Speaker Interview: John Billings

Yelp's John Billings speaks at SCALE 14X on SCALE Sunday at 1:30 on "Using Swagger to tame HTTP/JSON interfaces." The SCALE Team caught up with him for this brief interview.

Q: Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little about your background?

A: I'm an Infrastructure Technical Lead at Yelp, where I've been working for almost five years.  During this time I've worked on a huge variety of projects, from scaling our search systems to rolling out service discovery.  I've also spent lots of time helping teams across the Yelp engineering organization migrate to a service oriented architecture.   Prior to Yelp, I worked at a couple of startups, and before that I received my PhD from the University of Cambridge on the topic of specifying and compiling Internet routing protocols.

Q: You're giving a talk on "Using Swagger to tame HTTP/JSON interfaces " Without tipping your hand on the actual talk, can you give us an idea of what we might expect?

A: In many ways HTTP and JSON are a great fit for service oriented architectures due to their ubiquitous support at the infrastructure and application layers.  However, until recently it's been very difficult to define programming language independent interfaces on top of these technologies.  The absence of strong interfaces makes it very easy for clients and servers to make different assumptions on how they should be communicating, causing nasty bugs.  And these bugs tend to become more common as teams grow and development becomes more distributed. 

I'll show how Swagger offers a solution to this problem by providing an expressive language for defining HTTP/JSON service interfaces, as well as fantastic tooling for using these interfaces in a variety of different programming languages.  I will also share some of the practical lessons that we’ve learned at Yelp during the process of retrofitting Swagger interfaces to many of our existing services.

Q: Is this your first visit to SCALE? If so, what are your expectations? If not, can you give us your impressions of the event?

A: This is the first time that I'm going to be attending SCALE.  I'm really excited by the huge variety of talks, and can't wait to meet everyone :)

Q: What do you hope people take away from your talk?

A:  It’s really easy to add a Swagger specification to a HTTP/JSON service, and once you have a specification there are loads of tools to help make development more fun!

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

A: At Yelp, we’re really into open source and giving back to the developer community with projects like mrjob, dockersh and, our most recent project, PaaSTA.  PaaSTA allows teams to continuously deploy, release and monitor services using a host of OSS tools.  Check it out and, if this sounds like something you’d like to work on, take a look at yelp.com/careers. We’re always hiring!

SCALE Team interview by Michelle Klein-Hass