As WebPageTest and Catchpoint celebrate one year of partnership, Jeena James, General Manager, WebPageTest, sat down for a Q&A with Tim Kadlec, Director of Engineering, WPT to look at the key milestones from the last year, and ahead at what's next! Hope you enjoy!
Jeena: Can you tell us what you've been up to, what you've been doing with the team for the last couple of months, and how's it been so far with Catchpoint and WebPageTest?
Tim: Yeah, we've been really working on ramping up the actionability, I guess, of WebPageTest and making it a lot easier for folks to pull it into their different environments and workflows, and things like that. I used to work as a performance consultant, so I worked with a lot of different companies around performance, and that meant everything from auditing to really the more important work, which was helping folks establish that culture of performance, which involves a lot of workflow and processes, and stuff like that.
Throughout that, WebPageTest was a day-to-day thing that I would use. Now coming at it and actually working on it and working with a team on it has been pretty awesome. And it's really been trying to take a lot of those pain points that people have, and figure out, how do we turn them into results?
There's a ton of information WebPageTest gives you. How do we make that easier for folks who are just getting started? How do we make sure that those results are actionable?
Around the API, how do we make sure that if you're going to bake performance into your process, what can we do at each of those different steps from development to CI/CD process, to post development and debugging. How can we build integrations around the API to help folks troubleshoot and stay ahead of performance issues there? It's been a lot of that kind of work, which has been a lot of fun.
And along the way, doing things like launching a redesign of WebPageTest, and just recently making it work on mobile devices. Things that your community's been asking for, for a decade, at least for each of those. So, yeah.
Jeena: You've been building what we have billed "the developer experience engineering team". Tell us a little bit more about the vision behind it and some of the things you're doing. Who's part of the team? What are they doing today and where are you going with that effort?
Tim: It's a small team. At the moment, there's just the three of us on the developer experience engineering team. So myself, Scott Jehl, and Jeff Lembeck. So it's a small team, but it's a really talented team. Myself excluded from the rest of the company there. But Scott and Jeff are great.
The whole premise with this was, let's get a team together that's a bit of a hybrid, right? We have Jeff in that dedicated engineering role, Scott's in a 50/50 developer relations engineering role, but having everybody on this group work really closely together along with you obviously, and with product and everything else, to really steer and control the direction of WebPageTest, the open source server and agent, and the experience around that.
We're talking about developer experience in every sense from trying to ramp up things like communication and education platforms, and documentation and stuff like that, but also just the experience of using WebPageTest. Everybody on the team is contributing directly to the server and agent code. And more than that, there's a lot of say, and a lot of autonomy in the future direction of WebPageTest. The way we've approached this was like, "What better way to make sure that WebPageTest continues to be relevant and useful, than to take people who use it on a day-to-day basis, the target audience for it, and put them in control of the direction of WebPageTest?" And that's been our approach so far. I think it's been really helpful.
Just even the early returns on this have been great. Just seeing... Well first off, putting a team behind it has been amazing. It's a testament to just how brilliant Pat is, that he was able to do all of this on his own for 12 plus years. Now with the team, sort of the cadence of being able to put things out there, and really scale the functionality of WebPageTest. And again that actionability and stuff, it's just been really fun to see.
Each of us are bringing our own perspectives on when we've used this tool in the past, what are the things that we find useful? What are the gaps that were missing? And really trying to fill those in. So yeah, I think the early returns have been good. It's been a lot of fun for sure.
Jeena: Yeah, absolutely. It compliments our overall effort... The team and roles that we have in place and the right folks leading strong efforts on the developer side. I think it compliments and integrates in the overall team connecting to not just other functions at WebPageTest, but also the rest of Catchpoint.
Jeena: It is the first time that we've created something like this in the company. It's great we're still hiring.
Tim: We’ve still got headcount for a few more folks that we're hoping to bring into the team and we’re really excited about building it up.
Tim: To your point, I think that's been a big piece of it too, is just... Or my experience, I guess, with WebPageTest inside of Catchpoint has been really positive in the community. The amount of collaboration and close communication throughout. I mentioned that we work with you. You and I are chatting however many times a day, some days I think we're basically on all day chatting in some form or another, from one different topic to another.
But then we've got the product and the marketing, and then the folks that have been working on the Catchpoint portal side, and things that we're doing there to put down some connective tissue between Catchpoint's offerings and WebPageTest offerings. The communication has been getting tighter and tighter. The process of working with everybody in coordinating it has been amazing.
Jeena: That's actually a really good segue. I do have a leading question on what you just mentioned in terms of how within Catchpoint, and how you've been going through that journey. But before I get there, one of the other things that I do think about the developer experience team, that's very unique about what we're trying to do together is you said this a little bit earlier, which was you worked with the community, you worked as part of the community, and you have been a developer. You are a developer who is as a team now, the team is building for other developers and users, and people who are interested in the performance space. That built by devs for devs... That commitment is strong. And that's great to see as well.
Tim: We still get a lot of those contributions too. WebPageTest has always had a unique relationship or position inside the performance community, right? It's always felt very much like that performance community's tool. That was one of the things that I know anytime something that beloved gets pulled into another organization, there's always a little bit of concern, and how is that going to play out? I think that has gone pretty well. We have gotten contributions on a regular basis still, from community members for the agent, the server, the documentation.
One of our favorite things is being able to review those community PRs and celebrate them. We have folks working on... some really, really cool API integrations that people have in the pipe right now, for different platforms and stuff that are just awesome, that we wouldn't have thought about on our own. But then we're also trying to do things on our own to contribute back. Everything from trying to make sure that we are the Twitch streams, where we're trying to pull in the community and have this opportunity of seeing how do we do live audits together, and things like that?
Trying to establish some learning capabilities and platforms, and information that we can distribute throughout the community. There's a lot more coming there, but I think that relationship is something that we know is important, and it's been something that we're absolutely committed to doubling down on. That's been one of the most reassuring things I think I've seen.
Jeena: I'm glad you brought up the Twitch stream or anything that's live because I could tell... We did that when we were launching it. We weren't really sure if people would care about it? Everybody goes to YouTube Live and LinkedIn, why are we doing Twitch? I remember thinking, how are people going to perceive it? How are users going to try checking it out?
But I can tell you I understand most of the things that are being discussed on the live audits with my non-engineering background, but at the same time what I’m most amazed and grateful for, is that rapport that every person who comes in and joins you while you are going through those audits. When experts and other performance enthusiasts, and just people who are in the business of building good web experiences folks who come in and banter for fun, but give great tips and advice. People are sharing.
Half the time I'm listening to you, but most of the time I'm reading what everybody's writing, and it is amazing.
Tim: Okay that's fair. That's fair. I think that's... I'm learning something new every time we do one of those and that's awesome. It's been a good mix of a fair amount of people that are pretty well established in the community that I knew before, I'm sure a lot of other folks knew before. There's a lot of people that have been joining in that have told us that they're just getting started. We're meeting a lot of new people that way, but yeah, to your point that chat... I was not prepared for how awesome and fun the chat would be.
Tim: It's like you said, a lot of playful banter, but a lot of helpful tips and stuff. There are things constantly that folks are bringing up. We're doing it live. There are plenty of times where me and Scott will get stuck for a little bit maybe, and then somebody from one of the chat group things will be debugging it on the side and be like, "Actually, here's this great feature or setting that you might want to try?" It's really cool. It's a nice collective learning experience.
Jeena: It's symbiotic. I love that. It's not one way. It's not just instructing and teaching, but it's more about we're learning this, and doing it together.
Because you have no idea what you're going to see once you hit the run test button. Cause it’s-
Tim: No for better or worse. Yeah, it gets a little nerve-racking at times, yeah.
Jeena: Exactly. That's great. Tell me a bit more about, I guess, to wrap up our conversation because we can go on forever, but what has been... If you had to pick one thing that you're super proud of in relation to WebPageTest's first year at Catchpoint, what would it be? You get to only pick one.
Tim: Yeah. I think for me, it's going back to again, I think probably to that combination of education and actionability, trying to make performance more approachable to folks. A lot of those kind of things like security, accessibility, performance, those three boring pillars as Paul Lewis from Google once called them. They're these things that are absolutely fundamental to building a good web experience and one that works for people around the world, and all sorts of different situations environments. But they can be a little intimidating for sure, getting into them. Because it's that whole, you don't know what you don't know thing. I think everything that we can do to try, and make that more approachable is essential. I think that that's one of the things probably that I'm happiest with or most proud of.
I guess that first year is sort of... Things that we've added to the UI to try and make things a little bit more obvious or actionable, what's going on. Everything from the render blocking, icons, to being able to do things like select an individual request in the waterfall, and run right away another test to see what the impact is. Trying to close the gap between, "Oh, we think there might be a problem here and oh, this is what you can actually do about it." I think it has been huge. Again, doubling down on that educational side of things too, and just really trying to find ways to knowledge share and help to build up the entire community around performance, not just WebPageTest, but performance in general. I think that's the piece that I'm probably happiest about. How about you?
Jeena: I started in January and I can tell you in my experience of being at companies large and small, working through acquisitions that have come in... There are acquisitions that are more about talent, acquisitions about the technology, and acquisitions about customers and users and... In all of those experiences, there are things that work. There's no perfect score. There is no perfect formula of making certain acquisitions and experiences stick. It's a lot of learning and experimenting, and I've seen good and the bad and sometimes ugly side of it. Great products come in and just don't see the light of day after a year because people don't know what to do with it.
What I love about what we've done at Catchpoint so far is, and we continue to do is, there's a responsibility. We are custodians of that developer community that Pat has built with a fantastic platform and tool. The next iteration and the next version, and evolution of it is always in service of how can we get the best insights, the most depth and breadth in the hands of people who want to solve for these areas and want to measure performance? And how do you get the best things in their hand in the most concise manner as much as possible? And how do you build an entire team around it?
I think the thing that I'm most proud of is the fact that it doesn't happen only with the product. It doesn't happen only with people. It is a combination of people, process, product, and we've come together with a really solid team to ensure all those things.
We have a developer experience engineering team; a core engineering team that is building our front and back end of these experiences; we have our product, marketing, consultative solutions and selling. We are thinking of this differently than traditional models because we want to flourish as a system and be collaborative, and everybody's coming together with that.
Plus we're also well integrated or closely tied with the rest of the organization and the company. So for Catchpoint to give us that opportunity and actually be able to explore and experiment as much as possible, but also do it in a very cohesive manner. I'm very proud of that. I'm proud of the team and how we're shaping up.
Tim: Yeah. I'm glad you hammered on the team. It is a darn good... I had a friend once who told me, "If you're ever an organization where you're not the dumbest person in the room, you should be leaving. You want to be surrounding yourself by people smarter than you." I'd add on top of that smart and thoughtful, and kind and stuff like that. I think that that's the team that we've built here.
I put out just a couple weeks ago on Twitter of something to that extent about how I'm learning constantly. Multiple times a day, I am reminded how smart the people around me are. I think that's awesome. It's a rock solid team and everybody really rallies around...
Like you said, that goal of being the custodian of the community that's already been built around WebPageTest, and making sure that we're doing right by them and by the performance community, and understanding that there's... Given the position that it has in that community, there's a responsibility to contribute back and to push the performance of the web forward.
Jeena: And continue to give value, and why does it matter? How can we find this? And I love the way how you were saying it's a lot of action. So what? Now what? Okay, you've given me a score. What am I supposed to do with that, right? And taking it further and connecting it to other parts of your team and other teams is what gets something more interoperable, more integrated. I love how we're going with that, and I think we're-
Tim: Yeah, there's more coming without spilling the beans.
Jeena: Thank you so much for your time, Tim.
Tim: Yeah, anytime.
Check out our other celebratory posts on the one year anniversary: