Is Our Business Model A Hedge On The Internet?

This week The Founders talk GameStop stock, Elasticsearch clusters, Honeybadger's hedge position on the internet, and creating their own contractor pool to outsource small projects. Can you handle it? Listen and find out!

Show Notes:
Links:

Amy Hoy - Wall Street Bets
Bloomberg - How Will the GameStop Game Stop
Clayton Christensen - Theory of Disruptive Innovation
Art of The Product Podcast - Does Tuple Ever Crash?
Jobs@honeybadger.io
Write for Honeybadger

Full Transcript:
Ben:
Did y'all buy any GameStop this week?

Josh:
I thought about it yesterday while Robinhood was not allowing buy orders or whatever, because my brokerage, I mean, doesn't shut you out. And I mean, it probably would have been a pretty safe bet given the stock today. But I don't do that kind of shit.

Ben:
Yeah, yeah. I'm in the same boat. I want to, just for funsies, but at the same time, it's like, "Ah, that's really not a productive use of my time or money."

Josh:
Yeah. I deleted the Robinhood app after. Because I tried it out just because you got to see what the kids are up to these days. And the last straw with it was when they added this crypto trading interface that looked like a Tron ... Like some kind of arcade game. I was just like, "This is ... Yeah, I don't need a light cycle to buy cryptocurrency."

Starr:
Yeah, it's a little bit weird. My brother was like, "Hey, do you do stocks or crypto?" And I'm like, "Well, I've got mutual funds. But also, you don't have any money."

Josh:
This is how you know that the markets about to just evaporate, when your brother asks you if you trade stocks of crypto.

Starr:
For the past decade, I've just been like ... This is the last straw, global pandemic, 30% unemployment, last straw, market is going to tank. But I guess not.

Josh:
Yeah, this is new. Yeah, people won't let it fail, so let's just hold it or whatever the meme is. It's the new just thing to live by in general I think. Just hold, always just hold. Just never let go, never let go. Whatever it is, never let go.

Ben:
Diamond hands.

Josh:
Yeah.

Starr:
Explain the diamond hands thing to me, I don't understand that. I saw it, but ...

Ben:
You have to check out Amy Hoy's thread, Twitter thread, where she went and did a sale safari on Wall Street Bets. So sale safari is her and Alex Hillman's process where you go and discover ... You basically research a community, and you find out what the needs are, right. And so you can use that to help formulate some ideas for businesses or products that you might want to create. Instead of coming up with an idea and saying, "Hey, I wonder if someone will buy this?" You actually go and look for people who are looking for things, and you're like, "Oh, yeah, I could satisfy that need, okay."

Starr:
That doesn't make any sense.

Ben:
So that's sale safari. And so she does this just for funsies, right. So she went on Wall Street Bets, and like, "I'm going to do a sale safari and find out what's this community all about." And so she just has this analysis on Twitter. It's a great thread, we'll put it in the show notes. But basically, she went and analyzed what their catchphrases are, and what they're doing in there basically. And diamond hands and paper hands are two of the phrases that show up in there repeatedly. And so if you're not familiar with the whole Reddit thing, which I mean, you must be by now if you're on the internet. But it's all about buying GameStop stock, and watching it go up, and up, and up, and putting the squeeze on short sellers who are just panicking because everyone is just buying this stock and making it go up, right.

Josh:
Which is hilarious.

Ben:
So they're all encouraging each other inside of Wall Street Bets, they're all like, "Hey, you got to hold on, you got to buy and hold, you can't sell." So diamond hands is someone who's holding on strong. And paper hands is someone who's chickening out and they're going to sell.

Starr:
Oh, okay, yeah.

Josh:
So I'm a paper hands?

Starr:
You know what this really resembles to me? It kind of resembles a Ponzi scheme in that-

Josh:
Well that's it, that's the thing, it just resembles a Ponzi scheme.

Starr:
For the stock price to keep going up more, more people have to keep coming in and buying at the higher price. And then eventually, there's not going to be anymore people, and then the price is going to collapse, and whoever came in last is going to be left holding a bunch of worthless stock.

Ben:
So Matt Levine had a great article this week. Actually, he's done multiple on this whole thing. Again, put in the show notes. So Matt Levine writes an economics column. But so he talked about the Wall Street Bets. And he was addressing your point exactly about, why would you buy now? Because you're just basically counting on someone who is dumb to come in and buy at some point later, right. Total Ponzi scheme.

Ben:
But he also provides some alternative exit strategies, as opposed to just depending on someone coming in whose dumber, buying the thing. So we'll post it. But it's a good read. I can't do it justice just to paraphrase it. So I'll link it, and you can read it.

Starr:
Yeah, I'll check that out. We'll put it in the show notes.

Ben:
That said, I wouldn't recommend actually buying GameStop right now.

Starr:
Oh, no, no, no, no.

Josh:
It does seem, just in general, that the world ... Society is rewarding true believers of all kinds right now. So it just seems to be a thing.

Starr:
Yeah, I don't know.

Ben:
It does feel eerily similar to conspiracy theorists and-

Josh:
Conspiracy theorists, populous politics, and just hold on no matter what. Doesn't matter what reality is, just hold on and we will win.

Ben:
Yeah, yeah.

Starr:
One thing that I do enjoy about this is that I've seen a number of people in my Twitter feed that are essentially like ... They're like, "I bought GameStop stock. I'm holding it. I know I'm going to lose this money. I'm doing it specifically to hurt rich people. I just really want to stick it to the hedge funds, so I'm going to put $1,000 into GameStop stock and just sit with it."

Josh:
Yeah, it seems to me like just another populous revolt.

Starr:
Yeah, it's like a Boston Tea Party type situation I think.

Josh:
Yeah.

Starr:
Only its weird, because it involves people staking their money. It's this really weird, abstract ... It's super cyberpunky. I could totally see all this happening in a William Gibson novel.

Ben:
Totally.

Josh:
Yeah. No, it strikes you as a Boston Tea Party, but a real one instead of the ones that people act out on the steps of capitals around the country.

Starr:
Oh, yeah, the Tea Party has connotations now, doesn't it?

Josh:
Yeah.

Ben:
Instead of a LARP, it's IRL.

Josh:
Yeah, it's IRL. The IRL Tea Party in the 21st century would happen on the internet I the world of finance.

Starr:
Oh, totally, yeah.

Ben:
Yeah, my only concern is ... I get the whole ethos of, "Yeah, let's stick it to the man." And, "Those evil capitalists and hedge fund managers." Well, the problem is pensions, and retirement funds, and those kinds of things invest in those hedge funds.

Starr:
Hush now, don't think about that. We don't think about that, Ben.

Ben:
If you destroy them, that could affect me.

Starr:
Yeah, that's true. That's true.

Josh:
No, anarchy works 100% of the time.

Starr:
That's why part of me loves to see the chaos unfold, but just at a small scale. Not at a large enough scale where it just jeopardizes my holdings, my Vanguard Total Index Fund holdings.

Josh:
Exactly.

Ben:
Yeah, Matt's article, he talked about the potential for GameStop to actually enter the SMP500 because it's market cap is now so large.

Starr:
That's amazing.

Ben:
And he's like, "Not really, because there's other things not just market cap." But it's funny to think, can you imagine index funds having to buy GameStop because it got put into the SMP, and they cover the SMP.

Josh:
Yeah. Well, this seems like the kind of thing that they've been doing with ... That crypto traders have been doing for a while now on telegram channels and stuff where they get a bunch of ... I forget, what do they call that? The operations that they run to the pump and and dump schemes. But yeah, it seems like that on a mass scale. And it's broken through into reality now, and I could see it continuing in the future, unless it's ... I guess that's why they're talking about regulation.

Ben:
I blame the pandemic, because people just got used to going to the store and buying out all the toilet paper to like, "Hey, let's just go buy all of GameStop."

Starr:
Yes. So a couple of things. First of all, yes, I think that we've seen a lot of things emerge that are just a result of people just being stuck at home with nothing to do. So this, you've got all the conspiracy theory stuff happening. And then the other thing I just wanted to say is just, I really hope that there are some people who really just work at GameStop, they love GameStop, so they've been like, "I'm just going to invest my meager savings into some GameStop stock, because I really believe in the mission of this company, and then just suddenly they're rich. I really hope that has happened to at least one person.

Ben:
Yeah, totally. Totally. Yeah, many years ago, my wife worked for a company where they granted stock as part of their compensation. To every employee like, "Here's a little bit of stock, because yay, we're awesome." Right. And we sold that many, many, many years ago. But yeah, that could totally happen where you're that GameStop employee who just happened to get some stock because the company is generous like that, and now you're sitting on a ton of cash. I'd be like, "Sell, sell, sell."

Starr:
Yeah, exactly. I mean, if I'm being honest, I would definitely want to have a little brokerage account just so I can ... I mean, I know this is just completely irrational, this is totally a lottery thing. It's like when I heard of the Mega Millions was up to a billion dollars, I was like, "I should go buy a lottery ticket." Even though I've never in my life bought a lottery ticket. Yeah, it's that strange irrational thing. But I don't know.

Ben:
Yeah, I just want to participate in the zeitgeist.

Starr:
Yeah, there we go.

Ben:
Be part of the thing, right. I was there, I bought GameStop.

Josh:
You experience. Yeah.

Starr:
Yeah.

Ben:
Yeah. Well, I did not pull the trigger. I don't think I will pull the trigger. I think I'm just going to sit back and watch from the comfort of my couch, and ...

Josh:
Yeah, I mean it just ... I don't know why you would at this point. It seems like it's at the point where all the suckers pull the trigger. But who knows? I mean-

Ben:
Who knows?

Josh:
Reality has been defied week after week for the last how many weeks?

Ben:
When we record next week, we might be kicking ourselves for not having bought GameStop at $300, right. Be like, "Oh, man, if we only knew."

Josh:
Yeah.

Starr:
The thing that, I don't know, one last thing that interested me about this is just, I didn't even realize this until a couple days into this whole saga, but these people ... This isn't an accident. These people basically, the Redditors and everything, they have developed a process now for going in and really messing with hedge funds who have big short positions in companies.

Starr:
So as far as I know, unless something changes about the environment, there's nothing to stop this from happening from other huge short positions, which seems like a pretty big oversight on the part of hedge funds, for one thing. It seems like you would be like ... I don't know, it seems like something that they should have thought of. People could literally just buy a bunch of stock and put us out of business just because they wanted to. Anyway, I don't know, it's weird. It's got a very ... The barbarians from England going in and taking Rome feel.

Josh:
Yeah, it seems like that's a common thing that the ruling class overlooks, is the people. The people rising up to overthrow them.

Ben:
And in a business perspective, Clayton Christianson's theory of disruption, right. Incumbents will be disrupted, and there's not anything they can do about it. Even if they can think, "Oh, yeah, we could be disrupted." But their business depends on what they're doing now. And if they were to really try to avoid being disrupted by disrupting themselves, then they would destroy their own business, right. And they can't win on that. And so I think that's what the hedge funds are like. They're pretty locked into their mode of business. And they just had the blinders on and like, "Oh, I don't know. I don't know what's going on with all these people out there who are actually buying stock but now they're getting disrupted."

Starr:
I just had a really scary idea. So our business, Honeybadger, is like a hedge fund in the tech industry, right. Most tech companies lose money when their error rates go up. But we make money when their error rates go up. So I just really hope they don't come after us.

Ben:
So we're actually a hedge then on the internet, right?

Starr:
Yeah.

Ben:
If you want to invest in the downside internet, you should buy Honeybadger.

Starr:
There you go.

Ben:
Yeah, that is if we had-

Josh:
Can that be our new tagline?

Ben:
We're the CDOs of web developers.

Starr:
Oh my gosh.

Ben:
Come and get your credit swaps right over here. Oh, yeah, it'll be a fun book anyway, it'll be a fun book next year or whatever when somebody writes the story of Wall Street Bets.

Josh:
Right, yeah, I'll read the book instead of all the blog posts probably.

Ben:
Well, we've been having our conclave this week, and it's been fantastic. And one of the things that we talked about is hiring. Well, I was listening to the Art of Product podcast yesterday, the episode that dropped yesterday. And Ben was on the ... Was on Adam Wethen's podcasts, which I can't remember the name of right now. Oh, I'm terrible. Anyway, they had a particular episode where the two of them recorded, about tips for people who are looking to get hired. And they recommended, Ben mentioned in the Art of Product podcast that one of the things they talked about was, you should reach out to owners of small businesses, and say, "Hey, this is what I can do for you, right." Instead of just like, "Hey, I want a job." Like, "Hey, here's a pitch, here's a proposal, here's ..."

Josh:
I like it when people do that.

Ben:
Yeah. Totally. So when I heard that yesterday, I thought, "I got to talk about that today?" Because I just wanted to echo that and boost that message, because when we've had people do that, that's been awesome. But when you just like, "Oh, give me something." It's like, "Well, no."

Starr:
Yeah, it's a little strange. And I would expand on that to say that even if you're applying for a position, tell the people who are hiring you what you're going to do for them, even if it's just repeating back what they told you in the job description. In all the candidates that we interviewed, there was really a big difference between the people who were just like, "Yeah, I am a technical expert. I have all these technical credentials, I know all this technical stuff."

Starr:
It's like, "Okay, that's great. You obviously know this." Versus the people who were like, "Okay, I understand the situation you're in, and the sort of things you need. And I've done that before. And here's how I can do it for you in the future." That's a very ... It's just much more appealing. Because otherwise, we have to do that work, and we have to be like, "Okay, well, this guy has some technical credentials, but how could that fit into what we're doing?" And stuff. Versus, "Ooh, somebody gift wrapped this nice little package. And look, there's a little thing of bon-bons attached to it." It's a complete different experience from this side of the table.

Ben:
For sure. Yeah, you don't want to make the hiring person do work, right. You want to do all the work for them.

Starr:
Yeah. I would go so far to say as, in any writing endeavor ... Because until you get to the interviews, hiring is a writing process. It's a communication via writing, and resumes, and cover letters. And any writing process, you don't want to have people do work, which is literally about ... A lot of my job editing the blog, what I end up doing is making the authors fill in the missing steps so that people don't have to come up with the links themselves in their own minds.

Ben:
Yeah, connecting the dots is useful. Whether you're writing or pitching something, yeah.

Starr:
So are we going to ... How many people are we going to hire? 10, 20?

Ben:
At least.

Ben:
Yeah. No, we do want to hire someone. And I think that someone is going to be a contractor that knows PHP. I think that's the next hire we want to do, because we need some help there. We've hit a couple of sharp corners when it comes to our PHP support, and it would just be nice to get them resolved. I think we could probably throw a pretty good sized project at someone who knows PHP well. So if you're listening right now, and you want to do some PHP work for Honeybadger, you're welcome to reach out to us and tell us just how awesome you are, and what you're going to do for us to make our PHP support better.

Starr:
There you go.

Josh:
Just PHP in general? Or PHP Laravel?

Ben:
Laravel in particular, yeah. But PHP in general. Yeah.

Starr:
So yeah, that was one thing we talked about. We also talked about trying out a little bit of a different approach where we throw more small jobs to freelancers and contractors. And essentially have a pool of people. And it was interesting, because this idea came up on its own. And then we were like, "Wait a second, we're already doing that with the blog. We've already got this ... We got a pool of authors who just go in and do these little self contained jobs for us." And I mean, those authors are probably not going to be doing the code for us. But it's interesting to see how the processes for managing those contractors might apply to managing contractors who are doing little, small, self contained projects for us.

Ben:
Yeah, it'd be interesting to see if we can make that work out. I think one of the concerns is just the overhead of dealing with assigning work out to various people, and making sure that someone is available, and things like that. So I'm sure it's not going to be a cake walk, but it'll be interesting to see if we can make that work out.

Starr:
Yeah, it'll be interesting. It think there's going to be ... You have this maybe a little bit of a different approach with it, because it's more of a ... Yeah, it's almost like you're doing less vetting for individual contractors, because you can't do a huge interview process for somebody who's going to do a one day project for you, it just doesn't make sense.

Josh:
It's more like open source.

Starr:
Yeah. So I don't know. You almost have to be willing to assign the same things to multiple people, or maybe just maybe expect to assign it to two or three people before you finally get one that is decent. And then of course, you hone in on the people who are good. But I don't know, it's a different approach to putting work out to contractors. I think it might be interesting. I don't know.

Ben:
We could do something really crazy, and we could just shotgun it, right. We can be like, okay, we get five developers to come and do the same task for us, we pay each of them of course. And then we pick whichever solution we like the best, right.

Starr:
Yeah, I mean, that's crossed my mind to be honest. Yeah, I guess it just depends on how much money we have. And then the other thing we talked about is that there's actually ... We could actually be getting a little bit of extra value out of our blog authors, because what is a blog post, except for its information that somebody has researched, and is providing to readers on a silver platter. And it occurred to us that, well, we've got this system for creating that. Well, what if we just need to know something for our own business purposes, about certain technologies?

Josh:
Yeah.

Starr:
Well, you could send that out to an author, and have them write it, do your research for you so then you don't have to do that leg work yourself. There's all sorts of interesting things that I hadn't even considered of when ... I hadn't even considered when I was building this, but it might ... I don't know, it might just be really useful. It'd be interesting to see what happens at least.

Ben:
Definitely.

Ben:
Yeah, I don't really want to get in the business of being an agency, and managing a bunch of contractors, and for clients. But I think it's really interesting, the idea of having a bunch of contractors that we have an ongoing relationship with that we can send work to, just for us. So we're the only client, so we don't have to worry about someone being on the bench, because that's not really costing us something, because they're contractors. But I just like the idea of having some more flexibility.

Ben:
Because we depend a lot on contractors so far to do our libraries in particular, areas that we are weak. And they've been great. And we love working with them. But sometimes, they're just not available, right. They have jobs, or they go on vacation for six months, or whatever. And so I think just increasing the number of people that we have relationships with, like we've done with the authors, I think will help us.

Josh:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So what are we looking for in addition to PHP? PHP isn't all we do. I need JavaScript people. That's my biggest need right now to be honest.

Starr:
Front end or back end?

Josh:
Both. We've got our universal JavaScript client package now that supports both simultaneously.

Starr:
Yeah.

Josh:
So all of this work we're talking about is basically open source, working on open source packages, like most of the repos are public for the most part. So it's essentially getting paid to do open source ... Working on open source projects. Most of the code is MIT license even. And so it's just we really want the work done. So we're going to pay people rather than wait for someone to show up and just do it. So yeah, we've got, yeah, PHP, JavaScript, Python is another one that comes up fairly frequently. And yeah, Java not so much. But whenever it does come up, it costs us the most.

Ben:
Yeah, so I guess, where should people send their info if they want to get in touch about working for us? Maybe it should be jobs@honeybadger.io. We'll set that up.

Starr:
That's a good idea.

Josh:
Sure. Jobs@honeybadger.io.

Ben:
Okay. We'll put it in the show notes. Well, other than thinking about all that conclave stuff this week, which has been fun, I've had a throwback week, because launching our new Elasticsearch cluster has been working out really well. But I decided that I wanted to change the layout of the nodes. I just went a different way than I originally had. And so I had to blow away all the data. And so that means back filling.

Ben:
And I was at first hesitant. I was like, "Oh, let me just leave it. So what if it's another month of two where we have to wait to cut over?" And then I was like, "No." But really, I really want a really good back fill script anyway, because sometimes we have to do back fills, just as part of our normal operations. The cluster just decides to go away for a little while, and we have to fill in some data that we missed.

Ben:
So I was like, "No, I should really just make this a function for me to really come up with a good back fill script that I like." And so I worked on that this week. And came up with a really fun, to me, a fun solution where basically we have all these documents that we need to index in our cluster. And we put them on S3 as a batch. So we maybe have a batch of 100, or 200, whatever, documents that need to be indexed.

Ben:
And we put them into Elasticsearch, via the bulk indexing API. And so we have, going back for months, we have many, many, many S3 payloads that each contain a couple hundred documents to be indexed. So for a back fill, all we got to do is iterate over all the objects in the bucket, and then push them into Elasticsearch. But of course, you don't want to just do that onesie twosie, right, you want to actually have some parallelism involved.

Ben:
And so I basically wrote some code that just iterates over all the keys, dumps all the key names into SQS, and then we have a lambda function that then works that SQSQ. So I mean, it's straightforward. It's not rocket science or anything. But it's the first time that I've done something where I'm throwing in a million SQS jobs all at once, right.

Ben:
And so it's been fun just to ... We use Redis we use Sidekiq as our normal batch. And so you have to worry about, "Well, does have enough RAM? And do we have a backlog that's too big?" And SQS, it's like, "Oh, who cares? Just throw it in there, it'll get done eventually."

Josh:
That's cool.

Ben:
So we now have a nice back fill script for doing our Elasticsearch cluster. And I've back filled all the data for several weeks back now, so it's been fun.

Starr:
That's really fun.

Josh:
So it really is infinite?

Ben:
As far as I could tell.

Starr:
It's just raw power at your fingertips.

Josh:
Okay. Because I think we're going to put Dynamo to the test next week.

Ben:
Well, yes. That's actually what I started working on this morning, was back fill script for Dynamo, yeah. Yeah, the main holdup there, aside from money that you have to pay for how may writes you want to do all at once, is getting millions, and millions, and millions of notices out of our Postgres cluster in a way that won't kill us.

Starr:
So this is a long term project of ours, to move some of the error data from Postgres into Dynamo DB.

Ben:
Right, right. Yeah, not that we don't love Postgres because we do love Postgres. But we took a look, and 75% of our Postgres data is just error occurrences. And it's like, "Well, maybe we could put that someplace else, and be a little kinder to our Postgres instance." So that's the motivation.

Josh:
It's basically just a list too. Because the actual data is not there, it's just-

Ben:
Right. Yeah, it's just pointers. So it's very simple. And it's a great use case for Dynamo, which is again, apparently infinitely scalable. And yeah, I think that'll help us avoid some of those backlogs where we're worried about how much RAM we have in our Redis instance.

Starr:
Yeah, once you do that, then the Postgres is just ... We've already got a Postgres that can handle ... I guess you'll be running 25% of the data that we used to have. So you could scale that up by four times, and you know that that would work, right.

Ben:
Exactly, yeah.

Starr:
Basically you've solved Postgres scaling for the foreseeable future.

Ben:
Right, right. So yeah, it's felt like old times, like the early years of Honeybadger, when I was having to back fill stuff on a regular basis, because of changing data stores, or whatever. So it's been kind of fun.

All right, you have been listening to Founder Quest. Go give us a review at Apple podcasts, or wherever. And if you want to write for us, go to honeybadger.io/blog, and there's a write for us link. If you would like to work on our open source projects for cold hard cash in your hands, just send an email to jobs@honeybadger.io, and let us know what's what. And until then, we will see you next week.
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