In episode 91 of JAMstack Radio, Brian speaks with Maricris Bonzo of Magic. Maricris unpacks her journey into developer advocacy, the work she’s done with Blockchain Ladies Club, and insights gleaned from future-proof authentication with Magic.
About the Guests
Brian Douglas: Welcome to another installment of JAMstack Radio.
On the line we've got Maricris to talk about some interesting stuff, but Maricris, do you want to say hello and tell us what you do and why you're here.
Maricris Bonzo: Yeah, I'd love to. Hi everybody.
As Brian said, my name is Maricris.
I like to introduce myself by what I do in the day and at night.
So during the day I work as a developer advocate at Magic.
That means I wear a lot of hats.
I connect with developers and a variety of platforms like Twitter and Discord, and other developer communities.
I create content based on their pinpoints, and based on their feedback, I like to close feedback loop and share it with our team so that we can improve our technology.
And by night I'm building a community in public called Blockchain Ladies Club. And it's for anyone who identifies as a woman and is passionate about breaking into the blockchain industry. And our goal is to pretty much enable women everywhere to become trailblazers in the field through education, connection, and some hands-on activities.
So that's a little bit about who I am.
Brian: Okay, excellent yeah. Thanks for giving us the full spectrum of what you work on.
I can think the net then most natural next question it's, what does Magic do?
And, no pun intended, but also what is Magic?
So Magic is a developer SDK that helps you build a passwordless login into your app.
And we support email magic links, social logins, and web often. So that's what we do.
And we pretty much cater for Indie Hackers, or startups who don't want to roll out their own authentication solution from scratch.
Or, also for big teams who want to transition from their existing auto solution to a more modern one that can help scale with them.
So that is what Magic does.
Brian: Okay, that's an excellent problem to be trying to solve.
I guess the Magic link thing I only originally saw when Slack implemented into their platform.
I think at this point, everybody gets what Slack is, but yeah, I have a ton of Slack that I'm a part of.
And there are Slacks that I've used different emails for and I just don't know what is when and who/where, and how?
And I love that feature of just whenever I get a new laptop, just give me the Magic link, I'm going to open up my email and then I have access to the Slacks.
So it sounds like that's the approach for Magic, I guess one of the feature sets.
Maricris: Yeah, exactly.
And one of the best thing about that is, hey, I don't need to remember my password.
Maricris: Which is funny, because earlier I was just logging into my Facebook and that's the one app I barely use nowadays.
And I was, oh, Facebook please don't ask me for my password. Because I do not know it.
Brian: I'm actually the same way.
I have a Facebook, I've had it since the beginning basically.
And I don't know what it is because I had to get a very challenging password. So that way I stopped getting hacked.
Actually my Facebook's never been hacked, but other people, their Facebook's gets hacked and I'm having the same issue use of Instagram as well.
I don't know the password. So I use one pass, or last pass actually is what I use and I prefer it that way.
I don't want another password and I would love to have a link that goes to my email and that way my email is super locked down as well for other reasons.
But that's pretty cool. I'm curious though, you have an interesting introduction to tech.
Can you talk about how you go into development and how did you fall into working at Magic?
Maricris: Yeah, I'd love to. So I started my engineering career back in 2016, funny story.
So just to make it really short when I was in college, I was a proposed film major and I thought...
My naive self back then I was young and naive and I didn't think that I would make it in the film industry because I didn't have that many connections.
And so I made switch to the tech industry.
But coming from an artsy background, I was never good at the engineering classes because that wasn't provided in my high school, or I never took it up.
Maricris: Or any of the scientific courses. So I struggled a lot in college in my CS courses.
I switched to this major called technology and information management system.
And I actually did really well in those classes.
But with my computer science courses, I failed a lot of them multiple times.
And it's not just because I struggled with them, but because of other personal reasons as well.
And those struggles stacked on top of each other made it super hard to focus on school.
And I actually got kicked out of college because my GPA was so low.
It was rock bottom, got kicked out and as soon as that happened and I said to myself, or I promised myself, hey, what the heck Maricris?
We can do it, we can pass CS, actually we can become a software engineer. I was talking to myself, I can become a software engineer.
And so I made it a goal to achieve that.
I was going to apply for App Academy actually, but then out of pure luck, what I like to call, what is it?
Maricris: Yes, exactly. Serendipity.
I met a couple friends who was learning how to program and they invited me over, and we just learned how to program together, built like this entire nonprofit that teaches developers how to code.
So yeah, that's how I started.
And it was a much better learning experience for me at that point in my life.
Maricris: I hope that answers your question.
Brian: Yeah, that answers my question pretty well too, as well.
And everybody's got a different story and how they navigated through tech.
And I think sometimes people can provide underwhelming response where it's like, oh, I just got a CS degree.
There's more to the story, you got a CS degree, you got CS degree from where? You studied how?
And CS degrees don't necessarily give you the skill set to just go and build projects.
So thank you for going down that memory lane with us.
And I want to circle back to Magic and find out... Because you had mentioned your day and your night life and I'm curious of how Magic coincides with things like blockchain in web three.
Maricris: Yeah. I realized I didn't answer your other question.
It's going to be a good segue to this question that you asked. But I got into Magic just recently, over half a year ago.
And because Magic caters to the blockchain and Web 3.0 space as well.
That's how I fell down the rabbit hole of crypto and blockchain and all that good stuff.
So it's been a really wild ride.
Magic is in that blockchain and Web 3.0 space because one thing new users might not know about Magic is that the company was rebranded from being a blockchain company called Fortmatic, okay.
And Fortmatic pretty much made it easier for dApp developers to create apps that users can easily sign into. So they made it easier to sign into decentralized apps.
Maricris: And it's pretty much an alternative to MetaMask, which is a wallet that is used to interact with the Ethereum blockchain.
But Formatic took the developer experience a step further than MetaMask and simplified it by removing the need for a browser extension.
Maricris: Yeah. And other features that added more function to the dApp development.
And feel free to jump in if I'm talking too fast.
Brian: Yeah. So the light bulbs are going off because...
So the previous episode I had a pick where I did a blockchain series.
It was focused on web three and how you can build on top of web three with the graph.
So the one thing I haven't done yet is that connection to MetaMask because I wanted to build the steps and for listeners, this is on my YouTube account.
It's youtube.com/bdougie. And there's a web three series.
And I did do the MetaMask thing because I wanted to set the groundwork.
What are we actually doing and how do you basically implement with something on the blockchain? And that's as far as I've gotten.
So it's a very much a Jamstack app. It talks to an existing API that's already on the blockchain, and the next step is connecting MetaMask.
And now am I thinking, oh, try this too off with Magic instead.
Maricris: Yeah. Yes, definitely. Or try to do it with Magic and then try MetaMask. And then tell us how that goes.
Brian: Well I've done the MetaMask thing because thanks to Nader Dabit who now works for Edge & Node, for a blockchain company.
And he's done some courses where he built a full stack blockchain application, showed you how to do everything.
I've done all that. So I've got like that under my belt, but also I knew how confusing that was and I get it now, but I want to be able to...
His course is like 90 minutes long. I want to do this in 10 minutes.
So that's basically where I'm at. I'm trying to do it in a way where it's not 90 minutes. It's a 10 minute thing.
Maricris: Whoa. All right. That's awesome.
I can't wait for that video because I've been watching the rest of the series, which is really good by the way.
Brian: Okay, excellent.
Maricris: By the way, yeah.
Brian: Thank you very much.
Maricris: Yeah. So just going back to what I was saying about Magic being rebranded from Fortmatic.
Fortmatic just provided a really great developer experience for app developers and they loved it. And this was back in 2018.
So they loved it so much that Fortmatic was being used by 30% of all publicly listed dApps at the time of measurement back in 2018.
So that's when the team realized that they needed to target a larger and more adjustable market.
So they decided to move into the mainstream space and provide a familiar odd solution to Web 2.0 developers, which is just us, mainstream developers.
But what's really cool about our odd solution is that it offers the security of cryptocurrencies, but it's abstracted away. So users and developers are pretty much using the capabilities of the blockchain without even realizing it.
So that's how we cater for Web 2.0 developers, and how we're in that space.
We just provide a really great and easy, odd solution to integrate with.
And developers can get started in minutes.
Brian: Yeah. The reason why this podcast exists with the JAMstack is that we want...
Listeners of this podcast are looking for solutions that they don't have to build from scratch.
And they can just worry about getting their apps up and running, or getting their projects up and running.
In the last couple episodes I've had so many different perspectives of how people got navigated through towards the Jamstack.
And I think of Elder.js and Nick who is focused on just building a product.
Building a product that has a really good SEO play on top of Svelte.
If he's going to do the odd solution, he doesn't really need to know if it's blockchain, or if it's hosted an AWS, or if it's hosted somewhere else, all we need is just a tool to solve a problem.
And I like this approach too, as well, because I find with web three technologies, sometimes they can get a little too intense about talking about web three.
It's like veganism, it's cool you're vegan, but if you try to preach it to me on how veganism makes you levitate or whatnot.
I think that's cool, but I'm going to basically call BS on that.
And I think with blockchain I think sometimes we can talk way more about levitation and not about the projects you shift.
And I think Magic is a good example.
You don't need to understand decentralization and crypto and all this other stuff if you're just trying to have authentication to your project. So-
Brian: Hopefully I don't know if I'm preaching to you or if I'm preaching to the listeners, but I just happen to be digging into a lot of this web three stuff and quite interested in how it works and what the evolution looks like.
Maricris: No, I pretty much share the same sentiment and what's really cool with working at Magic is as a developer advocate, I advocate for beginner developers and Web 2.0 all the way to Web 3.0 developers.
So the content that we release, it either is diving deep into the technology, or just showing developers just the value Magic can offer to them and in a really quick and easy way. So it's really fun.
Brian: Yeah. So I understand the concepts around MetaMask and why we use that so they can validate against the actual Ethereum protocols.
So how does Magic do that? How do you remove the need of a Chrome extension?
Which is basically every blockchain app I interact with and need a wallet associated to it.
I got to use this MetaMask Chrome extension, which in 2018 felt very weird.
I only use it in the Brave browser, I never use it in Chrome, because I just felt weird having access to a wallet associated with money that also had a weird price that kept going up and down.
So I guess my question is, how's that connection made with Magic?
Maricris: Yeah, so our product is just a developer SDK.
So when you integrate with Magic, you can integrate it on the client side and the user logs in, they are generated a public and private key pair and that's generated in an iframe.
That's not accessible to you, the developer inside of the browser.
So this is just a special iframe that I personally haven't dug deep into yet.
Maricris: But that's pretty much I think.
Actually, I don't know how it replaces the wallet, but I know that's a key part of it.
Brian: Yeah. I was just looking through SDK and it looks like it's backed by ethers.js too as well.
So I can think it's how you validate what's happening on there.
Brian: But I think it maybe an exercise for the listener to definitely check it out and see if it works within the project you're working on.
I have a project I just mentioned that I'm probably going to be adding this to as a little demo and I will definitely report back.
Because it'd be really cool to get Magic featured in my ongoing series at the moment.
Brian: Cool. From your perspective, because you had the knowledge of building modern web apps.
So I'm curious, where do you see web three going in the future?
Do you see more developers adopting this?
Do you see more companies starting to embed this?
So with Magic we saw them pivot and, not even pivot, but basically bring on more developers by letting in modern web developers and giving them an onboarding path.
Do you see more companies doing that? Onboarding more modern web developers?
But also do you see the inverse of AWS now allowing blockchain services to work within AWS?
Maricris: Well we are already seeing a lot of solutions to make the developer onboarding much easier and faster.
So that's definitely happening. The only thing that comes to mind that... I don't know why I worry about, but right now it's a new space.
Maricris: There are engineers that are still trying to figure out the infrastructure of this new internet.
So it's interesting that we're already trying to abstract away all these technologies when they're not even in their mature stage yet.
Maricris: So that's why I think that if you are a developer, or anyone actually, you don't even have to be a developer.
You can be a developer advocate, or someone in market.
If you're someone who wants to contribute in this new realm of technologies where things are coming up as new, I guess, and you want to provide your feedback to improve the product.
This is the time to do that.
Brian: Yeah, yeah. I actually, I had a video on YouTube talking about how to grow as a developer really quickly.
And if I stand by this, find a company that's growing and looking for users and build stuff with them and then grow as that company is growing.
Because imagine if you'd used AWS back in 2009, 2010.
I don't know when it actually first started becoming this conglomerate, but all those tiny services.
You would be an expert, staff level, distinguished level engineer because you built your entire experience on this new technology.
Or even pick on serverless or Landis, building your entire career on top of this technology, that's now pretty viable, but also it's synonymous everywhere and everybody wants to be serverless.
And I think with web three very similarly.
If you just spend time in a tutorial, or a screencast, or whatnot and then grow as folks are figuring things out, I think that was the time to grow.
Because I think in four or five years from now, we're going to have a lot of really distinguished experts in the space.
And then everybody else will just be catching up as things are growing.
Which on that note I wanted to ask, you mentioned the SDK, but where's a good place for folks to get started with Magic today?
Maricris: Yeah. The best place is to go into our documentation.
So if you go to Magic.link, you'll see our docs right there at the front page.
And we also have another page called guides where we have a lot of integrations with a variety of technologies.
Brian: Okay, excellent. I see Next.js right there.
And Next.js was my choice framework to actually do my guide and my series.
So yeah, I'll definitely be in touch. I'm actually surprised on how serendipitous this was of a conversation because it was very timely.
Because I just completed my fourth video in the series and I'll be doing the fifth one, which will hopefully start implementing some of the more of the web three stuff.
So yeah. Thanks so much for that conversation. And at this point I'd love to transition us to picks.
So these are JAM picks, things that we're jamming on, could be music, food, technology-related.
So anything that's keeping you hype throughout this pandemic or throughout these days.
And if you don't mind, I'll go ahead and go first.
And then I would love to hear what you're jamming on as well.
So one, I just got a teleprompter. Teleprompter is a brand.
Prompter People is the brand that I ended up going with.
I got a prompter because I do a lot of YouTube content as I alluded to multiple times in this conversation.
And I'm finding that some of the more talking head, long standing conversations to myself and the viewer using a prompter is pretty nice.
And what I've been doing is I have a little doc that I put right next to my camera on my monitor.
And then I stare at that. But what I want to start trying out is some longer-winded conversations to use a prompter instead.
So prompterpeople.com, my coworker leveraged them and got a prompter for a couple hundred bucks.
So I ended up getting an iPad powered prompter. It's cheaper because I bring the iPad and then it mirrors it on the screen.
And then you can also take a mic. So plug in a mic and put it somewhere out of frame.
And then you get the Prompter People app and it will actually scroll through as you're saying.
So it uses a bit of speech recognization in what's on the screen to roll to the prompter as you're talking. So-
Brian: I literally have it set up over here. I can't wait to try it.
Because it's just going to hopefully level myself up as in creating videos, or it's going to slow me down and I'll just get rid of it.
So I'm not sure because I haven't actually used it yet for anything, but yeah, I don't know.
Have you ever experience using a prompter?
Maricris: I don't think I have, but I imagine it would be helpful. Don't newscasters use it?
Brian: Yeah. So I had an opportunity.
I did emcee at GitHub Universe and for GitHub Universe, we had the actual script as we were talking.
So all the jokes we ran by them first.
So we typed it in beforehand, but every joke, everything was just directly from the script and would've been really nice is actually having a prompter for that script.
So hindsight, I guess is 2020. So next time I do an emcee I will have specifically the stuff I need to actually talk about because I'm a bullet point type of person.
So if I can remember the bullet points, what I need to talk about, I have no problem talking, but I'd always remember the bullet points.
So I'll usually skip something and it's quite annoying and can't always go back and rerecord things.
So, highly recommend if you're doing video content on the internet or anywhere else. We could think of getting a prompter.
Maricris: Yeah, I feel like it'd be a lot of pressure just reading it.
I'm sure there's a way to make it go slow though. So yeah, I'll check it out.
Brian: I think you can leverage sensitivity.
Now, I'm talking all out of, I only watched a ton of YouTube videos.
So the thing just came yesterday and I haven't had time to actually open it up and mess around with it, but I did a lot of research and this is the one I ended up with.
So I'll report back. You all actually, I'll probably just end up doing a video or Twitter thread talking about my experience.
So everybody knows how to find me on the internet.
Brian: Cool. And I had one more pick, which is a show that I've been hooked on and I have no idea why?
But this show called Kevin can F himself. It sounds very harsh, but it actually is.
So it's a AMC show I think.
I've been watching an on Prime or Apple TV or something, but it's available on the internet and it starts as if it was a laugh track type comedy.
So like big bang theory, but I think more of king of queens type comedy based in Boston.
And I guess the catch about it is the wife actually hates her husband and every time she's out of frame, not on the same frame as her husband, it turns into a very dark show.
I don't know how to explain this any better, but except probably just watch a trailer.
The way they've approached it I think it's amazing. Really interested in trying to figure out why is this set up this way?
And yeah, if you like hour long dramas, this is one I would highly recommend checking out.
Maricris: Whoa, yeah. That sounds really exciting.
Brian: Yeah. So speaking of exciting, do you have any picks for us Maricris?
Maricris: So any picks that I'm jamming on?
Brian: Yeah. Anything. Could be music, could be food that you had recently.
I know you're based in Santa Cruz, so any local information you can provide for folks who maybe might be down there in the future.
I hate myself, I go down there once a year, so.
Maricris: Oh man. I guess I have been jamming on going to the gym and-
Brian: Oh nice.
Maricris: Yeah. That's pretty much it.
But with the CDC recommendation of wearing masks, I see a lot more people wear masks.
So there's an inside scoop and from Santa Cruz, I pretty much stay home most of the time with my two dogs and two cats.
But that is one thing I'm jamming on, yes.
Brian: Okay. Excellent. And honestly, I just redid my Y membership, so I haven't been to gym yet.
I signed up online and I'll probably be there this weekend. But yeah, it's been what?
Almost two years, maybe 18 months at this point of no in gym time. Which has been a previous pick on the podcast.
I picked up interlocking weights and kettlebells and have a very small gym set up at home just to keep myself active.
Maricris: That's nice.
Brian: Excellent. Well, thanks so much for the conversation.
I can't wait actually, I say this all the time in the podcast, but I'm legitimately saying this.
I can't wait to actually try Magic, but I'll go to the website Magic link, which I didn't mention.
That's a great URL. So whoever sniped that, hats off, they should have a raise.
Listeners, keep spreading the jam.