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The Remote Show







Show Notes:

Arkadiy's Links:

LinkedIn

Product Hunt

Company Website


Transcript:

Tyler Sellhorn (00:02):
Hello everyone. My name is Tyler Sellhorn, and welcome to another episode of The Remote Show, where we discuss everything to do with remote work with the people who know it best. Thanks so much for listening. The Remote Show is brought to you by We Work Remotely, the largest community of remote workers in the world. With over 220,000 unique users per month, We Work Remotely is the most effective way to hire.

Tyler Sellhorn (00:22):
Today we are blessed to be learning out loud with Arkadiy Baltser. Arkadiy has been building in the collaboration and distributed teams' tool space for the last six years, starting with my WebRoom, then Newshunch, and now Plutoview. Plutoview is an extension of Arcadia's philosophies around application accessibility in the remote team environment. Plutoview is delivering co-browsing and real-time collaboration APIs for platforms, workspaces, and dispersed teams. It is their mission to make every group collaboration participant count. Plutoview brings multiple shareable screens to disperse teams, making their real-time collaboration feel like it's happening at the same table. Arkadiy, welcome to The Remote Show. Tell us, what problems are you trying to solve with Plutoview?

Arkadiy Baltser (01:05):
First of all, hi Tyler. Greetings everyone listening to The Remote Show, really excited to be here. We fundamentally set out to solve one of the most interesting problems in the remote environment today, which is the fact that applications that we use for work on the daily basis are built to be used by a single person. And that's not the world we live in today. Effective collaboration is when you're sitting at the same table with your team, with multiple devices in front of you, you can look over the shoulder of your partner, see what's going on, collaborate, vice versa. That's how we solve tasks quickly and effectively. Without having this ability to access multiple tools at the same time and access them collaboratively, we lose a whole big part of what we call effective collaboration. Maybe the core of it actually.

Arkadiy Baltser (01:53):
We virtualize applications as Plutoview, we move them to the cloud, and we allow an unlimited number of people to access sessions of those applications on the demand. So basically you end up working, let's say with five simultaneous sessions of Firefox, with five different teammates, switching between screens, collaborating, and basically getting stuff done as effectively as possible.

Tyler Sellhorn (02:19):
Outstanding. Thank you for that description. One of the things that I'm interested to hear you talk about is when you describe previous versions of applications being built for the single person experience. Tell us more what you mean by that.

Arkadiy Baltser (02:36):
Take a look at Figma. Figma is a unicorn. The reason they're unicorn, the reason they're so massive is because they revolutionize their industry with synchronous real-time collaboration. That's an amazing example. Look at Google Docs. Look at what the whole Google Suite is doing in terms of collaboration. Everybody uses Google Docs, starting from early elementary school up to your college and beyond. That's what I mean by making applications collaborative.

Arkadiy Baltser (03:05):
Now let's look at video editing software, photo editing software, all the other gazillion billion different applications that you use for work. They're built to be used by a single person. They're not natively collaborative. And this means that they're built to be used by one person sitting in a room with multiple other people because that's how you get things done. That's how you work in teams. When you don't have that access to the same room environment, actually being at the same table, you lose that effect of collaboration. That's what I mean by the age of downloadable software and single-user software as age that has passed.

Tyler Sellhorn (03:45):
Interesting. You just mentioned the idea of working inside of the same room. Obviously we're all here at The Remote Show, of course, and we are starting to slowly but surely start working inside of the same screens at times. We're thinking of that synchronous moment where we're collaborating together at the same time somewhere. What do you mean when you say working inside of the same room? Obviously, Plutoview is opinionated about this thing. And when you're talking about, when we're working inside of the same room, what are the things are there that are making that a better collaboration experience? It sounds like there's some things that are happening there that you're trying to build for. What's inside of that room that we're sharing?

Arkadiy Baltser (04:33):
Right. Let's first set one thing as straight as possible. We're talking about tasks that absolutely need collaborative attention. That's sprints that IT teams host. When you need to be present in the same environment with multiple devices, answering your question what's in that room? There's people in that room with multiple devices, each person has their own task. Let's say we're preparing to a marketing campaign. One person is looking up the leads. The other person is actually looking at the images to use. The other person is creating the content. The other person is setting up whichever platform they're hosting the campaign. Each person is doing their task. You want to get this task done as quickly as possible. You get together and you do it with the ability to look over the shoulder of your partner, see what's going on on the screen, help with that content creation or let the other person see what images you're looking at. Without wasting time, sending screenshots, sending messages, get it done at the same time effectively. That's what I mean by what's happening in that room. Effective collaboration that saves time.

Tyler Sellhorn (05:43):
Interesting. You mentioned some cloud products that are very popular these days because they are being developed in that multiplayer environment. You mentioned that moving apps into the cloud. So those cloud native apps that are really centering even real-time collaboration. What is the fundamental difference between that single-person downloadable software to that cloud-based multi-player system? Because you're obviously drawing a contrast here. What is in your mind when you think about single-player versus multiplayer software?

Arkadiy Baltser (06:22):
I mean the major thing is that we're allowing multiple inputs, which means that we're increasing the level of effectivity. We're allowing multiple inputs when you have one person sitting trying to edit a photo, for example. What I mean by that becoming multi-screen or multi-input available is you have another person, another mouse in there doing the tasks as well.

Arkadiy Baltser (06:46):
Take a look at pair programming, for example. A massive, massive thing. Some people call it peer programming, pair programming. It's basically when you have multiple engineers writing the same code or working on the kind of code structuring, maybe editing few different branches and so on, but they're working on the same thing. And the way they usually do it is by sitting at the same workstation in front of multiple monitors, in front of multiple computers, getting this done.

Arkadiy Baltser (07:12):
The way they do it in the remote environment is via screen sharing or some native tools. I believe visual studio code, which is something that we're actually currently virtualizing for Plutoview has that as well. Is when you allow multiple people in. That's a massive use case, peer programming. And it goes beyond take, peer learning as an example, when you have groups of students sitting together solving group-based tasks. The level of synchronous accessibility that they have to have, has to be through the roof. If they want to be successful, if they want to get that A, you know what I mean? This is fundamentally what we're talking about. We're allowing that peer access to the applications that usually don't have that. And obviously we're starting with search engines.

Arkadiy Baltser (07:58):
Plutoview have as Firefox virtualized right now, we're going to be virtualizing Chrome, Visual Studio code for developers. Those applications that by themselves are single-user based, we turn them into collaborative environments. And an interesting thing is that we really started off as a workspace solution, which meant that we really were fighting for every remote team, trying to find a space in the remote environment and the tools that they want to use. And then we kind of stopped for a second.

Arkadiy Baltser (08:27):
I think, I believe a few weeks back you had Flo Crivello from Teamflow on your podcast.

Tyler Sellhorn (08:33):
Yes.

Arkadiy Baltser (08:34):
He was actually the first person to reach out to me and say, "Look, what you're doing is so cool and so interesting that maybe you should expand your vision and think about creating an API integration because there's platforms like Teamflow, remote offices, other collaborative environments and workspaces that need this kind of solution." And that's when we said, "Look, let's pivot from the workspace and actually build a core browsing experience that can be integrated into any platform." Really solving the problem of synchronous collaboration more wholesomely, more holistically.

Tyler Sellhorn (09:06):
That's so cool to hear you collaborating with other leading lights in the remote space. Shout out to Flo-

Arkadiy Baltser (09:14):
Big shout out.

Tyler Sellhorn (09:14):
... a previous guest. You specifically mentioned two different use cases that you guys are building for at the moment. You mentioned pair programming. I would say that development teams have been the astronauts of remote work kind of paving the way for so many others to be involved in this type of work as well. When you think about pair programming inside of a remote space, what are the types of things that we can be learning from those people and the ways that they're working together, that can be generalized? What can we zoom out past okay, this is how pair programmers work together, to like, this is how people should collaborate? Period.

Arkadiy Baltser (09:55):
This is a fantastic question. This is actually a very deep question that gets to the root of things. We always see in every region, in every market, in every space, a group of innovators, a group of people that get to this issue and start working on this issue early on. And obviously people faced with high demands for synchronous collaboration were people already working together closely. And coders is massive, because your work is on the screen, your work is building things. And actually design, digital design is pretty much the same thing. Peer programming really applies to coders, but really goes beyond. It goes beyond to many different cases. When work with their screens, when people work with software and they need to do this together, they come up with ways that make it seamless, make it easy for them.

Arkadiy Baltser (10:46):
For example, an amazing kind of example of how we really got thinking about Plutoview. And this has nothing to do with pair programming, although that was really the nail that broke the camel's back in that sense. Once we really experienced that whole thing, we knew that this was going to be important. But I was sitting, that was back in my BU days, Boston University, I was preparing with, I believe, five other students for an economics presentation. I think it was stormy weather or something of that sense, and we couldn't really gather in the same room to build this presentation. What we did is each of us had two devices on with two separate Skype accounts, just so we could have two separate Skype sessions running, so we could have the actual presentation with some notes running on one screen, and some research and other notes running on the other screen. That made that day work for us a lot easier, but the whole process was horrific. Launching two separate accounts, just to get that multiple screen experience. That was the day that we realized, look, I mean, the cases are manyfold. It's really not about the use cases. It's about the way we treat the applications. It's about what we're used to in terms of remote work.

Arkadiy Baltser (11:55):
Again, I want to highlight this in terms of synchronous remote work, because right into 2010s, we've been really conflicted with whether asynchronous remote collaboration is going to prosper and take over or the synchronous. And now with COVID and everything else, we realized it really has to be a mixture because your experience of real work, same office environment work, is also a mixture of both synchronous and asynchronous solutions that you use. And we as a remote creator have to mimic that.

Tyler Sellhorn (12:25):
Interesting. I just got to say it has been my story as a remote worker and it has been the narrative through line of the conversations that we're having here on The Remote Show. Is that yin and yang, that two sides of one coin aspect of synchronous and asynchronous work in the distributed environment. I think that was really, really cool to hear you pull out some of those ideas from what it is that pair programming is about. And shout out to the BU Terriers, Go Terriers.

Tyler Sellhorn (13:03):
You mentioned peer learning as being an inspiration for what it is that you all are building at Plutoview. Can you draw back to that inspiration moment and go deep there? When we're thinking about peer learning or group work, being a first example of how people can be collaborating in a remote environment in this co-browsing model of pulling things that maybe used to be single player into the cloud, what does that look like to you when you're thinking about peer learning?

Arkadiy Baltser (13:37):
I mean, if I understand the question correctly, I'll try to answer it correctly, which is that it's really no different from peer programming at its core. It's still giving people the ability to work with multiple devices at a time, to work with multiple shareable devices at a time. And that's fundamental.

Arkadiy Baltser (13:57):
Peer learning is manyfold. We have examples of group work participation happening, which is multiple groups of students, either separate or actually together, trying to complete a task. And you have in-class group work, which is the same thing, but only there's also a professor watching over. And to give that educator, whomever is running the group class, to give them the ability to access the content that is created by each group is crucial. Because how it works in the same room is you have multiple tables with multiple groups of students, and the professor could go between the table seeing what's happening. If students have questions, they could quickly come over, look at the screen, say, "Look, this is what's happening. This is what you got wrong." And so on and so on. When you're remotely, you don't have that as an option. You have screen sharing, which is a technology that is 30 years old and it was developed to make demonstration possible, which means just one screen, just one piece of content being demonstrated, which is clearly not enough when we're talking about work. Demonstration is not remote work. Demonstration is not effective collaboration.

Tyler Sellhorn (15:10):
That's really interesting to hear you describe it that way. In my previous career, I taught adolescence how to do mathematics. And one of the core parts of the work was to have the educator, the teacher demonstrate. We had a document camera showing the students how to do the work, but one of the core workflows for us was... This is the teacher speaking, "I do, then we do, then you do." It sounds like what you are solving for isn't the demonstration space, because that might still be necessary in some education.

Arkadiy Baltser (15:50):
Exactly. It's not the I do, it's the we do part of it.

Tyler Sellhorn (15:54):
Yeah. That's really interesting. I've always just described myself as I used to be a technology-oriented teacher. Now I'm a teaching-oriented technologist and I appreciate you teaching us how to think about this collaboration and that we really don't have the tools yet that are built natively for the we do part of things.

Arkadiy Baltser (16:15):
Absolutely. Right. Right. I love the fact that you brought up teaching math to younger children, because we have an amazing example. This was one of our earliest pilots at Plutoview. This was just kind of the COVID pandemic getting started and we were at the time piloting heavily with tutoring academies, digital schools, really anybody in the e-learning space that was interested in trying us out. We were piloting with this math-focused tutoring platform that had a lot of classes actually for adolescent students for younger students and what they said was incredibly interesting.

Arkadiy Baltser (16:54):
One of the biggest problems that they faced as math teachers teaching younger students is trying to get their focus early on, trying to get them focused. Because I mean, they're young, it's easy to get distracted and so on and so on. What they started doing is... Obviously Plutoview allows you to co-browse. So what they started doing is pulling up this really nice-looking mathematical games with different shapes, adding up to different numbers. And what they do is they would spend the first 10 minutes of the class together with the students playing those games. And obviously Plutoview allows that because it makes all these things collaborative and interactive. So they were playing those games with the students, getting them focused, interested, and only then going with the math class once they're already in the zone. I love the fact that you brought up that because we have an amazing example that I just shared with you.

Tyler Sellhorn (17:42):
Yeah. We mentioned the pair programmers and the developers being astronauts for what it is that we're doing now. But I think it's really interesting to hear you pulling that into the educational context and really trying to imagine a new way for students to be collaborated and being engaged with ideas before the mathematical underpinnings, kind of explained and demonstrated and then brought back. So maybe we need to lead with the we do, instead of I do, we do, you do method. But it's really interesting to be reevaluating things in this new paradigm of working in our own physically distant locations, but maybe mentally, inside of the same spaces.

Tyler Sellhorn (18:30):
Okay, Arkadiy, obviously our audience is a lot of remote job seekers and remote hiring managers. What do you think about the co-browsing experience inside of a recruiting process?

Arkadiy Baltser (18:42):
I think that it could be a very much a core of the evaluation process that we usually host. I mean, recruiting engineers, for example, obviously there are tools that allow you to give them tasks, coding tasks and evaluate them on the go. But what co-browsing allows you to do, and co-browsing with a search engine, is use everything that the web has for that recruiting process, which is going over or their CV if it's in a web-based format, going over their examples and their previous... If it's a writer, if it's a journalist, going over the articles, doing it at the same time together. It could be a very much an integral part of the recruiting process.

Arkadiy Baltser (19:29):
I mean, use cases are manyfold. This is why the API approach is so crucial because we don't want to limit the use cases. We're really a technological company here and we're trying to make the use cases as manyfold as possible.

Tyler Sellhorn (19:43):
Interesting. If you were to imagine you're doing recruiting of engineers I'm sure, you're mentioning the projects phase of a recruiting or a hiring process. How would that look different implementing a co-browsing experience or really centering a pair programming experience that you've described already? How would that work?

Arkadiy Baltser (20:06):
Absolutely. Imagine entering the same room with the recruiter and the person being recruited and having a laptop on the desk. The recruiter passes the laptop to the recruitee and asks them to pull up an example of their work or actually pull up CodePen and write a quick webpage or answer a quick task, coding task, for example. It happens on that computer and you just in the same room, you're passing that computer over. The possibilities that you could have in terms of really engaging the recruitee and asking and seeing what they've done before, what they're capable of, are manyfold because you have access to that computer and you have access to the person being recruited. And this is exactly the same thing with peer programming, co-browsing, co-creating. You have that computer running on the cloud that you are passing on to the person being recruited and now they can do anything. Examples, code, give you the information that is valuable for you to make the decision at that moment.

Tyler Sellhorn (21:13):
Really cool. I want to just say thank you so much for bringing your knowledge and experience here to The Remote Show today. Blessings.

Tyler Sellhorn (21:22):
Thanks so much again for listening to the show and be sure to check out weworkremotely.com for the latest remote jobs. And if you're looking to hire a remote worker, We Work Remotely is the fastest and easiest way to do so. As always, if you have someone we should talk to, any advice you have, or if you'd like to advertise on the podcast, please reach out to us at podcast@weworkremotely.com. That's podcast@weworkremotely.com. Thanks so much for the listening and we'll talk to you next time.




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