Late Hello to 2019
CodeFX Occasionally #70 — May the forth be with you
second half of the turn-of-the-year newsletters, this time with my plans for 2019. Or rather, what remains of it. 😁 Last week’s warnings on self-centeredness fully apply.
I send this newsletter out some Fridays. Or other days. Sometimes not for weeks. But as an actual email. So, subscribe!
Behind the scenes of creating content
Before we can get to 2019, we need to discuss where content comes from. Let’s talk birds and bees!
Hobby or job?
In one respect 2018 was a really good year: For the first time, my various vocational activities resulted in stable income. Ever since I started the blog in 2014, I worked part time to have a few more hours per week for my tomfoolery with Java. When I went freelance in 2016, it was still mostly in my old role as regular Joe developer (leaving the few months with SitePoint aside), but I spent yet more time on conferences and YouTube videos.
It was only in 2018 that my work shifted. Now, much of my freelancing and all my training engagements can be traced back directly to all these activities. That’s great because it means that while I spend a lot of time on them, that is no longer in opposition to earning an income. It’s no longer a hobby, it’s part of my job now.
I didn’t know that conflict was so strong, but ever since I realized it no longer exists, I feel much better about my… I don’t know, do we want to call it a career? And that’s great because it makes it much easier for me to focus on what I really enjoy: producing content!
Where content comes from
If you categorize the content you consume out there by the motivation for creating it, you end up with three buckets:
- Created by someone who simply loves the topic and writes, shoots, streams, etc. as a hobby.
- Created as a marketing tool to sell something to the eyeballs it attracts, e.g. online courses, books, consultancy, a (software) product, etc.
- Created as a directly monetized product, e.g. via YouTube ads, Twitch subscriptions, Patreon, sponsored content, etc.
(These categories can overlap and working in 2 or 3 does of course not mean the creator doesn’t love what they do. Still, it’s not a hobby anymore and it changes the game, usually to a considerable degree.)
Every individual content creator I know started out in category 1, usually by burning the midnight oil. Some eventually reduce their paying job to part time, but either way, this requires a lot of energy on top of regular work and is seldomly sustainable in the long run. These creators love what they do, though, and want to continue doing it. Thus, many look to transition into categories 2 or 3, so they can replace their regular job.
That’s pretty much my story, too. For about 18 months now, I’ve been sitting at the tail end of category 1 and pondered how to move on. Not knowingly, though, I’ve only come to realize this over the last few months.
Tall vs wide
The battle plan for categories 2 and 3 is pretty clear cut:
- focus on a single, relatively narrow topic (say, Hibernate or StarCraft II)
- pick two to three channels (blog/YouTube/newsletter or Twitch/YouTube)
- FIRE ON ALL CYLINDERS! (at least 2, better 3 to 5 pieces per week)
The thing is, that’s not my style. At all. If you’ve been subscribed to this newsletter for any length of time, you know that I have more ideas than are good for me. I like to play with different technologies and do that on various channels, often without a plan on how to proceed. Even if I have one, I don’t always follow through on it. I tend to make more announcements than I can fulfill and occasionally I need to retreat into my shell and stay there for a month without doing much (see last December).
I now understand that the reason I was not sure how to move ahead for way over a year is that disconnect between what “I should do” and what I know I can do. But 2018 showed me that as long as I’m ok with freelancing and teaching (I enjoy both) I don’t really need to press for success in 2. and 3. I can just languish and see it as very indirect marketing (putting me into 2.). It came as a sudden realization: If I don’t want to go tall, I fucking won’t! If I want to go wide, I’ll do that!
Plans for 2019
Now we can move to 2019. So far, every year had a motto:
- 2014 — Getting Started: first contributions to open source, set up the blog, start writing
- 2015 — Stabilization: sustain a constant pace of blogging and FOSS coding
- 2016 — Expansion: go beyond blogging and try new things
- 2017 — Focus: finish what you started
- 2018 — Laying the Foundation: launch courses.codefx.org (don’t click, didn’t launch)
Here’s mine for 2019: All the things! I’ll do whatever I want, wherever I want (but do a better job of linking channels). Great “plan”, huh?! 😁
There are two buckets for what I do: publicly available content and services you have to pay me for. I want to briefly touch on both before coming to some big news.
What I already do:
- blogging on codefx.org
- writing for other outlets and my book
- writing an occasional newsletter (you should really check it out!)
- videos on YouTube
- speaking at conferences
What I just started doing:
- streaming on Twitch (more in another newsletter)
- organizing Accento, “my own” conference (more in another newsletter)
What I may do:
- create an online course
- write a new book
- start a podcast
Since I’m now free to do whatever I want, my only goal is to actually do that. From now on, I want to do at least one piece per week. I think summer would be a good time to see whether I stuck to that schedule.
As mentioned, freelancing and trainings are my two main income sources and both are doing fine without me having to advertize much. Once I’ve freed up some resources, I want to try and up the trainings, though, because they pay better, which means I can spent more time on content.
Hell, why not do that right now? 😊 If your team is new to Java 8, 9, or later, or wants to start using JUnit 5, I can get them up to speed in one to three days. My trainings are a mixture of presentations and hands-on exercises and if we hold them in-house, we can specialize them to your needs. Some happy customers are Bayer, 1&1, Accenture (yes, that Accenture), and a few smaller dev shops. Curious? Get in touch!
CodeFX will die!
So here’s the big news: CodeFX will die. 😱
In January I got myself a 360° camera and for my research I relied a lot on Ben Claremont’s YouTube channel, which focuses on just that. Much like I use CodeFX as my store front, he used Life in 360 as his. Until he didn’t. In this video he explains why and he put into words what’s been rummaging around in my head for a while: People like people — why would you pretend not to be one of them?
Of course I know the answer; I’ve felt it myself and he describes it as well: Having something like CodeFX or Life in 360 makes you feel legit. Looks almost like a company, doens’t it?! You’re not just a dude or gal with a blog and a camera, no, you’re A Company!
But, and companies know that full-well, that’s not a good thing. People like people, not corporations. They’re willing to accept corporations, but they bond with human values, which is why corps invest so much money into trying to make it appear as if they have any.
The idea that I have no reason to hide behind a bogus entity quickly snowballed and picked up a lot of other stray thoughts:
- I hate WordPress and want a static site
- my blog’s design is acceptable, but not great (I mean, look at the logo!)
- my blog, my slides, my video content, everything I produce really should use the same design elements
- I need a better way to tell people who like my content about the channels I use
- I want to build a community for people with similar interests
Now I’ve got big plans! Well, it’s really just a redesign of my online presence, but it’s big to me. Once I’m done, one thing should never happen again: That people who’ve watched one of my talks come up to me afterwards and tell me that they only just found out that I’m the guy behind CodeFX.
If you want to join me rebuilding my online empire, swing by Twitch. I’m already busy turning the WordPress HTML export into proper Asciidoc files that I can then use as input for the new blog. I’ll likely create that with Gatsby, so I’ll work a lot with React. And TypeScript because all code and no types makes Nicolai a dull boy.