Friday 13 March 2015

Podcast session with Mark Needham

Here's a lovely chat that I had with my friend and colleague Mark Needham. Read his lovely blog if you want to know more - but be careful, Mark writes a LOT!!! :)

Here's the transcript of this chat:
RVB: Hello everyone. My name is Rik and I'm here today to record another session of our Neo4j podcast, always fun. I'm here today with Mark Needham, long time community member and contributor to the Neo4j ecosystem. So Mark, welcome.
MN: Thank you. 
RVB: First of all I'd like for you to introduce yourself. What do you do, and how are you related to Neo4j? 
MN: Cool. Yes, I'm Mark. I work on the dev-team for Neo at the moment. I've been working here for about two years. First nine or ten months, I was doing mostly support stuff with our commercial customers, then I did about six or seven months doing presales, with the sales guys here in the UK. And now, the last two months, I'm working in the dev-team -- actually I'm on the kernel team at the moment. 
RVB: That's awesome. You've also been a massive driving force of the Neo4j community, right? 
MN: Yes. Rik and I have been running the events in London. So mostly Rik to start with and then I've been doing it for about a year. We've taken off-- I think from when you and I started we were at 300, 400 members in the London community and now, we're closing in on 2,000 in a couple of years. It's pretty cool seeing people get enthusiastic and learning about the graph. 
RVB: That is fantastic to see that. I really only have two questions for you, Mark. The first question is what do you love about Neo? What do you love about graph databases? And why do you think it's the best thing since sliced bread? 
MN: My first experience of Neo was in around 2011. I modeled my first side-project modeling github commits. So I had all the commits and the people who are committing on there. And on the project that I was working on, we used to track story numbers. I was able to get the stories in there as well - the different bits of work people have been working on, the different areas of functionality. And you could kind of work out - what are the people on this project actually doing? It was the first database or data store that I'd used where it felt quite natural, the way that you were storing it. And it was actually fun. It didn't feel like a real pain to use. 
MN:L The next one I did was work building an internal social network of projects that people had worked on, and could tell the company I was working for, and could sort of track-- how do these people know each other? Which actually becomes quite useful when you're in conversations with people. You're like, "Oh yeah, you know that person from Project X, or Project Y," and that smooths the whole social interaction. So that's how I got in to it. 
RVB: You can't forget the football graph. 
MN: Then there was the football graph. So there was a bit of scraping involved there. We were sort of having a look at premier league football matches and seeing which players performed best, and which had played for more teams. And then that moved on to a World Cup graph last year, which people seemed to quite enjoy playing around with. 
RVB: So what is the single most thing that you like about it? Is it simplicity, or ease of use, or the modeling, or what do you think is so fantastic about it? 
MN: Probably the modeling. It just feels like you're not fighting against the storage engine. This is how I think about the problem and the way I store it is exactly the same. It doesn't feel like there's any translation to do. I guess I heard other people say similar things. 
RVB: It's the impedance mismatch thing, right? 
MN: It's going away, doesn't it? 
RVB: It is going away, absolutely. So, second question, I mean, the last one at the same time, where do you think it's going? Where do you see the graph database space going? Where do you want it to be in a couple of years from now? Where would we be in the graph database space in three, four, five years from now? 
MN: It's going to be quite interesting. So when I started playing around with it, not really anyone-- there weren't that many people who have heard of it. I'd only heard of it because few of my former colleagues were working on it. And as we've sort of gone through the last two or three years, you start to see -- you mentioned the name, "Oh yeah. I know that. I'm using it.” It's mostly people at the moment playing around with it. And it would be cool to get to the point where most of the people you met are like, "Oh yeah. We got something in production with that thing." And I think we're still working on the phase of getting people to see, "Oh yeah. I actually got a problem. Is it graph?" That's the people who've been trained for years like “I only have a relational-- everything's a relational problem”, and then the documents came in, and some of the other NOSQL stores. And I think now, as we're getting to more people, they say, "Oh yeah." But they still have that conversation like, "Oh, I've got no graph problem." Okay. What do you think a graph problem is? And you talk about it a little bit, you're like, "Oh yeah. Actually, maybe I do have something." I think as more and more people get to there, hopefully, we can get more people getting benefit from storing their data in the graph. 
RVB: That would be awesome. Okay. Thanks a lot, Mark. It was great having you here, and I look forward to having more conversations like this. 
MN: Cool. Thanks, Rik.

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