Season 8 Episode 1 Feb 9, 2022

The Many Benefits of Learning in Public

Pitch

You don't necessarily have to broadcast your learning to the world in order to be learning in public.

Description

Since CodeNewbie is doing a learn in public challenge this month, in this episode we talk all about learning in public with Gift Egwuenu, Frontend Developer, and past CodeLand speaker on the topic of learning in public, and Shawn Wang aka Swyx, head of developer experience at Temporal Technologies.

Hosts

Ben Halpern

Forem - Co-founder

Ben Halpern is co-founder and webmaster of DEV/Forem.

Ridhwana Khan

Ridhwana Khan is a senior software engineer at DEV

Guests

Gift Egwuenu

- Software Developer

Gift Egwuenu is a Developer and Content Creator based in the Netherlands, She has worked in tech for over 4 years with experience in web development and building tools for help. Her work and focus are on helping people navigate the tech industry by sharing her work and experience in web development, career advice, and developer lifestyle videos.

Shawn Wang (Swyx)

Temporal - Head of Developer Experience

Shawn Wang is a writer, Speaker, and a developer advocate. He helps developers with devtools cross the chasm (React + TypeScript, Svelte, Netlify, now Temporal), as well as helps them to learn in public.

Show Notes

Audio file size

37154411

Duration

00:38:42

Transcript

[00:00:00] SW: The action of making it public not only helps you remember it more. It invites others to learn alongside with you, and that’s why it’s so positive.

 

[MUSIC BREAK]

 

[00:00:27] BH: Welcome to DevDiscuss, the show where we cover the burning topics that impact all of our lives as developers. I’m Ben Halpern, a co-founder of Forem. 

 

[00:00:28] RK: And I'm Ridhwana Khan, Engineering Manager at Forem. And today, we are talking about Learning in Public with Software Developer, Gift Egwuenu, and Shawn Wang, also known as Swyx, Head of Developer Experience at Temporal Technologies. Thank you so much for being here.

 

[00:00:43] GE: Thanks for having us.

 

[00:00:44] SW: Likewise.

 

[00:00:45] RK: So Gift, you gave a really amazing talk at last year’s CodeLand about learning in public, and we wanted to dig a little deeper into that with you. Since we are currently in the midst of a learning public CodeNewbie Challenge this month, can you talk about yourself and how you came to be an advocate for learning in public?

 

[00:01:06] GE: Funny story is I actually learned about that concept from Swyx here. And I kind of think that I was doing a bit of it before I knew what it was called because when I started my career as a front-end developer at the time, I was just working as an intern actually, and I really wanted to up my JavaScript skills. So I took on this 100 Days of Code Challenge somewhere around 2018. And I was learning JavaScript while I was also sharing it on Twitter, writing blog posts about the things that I was building. And I kind of feel like that’s like a part of learning in public. And this was even before I knew that this thing actually existed. And I went on to just keep doing it. Even after the 100 Days elapsed, I continued just sharing stuff. I even ventured into making more, like when it’s video content creation, for example, just because I wanted to explore other areas that I could share the stuff that I’m doing. So that’s basically how I landed on that concept. And I’ve been seeing a lot of other people also do it. So I just think it’s a very good concept and a good idea for people, especially developers or career people to adults. So yeah, it’s good.

 

[00:02:29] RK: I watched CodeLand talk about learning in public and it was really cool. I learned a lot of things from this talk. And like you said earlier that you learned about learning in public from Swyx and you referenced his piece during the talk as well. Swyx, do you want to talk a little bit about that piece called Learn in Public: The Fastest Way to Learn? What was the driving force for writing that piece and what headspace were you? Tell us a little bit about it.

 

[00:03:00] SW: Oh, I remember exactly the headspace. So I graduated from a bootcamp and I was about six months into my job as a software engineer at Two Sigma when they actually asked me to come back to do an alumni graduation talk, like a little commencement speech type of thing. And so I was thinking about what was the difference between my software career and my finance career. And the main thing I realized was that everything that I did that was successful was in public and everything that I learned much slower was in private. And so I started writing that down and I spent maybe like two hours writing that little essay and I tweeted it and it just blew up. So I knew that it really had some traction. But the other thing I would say is that I definitely didn’t come up with it on my own. I am not the first person to discover learning in public. I probably have been listening to podcasts just like this one where I heard about it from someone else and probably the most outspoken advocate about it was Kelsey Hightower, who I got it from. And I can trace the lineage of learning public as far back as NASA when they talk about some of their learning practices within their organization. I think Gift talked about it in some of her talks as well.

 

[00:04:14] RK: Let’s talk about what learning in public has looked like for both of you. What’s your journey is like when you were learning in public?

 

[00:04:21] GE: My starting point with learning in public was when I committed to doing the 100 Days of Code Challenge. And at the time, I was really not the online person. So it took a lot of impede from yourself to commit to sharing things publicly. So if you're not comfortable doing that, it’s going to take some getting used to it basically. So I committed to doing it because I had it and my end goal was to learn JavaScript to a point where I could find or eventually find a job because at that point I was working as an intern. And going forward after finishing it, the biggest thing that I got from doing it the first time was the community support. At the time, I was posting these things, not knowing that people were seeing the Twitter I was posting. I was just doing my thing basically. And the thing that I got from it is a lot of people want to see you succeed. And if you’re constantly showing up and doing this learning in public thing, you would see results from it. So the result that I got was I got a lot of community support at the time. I was also seeing progress in my learning journey as well. So when I finished it, I finished the challenge. Of course, I decided that this is something I want to keep doing because it just works for me. And I kind of have like a small background in teaching because before venturing into tech full time, I was teaching computer science at a high school. So it really makes sense that I was able to channel that experience that I had to, for example, when I’m writing a blog post, it feels like I’m teaching something to someone else. So it really felt like something I would consider doing for a long time. And that’s what I’ve been doing since then. I went on to content creation. I even started speaking at conferences and meetups and I think have done like at least touched different tangents of learning in public. And so far, if I look back on my career, if I had not done that, I don’t think that I will be here to be honest.

 

[00:06:39] RK: How do you balance your everyday coding work for whatever company you’re working and then learning in public? Do you try to integrate the two and learn in public based on whatever you are tackling at work or is it completely separate? What does that look like?

 

[00:06:58] GE: For me, it’s a bit of both. It depends on what I’m trying to learn in public. For example, I'm a front-end developer, I work with Vue. And a lot of times the things that I’m sharing is also in that area, Vue.js. So I remember that there was once I was given like a task at work to explore Nuxt content. I think it was just released. I was just exploring it. And I thought to myself, “Instead of doing this, like spending a weekend looking at the docs and trying to understand how it works, I could as well just make a video explaining from my at least at that point beginner’s perspective to also explain it to other people.” So instead, what I did was I went through the docs through it and then I recorded a video that weekend. And that’s just one example of me channeling my personal work stuff to the stuff that I do outside of work. And sometimes it’s also not related because there are some things that I don’t use it at my work that I also have interest in learning, and then I just go off to learn it. So for things like that, it’s mostly my free time that I spend doing that, so weekends or after work. I usually just find time to get into that.

 

[00:08:16] SW: Yeah, I can jump in also by giving you an example of some of the most effective learning in public that I did. So that first job, I was also tasked to work on VX and TypeScript codebase, and I had never used TypeScript before. And so essentially what I started doing was creating a VX and TypeScript cheat sheet. And essentially that was just me pasting down things that I used a lot and always had to look up. And I just found that there was no good documentation out there so I wrote my own. And eventually, that blossomed because as people learned about it, they helped to contribute and they also used it for their own learning. And now it’s got like 22,000 stars and it’s got its own GitHub organization and everything. And anytime you see an opportunity like that, you should really take advantage of it and do it as part of your job. But obviously, it always takes a little bit of extra effort to make something public, rather than just keep it in your head. But the action of making it public not only helps you remember it more, it invites others to learn alongside with you. And that’s why it’s so positive.

 

[00:09:18] BH: What are some sort of known ways you’d think of that like are good ways to learn in public, like good formats, good ways to kind of bring people in?

 

[00:09:28] SW: Well, so first of all, I should also mention it by the way. So the first time I met you, Ben, that was actually I think the start of my tech blogging journey. You were at some kind of conference in 2016, 2017-ish and you were just about launching DEV.to, the blogging platform. And then you have this prompt of like, “Write about any talk that was given at this conference and they explain that in 30 seconds.” And so I think the time format of anything is very interesting. I think take anything big and important and just condense it, and that already has value in and of itself. So in other words, summaries are actually a really good form of learning in public because you’re taking notes for yourself, but then it’s immediately useful to others. You don’t need any credibility because you derive your credibility from the source of whatever you’re talking about or summarizing, and it’s useful to others.

 

[00:10:19] GE: I mean, for me, I’ve mentioned a couple already, but I think one that not a lot of people do is creating zines or illustrations. And this, I kind of understand why people wouldn’t do that because not everybody is artistic, right? But I kind of find value in doing that sort of thing. For example, I knew Nitya. She does like very good illustrations on like Azure or cloud-related topics. And if you’re a visual learner, this is something that would really help you just for yourself first, like if you’re a visual and now you’re trying to learn something, you can as well just illustrate it. And sharing it publicly would also help more people learn it. I can’t count how many times that I’m scrolling through Twitter and I see something like this and just looking at it, it would give you knowledge without you having to go through, like, for example, a 15-minute blog post slur. There is value in that.

 

[00:11:23] SW: Yeah. Lin Clark and Julia Evans are the two that I always point to. Basically, images speak a thousand words, right? And we have so much code, so much text and then having a visualized form or a more human relatable form of approaching some ideas is super helpful.

 

[00:11:41] RK: Do you think there’s a wrong way to learn in public?

 

[00:11:46] SW: So I have fallen into some problems with people in the past because of things that I’ve done. So I definitely think there are bad ways to do it. And so the first thing that you want to avoid is being an overnight expert, right? You learn something for one day and then you start telling everybody about how to do their code right when you basically don’t have any actual experience or anything. So you should always be upfront about your actual experience, but don’t let that stop you from putting out your opinion because you’re entitled to your own opinion, and you just have to couch it or to moderate your confidence by the amount of actual experience you’ve had putting the thing that you said into production. Right? You can just say you’re repeating someone else’s words. That’s totally fine. People accept that. It’s the difference in expectation versus reality that people really get upset with you about, and they shouldn’t because you're misrepresenting the amount of quality of your advice. The second thing comes with regards to anything confidential. So the more senior you become, the more the work actually starts to involve people and not code and anything to do with other people’s private information, anything to do with business information, the more influence you have, the more sort of secrets you actually are given. And so you have to be able to keep confidence essentially to not say like, “Because I learned in public, I’m going to just share everything that I hear.” And that’s a very strong way of just losing the trust of everybody who talks to you. So do not do that. I’ve done all of this. So just to be clear. And it’s a very, very painful lesson to learn.

 

[00:13:20] GE: I think I’ll chip in just one thing. I would say don’t go into it for the wrong reasons. If you’re looking at doing it just because you are looking at, for example, you want to get paid to speak at a conference in like less than a month, for me, that’s like a wrong reason to do it. Yeah. Or you want to gather a lot of followers on Twitter, for example. No. So go into it because you’re actually passionate about sharing the things that you're doing or because you enjoy sharing the work that you're doing publicly.

 

[00:13:57] SW: I will second that as well. There are some people who get very gamified by the likes, the retweets, the subscriber counts, all this, and they realize that beginner topics get the most attention. So they just get stuck in beginner hell. They’re just like intro to whatever. And intros are fine. Intros are good. But it’s a really easy way to get burned out because you’re not intellectually interested in the thing that you’re making. You’re just doing it for the numbers. And that’s something that I personally try to avoid. And there’s definitely people who have been caught out doing stuff just for the numbers. So my favorite example is Siraj Raval who was machine learning YouTuber, who was very, very popular. He had a very high production quality and he put out two high quality videos on machine learning every week. The problem becomes when he started being more committed to that than his own intellectual honesty. So in order to continue putting out content, he started plagiarizing people’s work and he got caught and he was miserable. His reputation got destroyed and he could have avoided that by just being genuinely, honestly interested in the thing that he was making.

 

[MUSIC BREAK]

 

[00:15:26] BH: What about the sustainability of the practice? Keeping yourself interested in learning in public, do you ever feel like you don’t really want to, but you sort of have to, since there’s public expectation of you? How do you find that ends up going?

 

[00:15:43] GE: Personally, I’ve had that experience. There was some point last year when I feel burned out, and I felt like people were waiting for me to do stuff. It kind of puts you in a position where you’re feeling two things. First, you’re feeling, “I think I need to take your break and rest,” then you’re feeling, “I already committed to doing this thing then I have to,” which is not very good. And then you feel like you’re not doing enough. So my solution to that was to just take a break because as long as I’m still committed to doing it, I won’t see that I’m never doing this again. I’m never writing a blog. I’m never posting a video again. I don’t do that. I just take a break. And then when I’m feeling refreshed, I come back to doing it because I feel like the moment you are fixated on the outcome or the response, people give to you based off the work that you’re sharing. It’s kind of going to make you feel down, especially when you’re not feeling like it’s the best thing to do is just know that you’re doing this for yourself first before others. So if you’re not feeling like it, definitely take a break.

 

[00:16:54] SW: I think also when expectations get in your way, you feel like you are unable to create or produce because you don’t have something that matches that expectation. Then actually having a separate channel for something that’s lower expectations is very helpful. So I started to make distinctions between my essays versus my notes, my tutorials versus my reviews, stuff like that, I think helps to set expectations and just help to get stuff out there. Ultimately, people don’t really care. Ultimately, people are only going to remember the good things because that’s how the power law of internet content works. And also I think different formats work as well. Right? So I started dabbling in YouTube, started dabbling in my own personal podcast, and all these different formats are just different ways of self-expression. And if you can’t get stuff out there through one medium, you can try a different medium and be more effective there.

 

[00:17:49] BH: Do you ever find yourself thinking too much about the algorithms, like my content gets 25 views on YouTube quickly, it might take off? Is that kind of come into your mind often? What about if the meta-game comes into play and would you be discouraged if your stuff started just kind of like fading for reasons that you just weren’t sure about? Thought process there.

 

[00:18:17] GE: My thoughts on metrics and numbers is, to be honest, I don’t care too much about them. This is because if I focused my attention that I might be disappointed. And as long as people find value from what I’m doing, I think I’m fine. And in the long run, something that I’m noticing happening is even without me expecting it, I kind of get value back myself. An example is probably somebody watching a video and reaching out to me for a job opportunity. I think that’s way better than 5,000 views, I guess. So it’s good the numbers are good. It's good to see the numbers, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do more because, to be honest, you can control it.

 

[00:19:05] SW: I agree with that. I will also say that I think we are all a bit gamified by the platforms that we serve. Right? Like essentially they do that in order to get more out of you and you have to mentally disconnect from that or opt out of it. Think about creators like a hundred years ago, like Vincent van Gogh died without knowing that his paintings were great. He only became famous after he died. Same for Vivaldi. I just discovered it, by the way. Vivaldi had a day job and then he just like composed The Four Seasons for fun. And people only discovered it after he died and now became one of the most popular classical pieces. So we have it like almost too good today in the sense that we get instant gratification, but you really don’t know the quality of your own work until you get that personal feedback. Right? And I think that’s something that makes more sense or is more rewarding than any number that is just faceless and algorithm driven.

 

[00:20:02] RK: Related to metrics, what about the comments when you post something out there and you’re learning in public? I’m sure that you get both positive and negative comments. How much attention do you pay to the comments and how do you deal with negative feedback?

 

[00:20:19] SW: Actually in my writing, I pay quite a lot of attention to early comments. If they’re suggesting something or they’re asking you a question, I’ll actually include that in the blog posts, because the blog posts for me is a living document. I think people are really happy when they see that their comment is included or acknowledged in the blog post. But also it helps to give an implicit promise that whoever reads my stuff, I will respect you and I will respond to you. And that’s something that as you build up a readership over time, then that is a very valuable thing to cultivate. But obviously, you cannot respond to everything. Obviously, you cannot take some negative comments to heart too seriously. So you just brush it off and move on with your day.

 

[00:21:00] GE: Yeah. I don’t know that sometimes when I get the negative comments, I mean, it’s not always great. So it kind of weighs me down sometimes, or definitely I would never respond back. I just immediately delete. Or if it’s constructive feedback, I would accept that and let them know that probably the way that they give it to me would have been nicer. But personally, I think generally I get more positive feedback than the negative. So when I get those, I just move on.

 

[00:21:37] SW: Yeah, this is a fundamental rule of internet content. It’s called the One Percent Rule. Usually, 90% of people lurked, 9% of people comment and 1% actually make the content. A lot of people when they read your stuff, they will actually think, “Oh, it’s not that great. I could do better.” But they don’t actually prove it. They just think they’re better. So it’s always that Theodore Roosevelt’s quote about, “It’s not the critic who is remembered by history. It’s the person in the arena who’s actually doing the fight, who’s actually getting dirty.” So I always think a lot about that. As long as you shift, you’re better than the people who did not shift.

 

[00:22:13] RK: I really like that quote.

 

[00:22:14] BH: So how about overcoming the nerves of putting oneself out there or even getting started overcoming the nerves of putting oneself out there? Did you two kind of have to deal with those nerves early on? Do you still have any of the nerves? What would you say to somebody who just can’t even fathom getting started learning in public?

 

[00:22:38] GE: I still think I have the nerves. I don’t know that they’re going to go up any time, but I am learning to manage them and that’s what’s really helping me so far. So when I first started, of course, I had thoughts that, “What do I think that I’m sharing? Is it even beneficial for people? How would people that are more knowledgeable than me think of what I’m sharing?” I always have that in my head. Well, I don’t let that stop me, and that’s one thing that I see that really helps and being consistent with doing this kind of thing, sharing publicly. If you allow things like that, stop you from doing anything, you will not achieve anything basically. There’s always going to be someone out there that will criticize you, but as long as you keep doing it, so personally, for me, I find that by consistently sharing stuff, I’m improving every day, like doing one percent of this stuff just helps you become better at it. So if somebody out there is interested in getting into learning in public, my advice would be to first start small. So look for one of these methods that we shared in this podcast that really works well for you. For example, if you’re not a video friendly person, maybe you should just start by writing blogs first or sharing the stuff you’re doing on platforms like Twitter. That would be a very good start, but starting small really helps a lot and it’s not overwhelming that way.

 

[00:24:13] SW: Yeah. Two more ideas that I will offer to people. So one is a blog post by Paul Graham called Keep Your Identity Small. The way I phrase it to people is that you should diverse your identity from your work. Everything that you put out is the best version that you of yesterday could make, and that you, one year from now, should look back on it and be embarrassed by it, right? Because that shows that you’ve grown. Another way I’ve phrased it is that you can learn so much on the internet for the low, low price of your ego. It’s literally your ego standing in the way of learnings from criticism or learnings from like things that you thought you knew, but you actually don’t really know that well. There’s so much there that you have to really self-inspect and get your ego out of the way for. I think that you just kind of have to lean into it because if you are uncomfortable, then you’re actually pushing yourself.

 

[00:25:05] RK: We’ve touched a little bit about some of the benefits of learning in public and we touched on job opportunities, it was one of them. Are there any other benefits that you can think of from learning in public, I guess both professional and personal?

 

[00:25:21] GE: So I think it’s the connections that I viewed, the people that I get to meet from doing this kind of thing, it’s create long lasting relationships. And personally, I find that very, very beneficial.

 

[00:25:33] SW: I often phrase it in terms of inbound versus outbound. This is a concept from marketing as well. And a lot of times when people find jobs, they decide, “Okay, I need a job,” and then they go look for available jobs out there and they see whether they can fit themselves to that job. Whereas when you start learning in public, because you put constantly a content about these things that you’re interested in, pretty much people will know what you’re about, what you’re interested in, and they will find you. It’s much more the companies that have a U-shaped hole in them that will find you and you can just be yourself rather than you trying to conform to their expectations. Yes, that’s in the professional job related field, but that fulfillment, that satisfaction from having a good fit of jobs versus your interests I think is something that should not be diminished.

 

[MUSIC BREAK]

 

[00:26:42] BH: Do either of you see like a personal evolution in your own learning in public? What’s in the future for both of you?

 

[00:26:49] GE: For me, personally, I see that I’m picking this thing that I started, doing, learning in public and using it to switch into a new role entirely because if I had not been doing this, I don’t think that I will be qualified to do developer relations, for example. And for me, personally, I think it’s a dream because it’s something that I enjoy doing on my own life, in my free time, and now a company gets to pay me to do it full time. So generally, I see me still doing this even professionally on the side. I still see me continue doing this.

 

[00:27:32] SW: Yeah, I’ll call it a few segments for me. So originally in my original essay, I said to avoid learning inside of walled gardens, and that’s typically Slack and Discord. Since my original essay, I have actually gone very heavy on Discord. And that’s I think partially because chat is just such a nice form of building community and communities on one way to learn in semi-public. So I think basically my realization is that there are different levels of publicness and you don’t always have to be on full blast telling the entire world what you think at all times. Right? You can have a small group chat. You can have like your team. You can have your company. You can have a community that you really like. And so I’ve recently become much more in favor of growing communities that are somewhat private, but you know each other. Right? And because there’s a trust there, you’re allowed to be more vulnerable and to be more work in progress than if you were putting things on blast on YouTube or Twitter or anything that’s more of a broadcast medium. So I’ve been experimenting with that a lot and I like it quite a bit. So I do encourage people to experiment more there. Particularly for me, the focus has been on building community and that’s a skill that will be extremely valuable to come because you’re not only learning at the pace of yourself, but the people that you connect is also a form of extending your learning. Because as long as you know people who know everything, then you don’t need to know everything. You can just call on their expertise. So the other thing I will also mention, firstly for me, which is a growth area, is non-text forms. So I started out as a writer on Dev.to. I did fairly well in writing, but I also think that there are a lot of people who just don’t read. They have too much email. They have too many open tabs in their browser that they’ll never read and you need other forms to get content out there. So I’ve been experimenting with a personal podcast where I take clips from various podcasts that I liked and then just essentially like reblog them, almost like an audio Tumblr. But then the next frontier for me is YouTube. I think that YouTube is just such a wealth of content and it’s something that I have historically not really done very well on just because there’s so much work to do video editing and all that. That said, I see content creators out there who do almost zero editing and they do very well anyway. I think it’s all in my mind. So I think I’m trying to get rid of that. And so I’m hoping to focus more on YouTube going forward.

 

[00:30:02] RK: Based on what you just said, it sounds like you’ve tried multiple different platforms and different ways that you are able to learn in public. So if you could summarize that, what would your advice be to folks that are still trying to find the best way to learn in public?

 

[00:30:25] SW: Start with writing. Unless you have a very, very strong reason not to, then probably writing is the most scalable form of learning in public. It’s searchable. It’s scannable. It’s the most durable because you can just copy-paste it in any different platforms. I have a whole essay in my book on why writing is great. And the others, like, if you’re just native to that platform, like if you just spend a lot of time on YouTube, then yeah, go ahead, or TikTok or Instagram or whatever. But I think writing overall has been the most scalable one. And if you need someone to tell you what to do to start with, then I’ll give you that first option. If you don’t like it, try something else, but writing is a good start.

 

[00:31:05] BH: Ridhwana, do you have any thoughts about any learning in public you’ve done or have you used the phrase learning in public in your head at all?

 

[00:31:15] RK: I have six unfinished blog posts. The one thing I struggle about with learning in public is I struggle to get it to a state where I feel comfortable with releasing, for instance, an article or a blog post. And so I continuously try and perfect it. And hence, I have a pipeline of six blog posts. I’m curious to know how you both overcome that. When do you say this blog post is good enough or this video is good enough?

 

[00:31:50] SW: For me, it’s more like you just try to increase your idea of velocity to generate ideas constantly and to work on them, in parallel like you are doing right now, but you just have a policy that you will ship something every week or you ship something every month, whatever you can sustainably manage. So you have that drain where you can say like, “All right, whatever it is, I will take the most-ready idea and then ship that, and whatever I can get done in the time that I have, then that’s what I can do. Because, ultimately, the worst thing is to go like a year without writing anything and then you no longer have the identity of someone who learns in public. And that’s the thing. That’s the end game. That’s when game over, you’ve lost. The trick is to never lose and to keep putting stuff out there. And guess what? Like even if it’s incomplete, if people respond to it anyway, then you know you have something good. You can keep investing in it going forward, particularly, again, if it’s writing, you can just edit it as opposed to other mediums. It’s more like a sufficiency criteria or like you have some kind of policy on the output that is irrespective of like the completion percentage of whatever you have on your drafts.

 

[00:33:00] GE: Personally, from how I deal with that is I just put it out and I find that if it’s lacking or something, I always go and follow up. There’s also this concept of digital gardens where you have a blog basically that you put it out there that this is not in its complete form. It’s always going to be changing. So you can publish something and edit it in a week, for example. That’s also a strategy to follow.

 

[00:33:31] SW: So I think there is something to be said about timeliness as well. The time that you have the idea, there’s actually a half-life on how much you’re going to be interested in it like one to two years down the line. Right? Your interest level is highest when you write the thing because it’s like in your head. But like a year later, you’ll think about something completely different. And likewise, your audience is likely to be thinking about something completely different as well. Some advice that I’ve given that is really helpful to people is what I call the Three Strikes Rule. So essentially, an idea that you have, whether it’s your idea or someone else’s idea, the first time you reference it, let’s say you’re in a conversation and you refer to it, take a note of that. Just like start a reference counter. And you said like, “Okay, times I’ve referred to this idea: one.” And then the second time you refer to it, you should try it like a different way of explaining it. And the other thing that this establishes for you as well is that it’s still relevant to you. It’s not just a one-time phenomenon. It’s a repeatable thing. And by the time your reference counter gets to three, then you just tell yourself you have to write it, because right now it’s fully baked. The time is right. It’s still relevant and it’s proven that you’re probably likely to refer to it again in the future. So you might as well write something to have something out there for people to reference.

 

[00:34:46] RK: I think learning in public requires some sort of discipline as well. When I see people releasing things or when they’re learning in public or even building in public, I always think about the fact that they have a lot of discipline and consistency in what they’re doing.

 

[00:35:04] BH: I read a blog post on DEV called “why I switched from Atom to Visual Studio Code”. It wasn’t a brilliant blog post. The answer to that prompt was basically because other people seem to like VS Code and I tried it once and then I got what people were saying. There wasn’t much more to it, but that post got 150,000 reads. I actually think it contributed to the VS Code’s popularity because I wrote it like when VS Code was new. I just kind of like with a short post kind of hit on something like just a very simple, basic, like why I personally kind of like VS Code more than Atom, but it’s kind of like got a similar vibe. I find that one incredible, like I’ve written more like personally important posts, but I find that pretty gratifying. It really speaks to just like you never know when the power law distribution of content is going to make whatever you put out there more important than you realize it is.

 

[00:36:08] SW: There are some ranking factors that help that post. Because for example, developers really like talking about editor differences. They’re really like talking about keyboards. There are some hot trigger topics that you can reliably get a lot of views on.

 

[00:36:23] BH: Oh, yeah. Any final thoughts on the subject to wrap up the show?

 

[00:36:27] GE: Learning in public in itself, in case you’re interested in doing more public stuff, a good way to start and based off our experience that we shared here, it’s definitely has positive returns. So my take is if you find that is something you’re looking to try, technically give it a try. You can start small and work your way up from there.

 

[00:36:55] SW: For me, I try not to phrase it in terms of like, “You’re doing this to give back to the community.” I rather it be a selfish move that happens to have positive externalities than you just only in this for altruistic reasons. I think self-motivation is much more sustainable long-term. And the other thing I will also say is that it’s a lifestyle. It’s not something that you try and then drop if it doesn’t work out. You have to sort of buy into the idea because of all of these things compounded over time. And what that results to is that a lot of the benefits of back-end loaded, like I blogged for a year to like no audience before I started getting some kind of readership. And then I’m about four or five years into this thing. And only now my career is like really blowing up and I’m seeing a lot of benefits from things I did two to three years ago. So if you give up halfway, you’re not really seeing the benefits, which is why I also don’t like to do those like hundred days of learning in public or whatever. It’s not about a hundred days. It’s just like the rest of your career you’re doing this. So I don’t count.

 

[00:37:59] RK: Thank you both for joining us today. I really enjoyed it.

 

[00:38:03] GE: Thanks for having me.

 

[00:38:04] SW: Yeah, it was a pleasure. Thanks for having us.

 

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[00:38:13] BH: This show is produced and mixed by Levi Sharpe. Editorial oversight by Jess Lee, Peter Frank, and Saron Yitbarek. Our theme song is by Slow Biz. If you have any questions or comments, email [email protected] and make sure to join us for our DevDiscuss Twitter chats every Tuesday at 9:00 PM US Eastern Time. Or if you want to start your own discussion, write a post on DEV using the #discuss. Please rate and subscribe to this show on Apple Podcasts.