Provide more value: Raygun and the Developer On Fire podcast

| 38 min. (7960 words)

CEO and co-founder of Raygun John-Daniel Trask and host of Developer On Fire David Rael have an epic conversation discussing everything from mindset to what it takes to launch a successful software company. If you’ve ever been curious about how Raygun got it’s name – this podcast is for you!

David Rael hosts Developer On Fire, a podcast that aims to share the humanity of developers and tells stories of some of the amazing people in software.

Raygun’s CEO and co-founder John-Daniel Trask (JD) speaks to David about how Raygun came to be, the ins and outs of the software industry and offers advice on how up and coming developers can get ahead.

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Read the full transcription:

Developer On Fire

David: What’s happening geeks? Developer On Fire – firing up geeks everywhere. Today I’m stoked to present today’s special guest John-Daniel Trask. It’s a pleasure to have you here JD. Let’s light this thing up! Does that work for you?

JD: Yes that works for me, thanks David!

David: Right on. John-Daniel Trask is the CEO and co-founder of, a software intelligence platform that monitors how your applications are really performing for users. Prior to Raygun, JD’s entrepreneurial spirit was stoked by running a PC repair business while studying a bachelor of Information Science which then lead to working as a software developer at an IT services company. Driven by an frustration around poor software tooling, JD co-founded a company called Mindscape with Jeremy Boyd before focusing on the Raygun product which gradually grew more attention. This varied background has given JD a varied background on understanding how to build healthy software. He has also been known to enjoy a well aged whiskey!

So JD that tells us a little about your history – some of your professional and personal life. With the building of businesses being at the front and centre of your efforts around software.

Before we get into your story specifically, I want to find a little more about who you are personally. And what makes you tick.

JD: Thanks David!

Okay so I’ve always been a tinkerer of technology. I disassembled remote control cars when I was four years old and re-assembled them much to the dismay (of my family) having just received it as a gift. I see myself as living on the intersection of business and technology so even though I went to university and did my bachelor in Information Science, I picked that area of study because it had the least amount of electives in it. I didn’t want to be at university long. It meant it was a three year degree that had the most electives that I could manage and do business papers alongside the tech papers.

David: Okay.

JD: So I see both areas as providing the ability to amplify human ability. So technology allows you to do more than you can do by yourself, business is the collection of people all striving toward a similar goal, all helping to achieve more than you can achieve yourself.

So I’m all about amplifying output.

David: Right on! So technology is what turns you into Superman and business is what puts you into the League Of Justice right – bringing all these superheroes together.

JD: Yes – I’m more of an Avengers kind of guy, but yes! That kinda works.

What’s Raygun’s story?

David: That sounds good! So my understanding is that you travel back and forth between the US and New Zealand. What’s the story? Where are you from and what’s your current situation?

JD: Cool, so yes I live in Wellington, which is the Capital of New Zealand, and for listeners who don’t know New Zealand very well, it’s a country of 4.5 million people, so it’s a relatively low population but it’s a first tier country with high technology. There’s multiple billion dollar tech companies been founded there.

It’s a very modern society, but it’s down at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean – it’s kind of tucked out the way. So to continue growing our business – we grew very organically to about 2000 organizations around the world who were paying customers.

We decided to focus on the United States as that was where our primary customers were. So in order to do that properly I decided to move here and help lead the team on the ground.

I don’t believe in trying to set up foreign offices where you hire remotely and hope for the best. So in 2015 I got an L1 visa that allows me to set up a company over here so my wife and I moved to the lovely Seattle in March 2016 and we’ve been building the team from there.

So I tend to go back to New Zealand about every two months for two weeks to check in with the team and see my family. I really love New Zealand and I’m very patriotic but yet I love the opportunities afforded to me in the USA and Seattle so I bounce around a little bit.

David: Well that sounds like a great lifestyle and like you have a lot going for you. So how about the business? What’s going on with Raygun? Is it still a part of Mindscape? What’s the sort of structure that works for you?

JD: Yeah so we built this company back in 2007. It was a bootstrap. We built a range of tools for the Microsoft platform.

But we also teamed up and helped to build other businesses. So we actually helped build New Zealand’s largest philanthropic website that drives most of the crowdsourced giving in New Zealand, we sold that to a telecommunications concern.

We built a business evaluation company and build a couple of other businesses and helped to sell them.

Then in 2012, we had this cool little team there were five or six of us, we were profitable, but I was in my 20’s and I had my own ambition to do something really big ourselves.

So we build this product called Raygun based on our own experiences. Jeremy and I, while working at this company called Intergen which was the it services company you mentioned in the intro. We built it to manage software errors and we launched in 2013. You know one month into the launch we started getting early customers emailing us saying “hey I’d like to do a case study for you you guys because it’s an important product. You’ve really helped us change the way we build software.”

David: Wow.

JD: That was my response too – you know I’d never had someone contact me before and say I’d like to do a case study for you just because I believe in what you are doing.

David: That’s huge!

JD: It was! And a few months later, we got approached by a mid-sized US tech company to acquire Mindscape but really driven off the back of the Raygun product.

Obviously we didn’t reach terms on that which was good because we were growing at a reasonable rate – but around that point we need to focus.

We had these other products and Raygun was growing and growing so we doubled down on that.

Then we had people saying “Who’s this Mindscape on my credit card bill? I know Raygun – what’s going on?”

So we changed the company name. You know Mindscape is Raygun. It’s the same business entity but within a year it was making more money than all the other stuff combined, so we continued with this. We started to grow – we started to build sales and customer success in Seattle closing more and more deals, bigger and better deals.

We are closing some awesome customers now hand haven’t looked back since.

David: Yes well I remember sometimes that I would speak at a user group – I think I got a user license for Mindscape but I don’t really recall what that was. Were you doing that at that point? Sponsoring user groups and stuff like that?

JD: We were yes. To be honest the products there were really good! We actually use a bunch to build Raygun itself. So the lightspeed object relational mapper was one. You know it was very high performance. We use that under the covers with Raygun for a lot of our data access patterns.

How did you choose the name ‘Raygun?’

David: Cool, so with Raygun the picture in my mind, you called it Raygun because your zapping errors  – is that right ? How did the name come about?

JD: The name came about because my business partner Jeremy. While we are both technical, Jeremy is the supreme technical genius. I’m the pretender. That’s why I handle the business.

You know it was like “Who is the worst coder out of the two of us? Okay you can do the business work.”

So when we were starting, we originally had three founders. But now it’s just Jeremy and I. That’s a whole other story.

But when we were starting out we did what all geeks do when we were starting the company. The three of us put all our names into an Excel file then we each went through and we stack ranked the list. Then we merged it and summed up the scores position. And Mindscape came out on top.

And I still remember that Jeremy put a name in that list that was Railgun – if you remember from games like Quake 3 and what not . And I was just like man that is the stupidest name! What ridiculous name for a company!

Then that name just stuck with me from 2007 through to 2012. And I thought you know what if I’m still remembering this it shows it’s resonating as a memorable name. And so when it came time. And you know Railgun is a little esoteric. But Raygun – everyone knows what a Raygun does. They might not know Railgun. So it was a slight tweak on Jerney’s suggestion. It’s just been a super powerful name since. I was wrong all those years ago!

David: Yes it’s funny how these things stick with you – I mean it made an impression as being something silly and not worth while then it sticks and who knows maybe Railgun may have been a horrible name! But with the tweak it was great !

JD: Yeah really cool.

Why should developers be interested in Raygun?

David: So tell me a little about Raygun itself. You know as a developer out there. Why should they be interested? And why should they care?

JD: Yeah so Raygun integrates with your software as and SDK. And what it provides is an automatic software crash reporting in one piece – that’s some relatively low hanging fruit there.

To the value of customers. You want to know if something blows up – you want to know how to fix it.

David: Yeah. And a lot of the tools you are using are leave a lot to be desired I guess.

JD: Yes absolutely. We integrate heavily with your ecosystem, we integrate heavily with Github, Slack and Jira, and about 25 other things.

Then we also have real user monitoring services or RUM, and what that means is we help our customers in tracking how people are using their software with a performance angle to that data. Like Google Analytics.

It can tell you daily active users, but more importantly it’s telling you that this page took too long to load, the API calls that you made with AJAX via your website took too long.

To support mobile, front end, back end, everything so you can integrate the RUM part with your mobile app and we can automatically tell the navigation flow within your application the network calls that are occurring, what’s taking so long on all of that, so that’s when we started to say, actually this is more of a software intelligence platform.

It’s not crash reporting, it’s not only a rum thing, it’s the overlap between the two is where the power is . So yes I have a crash report, but with the RUM part I can also tell you the navigation flow that the user took, or for example when I’m telling you how many of your customers have an excellent experience, if I’ve also got that hooked into crash data I can give you a better experience.

An example I give is you know your users might have a great time because the web page is loading really fast, but didn’t realise that it was the 500 page that was loading fast and actually they’ve had a terrible experience, you know thats where you need to augment that data.

David: Sure.

JD: So we’ve put all of that together. We track every single error, every single crash. There’s some other products out here that sample data aggressively and won’t give you the full story but we’ve decided to focus on business customers you know where we actually collect everything for auditing purposes is important and also giving visibility is important.

So we’ve put a lot of work into the engineering of our platform so we can handle extreme volumes of data. So we have one customer who peaked at 120,000 errors per second. And our infrastructure didn’t even blink.

David: Nice.

JD: So yes. There’s  a lot of fun technical challenges in building what we’ve created but, ultimately why do you build software David?

David: You want to deliver, yeah. Something that has value to somebody.

JD: Yes! And somebody is the key word.

We build software for people. And as software engineers we can sometimes get a little forgetful of that fact. We can start thinking “We have a lot of design patterns. Design patterns are really important to me.”

Erm actually the user doesn’t care they just want software that delivers them value. And we always have to keep that in mind and that’s why our tools are all about making sure your users are having a better experience and you’re not wasting your time fixing software errors.

Like a common scenario we run into is that people saying “we spend half our time fixing bugs” you know and it’s like wouldn’t that be better if that was only 5% of the time and you are 95% focused on feature? Thats a game changer. You know something else I like about Raygun is no more screenshots inside word document files from customers saying it didn’t work – here’s my error page.

And you are like “Oh my God here we go.” That’s a quick run through.

The evolution into software intelligence

David: Yeah and software intelligence platform could mean a lot of things so thank you for digging deeper. So it’s not only “Oh here’s what’s wrong”, it’s adding context. Here’s some data you can make some real decisions off.

And I like that perspective. Ultimately you are serving your customers better so they can serve their customers better. And that’s great. So you mentioned Mindscape early on serving the Microsoft platform but you mention web and mobile. Does that mean Raygun goes beyond that? Is it limited to one technology stack?

JD: No. The thing we wanted to do was to serve all programming languages and platforms so we were one of the first to come out with that approach from the very beginning. So we designed our APIs to be language agnostic and then we build SDKs for each language and platform So there’s two sides to that. Obviously the SDK has to be platform specific also the logic on our server side has to have the smarts.

So an example of that is when you are grouping up software errors. And errors that come from IE can look different from ones that come from Chrome and ones that come from FireFox so we have to work on on our side to be like okay this came from the JavaScript SDK these look a bit different, here’s how we do the fingerprinting so they come together. Theres also lots of weird little things. Like Internet Explorer is the only browser that will localize all your errors messages into the language on the user’s machine.

So if you want to make sure that you are reading for example the English errors message we need to localize that error message when we receive it even if that message was in German.

There’s a lot of work on both sides of the coin. So we’ve put a lot of work into the multi platform / multi language side of things and part of the driver was that we started in 2007. And the market had already started changing to be quite a polyglot one. People in the 90’s were very much like religious almost – we were all Microsoft, all Java or whatever – you probably remember – nowadays you talk to people and they are like “oh yes we have node JS in there, we’ve got Rust, this is .Net, this is Java.”

I mean that’s how the Raygun platform itself is built. We migrated from Node to .Net core and a lot of c#, we are a Microsoft company internally but we also have go in there symbolicating our process for IOS crashes and that’s the nature of all tech businesses is that they are using whatever’s the best language or platform for the job. 

How JD built the team

David: Yeah. Yeah thats makes sense. It’s a good offering for the public to be able to use this on your platform and this is a technology agnostic show – you are talking to a bunch of developers who are using all kinds of different things. So it’s wonderful there is something for everyone there.

And it does present a lot of challenges.

So it got me wondering you talk a lot about your early days – Mindscape – a team of five with all those thing you’re doing. What does your team look like now?

JD: Yeah so we are almost 40 staff across New Zealand and the USA. We’re always continuing to work on growing more. So in a few months we’ll be 60 people. So yes we are looking great on that front.

David: Wow so you are interested in both the technology and the business. And that has served you very well in this particular role right. Has that always been – business – interesting to you?

JD: Yes. So I grew up in a household where my father had his own business, my aunty and uncle had their own businesses, it’s always been a part of my life. It’s always been a goal of mine. I like to build things. Whether it’s in code or it’s in business.

Why software?

David: So why software? How did you get interested in software? What lights you up about building software?

JD: So like I said I was a nerdy kid. I remember I had this Osbourne Children’s Encyclopedia when I was about five years old I used to like the tech section and it was talking about lazers and satellites.

I love to dream and think about the future.

We got this computer when I was nine, it was a 486 SS25 – I remember seeing the dos command prompt and I was literally going through this list of all the different commands. And I got to Q – and I was like what is this? What’s going on? I got something to run. I printed some test on the screen. And you know it struck me. I’d always loved Lego – especially Lego tech sets – axles and cogs and stuff. And it just struck me – I’d just been given a Lego set with unlimited parts, where the only limit was my brain.

I can build whatever I want and I don’t have to hound mum and dad for money. I don’t need more bricks, I can just write more code and do all this stuff. So it triggered a passion in me like that (clicks).

And so – my brother and sister were living at home at the time and we had share the computer for an hour each – and I started buying their time off them for a dollar an hour because man – I just want to keep running code!

So I taught myself to code when I was 9 and then I moved into programming in c and c++ once we got the internet, I downloaded this thing that was DJGGP  which was a collection of tools and then got the allegro library to start doing game development, moved onto Visual Basic three. I was at the start of high school selling commercial software at school when I was 14.

David: Wow.

JD: I was obsessed with it. I even because a librarian at my high school for the simple fact librarians had a say on what books could be bought, and I noticed there wasn’t a book about programming so I got one for the school library. You may or not recall but programming books were expensive in the 90’s. The internet was only just arriving at the consumer level. A programming book might be like $60an $80 bucks. To a high school kid – that’s a lot of money! So that’s how it started. I always have had the coding bug! I’ve been writing code now for 25 years I guess.

I hope I’m still writing code in my old age.

David: That’s great – I like you were already a software engineer at 14 years old. That’s pretty remarkable. What kind of software were you selling?

JD: Haha so I went to an all boys high school. And the internet was just coming out.

David: Haha. Okay I can see where this is going.

JD: And I realised it was beneficial. You know in windows 95 where there was the recently used documents window?

David: Yeah.

JD: Your internet history right- so I made a program that would sit there and continually clear those lists and it sold really well at an all boys high school!

David: Haha yes I can imagine!

JD: Then I started little bits of consulting – that sounds too fancy for what it was really  – a little bit of tech work for companies that needed it in town.

David: You got into it early! And I’m impressed too you got into Qbasic and didn’t just use it to play that snake game. It took me a long time to write any Qbasic code because I was too busy trying to make those snakes not run into walls.

I remember when I worked out you adjust the pitch and the tone of the PC speaker with Qbasic and I feel that’s a lost art these days. I actually read an interesting article recently about teaching children to program and that it’s a mistake to try to teach them object oriented programming because young people are more or less especially before teenage years, you lack abstract thinking skills so I think I was fortunate that QBasic was procedural code, there was go-tos everywhere all of that stuff. I won’t say it was easy to learn but…

JD: That makes sense. You know the neuro development being what it is at different stages, you know write something that goes in a straight line and does its thing. You know go-tos kind of complicate things. But it sounds like good experience and some great stories.

On building a business

David: I’d actually like to hear another story from you.

There’s a lot of good things and I’ve heard about your successes but I want to hear about the opposite of that. Can you tell me a time that things fell of their face? Where things just fell apart.

JD: Yes. I mean honestly I’ve been so blessed but the people I’m surrounded by. You know the support from my family, that’s not to say there haven’t been hard times but I’m not someone who beats themselves up  a whole lot but I’ve walked a pretty blessed life to the point where I feel I’m overdue for some bad news so I actually think one of the most challenging times was what I touched upon earlier, the third co-founder of Mindscape – when he left.

On the grand scheme of things, that’s not the worst thing in the world but that the time it felt like my first really big failure. It take some grit to step out and build your own business. So I was 23 / 24 years old, we started Mindscape and I’d saved enough capital to step out and what not and our first office was on top of a drug and alcohol rehab clinic – we were doing it rough to begin with.

I approached Jeremy and the other guy about starting this business and we went for it and it was awesome and we had drinks. When you first start out you are watching the capital dwindle a little, we had some great support from customers because we were bootstrapping.

Which is awesome but you are also very aware you want to build something very repeatable.

David: Yeah the clock is ticking!

JD: Yeah and having to deal with someone who leaves is one of those things. It was one of those things where he said hey so I’m taking this job I got an offer for. I’ve been going and doing these interviews – effectively behind your back – that’s done. It threw Jeremy and i for a loop. People say your business partners are like your wife or husband. I don’t always like that analogy, but there needs to be that level of trust and I’m very fortunate to know Jeremy. I don’t know anyone with that amount of integrity.

I’m very fortunate to be in business with him today.

But yeah that’s one of those situations where it was hard – when this other guy left.

David: Yes personal relationships matter a lot we’re fooling ourselves when we think we are these’s robotic machines that can you know just leave the emotion at the door. Im sure that was painful but you’ve made it through and there’s bright times after. So after having pain like that, let’s shift to the opposite end there . What would be your greatest success be? If not that something that you are really proud of?

JD: There’s lot that I’m proud of you know as we approach 40 staff employed. There’s a part of me that’s really proud from what we started we actually employ people. They are paying their mortgages, feeding their children, you know they are living their lives from what we start. And obviously they contribute immeasurably to the success of the business, so it’s a  flywheel of compounding good virtue, but I still get a buzz out of that. When I look across the team and I’m like this is awesome. This is what I set out partly to do. That’s the most proud part to me on an everyday basis.

I’ll be blunt and right now there’s a discussion about immigrants here in America and I’m sort of in some way caught in the middle and some parts not – I come from New Zealand, I’m employing people here, I’m trying to create a better world not for just the customers we help via our software but via the people we employ and grow the overall economic activity which benefits everyone. So it’s caused me to recently think about that more.

David: Yes that makes sense, Immigration is a complex topic and there are a lot of reasons people feel strongly one way or another. I like the way that you put that right- one of the big draws of software is that we get to create , we get to build something from nothing and that’s what you’ve done with the business.. You’ve build a business around software but it’s a business in itself. That very real impact that you are changing lives for the better. You’ve created employment, you’ve created livelihood for people .Thats got to be enormously rewarding and I definitely admire you for that

JD: Yeah well it’s easy though we struggle with the hero worship side of things. I’m a big fan of elon musk but you’ve always got to remember it’s all the people paddling that boat in the same direction so that’s where I try to balance it.

David: So yes without the employer there is no business to be employed by but without the employee there’s also no business.

JD: Yes.

How do you stay current with what’s happening?

David: So there’s definitely mutually beneficial relationships and all wonderful stuff there. How do you stay current with what you need to know.

JD: I spend a lot of time reading I’m a believer that it’s not only just about being current. So I read a lot of biographies especially old biographies. I recently reread a biography called Tycoon, which is the story of Cornelius Vanderbilt and the cool thing about that is you kinda get a history of New York and America as part of a bunch of business lessons. I read various news sites and business publications, and I use twitter a lot.

The biggest thing that has helped is that as the company has grown – is just to take off hats. We mentioned I write a little bit of code, but I don’t write code for Raygun. I write code on side projects at home so I don’t  forget how to code. I love to create but the more I don’t try to do everything the more time I have to stay up to date. My health is important. A few years ago I started running a lot. So I run miles 7 – 12 km every day or two. That buys you time to think. And I think we really really undervalue thinking time in this day and ages.

Going back to the biographies I read, it’s really notable that these people achieve so much, their office would literally be a piece of paper and a pen, and when they have finished writing their letters they would talk or think. And they did tremendous things. But we live in a day and age where there is a computer on every desk and in every home thanks to Bill but these things are always barking for your attention and we don’t have time to get high quality conversation and high quality time to think. That’s what running is for me. It allows me to mull things over, think strategy, see opportunities. I run with  group of people but we run in silence while we are decompressing. But that’s been the biggest help to the success of things is that along time to think.

David: Now yes you have computers on every desk and also in every pocket. It’s a remarkable place we live where there are no interruptions unless you deliberately take the time for it and that’s very healthy. It’s good advice. In addition to being a part of your story. So thank you for that . You mentioned books so specifically the Cornelius Vanderbilt story.

What is a book you’d recommend?

But is there a specific book that stands out to you and you’d recommend to an audience of software developers but one that’s not necessarily related to software?

JD: Yes I mean I do read more business book. A book that I thought was really interesting recently was actually called Becoming Steve Jobs. And the reason I liked it – it’s more about business and how he build Apple, but one of the things I took away was that someone who worked very closely with Steve for many years. And we have this view in tech that Steve was a genius and he was a colossal ********. He was terrible to work for but he got stuff done. And I think there’s a glorification of that in the tech industry a little bit.

The thing I liked about this book was that it spent a lot of time talking about the things that don’t get talked about. So it that was true, is he was that bad to work for no one would have worked for him. So what were his skills in building this camaraderie. Building these teams. And focusing on the other side of the coin. Our industry can be a bit sensitive we like to think it’s because we hold ourselves to a bar but we also have these people in our folklore but we tend to focus on the negative mythology. But this I feel like a good balance in the middle. This was both side. Yes he was hard to work with, but he also was a master of building teams and delivering things.

David: So I would recommend that book.

Wow yes that sounds really useful there’s always another side to every story. So we’d do well to think about both sides. Steve Jobs it’s a story like you said and the symbiotic relationship between business and those who work for them it’s the same with business and software. You really don’t have one without the other. And so it sounds like that’s useful for a developer.

As developers as we move up we do end up managing teams at least you know being critical parts of teams and working out how to work better in teams is always valuable.

Definitely understanding where the other side is coming from is great. What are you most excited about currently?

JD: Right now I’m loving building out the Raygun business in the United States. I’d like to point out that before I moved to Seattle, I lived in 2 addresses in NZ. Two in Palmerston North and two in Wellington and they were both distant . So this is very exciting for me. I love the American spirit, I love the opportunities, I love the almost not apologising for wanting to win – I like that. So it’s exciting for me. My wifes enjoying it too, she’s travelled a lot more than I have she like being here. I’m excited because in April I’m taking a tour of your fine country and I’m checking out some spots.

David: Do you have a plan for that? The USA is a big place! Are you thinking of specific places?

JD: Yeah we have a few places. Start in Seattle, fly to Boston, head down to New York then get a car and drive down and around. We know we can’t hit everything in a month but we can see a reasonable amount of sites we haven’t seen before.

I’m looking forward to some Southern State BBQ – I won’t lie.

David: That’s great! Cool definitely an adventure. So with that what causes you pain and suffering?

Do you have a growth challenge?

JD: I like how all your questions are so polarizing!

David: Yeah

JD: Pain and suffering. Not a lot. I look at it as a growth challenge. Being in Seattle is our first major outpost as far as having everyone in one office and communication and making sure everyone is empowered enough to make sure everyone can operate without being micromanaged and feels they can achieve without my approval. We think we are doing a good job there but it’s something you can never be perfect – you’re always striving.

In the greater sense that’s one thing about business over software. Software you can get something to be perfect sometimes because it’s basically math. But business and with people you’re always striving to be better, You can’t speak to any entrepreneur ever and say – hey what would you improve? And have them say nothing. It was the best thing ever. It keeps you on edge. So the the biggest challenge making sure you don’t screw things up by being global.

David: Yes that brings challenges. Lots of growing pains and figuring things out and the non determinism of humans is certainly a worthy challenge.

What did you like to geek out about other than software these days?

What do you geek out to?

JD: I’m a big VR fan. I backed the original Oculus. My wife then got me a gear VR a couple of years ago.

The Oculus were kind enough to send out a Rift to all the people that backed them originally. I still think we are a ways off going mainstream, but it’s a glimpse of the future. So I’m pretty excited about that area of technology. I’ve written a couple of apps and had a play around with it at home.

I’m curious about other areas of technology, especially about the machine learning side of things I mean my life is more or less consumed by operating the Raygun business I don’t have any children yet so it’s pretty much from the moment I wake up to the second I go to sleep is work.

And I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe in work life balance, I believe in work life harmony. Me putting all my time into work is really nice – I enjoy it. I work with great people, people love the product.

David: There’s not one way right everyone’s got to make their own decisions about what they prioritize. There’s nothing wrong with making that choice if it’s the right thing for you it sounds like you’re doing what you need to do.

Like I was saying I don’t have children yet so it affords you a lot of scope to focus. So I don’t judge people on what they do and don’t do.

If you aren’t going into work pretty amped you should look at what you are doing. I don’t think anyone sets out to do a bad job, but some people can end up doing things they should be dong, and aren’t really their strengths and passions and therefore end up not having a good time and not coming across very well.

David: If you’re not lit up by what you are doing, it’s swell advise to try and find something else. It’s one of the big emphasis of the show. It wasn’t inspiration right the stories of people such as yourself  people who are going to do what they want to do, and providing something for their customers and getting joy out of that that just helps us a lot hear that and get inspiration.

It’s not for everyone but when you get stuck – you know when you get to thank god it’s Friday instead of thank god it’s any day right. It could be so much better. It suboptimal. And ideally, we’ll get to the point that we are really fired up and focused to what we are doing

JD: Yeah well my biggest challenge is that on Sunday I get so excited to the point where I’m like “I’m going to get this done this week, we’re going to do this and we’re going to do this.”

And then I go to bed and I’m still awake at 3am because I’ve got myself too excited for work.  The you’ll start Monday all tired. I am so excited, and I’ve shot myself in the foot. This happens most weeks for me!

Coming back to your point about getting lit up about things. Slogans and what not are easy they sound cliche and what not – just do it for example.

You want to go ahead with a plan. But man I see a lot of people who make a lot of excuses for themselves for them not to do something and not follow through you know, and everyone has to find their thing to motivate them. You’ve got to have self-trust. I know that if I apply myself, I will have a reasonable chance of success.

How to take action

David: It sounds like you’ve always been that way. From selling software in high school, it sounds easy. Is that the case? Was that easy to you? What advice can you give someone who it may not come that easy to? How can someone who’s not like that learn to take action?

JD: Oh man that’s a huge question.

I guess. There’d probably be people that it would say that it comes across as arrogance. But you are 100% in control of you. It’s not like you can say I thought I was going to do this, and my body just didn’t move that day. Like it doesn’t happen. And so I’ve felt like if someone did rely on me it’s up to me to log the hours and one of the questions I like to ask is okay if I went and spoke to a bunch of your friends and asked about your personality, what would they say? Which personality trait would you actually disagree with you on? What do people think you have, but you don’t think you have?

David: I think my answer to that has changed over the 2 years. My adult life has been that I’m good at machines and not with people. However, friends know me and they would have said I’m a good friend, fun to be around, and I would have disagreed with that.

But since podcasting and meeting lots of wonderful people like yourself, I would tend to say that I am now. Many that’s a hard question – I don’t know!

JD: I like to ask hard questions. But people turn it around and ask me that question. And I say a bunch of people would think I’m smart because I taught myself how to code etc. But I would disagree. I wasn’t in the top of my class at school. I’ll say I’m more persistent and tenacious than other people. I will sit there and iterate until I solve it non stop. And people will say oh you must be smart. And I’m like no that thing that you thought took me 10 mins actually took me four weeks. But I got there. And that comes back to the taking action.

A lot of people will take the first action that gives them an excuse to cop out. But don’t do it. Just stick to it because it’s always a little bit forward, a little bit forward. Bill gates didn’t amass 60 billion dollars because someone gave him 6 billion dollars. He got there one dollar at a time.

That’s a financial example. We don’t have linux as it is today because linux sat down and marathon session and bashed the whole thing out it’s always a little bit a little bit . Getting that mentality that you need to keep iterating and keep going. When you’re going through hell keep going . And it’s true. You’re always going to get easier. We know this building software. The two fun parts are file new solution. Oh then end to end work, now I’m doing some optimization. No one enjoys the bit in the middle. I don’t have the end to end working – I just even have the bare concept working – that part is always the challenge. You’ve just got to stick with it.

As long as I can rely on me, I can put the time in.

David: Yeah right there’s a lot of story right – in the swamp of Dagobah between Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru and all the way to return of the Jedi that’s a toil in the swamp. It’s not a lot of fun but it is the essence.

JD: And you want to move fast too. One saying I love is if you have to eat a s*** sandwich, don’t nibble. Just apply massive effort to get it done quickly.

How to add more value in what you do

David: Yes rip off the band aid. I like that! My final question is about providing more value. They don’t have to be business or software related, but 3 things you recommend to make sure you deliver.

JD: Okay wow.

There’s a fundamental one that you always need to be providing more value than you are taking. That’s not a tactic – that’s a strategy. The more value you provide, the more people will want to be around you. You’re just getting me back for that hard question before!

So I like to note things down after I meet people. So if someone tells me that for example if I happen to catch that someone likes a particular drink, or someone likes certain things or whatever, note that down. Because you never know when that’s going to pay dividends to know.

For example someone may mention that they like – I keep going back to drink but I assure you I don’t have a problem haha – if someone mentions to me they like a type of wine, and I’m bouncing between NZ and the USA it’s always wise to grab a bottle. And the next time I see them I will be like “Oh I remembered this.”

People like to hear their name because the things they like most are their own name.  And they like that you’ve taken the time to write that down and demonstrate you’ve listened and to build a relationship with people – that means a lot especially in this day and age where we have social networks where we aren’t really engaging with each other. I feel like social networks are the next level of what were talking about earlier computers dragging our attention and we aren’t having good quality conversations any more. Technology and social –  it’s having the reverse effect. It’s all the more important than ever to know how to build relationships.

Well, that’s it – I don’t know if I can give three. Give me an example of yours!

David: Well that great I can probably turn that into three even though you think you didn’t give me enough there. I was a guest on my own show once – and I did three tips there. I can’t remember what exactly, focus on the problem is one. You know we get so caught up in the solutions that we forget about what it is we are trying to solve. That would be mine. Thanks for those.

How can we keep up with what’s going on in your world?

JD: Well I use twitter a lot I am traskjd and I also have a blog at and people are welcome to email me at happy to shoot the breeze on anything.

If developers want to try Raygun, head to There’s a free trial. Our median time to get everything fully integrated is about 10 minutes so take the challenge! Your listeners should be able to beat 10 minutes I think!

David: Well thank you very much JD, it’s been a wonderful story and I’m really glad we connected.

JD: Great thank you so much for having me on David it’s been great.