In the continual effort to highlight folks who inspire us on “Screaming,” especially when that person brings a forceful sense of humor to the question. Thankfully Danielle Baskin, CEO of Dialup, makes her adroit sense of humor quickly known. An excellent example, the first time she and Corey crossed paths was at Oracle OpenWorld where she was dressed as a seer. Yeah, you read that right. Danielle and Corey regale her hilarious gimmicks over the years at various oracle theme conferences. Be they about the cloud, or communing with the ether. Danielle has some great anecdotes that, in short, helped to also highlight some peculiarities of the industry. Alongside her prolific work in tech, Danielle is also a robust artist, whose work straddles realm digital, physical, and other. Check out the conversation!
Episode Show Notes & Transcript
Danielle Baskin is a serial entrepreneur and multimedia artist whose work has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, The New Yorker, WSJ, and more. She's also the CEO of Dialup, a globally acclaimed voice-chat app.
- Dialup: https://dialup.com
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/djbaskin
- Cofounder Quest: https://cofounder.quest
- Personal Website: https://daniellebaskin.com
Announcer: Hello, and welcome to Screaming in the Cloud with your host, Chief Cloud Economist at The Duckbill Group, Corey Quinn. This weekly show features conversations with people doing interesting work in the world of cloud, thoughtful commentary on the state of the technical world, and ridiculous titles for which Corey refuses to apologize. This is Screaming in the Cloud.
Corey: It seems like there is a new security breach every day. Are you confident that an old SSH key, or a shared admin account, isn’t going to come back and bite you? If not, check out Teleport. Teleport is the easiest, most secure way to access all of your infrastructure. The open source Teleport Access Plane consolidates everything you need for secure access to your Linux and Windows servers—and I assure you there is no third option there. Kubernetes clusters, databases, and internal applications like AWS Management Console, Yankins, GitLab, Grafana, Jupyter Notebooks, and more. Teleport’s unique approach is not only more secure, it also improves developer productivity. To learn more visit: goteleport.com. And not, that is not me telling you to go away, it is: goteleport.com.
Corey: You know how Git works right?
Announcer: Sorta, kinda, not really. Please ask someone else.
Corey: That's all of us. Git is how we build things, and Netlify is one of the best ways I’ve found to build those things quickly for the web. Netlify’s Git-based workflows mean you don’t have to play slap-and-tickle with integrating arcane nonsense and web hooks, which are themselves about as well understood as Git. Give them a try and see what folks ranging from my fake Twitter for Pets startup, to global Fortune 2000 companies are raving about. If you end up talking to them—because you don’t have to; they get why self-service is important—but if you do, be sure to tell them that I sent you and watch all of the blood drain from their faces instantly. You can find them in the AWS marketplace or at www.netlify.com. N-E-T-L-I-F-Y dot com.
Corey: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud, I’m Corey Quinn. It’s always fun when I get the opportunity to talk to people whose work inspires me, and makes me reflect more deeply upon how I go about doing things in various ways. Now, for folks who have been following my journey for a while, it’s pretty clear that humor plays a big part in this, but that is not something that I usually talk about with respect to whose humor inspires me.
Today that’s going to change a little bit. My guest is Danielle Baskin, who among so many other things is the CEO of a company called Dialup, but more notably is renowned for pulling a bunch of—I don’t know if we’d call them pranks. I don’t know if we would call them performance art. I don’t know if we would call them shitposting in real life, but they are all amazing. Danielle, thank you so much for joining. How do you describe what it is that you do?
Danielle: Thanks for having me. Yeah, I’ve used a few different terms. I’ve called it situation design. I’ve called it serious jokes. I have called what I do business art, but all the things you said, shitposting IRL, that’s part of it too.
Corey: It’s been an absolute pleasure to just watch what you’ve done since I first became aware of you, which our mutual friend, Chloe Condon first pointed me in your general direction with, “Hey, Corey, you think you’re funny? You should watch what Danielle is doing.” That’s not how she framed it, but that’s what I took from it because I’m incredibly egotistical, which is now basically a brand slash core personality trait. There you have it.
And I encountered you for the first time in person—I believe only time to date—at I believe it was Oracle OpenWorld on the expo floor. She had been talking about you a couple of days before, and I saw someone who could only be you because you were dressed as a seer to be at Oracle OpenWorld. The joke should be clear to folks but we’ll explain it later for the folks who are—might need to replay that a bit. I staggered up to you with, “Hey, are you Chloe’s friend?”
Let me give listeners here some advice through counterexample. Don’t do that. It makes you look like a sketchy person who has no clue how social graces work. No one has any context and as soon as you said, “No,” I realized, “Oh, I came across as a loon.” I am going to say, “Never mind. My mistake,” and walk away like a sensible person will after bungling an introduction like that. I’m not usually that inartful about these things. I don’t know what the hell happened, but it happens often when we meet people that we consider celebrities, and sorry, for some of us that’s you.
Danielle: [laugh] yeah, also in fairness to you I was probably fully immersed in character being my wizard self, and so I was not there to, you know, be pulled back to reality. For some context, I was at Oracle OpenWorld because I made a thing called same exact name, oracleopenworld.org, but it’s a divination conference for oracles, for fortune-tellers, for wizards, for seers, and it happened at the exact same place in time, so there was a whole crew of people dressed up with capes, and robes, and tall pointy hats doing tarot readings and practicing our divination skills.
Corey: Now, I could wind up applying about two dozen different adjectives to Oracle, but playful is absolutely not one of them. I would not ever accuse Oracle, or frankly any large company of that scale of having anything even remotely resembling a sense of humor. As someone who does have to factor in the not that remote possibility of getting kicked out of events that I attend, how do you handle that and not find yourself arrested?
Danielle: Oh, we were kicked out every single time.
Corey: Oh, good good good.
Danielle: I’ve done this for four years. The first year we were kicked out just because we didn’t have badges. I made up our own conference lanyard; of course, there’s security issues with that. We were pushed out onto the sidewalk, but I wanted to be inside the conference and closer to the building.
The next year I did a two-layer conference badge, so I put the real one underneath the fake one so that if security went up to us we had the right to be there. What sort of happened—so, like, the first year we got kicked out was because we were all distributed; maybe there was like 20 of us. Sometimes we were together. Sometimes we were having our own adventures. My friend Brian decided do a séance for the Deloitte team.
Corey: Well, that’s Deloitte-ful. Tell me more.
Danielle: [laugh]. Brian has never done a séance before, but he is a good improv actor and also a spiritual person, so this is, like, perfect for him. As the Deloitte team if they wanted to do a séance they were, like, sure because I think they didn’t have anything going—I mean, people are bored at this conference.
Corey: Oh, of course, they are.
Danielle: Especially if your boss flew you there to stand at your booth and you’ve been saying the same thing over and over again; you’re looking for something interesting. So, he grabs the pillows from a lounge area and little tea light candles and makes a whole circle so that the team can sit down.
He’s wearing a bright rainbow cape and he stands in the middle and he could have a booming voice if he wants to. So, he just starts riffing and going—he just goes into séance mode, and this was enough to trigger security noticing that something really weird was happening. And when they went—
Corey: They come over and say, “What the hell is this?” The answer was “Kubernetes.”
Danielle: I had said everyone can blame—if you get in trouble just blame me just say, “I’m doing this with my friend, Danielle,” and have them talk to me. I wanted more people to come and be wizards. I don’t want them to worry about it, so I will take all of the issues on me. He said that he should talk to his manager, Danielle, or I don’t know.
He said something that made it seem we were all part of a company. Which then makes it seem like our whole project was secret guerilla marketing for something. And we didn’t pay for booth. We were not selling anything. We were just trolling. Or not troll—I mean, we were having our own divination summit. We were genuinely—
Corey: You were virally marketing is the right answer and from my perspective—
Danielle: Yeah, no, I wasn’t doing viral marketing. They think anything that’s unusual and getting people’s attention has the ultimate goal of selling something, which it’s not a philosophy I live by.
Corey: No, it feels like the weird counter-intuitive thing here is the way to get the blessing of everyone from this would’ve—the only step you missed was charging Deloitte for doing it at their booth because it attracts attention.
Danielle: Oh, sure. Oracle should have been paying us a lot of money for entertaining people. Actually, genuinely I had some real heart-to-heart conversations with people who wanted to have a tarot reading about how should they talk to their boss about not listening to them. This is something magical that happens when you are dressed up in costume and you are acting really weird people feel they can say anything because you’re acting way more unusual than them, so it sort of takes away people’s barriers. So, people are very honest with me about their situation.
People had questions about their family. Anyway, I was in the middle of a heart-to-heart tarot reading, and security at Oracle was alerted to find anyone with a cape. Find the wizards and kick them out because they didn’t pay to be here. There’s some weird marketing thing happen.
Corey: “Find and eject the wizards,” is probably the most surreal thing that they have been told that year.
Danielle: Oh, yeah. And they didn’t know why. The message why I did not transmit to all the security, but they were just told to find us. Two guards with their walkie-talkies in their uniforms went up to me and they had to escort me off the premises. Which means we had to walk through the conference together and I asked them, “Why?” They’re like, “We don’t know. We were just told to find you.”
Corey: Imagine them trying to find you stopping and asking people, “Excuse me, have you seen the wizard?”
Corey: It is hard to be taken seriously when asking questions like that.
Danielle: Totally, totally. So yeah, unfortunately, we had to leave and that has consistently happened because I’ve done it four times. The final year I went, there was a message before the event even started that you’re not allowed to wear a cape.
Corey: The fact that you can have actual changes made to company policy for large-scale, incredibly expensive events like that is a sign that you’ve made it.
Danielle: It doesn’t even point to any particular incident. Yeah, it’s cool to have this sort of lore. When I asked in the last year I went, “I asked why can’t we wear a cape?” And one of the event organizer security, I don’t know what her role was. She said, “There was an incident the previous year.” Which she was talking about me and my friends.
Corey: Of course, but that is the best part of it.
Danielle: It’s just lore than something once happened with these, like, dark spirits that tried to mess up the Oracle conference with their magic.
Corey: Times change and events evolve. Years ago I attended an AWS Summit with a large protest sign that said on it AMI has three syllables, and it got a bit of an eyebrow raise from people at the door, but okay, great. Then people started protesting those events for one of the very many reasons people have to protest Amazon, and they keep piling more on that pile all the time which is neither here nor there.
I realized, okay, I can’t do that anymore because regardless of what the sign says I will get tackled at the door for trying to bring something like that in, and I don’t try and actively disrupt keynotes. So okay, it’s time to move on and not get myself viewed through certain lenses that are unhelpful, but it’s always a question of moving on and try to top what I did previous years. Weren’t you also at Dreamforce wearing pajamas?
Danielle: I did a few things at Dreamforce. One year I literally set up a tent. They spend millions of dollars on beautiful fake trees and rocks, and also Dreamforce gets taken over every time the event occurs. I did a few things. I thought I should make it seem like this is real nature so I brought camping gear and a tent and just brought a hiking backpack in.
Set it up in the middle of the conference floor laying by the waterfall, but there were people in suits networking around me that did not ask me any questions. I just stayed in the tent, but then I decided to list it on Airbnb. So, inside my tent, I was making an Airbnb listing telling people that they could stay at Dreamforce and explore the beautiful nature there, but it took an hour-and-a-half to get kicked out.
Corey: The emails that you must have back and forth with places like Airbnb’s customer support line and the rest have got to be legendary at this point.
Danielle: [laugh] I get interesting cease-and-desists. I wish there was more dialogue. With Airbnb I just got my listing taken down and I couldn’t talk to a human, and even when I got kicked out of Dreamforce they wanted me to leave immediately. I totally snuck in; I didn’t have a badge or anything. So, I guess they’re in the right for that. The second year at Dreamforce I wore a ghillie suit so I hid. So, I stayed a little bit after the conference ended by hiding as a bush.
Corey: That is both amazing and probably terrifying for the worker that encountered you while trying to clean up.
Danielle: Oh, I mean often employees—like it depends. Some people find my pranks really delightful because it shakes up their day. Security guards also find this amusing. There’s some type of organizer that absolutely hates my pranks.
Corey: There’s something to be said for self-selecting your own audience. One question that I—sure you get; if I get it I know you get it—where it’s difficult for people to sometimes draw the line between the fun whimsical things that you do as pranks and the actual things that you do. A great example of this is something you’ve been doing for, I think, four years now, the decruiter.
Danielle: Yeah. The decruiter a service that’s the opposite of a recruiter so it is—
Corey: At the first re:Invent AWS had a slide that was apparently he made the night before or something and they misspelled security as decurity. From that perspective, what’s a decruiter?
Danielle: Yes, I love decurity as a way to talk about infiltrating a space, like, “No I’m a decurity officer.” Yeah, decruiter is basically a service where you talk to us to find out if you should quit your job. Instead of finding out if you should work at a place or figuring out what opportunities there are, we discuss the unemployed life—or the inbet—like, being self-employed, between jobs, switching careers, it’s a whole spectrum but there’s a few recruiters and we’re all like very experienced not having an employer or working for a company. And so, we ask people about how would you spend your free time. What’s your financial situation? Are you able to afford leaving? It gets pretty personal, but it’s highly specific therapy, but we also don’t have a high acceptance rate. I’ve only decruited like 15% people that I’ve talked to.
Corey: Most of them realize that, oh, there’s a lot of things I would have to do if I didn’t have a job and I’m just going to stay where I am?
Danielle: Yeah. Well, I think a lot of people think that as soon as they leave their job a lot of other things in their life will magically transform, or they’ll finally be able to do their creative project they’ve always wanted to do. This is true some percentage of the time, but I always encourage people to do things outside of work and not seek in their whole fulfillment through their job.
There’s plenty of time where you can explore other ideas and even overlap them to make sure that like when you quit you have things lined up. A lot of people don’t know how to answer, “If you suddenly left tomorrow and could just float for three months, what would you do?” If people give me a good answer—and this is similar to an actual job interview I was like, “Why are you excited about working this company?”
If people give me a good answer, that’s a conversation. A lot of people have no idea, but they’re just stuck in a situation where there’s things they could do in their outside of work life that would make them feel happier. That’s why it’s sort of like therapy, but there’s a lot of internal company issues that I talk about. A common reason that people want to leave is that they love their role, they love the company’s mission, but they do not like their manager, but their manager is really good friends with the CEO and they absolutely can’t say anything. This is so common.
Corey: They always say people they’ll quit jobs they quit managers and there is something to be said for that.
Danielle: Yes, it’s scary for people to speak up or who do you write a letter to? How do you secretly talk with your team about it? Are you the only one feeling that way? Typically the people that are the most nervous about saying anything are kind of young either in their early 20s and they feel like they can’t say anything.
I encourage them to come up with a strategy for making change within their corporation but sometimes it’s not worth it. If there’s tons of other opportunities for them it’s not worth them fixing their company.
Corey: It’s also I think not incumbent upon people to fix their entire corporate culture unless they’re at a somewhat higher executive level. That’s a fun thing. The derecruiter.com we’ll definitely throw a link to that in the [show notes 00:15:49] and I’ll start driving people to it when they ask me for advice on these things. Then you decided, okay, that’s fun.
You’re one of those people I feel has a bit of the same alignment that I do which is, why do one thing when I could do a bunch of things? And you decided, ah, you’re going to do a startup. What is the best thing that you can do that really can capitalize on emerging cultural trends? That’s right. Getting millennial to make phone calls to each other. Tell me about that story.
Danielle: Yeah, and it’s not just millennials, though I’m millennial. So, a lot of millennials use Dialup. I mean, Dialup started as a project where basically me and a friend set up a robocall between ourselves. So, like a bot would call our phones and if we would pick up we’d both be connected, but neither of us was actually calling each other. So, it was a way to just always be catching up with each other.
So, many friends asked me if they could join the robocalls. That was sort of the seat of Dialup is getting serendipitous phone calls throughout the day that connect you to a person that you might know or might want to meet. Because there’s overlap of interest or overlap of someone you know. It grew from me and 20 friends to now 31,000 people who are actively using it all over the world and these conversations can be really incredible.
Sometimes people stay on the phone for four hours. People have flown out to meet each other. I get notes every day of how a call has impacted someone one. So, that’s what I’m up to now, but I’m trying to do more interesting things with voice technology. I just like realized, oh, the voice as a medium it just transports you to other worlds. You have space to imagine.
I mean, people listening to this podcast right now they’re not seeing us, but they probably are imagining us, what our rooms look like, what we look like. They’re imagining the stories that we’re telling them without the distraction of video. I want to do more interesting things with intimate audio—not broadcast stuff. Not Clubhouse or Spaces or anything like that, but just more interesting ways to connect people in one-on-ones.
Corey: Something I’ve noticed is that the voice has a power that text does not. It makes it easier to remember that there’s a human on the other side of things. It is far easier for me to send off an incendiary tweet at someone than it is for me to call them up and then berate them, not really my style.
The more three-dimensional someone becomes in various capacities and the higher bandwidth the communication takes on, I think the easier it is to remember that most people who don’t work at Facebook wake up in the morning hoping to do a good job today. Extending empathy to the rest of the world, that’s an important thing.
Danielle: Yeah, for sure. It’s incredible that humans can detect emotional qualities in a voice call. It’s hard to describe why, but people can detect pauses and little mutters. You can sort of know when someone’s laughing or when someone’s listening even though you’re missing all of the visual cues.
Corey: This episode is sponsored by our friends at Oracle Cloud. Counting the pennies, but still dreaming of deploying apps instead of "Hello, World" demos? Allow me to introduce you to Oracle's Always Free tier. It provides over 20 free services and infrastructure, networking, databases, observability, management, and security. And—let me be clear here—it's actually free. There's no surprise billing until you intentionally and proactively upgrade your account. This means you can provision a virtual machine instance or spin up an autonomous database that manages itself all while gaining the networking load, balancing and storage resources that somehow never quite make it into most free tiers needed to support the application that you want to build. With Always Free, you can do things like run small scale applications or do proof-of-concept testing without spending a dime. You know that I always like to put asterisks next to the word free. This is actually free, no asterisk. Start now. Visit snark.cloud/oci-free that's snark.cloud/oci-free.
Corey: Taking a glance at dialup.com, it appears to be a completely free service. You mentioned that it has 30,000 folks involved. Are you taking the VC model of we’re going to get a whole bunch of users first and then figure out how to make money later? Sometimes it works super well. Other times it basically becomes Docker retold.
Danielle: I’ve been thinking about this a lot and I swing back and forth. Right now Dialup is its own thing, connecting strangers. It’s free though I do have some paying clients because I do serendipitous one-on-ones within organizations. I’ve got a secret B2B page, and so that is a little bit of revenue. Right now I’m trying to sort of expand beyond Dialup and make a new thing, in which case I am leaning more towards building a sustainable and profitable company rather than do the raise-VC-money-until-you-die model.
Corey: I think it’s long past time to disrupt the trope of starving artist. What about well-paid artist? It seems like that would inspire and empower people to create a lot more art when they’re not worrying about freezing to death. To that end or presumably to that end you are in the process of looking for a co-founder in what is arguably the most Danielle Baskin possible way. How are you doing it?
Danielle: Oh, yeah. I could have done a regular LinkedIn post linking to a Google Doc, but that is not my style, and as a self-employed person I can’t reach out to old coworkers and be like, “Oh, you’re on my team a few years ago. What are you up to now?” So, I’m sort of under-networked and I thought I should make a game that sort of explains what I’m doing, but have people discover the game in an interesting way. So, I bought a bunch of floppy discs—I have a floppy disc dealer outside of LA.
Corey: For those who are not millennials and are in fact younger than that—and of course let’s not forget Gen X, the Baby Boom Generation, the Silent Generation which I can only assume is comprised entirely of people who represent big companies from a PR point of view because they never comment on anything. What is a floppy disc for someone who was born in, I don’t know, 2005?
Danielle: Oh, a floppy disk is how you would run software on your computer.
Corey: Yeah, a USB stick with no capacity you can wreck with a magnet.
Danielle: Yes, it’s like a flat wide USB stick, but it only contains—
Corey: 1.44 megabytes on the three-and-a-half-inch version.
Danielle: I think some of them then went up to 2.88.
Danielle: You can’t even fit a picture—a modern picture. You could do a super low-resolution pixel art.
Corey: This picture of grandma has a whopping eight pixels in it. Oh, okay, great. I guess.
Danielle: Yeah. More complex software would be eight floppy disks that you have to insert disk A, insert disk B.
Corey: Anti-piracy warnings in that day of ‘don’t copy that floppy.’ It was a seminal thing for a long time.
Danielle: I have it in my game; it says ‘don’t make illegal copies of this game.’ My game is not literally on the floppy disc. All floppy discs come with pretty interesting artwork on the label. There’s a little space for a sticker, and because I have hundreds of floppy disks, I sort of looked at—I had a ton of design inspiration.
So, I made floppy discs in the aesthetic of the other ones that say Cofounder Quest—like it’s this game—and it leads you to a website. I scattered these in strategic places around the bay area, and I also mailed some to people outside of the bay area. If you stumble across this in person or on the internet, it leads you to this adventure game that’s around seven minutes to play.
It really explains what I want to do with Dialup, and explains me, and explains my aesthetic, and the sort of playful experiences that I’m into without telling you. So, you get to really experience it. At the end, it basically leads you to a job description and tells you to reach out to me if you’re interested.
Corey: I was independent for years and I finally decided to take on a business partner. As it turns out, Mike Julian, who’s the CEO of The Duckbill Group and I go back ten years, he's my best friend. I kept correcting him. He introduced me as his friend. I said, “No, Mike, your best friend.” Then I got him on audio at one point saying, “Oh, Corey Quinn? He’s my best friend.” I have that on my soundboard and I play it every time he gets uppity. That’s the sort of nonsense it’s important in a co-founder relationship. It is a marriage in some respects.
Danielle: Oh, for sure.
Corey: It’s a business entity. Each one of you can destroy the other financially in different ways. You have to have shared values. The idea of speed-dating your way through finding some random co-founder as a job application, on some level, has always struck me as a little dissonant. I like the approach you’re taking of this is who I am and how I go about things. If this aligns then we should talk, and if you don’t like this you’re not going to like any of the rest of this.
Danielle: For sure. I’m definitely self-selecting with who would actually reach out after playing. I also understand. I’m not going to find a co-founder in a few weeks. I’m just starting conversations with people and then seeing who I should continue talking to or seeing if we could do a mini-project together.
Yeah, it’s weird. It’s a very intense relationship. That’s why people do end up becoming co-founders with someone that they already know who’s a friend. It’s possible I already know my co-founder and they’ve been in front of me this whole time. I think these sorts of moments happen, but I also think that it’s cool to totally expand your network and meet someone who maybe has an overlap in spirit, but is someone that you would’ve never otherwise met. That there could be this great overlap or convergence there. I wanted to cast a very wide net with who this would reach, but it’s still going to be a multi-month-long process or longer.
Corey: It’s not these one-off projects that are the most interesting part to me. It is the sheer variety and consistency of this. During the pandemic I believe you wound up having the verified checkmark badges for houses and fill out this form if you want one and for folks in San Francisco. Absolutely, of course, I filled that out. I read a fairly bad take news article on it of a bunch of people fell for this prank.
No, absolutely not. If people are familiar with your work then they know exactly what they’re getting into with something like this and you support the kinds of things you want to see more of in the world. I didn’t fall for anything. I wanted to see where it led and that’s how I feel on everything you do.
Danielle: Yeah, you appreciated the joke.
Danielle: Yeah, I think people who are familiar with my work understand that I take jokes very seriously. So, it’s not simply—like, usually it’s not just a website that’s like, huh, this was a trick. It’s more of an ongoing theater piece. So, I actually did go through all of the applicants for the Blue Check Homes. Oh, for some context, I made a website where you could apply to have a blue verified badge and a plaster crest put on your house if you are a dignified authentic person that lives in the house.
So, I’m interviewing—I narrowed it down to 50 people from all the applicants and I’m going through and interviewing people with a committee. I’m recording all of the interviews because I think this will make an interesting mini-documentary. I’m actually making one in installing one, but I’m documenting all of it.
When I started it—for a lot of projects I don’t have the ending planned yet. I like the sort of joke to unfold on the internet in real-time, and then figure out what the next thing I should do from there is and continue the project in a sort of curious exploratory mindset as opposed to just saying, “All right, the joke is done.”
Corey: What is your process for coming up with this stuff? Because for me the most intimidating thing I ever see in the course of a week is not the inevitable cease and desist I get from every large cloud company for everything I do. Rather an empty page where it’s all right time for me to write a humorous blog post, or start drafting the bones of a Twitter thread, or start writing my resignation and if I don’t come with an idea by the end of it, I’ll submit it. Where does the creative process start from with you?
Danielle: Yeah. I rarely have creative brainstorming sessions. I’m a person who thinks of a million bad ideas and then there’s one good one. My mind leaps to a ton of ideas. I rarely write down ideas. I don’t do any sort of—you might imagine I’m in a room of whiteboards and post-it notes, workshopping things and doing creative brainstorm sessions, but I don’t.
I think I act upon the things that I feel just extremely excited about and feel like I must do this immediately. It’s hard to explain, but with a lot of my ideas, I just feel this surge of energy. I have to do this because no one else will do it and it’s funny at this moment. If I don’t feel that way I kind of don’t do anything and see if the idea keeps reemerging. With a lot of ideas I may be thought of it a year ago and it just kept resurfacing, but I don’t really force myself to churn out creative projects if that makes sense. People have told me that my work reminds them of Mischief. It’s like as a company that puts out a prank on a Tuesday every two weeks.
Corey: Not familiar with them, but there have been a whole bunch of flash mob groups, and other folks who affected just wind up being professional pranksters, which I love the concept.
Danielle: Yeah, yeah, for sure. I do churn out a lot of pranks and I even have my own prank calendar. I’m not strict with my own deadlines and I also think timing is important. So, you might think of a good idea, but then it’s just the spirit of the zeitgeist doesn’t want you to do it that week. I improvise the things that I want to launch. I mostly do things that I just feel are rich in something I could explore.
Like, with Cofounder Quest I was always on the fence about it because it feels to me annoying to tell people you’re trying to hire someone or to put yourself out there and be pitching your startup. So, I was kind of nervous about that, but I also thought if I leave a floppy disk in the park, and then put a picture on the internet it’ll lead to something—there’s something that it will lead to.
It might lead to finding a co-founder. It might lead to meeting interesting people, but also I’ve never built an interactive game with audio and so I was interested in learning that, but yeah, I tend to land on ideas that I think are rich in terms of things I could learn. Things that I could turn into more immersive theater and things that keep resurfacing as opposed to keeping myself on a strict schedule of creative ideas if that makes sense.
Corey: It makes a lot of sense. It’s one of those things that it is not commonly understood for those of us who came up in the nose of the grindstone 40 hours a week, have a work ethic. Even if you’re not busy look busy. Sometimes work looks a lot more like getting up and going to a coffee shop and meeting some stranger from the internet than it does sitting down churning out code.
Danielle: For sure. I think that it is important to continue being in conversations with people. I think good ideas emerge while you’re in the middle of talking, and you realize your own limitations and ideas when you have to explain things to other people. While something you’re very clear in your head as soon as there’s a person you don’t know and they ask you, “What are you working on?” You realize, oh, there’s so many gaps. It made perfect sense to me, but there’s a lot of gaps. So yeah, I think it’s important to stay in dialogue and also have to explain yourself to new people instead of just sort of making ideas in a vacuum.
Corey: I want to thank you for being so generous with your time and talking to me about all the various things you have going on. If people want to follow along and learn more about what you’re up to, where can they find you?
Danielle: I post a lot of my projects on Twitter. So, I’m @djbaskin. If you want to play Cofounder Quest, it’s cofounder.quest. That is an actual domain. I also have a website daniellebaskin.com, which has a lot of my projects, many of which we didn’t discuss. I also do, similar to Oracle OpenWorld, I like to host popup events that involve lots of people trolling. So, if you want to get involved in anything you see I’m always happy to bring more wizards on board.
Corey: We will, of course, put links to that in the [show notes 00:31:10]. Danielle, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today.
Danielle: Oh yeah, thanks for having me. It was great talking with you.
Corey: Danielle Baskin, CEO of Dialup, and oh so very much more. I’m Cloud Economist Corey Quinn, and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, whereas if you’ve hated this podcast please leave a five-star review on your podcast platform of choice, along with a long rambling comment applying to be the co-host of this podcast, viewing it of course as a podcasting call.
Corey: If your AWS bill keeps rising and your blood pressure is doing the same, then you need The Duckbill Group. We help companies fix their AWS bill by making it smaller and less horrifying. The Duckbill Group works for you, not AWS. We tailor recommendations to your business and we get to the point. Visit duckbillgroup.com to get started.
Announcer: This has been a HumblePod production. Stay humble.