Applying to Pluralsight

23. May 2014 Uncategorized 1

May 22, 2014

Last week I spoke at KCDC and had a pretty good time. I really enjoy speaking at conferences. It’s weird for developers and technical people to enjoy it, but it has been something I’ve enjoyed doing ever since I found out that conference speakers are just “regular folks.” For a long time I assumed the people speaking at conferences were Microsoft employees, or people that had written frameworks and cool libraries. Truth is, while there are a lot of those groups, there are also a lot of people who are just “desk jockeys” who want to talk.  That discovery came to me in 2011 when I talked to a coworker who was speaking at local conference.  Since then I’ve spoken at three or four different conferences around the mid-west.

After talking at KCDC I had an email exchange with someone who came to one of my talks. I’m not joking when I say that email exchange was probably the highlight of my conference speaking career. It wasn’t from anyone famous, and I can guarantee almost none of you would know who it was. So it wasn’t a celebrity status type of thing. Instead, it was someone that my talk affected. My talks might have impacted other people in the past, but nobody has really reached out to me to start a conversation. It was quite special, and something I am humbled by.

During the course of that conversation, my pen-pal asked if I had ever thought about doing Pluralsight. He had watched a lot of videos and felt that I could fit in there. Again, very humbling. We exchanged some emails back and forth on that topic. He mentioned Cory House who is a Pluralsight author, and who I’ve had a few conversations with at various conferences. So I reached out to Cory to ask him what all it took to be an author and ask if he had any tips etc. Cory gave me some feedback and offered to introduce me to someone there if I was interested.  I thought about it for a day or two and talked it over with my wife. She made the very good point that I’d be stupid to not even try (she can be very blunt at times 🙂 )

I followed back up with Cory, and true to his word he introduced me to a contact he had there. Long story somewhat shorter, I’m going to work on an application video for Pluralsight. I don’t know how it will play out, I believe they’re pretty selective in who they approve, so it’s anything but a done deal.  But from speaking at a conference 6 days ago, to having a quick phone call with people at Pluralsight was pretty quick, and pretty cool.

I’m typing this up before I’ve even started on the video & presentation, and I’ll probably keep it private at least until I’ve submitted the video. So, if you’re reading this, it means I’ve submitted the video and I’ll let you know how it goes from there.

As of right now, I’m thinking of doing an introduction to graph databases, and showing how the way they structure data can simplify data models.

May 24-25, 2014

I spent about 6 hours over these past two days working on the presentation. I’ve already made a change. Instead of talking about graph databases, I decided to go with testing a Backbone view with TDD. The reason being, I only have 10 minutes and I’m really familiar with TDD, so it should be easier for me to do a concentrated 10 minutes on it. As opposed to graph databases where I might be too vague and broad.

I ended up writing quite a few slides and then trying to trim down what I didn’t want. I wound up with about 5 slides and code. I also wrote a lot of code. I wanted to make sure I was ready to do my demo, so I went way farther than I thought I’d get with it. I then printed out my resulting view and my tests. That way I had them to look at in case I forgot where I was going.

When I finished this step, I felt ready to record.

May 26, 2014

I spent around 2.5 hours today recording and editing my 10 minute video. I think I restarted 4 times because I couldn’t even introduce myself without stumbling over my words. It was weird, limit the time to 10 minutes and start recording and I sound like I don’t even know how to speak. I’ve never had a hard time getting through my first slide while at a conference, but here was a different story.

After I got that slide out of the way, I did the rest of the presentation in one take.  But it wasn’t one clean take. There were a few “ummms” or pauses. More than once I restarted the audio by counting down “3…2…1.”

So it took me about 20 minutes to record 15 minutes of video that in the end had to be cut down to 10 minutes or less. That part took about 2 hours. It was funny, actually. I would find a block of the presentation that clearly needed editing. After I fixed that block, other blocks would “appear.” Obviously they were there all along, but as I slowly started improving the quality, the little things became bigger deals.

I wrapped it up about 10pm and emailed it to a friend, Cory House, to have him review it. I was surprised at about 7:30 the next morning when he wrote back with a detailed critique of some areas.  I’ll fix those issues and send him a second copy.

May 29, 2014

I had another set of eyes review all of my changes. He had some really good feedback. I exchanged a couple more emails with Cory and he had some good ideas on recording audio.  Instead of recording me typing and talking at the same time, I decided to just record the screen once the text was there. So I went through and recorded all of my screens.

Then I sat down and noted the bullet points I wanted to say and I recorded the audio all in one steady stream. I did this to keep the volume levels similar. I still flubbed up, but when I did, I would just pause, count “3…2…1” and pause again and then start talking. It was very obvious just looking at the wave forms where I counted down.

I then stretched out my video to match the length on the audio. This didn’t have display issues because I was largely recording static screens.

I got all of that done and organized and decided my Powerpoint slides weren’t really what I needed. So I re-did all of the except the title. I also re-recorded the audio for them, to make it more concise.

If you’re keeping track at home, that means I have 1 slide, my title slide, that has not changed since I started this process. All other imagery and audio has changed.

I went back through and blurred out sections of the screen when showing code to try and help the user focus on the new parts more. I also made sure I zoomed in some to make it easier to read.

I published it once more and sent it off to two people to review again.

Each time I’ve done this I’ve hoped it would be the last, and it clearly hasn’t. But at the same time, this is my one shot. I wish I would have tracked how much time I put into it. Rough estimate is that I’m probably at about 15 hours right now, for a 10 minute video. But I want to make sure I can do no better before I send it off to get reviewed.

May 31, 2014

It’s amusing to me how much of the work on this is regarding taste. For example, at different times, I’ve had 3 different people review it for me. Two of the three liked seeing me actually typing, and one liked to just see the completed code and explain it. Also, one guy really liked me blurring out/hiding the code that wasn’t the focus, whereas another guy absolutely hated it. He preferred to see all the code, but then highlight specific portions.

Additionally, it’s not exactly easy to go to a Pluralsight video and see how they do things, because they’re all individual classes, and are up to the personality of author. On the one hand, that’s really cool, because then each class has its own personality instead of trying to take that out. On the other hand, when I’m trying to make a perfect audition video, it’s hard to take lessons from them.

That said, I’m pretty pleased with where my video is at now. It’s a far cry from where it was even a week ago.  I’ve sent it out one more time to be reviewed, and if there is nothing major there, I will (hopefully) be submitting it to Pluralsight shortly.

All of that said, I need to devote a little bit of this blog post to Cory House. I met him a couple years ago at HDC when he talked about Clean Code. Since then, we’ve presented at a couple conferences together, and I think when it comes to code, he’s a kindred spirit. One of the best things I’ve gotten out of speaking at conferences was meeting other developers. Cory has been more than helpful introducing me to people at Pluralsight and taking time out of his busy schedule to help review my submission. Regardless how it goes, it was a great help to have a published Pluralsight author give me feedback.

Update 1

I just sent my video to Pluralsight at 7:45pm on Saturday, just over a week after I started creating a presentation. It was a long week, and regardless of the outcome, it was worth it. I learned a lot this week.

The only thing I can do now is wait.  If and when I hear back, I’ll let you guys know.