Dave Slusher is the father of the longest-running podcast on the Internet, “The Evil Genius Chronicles,” which he launched just one day after former MTV veejay Adam Curry debuted his “The Daily Source Code” in 2004.
He is also a Developer Evangelist with an enterprise software company called ServiceNow. Developer Evangelist is a thing.
I was thrilled that Dave agreed to sit down with me for this profile, which published last Sunday in The Sun News‘ Coasting Section.
Local Tech Guru Is Also Podcast Pioneer
There was a time in Dave Slusher’s life when he thought he was going to be a preacher.
“I thought that was going to be my career path,” he said, adding that he felt comfortable standing in front of a congregation, delivering mini-homilies.
Instead, after an early career start in chemistry, Slusher switched gears and went into software development, including an off-the-bat stint at tech juggernaut Intel and several startups along the way.
He is now a Developer Evangelist at an enterprise cloud computing company called ServiceNow, Inc., spreading the good news about the outfit’s everything-as-a-service [an expansion of software-as-a-service] model to other software developers.
“That’s a specific thing – it’s not self-proclaimed, he said. “That is literally my job title.”
This is about as full-circle as it gets. Slusher, now 48, is preaching after all.
Currently, “The Evil Genius Chronicles” is the longest running show in the podosphere.
He is also one of the pioneers of podcasting, having launched his show, “The Evil Genius Chronicles” in 2004 – just a day after MTV personality-turned-podcasting maven Adam Curry debuted his “The Daily Source Code,” which ran until 2013. Currently, “The Evil Genius Chronicles” is the longest running show in the podosphere.
Slusher has been preaching about podcasting for years as well – an ongoing sermon extolling the virtues of the medium – about inclusiveness, diverse methodologies and messages. At the heart of this is the idea that there is room for everybody who wants to take a stab at it, the quirkier the better.
Born in Nebraska and having grown up in Norton, Ks., Slusher moved with his family to Augusta, Ga.
Because this coincided with his senior year in high school, this transition did not sit well with him. He was looking forward to studying chemistry at Kansas State University.
He came up with a plan he thought would make it possible for him to stay in Kansas; arranging for more hours at a daytime morning radio station where he worked [his father also worked there], and had three different families who agreed to let him stay with them if needed.
“I had it all worked out,” he said. “If one family got tired of me, I’d go to the other ones. I could rotate, and nobody would have to put up with me for too long. I had a car and a job.”
He brought the plan to his parents, and it fell flat.
“My mom flipped her wig at the notion that I would do this, but I didn’t want to have to start over in my senior year. Basically I was asking to be emancipated, and to this day I point out to my mom that this was the first time I ever showed any initiative. I would have had a very different life.”
He wound up pursuing his bachelor’s in chemistry at Georgia Tech. The first week he was there, he joined a fraternity called ZBT, or Zeta Beta Tau, which was formed in 1898 as the world’s first Jewish fraternity, although Slusher noted that of roughly 30 chapter brothers at that time, one or two were actually Jewish.
ZBT was the first fraternity to abolish pledging and is inclusive regardless of race, creed or religion.
The upside of moving from Kansas to Augusta and then 150 miles away to Atlanta was the option for reinvention, to say nothing of the diversity to be found in moving from a town of 3,000 to the larger populations of Augusta and later, Atlanta.
“I had this opportunity to just completely reinvent everything about myself. Going into a place where no one has met me. I had no baggage. If I wanted to present myself as somebody different, I could do that.”
Slusher worked for pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. for five years.
“I was a shift chemist in a factory after college,” he said. “It was the most blue-collar scientific job you could have – like going in at midnight and getting samples and doing liquid chromatography – but in this completely industrial setting. It was kind of grueling. If you had a bachelor’s degree in the field of chemistry, you were effectively a technician.”
He later worked for a medical instrument company that was developing a blood gas monitor, and his role was one of analytical chemist. Slusher called this his transition job, because it was here that he started writing basic programs into test fixtures for the device.
“I started talking to the firmware guys, and I decided that I liked their job better.”
He said he had one of two choices: Go back to school and double down on chemistry or scrap chemistry completely and go for a different degree. Either way, he was going back to school.
Slusher met his wife, Coastal Carolina University chemistry instructor Darlene Slusher while they were both undergraduates at Georgia Tech.
“We were both chemistry majors, so we had some of the same classes,” Darlene Slusher said. “We got married March 31, 1990, when we were seniors. We both graduated December 1990.”
They moved to Lafayette, La., for a position she had taken as a field engineer with Schlumberger Limited, an oilfield services company.
“When I accepted, I told them the one condition was that they had to send me somewhere that Dave could get a master’s degree in computer science. They did a good job with that,” she said.
Slusher was impressed with the computer science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and decided to go all-in.
“Probably not many people think about UL Lafayette as a computer science powerhouse, but it’s got a great department,” he said.
Within a month or two, he said he knew he had made the right decision.
“I would be there in the computer lab at midnight, and just wouldn’t stop working on stuff because it was so much fun. It felt like home – working on the computers and with the people and talking about the stuff. There was no off switch.”
There is still no off switch, and Slusher said he recently had a breakthrough in connection with one of his projects at ServiceNow, at 2 a.m. But if work is play, who cares about mundane things like the time?
“What I’d say about my career is that every line of code that I have ever written for anyone I have ever worked for is free. Where I earn my salary is showing up at staff meetings. You have to pay me for that. If all I had to do was write code, I’d do that for free.”
But what exactly is a Developer Evangelist?
Slusher said ServiceNow has a developer portal, and in general what the company does is host a system.
“You become a customer and you get your own server running our stuff. It’s very similar to SquareSpace or something like that. You get a designated machine, and in this case it’s running our software. You have access to the database and can write data and you can do rules – so you have all of this stuff you could do. Now we have a platform that we want to encourage people to build arbitrary applications for their business.”
Slusher’s role is as de facto liaison between the company and the community of developers – heading up training sessions, writing blog posts and otherwise spreading the word about the developer program.
In May, Slusher will be presenting several training sessions at Knowledge16, the company’s annual conference. This year, it will take place at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. He will also be on hand at CreatorCon, a post-conference event geared toward ServiceNow developers.
Slusher has been with ServiceNow since fall 2013.
“I like this job a lot, both the hard and the soft skills. It is one of those ones where you look at it the [job description] and it’s like it was written for me. If they had wanted to craft the job specifically for me, it would have been this one.”
Slusher has been blogging since well before most folks knew what a blog was, and partly because he was a longtime follower of the work of Dave Winer – a software developer, entrepreneur and writer.
“Winer looms large in the history of blogging and podcasting. He was doing stuff from the late 1980s that could be considered blogging. It’s like evolution. When is a bird actually called a bird?”
Slusher’s blog and podcast, “The Evil Genius Chronicles” runs the gamut and places everything on the table: Personal life, work, tech, rock ‘n’ roll, sci-fi, comic books, literature, film – anything – a through-line being the gestalt of his life experiences.
For those looking for a theme, this may seem a bit fragmented
“I am a fragmented guy,” he said. “If we sat down over drinks, we could easily talk about the Daredevil TV show or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It could go lots of places. I am a guy with a lot of interests and I think most people have a lot of interests. I am reasonably cultured and reasonably well-educated, and blogging and podcasting is just basically about making public these conversations I have in my head anyway.”
Slusher moved to Conway almost 12 years ago because of his wife’s teaching position at CCU – and the move had a lot to do with his initial stab at podcasting.
He had a syndicated radio show called Reality Break from 1992-1998, on which he interviewed primarily science fiction authors. He happened to have his radio gear in a box that had yet to be unpacked.
“I started the day after “The Daily Source Code,” he said. “So Adam Curry is going live, and I thought, ‘Well, I can do this.’ The first couple I did were just talking into the built-in mic on my laptop – but after a little while I was like, ‘OK – I can run the line out of my mixer into the line in on my computer’ – and I started doing it that way.”
He calls himself the Alan Bean of podcasting.
“He’s the fourth guy to walk on the moon. Everybody knows Neil Armstrong, but no one knows Alan Bean. I call myself the fourth one. I could be fifth. I could be third. It depends on how you score some of the early work,” he said, adding that Winer and Curry definitely came before him.
But he can’t escape the fact that he is a pioneer.
“I don’t really care about how notable a fact that is. I don’t pay attention to a lot of that stuff, but I am going to keep doing it.”
For four years, he was a co-organizer of Create South, a local conference bringing together technology and creativity on the Grand Strand.
As if Slusher is not busy enough, he recently launched a new podcast called “Mad At Dad” with fellow podcast pioneer Michael Butler of the long-running “Rock and Roll Geek Show.” Butler was also director of programming for Mevio [formerly Podshow], cofounded by Curry.
Butler recalls meeting Slusher in 2004 at BloggerCon III in Palo Alto, Calif. – organized by Winer.
“I think we all showed up because Adam Curry was doing a podcast session,” he said. “There were about a dozen Podcasters then, and I think we were all in that room together.”
Photo: Slusher, Michael Butler from “Mad At Dad” Podcast
Butler’s “Rock and Roll Geek Show” bowed about a week after the Evil Genius Chronicles, and is currently approaching 700 episodes. He and Slusher had never worked on shows prior to “Mad At Dad,” but Butler said he has always considered him his podcast mentor.
“Whenever I think my show is going down the wrong path, I listen to his show and it sets me straight.”
What Butler enjoys about the new show is that, as he said, it is just two dudes talking.
“That’s what I liked about podcasting in the early days. I used to do a similar show called “Good Clean Fun.” When that show ended, Dave wanted to pick it back up with him as the co-host. It’s pretty much the same format but slightly less vulgar.”
Butler cited the fact that Slusher is a great talker.
“He can do an entire episode on one small idea and make it interesting,” he said, adding that Slusher is honest, has a positive attitude and is self-effacing. “I think the world of Dave Slusher. If there is a heaven, I think he will get in on the first ballot.”
Once a year Slusher participates in a challenge called the Dog Days of Podcasting, organized by Kreg Steppe, co-host [with Chuck Tomasi] of the Technorama podcast. Steppe also wrote the foreword to the book, “Podcasting for Dummies,” by Tee Morris, Tomasi and Evo Terra.
“The Dog Days of Podcasting began as a challenge to myself to put out a podcast every day for 30 days to try and recapture that fun of the early days of podcasting,” he said. “I invited others to join me and was overwhelmed at the response I got as it started growing. Now in its fifth year this August, it started to turn into more of a communal effort. As everyone was producing content, they were also listening to other participants’ shows and it brought about a fun, close-knit community and conversations.”
Steppe has known Slusher for 11 years and is also currently with ServiceNow.
“I met him because of podcasting,” he said, adding that he started listening to “The Evil Genius Chronicles” after Curry mentioned it on “The Daily Source Code.”
“In the first show of Dave’s that I was listening to he mentioned living in Conway, and that immediately caught my attention since I am from Rock Hill. My thought was, ‘Here is a guy creating podcasts basically in my backyard.’ We finally met in person at the first Podcast Expo in Ontario, California in 2005 and since that time I was also involved in Create South with Dave as well as The Dog Days of Podcasting. He has been a good friend and very supportive over the years.”
The Slushers live in Conway with daughter Lila, 5.