February 8, 2023

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Home » The BigCommerce Community with Andrew Barber

The BigCommerce Community with Andrew Barber

Who is Brent Peterson?
Brent is a serial entrepreneur and marketing professional with a passion for running. He co-founded Wagento and has a new adventure called ContentBasis. Brent is the host of the podcast Talk Commerce. He has run 25 marathons and one Ironman race. Brent has been married for 29 years. He was born in Montana, and attended the University of Minnesota and Birmingham University without ever getting his degree.

Andrew Barber is a long-time community advocate and BigCommerce developer. He gives us insight into the BigCommerce community and how to get involved.

Summary

Brent introduces Andrew and says they’re an engineering manager at space 48. 

Andrew notes they’re part of a local council community council, and Brent says they met the lord mayor. 

Brent says they’re going to talk about the free joke project. 

Andrew mentions that DevX is an internal conference where they get together and exchange ideas. 

Andrew says they heard about the big hackathon organized by the bigcommerce team. Andrew and Brent talk about plans for a big commerce conference in manchester. Andrew notes that there was a discussion on slack and that they got some excellent feedback. Brent and Andrew talk about expectations as a developer. Andrew and Brent overview bigcommerce and the community manager. Brent and Andrew discuss open saas and how developers can get involved. Brent and Andrew discuss building an application and the difference between doing front-end work and being an experienced developer. Brent and Andrew overview how to stage the application and test the authorization mechanisms.

Andrew says if they’re interested in expanding into ecommerce development, give them a shout. 

Brent notes that they’ve been to many of the events space 48 puts on, and they’re going to let john steal the one. Brent says it was a challenge to get the accent.

Transcript

Brent: Welcome to this Big Commerce Community edition of Talk Commerce. Today I have Andrew Barber Androooo, as he corrected me, Androooo Barber, who is with Space 48. Andrew, go ahead, introduce yourself. Do a better job than I did. Tell us maybe your day to day role and one of your passions in life. 

Andrew: Yeah, sure. I’m Andrew, I’m an engineering manager at Space 48. One of my passions, I’m very much a community person in, in real life outside of the course. I’m part of local council community council, and I also partake in scouting as a member in there too.

Brent: We’ve mentioned in the Green Room, I did the Great North Run a New Castle a couple weeks ago, and. My friend, it works at the council and the council building, I dunno if they call it not city hall, whatever they call it in England. Really cool facility. It’s built in the 1960s.

Brent: It’s listed. We met them Lord Mayor. We got our picture and it was very cool. So anyways, that’s enough about British politic. Yeah, I know that you’re in Scotland, so I’m not gonna, we’re not gonna dive into that . Before we get started I know that you wanted to participate in the free joke project, hashtag free joke project, and I’m gonna come up with a classy little jingle soon, maybe after Iron Buru.

Brent: It’s one of my favorite drinks. We can’t get it here in the US anymore, but they have some fantastic commercials. So I’m gonna tell you a joke. In fact, today I have a poem for you. Sure. All I wanna know is if you feel as though it should be free, or if at some point we could charge for this joke.

Brent: All right. Ready? I dig. You dig? We dig. He digs. She digs, they dig. Isn’t this a beautiful poem? Not really, but it’s very deep. 

Andrew: That’s good. I do like that one. Give me a good chuckle. I’d say open source and free on this one. Good. Yeah. Bring it to the whole community. That’s a good one. Good.

Brent: Alright, so now you have a joke that you’re gonna tell us. 

Andrew: Yeah, it’s for this out in the green room. So I came prepared with a joke. So 

Andrew: why did the programmer quit his job? He never got arrays. I feel like this should be the moment. Yeah, 

Brent: I’ll admit your joke was much better than my joke. And for the programmers out there, that is a very good one.

Brent: All right, so Andrew, today we’re gonna talk about big commerce. Big commerce community. Let’s dive right in. I know that space 48 put on the big DevX. Conference and you did a hackathon around it. Talk a little bit about that. 

Andrew: The DevX conference that we did I know you spoke to Tom, so I was also involved in the organization of that.

Andrew: So DevX is an internal conference that we do at Space 48 every month where you get together and exchange ideas. And I ideas and implementations between the various squads at space. So we brought that to the BigCommerce community. It was definitely Tom’s idea but brought me on board and myself and Ki and Dan managed to put something together.

Andrew: Straight after that, we heard about the BigCommerce hackathon which was organized by the BigCommerce team. We partook. So we had two teams in there from Spaceport eight. It was. I was gonna say Tom’s team, I can’t remember what his his name was something like, Leaping Planet Frog or something, I can’t remember.

Andrew: And then it was our team as well which was galaxy Quest. So that was made up of three members of Space 48 that work in my current squad at the moment. 

Brent: And Tom’s team, he’s Tom, is based in Bath. The, so did his team really clean?

Andrew: They got no entry. So that’s that’s good. Good for them. 

Brent: But maybe next year the the big DevX that, that, that was something that’s, that was open to the whole community. So talk about how you opened it up and how you’ve had some success now and building this community around big commerce.

Andrew: Yeah. So we spoke about it internally how we might approach this and how it might look. And I feel like there’s a lot of talent within Space 48 and the various scores that we have. I feel like it’s better to open up to the community and we felt, sorry, I should say open up to the community and bring in external speakers, teams and people that would like to talk about something in the commerce space.

Andrew: So we put out an open invite and the become a slack developer Slack. d know Heather’s spoken about recently. And so we, we got some replies back some ideas of what people might like to talk about. We left it very open just as long as it was. Discussing something within the commerce kind of ecosystem.

Andrew: And we got some great talks. So we had talks about like stencil the and the template language handlebars. We had talks on creating b2b. Style stores. And the other talk that we had, and I’m gonna have to check this one so we can edit this out. I’m really sorry. Can’t remember the last talk.

Andrew: My goodness.

Brent: Is there is there plans to do a an. In person in say Manchester for Big Commerce. You could call it Big Titans or something like that. 

Andrew: So I know that Space Boy are quite well known for their ME Titans conference. I do believe we are organizing another one that’s a hot take . But I do believe we are putting another one on coming soon as for a big.

Andrew: Okay. The Commerce conference it’s not something we’re looking at the moment but we might look to include other aspects into maybe developing an eCommerce conference instead of just a major conference. But yeah, watch this space at the moment. Nothing to tonight. The 

Brent: space 48. Watch that one.

Brent: That’s fine. . It tell us about some of the participation and how that worked online. That was it. Was it, did it feel like it was a, did it feel like a conference where you could participate online and enjoy yourself? 

Andrew: Yeah, so this was the first one that we had put on. I feel like there is improvements that we could definitely make in the future.

Andrew: We initially, so we weren’t sure what kind of like interaction we would have using the the platform that we were using. And so I feel like that’s something that we have taken back that maybe wasn’t enough opportunity to participate. What we did there though, we did get some really good feedback.

Andrew: From the community. There was discussion in the Commerce Dev slack afterwards as well, which was good, which kind of people were talking about the ideas that had been discussed at the conference. But I do feel like that is an improvement point that. Myself and Tom have take it away. And maybe we look at other platforms other than Zoom.

Brent: How about from an expectation standpoint, as a developer, what would you expect in something like a big big DevX? 

Andrew: So I think we did have some really good examples of what I’d expect Talks from like Matt Go where he was actually live coding which is always challenging, I think that was a really good show to Tony Mce as well with his core website was talk as well, went in depth of how developers can create amazing eCommerce experiences and and obviously satisfy the big Google engine too. So I feel like it did meet expectations. And I feel like those, yeah, we always have to have one live code demo go wrong, at least at our conference.

Brent: Yeah. I’ve definitely have had that experience of doing things live on stage. When you’re not supposed to, you should be doing prerecorded, but I think live is always more fun. So maybe explain there, the hackathon was the big commerce version of it and the dev exchange was more of the presenting some of the ideas.

Brent: Is that how it worked? 

Andrew: I didn’t, I guess it was organized almost separately. There was a little bit of a line there. . We did hear obviously that there was a hackathon coming but none of it really tied in. I guess they’re both just community events and we hope that the people that partook in our conference also partook in the the hackathon.

Brent: So I, I know that there’s another SaaS platform that doesn’t seem to have the same type of community. What do you think makes Big commerce. Over some of the other SaaS commerce platforms out there? 

Andrew: Oh good question. I feel like the willingness to help each other within the big commerce community at the moment is quite vast.

Andrew: Everybody’s willing to help out and support each other. Although we’re. potentially working in different agencies and working, on, on different projects. I feel like the Slacks a great place where people are constantly communicating ideas, new takes, new directions that you could look at a problem or a challenge.

Andrew: And I feel like that’s quite unique. Initially it spills out into the forms as. . I don’t parti as much there but it definitely, you can see it. Definitely when you Google a question, the BigCommerce Slack aCommerce forum does fill it at the top there. But yeah, the willingness to help out and support each other, I think is there, and it’s pretty important.

Brent: Do you feel a difference from big commerce? Do you feel as though big Commerce is very open to this whole concept of a 

Andrew: community? I think so, and I think it’s improving. So I’ve been involved in BigCommerce development for a couple of years now, and I can see that it is growing and it’s been nurtured well.

Andrew: New roles have been introduced at BigCommerce too in the last year or so. And I feel like they’re helping to nurture the community in the correct direction. 

Brent: Yeah, I think the, they have a community manager. That I’ve just interviewed and Heather and she is fairly new to the role and I think it’s exciting that they’re putting these resources into building out a group of developers to help support each other.

Brent: Around this idea of open SaaS. Do you feel as though the concept open SaaS is a real open source concept or do you think it’s a buzzword? 

Andrew: I think that, I think it’s an ideal that they’re working towards. And they’re still filling out the definition almost of it. But what’s good?

Andrew: They’re happy for interpretation of the definition. And Katie, Heather and the team are listening to feedback from developers to, to better the platform. I know in my involvement in the community, some of the ideas that I’ve fed back, I’ve seen roll back into the product which is great.

Andrew: Other things that I’m passionate about, likes of open source. I’ve spoken to the team there and things like the Hato Fest kind of idea has been floated about and that, that seems to have now become a thing as well within the community. So I feel like the definition is still being defined, but I feel like they’re helping define it.

Brent: I know one thing that Big Commerce often puts forward as open source, their checkout, and there’s another popular SAS platform that has a very locked down checkout. Do you think that’s a good example of how a developer could get involved? And make their own custom custom payment say, and get it back up and running on a eCommerce or on a BigCommerce site?

Andrew: Yeah, the open checkouts are a large move I guess in the direction of open sourcing areas of it. So also, I’m not sure if you’re aware, they’ve also just. Add a big confirmation page into that as well, which is great to see that kind of project growing. Various other projects as well are open source like the stencil bar utilities Sten Bar Stencil utilities and Stencil cli.

Andrew: So we’re seeing some good contributions there as well. Yeah I’m a lot for them. Open sourcing. More of that project. 

Brent: The so they hold this whole concept of open sas, the whole idea of community. If I were a developer, what, and I wanted to build a module or a module, an application, what’s the best place to start?

Andrew: So I feel that the documentation of BigCommerce is pretty good. Pretty good, really good. And I feel like that is, is probably the area where you would start, right? I feel that’s one place and you’re working almost ensure, I feel like they also promote the forum quite often in inside the documentation.

Andrew: And I feel like that’s then your kind of next, go-to asking questions within the forum, gathering the. Experience of other developers on maybe a question or a concern that you have. And then the Slack community comes into that as well. And I feel that they’re opening that up to more people now.

Andrew: Where it used to be, I think only agency partners that were part of the Slack and now we’re seeing every, people within development come, which is really good to see. It’s helping the kind of diversification of the community. And the experience as well where people have all had different experiences on different platforms and they’re bringing those ideas and thoughts into the community as well.

Brent: As a new developer, do you feel as a new developer, is there a role difference between building an application compared to just doing front end work? 

Andrew: There is definitely difference in the way that you would handle it. We saw that on the hackathon project that we put forward. So typically our work is working with the api, working on front ends Osten front end.

Andrew: And I feel like the application is a different experience. The way that it’s of produced, the way that you authorize and call APIs is slightly different. But if you’re a slightly experienced developer on the. Kind of ecosystem. I feel like it does it does become a little bit easier.

Andrew: So either path would lead to success in the other field, if that makes sense. 

Brent: I just had the question the other day about developing a module on Magento comparing compared to develop being an application in big. What would you say the biggest differentiators are in doing either one? 

Andrew: I’m gonna have to skip this question.

Andrew: So I I didn’t previously work on Magen. I’ve, and within Space 48, I don’t work on Magen. So I’m sorry I can’t answer this one. . 

Brent: No problem. I answered that. Magento’s self-hosted. So you’re gonna build an extension that’s directly integrated into the code and Sure. An application from BigCommerce is self-hosted.

Brent: So if I’m building it, it a open question if I’m building an app is, Staging area that you can host your application in interim before the application gets launched. Talk to us a little bit about that. 

Andrew: Yeah, sure. When you’re developing an application you can run everything locally.

Andrew: So within, your local environment as first staging the environment, I know that as. As partners, you can request a sandbox store to test the application on. And so then you can have almost a, a live environment that you can go away and test on the authorization mechanisms for creating an app.

Andrew: You can basically get to a stage prior to submission of the app, which means that it is it’s working like an app would come in straight from the app store. And so you’re able to develop in a very realistic environment. As for likes of hosting this app and things like that, as you’ve mentioned, you do need to be looking at third.

Andrew: For ourselves, we, in the hackathon, we used the Verel because we used that an X Gs type app. Just so that we could do front end and backend and and all that fun stuff within one project. But I guess different apps that handle differently. I know that space here we work on. Our application code bases tend to be PHP and React.

Andrew: So that’s slightly different how to, how we typically do things here. 

Brent: And I guess that leads to my next question, then, the skill set for a developer who’s looking at developing apps on big commerce, it would just be JavaScript, maybe some PHP or some other backend language. Yeah. I feel 

Andrew: for that there you could come with multiple.

Andrew: Multiple skill sets. So from back end point of view, I guess it would depend on where you’re hosting. You could even run sort of landers using Python if you really wanted to. Except that if you come from a PHP background, there we go. There’s your favorite or if you’re using JavaScript and no gs I guess you’ve got a whole handful of places to host it.

Andrew: As for the front end, that can be separate. . And so that typically would be, like you’ve said, there hasting my own js sort of front end, or it could be a react front end. The application itself is I framed into the back end of commerce. And so as long as it’s hosted somewhere you are you’re not limited to, to set language or set skill set. 

Brent: So as we as we close out the podcast I give everybody a chance to do a shameless plug about anything you’d like to plug. Andrew, what would you like to promote today? 

Andrew: Sure. I haven’t come with much prepared. I guess we could. Speak about Space 48 slightly.

Andrew: So we are an eCommerce agency. We are platform agnostic, but we do tend to be Magen Shopify and commerce based. But we do look at other tools and I guess so you can follow them on Twitter. So we’re at Space four eight, find us on LinkedIn. And we are actively hiring for developers and.

Andrew: In the general practice and in the SAS practice as well. So if you’re interested in expanding into eCommerce development, please give us a shout. 

Brent: Yeah, and I’m just gonna add that I’ve been to the many of the events that space 48 puts on, and they’re super fun. So I hope they come up with the concept.

Brent: Big Titan. I’m gonna let John steal that one. He probably already has it. But fantastic community events. Very well organized. And extremely fun. And it, you get a trip to Manchester usually. Maybe it’ll be in Glasgow this next time, or could we understand what you’re saying? I’m not sure that’s a joke.

Brent: That’s very true. That’s very true. Andrew didn’t awfully fast. Yes, they do. Yeah. I remember my, I I went to school in Birmingham, which is for the American listers, the south of Glasgow. And I took a bus from a coach from Birmingham to Glasgow, and then I changed and went to Edinburg. And they, and I remember them saying, I’m like, where’s my next coach?

Brent: And they said, J and I’m like, is it J or G? I have no idea. So I eventually found it, but it was a little bit of a challenge to get the accent. I will say the Jordy accent for me is much more difficult than even the Glaswegian accent, . 

Andrew: Accents are definitely hard in the uk, that’s for sure.

Brent: Andrew, thanks so much for being here today. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. I look forward to meeting you in person at one of the big commerce events, either in the UK or in Texas or who knows where. I look forward to building a bigger and better community around big Commerce. Thank you so much for being here.

Andrew: Perfect. Thank you, Ben, for today.

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