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Chris Coyier

Chris Coyier

As humans, we are social creatures. We crave to be with others who make us feel like part of the pack, especially when we feel a little different. That's why the web industry has been about community from the beginning. Over the past two decades, designers and developers have been getting together to share, learn and support one another. As the industry has evolved, so have the communities. In this episode of the Bureau Briefing, Carl and Chris talk about helping communities they are a part of to grow while making sure the value of the connections are maintained.


Carl Smith:
Hey, everybody, and welcome back to the Bureau of Briefing. It's Carl and with me today, I've got the founder of CSS-Tricks, the founder of CodePen, and the man who is selling out workshops all over Dayton, Ohio. It's Mr. Chris Coyier. How's it going, Chris?

Chris Coyier:
Thanks. I believe it was sold out. Yeah, it's so good, Carl. Thanks for having me in. 

Carl Smith:
I did my fact=checking.

Chris Coyier:
Yeah.

Carl Smith:
I got with Rob. I was like, you sold that sold out, right? Because that photo looked pretty sold out. 

Chris Coyier:
Yep, yep. I just got to chat with our buddies Rob and Ben over there in Dayton, Ohio at Sparkbox. I've kind of a longstanding relationship with them. In fact, they did a bunch of CodePen work, they did the last time we did like a big old redesign of CodePen. A lot of that work was done by Sparkbox. And so this-

Carl Smith:
When I was there, it wasn't it.

Chris Coyier:
These workshops are like kind of Sparkbox, it's kind of like a spin-off thing they do. 

Carl Smith:
Yeah. They were really excited to work with you on that project, by the way. Rob was pretty excited. He's a good friend and I was happy for him. I want to dive in and, for people listening, get a little bit of back story on you. When we first met, I think you were at Wufoo?

Chris Coyier:
I'm sure. Yeah.

Carl Smith:
You were a designer, right? Isn't that how you kind of got your start?

Chris Coyier:
Yeah, which, I was a title that I like. I like it when people call me a designer because I want to be a designer. It feels very fancy and I feel, I don't know, it's like someone who I want to be. And I am one. In fact, I do design work almost every day to some degree.  But I'm not how some people think of it. I certainly don't design the experience of what it's like to walk into Lambeau Field, or even much very detailed web design work with fancy gradients and rounded corners and stuff. I do some of that work, but generally it's kind of UX work and "what is it like to use this product" work. So when they hired me at Wufoo, it was a designer-only because I didn't know back ends work so much, so it was a lot of front end development and blogging and customer interaction stuff. They just called me a designer, and I was happy to take it.

Carl Smith:
I think at that time, that was kind of what the title was, right? There weren't really front-end devs; that wasn't really a thing at the time, I don't think.

Chris Coyier:
I think you're right. As a matter of fact, the reason I got the job at Wufoo is because I was invited to speak at a conference call, the Front End Design Conference, which was a weird name for a conference at the time; that name hadn't solidified itself as a thing, so it kind of got away with doing that. I don't think somebody could get away with calling a conference that anew these days; maybe they could, but it'd be a little ... Now it seems almost too vague or something.

Anyway, and then Kevin Hale who worked there was also speaking at that conference, and that was our chance to meet for the first time, and I was already a kind of a fanboy of him, and my fanboy-ness parlayed itself into a job there.

Carl Smith:
I think the first time we met, it had to be at a conference, because we were both speaking all the time.

Chris Coyier:
Probably shortly after that, yeah.

Carl Smith:
And I told someone the other day the story where we were at, oh what was it, Future of Web, but it was whatever their big one was ... Future Insights.

Chris Coyier:
Yeah, yeah. Maybe Vegas? Were we in Vegas?

Carl Smith:
It was Vegas, yeah. And we were walking down the hallway and I was like, "Man, I've gotta give two different talks, two brand new talks," and I was kind of wigging out a little bit. And you were like, "Why?" And I was like, "Well, it said in the contract that I have to give different talks. I can't give the same talk." And you were like, "Fuck that. I'm giving the same talk." And I was just like, "Wait, we can do that?" You saved my life that day because I was convinced I always had to give a different talk every time.

Chris Coyier:
Yeah, yeah, no, you don't have to do that.

Carl Smith:
And now I don't speak at all unless it's an event that I happen to be putting on and somebody backs out, so-

Chris Coyier:
Really you had a change of heart or just a change of life in some degree.

Carl Smith:
Yeah, a change of life really, because now I run an organization that has about 14 events a year, so if I were to-

Chris Coyier:
[inaudible 00:04:32] is an arm of this, right?

Carl Smith:
Yeah, and if I were to go to other events as well, like, my kids would not visit me in the old folks home. It just would not happen.

I want to transition a little bit. I want to understand, so, were you running CSS-Tricks while you were at Wu foo, or how did CSS-Tricks come about?

Chris Coyier:
I was, in fact. Part of the interview, even at Wufoo was, "Hey, we like you and stuff, but what would it look like to work here? Do you have enough time to work here? Can you work for us during the day and do CSS-Tricks at night? Kind of? I know life never works out that cleanly, but if you're gonna work here and we're gonna give you a full-time salary, you owe us a full-time work." Essentially. I don't remember how it was worded, but they were clear that they expected a full-time worth of work out of me, and if I wanted to do CSS-Tricks, that's fine. At the time, it wasn't even that, but I had also just ... I was wrapping up writing a book and, in fact, I told them, "Hey, why don't we wait a few more weeks before I start because that's yet another thing that would be chipping away at my time, so why don't we wait [inaudible 00:05:50] to get that totally done and out before I start working there?" Which they were cool with, and that was fair. I thought it was a fair question that I would ask anybody of it. 

If I was about to hire anybody these days who I knew was super involved in open source somewhere, was halfway through writing a book or something, I'd be like, "What's the priority situation there? You can't ..." I don't know, it's tough because I think there's even some laws involved, right? You can't be like, "Hey, you married? How old are you?" There's questions you can't ask, but asking one that's like, "I can tell you're very committed elsewhere" seems a legit thing to ask.

Carl Smith:
I think you shared this with me, or somebody else I was speaking with, but originally you were just helping people via e-mail with CSS, and then you decided, "Hey, you know what? I should capture this and put this out there because I'm running out of time, and I could just point people to these solutions again and again." Was that kind of the origin of CSS-Tricks?

Chris Coyier:
Not quite, actually. I think that is a part of the story, but that version of that story was more later on in CSS-Tricks's history in which finally people were listening to what I had to say a little bit, and would e-mail in with CCS questions, which was great because when you have a blog about any topic and people are e-mailing you in questions, that's fodder for ... The best questions are great blog posts, usually. So then I would be like, "I might answer it. I might turn it into a blog post, but I'm also gonna throw a forums up on this site so you can all talk to each other," and when you're ... theoretically there's some value in being the owner of a place where people are talking to each other.

Carl Smith:
And that's actually my alterior, ulterior, I always get that wrong, my ulterior motive-

Chris Coyier:
I know, is it the "ul-" or "al-" Alterior or ulterior? I don't know.

Carl Smith:
So I run a community now; a thousand digital agencies plus like 4000 digital professionals, and I'm in over my head. I mean, I'm in over my head, and I know that CSS-Tricks, and also I would imagine Shoptalk, your podcast with Dave, was kind of help form a community. I know when Gene and I were actually able to be sober at the same time and do Bizcraft, we started having a community that was forming around that. Did all of these things come together and you start to see some of the same people across the different channels?

Chris Coyier:
To some degree. I think there's some cross-pollination of com ... especially because mine are those three things, which is CSS-Tricks, which is largely just in a sense, it's like a magazine and you can read it and it's a bit of an encyclopedia, so it's kind of like, yeah, there's community there-

Carl Smith:
I probably should have looked at it before we had the call.

Chris Coyier:
No, it's cool. CSS-Tricks is the oldest of those things. It's over 10 years old now, and it's me just blogging. It's a blog. There are forums there. The forums are generally healthy, and that's probably the thing ... You know most people thing of "online community," they think of something like forums. It's people with accounts, it's people typing paragraphs to each other. That's there, and there's some community there for sure, but it's just not a thriving metropolis of community. It's largely just like, "Hey, I'm having a problem. Hey, could you help us fix it?" "Yeah, here's a couple of pointers" kind of thing. It is what it is.

CodePen is much more of a community in that it has that, people talking to each other, but it has "I'm very proud of what I made;" "I follow you, you follow me" are actual components of the website. That's literally the thing you can do. People get together in our name in real life and talk to each other. CodePen makes its way into other social platforms. There's people talking about CodePen and the things that they build and front end stuff and making friendships on other social platforms, even though they think of themselves as CodePen friends.

Carl Smith:
So when you made that decision, that you were gonna do CodePen, how did you decide to launch it? What was the moment for you where you were like, "I've gotta do this?"

Chris Coyier:
That stuff is so muddy in a way, in that it actually started out as a not particularly, just a tech project. Just almost a weekender. At Wufoo I made two friends, and I'm friends with literally everybody that worked at Wufoo [inaudible 00:10:41] cool of a company that, I think, everybody was just such great people. But I was really good friends with Tim Savett, Alex Vazquez, and then when Wufoo sold, we all walked to SurveyMonkey together; I worked with them there, too. We were even better friends there, and we were all ready to ... It was one of these tricky things, as great of a, and it still is to this day; it's a great company, SurveyMonkey, I'm talking about, everything about SurveyMonkey is great; it's a product that totally helps people, it's a good community around it, and everything about it is great, and it wasn't the right job for me. I'm not gonna have very much impact here, I'm just in a sense a low-level grunt and there needs to be people like that at jobs ... I was like, "I'm more entrepreneurial than this. I need to have an impact in my day-to-day work. I need to leave here and do something on my own."

My only idea at the time was double down on CSS-Tricks. I'm gonna leave here, and CSS-Tricks is growing, and I'm just gonna double down on that because I love working on it, and I still do. So I leave. I just up and leave, and my idea is to just do a better job at CSS-Tricks; make it into a business, find a way to monetize it better. And I did that in various ways, but while I'm doubling down, I have a lot more time on my hands to be working on CSS-Tricks. What's on CSS-Tricks a lot of times is, people just want to see code snippets and they want to see demos and stuff. They're looking up, "Oh, how do I do tabs in jQuery" or something; that was a popular thing at the time. "How? Teach me, Chris. How do I do this?" And they would Google it and they'd just look at the demo; they'd be like, "Okay, here's some sample code; this is what I'm trying to extract from you." 

And the coolest way ever to show code at the time and now is when you're kind of looking at both the code and the example together, and there's existing sites that did this super well, like JS Bin is one of them; JSFiddle is another one that pre-date CodePen. And I was like, "You know what I should do? I should take all the demos on CSS-Tricks and just move them over to one of the two of those apps because they're so nice." This is like, instead of me hand-growing my dumb little way to show projects, I should just move them all over there. But I got nervous, as some of us tech nerds do, when you're like, when you go all in on somebody else's platform-

Carl Smith:
Oh, man.

Chris Coyier:
Should I do all my blogging on Medium? Nerds are like, ehh. It's dangerous. Are they gonna shut down? Are they gonna change in some fundamental way that you don't like? Are they gonna ... There's a million things that can go wrong there, so I was like, "I don't feel comfortable doing that. As much as I like y'all, I'm not quite gonna do it." So I was like, let's build our own. So I had my friends Tim and Alex, and we're all looking to leave SurveyMonkey and do something interesting. This is before we had quite decided to leave leave; we're like, "Let's do a weekender where we get together and rebuild one of these type of apps. [inaudible 00:13:41] is all theirs, but we're gonna build our own, and maybe we can do a better job; maybe I can design it better, maybe it can have better features," all that stuff.

So we throw one together. We get it going, and then shortly after that, we're like, "This is fun." We like working together. We like this product, and let's ... Dribble's already around, too. I wonder if we can steal from that, too. I even e-mailed Dan; I was like, "Hey, I'm gonna build a thing and it's gonna kind of be like your thing." In a way, I feel like when you know somebody for a while, you should maybe kind of heads-up people and stuff like that, especially when they're very nice people and stuff. He's like, "Dude, I didn't invent following people. Your thing is totally different."

Carl Smith:
But it's still the right thing to do. I totally agree with you. When we're getting ready to do something, or I've had people who are getting ready to put on a certain type of event and they'll use the word "camp" or "summit" and they send me an e-mail and say, "Hey, we're doing this." I'm like, "I didn't invent camps. I didn't invent summits. I appreciate the heads-up. Go do your thing; it won't be like my thing."

Chris Coyier:
And it's not, and it never is. We have a thing as close of it to Dribble as it is. Yeah, you can follow other people and you can heart things and comment on things, like, it's not a totally unique concept; it's just ... I just looked up, and still look up to Dan and the Dribble gang so much. They just do good stuff, and if we can do anything like they have ... and we both exist to this day and are both happy, profitable somewhat, thriving-ish businesses, so thanks.

Carl Smith:
So then you go and you launch CodePen, you invite people into it. How long did it take for it to get traction?

Chris Coyier:
Well, we cheated. I had been blogging and building an audience and making a name for myself as a front-end developer and pundit in the front-end developer world for so many years that when it was time to launch it, I had the perfect audience of people that wanted in. [inaudible 00:15:48] last week we have a new feature we're building and we have a way to invite people into certain features on a feature-by-feature basis on CodePen, and all I gotta do is tweet and people are like, "I want in. Yes, I will happily user test this thing for you for free." Not like I'm trying to exploit people, but there's a certain people out there that want in on the early.

Carl Smith:
Well, that's also a big part of community, is there are people who want to help. They want to be more than just somebody who's using whatever the system or the community. They want to actually help, and it's huge for them.

Chris Coyier:
I'm happy to ... I ask nothing, I'm just like, if you want in on this thing, I'll add you, and if you have some feedback, let me know and it will help shape the future of this thing. Just like it happened last weekend; I got lots of feedback on that. That's how the launch of it largely was; I'm like, "Do you want in on this beta? I'm building a thing. You might like it. It's a lot like these other things, but we're gonna have this whole social component." That's the big difference between what we built and the other people and, I guess, competitors to us is that we're tripled down on the community aspects of CodePen that we're really trying to be like, "This is a place where you come and hang out," to some degree. If you're gonna build a demo, build here because people are gonna see it here and interact with here.

Carl Smith:
And celebrate it. That's the thing. I see it when it spills over into Twitter, and then that's when I'll go in and take a look at something that somebody built. Obviously I'm not a designer or a developer, front end or otherwise, but I still go in there and start looking at this stuff. It even brings in that fringe of people who aren't really a fit for the community, but it just seems so positive and there's a draw to it.

Chris Coyier:
There's quite a bit of that.

Carl Smith:
Well, congratulations, sir.

Chris Coyier:
Thank you. There's still people like me ... I can use it now all over CSS-Tricks. The original goal of putting all my demos on one of these apps is complete. I absolutely do that all the time, and totally understand if someone else who's a heavy blogger doesn't do that for the same reason, that they don't control it in the same way. But there's ways around that; you can use it lightly, you can back up the things that you do. You can still be on CodePen and not worry, it's all over. You can have a healthy amount of nerd skepticism, and I encourage that.

Carl Smith:
So how many people are, would you say members or users? How many people are part of that CodePen group?

Chris Coyier:
That's tricky. That's like your monthly active users, is the start-up terminology for it, which I honestly don't even know because I don't know what the way to calculate it is, and we don't have investors who care a whole lot about that. It's funny how different of numbers it is ... The easiest thing is, how many people have ever signed up for CodePen? That's just one database query away, and that number is awesome to me in that it's much over a million. It's like 1.2-

Carl Smith:
Whoa.

Chris Coyier:
Which is crazy, but our month ... The people that are using it, how many people used CodePen today is more like many tens of thousands. I think that's safe to share, which is cool, but that number's a lot lower.

Carl Smith:
That was what I figured. I figured it was somewhere in the 20-50 thousand range. That was a guess just knowing how many front-end devs there are, how many people-

Chris Coyier:
[inaudible 00:19:29] billions of active users? What is that?

Carl Smith:
They have country's worth of active users.

Chris Coyier:
What?

Carl Smith:
We've got ... I just got done consolidating all of these different Slack channels. Every time there was a Bureau event, there was a Slack channel that was part of it, and so we ended up with over 30 Slack channels, and it was a disaster because then you'd have some people who went to multiple events that were in multiple channels, and so they would repeat themselves so that everybody would hear it. I got with Slack, I talked with them, I put together a strategy of using private channels and public channels, dividing things up based on the role. We're looking now at location. We've got over 500 people who have come in there, and-

Chris Coyier:
Fascinating.

Carl Smith:
Really about 400 of them a day are at least looking, and a few hundred a day are talking, and they're helping each other with what's going on in their business, problems they're having with the team, process queries about how do you handle this, how do you do that? Then we got to this point, and you mentioned it earlier ... so three of the big things that I get asked for all the time, one is local meet-ups, and then it's mastermind groups, which I had never been a part of; I even say it skeptically, but people-

Chris Coyier:
[crosstalk 00:20:46]

Carl Smith:
And then mentorship program, right? But the local meet-up thing, I had the first one last week in New York. When I look at where the congregations of where the Bureau community is, New York, Austin, Vancouver, Seattle, it's where you would expect it really, right? It is those kind of tech hub kind of cities, but we had 44 people sign up, we had 28 people show up-

Chris Coyier:
Good, good. It's like 75%-

Carl Smith:
I felt pretty good, yeah. The thing is, I had somebody tell me earlier this year that the difficulty is that you're trying to scale intimacy. You're trying to keep these small, connected groups together, but you've got more people who want to come into them, and so the reason that I was worried about the local meet-ups was, "Okay, so I've got alumni, but then I've got new people who want to come in. I want them to be there, and in person is so much different than just having somebody show up in a Slack channel because you see them and you hear their voice and you kind of get a feel for, do I like this person or not? You may still have somebody that you don't really want to hang out with, but at least you've had a better opportunity to connect with them, and-

Chris Coyier:
Interesting. I wonder if the ... These tend to be people that are owners-ish, right?

Carl Smith:
Well, it's owners, digital PMs, creative directors, operators, we've got tech leads now, and then we've got QA people that are starting to ask for us to put on events for them,

Chris Coyier:
[crosstalk 00:22:21] responsibility of other people. You're not-

Carl Smith:
Almost always in a management role, though.

Chris Coyier:
So I wonder if you have less, not that ... it's a weird way to phrase this, less problems with introversion. That's a sucky way to say it because I consider myself fairly introverted on that scale. A lot of times, a tech meet-up for CodePen will be kind of overcoming shyness, even though shyness and introversion, I realize, are different things. I wonder if there's a bunch of owners get together that they tend to be a bit more-

Carl Smith:
Yeah, there's a lot of elevator pitches when you first ... It's kind of funny.

Digital project managers, they actually pre-organize before the event, so they start finding out who each are earlier-

Chris Coyier:
Oh, because that's their nature, is to-

Carl Smith:
Yeah, that's their nature. Operations people-

Chris Coyier:
[inaudible 00:23:17] for here-

Carl Smith:
Exactly, and then they all connect up. But the interesting thing to me, and actually I was gonna shoot Dan a note as well, is when you start doing these local meet-ups, the concern I had wasn't so much the people I know in the community, but I don't know all 4000 people, and I want to make sure that I don't ... "dilute the brand" sounds like such a crappy way to say it, but if I'm gonna have the Bureau, our shield logo, if we're gonna put our name on something, but I can't possibly be at all these things, but how did you do it? Did you worry about it? Did you give people access to certain things? I heard that you actually show up, like maybe you're on a video call for the first few minutes of a meet-up or something?

Chris Coyier:
I have done that. In fact, pretty much anyone that asks me, I will try to make it happen. I mean, I can't, I don't know that it would work every single time, but I'm glad to do that because it's pretty low commitment, just to hop on a Skype thing and be like, "Oh, hey, everybody. Here's something cool, and at most, thanks." Not all of them are ready technologically for that because some meet-ups aren't necessarily projecting, or they don't have good enough internet or who knows what it is, but I think that's ... if you ask me, I'll do it. That's probably worth doing for you, too, if they want it. Certainly not required.

Another thing is, are you ... I imagine you're not sending them money, you're not paying the organizer to organize one, or are you?

Carl Smith:
No, but we have, one of our main sponsors wants to get out in a more local environment and-

Chris Coyier:
[inaudible 00:25:01] no money involved, but-

Carl Smith:
No, but they're willing to pick up the tab. They basically picked up a $600 tab at the first one, so they're willing to do that. If it's coffee and bagels, or if it's beer and apps, or whatever-

Chris Coyier:
That's exactly what we have. We have a sponsor, Media Temple, that's happy to do that, and it's just on a per-meet-up basis; if "Hey, save your receipts for the beer and pizza" or whatever, or ... that's the worst two things; those are the things that complain about the most, right? Make sure you get something for lots of food things and not all alcoholic beverages, so metaphorical beer and pizza, save the receipt and send to them. And we send them a bunch of swag because that's fairly low, that doesn't cost us that much money. But we don't have any money to pay you, and I don't think anybody does. I think that's way too much to ask, and it's ripe for danger, too, people throwing a meet-up just because they want to make money or something; that's not a good look.

Carl Smith:
And then there's a whole legal aspect and accounting aspect to that, right? Suddenly you're paying somebody to manage this, I don't know, it just feels like it just starts to get way complicated.

Chris Coyier:
Although sometimes you wish you could, because another ... First of all, it feels a little weird to ask anybody to do work on my behalf for nothing. It's weird, but they're the ones that e-mailed in and want to do it, and we're very clear. Not only do we have e-mail templates that explain our expectations, like what you can expect from us and what we expect from you and the whole stuff, it's all kind of templated out, although every single one of these requires a personal touch, of course; it's not self-serve meet-ups. There's code of conduct stuff that we expect people to share and uphold and that type of thing. But remember, they really wanted to do this. They have some personal motivation for wanting to do it, and it's usually pretty dang altruistic. They just want to have fun with it, and they've seen other people do it, they've seen photos from other meet-ups or something and they want to have it in their town. I'm always like, "Absolutely yes. It couldn't be more flattering. Please, please do it. We'll give you as much support as we can, and we'll be really clear about the expectations of it."

I found that over time, one thing that happens, then, is some locations will have some momentum and some won't, and that's perfectly okay. What I worry about these days is people having guilt when there isn't motivation. You don't owe me nothing. [inaudible 00:27:44] It's a one-off. People don't mind one-off events.

Carl Smith:
So for me, a huge part of it ... First of all, I'm totally gonna follow up and grab those templates. You know what? I'll just run a CodePen meet-up here.

Chris Coyier:
And then you'll know.

Carl Smith:
It'll be fun, and I'll know everything. One of the things we have is all these people want to get into our Slack channel, and Slack channels are like a big deal now and all this kind of stuff, but you can't come into a Bureau Slack channel unless you've been to a physical event, unless you've ... if you haven't accepted the code of conduct, if you haven't taken the oath not to share things that people would think are confidential. There are these little handshake things that are silly in a way, but then I get worried about accessibility to our events, because they're not cheap. The cheapest event we have is about $1200, and so there are people who probably need us, and we've also got a new sponsor who doesn't want to be named that has given us the means to be able to do these scholarships so we can pay for airfare and hotel and get some people there who need the events that we're doing. But for me-

Chris Coyier:
There you go. It's not like you're doing nothing, then.

Carl Smith:
No. I mean, we're trying, but even then that's only gonna go so far, so for me, and it's funny ... I called this "SCAB" yesterday. I was like, well, it's all those scabs out there. And somebody's like, "What's SCAB?" And I went, "It's Slack Channel as A Business." I don't-

Chris Coyier:
Oh, I thought you meant somebody's like breaking a-

Carl Smith:
Yeah, they were breaking the NFL strike. No, but it's one of these things where it's like if you don't have that in-person connection sometimes ... I think it can be different if you're sharing and you're liking and you're commenting and this type of thing, but if somebody shows up and you don't have that kind of a, I guess a first touch where you're not actually commenting on something together, it just feels weird to me, and maybe I just need to get over that, but by having these local meet-ups, it's an opportunity for people to understand who we are and what we're about, what the Bureau is trying to do, which is basically create spaces in real life as well as online where people can support each other. I mean, that's the core, so I just want ways for more people to be able to get in there, and that's been my concern, is I can't be at all of these things. You're obviously not at all the CodePen things, but you've got people ... Do you know the people when they first reach out, or are you just like, "Hey, I love that you want to do it. Let's do it."

Chris Coyier:
It's probably ... I know 60% of them, I'd say, only because I make it my business to know people. But certainly people reach out that I don't know sometimes, and that doesn't make me hesitant to say "yes" to them, especially because you can get a pretty good sense of who somebody is; even based on that first e-mail after they seem like a decent person, and then after five e-mails I think you have a pretty good ... I don't mean like, [inaudible 00:30:48] certainly it could go either way, but I think you can get a pretty good ... When you're planning a very real thing like this, you get a good sense. 

We've turned people away; there's been at least one I can think of where it really seemed like what they were most interested in was the box of swag, and then looking back on it, I was like, "I think they might have been 10." You don't know; it's not like ... we don't ask how old you are.

Carl Smith:
That's hilarious, because I know we had a couple of people reach out to us about taking over their community, and I could tell something was coming with that. I mean, they were part of the Bureau, but they had another community that they were running and they wanted to bring it in under the Bureau fold. Then it showed up with, "Well, what do you think the value of bringing that in is?" I was like, "What? You want us to pay you?-"

Chris Coyier:
Oh, you want to sell it, yeah-

Carl Smith:
Because 35 people a month show up? I don't know. I can't tell you that. That's not our business. We're not in the business of acquiring other people's communities. Yeah, this is funny. It's so weird to think that I'm sitting here now, I'm sure you get some of that with what you're doing now, but from running a shop to now, I didn't realize we were a product company until recently. I've been trying to run this thing like a service shop, and it was a disaster. I was just trying to make sure everybody was getting everything that they needed and that we were managing it, and you know, hey, when people bought tickets for things, that was great. But then I realized, "Oh, no. Those tickets are the things that allow us to stay here," so it really is about-

Chris Coyier:
You probably shouldn't lose [inaudible 00:32:39] of that. It really is, even the Slack community, as much as it's nice that you're letting people talk to each other and having them solve problems and build community and all that stuff, it's kind of in service of selling more tickets to the next one.

Carl Smith:
Absolutely, and that's where it gets kind of crazy. Recently we had one of the Slack channels for our owners hit the 10,000 limit, and people were starting to wig out, so I exported everything and kept it. But that was a big part of this new channel, was that once we hit 10,000, we'd go paid, and everybody agreed that if they didn't go to an event that year, they would take care of the payment-

Chris Coyier:
This 10,000, is that the maximum number of people in a Slack-

Carl Smith:
No, 10,000 messages, and then it starts to delete the messages on the back end.

Chris Coyier:
Oh, I get it, yeah. Okay.

Carl Smith:
So, yeah. There also needs to be ... I need to, as much as I live in Slack, I feel like there's not enough think pieces on Slack. How to manage yourself on Slack, how to manage communities on Slack, which I think is on purpose pseudo-neglected from them. You're trying to make it work, but I don't think Slack cares that much honestly-

Chris Coyier:
No, they don't. 

Carl Smith:
They're super nice in telling you that we're not going after the markets we already have, and you're an edge case. We don't have many people that have 500-plus in there that aren't an enterprise working together. But there's still, I'm in contact with somebody on their support team all the time and they're super nice about it, but you're right. It's like when Stewart set that thing up, it was not with the intention of being used by conferences or communities, and I think it was-

Chris Coyier:
And they could change direction right now. Oh yeah, that was a big thing. 

Carl Smith:
That was the first one that I heard about.

Chris Coyier:
Which is ... they could change direction today and start doing that, and I just don't think they will because it feels like if anything they're doubling down the other direction and being more useful as a business tool than a comm-

Carl Smith:
Yeah, absolutely. So what else is going on with CodePen? You've got the meet-ups going on, you're releasing new features and stuff. Is this it for you? Are you happy to ride this?

Chris Coyier:
Yeah, in fact, absolutely. In fact, I need more time, please. I need more time, and we got more time because we are profitable company now, and we kind of intend to stay that way, at least-

Carl Smith:
Congratulations.

Chris Coyier:
For the time being. Thanks. That was a big deal, because we did take a round of funding at one point, and then you live in the red on purpose, because that's the whole point: you hire people to the point where you're not profitable anymore aiming at that higher number, and a lot of times all you need to show is growth and then you can take even more money and stay in the red. That's a path for some companies, and I get that, but we were such nervous wrecks during all those red years. Being in the black, I think I have the colors correct, right?

Carl Smith:
Yeah, you got it right, you got it right.

Chris Coyier:
That kind of feels good, and in a sense as long as we stay there, we have infinite time to work on this thing, and I'm like, "Oh, does that ever feel good." The only way I've been successful, Carl, the only time ever is only through attrition. It's not because I've ever had some super genius idea that blew up overnight. I'm not that kind of thinker. I'm not that kind of genius. My success always comes from, "I'm in this thing for the long haul, I want to make incremental improvements to things, and I want to feel the effects of those incremental improvements over time." I want to gain people's trust because not because I promise it or I have some legacy or anything, but because we're there day after day doing what we say we're gonna do.

Carl Smith:
I love that, and I think that's the key to success in almost anything. The way it's been for me, things have to be simple and I have to have support. I'm not really good at a lot of complicated stuff, but people know I'm there, and that was the beauty of this new Slack channel: so I can finally communicate with everybody. I had somebody reach out yesterday and say, "Hey, we're worried about going remote because we don't understand the security implications," and I dropped one question in the Slack channel and had five people reply, detailing exactly how they manage security, and I was able to just point the person that asked me that, and she was blown away, and I was just like, "That's the whole point." The end of my day was just feeling like I had achieved all these things when all I really did was connect two people that could help each other. So good.

Chris Coyier:
That's yet another Slack think-thing, is that there's a lot of people that have Slack fatigue or are trying to figure out how they can handle Slack, and almost a Slack drought. At the moment, I'm like, I like the ones that I'm in, but I almost wish I had my own super-perfect one. I don't want to manage one, but I wish I could craft my perfect Slack with just the people I want to be in, you know. But I can't be troubled [inaudible 00:37:43].

Carl Smith:
Well, I'll tell you, somebody who went from 37 Slacks down to two, it is a glorious thing. It is amazing. I no longer feel like somebody's trying to talk to me and thinks I'm ignoring them because I can't find them. That was legitimately a thing. It's actually one of the things I have with the community as well. I always worry that there's somebody out there trying to connect with me and I just haven't seen the blip, but I'm getting over that. I think we've actually got it set up now so it's pretty easy for everybody to get in touch.

Chris Coyier:
Is there books yet? I feel like ... I'm telling you, there needs to be Slack tricks blog or ... It's ripe for that; I need help on Slack, people.

Carl Smith:
I'm gonna look into that. We're actually doing one of our first, it's gonna be kind of like a Slack fireside chat where we're setting up one channel, inviting everybody into it, and allowing a service provider to actually have an open Q&A, kind of an AMA kind of thing-

Chris Coyier:
Seems perfect for that.

Carl Smith:
The people in the community, yeah. And then when it's done, we can take that content and move it to another channel. It's not the easiest, but we'll see how that plays out. Maybe we just leave it there, but I don't want people having that endless scroll, either. Maybe that's my book. I'm gonna write the book on how to manage Slack communities. Thanks, Chris.

Chris Coyier:
Please write it, because you've done it from a business perspective and now the community perspective, and you're a ... you had a Slack problem at one point. Maybe you're the perfect person to write this book.

Carl Smith:
There you go. You know, just like always, when we get together I realize I'm not doing near enough. Chris, thanks for being on the show so much today, dude. It was so good to hear your voice.

Chris Coyier:
Good to hear from you, too, Carl. This was my pleasure. We always have a good time.

Carl Smith:
And for everybody listening, we appreciate it, and we'll talk to you next week. Have a great one.

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