I recently had a chance to sit down with Meteor Community Engineer Yuriy Dybskiy to talk about the success of Meteor Day, and more generally what makes the Meteor community so special.

The full version of the interview along with the audio is available for Premium Edition members, but we thought we’d share a few selected excerpts here as well.

Sacha Greif: I’m here with Yuriy Dybskiy from Meteor. Today, we’re going to talk about community. Not the TV show but actually the Meteor community, and especially Meteor Day.

First of all, can you introduce yourself and what you do at Meteor?

Yuriy Dybskiy: Sure. Sacha, I’m honored to be here, real pleasure. My official title is community engineer. I’ll dig a little deeper on what that entails. A little bit of background: I used to live in Ukraine. I lived in Japan, then Canada, and now San Francisco.

I started coding as a kid. Then, I took a lot of math courses in the university. I have a masters in Mathematics. Then, I got into software engineering and Web development.

I stayed there for almost the last 10 years, mostly front end. The last five years, I’ve been working with Canadian and US start-ups. Last year, I switched to a new role which was developer advocacy.

The first talk I gave about Meteor was in August 2012.

About five or six months ago, I joined Meteor as a community engineer. I’ve been part of the community for more than two years now actually. The first talk I gave about Meteor was in August 2012. That’s two years and a couple of months. That’s my story of getting into the Meteor community.

How To Land Your Dream Job

Sacha: When did you join Meteor?

Yuriy: I joined Meteor in June 2014.

Sacha: So fairly recently. I’d be curious to know how these couple months have been. What’s your report on working for Meteor?

Yuriy: First, I’ll back track a little bit because I’ve been giving talks about Meteor for the last two years or so. I’ve given talks in Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, and Buenos Aires and San Francisco. I’ve been a captain of all those groups.

Sacha: So in a way you were already working for Meteor?

Yuriy: [laughs] Yeah. I’ve been knocking on this Meteor door for almost two years. It was really funny how in June, except for getting a Meteor email account, almost nothing changed in terms of my day-to-day work. I was still part of the community. I was still helping grow the community.

I’ve been knocking on this Meteor door for almost two years.

I was just doing more of that. It’s really interesting how my role hasn’t changed much in terms of community building, which just shows how much you can contribute, being on the outside of Meteor as a company, to Meteor as a movement and as a project.

We also recently had Robert join with the community team. He has helped me out with the speaker program. Alice is also now in the community team which is really awesome.

Sacha: I guess this is interesting because the usual way people find a job is they apply to four or five jobs. They do interviews and so on. But you started doing the job you wanted to do even before you had the job in a way. I think that’s pretty cool.

Yuriy: I think it’s an interesting change. It happens more and more in different companies. It’s like you start doing what you want to be doing and then you find the company that wants to support you and pay you to do that. It’s a very interesting way to get a job. It was a good experiment actually.

Yuriy at a devshop

Engineering Communities

Sacha: Definitely. You mentioned something I find pretty interesting which is that your job title is community engineer. Why engineer? Why not manager? Why engineer specifically?

Yuriy: That’s a great question. I’m a developer. I’m not a very good developer that’s why I’m doing community engineering. But I like to code and I like to build things. I want to keep it that way.

If you ever played Team Fortress 2, it’s a nice multi-player shooting game. There are different characters there. There’s an engineer which always was my favorite character. I have most of the points and time played in Team Fortress as an engineer.

The question I asked myself, how can I become a more productive developer? Just as one developer, I can only so much. But if I can help a lot of people become developers or grow their technical skills or become better with tools, that will enhance the overall productivity a lot.

If you point the community in the right direction, it will create something amazing.

I thought I’d try out this role. It basically involves building tools for the community and allowing the community to grow by itself because there’s only so much I can do.

But if you point the community in the right direction, it will create something amazing. Meteor Day that happened recently is a really great example of what can happen with that in mind.

“Community Hacking”

Sacha: Right now a very popular term is “growth hacking”. That’s applying engineering to marketing or applying engineering to growth. What you’re doing is applying engineering to community.

Yuriy: I never quite liked the growth hacking terms or some of those strategies. There are some really good strategies. There’s always like SEO optimizations. Pretty much in any optimizations, there’s this white hat techniques and black hat techniques.

Sometimes, those techniques are really good. Sometimes, they become very spammy. I always prefer the organic approaches and the natural growth of things and just creating conditions where amazing things can happen. Usually, they do happen if you make those conditions right.

Sacha: You’re not using black hat community engineering tactics to…

Yuriy: Not yet.

Sacha: …trick people into coming into the meet-ups.

Yuriy: [laughs] I would be curious to know what techniques are available, but so far now, it’s been really just natural growth and writing a lot of emails. I don’t know if that’s hacking, but writing a lot of email and talking to people is really helpful to make things happen.

Meteor Day

Why Meteor Day

Sacha: You just mentioned Meteor Day. That was last week actually. Can you give us a quick report? First of all, what was Meteor Day for people who are watching [or reading] this from the future? How did it go?

Yuriy: [laughs] To people watching this from the future, on October 28th, Meteor launched version 1.0 of the framework and the platform. Funny enough, it coincided with my birthday. It’s very easy for me to remember when Meteor 1.0 landed.

As part of the launch, the idea was to get people together to show them what Meteor 1.0 is. A lot of people were playing with Meteor for the last two years. A lot of things have changed. Some of the rough edges have been polished.

There are so many apps and example apps now that are new. There are only two example apps but they’re so good that it was really worth getting attention towards it. We decided we should try to coordinate as several cities to come together to celebrate that.

The new to-dos example app.

Then, we thought, “What if we try to get all our groups to meet on the same day? Wouldn’t that be amazing?” Our goal was to get together 70 cities. That was a really ambitious goal because I don’t think an open source, something like this has ever happened.

There’s been Node Day and Node School Days which are really amazing programs. But I don’t think they have ever had more than 40 or 20 something cities joined together. A goal of 70 cities was really ambitious.

We started preparing for that and planning that out. Then, once we started announcing, more and more cities started to jump on board.

Connecting In Real Life

Yuriy: There have been so many new cities popping out that wanted to host an event. Also, almost all of the cities that have currently meet-up groups in their cities had a Meteor event, got together, and were playing with the Meteor 1.0.

Another interesting thing, one of the other things we wanted to do is, how do you connect people around the world with the core developers of Meteor? Because they’re really busy building a framework.

It’s really hard to get a hold of them. But we really wanted to put them in front of people who are using Meteor and for them to be able to talk to each other and ask questions.

Meteor Day animated

The idea was to have a live hangout between the cities and the core developers. We managed to get that working as well. We used Talky.io which is really a great product for video conferencing. We had up to five or six cities join per room. We had our core developers answering all of the questions.

It was really exciting. It was 24 hours of rolling events. Almost like a New Year’s celebration except it was a Meteor Day celebration at the same local time events happened all over the world. 134 cities is the last count.

More than 4,000 people came together on Meteor Day, which is truly amazing.

Sacha: Wow.

Yuriy: According to RSVPs, there were 4,259 RSVPs through meetup.com. Also, some of the events were using Facebook and Google+. I don’t think we counted that yet. It’s more than 4,000 people came together on Monday which is truly amazing.

Sacha: It is. Does that count people who are watching online?

Yuriy: We had an online meet-up as part of San Francisco group. Only a hundred people signed up for that. The goal for this particular event was to include as many people locally to get them to meet the local Meteor developers.

It was much more optimized for getting to know people, meeting people in your city and then Skyping or seeing a Meteor core developer rather than just watching it live stream.

Meteor Day Check-in

For the future ones, we will consider having a pure online, really a combination of online/offline events and have more focus on the online so people from even the more extreme north locations could join and participate.

Sacha: That makes sense. That’s still 4,000 real people walking out of their home and going to a meet-up for Meteor, it’s really amazing.

Yuriy: It’s really amazing. On Twitter, the reaction was amazing. There were a lot of photos. I’ll do a round up look. It should be probably out by the time you see the video.

Get the Premium Edition to access the full interview, and learn:

  • What has changed for Meteor since Meteor Day.
  • How Yuriy and the Meteor team got the word out before the event.
  • The difference between the Meteor community and other JavaScript communities.
  • What Meteor and Argentine tango have in common.
  • What’s in store for 2015, and Yuriy’s vision for the Meteor community.

Thanks a ton to Yuriy for making himself available and sharing Meteor’s upcoming plans!