Today’s speakers are, in order of appearance:
- Ryan – Trainer at Instil. Host and Editor in Chief for the WeekNotes podcast.
- Eoin – Principle Software Engineer at Instil. Fastest man at Instil on two feet (accurate at time of recording)
- Emma –Software Engineer at Instil. International beach volleyball player and neutral Swiss resident
[intro music plays in background] Ryan:Hey everyone, welcome back. This is WeekNotes by Instil. We have an international feel to today’s episode. I’m joined by Emma and Eoin. Emma’s been working in Switzerland for most of 2020, so she brings the Alpine feel to the conversation. You’ll be glad to hear I’ve removed our yodelling in the edit. We end up talking about audio stuff and exercise, before wrapping up with our old favourite home working. It might be a bit of a theme of the series, now that cabin fever is setting in after 10 months at home, and we pine for the return to the corporate office. I owe you an apology for this one too. There was a glitch with Emma’s recording, and her microphone missed her starting to speak sometimes. I’ve amplified it where I can. [intro music fades out]
Eoin: We were over at [REDACTED] last year and they had this room, where there’s just zero reflection whatsoever. So they had these big foam cones that come out from the walls and they’re quite – they’re like probably more than a foot deep. And that was the whole way round. But when you’re in there, you say something and it’s just gone! It’s like, you just – you say it and it’s gone. And so then he got us all to stand on one side, one corner of the room. He stood at the other side, and he started talking, where he was saying a poem or something facing us and as he spoke, he turned around to face away from us. And when he was facing the corner, you couldn’t hear anything! Even though it’s in the same room. And then he turned back round, and it gets louder and louder again and then he’s speaking to us. It is really, really freaky like. Just not natural at all. Ryan: Yeah. That’s weird. Eoin: It is interesting like. Cause I’ve been in like recording studios and thought they were quiet, but now this room was just, it was – yeah, it was eerie. Ryan: So was it like cones on the floor as well? Was it like all over the place? Eoin: There was, so there was kinda mesh on the floor, and cones underneath that and – Ryan: Okay Eoin: - cones up above and cones on the door. Ryan: That’s cool. Eoin: Yeah, it was weird.
Emma: The jingle for the start of the podcast, did you make it? Ryan: Varies every week. So this week I used one from a website where you can get stock photography that’s free. But they also offer audio for free as well. So last week episode had some random music from there that I downloaded and just spoke over. And then in previous weeks, there’s the guy that does film soundtrack stuff that he publishes. You have to declare that the music belongs to him on the podcast. You can’t just put it in text in the show notes. You’ve gotta actually speak it out. So I did that once and then thought I’m not doing that again. Eoin: Is that what the Creative Commons is? Ryan: There’s a couple who have licenced their audio. So there’s a guy who has a website called StreamBeats. So if you’ve ever like watched anybody streaming themselves playing a game on the Internet, StreamBeats basically gives you music, that is royalty free that you can play in the background, whilst playing so that people can listen to stuff. And then there’s ones were you can get like clips and audio intros and jingles and stuff. You’ve got to refer back to him, because he owns the copyright on them. Umm, so yeah, it’s too much work is the problem.
Eoin: Yeah, I listen to a podcast and they’ve got a bit of audio and [can’t make out] kind of pretty sure they don’t have the permission to use it. And they get like a thousand downloads a week! So you know, so it’s pretty significant. Ryan: Yeah, you can get hefty fines, I think. Eoin: Is that right? Ryan: Yeah, I think so. The research I did suggested that, yeah it’s not worth your effort trying to do it. Cause if you don’t have permission, then you gotta pay royalties and all sorts and it’s - Emma: With Facebook, if you post a video and there’s sound in it, and they -obviously, they have some AI that determines what your sound is. And like I posted a video once, which had a back track in it. And it knew like who it was and it said like you know, this is gonna get muted because you don’t own this song. But like I wonder, is it the same as Spotify then? Would it like be checking your - like is there AI or something to check? Cause I was wondering how would they really know? And then if they find it, are they also doing AI to check if you mention their name? Ryan: That’s a very good question. I don’t know. I mean there’s so many podcasts, so you know you could probably sneak it under the radar with small numbers. But yeah, well, who knows?
Ryan: Do either of you have any idea how that music recognition stuff works? Like Shazam? On the app on the phone? I’ve never understood how it can so quickly identify a song. Emma: I mean, alright, so I have tried to sing to Shazam, using my guitar and sing and be like: What song’s this? To see if I’m you know, as close to the artist and if it figures it out. And I can confirm that it does not figure out - Ryan: [laugh] Emma: - who it is. So apparently either I’m just really bad, or it’s a wee bit smarter than that. Eoin: And was this like well-known songs? Emma: You know trying to make it realise what this is, but yeah it must - it has to be a bit more, slightly more technical than that. But yeah, must be the back - like it knows the beats per minute and that will cut down like which sorta of song it could be. Then it will know like the key, that cuts it down. So on and so forth. And then I guess yeah, I don’t know. Good question. Eoin: I get if you’re singing it yourself, you’re probably not going to be in the same key. You might, but you might be a wee bit off, and if you - well obviously you would be in perfect – Emma: Yeah! [laugh] Eoin: - perfect pitch! [laugh] Emma + Ryan: [chuckle] Eoin: If anyone else though – Emma: Of course Eoin: - and again, you know you’ve got your inbuilt metronome, but for the rest of us, who might be a wee bit free time or a bit too slow. So I - yeah, I don’t know. [laugh] Ryan: Yeah, Shazam’s clever enough to identify versions of songs. You know, so it’ll be able to recognise like the live version of a track and the studio version of a track, so it must - it can’t be doing what humans do, and identifying the beats of a song, when I know that immediately in about 2 seconds. It must be comparing the audio signal from the speaker, and digitising that in some way and then comparing that to a database, but I don’t know how you can do that so fast.
Eoin: I’m going to just throw the term out there like: it’s using AI, it’s using machine learning. So [laugh] when you do that, it’s like yeah, you don’t have to understand it anymore. It’s just, it’s doing what it does. But you know, I guess if you think about it from an image recognition point of view. It’ll come up with markers on the image, so there’ll be certain areas of the image were it’ll say we think this is this, with this much confidence. And it can do that for a certain number of markers in an image. And I guess we have to think it’s the same for audio, right? So it doesn’t listen to the track at the start and then through to the finish. It just looks at the entire file, you know. And so I guess yeah, it’s coming up with some sort of markers. It’s an interesting one. It’s a – Ryan: Yeah Eoin: - difficult problem.
Ryan: Let’s actually talk about the topic. I do want to ask about skiing at some point. It would be nice to talk about skiing. Emma: Well, I feel like we’ve done a pretty interesting chat on Shazam and sound AI and everything like, which was completely not on this list! Ryan: I know that’s what happens you see. Emma: It’s a bit random
Eoin: So are you talking about Mount Errigal in Donegal? For skiing? I’ve seen some people were skiing there Ryan: I did see that, yeah. Eoin: It’s pretty good. I think it’s real too. Or are you talking more generally about just Emma going down to the shops? Ryan: Well, yeah, I saw the video that you posted in the Slack channel. How much snow have you got? Emma: Well right here, there’s none. So I don’t live super high, so there’s not actually - there’s not often a lot of snow where I am. But you drive maybe half an hour, and you’re already at a slope, and there’s been quite a lot of snow already this year. It’s getting a bit too warm again, so it’s starting to melt, but yeah, I’ve been able to go skiing. Well, I actually do - I ski but also it’s called ski touring. So what happens with it, is you actually go up the slope yourself too, with skins on your skis. So it grips as you go up and so you sorta gliding up and then you take the skins off at the top. Enjoy the view obviously and then – Ryan: Uh huh Emma: - ski down. So it’s only one run obviously, but it’s more enjoyable like, going up. It’s like hiking, but like a bit more enjoyable. Cause you’re kinda gliding up, and obviously it makes it worth it to get a bit of cardio in and all that, so you can do that in a wee evening. It’s quite nice.
Ryan: Is it not exhausting? Skiing uphill? Emma: Yeah, I mean you don’t lift the skis at all. They do glide, so it is - it’s okay, but it does take a bit of getting used to and your heart rate is going like so. But - Eoin: Is that cross country skiing? Emma: In cross country, you don’t actually go up. You’re kind of on the flat and you’re skate - it’s almost like skating, but with - they’re really, really skinny cross country skis. And so you’re kind of almost doing like a track and you’re just forcing yourself. There’s no skins. Whereas this one, the skins - you can’t go back down you know. It’s a sort of, I think, its shape and some other artificial thing that makes you stick on the way up, but yeah, it’s a little bit different, but similar concept of skating with skis on a bit, but yeah. Ryan: Cool. Emma: Pretty fun.
Ryan: I would say that I’m jealous, but the idea of actually going skiing terrifies me a little bit because I’ve never done it before. Eoin: I’m really jealous. I think that sounds - like I’m scared of falling off skis going downhill! That sounds as much fun you know, because you’re getting a work out, right? Emma: It honestly is really enjoyable. Yeah, I think you’d love it, because obviously you like a wee bit of exercise, but it makes it so worthwhile. Cause you get to the top and you’re like, okay, I’ve done solid - it’s normally about an hour like, straight cardio, going for it. And then you can enjoy just 20 minutes then, roughly it takes to go down the same sort of slope, and you can pick something relatively easy. But yeah anyway. Ryan: That’s cool.
Ryan: So would it be fair to say that the two of you are the - actually but maybe not. Maybe Richard would challenge you for the fittest members of Instil? Eoin: Yeah, I’d say me and Emma would be the fittest, yeah. Emma: Yeah. Richard’s quite far down I think. Eoin: Richard would beeee… ahh, I can think of a couple more that would give him a good run like. Ryan: Oh really? Emma: Definitely, yeah. Ryan: Okay. Ryan + Emma + Eoin: [chuckle] Ryan: Yeah
Eoin: I actually really miss the towpath. That’s probably what I miss most about Belfast, about being in the office to be honest. The towpath’s nice and you’re right on it, when you’re working in the city you know, so you get out at lunchtime. Ryan: Yeah Eoin: Definitely, I miss that. Ryan: So how far did you run? You used to be quite a lot at lunchtime. How far did you run on an average lunchtime? Eoin: Ahh, so I had a wee 9 mile loop from the city centre out to Shaw’s Bridge and back, out the towpath. And I would do - I done that, yeah most days. Ryan: Wow. [impressed noise] Eoin: That’s that. Ryan: And how long does it take you to run 9 miles? Eoin: Errmm, some days - you know it’s different everyday. Some days you run at it pretty hard. Sometimes you just take it easy like so I don’t know – hour and 10 minutes? Ryan: That’s amazing! Eoin: But aye, naw. I miss that. That was good fun. I enjoyed that.
Ryan: Working from home, do you have somewhere – somewhere better do you get to run? Eoin: Errmm, so yeah so where I live, you’re either going uphill or downhill you know. There’s no in-between so, but that’s I guess that’s good too, right? That’s a bit of a challenge too. So – Ryan: Yeah Eoin: - it’s a wee bit annoying in the winter time, because it’s dark. And then you’re working. And then it’s dark [laugh] So unless you get out at lunchtime, you don’t really get out.
Ryan: Have you found that your working hours have changed? Both of you, I guess. Eoin: Yeah, I used to get up pretty early. So I’d get up at about six and get me run done, and then mornings and evenings start to come in. So I would get up at sunrise, until it just got to a point where I couldn’t run in the morning at all you know so. But then with you know, with the working from home and the children being home from school and that sort of thing like, Instil is pretty flexible around that. And we kinda need all that flexibility. So you know, I could be working early in the morning, not working at lunchtime at all. Pretty much 12 to 2 is quite often blocked out for me. So I’ll often block it out of the calendar, and then it could be work again in the evening you know so. But Instil so has been – they’ve been good that way, especially in Lockdown 3 point 0 Emma: Ermm, for me actually it’s been quite good because my fiancé - he works Saturdays, but then sometimes Instil lets me work Saturday and then take the same day off with him then in the week. And so it’s been quite nice. That’s how I’ve been able to go skiing quite a bit, and not actually be taking my leave, which is quite nice. Ryan: Yeah Emma: So it’s just nice to feel trusted you know as well, and there’s a lot of yeah, if they give you that flexibility, there’s a reason why. And there has to be integrity on your side, but it’s nice to have that trust you know as well.
Ryan: Yeah, how likely are you two gonna be to stick at it whenever the office is reopened? Eoin: So I’ll let you go first Emma. Ryan: [laugh] Emma: [laugh] Yeah, it’s a bit more complicated for me. I’m all the way in Switzerland! Ryan: Commuting from Switzerland! That’s not going to work, is it? Emma: Yeah. I mean, obviously it depends what way it’s gonna be. Like we just can’t know, can we? But I know again, that Instil are gonna be pretty adaptable, whatever it’s going to look like. I mean, I do miss - I miss the office for sure like that’s - there’s no question about that. So if I could be in one, I would be!
Eoin: Yeah, it’s interesting. I think it’s one of those things. Like at the start of lockdown, everyone was thinking: how’s working from home going to work out? Emmm, and then it turned out that it worked - I would say most people would say it worked out pretty good. You know, we found things that worked. So then now everyone’s asking the question: how is going back to the office going to work? What’s that you know? Are we gonna - are people going to work one or two days a week? Or is everyone going to go back? Is it going to go back to the way it was? Like people are set up now. People have got home offices, and they’ve got everything set up and they know they can be productive. Our current client you know, we’re working pretty with them on requirements and stuff. And I’m kind of - in a way, I’m as close to them, as I am to the other guys in the team. Because I can get them on a call just as easily. Whereas I know with the previous client, who were also – they were in the States and when we were in the office, it was kind of a big deal to get a call with them. Everyone comes into the meeting room, and you set up the teleconference, and they do the same on their end. Whereas like a lot of that friction’s really been removed. So if your client’s remote, then you’re closer to them when -if you’re working remotely like. Ryan: Yeah Eoin: So it’s an interesting one. If we all went – Ryan: That’s a really good point, yeah. Eoin: - back to being in the office, then we would kinda lose some of that. And I’m kind of advocating for it, because I’ve got a pretty long commute. So I’m sort of making the case – Ryan: [soft laugh]
Eoin: - but I also know that in terms of development, we pair a lot in our team now. And it’s an easy thing to do, because you’re sittin’, you got your setup. You got your you know, you’ve got your keyboard, monitor; everything’s set up and you’re coding. And you can just easily pull someone.in and now you’re pair programming. And we use like Slack usually, so we can yeah annotate each other’s screens, you know. We don’t use necessarily the pair programming tools, where you can type in each other’s screens, because it’s pair programming, right? So one person’s driving and one person’s, you know watching. So that’s another thing that if we went back to the office, I don’t know if we - if I wanted to pair someone beside me like firstly, we’re in an office. So we can’t just start you know, shouting about our code. Ryan: Yeah Eoin: So do we go to a meeting room? But it’s nice to have your setup and everything where it is. So we find that - we call them ‘Dev Chats’ and anytime we have one, we always put it up on the Slack channel, on the development - just for the devs you know. So we put it up there. We’ll will give it a name, so that everyone - all the other developers know what we’re doing and they know what we’re talking about. So it’s like you know, it’s out in the open as well. Anyone can see. So it’s kind of, the analogy is you see two people pairing, you can just walk by and you can drop in and see what they’re up to. Ryan: Yeah, and actually that’s easier to do now, because you’re not sitting in the same office as somebody. So you’re not hindered by being in a shared office where there’s other people around you. You can just set it up and run it – Eoin: Yeah Ryan: - remotely. Eoin: And you’re not – Ryan: Yeah Eoin: - pulling a chair over from somewhere. And trying to you know - trying to get in a position where you can see the screen you know. And you can Google as someone’s working. Someone’s coding, you can be Googling. You can be reading docs. Ryan: Yeah. Eoin: And it could be two or three people. We have found that works really well. Ryan: That’s really cool, actually.
Ryan: I do remember working in a team, which was remote and meetings amongst that team was really awkward, because you had to set up a video conference and go to a suite. And it was actually before - really before Google Meet or any of that stuff, so it was really a hassle. But actually the idea that everybody’s at home, it’s just trivial to set up it up now. So that’s - Eoin: Yeah and then that’s one interesting questions that is around going back to the office, cause everyone’s remote. So I think that works well. But if half the people were remote, would it work as well? Emma: Before we – before all of this drama - you know would have been somebody in your team, probably at least one day a week, not in the office. And you do feel like there’s two different levels. Like you’re doing a stand up and one person’s on that screen, but then the four of you are standing around. And so there’s kind of like an uneven connect in that as well. And so yeah, it’s true. Like if we’re half and half, yeah you kinda feel like it does need to be an all or nothing in some ways, but yeah. Ryan: Yeah, yeah, I mean - Emma: Yep
Ryan: - I think I could see situations where we’d set up scheduled days in the office. So your team will want to have a big planning session or something, and so it makes sense to gather for that. But in practice, it’s better if everybody’s distributed. And even people that are in the office, when you’re doing your daily standups or whatever, they need to be on their own laptops connected with headsets, so that they are distributed too. Even though they might be sitting at the same bank of desks. Eoin: Yeah, it’s gonna be, and then so like Emma’s just saying, you know, maybe we all come in a day a week. But then I guess the idea would be that you know our team comes in for a day a week, so that we’re all in and then the other days, we’re all remote. But then you would kinda get into this thing, where you know one team’s in today and another team’s in the next day. And I see my team you know, on the video calls, but I’m missing everyone else at Instil and then you could not solve that problem in a way. Ryan: Yeah [outro music plays over rest of dialogue] Eoin: If it’s a team per day sort of a thing, so it is a funny one.
Ryan: That’s probably a good place to leave it for today. Thanks for listening this far, and I hope you enjoyed it. Speak to you next week. [outro music plays till end of recording] </html>
Thanks to Amy for producing these.