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Travis Neilson, Part Two: Engaging Your Audience, Creating Conversations, Becoming a Publisher, and Viciously Yucky Comments on YouTube

Published 5/22/2015

Today, I'm joined by the talented and intelligent Travis Neilson.

Travis is the creator of DevTips, an instructional YouTube channel that has generated over 1 million views and about 35,000 subscribers! Travis invited me on his show recently, and I had such a good time that I decided to invite him to Developer Tea. We talk about quite a few things related to different platforms and media types, and being a publisher on each of these media types.

You can find the YouTube channel for DevTips here: https://www.youtube.com/user/DevTipsForDesigners

Make sure you also follow Travis on Twitter at https://twitter.com/travisneilson


Today's episode is sponsored by CodeSchool. Get enrolled to start playing through one of CodeSchool's exciting courses today!

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea my name is Jonathan Cutrell and today is the second part of my interview with Travis Neilson. Travis creates the very popular YouTube channel for dev tips, that's dev tips for designers that will be in the show notes, go check it out. The first part of my interview with Travis make sure you listen to it before you listen to this part of the interview. We talk about a lot of different things but I'm going to go ahead and jump straight to the interview. Travis thank you so much for being on the show once again. This is the second part of the interview with Travis and in the first part Travis and I talked about a lot of stuff including the difference between YouTube and podcasts. What else did we talk about Travis? We talked about generating content that's evergreen versus recent or tent pole is what they call it based in it basically has a time stamp on it. We talked about generating content for audiences of different demographics in terms of their ages and what interests they are. We talked about it being honest and being yourself in front of people and the vulnerability that it requires and the benefits and kind of like the support that people can give you if they see that you're a real entity. If they can sense that you are a real personality who has genuine concerns for their welfare in terms of you want them to learn you want them to be better. They can really respond in great ways. In some ways I'm seeing YouTube kind of emerging as this high risk but also high reward platform where you have to put quite a bit of energy into it perhaps more than other media formats but the reward is greater because you get all this really rich data that YouTube Google provides based on some crazy number of analytic structures that they've created. To determine what pieces of this content are people actually engaging with but then it also leaves you like you said very vulnerable and I would I would imagine that the audiences on YouTube can be pretty vicious sometimes. I've witnessed it but not on my channel. I think that it's because I have the policy of engaging with every single comment so if anybody even says good job I'm replying with a thank you something as simple as that if somebody says I have a detailed question I do my best and all like have an engagement I've had back and forth string this up to like 20 you know 20 replies long because I'm trying to help these people accomplish their goals. And I think when people see that type of engagement and sometimes it's kind of fun that when people are new to my channel and they leave a comment and they see that I respond within 24 hours it's kind of shocking to them they don't see that very often from other YouTubers and when I do that what that's done is cultivated a culture around the channel and in the comments that people have a have a posture of being helpful instead of critical. And and that's made all the difference I think in in the kind of culture and atmosphere of my channel. And I think it carries over into other into other places you know. Sure man and so many things that you just said I want to dive into in this part of the interview because I listen to an episode that you did on your podcast and it's called travel and loss is it late night so travel and loss. Late loose say like this late night with travel and those. I there's no way I'm going to do it like you just did it. Yeah, late nights with travel and loss so I have a co host his name is Los Montoya and he is one of the prettiest people I've ever met. And he's also very smart and intelligent and great great speaker great great co host and the concept of our podcast is that. Each one of us will present an idea to the other every other episode. Oh yeah it's it's a lot of fun so in a way the person who is being presented to is a proxy for the audience listening. And they can ask the questions. Oh I don't understand what you mean by that can explain that more or something like that or you know I disagree could prove it you know whatever what have you. And so it's a lot of fun we have a lot of it's very casual and the and the late nights comes in the fact that we do we record it like you know usually after 11 o'clock midnight and I go over to his house and we huddle in his in his basement and we talk to each other and we have these very real conversations and we invite people into them and you can share an evening with late night you can share a late night evening with travel and loss. And we talk about a lot of the a lot of the soft skills that you and I were talking about in the in the first episode. And we do talk about some hard skills like how do you present a presented design or how do you how do you find a mentor those are pretty you know hard skills. But then we also talk about soft skills like how do you be a better person how do you let the design process become a part of your everyday living in relationships with people and stuff like that so it's really good. Yeah yeah so cool yeah I really enjoyed the episode about about success and being afraid of success or being afraid of certain aspects of success at least yeah. You talked about you know what if what if I start doing something that becomes successful and then I don't want to do it anymore but now I have like this baggage of people that I have to support that I no longer really want to support anymore that's an interesting that's an interesting quandary. And I am not in that place to clarify I'm really enjoying doing Developer Tea. But anybody who starts something that becomes successful you quickly have this realization that that success brings along with it responsibility and responsibility brings along with it some stress some things that you otherwise like for example I'm going out of town. And so I'm recording a bunch of episodes of Developer Teaup front so I can schedule them out and release them and still publish content for all of you listeners but I'm doing it all like before I leave and I stayed up till midnight last night doing podcast work you know and it's a lot of work and and to say that it's easy would be a complete disservice to those who are also doing this work alongside me but it would also be a disservice to the people listening to the show making this podcast is not easy it certainly is not just me standing in front of a microphone. That's right. And the same is true for your show I'm certain. Yeah, the interesting thing about success and success is really one of those things like how do you how do you define it right I mean there's so many different levels and facets to the word success but really when you're talking about this level of success wherein now your time is is invested in by others you're you have this kind of requirement that you need to show up you know it's basically like getting a job right you other people have invested in your time you have a boss who thinks that you're employable and there has been a lot of work there for hired you now it becomes you to show up and similar to your audience here on this podcast you've done something that we find valuable and we invest our subscription into you we we tell people about you so we actually invest our reputation in you and now we expect you to show up and so that's a big responsibility because not only do you have to show up but you have to show up and do a good job. Yeah, and this is an interesting thing because you know we're talking in the context of people building audiences being publishers and that may or may not be for everyone. The breakdown says that it's not for everyone and that's okay but but the but the act of publishing is for everyone no matter what and if you're publishing to your boss if you're giving him you know a TPS report that's a public that's publishing and that is for everybody that everybody must be a publisher in their in their own. And the spirit of influence and I've learned this interesting truth because I do some mentoring I have these phone calls that I do with people a lot of people have a mental block they are afraid of what will happen when they become required to publish in other words when they become successful whether that's finding a job. Or whether that's writing a successful blog consistently and and it's interesting I realized that people can be filled with anxiety and not even know it. And it's not until somebody can say you know what you know what's happening right now you're afraid of your success and that's why you haven't worked you know like if your goal is to make yourself employable so I'm trying to level up my development skills and that's why I'm listening to DevT. If I do all my if I spend my whole day only listening to DevT which you should it's good and I'm just kidding but you know like if and I never actually break open my code editor and try to put into place what I'm learning from Jonathan then it's not it's going to be to know avail right I'm just wasting my time and I find that this will actually happen more than you might suspect that people are kind of afraid of you know what I'm doing. Kind of afraid of the success of putting into practice what they're learning that they'll spend a lot of time on YouTube on podcasts on blogs looking at stuff on inspiration sites like dribble and code pen and they'll be like churning the wheels for a very long time before they actually produce anything if ever. If there's one thing that I would like to kind of focus on this year or at least you know in the next kind of whatever I want to I want to help people to get into the habit and into the spirit of publishing. And when you publish you can become a publisher that sounds so right but here's what I'm trying to say there is a difference between a publisher and a consumer. And the difference is that a publisher has due dates a publisher has a expectation of quality and a publisher has a audience right now those can be bigger small and I'm trying to reiterate although I've already said it it could be a podcast like what we're talking about right now or it could be as simple as your your a part of a development team in a company right and if you don't own the company. Don't own the fact that these things are required of you then you can get lost in spinning your wheels and then it becomes this anxiety that builds and builds and you get crushed by the weight of not having published recently because I haven't set up myself for that type of success. And this is kind of yeah okay so it's kind of similar to what we're talking about in the way that success can be you know give you that did we call it anxiety it's just that weight. Yeah it was disabling essentially yeah and that can happen whether you're doing something publicly like you're doing or whether you're doing something within the confines of a small group your family even you know your employment whatever. Yeah that is super interesting I'm going to take a quick sponsor break for this episode and then we're going to come back and talk about publishing and specifically how anonymity actually affects publishing and I'm going to go back to something you said earlier but first we'll take that quick sponsor break. Today's episode is sponsored by code school code school is an online learning destination for existing and aspiring Developer That teaches through entertaining content by pairing immersive video lessons within browser challenges code school has become the best place to learn new technologies from the comfort of your browser. Whether you've been programming for decades or have only just begun code school offers something for everyone choose your learning experience from code schools five main paths those are JavaScript HTML and CSS Ruby Git or iOS or take advantage of code schools growing number of elective courses on topics like try R and Chrome Dev tools more than a million people around the world use code school to improve their development skills and learn by doing. Visit www.codeschool.com for more information and to start playing courses today. Travis earlier in this show you mentioned that you engage with every comment on your on on any given video to help me so generously once again these Developer To edit edit my videos and I just like yes that's a great idea that way I can produce more. And you know what I couldn't do it I could not hand over raw footage to be edited because there's so much of the story that I wanted to tell and I wanted to tell through editing that I was I was so scared and it was mostly fear mostly fear not not distressed of this person but just fear of my own you know like losing control. Yeah so I think what was our point Jonathan Cutrell we were talking about yeah scaling scaling comments and scaling engagement so yeah I mean so that's a thing that you have to be kind of cognizant of you know the the larger your audience becomes you're still one person. And you can only do what one person can do and if that means a responding to every comment that's okay you can do that but at what cost right and currently I'm still making that purchase I'm still paying that price sure not to sound like a martyr but the the point is that it does have effects on the content that I produce because I have less time afforded to it now. And so but also you know like as I mentioned before there's there's another side to every coin and these people in the comments are providing me with great content ideas and suggestion they're and they're asking for clarification where I'm like hey that could be a great video right there so there's value abundance kind of feeds back into your content production time. Certainly does you know I work at a place where we where we talk a lot about engagement we talk a lot about the viewership and audiences and if you think about the history of publication just in recent times we're talking about media talking about television new media blogs videos things like this there there's like a. The way that advertisers look at content and the way that they think about their the value that they get from advertising with you know your your content. For a long time we had television where advertisers could only kind of get an idea of how many views were we're seeing their ad and and that's kind of what the measurement was right that was the litmus is my advertising success or a failure based on how many views saw it that's why. That's why you pay so much more for a super bowl add then you do on a Thursday afternoon sure trusting statistics right. Right but but what but the point of contact the point of engagement was a view mm-hmm as fleeting as that you're not even sure if they're in the room they could be off making a sandwich because the commercials are on you know and you're still counting it and then we came to the Internet and now we have clicks okay so we can measure clicks. But still what is that even what is that doesn't that doesn't mean you've won their heart that doesn't mean you've touched their soul and then we have this new media where people can leave you a comment people can write you an email you make yourself available to you they can you can have a lengthy comment string with them and we have this this unit of of measurement called an engagement and and this is so far. So far more telling and valuable to in in the context of advertisers you could say okay advertiser do they like your content what is the what is the you know are the happy or or or upset about your content for publishers you know what they want more what what different types of content do they want do they appreciate what you're doing do you need to make changes. So this unit of engagement of measurement is so much more valuable than then what we've had in the past absolutely. And the more the more engaging the platform so speaking of for example a blog versus a tweet versus a post on medium versus a podcast versus a post on YouTube the more engaging that is native to that platform the more understanding you can have and empathy for your audience yeah and make make content that actually fulfills needs in their lives sure. So you've decided to take your relationship with your audience which on many occasions both both on the recording and off you've you've mentioned how how much you enjoy just interacting with your audience you're taking that deeper level rather than just trying to get a higher number count of audience members you're also doing a deeper engagement with them with the secondary. And I love to hear a little bit more about that and also kind of help people who are listening to this show who that might be a great route for them I love for you to kind of explain what it is and then tell us how we might go about becoming a patron on patreon for you. Patreon is an is an interesting platform it's it's basically you can think of it as like a Kickstarter but for people who make serial content so I'm going to make one video a week until you know in the foreseeable future and somebody who is my patron they go to patreon dot com slash deptfs and they can they can pledge whatever they like one dollar 50 cents up to you know hundreds of dollars. If you like wink and every time I make a video you can you can have that pledge go to the production of other videos or more videos and the support of you know all of this that we're talking about and and it's an interesting platform it's done a few things I think it's really kind of more than helping me it's helped the people who are a member of the Patreon community so there's a few things that like and similar to Kickstarter there's like benefits right like different levels and stuff. So we have a community of patrons and anybody who's a patron can come in here and engage with this whole community and it's interesting because these community members are self selecting. They are they're extremely engaged we have a I have a slack channel a chat group with them just the just the patrons and they are active 24 hours a day and it is such a value to these people who. They have a question they pop in and they can ask you know and and and there are people there who just want to help they that's like their whole they love it so much that's their whole jam is they there's like oh that's interesting have you thought about this and and we talk about you know the new star wars trailers we talk about everything it's not just a we're not just talking about nerd stuff we're talking about awesome stuff and and it's really great for me to to kind of really get to know these people when people the first patrons that joined in kind of like a pre what is that pre order you know like something like that like before I before I launched it publicly I sent out a few emails and I called on the phone every one of them and had a 15 minute conversation with all of them and it's interesting because most of them were just interested in helping me help other people. Yeah, I was I was floored by that I mean the the various responses that I got were I could never have predicted the reasoning people would have to be a patron. But a lot of them wanted to be a patron so that they could support me in doing something that they believed in which was helping other people take control of their lives and become you know break out of their limited circumstance. Really awesome yeah, I mean just a short biographical element for me I come from a place where it was not expected that I do anything important with my life you know I didn't have those expectations or goals set upon me when I was young and I didn't have the means to educate myself. You know like going to college and things like that and so being able to provide people like me who are unable to. I don't want to be like I don't want to separate people here but you know like who who who don't have the means to afford a higher level education or don't have the time even or whatever it is. Being able to provide them a means so that they can have the advantages that people who can't afford those things to is is wonderful and now these patrons are so generous. Not only with their dollars because mind you they're in those chat rooms they're on the we have you know boards and everything and they're helping each other in contributing not only just money but time and energy and ideas and everything it's really really astounding to me. So yeah and I have a small patron podcast as well that I do and it's very very defty inspired I must admit I must admit that's I love that it's these five minute you know like little punch in the face of inspiration and go about your day. And I hope that I hope that I can that's exactly what I want this podcast to do is inspire other people to think and create things that they care about things that are kind of deep coming out of their soul. Stuff that's really difficult to to create I want to encourage you to do those difficult things and that's really cool to hear that story. Yeah man it's astonishing it really is awesome well Travis this has been such a good interview I really appreciate you coming on the show and of course I sincerely appreciate you having me on your show as well and we can definitely put the Patreon link in the show notes if you're listening to this and you'd like to be a patron of Travis go ahead is that how you say that one of Travis's patrons I guess. Yeah I don't it's you can put the link in you but that's not my goal my goal in coming on here is to just appreciate what Jonathan is doing publicly and also to. I guess just celebrate this idea that that anybody of any one of us can can do something that they love and and that that can impact directly the lives of those around them I just think what you're doing Jonathan is fantastic I think if people want to become a patron. Don't worry about it just you know just come to the YouTube channel and enjoy it join in there and if that becomes. Insufficient for you if you need more than there's always more but my goal is to say thank you Jonathan and and encourage others to do what you're doing well thank you so much Travis I encourage others to follow Travis as well he is doing such an incredible thing and just continuing to spread this message of carrying about what you're doing. I'm carrying about what you do and and carrying about helping others do the same thanks so much for being on the show Travis. It's been delightful man thank you so much. And thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea today I know you could be doing just about anything else but you chose to listen to a few minutes of my interview with Travis make sure you go and subscribe to Travis's YouTube and also check out what he is offering on page. On Travis is an incredibly smart guy I really enjoyed talking to him and just building a friendship with him and I think you will enjoy doing the same as you heard in the interview he is very active with the people that follow him and so if you start talking to Travis he will talk back. Make sure you go and check that stuff out you can always find show notes at DeveloperTea.com and there's also previous episodes of Developer Teaon DeveloperTea.com if you have a chance please leave a review and iTunes for the show it is a huge help and until next time enjoy your tea.