Herding Code 225: Glitch with Jenn Schiffer and Daniel X Moore

Note: This was recorded several months ago. Our site was offline for a while, the dog ate our collective homework, etc. Sorry about that. The main thing that’s changed since we recorded was the addition of user profiles.

Download / Listen: Herding Code 225: Glitch with Jenn Schiffer and Daniel X Moore

Show Notes:

  • Hello. Who are you and what is Glitch?
    • (00:17) Kevin introduces the Daniel X Moore and Jenn Schiffer and asks what Glitch is. Daniel explains how Glitch is different: you can create or remix a web app instantly without needing to setup or configure anything.
    • (03:38) Jon likes the way that the getting started video references the whole view-source culture of the early web. Jenn talks about the value of removing the fear of breaking things when you’re getting started.
  • Why did you make Glitch, and why now?
    • (04:20) Kevin asks what led to the creation of Glitch. Daniel talks about how he’s been tinkering with pixel editors and online tools to make weird things for a long time, but finally the tools, browsers, and community have matured to a point where tools like Glitch are viable. Jenn points out that at least three members of the team that have made art editor apps and like to make weird stuff that you didn’t know you needed but you really do.
  • User experience overview of building a new Glitch app
    • (06:40) Jon asks about the experience of creating a Glitch app. Daniel talks us through as he creates a Slack bot app live while we listen in a few seconds. He points out that you start with some working code rather than having to build up from nothing.
  • GitHub integration
    • (09:10) Jenn says that there are apps like simple static site generators that are useful even if you don’t know anything about coding, don’t want to deal with deploying, etc.
    • (10:30) Daniel says you don’t need to set up an account and log in to get started. Jenn says that you can log in with GitHub or Facebook, and you can easily import from and export to GitHub so you’re not locked into anything. Daniel says anything that works well on Glitch should work on Heroku, AWS, etc.
    • (13:06) Kevin asks if the GitHub import is live, so changes to the repo will affect the live site.
    • (13:40) Kevin asks about the live update features. Daniel says that they’ve got things down to around 1 second latency to see your changes live, and how the development experience has changed as the latency improved.
  • Nerdy tech stuff about how they actually built it
    • (15:10) Jon asks for more info about how recent browser technology changes have made it possible to build Glitch.
    • (16:32) Jon asks about the backend. Daniel explains how things are wired up using Docker containers, web socket connections and magic.
    • (19:30) Jon asks about how things are sandboxed so one app doesn’t affect others users.
    • (20:55) Kevin and Jon ask for information about how many apps have been built, how many are actively used, etc. Daniel gives some high level info and talks about some popular apps like a Twitch proxy.
  • Glitch for teaching new users
    • (24:25) Jon asks if people use Glitch to teach coding at in-person classes. Jenn talks about some examples of courses, including online courses like A-Frame. Jenn says that she likes focusing on teaching one thing rather than complicating it with also teaching deployment. Daniel talks about the excitement of making a change, seeing the result, and having a positive feedback cycle quickly. Daniel and Jenn talk about how the simplicity of Glitch lets people build things that people would even build otherwise.
    • (29:22) Jon asks how Glitch fits in with tools like Codepen. Jenn talks about different ways people use Glitch for sketching and sharing app ideas.
  • Nerdy stuff like licenses, rollback, secret storage, embedding
    • (30:55) Jon asks if there’s a license for the code and how it works with remixing. Jenn says you can include a license file, but they don’t want to complicate people early on.
    • (33:25) Kevin asks if there’s support for rolling back in case you break a live app.
    • (35:30) Jon asks how things like API keys and passwords are handled so you’re not accidentally checking them in to GitHub. Jenn and Daniel talk about Glitch features to integrate with APIs and services.
    • (40:20) Jon asks if it’s possible to just iframe a Glitch app to build something like a Twitter app.
  • The Glitch logo is friendly and approachable. They’ve put a lot of thought into being friendly to new users.
    • (41:20) Jon asks for more detail about the Glitch fish logo. Jenn and Daniel talk about it, then go on to explain how they’ve designed the Glitch interface to make it friendly and approachable. There’s an interesting discussion of how that goes into tutorials, teaching. Daniel talks about how there’s so much stuff out there that no one is an expert, and Jenn talks about she thrives on being overwhelmed and loves to be able to sketch and prototype in Glitch to experiment with new things.
    • (51:35) Jon says he’d like to be able to click on users names to see their profile information. Daniel and Jenn talk about things they’re working on in that space. UPDATE: User profiles on Glitch have shipped since we talked.
    • (53:25) Jon says he really likes that their getting started tutorials have a lot of games, and he’s seen that kids really like to learn with games. Jenn says that kids are natural storytellers, and gravitate to games and art focused apps.
  • A JavaScript joke
    • (55:00) Jon asks if they have any JavaScript jokes.
  • What’s next and wrapup
    • (56:15) Jon asks what’s next. Jenn is heading out on the road to talk to people and thinking about community things like making it easy to ask for help. Daniel is working on new features like versioning, rollbacks, branching, etc.
    • (58:20) Jon asks if there’s something like Glitch Enterprise on the way that will result in features being turned off or something. Jenn references Anil’s post on How we won’t screw up Glitch. Daniel and Jenn talk about some potential additional features that people might want to pay a reasonable amount for, in the “pennies a month” range.
    • FIN