Dial Up Motive
Interviews with Cloudflare employees about their first Internet experiences, and how they informed their decision to later join Cloudflare.
Dial-up modems, bulletin boards, punch-cards, Twitch, Twitter and more!
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the first and possibly only episode of Dial Up Motive.
If you're joining us live, welcome. If you're watching via recording, hopefully this is some nice and entertaining content for you.
The goal of this show is to take a deep dive into the histories of some of our Cloudflare employees, really dig into what got them interested in the Internet, what the first games were, their first multiplayer games, some of the first files they ever downloaded.
We're going to explore CD -ROMs, floppy disks, potentially even punch cards, depending on who we're interviewing throughout this series.
Today, I have with me Steven Raden.
He's a product designer here at Cloudflare, and I'll let him introduce himself.
Hey, y 'all. Thanks for watching. And yeah, as Dan said, I am a product designer at Cloudflare.
I recently started here at Cloudflare, so a couple months ago.
And yeah, it's been a really good kind of introduction.
We got to get moving fast on some pretty cool products already. So yeah, thanks for having me.
Yeah, can you go into a little bit more detail about what products you're supporting today?
Yeah, so when I started here, after some of the onboarding stuff, I started working on the primarily, well, a bit of a split.
So the Workers products by Cloudflare.
And that is essentially a product that distills everything that a lot of people purchase and run servers for.
And it kind of makes it into this much more agile, much more simpler, smaller unit sort of efforts of work, and allows you to run exactly kind of what you need at the size you need right when it's needed.
And then on top of that, actually, I got the opportunity to work with a team of people on the Cloudflare TV product, which we are on now.
So I had some small hand in that as well. So if we have any issues, I can just yell at you.
This is what I'm hearing. And I will yell at someone else.
And what does a product designer do on something like Workers, which is very kind of engineering driven or, you know, serverless, you're writing code at the edge?
What does that look like? Yeah, I mean, so a lot of what kind of a product designer, or some people may use the term user experience designer, or, you know, there's a lot of different variations of the title.
What we try and do ultimately is make it so that, you know, whether it's Workers or Cloudflare TV or whatever, make it so that it is as kind of functionally and accessible to the widest kind of audience.
And that anyone who does come in and get interaction with it, that it's a enjoyable or pleasurable experience with that tool or product.
And that they get the full potential out of it.
And so the process to do that, there's a lot of different steps you can take.
You know, it's a lot of trying to, you know, work really, really closely with our teammates, all different parts of the teammates, which I found here has been, you know, really easy to do.
And then it's also talking with our audience, our users, and trying to understand like, what are the things that they feel they need?
What are the things that they feel that they want? And, you know, what makes their life easy versus just makes their life kind of functional and working.
And trying to differentiate those and make sure that we include as much of that easy stuff and make it straightforward as possible.
And yeah, it sounds like a very cross -functional role.
What are some of the other teams you work with here at Cloudflare?
Yeah, I mean, in terms of like kind of specialties and cross -functionality, it's working...
I think I could probably find a reason to work with almost any other part or piece of a product.
You know, I think mostly it's working with our engineering and project management teams.
And then also, of course, leveraging our research teams as much as possible too, to make sure that we know what people are saying about us, what people are feeling about us and what people want.
But, you know, on top of that, talking to our advocates on the tech and sales side and looking at what they, you know, that we get information from them a lot about, you know, what are the things that customers are looking for functionality in order to, you know, migrate or things like that.
And, you know, that gives us a lot of information to adjust and play and work with the project management team to see what we can resolve.
Gotcha. Well, thank you for that intro and, you know, thank you for taking the time to pivot a little bit, you know, into the meat of the conversation.
You know, I'd love to explore some of your earliest kind of memories on the Internet.
I see you have a game background behind you.
You know, could you tell us a little bit more about your journey growing up on the Internet?
Yeah, so I was born in 93. And so my first interactions are, you know, once I was kind of more of the age that was appropriate to start going online.
And it was some of the earlier time of the Internet or at least of the kind of popularity and accessibility of the Internet to the general audience.
So it was still certainly during the kind of like dial-up sort of phase had to ask someone to get off the phone if they were on it.
Oh yeah, I had plenty of those where the moment someone picked up the phone, we lost the game.
Yeah, and so it's so accidental, like no one ever did it until, well, okay, I did have two older brothers and they did it intentionally at times whenever we were doing something like that.
But yeah, I forgot where it was, but yeah, essentially, you know, it was still during that whole time period.
And I would probably say, you know, there were a lot of sites appearing and I think it was at the time point that there was, you know, the competition between Yahoo and Ask Jeeves and Google and stuff was still fighting.
And so, you know, if every third person you asked, they'd say one of the other ones.
And so, you know, a lot of stuff that I did back then was related to games and trying to mostly, I think, some of my early experience was going to something like cheatplanet.com and looking up cheat codes for whatever games we were playing.
And, you know, whether that's BigHeadModem007, Goldeneye, or we played a lot of PowerStone and had to look up, you know, what was the process to get certain items cause you could unlock stuff.
Yeah. I think I was right at that transition phase where you still had like magazines that were talking about games and telling you about cheat codes and into, oh, suddenly I don't need to buy those.
There's now a website that gives me all the cheats I ever want.
I can look up, you know, I'm stuck in a spot. I can look up way around it.
You know, it was the beginning of that kind of crowdsourcing of information where, you know, some kid playing a game can now learn how to get past it based off of someone else's previous experiences.
Yeah. I feel like that was also the beginning of the end of like things like GameShark and stuff where you had to buy like a physical product to start doing codes.
Of course, those had many more things to them, but still, yeah.
And can you dive into Goldeneye? I mean, obviously not necessarily computer and Internet related, but likely a first experience for many of us in, you know, the millennial generation that of multiplayer, you know, setting up the tiny little TV, getting the four little boxes going, you know, how did that influence, you know, your future growth in, you know, say online gaming?
I don't know. I mean, that was, you know, one of the early games that I think my brothers and I all played.
And, you know, I think that set up, I feel like that was initiation of kind of some of that competitiveness of where like you could be really good at a game and really see how that compares to other people.
It wasn't just like, maybe you beat a certain time in a racing game, but this is like, how many times do you walk around a corner and then someone shoots you and you're out or something like that?
And so that was definitely interesting. But, you know, stuff like that, that definitely sparked my just whole interest in continuing to play.
And of course, you know, I think some of my basis in what, when I do play online kind of competitive multiplayer games, I think that certainly did that.
But yeah, I think my gaming computer and gaming addiction went from there as well.
And so what other online games did you jump into?
Or like specifically, what's the background behind you?
Yeah, so that I don't know how many people might be familiar with it, but something my brothers, because they got me into a lot of stuff, good and bad.
But they got me into this game called Asheron's Call. I don't know if this is from Asheron's Call 2 or 1, but grabbed it.
And yeah, that was my first kind of MMO.
And I don't know if I totally had the concept in my mind of what it really was, but I think something that all games did for me and made me enjoy in the long run was how powerful kind of technology was.
And that even back then, like a whole world could be created and this universe and you could really kind of get absorbed into that character.
And so, yeah, we played Asheron's Call.
It was just like this massive, massive world, or at least felt like it.
And it was kind of the standard kind of progress of you chose kind of your classic character, you leveled up and got new items, got better stuff, and you got to meet and socialize with a lot of people.
And I thought all that was interesting.
And just some of those things. Yeah, some of those things, what drew you to the MMO genre in general is that interaction, that social element, and just this world building and character building.
I think so. I mean, I've always been a big, in particular, like this Asheron's Call is kind of whole style and aesthetic.
I really liked kind of magic and stories and books and stuff in that world.
So I think being able to do that and have this character that that's what people saw me as was really, really interesting.
And again, I was pretty young during all this.
So I don't know how much I conceptually understood at that time. But yeah, I think that that's really what kind of drove me to enjoy it and continue.
And play with my brothers and stuff.
And when we first chat, you brought up a story where you experienced the good and the bad from an MMO or from a social game where you're interacting with others.
Could you dive into that a little bit more? Yeah. So yeah, I mean, that is definitely one of the early lessons.
I think that something like this showed me in a relatively innocent manner is so kind of the bad aspect, I suppose, was my brothers and I all played.
We would sometimes trade. Of course, all of us could only be playing at once because we only have one computer and everything, one desktop.
But essentially, my brother, one of my brothers, there's this kind of central trading area and he was there.
And people stand there and shout like every MMO kind of eventually gets and shouting about items and talking and playing raids and quests and whatever.
And he was there and he had worked really hard and gotten what I believe was a Mithril set of armor.
So that was a pretty high level armor.
You know, everyone knows that Mithril's the best. And he was talking to someone and someone walked up and I believe...
And one, notice how I'm using just these general terms, yet it isn't a game in terms of like someone walked up and started talking to him.
But someone walked up and they asked... Someone pressed the W, A key, enter, started typing.
Kept their social distance, I'm sure.
But they came up and they said, hey, that's like a really nice set of armor.
Like what kind is it? What are its specs? Like, can I see it? And the big thing there is that, of course, to see it, you have to trade it.
It's not just like keep your hand on it, hold it out to someone.
So, you know, he's a couple years older than me, but he did that.
And essentially the person immediately turned and ran and there are no repercussions at all.
And it was a, like I said, this was like a trading room, but it was also a central terminal.
And so that guy just like hopped out, went into a portal and disappeared.
So it's essentially Grand Theft, Grand Theft Armor.
Pretty much Grand Theft Armor. So you're learning, you know, not everyone on the Internet is a nice person.
You can't actually trust everyone to give you back your armor.
Like that's definitely an interesting lesson to learn, especially in a digital environment, as opposed to in real life, which is where we also learned that lesson just in different ways.
So what were some of the takeaways from that?
Or is there, do you have an opposite example where you did trust someone and were rewarded for it?
Yeah. I mean, takeaways from that overall were just that, yeah, I mean, be careful.
I mean, I don't know if I'd run into that many mean peoples besides my brothers in real life, but, you know, I saw that there was that good and bad in the Internet.
And it's hard to tell, especially when you don't have like facial expressions to read off of.
But yeah, you know, that certainly was countered.
And I think this counter to it was actually what, and you kind of mentioned something in our heads up discussions to this.
But like I saw that, and then I saw people also who saw me struggling in the areas where I was way out leveled and I was trying to level up and I thought I could do something.
And they would join me or team up with me and they would help kill some stuff and that would help me level up.
And, you know, that grew as I switched to a game called Star Wars Galaxies, which is another MMO.
And, you know, that's where I really enjoyed getting into guilds and kind of raid parties and stuff is that I saw how many people were there and like were willing to help and say, hey, we're doing a newbie level up mission today.
And, you know, 10 of them spent three hours just killing stuff while we sat there because we couldn't do anything.
We'd level up.
So people kind of came together in that sense too. Well, and I guess, do you kind of see the amount of teamwork that was involved, you know, with digital avatars?
You've never met these people in real life. You're still trying to accomplish a common goal.
Has that echoed into your current work? Yeah, I mean, I think that, I don't know.
It's one of those hard things to tell because it's learned so early and everything, but I do like, maybe I had a natural draw through it anyways, but I really liked that team aspect.
And I think, you know, in product design in particular that that is something that's a very big focus.
It's not necessarily trying to do stuff on your own.
And we all do it anyway sometimes, but it's not necessarily trying to, and it's really trying to really focus on leveraging the capabilities of the entire team.
And you're just kind of like a filter to get that information found and sorted into something that's usable.
So I think that did stuff like that, at least has persisted to my personality.
And I think one thing that's unique to the role-playing genre, and especially the MMO genre, is that each character comes at a problem with different strengths.
You know, you have your tank, you have your damage dealers. I'm not an MMO fan myself, but I can speak some of the language.
But you do get that need to build a well-rounded team.
You can't go in with just, you know, your strength and charisma maxed out and hope to win on your own.
And I think those social lessons and that need to recognize strengths in others really comes into play once you do enter kind of the career market and pays dividends.
What are your thoughts on that? Yeah, no, I mean, that makes a lot of sense to me.
And, you know, I wish, well, one thing is that that did remind me that one of my like characteristics that I feel like that I always do when I play games is I always usually play like a healer or a medic.
And I don't know why, but I think it's that kind of like, you're there supporting kind of the team, the people who are trying to like do all this other stuff that you're there trying to enable them to do that.
And I think, frankly, that kind of sounds a lot like product design stuff too.
But yeah, I think that makes like a lot of sense, you know, whether it's even just like a single character, you know, you as a personality, like you said, you can't just have everything charisma and this you'll still fail.
So it's kind of like, how can you balance that?
And then of course, on a larger team, spreading out that those capabilities, I wish it was as easy as a game to be like, I'm feeling like I'm not very friendly these days.
Let me work, let me do some pushups and then I'll toss up my charisma.
You grind on some rats. You working through some Photoshop or some experiments and all right, I'm ready to join the social queue again.
And did you ever go about either designing in game features or getting into the code and modding community at all?
I had a very brief stint. It was, I don't know, it wasn't that I kind of, it was a skill set that I wish that I didn't have.
And I watched like a lot of things about game developments and experiences there.
And I mean, I did like, I participated in one or two game jams essentially.
And so I've tried to, in the more recent years, tried to get into some of that.
But I guess my earliest occurrences of that were probably with what a lot of people got introduced with, which was Skyrim.
And that's a big RPG that's existed for probably longer than it should.
And that had a very well done system to be able to create your own mods.
They didn't have to actually touch too much code depending on what you're doing.
But yeah, in that, I tried to build like a room or a house or like a dungeon that I could do and play with that.
I don't think, I don't know if I shared that particularly with other people though, but yeah.
And then I think other introductions that there were Halo 3s and beyond Forge mode, which allowed you to very simply, very intuitively create your own maps and share and play each other's maps.
And I think that I've spent countless hours in and just goofing around and making little maps and playing people's games and stuff.
That's a lot of fun. Awesome, and I mean, do you see that as your gaming experience, your early experience on the Internet helped craft some of the empathy necessary to be a product designer?
So as you're plugging away in Forge, you really have to put yourself in the perspective of how are the players going to jump on this, grab this rocket, am I setting up a good experience?
How do you think your empathy developed through all of that? Yeah, well, I mean, in terms of Forge, I would say that that teaches you the outer bounds of good product design, I feel like, because you're always trying to make it a challenge, but not too easy.
You did have to balance it, but I guess that was kind of the purpose of those.
Yeah, I don't know. I think that kind of empathy aspect and that understanding, especially coming from something like MMOs where it was such an embodiment of you, you would put yourself into this character and stuff.
I saw how connected people could be with the Internet, with the computers, and I felt that.
And so that's where I think when something is bad on the Internet, when something's a bad experience, bad interaction, it feels bad, like it feels much more physical.
And a lot of people look at it and just say, it's a phone or it's a website or it's whatever.
And I look about it a lot more as like, this is a little moment where you are solely absorbed into this piece.
And if it's not good, it's gonna feel really bad.
And I think that. Yeah, do you think some of that's generational?
So for those of us that did grow up with digital experiences being very impactful to our lives and how we grew up, we do have that more visceral, like my page isn't loading, this app broke down.
It is a little bit more real than someone that might have come into it later in life or did not quite grow up in those formative years.
Yeah, well, at the very least, I think it's more obvious to them or like when something goes wrong, they know kind of maybe where that feeling's coming from.
Depending on how kind of connected they were during the development of tech.
And if they were an engineer, they'd probably feel it as much as engineer for the last, since the beginning, then they probably feel as much as anyone who started now.
But for the people who weren't necessarily in that engineering space, like I think that to me, I think they still feel that.
And, but they just don't know where the feeling comes, like why it's happening.
And for them, it might actually feel even worse just because of the confusion or the misunderstanding of it.
But someone who understands that they can make excuses, they can make like, I think I probably give a lot of credit to app developers and stuff when something goes wrong.
I'm like, my bandwidth, my cell connection must have dropped right at the wrong time.
And so now it's stuck in a spinner, let me close it out.
And it's not as bad for me. But if somebody doesn't understand that, they just be like, what is going on?
I hate this.
This is the worst app ever. Yeah, that's when you uninstall, they get one star.
And you've lost a customer in many ways. And not necessarily due to poor design or just due to that misunderstanding.
Exactly. And yeah. I guess looking forward a bit, what would be some of your advice for online experiences that people could have today that might prepare them for working in product design and grabbing those future product design jobs with the Internet that they have today?
Yeah. I mean, I don't know. That's a good question. I don't know.
I think, and I think it's a message that's shared pretty frequently. And I think this gets to the point that I was kind of saying before of some of the greatest stressors or frustrations with technology that I see is usually based around and actually any problem ever.
People usually have the greatest frustrations out of misunderstanding.
And whether it's a misunderstanding of the person, misunderstanding a garden tool that you have, misunderstanding a piece of technology.
And so there's a certain degree as your car, but there's a certain degree of looking at how much all this tech is so prevalent that I think it would be really wise and good for people to get like just one layer deeper of understanding of how some of it works.
I think network's probably the hardest one, but it's the most influential.
And so understanding like how, having a basic understanding of how like DNS system works, I think would go a long way for like the kind of general population and understanding, you know, how a network request is made or how like when your page loads, it's loading up all these little bits and pieces in all these different network calls and why sometimes, you know, the CSS doesn't load on the page.
And I think, yeah. The more understanding and ideally tools like this at Cloudflare TV and other kind of very geeky aspects can help alleviate some of that understanding discrepancy by introducing these technical concepts in interesting ways.
And that's definitely one of the, kind of the goals of this show as well as I think Cloudflare TV as a whole.
So I do want to be cognizant of time and thank you for taking the time to chat with us and giving us a brief history lesson on some of the early MMOs out there and how it drove your experience here at Cloudflare and as a product designer.
Yeah, well, thank you for having me.
This is a fun topic, so I'm glad I got to speak at least a little bit about it.
Yeah, I'm actually very much looking forward to when I do interview with someone in the punch card generation or the early bulletin board generation, but we'll see when we reach that stage with some of our other guests.
Yeah, I spoke too much, but I'm excited to hear about all your experiences in another episode too.
Oh yeah, we'll see about that one. We'll get a guest host and we'll figure that one out.
There you go. I grew up on a farm, a farm in small town Ohio, so the Internet was really my lifeline to the bigger world and I've reveled in every experience I had on it.
Yeah, a good friend of mine, he grew up in a fairly rural space too and now he is like the biggest just Internet download all the memes crap that you can.
I'm like, how did you flip? How did this happen? That's Internet open to the whole new world.
Well, once again, thank you for your time and with that, I'll briefly cover Dial-A -Motive is available every Monday at 830.
We're looking at episode two being available here shortly and we're happy to, you know, let us know if we need to be adjusting how we're going about this process.
Episode two is with Eric Allen, a revenue accountant here at Cloudflare and we'll dive into some of his early Internet experiences.
So once again, thank you everyone.
If you were joining us from the live stream, if you watch this on a recording at 2x speed, you know, thank you for taking the time and hopefully that was a nice trip back into the past for everyone here.
Have a great day.