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Name: Jeremy Katz
Member since: 2000-04-11 20:56:29
Last Login: 2010-12-16 03:33:24

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Homepage: http://velohacker.com


Currently, I'm leading up efforts at HubSpot to build out our infrastructure and release tooling to be much more automated so that we can grow.

In the past, I worked for Red Hat on a ton of Fedora, installation, livecd and virtualization related things and then some. I still hang out in Fedora communities some and pop up from time to time.

Outside of work/tech stuff, I'm a cyclist and bike racer on the road and in cyclocross as well as a dad. Little time for, well, anything else.


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Quad Cross 2015

Labor Day has passed, the days are getting shorter, the mornings are getting cooler… that means it must be time for cyclocross!  Yes, yes it is.  As usual, I started off with the “official” season opener for the #NECX of Quad Cross.  Some people may race cross earlier, but that’s pre-season racing if you ask me.  Although with Labor Day being as late as it was, there were definitely plenty of options for people to start racing.  But many people waited for this past Sunday to kick things off.

Although I don’t race for Quad anymore, I still volunteer and help out with the race every year.  So I woke up early, got in the car and headed over to Maynard to help with registration.  Things were surprisingly smooth as people started registering — it’s almost like after a number of years of doing this, it’s starting to be something that we know how to do.  That said, racers — have your license handy!  If you don’t have a paper copy, install the USAC app on your smartphone and then you can show that.  Having to look up your license info slows things down for everyone.

Once registration was well underway, I hopped on my bike and went for a quick pre-ride of the course.  Although it had rained overnight, it wasn’t particularly muddy — just not the usual dustbowl.  The course was fast and fun.  But I knew a lot of pedaling was going to be required for it.  I got in a second lap and then went back to help with registration some more after the Women’s 3/4 fields kicked off.

As that wrapped up, I got in a third lap (wow, it’s like I almost warmed up for real!) and it started to mist.  We headed to the line and it was a little bit less than organized getting people set up.  And thus, I chose poorly in terms of starting position.  Then we were off and I basically got boxed in more than I would have liked :(  But I kept moving forward and generally was riding okay.  Some of my cornering was bananas but that’s to be expected in the early season and not being used to having brakes that can actually stop me.  Anyway, I raced, it hurt and I finished.  Ended up 26/63 which puts me right back where I was before I upgraded a few years ago.  Given that I was being demotivated fighting for not-last in the 3s, I downgraded back to a 4 this year which definitely seems the right thing to have done — I felt like I was really racing again.

Keeping it tight!
Picture courtesy of Patricia Tamagini-Dayhoff

But maybe the best part of the day was hanging out afterwards.  We had a huge presence for the Keep It Tight team at the race and the tent set up and were just generally chatting and encouraging everyone else in other fields.  I also got to see and catch up with a ton of folks who I pretty much only see at cross races… too many to name them all.  A big fat reunion for the (perhaps dysfunctional) family that is the #necx.

And next weekend, I’ll be at it again.  Another chance to test myself.  A chance to do better.  And onwards.


Syndicated 2015-09-15 12:36:08 from Jeremy's Thoughts

Looking back on a day in the mud – 2015 Rasputitsa

Back in mid-January, the weather in New England had been unseasonably nice and it was looking like we were going to have a mild winter. I had completed the Rapha Festive 500 at the end of the year and felt like it would be a good winter of riding although it was starting to get cold in January. Someone mentioned the Rasputitsa gravel race (probably Chip) and I thought it looked like it could be fun. There was one little blizzard as we neared the end of January (and the registration increase!) but things still seemed okay. So I signed up, thinking it would help keep me riding even through the cold. Little did I know that we were about to get hit with a record amount of snow basically keeping me off the bike for six weeks. So March rolls around, I’ve barely ridden and Rasputitsa is a month away. Game. On.

I stepped up my riding and by a week ago, I started to feel I’d at least be able to suffer through things. But everyone that I’d been talking with about driving up with was bailing and so I started thinking along the same lines. But on Friday afternoon, I was reminded by my friend Kate that “What would Jens do?”. And that settled it, I was going.

I drove up and spent the night in Lincoln, NH on Friday night to avoid having to do a 3 hour drive on Saturday morning before the race. I woke up Saturday morning, had some hotel breakfast and drove the last hour to Burke. As I stepped out of the car, I was hit by a blast of cold wind and snow flurries were starting to fall. And I realized that my vest and my jacket hadn’t made the trip with me, instead being cozy in my basement. Oops.

I finished getting dressed, spun down to pick up my number and then waited around for the start. It was cold but I tried to at least keep walking around, chatting with folks I knew and considering buying another layer from one of the vendors, although I decided against.

It's overcast and chilly as we line up at the start
It’s overcast and chilly as we line up at the start

But then we lined up and, with what was in retrospect not my wisest choice of the day, I decided to line up with some friends of mine who were near the back. But then we started and I couldn’t just hang out at the back and enjoy a nice ride. Instead, I started picking my way forward through the crowd. My heart rate started to go up, though my Garmin wasn’t picking up the HR strap, just as the road did. The nice thing was that this also had the impact of warming me up and not feel cold. The roads started out smooth but quickly got to washed out dirt, potholes and peanut butter thick mud. But it was fun… I hadn’t spent time on roads like this before but it was good. I got into a rhythm where on the flats and climbs, I would push hard and then on some of the downhills, I would be a little sketched out and take it slower. So I’d pass people going up, they’d pass me going down. But I was making slow progress forward.

Until Cyberia. I was feeling strong. I was 29.3 miles in of 40. And I thought that I was going to end up with a pretty good time. After a section of dirt that was all up-hill, we took a turn to a snow covered hill. I was able to ride about 100 feet before hopping off and starting to walk the bike up hill. And that is when the pain began. My calves pulled and hurt. I couldn’t go that quickly. The ruts were hard to push the bike through. And it kept going. At the bottom of the hill, they had said 1.7 miles to the feed zone… I thought some of it I’d ride. But no, I walked it all. Slowly. Painfully. And bonking while I did it as I was needing to eat as I got there and I couldn’t walk, push my bike and eat at the same time. I made it to the top and thought that maybe I could ride down. But no, more painful walking. It was an hour of suffering. It wasn’t pretty. But I did it. But I was passed by oh so many people. It was three of the hardest miles I’ve ever had.

The slow and painful slog through the snow. Photo courtesy of @jarlathond
The slow and painful slog through the snow.
Photo courtesy of @jarlathond

I reached the bottom where the road began again and I got back on my bike. They said we had 7.5 miles to go but I was delirious. I tried to eat and drink and get back into pedaling.  I couldn’t find my rhythm. I was cold. But I kept going, because suffering is something I can do. So I managed to basically hold on to my position, although I certainly didn’t make up any ground. I took the turn for 1K to go, rode 200 meters and saw the icy, snowy chute down to the finish… I laughed and I carefully worked my way down it and then crossed the finish line. 4:12:54 on the clock… a little above the 4 hours I hoped for but the hour and 8 minutes that I spent on Cyberia didn’t help me.

Yep, ended up with some mud there.
Yep, ended up with some mud there.

I went back to the car, changed and took advantage of the plentiful and wonderful food on offer before getting back in the car and starting the three hour drive back home.

Mmm, all the food
Mmm, all the food

So how was it? AWESOME. One of the most fun days I’ve had on the bike. Incredibly well-organized and run. Great food both on the course (Untappd maple syrup hand up, home made cookie handup, home made doughnuts at the top of Cyberia, Skratch Labs bottle feeds) and after. The people who didn’t come missed out on a great day on a great course put on by great people. I’m already thinking that I probably will have to do the Dirty 40 in September. As for next year? Well, with almost a week behind me, I’m thinking that I’ll probably tackle Rasputitsa again… although I might go for more walkable shoes than the winter boots I wore this year and try to be a bit smarter about Cyberia. But what a great start event for the season!

Fire.  Chainsaws.  Alf. Basically, all of Vermont's finest on offer.
Fire. Chainsaws. Alf.
Basically, all of Vermont’s finest on offer.

Syndicated 2015-04-17 12:55:12 from Jeremy's Thoughts

My Journey to Becoming a Cyclist

As most who know me know, I consider myself a cyclist. I ride my bike often, do distances that most consider questionable and even at times in pretty unsavory conditions

Eight years ago, this wasn’t the case. I was your typical pretty sedentary software engineer. But I got a bike and started riding a little. I thought that maybe I would get to where I would do a 50 mile ride. Or a metric century (that’s 62 miles/100 km for those not in bike circles). But I was going up and down the bike path so was at 15-20 miles. 25 was long for me.

And then I decided one Saturday morning in May to join the group ride from the bike shop down the street, Quad Cycles. I showed up and it was a little intimidating. There were probably 30-40 people and they all looked like they knew what they were doing. As we hit the time for the ride to start, Bobby yells out asking for anyone who is new. I acknowledge and he describes the ride. I figure I’ll ride to the end of the bike path and then ride home. But we got to the end of the path and Bobby encouraged me to continue and said he would ride with me. I think I rode 30 or so miles that day, all of it with Bobby right with me.

From there, I began riding more. Bobby encouraged me to do the Red Ribbon Ride. He always was encouraging people to do a charity ride to give back for all that we had. But it was a two day ride totaling 175 miles. And it was two months away. A little intimidating for someone who hadn’t been riding at all six months earlier. But he encouraged me and I did it and it was incredible.

The rest, as they say, is history. But I saw the same thing play out many many times over the following years. Someone new to riding encouraged to push themselves, to go further than they thought they could, to give back. And always to be nice to everybody while doing so.

RIP Bobby… you will be missed even more than you could know. I am glad to have called you my friend. I only hope that I can be as encouraging and helpful to others as you once were to me. And I’ll never forget to ride with love in my heart and a smile on my face.

Syndicated 2014-03-24 22:51:23 from Jeremy's Thoughts

Build systems are the new black

So I got into a little bit of a twitter argument last night about distro packaging. Which actually wasn’t where I was trying to go (this time ;) ) One of the problems with twitter is that 140 characters can be hard sometimes. So let’s see if more characters help.

There is a big push afoot from a lot of people towards omnibus packaging. It seems especially prevalent in the world of things written in Ruby I suspect because most even “current” Linux distros are or were shipping some Ruby 1.8.x build up until very recently. And people want to take advantage of the newer language features.

I have a lot I could write on this topic. But I’m not going to today.

The main point I was trying to make is that in going down this path, people are putting together increasingly large build chains that have complex dependencies and take a long time. And so they’re starting to do things like caching of sources, looking at short-circuited builds and a whole lot of other related things. Which, incidentally, are all things that all of the Linux distributions ran into, fought with and figured out (admittedly, each in their own way) years ago. So rather than just rediscover these things and do it yet another way, there’s a ton of knowledge that could be gained from people that have built distribution build systems to make things better for the omnibus world.

So reach out to people that have worked on things like the Debian build system, the OpenSuSE build system, plague, koji and a slew of others. There are some tricks and a lot of tools which are just as valuable as when they started being used. Things like caching build roots and how to fingerprint them for changes, what ccache can and can’t be good for, how to store things reasonably in a lookaside to not depend on upstream repositories being down while you build, incremental builds vs not, ccache, …

Just because you think that building system RPM or DEB packages doesn’t meet the needs of your users doesn’t mean that you have to throw away all of the work and experience that has gone into the toolchains and build systems present there.

Syndicated 2013-09-10 14:42:09 from Jeremy's Thoughts

One year with Stackdriver

A year ago this week, I started at Stackdriver.  As the first engineer with the company, there wasn’t anything when I started. We had some ideas, solid funding and a small core group to start figuring out our product and building it.

Out first "office"

Working out of our first “office” in a classroom at Northeastern

Going in, I thought I had some idea of what I was doing and what I was in for. I mean, I’d been at later stage startups and heard the stories. I’d read the Eric Ries Lean Startup book. I had read all of the “blogs you’re supposed to read” and had them in my RSS reader so that I could soak up collective wisdom regularly.

In some ways, I was right… in others, I was wrong. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of things that are sticking with me after a year. That said, if you’re reading this because you’re thinking about or planning on joining a startup at an early stage, there’s a good chance you’ll have different ones that are important for you :)

  • Hiring is the single most important thing you can do. Good hires amplify everyone around them and make the team smarter and more effective. It’s pithy and everyone says it. But they say it because it’s true.
  • Hiring takes way more time than you think it will. Your network (and your network’s network) is the best way to source candidates. You’ll post your positions on various job boards and you’ll very very very occasionally get lucky with it. Recruiters will come from everywhere promising great results but will take up even more time since their candidate flow is way higher. Another challenge with recruiters is that when you are before the launch of your product, it can be difficult to convey what you’re doing as well as exactly the type of person you are looking for to join the team.
  • Fancy new technology is sexy and fun to work with. It also has a lot of problems you don’t have experience with. If you can minimize the number of these you have to deal with, you’ll be able to spend more time focusing on building the right product for the right problem
  • It’s hard to spend too much time talking with your target customer. If you think that what you have (be it a mockup or a prototype or something else) is “ready” to show to them, you’ve probably waited too long and could have gotten feedback already and learned something
  • Fail fast. Some things you try won’t work. Don’t continue to fixate on them and sink more time on them if they’re not coming together.
  • If you’re building something that’s a B2B product, think of your beta as a chance to test selling in addition to the product. Sure, you’re not going to have them pay today but you do want to know that you’re building something that people will pay for when you’re ready to switch to that.
  • Think iteratively. Once you start to hone in on a degree of product market fit, you’re going to discover that some of the things you built for prototyping/testing purposes don’t work. Don’t be afraid to replace them. But do so in a way that lets you regularly checkpoint the replacement to test that you are making things better. Grand rewrites are rarely as grand as you think and always take longer
  • If you’re going to spend a lot of time on something product-side, focus more on getting the interfaces right than the implementation. So, for example, if you decide that something is going to have clear boundaries passing messages over a queue, then you can switch between RabbitMQ, SQS and others with minimal effort as you learn the constraints that actually matter for your implementation.
  • Try to find the one piece of your product that immediately pops in a demo for most of your target users. This is one of those things where you’ll know what it is when you see it. And then use it as a hook to start drawing people in.
  • Interactions with the customer don’t end when they sign up for your product. Continue to nurture them and do regular feedback calls with them as you iterate on the product. This will help to make them into advocates for your service and they’re already bought into your vision making it
  • Bugs happen. Fixing them and providing awesome customer service is a great way to foster great customer relationships

It’s been a wild and crazy year but I have had a blast. I’ve done a bit of everything and learned things I didn’t even know there were to learn. Launching the beta of our cloud monitoring product a few months ago was an awesome experience and watching as we’ve started ramping up our sales engine to engage with customers and try it out has been phenomenal. And I’m really looking forward to the next step of launching the paid product and starting to track everything that goes along with that.

Here’s to the next year and many more after that!

Syndicated 2013-08-08 14:35:15 from Jeremy's Thoughts

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