React Podcast

123: Cassidy Williams on Dreams and Disasters in 2020

Episode Summary

They say hindsight is 2020. And at the end of the year 2020, it sure feels hard to disagree. Cassidy Williams opens up about her grand visions for 2020, the challenges she encountered this year, and how the effect they had on her job and Make 100 Kickstarter project Go on the Go. She shares what skills and habits were important in navigating these surprises and how to share your reach with others.

Episode Notes


Cassidy Williams — Twitter, GitHub, Website
chantastic — Twitter, GitHub, Website


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Episode Transcription

Chantastic: Cassidy Williams, welcome back to "React Podcast."

Cassidy Williams: Thank you so much. It's been a while.

Chantastic: It has been a while. I meant to look up what episode it was, what number it was, but it's been at least a year and a half, if not...

Cassidy: At least, something like that.


Chantastic: Yeah. I think so. I am super excited to talk with you. I don't remember exactly when it was but since we last talked, you have turned it up to eleven.


Chantastic: Absolutely nutty. I know right when we talked the first time, you had released recently a React Course and you're working at CodePen. I don't think you had jumped on to full bore onto the meme TikTok style developer videos yet. I'm curious what is...Tell us a little bit about your content game since, maybe, year and a half, two years ago.


Cassidy: Sure. The content game, that was something that I stumbled on. I first got TikTok because I was just like, "Oh, you know, I heard it has a good video editor." I like making videos. I've actually made videos for many, many years. They just weren't available to everyone in the world. [laughs]

It was just for close friends and stuff. I saw the TikTok video editor, I was like, "Oh, this will make things easy for me." I tweeted out a video. It went a lot more...I didn't want to say viral.

Chantastic: [laughs]

Cassidy: It was a lot more popular than I expected it.

Chantastic: There's a lot of engagement?

Cassidy: Yes. There were several people who noted it. [laughs]

Cassidy: After that, I was just like, "Dang, people like this. That's fun." I never really intended it for be to basically be half like my brand now.

Chantastic: [laughs]

Cassidy: It was just something, where I was like, "Oh, yeah. I can make my tech jokes now but do it in video form." I've been making jokes for a while, but suddenly people were actually noticing them because they were in video form, so I started making more, people followed and it became a thing.


Chantastic: Do you find this is part of your creatively that you really get excited about and enjoy, or is it overwhelming to feel like you have to outdo yourself over maybe the last video?

Cassidy: Yeah. It's definitely the former. I've already told myself there will definitely be some jokes where only I get it...

Chantastic: [laughs]

Cassidy: ...or only 10 people get it, and it's OK. Some of my favorite videos have been once like, "I know it's a very, very specific reference that I make to a musical that I like, and someone would have to know both React and this musical to get this joke."

I don't care, I'm doing it. I've had a ball doing those ones, and then when some go particularly well, virality wise. I'm just like, "Oh how about that, people like that style of joke." I don't really have any set goals with it, I kind of just do it to tell jokes.

Chantastic: We talked about this maybe a couple episodes back, I'm telling again this, but there's this idea that Seth Godin talks about where you don't decide what you're going to be famous for.

You just kind of keep putting work out, and then the world or the market or the Internet decides. Do you feel like you have a pretty good sense, when these things go out, how they're going to do or is it kind of anyone's best guess?

Cassidy: It's truly a guess. Whenever I put it out, I'm just like, people will either like it or hate it. I kind of always have as a mini goal for myself, and it's like it would be nice if this one got between 100 and 500 likes. That's exactly what I said for my last one, and then it got like 12,000, and I was like, "Oh, well, people liked that more than I thought they would. Cool."

Chantastic: I was going to say, they get significantly more likes and retweets than that, so you're doing pretty good.

Cassidy: Yeah, thanks. It's one of those things where I enjoy it. I definitely still put out my technical content and everything, but people clearly like the jokes more.


Chantastic: I think one thing that I particularly like about what you've done is that there are so many nuggets in there. It's so easy to just see like a screenshot and this is like a symbol of Slack or whatever, but you always insert so many good little nuggets.

Have you ever watched "BoJack Horseman," not that it's important, but there's always some sign in the background or a banner, or something, and that's the joke. How much time do you spend actually crafting the world of each of these videos when you dive into them?

Cassidy: Honestly, not that much time. I should put more time in them than I do. Most of them take less than 10 minutes at the most, and almost none of them are planned. Most of them are, "Oh, that would be funny." I might noodle on it for a while but the actual execution is very short.

Whenever I have the code in the background, I'm like, "OK, I'm going to write ha-ha business," or some kind of silly thing in the background, and see if they notice it. I'll sometimes wear a sweater but then have a silly name tag or I'll rotate out my glasses and see if people catch it.

It's usually just like, I wonder if someone will catch this, and they do, which is more impressive to me than actually doing it myself.

Chantastic: I love that. Do you find that most people do kind of latch on to the joke. I know that sometimes humor just does not like, it seems like the Internet is very polarizing about humor. Like you have some people that are like, "I totally got it. I inspected every part of this and I'm dying." The other people who are like, just don't quite get it, maybe explain your own joke to you. [laughs]

Cassidy: Yeah...


Chantastic: [laughs] How's your experience with that?

Cassidy: It takes all kinds. Every single tweet I do, the replies will always be someone just laughing and thinking it's funny, then there will be someone who doesn't get the joke and is trying to get someone to explain it. Someone who's angry saying that it's not funny, and I need to stop. Then people trying to add their own twist of some kind to the joke and sometimes they do well, sometimes they do not.

Chantastic: Takes all types.

Cassidy: Yeah, it's a nice mix.

Chantastic: Now, I know that when you had joined React Training, and I think we're going to talk about a whole mix of things around like the beginning of this year.

Cassidy: Sure.

Chantastic: This was something that I think people were very protective about. This is something that I was really fascinated by in seeing your announcement saying like, Hey, I'm going to join the React Training team. It seemed like a lot of people were like, "Wait, are the meme still going to be like coming out or the videos? Like, is Cassidy still going to be Cassidy or like...?"

What do you think? How did you feel about that, people latching on to like you and feeling maybe protective about you, as a person in the industry?

Cassidy: I mean, I appreciate it. It was amusing to me because there are some things that people never have the full context of everything, which could be a React joke, but it's not.


Cassidy: Anyway, people never have the full context of everything and one of the reasons why I went over to React Training was actually because they allowed me to have more freedom to make more content and to speak at more conferences and do more things like that.

It was amusing to me when that was a big concern for people because I was just like, "Y'all don't even know I'm about to push out so much more because I can now."

Chantastic: I love that. Now, one that I particularly remember is right around this time last year, you're kind of going hard on the 2020 vision jokes.

Cassidy: Yeah.


Chantastic: Now, again, like hindsight is 2020. I'm curious, how have you experienced the delta between your expectations for what 2020 might have been and what it became.

Cassidy: It's a very delicate way to put that.


Cassidy: It has been a year.

Chantastic: It has been a year.

Cassidy: I really was determined to make vision jokes, like, every other week, all year. I genuinely was just going to ride this joke out and make people completely sick of it. Then the world fell apart. You know that that happens.


Cassidy: You never know. At the beginning of this year, I really thought that...First of all, I was very worried about burning out because I had so much travel planned, which again, you never know when things [inaudible 9:00] .


Cassidy: I kind of told myself this year was going to be my really last big travel hurrah, where I was saying yes to almost every conference that came my way. I was going to just go to as many countries as I could. I was going to do just a ton of things.

Then after that, I was planning on "retiring from going to conferences and stuff" where I was going to try to stop speaking as much and just attend. I was going to write more instead of speak more, like that. That was my whole plan. Then a pandemic happened.


Cassidy: Those plans...

Chantastic: It's just noped too hard on your plan.

Cassidy: Yeah, just went straight out the window. In January, I think I spent one weekend home and outside of that, I was traveling constantly. Same in February, I was in multiple countries and all over the place speaking and teaching workshops.

I came back from one of those trips at the beginning of March. I was going to take a break for one weekend and then travel to Spain the next week. Then my flight was canceled the day before, then everything was canceled the next week, then I was laid off from my job the week after that, and it just kind of kept going from there.


Chantastic: It just kept coming? [laughs]

Cassidy: Yeah, it really hit hard.


Chantastic: No, I'm sure that a lot of people who are aware of you, see your success, see the virility of your tweets, see the fact that you're talking and blogging and streaming and all these kind of things and assume that on some level, you're probably immune to this, right?

You can go wherever you want and do anything you want and your as a tech celebrity. I'm curious, at this point, at the beginning of the year, did that feel at all true to you or was it as scary as any other point in your life where you have this big thing kind of knocking out your plans?

Cassidy: Yeah, no, it was terrifying. The whole tech celeb thing, all it means is you get more DMs than other people.


Cassidy: It doesn't mean anything job-wise or anything. You still have to go through interviews. You still have to deal with stuff. That was the case for me when I was laid-off, and I know that they tried as hard as I could to keep the staff but they had to lay off all staff because we just ran out of workshops.

We went from having being overbooked in the month of March, if we had one more month, we probably could have written out the rest of the year and into some 2021. We had that many workshops, to just none and drying up within less than a week. It was very scary.

Having to do the job hunt suddenly, I was not prepared to practice for interviews or anything. I got the DMs, but I still had to go through the interview loop for all these different companies and had to get that done.

It was definitely nerve-wracking, but it was a good learning experience. I got to see a bunch of products that I wouldn't normally have seen just because I wasn't job hunting, and they were trying to hire. I'm honestly so happy with the team that I ended up being on.

The Netlify team is such a great culture. They're all really just dorks. [laughs] They're funny people. Being able to be a part of this team that genuinely cares about the community and about diversity and inclusion, and they don't talk the talk, they walk the walk with that. I'm grateful for where I've ended up.

Chantastic: I love that. I want to talk more about the Netlify team and what you're doing because what you're doing is amazing. Your team, from the outside, it looks like a delightful experience, every day is a party. I want to ask you a little bit more about your career. Your job hunts.

Cassidy: Sure.

Chantastic: I'm curious, as you were looking for work and what were some of the things that you have done in your career that provided the most value to you in that? Was it writing? Was it the speaking you did? Was it the Twitter following? Or the course that you...? You've done so many things. I'm curious what played best in your interview processes?

Cassidy: All of the writing, twittering, speaking and stuff, it's very great for getting a foot in the door. It does not help in an interview process with engineers.


Cassidy: It's great for people saying, "Oh, yeah, we'd love to hire you." It has nothing to do with white-boarding interviews. [laughs] In terms of actually getting requests for interviews and stuff, it was lovely. I was so grateful for it.

I ended up tweeting out saying, "Hey, there are all of these companies in my DMs hiring. Please put your resume here so that way I can direct them to you instead of to me because I simply couldn't field all of them."

In terms of the actual interviews themselves, honestly, the projects that I work on helps the most. A lot of the stuff that I do, it's typically smaller demos and stuff. In my work, whenever I'm working on a product, it's not open source or anything. It's typically closed source thing where I could say, "Oh, yes, I converted this site to React, and here's how I did it."

Being able to show my smaller projects and being able to explain the code and talk through that was probably the most helpful thing because when I'm doing some interview that's technical, I do the more communication upfront approach where they ask a question, I explain what my thought processes and what I'm going to do.

After talking it out, that's when I start the coding thing and, a lot of interviewers like that because they can see my thought process upfront. We can talk through certain things and then the code is what comes later, which is more realistic.

Chantastic: I like that. It's a skill. I'm sure that probably streaming has helped you with that, [inaudible 15:12] notion of, I need to say what I'm going to do before I do it.

It is such an invaluable skill though, because it frames what you're going to do in a way that's digestible, as opposed to, "Oh, I'm doing the thing, and you're just going to be bewildered by my brilliance as I solve this code riddle that you've prepared." [laughs]

Cassidy: Yeah, exactly. There are some problems. I'm like, "Oh, that's challenging. Well, if I'm parsing a string, character-by-character is probably smarter to do recursion." Being able to talk that out, then they can see and maybe they might cringe and be like, "Are you sure you want to do that?"

I can be like, "No, I'm not sure." "That was a dumb concept. Let's do this instead." [laughs] You can reframe it. I love talking about it upfront. Yeah, it does. That kind of methodology is perfect for something like streaming or demos or something.

Chantastic: Yeah. Let's get back to your team at Netlify because it seems amazing. You have all star crew of people who seem caring about the industry, Web developers and other humans and, as you mentioned, diversity and inclusion. How did you pick the Netlify developer experience team? What has your experience been so far?

Cassidy: Yeah, so picking them, honestly, it was, it became a no brainer after the interviews. Again, going through all these calls with so many people and after going through their loop, I was like, it makes no sense for me to not be with these people.

There were definitely some very cool technologies that I talked to companies with cool technologies. I talked to her I was like, "Oh, that would be so legit to work on these kinds of robots. Or so cool to work on this kind of cutting edge stuff."

The one thing that my old boss Ryan at React Training, he said, "As you're thinking about these things, technology will always be cool, but will you like your team." I thought it was such good advice.

As I talked with them, I was like, these are people who I will really get along with and who actually care about the things that I care about, who understand all nuances of the technologies that I work with and everything.

It was so fun talking to every single one of them. Every single call of mine with them ended up going overtime because we're talking so much.

Chantastic: Love it.

Cassidy: It was such a great crew and became a no brainer.

Chantastic: [laughs] Now working on a team that you like and having those strong lines of communication and I guess maybe being able to bring more of yourself to those conversations like the whole Cassidy Williams instead of just Engineer Cassidy Williams.

Has that cast a light on some of your other jobs and -- not a negative light but -- has it made it more clear what you're looking for in whatever the next step over the rest of your career is?

Cassidy: Yeah, for sure. I've had my fair share of roles back over my career. Every single one that I've had has taught me a different little thing about myself or a different thing that I like or a different thing that I really don't like and the stuff.

I've gotten a new light on that every single time. Genuinely, the past few roles I've had at CodePen at React Training and here at Netlify, these have been probably some of my favorite roles because I've narrowed down what I like to do.

Luckily, I've been able to bring more of myself to work with every role that I've done, because I communicate that upfront more. With some roles, especially early in your career, for a lot of less experienced developers, you're like, "I want to get this job."

You might mention extra-curriculars and fun things that you do outside of work, in an interview, but not as, "This is what I do." In the most recent jobs that I've had, in the most recent interviews I've had, I'm like, "This is actually what I do." The job is something that I do for 9:00 to 5:00.

I will work very hard at it. I'll put my whole effort into it, but you should know, this stuff is just as important to me if not more or so. Being able to communicate that upfront has made a complete difference in how I work.

Chantastic: How has this role in particular helped you find that integration? At least from the outside, it seems there's this perfect fit, especially for your teams. You have all the things that you're doing with Twitch and then newsletter and that feels there's a level of integrity with the work that you're doing for Netlify.

Also the same with Jason. He's learn with Jason. He's doing that twice a week...

Cassidy: Yeah. [laughs]

Chantastic: ...which is a ridiculous pace. I can't even imagine. [laughs] Have these things felt closer together in this new role, or are they still far apart?

Cassidy: I think it comes down to trust in a team. What's cool about Sarah Drasner, she's an amazing developer, but she's an even better manager. She's really great at all the things. She established upfront. She's just like, "If you're doing something, I trust that you know what you're doing."

She just straight up said, "If you think that streaming is something that you should do during the day, I trust you, let's go with it." Every single thing that our team does, she trusts us to do our best at that thing that we do.

Chantastic: Interesting.

Cassidy: For myself, I started streaming more because I joined Netlify and they let me do that. I wanted to try it. Jason does his stream twice a week. My co-worker, Tara she knows everything. But she's gone ham on the Angular side of things and has helped.

Chantastic: Oh, well.

Cassidy: The Scully team, which is a static site generator for Angular basically, go from the ground up because of her work directly. My coworker, Phil, he's amazing at case studies. Everybody has all of these different things that they're really, really good at, and the team trusts you to do your best work. Granted, there are some team assignments where we have to do them.

It's not all parties all the time. It's stressful sometimes. But with that level of trust, everything has seemed natural because we're doing what interests us and what we think is the best for the team and for the company.

Chantastic: I love that. I think it seems to me, so many companies are starting to realize the benefit of hiring the whole person, as opposed to just one set of their skills. I've really enjoyed seeing, you're part of that and what you've been able to bring.

The value that you've been able to bring as a whole person to your job and seeing that all come together in a really cool way is very, very inspiring.

Cassidy: Thanks. It's such a great team. The fact that they enable everyone to be able to do that work, I think is a testament to the culture. Also, it's just so good for all of us to be able to be successful in our own different ways.

Chantastic: Your team actually started a podcast recently?

Cassidy: Yeah.

Chantastic: [laughs] Called "Remotely Interesting." Is that right?

Cassidy: Yeah.


Cassidy: About remote work. We thought it would be funny meme.

Chantastic: [laughs] I love that. How did it come about? Tell me about the different people who are taking part in that podcast?

Cassidy: Yeah. It's mostly our developer experience team and Tara runs it and my team. She's an amazing project manager and it started as a team effort. She's just like, "OK. I'm going to be the lead on this." We're like, "We trust you. You do things."


Cassidy: Yeah, we have what we call a plan gym every month, we had one yesterday, where we just say, "Hey, this would be kind of a funny episode. It would be cool if we brought this up." A lot of times it's dumb, but we're just like, "We could actually probably spiral off of this."

Like one of the things that I made the...One of the phrases I said yesterday was, "Dreams, and disasters. Let's talk about all of the good things that we wanted, and the mistakes that followed, or something." They said, "Actually, that could be fun." We just rolled with it.

That will be an episode at some point. We just noodle on what is something that we would be interested in hearing and that's how the podcast has been. Honestly, it's such an easy podcast to record, because we're kind of just gabbing with each other and happen to be recording it at the same time, but it's a really fun one.

Chantastic: [laughs] I love that. The episode that I was introduced to it on, I think, is maybe the most recent episode, but were you talking about pair and mob programming?

Cassidy: Oh, yeah.

Chantastic: I found that so incredibly fascinating because it seemed like the way that you were talking about it, it seemed almost like an anecdote. Antidote. I always get those mixed up antidote, right? [laughs]

An antidote to all the things that we've lost in the pandemic, in terms of social aspects of coding. When we lost our offices and whatnot, it seems like pairing has become this thing that allows people to have that common space and work together through a problem and whatnot. I'm curious how you've experienced that.

I think that you've probably had a number of remote jobs, but as you've worked with a team that is more collaborative and communicative. How has that manifested for you, this pairing mob programming thing?

Cassidy: Yeah, so I've been doing pair programming for my entire career. My first job, it was actually a pairing only company, and so we only did features as pair programming, which was honestly really good practice.

This team has been so great because we, for those who haven't heard the episode, we do a lot of just...Will open up a Zoom saying, "Hey, we're going to be working on this, if you want to join, you can."

We keep it very casual, but it feels like you're stopping by a conference where more people are trying out something. It's a very casual thing, but it's felt so much more natural that way. You can keep up with what people are working on and what the current project is.

It's been really, really great. I actually ended up writing a blog post that touched on the topic as well, a couple of days ago.

Chantastic: Oh, sweet.

Cassidy: It really helps not only with just our team collaboration and getting to know each other, but it also reduces egos overall because as developers we have egos. That comes with the territory. You're making something out of nothing, you are a god.


Cassidy: When you're pair programming, it's great to be able to say, "I don't know how to do this, or can you help me do this, or can I watch you do this?" Have that vulnerability with each other, so that you can all first of all learn, but also have that collaboration with your team. I think it's such a great tool that more teams should be using.

Chantastic: Yeah, so in terms of the specifics of doing it, what have you found are the best ways to invite that in? You'd mentioned that in mob programming where you have an open co-lab, anyone can come on by and watch or throw their opinion in or familiarize with that part of the codebase. What does it look like on a more project to project basis? How do you organize that?

Cassidy: Yeah, so what we did we just released a site called Jamstack Explorers, which is a free learning website. We have three courses on there now. We built that whole platform from the ground up mostly via these mobbing sessions.

What we did was, every week on Mondays and Fridays, we just mob programmed together, saying, "OK, this is a feature we're working on this time, or we're going to be configuring Sanity. None of us know how to do it except Jason, so he'll teach us, and then we'll try it."

Similar things like that where I knew Next.js nobody else knew Next, and so had to show them all how to use Next. As we did these mobbing sessions, it was great for teaching each other and sharing knowledge but also building the actual product.

We scheduled them every week, Monday and Friday, and then sometimes Wednesdays too, if it came up and we would do our own tickets in between, but we would always try to get something done, have action items afterwards, apply them on our own, and then see where we were the next mob job so we could keep going again. We call them mob jobs, by the way. [laughs]

Chantastic: I was just going to say mob job is a pretty rad [laughs] name for it.

Cassidy: Yeah.

Chantastic: [laughs] Mobbing and mob job.

Cassidy; Makes us feel a lot more dangerous than we are.


Chantastic: Oh, that reminds me of a card game. I know that you're super into games. Shoot. It's a mob-base game, Family Business. Have you played this game?

Cassidy: I haven't.

Chantastic: Oh my gosh. OK, quick detour, real quick.


Cassidy: I'm going to look that up. Family Business game.

Chantastic: Family Business. It's a game that my in-laws introduced to me. It's all about like...You're like putting hits on each other. You have a little family, a little mob. Then you're putting people on the hit list. Eventually, there's a mob war and then people start dying on the hit list.

Cassidy: I love that.

Chantastic: It is so fun. You kind of form a lot...There's a lot of mechanisms that cause you to form alliances or betray people. It's wicked fun. Anyway, you'll enjoy it. [laughs]

Cassidy: That sounds amazing. I will definitely look this up and see if I can nab some.

Chantastic: I thought I would ask a couple of questions. I've been doing this discord thing recently and I've been meeting the most delightful people in React Podcast listeners. They actually had some questions for you so I thought I would throw some of them in here.

Cassidy: I'm ready.

Chantastic: The first one from that Andy Brown was regarding a game actually that you made Go -- On the Go. He's wondering when you might do a second run of this.

Cassidy: Oh my goodness. Go -- On the Go, for those who don't know, was a Kickstarter project that I did this past January. Again, I was very ambitious this past January and did not know what was coming.


Cassidy: Every single year, Kickstarter does what's called Make 100, where you make a Kickstarter where you're going to make 100 things and people can get those. I've always wanted to do Make 100 and I was like, "This is my year, I'm going to do it."

So I thought I'd make a Make 100 of the game Go. I love playing Go. It's one of my favorite games. I play it every day. I was like, "I have a laser cutter so I was going to laser cut some boards, make a little kit and people could get it."

The Kickstarter was successful. I got it all set up and then the pandemic happened.


Cassidy: Oh my word. I had all of these...

Chantastic: Bad for manufacturing.

Cassidy: Yeah. Oh, manufacturing is hard. I had all of these plans to have friends help me laser-cut things, friends of mine who also had lasers. I had a supplier for the wood for the boards, I had a supplier for the plastic for the pieces, I had a supplier for all of my drawstring bags, I had a supplier for the stamps on the bags, I had suppliers for everything.

I think one of those suppliers made it through the pandemic. It was the stamps one. Even then the stamps arrived, I think six months late...

Chantastic: Oh no.

Cassidy: five months late maybe. It was very difficult. This game ended up being quite an ordeal because in other pandemic decisions, we suddenly decided to move from Seattle to Chicago, which we had not been planning on doing for a long while, but you know, it happens.

Between moving across the country, getting everything made, getting everything shipped, it was a journey, and a learning experience. I just have a newfound respect for anyone who does these kinds of small businesses.

So that's a very long answer to say. I might do these again, post-pandemic, maybe. That's all I can say for now.


Chantastic: I think that's a very fair answer. It's kind of everything is so up in the air and people are fighting over manufacturers right now. Doing these, you know, small runs of a project have just become incredibly difficult.

Cassidy: Yeah. It ended up being literally me and my husband on the floor sorting out pieces into bags, weighing them to make sure it was right. We just had "Gilmore Girls" on in the background when we did this for hours and hours and days and days. We should have had more people but we couldn't because it's a pandemic.

Chantastic: Yeah, oh my gosh. Now, how would that project gone in different to that? Were people excited? We're excited to get these out to people. Are they loving them?

Cassidy: Yeah. It's been so fun seeing that we're like, I'll still get text messages or tweets from people saying, "Yay, I'm playing Go," and stuff like that. I've been playing Go for a while and again, I love to play. I'm not amazing at it, but I really, really love it.

The fact that other people are playing it too, it brings warmth to my heart because it's such a cool, interesting game, especially for programmer types, because it's all about pattern matching and figuring out the next best move. It's such a fun game and so I've loved seeing people playing with it.

Chantastic: It's fun that I was not familiar with Go. I think I'd seen it kind of like...I think I've might have maybe misinterpreted it as Othello.

Cassidy: Yeah, Othello is based on Go.

Chantastic: [laughs] I can see that. I can see that. It was really interesting. I learned a lot from the Kickstarter campaign about Go and I think it's so fascinating that the game is designed to have a dynamic-sized board. You can decide how big you want the board to be.

Cassidy: Yeah, a dynamic-sized board and a handicap system built into.

Chantastic: How does that work?

Cassidy: There's these set points on the board where if you put up, you can say like, OK, you're X number of ranks ahead of me, I get three pieces on the board ahead of you. For example, my father-in-law, he's been playing Go for like, two decades. He's very, very good. I have a very big handicap with him.

But because we have the handicap, we can play fairly with each other. It's not like, "Well, I won, but it was with a handicap." It's "No, I won that game because of my ranking compared to his ranking."

Chantastic: Interesting.

Cassidy: It's a really good learning experience. Because it has that built-in, you can have fun playing Go with anybody.

Chantastic: Yeah. Now, was this inspired by you know, Knives Out, this particular project and the timing of it?

Cassidy: Knives Out, I definitely put it in my Kickstarter video saying, "Hey, do you want to be cool like those people in Knives Out? Then you should get this project." But no, it actually had nothing to do with Knives Out. I just genuinely like Go that much. [laughs]

Chantastic: I love it. I love it. It is funny. I feel like there's been...I think that was last year maybe that movie came out and then this year, there's "Queens Gambit" on Netflix.

Cassidy: Yeah, all of these old games, they're getting their time in spotlight.

Chantastic: Yes, I love it. I love it so much and I mean, it's a good thing, right? Because a lot of us are spending more time at home. [laughs]

Cassidy: Yeah, you might as well practice playing.

Chantastic: More things. This isn't actually like a question so much but Michael [inaudible 35:23] just wanted to congratulate you on, I think it was, ranking 40 in Pokémon Go.

Cassidy: Oh, yeah, leveled up.


Cassidy: In Pokémon GO, until last week, level 40 was the highest level that you can get. It's a journey to get to that level. It takes a lot of experience and a lot of time on this dumb game...

Chantastic: [laughs]

Cassidy: ...Then as of this past week, they made it go up to level 50...

Chantastic: Oh, no.

Cassidy: ...I can't tell you. I'm not going to level 50 for two years. The experience you need...One that I did a couple of days ago, you have to catch 200 Pokémon in a day. That's one of the small ones. You have to do 30 raids.

You can do two raids a day unless you spend money to get more raid passes into it, but it still is dedicated time. I need to triple my experience level to get to level 41. It took so long to get to level 40 with this experience level.

I'm very grateful for the congrats, but man, this game's going to be a while before I do anything better with that.


Chantastic: It's so discouraging. I feel there's a conditional. Once a certain number of people hit the max rank, move the goalpost back to the [inaudible 36:55] . [laughs]

Cassidy: Yeah. It's like, "I finally made it, and now this."

Chantastic: [laughs]

Cassidy: It's a bit lot, but it's such a fun game though because it does force you to take walks, which is nice in this time. They've added a lot of bonuses like, "Hey we know it's hard right now. Enjoy an extra lucky egg, or enjoy a half incubation distance to hatch this kind of Pokémon."

The game has been kind, but it's been very good for forcing me to get out of the house on occasion. [laughs]

Chantastic: I love that, I love it. Now, have you always had an affinity for the Pokémon universe or was this inspired by the game?

Cassidy: You can see I have a Charmander behind me, other people who are listening can't. I had a Game Boy Color growing up, and it was by chance where my dad was driving home from work, and he saw a Game Boy in a ditch. He was like, "Huh, what's that?" It's this lime green thing. He pulled it out, and it had Pokémon Blue in it, Pokémon Blue version. That was Christmas that year.


Cassidy: Because we knew nothing really about the universe and we had never seen the show or anything, we just had this game. We were like, "Well, we know generally what Pokémon is because of the cards, but we didn't know how to play the game or anything."

Truly for the first while when my sister and I had this game, we were just excited to have a thing with buttons because we didn't have videogames in our house. We just walked around that first house, your parents' house in the game, for a really long time. I went to the kitchen today. I went and talked to the mom today. It was getting boring and we were just like, "I guess this is what Pokémon is."

On accident, my sister shoved a button and she left the house, and we realized it was an actual game with Pokémon. That flipped the switch in our brains where we were obsessed from then on. We beat the Elite Four, caught them all and did everything. We absolutely loved this game.

I haven't played a ton of the games after that, because again, we didn't have many consoles. We had the Game Boy. Eventually, when I was in high school, we had the Wii. That was it. Then my senior year of college, we got an Xbox.

We were not every into the games in-between, I've always had an appreciation. I still have my Pokémon cards from second grade. I do have Sword and Shield now though on Switch, so I do like Pokémon a lot.

Chantastic: [laughs] Is that bringing back some of those early memories of playing it on the Game Boy?

Cassidy: Yeah. It really is. The other games I had tried to get into and be like, "Should I get a DS and play this?" I wasn't sure. Man, Sword and Shield is really fun. There's a good level of story in there. Especially with Pokémon Go, I know the names of the later generations of Pokémon.

It's just a fun thing to pass the time. It's a fun thing to be into because if you're into Pokémon and you find someone else, you have something to talk about, and it's great.

Chantastic: [laughs] I love that. Another question is, Anthony, a JC, was asking how you source your material for your newsletter. He's always just delighted to get your newsletter and wanted to know is this just from your experience? Do you have wells of information that you're drawing from or other groups that you're taking ideas from and whatnot? How does it all work?

Cassidy: That's a good question. I slowly have refined this. I'm almost at four years of writing this newsletter, which blows my mind. I've gotten better at it over time. In the past week and a half or maybe three weeks, I got a bookmark manager, which is so helpful for curating a newsletter.

Chantastic: [laughs]

Cassidy: Typically, what I did before was I subscribed to every newsletter in the universe. I would open tons and tons of tabs and force myself to read articles. If I thought it was good to put in the newsletter, I'd keep the tab open so that way I could copy the URL and put it in the newsletter. Then I realized that it wasn't sustainable. I got a [laughs] bookmark manager.

Chantastic: [laughs]

Cassidy: My goodness, having a folder I could say, put this in the newsletter next week, is great. Now, I actually had to have a source of content from all these newsletters, Tweets, channels and stuff.

For the joke, it varies where that comes from. Sometimes if I'm not feeling creative, it comes from the jokes subReddit. Sometimes, it's something I saw [inaudible 41:34] , sometimes I make it up. The joke of the week, that's where those come from.

Then for the interview question of the week, that particularly is probably the most difficult one to fill because I don't have a steady stream of interview questions that come my way.

Typically, I'm scrolling through something like LeetCode, like HackerRank, CS interview questions on sub on Reddit, all the different things until I find an interview question that might be good to send to people.

Chantastic: That's interesting. From four years of doing this, and then your experience trying to find new employment, how valuable to you have those exercises been in terms of stretching your brain to think about code in a different way or having new exercises?

Cassidy: It keeps the mindset going. I feel a lot of people are like, "OK, if I'm going to a job interview, I have to start preparing. I have to start doing these kinds of questions." Putting them in a newsletter, it's kept that in the back of my mind all the time.

I don't do the questions every single week. Sometimes, I'm like, "OK, this is how I would solve it." Then, that's pretty much how far I get with it [laughs] before I put the question in. Then sometimes I do actually solve it and put my own solution in the newsletter.

What's been great is because I've been doing it for so long, so many people put in their responses in so many different languages and stuff, I can see all the different approaches that people would take it.

Chantastic: Interesting. Now that brings up an interesting question is that you've been doing this for four years, and people are responding to you with different solutions in different languages. How overwhelming is your inbox at this point?

Cassidy: Oh, it's not great.


Cassidy: I have created a workflow for that too, a flywheel phony startupy terms. Whenever someone sends it to me, I have a note. I use Bear for my notes. I get their first name and then the link to wherever they sent it. I wrote myself a script in CodePen.

I have this little Pen and CodePen where I put in the whole list of names and links. Then it generates the list of here's all the responses that we got that week.

Chantastic: Oh, wow.

Cassidy: Because I have it on Bear, I can do it from my phone. I can do it from my computer, I can do it wherever. It has saved me so much time because back in the day I would just be like, "OK, the count plus one. OK, we have five responses this week." Then I would go back and try to find all of them. That was not sustainable.

[laughs] Having this little script has helped where most people reply to the Tweet, some people DM on Twitter, some people email, wherever they send it, I can put it in this one spot that I can then use later.

Chantastic: Interesting. I know that there's a lot of burden for content creators to want to reply to everybody and forming those relationships and whatnot. It sounds like you've been able to do something that still acknowledges people's participation. Has that felt good? Is it felt virtuous where people are excited about that? Do they still want more direct attention from you? [laughs]

Cassidy: Luckily, that's been good where they get their note and I always tell them like, "If you Tweeted at me and I haven't liked your Tweet, that means I haven't seen it yet and put in my list. Follow up, if you haven't seen it."

For example, there's one person where my notifications get weird and his responses rarely get through. He'll DM me and be just like, "Hey, I noticed you didn't like my Tweet. Did you get my response?"

Chantastic: [laughs]

Cassidy: Some people will DM me saying, "Oh, thank you for including it in your newsletter this week." It's not necessarily to be like, "Yes, these people have been deemed acceptable in Cassidy's eyes." It's to show they've answered these questions.

I know for a fact that there's some employers who are on the newsletter and who are keeping an eye on some of the people who are answering these questions well.

I try to think of it as, "This is a resource for you where if you answer the questions, I will put your name out there, and maybe an employer will see it." I hope that people take it that way as well.

Chantastic: Yeah, I love that. I think it's such a unique way. We talk a lot about being able to share your privilege and this seems like such a unique way to be able to do that to be like, "Hey, I have all these relationships, I have an audience, and let me share the things that you're doing with them." That's like such a beautiful thing that you've been able to find.

Cassidy: Thanks. Yeah. It's honestly worked. There have been a couple of people where they've answered the questions regularly. There was one person who answered it every single day in the year of 2019 or over that.

Yeah, and when someone reached out to me saying, "Hey, is there anyone on your newsletter that like we should reach out to?" I sent them his way, and he ended up getting an interview from that. I want to be able to give that to people and if this is the way to do it, this is the way to do it.

Chantastic: I love it. I love it. Is it exhausting? I mean, it's been four years?

Cassidy: Yeah.

Chantastic: Is it exhausting to do that every week? [laughs]

Cassidy: It is. If I'm being honest, having sponsors has legitimately helped not only to sustain the cost of the newsletter, because after a certain number of subscribers and stuff it does cost a pretty penny to run, but it's kept me on a schedule too.

Where I'm just like, if we have a sponsor this week, I have to get it out by this date, meaning I should probably prepare ahead of time so that my Sunday night isn't terrible.

Being able to have a system like that's been taking practice, and it's been a learning experience, but I think it's been worth it. I know that people get enough value out of it that it's worth pushing forward.

Chantastic: It's such an interesting constraint, but I feel the same way having to do something every week because someone is sponsoring your work, or supporting your work financially. Is such a good...I don't know.

I would like to just be independent and feel like I have full control and agency over my life and decisions, but the truth is sometimes I have to force my own hand.

Cassidy: Yeah. [laughs]

Chantastic: Having something, a contract that says, "You have to actually write this week. Deal with it," is, I guess, the second-best way to do that maybe. [laughs]

Cassidy: Yeah, it's probably not the most ideal way to do it. Yeah, like you said, you want to be able to be just like, "Yes, I'm motivated to do this every week." There are some weeks where I had not motivated at all and it takes a lot of effort to put it together.

Every single newsletter probably takes a total like two hours to put together sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on content and how much I have prepared, but having that little kick in the pants genuinely helps.

Chantastic: [laughs] Now, I'm curious with all of these things going on, how do you keep going? Because I think sometimes it can be overwhelming to keep all these things because you have a newsletter every week, you do a stream every week.

I'm sure there's many other things. I mean, you're constantly putting out videos, tweeting, making sure that people feel interacted with on all of these things. How do you keep the fire going inside and not just feel like a train barreling on?

Cassidy: That's a good question.


Chantastic: Sorry, too much?

Cassidy: I'm crying. Oh, yeah. No, I don't know. It's just the kind of thing where I enjoy giving back to the tech community because the tech community has given me so much. That's a very big part of it, and having my Patreon group.

I love interacting with them not because, "Yay, they're supporting me." But because they're such lovely people who give back to their whole tech community.

The fact that they give a portion to me means I can give out even more. I love seeing people get excited about the things that I put out and learning from the stuff that I put out. That's really my biggest motivation. I like seeing people be happy and learning.

Chantastic: I love that. Yeah, I've felt the same thing. I just recently opened up a Discord for React Podcast listeners. That group of people is really giving me life to want to keep going.

It's so important to find your people who are in your corner and you feel aligned with and have a personal relationship, not just an Internet relationship with.

Cassidy: Right. Yeah, exactly.

Chantastic: I love it.

Cassidy: Yeah, like with this Discord group, we'll play video games together. We try to do play a big among us game every week. Where we definitely bash each other and kill each other in the game.


Cassidy: It's fun because we can then both be angry at each other, but also have this real friendship, and especially in a pandemic, it's so valuable to have that.

There are some people that I've been friends with where they're just like, "Man, I've spent more time hanging out with you 'online' than I have with my real friends all year." Because that's just all my in real life friends all year. Just because that's how the world is right now. I love these online communities, and they are definitely motivating to push stuff out.

Chantastic: Yeah. We're getting to the end of our time, and I know that you have a lot of stuff that I don't want to keep you from, but how do people find all of these places that you are at? Where are all the places that they go to engage with you on their preferred platform of choice?

Cassidy: Well, cassidoo is my handle for everything, C-A-S-S-I-D-O-O. You can google Cassidy Williams, and you'll see both myself in a Scooby-Doo character, and I am not the Scooby-Doo character.


Cassidy: You can look that up. My website is, which links to pretty much everything. I'm in one of those phases now where I'm deciding if I should redo my whole website those that last like several months and then you change the font and that's it.


Cassidy: Anyway, I'm currently in one of those phases, so maybe more will be coming soon, but anyway, that's how you find me.

Chantastic: Awesome. I do hope...This is actually our last interview of the year.

Cassidy: Wow.

Chantastic: I think I usually do one little recap, but I'm delighted to have you on. I think we might actually take a break. I'm spilling the tea on that, but I think we might take a season break.

I encourage anyone listening to this if you're just starving for some weekly content, you should really follow Cassidy because she's just doing amazing stuff. That's going to help out with your career, and just...I don't know.

You're just a great person and I love being able to send people your way and just hang out with you whenever I can. It's great, so thanks for being here.

Cassidy: Yeah, thank you. Right back at you. I appreciate your taking the time and it's always fun to hang out with you.

Chantastic: [laughs] Yeah, and someday we'll talk about some of these secret places that we get to hang out.

Cassidy: Oh, yeah. They're secret places in the world where some of us talk.


Cassidy: Where they are, we can't tell you.


Chantastic: Someday we'll be able to tell people [laughs] , but it has been a delight. I think I'm getting to know you better this year has been really one of the highlights of my year. Thank you for just being an awesome person and being delightful.

A terrific role model to all of us on the Internet, and just thank you for all you do for the community.

Cassidy: Thank you so much. Again, right back at you. I've loved getting to know you more and continuing to listen to the podcasts and seeing the tweets and everything. It's always fun.

Chantastic: Thanks. Well, have a happy holiday and I hope that...You didn't get to make all your 2020 visions this year but I hope that 2021 really restores a lot of the things that [laughs] were lost.

Cassidy: We're all clinging to that hope. I hope so, too.


Chantastic: Thank you so much for being here, Cassidy.

Cassidy: Thank you. Bye.