The Ruby Freelancers Show 027 – Education with Avdi Grimm

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Panel Charles Max Wood (twitter github Teach Me To Code Rails Summer Camp) Eric Davis (twitter github blog) Jeff Schoolcraft (twitter github blog) Avdi Grimm (twitter github blog book) Discussion RubyTapas Confident Ruby Error Handling in Ruby Dan Miller Time Spent Marketing Blogging Selling eBooks Writing - Research to Finished Product Document Formatting Speak, Publish Transcripts Free Content Destroy All Software Word of Mouth Build your own site or use an existing service for video? Picks Two Steps from Hell - Archangel, Invincible (Eric) If This, Then That (Jeff) Epic Soundtracks (Jeff) Learning GNU Emacs (Chuck) Emacs Rocks (Jeff) O'Reilly Pocket Guide for Emacs (Eric) Brother MFC7860DW Printer (Avdi) Good Strategy, Bad Strategy (Avdi)


AVDI: [Chuckles] You all sound so enthused. I'll give you a pass, Chuck, you're not feeling well. What's everyone else's excuse? JEFF: [Chuckles] ERIC: Hardware? And software. [Chuck and Avdi chuckles] CHUCK: Eric’s emotion driver is broken. AVDI: [Laughs][This episode is sponsored by Harvest. I use them to track time, track subcontractor’s time, and invoice clients. Their time tracking is really easy to user; invoicing includes a pay now function by credit card or PayPal. You can sign up at Use the code ‘RF’ to get 50% off your first month.]**[Hosting and bandwidth provided to you by The Blue Box Group. Check them out at] **CHUCK: Hey everybody, and welcome to episode 27 of The Ruby Freelancers Show. This week on our panel, we have Eric Davis. ERIC: Hey. CHUCK: We also have Jeff Schoolcraft. JEFF: What's up? CHUCK: Evan Light might be joining us later. He's at a doctor’s appointment with his wife. We also have a special guest, and that’s Avdi Grimm. AVDI: Hello, hello! CHUCK: Avdi, since you are new to this podcast, do you wanna introduce yourself briefly? AVDI: Sure. I am Avdi and I'm a person who does things. I'm a freelance software developer. I recently made the shift from doing typical freelance taking contracts and that sort of thing to more or less pursuing my own projects. So these days, I do a split between doing one on one remote pairing sessions with other programmers and working on my books and screencasts, and blogging and stuff like that. I'm also on the Ruby rogues Podcast. I also have my own podcast at, all about remote team and remote work. CHUCK: Yeah. I've listened to almost all of those – Ruby Rogues I mean. No, I’m just kidding. [Chuck and Avdi chuckles] ERIC: Wait, so there are some Ruby Rogues you haven’t listened to? CHUCK: No, I've listened to each episode at least twice, but that’s because I'm always going through them and stuff, making sure they are up and well-edited and things. AVDI: I used to listen to the episodes after the fact. I haven’t had time anymore. CHUCK: Yeah, I just put them into my mix and then listen to them as they come up. CHUCK: Anyway, so I know that you launched a membership site. Is that the right terminology for it where people can view your videos? AVDI: I have not launched. It's still kind of in pre-production. I've got this project that’s been on my personal back burner for way, way too long now, called RubyTapas. And the idea is it's going to be a membership site with short screencasts on sort of intermediate to advanced Ruby and object oriented design and stuff like that, but very focused on Ruby. And I'm still basically collecting email addresses at this point because of I've been kind of tied up with having baby and other stuff, and haven’t had the chance to fully get it off the ground. But it's going to happen. CHUCK: I think the main thing that we've seen from you, that we can call success as far as putting together products, we're going to talk about some educational product stuff today, is the Exceptional Ruby and I'm trying to think what the other books are. AVDI: Objects on Rails. CHUCK: Objects on Rails, right. AVDI: And then most recently, I'm working on Confident Ruby. CHUCK: Right. So how do you decide that you have something that’s book worthy? AVDI: It has depended on the book. The origin of Exceptional Ruby was, Exceptional Ruby was the second talk I ever wrote and submitted to conferences. And I think it was the first talk that actually got accepted at a major conference. And after it was accepted, I did this big investigation into the subject matter, which is error handling in Ruby. And I have spent a ton of time putting together a lot of information for the talk. And for that first book, the impetus was just I thought to myself, “I've spent all of these many, many hours researching this topic, and it was great to be able to present it at conference, but wouldn’t it be cool if I could kind of recoup that time to some degree?” And so I thought, “What if I turn it into a self-published eBook and sold it?” So that was the impetus there. And then that worked out so well that the… well I was going to proceed straight to Confident Ruby, but then I get kind of side tracked by Objects on Rails just because I had some ideas about where I wanted to go with object oriented design in Rails, and kind of as an excuse to kind of actually get a chance to write all that stuff down and make that into a product as well. CHUCK: I'm not going to ask you how much you make, but I am curious as to how much of your overall income it accounts for. AVDI: I don’t have any of my numbers in front of me right now. I believe I calculated that I came close but didn’t quite make my goal of… last year, I think I did not quite make my goal of 20% of my income on products, but I think I came close. CHUCK: And the rest of it was consulting? AVDI: Yes, the rest of it was consulting. CHUCK: You're just kind of living on whatever you saved up in the meantime while you get things started? AVDI: Savings? Other freelancers keep telling me about this savings thing. I don’t know. Someday, I wanna have one of those. CHUCK: [Chuckles] AVDI: It sounds like fun. They also talk about things like vacations too. Honestly, all of my career progression has been kind of like doing whatever is the next thing that makes sense and/or doing whatever I need to do out of desperation to make ends meet. And right now I am… CHUCK: You sort of sound like me. AVDI: [Chuckles] I will be very honest with anyone that asks me; my sort of business philosophy is almost entirely based on panic and desperation -- because I'm a sole provider of a pretty big family. And so I just kind of look out there and figure out what to do to make ends meet next month. And more recently, I try harder and harder to come up with things that will keep ends meeting for longer periods of time. As far as what I do now, so I spend about half my time, I guess doing individual pair programming sessions with people. So people come to me and sometimes they want tutoring in Ruby or Rails or both; sometimes they are already sort of intermediate programmers and they just want to kind of work with somebody to level up, or they have a particular problem that they are working on with the project that they are in, and that they wanna work through various things. Sometimes they wanna do some refactorings and they wanna get some important pointers on refactoring. And I just do remote pairing sessions, typically two hour sessions at a time, with people working on whatever they wanna work on. So I make part of my income on that and then I spend the rest of my time working on writing and stuff like that. CHUCK: I know that Eric has written some eBooks too. Does any of this process sound familiar to you? ERIC: Yeah, it's almost exactly. I don’t know if this was last year, but this was around 20 to 25% of my income for my three eBooks. And the first, I guess three or four months of this year, I took time off. I was doing very little client work, and was basically living off the savings for a bit, and did that while my daughter was born, and now kind of getting back into things. It's almost identical right now. It's pretty funny. CHUCK: One person that I listen to fairly frequently is Danny Miller and he has a few books out about finding a job or going out on your own. Anyway, he has a boot camp kind of thing for new authors and what he always says is that writing the book is 10% of the work, and marketing is the other 90%. Does that ring true to you, guys? ERIC: Yeah. AVDI: No. CHUCK: No? [Chuckles] AVDI: [Chuckles] JEFF: Everybody say that about everything, am I right? I mean, a software product is 10% software and 90% marketing -- or some very skewed proportion. CHUCK: Yeah, it's Dan Miller, That’s the right guy. So how much time you spend marketing it then, Avdi? AVDI: I guess I spend some time marketing. I don’t know. I mean, I just like that whole area of business, and so I try to find clever means of avoiding it every chance I can. CHUCK: That just sounds like you are finding alternative ways of marketing. AVDI: Well, yeah. It's one of those things that you can look at it anyway you want. For me, a lot of my sales, I have tracking, I don’t pay a ton of attention to it. But I think a lot of my sales come from like people going through from my blogs. So I make sure that I have ads for my books up on my blog. And then I tried to do one of the things that I love, which is just disseminating information to people from my blog. And I've been doing that for years. And I don’t really think too hard about, “Wow, this is going to be great marketing post.” Occasionally, I'll just flat out put something out there and say, “Hey, I'm doing this thing. It costs money. Please buy it.” But for the most part, I think a lot of my marketing is doing stuff that I would do anyway in my blogging, or presenting at conferences. I think I suspect a lot of stuff comes from Twitter, and that’s just me kind of being social, and trying to be part of the programmer community, which again is not something that I think about really from a marketing perspective, but I guess it has that effect. What I did for like the Objects in Rails book was kind of an experiment where I just put the whole book online for free. It wasn’t a total experiment. I've seen people do this before. And I just made the download version, the ePub, PDF and Mobi and all that version available for really low price, so that people, if they were enjoying it online, they'll buy links right there and they get a nicely formatted version that they can take with them for five bucks. So that’s sort of my version of marketing, which is I don’t have to think about it too much. Hopefully people will just trickle in over time. JEFF: Did that do well? I remember… who wrote Rails Test Prescription or something like that. CHUCK: Was it the Ruby on Rails Tutorial by Michael Hartl? JEFF: There was one even before that. It was like the entire book on tests, I wanna say Test Prescription I'll have to look it up. CHUCK: I'm not sure if Noel did that. I think it was probably. JEFF: The Prags picked it up. AVDI: I don’t know if he had it online at one point. ERIC: I don’t know if it was free online or it's just like what you are doing where it's like completely different thing. CHUCK: I think that it's funny that you said, “Well, I don’t really do marketing,” and then you explained all the things that you like to do that happen to be marketing. AVDI: Well, I guess what I'm explaining is that I don’t spend 90% of my time relating to something on marketing schemes. I just do what I do. I'm a huge fan of killing multiple birds with one stone. I'll put it that way. I do what I do and I try to think of ways to sort of hook that things that I do together in a way that avoids work. So I try to do things like to take all the resource that I put in to a talk, and turn that into a book or alternately, take all the resource that I did for a book, and turn it into a talk. I try to hook things together like that, but I try to minimize the effort that I put into marketing. I mean, I do little things like send discount codes to conferences and stuff like that, but that takes just a few minutes’ worth of emailing back and forth, so it doesn’t take too much out of my day. CHUCK: So I'm a little curious to see how that contrasts or compares to what Eric does to market his books? ERIC: Kind of the same. A lot of the things he’s talked about, that’s what I would call marketing. I think it kind of comes to the intention like what do you intend to do with this? I do a lot of blog posts and for a while there, I was running a free newsletter. And I was talking about a topic, and if they wanted to buy a book that had more stuff about the topic, it was for sale. I think it was like one link at the bottom or something -- very low key. But for me, I kind of put more attempt into it like, “Okay, I need to market these books because I need to sell or because some people might get some value from it,” or whatever I'm trying to do. And I'll think of ways to do that. And I end up giving a lot stuff away like in blog posts or screencast and stuff. And sometimes there's explicit, “Hey, here's the book that has more information.” And sometimes it's not. It's just, “Hey, Eric’s putting out more stuff. By the way, did you know Eric has these other things too?” It's a mix. It's hard to really be no marketing at all or you're marketing everything, because then it's like people get turned off because all you're trying to do is sell to them or you are just not marketing at all and no one even knows you have this stuff for sale. So you have to be at the very least mention stuff and kind of link things and say, “Look, on my side bar, I have stuff for sale.” CHUCK: Jeff was trying to kind of ask questions about how well the putting the book online and then selling the download versions worked for you. AVDI: I can look up some numbers. JEFF: Obviously, if you have the sense of, you said it was an experiment or quasi experiment of… AVDI: I consider it extremely successful so far. CHUCK: How did it do compared to Exceptional Ruby? JEFF: And successful profitably, or successful in other ways? AVDI: Yeah, profitably. I mean if I look at it from perspective of how much time I put into it and then take my typical hourly, and then look at the amount of money I've made from it, and that I would consider it profitable. JEFF: I was curious about this in the beginning, you said you did a bunch of research for your talk before you wrote Exceptional Ruby. I was just curious how long it took you to get a shippable book? AVDI: Couple of weeks. A week or two. I write fast. CHUCK: One other thing that I wanna ask and this coming down to something else. I mean you talked about hitting two birds with one stone. And I did a whole bunch of research for my Building JSON APIs webinar, which is I guess kind of an educational product, but I would really like to do an eBook on it. So what suggestions do you have for somebody who's maybe done a good chunk of the research, has written a bunch of code around it, and needs to just sit down, outline and write the book. What’s your process from getting from “I've done all these research,” to having a finished product? AVDI: I think I had some notes that I've been jotting down a while for the Exceptional Ruby book, just like some topics that I was thinking about just covering in a talk someday. And I don’t know. Basically the tool that I use for writing also happens to be an outliner, so I usually, I mean I start out with an outline of topics that I'm interested in covering. And I guess I just kind of dig into each one in turn, and do the research, and start coming up with some code samples. And overtime, I realized that my original organization of the outline is complete crap, and I solely reorganize things. The first two books that I did, once I had a very rough draft, messy, mistakes everywhere, crappy organization, lousy formatting in the works, but sort of kind of content complete, I started selling it as like a preview edition. And that kind of gave me the boost, both monetarily and just in seeing that there was interest to continue forward and polish them up into a final release version. So I'm a huge fan of like the worse is better at getting something out there early model. And it's amazing the work that people will do for you if you have good content, if you have something that people are interested in reading. I mean, they will proofread for you, they will find the mistake in your code listings for you. They'll give you all kinds of suggestions about your wording. And one of the best decisions I think I made with the second one, the first one I accepted lots of feedback. I got a lot of early feedback. With Objects on Rails, I actually started a mailing list, and all these terrific conversations started up in the mailing list. And number one, I got even more feedback. Number two, I would actually have people would come in with a question about the book and somebody else will answer before I could, which save me time. And so getting that user community around everything you do, whatever it takes, I think is just a great idea. And then with Confident Ruby, I decided to start even earlier. And I just said, “I'm going to just start shipping it before it exists. I'm going to ship it when the only thing that’s written is the introduction.” And you know, I have practically a dual pricing. I've got “you can buy it or you can send me a postcard,” one or the other. And the interest and the money that I've gotten from that has kept me going since then. CHUCK: Nice. So I guess the next question is so you bring people in, you get them involved pretty early. How far are you into Confident Ruby at this point? AVDI: I think I'm about a quarter of the way through. CHUCK: And you’ve got people who’ve already paid for it, right? AVDI: Quite a few, yes. CHUCK: And what's the price point on that? What are you selling it for? AVDI: That’s $25. CHUCK: Okay. AVDI: I can give you sales numbers on some of these, if you're curious. I'm not too shy about it. CHUCK: Okay. I don’t wanna push you to give out any more information than you want to. AVDI: Nah, I mean a lot of self-publishers are putting their numbers out there and I don’t see why I shouldn’t either. So for a book that is about a quarter of the way done at this point, it looks like I've got 790 sales, so that’s close to $14,000. CHUCK: Wow. AVDI: Somebody was asking about Objects on Rails. So the $5 edition which again, you can also read it online for free, I've had bit over 3,000 purchases, so close to $17,000, which is not as much as I made so far in Exceptional Ruby, but Exceptional Ruby has been out a lot longer. CHUCK: Yeah. ERIC: And Exceptional got listed in the Prags store, right? AVDI: Exactly, right. So I got a nice chunk of royalties from them as well. CHUCK: And how does it seem to compare between the two, as far as self-publishing versus going with like the Prags to sell your book? AVDI: The wonderful thing is with Exceptional Ruby, I got to do both. I was their pilot for that, which was just an amazing piece of serendipity. Dave Thomas was at Magic Ruby, which is the first conference that I gave that talk at, and I was sending the draft out to various people, and a draft of the eBook, kind of as an afterthought. I never thought he'd get back to me, but I sent it to Dave and he actually gave me a ton of feedback, and then they decided they wanted to try this pilot thing with this self-published authors. And it's been good, having both of those is great. If I look at both numbers, I think I've made more money off of my own personal sales. But it's not like an either/or. And it's been a fair chunk of change from the Prags sales, so if somebody is able to get that deal, get a book that a publisher will take up and sell and distribute through their channels. Because you know, I have decent channels going out to like the active Ruby community. So I can usually get my message out to the active Ruby community. But I'm sure there are people that the Prags can reach with their marketing, that aren’t watching my Twitter or reading Ruby Inside or whatever. ERIC: It's also like if you're into the Prags store buying Agile Web Development with Rails, “You might also like this,” so you kind of get like, “Oh, this looks similar. I'll get this at the same time.” CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. AVDI: I think it's wonderful that they are doing it. I'm very happy to see some of my friends start to sell books that way as well. CHUCK: Have they picked up any other independent authors? AVDI: Yes they have. I think maybe the next person was my friend Chris Strom, who has the, I think the first one with them was the SPYDY book. And then he's also got a new one out, which I’m suddenly blanking on. JEFF: Who was working on the book Working with Linux Process or something? CHUCK: That was Jesse Storimer. AVDI: Jessie Storimer. I know there have been several others. JEFF: I don’t wanna get too into details, so are they just authoring the book as you present it? So, they don’t do any editing or anything else? AVDI: They have a little disclaimer. If you got the site, it's not even a disclaimer they just say, “We sell this book exactly as provided by the author, and we're just proud to feature it.” CHUCK: So you don’t go through any of their processes, including the process of converting from your original format to PDF, Mobi, ePub or whatever. AVDI: No, I just ship them the files. Actually, there was one thing that I did. At one point, I was looking at… a few people have asked me for a print copy of Exceptional Ruby, and I was looking at options, and I dropped them an email about it and they said, “Actually, we can do short print runs.” And I think I sent them a slightly modified version that fit format for that, but that was the only difference. JEFF: I was curious because Brian Hogan, he posted a topic on self publishing on Twitter every once in a while where he always seems back squarely in the, “I'm happy to be in the Prags camp with editors and people to do the formatting or other stuff.” So, I was just curious if they had done any of that. AVDI: No. I mean, for some books, I have actually considered pursuing a publisher. I may still at some point, but I think it depends on the subject matter. I mean, some subject matter is so fast moving, that it hardly makes sense for the whole publishing process. JEFF: Yeah. And I don’t know all the details, but it seems like the Rspec book is sort of a classic example. I mean, there were like 50 beta editions or something before it actually got published. AVDI: From a business perspective, I cannot tell you how many authors that I've talked to that have told me that when they did the numbers, their work on their book basically are on the minimum wage or less for their time. CHUCK: I've heard that too. It depends on the publisher, doesn’t it? AVDI: To some degree, yeah. But I mean, that was a big part of my consideration is that I can’t afford to do that. JEFF: Peter Cooper talks about that too. I think especially with his first book with Apress. I'm pretty sure he had sort of big run down with all the numbers and stuff like that. And that’s fairly common to hear, especially in the tech industry. I don’t know about fiction in general but. ERIC: What I've heard  like a normal mainstream tech book might get $10,000 between the upfront and any royalties, but it's like an 18 to 20 per month process, and it's almost a part time job the entire time. So there's some hits like Peter Cooper’s book actually did really, really, well. And then there's others that like might sold 12 copies. AVDI: Yeah. And I’d love to come back and revisit some of my books some day, when I have hopefully more time and money on my hands, and do nicely, you know, really well indexed and proof read and formatted versions. But I think so far, the worse is better approach has done well by me. Because I can’t look at any of them and then say, “Nope, that wasn’t profitable.” CHUCK: So what's your process from start to finish on putting a book together? AVDI: I usually have an outline, which evolves over time. And you know, there's a fair amount of just wondering around… my process with anything involves a great deal of wondering around in like my basement or my backyard thinking, just brainstorming and figuring out what I wanna say and stuff like that. CHUCK: So you have little deer trails out there? AVDI: [Chuckles] Pretty much, yeah. And I come up with topics that I wanna cover, I write content, I write some code. I don’t know how detailed  I get about that, but I do all these in org mode in Emacs, which is sort of like an outliners/personal organizers/publishing system on crack. And kind of slowly flush it out there. The nice thing about it is that you can start with an outline, flush it out, publish it to HTML or PDF, and kind of move forward from there. And then like I said, I get it out to people as early as I can, usually which is like blog announcement. At some point, as I near the finish with incorporating feedback from people and everything, at some point in there, I usually start work on getting the cover on. I usually put a bid up on 99Designs for a cover. And although for this latest one, I actually went and found the person who did the winning design for Exceptional Ruby, and actually tracked them down and went to them directly to get to the cover for Confident Ruby. But I try to get the cover nailed down, and figure out what I'm going to do for the website for it. And eventually one day, after I address most of the outstanding bug reports, I pronounce it done, and put up an announcement. I don’t know. What else do you wanna know? CHUCK: It almost sounds like with this last one, you started selling it before you even had written hardly any of it. AVDI: Yeah. And that was just gauge interest. And I feel like, I don’t think I could have done that like with my first book, because that would have been asking way too much with people. I felt like with a third book, I had proven myself. I have proven that I could finish a book, and  that it will be something that people wanna read, so I feel like maybe I've earn enough cred to do that. Plus, it was built on a talk that I did from Confident Code, which had a lot of really great responses and the videos are all out there, so people could take a look at that and see that it was a material that they would be interested in. And I think a lot of it, the early sales were based on that. I don’t have savings, so I can’t be like, “Well, I'm going to just live on savings for a month and write a book.” So a lot of the stuff just stems from, “I wanna do this thing. I think this thing would be awesome. How can I do this thing without going broke?” CHUCK: It's funny because this whole talk and everything else has really got me to thinking about the possibility of writing a book. And it's never something that I even thought I could do, but the more I think about it, the more it’s like, “If I can sit down and write a blog, then I can sit down and at least crank out a few paragraphs or something every day.” And where I've already got a lot of it outlined for the webinar, I should be able to grind it out. AVDI: Absolutely. If you can speak, you can write. CHUCK: I've heard that before. I don’t know how true that is [chuckles] because I've done the one, not the other. I do a lot of speaking. ERIC: Well, you can always speak and then you can transcribe it or pay to have someone transcribe it for you, and then you can go through and edit it. I did that with an interview kind of thing. I think it's less than an hour interview, and it had been like 40 or 50 pages typed up. That’s like with no chapters in it; it's like I said, she said, I said, she said. So it's like, as far as like getting the content created, you could probably just speak and do that and then come back through it. And if it's a code book, write code to support it and even skip to the later process where you start organizing stuff and see what parts are missing and see if you need to add or remove sessions too. It's kind of like what I said, if you're going to be making something like content wise, figure out what mode works for you. Is it like audio, is it video, is it text? And then if you can, translate it into other ones, if you wanna sell a different thing. AVDI: I think that’s very true. And as far as writing goes, the wonderful thing about self-publishing is that you can set your own tone, and that’s okay. If you're comfortable speaking and you just transcribe effectively what you would say if you were explaining it to someone, it might not be okay for a lot of the publishers, but that can be fine for your audience. And it's one of the wonderful things about it is that you can have a more conversational tone, and nobody minds. But yeah, I think you are absolutely right. You can pick whatever medium works best for you. CHUCK: So let’s change tactics a little bit. We've talked about eBooks; what about screencasts? Because it seems like it's something that all of us have done. Is there a difference between screencast that you just put out there for free, and screencasts that you put out so people would pay you for them? ERIC: The payment processing part. [Laughter] CHUCK: Fair enough. ERIC: I think quality is going to be one. If you are just throwing something out there, you don’t have to worry about the editing as much, but if you're actually charging for it, especially with Peep code, because Peep code came on early on. Really, really high quality stuff. So especially on the Ruby market, people come to expect high quality screencasts they are going to pay for. So I think that’s a big part. And then I mean it also depends on what you are doing, if your screencast can deliver value and it teaches someone what they wanna learn, your quality could be lower. CHUCK: I see different people putting out like different paid things. You’ve got like Destroy All Software, and you’ve got the RailsCasts Pro and a lot of these other ones. And it seems like the quality is more or less the same as what they put out for free. I mean, the quality is good; I'm not complaining, I'm just saying. JEFF: I'm trying to think if Gary ever did anything free of… I mean, he got a couple quotas on Vimeo and something else like that. But I mean, I think he started being paid, but Ryan Bates, I mean he's got nearly 400 screencasts or something. I mean three years of doing it free, so I mean, the quality is naturally going to get better for him. ERIC: He also has a lot of trust. Like people know he's going to put up good stuff. CHUCK: That’s true. AVDI: But there's big differences between the formats there, like you can look at one of the Peepcode’s screencast and think, “Wow, that’s a level of editing that I can’t even aspire to.” So, the hell with it, they are not going to do…. sorry, this is probably a family friendly rated podcast. CHUCK: [Chuckles] JEFF: It’s not on, so probably. [Laughter] AVDI: So, “The heck with it, I can’t do screencasts and sell them.” But then you got Gary Bernhardt, and his stuff is very high quality, but it's also very low-fi in  a sense, where he doesn’t have intros or animations or anything. If he has bullet points that he wants to put up on the screen, he types them in Vim. So I think there’s a wide array of levels of production you can do, and they all work for their own audiences. JEFF: I just think part of shows that there is a huge demand for content. I mean, I don’t remember if Gary release his numbers, but he talked about it loosely a while ago, but he’s pretty much fulltime on Destroy All Software. And I got to imagine Ryan is beyond fulltime with the RailsCasts Pro stuff. CHUCK: Yeah, I've talked to both of them, and I'm pretty sure that both of them are making enough to completely live on every month from their video series. JEFF: Yeah. AVDI: And what's interesting from the marketing perspective, I don’t know what Gary has done. The only  marketing that I've seen from him is I know there were some like free month coupons that were going around the conferences. CHUCK: I’ve interviewed him almost right when he started Destroy All Software, and I know that went out to a few hundred people. But yeah, I'm not sure exactly what the different marketing areas are that he used. JEFF: I think it's just speaking at conferences. I mean he has a love hate relationship with Twitter it seems like, right? AVDI: [Chuckles] JEFF: The comments I think were the big thing. I don’t know how much… ERIC : The whole word of mouth. AVDI: My impression was that there was just a lot of people, once he sort of broke onto the scene, there were a lot of people saying, “Got to check this out.” And I think that’s kind of my acme of marketing right there is I would love to be in a place where the only marketing that I have is people going, “You’ve got to check this out, because I'm putting out material of such high quality and delivering that much value.” That’s where I wanna be. CHUCK: So where do you guys kind of see things going from here with product development of this kind? I kind of wanna hear everybody weigh in if you have something that you're going to work on or want to be doing. AVDI: Somebody else talk besides me. CHUCK: Why don’t we make Eric talk? ERIC: So I already have my three books out there. I'm putting a lot of time into Chirk, which is more SaaS software. I've been wanting to go back I guess at least two, maybe all three books and do another edition. I mean all of them except for one, were pretty good the first time. And there's even more content or more things I wanna change to make it easier and clearer to the readers, but it's one of those time to put in to do it, because it's go back through, edit, kind of relaunch them all, put them out there, versus doing work that’s going to be making me money right now. Kind of like what I was saying earlier, it's like I'm working off my savings right now. I'm trying to build up some other projects and stuff. So it's kind of like, “Are these going to be the best return of my time?” So that’s kind of why I'm focusing on Chirk. But I started a list of like book ideas or tech ideas. I think I have like a dozen or so different things in there that I have kind of gone through over the years, and pull stuff out or the ones that are like… Avdi here did a really good one on Ruby exceptions, so I'm not  going to do that. So that’s still there if I ever find the time and have the desire, I can just start going through those notes and actually start building stuff. But the thing I really like that a lot of people have done now, is there are a lot more self-publishers. And so the tools and kind of I guess the environment for self-publishing is a lot better now than it was I  guess two to three years ago. So if you actually wanted to write a book, it’s pretty easy to do. And it's not going to be like, you don’t have like a scarlet letter on you for being a self-publisher, which is pretty nice. CHUCK: Jeff, do you have any intention of doing something like this? JEFF: Sure. I mean, who knows at this point. Eric and I chatted about this. It's a common theme in the chat general for this podcast, which is maintaining focus and something. And I'm trying with all my might to maintain focus on just two things. And right now, my long term contract and trying to push more people to Freelance Funnel. I mean, I like to do some stuff with a podcast. I’ve got some of my own ideas for a podcast. And I really enjoy screencasting. I think I enjoyed video more than I do audio – and way more than I do writing. So I  mean, I have ideas for stuff I wanna do, but I'm really trying to focus on a couple of things right now, and not be so scattered brain on everything I do. CHUCK: So where I'm trying to go, first off, I did a webinar month on building JSON API, so like I’ve said I’d really like to get a video together for just so people can purchase it. I got a lot of good feedback on it. People seem to really like it -- the ones that came. So I like to put it out there so that people can watch it. And the other thing that I’d like to do is like I said, is I’d like write an eBook. I'm also tempted to write a book that’s kind of a Ruby on Rails tutorial. I know Michael Hartl did one, but I've read his book and my approach is a little bit different. I think it might be interesting to put something else out there. And the other thing that I’d really like to do is put together just kind of a Rails Cast Pro or Destroy All Software, except it's just short segments on different aspects of Ruby or Rails, maybe different series for each one for Ruby and for Rails. But basically just start at the beginning; just the basic stuff and works up through the more intermediate and advanced topic, so that people can pick up a new episode every week and watch it, and basically move into that type of development. I also like to, as I learn iOS development, I do the same thing there, so as I feel like I have a  solid foundation for some of the basic topics, then I can start doing videos for those. JEFF: The subscription model is definitely the way go. And Eric mentioned BD Cast in the chat, and that was, I don’t know how long ago that was. Two years ago I think it was the last major effort I put on BD Cast. And I still get a couple of sales a month on it, which is nice. I'm not putting any into the site, and they need to be fresh. I mean, Peepcode, did it in the beginning, but then they offered the pax, and then they had the unlimited yearly subscription or whatever. But subscription is so much nicer than trying to do one off sales for all your screencasts or all whatever you are doing, just because you don’t wanna make people have to decide which one they wanna buy. It's easier if the pay you $10 or $9/month or whatever and they can watch whatever they want to and not have to decide if they really wanna see this one versus something else. I don’t know. But yeah, definitely subscription is nice. ERIC: I always do that with Peepcode, like buy a 5-pack to get like four videos and then like, “What am I using my last one on?” And then I'll just randomly pick something that I have a slight interest in. CHUCK: So Avdi, you are working on Confident Ruby. Are there any other projects that you're getting in the works? AVDI: I have not finished Confident Ruby. And I'm going to keep writing because it turns out to be something that I really enjoy and works out well for me. So I have a long queue of things to write, including some collaboration with other people that I’d like to do. And I've got RubyTapas, which I'm going to be going any day now, which is just going to be a screencast series. And also got kind of another screen series in the works. And other than that, businesswise, I'm going to keep doing this pairing thing because it's been a really awesome experience getting to work with all different people, and see many different people’s problems that they are working with, and where they are at with programming and stuff like that. CHUCK: I really wanna have another question and that is for the subscription things, are you guys building your own sites? Or are you using a service out there to put the videos out? How do you manage that or how are you looking to manage that? JEFF: I have no idea at this point. BDCast was a custom site which is a pain in the ass. I mean, I would not, if I could find a way to sell without having to build a custom site to do it again, and all I wanted to do was to publish content, then I wouldn’t. I'm sure there's a plugin for WordPress and something else that makes it trivial to do that. I'm so over building sites just to deliver that type of stuff, seriously. AVDI: I'm not going to be building anything if I can avoid it. I mean, one of the only way I can get anything done is by kind of choosing my battles. And I wrote a post recently about why use WordPress, which is that for my blogs, for blogs, which is that because it's in PHP, which I don’t really know and have very little desire to learn, I'm forced to just use WordPress and whatever plugins are available. And it keeps me focused on the task at hand, which is writing instead of fiddling around with my technology. And the same goes for selling stuff. Actually, this was going to be one of my picks, but I've been very, very happy with DPD, which is, for selling stuff. And I know that they have a subscription product that’s going to be out any day now, and I'm probably going to be the first to hop on board, if I can be. So I'll probably just coordinate my stuff with that. JEFF: So, Ben Scheirman, he did NSScreencast. I think he took the entire RailsCast, the open source site for Rails casts, plus all the hand break scripts and everything else, when he started. I think he did like six or seven free, and then he switched to subscription model, but I think most of his site and tooling around screen casts were all built off the stuff Ryan Biggs open sourced for RailsCasts. CHUCK: That’s an interesting idea. All right, well lets go ahead and get into the picks. We've been talking for about an hour here. Eric, do you wanna go first? ERIC: Sure. So I don’t think I've ever actually bought like MP3 music. I come from like * it was all fine, and Napster. But since then, I’ve just been streaming it using Pandora. But I guess a couple of weeks ago, I was looking for music to listen to while running, and I actually ended up buying me some mp3s. So I'm going to call it a band. I don’t know if it's a band, or a group, but the band is Two Steps from Hell. They basically, it's like an instrumental kind of orchestra music, but if you’ve ever seen like movie trailers, or if there's like an action or fight scene and there's a background music going on, that's kind of like what this music is. There's no vocals, it's kind of upbeat and for exercising, it's like a really good thing to have in the background. So I got it off amazon. What is it like $8 or $9 for the whole CD. And they have two of them up there, so that’s my pick. CHUCK: Jeff, what are your picks? JEFF: First one is If This, Then That. I think we've picked it before, but it's worth picking again. Eric found a Paleo cookbook. One of the If This, Then That recipes is to look at the new Kindle free list, and it sends your email and you just go through that email and find that cookbook on a Paleo stuff. And I've been watching it for a couple of weeks since then. And it's interesting, a lot of trashy romance that you have to delete but every once in a while, there's decent pick. And I use it for a ton of other stuff. So that’s my first pick. My second pick, I'm sort of in the same boat as Eric, as far as music goes. I have I don’t know, 20 Gigs of metal from somewhere, but I never listen to it anymore. I'll stream everything off Pandora, and I use piano bar, which is a command line client to listen to it. But the pick is actually the artist called Epic Soundtracks. It's really the artist name, and that channel would give you like the score soundtrack for a bunch of movies and stuff, really. That’s my pick. CHUCK: My first pick is I just signed a new contract with a company that I'm going to be working with. It's actually the contract that David Brady, that the company he's working with, I decided to go ahead and pick  that up for a few months. And their set up, they are using Tmux, and Emacs. And for those of you who know me, I generally use Vim for  my code editing. So I picked up a book off of Amazon quite a long time ago, actually, and it is Learning GNU Emacs and I'll put a link to it in the show notes, but anyway, I'm probably going to be pouring over this book this Saturday. And I have used Emacs, I'm somewhat familiar with it, but hopefully this will get me to a point where I can kind of be an Emacs pro. AVDI: Good luck. I've been trying for about a decade. CHUCK: [Chuckles] JEFF: Eric and Avdi will probably have better resource than I do, but I troll YouTube like every week or so looking for a new Vim videos, and every once in a while, get a hair to look at Emacs stuff. So there's a guy that was doing Emacs Golf videos to challenge the Vim Golf guys. They are Emacs Rocks. Looks like it started a couple of years ago, then died out shortly after. And now it's re-emerging, a couple of current-ish screencast ideas if you are interested. CHUCK: That’s good to know. ERIC: What I would recommend, get the O'Reilly pocket guide for Emacs. It's like nine bucks, really, really small. I actually have two copies. I left one at work, then I have one at home. That's going to save you a bunch of time. And then I'll put a link in the show notes. I actually have a one page print out of like common things to do in Emacs, and I have it laminated. And I've had this close to my desk for years. It has a copyright of 2002. CHUCK: Okay. Well, I'll check all those things out, because I'm going to have to learn all the stuff that I've forgotten about Emacs. Anyway, that’s all I really have at this point. So, Avdi, what are your picks? AVDI: I knew this was the Ruby Freelancers podcast, so I was thinking of freelance-y business things that I can pick. I think the highest praise I can give to any device in my menagerie of devices is that I have stopped thinking about it. And I realized today that my printer has found its way into that category. For most of my career, whatever printer I had was the bane of my existence. And I always cringe whenever I had to print something out, or when somebody in the family would have to print something out. And a while back, I forgot how long it was, but a while back, I realized I need to replace yet another HP Printer. And I asked around for some advice. And first of all, I decided I was going to get a laser this time. And secondly, a lot of people suggestion that I go with Brother, instead of HP. And I got myself Brother MFC7860DW Printer. And it's one of these like small office jobs that’s pretty big. For a small printer, I guess it's pretty big. But it does scanning, and it does laser printing and I think it will print two sided. And I've even taught it to email me pictures that I scan. I stick a piece of paper on there and tell it to scan straight to my email account or email it to Picasa or something like that. And it just works. It's like the first printer I've had, that doesn’t complain about mysterious printer malities every other day. So that’s a pick. And there's this book I haven’t finished. There's this book that I've been slowly reading called the Good Strategy, Bad Strategy. And for all I know, it's already been picked on the show, but it's a business book, I guess. It's by this guy that consults on business strategy, mainly. And it's basically about how most of the strategy out there isn’t, because most of the strategy out there is more like hand wavy aspirations like, “We wanna be the best ever at everything.” And he kind of nails down what real strategy is, and it's been a good read so far. So those are my two picks. CHUCK: All right, let’s go ahead and wrap the show up. Thanks for coming, Avdi. AVDI: Thanks for having me. CHUCK: I wanna thank our other co-hosts as well. Thanks for coming, guys. Like I said, we'll wrap the show up. I'm a little sick, that's why I'm repeating myself. Anyway, we'll get this up as soon as we can, and we'll catch everybody next week!

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