Zack Hobson

The last three years Wednesday June 21, 2023

I was so excited to finally get to work at Workfrom! This was a company that Darren Buckner, Jewel Mlnarik and myself had co-founded a decade or so ago, but we learned eventually that there wasn't much need for a full-time technologist, so I went to work at New Relic.

While I'd spent a little time advising and consulting over those years, it wasn't until about three years ago that Workfrom realized that it was time to build a new product. This coincided with the end of my time at New Relic, so I finally got my chance: I went to be the head of product engineering at Workfrom.

By the time I arrived, Jewel had moved on and my counterpart in product was Brooke Hurford. With Darren and Jess Porec directing strategy and talking to existing community members, we started looking for new ways to enable collaboration for remote workers.

At first, I spent most of my time catching up on our existing deployed resources and reviewing code in the Places app that Darren and Jewel had built. I also kept a technical blog that I published nearly every day. It mostly contained research and info dumps about what I was working on, and why. I liked to joke during this time that I was basically a full-time blogger for two people.

Eventually we started prototyping some of our new ideas for connecting our community. We ran our own Jitsi Meet instance and experimented with embedding it in web pages. This was pretty fun, I specifically remember publishing my notes one day with a meeting embedded in it, so when Darren and Brooke went to read them I'd be there, just hanging out, in my notes! While this was a fun trick, it soon became clear that Jitsi Meet wasn't the best platform to build on. It wasn't designed to be customized in the ways we wanted, at least not without a deep knowledge of Jitsi's internals.

We were not interested in cobbling together or maintaining a real-time video and audio service by hand, so we looked around for other solutions. We soon found Daily, which offered a nearly perfect solution: Real time comms, embeddable in a web page, via a straightforward Javascript library dependency.

With Daily it was relatively easy to get going, and we had a working prototype pretty quickly. I cobbled together a stack based on Next.js, Blitz RPC, and React/Typescript for the application. DigitalOcean had just launched an "app platform" that we could hook up to GitLab for automatic deployment with Docker.

With the bones of the product taking shape, we started building out our dream hangout in earnest. Brooke and I cranked out one feature after another over two years as it matured into an actual SaaS product that we could offer to customers. During this time we had near-weekly production demos (we did our best never to demo unreleased features) and also the time of our lives. I love this work! Sometimes you just want clear requirements and a runway, and we had it. Customers loved it too! One user described it as "Zoom meets MySpace," which is a soundbite that I still use to this day.

This product has many happy customers now, you can get an idea of how it works by visiting So that's the last three years, more or less. What a great time it's been. I should republish some of those technical blog posts on here, probably.