Can I call Myself a YouTuber?
Some time ago I wrote a blog post titled "Can I call myself a Software Developer" where I mused about my path to becoming a software developer over the course of over 45 years. The jury is still out on that question but I have not stopped in my quest. The difference is that I really think that I am a far better developer two years later than I was back then. The difference? I became a YouTuber (I think). More on this in just a minute.
In June of 2019 I as interviewed by Sean Allen for his "Origin Stories" theme on his "iOS Dev Discussion" podcast. He felt, after reading my blog that I had a story to share so I jumped at the chance to build my network of fellow developers with the exposure the podcast would bring.
Self Taught vs Self Directed
I don't say that I am self taught. I say that I am a self directed learner because I don't believe anyone can teach themselves to be an iOS developer. We all learn from others whether that be through some kind of structured degree program or boot camp or by watching videos, reading other blog posts and asking questions on Twitter, a Facebook group or heaven forbid, Stack Overflow.
Building A Network
To be a self directed learner you have to be able to build your network of fellow developers or learners; preferably both. You learn from others who know more from you, but just as valuable is learning by sharing what you know with others who are at the same level or still catching up to you.
After Sean's interview, my network started to grow. I also decided through Patreon and GitHub to support some of the people I respect the most for sharing their content for free. Two key people for me at that time were Paul Hudson of Hacking With Swift and Mark Moeykens of Big Mountain Studio. Both offer quality content and at the time, everything they did was free. Both now offer other paid services like Paul's Hacking With Swift Plus and Mark's exceptional SwiftUI resources, which I am happy to support and pay for. You get what you pay for. I am only mentioning Sean, Paul and Mark here because they, unbeknownst to them, played a big part in my progress to become a YouTuber. There are too many to mention here and there are lots of bloggers and YouTubers who deserve credit, but that is not the point of this blog.
In the beginning...
It seems that my interview with Sean struck a chord with some people as my Twitter feed started to grow. Some people reached out to me to say that they are able to identify with my path and encouraged me to keep going. Last year, 2019, before Christmas, Paul Hudson started his 100 Days of SwiftUI. I had been learning SwiftUI from the start but was lacking a structured learning path so I started right at Day 1, committed to work through it to the end. I tweeted about my progress as did many others. One of my followers reached out to me who too was working through the course and had some questions and wondered if I could help him out. His name is Chris and we developed a bit of a rapport. I had more experience than he had and I found that I was able to offer him some suggestions. I have been at this a long time and made a lot of mistakes along the way. I have a background in education and so I know a thing or two about learning and teaching. The one thing I pride myself in is making sure that I do my homework. I want to make sure that the information that I am offering is accurate, structured, applicable and easy to understand.
I hesitate to say it, but I believe that I was a mentor to Chris, It made me feel good. But more than that, it made me analyze how I did things and I realized that in the past, I was not always adhering to best practice.
In my previous company, I was responsible for creating short product videos for YouTube that would show our users how to take advantage of certain features of the product. I created over 100 different videos for that channel so I had some experience with YouTube. That company's product also had a tool that allowed our customers to use a proprietary language based on BASIC to create additional tools that could be used to enhance the functionality of the product. I developed courses to teach those clients how to code those tools. I traveled across North America and parts of Europe teaching 3 day courses on the topic. Later on, the product evolved to a web based tool with an API so I transformed my focus into building web based tools. I continued, after leaving the company to consult and teach coding classes related to that product. Well, the product is basically grandfathered now and the consulting and demand for my services dried up. In my retirement, I needed something to keep my brain active and I realized that my self worth relied a lot on the positive feedback I was getting from my teaching. So, on Jan 12, 2020, I revised my only personal YouTube channel to start focusing on tutorials about coding in Swift.
My YouTube Channel
I wanted to focus on Swift and SwiftUI Fundamentals. In one of my earlier posts, I categorized the videos as being based on a line from an old song by Rod Stewart and the Faces. "I wish I knew what I know now, when I was younger." If only I knew what I know now about clean code when I first started out, then I would be a better coder now. I look at some of my old projects now and the code is atrocious. If I wanted to implement something I would watch a video, read a few blog posts and copy and paste someone else's code and tweak it until I got the results I wanted. Needless to say, there is no common architecture between apps and even within a single app there might be several different ones.
What I found was that when I was preparing for a video, I had to do a lot of research and make sure that what I wanted to cover followed best practices. This, more than anything has made me a much better developer. There is nothing better than to put yourself out there for the world to see and to comment or criticize on. It seems to work. With over 75 videos on my channel now, I have not yet had a negative review and the feedback has been really encouraging.
My channel is not really for beginners, nor it is for experienced developers though I think there is something there for those categories too. My focus is on people like me. People who have left the starting gate in their coding experience but constantly need reinforcement and review to stay on top of things and improve their skills in their quest to land a software development position.
My channel videos are focussed around 4 different themes. Focussed Playlists, Swift/SwiftUI Fundamentals, Techniques and Developer Tools.
I am guided by the following principals:
- Research carefully the topic I am about to present.
- Don't ramble — stay on topic.
- Provide practical examples.
- Only publish quality videos that I am proud of.
- Always credit other developers if I borrow and share something that they have published.
- Publish at least one video a week every Sunday
You will never see my face on a video. I don't think there is any need for a talking head in a YouTube video about coding. You may have a different opinion, but the focus is on the code, not me. Besides, I am afraid that if some of my younger audience actually saw how old I am they would be turned off and dismissive. There is definitely a prejudice with respect to the older generation and a failure to recognize that we have something to offer after all.
With those principals in mind, this is how I go about creating my videos.
I start each new video idea by mulling the topic over in my mind and thinking about the best way to present the topic. I use Raindrop.io to gather resources. I often am thinking about many ideas at the same time. There is no fixed amount of time allocated to this task.
Once I have decide what the topic is for this week, I try to come up with a sample project or playground that I can work through during the video recording. This will go through many iterations until I am satisfied. Next, I loosely script out the step by step process for creating the project so that I can follow it when recording. Once the script is complete, I use Camtasia to record myself without audio. When the recording is complete, I create a Keynote presentation that I can use as an introduction and export it as a .mov and import it in as the beginning of the video. I then go through the video, editing out any false moves and corrections. The next step is to actually script the entire video, word for word. That's correct. I watch my own videos and write a transcript. When that is done, I use Audacity to record my voice over. I then edit the audio file by removing mistakes, unwanted noises and I normalize the volume. When I am satisfied, I export it as an MP3 and import it in to Camtasia. This is where the fun begins. I have to match the audio with the video. Sometimes I have to extend a frame and on other occasions I have to speed up the video. I seldom edit the audio once I have imported it. I know enough about how I recorded the video that I know when to pause and slow down during the recording of my voice over script. The final video production stage is to add annotations, call outs and zoom and transition effects so that it is clear what I am talking about and what I want the viewer to focus on. The final step is to upload to YouTube and set a date that I want to release it. When it comes to the release date, I post on Twitter, a number of iOS related YouTube groups, Reddit and LinkedIn and update my web site to point to the video. As you can see it is a lengthy, well thought out process and that is why I limit myself to one a week. It is not unusual for it to take 3 days to produce a 20 - 30 minute video. There are some downsides to this of course. My style is not for everyone. I have not had anyone tell me that the content is invalid, but I have had some comments about the lack of spontaneity and enthusiasm in my presentation style.
How Am I Doing?
I posted my first video on Jan 12, 2020 on creating and using a Swift Package with Swift Package Manager. The feedback I was positive and encouraging but not many viewers. Still, I hung in there. By May, I had reached 500 subscribers. By July I hit 1000 and by November I was at 2000 subscribers. I am averaging somewhere between 200 - 250 new subscribers a month now. Today, as I write this blog I have reached the YouTube threshold of a minimum 4000 watch hours over a 12 month period that entitles me to add ads to my videos. I am still undecided here in that regard. It would be nice to make some revenue after all, but I don't believe I have the numbers to really make anything worthwhile.
I am aways surprised by what content gets the most feedback. Some topics I am really excited about turn out to be not very interesting to others. One video though that really took off was one where I took a concept that I saw Paul Hudson do on his HWS+ feed that converts an SVG to a UIBezier Path in SwiftUI and animates it. I extended that thought in a video. Another time, Mark Moeykens mentioned my name and channel in one of his videos and that resulted in a number of new subscribers. Now it is mostly word of mouth and the fact that I now have over 70 videos in the channel and that they are more discoverable in a Google search.
I once put out a survey asking what kind of videos people wanted to see based on my categories of Fundamentals, Techniques and software development tools. The lowest was for videos on software development tools, yet by far the two most viewed videos I have the ones about Raidrop.io and Typora. I guess I appeal to more than one segment of the YouTube population.
Anyway, that is where I am today. Can I call myself a YouTuber? I think probably yes, but I am still looking to increase my viewing audience as I believe that there are many people who would benefit from what I have to offer. You can find my channel at https://youTube.com/StewartLynch and feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @StewartLynch. You can also visit my web site at https://www.createchsol.com to find out about my apps and other things about me. I would love to hear from you and get your feedback on how I am doing.