort of telling that story. We had sponsors and things was good fun. When we were planning the 2012 road trip, so when Microsoft was one of our biggest sponsors, so I'm at I'm in Redmond, in a meeting room with a group of folks that are going to support us to do a road trip around Studio 2012. And the lead organizer, the person on the Microsoft side that had the money said we Do you think there should be a charitable component to the road trip? Now, if I'd had any sense, I would have said, okay, United Way mentioned me dollar for dollar good enough, but that's not what I did. Instead, I went on kind of a rant about how hard it is for developers to give to your skills to charity. You know, I've run a lot of teams over the years, I've had my own businesses that I've worked with other businesses and like, how do you foster a team? How do you make that team stronger after you know, taking them out to Habitat for Humanity? And we've all like painted fences, which is I mean, it's a useful thing. And it's, it helps the world and it's good for team building. But it's tough to be a programmer painting a fence. How do you write code to do good in the world and the problem is that we know that software is not free even if you give it away. software is free the same way a puppy is free. It takes care and feeding. It doesn't it doesn't leave and responsible developers know. It's a lot of Planning, it's a lot of maintenance, you know, you have, you can't just write a piece of code, give it to a charity and go on about your way they need to live with that software, you just gave them a puppy. So that was the sort of catalyst of the idea of what if we built an organization that did the care and feeding part, you know, I want developers to be able to contribute their time to meaningful projects, projects that matter to them that excite them, and that will help people. But we got to take that larger commitment off, say they only can give a few hours a week or just a weekend once a year. That's still useful time and useful code, but only in the context of somebody taking the overall responsibilities. And and even in that meeting, when we had that initial conversation, I sort of noted this idea around disaster response, because I didn't want it to be too us centric. I wanted to think worldwide. What's something that would help everyone? What's something that would allow any developer to contribute, like, how do we think broadly about those things? And so that's where they're sort of Disaster Response angle came into because natural disasters are happening everywhere in the world, they don't care about borders, right? try and convince a hurricane is not allowed to cross the border, it's not going to go well for you. The software can make a huge difference there, right. And as I got to learn more about disaster response of work with different groups, you know, they're a tough crowd to provide technology, too. They have very high standards. You know, I've had a guy who's been on the ground, and after typhoons and things saying, you know what I like, I like the battery life of paper,
Tim Bourguignon 43:28 contact you with that, right? I
Richard Campbell 43:30 like, because you can count, right? It's tough to argue with these guys. They do really hard, dangerous jobs that save lives. You got to think hard about how you're going to help those guys. And so it's been really fun to put that together and to find a way to allow developers to contribute their time. And they you know, I think we're a pretty good community organization. We're struggling to be a good charity charities are their own weird thing. And studying that business model has been a challenge to say how do we how do we raise money efficiently? How do we, you know, do the right things around all that stuff. But you know, my metric always is, if someone's going to go to the trouble of volunteering an hour of their time, don't waste that hour. How do we make sure we're making the right thing that it's gonna get used? You know, all of those things are important. And so it's, it's been a few years, but we're getting there. And then there's some new projects coming that, you know, I'll be able to talk about the future. But it's been a it's been a lot of fun. It's been very challenging.
Tim Bourguignon 44:29 If somebody wants to give an hour here and there. Where should they start?
Richard Campbell 44:34 Well, if you know how to spell humanitarian, you can go to humanitarian toolbox, calm, but if you don't go to ht box.org, that's the website. But also, you know, if you're a programmer, go to GitHub github.com slash HD box, and you can see all the projects there. We did everything open source. It's just simpler, right? That way, nobody else. Nobody takes control of the software. Anybody can tribute you want it. They're all about MIT license, take a copy and do whatever you want with it. I'm just trying to help people, right? I don't have any need to keep controls over this. But you know, we've also been able to work closely with Microsoft and the Microsoft philanthropies would have basically given us, you know, access to Azure, so we can run the services on behalf of these different organizations.
Tim Bourguignon 45:17 Um, and besides going to GitHub or DHT toolbox at org, and and giving some time, would you have any advice for, for developers around the world? And one advice that you would like to give?
Richard Campbell 45:28 Oh, yeah, I mean, there's plenty of advice. And if there's anything I can sort of give out of a story, like I've just told us, like, do you know how your organizations makes money, like my success has come from understanding the business, and how our software can make a business better? That's powerful stuff. I think all too often. We're to head down on the problem in front of us and not paying attention to the bigger picture of the real benefits of what we bring. But by the way, the benefits are huge. You know, folks don't realize how much impact all Automation instrumentation actually has to an organization, if a VP of Sales commits to an increase of sales of 10%. And they pull that number off over the course of a year, they're considered a hero, right? They get bonuses and promotions and so forth. Software routinely doubles productivity, routinely, anything last week, kind of a disappointment. And so, but we don't get promoted for that. Because often we don't take ownership over the goal. The Hey, this is how the company makes money right. Now, here's what we can add with software, like if you actually own that, your opportunities are massive.
Tim Bourguignon 46:40 Were at the end of the time books, but I have to I have to take this like the segue. This is amazing that I asked this for this advice at the end of each show. I have to go back to all my notes. I think I barely had any advice that was technical, never, or very rarely when you've had me talk about my career and
Richard Campbell 46:59 technologies that tiny part of your career, right? how you interact with people and the things you get an opportunity to make most those are rarely determined by technology. They're more determined by the people you interact with.
Tim Bourguignon 47:12 How do you go and increasing the number of interactions you have with people?
Richard Campbell 47:18 Well, I found a way between making conferences and making podcasts to make it my job to interview people constantly and perpetually, do research and share it with as many people as possible and then listen. And so it's pretty much all I do. You know, if you think about what do I really do all day? I think I learn about what developers need to know in the next three to six months, constantly. I love it. I don't know that it's for everybody. But it's certainly for me, this is not what my high school counselor told me I'd be doing. But, and I feel youthful, you know, a, that I'm satisfied that this is a role that I'm well suited for that it benefits the most number of people I possibly can and that I could look myself in I in the mirror each morning like I did something useful today.
Tim Bourguignon 48:03 I guess we'll have to leave it there.
Richard Campbell 48:05 Thank you very much, Richard. My pleasure, Tim, great fun to talk to you. Where can the listeners continue this discussion with you? Well, I you know, Twitter's usually the easiest thing. And I'm rich Campbell on Twitter. And of course, there's the podcast dotnet rocks, calm run as radio calm. And Hd box.org. Certainly, the mentoring toolbox is a good place. But you know, I have all the social medias accounts, and I'm not a shy person in that respect. have anyone who's going to go to the trouble of reaching out to me, I'm going to give them the time of day and help out. So the questions
Tim Bourguignon 48:37 and thank you very much for that. Any chance to see you in real life?
Richard Campbell 48:41 Yeah, I'm I you know, I've never done a good log of what conferences I'm going to be at. I mean, needless to say, I'm going to be the dev intersection conferences because they're mine. I kind of got to show up. To those. I'm usually at Microsoft events like build and ignite. I help bring other podcasters to those shows. So if there's a podcast center somewhere, you'll find me there. That's, that's inevitable. But you know, I learned more about how we teach developers by going to the places where developers get taught. So you'll see me at a dozen 20 conferences a year, and mostly looking around how are we learning? What are the what are the mechanisms that help? How do we foster communication and trust in our community?
Tim Bourguignon 49:24 Awesome. The links will be in the show notes. As always, Richard, thank you very much. It's been a blast.
Richard Campbell 49:30 My pleasure.
Tim Bourguignon 49:30 And this has been another episode of developer's journey. We will see each other next week, bye. All right, this is Tim from a different time and space with a few comments to make. First, get the most of these developer's journey by subscribing to the podcast with the app of your choice, and get the new episodes automagically, right when the air. The podcast is available on all major platforms. Then, visit our website to find the show notes with all the links mentioned by our guests, the advices they gave us, their book, references and so on. And while you're there, use the comments to continue the discussion with our guests or with me, or reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn. Then a big big THANK YOU to the generous Patreon donors that help me pay the hosting bills. If you have a few coins to spare, please consider a small monthly donation. Every pledge, however small counts. Finally, please do someone a favor, tell them about the show today and help them on their journey.