Interview with a Dev - where we chat tech blogs, SaaS licensing and the Salable dev culture


Marketing Lead Lou Walden interviews Software Engineer Coner Murphy where Coner talks about the dev culture at Salable and why Salable can help devs. He also shares key tips on what makes a good tech blog! Let’s dive right in..


L How long have you worked at Adaptavist Group?

C Since April 2022….exclusively on Salable

L What do you do for the Salable dev team?

C I mainly work on the developer experience stuff. Most of my role has been focused on; tooling, setting up pipelines, testing configurations, helping people with moving over repositories, dealing with versioning, and setting up the publishing of packages. Also working on our global design system and now the Salable CLI (Command Line Interface). 

L Do you feel like it's pretty standard in the life of a developer, to be over so many things?

C My only comparison is with a ‘mega corporation’ where you look after one tiny square of the project, and that was it….

L …can you go outside of your ‘square’ at Salable? 

C Yeah…coming to a much smaller team you’re wearing many different hats and jumping between things. Different teams of different sizes are structured in different ways, with different responsibilities. Personally, I prefer how we're structured now; if I want to help someone out in the team who's doing something I've never looked at, there are no restrictions on what I can get involved with. You're given the freedom to just explore and do the things that interest you - as well as those things that need to be done.

L That sounds pretty good…like you're allowed to be curious.

C Yeah! Curiosity and learning are promoted. There's no shame in saying you don't know how to do something, you can just go and figure it out and learn…find the solution for it and everyone in the team supports that, everyone’s willing to talk about different solutions, and no question is stupid. 

I much prefer this way of working. Prior to joining this team I’d never worked on CLI’s and now I'm building Salables'…it's been a massive learning curve of course, but at the same time it's been really enjoyable and something different.

L So I guess that's reflected in the fact that we’re a startup…

C I think part of it is start-up mentally, because we’re a small team. But would we have this level of freedom to jump across so many different disciplines if the team was scaled by 10? Who knows, we’re not there yet.

L So just talking about scaling up…the bigger the team gets, the way you guys work maybe has to change?

C If the team scaled, then naturally you would probably become more scoped. So in my case I would probably focus on the CLI now. But there's no segregation…if someone knows something particularly well, we're encouraged to communicate and consult with each other - we're still a team.

L Is it fair to say that you've learned as much from your team, as you have from your Team Leader? 

C Yes, I've learned loads from Jay Smith (Dev Lead), he's knowledgeable about pretty much everything! And then I've also learned a lot from the rest of the team because they've all got different experiences in different areas. All I need to do is ping a question across and any one of them will answer - and explain why they would do it that way…and of course you learn a lot.

L What do you think is the greatest challenge with a platform like Salable? 

C It's a good question! I would be an ideal Salable customer (as a Dev) I guess. Raising awareness of the benefits and uses of the product…because in a lot of ‘Indie Hacker’ solo-preneur worlds, it's getting across to them that you need a product like this. 

L It is! Not only are you trying to bring awareness to the brand, but it's educating about the problem we’re solving...

C…it does feel like that. My general impression when I speak to people about Salable is, they think that we’re going up against Stripe - which we’re not. 

L As we're integrating with Stripe Connect, that's going to make future development a lot easier…but we need to continue to talk about the benefits of managing SaaS subscriptions and entitlements…it’s not just about payments.

C It's an interesting one to think about, because working on Salable is the first time I've really heard licensing discussed on SaaS products. Coming from (let's say) the Indie Hacker kind of community where you’re building products on your own, selling them and people buying the subscriptions. You buy a subscription for £10 a month and you get access to features of a product, with certain limitations. Cool, off you go. 

L Maybe that’s due partly to the majority of the community who are happy to keep it as a side hustle? 

C Maybe, there's a lot of people who turn them into profitable businesses. I still don't see licences being issued per se. Obviously they have ‘terms of service’ and stuff like that…but what you get when you pay for the stuff isn’t known as a ‘licence’  -  there's not much awareness.

L Maybe they're using different terms? We think of licences as ‘entitlements’.

C If you take me as a Developer building a product for other people to use, I just want someone to pay me £10 to use my product. 

L Agreed - Salable was created for exactly that. The problem might not be immediately obvious….that you need an easy way of managing your customers, their subscriptions, keeping track - across multiple SaaS products.

C A lot of these people are building a web app that you can just sign into and everything is done. So the only transactional fee they pay is via Stripe. 

L Salable is still free…with Stripe included. But even with a web App, if you want to have many versions of that app or offer different capabilities for different prices - you need a way of doing that. And it needs to be easy.

C It's still early days for Salable and we haven't released everything it can do. I guess that a lot of these people have 1 or 2 products…

L …do you think It's a small amount that has more than one product?

C Yeah, especially if they're solo developers. I guess it's the argument of; do you go for a few big things, or many little things? The common theme I see is the aim to earn enough from your product to live a comfortable life, not to try and be the next Facebook.

L So maybe there’s an observation about the community that there's no desire to take over the world?

C In the sense of world domination, maybe not! But to be your own boss, not to work 9 to 5…lead a comfortable life.  That's probably the main ambition, yes.

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L You've been creating our tech blogs - which have been well received - what do you think makes a good tech blog?

C If it's tutorial based, I would say it has to be very ‘to the point’. Factual - including real code snippets - talk through the problem you're solving. So the reader is left with actionable advice and a solution. If they come looking for a solution, they leave knowing how to solve that problem and why it works.

L So you set out the problem; ‘here's what I did, here's why I did it, here’s examples…’?

C Yeah, developers don't want to know your life story! That's why TLDR’s are so common in the tech world. They just wanna get it sorted and get back to their code. And some people do that…others want to understand every nuance of it which is fine as well, but it's good to get both. I like to keep the background; here's why this worked, why we needed it, how it works - so someone can understand it. Rather than copy and paste the solution. 

And I guess the other thing for tech content is to be original. You can choose to give a more nuanced post, how to solve an actual problem. And yes they're harder to write, they take longer and they’re more complicated posts. I think people appreciate them a lot more because it hasn't been done to death, you're not just copying and pasting other posts. You’re actually contributing value to the community and helping people learn stuff.

L So you try to talk about something original…that fills a knowledge gap?

C As long as you're adding value. It doesn’t need to be a work of art! If it's gonna be a quick post, I guess at a minimum include further reading and sources. So if there's a code snippet that you've used, link to it or provide extra resources to learn stuff from it.

L If you're demonstrating how something's worked for you and it might not be in the way that it was originally intended, that's how these things evolve?

C Yeah, so you can take it from other people. I think from a tech blog perspective; the tech community, authors, raters and content creators in general, it's not a me-versus-you world…we're all working in the same community to help people. It's not a competition, we're just here to help make content. Why wouldn’t I link to your content if it’s good and it helps support my post as well?

L You've mentioned how important it is to you, to add value. Is that how you choose what to talk about (and how to talk about it)?

C Yeah, I like to make content about things which are more complicated subjects.

Like the one we did on Versioning Mono repos using Lerna; not everyone uses Mono repos, or want to version it, not everyone’s using Lerna. If you're like us and using a mono repo on Bitbucket using Lerna and you want to version your package or all the packages within it together, there aren't many resources out there on how to do it. So our post fills that hole and adds that value. Not everyone will need it…but the people who do will probably appreciate it.

L And then finally coming back to being a dev. What do you think is the most challenging part of Salable from the point of view of a developer?

C Everyone in the team…there are things we come up against, and we look at each of them and we're like; ‘I don't know how to do that, do you?!’ but as a team we work through it and we come up with solutions. Also, we're constantly pushing ourselves to add better features. Finding out how to implement them, how they're gonna work…Stripe and Auth0 have great documentation to do that. 

L The impression I get is that the dev team are almost constantly problem-solving…Is that just development in general?

C Naturally as developers you solve problems and some you have to work a bit harder to solve. But that's what makes it so engaging. It's problems you haven't seen before, building something you haven't seen before, so you have to think a bit harder. But that's what kind of ignites that fire.

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