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Open-Source Development and Standards with Zeno Rocha

In this podcast episode, Zeno Rocha and Kent discuss the dynamic world of web development, including the shift towards SDK-first strategies, the evolution of developer tools, the importance of high standards, and the value of developer conferences for fostering relationships and collaborations.

In this podcast, Zeno Rocha, open-source advocate and founder of Resend, joins host Kent to discuss the dynamic world of web development and the shift towards SDK-first strategies. They reflect on the evolution of developer tools and the significance of user experience in product development. Rocha and Kent stress the necessity of high standards to stand out in web development, and they also touch upon the value of developer conferences for fostering relationships and collaborations. They look forward to engaging with peers at an upcoming event in Park City, Utah, and consider potential topics like the tech industry comparison between Brazil and the US, initiating open-source projects, and strategies for growing a user-base.

Watch this episode.

Meet Zeno at Epic Web Conf.


Zeno Rocha
Zeno Rocha


Kent: Hey, what is up everybody? I'm excited to be joined by my friend Zeno. Zeno say, uh, how are you doing?

Zeno: Hey Kent, super excited to be here man. Super excited about the conference. This is gonna be so fun. So yeah, let's do it.

Kent: I'm stoked. All right, so Zeno, you are actually the founder of one of the companies that's sponsoring the conference, Resend, and I'd love for folks to, well, first of all, thank you for sponsoring the conference. That's awesome. Making this thing possible. Otherwise I couldn't run the conference. It just would cost too much. So I definitely appreciate that. I'd love for people to get to know you a little bit. Could you give us an intro to yourself?

Zeno: Yeah, I'm originally from Brazil, now living in San Francisco with my wife and my two-year-old daughter. And I've been doing frontend my whole life, started with ActionScript 3, started with Flash. And I've seen the transformation through HTML5, jQuery, all those things until what we have now. Today, I don't code like full-time. That's not what I do from 9 to 5. but I can't stop coding. So I keep coding on weekends and during the night is just something that I love. And yeah, currently running Resend, which is a email API for developers. So if you're looking to integrate email into your product, check out Resend, it's pretty cool. And I love open source. I absolutely love open source. Maybe folks have heard about... Dracula or clipboard JS or a react email. So I've been doing a lot of open source my whole life and it's one of the things that, yeah, I also can't stop doing. Yeah.

Kent: Well, I definitely appreciate React email. That's a built-in part of the Epic stack. Resend is also a built-in part of the Epic stack. So for sure, appreciate the work that you're doing in open source and the service that Resend provides. I definitely am very thoughtful about the decisions that I make in the Epic stack. And so evaluated a number of options and Resend. checks all the important boxes in the best way of all the services that I evaluated. So thank you for building that and for your continued work on the open source side of things as well. I think that's super. So, and also congrats on your two-year-old daughter. That's a wonderful age. It's a very fun time for the children there. So. I appreciate you taking a little bit of time away from the two-year-old to come out to Utah.

Zeno: I'll probably bring them. I was talking to my wife, I think we're gonna go as a group.

Kent: Oh, now that would be awesome. I definitely recommend it. They're really cool things to do and things to see in Park City. So, yes, absolutely. Good call. That'll be a lot of fun then. So and yeah, I can't argue with the idea of bringing the family along as well, just because I hate leaving my kids at home and

Zeno: Yeah,

Kent: especially

Zeno: right.

Kent: leaving my wife alone with all the kids at this point is just a lot to ask. So. That sounds great, that's exciting for you. So at the conference, you're not gonna be talking about Resend, it's not like a product pitch, but you are going to be taking some of your experience in building developer first products. And so what are some of the things that you're planning on including in your talk?

Zeno: Yeah, I definitely feel like we've been through multiple generations of developer products. When you look back 16 years ago when Two Wheelie started, it was a very different world than what we have today. So I want to go through that history, but more importantly, I just want to highlight what's different today. And for me, there are a couple of things. One being, for example, SDK first world and not an API first world.

Kent: Hmm.

Zeno: And even though APIs are extremely important and they are the foundation of services like Resend and like many others like Stripe, I feel like there's some different abstraction layers that are now being highlighted and exposed. When you think about services like Clerk, right? You do have the REST API, but you also have SDKs for Node.js. And then you have another layer. of React components that are unstyled or maybe lightly styled and then you can customize. So there's a lot of different things related to that I'm super excited to dive into. And also from a marketing perspective too, I feel like a lot of things change in the way you approach building a product for developers. I think in the beginning, it was very much about like, if it works, that's all, you know, and it can have this super ugly documentation. maybe not even a website, just to read me and that's enough.

Kent: Uh huh.

Zeno: I think the bar is very high nowadays. So how do you even go about not only reaching the bar, but raising the bar? That's everything that I'm about. I just don't want to do whatever people are doing, but I want to raise the bar where everybody's like, oh, wow, now there's a new standard. Now we got to be as... as good as this thing here. So really excited. I think there's a lot that we can dive into.

Kent: Very cool, yeah, I think when you raise that standard, and you definitely have done that with Resend, it just makes, it's part of your competitive advantage. And that's part of the reason why I wanted you to give this talk is because I think a lot of people who are building web applications, especially with the Epic Stack, they just want to get. a product into people's hands. And a lot of people are building products that are SaaS related. And so I thought that your talk would be really useful based on all of the experience that you've had in building a SaaS product, really useful insights for them. So I definitely appreciate that, and I'm looking forward to having you speaking on that. While we're at the conference, one of the... really important aspects of a conference is the in-person nature of it. Otherwise we just record a video and upload it to a YouTube playlist and now everybody watches it. Which of course we are going to do. All of this will be live streamed and the videos will be put on YouTube later. Subscribe and all that.

Zeno: Hehehe

Kent: The main benefit of a conference in my mind is the connections and the networking. And like I've received jobs from relationships that I created while at conferences and open source contributions and collaborations have lots of those things for me have happened because of conferences in person. And so while you're at the conference, I'm sure there will be people who wanna come and talk with you. What are those sorts of things that you would like people to come and ask you about or what are the things that you want to talk about when you're at the conference?

Zeno: Yeah, that's a fascinating question. I, and just a parenthesis before going into that, like you mentioned the importance of going to conferences, right? I remember my first talk was about HTML5 and I didn't know anything about HTML5. Uh, but I submitted a talk and I remembered they had like this huge text area for you to fill up with your bio. And I was still a student, uh, still like, uh, doing like a CS course and everything. And then I just submitted and somehow they accepted. And then I had to start like thinking, Oh no, how am I going to give a talk? Now I'm going to be in front of everybody. Now I need to really learn this. So, uh, and I had like, just like you job offers because of that, just because I went to one conference, I met one person that led me to a different job, uh,

Kent: Mm.

Zeno: but more than anything, I still have friends that are like extremely close to me today. that I met at conferences in 2012, 2013.

Kent: Hmm.

Zeno: So just echoing what you said, I feel like there's just so much you can take out of that. But once we're there, once we're in person, after we share about the things we like first, because we don't need to be pitching stuff to each other, we just need to be talking about, hey, here's a human, here's another human, we're the same. Let's chat about things we love. I would love to talk about maybe how Brazil is different than the US, or how tactics for launching open source projects and getting traction,

Kent: Hmm.

Zeno: and just building open source projects that last. Maybe that's another one. I've been running Dracula for 10 years now, and now Dracula has 6 million-something users only on VS Code. There's a Wikipedia page for Dracula. Like how cool is that? You know?

Kent: That is amazing. Wow.

Zeno: So yeah, I'll be down to chatting about that or about email too. Like I've been learning a ton about email. So we can definitely go over that too.

Kent: Cool, yeah, it sounds like you have a wealth of experience. As you mentioned, you've been doing this for a long time. And so just a wealth of experience that people in person will be able to get a lot out of conversations with you. So I'm looking forward to that for the attendees. I'm looking forward to meeting you as well. And I think we're just gonna have an awesome time in Park City. So yeah, I guess that's about it. I look forward to seeing you in April.

Zeno: Yeah, it's going to be great. I'm super excited to see you and everybody. And please get those tickets. It's important. Let's meet in person. I'm sure it's going to be a much different experience than just watching on YouTube. I think it's worth it.

Kent: Yeah, awesome. Thanks, you know, thanks everybody. We'll see you all later.

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