CORALINE: Is this going to be a roast?
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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 202 of the Ruby Rogues podcast. This week on our panel, we have Jessica Kerr.
JESSICA: Good morning.
CHUCK: David Brady.
DAVID: This is where I have a joke ready.
CORALINE: This is the easy part.
JESSICA: It’s been, too long, David.
DAVID: It is. I’m rusty, I’m rusty. Come back to me later. Pass, pass!
DAVID: No wait, fake, fake!
CHUCK: Coraline Ada Ehmke.
CORALINE: Hello from the perpetual winter of Chicago.
CHUCK: Saron Yitbarek.
SARON: Hey everybody.
CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. And this week we have a special guest, Jake Williams.
JAKE: Hey guys.
CHUCK: So, before we get going I just want to make a quick announcement. We have a Teespring campaign up if you want a sweatshirt (I say sweatshirt but I mean hoodie) or a t-shirt. We have them in both men’s and women’s sizes on Teespring. So, if you go to Teespring.com/AprilRogues, that’s April as in the month, Rogues, all one word, you should be able to get them. We’ll also have a link in the show notes. So, if you can’t remember that or whatever, then you can just go to the show notes, RubyRogues.com and you would be able to see the link there at the top of the show notes.
Do you want to introduce yourself really quickly, Jake?
JAKE: Yes. I have a site called Wild Academy. And it’s my brand that everything is centered around. And I have a YouTube channel with about 10,000 subscribers. And I teach Ruby programming and design. And the design is actually 3D modeling and graphic design, so kind of a mix.
CHUCK: Cool. Well, I’ve known you for a few months now, and I think it’s really interesting that you’ve been able to get that top spot for Ruby tutorials on YouTube. I’m curious. What kinds of things over the last year that you’ve been doing this have you struggled with? Or the people that have come in through your tutorials, what kinds of things do they fight with as they get into Ruby?
JAKE: I think the most frustrating thing for anybody who’s getting into software development at all is not knowing what to do with what they’re learning. And when you’re learning something, there’s this constant voice in the back of your head going, “Is this relevant? Do I need to know this? Is this going to affect my income? Is it going to make it so that it can get a job somewhere?” And then, “What do I need to do?” So, if somebody is learning Ruby, a new programmer isn’t going to know what Ruby’s good for. Most of them won’t even know that they need to learn Rails if they want to, that that’s where all the jobs are at. So, I think the best thing you can do for somebody is just outline at the very beginning, “Okay, here’s what this language is good for and here are the things that you can do with it. And here are the types of jobs that you can expect to have.”
SARON: So, if you are teaching people Ruby at the same time that you were learning, how do you know the answer to that?
JAKE: [Chuckles] That’s why I don’t answer that question, actually.
SARON: Very smart.
JAKE: So, what I do is, and we talked about this before the show, I also have a PHP series and I finished a PHP book about a week and a half ago or two weeks ago. And so, what I’m doing is I’m building everything from the foundation. I’m just going through the languages from their basics. And I think that this can help because I don’t get, and maybe I’m just making excuses for myself, but this makes it so that I don’t get into, that I don’t go over anybody’s head. So, I’m not talking about stuff that isn’t going to be relevant to the person right away. And what I really want to do is create a portfolio of content that gives people just the general and the basics of each language. And then they can go in.
But let’s say that you do know Ruby but you just want to see the syntax of PHP, you can go in and just grab my book. It’s 120 pages and you can see the basic syntax within it. But it’s not going to give you information on the frameworks and how to actually build an application. But that is for phase two of Wild Academy. So, that’s when Wild Academy launches as a website, more like a Treehouse or a Pluralsight or Lynda. That’s when I’ll be doing the higher level topics. And I’m having developers come in to help develop those courses. Does that make sense?
CHUCK: Mmhmm. Well, what I’m curious about is it seems like some people are the, “I’m going to go find a tutorial on YouTube or Lynda or whatever,” and other people, they really need that in-person guidance. They need a mentor. They need somebody that will sit down with them and help them write the code. How do you identify whether or not you’re a good fit for the video course or the video tutorial series versus something like going to a RailsBridge or signing up for a bootcamp?
JAKE: I’m not sure. But I can say this, and maybe this is a copout, but I feel like if you’re going to be successful as a developer the feeling that I get is because everything is in constant flux and always changing, that if your personality isn’t the type where you can go out and find the solutions and solve them, and maybe this is something you’re taught along the way, but maybe you won’t have a successful career as a developer to begin with unless you have the ability to be a self-starter and to go out and find those solutions. And it’s a lot easier now than it used to be. There are so many resources out there. I don’t want to say there’s no excuse. But I don’t know. I think bootcamps are great for people, obviously. But there’s so much you can learn before you drop the money to go to a bootcamp. I don’t think you should be learning basics at a bootcamp.
DAVID: I think that statement you made is highly, highly unfair. But you’re not wrong.
JAKE: Okay, good.
SARON: So, what do you mean by a self-starter? So, I went to a bootcamp. So, is the fact that I went to a bootcamp mean that I’m not a self-starter?
DAVID: Oh, shots fired, wow.
SARON: Yeah, there we go. That’s what you get on Ruby Rogues.
JAKE: No, because you signed up for the bootcamp. So, I still don’t think somebody walked you through… so, the point of a bootcamp, they statement they make is that, “We’ll walk you through this. And it’ll be in person.” But I don’t know that that’s the actual true value of it. If anything, it just, if you’re on your computer all day by yourself and you’re not engaging with people, that can be kind of a drag. And [so, maybe just] a bootcamp is good because you get connections, in-person connections that are far more valuable than just having Twitter followers or people on your email list.
So, Chuck and I have been to lunch. And there’s no replacement for that. And because we’re all technically-minded, and anybody who’s interested in development programming, we’re all technically-minded, but we just assume that everything can be automatic, that we can just make everything systemized. You can’t make personal relationships systemized. And I talk about that in some of my videos I’ve uploaded. They’re just basic general advice where I tell people if you want to get a job somewhere, you need to not just send in a digital application.
One of the tricks I use, and I talked about this on EntreProgrammers, a show that Chuck is a host on as well, one of the things I did for my design company is I would send in… or I would send an email asking if I could do an interview with their owner because I’m going to write an article on their company on my website. And so, they were flattered. And so, I would get into the office with the owner of that company and I’d be interviewing the owner to write an article on that company. But then the conversation always turned back to them asking what it is that I do. Well, I provided services that would be valuable for that company. And so, I got several major clients by taking that approach, taking the trying to meet that person, trying to build a relationship.
And I know that that, the whole relationship marketing thing can get kind of annoying if you assume that that’s all there is. But everybody says that it’s who you know. Who you know is so valuable and there’s a lot of nepotism in the world. But if we’re logical as developers, is it left brain? I don’t know if it’s left or right brain, but…
JESSICA: That’s a big if.
JAKE: Yeah, and they cross. If we think that we’re, if we feel a kinship with Spock, then we should accept the fact that nepotism and who you know exists and actually take advantage of that reality, so Chuck and I should meet up. Chuck should invite me to lunch. And I feel like we’re way too afraid because we want all of our success to be directly related to our skills and merit. And that’s not always the case, because a lot of your skills are going to be acquired on the job. I think most of your skills will be acquired on the job.
And that’s what I would stress with any new developers. Because people always tell me, “Teach me everything about…” These comments on my videos, “What are all the technical things I absolutely have to know to get a job?” And I try and stress to them, it’s like the technical side is maybe 50% of the equation. And you could be the smartest. You could be the best developer in the world, but if you’re in your basement and you’re not willing to outreach and network, then you’re not going to have any clients and you’re not going to have a job. I’m just talking about these things because this stuff I actually do, I am entrenched in. This is my third company and I’ve used… I feel like this is my strong point.
JESSICA: So, we should work the system that does exist rather than trying to work the system we wish existed?
JAKE: Yes, exactly. Well, because… think of it this way. People, unless you’re trying to place individuals, you’re an advocate for yourself. So, there’s no way you should feel guilty about that. So, I don’t think anybody should be feeling guilty because they got a job somewhere that they aren’t 100% qualified. Because if you have the mindset that, “I am qualified because…” Well, look at it this way. If somebody hires you because you’re good at marketing, they’ve just acquired somebody who’s really good at marketing. [Chuckles] So, any business, especially a startup is going to actually want that trick, want that value. I’m not saying you should lie. But I’m saying you… I don’t think that Impostor syndrome should hold anybody back, is what I’m trying to get at.
DAVID: Yeah. There’s an art to blowing your own horn.
JESSICA: Yeah. And even then, you don’t have to know everything you need for the job. You need to know…
JESSICA: That you’re capable of learning it.
JESSICA: Most of what we do as developers is learning anyway.
JAKE: Yeah. What’s funny is I actually had this thought last night because I was looking into Chuck’s Rails Clips which funded… do you want to talk about it real quick or do you want me to just… it went over seven grand, which is just great.
CHUCK: Yeah, I can talk about it for a minute. So, I was looking at putting together a series like what RailsCasts was. And so, I put it up on Kickstarter. I’m not entirely sure. I think it was Steven Robinson who runs RubyNow.com or Ryan Burnett. Anyway, one of those guys mentioned Kickstarter to me. And so, I decided to put it up there. I set the funding to… I forget what it is exactly, the number. But anyway, if it raised $5,000 then it would be funded. And then I’d go ahead and do it. And then I actually put up a stretch goal for $7,000 and then I would do a webinar on testing. And that also was reached. So, I had 190 backers, pledged $7,120. And yeah, I’m pretty excited actually.
JAKE: Yeah, that’s just, I love it. I’m excited too. I don’t want to be like, I don’t want to overemphasize how amazing that is. But so I was thinking about this the other night. And I came to the realization that we’re uniquely in an environment where as teachers we get to actively continually learn and teach. 20 years ago, if you were a teacher as a profession, you taught just one thing because everything was systemized within the school systems where you would teach 8th grade math every single year. But Chuck, with Rails Clips, his job is to just constantly be on the cutting edge of learning and then re-teaching what he’s learning. And the same is true for me.
And I almost got a little teary-eyed because I just had this realization and it’s like, “Oh my gosh. I’m being paid. I can be in a situation where I’m being paid to learn,” just keep recycling over and over and over learning new and new concepts and getting paid for it. And I don’t think in the history of humankind that opportunity has existed.
DAVID: I would argue that NASA in the 60s was the other major time when that happened.
JAKE: Okay. [Inaudible]
JESSICA: Or churchmen, like the what do you call them, pastors back in Victorian England, the scientists were all, what do you call the people in charge of the little church?
JESSICA: Clergymen. That’s the word.
JESSICA: The scientists were all clergymen like Darwin.
JESSICA: Because basically you had all that idle time and you were paid to sit around and think about things.
JAKE: Right. That’s like the Institute for Advanced Studies. Have you heard of that? I think it was Princeton. There’s a book called ‘Turing’s Cathedral’ that talks about the IAS, Institute for Advanced Studies. And I think it was Princeton. But that’s where they had Einstein. They had… oh my gosh, all these names are slipping me right now. I’ll have to look it up. But yeah, there’s a whole group of people that they were paid, they were given tenure and they would just, their goal was to just learn, pursue knowledge, without any expectations for returns.
JESSICA: So, we’re in a lucky place where as long as we’re pursuing very practical technical knowledge, we can get returns on that as long as we present it to others to bring them along.
JAKE: Right. And I guess that situation has existed. But I think that there is, for the first time in history, there’s an actual industry around this concept that’s being built right now. Chuck, [Avdi], if you go to BlenderGuru.com that’s another individual who teaches Blender. And every single year he comes out with a new series, like an Architecture Academy where he teaches you how to do architectural stuff in Blender. And then he did a Nature Academy the year before that where he taught people how to create 3D models and animation of foliage and stuff.
So this, Andrew Price, that’s the person who started Blender Guru, Andrew Price gets paid, well he makes a living is probably the better way of saying it, by continuously pushing the boundaries on Blender and learning new things on Blender so that he can then re-teach those. And I think that the whole industry is going to fragment like that where there’s going to be those Andrew Prices, the websites, Blender or CG Cookies the same way. And people, the profession, so Charles will be a teacher that teaches within the software development. But that could be his whole career.
CORALINE: What do you think some of the responsibilities we have as teachers, what are some of those responsibilities?
JAKE: As far as not teaching people the wrong things that are going to cause a healthcare system to be hacked or, what do you mean by that?
CORALINE: In general. Are we responsible for the results that our students get or do not get? Are there things that we should be teaching that we’re not teaching?
JAKE: Well, I think that the market will have to decide that. So, there’s a really good podcast I listened to. I think it was Planet Money. There was an episode where they have the guy from Instapaper on the show as a guest. And Instapaper was an app for the iPhone that would, I think it was Instapaper. But it would take a website and save for later. And you could read it as if it was a PDF I believe. And Apple built in this, I think it was iOS 7 or 6, they built in this feature straight into the phone. And they asked them. They said, they asked the person who made Instapaper. They said, “Aren’t you worried that you’re going to lose a ton of business now?” And he made a really good point. And he said that, “All you really need to do is have one tweak.”
So, people just like using Instapaper. And he said people would donate money to him even though they had already purchased the product but they liked the individual who developed it. And they wanted to keep supporting him. So, a lot of… What was the question? I’m ‘tangenting’ a little bit. You’re saying what are the responsibilities, right?
JAKE: So, if I don’t include important information or information that should have been included… so, I look back at my Ruby videos and I think, “Man, I could have reorganized this. I could have done this a better way. I could have optimized it. And if I included this information, it probably would have been better for the student.” But I feel like I don’t want to spend too much time getting stuck by worrying too much about those things. Does that make sense? I guess I don’t have a good answer. [Chuckles] I don’t know what my responsibilities are. All I know is that if I’m putting out information that’s useful and valuable to people, I hope that they can then take that information and make it useful and valuable for themselves.
So, all five of you could read my Ruby programming book. And in the back of your head you’ll be saying, “Wow, I can’t believe he brought that up,” or, “That’s not relevant,” or, “Why didn’t he mention this?” I just know that because you’re all more advanced. You all know a lot more and what’s more valuable. But am I going to let that eat away at me so that I don’t produce that content, I don’t produce that material, and then none of that value is gained from the people who bought my product or got my products for free. Most of my books have been free.
SARON: Yeah. So, a lot of what you’re saying sounds very business-y. And I don’t mean that in a good or bad way. It’s just an observation.
SARON: And it makes sense that you’ve done a couple of businesses before. And it’s something that I struggle with a lot, because when I do Code Newbie and the Code Newbie podcast I get a lot of emails and tweets from people who started the same way where they’re saying, “I’m not a tech person and I’m starting my journey.” As I’m starting my journey, I’m also going to teach and I’m also going to sell courses or workshops or whatever it is. And part of me is excited about that because part of me goes, “Great. Good for you. Share your knowledge.” But the other side of me, “Do you actually know what you’re doing?”
SARON: And so, when you started this, I’m wondering how to you gauge your own success? Do you gauge it simply on number of views and thumbs up that you get from newbies? Which to be honest doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right material in the right order and all that. Or I don’t know, do you have a tech panel that you go to and say, “Is this what they should be…?” How do you measure your own success and what responsibility do you feel if any?
JAKE: This is a great question. So, in the original Ruby videos, if you watch them you’ll see that I’m dragging in the files into the console instead of just using the up arrow to re-launch the same program that I just ran. And that’s that way for the first seven videos until somebody in the comments said, “Hey, you can just use the up arrow.” So, it’s [chuckles] it’s a learning process for me and for the students. And in the comments I say, or not in the comments, but I want active engagement within the comments. So, I don’t always answer a question. I answer most of them but sometimes I let a question sit in the comments and hope that another viewer will answer that question for them. And it happens all the time. I’m surprised. I would say over 50% of the questions that get answered on my videos are from other users, other people that are learning. And so, as long as I’m creating an environment where everybody is learning, I’m okay with it. And all of my stuff is going to continue to get better.
So, when I was writing the PHP book, so many lessons were learned from the Ruby book. And I knew so much more about programming when I started writing the PHP book than I did when I wrote the Ruby book that it was just a better product. Now, all of this content is digital. So, I’ve actually gone back into my Ruby book, made some changes and then re-uploaded it to Amazon. So, the book was better. And what’s funny is that I think about books in libraries that are 20 years old. And I sometimes wonder how would they update this book if they could?
In fact, I’m reading ‘The Black Swan’ right now. But it’s the second edition. And at the bottom of the book there are these notes, these stars. And I swear there is 25% more content in the second edition of ‘The Black Swan’ than there is in the first edition. And I just thought that’s what’s so great about digital content is that we’re able to go back in, update, and optimize. And this is true with the guy who created the Rails book tutorial. I can’t remember his name.
CHUCK: Michael Hartl?
JAKE: Michael Hartl, yes. He updates that once a month, it seems. Are you on his email list, Chuck?
CHUCK: I might be. [Laughs]
JAKE: Yeah, me too. And he always, he updates it every month and I love that. But I’m not sitting here going, “Uh oh. Did he teach me something that he shouldn’t have?” or “Why didn’t he teach me this stuff before?” I just know that that’s the nature of the beast.
CORALINE: Jake, what’s the most surprising feedback you’ve gotten and what did you do with it?
JAKE: Most surprising feedback. I actually don’t mind trolls or haters. I had one person who was trolling really hard on another commenter. And I had to go in there and just, oh let’s see. I’m trying to remember how this went down. I’m surprised that people in the comments get so offended by trolls. So, somebody will attack me but then other people will jump on them and be, “Hey man, he’s doing this thing.” And in my mind I’m thinking, “No, I think that this troll is actually asking the right questions.” I think that this troll should be bringing up any mistakes that I’m making or better ways that I could be doing stuff next time.
So, I guess what’s surprising to me is how much I actually listen to the criticism and the trolls that people give me, because in this industry, or even as an entrepreneur, you really do want negative feedback. A lot of people don’t want negative feedback. But I don’t know. I feel like any feedback from family isn’t that valuable because they’re just going to tell you the nice things.
JAKE: And as somebody who wants to be more Spock-minded and more logical and things, I don’t know. I’m torn on niceness versus just be direct.
DAVID: There’s an interesting thing that happens when I’m watching a tutorial, that if I see them making a mistake or do it the hard way like drag a file in, I feel like I’m on a more level playing field with the person producing the content. I relax. I no longer feel like I’m being talked down to so much maybe or like, “Oh, this person is the holder of all knowledge.”
DAVID: And then, “Ahahaha, he’s dragging files in.”
DAVID: And that sort of thing. And the reverse is also true. I released a video two or three years ago about the three different ways you can create, or the five different ways you can create a hash and why you should never use the fifth one. And James Edward Gray saw it.
DAVID: And he pinged me and he said, “There’s actually six.” And I said, “Let’s do a pair programming video.” And he showed me a sixth way to do it. And we had just an absolute blast doing it. So, it goes both ways, right?
DAVID: If you make a mistake, what an opportunity that is. Instead of ‘angsting’, and I need to take this advice myself because ‘The Job Replacement Guide’ has been languishing for over a year now. And it’s all angst over…
DAVID: All of the mistakes I’m making in the book. And I just need to shut up and ship it, I guess, because the mistakes are going to be what moves the next edition forward.
JAKE: Right. And a great example is Apple shipped an iPhone that makes you lose service if you touch it in a certain spot, right? So, nobody is perfect and mistakes are going to be made. And even if you are… so, the five if you with how experienced you are, you’re going to upload tutorials. But there is somebody out there who’s going to be more advanced. And they’re going to watch it and they’re going to say, “Wow. That’s ridiculous.” So, the feeling I get I think is always going to exist. I don’t think it’s ever going to go away. I just think that the levels, the skill will increase but there’ll always be somebody ahead of me that knows more than me, that is smarter than me.
JAKE: And what I need to focus on is the people that are either equal with me or just right below me. And I’m trying to pull them up to the level that I’m at. And so, I’m just trying to get everybody on level one at this point, pulling everybody up with the four different languages that I’m [focusing] on. And then from there, I go to the second level because I’ve now learned enough about these concepts. And now I’m going to learn even more. I break things up as modules. I go, this year I’m going to spend this year doing these two languages. The next year I’ll do these two languages. Then I reiterate over those first two languages, get more technically advanced and skilled in those, and ship out more advanced content from there.
And so, because for me… so, this is the approach I do with anything is, I call it MPP. And I don’t know if I made this up, but I had to create an acronym for it. But it’s called Multiple Payout Potentials. And so, I told my wife. I said, “I’m going to create all these content for development, software development. If I don’t find a way to monetize it online, I’ve now created a massive portfolio of what I know and the things I can do.” So, I’ve actually gotten interviews here locally for Rails jobs because people have seen my YouTube channel. I didn’t even send them a resume. I sent them links to all of my stuff. And they said, “Oh, this guy’s a go-getter. This guy teaches Ruby so he knows the basics.” And so, that’s actually gotten me interviews. I’ve built up a portfolio from it.
JAKE: That was the payout. That’s the Multiple Payout Potential that I’ve created. I can either make money online with my content. Or if I don’t, I now have a portfolio and can monetize it by going and getting a job somewhere.
DAVID: Do you remember when bucket lists were really popular? I actually have an item on my bucket list that says ‘get paid three times for the same work’.
DAVID: And I haven’t ticked it off yet. I have another item that was ‘get paid twice for the same work’. And I have a constraint that it has to be ethical. I can’t just be stealing from somebody or ripping off, create IP for somebody…
DAVID: And then give it to somebody else. I haven’t hit the third one yet. I haven’t figured that out. But yeah, this creating multiple streams of revenue is a very solid business concept.
DAVID: And having an acronym for it is genius.
JAKE: Yeah. Multiple Payout Potential.
DAVID: I like it.
JAKE: That’s what I always ask myself. Is this thing that I’m doing right now, is it MPP? If it’s not, I won’t do it. I have to be able to pivot. There has to be a point of pivot for me for everything. And you talked about ethics or morals a little bit there. And I wanted to get on that too, because I do believe in doing all of this morally and ethically.
So, I uploaded a video recently giving away the PHP book for free. And I talked about a few authors that are in my genre that are paying for reviews on Amazon. And I know for a fact they’re paying for reviews because they’ll have 55 star reviews and just straight five stars. No fours, no threes. And that’s, I think that that’s impossible. And when I looked at the reviewers, they were all reviewing the same items. So, I would click on a reviewer and that reviewer reviewed another book. I clicked on the second reviewer and they reviewed that same book that the previous reviewer did. So, I know that they’re purchasing, they’re batch… they’re buying [inaudible]. And to me, that’s dishonest. And that doesn’t do anything for the reader at all, because it makes their book in front of other books that are potentially better, because if they’re better they would be higher up in ranking. But I really think that the dishonest business models drive me crazy.
And so, I wrote a video about it saying, “Look, if you do read my book and you do finish it, please leave an honest review.” If you’re going to leave a three-star review, that’s fine. Tell me the things that I need to fix. Tell me the things that I need to make this book better, because I want long-term sustainability. Short-term, make a million dollars this year and then have everything crash the next year, is not viable. That’s not the strategy I’m taking. And honesty is really the only thing that you can carry through with you long-term. You can only cheat the system for so long. So, there were people who were uploading two-minute YouTube videos and they were putting pictures of women on those for thumbnails.
JAKE: Overnight, when YouTube updated their algorithm to promote videos with longer view times, longer percentage view times, there were people who in one day, their view count dropped 90%.
JAKE: Nine-tenths of their business vanished overnight. Now, if they had been doing things honestly and built their business up from a firm foundation, then that susceptibility wouldn’t have happened. So, I don’t present myself as somebody who is… I don’t say, “Hey, I’m Jake Williams. I’ve been a Rails developer for eight years and I’ve been in a company and I’ve worked with high-ups and things like that.” I don’t present myself that way. And I definitely don’t pay for reviews. I definitely don’t pay for views or anything like that on my YouTube channel. Any of these black hat stuff are not long-term sustainable.
JAKE: So, there’s no point wasting people’s time. And I know that as developers a lot of people in this field… so, it’s interesting because we’re definitely, and I shouldn’t say ‘we’re’ yet, maybe not [chuckles] but there is two different groups where there’s the people who just want to hack and just want to cheat and take over because they know the rules. They understand how software works. So, they know SEO. They know how to set it up to win. But then there’s this other group of people who are generally more honest than the rest of society, especially the more Asperger’s type which I think is a… I don’t think that Asperger’s exists. I think there’s a huge range of the spectrum. But I do think that the more… I don’t think Spock is a liar. I should stop using that term. [Chuckles]
JAKE: But I feel like the higher-educated they are, the more you care about the truth and information, the less you actually want to hack and be dishonest.
JESSICA: So, it’s the difference between working the system that exists and exploiting the system that exists.
JESSICA: Yeah. You had some great examples of how when you put your teaching videos on YouTube and you can point people to them as examples of your work, you don’t need to be able to make an entire career out of that. Anybody can do a little bit of this or a little bit of blogging. And it can have a proportionate impact on your career.
JESSICA: By opening new opportunities.
JAKE: Exactly. And there’s also lessons learned. So as I said, I make the content that I can then monetize or [inaudible] email list or get noticed or whatever. I could potentially get a job from it. But further, I’m just learning business in general. And I’m learning software skills and things like that, that I can then incorporate with something I may later do.
CHUCK: What I want to ask is, you came in and the way you learned was by studying and then doing these tutorials, which to me mostly says that it doesn’t matter if you’re new. Go out and learn something and share it. How do you help people get past the Impostor syndrome that they have where it’s like, “I’m a new person and I just don’t know”? Or, “I’m an outsider” is usually how it feels, right? I’m not steeped in the culture. I’m not very experienced. I don’t know everything about this technology. So, how do you get past that to have the confidence to put something out there on YouTube?
JAKE: I think it helps to know what Impostor syndrome is and realize that it exists within everybody. So, that gives me the confidence, because I just say, “I’m not feeling confident about this. But then there are people who are more skilled, better than me, that also don’t feel confident [chuckles] with what they’re doing and have those same feelings.” So, that’s what I would say. Just acknowledge that that feeling will never go away and embrace it.
CORALINE: And how do you deal with the opposite problem? The Dunning-Kruger Effect where you think you have more expertise than you actually do, and maybe that will give you the confidence to teach things that maybe aren’t necessarily right or the best way to do things.
JAKE: So, I think that I actually have a mixture of both of these things, to be honest. But I… the Kruger effect, I wonder if that’s… if you know that you might have it, maybe it affects you less. But [chuckles] I just don’t know. I guess there’s a mixture of the two. I know that there’s… so, I know for a fact that people assume that you know more than you do about everything. Don’t you all feel that way about everybody? You just, you look at somebody and you’re like, “Wow. They’re so much more advanced. They know all those things.” But it’s because we don’t… everybody is in a resume position where everybody’s putting their best. They’re wearing their best suit I guess, out. Nobody talks about their failures. Nobody writes on their resumes the things that they’re not good at. So, we always see the best of people. And then we get this feeling that, “Everybody’s better than me.”
JAKE: And then I think that’s probably where Impostor syndrome stems from.
JESSICA: Right. We’re comparing other people’s best to our own everything.
JAKE: Yes, yes.
JESSICA: But on the other hand, Impostor syndrome, there was a beautiful post on this the other day which I’ll get in the show notes. The word is sometimes overused because if you don’t know something, it’s totally cool to say you don’t know it. You don’t need to pretend that you do. And you can do the same thing in your blogposts or in your videos or whatever it is. It’s cool to say, “I just learned this. This is what I got out of it. I’m looking forward to learning more.” You don’t have to pretend to know what you don’t either.
JESSICA: Although Jake…
JAKE: Yeah, yeah.
CHUCK: I really like… I’m going to phrase it a different way because the approach that I’ve taken for the areas where I know I have deficiencies, I’m not sure exactly what’s on either side, is that I approach it as a scientific report. Here’s what I did. Here’s what happened. And here’s what I learned.
CHUCK: And there’s… somebody else can go do the same thing and learn the same thing. And so, then it doesn’t matter as much necessarily if you did the wrong thing, because ultimately the lesson’s there.
JAKE: Exactly. So, you’re solving all of these problems and issues for people. The internet is just like the one percent of what everybody has done best. Well, as far as the internet of things to learn, is the better way of putting it. So yeah, yeah. You’ll spend a lot of time just hashing out on this stupid problem and going through a lot of things that then didn’t work. And so, you just bag those away. You don’t talk about those things that didn’t work in your post. But then you just tell people, “Here’s the solution to this problem. Go straight to it,” right? And so, that’s the value of the internet to begin with, is we get to avoid all of the problems that other people have made, because they just point us right to the solution. So, I guess the question is how do you create somebody who is a problem solver? Because sometimes it’s actually more valuable to spend the time trying to solve that problem. I don’t know.
CHUCK: Alright. Well, I think we’re getting close to the end of our time. Are there any other things that we should talk about or ask about with regards to making tutorials or teaching people or being new?
CORALINE: I have one final question.
CORALINE: Do you think the Ruby community is beginner-friendly? And how does it compare to other programming communities?
JAKE: So, I listen to Giant Robots Smashing into Other Giant Robots from thoughtbot, which is a great podcast. If anybody’s listening to this and they don’t listen to it, they really should. I think the thoughtbot founder was on the Ruby on Rails podcast that’s on the 5by5 network. And they were talking about DHH’s attitude and how they worry that that type of attitude could turn people off. And so, as far as the Ruby community in general, I think that it’s very friendly for new people. But I do worry that the head honcho isn’t really. If you just… I guess I’m confused by why he isn’t nicer. [Chuckles] Does that make sense?
SARON: [Laughs] Yeah.
JAKE: It would seem like, and they did say at his last conference where he talked about TDD how he was kind of aggressive towards the main people who are the promoters of Rails. Spent a lot of time, and they think that test-driven development is worth it. And though he felt, or I don’t know if he felt but the thoughtbot founder said that he worries that he’s just basically turning these people off, the people that built up the Ruby community to begin with. So, that’s on the higher level aspect of it. And those are just… I don’t know how much that actually affects the overall community.
As far as the overall community yeah, I think that everybody… this podcast is one of the examples of how outreach works in the community. So, that’s there, and then again, the Ruby on Rails podcast and then the thoughtbot podcast. I think there needs to more cross-pollination because it took me a year to find all of these resources and find the good ones. And so, maybe it’s up to me to just share. I have shared Ruby Rogues on my channel. But maybe I should do more of, go listen to thoughtbot, just be engaged in these things.
SARON: Yeah, one thing that I think helps with the whole making everything very friendly in terms of the community is with DHH for example when I went to RailsConf last year and I saw that talk I thought, “Oh, my god. DHH feels a certain way. I guess we all must fall in line.” And I was so happy to find out afterwards throughout all the other talks how everybody felt so comfortable challenging him. And it wasn’t, “Oh, DHH said so. Therefore we must also agree,” which is how I thought people would react. It was, “Oh, no. he’s just being silly,” or, “I totally disagree and we should think about it this way.” So, I think that just the openness to other opinions at least as far as I’ve experienced, I think that helps.
SARON: And knowing that your opinion is valuable. I don’t know how anyone else has experienced that but that’s been my experience.
JAKE: Well, the only, and I hate to make this point, but they did say that it is confusing, frustrating that instead of talking about the next technology or the future, how things are going, that that discussion was brought up. [Chuckles] they’re not talking about those things with the Node.js community. And so, maybe just doubling down and really focusing on just the technical side, the technology of things, and being more optimistic about things and trying to push is maybe where people should really be focusing instead of getting into these silly, petty debates.
CHUCK: Yeah, well I have to chime in on this because I felt this for a while. But when you’re getting started with programming, the technical stuff is really what you focus on because unless you can do the work, you don’t provide the value.
JAKE: That’s true.
CHUCK: But once you get to that point, once you have a certain level of proficiency, and that’ll vary from company to company and person to person, background to background, but once you get to that point the most of your problems are actually the other issues that we’re talking about. So, does TDD work for me or not? Does…
JAKE: That’s true.
CHUCK: Do the people on my team, the way that we work together, is that creating problems or solving them? And so, I think it’s interesting that you mention maybe the focus should be around the technology. But the technology is, it’s static until it moves ahead. And then we just all compensate for it one way or another. But the people issues and the team issues and the workflow issues are all so much more complex and solve so many different problems that I think, I completely support DHH in going out and sharing his view on that. And then I support the community in having the conversation about it. And I think it’s important that we explore this because then people can be inspired to try out TDD or try out doing it the way that David said that he does it. And deciding, “Okay, there are merits to it this way. There are merits to the other way. In this way, these are the tradeoffs that I’m going to have. I can merge them in this way and then we can move ahead.”
SARON: So, my question is more on the production of how you do stuff, because I do the Code Newbie podcast, focusing on newbie programmers and people getting into tech. And I get a lot of questions on just the equipment that I use and the mic that I use and how I set things up. And I’m wondering for you, what was that process like of figuring out what camera and how to edit? Was that a very big barrier to entry for people who might want to do multimedia type of tutorials themselves?
JAKE: This is a psychology game people have to play with themselves. If you’re going to get into content production, you have to create carrots. You have to tie carrots onto sticks. And so, I could have bought a really nice mic, well not super nice, a $100 mic from the very beginning. But I told myself unless I earn this money directly from my YouTube videos I’m not going to buy a new mic. I’m just going to record the audio on my phone and then import that audio into a video file and then match up the audio with the video. The reason I did that is because that is a lot of work and it’s painful. And so, that pain made me work harder, made me upload more stuff, because I said the sooner I get more stuff up, the sooner I’ll make that $100 in ad revenue in order to buy a new mic.
And so, a lot of people just go out there and they buy a 4K camera and a really awesome $300 mic and then a new computer. And they haven’t proven their concept yet. They haven’t proven that this is a viable business yet. So, even though you have the money to do those things… my webcam, I just barely bought an HD webcam, a 720 webcam, the Logitech one, I think a month ago. And I’ve been doing this for over a year. It’s because I feel like we let these technologies become excuses for us a lot of the time.
JAKE: So, if they come out with an 8K camera, then all of a sudden well you need an 8K camera in order to make YouTube videos. But I think minimal viable product is what we should first be trying to focus on. You can have a hundred videos uploaded before you worry about getting all the awesome equipment that you’re going to need, because the most important thing in your product is your personality and your ability to deliver. Audio is important and so is video. But if you don’t have the personality or just the know-how, then it’s not going to matter. I honestly think that accounts for maybe 5% of your success.
DAVID: There’s a great dichotomy that you’re pointing out here. And on the one side there’s all the equipment and the setup and the tooling. And then there’s the actual doing of the job.
SARON: Yeah. [Chuckles]
DAVID: And there’s a book that I love to refer back to. It’s quite old. Well, quite old, it’s 20 maybe 30 years old. It’s by Dorothea Brande. I think I’ve picked it on the show before. It’s called ‘Becoming a Writer’. And she says in chapter one, if you want to be a writer here’s the first thing you need to do. You need to get up an hour early and go sit down for an hour and write. Use a typewriter if you’ve got it. That’s how old the book is. But pen and paper if you don’t. And if you can’t do that every day for a month, you don’t really want to be a writer because what writers really want to do is write.
DAVID: And what programmers want to do is program. And what podcasters want to do is podcast. And the equipment to do it… I definitely have that bug of, “Oh, I need the nice tools. If I have the nice tools then I’ll want to do X.” And I’ve got a whole bunch of unused really nice tools from all kinds of different hobbies, because if I really wanted to do the thing I would have just done it. And then the equipment would have come later.
SARON: Yeah, I totally agree about the whole content is really what matters. If you think about all the awesome cat videos we love on YouTube, it’s not because the camera’s great. It’s not because there’s interesting angles. It’s because the cats are amazing. And so yeah, the equipment is… and I tell that to people too, I say my equipment is relatively cheap, largely free software. And that’s just not really what matters. People will listen to not high quality stuff if the conversations are good. In your case, if the tutorials are good. So, I totally agree with that.
CHUCK: Yeah. My experience has been that with podcasting, if the audio quality is absolutely horrible then they won’t listen. But once it’s to a certain point, then the content is much more important. And you find that most, even beginner podcasters have good enough equipment to record a decent quality podcast. And it’s the same with programming, right? once your technical skills are to a certain point, you understand the basics of Rails and you can take some work off of somebody’s plate so they can do more valuable or more difficult work, then what really matters is, “Okay, can I teach them the rest of what they need to know? And will they fit well on the team?”
JAKE: Yeah. And I think going back to David’s point as well, is you do have to prove that you’re actually going to upload a hundred videos to begin with.
JAKE: Because maybe you’ll buy a nice camera or a nice mic and then you get five or six into it and then you just drop off and you get lazy and you don’t do it. And so, that’s probably the most important point to make, is that do you have the fortitude to actually stick with something long enough?
JAKE: Everybody thinks short-term. I don’t know why. But you have to really take a five to ten year approach to things. I know everything on the internet is short-term and it’s all newsy and Facebook and Twitter that way. But as far as building your own personal brand and who you are and your skills and everything, if you don’t take a five to ten year approach to what you’re doing, you’re going to fail. The majority of people will fail. There are no overnight successes. And even if they are, don’t pay attention to them, because 99% percent of people, that’s not how success is attained.
So, when I was planning out my YouTube channel, it really was a three-year thing where it’s like, “Okay, I’m going to have this many by the end of this year. Then I’m going to have this many, hopefully this many people by the end of this year.” And I know that that’s all going to change. But in my mind, I set myself up so that I don’t get discouraged when I’m two months in and I haven’t made it, or whatever you want to say. Because the plan is not… I tell people all the time, you do not want a one-hit wonder. A one-hit wonder video will mess up your analytics. It will cause havoc. I had it happen on one of my videos where it got 20,000 view overnight and it sucks because I can’t really look at my analytics and get a true, honest… and now I can, but I couldn’t for a while because…
JAKE: It just messed up my numbers completely. And so, I would much rather have gradual foundation-building sustained growth rather than these one-hit wonders.
CHUCK: Alright. I think we need to do picks. So, thanks for coming, Jake.
JAKE: Yup, no problem.
CHUCK: Yeah, we’ll do the picks and then we’ll wrap up. Saron, do you want to go first?
SARON: Yeah. So, I just have one. There’s this incredible blogpost. I’m just amazed that it’s a blogpost and not a full article. But it’s written by a journalist which makes sense. It’s called ‘Survivorship Bias’. And he does this amazing job of talking about… so if you don’t know what survivorship bias is, the idea is that when you hear stories of people who, and you hear lessons learned and best next steps and people to emulate, you only hear from the people who made it, because the people who didn’t make it are not around and no one’s really writing about them. So, you end up drawing these conclusions and seeing these patterns that don’t necessarily lead to success. They just happened to be the ones that the survivors are talking about.
And this guy does this incredible job of explaining that concept through statistics and he tells a story about World War II. And he talks about just all kinds of different, and he talks about business and startups, and he just does this amazing job of pulling in all these different fields and industries to explain this one concept. And then in the end he turns it around to have you examine your own life and the way that you approach different things and how you look at different stars and celebrities.
And it was just a really, really great combination of really good writing, really great research, and an opportunity to look into yourself and see how maybe you’re not approaching things the right way because you’re experiencing survivorship bias as well. And especially if you’re a newer programmer, I think this is perfect for you. So definitely check that out. And that’s my pick.
CHUCK: Alright. Jessica, what are your picks?
JESSICA: I have one pick today. There’s a blogpost that someone posted in Slack this morning at work. And it’s an interview with Laurent Bossavit who wrote ‘The Leprechauns of Software Engineering’ which is a book that digs into the research behind assertions like the 10X programmer and how there’s a tenfold difference between the cost of bugs in production versus the cost of bugs in development, or a hundredfold, whatever that says. It’s a great interview. And I’ll post the link to it. And my favorite part about it is that he talks about how most of what we do is learning. And that, little assertions like these that are easy to pull out get in the way by stopping curiosity. That’s my pick.
CHUCK: Alright. Coraline, what are your picks?
CORALINE: I also only have one pick today and it’s also a blogpost. It’s actually an article Rachel Nabors. And she discusses argument culture, which is basically how as developers we have a tendency to rally around our favorite technologies and our favorite techniques and hurl insults at people who disagree with us or use different technologies. And she explores why that’s so divisive and harmful to individual programming communities as well as the overall industry. So, I’ll post a link to that. And I think it’s worth a read for everyone.
CHUCK: Alright. David, what are your picks?
DAVID: Alright. Well, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been on the show. And so, you know where I have to go with my pick. I have a secret admired. Someone who’s been sending me gifts in the mail. And I absolutely love them for it. I don’t know who it is. They’re not sending me love notes but I’m in love with them because of the things that they are sending me. The first thing that they sent me was a book called ‘How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers’ Guide to Toilet Etiquette’. And this is a fantastic book because I now know how to take a poop in a gondola.
DAVID: And it is absolutely fantastic. It’s freaking hilarious. It is very scatological, if you can’t figure that out from the title. About a week later… I have an inkling who the person sending these to me is, because somebody actually checked in to see if a package had not gotten lost in the mail. But another package showed up from the same authors on ‘How to Poo at Work’ and ‘How to Poo on Holiday’. All of these are crying out loud funny because they talk about poo which is immature and funny and silly. And if you’re a seven-year-old like me, it’s absolutely puerile and sophomoric and just hilarious.
But the solutions that they come up with, like if you need to use the bathroom but the secretary who gossips to everyone is sitting right next to the bathroom, what you’re supposed to do is steal her scarf and then ask her where her scarf is. And then you say, I think John at the other end of the building just called your name. And then when she goes, then you go to the bathroom and do your business. Then you come out and when she returns you say, “Hey, I found your scarf.” And then she’s so grateful to you for finding your scarf that she completely overlooks the fact that you just used the bathroom. And everyone has testimonials and difficulty ratings. None of them are as funny as pooing in a gondola, however. It doesn’t turn out the way you think. I’ll just put it that way.
DAVID: Just crying out loud hilarious, funny books. So, yes, thank you, whoever you are, my secret admired. I love you and thank you. Those are my picks.
CHUCK: I’ve seen those canals. That explains a lot.
DAVID: It doesn’t end up in the canal. It does not turn out the way you think.
CHUCK: Okay. [Chuckles]
DAVID: Yeah, when you’re done you have to get out of the gondola and away from the gondolier as quickly as possible.
CHUCK: [Laughs] Okay. Alright, well I’ve got a couple of books that I’m going to pick. The first one is ‘Steelheart’ by Brandon Sanderson. I don’t know why I haven’t read it before, but really enjoying that. And so, I’m going to pick that.
Another one that I’ve been playing with this last week is Gitter. It’s a chatroom like Slack or Flowdock. I’m really digging it. It’s free for up to 25 people on your team. And I’m tempted to open up some public chatrooms for the shows on there. But I don’t know how interested people would be in that, and I don’t really want to promote a ghost town. So, if you’re interested in that, let me know. And yeah, those are my picks.
Jake, do you have some picks for us?
JAKE: Yeah. I’m going to pick Entreprogrammers podcast. It’s another show with Chuck in it. Definitely check those out.
Also there’s a book. I’m trying to remember the name. Oh yeah, ‘Dreaming in Code’ by Scott Rosenberg. And that’s about Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus 1-2-3 and the building of the Chandler project which was PIM software. That was actually really good because it, I like it because it’s more biographical. And so, you’ll get a lot of information that way.
Yeah, and then the last one I’ll do is the NPR story from October 6th called ‘The Forgotten Female Programmers Who Created Modern Tech’. And I think that that is…
JAKE: A really good one to read, because it was women who were on the forefront of software development originally. And there were teams of them. So, definitely something worth checking out. And it’s on NPR. I’ll put a link to it. But I remember hearing about it on, I think I remember looking it up because I was listening to a Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast. And they were talking about some [inaudible] that were on the team. But yeah, that’s my pick.
CHUCK: Awesome. Alright, well thanks for coming, Jake. Hopefully people…
JAKE: Yeah, thank you for letting me come on.
CHUCK: Hopefully people go check out your videos if they’re new to Ruby or PHP or any of the other technologies that you’ve covered. And yeah, we’ll wrap up the show and we’ll catch you all next week.
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