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What The Federated Content? with Bryan Robinson

The modern website has become an art of composition. It’s a rarity that a website will only pull content from a single source these days.

This has become such a common occurrence that we’ve seen various tools arrive on scene to address the challenges inherent in composable content. Both Bryan’s and Sean’s companies (Hygraph and Stackbit) are working on the problem, and in very different ways.

This episode will begin with an introduction to composable (or federated) content, before diving deep into challenges, proposed solutions, and inspiration for taking advantage of this relatively new pattern.

Featured Guest

Bryan has been building websites, communities, and relationships for the past 15 years. He’s created hand-crafted websites ranging from large-scale news sites to boutique sites for small businesses. He’s built local communities of practice and online communities centered around products. He loves sharing knowledge in whatever form – meetups, conferences, articles, videos, and quick chats.

Currently, Bryan is exploring the highs and lows of community building as a Senior Developer Advocate at – a product for community builders and developer advocates to measure and create healthy, vibrant communities.

Hosted by

Sean is a tinkerer and a teacher. He is driven to learn by doing (often failing) and loves passing those learnings onto others who may find them beneficial.


Sean C Davis 0:03
Welcome to another uptime FM episode. I’m your host, Sean C. Davis. And today I am super excited for this episode, really for two reasons. First, we’ve hit a pretty major milestone. This is the 20th live talk show that I’ve been able to host with CFE going all the way back to last year’s 10 episodes for code sandwich hour. And with this 20th episode, we’ve been doing this for over a year, I went back and looked at our first episode of code sandwich our featured array Camden, and that that happened in early April of 2022. So really excited to hit this milestone and really excited for what is to come over the next year, and then next 20 episodes. And that brings me to the other reason I’m super excited for this particular episode. And that is the topic that we’re going to cover today. Today, we’re going to talk about composable architecture, federated Content API mesh. However, you know, the concept. It’s a pattern that has been growing in popularity over the last few years, even though it’s kind of been around for a long time. And it’s something that I tend to think about every day as stack bid is fairly deep into this space. And today, I’m joined by Bryan Robinson, who is the head of Dev Rel at high graph. And now I don’t know exactly what high graph is up to to these days, but I’m very excited to spend this time learning so let’s get into it. And thanks for being here, Bryan.

Bryan Robinson 1:26
Yeah, no, thanks. Thanks for having me and congrats on 20. And I like to think that Raymond Campden is like the ultimate and like early guest for these types of shows. He was I think, guest number two or three. And that’s my jam stack years and years ago might the podcasts I used to run. So I think it’s a rite of passage. You gotta get written Raymond as early as possible

Sean C Davis 1:45
to do it. Yeah, I remember being so, so thankful to him and saw him again a couple months ago. And I was like, this is you have no idea helped me get this thing started. And it was amazing. And he’s like, No, it’s just what I do. It’s fine. Yeah. All right. So for those of you who didn’t see the short teaser earlier in the week, Bryan wouldn’t tell us what his favorite sandwich was before the show. But he gave us three choices. We had the Cuban, the Philly cheesesteak, and a grilled cheese specifically on a homemade sourdough bread. And so, Brian, the answer is,

Bryan Robinson 2:20
I am nothing if not enigmatic. That’s the first thing everyone should know about me. But the the answer is, well, first and foremost, I’m American, therefore I can make anything a sandwich. It’s one things that we are very good at. We can put anything on bread and call it a sandwich and we’ll eat it no problem. However, I come from Memphis, Tennessee, which is a barbecue town. So you might think, barbecue sandwich. I got lots of opinions on barbecue. I absolutely adore barbecue. I don’t enjoy a barbecue sandwich. My father is from South Jersey. Just about an hour, hour and a half outside of Philadelphia. So for me, it’s not actually the Philly Cheesesteak. There’s the best sandwich it is the cheesesteak. If you if you have to say Philly cheesesteak, I know I said that in my video and I know like I tweeted out earlier today, I said Philly because that’s what everyone can knows it as. But the cheesesteak is the is the ultimate sandwich. It has amazing bread. It’s just like cats, they’re soft hoagie, it’s got an amazing cheese and orange cheese product on it. Because if you’re eating a traditional cheese steak from Philly, you know that it comes with Cheez Whiz not an actual cheese but that yellow neon yellow like cheese and then some onions and and then really finely shaved you know ribeye or you know, some some premium kind of meat and it is it’s delicious.

Bryan Robinson 3:47
And I’ve had I’ve had the opportunity because my dad was born and raised in that area because we used to go there every summer. I’ve eaten that numerous different cheesesteak places in the Philly area and I’ve also had in the Memphis area there was a guy that moved to Memphis from the Philly area and had I would controversially say the best cheese steaks I’ve ever had and unfortunately he closed down years ago at this point, but I worked about two miles from from his shop and I probably shaved multiple years of my life due to the proximity to that place and it was amazing every time he imported the the rolls the hoagie rolls from Philly he had Tasty Cakes on premise. And if you are from the Northeast or at least the Philly area you know Tasty Cakes are the best packaged pastries you can possibly have. So yeah, I’m a huge check ins that being said like the Cuban almost up there. So close to us on on a really well done sourdough that I possibly make myself. Also amazing. So I just like sandwiches, but the cheesesteak is the is the number one

Sean C Davis 4:59
okay Okay, so did the did the Memphis guy also use the Cheez Whiz?

Bryan Robinson 5:07
So he Yeah, I mean, you always have the giant bucket behind the counter and like watching an efficient cheesesteak restaurant work is amazing. They’ve got the bale flat tops, and they’ve got like the two the two giant metal spatulas. And they’re constantly chopping meat, constantly chopping onions, and they constantly have the giant vat of Cheez Whiz. In fact, there are ways to order at the various restaurants too. There’s a restaurant in Philly called Pat’s Pat’s King mistakes, and they have to move efficiently. Like that’s the whole thing about cheesesteak restaurant is efficiency, like getting the next sandwich out always. And if you order and take too long to order, they will send you to the back of the line. Or if you order improperly, they send you to the back of the line because you know, City of Brotherly Love, right. But yeah, so like you order it cheese with or without and that’s not the wiz that is the onions with or without for the onions and then you get Cheez Whiz, like that’s what you get. Now, the place Memphis also had Provolone and like a Swiss American blend and some other stuff that like was

Sean C Davis 6:11
amazing. Okay, okay. This is yeah, I I took a massive break from from cheese steaks because I had one when I was young, maybe in high school or so. And I had also caught a virus around the same time and so it was like the memory of getting sick after eating that sandwich. I never it was it was decades till I came back to it. And then recently it wasn’t necessarily out of choice either. It was I was at a Super Bowl party a couple of months ago and the Philadelphia Eagles were playing in the game and someone to honor the Eagles was they made them but they made everything from scratch. So found local steaks, cut them real thin and, and also made the rolls from scratch. And I do believe we used Kraft American singles and not the not the wiz but it it tastes it still tasted fake, which was good. Yeah, yeah. So anyways, I’m back on board. I’m back on board.

Bryan Robinson 7:11
I made I made cheese steaks probably once a month. I don’t I don’t get the good meat. I just get like, every once a while my grocery store has shaved beef and like okay, yeah, I’ll make a cheesesteak. I made the rolls and it’s a mate like, the number one thing that you can make any sandwich better with is homemade or scratch made bread. Like I make a decent burger. I don’t make a great burger, I make a decent one. But I make my own brioche rolls, and I toast them. And you put anything in between that again, like sandwich like you just put anything between and it’s delicious. Like you can’t help it you chose with a little bit of butter and it’s good to go. As it turns out, I have a lot of opinions on a lot of things.

Sean C Davis 7:49
Is is great. And Brian is commenting Brian Rinaldi commenting that I finally found my fellow sandwich lover, like yes, we we could spend a whole episode on this, we probably shouldn’t. But we shouldn’t Maybe nobody’s happy. So okay with that, yeah, let’s, let’s get into it. And, you know, I usually like to talk like to start the more technical portion, kind of just setting a foundation setting some context for folks. And especially when we’re using a lot of really newer buzzwords, like federated content and composable content management. You know, I went on high graphs website today, and they call yourself the what a federated content management platform. So I think we should just start with what is federated content? Sure.

Bryan Robinson 8:35
So there’s, it’s a completely loaded word, right. And in the in the CMS space, which I am now a veteran of, via multiple organizations. We don’t always like to refer to ourselves as a CMS. I do, because it is what it is like, that’s just how it is. Every company in the end, the world needs a CMS to power whatever platforms they’re on. But we don’t like that term. In like all the CMS companies. It’s amazing. However, we also have this new this new term around Federation and Federation is like I said, it’s a concept that’s been around for a while. However, the term Federation or the term composability are all the different buzzwords and I’ll do my best not to be too buzzwords because I hate that. They’re all like a buzz right now, like it is it is the era of composability of Federation of whatever this is, judging by the past year or so. But what is Federation is the question, right?

Bryan Robinson 9:35
What is this kind of idea, and it’s this idea that in this new modern ecosystem, I like to talk about the jam stack, but it could be the mock architecture, it could just be modern web development, whatever we want to call it. We have broken things down into so many micro services and not just micro services, but micro services as a as a solution right? Micro software is service solutions. We look at that and we have all these different places that our data lives. Now it used to be we had a nice big monolith, we had our own database, the database had literally all of our data. And we could query from the database, no big deal. Turns out, that’s not a great thing, at least not in the modern sense of the word, it’s not a great thing. So we’ve broken it apart into these microservices use only what you need at any given time. And that’s amazing. But what it does is it gives you a glut of API’s, it gives you a whole bunch of API’s that aren’t consolidated, that you’re querying from your front end, from your, from your server level from your host, wherever it is, you’re having to make all these queries. They’re all in different shapes. They’re all in different URLs. And it’s a lot to manage introduces a lot of potential bugs and introduces a lot of extra mental overhead to our solutions.

Bryan Robinson 10:48
So what Federation as a whole is doing, and this is across multiple platforms, high graph included, because of all the different ways of doing Federation is it’s merging these API’s into a meaningful way that makes our developer experience and potentially our user experience at the end, much, much stronger, and much easier to visualize, think about and use on a regular basis. So let’s Federation, content Federation is a flavor of Federation. And I’m not going to come out and say that any of these are the absolute right path for any situation. That’s not what I do. However, they are great in their own kind of system. So if we’re talking about Federation, we could talk about it in a few different ways. First would be kind of the the more traditional way in what we’ve seen, at least when talking to like enterprise customers and the like, which is a lot of people have custom middlewares. So things on their servers, little services that they own, that had the sole purpose of combining these API’s together. And that works. And it seems pretty simple. When you’ve got a couple API’s, it’s no big deal to write a simple middleware, right. But when you start scaling the amount of API’s you have, and you start bringing them in in different ways and remodeling them and transforming them, it becomes a couple of full time jobs, even a smaller organization to manage that middleware. So that works is definitely a way of doing it, you can have a custom middleware sitting on like AWS, or something like that. But it’s not great. And like, that’s not what a lot of people want to be working on, they want to work on the next feature. So there’s also you know, ways to handle it at the database layer, you can have scripts that are running and that are combining all of your various API’s into one database, or into we call it when we do it in like a content management system.

Bryan Robinson 12:36
We call it Content Hub model. You bring all your data in, and then use it from that one single point of reference. The upside is like you have all of it available in your CMS or in your single single database, you have one API to query and that’s all great. The downside is freshness, you have to think about freshness and how to kind of always keep things in sync. When data changes in one layer, you’re having to manage the data changes into your hub into your content hub, your data hub there. So that’s kind of the the trade off there. You can handle it in your front end, you can handle it in scripts on the front end, and actually like from one database, grab the ID you need and then make another API call. I’d say I’m not going to argue for or against a lot of these, I’m gonna argue against that one a decent bit like that one’s not great user experience, because that’s a lot of API calls that you’re making. And then two others that I really like one is content Federation I’ll talk about in a second, but one is like the idea of handling this on the platform or the host. This is a big thing that we’re seeing coming up I believe Netlify just bought Gatsby right. They bought Gatsby late last year, specifically around Gatsby’s upcoming Valhalla release that is basically a a federation play.

Bryan Robinson 13:49
It is a combination of API’s and minify also had open graph. I think open graph was was a platform. I think one graph is open API is one thing. And then yeah, all the names. Yeah, they had one graph that’s being sunset now in favor of Valhalla, but like, that was that initial play there. So having it on your, on your platform or on your host is great. Like, it gives you that one API, it doesn’t have some of the drawbacks of doing the the like synchronization or anything like that, it doesn’t have the drawbacks of the front end, the drawback that’s there. And the reason that we had this idea of content Federation, is that it keeps all the superpowers for the developers, right. So everyone who’s touching the various API’s, they’re still having to go through those various API points. There’s no way for them to do mergers or remixes throughout. So really, it is a super powerful way of looking at doing developer experience and that’s great. And I really enjoyed the process of working with one graph back in the day and some of these other things kind of coming up or even like stuff like Apollo Federation, but one of the things that I’m really talking about Reese Really, and again, being in kind of the content management space for a while now is that developer experience is great. And it’s super important to move fast and to do a lot of amazing things. But editor experience is the other side of that. And if you’re not creating superpowers, for your editors, for the people who are managing the content on a regular basis, then either they’re gonna go around the cool stuff that we’re doing and work in their own ways, or they’re gonna be so frustrated that your content gets stale, or the various things you’re working on get stale. So if we can figure out ways to remix our content and our data from multiple sources, inside of our CMS, to then allow for developers and content editors to both get superpowers out of that, I think that we all win. And that’s that say that you can’t even like use something like content Federation, which is what that is, with some of these other patterns as well, you can kind of do both. However, I think that we shouldn’t leave content editors behind in these kinds of super powered conversations.

Sean C Davis 16:00
Okay, so I have, I have so many questions coming out. Perfect. I think let’s, let’s, let’s see where you ended on content editors. Because, one, I think that there’s you know, we’re still kind of learning what these terms mean, and where these different products fit in, and all of that. And one thing I’ve commonly seen with a lot of vendors in this space is that it’s a read only sort of thing. So they mesh everything together. And it’s very much geared towards the developers. But the content editors still need to know they have to go everywhere and need to know where everything is, and how it all fits together and all of that. And so you said something that really resonates with me, because it’s something we care very much about. It’s that bit, not leaving the editors behind. But here’s this thing that actually lifts both the experience for both developers and editors. So how is does that mean, that high graph is also giving you this place to write back to the source of the content?

Bryan Robinson 17:01
Unfortunately, not right now. It is it is fully on the roadmap for the product itself. Now the the idea of content Federation and the thing that we’re working towards, and the philosophy that we’re working with, absolutely mutations back into sources. 100% is where we want to go. Now, we’re still super early days on the actual product possession of the story. So right now we are in this kind of mesh situation. However it is, second or third priority in terms of the content Federation, features that we’re working towards. It is it is highly important, because that’s, that’s the superpower, right? Like it’s great to mesh all these things. And in fact, like part of the meshing of them, I think, is the idea of that kind of re mixing. Like if you’ve got product information in Shopify, or product information in big commerce, bring that in and allow for an editor to have a campaign page that showcases and pulls in multiple products, and then the developer can pull in the information on the product. But yeah, the idea that that one content platform could be the stop for every piece of data that kind of comes into into life is absolutely 100%. Where we’re going with this. Yeah. Great, great. Okay. Not yet. But yeah, it’s the plan.

Sean C Davis 18:23
Yeah. Okay. So there’s some overlap in the vision there. Yeah. That’s, that’s great. And I’d be interested to see what happens with some of the other products that don’t adopt that philosophy. And I’ll, I’ll come back to that in a little bit, though. The other thing that I wanted to address you said early on, which was, we’re not a CMS. And that’s another thing that has resonated with me, at sec, but you know, we’re trying to we’re like, we’re in this space, that nobody really understands. Because it’s kind of new. I mean, it’s not like, it’s, it’s not to say like, none of these patterns ever existed before. It’s taking things that have been around for a long time and adapting them to the modern way of building websites and just giving people the tools they they want to work with. But so high graph became high graph not that long ago, right. You were previously graph CMS. And so I’m guessing there’s some this is all kind of connected. We’re not a CMS. We’re a content Federation platform. So I was curious to get your take on you know, what is it means Yeah, maybe it’s like why the rebrand but also what’s the where are you seeing the confusion there? Because, yeah, yeah, I’ll leave it that.

Bryan Robinson 19:41
Yeah. So So first and foremost, with the rebrand. Take it with a grain of salt what I bring to the table on that it was before my time at high growth. It was early last year. I’ve been with high growth gameplay last year since October of last year. So great assault, but graph CMS was the first Graph QL and data CMS on the market. So leveraging a brand that was very strong into Graph QL and very strong into CMS was was a natural play their developers were very excited about Graph QL at the time. And like said, everyone needs a headless CMS. Right? That’s, that’s something that almost every business in the world at this point needs. So graph CMS, it’s a graph based GraphQL based CMS, it’s a great it’s a great brand for that. It is a niche brand at that point, Graph QL being part of it, and CMS being part of it. So high graph is definitely a play into going beyond that, going beyond that, both in terms of what a CMS is and should be, as well as not leaning as heavily on Graph QL as the key differentiator, because as we’ve seen over the past five years, most headless CMS is now have GraphQL as a way of querying, not all of them, but most of them do at the time, that was a relatively unique thing that they were the first GraphQL, like centered CMS. So kind of splitting off a little bit from both of those is probably a good long term idea. That being said, like when I talked about things, like the furthest I go from the term CMS is going to be content platform, however, call it what it is, like, I think that every CMS on the market is trying to say we are CMS plus whatever that plus is, whatever their key differentiator is, what they’re doing with their terminology is trying to say, trying to define what that plus is and not say the word CMS because I mean, let’s say, CMS isn’t cool. Although I, I love content management systems, like, I think they’re very cool. But like, the term is not innovative. You know, it’s not, it’s not something that you’re going to, you’re going to sell a CTO on, you’re not going to sell an investor on. So I think that that I would like to see a switch back in the industry, like, Hey, we’re all CMS is and that’s cool. And we all do something very specific and very different in terms of differentiation. So it’s a CMS plus, so let’s just call it that, like CMS plus composability. CMS plus Federation, CMS plus built like, a website builder. I don’t know, like, anything that you can kind of say around that, I think is a good thing.

Sean C Davis 22:25
That yeah, that okay, that makes it makes a lot of sense. I even noticed Contentful recently is there. They’re a composable content platform now. So it’s Yeah, every space is evolving. Okay, you mentioned Graph QL, as kind of, yeah, like a core feature originally or core tenant. And I was going to ask you about that, because it was really big for this period of time. And now that could be perception on what we’re talking about in the community is always following the next coolest thing. But in terms of the community, the content, you know, the chatter that was happening, it felt like it peaked, and it’s, it’s still there, it’s definitely still relevant and used a lot. But yeah, does that does it remain kind of a core tenant of high graph is, are you going to move away from it? Are you sticking with it? What’s the, you know, the

Bryan Robinson 23:21
the overarching, like philosophy of how Graph QL works, and how Graph QL runs, I think only gets more powerful as we talk about these additional features, these additional Federation things. So yeah, the high graph is still very much Graph QL based. And I mean, the funny thing to me is that, like I’ve, I’ve avoided Graph QL a lot in kind of my experience, because it was always, I was always doing smaller things, and working previously at companies that had their own query languages and stuff like that, however, like the ideas of Graph QL, and getting the right sized query and getting the right size data for what you need only become more and more important, the more data is flowing through us and singular API. So making sure that your requests are specific, making sure that the documentation is is well generated, and well known. All these things that Graph QL does, well only get more important as the surface area grows. And I look at it and if I’m looking at like the the custom middleware perspective of Federation, like, I can’t imagine being at a middle sized enterprise company, and being a new employee there and trying to figure out where everything bridges and how to form my queries without something like Graph QL. So if I were to do a custom middleware solution, which I wouldn’t, because that sounds awful to me, but if I were as a great middleware writer, which I am not, I would probably turn to something like a Graph QL to to do all that anyway. So I think that as we move forward into this bigger play around API’s and around Federation, Graph QL, I think I think become seems just as or more important than it was before, or in other platforms, some sort of query language around that, because you can do it in a, in a simple REST RESTful API, like you can set, you know, fields to include fields to exclude, or what have you. The syntax and the developer experience around that needs to be really, really good. And Graph QL has that kind of built into it.

Sean C Davis 25:26
That is, that concept of growing more powerful at scale is so interesting. And there’s this parallel to conversation I just had last week, that kind of opened my eyes of talking about React. And along the same sort of way, like we react was amazing, it was the coolest thing ever. And now everybody loves to hate on React, and we’re seeing all these emerging, all this emerging competition. And it remains really popular. But the thing that both of these tools have is they came from Facebook, and Facebook is solving some of the most complex challenges on the web. It’s yeah, it’s got to be one of the biggest web applications out there. And so I think that’s a really interesting point, just that, you know, it doesn’t, it’s powerful, even if it kind of falls out of favor of hobbyist developers doesn’t mean that it’s not a great tool. And so I guess that also means that you’re, you’re focused largely on solving problems at scale, is that fair to say, or

Bryan Robinson 26:31
overall, I mean, I’d also look at it in terms of their multiple types of scale to like, there’s their scale in terms of application scale, which is obviously like Graph QL, does very well at that. Graph QL, like allows for all these kinds of mutations. But there’s also a scale of, of, of mines and scale of employees. And as soon as you add more than a few employees onto a codebase, you have to scale in some way, whether that is in your documentation, in your training, in your in your codebase, whatever it is, you have to scale it in a in a meaningful way. So that any anybody coming onto that codebase can manage it. And again, there’s lots of ways to do that graph. QL is one of those ways of helping all of that along. But then there’s also the other scale benefits of like, you know, performance and queries and all that good stuff to make sure that we’re right sizing all of that.

Sean C Davis 27:23
Yeah, so speaking of performance, that was one thing I was wondering is that you’re and I’ve kind of two questions around this idea of being an extra. You’re performing a service, but also introducing an extra layer of abstraction. And so specifically with performance, you know, have what have you found there? I think like, if you look at it on the server, they just look at it on paper, it looks like, Hey, I’m I’m hitting a service that is then hitting all these other services that I could just hit directly, is it actually more performance or not?

Bryan Robinson 28:00
I mean, it’s gonna depend on how you’re using it. And it’s good, depending on how you would have written it yourself. But there is a strong caching layer in front of it. So it’s not, it’s not that you’re getting the freshest data, you’re getting the freshest data that you specify, right. So there is a TTL on it, there is you can set that to one and have not great performance, you can set it to you know, 9000 and have incredibly stale data. So there’s there’s give and take for that. But you can set that at kind of the the individual level. And that’s going to allow you to have some things allow for more staleness and faster performance. And some things that need to be up to date faster, to, to go read query more often. But you’re doing all of that behind the scenes, you’re doing all of that without having to kind of refresh the data yourself. So there’s a big win over the content hub model, the content hub model would bring all that data into the database, and then you never have to worry about the ruins. That’s just the one API that’s being queried. However, like, again, you’re dealing with the freshness you’re dealing with, with the staleness of your data. So in this case, it is granular to the level of the field and the data that you’re fetching. And then it’s a it’s a cache that kind of sits in front of it that we hit for the most part before fetching renewed data.

Sean C Davis 29:19
Okay, so yeah, like one of the biggest services you provide is basically that cache caching logic.

Bryan Robinson 29:25
Yep. Yeah, exactly. And as we like, as we scale this, and again, like this is this is still fairly early days at high graph, we’ve got the first major set of features released last year around it. It’s a big concern. It is it is the I mean, caching is what was one like the three hardest problems in engineering. But like, it is the big concern, right? Because these features we know provide good developer experience. These features we know provide good editor experience. We have to make sure that it also provides good user experience. We have to make sure that the performance doesn’t suffer because of them. So there’s there’s a lot to think about in that. And that’s why like, our first major set of features were last year and we currently like we’re still a month or two away from the next set of features around content Federation, we’re moving slow so that we can keep keep that top of mind. There’s a big Yeah, it’s a big concern, like, we want to make sure that that exact thing that you’re talking about is at the forefront.

Sean C Davis 30:23
Okay, okay. Okay, so the last last question in this segment that I have for you still around that layer of abstraction. And I feel like you’ve already kind of touched on points of this, but it’s a conversation that we have a bit at stack bit, which is I’ll tell you, what we talked about often is that we have this engine that handles reading and writing from the content source it is it is the Federation piece more or less. Yep. And then, but it’s, it’s particularly like it’s exclusively for the editing process. And so when folks are writing their front end code, generally, they’re just pulling from those individual sources. And now we’re still early days in this this new feature, this new mechanism. And I’ve got this theory of like, okay, well, we could use, we could take advantage of that mechanism already has all the content. And so we can pull from that, and use that to populate our site. And we have some, like existential arguments and passionate conversations around that internally about, you know, what does that mean for stack fit, etc. But the question I was going to ask you, you know, based on your customers, your users, the folks that you have talked about, is do developers? Are they really craving having this one API to hit or, you know, with most of the services that you’re pulling in, they have mature SDKs that are already developed that they might be used to working with? You know, is there is there a preference over going directly to high graph? Is it is that at scale issue as well? Yeah. What have you seen?

Bryan Robinson 32:22
So overall, I, I don’t think there’s like this big fervor for that I don’t, I don’t believe that, like, there’s this like, I desperately want to get away from all of the amazing dx and all these amazing services, right? Like, there’s there’s a lot of good on the market just in general. I just look at it as the more complexity that gets introduced, the bigger, the bigger the surface area, you have to worry about. And I think that the big thing for, for us going forward, especially like in talking with enterprise is reducing the surface area of of maintenance. And so whether that is the custom middlewares, or the, the large scale number of API’s, I think there’s a lot that goes into that. And like, it’s not, like the weird thing is, and some of the features we’re working on right now will actually make this really strong reality, I think is there are a lot of great content management systems on the market. You can pull that into Hi graph via, via content Federation. Like, I personally, like the UI for high graph, and I like the API from high grass, so I don’t have to worry about that. However, if my editors, for whatever reason prefer WordPress, I, there’s only so many of them out there, right. But like, there’s a Graph QL and a REST API for WordPress, I can federate that in now, right, right now, it’d be a little a little cumbersome to do that. Because it right now we don’t have what we call top level Federation. But that’s the that’s the current feature that’s being worked on right now. That’s the next big release will be around around top level Federation. So I can bring in all my Shopify products without having to think about it, I can bring in all my WordPress blog posts, I can bring in whatever the data I need. And then, again, the power of doing content Federation versus other Federation techniques is that that gets exposed not only to my API, but also to my content model also to my editors, and can become more powerful. The more sources I bring in and allow for remix ability in my content, and then that allows for remix ability on my front end as well.

Sean C Davis 34:29
Amazing. Okay. Okay. This is this has been great. I feel like these are the episodes where I’m like, we could we could go forever and ever. We could it could be sandwiches, it could be content management systems, but

Bryan Robinson 34:43
sandwich management, I don’t know, puts us as a bread and delicious.

Sean C Davis 34:49
Good point as long as it’s homemade bread, right? Good bread,

Bryan Robinson 34:52
homemade bread, important.

Sean C Davis 34:54
That’s right. That’s right. Okay, so with that, our last segment here I’m going to ask you a series of nine show and Answers. Pass if you need to pass. All right, here we go. Number one, tabs or spaces, spaces. Okay, how many

Bryan Robinson 35:15
have you put upon site? I prefer in most of my work for that being said, I understand the value and sometimes used to and in everything I do for high graphics to because that’s just our code standards. But I like for it gives me a good visual separation, I understand to gives me a more concise view and I can see more. So it’s it’s six, one half dozen, the other but two or four.

Sean C Davis 35:44
All right, you’re very accepting of all of the configurations. I do my best. Yeah. Okay, great. Great. All right, number two, where’s the most interesting place you’ve traveled?

Bryan Robinson 35:57
I’m not super well traveled. So I’m gonna say I really, it’s not super interesting. But I really enjoyed Florence and Italy. I went there just for my son was born. And I like we went multiple places in Italy. And Florence was amazing. Like, I just enjoyed the vibe of Florence. I enjoyed some of the museums there. The food was great. Yeah. Florence, cool.

Sean C Davis 36:22
Okay. Number three, what is your favorite open source product? could also just know like, what’s a tool you use a lot that you get a lot of value out of?

Bryan Robinson 36:34
Well, Sean, I’m glad you asked. As it turns out, not only am I the head of DevRel for Hygraph, I also have a book coming out. And that book releases in the first week of May, I think so like it’s, it’s coming on Eleventy. Eleventy is by far one of my favorite open source projects. I use it for as much as I can use it for. I’ve written multiple things. I love to create a lot of videos around it. Zack Leatherman, literally, it feels like he reached into my brain and created a static site generator specifically for me. But yeah, I absolutely adore and will always love you love Andy. And he loves me by example, coming to an Amazon near you soon.

Sean C Davis 37:20
That’s amazing. I set you up for that plug. You did? Yeah, yeah, it’s awful. I love Eleventy too, I have a couple projects built with it. And I like I think Zack coined this term, time to Hello World, which I love it. Because it’s it’s just such it’s probably the best example out there of It’s a framework. So it does some of the intricate tooling things that you’re going to need eventually, in a project, you know, beyond just writing a basic HTML page, but you can have like, one line of code and run Eleventy and you have a website. It’s coming.

Bryan Robinson 37:57
My absolute favorite thing was, at the time watching the first time Zack did learn with JSON, where he was kind of like showing it off really for like one of the bigger audiences for the first time and the way he did the Hello World. And it the way he walked Jason through it. And the way it was on the website for a long time. Was this weird? Like command line interface? Oh, yeah. Yeah, like printing the hello world into and I was like, no writing the HTML page and just initialize the Levante and you have any love any website. Like, that’s what I love about it. Because I’m all about HTML, I love HTML. And I could write an index html. And then in certain little teeny bits of template language and have a powerful website that I wrote the way I wanted to write it. So it was very odd to me that like, again, I felt exactly like pulled from my brain, like a system that I was going to love using yet. He used it in a completely different way for these like intro levels, and it just blew my mind when that when that was the case.

Sean C Davis 38:57
Totally, totally. Okay, number what do we got? Number four? What Oh, yeah. What has been the musical album or artists that it’s been on repeat recently for you?

Bryan Robinson 39:12
Interesting. See, I feel like I feel like she just sent me these ahead of time that we’ve been open good. No, I know. I know. I think I’ve been doing a decent bit of writing and cotton content work in the past couple of months. And my go to for what to play when that’s going on is the into the spider verse soundtrack. It’s an amazing soundtrack. It goes with like an amazing movie. But like something about that hits me into a flow state really, really well. And I enjoy like some things I don’t necessarily enjoy listening to but it helped me work. This I enjoy listening to and helps me work. It’s one of the few things I can listen to that I can understand the words and still work to and so I really enjoy that and a lot of ways

Sean C Davis 39:55
interesting interesting. Okay, yeah, cuz I’m, if I’m writing I can’t I can’t have the lyrics on it’s it’s too distracting for sure. For whatever

Bryan Robinson 40:03
reason on into the spider verse soundtrack? I absolutely can. It’s not always the case, I can’t always do that. But with that soundtrack again,

Sean C Davis 40:11
okay, I’m gonna try that one. Number five, what is the best or the most useful advice that you’ve received in your career?

Bryan Robinson 40:21
Okay, I’ve had a long and weird career. So I’m gonna generalize a few different pieces of advice into one thing. And this goes for general career, as well as if you want to be like a content creator, or a dev rel or that sort of thing. And that is in maybe I get sued by Nike, it’s just just do it right, like, so. I didn’t have I didn’t have a front end Meetup group or a design Meetup group in Memphis. And I wanted one and I talked to the PHP, like, user group leader, and he said, Just do it. And like I with it with another person in the community made a front end, one called methods, web workers. And that was my like, community started. That’s where I started building communities. And I wanted to start writing about technology. And just to get better at writing, what’s the like, number one piece of advice, just right, it’s gonna son the first little bit that you do, but you build your taste, and then you build your skill. And so I knew what was good content, and I wrote some bad content, and I got better and better. And same with YouTube videos. My first YouTube videos are absolutely garbage, they still get a lot of views, because they were a good topic, but like, now they’re okay. My taste level always exceeds my, my skill level. But like, it’s just you have to do it. So like writing you have to write to get better videos, you have to do video work you better if you want to be a great web developer, you have to that was the old shop talk show. motto, which is just build websites. Yeah, just build websites, if you wanna be a web developer, and the same for like, creating meetup groups, or being a software engineer, just just do it. You’ll be terrible to start with, or any any work, right? Like, you want the next promotion at your job. Start taking on the responsibilities of that next role slowly, because otherwise, you’ll put people off, but like, how else do you prove that you can do it? You just, you do it?

Sean C Davis 42:17
You got to do it. Yeah. Yeah. Was it? How I am? Malcolm Gladwell, who hadn’t said you need 10,000 hours to be good at something. It’s like, yeah, you just have you just have to do the thing. Yeah, just now

Bryan Robinson 42:30
that’s like, that’s like pseudoscience. Right? But like, you can’t argue with the fact that if you do something, it’s not just doing it for 10,000 hours, it is I can mindfully doing it. Or there’s some term around it, where you are focused on getting better through that 10,000 hours. But yeah, like it there’s, you can’t not improve, doing something for 10,000 hours, like you might not have mastery, or whatever Malcolm Gladwell was really talking about. But you can’t not get better if you do it that much. Just the fact that the way humans work.

Sean C Davis 43:01
It’s true. That would be hard to do. Yes. Okay, number six, what is the favorite part of your job today? Your What is your favorite part of your job today?

Bryan Robinson 43:13
I love experimenting with code, like, and that is one giant chunk of what got me into dev rel like, I love building toys. I’m not a great finisher of like, really highly polished software like I am, I have a degree in philosophy. I don’t have computer science. I am not formally trained. I am trained through multiple jobs working with multiple incredibly talented developers, that I learned something from along the way, every single developer I’ve worked with, has taught me something. But I enjoy making little things that work and that teach things. So nothing makes me happier than showcasing a small toy. And somebody saying, Oh, that’s cool. I’m gonna use it to do this and some like big impressive Polish thing that I would never ever be able to write. And they wrote it because of my stupid little toy over here. So that I adored that about dev rel. I like mentorship. And so like I’m, I’m, I’m building a DevRel team at high Graf, and I’m really looking forward to the mentorship level there, but I deverill I got into because I want to mentor as many people as possible. I want to be that person that can help and I get to do it. And that’s an amazing thing.

Sean C Davis 44:26
That’s great. It’s great. Love to hear that. Okay, number seven, what is your most enjoyable non tech activity

Bryan Robinson 44:38
so, I am a traditional and consummate geek. So I’ve recently been able to get back into board games and tabletop RPG is my wife basically said if you keep spending only time with me and your seven year old son, you’re doing something wrong. So she basically kicked me out the house on Wednesdays where There was a board game meetup that was happening in a local store. So I got back into that. And I love board games, board games are amazing, especially modern board games. I’ve also recently been able to pick DMing, backup jamming for tabletop role playing games. And so I’ve got a group meeting every other week where I get to lead them through TTRPG. And I just, I love doing that. Like, it’s an amazing thing. I mean, the right answer, right spending time with my family, and I love spending time with my family. But they literally had to kick me out because I was the only thing I was doing. So now I get to do these other things, too.

Sean C Davis 45:35
So what’s the what’s your favorite? Modern game.

Bryan Robinson 45:40
So there’s a few that I’ve picked up very recently that I hadn’t ever played in my answer used to, used to would have been used to would have been, my grammar is gone. I would have said, up until recently, either Settlers of Catan, or a game called King of Tokyo. And I still love those games. I think they’re amazing games. But there are two games that I’ve discovered recently. One is a game called photosynthesis, where you’re literally plant planting and competing for sunlight for a forest. And then you grow your trees. And eventually, when they’re at the biggest level, you can, you can score them and take them off the board. And it’s a real, it’s got a lot of really interesting mechanisms that I find very compelling. It’s amazing. My seven year old has beaten me at it. And yeah, I mean, but it’s, it’s simple enough that my seven year old can beat me at it, but it’s complex enough that I truly enjoy it. And then the other one that I just started playing over, like the winter holiday is, is wingspan, which is a game about cultivating three biomes worth of birds. And it sounds great. Yeah. But it’s a really like the mechanisms are really, really great. And they work together not with Audubon, but with another one the big, like, conservation and, and research areas in like, whatever, orphan ornithology and like, all the birds have cards, and the cards have bird facts, and they have to they’re in their right biomes. And they eat the right things. And they have powers that are meant to be like, it is incredibly well done. And incredibly fun. So like the aesthetics of the game are spot on and the mechanics of the game are spot on. And I really enjoy them both.

Sean C Davis 47:23
Okay, very cool. Very cool. All right. I was like, Yeah, another topic we can go into? No,

Bryan Robinson 47:30
I’m moving. Like you’re like, you’re like nine short questions. And like, I don’t give short answers. Shawn, it doesn’t exist. It’s really hard. Sorry.

Sean C Davis 47:39
I’m making you on anyways, it’s okay. Number eight. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career so far? Now, I’ll get I’ll preface this because sometimes I get that as a response. This is, some people go with the I took production down by doing this. And some people it’s a little more existential, like, Oh, I wish I would have done this thing more back then. So that’s there’s two examples to work from.

Bryan Robinson 48:06
It’s so hard to mess up so often. So I think that’s, that’s important, right? Like, it’s, it’s not a big deal, because you learn a lesson from everyone. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna give you a short overview of some really fun mess ups. So I’ll give you two, I took down prod type examples, and one mess up existentially that luckily, didn’t have long term ramifications. That also now helps me. So issue number one was I this was back in the FTP days. And we had we had a staging and production environment with FTP. But we didn’t have a strong local environment that we could work in. So I would test things on stage, and then copy and paste them up to prod. And I don’t know exactly how it happened. But I know I misclicked in the FTP client, and I know the entire CSS directory moved. And this was for 15 large scale newspapers across the West, because I controlled the core CSS for that for all of them. They all work from a common code base. There was no CSS for about 20 minutes on these 15 large scale newspapers because I misclicked I was very careful after that and embraced when we got the version control later on. Similarly, but not code related. I worked at newspaper a newspaper when the lower newspapers before that before I moved up to the corporate level, and I was in charge of email blasts. I will never send an email blasts now without checking 18 times because it was the University of Memphis back when John Calipari was the coach. They were a big, big time in the NCAA. And I sent out an email blast with a subject line, when a player had to be removed from the team of the wrong player, the email blasts itself had the right player because I didn’t write that I got it from the sports department, the subject line was wrong. And I clicked send, and I broke out in a cold sweat immediately. And I have never sent an email without like, at least quadruple checking things again, that’s that goes for my personal emails as well. And then existentially because again, no short answers here. At the newspapers, I was working at the time, granted, this is like a decade ago, like all these things, because I’m amazing and perfect now. But at the at the newspaper, I was working for us in the online department. And we had a fledgling video video crew, we had a former like photography chief, who was an online person, and he was spinning up the papers like video, stuff on the website. And I knew I wanted to be a videographer. And I knew I wanted to do all this for the newspaper. And I was going to like it was like a sure thing. And then there were layoff kind of things that were about to happen, but they’re mostly in sales. And the the main salesperson for the video like strategy was going to be laid off, but she was already doing a little bit of the videography as well. And so they saved her by bringing her in and having her do all the videography stuff, as well as from the sales stuff. And that meant that I couldn’t do it. And this was just as I was kind of getting my start in web development, I wouldn’t be here talking to you. If I had gotten that job, and chances are good, I would be worse off financially and probably from a satisfaction perspective, had I gotten that I still do videography. I mean, I create YouTube videos and stuff like that, and I still use it was like a seven year gap and all sudden, I was opening up Adobe Premiere again. I was like, I remember how to do that. And so I’ve gotten I got skills I continue to use, but it would have been completely different if I’d done that.

Sean C Davis 51:54
Amazing. Okay, okay, I love all those. All right, last one. Number nine. This is a hypothetical question. You can host a lunch with anyone alive or not one person who would it be? Oh, man

Bryan Robinson 52:21
I honestly have no clue. I’m drawing a blank on anyone I’ve ever admired. I admire no one apparently.

Bryan Robinson 52:31
I have no idea. Yeah. After think about that, like it’s It’s okay.

Sean C Davis 52:42
You that baby baby. You think about it. We’ll do another we’ll do another little teaser video. And we’ll share that out there. Yeah,

Bryan Robinson 52:48
totally. I probably only be one. If we do that. I won’t I won’t tease anybody.

Sean C Davis 52:55
You know, it’s funny cuz i i. I asked this in a show last year. And the guest threw it right back at me and said, Well, who would you who would you have lunch with? And I was like, I don’t know. I asked the questions. I’m not exactly.

Bryan Robinson 53:11
Oh, yeah, the jam stack. Like I used to ask like, what’s your what’s your musical jam? And and I had one person throw back at me. And I was like, completely unprepared. I like music? I don’t know.

Sean C Davis 53:24
I don’t? I don’t know. The questions aren’t for me. Yeah,

Bryan Robinson 53:27
yeah. I’m so glad that I had an answer to your music question this time? Because like, usually, I would draw a blank on that as well.

Sean C Davis 53:33
Hey, I’m impressed with anybody who can can show up and ask these questions. Because, yeah, like you said, didn’t share him aside from the sandwich one ahead of time. So yeah, anyways, appreciate it. Brian, this was this was a really fun show. I feel like we could go on and on. Now, we, we’ve talked a lot about high graph you. You were able to talk about your book for a minute. But if if you want to talk a little bit more about either of those or anything else that you want to plug, before we go take another minute.

Bryan Robinson 54:02
Yeah. So I would just say if you’re interested in the concept of of content Federation, or CMS net CMS is I would have slacked out. Hi I’m in that I managed the Slack community. So come to talk with me about it or talk with anybody in the community about it. It’s a small, relatively quiet community but can come by, say hi. And then yeah, if you if you’re interested in static first architectures and static site generators, you love me by example comes out early May in the pre order page is live.

Sean C Davis 54:35
All right. All right. Thank you so much. And thank you to everyone in the audience and those of you viewing later, the shows are recorded live on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 1pm. Eastern time in the US 5pm GMT and then later syndicated on YouTube. So from all of us at CFE dot Dev, thank you for joining us for this show. And we’ll see you next time.