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Interview w/ Rachel Nabors (Part 1)

Published 9/4/2017

In today's episode, we talk with Rachel Nabors about her new book, course, and how to respond to rejection.

Today's episode is sponsored by Dolby. One of the most important things you can do for your users is ensure that the quality of your audio is strong. You already know Dolby and sound quality go hand-in-hand. Check out how Dolby can help you make your web applications better at spec.fm/dolby.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone, welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. Thank you so much for listening to the show. Today I'm interviewing Rachel Nabors. We've talked with Rachel before on the show back in January over a year and a half ago. And since then Rachel has written a new book. We're going to talk all about it. Rachel is best known in the web development community for being kind of the authority or one of the few authorities on animation. So we're going to talk with Rachel about that. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea today. I'm going to get out of the way and we can get straight into the interview with Rachel Nabors. Rachel, welcome back to Developer Tea. Great to be here. Thanks for having me. This is your second interview and I'm excited to have you on the show again for many reasons. First of all, the first interview went quite well, but also because you have more to talk about. That's exactly correct. I have been very busy like that hen I let wander into the forest. You disappeared for a while and then came back leading a string of chicks behind her when I was a child. I have come back on air after the successful publication of my very first technical book was a book apart. A book apart and if you if people are listening to this, they don't know what a book apart is. First of all, I assume that they are not web developers because a book apart or it's a part of a list apart. Correct. It's true, they are both born of the same group of people headed by Jeff Reseldman and a book apart is sort of the in print counterpart to the online list apart or the in person event apart. It's kind of. It's kind of been my dream publisher since I first got into front end development, so I'm really proud. It's about, I guess I should tell you what it's about. It's called animation at work and it is the shortest thing you will ever read that will tell you everything you need to know about incorporating user interface animations into your web design and how to communicate them across teams and to developers and designers alike. So you said it was or is a technical dive correct. Well, it doesn't actually have any code in it. It is I have to I have to qualify that this is my first technical book because I mean it is technical in that it dives into the like the first chapter is about the science of how the brain perceives motion and form and color. And there's another chapter that's like how to pass on animation to developers so they can completely perfectly reproduce it's it's pretty awesome. But I use the word text specifically not because it's loaded with code but to distinguish it from my previous to publish publications. You see back in the day I used to self publish my own graphic novels. Yeah, I used to discuss this on the previous episode I think. Yes. So it's not the first time I've been in print, although it is the first time I've been in print from a publishing company. So that makes me very happy. Very good. So in the sense that it is technical the technical that you're talking about there is not code technical or math technical but more about it is a nonfiction book intended to help you implement and emanate animation in a given web project. But it could very well apply also for example to a native application project. That's right. That'd be correct. Absolutely. The lessons the lessons in here especially when it comes to adding patterns and purpose to your your interfaces and where motion design can give you the biggest cognitive payoffs. There's an extend in their utility beyond the web into the realm of native interface development as well. There he goes. So if I go to a book apart dot com right now by the way Rachel's book is at the top in the kind of that main area where they're displaying all the books down below in the grid but you get the full width and the full width features. So that's pretty cool. Mine is the the what I call the electric lavender one there you remember they let me choose the color and I I've been on a lavender kick so I came running right up and I was like lavender and it it just it tickled everyone. Yeah. And you're sitting alongside authors like for example Remi Sharp is in this list and the forward was by Dan mall and it's a completely legitimate work here that you've done. So I just want to say a huge congratulations to to really give you for releasing it. And also for developers who want to learn about you know not just how do you make animation happen right because there's plenty of resources where we can go and read a tutorial and copy and paste some code and we don't know anything about why or what we're doing with easing for example. You know this is the kind of thing that I assume Rachel this is the stuff that really you're you're you're unpacking and helping people understand is why would I choose to use easing in a given scenario. Exactly. It's all about the why and where it's it's a how did I put it I think Chris Quayer no no no it was Aaron Gustafson said it's less about the how to implement and it's more about the where and when to use it and why. Yeah there's an entire section about the different kinds of easings and when it's more appropriate have an acceleration versus a deceleration on an enter an element so yes it's definitely I it's the book I wish I had five years ago when I started out on my animation journey. It's a combination of all the work that I've done with my great clients and with the great people in the web development community. It's awesome and also by the way Chris Quayer has has done a book for this brief a book apart briefs which I think no. Oh his is printed practical SVG it says. Yeah and it's a great book you should totally check it out. Yeah and while you're checking out my book. Absolutely well and and that's the thing so this book is if you're a web developer and you haven't really learned about the theory and a deeper understanding of animation. This is going to be probably the best $8 Rachel is not paying me by the way just let everybody know here. This is going to be an excellent $8 that you spend but Rachel is also providing Developer Tealisteners a 10% discount for using by using the code dev T that's D-E-V-T-E-A when you go to a book apart to check out of course you can find this in the show notes at spec.fm as well but you can also go to B-K-A-P-R-T which is like a short link B-K-A-P-R-T dot com slash dev T and I think that automatically applies that 10% is all right. Yep and takes you right to the right to the book. Awesome. In addition to this little coupon I heard some people magically telepathically over the airwaves or rather through international cables. I heard someone out there go oh but I really wanted to learn how to code some animations well they would be in luck I happen to also have a CSS animations and transitions course at my site courses dot Rachel Nabors dot com and if you use the same coupon code dev T all caps you can get 10% off that as well. Wow that's excellent and that's going to be significant savings significantly more than if you were to use it just on the book and it's not like you have a expiration you can only use it on one of the other you can use it on both today. They're the perfect pair. Again I just want to reiterate we don't do native advertising on Developer TeaI just think that Rachel is kind of set herself up as the authority on the subject in many ways. And if you are a web developer and you're you haven't had a chance to learn about this stuff either from the technical implementation detail side which is what the course is is primarily for or from the more theoretical side perhaps you have a little bit of those coding chops and you want to learn why you're you know when is a good time to use this stuff then go and check out the book I want to kind of back up a little bit here because we've we've given the pitch here and of course you know anybody with eight dollars. I assume is going to be relatively compelled to go and buy this book but I want to talk a minute about actually creating a book as a developer and beyond that creating this course because this is this is a lot a lot of work I know that's why to do both of these things and I have I was tried to do a little bit of a course and it turns out that I'm just it's significantly harder for me to be in front of a camera than it is to be behind a microphone so if I'm going to do a course it's probably going to be a little ways to make a future that's one thing I tried and then I also this is a while back I had a publishing deal on disclosed kind of thing and ultimately didn't didn't pan out it was a lot of work I wasn't prepared for the level of work. And you've actually conquered both of these things I'd like to talk with you a little bit about that. Absolutely and fact given that I've already been on your show to talk about animations and how to use them I'm fine if we spend the rest of the show talking about courses and books and some of your listeners are thinking about getting into this deal. Let's take a moment and kind of unpack why why would a developer like you or me why would we go into this kind of difficult and our due process of writing a book or creating a course. Well there are many different reasons and I have to say mine is probably the more altruistic one which might be why I no longer work as a web animations consultant although I would say that might be more to do with the nicheness of that particular field sure it's kind of hard to make a living or something quite so niche. But it is something worth sharing and it was from that that mentality of I want to share what I've learned that I created these things. So for instance I know some people they create a course because they want to say I am the person who came up with this library came up with this technique I want to own this space I want everyone to look up to me or maybe I'm writing this book because I want it to generate leads. If you write a book you set yourself up as being the content strategy or UX expert especially if you have a special spin you can put on it you know that will generate clients for you hopefully down down the line in the future. But for me it was more like I've taken these things as far as I can I've been studying these for five years I've been working with people for a long time I'm ready for something new I want to pass all this information on I want to make sure that that it's not just stuck in my head and then it goes and and becomes the thing from which other people continue this work. Because it's getting to the point in the web animation world where the big leaps forward are going to come from people doing even more niche work than what I've already done building niche libraries or like doing the research on how people use animations and how they can better interface development there's still work to be done and now we've got a good bookmark from which people can launch that work so I came from an altruistic place. And that's not everybody's not everybody shares that necessarily but it's certainly is for many people this is the reason I created Developer Tea. And a large drive for me is emails that I get when people say hey thank you so much you know you've helped me in x, y, and z ways and that's Rachel I know that you're not trying to say you know hey look at me I'm being altruistic but it truly is a driving purpose for a lot of people so if you're a web developer and you have some knowledge that you want to share maybe you have figured out. A particular career path that is useful for I don't know college graduates and you want to help other college graduates course maybe a perfect opportunity to do that or even something like an ebook or whatever creating this content that helps other people and forwards you know regardless of whether or not you're going to get rich off of it that's not really the point right. The point is hey I've got this information and I don't really know how to help other people with other than to share it. Right I mean I have talked with many people who have written books for you know various reasons and everyone who wrote the book to make money was disappointed maybe it tangentially will generate money by you know the sourcing new clients new projects pushing you up so that you can command a better salary. Staking your claim leaving you know I was here maybe you wrote a spec for the w3c and you'd like to write in a Riley book that's all about how to use it because who would know it better than you and this way it's your way of getting acknowledgement for your hard work like there are many different reasons for writing a book but money should not be one of them you will most likely be greatly disappointed yeah and I would say even you know even if it's a side route to money right if your intention is to only to develop authority or only to further your name so that you can increase your salary it's very likely that you're going to at some point feel a pretty significant amount of burnout over that I know a lot of people who have actually pulled it off you know that was their thing that they did and now that's it I mean it's a way of self expression I can't hold that against somebody it's I can't think of a better way of pushing your own career forward than helping other people yeah so maybe I should I should qualify what I'm saying a little bit more with you know if if you're only pushing your career forward in a way that isn't in joint like if you not enjoying your career you're trying to push it forward then that's a different thing right if yes if you enjoy what you do and you have a chance to you know further what you do if you appreciate the work that you do and you want to get deeper in or generate authority in that same space then luckily as it turns out you're not going to be bored out of your mind every day at least writing a book now I do want to talk about that a little bit deeper with you though Rachel first we're going to take a quick break and talk about today's sponsor Dolby so much of our time as developers especially web developers is spent thinking about what our site or what our experience looks like and so many times we think about the experience that we're building only in terms of what it looks like and all of the language that we use around a given design visual language that we use is about that view and the reality is there's so much more that you can take advantage of when you're creating these experiences for your users 90% of users say that audio is important to them right digital device users they rank sound quality is important across the digital entertainment ecosystem not just when they are watching videos or listening to music but also when they're using applications when they're using your web application 9 out of 10 users it's 90% are going to care about that quality that audio quality in the reality is you may not need any additional recording equipment to make your audio quality better what you probably need is a better codec and that's exactly what Dolby offers Dolby's codec allows your users to hear the things that you have in your audio already they can hear it better with Dolby's codec you can get started with it by using the tools that you already use like Adobe audition for example and you can also use Dolby's free online encoding utility now you're probably thinking if you're a web developer that it doesn't apply to you but in fact this Dolby codec works in HTML 5 projects on devices like the iPhone 7 so go and check out what Dolby has to offer you can head directly over by going to spec.fm slash Dolby that spec.fm slash Dolby thank you again to Dolby for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea. Now let's get back to this question that we started to talk about about writing this book Rachel what points were the most difficult in the process of writing the book we'll start with the book and then I do want to talk about the course as well but in writing a book what is the most some of the more sticky difficult stages of writing a book? Well first off they're submitting the book this is the hardest part now you could self publish and if you self publish you'll have a lot more control like if you want to go to Amazon's create space and make printed copies available through Amazon's huge distribution network that's totally on you to do but you're going to be completely responsible for all the promotion you're probably going to want to hire an editor because if you think you can write a book without an editor you you really can't you can't you need editors editors make your book better it's one of the reasons why I chose a book apart as my publishers because they have such a stellar editorial team I got to work with tell Ladou and oh my gosh Lisa Maria Martin and they were just a great team they did a great job bringing this book to print as it were that said the hardest part was the submissions process and I used to make comics for a living and I used to know all these cartoonists who had great ideas in their head you know they had this epic epic novella that they were going to realize and pictures and words and they could never bring themselves to submit it to a publisher or even put it online it would just be something that they were constantly making better and tweaking they were always talking they were always talking about what they were going to do and they were never actually doing it and I I was just like well I'm going to self publish because I've got a large audience and there are no publishers for girls comics in the United States and that worked out great for me back in the day but for this turn I really wanted that steal of approval from someone else and I wanted an editorial team a really good editorial team so I went to a book apart I put together my little submissions packet kind of I had to muster myself up to it because it's very intimidating to send your baby off to get judged by other people I finally started feeling a little bit of that that distress that I noticed back in comics and I sent it off and I waited and I waited and I got turned back at the UK border and I was staying at a person's house and I got yeah that was a long story so it was like the worst possible mindset to receive a rejection email in and I was just like oh my gosh oh they didn't like it oh no and it wasn't one of those rejection emails where it's like oh if you made some changes we'd work with you or you know we would love to talk about something no it was just flat out we're not into this but if you want to talk with us about why that is you know we can give you some pointers and I was like well I was in a dark place and I thought at the very least I can learn something from this experience and take that with me to the next publisher or use it to help make a better book like this is a book apart if they got beef with my my submission my outline and the sample chapter that I've written I want to know what it is so I swallowed my pride you know to add away the tears and and I said let's let's let's I'm going to take you up on that offer of talking I'd be really happy to talk with an editor like you about you know what I can do to make this a better book even if it's not with you and it turned out that over the conversation we realized that we both had the same qualms with the outline and like I didn't submit something perfect to them I submitted what I had because I had been putting off and putting off submitting I finally was like I can't make it perfect without someone else's help I'm just going to have to submit it as it's so we got to talking and turns out that we both were dissatisfied with the same things and well they were happy to they liked my vision and what I was going for and I really liked I really liked them and their feedback it was very constructive so we went ahead and did it anyway that's excellent so I'm going to hover on this point for a second that's a huge lesson right that's that's just on its own is a huge lesson it really is because what you learned as so you you correct me if I'm wrong I'm just going to tell you back what I think you're telling me you went through this process it's a really difficult thing just to get to the place where you're ready to say yes please look at this and tell me how how bad or how good it is right my good it's already pretty difficult because you respect these people a lot oh yeah they've published a lot of you know for me I cut my teeth on a book apart and I've really learned a lot of my earliest skills from them and the stuff they published so you know I can only imagine sending this thing to say hey please you know give me give me your thoughts to someone you respect so much and then to receive that rejection in a really difficult place most people I would assume most people would then turn around and not send anything right they would they would cut the tie and say I knew I wasn't cut out for this and I knew that this was a bad idea and I was right to be nervous about all of this and etc and what you did was interthetical to that instead you said okay I'm going to use this what feels like a failure to learn even if it's even if the feedback is difficult to hear I want to hear it and ultimately just the step of saying I want to learn from this resulted ultimately you know I assume that there's some pretty good communication skills employed in that conversation but ultimately it ended up in reversing that decision reversing the decision of the people that you revere so much and that's a massive win for you would you agree that all of that that's a pretty good summation of the lesson? I would agree it's a it was kind of incredible at the time and the way you put it is like it's still inspiring to me to this day you know even when you're in a bad place just trying to learn what you can in that bad place instead of taking it into your heart and internalizing it as a confirmation of all your worst fears is the best you can do and when you internalize things it's almost like you're cutting off all the futures that could be because you're telling yourself no I can't have that I'm not good enough and that's that's a real shame and there's no one who can inflict that lack of opportunity on yourself other than you the best thing you can do is learn why this thing that you want so badly isn't going to come to pass I actually listen to have you ever heard the hidden brain podcast? I haven't is it good I'm assuming very good so conceptually it's about all it's in many ways very similar to some of the stuff we talk about here except the host is significantly more authoritative than I am and I can't remember his name off the top of my head but I've listened to it only a few handful of times a more recent episode I think it's a reposted episode actually but it's called brain 2.0 that's kind of the preface and then WOP W O O P it's a framework for thinking about what you wish for your obstacles how you're going to overcome it and quite honestly I don't remember what the P stands for but the first three things in the most important part and it's interesting that you mention it that way that the only person who's really standing in the way or more importantly the only person who can inflict that level of giving up in you is you it's kind of this strange and ironic almost tragic reality that the most harmful person to you very well could be you yeah I often you know I have a spouse and I don't have the greatest relationship with my mom but every once in a while my husband will pull me over and be like you know you sound like your mom right now I can almost hear your mom criticizing you when you're saying that you're you're cutting yourself off before you've even given yourself a chance and you got to be wary of that because sometimes discount you discount the future before you even you've even taken a crack at it and okay I'm not saying just put on a smile and everything will come to you because that's that is so not true and I've experienced firsthand that just having a positive attitude isn't going to solve everything and sometimes there are things that are so sad that you can't you can't overcome them by grinning all you can do is weather it and try to take something away from it so it's not a total loss yeah in this case I just wanted the feedback because I figured well it'll be another publisher next time or I'll publish it myself the most I can get out of this is I can find out if the the qualms I have about this are founded or maybe they have some really good advice they could give me and if I get really snobby or upset or you know I'm going to take my toys and go home or I'm not good enough I'm going to go over here and cry you know if I if I took any of those and I can totally take that path later but the first thing I need to do is I need to say okay I appreciate your feedback that's really good to know I'm glad that you know what you want that's awesome now tell me what I I can learn yeah yeah it's great perspective that most people I would say most people have a difficulty rising to that level right and I do yeah I mean I can't imagine that anybody would look at that and say oh that's that's easy I mean like even even experienced publishers you know who have and you are an experienced publisher but even people who have multiple books rejection still is a very human thing and rising above that and saying okay you know I I acknowledge my emotions right I don't deny that this was hurtful or that this was difficult but I also don't want to end the story at the hurt I want to move forward and say okay the the difficulty is not the the way that I'm going to mark this story it's not the the final part of this story I'm going to continue on and take this and parlay it the best thing that I can get out of this now is to learn something from it yeah and I'm really glad I took that chance and I'm glad they took the chance on me because I've learned even more from going through this sure yeah so so getting back into the process of writing but what is another difficult part of the writing process was there ever a time for example where you were you down to write and your brain just wouldn't cooperate always so well it's not always you ended up with a book well it can be a little intimidating having goals and deadlines really helped for instance my publisher set up a a gant flow chart of you need to have x y and z done by the state and the state and you don't always hit every day perfectly that's a lot of communication that needs to happen in there but sometimes like especially when we were hashing out the initial like the way it should look I would get stuck on something and I wouldn't know what to do but here's the thing if you are writing a book about something you are very passionate or excited about it's not too hard to come up with content I would if I got stuck on something I would go back to a blog post or tweets that I'd written you know I'd go look for one of my Twitter rants that'd be like oh 60 frames per second is a lie that doesn't have anything to do with how retinas actually work and I'd be like you know I really should put that in there that goes into the science section and I would just look back at the wealth of information the articles I'd made for a list of part itself all those things to flesh out the to flesh out the book as it were I didn't find it too difficult but I think what I did have trouble with well how do I put this editing having having having your baby torn apart and for some people they just can't stand that you know they they submit a book practically finished fully written and it just wants someone to publish it put that publisher seal of approval on it and then to say that they did it on their own the problem is that's probably a book that could be even better you know we talk about in animation in studio animation there's this term called plusing that comes from the Disney days Walt Disney was a big believer in plusing where you just go a little bit further a little bit extra to make something a little bit better than it would have been if you just been like there done that's called plusing and for me editing is plusing a book editing is what got this book so thin and so narrow and I have a saying that I like things that are concise it's one of the reasons I love a book a parts books because I don't like fluff I don't like books that are always telling you and in another chapter we'll get into that and there's just paragraph after paragraph of stories about other people that are only tangential to what's going on in in the actual book some folks really enjoy that that's awesome but for me I just want the meat I want to know what it is I want the cliff notes and then I want to get out of there and working with a book apart helped me trim all the fat off which makes me really happy even though it was a little painful here and there we had a good dialogue back and forth though so if they were like we don't know if this should be in here I would be like well hang on there I think this is pretty useful when I'm giving a talk in the audience they ask me this question and this is how I answer so it's pertinent and sometimes I'd be like you know what I'm going to pick my battles if you don't think that paragraph is necessary go ahead it you kind of after a while it's like you divorce yourself a little bit from it if you can and just just let it go it's like do you really want to argue about it or do you want to see the book go on print does is it really necessary that that one sentence you think is so clever be there for all the world to see if it's really just a clever sentence in the middle of a sea of words and they do there is a saying that you have to repeat something three times for people to remember it and that totally make sense if you're giving a talk or you're filming a documentary but books are not experienced linearly books can be read books can be checked out and you know like open to a certain page they can be referenced I believe if I write a good enough book people read it three times especially a book like this I am right a book that is that is bites I don't want to say bite size that's the wrong way of of characterizing it but a book that is you know it's intentionally brief right it's intentionally to the point it's cut down and it almost acts as like a handbook a reference a guide for returning back to and how many how many pages are in this book by the way if you had I guess any book doesn't have the equivalent but I'll be honest I had it the ebook was so beautiful that I had a copy of it turned into a bound copy that I can pass people signing so they can filter it yeah that's awesome it's actually 75 pages if it were a regular book apart book size you would put in your hand it's 75 pages I know people who finish it in a single weekend so yeah it's a good investment yeah and and to me you know it's obviously Developer Tea believes in doing things small and short and brief on purpose you know almost truncating what you otherwise would have said because you know this people don't really attach a linear meaning to the amount of content that you've put into something right and in fact as it turns out people begin to attach a if you're if we're thinking in algorithms kind of a log logarithmic looking graph right this kind of diminishing returns is what I'm getting out here and you know that that content that you get so attached to it's it is very difficult I do the same thing I actually a lot of my job now is writing a business strategy and a lot of internal documentation and internal work at whiteboard to try to shape the way that we do things right as a company and so much of my appreciation for writing comes from you know fully establishing an idea and exploring all that that idea has to offer right and it's really difficult to say you know what I've said essentially the same thing three times now and to cut one of those three things right because all three of them are meaningful to me and they help explore the same concept multiple ways and really get the full picture for it and ultimately the reader doesn't care right and that's kind of a cool reality to to resign to the things that are important to you are not always important to the audience that you're speaking to it's a I've been reading about rhetoric because one of my my core skills is communication and they say you should like instead of just being a generalist with some good skills you should be a specialist with some great skills. Yeah so I've been looking to rhetoric especially since I've been seeing used in some uncool ways these days and I love this idea of ethos and pathos and ethos is the face that you show people the you want you like the ability to get people to believe in you for instance there's the Rachel who is a web animations expert and I could show you that when I get on stage or there's the Rachel who used to self publish comics I could show you that independent creative side of Rachel or I could show you one you know the Rachel who was raised on a farm I could show you the farm girl Rachel all of those fall into the ethos that's how you want to present yourself pathos is the emotions you want to evoke in the audience and sometimes you have to pick and choose what you're going to show the audience they don't need all of it they don't need all three Rachel's they need the one that speaks to them and solves their problem. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode I trust that you heard the two ethos the ethos is I guess I'm not sure what the plural is from Rachel and I today that you needed to hear and I hope that this episode was encouraging to you and perhaps positively challenging thank you so much for listening again this show exists to help you become a better developer and we do that in so many different ways and we do that by having vulnerable conversations like what Rachel and I had on today's episode and we do it in a hundred other ways we talk about things that are challenging we talk about you know ambiguous problems there's tons of stuff that we talk about on the show and I hope that it's valuable to you and if it is I encourage you to go and subscribe so you don't miss out on future episodes including part two of this interview with Rachel thank you so much for listening thank you again to today's sponsor Dolby you can use Dolby in the browser to help users hear your audio more clearly go and check it out spectro of him slash Dolby thank you again for listening and until next time enjoy your music