It's been about a month of me making programming videos and posting them on youtube. In this post I'll take a few moments to reflect on my process, how I feel it's going, what I like about it, and where I see it going in the future.
Preface: A kind commenter
This post was inspired by my first positive comment I received on a video:
I just wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude for the amazing video tutorials you've created! Your lessons have been incredibly helpful and informative. I appreciate all the time and effort you've put into making these recordings and I'm so grateful that I have the opportunity to learn from you. Keep up the great work! Thank you so much!
I was delightfully surprised by this comment. If you spend enough time on the internet, it's easy to forget that comments can be anything other than neutral (at best) or negative. I feel that it's rare that people speak up with a positive comment, (as per the saying "no news is good news"). In my opinion, it takes a special kind of person to express gratitude with no other ulterior motives - to say thank you because one can.
Now, I apologize if it seems like I'm tooting my own horn. I certainly don't expect this kind of feedback to continue, but it made me pause and want to reflect on what the last month (and a bit) of making videos has been like.
Stats up front
Before I continue reflecting, here are some very real stats. At the time of writing I have 44 subscribers, I have created 58 videos (Some 10-15 are scheduled and unpublished), there are ~1000 views across all videos and a watch time of 33 hours. I do not advertise or share anything online, so somehow, about 40~ subscribers have found their way to my content and decided to subscribe. I found this astonishing in a lovely way 1.
What my videos are about
My premise and approach are simple. I have a very real project I am working on, and I record myself doing it. Each video will try and cover a one or a few tasks as I chip away at that project.
How I make a video
I grab a hot drink, open up my computer, close down everything but the applications I need (OBS, emacs, browser) and then hit record. Sometimes I fumble my "hello" greeting a few times, and restart. Once I get past two or three minutes, I'm beyond the point of no return and I keep going with the video (unless it's a complete stinker and I'm having a tough time tackling a task or expressing my thoughts while coding). I very much think of it as a stream (even though it is not), in that it's just raw content.
Why do I do it like this?
While the current approach might change, (or change a lot?) I do quite like it. I have a few motivators to do this:
- Sharing what and how I'm building motivates me to finish projects and helps me stay focused - it creates a pseudo accountability that pushes me beyond my normal "stopping" point on projects.
- It has a sort of "pair programming" vibe in that there are other folks who are coming along for the journey. I like the idea of a cultivated a "space" to "hang out and hack" (something I used to do with people in person and really miss it).
- It fulfills a need for engaging in community based on my interests.
- It is very low friction - I hit record, and start talking and coding. No editing. Just go.
What I'd like to change or do next
I'm not sure how this will change until I simply put in more mileage and see what works for me (mileage is a frequent term in my mind these days). I got early feedback from a friend to make the videos shorter, maybe 30 minutes. At first, I didn't want to timebox myself—but once work/life started getting busier, I realized that having that kind of boundary might help me stay focused on building and fixing isolated tasks (brick by brick as I like to think), and it would also make the content more digestible for the viewer 2.
And here's a laundry list of other thoughts that occurred to me:
- The same friend also said something to the effect of "you need a cool intro animation thing". And I thought, that might actually be fun. ¯\(ツ)/¯ .
- I've also thought I might like to make single self-contained videos with a specific topic, where I'm in front of a camera.
- I think I might like to make a series on building a little game in the TIC-80 with lua.
It's been an interesting journey and a fun way to kick off my year. I'm most of all pleased that I've come to a place where doing something like this, which before I had shot down, is actually a fairly natural expression of myself. I feel happy because in my own tiny way, I'm accepting myself for who I am and doing what I want and not putting myself down for not being more successful (having more subscribers, or whatever success is measured by these days).
With the above said, for me, there lurks underneath any content creation an insidious, creeping expectation that somehow I turn this into a job or be a content creator. I hope I can not be bogged down by this and keep doing this my way, as I feel naturally inclined to share and have fun.
That's about it! Maybe I won't be doing this in a month, or 6 months, or who knows! For me, I find joy in trying new things, and I think I've finaly stopped putting expectations on it being more. It just is.
Thanks for reading!
Partially, because the content I make is so niche, but more importantly, because a year ago I would have sneered at the idea of myself making videos — I lacked the confidence and was full of fear at the idea! My mindset was the opposite of what it is today. A year ago I might have thought: "44 Subscribers? who cares?" Now I think, "Holy crap, 44 people think my content is worth subscribing to? That's like a classroom of people interested in learning something I'm talking about!".
I'm divided on the topics of changing my content to make it X better for Y people. I started creating videos for myself (see: Recording myself programming). However, once you start to see that people are actually watching it (even if only for a moment, and even if "only" a handful of subscribers), you start to operate under a new gaze, which for me, can (implicitly or explictly) change my mindset.