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110. Scaling a Bernie Meme

Hosted by Greg Nokes, Dan Mehlman, Michael Rose, and Jack Ziesing, with guest Nick Sawhney.

Having a goofy meme project go viral can be an exhilarating feeling. It can also cause your heart to drop, as you've suddenly been saddled with new responsibilities around uptime and scaling resources. Nick Sawhney shares his experiences using Heroku when an afternoon project exploded into a worldwide phenomenon.


Show notes

This episode is a conversation led by Greg Nokes, a Product Manager with Salesforce, Dan Mehlman, a Director of Technical Architecture for Salesforce, Mike Rose, a Director of Technical Architecture for Salesforce, Jack Ziesing, a Technical Architect with Salesforce. They're interviewing Nick Sawhney, a college student who saw an opportunity to make his friends laugh and built something that grew beyond his wildest dreams. At the 2021 US Inauguration, a single shot of Bernie Sanders sitting in a chair captured the hearts of many on the Internet. People everywhere were photoshopping him in the unlikeliest of places. Nick utilized his Python skills and quickly built a Heroku app that would allow users to place Bernie anywhere in the world, by adding him to any image available on Google Street View.

To say the app was a success was an understatement. Inundated by tweets and distracted by press requests, Nick couldn't devote the time needed to keep the app stable and operational. He sent out a desperate tweet for help, only to be picked up by no less than Dan and Michael, who recruited Jack to help Nick with his operational issues. They paired together in a number of ways, optimizing Jack's Python code, securing its authentication logic, and autoscaling dynos in order to handle the waves of traffic. All of these rapid changes allowed Nick to step back and engage with fans on where they'd like to take Bernie next.

In addition to a newfound gratitude towards Heroku's team, Nick learned a few lessons from this experience. He was really humbled by the availability of the engineering community to donate their time and knowledge to help his issues. It's also inspired him to create videos to teach others how they can mitigate scaling issues in their architecture before it becomes a problem. He's also hoping to create some open source tools that to monitor things like server costs and availability issues for other small projects.

Transcript

Speaker 1: Hello and welcome to Code[ish], an exploration of the lives of modern developers. Join us as we dive into topics like languages and frameworks, data and event driven architectures, and individual and team productivity all tailored to developers and engineering leaders. This episode is part of our Heroku in the Wild series.

Greg Nokes: Welcome to Code[ish]. This is Greg Nokes, a Product Manager with Salesforce. I'm joined today by Dan Mehlman, a Director of Technical Architecture for Salesforce. Mike Rose, another Director of Technical Architecture for Salesforce. And Jack Ziesing, a Technical Architect with Salesforce.

Greg Nokes: Today we're also joined by Nick, who wrote Bernie Sits. And if you're not aware of what Bernie Sits is, it is a website where you can put the very meme worthy photo of Bernie Sanders sitting with his mittens on a folding chair at the Inauguration anywhere in the world using the Google Maps API. It's created by Nick and scaled by Nick with some assistance from some folks at Heroku. And today we're here to talk about how that went, how Nick came up with the idea for Bernie Sits, and how he approached scaling it and just generally have a quick round-table.

Nick Sawhney: I was on a train on my way home, and a friend sent me a picture of Bernie Sanders sitting on the New York Subway. And I thought it was hilarious. And I was in a fantastic mood from all of the jokes about Bernie that I had seen so far on Twitter, though it did seem like a slowly growing meme on Twitter of Bernie Sanders just sitting down. And I thought it was really, really funny. And so, I wanted to create some just funny memes of him sitting, like, in front of my friend's house, and I didn't want to put in the effort to, like, Photoshop Bernie into, like ... and find an image of the house and then do that for the next person. But I still wanted to, like, make these jokes to my friends.

Nick Sawhney: And I figured it would just be, like, a quick and easy command line tool to just, like, put Bernie in the image and save a file. I got, like, a good response from my friends when I sent it to them. They were like, they were laughing. And so, I was like, "Oh, maybe, like, one of them would want to use it." And so, I used Heroku to put it online.

Dan Mehlman: So, so Nick, just to be clear about this, this is all happening Wednesday afternoon?

Nick Sawhney: Yes, I think it's, like, it's Wednesday night by now. It's like 5:00 or 6:00, just starting to get dark. I'm coming home for the day. And yeah, it was not a lot of time to actually make the thing, because, you know, the whole, the whole app at the end of the day was, like, maybe 50, 60 lines of, of Python code that I wrote, maybe a bit more now. And the point of it was to, like, to be, like, efficient just for, for my own meme creation.

Nick Sawhney: And it was, like, literally just for friends. And I was just trying to, like, make some jokes and, like, you know, just do, like, a quick coding exercise. Because why not? The semester starts next week, you know? I want to get into the groove. (laughs) And, and that was basically, that was basically it. And I just, I just ... My friends seemed to like it. And so, I also sent it to the group chat of my classmates. Uh, and a few of them also, like, I think seemed to like it.

Nick Sawhney: And just because, like, "Hey, look. This is online publicly. Might as well tweet about it. You never know." And so, I tweeted about it. And then I, like, shut my laptop and, like, just, like, hung out for a bit. And then I checked Twitter again and I'm like, "Ooh, like, you know, 100 likes. Like, that's so cool. I haven't done that before. Like, damn." And then, like, 15 minutes later, it was like, "Wait, it's 1,000 now? It's 2,000 now?"

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: Uh, I think I, like, called my mom to be like, "Uh, there might be some, like, crazy stuff happening tonight, but if you, you know who Bernie San-," uh, she knows who Bernie Sanders is. But like, "I don't know if you know about this. Like, I made a website. I don't know." And she's like, "Oh, okay. Like, let me know if you need anything." (laughs) And then that was it.

Dan Mehlman: I might need a little more money for tuition this semester.

Greg Nokes: (laughs) Yeah.

Nick Sawhney: Yeah, yeah. Hon- (laughs) but yeah. So, then I go home and I open my laptop and I'm like, "Okay. I don't know what's happening. I, I-

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: ... "don't know, like ... I did not expect this. And now I don't know what is going to happen, but I just need to run with it and work the problem and just, like, see what's up." The, because my immediate first thought was, "Oh no, I'm on a free dino. What ... Oh, god." Like, that was my first thought. And then I was like, "All right, let's scale." But at the same time, I was like, "Oh my gosh, like, am I, am I going Twitter famous right now?" And I was kind of like ... It, it was, it was really good that there were these engineering problems to deal with, because it limited how much I could indulge my own ego by, like, scrolling (laughs) through Twitter.

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Jack Ziesing: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: I scaled pretty quickly, and I think I tweeted, like, a tweet that, like, (laughs) in hindsight, like, is so funny that you all liked. But it was a tweet where I was, uh, to put it in an appropriate manner, "Oh my gosh, how do I scale a Heroku app?" Uh-

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: And that (laughs), and that's the PG version of the tweet. And then Jack and Dan got in contact with me. I think I actually thought Dan was a scammer and pretending to be-

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Jack Ziesing: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: ... someone who wasn't originally. I said, I was like, "Do you have any proof that you are who you say you are (laughs)?"

Dan Mehlman: And I think my reply was, "Do you want to see my paycheck?" Um-

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Jack Ziesing: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: (laughs)

Greg Nokes: Nice.

Nick Sawhney: I did not expect anyone from, like, a real tech company to see this (laughs).

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Jack Ziesing: (laughs)

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Michael Rose: You should, you should always, uh ... The internet is, the internet is forever and it is ... Uh, you were, you were tweeting on the real internet, so we definitely were going to be paying attention.

Nick Sawhney: Yeah, that's true. It's a good lesson. But I mean, it kind of worked out, like, I heard you guys thought it was funny.

Michael Rose: It was hilarious. Well, so the sequence on the, on the Salesforce and Heroku side was at ... And I'm, I'm literally looking at the tweets at this, at this moment. It was ... you tweeted that at 9:27 PM Eastern on Wednesday. I in turn got a message from Paul Ford, who's a, who works at Postlight and is a, a neighborhood, uh, friend and a neighborhood acquaintance. He knows I work at Salesforce and he knows Salesforce owns Heroku. So he s- he saw your tweet and said, "Gosh, who do I know who could maybe put Nick in touch with someone who could actually help him?"

Michael Rose: And so, I then jumped into our team Slack and said, "Hey, anybody who's up and is available and is willing to (laughs) engage with this guy, he could use some help." So, that's when Dan reached out.

Jack Ziesing: I basically saw the Slack thread and then said, "Hey, happy to help out." Um, and so Dan put me in touch with, uh, with Nick via email. And I was sort of sitting by the fireplace watching some inauguration stuff with, with, with my dad and, um, we were just celebrating. And, uh, I sent over a Google, a Google Meet. And I was like, "Hey, maybe he'll join, maybe he won't." And I sort of had it opened. And all of a sudden, Nick joined the, the Google Meet. And I was like, "Oh my god." And as I looked over at my (laughs) dad, I was like, "It, it's him. I'm going to, I'm going to go help him." So-

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: (laughs) Oh my gosh. I never thought I would have, like, a fan reaction like that, Jack. I'm honored. Uh, so my side of that story is as soon as you emailed me, I was, like, overjoyed, thrilled. I was like, "Oh my god, I can talk to him. I can talk to everyone about this. Like, this is going to be good." But the thing is, I was, like, in a very intensely stressful period, uh, at that time, because my brain was trying to process the number of people that were, like, looking at this and the potential for it to grow. Though at this point, it was not, like, news viral. It was Twitter viral.

Nick Sawhney: So, I think that's an important point where overnight it changed from Twitter viral to, like, whatever it became. Like, you know, I started, I didn't get, like, news requests until, like, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 in the morning. Um, but what was going on was, Jack, you emailed me. I was really, really thrilled, but, like, right at that moment, people started sending pictures where it was, like, Bernie in front of a Google Maps error message, which was, first of all, like, one of the funniest, like ... I thought that was the funniest-

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Jack Ziesing: That's exactly right, yeah. I, I remember seeing it go down, and I was like, "Oh, shoot. It went down. Like, we should help him out." And then I got on the call with you, and you shared the app with me. And we spent about 10 minutes fixing something. And, and you did some magic, and I did some magic. Um, and you allowed some access s- so that I could see some insights on your application. And then it was back up and running. And I think, uh, we opened up a beer and, and said cheers. And then you continued on to enjoy this spotlight that you got for the next week or more.

Nick Sawhney: (laughs) It was also really awesome, because there were, like, two simultaneous problems that had to be solved at the same time. Like, there was no blocking, because even though, like, the site was, like, doing this weird thing, even though it was such a sim- ... I think, like, because it was so simple, it didn't, like, crash the whole thing. Right? So, Jack was able to do the scaling stuff, and I was able to do the, like, URL signing stuff in order to get Google to trust me again and, like, let me keep using Maps, like, because they, they were just getting too many requests. So, I had to start using some authentication and stuff.

Nick Sawhney: Uh, and I, and that was, like, such an awesome, like, engineering moment for me. Like, it felt like something out of a, like, a movie or, or Silicon Valley or something. Like, it was a ... In hindsight, it was a blast. At the time, I was like, kind of, like, on, like, a different plane just, like, saying things and responding to things and just, like ... It was all, like, just my brain doing things, because I was just so overwhelmed. But, like, in hindsight, it was, like, such an awesome moment to scale.

Nick Sawhney: And then I just, like, kept staying up. And, and then the really, really good part was, thanks to Jack's help, I was able to, like, not worry about scaling consistently throughout the entire time. And I think it helped make the app more popular, because that meant that I could, like, take press requests and stuff without worrying about the site going down. And, like, more and more people were able to start learning about it. And, like, that key Zoom call or Google Meets with, uh, with Jack was kind of, like, when it changed from a fun little website and then, "Oh, shoot. It went down." And that was a, "Oh, look. You went kind of viral on Twitter."

Nick Sawhney: But because of Jack, uh, and Dan getting involved, it became, like, the, you know, I don't want to be presumptuous, but it became kind of more of a phenomenon than, like, just a Twitter meme. And it was, like, just an incredible, incredible night. Like, I'll remember it for the rest of my life.

Dan Mehlman: (laughs) Oh, well actual- I think we will too.

Nick Sawhney: (laughs)

Dan Mehlman: So, going from zero to web scale in a matter of hours, that wasn't part of the plan?

Nick Sawhney: No (laughs). Not at all. Oh my gosh.

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: I was just ... The, the plan was, "Oh, that was a fun little coding project. Maybe I can put it on my GitHub and, like, some people will be like, 'Oh, look. This guy, like, knows how to write Python. That's cool.'" And then that would've been that. And it was just, like, a silly little app, because I, I know I'm going to be using a lot of Python this semester.

Dan Mehlman: So, what was the biggest moment?

Nick Sawhney: So, there are three moments throughout the night, or throughout ... it wasn't, it was, like, three or four days, that, like, really made this something, like, awesome to me. Uh, the first was when y'all reached out to me. And I was like, "Oh my gosh, like, engineering community helping me out. Yes."

Nick Sawhney: And then the second thing was a little bit later in the night. My favorite YouTuber ever who I've been watching since I was, like, 15 years old, Casey Neistat, huge inspiration because his whole thing is just make things. You know, you want to make something? Don't think about making something for so long, make something and put it online and then make it better. And just make things and show them to people. And then he retweeted it with, like, a clapping emoji. And I ... Like, that was my, like, oh my gosh, like, fan boy moment kind of thing. Uh, and then I, like, wrote, like, a reply, like, thanking him for telling people to make things. And he replied saying, like, he liked the site and stuff. So, that was the first really awesome moment.

Nick Sawhney: And then the second really awesome moment was when I was, like, like, in the very early hours of the morning when I was, like, still dealing with, like, you know, scaling but I was a little bit less stressed about it, because y'all had given me such amazing tips. And, like, uh, I had set up the crowdfunding, and so I felt really comfortable about pushing this thing forward because people were being incredibly generous and, like, it was awesome. And then suddenly, I get, like, 30 different texts at once being like, "Is this you in The New York Times?"

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Jack Ziesing: (laughs)

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: And then immediately the site goes down immediately. But the good thing is I was able, like ... unlike, you know, some other experiences I've had with having to scale things, like, on a much more, like, smaller level, like, I, all I had to do is just, like, open up Heroku and increase the number of machines. And then that immediately brought it online again. And then I was able to start refining it to make sure that it was efficient and, like, you know ... Uh, Jack was a huge, huge help in, in doing that as well. But it was awesome because I was able to, like, like, "Thank you, New York Times, for letting me, like, learn the subtleties of, of scaling."

Nick Sawhney: And then, and then the final moment was, like, a few days later after I, uh, had, uh, finally, like, gotten some sleep and gotten some, like, peace and just some time, like, just, like, a single conversation with, like, some friends that had nothing to do with any of this stuff that was happening. But, but we talked about, like, like, Star Wars or something. And it, like, really brought me down to Earth and, like, let me just process everything.

Nick Sawhney: And I got in the elevator. And then, like, the scale of this thing just, like, washes over me. You know, my heart starts pounding and, like, I'm, I'm doing a little, like, happy triumphant dance in the elevator all by myself. Like, "Whoa, like, what just happened?" And I'm just like, "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god." Like, just saying it alone in the elevator, like, you know, just, like, the rush of just, like, scale and volume and feeling in my brain. It was like, I felt like I was going to pass out, like, my heart was beating so fast. And (laughs) I was like, "Oh my gosh, I have to go grocery shopping right now. Like-

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: ... "What am I going to do? Like, how am I going to, like, look at groceries?" (laughs)

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: Uh, and, uh, and I texted my brother, who's about to be a med student. He was like, "All right. You're going to be okay. Here's how you can go grocery shopping." And, like, and he was, like, really kind to help me out. And it was, like, just, like, such a moment for me. And, like, you know, the, the craziest, like, 30 seconds of feeling I've ever had in my life. It was just, like, incredible and, like, humbling.

Dan Mehlman: As a former New Yorker, and, and actually Mike is there now, but, you know, seeing your name in The New York Times or being on New York 1, I mean, these are things that are just, you know, unimaginable. You've, you've made it in the city that never sleeps. It sounds like you weren't sleeping very much yourself.

Nick Sawhney: (laughs)

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: No, I was not. Yeah, The New York Times, like, this is the thing that made me really happy, (laughs) is when The New York Times was like, "Nick Sawhney, a software engineer from New York." I was like, "Yes, this all the things that I want."

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: (laughs) Uh, and, and then, you know, just, like, the next day, I was, because the site was stable, I was able to deal with, you know, there were, there was a lot of press requests. I, I woke up in the morning, or I didn't wake up, I went out to get, like, coffee and air.

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: And, um, you know, the, my barista was like, you, "Are you okay, man. Uh, you're looking tired." I'm like, "Oh, well so, I made this website. And it's, like, on the internet now. And, like, people are liking it. And I'm going on Irish radio in a little bit, so I wanted to get coffee so that I'm, like, coherent." (laughs) Uh, and, uh, and this woman behind me's like, "Excuse me. What? Are you internet famous? And I, like, pull up the we- and she, like ... I'm like, "Oh yeah, but it's, like, not a big deal. Like, it's fine. I'm, like, not trying to, like, draw attention to myself." And she was like, "No, show me. Show me." And, like, so I pulled out the website (laughs) on my phone and Bernie in front of the coffee shop that we were standing in front of.

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: Um, and it was, and, and she was like, "Oh my god. Like, that was awesome." Like, and, and, like, that was a really fun little moment to, like, start the day. And just, like, you know, I tried to respond to as many people on Twitter and email as I could, because I had a lot of people, like, asking me, "Hey, can you, like, put Bernie in this picture for me?" I, and, like, it was a lot of people who, like, didn't necessarily understand how the site worked and who were, like, a little bit less in the world of technology. But it was really awesome, because they still wanted to use the site and keep it going.

Nick Sawhney: And so, I ended up, like, custom making some Bernie memes for a few people. And tonight, um, some friends and I are going to be, like, you know, just sitting around and adding Bernie to various images that people have requested us to do.

Greg Nokes: One of the things I kind of wanted to touch on though was, you were talking about that YouTuber that, that was an inspiration for you. And one of the things that you brought up was that, you know, build something. Put it out there. See what happens. And to me, you know, I've been around Heroku for, for awhile, and that's kind of one of the core values of a platform like Heroku, make it super easy to get stuff out there and experiment. And then when you do accidentally go viral, give you the (laughs) ability to scale as well.

Nick Sawhney: Yeah. And I think additionally, like, so once it went viral, right, Heroku was really, really easy to use and scale. But I don't think it would've gone viral if I'd had to go through, like, a longer cloud deployment process, because I think the reason it went viral was the timeliness. Right? Like, uh, the picture was from the morning that the site went out. And it was a s- it was, like, a meme that was not ... it was, like, just part of all the other stuff going on on Twitter but not, like, you know, this huge thing yet.

Nick Sawhney: And so, I, it was, like, you know, one of those, like, strike while the iron is hot moments, in hindsight, I guess. But, you know, if I had to, if I had to do, like, this long cloud deployment process instead of, like, make a new project on Heroku and get push, like, I don't think the site would've been able to actually, like, get the traction. I think the timeliness was everything.

Greg Nokes: Yeah.

Nick Sawhney: There were a lot of co- yeah, there were a lot of comments being like, "Oh my gosh, the internet moves so fast." And I was like, "The internet moves fast? Don't you mean I move fast?"

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Greg Nokes: Yeah. And, I mean, just the timeline of this, right? You had an idea, and what, in a couple hours you had it online and going viral.

Nick Sawhney: Yeah. Yeah. It was, I think it was about ... Making the terminal app was, like, maybe half an hour. And it was mostly just, like, you know, setting up, like, the very simple flask-boilerplater. And also, like, a lot ... most of the ... like, most of that was also just, like, I need to remember how to use, like, the front end templates and stuff again. Uh, and then it was, like, another half hour of, like, testing and debugging, um, which I'm so glad that I did. Because if I'd just been like-

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: ... "Whatever, there are some bugs. Like, my friends will show me." I don't know why. I had this moment where I was just like, "No, you should test this thing, just, just in case, you know. It's, it's good, it's a good habit anyways." And thanks to that, like, the site did not bug out or go down for, like, any reason that didn't come out of the fact that it was popular, right, like, like rate limits and API requests and stuff like that.

Nick Sawhney: And it left me the time to, like, you know, implement things on the fly. And the other thing that was cool about Heroku was, like, when I implemented things on the fly, immediately, like, Twitter was like, "Oh yeah, it's back. Thank you." Uh, and, like-

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: ... and because of, like, the virality, I was able to check to see if the site was actually working by looking at my recent quote tweets. Because there would either be a picture of Bernie or there would be recent comments being like, "Uh, it's not working for me. Can you fix it, please?" So, I, there was, like, this, like, real-time feedback element because of the social media attention.

Greg Nokes: Nothing like a quality, high speed, low latency feedback loop (laughs).

Nick Sawhney: (laughs) But, you know, this is the thing, like, Twitter is kind of that in this case. Like, it was way faster, because I just needed to, like, look ... I didn't even need to, like, log in to Twitter. I would just need to, like, look at my phone. And I would just see the notifications coming in. It was a really good way to, like, vibe out what was going on in the, in the whole situation. So, it was, it was really cool.

Dan Mehlman: You know, from, from my standpoint, you know, just to go on Facebook that evening and all throughout that weekend and just see picture after picture that, you know ... Were you responsible for every Bernie picture on the internet? It may have seemed like it. You weren't responsible for every one of them though, but you were, you were responsible for quite a few.

Nick Sawhney: Yeah, it was wild. It was, like, my ... I had a teacher, uh, an old teacher from high school, Ms. Wynn, my AP Environmental Science Teacher, she reached out to me to tell her that her eccentric aunt, to use her words for it, like, told her about the app. And she was like, "Oh my gosh, that's, like ... I, I taught that kid back in the day." And it's, like, I had, I've had those stories from a whole bunch of old teachers of mine and, like ... It's been cool because, like, all these people I haven't talked to in a long time, especially because, you know, the pandemic kind of pulled in a lot of social spheres, and it was, like, this moment of, like, or this, these series of, like, moments of reconnection, uh, with all these people that I, like, used to be friends with or colleagues with. And that's been really awesome.

Dan Mehlman: You didn't just make your world smaller though, you made the whole world smaller. We were all, we were all using this thing.

Nick Sawhney: Yeah, it was (laughs), it was, it was humbling. Like, that's all I can really ... The volume of it, it's, like, awe inspiring. I don't know what, like, you know, 24 million impressions, like, means on a human scale. My brain can't comprehend that. Right? Like-

Jack Ziesing: (laughs) Uh, yeah. I, I, I think it's cool, because it's, uh, it's ... You know, some people go viral in all different sorts of ways, but, you know, I heards it spoken internally, and, and from some of our higher execs. But it was a, it was, you know, you really brought happiness to the internet that day. Props to you for going viral in the best way possible.

Nick Sawhney: Wow, thanks.

Jack Ziesing: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: I should just come on this podcast all the time and just, like, let you guys compliment me.

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: (laughs)

Dan Mehlman: Every time you go web scale, you are welcome back.

Nick Sawhney: Absolutely (laughs).

Michael Rose: Well, that, that actually was my question, because, you know, you, you've had this amazing, you know, elevator epiphany of ... and I, I liked how, how Dan put it, is once you make it in the big city, you know, that's ... you've, you've done that. Uh, but you haven't peaked. We all have confidence that you're going to go on to do amazing things too. So, so, you're starting this semester. What's next? What do you ... what is percolating in your head of what would be a fun project or something that you'd like to build out and see if people enjoy it?

Nick Sawhney: Yeah, so this is something that I've been really thinking about. First of all, you know, I'm still in school. And it's the first week of the semester coming up, and so I definitely, like, will be doing my homework going forward. Right?

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: Uh, but also, like, I, I turned the site eve- I put the site opensource, and it's been, like, this is my first time, you know, being the maintainer on an opensource project, uh, that actually gets attention. So, I'm, like, first I'm trying to learn how to get really, like, get better at opensource. And there's been a whole community of people that have kind of taken me under their wing and started, you know, helping me, like, do that and at ... Now that things are kind of slowing down, I hopefully can put some more time into that.

Nick Sawhney: Um, and also I want to ... I'm, I'm making a YouTube channel where I can, like, share this story and, like, put my other work out there, because I've done a lot of research and stuff that I think is, you know ... Like, this app was awesome, but there are some things that I would love, like, more people to know about from my, from my research and, and undergrad for my thesis and stuff.

Nick Sawhney: And then, uh, the final thing I want to be doing is developing tools that I think would've helped me, uh, so that next time, you know, someone else makes a website that goes viral like this, they ha- might have some tools that let them focus on, like, the really fun aspects of it. Right? Like, for me, the fun aspects of it were scaling and, like, the engineering problems associated with that, you know, the frantic nature of having to push updates in real-time while getting feedback from a bunch of people, all of these things. And, like, just kind of enjoying, like, going viral on Twitter. You know?

Nick Sawhney: And my hope is to kind of create some publicly available tools which allow people to monitor API costs and other, like, costs associated with an app and compare that to crowdfunding revenue in real-time in order to, like, decide when to pull the site's functionality or place with, like, you know, some, "Hey, the site's down, but we can be back up if you want to crowdfund it." And, like, just create some tools that let people do this again in the future and maybe, like, have an easier time with it. That's, like, you know ... It gave me so many ideas for, like, for, like, new tools and new software. That's kind of one of the things I'm passionate about. So, it's really nice to, to have.

Jack Ziesing: Yeah, Mike, that was, that was a great question to ask, because after I spoke to Nick, I was, like, doing some research. And then I sort of poked around on his GitHub and looked at his website. And I was, like, thinking about it. And I, I listen to a few different podcasts, but one of my favorites is How I Built This, uh, uh, on PBS. And so, there's a common theme that I see wi- with, with some of these people. And I think this is just a, a small blurb in, in your greater future. And I think there is, um, you know, there's a lot of takeaways that you can go through this. But it's just, it'll be exciting to see where you go from this and then, and what, what you'll do next.

Nick Sawhney: Yeah, I hope so. And, you know, like, I'm really grateful, because I came out of this with a few more Twitter followers. And now I feel a lot more confident, you know, about putting my own voice out there be- ... And, like, obviously I'm, I'm very young still and I have a lot to learn. And I, like, you know, I would like to keep learning and, like, you know, hopefully use this platform to keep connecting with engineers and keep asking questions. Um, but also, you know, it's given me the confidence to have my own voice, put my own analysis out there and, like, just confidence in, in working on future projects. And, like, the, the personal motivation that this has given me, it's night and day. And that's, like, you know, just, like, a personal, like, you know, paradigm shift for me.

Michael Rose: If you went back in time, is there anything you would do differently? And specifically, is there anything you would do differently about how you leveraged Heroku or, or the Google Maps APIs in this experience?

Nick Sawhney: So, I've thought a lot about this. And, like, the answer is absolutely not, you know.

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Jack Ziesing: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: Maybe there were better engineering decisions that I could've made. Uh, no, there, there were better engineering decisions I could've made.

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: I could've written the code to be a lot more robust in many ways. And, like, you know, I, I put a lot of time, uh, and thinking into, like, the security of it in terms of, like, making sure that my API keys did not, you know, get leaked, or if they potentially did, regenerating them and, like, you know, that whole kind of thing. But, like, the story of it where, you know, I, it was, like, a scrappy release and I had to kind of deal with it on the fly is s- like, one of the, one of the things that, like, you know, made people kind of interested in this app.

Nick Sawhney: And, like, you know, I learned so much. And, like, who knows what the case would be now if any single one of those things had happened differently. It was like a confluence of timing and luck and everything. You know, I would not trade that experience for anything. It was, like, the most intense, stressful, like, transformative thing that has ever happened to me. And I'm, like, I'm so grateful for it. You know, like-

Greg Nokes: Well, absolutely. Thank you so much for your time, Nick. Thank you so much for creating this amazing app. And thank you for trusting Heroku with, uh, the infrastructure for your app. We're, we're truly grateful.

Nick Sawhney: Thank you all for taking me under your wing like this and, like, all the support. It's just been incredible.

Dan Mehlman: Nick, we're all going to be working for you someday. So-

Michael Rose: (laughs)

Dan Mehlman: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: (laughs)

Greg Nokes: (laughs)

Nick Sawhney: Oh god, no.

Greg Nokes: Well, uh, thank you again. Uh, appreciate you taking some time out of your, your busy schedule to be on this podcast. And, uh, I'm sure we'll be hearing more from you soon.

Nick Sawhney: Yeah, anytime. And I'm, I'm really excited for the future.

Speaker 1: Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Code[ish] Podcast. Code[ish] is produced by Heroku, the easiest way to deploy, manage and scale your applications in the cloud. If you'd like to learn more about Code[ish] or any of Heroku's podcasts, please visit Heroku.com/podcasts.

About code[ish]

A podcast brought to you by the developer advocate team at Heroku, exploring code, technology, tools, tips, and the life of the developer.

Hosted by

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Greg Nokes

Master Technical Architect, Heroku

Greg is a lifelong technologist, learner and geek. He has worked at Heroku for over 8 years.

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Dan Mehlman

Heroku Director, Technical Architecture,

A former developer once plagued by the challenges Heroku solves. He’s happier these days, spending his time talking about the awesomeness of Heroku.

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Michael Rose

Director, Technical Architecture, Salesforce

Mike leads the Technical Architects team covering our Small & Medium business customers (8 years at Salesforce)

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Jack Ziesing

Senior Technical Architect, Salesforce

Jack is a developer, learner, salesman, and lifelong DIY enthusiast, fascinated with inventing. Jacks finds satisfaction with hands on experience.

With guests

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Nick Sawhney

NYU Graduate Student,

Software engineer and data scientist. Current MS student at NYU Tandon School of Engineering.https://nicksawhney.github.io/me

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