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Thomas Watson on The Changelog podcast

Our own Thomas Watson @wa7son was on The Changelog podcast to talk a bit about open source development, monitoring Node.js applications and his work with Nodeschool.

Take a listen below or read the transcript.  



Host: I am here with Thomas Watson of Opbeat and as listeners of the show, you know that we love to turn things on their heads and that’s no different than sponsorships and one thing we are doing is we are going deeper into the organisations we work with. Opbeat is doing some really interesting things around application performance monitoring, specifically around Node.js and Thomas has an interesting story on how he got started with Opbeat and also starting off their node support. Thomas say hello.

Thomas: Hey, hello everybody.

Host: Thomas, you got an interesting story here with how you came to be at Opbeat. It seems like the node support is kinda even thanks to you. What’s the back story on that?

Thomas: I’ve been doing Node.js for almost five years and I found Opbeat, they were doing application performance monitoring and I wanted to have that for my stuff that I was doing and they did not have node support so I basically approached them and said,”Hey, can I do an unofficial Node.js implementation?” They were like, “Yeah sure, we’d love that.” I did that then slowly we started to work a lot more together and all of of a sudden, I find myself being employed now at Opbeat, being the Node.js lead and I am now responsible for this agent that I started back in the day as an open source project. I’m now responsible for that at Opbeat, that’s the one you install on your production servers to monitor the health and performance of your application.

Host: That model, the Opbeat node and so things begin with that open source repo, is that how things began for you with this?

Thomas: Yeah, I started it under my own GitHub account and just did it for myself and my own projects and then people started using it and the Opbeat guys were really happy with it. When we decided to join forces, we moved it to the Opbeat org on GitHub so now it resides on github.com/opbeat/opbeat-node.

Host: That’s really interesting so see like … because we’ll get into this here in a second but you have this passion for open source but how your own personal drive and desire for something on a particular language platform like node, and then a service like Opbeat to get that application performance monitoring into your own apps, you were like hey you don’t have it but I can write this and now you actually work there and you’re building it out.

Thomas: Yeah, that’s the beauty of open source. It connects you with a lot of people and you can basically do what you want for yourself and then if people like it, you see where it takes you. In this case, it took me to this really awesome place I’m doing this really awesome stuff with node that’s really down in the machine room so to speak, which is really interesting to do. Right now, actually we’re going out of beta soon. You can go to opbeat.com/nodejs and sign up for the beta if you want to try out the stuff.

Host: The Opbeat Node.js module, can you talk a bit about what it does?

Thomas: It basically sits on your server inside your Node.js app. You require it at the top of your main program and it just monitors the overall health of your application on a request basis so incoming HTTP requests to your node server. It figures out what’s slow, what’s performing badly, what should you take a look at to optimize. Maybe it’s a database thing, maybe it’s a reddish cache or something else and it also manages errors happening in production so we will break down the error, figure out who made that code, when was it committed to Git, when was it pushed to production so we can also assign errors to the developers who actually is responsible for the code that is breaking.

Host: Obviously you’re passion for open source and your passion for giving back got you to doing some of this stuff with Opbeat and what we just described there with your node support and whatnot. Can you talk a bit about your work at NodeSchool, the open source you’ve written, just some of your passions around open source and kind of how you think about open source?

Thomas: Yeah, I really love open source. I’ve been a big open source software user for over 20 years. When I joined the node.js community 5 years ago and finding such a big open source spirit in the community, it was really exciting. I’ve now gone from an open source user to an open source developer. I love to teach. That’s one of my passions and of course I love to teach programming so there’s something called NodeSchool where I try to help out as much as I can to teach other people node.js.

Host: And you get to do that not only on the web, kind of remotely so to speak, but you also get to do face to face.

Thomas: Yeah, you can go into nodeschool.io and you can take some courses online but you can also join some of the regional chapters and you can meet up at a city. There will be a NodeSchool event where we will have tutors who can help you out with your node questions and you can actually do some of these online courses, you can do them in person, in real life with people who know node really well. I try to do that as much as I can. I’ve been organizing one here in Copenhagen where I’m from.

Host: Cool. If you want to follow up with Thomas, you can check him out at github.com/watson. That’s his last name, W-A-T-S-O-N. If you want to sign up for the Opbeat node.js beta, you can do so at opbeat.com/nodejs.

About the author
Vanja Cosic is Opbeat’s community manager, and is the go-to guy in the office for the latest tech. If you have any suggestions, feature requests or just want to troll, you can reach him at vanja@opbeat.com.
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