Episode 241 Featuring Alex Bond

Shopify Theme and App Design with Leigh Barnes

Shopify Theme and App Design with Leigh Barnes

Leigh Barnes started out his career with a passion for digital design that quickly pivoted into software engineering. He has worked all over the globe; Canada, UK, US, and Africa for interesting and innovative companies like Amazon, NASA, and Red Bull. He has founded and managed startups in cloud infrastructure, payment, data processing, and fulfillment industries and, more recently, Leigh’s career has been deeply intertwined with the Shopify partner ecosystem as the CTO of Eight. Here he is leading the tech making Shopify Themes and Apps with the mission to make Shopify merchants more successful at selling. 

On this episode, Leigh and I discuss what makes a strong Shopify thing, how and why more companies are going async, what's changed in digital design and software design throughout his 24 years of experience, and much more.


What is Eight

Leigh Barnes: So Eight, we're a pure play product company. We work within the Shopify ecosystem, been in it for just over a decade at this point working primarily in themes and apps. We're not directly on the merchant side, but we're very focused on the digital products within the theme side and then SaaS within the apps, apps ecosystem.

Alex Bond: No, that's awesome. Very succinct. As far as your position as the CTO, what are your specific responsibilities at the company? 

Leigh Barnes: I mean, we're relatively small, tight knit and agile company. So my responsibilities do vary quite drastically, but it's mostly anything within the technical proviso of it. So our developments, development cycles, working with our development teams, making final calls on anything that's sort of structural or strategic, and then everything into our infrastructure and scaling servers, server infrastructure, DevOps, and then policy. Policy level stuff, you know, cyber side as well.

Alex Bond: Policy stuff too. Cool. So Eight essentially builds itself as a company that builds and develops products for global merchants with an emphasis on Shopify. I think that's like the exact verbatim that I found. And honestly, well, I think it's kind of cool when I go to like weareeight. com. It's kind of cryptic and it's kind of like branded and it's clean.

And I don't mean that to denigrate in any way, but I think there's a clear objective to be sleek. And I like the word that you used and that's agile. So I'm curious, you know, off the bat, what the idea there is. Is that kind of intentional to be mysterious? You got to hit us up to find out what we do type of thing or how did you develop kind of that brand identity a little bit?

Leigh Barnes: I think it's multi pronged in this case. Number one, it's anybody that works within sort of digital may not have time to actually get their website fully dialed out or, you know, have all of the marketing material in and on it. We're all busy. We're all. You know, slamming stuff in the background to get things done.

So I think that's one aspect of it. But Eight historically has been quite a sort of transparent company. You know, we're not front and center. We're not dealing with merchants. We're not trying to get our branding into people, people's faces. You know, the themes are designed that somebody puts their brand on top of them.

You know, the company started as a theme company originally long before my time. Yes, we work in apps, but I think there is that layer of transparency and a little bit of mysteriousness around it, which is kind of our thought process of not saying too much, but, you know, if somebody reaches out and when we're discussing something with them, then we can tell them who we are, what we do and where we've been.

Alex Bond: That's very transparent answer. It's like, you know, show don't tell is kind of what I hear you say is what's important. What are some of the specific products that eight develops? You mentioned, you know, software, themes. What else are we talking about? 

Leigh Barnes: Specifically, we fall specifically into 2 categories within the Shopify ecosystem, and it's not just that we're aligned with that. We're all in on it. 

So themes is obviously Shopify theme interface to get somebody up and running as quickly as possible that, you know, sold through the Shopify theme store. We've got six on there that range the whole way back to like 2012. So, you know, I think Envy was the first one. Those are very much a single purchase.

It's a starting point for a new merchant. Somebody that's getting up and going premium themes within the theme ecosystem really give you more features than a basic one. But they also give you lifetime support, which a lot of people doesn't, don't really like talk about. So we've got that aspect of it.

It's both building a product that scales for all users, unlike agency type work, where you're really focusing on one person's specific needs. Themes are very complex from that standpoint and take fair amounts of overhead. And then obviously the support side of meaning, maintaining good support for merchants as they grow and as they extend beyond it.

And then on the software side, the sort of flagship app within the company is Bundle Builder, which is a custom bundling or pick and mix focused app, so we're not talking about your quick upsell these three products are sold quickly together. This is much more of the choose what you want, add a whole bunch of layers around discounting or specific conditions. You have to have one of these.

You don't have to want to have one of those or the conditional aspects of it. And that app is, yeah, it's about six, just under six years old. I think it was six years old at this point.Being in the ecosystem for all of that time is a bit of a behemoth because, you know, Shopify is obviously starting to catch up with a lot of the sort of, you know, the new APIs that have come out over the years.

But we really went out there to target and focus on niches with that, which is, you know, it's a relatively complex beast in the background as far as server infrastructure, you know Just stock syncing, for instance, you know infrastructure that goes into Black Friday, over 50, 59 million odd webhooks.So requests coming inbound on the servers on that day.

So you're dealing with a lot of the stuff which people don't think about. When they talk about like an app, this app's just, you know, I just install it and it does this thing, but actually it's all in the background. So that's our sort of software engineering side is both into how that happens and then also the infrastructure and stability for merchants to be successful.

So yeah, we fall into those two categories primarily. So it's just themes and then apps. We don't really bridge into the, the sort of experts or agency space at all. We work relatively transparent behind DTC. So direct to the merchants or through agencies. 

Alex Bond: I think you mentioned something that is extremely valuable. And I talk with a lot of agencies. I talk with a lot of software companies and you mentioned that what's different is an agency has to cater to one person specifically, but when you're developing a theme or, you know, bundle builder, you're trying to develop the stuff that is all encompassing, that is easy to use.

And what I kind of hear you say is anticipate problems that will rise you know you you can't just go straight to one client who's got this one problem you need to try to anticipate what tens of thousands minimum people are going to have problems with, how do you do that? 

Leigh Barnes: I mean it's so complex i was i come from sort of agency space behind a lot of this. So, you know, I've worked with a lot of the merchants. I've had that request of, can't you just, and in an agency level, you just focus on that specific goal and getting it out the door. And sometimes that comes with you going back to the merchant and saying, hey, let's, we can get to that goal.

Exactly. It is going to leave this gap. But ultimately I can get you to what you need to be. I think one of the things that was quite surprising to me when I stepped into this, into the theme side and looking at the complexity of it was just how much overhead goes into thinking about those 10, 000 users, because that one feature that is not just, this is the specific goal.

It's like, this is the overarching goal. We're going to get you close to it. If you really wanted to do exactly what you wanted and what you wanted would probably break. All of these other merchants next to you. 

Alex Bond: And not to cut you off, but it's very normal for a solution to bring another problem. 

Leigh Barnes: Yeah, you know, it's not a bug. It's a feature, you know, when I entered into the space, I almost came from sort of custom theme builds and hundreds of them and suddenly went do you know what building a theme that's going to go out as a product is probably 10 times harder than working with the most difficult merchant I've ever worked with. 

Because you do have to take every single aspect into account you're not dealing with a small marketing team that you can train one on one you're dealing with you know really thinking about the UX of what should we be putting here how much control should we be doing where should that support, where should that control be, and then what support debt will that generate. 

What's going to break what somebody, you know, somebody may set something or configure something that actually is detrimental to their business. We have to think through all of those different layers. And I think that was a very, very stark contrast, which I always thought themes of the themes of theme because of hundreds of them.

But the moment you get down to the nuts and bolts of this actually has to go as a product, there's all of those aspects and all of those layers that suddenly become really front and center on it.

Alex Bond: And the way people use it can be very unique and individualistic. And the way that I use, you mentioned your envy theme to do something specifically for me and my business would be very different than, than what you could. So trying to anticipate every version of every hypothetical.

It's got to be, you know, kind of taxing, not all for not, you're only going to get closer and closer, but probably never get perfect because that's why people have customer support teams and the like, I'm interested in, do you do something like different testings for these themes and kind of put them out in the world before you start selling them so people can, you know, run with it and be like, oh, well, I wanted it to do this and it can't.

Leigh Barnes: I mean, we obviously take in feedback and we do a lot of this, the support layer stuff, which is reactive. We've been moving towards more of a proactive approach where we are actually doing reach out, speaking to people, looking at folks that are within it. One of the limitations to that is, is the Shopify sort of theming ecosystem is that you have to sell through the Shopify store.

So the only feedback that we can really get that's before somebody purchases it as if they've got it on a trial directly through the Shopify store. And, you know, so we are moving to more and more, more of those approaches and getting a bit creative around them. But a lot of the time it's actually just thrashing it.

From a QA standpoint, putting it into the hands of individuals on our teams who haven't built a store and going, how do you build a store and sort of a refining through that process. It's, it is relatively closed in and we trying to look at creative ways to expand that out. 

Building honest feedback and innovating with Bundle Builder

Leigh Barnes: There's a massive difference between themes and apps there. Within sort of apps, a new built app is a different process altogether to something that's got thousands of users that are using it daily. So within our case here, our general development process starts with discussions. So, and it will normally be feature level. I'm going to talk feature level rather than new build.

I'll go back to new builds at the end, because that's a different structure altogether. But feature level, we're going to discussion standpoint, which goes out early to the entire team. We try and get as much 360 degree input on everything. So, hey, we need to change something surrounding what data we store, or we need to change something that's going to change the display for everyone.

What, where is this going to be an issue? You know, we want the input from our support team going, you know, we're going to get support queries for that. We're going to, we're going to be dealing with this. How are we going to mitigate it? What's the reason for it? And then we might have something coming in from the technical side of going, have we thought about X, Y, and Z.

So it generally starts off at a discussion standpoint, then gets distilled down into an issue or a ticket within our, within our system. And within our team, which is generally the high level acceptance criteria of what we're achieving and any of the caveats that we have out of that discussion. So we'll take into still all of that information down into into a specific specification.

And then from there, it's into sort of requirements. We do sort of complexity mapping within the actual dev teams within our UX teams, looking at what's gonna be going in. What are the changes where they're getting into and then through a dev cycle after that. So and that dev cycle might touch on core code, back end code admin app obviously with Shopify apps, you've got sort of three primary components, no matter how you build it.

It's basically, you have a backend that's going to be doing all the authenticated stuff. And then your admin app, which is the one which the merchants are going to interact with. And then if you happen to have something, which is touching storefronts, a storefront app of some form, shape or variety or storefront render.

So we will generally split that up across our team based off that core spec and then work that through into a release cycle. Dev of a brand new app from the ground up, it's choosing stack, it's choosing what infrastructure you're using, what are the infrastructure sort of requirements that you're going to need in time as it scales.

And then making all of those decisions early on, the vast majority of the first stages of an app build is identical, no matter who's building it's just choose a stack. Get started get it authenticating and then it's down to feature level which we've talked about so that's a general cycle. 

Exploring the technical specifications that elevate their products

Alex Bond: So in terms of the Eight themes, just to kind of circle back there, the design is to enhance performance and that's kind of how they're marketed is, these themes will enhance performance and get you better results and get you more and better product sales revenue in terms of the technical specifications. What are those that elevate the themes and garner results much more impressively than other ones? 

Leigh Barnes: I mean, it's an interesting point because performance in eComemrce, whenever you speak to a developer, they thinking straight performance, how fast is it, how quick is it going to get on your plate?

Alex Bond: What will prevent you from calling customer support of the theme not often as possible. 

Leigh Barnes: I think, you know, when we sort of look at themes or as interfaces as a whole, you've got a balance between functionality and performance expected UX, and I'm saying expected UX, because I think that that's something which a lot of people kind of gloss over is that there's an expectation based on what somebody has done in their past. What websites have they interacted with? How did they find the product sets? 

There's that expectation or a common pattern. Where you're not putting somebody on the back foot trying to find a product. And that kind of goes in as big performance aspects. If you're talking in pure e commerce performance, that's getting somebody to the product, getting it into their cart and getting it out the door from a technical standpoint, you've then got the layer below that is how quick is that.

Where are the roadblocks? How fast is that page loading? How quick are those images in front of somebody? You know, that's seven seconds. Somebody has decided whether they're doing something or not on the site, you know, I mean, Amazon probably with their, their sort of major push for page speed makes the biggest difference or Google's push for page speed makes the biggest difference brings two aspects into direct conflict. 

And that's how much content you have on a page and how fast you want it. And I think that's a decision which a lot of merchants really. Need to make is like, do I want that extra image? Yes. That extra image is critical or not. You know, we can optimize for weeks on, on code and code standards, but one extra video or one extra image on that page is going to slow it down more than an optimization.

We focus on getting everything as light as possible. From a performance standpoint, we focus on the UX, the expected UX, and the flows that make sense from a sort of general industry standard and, and what's sort of coming in from conversion rate optimization experts, et cetera. But then it does finally come down to, to the merchant pushing that performance forward and then deciding where their performance should best be. Is it just about page speed, or is it about something else telling the story and getting people? 

Alex Bond: That's great. And what I'm hearing you say is you gotta kind of pick and choose your battles. I mean your responsibility is to the people who buy and use your themes and even then. You don't want to make all the decisions for them. You want to give them the options of course.

And you also want to make it easier for their users to get products as quickly as possible, but you don't always want to like make that story for them. Just the tools to just the vocabulary to make that story if that makes sense. 

Leigh Barnes: Yeah. I mean, I'm much like Shopify themselves. We're just empowering entrepreneurs. We're not telling their story for them. Otherwise everything would be cookie cutted. Right. Oh, that'd be so boring. Yeah. It'll be so boring. You know, we want it, we want somebody to push it off the left corner of the screen and go, wow, we never even thought you could do that.

You know, that's what we really, I mean, that always excites me whenever I see an interface of a site where I'm like, oh, that's cool. They pushed that out and they did something there or they, whatever it is, you know, everyone tells their story and puts it front and center and in different ways. And I think that's amazing.

How Bundle Builder achieved prestige and caught the attention of global giants like Nintendo

Alex Bond: So you've worked with a pretty prestigious companies at least when I looked at Bundle Builder. Have you been able to make software prestigious enough for Bundle Builder to gain the attention of like Nintendo? I mean, those are companies that I, you know, being in America are quite familiar with. I see both of those everywhere and I'm probably not alone in that just because I'm in America. How did that your stature get the attention of companies that large. 

Leigh Barnes: I think BundleBuilder, and it's worth going back into sort of a bit of the spool up and understanding a bit of the Shopify ecosystem is BundleBuilder filled the need. For many years, the Shopify, when the Shopify app ecosystem sort of first started, it was all about filling gaps within what Shopify wasn't covering. 

Gets people to search for who we are, what we ddo, BundleBuilder specifically really caters to and it's key selling points on somebody who's probably going to shout at me about this one, but it's key selling points is really the control that it, it gives you from a merchant standpoint in terms of the conditions.

So what products can be sold together and how many do this does somebody have to have to purchase them and then the discounts that you can apply based on those conditions that to me is one of the key selling points which bundle builder hit really early on, and that opens the doors for the likes of Nintendo to then do, hey, are we going to do this switch plus this plus that.

And they can then optimize it to, hey, yeah, we've got enough profit in there to give those discounts. We don't have enough profit in that space to push around it. And it, you know, bundle builder really just fell into that gap. We're stable. You know, our app infrastructure is substantially stable. As I said, you know, we had really peak times and our servers don't really even feel it.

You know, we've pre planned for it. Our team is sitting in the background going, Hey, we're coming up to peak. That's 10X our databases. We're not an app that's going to wait until the database goes down and then switch it. We're thinking of that. And I think when you mix all of that, a great fitting into a niche, fitting into specific key usages that somebody's looking for, and then backing it up with the stability, with the support across the board is the key.

Exploring the rise of asynchronous work

Alex Bond: I was told ahead of this show that the company Eight has recently gone async internally. First off do you mind educating me a little bit on on what that means? 

Leigh Barnes: I mean I hadn't heard it called async and I worked in a very similar environment in a long time a long time ago but it tends it's become a bit of an industry term now which is we all know what remote is.

I think covid pushed everyone into remote working, which is amazing, but there's one aspect beyond that where standard remote work, you still work in nine to five, you still expected to be at your desk, you're expected to be available for meetings, you're expected to be available for emergency calls or teams or whatever you're working on. 

And async fundamentally changes or is it a shift and expectation shift within the business where it's all about the results. And there's flexibility that becomes with those results. So instead of expecting somebody to be at their desk, we're expecting them to fulfill what they said they're going to fulfill within a specific time zone and the flexibility to get there is completely on them.

So if somebody doesn't want to be at their desk from nine to five, that's fine. If you prefer working at 3am, which that's kind of my vibe. I'm normally the 3am person, right? There's no expectation that I need to be, or if I'm going to travel to States or Canada or something like that, pack a bag and go, because as long as you're fulfilling the results that we as a company, and that's all of us in the company believe in, that becomes the focus.

I manage my own time. I become a manager of myself and that is a change that we made across the company. So we've always been remote. We just took it to that next level where it is then the flexibility is there. There's no expectation of even being in a meeting or paying attention in the meeting.

Everything is documented and we focus on getting things out the door and people taking taking their responsibility forward. So async as a whole and the way I view it, and I'm sure there's multiple viewpoints on this because it is being touted all over the show in different different mindsets.

But to me fundamentally remote, but then taking out the time constraints within a day and focusing those time constraints on generating results as a team, owning those results as a team and doing it in whichever way you're most efficient, you know, whether that is working at 3 a.m. 

Alex Bond: I'll be honest. I've been working async at Debutify for 6, 7 months now. I didn't know there was a word for it. I appreciate it and think it's really cool. I mean, what you're literally describing is, how we operate. For full transparency.

Leigh Barnes: I think there are lots of companies that have worked in the space I had, and I'll be honest with you. I've worked in a number of companies that work in this space, and I used to run a sort of international team where we used to just hand off work from one person to the next as we crossed out of time zones.

And it was awesome. You know, it always just worked. And I think I don't really know where the acing term came from. I know there were a couple of really big, big entities that have pushed the terminology. I think GitLab is one of them and there are a number of other ones, but yeah, that term of async and results driven is, has become something front and center.

Alex Bond: No, that's great. And I'm glad you're a proponent of it because I really enjoy it. I'm a big proponent of it too. It just gives people the, the freedom of autonomy a lot more, and that is extremely confidence boosting. And when you give people. Certain parameters of like just get the work done. They create their own environment, you know, sometimes I'll go to the library and work because I can't focus here.

There are too many distractions sometimes. But, you know, Lee, you also mentioned something that I find really valuable and that's I am not like a normal work conditioner. I get probably most of my work done between maybe 12 and 4 a. m. If I'm being honest.

The only scheduled things I have are, are these interviews and that keeps me disciplined of, all right, I got to make sure that I'm here at this time and so on, but I also have to be prepared for it.

And I don't know, the async mentality definitely works for me. I'm glad that you're a proponent of it because I enjoy it as well. Do you see it as becoming the new normal moving forward? 

Leigh Barnes: I don't know if it will be the new normal. I think there, there are many industries, you know, you've crossed, you just crossed onto it where you were talking about there's something that's at a fixed time.

So I have to be there for that. I have to be prepared. If you think of sales, customer services, et cetera, there's a lot of those industries where it becomes much more challenging because there is an expectation of somebody being synchronous with you when you're working in it, in that space. I also don't think that async is perfect for every, for everyone.

There are some people that really struggle with it. They struggle with the freedom with, with planning, planning stuff around it. And I know sort of some folks that, that really struggle with getting a task list or focusing on what actually matters within their day. And they can wind up sort of burning themselves out quite quickly within, within an async environment.

So having sort of watched that, I think there's a balance factor. I don't think it will be the new norm, but I do think that there will be a lot of companies that will adapt either entirely. Or to some degree, a lot of the sort of aspects of it. There's definitely challenges around it. There's challenges and where it is.

Obviously, there's sync elements to every week or every two weeks or whatever it is that that somebody is working on. That's my view. Anyway, I don't think it's going to be everywhere. I think it will be.

Alex Bond: Do you think globalization is kind of like a requirement for it? I mean, frankly, that this is an international company and it makes the most sense, but I struggle with believing if, you know, I'm in Virginia, if I had a local job here based here. If it's even really as necessary.

Leigh Barnes: Probably, yeah, nearly a decade, a decade ago, it was the first time that I was really exposed and jumped directly into sort of a full, full blown remote company, which was very, very close. It was all results driven slightly different focus. Cause it was all based on sort of hours and billable hours, but what was interesting there and in that environment is that the way that I hired.

Or the way that I considered who we were placing into the team was the best fit for that, no matter where they were. And I think that in some ways that that starts to open up a lot of doors. I think sure there's the stuff that you know, the camaraderie within a company as it grows being able to see somebody being able to to interact have a coffee Go for a barbecue lunch or whatever it is that makes a massive difference.

And that can be great for the sort of mental health within a team, but in the same breath, if you are full global, async makes perfect sense. And it also allows companies to then choose and work with the best talent that's out there and say, Hey, we need you. You're amazing. Let's get, you know, it doesn't matter when you work. If you work at 2am, that's cool.

Evolution in the Industry: Reflections on 24 years and predicting the future of change

Leigh Barnes: Anything within, within the space. Cause you know, when I started out, it wasn't building for the web. The web was my little hobby. It was, you know, MIRC chat rooms and aim and pirated content and all the rest of that. And in the very, very early exploration days, but web was almost hobbyist. It's like, Oh, you have to have a website.

Yeah, whatever that's going to happen in time. So a lot of it was, was true engineering in the early years and then all of a sudden the web exploded and we saw all the technology sort of, you know, come to the forefront and start evolving, whether it was, you know, the dot nets and then into the PHP days, which I was massive into early days of open source stuff of democratizing content was a major change.

You know, it changed everything from these sort of enterprise systems into open source democratized. Platforms for the web to be built on at that point. I really did step away from a lot of the integrated engineering stuff where it was all about hardware and it was all about what you could control with tools around it.

I've lived through a couple of those changes where it went from very much the licensed products to open source products self hosted open source products, infrastructure to the sort of rise of cloud and SaaS offerings. Which have all been major evolutions within, within the ecosystem. You know, one of the big ones for me, I'm a big supporter of the JavaScript ecosystem.

I've been sort of involved in the node ecosystem and react ecosystem from the early days, but that was a major pivot. Cause I almost ditched everything I knew beforehand, whether it was, you know, CNN and PHP and, and all, you know, even Java, basically that was a major change. And I think that, that really was a big hit, you know, sort of.

Think back to like 2012, 2013 ish major change in what people were building, how interactive websites were suddenly this rise of web apps that felt reactive, that felt like, you know, there was something to it. And they're just the norm for us now. We don't even think about what they are. And I think that was, that was a major paradigm shift.

Probably at this point, I think it's been riding a lot of that just into the SAS space, into the cloud ecosystem and the democratization of what you can do as quickly as you can do it. Payments, payment infrastructure, opened a lot of that up early days. You know, it was a pain for us to get black box authorization into banks to do credit card payments and all the rest of it.

Now it's, you don't even think about it. It's just you sign into service and off you go to sort of answer the second part of that of where do I see this all going? I personally believe that we're at a major watershed within what we do as a whole, and that's probably going to be driven by AI at this stage.

You know, I'm a massive fan of a lot of the tooling that's coming out a lot of the areas that people are being pushed into. Obviously, I have the concerns, I have the security concerns, I have the authenticity, the, all the rest of it of, of data, but the way I view it now is that this ecosystem and how we do things is going to change drastically and much faster than we think it would.

I'm not talking five years, I think it's going to take. Less than that of just, you know, fundamental shifts, whether it's e commerce, whether it's the expected interfaces through a line out at a sort of speaking event a little while ago, which is, you know, is the future of e commerce and online store, or is it a conversation?

In the back of my mind, I sort of said it flippantly, but it's reflected on me. A number of times because i really do view the the expectation that we're heading into at this point is just so drastically different to what we've done in the past and potentially what it could get to so in my mind as far as engineering and and sort of. Dev going forward is going to be adapting to what those expectations are and what becomes the expected interfaces across the board. 

Alex Bond: That's really well thought out answer. And look, I, just to comment, I would agree in the AI space, but I think it's really interesting now because EasyPress And the not ease of able to make some of these tools and softwares, but I think people, companies are very quick to just go first to market without really putting anything out that it's extremely quality.

If I'm being transparent, a lot of people are like, oh, no, one's really thought of putting, you know, AI voice generated stuff or AI, you know, moving images and everyone's just like, we can be the 1st 1 and frankly, not all of it. Impresses me and even stuff that is as simple as not simple, but copywriting editing and different stuff like that.

That is extremely useful. Still has bugs and still needs to be fixed. And I worry that that rush to market is just going to create a surge of an industry that is. Entirely too bloated and competitive right out the gate now, you'd probably know better than me that the strongest will survive it. It's pretty doggy dog out there, but I'm just worried what your thoughts on that. 

Leigh Barnes: I sort of like I created back and I said, you know, when I've seen major shifts, like one of the major shifts I really saw was the push towards like a SAS based products at that point. It was just this massive arms race. Although there's nobody that's got a sass that I don't know, walks your dog or something.

You know, let's pull, but actually they rushed it to market and they couldn't walk a dog with something. Right. And I think I've seen this before. It is always just the, Hey, it's an arms race. We're going to get something out there. Some of them, some will survive and some won't. I think AI has opened a lot of doors.

Probably more than what would have been existing previously in like the SAS races, et cetera. And we are seeing products that shouldn't go to market that are too early. I think there's a lot of excitement around it because it's new. It's, it's, it's different. A lot of people can't believe what it can do.

Leigh Barnes: So like we we're getting a lot of that and we've also got the value aspects behind it. You know, I mean, chat GPT just blew the doors of everyone. Nobody else was ready for them to drop their, their product as well. And all of a sudden it's AI, everything, you know, and you look at somebody like mid journey, I mean, their image creation stuff is amazing, like really, really powerful, but then there's a whole bunch of other ones that aren't particularly as even remotely in the same space.

So I think there's always going to be that shuffle up my biggest concerns don't come down to a bloated ecosystem. The strong will survive and that is, that's the way it's going to be. That's the way of the world, right? But the bit which worries me more so is the sort of data security you briefly touched on, you know, stuff being wrong or the hallucinations within things.

I mean, we see it within code editing when we can be testing something with AI and it'll recommend a library that just doesn't exist. It should exist, but it doesn't exist. I think we've got, we've got a couple of different, different sides to that, which, which worry me more from a. So my personal context is the security of what's going in there.

Where is it getting stored? Is it getting indexed? Are you handing out company IP secrets that could be used nefariously or, or are we pushing into something else in the long run is, is additional security as what, what is being written? Is there any ethics built into to AI? And I personally was looking at it.

The sort of ecosystem or the engineering space or the product space and I kind of view the two biggest growth growth growth areas probably going forward is going to be security and AI, and then probably the ethics of AI into into business and into integration, because I think they're both very, very hot topics that are going to. Only start to show the true impact as impacts the general population as a whole. The rest of it is just an arms race to get great tools out there. And that's just capitalism 101. 

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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