Using Empathy to Solve Customer Challenges with David Colebatch

Episode Summary

David Colebatch, CEO of Tidal, joins Corey on Screaming in the Cloud to discuss Tidal’s recent shift to a product-led approach and why empathizing with customers is always their most important job. David describes what it was like to grow the company from scratch on a boot-strapped basis, and how customer feedback and challenges inform the company strategy. Corey and David discuss the cost-savings measures cloud customers are now embarking on, and David discusses how constant migrations are the new normal. Corey and David also discuss the impact that generative AI is having not just on tech, but also on creative content and interactions in our everyday lives.

Episode Show Notes & Transcript

About David

David is the CEO & Founder of Tidal.  Tidal is empowering businesses to transform from traditional on-premises IT-run organizations to lean-agile-cloud powered machines.

Links Referenced:


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: Welcome to Screaming in the Cloud. I’m Corey Quinn. Returning guest today, David Colebatch is still the CEO at Tidal. David, how have you been? It’s been a hot second.

David: Thanks, Corey. Yeah, it’s been a fantastic summer for me up here in Toronto.

Corey: Yeah, last time I saw you, was it New York or was it DC? They all start to run together to me.

David: I think it was DC. Yeah.

Corey: That’s right. Public Sector Summit where everything was just a little bit stranger than most of my conversations. It’s, “Wait, you’re telling me there’s a whole bunch of people who use the cloud but don’t really care about money? What—how does that work?” And I say that not from the position of harsh capitalism, but from the position of we’re a government; saving costs is nowhere in our mandate. Or it is, but it’s way above my pay grade and I run the cloud and call it good. It seems like that attitude is evolving, but slowly, which is kind of what you want to see. Titanic shifts in governing are usually not something you want to see done on a whim, overnight.

David: No, absolutely. A lot of the excitement at the DC summit was around new capabilities. And I was actually really intrigued. It was my first time in the DC summit, and it was packed, from the very early stages of the morning, great attendance throughout the day. And I was just really impressed by some of the new capabilities that customers are leveraging now and the new use cases that they’re bringing to market. So, that was a good time for me.

Corey: Yeah. So originally, you folks were focused primarily on migrations and it seems like that’s evolving a little bit. You have a product now for starters, and the company’s name is simply Tidal, without a second word. So, brevity is very much the soul of wit, it would seem. What are you doing these days?

David: Absolutely. Yeah, you can find us at Yeah, we’re focused on migrations as a primary means to help a customer achieve new capabilities. We’re about accelerating their journey to cloud and optimizing once they’re in cloud as well. Yeah, we’re focused on identifying the different personas in an enterprise that are trying to take that cloud journey on with people like project, program managers, developers, as well as network people, now.

Corey: It seems, on some level, like you are falling victim to the classic trap that basically all of us do, where you have a services company—which is how I thought of you folks originally—now, on some level, trying to become a product or a platform company. And then you have on the other side of it—places that we’re—“Oh, we’re a SaaS company. This is hard. We’re going to do services instead.” And it seems like no one’s happy. We’re all cats, perpetually on the wrong side of a given door. Is that an accurate assessment for where you are? Or am I misreading the tea leaves on this one?

David: A little misread, but close—

Corey: Excellent.

David: You’re right. We bootstrapped our product company with services. And from day one, we supported our customers, as well as channel partners, many of the [larger size 00:03:20] that you know, we supported them in helping their customers be successful. And that was necessary for us as we bootstrapped the company from zero. But lately, and certainly in the last 12 months, it’s very much a product-led company. So, leading with what customers are using our software for first, and then supporting that with our customer success team.

Corey: So, it’s been an interesting year. We’ve seen simultaneously a market correction, which I think has been sorely needed for a while, but that’s almost been overshadowed in a lot of conversations I’ve had by the meteoric rise and hype around generative AI. Have you folks started rebranding everything with a fresh coat of paint labeled generative AI yet as it seems like so many folks have? What’s your take on it?

David: We haven’t. You won’t see a from us. Look, our thoughts are leveraging the technology as we always had to provide better recommendations and suggestions to our users, so we’ll continue to embrace generative AI as it applies to specific use cases within our product. We’re not going to launch a brand new product just around the AI theme.

Corey: Yeah, but even that seems preferable to what a lot of folks are doing, which is suddenly pivoting their entire market positioning and then act, “Oh, we’ve been working in generative AI for 5, 10, 15 years,” in some cases. Google and Amazon most notably have talked about how they’ve been doing this for decades. It’s, “Cool. Then why did OpenAI beat you all to the punch on this?” And in many cases, also, “You’ve been working on this for decades? Huh. Then why is Alexa so terrible?” And they don’t really have a good talking point for that yet, but it’s the truth.

David: Absolutely. Yeah. I will say that the world changed with the OpenAI launch, of course, and we had a new way to interact with this technology now that just sparked so much interest from everyday people, not just developers. And so, that got our juices flowing and creativity mode as well. And so, we started thinking about, well, how can we recommend more to other users of our system as opposed to just cloud architects?

You know, how can we support project managers that are, you know, trying to summarize where they’re at, by leveraging some of this technology? And I’m not going to say we have all the answers for this baked yet, but it’s certainly very exciting to start thinking outside the box with a whole new bunch of capabilities that are available to us.

Corey: I tried doing some architecture work with Chat-Gippity—yes, that is how I pronounce it—and it has led me down the primrose path a little bit because what it says is often right. Mostly. But there are some edge-case exceptions of, “Ohh, it doesn’t quite work that way.” It reminds me at some level of a junior engineer who doesn’t know the answer, so they bluff. And that’s great, but it’s also a disaster.

Because if I can’t trust the things you tell me and you to call it out when you aren’t sure on something, then I’ve got to second guess everything you tell me. And it feels like when it comes to architecture and migrations in particular, the devil really is in the details. It doesn’t take much to design a greenfield architecture on a whiteboard, whereas being able to migrate something from one place to another and not have to go down in the process? That’s a lot of work.

David: Absolutely. I have used AI successfully to do a lot of research very quickly across broad market terms and things like that, but I do also agree with you that we have to be careful using it as the carte blanche force multiplier for teams, especially in migration scenarios. Like, if you were to throw Chat-Gippity—as you say—a bunch of COBOL code and say, “Hey, translate this,” it can do a pretty good job, but the devil is in that detail and you need to have an experienced person actually vet that code to make sure it’s suitable. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself creating buggy things downstream. I’ve run into this myself, you know, “Produce some Terraform for me.” And when I generated some Terraform for an architecture I was working on, I thought, “This is pretty good.” But then I realized, it’s actually two years old and that’s about how old my skills were as well. So, I needed to engage someone else on my team to help me get that job done.

Corey: So, migrations have been one of those things that people have been talking about for well, as long as we’ve had more than one data center on the planet. “How do we get our stuff from over here to over there?” And so, on and so forth. But the context and tenor of those conversations has changed dramatically. What have you seen this past year or so as far as emerging trends? What is the industry doing that might not be obvious from the outside?

David: Well, cost optimization has been number one on people’s minds, and migrating with financial responsibility in mind has been refreshing. So, working backwards from what their customer outcomes are is still number one in our book, and when we see increasingly customers say, “Hey, I want to migrate to cloud to close a data center or avoid some capital outlay,” that’s the first thing we hear, but then we work backwards from what was their three-year plan. And then what we’ve seen so far is that customers have changed from a very IT-centric view of cloud and what they’re trying to deliver to much more business-centric. Now, they’ll say things like, “I want to be able to bring new capabilities to market more quickly. I want to be able to operate and leverage some of these new generative AI technologies.” So, they actually have that as a driving force for migrations, as opposed to an afterthought.

Corey: What I have found is that, for whatever reason, not giving a shit about the AWS bill in my business was a zero-interest-rate phenomenon. Suddenly people care an awful lot. But they’re caring is bounded. If there’s a bunch of easy stuff to do that saves a giant pile of money, great, yeah, most folks are going to do that. But then it gets into the idea of opportunity cost and trade-offs. And there’s been a shift there that I’ve seen where people are willing to invest more in that cost-cutting work than they were in previous years.

It makes sense, but it’s also nice to finally have a moment to validate what I’ve assumed for seven years now that, yeah, in a recession or a retraction of the broader industry, suddenly, this is going to be top-of-mind for a lot of folks. And it’s nice to see that that approach was vindicated because the earlier approach that I saw when we saw something like this was at the start of Covid. And at that point, no one knew what was happening week-to-week and consulting leads basically stopped for six months. And that was oh, maybe we don’t have a counter-cyclical business. But no, it turns out that when money means something again as interest rates rise, people care about it more.

David: Yeah. It is nice to see that. And people are trying to do more with less and become more efficient in an advanced pace these days. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen the trends towards the low-hanging fruit being done at this point so people have already started using savings plans and capabilities like that, and now they’re embarking in more re-architecture of applications. But I think one stumbling block that we’ve noticed is that customers are still struggling to know where to apply those transformations across their portfolio. They’ll have one or two target apps that everybody knows because they’re the big ones on the bill, but beneath that, the other 900 applications in their portfolio, which ones do I do next? And that’s still a question that we’re seeing come up, time and again.

Corey: One thing that I’m starting to see people talking about from my perspective, has been suddenly they really care about networking in a way that they did not previously. And I mean, this in the TCP/IP sense, not the talking to interesting people and doing interesting things. That’s been basically steady-state for a while. But from my perspective, the conversations I’m having are being driven by, “Wait a minute. AWS is going to start charging $3.50 a month per assigned IPV4 address. Oh, dear. We have been careless in our approach to this.” Is that something that you’re seeing shaping the conversations you’re having with folks?

David: Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean right off the bat, our team went through very quickly and inventoried our IPV4, and certainly, customers are doing that as well. I found that, you know, in the last seven years, the migration conversations were having become broader across an enterprise customer. So, we’ve mapped out different personas now, and the networking teams playing a bigger role for migrations, but also optimizations in the cloud. And I’ll give you an example.

So, one large enterprise, their networking team approached us at the same time as their cloud architects who were trying to work on a migration approached us. And the networking team had a different use case. They wanted to inventory all the IP addresses on-premises, and some that they already had in the cloud. So, they actually leveraged—shameless plug here—but they leveraged out a LightMesh IPAM solution to do that. And what that brought to light for us was that the integration of these different teams working together now, as opposed to working around each other. And I do think that’s a bit of a trend change for us.

Corey: IPAM has always been one of those interesting things to me because originally, the gold standard in this space was—let’s not kid ourselves—a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. And then there are a bunch of other offerings that entered into the space. And for a while I thought most of these were ridiculous because the upgrade was, you know, Google Sheets so you can collaborate. But having this done in a way with particular permissions and mapping in a way that’s intuitive and doesn’t require everyone to not mess up when they’re looking at it, especially as you get into areas of shared responsibility between different divisions or different team members who are in different time zones and whatnot, this becomes a more and more intractable problem. It’s one of those areas where small, scrappy startups don’t understand what the fuss is about, and big enterprises absolutely despair of finding something that works for them.

AWS launched their VPC IPAM offering a while back and if you look at it from the perspective of competing with Google Sheets, its pricing is Looney Tunes. But I’ve met an awful lot of people who have sworn by it in the process, as they look at these things. Now, of course, the caveat is that like most AWS offerings, it’s great in a pure AWS native environment, but as soon as you start getting into other providers and whatnot, it gets very tricky very quickly.

David: No, absolutely. And usability of an IP address management solution is something to consider. So, you know, if you’re trying to get on board with IPAM, do you want to do three easy steps or do you want to follow 150? And I think that’s a really big barrier to entry for a lot of networking teams, especially those that are not too familiar with cloud already. But yeah, where we’ve seen the networking folks get more involved is around, like, identifying endpoints and devices that must be migrated to cloud, but also managing those subnets and planning their VPC designs upfront.

You’ve probably seen this before yourself where customers have allocated a whole bunch of address space over time—an overlapping address space, I should say—only to then later want to [peer 00:13:47] those networks. And that’s something that if you think you’re going to be doing downstream, you should really plan for that ahead of time and make sure your address space is allocated correctly. Problems vary. Like, everyone’s architecture is different, of course, but we’ve certainly noticed that being one of the top-button items. And then that leads into a migration itself. You’re not migrating to cloud now; you’re migrating within the cloud and trying to reorganize address spaces, which is a whole other planning activity to consider.

Corey: When you take a look at, I guess the next step in these things, what’s coming next in the world of migrations? I recently got to talk to someone who was helping their state migrate from, effectively, mainframes in many cases into a cloud environment. And it seems, on some level, like everyone on a mainframe, one, is very dependent on that workload; those things are important, so that’s why they’re worth the extortionate piles of money, but it also feels like they’ve been trying to leave the mainframe for decades in many cases. Now, there’s a sense that for a lot of these folks, the end is nigh for their mainframe’s lifespan, so they’re definitely finally taking the steps to migrate. What’s the next big frontier once the, I guess, either the last holdouts from that side of the world wind up getting into a cloud or decide they never will? It always felt to me like migrations are one of those things that’s going to taper off and it’s not going to be something that is going to be a growth industry because the number of legacy workloads is, at least theoretically, declining. Not so sure that’s accurate, though.

David: I don’t think it is either. If we look back at past migrations, you know, 90, 95% of them are often lift-and-shift to EC2 or x86 on VMware in the cloud. And a lot of the work that we’re seeing now is being described as optimization. Like, “Look at my EC2 workloads and come up with cloud-native or transformative processes for me.” But those are migrations as well because we run the same set of software, the same processes over those workloads to determine how we can re-platform and refactor them into more native services.

So, I think, you know, the big shift for us is just recognizing that the term ‘migrations’ needs to be well-defined and communicated with folks. Migrations are actually constant now and I would argue we’re doing more migrations within customers now than we have in the past because the rate of change is just so much faster. And I should add, on the topic of mainframe and legacy systems, we have seen this pivot away from teams looking for emulation layers for those technologies, you know, where they want to forklift the functionality, but they don’t want to really roll up their sleeves and do any coding work. So, they’re previously looking to automatically translate code or emulate that compute layer in the cloud, and the big pivot we’ve seen in the last 12 months, I’d say, is that customers are more willing to actually understand how to rebuild their applications in the cloud. And that’s a fantastic story because it means they’re not kicking that technology debt can down the road any further. They’re really trying to embrace cloud and leverage some of these new capabilities that have come to market.

Corey: What do you see as, I guess, the reason that a number of holdouts have not yet done a migration? Like, historically, I’ve seen some that are pretty obvious: the technology wasn’t there. Well, cloud has gotten to a point now where it is hard to identify a capability that isn’t there in some form. And there’s always been the sunk cost fallacy where, “Well, we’ve already bought all this stuff, and it’s running here, so if we’re not replacing it anytime soon, there’s no cost benefit for us to replace it.” And that’s actually correct. That’s not a fallacy there. But there’s also the, “Well, it would be too much work to move.” Sometimes true, sometimes not. Are you seeing a shift in the reasons that people are giving to not migrate?

David: No, I haven’t. It’s been those points mostly. And I’d say one of the biggest inhibitors to people actually getting it done is this misconception that it costs a lot of money to transform and to adopt cloud tools. You’ve seen this through the technology keeps getting easier and easier to adopt and cheaper to use. When you can provision services for $0 a month and then scale with usage patterns, there’s really no reason not to try today because the opportunity cost is so low.

So, I think that one of the big inhibitors that comes up, though, is this cultural barrier within organizations where teams haven’t been empowered to try new things. And that’s the one thing that I think is improving nowadays, as more of this how-to-build-in-the-cloud capability becomes permeated throughout the organization. People are saying, “Well, why can’t we do that?” As opposed to, “We can’t do that.” You know what I mean? It’s a subtle difference, but once leadership starts to say, “Why can’t we do this modern thing in the cloud? Why can’t we leverage AI?” Teams are given more rope to try and experiment, and fail, of course. And I think ultimately, that culture shift is starting to take root across enterprise and across public sector as well.

Corey: One of the things that I find surprising is the enthusiasm with which different market segments jump onto different aspects of cloud. Lambda is a classic example, in that it might be one of the services that is more quickly adopted by enterprises than by startups and a lot of cases. But there’s also the idea of, “Oh, we built this thing last night, and it’s awesome.” And enterprises, like you know, including banks and insurance companies don’t want to play those games, for obvious reasons.

Generative AI seems to be a mixed bag around a lot of these things. Have you had conversations with a number of your clients around the generative AI stuff? Because I’ve seen Amazon, for example, talking about it, “Oh, all our customers are asking us about it.” And, mmm, I don’t know. Because I definitely have questions about and I’m exploring it, but I don’t know that I’m turning to Amazon, of all companies, to answer those questions, either.

David: Yeah. We’ve certainly had customer conversations about it. And it depends, again, on those personas. On the IT side, the conversations are mostly around how can they do their jobs better. They’re not thinking forwards about the business capabilities. So, IT comes to us and they want to know how can we use generative AI to create Lambda functions and create stateless applications more quickly as a part of a migration effort. And that’s great. That’s a really cool use case. We’ve used that generative AI approach to create code ourselves.

But on the business side, they’re looking forwards, they want to use generative AI in the, again, the sample size of my customer conversations, but they see that the barrier to entry is getting their data in a place that they can leverage it. And to them, to the business, that’s what’s driving the migration conversations they’re having with us, is, “How do I exfil my data and get it into the cloud where I can start to leverage these great AI tools?”

Corey: Yeah, I’m still looking at use cases that I think are a little less terrifying. Like, I want to wind up working on a story or something. Or I’ll use it to write blog posts; I have a great approach. It’s, “Write a blog post about this topic and here are some salient points and do it in the style of Corey Quinn.” I’ll ask Chat-Gippity to do that and it spits out something that is, frankly, garbage.

And I get angry at it and I basically copy it into a text editor and spent 20 minutes mansplain-correcting the robot. And by the time it’s done, I have, like, a structure of an article that talks about the things I want to talk about correctly. And there may be three words in a sequence that were originally there. And frankly, I’m okay with plagiarizing from the thing that is plagiarizing from me. It’s a beautiful circle of ripping things off that that’s glorious for me.

But that’s also not something that I could see being useful at any kind of scale, where I see companies getting excited about a lot of this stuff, it all seems to be a thin veneer over, “And then we can fire our customer service people,” which from a labor perspective is not great, but ignoring that entirely, as a customer, I don’t want that. Because by the time I have to reach out to a company’s customer service apparatus, something has gone wrong and it isn’t going to be solved by the standard list of frequently asked questions that I clicked on. It’s something that is off the beaten path and anomalous and requires human judgment. Making it harder for me to get to people who can fix those things does not thrill and delight me.

David: I agree. I’m with you there. Where I get excited about it, though, is how much of a force multiplier it can be on that human interaction. So, for example, in that customer’s service case you mentioned, you know, if that customer service rep is empowered by an AI dashboard that’s listening to my conversation and taking notes and automatically looking up in my knowledge base how to support that customer, then that customer success person can be more successful more quickly, I think they can be more responsive to customer needs and maybe improve the quality, not just the volume of work they do but improve the quality, too.

Corey: That’s part of the challenge, too. There have been a number of companies that have gotten basically rapped across the snout for just putting out articles as content, written by AI without any human oversight. And these don’t just include, you know, small, scrappy content mills; they include Microsoft, and I believe CNN, if I’m not mistaken, had something similar with that going on. I’m not certain on that last one. I don’t want to defame them, but I know for a fact Microsoft did.

David: Yeah, and I think some of the email generators are plugging into AI now, too, because my spam count has gone through the roof lately.

Corey: Oh, my God. I got one recently saying, “Hey, I noticed at The Duckbill Group that you fix AWS bills. Great. That’s awesome and super valuable for your clients.” And then try to sell me bill optimization and process improvement stuff. And it was signed by the CEO of the company that was reaching out.

And then there was like—I expand the signature view, and it’s all just very light gray text make it harder to read, saying, “This is AI generated, yadda, yadda, yadda.” Called the company out on Twitter, and they’re like, “Oh, we only have a 0.15% error rate.” That sounds suspiciously close to email marketing response rates. “Welp, that means 99% of it was perfect.” No, it means that you didn’t get in front of most of those people. They just ignored it without reading it the way we do most email outreach. So, that bugs me a fair bit. Because my perspective on it is if you don’t care enough to actually craft a message to send me, why should I care enough to read it?

David: Completely agree. I think a lot of people are out there looking for that asymmetric, you know, leverage that you can get over the market, and generating content, to them, has been a blocker for so long and now they’re just opening up the fire hose and drowning us all with it. So I’m, like, with you. I think that I personally don’t expect to get value back from someone unless I put value into that relationship. That’s my starting point coming into it, so I would maybe use AI to help assist forming a message to someone, but I’m not going to blast the internet with content. I just think that’s a cheeky low-value way to go about it.

Corey: I don’t track the numbers anymore, but I know that at this point, through the size of my audience and the content that I put out, I have taken, collectively, millennia of human time focusing on—that has been spent consuming the content that I put out. And as a result of that, I have a guiding principle here, which is first and foremost, you’ve got to respect your audience. And I’m just going to have a robot phone it in is not respecting your audience. I have no problem with AI assistants, but it requires human oversight before it goes out. I would never in a million years send anything out to the audience that I hadn’t at least read or validated first.

But yeah, some of the signups that go out, the automatic things that you click a button and sign up for my newsletter at, you get an auto message that comes out. Yeah, it comes out under my name and I either wrote it or reviewed it, depending on what generation of system we’re on these days, because it has my name attached to it. That’s the way that this works. Your credibility is important and having a robot spout off complete nonsense and you get the credit or blame for it? No thanks. I want to be doomed from my own sins, not the ones that a computer makes on my behalf.

David: [laugh]. Yeah, I’m with you. It’s unfortunate that so many people expect the emails from you are generated now. We have the same thing when people sign up for Tidal Accelerator or Tidal LightMesh, they get a personal email from me. They’ll get the automated one as well, but I generally get in there through our CRM, and I send them a message, too. And sometimes they’ll respond and say, “This isn’t really David, is it?” No, no, it’s me. You don’t have to respond. I wanted to let you know that I’m thankful for you trialing our software.

Corey: Oh, yeah. You can hit reply to any email I send out. It comes from [email protected] and it goes to my inbox. The reason that works, frankly, at this scale is because no one does it. People don’t believe that that’ll actually work. So, on a busy week, I’ll get maybe a dozen email replies to it or one or two misconfigured bounces from systems that aren’t set up properly to do those things. And I weed those out because they drive me nuts.

But it’s a yeah, the only emails that I get to that address, honestly, are the test copies of those messages that go out, too, because I’m on my own newsletter list. Who knew? I have two at the moment. I have—yes, I have two specific addresses on that, so I guess technically, I’m inflating the count of subscribers by two, if advertisers ask. But you know, at 32,000 and change, I will take the statistical fudging.

David: Absolutely. We all expect that.

Corey: No, the depressing part, when I think about that is, there’s a number of readers I have on the list that I know for a fact that I’ve been acquainted with who have passed away. They’re never going to unsubscribe from these things until the email starts bouncing at some and undefinable point in the future. But it’s also—it feels morbid, but on some level, if I continue doing this for the rest of my life, I’m going to have a decent proportion of the subscriber base who’s died. At least when people leave their jobs, like, their email address gets turned off, things start bouncing and cool that gets turned off automatically because even when people leave voluntarily, no one bothers to go through an unsubscribe from all this stuff. So, automated systems have to do it. That’s great. I’m not saying computers shouldn’t make life better. I am saying that they can’t replace a fundamental aspect of human caring.

David: So, Corey Quinn, who has influence over the living and the dead. It’s impressive.

Corey: Oh, absolutely. Honestly, if I were to talk to whoever came up with IBM’s marketing strategy, I feel like I’d need to conduct a seance because they’re probably 300 years old if they’re still alive.

David: [laugh]. Absolutely.

Corey: No, I get passionate about this stuff because so much of a lot of the hype now has been shifting away from letting people expand their reach further and doing things in intentional ways and instead toward absolute garbage, such as, “Cool, we want to get a whole bunch of clicks so we can show ads to them, so we’re going to just generate all bunch of crap to your content and throw it out there.” Everything I write, even stuff that admittedly, from time to time, is aimed for SEO purposes for specific things that we’re doing, but that’s always done from a perspective of okay, my primary SEO strategy is write compelling, original content and then people presumably link to it. And it works. It’s about respecting the audience and so many things get that wrong.

David: Yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of scary now because I always thought that podcasts and video were the last refuge of authentic content. And now people are generating that as well. You know, you’re watching a video and you realize hey, that voice sounds exactly consistent, you know, all the way through. And then it turns out, it’s generated. And there’s a YouTube channel I follow because I’m an avid sailor, called World On Water. And recently, I’ve noticed that voice changed, and I’m pretty sure they’re using AI to generate it now.

Corey: Here’s a story I don’t think you probably know about yourself. So, for those who are unaware, David, I hang out from time to time in various places. There’s a international boundary between us, but occasionally one of us will broach it, and good for us. And we have social conversations where somehow one of us doesn’t have a microphone in front of our face. Imagine that. I don’t know what that’s like most weeks.

And like, at some level, the public face comes off and people start acting like human beings. And something I’ve always noticed about you, David, is that you don’t commit the cardinal sin, for an awful lot of people I meet, which is displaying contempt for your customers. When I have found people who do that, I think less of them in almost every case and I lose so much interest in whatever it is that they’re doing. If you don’t like the problem space that you’re in and don’t have respect for the people paying you to make these problems go away, you shouldn’t be doing it. Like, I’ll laugh at silly AWS misconfigurations, but my customers are there because they have a problem and they’re bringing me in to fix it. And would I be making fun of? “Ha ha ha, you didn’t spend eight months of your life learning the ins and outs of how exactly reserved instances apply in this particular context? What a fool is you.” That’s not how it ever works. I wish I could say it wasn’t quite as rare as it is but I’m tired of talking to people who have just nothing but contempt for their market. Good work on that.

David: Thank you. Yeah, I appreciate that. You know, I had a penny-drop moment when I was doing a lot of consulting work as an independent contractor, working with different customers at different stages of their own journey and different levels of technology capabilities. You know, you work with management, with project people, with software engineers, and you start to realize everybody’s coming from a different place. So, you have to empathize with where they’re at.

They’re coming to you usually because you have a level of expertise, that you’ve got some specialization and they want to tap into that capability that you’ve created. And that’s great. I love having people come to me and ask me questions. Sometimes they don’t come to me nicely asking questions, they make some assumptions about me and might challenge me right off the bat, but you have to realize that that’s just where they’re coming from at that point in time. And once you connect with them, they’ll open up a little bit more, too; they’ll empathize with yourself. So yeah, I’ve always found that it’s really important for myself personally, but also for our team to empathize with customers, meet them where they’re at, understand that they’re coming from a different level of experience, and then help them solve their problems. That’s job number one.

Corey: And I’m a firm believer that if you don’t respect your customer’s business, they shouldn’t be your customer. It’s happened remarkably few times in the however many years I’ve been doing this, but there have been a couple of folks that have reached out I always very politely decline to work with them when this happens. Because you don’t want to make people feel obnoxious for reaching out and, like, “Can you help me with my problem?” “How dare you? Who do you think you are?”

No, no, no, no, no, none of that. But if there’s a value misalignment or I don’t think that your product is going to benefit people who use it as directed, I will not let you sponsor what I do as an easy example. Because I can always find another sponsor and make more money, but once I start losing the audience’s trust, I’ll never get that back, and I know that. It’s the entire reason I do things the way that I do them. And maybe, on some level, from purely capitalist perspective, I’m being an absolute fool, but you know, if you have to pick a way to fail and assume you’re going to get it wrong, how do you want to be wrong? I’ll take this way.

David: Yeah, I agree. Keep your ethics high, keep your morals high, and the rest will fall into place.

Corey: I love how we started having ethical and morality discussions that started as, “So, cloud migrations. How are they going for you?”

David: Yeah [laugh]. Certainly wandered into some uncharted territories on that one.

Corey: Exactly. We started off in one place; wound up someplace completely removed from anything we could have reasonably expected at the start. Why? Because this entire episode has been a beautiful metaphor for cloud migrations. I really want to thank you for taking the time to chat with me on this stuff. If people want to learn more, where should they go to find you?

David: or LinkedIn, I’m very active on LinkedIn these days.

Corey: And we will, of course, put links to both of those in the show notes. Thank you so much for going down this path with me. I didn’t expect it to lead where it did, but I’m glad we went there.

David: Like the tides ebbing and flowing. I’ll be back soon, Corey.

Corey: [laugh]. I will take you up on that and hold you to it.

David: [laugh]. Sounds great.

Corey: David Colebatch, CEO at Tidal. I’m Cloud Economist Corey Quinn and this is Screaming in the Cloud. If you 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 an angry, upset comment that doesn’t actually make cohesive sense because you outsourced it to a robot.

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 to get started.
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