Interview with Ido Shamun
CTO, Daily.dev - Feed for developer news.
What is daily.dev? Why did you build it?
daily.dev is a news aggregator for developer content. We aggregate hundreds of sources every few minutes and we create a personal feed for you according to your interests, whether it’s web dev, data science, or Elixir. Anything you might be interested in, we have the content for you.
We have a community of over 100,000 developers that visit us weekly. We built daily.dev because it’s hard to stay up-to-date in the tech industry. As an engineer, every day, you have new content, a new library, a new framework. Today it’s React, tomorrow it’s Svelte, in three days it’s something else. The industry keeps changing. As an engineer, we have to keep track, but it can be very hard to get the relevant content. We built a centralized place that removes the hassle. You don’t have to do anything besides telling us what you want, what you want to learn, and we will give it to you on a daily basis.
We deliver the content via a browser extension, web app and a mobile app. Our main product is the browser extension. Every time you open a new tab, you get a feed of articles. We decided to start with the new tab browser extension, because we thought that consuming articles in a passive way is better - you don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to say, “Oh, I want to get updated.” Many people don’t think about it, and don’t manage to read the news they want. We understand that this is a very opinionated approach, which is why we also offer the web application and mobile application.
What does a “day in the life” look like for you?
I usually start my day with daily.dev reading the news, then I’ll do some kind of exercise. It can be a workout, running, and perhaps stretching out a little. This tends to be followed with checking analytics, my inbox, messages, pending PRs. I try to start out my morning by removing all the blockers for the team so they can do whatever they do best without me blocking them. This then gives me space to work on my own tasks involving a lot of backend work, improving the feed algorithm, our infrastructure, hiring people and product stuff which fills my remaining time.
What is the team structure?
We are a fully remote team of seven people running from five different countries. Our team consists of Nimrod, our CEO, Francesco, our dev advocate, Tsahi, our designer, four engineers including myself.
We are also building out a backend team that will consist of two or three engineers. We plan to double in size this year.
How did you first get into software development?
When I was 14 years old at middle school, we started learning C. This was my first experience with software development and I loved it. At first, it was a kind of dummy CLI, but slowly, I got into game development with 3D using OpenGL and DirectX. I even managed to get paid a few bucks for a project I did. Slowly I fell in love with this area and have been coding ever since.
What is the most interesting development challenge you’ve faced working on daily.dev?
The biggest challenge is deciding what content to serve you so you will be happy, you will get what you need, and what you want to learn.
Until not so long ago, we were in this perspective where most of our users have the same persona of someone working in webdev. Now we understand that we have many users that are no longer part of this persona and we have to adapt the product. We have to bring more devops, data science and tech news. We have to do it in a way that will be relevant to you. Our focus as a team is how to understand what you need and want, and deliver it to you in an efficient manner.
What are some of the things that the algorithm considers?
There are the obvious things like publication time and clicks, compared to how many impressions it got, the topics that the article focuses on, the source that it comes from, how many up-votes and comments it has. All this stuff goes into the algorithm and then it decides how to rank.
One of the interesting steps that are coming very soon is that we shift from a global rank for everyone to a personal rank that we calculate on the fly for every person. This comes with a massive technical challenge to do it all in real time efficiently. We believe that this is the key, for better personalization and making the community more inclusive in a way that we welcome everyone, not just a specific persona.
What is the most interesting tool that are you playing around with at the moment?
Elixir is very interesting. I really want to dive deep into it more, especially to all this HTML over the wire of stuff that’s going on. It seems like this is all the rage currently on web dev.
In terms of daily.dev, I recently got to know a service called TinyBird that encapsulates ClickHouse, which is a database for big data. The feed runs on TinyBird and so now I’m checking how we can do this shift to personal ranking with it. One of the things that I like is that there is a good developer experience. It’s very easy to try out new stuff, and being a single engineer that focuses right now on this part, it’s very important to be able to iterate fast.
Describe your computer hardware setup
I recently got the latest Apple M1 Macbook Pro. I have two monitors, 24-inch, a mechanical Das keyboard and a Logitech MX 3. I’m trying to keep my desktop clean and without anything besides my notebook, and a whiteboard in the room. I work from a standing desk.
Describe your computer software setup
Source control: GitHub.
What’s the tech stack for daily.dev?
The front end is Preact, which is a compatible version of React, just smaller. We use Tailwind on the front end as well. We run it as a monorepo to handle the extension, web app, and everything. On the back end side, we have Node.js for APIs with PostgreSQL mainly.
We use Python for scraping content, and Golang for very specific ETLs, like high-performance analytics systems and processing. We also use ClickHouse, BigQuery, Google Cloud, CircleCI for CI/CD and Pulumi.
Daytime or nighttime? Daytime.
Tea or coffee? Water.
Silence or music? Music.
What non-tech activities do you like to do?
I enjoy doing sports, and try to do different things like street workout, running and bouldering. I used to do scuba diving before the pandemic, but with covid-19, and renting out equipment you put into your mouth, it didn’t feel like the right thing to do! I also play the guitar, and have weekly lessons with my teacher. When I have time I’ll also play games with friends.
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