The Bob Bloom Show #43: Hackerprenomics With Rastin And Ash

Dec 15, 2011



Rastin Meir is the founder and CEO of Rastin Mehr Design Studio Inc in Vancouver. A Web Application company. Ash Sanieyan is the founder and president of Peerglobe Technology Inc in Vancouver. A genuine Guru in Ruby on Rails, Javascript, Mobile Application Development (especially iPhone), Web Application Frameworks, and Social Web. He has developed 2 social networks prior to the Anahita SocialEngine™ project and he is described by Rastin Mehr as the best **%$#&@ Software Architect and most fun colleague, team-mate, and business partner that he has ever met and worked with.


Bob: Welcome to the 43rd “The Bob Bloom Show”. My name is Bob Bloom from Toronto, Canada. Today is Thursday, December 15th, 2011.

Recording a flurry of weekly podcasts before taking a break and resuming in the new year.

Arash Sanieyan and Rastin Mehr join me for our quarterly podcast. How are you today?

Rastin: Doing great thank you.

Ash: I’m good, yeah, just tired a little bit, but other than that.

Bob: That’s because you guys don’t sleep.

Rastin: No we don’t, we’ve been coding day and night.

Ash: I don’t even know man.  I slept actually at 10 last night, then I woke up at 4 and worked from 4 ’til 8 then went to sleep again for like an hour before the podcast, so um yeah, it’s confusing, but a lot of good!

[Note: Why Programmers Work at Night]

Bob: I can’t find an appropriate joke for that, but I’m glad you’re rested. [laughter]

Ash and Rastin are the co-founders and core architect’s of the Anahita Social Network. Their website is

Have you ever heard of the Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx? Players who are on the SI cover mess up the next game?

Well, after your podcast complimenting my podcasting and preparation, I did minimal prep and suffered technical problems with last week’s show with Alan Langford. I ended up interviewing my first “virtual” guest which Alan thought was a great idea. Alan is very gracious about the whole thing — thank you Alan!

Ash, Rastin, you started your own podcasts, called “Hangouts“. You’ve done two of them already.

Rastin: Yeah, Hangouts we just use Google Hangouts on Google Plus and we saw here and there that some developers are actually using Hangout to teach development to people or just hangouts.  We saw people hanging out and playing music for each other or doing other things and we thought it would be a good idea that we could do hangouts with our premium members and answer questions.  So, we just organized one as an experiment and then a lot of people signed up so we had to break it into two sessions and just like that we recorded the sessions with minimal editing and posted them online and now we have a podcast.

Ash: It’s nothing as close as your podcast so I mean we sort of figured out that it’s actually really hard to have a podcast.

Rastin: Yeah, we started appreciating that this actually takes a lot more work than we thought and all the thought and process and preparation that you do, ours was just hanging out.

Ash: So we sort of like appreciate what you know, the effort that you put into interviewing people.  It’s mentally, the whole energy everything takes a lot of effort so, but it’s a good way for us to also connect with our premium members which was great because we are talking with our premium members for the past 8-10 months and then we haven’t seen them, like you know, in a live way now we did, so.

Bob: Here I am admiring you because you’re recording these podcasts, these hangouts, I thought that’s kind of risky because I was listening to the first one and they weren’t exactly criticizing Anahita but you know, it was talking well what about this and what about that, it doesn’t necessarily make Anahita sound the greatest, and I thought this is sort of an insider conversation that you’re letting out to the public.

[hat’s off clip]

So my hat’s off to you for that.

Rastin: Oh thanks, I think it’s better for people to know Anahita as it is rather than creating a squeaky clean glossy image for public and no, we try to be as open as possible about Anahita and I know that sounds like a cliche these days, but um, I really honestly didn’t think what could possibly go wrong because people ask us questions all the time on the forum and we got accustomed to having questions thrown at us and the worst case scenario we just say “we don’t know” or if somebody says “hey I don’t like the way you’re doing it” and that’s fine too.

Rastin: I think what inspired us was also The Leo Laporte Show this week into TWIT TV.

Bob: Anything called Twit has to be inspiring.

Rastin: Well, by the way he has been long before Twitter came around, but Leo Laporte I think he is known as the father of podcasting and he started a very casual format which he basically sat on his exercise ball and called his friends on Skype and he has got really good friends, all of them are people with a lot of good insight, and they talked about tech in a very casual way and they recorded and put it out and this show has been one of the major sources that I get my industry insights and that format is really good I think, because it’s very casual, it’s very comfortable and what could go wrong? What is the worst that can happen?

Ash: The thing is for the past, well since we started working, actually I can tell you Rastin inspired me to be like that.  Like he sort of set the whole from the beginning set the whole ground that you know, be proud of what you have and if you don’t know it it’s not a crime.  You know you can just basically be honest about everything that you do and just be proud of it.  So the hangout was nothing different than what we’ve been doing for the past 2-3 years, I mean, in every aspect of our work.  Basically this is what we have, this is what we’ve done and we’re very proud of it and if you just don’t know the answer, well, we’ll get back to you later.  So that was sort of the hangout, we didn’t feel different than any other time.

Rastin: I think one challenge was that I think some members may not feel comfortable with being in the spotlight, we still have some members who don’t have uploaded an avatar or they use a pseudonym or they might be in a country or in a position that they don’t want their name to be mentioned on the air and the podcasts are public.  So there is that issue, so I try to make sure in advance and I think I know the people, the members who are a little more concerned about their privacy, but there are other people who are just more than happy to come and play along, so that’s as far as it goes.

Bob: As far as Leo Laporte, when I did my WordPress site for South LaSalle Media, I was on Leo Laporte all the time seeing how he does it and even looking at the metadata that he has in the MP3’s and how he structures it for itunes, something you should look at!

Rastin: Well I’m just learning about that.

Bob: I know, there’s so many details.  There was a New York Times article when I was doing it and he was on the verge of making $3 million a year.

Ash: Wow – Leo Laporte?

Bob: Leo Laporte.

Ash: From his podcasts?

[Here’s the article: Talking Tech and Building an Empire from Podcasts]

Bob: Yeah, from his empire and one thing that he did I took note, was he doesn’t host many of the shows, he hosts his flagship show but a lot of the other ones are from other people which I tried to do with Alan and Derek, it’s just so much work.

Rastin: That is true.  I think what Leo has done, he set the framework and he set the idea and he really made a process that is very comfortable and very spontaneous, like they even have a chat room on Skype, the people just suggest topics and the people in that circle they are all ready to comment on those topics because they all have good industry insight which is, there is John C. Dvorak. I think his position is to make sure that they are doing {indistinct} a lot over a certain topic, so if they are talking a lot about a certain topic he stops them and says “okay can you move on now”.

Bob: I think a lot of them came from Ziff Davis or whatever it was called.  That made PC Magazine and others.

[Note: Yes, it was Ziff-Davis –]

Rastin: Well I know Leo Laporte, I used to listen to their program on TechTV and back then I was computer science student in my little dorm up in Northern BC and for me it was so exciting that I could get technology news over the internet and that was humongous and it was right at the dot com boom era and then apparently they all got laid off from TechTV and they started their own show and so they set the ground for what podcasting how it should be.  So he is an inspiration for many people, Leo Laporte and also in the book The Art of Community[Amazon link, no affiliate code in the link] he has co-authored it, he’s a great guy – I admire him.

Bob: For you, what’s different is that you’re taking people within your subscribers and you’re talking about things that, you know, you talk about within Anahitopolis — anahita police, somebody said that’s how you pronounce it.

Rastin: Actually it rhymes with metropolis, so Anahitopolis – metropolis – if you want to know how to pronounce it.

Bob: What I found interesting was that it was inside conversations from insiders that you were broadcasting to the public, and I thought some of the stuff that you’re talking about, they’re threads, they’re threads within, now I can’t pronounce it.

Ash: from the discussions?

Bob: Yeah, and I thought it was just,… but I thought “you’re right to do this and you’re right to do it this way”.  So another little piece of leadership from you guys.

Rastin: Oh, thanks.  We are just doing what we love to do, I don’t know if it’s much of leadership, but it’s fun.  We really enjoy working on Anahita, it’s really for us it’s like going on a date in a very nerdy and geeky way and we just can’t wait to start that time of the day that we sit down with our cup of tea and play Netflix and/or a recent podcast, and code, whether Ash and I are working together or separate, and we interact and answer questions and interacting with the premium tribe is such a pleasure and they are such a great bunch of people.

Ash: I think that’s how we actually look at it because the Hangout we weren’t looking at “oh look at what we are telling people – it was more like oh we’re going to talk to them, we’re going to talk to our premium members”- it’s all about them really when we talk to them and they give us feedback and it’s just you know yes, we have our fights with each other, you know we have our arguments, sometimes I win, sometimes they lose, but the whole idea is that it’s a friendship really.  Yes there are paying customers, tribe members, but at first they are just friends, we are just friends and the Hangout we feel like that, that we’re just talking to friends and that felt really good.

Bob: Well you have me on your next Hangout which is this Friday and I have at least one criticism, so, but I emailed you permission and Rastin said it was okay, I thought “okay”.

Rastin: Anything because and we’re going to be so brutal and honest about it too.  We put out the facts as they are.  One thing about the nerd culture is that we are so good at dealing with facts.  No matter how convenient or inconvenient they are – we deal with them a lot easier because there is that honesty to them.  One of the other great things about Open Source is that if you don’t agree with an approach you can always do it your own way and you can have a copy, you can build in but once you do something your own way, from that point you have to maintain it yourself too.

Bob: What a great lead-in to the next one, I’m going to just scamper in un-Canadian style.  Because I look at what you’re doing and you’re running right now a Hackerpreneur site, a Hackerpreneur Club type site and I think that’s how things should be structured now and there was this  article in Forbes recently called “The Rise of Developer-onomics”. – and I have a blog post about this article at – telling about the importance of developers that the economic growth comes from developers, this columnist said 16 words:

the net present value on a strong and positive relationship with a talented developer today is ridiculously high“.

The NPV on a strong and positive relationship with a talented developer today is ridiculously high… and you wrote, Rastin, on a blog post earlier this year was called The Myths of Anahita  and Myth #5:

the five keywords about hackerpreneur clubs or have hired hackers in their group“.

[I quote Rastin’s brilliant blog post about Hackerpreneurs — actually, he buried it within a blog post — two shows ago]

Rastin: Yes.

Bob: It’s actually from you that I realized, you know, Open Source software is raw materialthat you have to take it as your own and that if you can’t do it, you have to create a group where there’s that talent in there so that you can all make it as a group, so I can see what this Tienda Club that I’m doing, it’s a lot like that.  I’ve got the distro and all.  You’ve been a big inspiration.  It’s seeing what you’re doing on the inside of your site how it’s not really a support site per se and now this Hangout, I think it’s the way to ….. I can’t find the words!  It’s a way for users to really treat their software as an asset and that it’s the code that provides the revenue, not just the asset growth but the revenue.  If you don’t have the technology you can’t make money, you know, from it.

Ash: I think the best way to put it, like as Rastin’s analogy all the time that Anahitopolis is a Lego Club.  It’s a place that you come and put together things, you don’t go buy one product, you go buy Legos that you can put together your Legos together and at the end of the day you can get to take what you built home. Basically that’s what we’re doing on Anahitopolis is really teaching people wherever they are how to put these Legos together, you still have to put them together.

[Note: The Anahita Distro comes with the Anahita Social Engine and the Apps. It’s all ready to go. I’ve not begun “lego-ing”! -Bob]

Rastin: Yes, we supply all the Lego bricks and we are also nurturing a place for people to learn how to put these building blocks together and build new things and they also share tips with each other.

Bob: Yes, and what are you doing differently than in the usual Joomla clubs that I know and love? You participate directly in all the discussions, you’re accessible – that’s where you “hangout” in your site.  Dealing with you two, not with you know, first level support.  And I found that to be quite different.

Rastin: Well, the hangout term is really a Google, it’s the name of their technology but it is truly a hangout because everyone talks about it.

Bob: When I have trouble with a template and I say you know, how does this part of the framework work or something, you know the people who program it aren’t really the people going to respond to me, they respond to me all timely, we go through a dance because I know what they’re doing, they’re playing their games to try to get rid of me.  Half the time that’s what support feels like, but that’s not the Hackerpreneur Club feel from you in your site.

Ash/Rastin: Well thank you.

Bob: It’s totally different.

Ash: That’s the nature of a social network Bob, you knoweverybody will see what you’re doing, there’s a difference between a ticketing system or things like that.

Bob: Exactly. [BINGO!]

Ash/Rastin: Giving support within a social network, it doesn’t feel like a support, it feels more like a help.  It feels like coaching and problem solving and you do what you can and if you can’t contribute more – other people will help you.  Like in our case, there were cases that I didn’t know – I’m the guy that built it and didn’t know the answer and I know somebody else from the community – tribe members come and answer the questions, they had a better perspective than me.

Bob: That’s because they sleep.

Ash: Probably yeah [laughter].  You know, that’s the thing, we lack sleep but we have people that help us, so we did the best thing.  We have a platform that allows everybody to participate and that’s basically the whole nature of a social network.

Rastin: I think that is a key issue that using a social network to deliver support, we are learning it is clearly superior than a ticketing model.  A ticketing model is not as scaleable and it’s not very human although it takes a special type of client or customer as our audience to get used to the social networking environment, which I think we are getting more and more of them.  A lot of people are now Facebook users, Twitter users – they are very comfortable of communicating in that fashion and helping other people is all about communication.  So when you have an environment that puts communication on steroids then quality of help goes higher and it gets a lot easier and more scaleable as well because Ash and myself we are two people, we code and we also have to answer questions, we also monitor what the community thinks, even when people publish a page on their own profile and talk about the features they like to have or about the problems they are dealing with.  It allows us to have a general idea what everybody has in mind and how we can help them out or so.  It is truly a great way of delivering service and support and collecting feedback from people.  We are trying to become a role model on that.

Bob: Well you are, I note your leadership – you can see with my Club Commerce  that just like we looked at Leo Laporte for how somebody who has done it and I look at you and also I see the way you’re doing it as The Way to do it as a Hackerpreneur Club versus just like pure support, running a forum.

Rastin: That’s true and we have to encourage more developers – what is a Hackerpreneur? A Hackerpreneur first is a hacker, someone who comes with creative solutions to problems and they are entrepreneurs – they are in it to build a business and building a business is more than about just making money, it’s about the world liberation, it’s about making a difference, it’s about an expression, it’s about gaining, empowering yourself.

Bob: I’m so modest in my ambitions compared to you. [laughter]

Rastin: Well you put those together and that’s where Hackerpreneur is coming in and they are the new breed of entrepreneurs and the new breed of hackers.

Bob: You said they’re the Deadliest Warriors.

Rastin: They are by order of magnitudes more competitive to the point that, like last year so many newsletters and messages and blog posts that I’ve read, everybody was so desperate about that technical cofounder and as software is eating the world.  The importance of developers is increasing and hackers and developers, hackers are those developers who can make a difference – they are like magicians.  They write down symbols and change the world and for a lot of them learning business is a lot easier than for the business person to learn to become a hacker, and we’ve had the hackerpreneurs in the history – we look at Facebook and WordPress and Apple Computers and Google and all of these the founders were hackerpreneurs.  I think in the Open Source world right now we have a rise of Hackerpreneurs coming in the domain of mobile development, like Instagram was founded by two hackerpreneurs.

Ash: I think it’s actually still run by two people, maybe they have like some community managers but there are two developers only, two or maybe three at most.

Ash/Rastin: A lot of Hackerpreneurs they decide to work for themselves and build their own business, they raise, they make their own money, they don’t need the business person because for them it is a lot easier to learn the business skills and therefore they are so intimidating.  When you go to the local start up events or you go to the gatherings and you see this tension between them because up to now it was the business person that buys developers, they buy scientists – it’s been even in our pop culture.  You look at so many movies that there is the mad scientist begging the investor “give me money so that I can finish my time machine” but now the mad scientist is the investor as well or they come up with innovative ways to generate funds that no business person could come up with because they just think differently, the hackers they shoot curve balls – they have rewritten the rules of business and that is the new competitive force that is going to be in the technology market.

Bob: We’re at a half hour and you are more comfortable podcasting than when we first started this. [laughter] Well done.

Ash: That’s true.

Bob: This Friday ………. sorry, my cold got me.  Ash and Rastin will be recording their third Hangout this Friday, December 16th and I’ll be there for my first Hangou,t and Ash and Rastin, thank you for being on my show. Much appreciate it.

Ash/Rastin: You’re welcome, thank you for having us.

Bob: It’s like the fastest half hour.

Ash/Rastin: We actually enjoy being on this show every time you ask us – it’s just fun.

Bob: Thank you.

Rastin: You are the inspiration for podcasting in our community right now.



Bob: This is Bob Bloom, signing off, wishing you a profitable week.

You have been listening to a production. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of SouthLaSalleMEDIA dot com, nor of the organizations represented. Links and materials discussed on air are available in the Show Notes for this show. Information contained herein have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but are not guaranteed. Podcasts are released under a creative commons licence. Some rights are reserved. Email correspondence to the attention of Bob Bloom at info at SouthLaSalleMedia dot com.

The Bob Bloom Show:

Monthly commentary and interviews about websites, technology, and consulting. Produced by Bob Bloom, founder and developer of LaSalle Software.