Rebooting ElixirSips, and Building Firestorm: An Open Source Forum in Phoenix

I started ElixirSips over 3 years ago, and have enjoyed everything about the journey. I’ve produced 280 episodes, and over 40 hours of Elixir content! A deep content catalog is both an asset and a liability, though. As time passes, some of the episodes become outdated or completely deprecated. We’ve come up with a great new solution to help the Elixir community grow, and hope you’ll all be as excited about it as I am.

tl;dr — I’m rebooting ElixirSips and in the process will build a production-ready open-source Phoenix-based forum, named Firestorm. I’ll do this step by step with videos and text posts so anyone can learn how to build awesome stuff with Elixir and Phoenix. Additionally, I will produce a month of free Elixir content covering the basics, OTP, Phoenix, and Ecto. This first month will be free to anyone who wants to learn Elixir because building a great community benefits us all. I’m asking for your help on our Kickstarter.

The Problem

The earliest episodes of ElixirSips were written well before Elixir hit 1.0. This presents some problems:

  • I teach people syntax that’s been invalid for nearly three years in some early episodes.
  • Dynamo? Old-timers know that Dynamo was a thing, but it’s been dead for ages.
  • There are a lot of fun early projects that are difficult to get running these days.

This has been a problem for quite a while, but finding a solution has been complicated. Consider:

  • If I spend time refreshing old content instead of writing new content, then the people that suffer the most are the people that have been with me for the longest — I can’t rework old content and produce new content at the existing pace.
  • Retrofitting old content will not produce the best experience for users who want to learn Elixir.
  • If I don’t produce new beginner content, then new users suffer, and might even be driven away from the language in frustration.

None of these options are satisfactory.

The Solution

I’m going to reboot ElixirSips from the ground up, starting with 20+ free episodes that cover the basics of Elixir, OTP, Phoenix, and Ecto. - No more stale content. - No one has to know that Dynamo was a thing. - It will be published on, as well as the existing ElixirSips platform. Users that are happy with their current arrangement won’t have to make any changes. - It will be built in the content style of DailyDrip — this means the content will strive to stay around the 5-minutes-per-day mark, with 2 videos and 3 text episodes each week.

With all of this free content we can provide an unbelievably good onboarding experience for people that are interested in learning Elixir. - Robust, easy, and free introductory materials will hopefully increase the success rate of * people trying to get involved with the Elixir language and community. - More Elixir developers will lead to a healthier Elixir ecosystem.

But wait, there’s more!

Behold, an abstract forum image of sorts!

Behold, an abstract forum image of sorts!

Firestorm: A Phoenix-based forum and comment system, built from scratch in screencasts, Open Sourced with the MIT License.

After the free introductory episodes are completed, I’ll resume the paid content, by building Firestorm — a full-featured, open-source, Phoenix-based forum application — from scratch.

  • All developers will have access to a large-scale, open-source, production Phoenix application, for free — regardless of their contributions to our Kickstarter.

It’ll have all of the trappings of a well-managed application:

  • Test-Driven Development for everything (because I’m not a monster).
  • Continuous Integration from early on.
  • Continuous Deployment to our production environment — as soon as it’s moderately usable, we’ll dog-food it to discuss feature requests and other goodies with the community at large. This deployment will, of course, be via Elixir Releases.
  • DailyDrip’s fantastic designer — Amy Lucas — will be providing professional design direction and mockups on the project, and we’ll have open discussion about the designs so that the community can help drive features and help us all avoid UX pitfalls from the get-go.
  • Authentication via OAuth, so it’s easy to wire into your existing infrastructure should you choose to use it in your personal or commercial projects.
  • It will be MIT Licensed and published on GitHub.
  • We’ll build an optional Elm client, and those that wish to follow along with its development may do so via the DailyDrip Elm topic.

Phoenix and Elm? Yes please!

The goal will be to provide an Open Source Phoenix-based alternative to Discourse and/or Google Groups.

How do we make sure that existing Elixir developers are catered to?

How can we make sure that there’s still interesting content for long time ElixirSips users to continue learning the nooks and crannies? I’m glad you asked!

We will have a detailed pairing session (1+ hour) once every 2 weeks with someone in the community on their open source project. When scheduling makes that impossible, I’ll do a live-stream of me working through something fun and interesting instead, and write up a condensed version afterwards in a concise tutorial.

In addition, every currently-active ElixirSips/DailyDrip subscriber or Kickstarter contributor who opts in will be listed as a contributor to the free content as well as in a PATRONS file for the open source project.

What’s this about a Kickstarter now?

I’ve launched a Kickstarter so that people that wish to contribute to the project have an outlet (i.e. a means to turn money into open source software by way of Josh losing sleep).

Turn money into open source software by way of Josh losing sleep.

We’ve got a few different reward levels lined up to try to incentivize everyone into helping us build this thing:

  • Pledge $5 or more: Technical Gratitude

At this pledge level, we’ll be technically grateful that you exist. You’ll also receive a credit for $9 (1 month free) for the DailyDrip Elixir topic.

  • Pledge $20 or more: Honorary Author

You’ll be listed as a contributor on the site as well as in the open source project’s PATRONS file, and you’ll receive a credit for $27 (3 months free) for the DailyDrip Elixir topic.

  • Pledge $50 or more: Fancy Honorary Author

All of the above, but instead the credit is good for $63 (7 months free). In addition, you’ll be invited to the weekly design meetings to help us shape the User Experience of the forum.

  • Pledge $100 or more: Patron of Great Fame

All of the above, but instead the credit is good for $126 (16 months free), plus receive your own tasteful logo on a “Patrons of Great Fame” section of the project website. This page will also be part of the official release of the project, so you’ll also show up on every installed copy of the forum application. Logo content subject to approval as it must be work-safe.

  • Pledge $250 or more: Patron of Great Fame with Benefits

All of the above, but instead the credit is good for an All You Can Eat subscription on DailyDrip for 14 months.

  • Pledge $500 or more: Patron-Saint

All of the above, but instead the credit is good for an All You Can Eat subscription on DailyDrip for 24 months. Additionally, you’ll receive a prominently-placed logo on the project website on a special Patron-Saints section.

  • Pledge $1,000 or more (100 available): Patron-Saint Alchemist

All of the above, but instead the credit is good for 5 All You Can Eat subscriptions on DailyDrip for 12 months(basically: everything we have).

  • Pledge $2,000 or more (20 available): Swag-Maker

Everything from the $1,000 reward level, plus a custom theme just for you.

  • Pledge $5,000 or more (10 available): Bankroller Extraordinaire

Everything from the $1,000 reward level, but instead the credit is good for 20 All You Can Eat subscriptions for 12 months, as well as 8 hours of remote training, mentorship, or code-review from Josh.

  • Pledge $10,000 or more (4 available): “I Made Josh Cry Because Feelings”

Everything from the $1,000 reward level, five days of remote or on-site half-day training with Josh, 24 All You Can Eat subscriptions for 12 months, and a hearty welcome from the bottom of my unworthy heart. Josh’s travel not included.

Stretch Goals

I think stretch goals are fun, especially if they really make things difficult on me. Consequently, if we hit the following numbers we’ll build the corresponding parts of the application (also open sourced, of course):

  • $20k — We’ll throw in an Electron app.
  • $30k — We’ll build React-Native mobile applications.
  • $40k — We’ll add Slack integration.
  • $60k — We’ll build a basic blog engine into the application.

I’m convinced, how can I help you make this happen?

Join and share our Kickstarter project and we’ll work tirelessly until this thing is out in the world, making forums, comment sections, and mailing lists amazing for everyone.