Creating a Successful Business with Fun Project-Based Courses with Wes Bos

Designing courses that are both entertaining and informative is no small feat. But, time and time again, Wes Bos delivers.

There's no secret formula either. The method is simple. Wes takes a project first approach, thinking about the technology he wants to teach and everything a learner would need to know in order to become skilled at it and dumping it all into a mind map.

From there he tries to build three to four different projects of different sizes, covering different areas. One might be heavy on the data, another may be focused on authentication and permissions. Then he reverse engineers his projects and asks questions, "what are the milestones? What are the things you need to learn? What can you build in a course scope?"

Beyond his courses Wes also has built his own platform and co-hosts the wonderful podcast Syntax.fm with Scott Tolinski.

Building the platform himself was very important to Wes. It came from wanting to have a sense of credibility, and there just not being anything that had the features he wanted at the time. And it gives him an ongoing project to work on and continue to write production code.

The podcast has also been very successful in its own right. It has been excellent for selling courses and it makes money from sponsorships as well.

So check out this episode of the Badass Courses podcast to get more insights from Wes Bos including, when he decided to hire employees, dealing with stolen content, managing aging content, and more!

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Full Transcript

[00:00:00] Joel: Hey Wes.

[00:00:00] Wes Bos: Hey, thanks for having me on. I'm excited about this.

[00:00:02] Joel: Yeah, I'm really stoked to talk to you. We have a lot in common. You've inspired my business from years ago. I think we've been chatting since 2014 or 15 we have a kind of similar business models and do a lot of the similar work and are stoked by some of the same activities at the core of it for me.

[00:00:17] And I know it's similar for you. It's It's. First and foremost, like being a web developer is something I still get such a kick out of. And this job allows me to do that in a way that, that I get to control. And that's fantastic. I wanted to kick it off though and ask you how do you approach learning something new and you sit down to do something technical complex that you haven't done before.

Learning Style

[00:00:35] Joel: What's your learning approach.

[00:00:37] Wes Bos: Yeah. So my approach is a bit different than the people that take my courses, which is funny, but like the type of person that's taking my course is someone who wants like a linear path and to be sat down and to be shown everything for. So for me, when there's not necessarily a course out there, or just my learning approaches, I sort of just try to like binge.

[00:00:56] Information on the topic. So whether that's watching all the conference talks like you can learn a lot by throwing on a YouTube conference. Talk, you skip the first five minutes, you put it on two X and just blitz through that thing. You watch three or four of those. And I always talk about like surface area of a topic,

[00:01:13] Really good for understanding, like what it does, like what it covers, what it doesn't cover. How to use it. and then I'll usually blitz through the docks, look out examples, and then just get into building three or four different things with a specific tech sort of my hands on approach to getting dirty and learning something new.

[00:01:30] Joel: You find it's technology mostly that you're doing that? Or do you have other areas where you, of interest that you're pursuing

[00:01:36] kinda learning goals?

[00:01:37] Wes Bos: with everything. Like last year I put in, we have a cottage up north

[00:01:40] It's unlimited water. You can pump. So I put in spring a huge sprinkler system. And like I just went, I went all in. I watched all the YouTube videos. I read all the things. I went down the rabbit hole, learned all the math of pressure and flow.

[00:01:52] Those things are trade

[00:01:53] Joel: oh, nice.

[00:01:53] Wes Bos: And like I. I went

[00:01:55] Joel: You're

[00:01:55] Wes Bos: in on it. And I know literally everything you need to know about sprinkler irrigation and now I'm done and onto the next thing. And like my entire life is engines, carburetors fixing ATVs, like all, just go nuts on a certain topic. I learn it really well.

[00:02:09] then I move on to the next thing and I don't abandon those things, but I just know how to do those things now. And then I go deep. I do a deep dive on something else and it's funny

[00:02:17] Joel: not trying to, and I've seen that with the ATVs in particular, I'm always like when you, or you buy the Cars

[00:02:22] Wes Bos: Yeah,

[00:02:22] Joel: kids and then soup them up. Right. And go, and they're broken. So you can pick 'em up for cheap and then go ahead and fix them. And I think that is so fun. It looks so interesting.

[00:02:30] It's not like you're gonna do that for a living. I mean, maybe you could but

[00:02:33] Wes Bos: No, I probably wouldn't. I wouldn't like I did make quite a bit of cash flipping bikes when I was in university. and up till about, I dunno, five years ago, which was really fun for me. Cause I like working with my hands

[00:02:45] And it's business, but it's also learning how things work.

[00:02:48] But that's not my, I just do that because I enjoy getting into something new.

[00:02:53] Joel: So, and I assume it's different and probably the same when you have, you know, some sort of new course topic or you found something that you think you want to teach. What's your research project process for something like that, is it different than how you would approach learning something for personal?

Designing multiple projects

[00:03:06] Wes Bos: It's pretty similar. Like just read through absolutely everything. Build four or five things. like I never want to be the guy teaching something who just. Made a to do list

[00:03:17] and teaches us how to do that. Like you have to know more than that. You have to know like surface area.

[00:03:21] You have to actually hit the bumps and issues that people run into. Otherwise, your course is just too, like too thin. It's okay. Yeah. I too can do the hello world on something, but what about real projects? Like what about real issues that we all run into? You know, you don't cover that.

[00:03:36] So I always try to make at least three or four things in. The specific tech that I'm doing, of D of different sizes, but of like different like areas that you hit, like maybe is heavy on data. Maybe another one is heavy on permissions and authentication and another is big on like integrations with another API.

[00:03:56] Right. And then I usually just have a feeling of okay. I feel pretty confident that I would be able. To build something in this, and then you sort of reverse engineer that saying okay, what are the things you hit? are the things you need to learn? and then what can you build in a course?

[00:04:10] Or how do you teach that in many lessons, to cover all of those things. So people get their, people are get their money's worth and they're able to learn what it is you need to learn on that tech.

Designing courses with mind-maps

[00:04:20] Joel: Are you using any sort of, kind of learning design framework or is it something you've built up over the years for yourself as you've taught and explored that space?

[00:04:28] Wes Bos: yeah I use like mind mapping software, and usually what I'll do I'm at a point where I'm like, okay, I know the tech what do I need to teach people? I'll just do a, like a brain dump of all the things that need to be covered. And then that will slowly morph its way into a a mind mapping software.

[00:04:45] So you have one, one major topic and then there might be a couple branches off of that. Right. And then by the time I'm done, , I'll have all of the topics that you need to learn and all the subtopics that need to learn. And I can then turn that into, an actual course. So I don't have any set framework.

[00:05:01] It's just kind of in my brain that how to approach.

Teaching in-person

[00:05:03] Joel: I know in the past, you've talked about like live teaching and actually teaching people in more of a classroom setting has been very important. Is that something you still do? I know times have been weird for, in person but is that still important part of your process?

[00:05:14] Wes Bos: I haven't done that in a while. I did do COVID I, I still did, I don't know, three or four workshops per year. But before that I was doing. For years, I did boot camps and even in classes and

[00:05:26] And I feel like I got a really good handle on how people learn and how people hit issues, just because of the.

[00:05:35] That in person energy, you get from people where you explain something and it bombs, or you explain something and there's excitement in the air, you know, and I feel like I have it pretty dialed in, based on in person feedback. So I was, I'm very happy about that. And I still really enjoy doing Like workshops and stuff.

[00:05:52] I get tons of requests to do it.

[00:05:54] Joel: I suspect. So, yeah.

[00:05:54] Wes Bos: me come it's it's kind of hard now. I've got three young kids and I did a lot of that before had any kids, so do it as much anymore.

[00:06:02] Joel: Do you do any, have you done any kind of zoom live stuff or that sort of work

[00:06:06] shopping?

[00:06:07] Wes Bos: I just, haven't I've had a lot of people ask about that and I just I don't know that I could like a, I don't wanna come up with the content. If I have a workshop, like usually what I'll do is I'll make a workshop and I'll do that times over right. But I don't have any workshops that are up, up to date right now because of COVID and then I've had a couple requests for zoom, but just hasn't been something like, eh, I don't really know that enjoy teaching that in person over zoom.

[00:06:33] It's maybe something I should try, but it's just, there's only so much time in the day. And I

[00:06:37] Joel: Yeah, that's true.

[00:06:37] Wes Bos: spent making courses

[00:06:39] Joel: And, well, the energy's different too. I think, you know, like a live workshop where you're in the person and, you know, you talked about the benefit for you is being able to feel the energy in the room

[00:06:47] And you don't get the same sort of experience on zoom it's there, but it's not the same.

[00:06:51] Wes Bos: Yeah. I agree.

Wes' audience

[00:06:52] Joel: So when somebody comes to, you've got how many courses are you up to.

[00:06:55] Wes Bos: Oh, I don't know. Probably or 13,

[00:06:58] Joel: that.

[00:06:59] Doesn't courses and they're focused on web developers, I think almost exclusively. What are people trying to achieve? What are learners? What's the big themes that people are trying to achieve when they encounter your courses?

[00:07:10] Wes Bos: Yeah. It's kind of a mix. A big portion of my learners are people who they're at a job that job needs them to learn. This tech, the big one is express tons of company like express is not the new hot thing, but I have a node course that covers all of express and, learns how to do it.

[00:07:28] And that's still very popular in the, like we have employees and we need to skill them up on this tech Wes' course. And you'll be up to speed really quickly. So that's a big one is that there's employees in a company need to be skilled up on their existing. Or they're thinking about picking up a new stack and they need to learn a new, some new tech, maybe they're thinking, okay, maybe we should pick up react for our project.

[00:07:49] So that's a big one. and then the other part of it is, and I'm not sure what the breakdown is, but, it's people who are looking to improve their skill set so that they can get a better job,

[00:08:00] In their current job, things like that. Or just keep up to date the tech. That's changing all the.

[00:08:04] Joel: Because you know that, right? You know that one of the big drivers and I assume that like for the express course, you're getting companies that are buying multiple seats for their teams. At that point. Do you take that into consideration? When you sit down to design a course, like this is gonna be something that teams will be able to use, or this will be something that's, you know, for a beginner developer.

[00:08:22] How do you kind of divide that up and think about the audience before you even make the course

[00:08:26] Wes Bos: I don't know that I do that. I basically just say this is tech that I use and I believe in, and

[00:08:31] used to build my own stuff. I think people wanna learn how to use it. so people will probably pay me to learn how. How to do that or in the cases, the free courses, this is course.

[00:08:40] So this is something they need to learn. So that's part of it. and then there's also like stuff like flex box grid JavaScript that just literally everybody needs

[00:08:50] Joel: Yeah, right.

[00:08:50] Wes Bos: to, know how to learn, right? Like you, was a big thing with my Flexbox course, when that came out in grade course, when it came out, is that.

[00:08:56] There's not a single dev on earth doesn't need to learn this because it's brand new.

[00:09:01] Joel: Yeah,

[00:09:02] Wes Bos: that, that, that's a really good one for me as well. Cause it's very wide casting net there.

[00:09:07] Joel: it's new and it's good too. And that's the thing, right? Like with flex box. Wow. This is something that you really should know. Not

[00:09:12] just that you could know it. This is something that you probably want to know. If you're doing web development at all.

[00:09:17] Wes Bos: true. Like all developers are gonna be able to use that. It's not just like this niche part of CSS. That's like, Print styles or something funny like that.

Deciding on what content to make free

[00:09:24] Joel: What goes into the decision process cuz you, and I think it's awesome that you release free content and give people, you know, this opportunity to learn without having to pay for it. And that's very inclusive and gives us just opportunity that people might not otherwise have. But what's the calculus for you?

[00:09:39] Like how do you decide what's going to be free and what's gonna be paid and when you're gonna go big or when it's gonna be something contained that you can offer for free.

[00:09:46] Wes Bos: I think I'll do a, if something is if something is like good to everybody, it's a wide casting net Flexbox grid, JavaScript 30, like those are all things that I heard from my students. Like I need to learn these things. Where do I go to learn them? That's good for me. It's good for business people

[00:10:01] Joel: Yeah.

[00:10:01] Wes Bos: They like it. Some of those people will end up buying a paid course. And then it's also just good for the general humanity of being able to put stuff out there. That's how I got started blogging and stuff. It's being able to put it out there for anybody and. It's like without getting too cheesy, cuz this is a business, but like it's also really cool to, to see people being like, Hey, I took your courses and thank you so much.

[00:10:23] I was able to get, my first job as a web developer or I was able to get like a $20,000 increase in my salary. Like that means a lot to me as well, hearing those stories.

[00:10:31] Joel: So those stories seem like a great way to answer this question, but how do you know when somebody's succeeded, like somebody's taking your course and what are the kind of the metrics for success that you see in the learners that, that you're helping.

[00:10:41] Wes Bos: Yeah. I think just enthusiasm of people recommending it to their friends, obviously there's metrics of many people are signing up and taking the course and getting through all the videos and stuff like that. I don't pay too much attention to that. but it's basically just Do these things spread without me having to really hammer them and have funnels and SEO and all that stuff.

[00:11:02] Right? If it's those things are important, but if

[00:11:06] Joel: You

[00:11:06] Wes Bos: around really well then. Then I know I've succeeded. And most of my courses do I've got a little one on markdown that like almost nobody will ever tweet about it or sign up for it. Right. Like it's just a like markdowns.

[00:11:18] Good. And I made it really quickly because I love markdown, but it's not something that it's gonna change. Someone's life, like being able to level up your CS.

[00:11:26] Joel: cross reference though. So if you created something small and mark down that you're giving out, does, is that to reference to other courses where it might be useful.

[00:11:33] Wes Bos: Sometimes I'll say Hey, if you want to know more about, this, the big one for me is I have a command line course. Because everybody, every course I do. Hey, how did you get that prompt? What fun is that? How did you what's that theme? How did you do that? Cool. Auto complete, like all of those questions.

[00:11:48] and as much of a temptation, it is to go down those rabbit holes. As

[00:11:52] Joel: Yeah,

[00:11:52] Wes Bos: you're teaching it, stay on track of what you're actually trying to accomplish. So it's really nice

[00:11:57] Joel: it's a link,

[00:11:57] Wes Bos: like skipping over this because draw the rest of the owl type of thing.

[00:12:01] I'm just saying, Hey, if you want to know how I got this cool prompt, there's actually a free course on that. And it's nice to be able to push 'em, but I don't like clip videos together to make full courses. It's usually just start to finish. Yeah.

[00:12:14] Joel: Yeah. Like you can link it in the notes basically and

Incorporating notes

[00:12:16] Joel: tell people where to go. I think that's actually something cool. Speaking of notes, and I noticed you, you started to do this recently where you're taking your paid course and you've created notes. I, I assume from learners and yourself, and you're actually publishing those and giving those away.

[00:12:28] And I thought that was really interesting. I was wondering what kind of prompted that move?

[00:12:31] Wes Bos: Yeah. I, my beginner JavaScript course, that's a paid

[00:12:34] And. I like it's the same thing. It's twofold. So I had somebody the entire course and I had them transcribed cuz I need captions and things like that. And then I took those transcriptions and I had a technical writer make them into.

[00:12:47] Actual text notes. And that was huge. It was very expensive for me to get done. And then I just gave it

[00:12:51] Joel: Yeah.

[00:12:52] Wes Bos: for free on my thing. And again it's the same thing. A it's good for a business. It shows up in search engines. People find it, people, want it, but B also, sometimes people don't like video and they want text a text version of that.

[00:13:03] Right. so I thought might as well just give that away for free. And then there's also something nice about being able to give. Literally how to learn JavaScript away entirely for free. I think it's pretty good content, you know, something nice about that as

[00:13:17] Joel: Yeah.

Building a positive reputation with free content

[00:13:17] Wes Bos: And I remember one time I I was, I got mad that somebody was like stealing my course and giving it away for free.

[00:13:23] I got so much pushback from people being like, no, like you, if people wanna steal it, they should be able to steal it because they're learning JavaScript. And like they're trying to better their life. And I was. Kind of, also like it's my business, you know? And that's what makes me feel better about trying to take down stone courses, being like, if you do really wanna learn for free, Hey, here, I've paid somebody to put it into tax or, Hey, look, I've got six free courses you can, you could take as well.

[00:13:51] So I dunno. It's just, it's a delicate balance there. You don't want to be the capitalistic guy. That's trying to just. Milk money out of this thing, cuz like I started from a passion of people learning to learn this stuff, right?

[00:14:03] Joel: Yeah, well, my, my approach and we've obviously I think. Suffered from some of that too, where they're trying to do it. And there's like sites pay sites in Russia where you can go they charge to access the course. And there's literally nothing we can do. And it's like that's gonna exist where I fight it.

[00:14:18] It's where somebody will just rip the course and then post it to YouTube. And my problem with that is like the people watching it don't necessarily know. That it's stolen, right? So they aren't bad actors where people, if they're going to a pirate site or whatever, it's you're not really a customer anyway.

[00:14:32] But you know, if it's, if somebody's posting it just in full form on YouTube, those are the ones that, that I had to write a script that was the U YouTube a-holes,

[00:14:40] Wes Bos: DM C a

[00:14:40] Joel: DMCA

[00:14:41] Wes Bos: I've got one of those as well. Cuz Google makes you do

[00:14:43] Joel: oh my gosh. It's like a big spreadsheet you have to generate. And I just made a thing. I was like,

[00:14:47] boo. And it

[00:14:48] Wes Bos: same script. I wrote

[00:14:49] Joel: I had to write it twice, cuz I lost one in a computer migration.

[00:14:52] So I've written that script a couple of times, but it's handy. And I mean, you have to protect your copyright. Otherwise copyright is useless and you know, it's if you don't then at the end of the day, that is the norm and people basically have

[00:15:02] permission to just take it. And. that's

[00:15:04] Wes Bos: I'll also say that like a majority of the web development community is extremely supportive

[00:15:09] Joel: absolutely thankfully

[00:15:11] Wes Bos: that's like such a good thing

[00:15:12] Our communities that people say, Hey, yeah, Wes is It probably has something to do with the fact that I actually do give a lot of stuff up for free and are willing to stick their neck out for me when something like that does happen.

Creating engaging examples

[00:15:22] Joel: One, one of the things that I think is interesting about your approach in general is your examples. And JavaScript 30 is one of my favorites that I'll point people to, and go look at that, cuz. You, if you wanna know if you're interested in JavaScript or you've gone to free code camp and learned a little bit, go there because here's these great examples.

[00:15:37] And I was wondering like, how do you decide or what kind of drives the choices in what you create in your courses?

[00:15:44] Wes Bos: Yeah it has to be something that is real world enough,

[00:15:49] Joel: Enough is important there, I think, right? Like it's not exactly because real world is maybe boring and repetitive, but

[00:15:55] Wes Bos: Real world is 90% edge cases and you'd be going like that. That's something that I have a hard time balancing sometimes is. Do you go down the rabbit hole and write three times the code to hit that one edge case? Or do you just leave it? You know,

[00:16:11] So like real, yeah. Real world enough is very important.

[00:16:13] So that's one thing. And second it has to be fun. Like we've all console logged our brains out done 99 balls of beer on the wall. And what's the food bar bath with the what's

[00:16:27] Joel: Fisbos.

[00:16:28] Wes Bos: FIS buzz

[00:16:29] Joel: Yeah.

[00:16:29] Wes Bos: We've all done those and those are great, but like usually get into coding, not because they want to loop over a list of things.

[00:16:36] want to learn how to loop over something. When they have an array of that are up for adoption, or they want to be able to take in input from the user because a lot of people are saying like, oh, I would love to learn how to code. I have an idea for something, or I would really like it. So of my examples are stuff that are like, okay, I've had to do auto completion before, or I've had to click a click, a checkbox, hold down, shift, click another one.

[00:17:02] And the checkbox is between those two things are. for you, right. Or I've needed something to scroll when you log in or I've needed to persist something to local storage. And then there's like another bunch of fun stuff, which is like, how do you access the webcam and manipulate it? Or how do you change the voice of somebody's input or how do you visualize audio?

[00:17:21] Right. A lot to that. So I want people to be able to look at my course and be. I need that. I like, I need to learn how to do that. And also I want to have fun with it, and it's kind of funny because sometimes you see people that have implemented stuff on their projects and they say, to go back to JavaScript 30 and look at the nav example that we did cuz that's exactly what we wanted to do.

[00:17:41] And glad that you had a little example like that.

Learner career outcomes

[00:17:44] Joel: Have you had anything UN unexpected come out of a student that's taken your course and they've made something and shared it with you. That was surprising.

[00:17:50] Wes Bos: Yeah we had a someone on the podcast who. Built a website and he ended up getting the attention of Kanye west

[00:17:57] Joel: Oh, nice.

[00:17:57] Wes Bos: that. That was pretty funny. You can listen to the podcast on that someone sold a startup that was based on one of my code. And I thought that was pretty cool. I totally forget what it is.

[00:18:07] It wasn't like a major like Uber or something like that, but they got paid from something that they learned in my course. So I thought that was neat.

[00:18:13] Joel: I, I think that's just like the potentiality of what people can create. If they learn these skills is effectively the, you know, Scope of the internet, right? Like it's only there's the skill that they need to learn to do the thing. But then once they have these skills, the things that they can do is just this amazing, whatever, right?

[00:18:30] I don't know. I can't predict what you will build,

[00:18:33] Wes Bos: Yeah. Oh, you see it. Like people I taught eight years ago in, in a class where they were construction or being a server. they are now senior developers at Shopify,

[00:18:46] They're now. very established careers and in many cases are much better developers than I am. It's amazing to see that all they needed was just like a little bit of a, in the butt and to learn the basics.

[00:18:58] And

[00:18:58] Joel: Yeah.

[00:18:59] Wes Bos: had the aptitude to be able to just continue that on eight years in a row. And now they are in an entirely different place, not to say that construction or server is a bad thing, but they just wanted to change out of that industry.

[00:19:11] Joel: Yeah, it was their goal, right? Like they, they had reached whatever ceiling or plateau in that avenue of their life. And they had a different goal and now they've found success. And frankly I can understand why people would wanna get into software where we can work remote and the salaries incredibly high in a lot of cases and that sort of stuff.

[00:19:27] So it's a good career. And, And if you're into it, it makes it a nice transit. So you talked about real world enough and the idea of fun. And I'm wondering, where do you bridge the gap between fun and business, right? Cuz I mean there are people out there that are strictly looking to get into code to, you know, maybe as a hobby or for fun or whatever.

[00:19:44] But there is. You know, the transition from having fun and doing this and kind of the Puy bits of this career, and then there's the business aspect of it. And is that something you even consider at all?

[00:19:54] Wes Bos: yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Like it has to everything that we build has to be. Something that I would actually use myself or implement in myself, like a lot of my courses, I'll say, Hey, this is actually exactly how I do it on this part of my website, or this is the thing I only am approaching it this way because I actually ran into that issue on

[00:20:14] And show that so.

[00:20:15] I totally agree. Nobody likes, like myself has to be fun for people to learn and to be engaged

[00:20:20] Otherwise you give up if it's too simple, people get bored. If it's too hard, people give up because it's like they, they hit bugs or whatever, and

[00:20:29] Joel: you feel dumb and want to go do something else, watch Netflix or whatever.

[00:20:32] Right?

[00:20:32] Wes Bos: So it's a delicate balance between

[00:20:35] Joel: I

Defining fun

[00:20:35] Wes Bos: I don't necessarily know if I have a. How I can tell you how do I bridge that, but certainly something that's always top of mind for me. Yeah.

[00:20:41] Joel: think the definition of fun is interesting for one thing. And I don't think fun means cute necessarily it can be right. Like you can make something that's whimsical and cute, but like having fun to me, like I, if I'm sitting down with a database problem, that's actually kind of challenging, but within my grasp, and then I finally solve it, I probably had fun that day.

[00:20:59] Versus, you know, like doing something where it's fun and kind of the a candy crush kind of, kind of idea of fun. I guess.

[00:21:05] Wes Bos: Yeah. I think what I love to see is people take what they build in my courses and they say, I see how I could make it for my thing,

[00:21:16] And sometimes you see like someone to be, somebody sent me the other day, a website of a They manage a whole bunch of hockey teams and they have tournaments and those, teams are relational to the tournaments and there's orders and arrays there's players in those teams.

[00:21:28] And they sent it to me. And it's funny, cuz it looked exactly like what we built in the course, but was entirely different in terms of the data set and the structure and all the logic as to how it was displayed. And I was like that, that to me, that's a success because someone says I'm learning to code.

[00:21:42] Cause I need to build this website for our hockey teams. but, and that was what we built was close enough. And I was able to sort of just turn my eyes over to what it is that I wanted to build and take it from there. So it's kind of cool to see as people, they either finish the course and then they start to build out on their own or they're three quarters of the way through the course.

[00:22:01] And they start to say, okay, I think I got it. gonna start building my own thing and take the rest of the course, but apply it to what it is. My goal is.

Completion rates

[00:22:08] Joel: Do you think completion rates are important in terms of courses or like you just said, like if somebody gets what they need out of it, is that really? What matters.

[00:22:15] Wes Bos: We talked about that on the podcast the other day. Sometimes gets what they need out of it, they say I just really needed to know this one thing about how. You manage databases or how you populate the GraphQL API. And to me, that was worth the cost of admission and I'm done.

[00:22:29] But then at another point, yeah, that's, it's worth finishing it entirely,

[00:22:34] Joel: Yeah.

[00:22:35] Wes Bos: because that's. What good developers do. That's what people who are good at things in life. They can see it through because that last 10% is incredibly difficult in any project. anyone that's able to push through that is that's just a good personality trait in my opinion.

[00:22:50] Joel: Finish finishing's the superpower. I think I

[00:22:52] Wes Bos: Yeah.

[00:22:52] Joel: like a lot of people don't and it can set you apart if you are able to take something from start to finish, particularly in this career, cuz a lot of people aren't able to do that and just showing up and doing the work until it's done is something to be

[00:23:04] said for that for sure.

[00:23:05] Wes Bos: Totally agree.

Maintaining your content over time

[00:23:06] Joel: How do you maintain your courses over time? Because it's kind of a struggle cuz technology moves and I assume it's some combination of picking technologies that aren't moving super fast maybe or how do you maintain them over time?

[00:23:17] Wes Bos: Yeah. I'll definitely pick a tech. Is either a standard and can be updated like CSS grid. A perfect example. CSS grid is not gonna change, except they're gonna add stuff onto it.

[00:23:28] Joel: Yeah.

[00:23:28] Wes Bos: a example. Easy. Just add a couple more videos. Hey, everybody, since this last was recorded, we have new features.

[00:23:35] Lemme show you how you use them, right. Let me show you the problem that we hit in this one thing. Now we can fix that that one. So that's really easy if it's pinned to a piece of tech. If it's a little harder when it's when it's moving parts. So I'll usually talk to if I'm using a library, I'll talk to whoever builds that library and say Hey your plan?

[00:23:53] Like Keystone was a really good example is I started building it. Keystone five. they said Hey, just heads up. We are doing a major to this type of thing. So, we'll let you like build it on like the next version of it. And that was a good choice by me because otherwise the entire course would've been.

[00:24:08] Out of date. Right? So there's that, and then the other thing is sometimes you just gotta rerecord it or deprecate the thing, because it's just it's just too far, out from what people are using this day. And that's that's just the name of the game, I guess.

[00:24:22] Joel: I would assume with something like react it's obviously worth rerecording, right? If you had your class based components and now you want to do hooks and all the good stuff that's in modern react. So that makes it worth it. Then sometimes it's just you let people know, Hey, this is old.

[00:24:34] You might still get some value out of it, but

[00:24:36] heads up.

[00:24:36] Wes Bos: Like my redox course I've deprecated it. You can still take it because that's the other thing is that think, okay, This tech is out for a month. the rest of it is garbage, but then you get other people being like, oh, our company is actually built on older version

[00:24:51] Joel: Yeah.

[00:24:51] Wes Bos: devs still

[00:24:52] Joel: Like the archive stuff. Yeah.

[00:24:53] Wes Bos: Yeah, exactly. So like you still gotta keep it around for people who want to learn that. I find that sometimes really frustrating as if you don't update a website for a year and a half, finding docs for the old version is

[00:25:06] Joel: Oh, yeah, cuz they just blow 'em outta the water instead of having some sort of versioning scheme and

[00:25:10] Wes Bos: Yeah.

[00:25:10] Joel: isn't even valid anymore. I think it's interesting because you talk about the Redux and Dan Abramov like when Redux was created recorded in an egghead course, that's had like hundreds of thousands of people who watched this thing and people are like, oh, and I'll get comments to this day where it's oh, this is outta date.

[00:25:24] And I'm like, Well, you really missed the point where Dan Abramo is showing you how to build re Redux. And you're complaining that the technology is out of date and I'm like, you can still learn something from, you know, I, I don't think sort by new is necessarily the best way to pick the best and most useful learning content on the internet.

[00:25:41] And I think that's kind of something that I've noticed people tend to do. They want the new, when was this updated? Was this updated last week? If not, then it's bad.

[00:25:48] Wes Bos: that's totally true. I, when I redid my blog, I was so tempted to take the published dates off

[00:25:55] Joel: I

[00:25:55] Wes Bos: because as soon as somebody sees that something. Two years old click out of it. Right. But people get also mad when there's no published date. So I didn't do that. But, it's definitely something that, and I it's valid at some point because we've all been burned by going down a rabbit hole and realizing, oh, this thing is, this is totally outta date.

[00:26:12] Or the UI doesn't look like this anymore. You know,

Building a custom platform

[00:26:14] Joel: So you've built your own platform. And when you started, I assume there wasn't such a choice, but why not use something like a teachable or podium or something to do your

[00:26:25] Wes Bos: When I started, there was nothing like that out there. I guess some people were using gum road,

[00:26:30] Joel: Yeah.

[00:26:30] Wes Bos: and then just downloading zips. That's actually how mine started as well. It was just a zip of video files and you had to play 'em yourself, which is hilarious, cuz would never be okay.

[00:26:39] This day, now it's a whole viewing experience. and then I just love having the ability to have full control. Over the purchasing and the viewing experience and everything like that, because I dunno, you know that you get the whole runaround. Hey, it'd be great if we added this company. Oh yeah, let me put that on our list.

[00:26:57] You're

[00:26:57] Joel: no,

[00:26:57] Wes Bos: add that, you know? and then like the best example is like a problem where we had this parody purchasing power where I would get email. Every day from someone who lived in or India or whatever. And they said, Hey we don't make as much money as you do

[00:27:11] Joel: Yeah.

[00:27:12] Wes Bos: in, north America or Europe.

[00:27:14] Can I get a discount? You know, and it was really frustrating because absolutely I want everybody to be able to afford these things and whatnot. I'm happy to do it, but I just can't emotionally do that every single day, figure out. Okay. What's fair to you. So I rolled out parody, purchasing power.

[00:27:29] On the website. So if you visit it from a country where purchasing power is less than your standard, big country, big countries like Canada, United States, all the European countries. And I was just like, okay, this is really easy for me to just the country, restrict purchasing by coupons, by which country they're on.

[00:27:50] like, I never, would've been able to do that if I was on a. One of these platforms. And of course they rolled it out eventually, but that was three or four

[00:27:58] Joel: Sometimes not even really, I don't think it's even really widespread to be honest.

[00:28:01] Wes Bos: I think Stripe is rolling it out on their own checkout, which is pretty cool. But yeah, it's just, you know, and you probably know this as well as being able to have full control over it and also that's my baby. That's the thing that I work on. That's like my huge production application that has a lot in it. And if you wouldn't wanna take a course for me, if I was the guy who like, just uses a software as a service or strings together, 14 plugins together, right? Like you wanna see me actually building real software, that's running a business, that's paying people's salaries.

[00:28:34] And that's I also very much enjoy working on it as well. So. There's something to be sad for the developer who

[00:28:39] Joel: Yeah. I mean, part of it has to be because you can. And I think that's an important thing to note, right? Like you are able to do that and, you know, if you are able, then that's great. And for some folks that can't kind of invent their own platform, then those services are awesome and serve a purpose.

[00:28:54] But for you, you know, you're able to build this thing that you call the boss monster, that's the name of your course platform. And if people want to like, hear. You've done a couple episodes of syntax, FM number 4 42 came out recently and you and Scott get into how both of you approach your platform.

The Bos Monster platform

[00:29:10] Joel: So that's, we're not gonna get into that depth. It's like a full hour of, y'all just going going full ham on how you, you do this. But how do you describe boss monster, your course platform? How do you describe that? What's the kind of the elevator pitch of your platform.

[00:29:22] Wes Bos: So it's a node application that does, I think three or four major things. It does landing pages. I call them marketing sites for all of my courses. Every course I do has its own domain name. So it powers all that. It powers the whole purchasing checkout experience. So that's like the main thing.

[00:29:40] Then there's a whole API behind that I can use for the administrative dashboard. So and customers and refunds and changing names and whatnot. There's that's a whole next JS application that's used for administrating all the data. it. Then there is the actual course viewing experience.

[00:29:59] So view my courses. I wanna see my receipts. I wanna, I bought a team license. I wanna send it to my team members. I'm an affiliate. I wanna see how much

[00:30:07] I've made this month. I wanna actually watch the course. I wanna click through the videos. I wanna see exactly where I am in the videos.

[00:30:14] My progress is tracked all that good stuff. So that's the big, biggest part of it. Probably. And then there's just a bunch of reporting in the note app as well, things for taxes and, when I have to remit to the government here, all that good stuff as well.

[00:30:28] Joel: yeah, you gotta automate that. Be otherwise just like tears of blood.

[00:30:31] Wes Bos: yeah. Yeah, no kidding. That's

[00:30:33] Joel: The least favorite thing I can possibly think of

[00:30:35] doing

[00:30:35] Wes Bos: I

[00:30:35] Joel: is remitting. My taxes.

[00:30:37] Wes Bos: yeah.

[00:30:38] Joel: Is there anything that, you know, like I assume some things have changed over the years cuz you've been doing this for a while now. But what's stayed the same. What is the core that just hasn't really needed to move that you haven't felt the need to update or move onto something newer and better?

[00:30:51] Wes Bos: probably the funny thing is that the marketing sites for each course is a

[00:30:56] Joel: Yeah.

[00:30:56] Wes Bos: page and that is server render. It's done in, it was in Jade for the longest time. It only got moved to pug six months ago. it's styled with and it's still there's. maybe not. There might be a little bit of Jade query in there.

[00:31:11] There's a little bit of fun. Awesome. That's just and will probably eventually like the checkout experience needs to be totally rewritten into like a more dynamic app so we can accept more payment methods, but the actual, just like HTML rendered. There's literally nothing wrong with that.

[00:31:26] And I would see no benefit in updating that to react or next or anything like that.

[00:31:33] Joel: Yeah, cuz they, they don't the marketing sites. Aren't also the delivery sites. The experience it goes to the, a platform site where they're then inside of a platform and they're, they have access to all of the courses that they've purchased from you.

[00:31:46] Wes Bos: Exactly like that the delivery is a react app because you need to click around and view the whole thing. the actual marketing website is just a page. And I could move that to some sort of static site generator, but literally no use that there's no benefit to that.

[00:32:02] You know, like that's not gonna help. My user's not gonna make me more money. And it works really.

Balancing creating content and working on the platform

[00:32:06] Joel: How do you balance this idea of actually working on your platform and creating new learning material? And it sounds like the platform actually feeds learning material, cuz you can keep it real because you're still a using the air quotes, real developer whatever that might be and you know, like what's the balance and like how do you decide what to do on a given day?

[00:32:22] Wes Bos: It's just if I'm working on a course, I'm working on a course. And then like in between courses, I'll a bunch of time To pushing through a bunch of stuff. Like the last couple weeks we did a big push to roll out the new viewing experience had a whole bunch of updates. I had notes and stuff like that.

[00:32:37] So pretty much just like I don't call them sprints, but all right, I'm done that course. Now. I'm gonna, now I'm gonna work onto these couple features that that I wanted to do that. And I also have another guy who helps me on the course now course platform as well now. And. That's really nice because if there's bugs that pop up or features that I don't necessarily have time for it's nice to be able to have those being worked on while I don't have to be distracted from actually working on the courses.

Hiring people and getting help

[00:33:02] Joel: For a long time, it was just you. And then you've brought on people. And now you say we, when we're talking about your platform, and I was wondering what that transition was like for you to go from just being fully solo, to like having people help and be able to convey

[00:33:14] information.

[00:33:15] Wes Bos: so it's, like me at AJ who AJ does the support. So if you hit a syntax error or anything like that, and then he also works on the course platform. So that, that works out really well. . And then there is Whitney. She's my assistant. She does all of the administrative stuff accounting and expenses and emails and protecting me from getting than 300 emails a

[00:33:38] Joel: Yeah.

[00:33:39] Wes Bos: It's been pretty good. Like I've never wanted to become. I've like actively gone against becoming a big thing.

[00:33:44] Joel: Yeah.

[00:33:44] Wes Bos: I don't want tons of employees and meetings and all that stuff. Like I just wanna sit out my computer hack on this thing, make cool courses and sell them, you know, like that's my dream.

[00:33:54] And I feel like I've got there, but at a certain point, things get hectic and you do need some help. So, I feel like I have a pretty good balance between. helping me. but those people really know what I want and they're, don't have to chat too much. And

[00:34:10] Joel: I would expect they didn't start that way though. Right? Like how did you actually

[00:34:13] Wes Bos: yeah.

[00:34:14] Joel: go from not having anybody helping you to, to having people help you? Like, how do you take those processes that are like all in your head or wherever you store them and then deliver them and get other people to understand.

[00:34:24] Wes Bos: So I have them for the administrative, it that's the biggest one.

[00:34:27] Joel: Yeah.

[00:34:28] Wes Bos: because it's just I have all these processes for what happens if somebody wants to upgrade their course or what happens if. Somebody on a team and they give 'em the course, and then they quit in two days, you know, there's all these things that come up.

[00:34:41] and those are called standard operating procedures. And

[00:34:44] Joel: Yeah.

[00:34:45] Wes Bos: anytime something comes up twice, take 10 minutes of your day, you write up a SOP for it. And then you have. A way to approach it. Then like other things, like they, they sort of just know my voice and how I approach it.

[00:34:57] They know I'm very kind. So they, have the ability just. Give a free course to somebody if something happened or they bought the wrong one or whatever, you know, there's that. And then also the nice thing about developer who works with me is that he's taken all of my courses and literally knows how I write code because he is taken every single one of my courses.

[00:35:15] Was able to get pretty comfortable in the stack pretty quickly, because it's the same as my node course, Yeah.

Syntax FM podcast

[00:35:22] Joel: So you and Scott Linsky record a podcast called Syntex FM, and it's amazing. And you have stuck with it. Y'all have stuck with it for this just the extended time that just is mind boggling to me. And I'm wondering, like how has the podcasting kind of played into it, or how does that fit into, to your courses and just your job and work in general?

[00:35:40] Wes Bos: The podcast was awesome. We just started it as it's fun to chit chat like me, you Scott and Josh had a mastermind

[00:35:47] Joel: Yeah, that

[00:35:48] Wes Bos: We really like just talk and shop. So, then like he, he was already doing a lot of YouTube. I was already doing a lot of YouTube, so oh, let's a podcast, you know?

[00:35:56] And nice thing about it is that we both had like

[00:35:58] Joel: was a lot of fun.

[00:35:59] Wes Bos: audience before it

[00:36:00] so we didn't have to go through that initial slog. 20 listeners a week, you know, like we really hit the, and I always tell people that I'm like, it's, I think it's hard to start a podcast when you don't have an audience somewhere else.

[00:36:13] So we hit the ground running. We've been doing it for a long time, and we just use it as a way to. Like we advertise our courses at the very end. It's the last thing we do in the podcasts called shameless plugs. And then it, it's also just like a great way to stay up to date on all the new tech, because people ask us about all kinds of stuff and we gotta do our research and we gotta try this stuff and whatnot.

[00:36:33] So that's been good. And then also it's been. It's been excellent for selling courses. Good advertising. And it's also like we've got sponsors and sponsors pay us money to on the podcast. So that makes money for us as well. So it's not like this like thing where oh, let's just keep doing it because it's selling courses.

[00:36:49] But like the podcast itself is a business because there's advertisers that want to get on there.

[00:36:54] Joel: Yeah, it's great. And it's also like the, just the stick to it. Inness of it has been, you know, just impressive, cuz it, it is difficult to stick with something like that continuously

[00:37:02] over.

[00:37:03] Wes Bos: the most consistent thing I've done in my entire life. I think it's nuts. Like we've done two episodes a week for four years and we just show up every Monday morning and we say, Hey, what's up? And then we just, we do a little bit of work and then we just start hit record and go for it, you know?

[00:37:18] And we're in a pretty good flow of it right now.

[00:37:20] Joel: Yeah. And there's some, that's a catalog and you've mentioned it a few times since we've been talking and it's oh, go listen to the podcast. I'll go, you know, it's now you can say that because you have this catalog and you can refer to it. And so you have a resource also, and like a

[00:37:30] kind of a

[00:37:31] Wes Bos: Yeah.

[00:37:31] Joel: thing where your children can one day go learn about their dad and a.

[00:37:35] Wes Bos: Yeah.

[00:37:36] Joel: at least a side of

[00:37:37] Wes Bos: it's nice to have a podcast where. People ask me all the time. What's your core stack? And like we did one, four years ago and that we just updated it last week because people ask all the time and to be able to point people to it. And we did another one on like management as just a resource that people's can point their family to, you know, like how do you explain two

[00:37:57] Joel: you yeah. Yeah. So,

[00:37:57] Wes Bos: to your, mom or something like that.

[00:37:59] And now we made it and it's nice to be like, Hey. Go listen to this, even if you don't, even, if you don't like wanna learn about web development, that one is just specifically about how do you manage your passwords?

Enjoying where you're at

[00:38:09] Joel: so beyond just making cool courses and getting to do what you want, do you have any kind of audacious goals as a developer or a teacher?

[00:38:16] Wes Bos: I don't know. I like I think, look, I'm at where I wanna be.

[00:38:20] Joel: Yeah.

[00:38:20] Wes Bos: I'm really enjoying it and it's paying the bills. so I'm just gonna keep doing it. I'm very in tune with becoming burned out. And I'm very careful with taking on too

[00:38:32] Joel: Yeah.

[00:38:32] Wes Bos: or getting anywhere and oh yeah. Like part of me is oh man, I got this, I have this huge big email list.

[00:38:39] I've got this course platform. maybe I could. Do what you do. And just run that for somebody else, you know, and sell a whole bunch of courses. And part of me is yeah, I kind of wanna do that. But then the other part of me is like also just enjoy what I'm doing right now as well.

[00:38:53] So that's kind of like in the, maybe down, down the road, but past that, it's just keep teaching people, cool tech, keep doing the podcast, keep building cool stuff and and do that as long as you enjoy.

[00:39:04] Joel: Well, you talked about that and somebody this stems from, and I just gotta tell the story real quick since we're chatting. So I was at a conference and we're sitting there in egghead produces courses and we have a lot of courses. And when you make an egghead course, you make basically kind of, lunch money or maybe if it's a really good one, you'll make rent money, but not pay the mortgage off money and we're talking and somebody's yeah we would do that. And, you know, I'm the foremost expert in Webpac right now and we can make that and it could be an AK course, but I really want to make that west boss money. And I was like, I don't really know exactly what that means, but I know what Wes does.

[00:39:34] Right? Like I know what goes into building a course and maintaining the platform and doing all this stuff and what we did. And internally I was like, you know what we're gonna do. We're gonna make west boss. As a service. So we have software as a service and we do west boss as a service. And we've worked with Kene DODs and Dan Abramoff and Emma Boian and released these different things and kind of released courses for people where it's a true partnership.

[00:39:54] You know, we do like revenue share and all that. And it works out to be like, everybody's happy because they don't have to do all the stuff. Right. Like they don't, they have to create the content and they get to chill and create the content and not worry about all of the support and handling requests and delivery.

[00:40:08] And. Marketing and all that fun stuff, because it's a lot of work and it truly is like just a ton of work. And if you're sitting and doing it yourself, you can do that. And we often use this, you know, like you can have. Whole grape, or you can share a grapefruit is the way we kind of phrase it.

[00:40:24] So, you know, like I really think like building a course platform can be something that's fundamentally rewarding and interesting if that's what you're interested in and, you know, like that's if it really is

[00:40:34] interesting to you, right.

[00:40:36] Wes Bos: Yeah. Yeah, true. And there's a lot of people that are experts in a specific topic because that's their full-time job and they don't necessarily want to, or have time to build it market it, design it, you know, all of that stuff that is, is in addition to actually making the course.

[00:40:54] Joel: What makes me frustrated and something that I try to solve for is those folks that are, that will never. They will probably never even write a blog post. Right? Like they are so into what they do and their expertise, but what they do is so interesting. And it's like, how do you get those folks?

[00:41:08] And amplify that expertise and then teach other people how to do those things is something that I really have of kind of tried to figure out. And it's like a long term challenge for me. Like how do you get this list of developers that will never do this thing to actually do. Something, or at least, you know, be the expert in the production process.

[00:41:26] Like that sort of thing.

[00:41:26] Wes Bos: beautiful. Yeah. I agree.

[00:41:28] Joel: Wes, thank you so much for hanging out with me and chatting today. I really appreciate it. I appreciate what you do. I will continue to be impressed and inspired by your work and just can't. Thank you enough.

[00:41:38] Wes Bos: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. That's very kind.

[00:41:40] Joel: Cheers.

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