Episode 50: Today I’m speaking with Uri Goldshtein, Founder at The Guild, the largest open-source community in the GraphQL ecosystem. In December, it was announced that The Guild would be the fifth Core Dev team added to The Graph, joining Edge & Node, StreamingFast, Figment, and Semiotic AI. Regular listeners of the podcast will know that The Guild is highly-respected for its deep expertise in GraphQL.
The discussion with Uri is brilliant! During the episode, Uri shares stories from his unique background, which includes times as a musician and backpacking around the world. He also talks about his reluctant move into technology, the origins of The Guild, and what The Guild brings to The Graph as a Core Dev. Uri also shares some of his ideas about Web3.
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Uri Goldshtein (00:00:19):
Welcome to the GRTiQ Podcast. Today I’m speaking with Uri Goldshtein, one of the founders of The Guild. In December, The Guild was announced as the fifth core dev team going to work on The Graph joining Edge & Node, StreamingFast, Figment, and Semiotic AI. Regular listeners of the podcast know that The Guild is a highly respected open source community with deep expertise in GraphQL. The discussion with Uri is brilliant. You’ll hear him share his unique background, which includes experience as a musician, his reluctant introduction to technology, and then his travels around the world. We then shift the discussion to learn more about The Guild, what it will bring to The Graph as a core dev, and some of Uri’s opinions about the future of web3. We started our discussion by talking about Uri’s educational background.
Uri Goldshtein (00:02:04):
I actually didn’t finish high school. So I was a guitar player. Very quickly, I became a guitar teacher, and a musician, and a recording artist. And I had many bands. And, at some point, I just realized I have no use for continuing to go to high school. So I stopped and that was my path. And then in Israel, you have the mandatory military service. So I went to the military and then they forced me to learn computers. And that’s basically how I became a programmer. And throughout the years that I worked there, I started enjoying it more and more. And I had this existential crisis of am I a musician or am I a programmer, which, well, I solved after a couple of years and just decided the world of creating new things in programming was more fascinating to me. And I still play and I still record sometimes, and I try now to go back to performing, but that’s basically how I learned to program. I never went to university, I never had any official education into programming. It was all learning on the job.
Well, your musical background reminds me of Alex with StreamingFast, the CTO over at the team at StreamingFast, another core dev team at The Graph. How would you relate this background, your experience in music, with what you do now?
Uri Goldshtein (00:03:35):
I mean, it was amazing. I learned from many different teachers and they had many different, how should I say, many different strategies or many different ways of learning things or looking into music. And actually, I found many of these ideas actually applicable for programming like just how you structure things in your head and also just looking at a concept or looking at something that looks very difficult, and then breaking it down into smaller pieces and then making it easy. And I think in programming, we see that a lot. We see lot of very complicated concepts and people are talking a lot, big words or acronyms and stuff like that, or you’re looking into a very big problem.
And if you just be patient and you can break it down into smaller pieces, everything becomes possible and easier. And I think that’s, for me, a really big concept that I took from music into programming. Also, playing with bands, you have to work as a team. And egos in the band is, it’s even worse than egos in a programming team. So I think I learned a lot from it. Even if I didn’t learn anything, it’s just music is amazing and it’s a lot of fun and I like to do it any chance can.
What genre of music do you play then? What was your focus?
Uri Goldshtein (00:05:03):
I played many things. I like the most fusion guitar artists like Steve Vai, Guthrie Govan, Greg Howe. I mean, if it’s bands, it’s Dream Theater and Liquid Tension and all their cool stuff. But I played tons of stuff because I was also part of a small group with another drummer and a bass player, and we were trying to be recording artists. That’s actually their job now. They’re recording with a lot of famous artists in Israel. And with them, I just played everything. We played folk music, we played everything you could think of.
Uri, you mentioned that you’re joining me from Israel. I would be curious to know what the Israeli people’s attitudes and opinions are of crypto. Do you have a sense for that?
Uri Goldshtein (00:05:52):
I think Israel has a lot, a very big high-tech theme. I think it’s a huge part of our economy, so there’s a lot of people into it. To be honest, I’m not the best into understanding what’s happening in Israel in terms of things because I was always an outsider of everything. And also in the last seven years or so, I was traveling the world with just my backpack, moving from country to country. I just came back to Israel. So I just got a place in Israel after seven, about seven years. So I think I’m deliberately always trying to avoid large communities. But in Israel, I know that there are a lot of people that are, and a lot of companies, and a lot of communities that are into crypto, doing many different things with crypto. But I’m always, my community is the open source community. I never go to events even they are really close to here or even people I know from Tel Aviv or something like that. I always hang out at the GitHub. That’s a better place for me to hang around.
So for eight years, you have a backpack and you’re traveling the world, stopping and staying at different places. I mean, how many different places did you live?
Uri Goldshtein (00:07:05):
A bunch. Because in those seven years, I think the longest that I’ve been in one place was a bit less than three months. And usually I would move every, there were times that I would move every two weeks or something like that, or even a week. And sometimes I would end up in a city and I just didn’t feel right, so I just moved on after a day or something. It’s very freeing when you have everything you want in one bag. I mean, it’s not even a heavy bag, then it’s very easy to move and you can work from anywhere. So you could be wherever you want to be at any point in time, so you don’t need to stay anywhere.
I learned a lot from those years. Now I’m back in Tel Aviv and I like it here. I like having a place. It’s a bit weird and it’s a bit nice. The nicest thing about it is that I have my old guitar gear back. I had a huge gear with tons of really cool speakers. So now I have it here and I can play anytime. But yeah, I don’t know where I’ll be, if I’ll go back to it or not.
What did you learn about the world through that experience?
Uri Goldshtein (00:08:14):
I think I learned that the most interesting thing is people, and that people are genuinely good and interesting. And when you are interested in them, they’re becoming even more interesting. It’s very safe. Traveling the world and all kinds of weird countries and everything, if you know how to communicate with people, you would feel and you will be very safe. That’s my experience. The longer I traveled, the less fear I had of basically almost anything. It’s very freeing experience. It makes you really believe in people and trust people. The more you trust, the more people show you that they’re good.
Most people, Uri, like to put roots in and stay put someplace. And you’re the opposite of that. You like to move around. How would you explain that to people who can’t understand why anyone would want to live out of a backpack and travel the world for eight years?
Uri Goldshtein (00:09:16):
I think how I look at life is that you need to have a strong base and a big vision that you believe in, that also grows beyond yourself. That also is helping people. If you have both a base and a vision and you believe in that vision, I think that’s, for me, that’s the two most basic things that makes me enjoy life. And the interesting thing is that the base is different between different people. So for me, the base was actually the belief that I don’t need a lot of money and I don’t need a lot of stuff, which means that if I know for whatever reason I won’t have money, I won’t have work or whatever would happen, I will still be fine. So for me, the start of that journey was to actually discover in some ways what will happen if my worst case scenario would happen.
And then understanding that I’ll be fine and even more than fine, that made me feel very strong. And my backpack, I had a very small backpack with basically 30 things in it, but it was very organized. So always when I felt like, I don’t know, weird or I felt that I’m not in a place or I’m not at home, I knew I had my backpack very organized, I knew everything I had, I need to do. I had my computer organized and I felt better. So maybe that’s the same feeling. When people are going to vacation, they come back home, they put their stuff and they’re like, they feel like they’re back home and they’re relaxed. I just tried to have that feeling anywhere because I thought that’s true freedom. Once you can have that feeling, not in your physical house but everywhere, then you feel at home anywhere and that’s a really powerful way of feeling free.
I love this idea of having a strong base and a big vision as your mantra for life. Would you then define a strong base or just even this base layer as an individual set of beliefs?
Uri Goldshtein (00:12:55):
I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s a set of beliefs. It’s a good question. So for me, the base was being close to my family and close friends, to know that they love me no matter what even if I’m traveling or not or anything like that. Just knowing that we have good connection, and they got my back, and I got their back. Another thing is not feeling too scared. Meaning, having the resources that I need, but really questioning what are these resources and how much. I think everyone are worried about money. And what I tried to ask myself was how much money is enough for me to feel safe and why. And question it again and again and again. Because then, I realized actually the amount of money that I need to feel safe is not that much, which then gave me the freedom to feel like I have a lot of money and feel very safe even without a lot of money.
When I started traveling, it was also the start of my career, and that gave me a lot of power to go to the path and the projects and the vision that I had. I don’t know if money is a good answer, but I mean, those are my answers. And I think, for each person, it’s different answers. But for me, I wouldn’t say maybe money, but resources and how much resources is enough for me to feel safe. That I’ll know that my mind can be clear on thinking about my vision and challenging my vision as well because sometimes if you hold onto your vision too much, then it might not make sense and it can change and you would feel safe enough to change your vision.
Would you be willing to share what your vision is then?
Uri Goldshtein (00:14:38):
Yeah, I can share some of it. I mean, it’s changing all the time, but I guess the core of it is that is the freedom of knowledge, which means to basically open source every knowledge that is out there as much as possible. And it means a lot of things. It’s very hard. Once you go into that path, you find all kinds of reasons why people won’t open source, or won’t share their knowledge, or their tries, or everything. It can be from being not secure enough with their resources. Thinking that if you open source something, people will steal it and take all your money, which I can say that I think, in most cases, that’s not the case and it’s exactly the opposite. It can be from ego. You want people to think about you as more than what you are or something like that. Or you want to edit bits and pieces of who you are and what you show the world, which is completely natural.
That’s why I don’t think that also forcing open source or something like that is a good thing. I think it’s a battle. Not a battle, but a competition maybe. Competition is a better word. I think just that open source is such a powerful tool. The people that are ready to embrace it I think can compete more easily with people that are not. And I think it’s a long term competition, but I see that the longer… As time passes, it wins. We’re winning. So I guess the core of most of my vision is around that. There’s a lot of specific things, but the core is open source and as much open knowledge and conversation as possible in the world.
So Uri, before we move on to other parts of the interview, I want to ask you one follow up, and this would be for listeners of the podcast that like to travel. So given all your travel experiences and exposure to the world, is there one or two places that you would say everybody’s got to see this at some point in their life?
Uri Goldshtein (00:16:43):
That’s a good question. I always said no because it was always about the individual people, and I still stand behind it. But if I need to pick some places, I would say China is a place that people should go to. It’s so amazing and so mind opening in so many ways. It’s very different from, I don’t know, how I perceived it before going there. I think it’s amazing. And what I really like also is the ease of travel in Europe. For me, it was mind-blowing. How easy it is to move from country to country, from place to place. Just the ease of traveling is amazing. And I think this is something that, if could be embraced in more places in the world, I think would be extraordinary, like in the Middle East for example. It would be really, really cool.
So Uri, going back a little bit then. You’re a musician passionate about playing guitar, playing in bands, recording music, and then you’re thrust in a situation where you had to learn technology. I have to imagine the next evolution in your story then would be this introduction to crypto and getting some interest or understanding of how you might participate in that. What’s the story or transition point into crypto?
Uri Goldshtein (00:18:02):
First of all, when I started programming, it was in this very enterprise-y organization. Everything was slow, everything was hierarchical and bureaucratic. And I think it’s similar to many places that a lot of people are working in, many big companies. And I mean, that’s how I learned the world of programming. So that was all I knew. So I also learned how organizations work and I think it was also a valuable lesson. And also one thing that is very powerful there that I don’t see in a lot of companies was the training aspects of it. When you joined, there was really you had time to train yourself and to learn things, which is something that I don’t see in companies today, which I think is very, you just start and that’s it. And people don’t get the personal growth as part of their career, which I think is very important.
So I’ve been into that, in that environment. And when I left that environment, most of my friends went to work at companies like Microsoft or in big startups or things like that. And I had one friend that actually created his own startup, and I was like, oh okay, maybe I can do that. Again, instead of choosing the large salaries and everything, I went to join him. And this was a fintech startup in 2011 I think in Israel. I really believed in it. This was really, really inspiring for me to work on it. I was the first employee. It was really great. And so that opened me up for the whole fintech world. And also, it opened me up to the open source world. The place I was working in before, most of my career we didn’t even have internet connection there because of security reasons.
So we just needed to remember stuff and to look into MSDN from Microsoft, but we couldn’t even Google. And today, programming is everything is Google. So that opened up my world. But then when I started actually, I joined, I was one of the first users I think of the AngularJS framework, and there’s a whole story there, I’ll skip it, but the combination of these two things I think somehow led me to be aware of Bitcoin at around 2012. And just the idea of it, it was a year or two where my mind was blown constantly. The internet, open source, and fintech, and all kinds of crazy ideas that we had every day about what’s possible. If we were now building a bank, and re-imagining what a bank is, and then Bitcoin was like… so ever since then, that was my first, it’s when first I got introduced into crypto and then it died down a bit. Many things have happened, but I was more focused on the open source world and did a lot with The Guild and many other open source projects and companies that I worked with.
But I was constantly following everything that’s happening. But I was very focused on regular open source like open source development and open source infrastructure. That was the main thing that I had. And then I think it was about a year ago or something like that, somehow Yaniv Tal from The Graph reached out and we had just an initial chat and I was so happy through him to see all the new stuff that happened. And I was really surprised how way more mature things are than what I imagined them to be. And especially about what The Graph is doing is the natural continuation of open source and development infrastructure into crypto. And so my mind was blown and then we were constantly trying to figure out how we could work more together. And it ended up with us becoming core dev.
I want to talk to you a lot more about The Graph and your work as a core dev at The Graph. But before we do, I think a lot of non-technical listeners will understand what you mean by open source only in concept. I’m wondering though, the way you talk about it, it’s almost like a philosophical or an ethos to open source. So how would you help listeners better understand what you’re talking about when you talk about open source?
Uri Goldshtein (00:22:25):
That’s a great question. I think, for me, open source is, the core basic of it is if you’ve done something, everything you want to do, you have a goal and you have a task, most likely that if you will do it in the open, meaning someone else, even just one person would look at the thing you’re doing while you are doing it, there’s a higher chance that you will be better and that you would learn more from it. And that starts with the simplest thing. If you are even thinking about your emotions and with your partner, the more you talk to each other, the better, and there’s a room to grow. And it could be on the largest things like government policies. And that’s the core idea for me. And for me, I see, if I’m looking at the actual day-to-day what it means for us is, first of all, around our programming libraries.
So it’s not only that people could use them for free, but also people can follow and track everything that’s happening and can track conversations of others that are asking us for things. And there’s the power of the community around solving a problem. If you’re doing it right, which is also by itself is a problem that we also open source, how do we manage an open source community is something that we also open source. So the part of the community could be enormous. It also could be very hard. If you look at, let’s say, some of our libraries. We have, let’s say, one library that’s being downloaded on MPM five and half million times a week, and the number of contributors are 20. So it’s also, it’s not like if you just open source something, all the community comes and just helps you and you’re just flying by the power of the community.
It teaches you also a lot about leadership and how to get people to believe that they could contribute. And also, I think the internal power of I’m building something, so many people are using it for free. So some people, you see it in open source that people are starting to struggle with that and they’re getting angry, that they build a lot of open source, but nobody’s saying thank you and people demand things from you. But I think that’s a great lesson for you to look back into yourself. I don’t care. I didn’t build the open source in order for people to thank me and I didn’t build the open source to get the money from people. I built it for myself because I believe in the thing. So not getting money or not getting the recognition doesn’t matter for me. We just continue. And I think that if with this type of mindset we would solve more of the problems in the world, I think we would advance so much faster.
One of my dreams is to work with the government. I actually talked with Yaniv on our first conversation. I talked with him and he has the same aspirations. And I think if the governments would just be more open source organizations, I think it could change everything. That’s one of my biggest dreams. And I also think that there’s another thing here, which is I always, when I think about open source in the ethos way, some people look at open source as something more of a communism thing of everything is shared. I think not. I look at it as actually capitalism plus plus. We’re all competing in order to get to a better future and to create better things. But also, our competitive advantages are minimal because everything we’re doing is also out there. So we have to continuously be better. It’s not like we could create one thing and then just leave out of it forever.
It’s actually the knowledge and the daily skills that we gain that are the competitive advantage, and we’re actually helping just, instead of starting the competition from zero, starting it from, the competition starts from higher and higher and higher places. So I don’t know if I talked a bit too much about this, but obviously I’m thinking about this issue a lot. And also, to be honest, I don’t get too many chances to talk about all of those things. Even when you live in the open source world, there’s not a lot of conversation about the bigger picture or why, except most people, a lot of people complaining on Twitter that they don’t get money for open source. That’s mostly the conversation that I hear about open source usually.
Uri, you keep coming back to this idea of competition. You talked about a little bit in your personal story and you’ve talked about it here in the context of open source. And it’s a different framing of competition. It’s not a zero-sum, I win you lose, or I make a dollar and you spend a dollar. It’s something different. It’s a different flavor of competition. So how do you think through the nature of competition?
Uri Goldshtein (00:27:20):
That’s a good question. I think it actually relates to something we talked about before, which is the base and the vision. I think, for me, it’s not about necessarily winning a competition like sports. I think real life is, first of all, I want to feel safe. I want to feel like I have a strong base. And once I have that, I want to be part of creating a vision that is greater than myself and helps others. And I think if you have both of these things, you are going to be successful or there’s a better chance for you to be successful. And I think that’s how I perceive the real world or the business world. And again, this is just my perspective, but I think, for me, defining what the base is and having that base and feeling very relaxed that everything is going to be fine, I just have my bag, nothing’s going to happen, I can travel the world, then I don’t need a lot of money for it.
Once I have this very small base, I’m much freer in the ways that I can pursue my vision, which means I can collaborate with my competition because it’s okay. Nothing bad will happen. Even if they would win, it’ll push us all forward. And actually this freedom of feeling that everything is going to be fine, and I can talk to my competition, and I can open source everything I’m doing and I can… actually, I think in many ways, gave me the edge over my competition because it made me think differently and it made people I think, with time, see that. I think a lot of startups today are focused on winning fast and taking over the market, but then they fail at things.
And for us actually moving slow on open source and slowly doing things gave us this competitive advantage. So it means I think that open source for me is working for the vision you want, which is a very clear vision in an open way, and actually taking out that, I don’t know, competition between who’s, how should I say, there’s still competition in open source. There’s still a lot of competition in open source. But no matter what each site is doing, they’re progressing everyone. So even if you lose, let’s say, whatever losing means in that case, you’re going to end up okay and you’re going to end up with knowledge that then you might want to participate or join your competition. And I think it’s just, this is more, for me, this is much more how real life really looks like.
And I think if I’m looking at other fields that are not development, in my opinion, the next years, the next big winners in other fields like medicine and healthcare and governments are organizations that would embrace open source or the open source mindset to go compete in their own industries. I think that would be the biggest change in my opinion in the next few years because I see it already happening. And we’re here still talking about The Graph and crypto. And open source also means, for me, crypto is the next phase of open source. It’s not only the tools that you’re open sourcing is the data itself and the logic itself is also open source. And you own your data.
Now when you own your data, let’s say in throughout the apps that were used today daily, you increase the competition. Now fighting or creating a better social network now, the competition is much more fierce because you don’t hold the data. Everyone can just switch between whatever they want. They have the power to go to the best competitor. So this open source vibe, which maybe for some people, I don’t know, looks like, I don’t know, very nice and nice vision or anything, can actually create a very competitive environment.
I really appreciate that you would take me through some of these really great ideas about open source competition, about your background. I want to change a little bit of the direction here and talk a little bit more about The Guild, GraphQL, and your core dev partnership at The Graph. For listeners that don’t know, The Guild recently became the fifth core dev partner team to go to work at The Graph and that’s primarily why we’re speaking today. So maybe if you could, could you tell listeners what The Guild is and what its original vision was when you founded it?
Uri Goldshtein (00:32:35):
Yes, I would love to answer that. So The Guild actually started just from me being a freelance. After working in companies for a while, I guess the theme for me was always the freer I am, the more I’m fulfilling myself and my potential. So it started with just doing it myself, being my own boss, and working on the project that I want, and learning a lot on business and money, and managing a business through that. And then, slowly increasing that and then getting more of my friends and more developers that I know joining this group of developers. Now, initially, it was mostly around just freelance developers. Trying to get developers to be more independent, work together, build this guild of developers because I thought that individuals, a group of individuals that think together could be way more powerful than a regular company that has a boss and everything. And that’s how it started.
But that first iteration of The Guild was very successful. We actually built, not a lot of people know that. Well, we actually, as contractors, we joined and built the first mobile bank in Israel. After 40 years, there was no new bank in Israel. And we helped build that infrastructure and the apps and everything, which was a very nice experience and showed how powerful you can be with this difference between a regular company and a group of individuals working together. The thing is, I felt always that the next step for it should be open source, should be group of individuals that understand the power of open source and the community working together. And most of the people that worked with me back then weren’t open source people, except Dotan, my co-founder of the The Guild. And then we started to just break out of this thing even though it was very successful and we made goods amounts of money, it was really nice, but we decided we want something else. We want a group of individuals that understand open source.
And what we’ve done there was, first of all, we didn’t raise any money and we still don’t have it because we don’t want to be controlled by an entity or anything like that. And we just started building our open source. And every time we saw, and we didn’t have a go to grow or something like that, but every time we saw an individual that is doing open source and we like their work, we approach them and we asked them to join. So we grew very slowly, but with very interesting types of people. And that became very, very powerful. We’re slowly grow, when we slowly we build a better and better open source infrastructure. And we didn’t try to grow fast, which meant the open source tools that we created were part of the distinguish between our libraries and other libraries is that they’re very well maintained, they’re constantly looked at. And, for years, the more we did it, the more we saw how rare it is to actually see an open source library that’s being worked on continuously for four or five years, at least in our ecosystem. There’s not a lot like that.
Even some of the most popular libraries that are being built by Unicorn open source companies are not well maintained and many people don’t even have the tools to look at it and to understand that that’s the case. So we grew very slowly, but in a very interesting way. We just hire people that are doing open source before we approach them. We never convince someone to use open source. And that’s easy because the people in The Guild, they do what they think is right. We just have a live talk, we call it, every couple of weeks. It’s just an open talk and everyone decides on what we’re going to work on and that’s how it goes. It’s very easy and very fun to work in this way. So that’s The Guild, more or less.
Then can you tell us about this group of collaborators working at The Guild? It’s typical for me on the podcast to ask core dev partners about that team working behind the scenes. But in this case, The Guild’s a little bit of a different model. It’s an open source group of collaborators. So what can you share with listeners about that group of collaborators?
Uri Goldshtein (00:36:50):
Personally, I feel so lucky to work with everyone in The Guild. It’s grew and became something way beyond my expectations. I’m talking only about the people. Everything else is a byproduct of that. So like I said, first of all, my partner, Dotan, he’s the best programmer I ever met in my life. I can say it for certain. We’ve been working together for I don’t know how many years, 12 years maybe. I haven’t seen any problem that he can’t go into and fix in any programming language. Even if we would work on mainframes, he would be okay with it. He’s extraordinary. And I think both of us really valuable open source and understand open source. And from that, The Guild became this group of engineers. Everyone is an engineer at The Guild. Everyone is a developer at The Guild. And each person, we found through their work.
We didn’t know who they are. Sometimes there were avatars that we didn’t know anything about that person. We just saw the work. And we don’t do interviews at The Guild as well. We look at the work that they’ve been doing, we offer them to do it with us, and that’s it. That’s how it works. And so the group is, there’s people from all across the world. Any time zone you can think of, any ethnicity you can think of, really extremely diverse, extremely different groups of people, but everyone are makers and everyone understand also the power of the community and open source. And all of them were passionate enough about open source that they did it for free before working with The Guild. So when we came to them and said, hey, you want to do the thing you’re doing anyway for free after work or after school or whatever and get paid for it, I guess they were really happy.
And also, The Guild, everyone that joined The Guild is still in The Guild. Meaning, and I think when you look at high-tech companies and how people are, the turnover of people and everything, I think it says a lot because we’re just… some members of The Guild, like Camille, the oldest member of The Guild is working with us for five, I think, years, even more. Arda, from Turkey, works with us for four years maybe, something like that. So it’s been extraordinary journey. And another thing that we do also is that we, in The Guild, we care about the individuals and we also want to make sure that the group doesn’t oversee the individual. So that’s one of the things we’re doing that is untraditional. All of our libraries, all of the open source projects that we have are not under The Guild’s organization on GitHub. They’re under individual people, individual members of their organization.
So, like Graphical Inspector, it’s a very popular project. It’s under Camille’s name. GraphQL Tools, which is the famous library I mentioned before, is under Arda’s name. GraphQL code generator is under Dotan’s name. And what it means is, first of all, if something happens to The Guild as a group, everything will still continue. It’s the individual that gets, and that’s to make a sustainable open source and that the open source will stay there for long term. But also it means that, first of all, the individual gets more responsibility, it’s under their name. So people would come to them on a personal, you have a person that has the responsibility, but also has the benefits or get the popularity. People would know Dotan and wouldn’t necessarily know about The Guild. And that’s a good thing. Dotan is the main maintainer of graphical quotient, so people should know Dotan. And who cares about The Guild? Who cares about the group?
And also there’s one more thing, which is if someone, I don’t know, dislikes the way that we do open source or let’s say they dislike the way [inaudible 00:41:02] code generator is being developed, they could fork The Graphical code generator, and for them, gathering a community as the fork of graphical code generator would be easier because people tend to think that big companies are better for whatever reason. But now that you just fork and it’s one individual, and like myself and then there’s another individual that took my project and just started building it, there’s… the competition actually, it would be easier to compete against me because I’m just a person and not The Guild. So that’s a bit about the group. I don’t know, I’ve been very lucky to work with all of these people. I’m learning from them. Everyone there in The Guild are smarter than me. Every single person is smarter than me. And it’s great for me.
Uri, you’re using this terminology of libraries. Listeners that aren’t technical or might be new to The Guild aren’t familiar what you mean by our libraries. What do you mean by that?
Uri Goldshtein (00:42:03):
So when you write code, one of the most powerful thing in code is the fact that you can take a piece of code and just reuse it. It’s just a bunch of text, but that includes logic and all kinds of thinkings. And then you can just take it like a law. You can, if you have a law book, so you can take a law, it’s basically the same. But then, you can just reuse it. So if you wrote it once, now you can reuse it again and again and again. So you could reuse it in your own. If you’re writing a book, you can reuse your law again and again and again across the book, which will help you. But then, what if you open this law and everyone could use it, and now developers from all around the world can use this thing instead of writing it themselves.
Maybe this is the analogy we can give for our libraries. Our libraries are actually doing things that developers need to do when they create applications or servers or things like that. But instead of them creating those again and again and again, they could just use that someone already built, which is, in this case, us. And because it’s open source, they could also come and say, look, this is helpful for me, I’m using it in my app, but it has an issue here. Or I wish it would do also that thing. And then, we could go and do it. So that’s great because we don’t need to have all the vision. The community can actually help us create the vision of what those things can do or should do. But also, if they want, they could actually contribute. They could do that themselves and then contribute it to us, gives us the solution. And now everyone else that uses the same piece of code or the same law now benefited from the learnings of someone else in the community.
So it’s like this powerful cycle where the thing you write, the more people using it, the more they benefit, the more they use it, the more you get feedback on how to improve it. Then you improve it, then it’s better. So even more people would use it. And that’s, for me, the open source cycle for The Guild, we have this cycle. The idea of the cycle of The Guild is we write open source, we write this library, this piece of code. People start to use it. Then, they give us feedback, we improve it. Then the cycle grows. Now we added clients. People want to pay us to help them because we have expertise and this fits into the cycle. It’s not outside of the cycle.
We write the open source piece of code, it brings us bigger community. From the community, more people wants to actually pay us for our expertise. That also feeds back to the open source. That’s the cycle. Then we started building a SaaS products that are also open source but also can be hosted. And this, again, fits into that cycle. So everything we put in the cycle adds to that. And now the biggest addition and the biggest thing we’re doing now is working with The Graph. And that’s an amazing use case. And we feed The Graph, The Graph feeds us. It’s one big cycle.
I want to talk more about that relationship with The Graph. But before we do, I want to also explain another concept that I think is important for listeners to fully understand everything that’s happening here. And this is GraphQL. So for listeners that don’t know, what is GraphQL and how does it fit into what The Guild is doing?
Uri Goldshtein (00:45:39):
GraphQL is a communication protocol. The most common use case is between client and server, so between an app and the server that calls it. And there’s many different protocols out there. There’s REST APIs, gRPC, there’s all kinds of different protocols. GraphQL was actually created by Facebook and open sourced by Facebook, and now it’s under the Linux Foundation, which is, it’s an open source foundation. So it’s a neutral place and it’s a protocol. It means that if we need to communicate between two entities programmatically or through communication, through programming communication, we basically agree on a certain language. The power of GraphQL, in my opinion, over other protocols like that is that it’s in its name. Graph and QL, query language. So graph means that when we describe the things that, let’s say, any entity in the network can expose or can respond, we describe it in a graph.
So it means we can connect many different data points and many different information in a very natural way like how this connects to that and this connects to that. It’s a very powerful and easy to understand also concept. And then there’s the query language, which is one of the biggest advantages of GraphQL is that the consumer, the thing that asks for something, can say this is what I want. Very similar to SQL in databases. But in API, we usually didn’t have this ability. Now with GraphQL, it’s like sending an SQL query, but not to the database, but to all the databases. Like the query that you sent, I want this information and that information and the links between them, the information can come from anything, anything in the world. It can come from a database. It can come from a file. It can come from a function. That’s the powerful concept of GraphQL. You could very easily describe data and ask for data and any data. So really, any data in the world.
So, Uri, for listeners then that are a lot like me and they’re trying to understand a lot of different technical things here and you’ve done a great job explaining it. In summary, and correct me where I’m wrong, The Guild then is this collection of devs that like to work in an open source environment that’s very welcoming and has a very strong ethos about the way the world can be improved by sharing ideas and opening knowledge and communication. And then the foundational language they’re using from a programmer’s perspective is GraphQL, and they’re building libraries and scripts that are available to anybody in this way using GraphQL. Have I done a good job summarizing The Guild and what’s going on here?
Uri Goldshtein (00:48:37):
Yeah. I couldn’t have done it better. This is really, really amazing. I will just add that GraphQL is a very powerful tool and we build our solutions around that because there was a gap or need, but we use, also we see gaps and needs in many other areas and we also have things there. But I think GraphQL, because it’s so powerful and it’s relatively, I wouldn’t say new anymore, but it is relatively new to other protocols, there was and there is a lot of opportunity to improve and that’s why we’re there. But you summarized it perfectly.
Thank you for that. So then let’s migrate a little bit here in terms of the story and all these different moving parts, and put it in the context of The Graph. So as I said earlier, it was recently announced that The Guild would be a core dev partner team working at The Graph. How then would you explain what The Guild is bringing to The Graph ecosystem?
Uri Goldshtein (00:50:12):
Yeah, so The Graph today already exposes GraphQL, and build a very interesting infrastructure to expose GraphQL over blockchain data, which I think is fascinating. And they did a really good job in implementing it. And they chose GraphQL because, in my opinion, it’s the best way to expose data and to acquire data today. And we’re building some of the most popular libraries around GraphQL. And we’ve been in that ecosystem for a while and we’re probably the largest open source group in GraphQL today. So for us, looking at that, was fascinating. So we started looking at The Graph, and from our conversation with the team, we saw that there’s a lot of opportunities to improve The GraphQL API that is being exposed from The Graph, both for the consumer side, also the internals of how it’s being implemented. We had a lot of ideas to improve there as well, and they have had a lot of ideas, and then also very experienced people to work on it because the work that The Graph has been doing is really high level.
So also I think there’s not, I guess, for them, there wasn’t a lot of, it wasn’t like there was a lot of people that could just jump in and work on these things. And for us, it was both very fascinating and we were capable of jumping in and actually being productive from almost the first day. So there’s a lot of stuff that we are working on already. Some of them are already done and even shipped, and the many, many other things that we are going to improve both in the implementation in the API itself, how it is for consumers, and I would say in the whole ecosystem of The Graph, because, first of all, there’s a lot of knowledge that we could bring also for the ecosystem and the users of how to use GraphQL in the most effective way.
Learning materials, how to combine even web3 data with web2 data and all kinds of things that I think would be… we are also, every day, we are working with The Graph. It’s like we have so many ideas and so many more things we want to build. We can go to the details. I would love to. I think there’s a lot of things coming, but in a higher level, just I guess getting one of the, I guess, one of the biggest experts in GraphQL in general, which is The Guild, together with what I think is maybe, one, if not the most interesting future developer infrastructure ever, which is The Graph and what it’s doing for web3. This combination is just mind-blowing for me personally.
Uri, you mentioned a couple key initiatives or some ideas that The Guild brings to The Graph. Can we take a minute then and just focus on what are a couple top initiatives or ideas that The Guild wants to bring to The Graph?
Uri Goldshtein (00:53:09):
So, first of all, everything around the current GraphQL API. We already started working around doing better validations and making The GraphQL implementation more spec compliant and more correct from the things we’re doing before. So that’s the first thing. All the experience around that, but then, also adding new abilities. Things like mutations, which is the ability to also change things, change data and not only acquire it. And also, in the world of real time communication, push communication like graphical subscriptions and even live queries, and bring those abilities into The Graph, which I think will be fascinating. And in general, I would also add everything around the experience of using that GraphQL API, which is not only us implementing the API itself and making it easier, but also looking at the client side, on the consumer side, and maybe building a set of tools for clients that query The Graph, to make querying The Graph much easier also on the client side.
Also, other things that we’re doing is that we’re now, The Graph is built in Rust and we joined The Graph and started working in on the code base. And very quickly, stepped up and looked at also the current GraphQL Rust ecosystem and saw that there’s a lot of things we can improve there as well, which is very cool because a lot of the things that we’re going to build and are building with The Graph today can also come back and benefit web2 developers, which I think is fascinating because we’re not only trying to bring web2 developers into web3, also, the web3 ecosystem is now bringing back and contributing back to web2 developers. And I think, in general, we will do much more in many different areas to make this transition between web2 and web3 as easy as possible.
You wouldn’t even need to define yourself as a web2 or web3 developer. You would just be a developer. And for you, building a, creating a web3 app will be as easy as building a web2 app. And there’s another thing that we’ve done already, by the way, which is in another feature that is similar to everything I’ve talked about in this connection, which is we created a schema prototype, or it’s basically a place that if you want to create a new subgraph or create a new service, no matter what, in GraphQL, you can just start typing your schema in one place. It’s a real time collaboration tool and you could collaborate with many people and basically build the initial design of a GraphQL or a subgraph graph service. And this thing could also again be, it’s very valuable for subgraph developers from The Graph, but this thing could also be very valuable for people just building GraphQL services in whatever language, in whatever technology.
And the most important thing in my opinion is now that we joined The Graph, The Graph and the The Guild has way more firepower and execution power to actually build the things that the community wants. So in an open source matter, we don’t decide what to do, but we are just, in my opinion, at least the best open source developers are the ones who could just develop very well and very fast so they could listen to the community’s feedback. And I think that’s what’s happening. The biggest change that will be happening now, if you have anyone that’s listening has ideas or things or questions or anything that they would want The Graph to become, now is the time. We’re here, we’re developing, we’re doing these things, and we can now respond to all of your ideas.
So Uri, I love this idea about web2 developers, web3 developers being able to navigate seamlessly back and forth and almost disappearing this dividing line. How then does everything you shared today about The Graph, about The Guild, about the capabilities you add as a core developer, how does this all fit together in this context of web3?
Uri Goldshtein (00:57:25):
So for me and The Guild being focused on open source and increasing what open source means and increasing our capabilities and trying to solve bigger and bigger problems, when I had my first talk and conversation with Yaniv, I just realized, it took me like, to process the talk for a while. But the more I processed and thought about the talk, the more I realized that what The Graph is doing is basically a natural progression and natural evolution of what we’re doing today. Because I think that we are building open source developer tools at The Guild. Meaning, we are giving everyone better tools to create better applications, more capable applications that then will benefit the world. And because web3 is like, in my opinion, an evolution of open source, it’s the next phase of open source where we’re not open sourcing only, we’re open sourcing more than just the code.
We’re open sourcing the data, we are open sourcing the execution, we’re open sourcing all kinds of things, the trust. And also, The Graph being the developer foundation for building web3 apps, all of these things is it’s like The Graph is the next evolution of where The Guild would naturally go if The Graph wasn’t there. And The Graph is there. So joining these two forces is just, I know it feels so natural even ever since we started it. And every conversation we have with people from The Graph, it’s just everything is so natural. It’s been so hard to build this very unique group of The Guild and suddenly you meet a much bigger group and it’s such a powerful group like The Graph, and it still feels so natural. So for all these reasons, I just think this is our next evolution and this is how it feels like also when we actually work on stuff.
Thank you so much. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, getting a better understanding of The Guild, even shining a brighter light on GraphQL, and how all of these fits together within The Graph ecosystem. I want to go back to this paradigm you shared early in the interview about having a strong base and a big vision, and I want to use it in the context of web3. So if you look at what The Graph is doing, what The Guild is doing, what open source and how it’s evolving is doing as the base, what then is your vision for web3 in the world?
Uri Goldshtein (01:00:00):
Wow, what a question. So, first of all, I think the base, web3, what it does, I think it makes a much stronger base for everything. So the visions that you could create on this thing are much bigger. And the base would be also for individuals. And that’s what I believe as well. But the vision, it has to be visions of individuals and the power to individuals and not groups or companies or governments. And I think web3 and the tools around it, what The Graph is doing, first of all, brings a much better base for individuals to create their own visions. And the vision I think for me is giving the individuals the tools to fulfill their own potential in the most powerful way. So giving them the tools, the developer tools for example, that it will be as easy as possible to create an app or to look at an existing app and change that according to your individual needs and your individual ideas.
And also, making it easier for you to compete against others because the data is not owned by the others. It is owned by the individuals. And all the apps or all the creations are owned by individuals and not by large companies. And I think that’s the powerful idea that I see happening already. Just even how indexes work with The Graph, it’s insane. It’s amazing. So I think that vision is happening and we’re there, and now we just keep improving on it until when someone builds an app, it’ll be actually much easier to build it on web3 technologies than on web2. It’ll be obvious to build it on web3 because that’s a place where it’s easier for you to build the app and it’s also, it’s easier for you to spread it to the world and compete against the giants. So that’s my personal vision of where it’s going to go.
Uri, thank you so much for your time. This has been a lot of fun to better understand The Guild, the partnership at The Graph, and even shine a brighter light on GraphQL. I want to end on one question. I want to go back to this paradigm of having a strong base and then a vision from that. I think a lot of listeners are going to hear this idea and they’re going to think through this in their own lives. So as somebody who’s used this paradigm, what’s your advice to listeners that want to better understand how can I use this idea of a solid base and building a vision in my own life?
Uri Goldshtein (01:02:46):
So it’s all personal for me, but I think a base is very different for different people, but it’s worth digging deep into what a base means for you and why. Because I think once you put the details into it, for me, it was the key to feel safe and to feel free to do whatever I want. And once you are free to do whatever you want, you can do all kinds of fun things. But very quickly, for me, I thought it was, okay. The biggest, the most fun thing to do is to help others or to build something that is bigger than me. And also, there, I would break it down into the details. What does it mean for you? What is your vision? And why is it good? Why is it better? Why did you choose this over any other thing? And just going, I’m constantly going into the process. It’s an iterative process.
And I would also add that once you’ve nailed the base and you nailed the vision, starting, it means that going somewhere you need to actually start going in towards your vision. But I think that when you have this tool, first of all, it’s easier. And then all you need to do is just to do the small start towards this and understand that you don’t actually need to do much because, and you don’t need to be stressful of not doing enough because your direction is very true for yourself. Many people are working very hard, but in the direction that is completely not efficient to anything. And it’s because they’re doing it out of fears and not a clear vision. So once you have this, even if you do a little bit in that direction, that’s a good thing. I’m saying all this stuff for myself. I don’t have the knowledge of, or I don’t know. This is what worked for me.
What’s ironic is we come to the end of this great interview, Uri, is I’m now realizing that The Guild, in a lot of ways, is an enabler for your personal vision, it’s a tool by which you’re accomplishing what you want to do in your life.
Uri Goldshtein (01:05:03):
Exactly. Exactly. And my goal was also to make The Guild the tool that helps everyone in The Guild, all the members of The Guild, to pursue their own dreams as well, and to pursue that path as well. And also for the community around us, and try to be a facilitator and try to be in a place where we can help people with their own vision.
Uri, you’ve been so generous with your time. I really appreciate everything you’ve shared today. If listeners want to learn more about you or the work that you’re doing at The Guild, what’s the best way to do it?
Uri Goldshtein (01:05:39):
So I think the best place is our website, the-guild.dev, the-guild.dev, or probably you can just Google The Guild Dev and you will get there. I’ll also leave the link at the show notes. You can also find me on Twitter. It’s Uri Goldshtein, but the name is Urigo. Maybe if you just use U-R-I-G-O on the search on Twitter, it’s probably you’ll find it. And on GitHub. On GitHub, it’s github.com/urigo. U-R-I-G-O. And there, all my details are public and all of The Guild details are public. And I really encourage people to reach out to us and to me directly. Many people are scared sometimes to ask questions or to just reach out, but my email is public on the GitHub page and everywhere. And it’s because I really like talking directly to people. So if anyone here just wants to talk to me, feel completely free. I’m really looking forward to it.
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