Dec. 2, 2021

RedwoodJS, Developer Experience, and Developing for Scale with Tom Preston-Werner

Every developer straddles the fine line between creating a unique space and reinventing the wheel. Tom Preston-Werner has lived between those two lines for much of his career, most recently while developing an app framework for startups, RedwoodJS. 

Tom has always pushed himself to think outside the box rather than follow competitors. This aversion to groupthink kickstarted the creation of Redwood. It also helped Tom with the second-hardest part of app development: choosing a name. Tired of the physics names flooding the React world, Tom turned to nature for his framework. Not just a staple of the Bay Area, Redwoods start as tiny acorns and grow into enormous trees – a fitting analogy for an app designed to grow alongside expanding ventures. 

In this episode, Robbie, Chuck, and Tom discuss the other ways Tom’s outsider thought-process contributes to his creativity, the importance of helping users through the upgrade process, and his tried and true philosophy as a software developer.

Key Takeaways

  • [16:46] - The origins of RedwoodJS. 
  • [22:02] - Tom’s approach to the upgrade process. 
  • [24:26] - The dangers of reinventing the wheel.
  • [29:25] - What developers should stop focusing on.
  • [30:55] - The relationship between apps and scale. 
  • [36:14] - Tom’s philosophy as a developer. 
  • [41:18] - How RedwoodJS got its name. 
  • [51:35] - Tom’s creative outlet outside of software development. 


[19:24] - “Stay a bit naive of how everyone else does it just so that your solutions really are as novel as they can be. I think the risk of being boring and repetitive is way higher if you’re spending a lot of time with the competitive things.” ~ Tom Preston-Werner

[22:01] - “That’s one thing that we’re not gonna do. We’re not gonna stop innovating, we’re not gonna stop trying new things, bringing in better things that we’ve found. We can’t. We may as well give up now if that’s the case.” ~ Tom Preston-Werner

[38:10] - “Most people who are building stuff, their primary concern is not eeking every last ounce of render speed out of their app, it’s getting something built quickly that the users are going to take advantage of. And so that’s been the bulk of our focus so far. That’s really where the bar is.” ~ Tom Preston-Werner


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