The Year in Glitches

In this time of reflection, let's talk about the bugs we found this year and what we're doing to solve them.

We published our look back at our year at Glitch, and I’m incredibly proud of what our team and community have accomplished! But we also encountered our share of challenges — some serious — over the course of 2019. The end of the year is a time of reflection, so I want to talk about those bugs we found, both to acknowledge the bugs we’ve found and share what we’re learning as we work on solving them.

All of this is in keeping with the spirit that underlies our company. When we picked the name “Glitch”, we wanted to emphasize the very human reality that things/people/processes are often imperfect - they have bugs or mistakes. But if we commit to working on them together, we can make great things.

Scaling

The most visible challenge we had in serving our community this year is keeping up with scaling the technical infrastructure that makes all these millions of Glitch apps possible. Glitch uses an unusual system design (every Glitch app is its own, unique Docker container with a full Linux environment in it) that may not be obvious when simply browsing the site, but it does take some real heavy lifting to make it go.

A few times this year, that system didn’t run as smoothly as everyone would expect. Most notably, we had a fairly lengthy outage on November 4th that we documented here. During each of the times we faced technical issues like this over the course of this year, we’ve been really heartened to see the community be so supportive (so much #hugops!) and understanding about the challenges of scaling.

But if we are serious about Glitch becoming a part of every developer’s toolkit (see Connecting to Coders, below), we have to be a platform everyone can trust. We have to meet and exceed our community's expectations for stability and reliability. We've made a big investment on that front, while also focusing more on user-facing features that makes the creation experience on Glitch smoother and even more enjoyable.

People

2019 was also the year that many of our talented people chose to come work at Glitch—most of our team has been with the company less than 12 months! It’s been incredible to see our team grow by leaps and bounds and to find out everyone’s superpowers as they work together.

But as we rapidly grew our team, we failed to commensurately grow the processes and infrastructure necessary to support everyone properly. The result has been a lot of needless stress and tension and frustration. On its own, this is a significant problem, but when we’ve talked a lot about wanting to build a company that does these things better, a failure here is twice as painful for the people on our team who are affected. As the person who most often talks publicly about the positive ambitions we have here at Glitch, I’m also the person ultimately responsible for the times we haven’t delivered on those promises.

Underinvesting in HR and people infrastructure while a startup goes through a big period of growth is one of the most common, and egregious, mistakes. And no surprise, this has had the biggest negative impact on the areas where we were trying hardest to do something different — salary transparency, benefits, and supporting remote work. We are still deeply committed to getting these things right, and I’ve been working with our whole leadership team to make sure we get this fixed as quickly and completely as possible. Our next steps are bringing in experienced help immediately, reviewing where we’ve fallen short of our documented goals, and talking to every member of our team to gather their explicit feedback about expectations going forward. We’re also making hiring a head of people a top priority and are actively seeking out qualified candidates.

Connecting to Coders

The third big challenge we’ve faced this year is making it clear and easy for every creator, from professional programmers to brand new coders, to understand how Glitch will fit into their workflow. We have a complicated product, that can be used in many different ways for many different things, and while people love our community and its creations, it’s not always obvious for a new user where to start and how to use Glitch. On top of this, there are so many stresses and distractions in the tech world right now that many people don’t know how a happy web community fits into the problems they’re trying to solve.

We’ll be addressing this by simplifying and sharpening our focus in 2020. None of our capabilities will go away, but we will make it far more obvious how a working coder can take advantage of Glitch’s power and simplicity. We’ll also strengthen Glitch as a platform and as a business by introducing paid services for the features you’ve told us you need most and find most valuable.

You can get an idea of how Glitch will fit into your workflow already with examples like the starter kits for Magic Leap, MapBox, Datasette, and integration into Visual Studio Code. Expect to see more of this in the new year, and if you run an open source project or offer an API to developers, get in touch and we’ll help you make it easier for any coder to get started.

Building Something Better

As we’ve reflected back on both the biggest successes and the biggest challenges we faced in 2019, there’s something interesting that connects them both together. Everyone on our team at Glitch, and everyone in our community, is unified in believing in the vision of a creative community. Everyone is inspired by seeing what regular people all over the world are creating, and seeing a flourishing of a more human internet filled with things that surprise or delight us, or simply solve a meaningful problem. Even at our most stressed moments, we still believe deeply in the community we’re building on Glitch, and in the importance of enabling people to create a better internet for themselves.

There’s something really powerful about a mission that a community, and a team, can believe in even when the going gets tough. One of the underlying themes for all of Glitch is that we can make really amazing things together, especially if we’re able to fix our bugs in collaboration with others. We’re excited to do exactly that with all of you in 2020.