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Travis Neilson, Part One: Evergreen Content and the Pluses and Minuses of YouTube vs Podcasting

Published 5/21/2015

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. Check out the brand new Unmasking HTML Email course and other exciting courses today!

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and today I have the pleasure of interviewing Travis Neilson. Travis is the creator of the DevTips YouTube channel. It's specifically DevTips for designers because Travis actually is a designer himself. He learned a little bit of front end development and he created a very successful YouTube channel. Go and check it out. It will be in the show notes. But I'm excited to talk to Travis. I was actually on his show that will also be in the show notes. I was on his show and we talked about Developer Tea for a little bit. So check that interview out. We actually discussed some of the episodes from Developer Tealike the very early focus episode a little bit more in depth. Travis and I are going to talk a bit about why he chose YouTube to reach designers and developers and we're going to talk about what it's like to be a developer coming from a design background. A lot of designers end up becoming developers and I think quite a few of the people listening to this show. You are designers and you're considering learning a little bit about development. So Travis is the perfect person for you to hear from. So I'm really excited that he's on the show. Thanks so much for listening to Developer Tea. Welcome to the show Travis. Yeah. First let me give you a compliment man. Your voice is the sound of angels singing. I've been listening to Travis and Lose and I've heard this about Developer Tea. But I definitely know it about Travis and Lose. Which you can tell the listeners about that in a second. But it's so relaxing. It's like you listen to it and it's almost like somebody's kind of soothing. It's almost like I could listen to it going to sleep at night. But Travis and Lose is relaxing. Yeah. Yeah. Oh man. I need to turn up the energy then. I need to yell some heavy metal lyrics in your ears or something. You mentioned heavy metal on the episode that you shared with me recently. Did I? Yeah. You said there was a heavy metal quote from a heavy metal band. Oh yeah. Yeah. Hate breed maybe. Do you know hate breed? Oh yeah. Yeah. Oh wow. That's a good one. Yeah. I have a dark. Well, I wouldn't call it a dark past. Technically the music is described as dark. But I have a dark musical past in some ways. I used to listen to quite a bit of that. And well, I guess I, you know, depending on the day, there's like heavy metal Friday mornings, I guess sometimes. I listened to it early in the morning when I don't want to fall back asleep. Yeah. That's it. Yeah. So yeah, when we did the video interview for my YouTube channel, I saw a bunch of gear in your background. And I was like, yeah, that guy, he knows what's up. I do have quite a bit of gear. Yeah. And in fact, a lot of it is guitar gear. And my amp actually matches Brad Paisley's amp. He uses a doctor Z. And I got a doctor Z for this, this past Christmas. Oh, lucky you. Yeah. And it's pretty, pretty nice. So I'm so glad you're on the show because I think we have such an interesting crossover with our two audiences. So tell, tell the Developer Tealisteners what DevTips is. Okay. Sure. You know, actually, I was thinking about this recently in a very like, like a strategic way. And I was, I read this book, forget the author, Steven's something. And it's called start with why? Are you familiar with this? I am actually. Yeah. Okay. So, so he says, Simon says, Simon is the neck. Sorry, not Steven. Sorry, Simon. Sorry, Simon. I thought you're Steven. So the principle is you start by telling your story with why and then you move outward. You go out to how and then to what? So let me give you my story with that framework. So why DevTips? DevTips exists to give others the tools and experiences to change their circumstances and to be in control of their own future. Okay. So yeah. So the origin of DevTips, actually the name, the long, the long form name of is DevTips for designers. I wanted to help people who are not necessarily native to being Developer To get, to get their work out to publish, to be able to have the tools to, you know, to make a name for themselves on a platform that's not necessarily native to them. So that audience has definitely grown far beyond designers themselves. In fact, I don't ever think they were the main, you know, viewers of the show. But, but so we're just shorting it to DevTips anyhow. So, so that's the why the how is to educate and inspire and uplift anybody who's willing to engage. And that's where the kind of going into the outer circle. It's no longer just for designers. It's anyone willing to engage. And we engage whoever, however, and wherever possible. And the engagement comes about like, so the what is I create educational materials and I provide educational experiences that engage people where they're comfortable in learning. So maybe it's videos, maybe it's emails, I do podcasts, speaking, writing conferences, things like that. And the probably the most successful or the most interacted one is the YouTube channel. So there's a YouTube channel. If you go to YouTube and you just search DevTips, it's going to be me or it's going to be the channel. And we've got hundreds of videos by now. It's two years, two years strong. And it's really great. We're going to run up on a million views soon. Wow. That's incredible. It's very exciting. Very exciting. Well, congratulations. I want to give you a compliment and say that the work that you produce, the quality of those videos is top notch. And if anybody's looking to learn, like for example, you have a set of videos that just explains how the internet works. Like this is stuff that actually I kind of want to send to my parents. It's not just applicable to if you want to become a developer every time. Sometimes it's just common knowledge or sometimes it's life knowledge. What would you call that advice? Oh, yeah. So a lot of it is hard skills. People want to know how to do something. How do I make this thing dance or how do I make this click go this way or just thing appear when I hover over here? People want to know that stuff. So that's like the most like engaged type of material. But by far my favorite type of content to think about and produce and talk and discuss is like the soft skills. I really, that's why it would actually really attracted me to Developer Teawhen I first plugged in. I was like, this guy knows exactly what he's talking about. He's talking about the important things. Your first one, I think you talked about fear, right? Focus. Oh, sorry, focus. Yeah. Your first, yeah. I mean, that's like so exciting to me that somebody is saying, okay, let's take a side step from these hard skills that were that were kind of saturated. If you go to hacker news or designer news or wherever you go for your content kind of consumption, you're going to have a lot of how to and look what I did. And when people like you, Jonathan, give us a peek into not how to do but how to be that really sends, you know, the sparks in the back of my brain just like firing. It's really exciting to me. And so that's what those are the most for me, my favorite pieces of content on there, although they're not the most popular and they're not the most abundant on my channel either. Most of the stuff is how to do stuff. And you know, when I first started two years ago, it was a lot of the very basic things because myself, the way that I learn and the way I understand things is I kind of have to understand the foundations before I can understand the scaffolding and before I can understand the framing. You know what I mean? And work my way up from the very foundation. So the first thing I did ever was talk about history lessons, where did HTML5 come from? Or you know, where HTML come from? And then why do we call it five? Like what is five? And then and then worked into like, okay, what is the DOM? What is what are tags? What is nesting? You know, what are attributes and values? And like these very, very, very foundational things that I mean, if anybody wanted to like look at it and watch them, they would, I mean, especially your audience, they would be like, okay, this is for babies. But for me, I felt that I couldn't teach anybody anything exciting or new or novel without first making sure that they understood the very foundational things. And it's funny. Sometimes you'll get people that will be like, Hey, I don't understand this or this that you did. And you have to say, Okay, go back to these basic series because you're not ready. Yeah. That's that's hard to tell people that actually. It's not fun to say that to people because people don't want it, you know, but but when you say, yeah, you start out with the basics, that's cool that you're like, you know, we're into it or are likes to you. Well, I mean, I really appreciate like these, I appreciate that you first of all have the guts to take on a question like, how does the internet work? It's like a sandwich. Even more than that that you have the guts to hold up a piece of paper and say, this is how the internet works. And it's totally wrong. I mean, I mean, it could be, I don't know. Like that's the thing. Like one of the concepts or at least like the one of the truths that have become self evident throughout the time that I've spent building a community. It's not necessarily an audience like these people are engaged, you know, like they're they're learning, they're talking or commenting. I even have a separate community that people come to and we have a live chat. People are in their 24 seven. It's amazing. You know, a lot of the things that I teach are very like based in my own experience and often I get like comments that like, dude, you know what? This is, you tell it really good, but you thought it also very wrong. Okay. But that happens all the time. And but you know, personally, I don't I don't really mind that. I'm okay with failing in front of people. And I think that, I mean, I actually get a lot of a lot of feedback that says that they they actually appreciate that. Like when I'm coding in front of the camera and and you can see my keystrokes and you can, and I put a camera in front of my face while I'm typing and stuff. And people can see me just like blank out and not understand what I'm doing or they'll see me like making spelling mistakes. And although I try to like trim, you know, like the 10 minutes of me scratching my head to try to figure out how to get this function to work. But generally like it's it's a it's a people respect the idea that I'm human just as much as they are. And I struggle through these things just as much as they do. And so when I hold up a piece of paper and say, this is how the internet work, I don't know, it might be wrong. But that's okay. Like we can just kind of understand each other together. And it will be at least somewhat right. And we can figure it out. Sure. Well, and the truth of the matter is the internet works different today than it did yesterday anyway, right? Like maybe there's of course there are fundamental things that that stay the same. But then there's also things that change literally on a day to day basis. So I want to address something you said earlier. And it relates to this as well. You said that a lot of your content is, you know, the concrete how to content, but that you really enjoy creating the how to be rather than how to do. I think that the how to be content, even though it may not have the most viewership now, that kind of stuff is valuable in five years from now in different ways than the how to do is valuable in five years from now. So I agree. I've been doing a lot of this kind of content for, well, I guess probably five years now. And a lot of the stuff that I wrote four years ago, a lot of the how to do stuff is like completely useless. Like there's no applicable point to it now. Like I did some some work with J query tutorials and that kind of stuff that just basically there's there's not really a good use case for it now because better things have come along or you know, the technology has been replaced by something that does some does it in a completely different way or the paradigm has shifted or whatever. But there's also stuff that I've I've written or whatever from five years ago that is still relevant and it happens to be the how to be stuff. I think that's a great insight. Thanks for sharing that. Absolutely. I think that you will find that over time and I've worked with a few publishers that have said this as well. They're willing to take on content that isn't link bait because they know that there's a long tail at play. If you create good lasting like substantive content as well, right? Yes. And that's not to say and hear me correctly here. I am not calling the how to do stuff useless. Definitely not. In fact, it's just a shifting of the curve, right? So how to do is important right now. But how to do changes more rapidly than how to be. Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. There's a there's a video that I made kind of early on as well. It's called advice and crap for young creators. And and I put the video in YouTube you can make a video like the the main like you know, like the what are they called? The feature or whatever. Yeah. The trailer that makes it. Yeah. When somebody comes to your channel, here's what they see. And it's supposed to be like, Hey, this is blah blah blah. Check it out. This is what we do. Subscribe, subscribe. But like mine is like 10 minutes of like talking to young people. You know, and not even young people, just people who want to change. You know, people who want a new chapter or they want to like get into something something that you and I have kind of like a little bit of experience about. And and I and I want and yeah, the video just talks to people about persistence and about creative work and about how it won't come to you all at once. And then one day you look behind you and you'll see this mountain of work. And you'll say, okay, wow, it looks like I did do something. Although it never felt like I was actually accomplishing something. Yeah. And that video is the channel trailer for a long time. YouTube has recently changed where it's like there's like kind of two channel trailers depending on if you're subscribed or not. And if you have a watch this one yet or not, it's weird. But um, yeah, that that view that content is evergreen, right? Like it'll apply to people now as it will apply to them. Even you know, even season professionals, I watch it again. And I'm like, oh, that makes sense. I should remember that, you know, yeah. Definitely. And I think that, you know, I could watch that now. And you could have posted it today. And I wouldn't know the difference. Yeah. And that's what you mean by it being evergreen is that there's no way to know like it's not dated. And in the same way, like, you know, there's classic books, for example, that don't really, uh, they don't show their date unless you dig a little bit deeper into it and maybe try to find like the symbols or even just small vocabulary words. But like Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. That's been around for, you know, nearly a hundred years now. And it still is is relevant. And at least I think it is, there's different opinions about that book. But I think it's a completely relevant. That's the exact that's the exact book I thought about when you started your sentence or like you started your point. You're like, there's, you know, literature thinking about it. I was like, how do win friends and Influence people? So I'm in the same camp. I think it's fantastic. I think there's really great content that that can, you know, speak to, you know, a lot of different people in a lot of different situations at a lot of different periods in their lives too. And you're set a moment ago, like, what is the internet? How does it work? And it's different day to day, but it's also different from person to person. Yeah. So when I was making that video, I was talking about, I'm talking to kind of new publishers, like I made this HTML document. How do I get it on the internet? And, you know, that's a completely different paradigm. Then, you know, you, when you're releasing a Rails app, absolutely. Or your mother, when she's going to log into Facebook and upload a video. Yeah. But it's all publishing, right? Mm-hmm. Yeah. And it has all the same kind of emotional constructs, but the technical, the technical differences are going to be very different, depending on who you are and what you're trying to accomplish. Sure. Well, I want to take a quick sponsor break. And then I want to come back and talk a little bit more about publishing, specifically talk to you a little bit about YouTube, because I think there's probably people who are listening to this show who are interested in getting into publishing content like a podcast or perhaps similar to what Travis does. You're interested in getting into publishing on YouTube, sharing your knowledge with the world or sharing your opinions with the world. And so I'd like to talk to you, Travis, about why you chose YouTube and then just kind of comparing contrast with the podcasting world is like versus what the YouTube world is like. That sounds great. On a recent episode of Developer Tea, I interviewed Dan Dini. Dan works at code school where he writes HTML5 emails that go out to over a million users every time he presses the send button. In that episode of Developer Tea, Dan talked about a course that he was working on for code school called Unmasking HTML emails. And I'm happy to announce that that course is available today. In Unmasking HTML emails, you'll join the ring in this luchador themed course and learn to build your HTML email skills. You'll explore the new ounces of email clients and how to build designs for them with inline styles, tables for layout, and conditional comments. You'll also learn how to build a layout that works on many screen sizes with support for various technologies. So play through the new course at codeschool.com. That's www.codeschool.com. So Travis, tell me a little bit about your experience with YouTube because I've been considering doing a YouTube channel to kind of complement Developer Tea, the podcast, maybe like an after show or something like that. But I've held off because I'm kind of leery that it's going to be a ton of work. Can you tell me kind of what your experience has been with YouTube, what the creative process is like and how it's different maybe from podcasts? Sure, man. So here's the thing about video. There is not a more engaging platform that we have. There is nothing that elicits an emotional response more than video in terms of publishing. So that is one huge advantage that you have when you start creating videos for people. You can look them in the eye and talk to them as a human instead of whispering in them from their ear like behind, you know, like the weirdo on the subway. So that's one big strong thing. It takes your message and elevates it if you put in the time to make an actual good production. Sure. But that's the rub, right? It's a lot more work. I would say it's like three to four times as much work to make a good video than it is to make a good audio recording. Maybe even more than that. It's very, very time consuming. And people are maybe even a little bit more critical of it because when you're podcasting, they're carrying you around in their pocket while they're walking to work or whatever. And you're kind of there with them, but at the same time, they're looking at their phone or they're looking at the birds and the bees, whatever. But a video, they're much more critical of it. Because if they don't like it, they'll turn it off and go away. And the difference between, okay, so a platform like YouTube will give you a lot more knowledge and analytics about the usage or the viewership or the consumption of your content than a podcast will. So for example, we know that if somebody subscribes to your podcast and you release a new episode in the morning, it downloads to their phone, whether they asked it to or not. And we say, oh, look at that. We got a new listener. We got to download. That's great. And in your mind and in your heart, you kind of say, that happened. It's like a digital, right? And on or off. Did they listen or did they not? Well, it says they did so they did and they enjoyed it. You know what I mean? It's like, you don't really have that intimate knowledge of how they used it. Where we're on YouTube. And it can be very upsetting sometimes. But you can see, I can see how much they watched. I can see where they rewound and watched again. I can see if they skipped to a point where they turned it off. I can see if they shared it. If they actually watched it, not just if they're subscribed and it downloaded automatically to their device. So in a lot, in a lot of ways, it's a lot more exposing. And you have to be you're a little bit more vulnerable to that kind of knowledge. Whereas a podcast is a little bit more of a black box. Yeah, that's true. I can I can I can attest to that. Yeah. Which is which can be a really, really good thing. It can also be like a scary thing. Like so in this on the same coin, one side is you have to be vulnerable. On the other side, you're empowered. You know exactly what people are interested in. If if you make a video and you see that people are like logging off or changing the channel or going somewhere else, 20 seconds in, you know that you need to like pick up the beginning. You know, like I need to I need to get to my content faster or whatever. And also people are a lot more, um, let me think. We kind of know we kind of know about YouTube comments. They are notorious in social media. They are. Now I have to give it to my audience. I've never seen a YouTube comment stream as just generous and loving and kind as these guys are these guys and girls. They they take care of each other. They answer each other's questions. They correct me and give me encouragement as well. But they're they're also going to tell me when something's wrong. And when they don't agree or if I did something that you know, they can do better, they'll tell me and and it's something that you. I don't know. It's a little different compared to the response. Okay. So I do I have a podcast as well. In fact, I have to the the responses on the podcast versus the responses and engagement on YouTube are just night and day. People are a lot more liberal with their with their uh comments and with their yeah feedback. That's definitely true. I've had uh I agree. My audience is awesome. I really love my audience. But I will say that, um, when I was on your show, a lot of the come I had more comments in the span of like two or three days than I did in my podcast for like two or three weeks. Now granted, we have you and I both know that part of the reason for that is because the medium has that like capability right there. You know, the built right in comments are there. They're they're part of the medium. Whereas, you know, if you're listening to this on whatever podcasting app you're on right now, there's no easy route for you to go and leave a quick thought. So it's unlikely that you will now even if I ask you to. It's a lot of work like like if like a big a big deal for you in your podcast is you want to get somebody to go to your iTunes listing and leave a good recommendation. So other people can find it and that that's a really great thing that people can do for you as a as kind of like a remuneration for the hard work that you've given them already. Right. But it is such a difficult thing. Like there's so much in the way of that actually happening. Right. Pulling your phone out, actually going back to the search function because you can't do it right from your listening section and go and find it again and then go to the reviews tab and then sign in and you know, whereas in YouTube, it's just right there and it's asking you to do it. And then yeah. So yeah. There's like, there's very, very little resistance when it comes to leaving a comment. And then again, you know, it's again that double-sided coin. It could be a could be a critical comment. It could hurt your feelings. I've had people tell me that I have a very punchable face, which actually one of my favorite comments ever. I love that cap. But and then but but you know, on the other side, people have very little resistance to encourage you and to support you and to love you and and and you know, being a serial publisher. That's very well, I wouldn't say it's like necessary, but it's it's an important part of the thing. You need consistent feedback, positive or negative to support you and float you through because it you know, people like you, you go through a lot of work and effort. I mean, it's not just sitting down and speaking, right? You have to like, you have to formulate your ideas. You have to write these things down. You have to think of your thesis and try to support it with these really good arguments. And and if you can't like, like how many I can't even guess, but how many topics have you decided on that have just kind of withered away that you know, like that didn't actually work out. So in order to make a good podcast and you've done that over and over again, in order to do that so much effort and time and just like knowledge work and and mindfulness goes into that and to have somebody write you an email and say, Jonathan, you're the points that you made in that last episode have really helped me this week. And here are the results. It there's nothing better than that. Yeah, that's definitely true. And it never gets old that the help the current encouragement never gets old because and we'll talk about this after after the break to the next episode. But the the encouragement never gets old. You actually talked about the fear of of success and what might happen when you get to a successful point being a detractor being kind of a difficult, what would you call that? An obstacle to moving forward. And I really want to discuss that with you and we'll do that in the next episode on the second part of the interview. Oh, I can't wait. Thanks so much for listening to Developer Tea interview with Travis Neilson. Make sure you follow Travis on Twitter. That link will be in the show notes, which you can find at DeveloperTea.com. And I hope that you catch the second part of the interview to make sure you don't miss it. Subscribe in any podcasting out whether that's stitcher or iTunes or something like pocket casts any of those applications you can subscribe to the show and it will automatically be delivered directly to your mobile device or your computer or whatever you listen to podcasts on. Thank you so much again for listening to the show. You can find show notes and other episodes at DeveloperTea.com. And until next time, enjoy your tea.