Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

509: Revolutionizing Learning in Web Development with Wes Bos

January 25th, 2024

Hosts Will Larry and Victoria Guido are joined by Wes Bos, a full-stack developer, course creator, and podcaster. Wes shares his web development journey, from blogging and creating a successful book on Sublime Text to developing his popular online courses and hosting the Syntax podcast. He talks about the spontaneous start of his teaching career, his approach to creating content that is both approachable and practical, and the importance of making web development accessible to all learners.

Wes discusses the evolution of his career, detailing his experiences in teaching at Ladies Learning Code and HackerYou and how he transitioned into selling online courses. He emphasizes the significance of offering quality content in his free and paid courses, ensuring his teachings are relatable and helpful for real-world applications. Wes also delves into the technical aspects of managing his course platform, discussing the benefits of having complete control over his content and the challenges he faces, such as content theft and logistical issues in distributing his popular sticker packs.

The conversation shifts to the role of AI in web development, where Wes highlights its impact on coding efficiency and the need for developers to adapt to AI integration in applications. He advises beginners in web development to be wary of over-relying on AI, emphasizing the importance of understanding the fundamentals of coding. The episode concludes with Wes offering advice for content creators in the tech space, stressing the importance of sharing knowledge and its positive impact on the community. He encourages listeners to stay passionate and continuously learn in the ever-evolving field of web development.

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WILL: This is the Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giants Robots podcast, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. I'm your host, Will Larry.

VICTORIA: And I'm your other host, Victoria Guido. And with me today is Wes Bos, a Full-Stack Developer, Coursemaker, and Podcaster. Wes, thank you for joining us.

WES: Thanks for having me; stoked to be here.

VICTORIA: Can you tell me, you know, on top of all of these skills that you have, podcasting, you're making courses; you're also doing development full-time; I heard that you've also picked up a new hobby in making stickers and, like, designing merch for aligning with some of your marketing goals.

WES: Yeah. All right. So, my name is Wes Bos. I'm a full-stack developer from Canada, and I do primarily two things: I make web development training courses, and I have a podcast called Syntax in which we release three episodes a week and talk about everything related to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Node, just web development and things that surround it.

WILL: I want to see how you started in those courses. I know a little bit about your story because I remember when I first started in development. I think it's gotten a little better, but I was the only junior at one of the first companies I started at. And I went through a bootcamp and then became a junior. And I was like, how do I develop? Like, how do I get better? And they were like, "Wes Bos, his course.

WES: [laughs]

WILL: Go to Wes Bos." [laughs] And so, I did that, and it helped me tremendously. But it's interesting. I just want to see how you started. I know some of your background with ladies who code, and I think HackerYou. So yeah, wherever you want to start, bring us into the beginning of Wes Bos.

WES: So, I've been a web developer forever, a good chunk of my life. And back in, like, the blogging days, I was doing a lot of posting blog posts and whatnot. And I had a couple of the blog posts do super well. And back in the day, it was like, you get tons of traffic, and you try to, like, seize the moment. Like, oh, there's, like, 50, 000 people on my website right now. Like, how do I, like, take advantage of that?

So, what I did was I threw up a quick, was a blog post about Sublime Text, which was the hot, new editor at the time. And I threw up a little thing. I'm like, I'm writing a book about Sublime Text. And I threw up a little sign-up where people could pop their email in and hear a little bit more about it. And I got, like, 2,000 signups for that in a matter of a couple of days. And I thought like, oh, all right, well, now I got to make this thing, you know, like, I just [chuckles] I didn't have any plans to make it.

I had kind of been going around in my head, but I decided to write the book. And then as part of the book, I gave a bunch of videos, and I realized I liked the video part a lot better. And it makes a lot of sense to show people what you are doing when you're talking about code and code-related things. So, I came out with a bunch of videos for that as well. People loved the videos, and I thought, oh, let's just keep doing this. So, I made a bunch of free courses, a bunch of paid courses.

And kind of at the same time as well, I was teaching at this thing called Ladies Learning Code, which kind of transitioned into a bootcamp that I did the initial content for, which was called HackerYou. And, like, people kept giving me the same feedback into like, I'm not a traditional teacher. I'm just a web developer that has learned on his own and figured things out. And a lot of people said, like, " I really like the way that you explain things. Like, it makes so much sense the way that you explain it."

And I figured out that, at least for some people, they really like the way that I explain something, and I will continue to do that. So, that's pretty much how I got into it. It's just explaining how it works in my head, putting it onto video, and putting it out there for web developers to learn from.

WILL: Yeah. And that was one of the reasons why I think I was so successful in my career is because there's a...Just learning development is hard; let's be honest. It's just hard. And I would run into people that would honestly just talk over my head, and I was like, I have no idea what you're saying, but okay.

But your courses, it was like, oh, okay, I understand that. That makes sense. Like, I can't remember the name of it, but the React beginner course I've been to that one probably three times just because I'm like, it's making sense. And every time, I get more and more and more out of it. So, I can definitely agree that the way you teach your courses it brings it down to earth. Like, I think maybe anybody could pick it up, I would say, because it's like you're talking to them, so yeah.

WES: It's really important to me that everything is approachable. And I will often explain things, like, I'm the same as you. There's extremely smart people out there, and they'll just talk at you about all of these things. And it's just like, I have no idea what you're talking about. Those words don't make any sense to me.

And it's not that I dumb it down. It's just like, the way that it makes sense in my brain is not the same way that they're talking. So, the way that I explain it is just how it makes sense to me, and people tend to really enjoy that type of thing. And I really hope that I can make a lot of this web development stuff approachable. And sometimes it's not the, like, exact perfect explanation of how something really works, the explanation you need to understand how these pieces fit together and when you would actually use something.

That's the other part of a lot of the stuff that I teach as well is that I have this big thing on one of my course websites, which is like, no foo bar baz. Because when you're learning to code, you stumble across all these foo bar baz where people are making functions and passing the values in, and they're called meta-syntactic variables.

The whole idea is that because foo bar baz mean nothing, you're able to take it out of context and focus on what is happening, and I'm quite the opposite. Show me a real example of a bunch of dogs, or a sandwich, or a button that you can click on that fetches data. And I always try to make my examples something that is real world enough that you could understand, okay, I see where this might be used rather than something in isolation because I find that myself very frustrating.

VICTORIA: What's one of your favorite examples or, like, example scenarios that you use when you're designing a code problem to teach people?

WES: It really comes down to, like, what you're teaching, but the ongoing joke on the podcast that we have is that I always use sandwiches because a sandwich is a great metaphor for a lot of things in life. So, for example, when we talk about streaming versus buffering, and we talk about, like, you're eating the sandwich as it's coming into your house versus you're cutting it into pieces and eating it.

Or in my upcoming TypeScript course, I have a bunch of examples where there can be multiple types of food, and a sandwich can be one of them, and a pizza can be another one. And that kind of shows how to use generics, right? Like, you might have a database entry that is a food entry, but you want to further that to be a sandwich or a pizza, and not all of them are that simple, right?

Like, a lot of them are also just related to web development, which is like, here's buttons that you need to click on, and here's data that you need to fetch, and here's a database schema that needs to happen. And if that's the case, I try to, like, make it real world enough where you can say, okay, I understand that this is how it works. Now, how can I apply that to my own idea? Because often, people learning to code have their own ideas. They just want to make something to solve their own problems.

WILL: How did you learn to code? Because I don't think you did a traditional route. I remember on one of your podcasts, you said your dad was in IT, but I don't think you went to a traditional route. So, how did you learn to code?

WES: It's a really long story. But the story is that I got into computers at an early age. I got into designing T-shirts and CD art for a lot of, like, hardcore bands in the music scene when I was in high school, and that parlayed into Myspace. Myspace taught me CSS. And then I've always been, like, fairly entrepreneurial, so that I parlayed into running my own business, making websites. And I've just been at it for so long that I've sort of taught myself all the pieces that I need over the years.

I do have a degree in what's called business technology management, which is, it's a business degree but no coding or things involved. It was more, like, higher level. There was some, like, networking IP addresses, and then there was a lot more, like, business management teams, procurement, SAP, things like that, so none of the web development stuff I have learned comes from that degree. It's all self-taught.

VICTORIA: So, you found that you had the skill around explaining web development concepts, and then that led to you creating your own business and having your own, like, coursework out there and everything through your podcast. So, maybe you could share a little bit what that journey has been like.

WES: It's been a very long journey. I'm not sure which part you want to hear about, but I've been selling courses for probably about nine years. And I have sold quite a bit because I also offer about half of them for free. So, I have a bunch of free ones where people take it, and they're like, "Oh, this is amazing. I'm going to take the paid one that he has as well." And I spend a lot of time making sure that the free ones and the paid ones are the same quality. Like, it's not just some crappy 10-minute course that I'm using as a lead magnet to get you in the door. Like, they're actually pretty good.

So, it's been really fun. Like, I've built a whole course platform that sells all of my courses, and you can view them and stream them, and there's invoicing and checkouts built into it. So, like now, if somebody wants to get into selling courses, there's lots of options out there where you can sign up for some SaaS and upload your course, and you're up and running. But at the time when I had done it, there was nothing like that out there, so I had to build my own whole course platform. And I've really enjoyed working on that over the years and upgrading it, and changing it, and rewriting, and adding features to it.

VICTORIA: Yeah, that's really interesting. I like that you kept the quality the same on the free and the paid versions. That's a really interesting, I think, like, a reflection of your own values. And then, I'm curious: now that there are other hosting options out there, is there anything that would make you decide to switch to one of those platforms? Because it also sounds like you're getting a lot of enjoyment about managing the one you have yourself, and there might be some other benefits to that.

WES: Yeah, probably not. First, because they take a cut, and a lot of these course platforms are not there to promote your business. They're there to promote their own business. And it's the same thing with YouTube. When your YouTube video ends, what does YouTube recommend? They usually recommend what you think you're going to watch, which is sometimes somebody else's video, right? And not having full control over how the courses are sold and consumed, to me, can be a little bit frustrating because you can't do different ideas that you have.

So, like, one of the ideas I had early on is I was getting lots of email from people in different countries, you know, in Argentina, and in Brazil, and in India. And they say, "Hey, like, I would love to take your course, but the cost of the course is a day, a week's wages, and that's way too expensive for me." So, I implemented this thing called parity purchasing power. I didn't come up with the economic concept of it, but I was the first person to offer different prices based on the country that the user was coming from. And, A, that's a cool thing to do for people, and B, it helps sales tremendously.

And if I was using some course platform, some of the course platforms now have that in place; it's table stakes, right? But at the time, I don't think I would have done as well if I hadn't coded that in myself. So, having full control over absolutely everything is really important to me. And also, like, nobody wants a teacher who doesn't actually build stuff, you know? No one wants to learn from the guy who just, like, skimmed the docs and came up with a crappy, little example. Like, you want to learn from people who are daily writing code and building real-world applications that, like, I have to support my family on this application, you know, it's pretty important, and it's pretty real world.

WILL: Yeah, and just following you, I think...and I don't know if you would describe yourself like that, but I think you're, like, a tinkerer. Like, you just...some of the ideas you have is just like, let me just try it out and see if it works. And so, that's amazing that you're able to do that. Where does that side come from? Was it from your dad being in IT, or where did that come from?

WES: Probably. Apart from growing up and seeing my dad just fix stuff and do stuff, but I'm just a constantly curious and hungry guy. And I absolutely love dipping into different tech and not even just tech but, like, I built this whole recording studio that's soundproofed. I built the whole thing myself just because I love to learn new things and to dive deep and learn how everything works.

And I think a lot of developers very easily burn out. And I always like to say, like, my competitive advantage is not burning out. So, I'm very cognizant of that might happen at some point. And part of the cure for me is I need to be excited about this type of stuff, and I need to be using it. And being able to build new things, and dip into tech, and learn constantly is what keeps me excited and motivated about web development.

WILL: Wow. So, you say you built your office. So, you built the entire, like, from concrete up?

WES: Not concrete up. So, this was like a...I'm in a basement right now, and I put up some walls. And I talked to a bunch of sound engineers about soundproofing. So, the whole ceiling is not mechanically fastened to the actual ceiling. It's like kind of, like, a floating ceiling, which is pretty cool. And then there's soundproofing material in the walls and outside the walls, and special drywall, and all kinds of interesting stuff to make it sound as good as possible and be as quiet as possible in here because I have three kids.

WILL: [laughs] I totally understand the three kids...

WES: [laughs]

WILL: And the noise that that brings. So, that's amazing. And I think you bring up something that we don't talk about enough in development is that mental health side. Like, just trying to figure out, what do you like to do outside of your computer, away from your computer? So, that's neat that you're working on that, and that that's probably why you haven't burnt out compared to other people. But yeah, kudos to you. That's yeah, that's pretty interesting that you have hobbies outside of that.

WES: Yeah, I find that pretty important to sort of keep that balance. Otherwise, if you're doing it day in, day out, especially if you're working on the same, another benefit I have is I'm always dipping into new stuff, and that keeps it really interesting. But there's plenty of other creators out there that go too hard, and they go 24/7 on it, and then you don't hear from them for six months. And it's because they got burnt out on it, which is very scary to me that that might happen to me at some point. So, I try...I don't know if I've got it figured out, but I try to combat that as much as possible.

VICTORIA: And I'm wondering how you balance just that need to create content because it seems to me that web development is constantly changing, right? And so, content that you created a year ago, maybe you got to go back and update everything. So, how do you manage that and keep your content fresh with all the ongoing changes in web development?

WES: Yeah, unfortunately, sometimes it means you just have to deprecate content, or you say, "Hey, this is not the content you should be taking right now," because some of the courses take four or five months to record, and after a year or two, they can be out of date. So, I'll mark them as deprecated if they need to be.

But I'm just kind of always working on something new, both with my courses as well as, like, the podcast. We always just have...that's the kind of the benefit of the job as well is that, like, yeah, it changes all the time, but there's always new stuff to talk about. As somebody who makes a living explaining how new things work, it's kind of nice.

VICTORIA: That's great. You got a good pipeline of content to talk about [laughs] and to update for, so that's great.

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VICTORIA: You know, you're creating this content for web developers, and you have this kind of global audience now. What's on the horizon for you? What are you planning for in the next couple of months or in the next five years?

WES: Yeah, next couple of months, I have a TypeScript course I've been working on for over a year now. I've been sort of cranking on it, and that will be out. And then we have a podcast that we are going to be launching a video version of pretty soon, which I'm pretty excited about. We've been kind of going pretty hard. We just hired a producer. We've been going pretty hard on, like, the social clips type of thing. So, that's coming down the pipeline as well.

And five years, I have no idea. I think I always say, like, a five-year plan is a five-year guess. You know, like, you can plan ahead for six months, a year, and have some good goals. But in web development, like, a year ago, AI, maybe a year, like, 13 months ago, the AI stuff was nothing but a murmur, right? And now, the AI stuff is a good chunk of what I talk about and what I teach. So, you just kind of got to react to it; otherwise, if you have a five-year plan, then you're not going to be able to catch these new things that pop up.

WILL: How do you pick? Because I know you said you have a TypeScript course coming out. How do you pick new topics to talk about? Because there are so many. There's testing you can talk about. There's React Native. There are so many areas you can go to. How do you pick and choose that?

WES: It's actually pretty easy because it's what I'm excited about and what I want to tell people and teach people, like, what they should be learning. So, like, every single one of my courses is tech that I myself am using and that I want to help teach other people, so it's pretty straightforward.

It's not like I have some sort of, like, stats of, like, what is the most popular framework out there, and, like, obviously, that does play into it like a Next.js course. I've used Next.js in a couple of my courses. I'll probably do another Next.js course. But that's both because I enjoy it and because it's stable enough and popular enough that people would want to buy it. I'm not going to be creating a Java course or a Rust course or something like that because I know that's popular right now, and it would probably sell well. It's just not something I know enough about, or I'm excited about.

VICTORIA: Yeah, and I'm curious to go back to your comment about AI and just ask you, how are you talking about it in your courses? What are, like, the things you think it's really important for developers to know right now about AI and web development?

WES: There's kind of, like, two parts to it. First, there's the part of, like, using AI to help you code. So, there's all these, like, coding assistants that get in your editor, and you can send them your code, and it can help you decipher it, and it can scaffold out code. Those things are really, really good.

And I know a lot of developers are hesitant about it because, like, "Who knows what kind of code it's generating? And you still have to be able to understand it. And I prefer to write it by hand." And that's a valid opinion, but, like, I don't think that that's going forward. And I think that this AI stuff is making us so much more efficient in writing code that if you're not picking it up, I think that you might be at a little bit of a disadvantage there. So, there's that [SP] hunk.

And then there's also the, like, we're going to have to start implementing this stuff into the apps that we build, and whether it's just pinging in an AI service and getting data back or creating a bunch of embeddings so you can have related, like, for a blog post or for a podcast, we want related podcasts. Or if you want to use AI to, tagging on a blog is a really annoying thing. Nobody uses tags well enough. But, like, what if the tags could just be automatically generated based on the words in the post or the words that we speak on the podcast?

So, there's just, like, so many, like, new features that will make it better. Your product is going to be better for your end user. And even starting now and, like, when those features are not enabled, like, it's not, like, necessarily an AI feature, but it's like, wow, I wish this had better grouping of podcasts, or I wish that you had better tagging, or that your search is not very good because it's just a text match whereas there's a lot more depth that could be added with AI. So, integrating AI into our websites and our applications that we're building is going to become just another skill that you, as a web developer, have.

VICTORIA: No, I think that's a really interesting take on it. And I'm curious if you've also seen AI used to even, like, suggest better standards for code or certain design patterns and, like, tools that help you, like what you said, kind of get better at coding faster.

WES: That's the thing people are talking about. Like, if you're learning to code, should you use these types of things? Because, like, you can just hit Tab a couple of times, and it might look good. And it certainly can bite you. Especially if you need to be able to go back and edit that code to fix it, you need to understand how it works, so there's that part of it. But, man, does it make you faster for doing a lot of common things that you will be doing over again. It just really helps you out, so I'm a big fan of it. I have lots of complaints about it as well, but I think it's here to stay.

VICTORIA: [laughs] Yeah, it's here to stay. And I've talked to founders who are really excited about it, and maybe they weren't, you know, they don't have years and years of React development experience, but they know the functions that their app needs to do. And they're able to use coding prompts and tools to kind of create at least a minimal product of what they want to build, so it's really exciting.

WILL: I totally agree with AI because I use some, especially with the coding, and it makes it so much faster, but I do think you still have to know what you're doing. Because I think you posted on it, like, in one of the coding helpers that I use in VS Code, it still doesn't know how to close out the end of the line. You have these extra backticks or whatever. And it is like, so, as a new developer, you still have to understand your code, or that's going to drive you crazy every time that you use it [chuckles].

WES: Yeah, that's extremely frustrating, the backticks. I've had an issue open on GitHub Copilot for about a year now. They've said they fixed it, and a couple of little situations, it's been fixed. But I would love to, like, talk to somebody about, like, the actual issue because if you give the broken code back to the AI and say, "Fix it," it fixes it. So [laughs], it knows what's wrong. I just, I don't know. Yeah, you still have to know these things.

WILL: You taught at Ladies Learning Code and then HackerYou. Did that help you overcome the imposter syndrome of teaching? I don't know if you knew how big your courses were going to become. But what did the imposter syndrome look like for you during that time, or did you even have it?

WES: To a certain point, yeah. I think everybody has imposter syndrome, and that's good. Because if you're so confident that you're so amazing and blessed at this specific thing, then your head is probably too big, and [chuckles] you probably don't know what you don't know.

But with a lot of my stuff, I'll often just ask people who know better than me. Like, that's a big part of what it is, is you can just consult experts or like, "Hey, what do you think about this?" Or "Is this the best approach?" Or "Here's my code. Do you mind running through it really quickly and see if there's anything that sticks out?" People are often, like, you can pay them, or people are often willing to help, so there's that.

And like, also, you have to just know that this is for the people who enjoy it. Like, I'm not making courses for people who are better developers than I am. I'm making courses for people who like the way that I explain specific things.

And then, like, another thing that probably really helped me is that I have, like, a 100% money back, no time limit on it. And that just makes me feel good about like, hey, like, if this is not actually good, if you do not think that this is good, or if you just don't jive with the way that I explain things, no sweat, you know, here's your money back. You keep going. And that makes me feel a lot better because it's not like I'm trying to fleece somebody for money and trick them into buying the course. Like, I feel pretty good about it, and if you feel pretty good about it, then we're both happy.

WILL: Yeah, that's amazing because I feel like there's certain things that I would love to get started, but that imposter syndrome and also, like, the opinionated developers out there, like, you know what we are talking about. But it just seems like it would be hard to start with that. So, that's why I asked that question.

WES: Yeah, I've learned that, like, a lot of these people that have these extremely harsh opinions are, A, they lack all the social skills, so there's something with them that they just don't have it. And you have to understand that that's just something that they have, and they may not be trying to be a jerk. That's just kind of the way they are.

And if people are overly opinionated, it's usually because they're, like, covering for their own insecurity of what they want, not always. But a lot of times, I feel pretty good about people telling me, "Oh, you could do it this way," or "No, why are you doing it this way?" Like, I feel pretty confident in my skillset, but I also am always willing to learn and always willing to be corrected and learn new tips and techniques because that's how you get better.

So, the people that are constantly being angry online and throwing around opinions and saying things are garbage, that's very scary for beginners because they think, oh, like, am I learning the wrong thing? I don't want to waste my time here. Like, am I going to lose my job if I don't learn it? And the reality is it's not that cut and dry, you know, it's a lot more easygoing. So, I try to convey that as well. And I don't put too much into these silly people who get really angry at semicolons or something silly like that.

WILL: That's good advice. That's good advice. Because I think there's been some stuff that I want to do, that's held me back. So, that's really good advice. I appreciate it.

WES: Yeah, just do it, like, you never know. Like, if someone's calling you out for putting yourself out there, like, that's a really big jerk thing to do. And I've called people out as well. Like, I don't get it as much anymore, and that probably has to do something with the fact that I've sort of established myself. But several times in the early days, people would be, like, mean. And I would just be like, "Hey, like, just call people out, like, nicely, but, like, hey, you don't have to be mean about it. I'm just trying to share what I've learned here." And that usually gets them.

VICTORIA: Yeah. It's like, what are your intentions with providing this feedback to me right now? Like, are you trying to help? [laughs] Because it doesn't really feel that way. No, I appreciate that. And, you know, I'm also...part of thoughbot we've traditionally put out a lot of trainings, a lot of, you know, Upcase things on Ruby on Rails. And with my team, I'm looking at putting together some workshops around site reliability engineering and things that would be helpful for developers to learn how to instrument their code.

So, speaking of advice that you would give to maybe any engineer or any developer who's looking to share their expertise, or put together a course, or even a blog post about what they're learning, like, what would you advise someone who's trying to create content like that?

WES: Put it out there. When I released my Sublime textbook, keep in mind, a book about Sublime Text that's a pretty niche thing, there was already two books out there on that exact topic. And a couple of times, I was like, is anyone going to want this? There's already one of them out there. Should I even write this blog post? There's 70 out there. And just keep in mind that, like, the way that you explain it or the specific issue that you hit or whatever, it might be the way that really clicks for somebody else.

So, I always tell people just put it out there. You never know what is going to come of it. It's likely going to be a net positive for the web development world in general. So, don't ever feel that you shouldn't put yourself out there because you might not know absolutely everything about it. Just share what you know. That's how we get better.

VICTORIA: Yeah, I had a friend many years ago who we used to organize Women Who Code, and she said, "Do you think anyone would really be interested in, like, a cloud series of these topics?" And we're like, "Oh, maybe not." In the first event we had around Cloud for Women Who Code, I think, like, 30 people showed up. So yeah, put it out there, see who's interested, and go from there. That's great advice.

WES: Yeah. On the same topic, is like, 'Will somebody want this?' is a huge question. People always come to me and they say, "Hey, do you think if I make a course on X, Y, and Z, will people buy it?" Or they'll put out a tweet that says, "Hey, would you buy this, or would you attend this?" And everybody's always like, "Yes, yes, yes," just trying to be supportive. But at the end of the day, you have to test these things by actually putting things out there.

So, for me, how did I know the first thing I wanted to do was Sublime Text? It's because I put out blog posts on probably 20 different topics, and those were the posts that just hit really well, and they really resonated with people. So, like, if you're trying to understand, like, will it work? You can test those things very easily by putting a YouTube video up, putting a couple of TikToks up, write a blog post, put a couple of tweets up. And, eventually, when you put out enough content, you're going to start to see a trend in a specific area, and that will give you a little bit of guidance as to what it is you should pursue.

WILL: That's great advice. Have you had any hurdles through your journey of online courses and the podcast, releasing podcasts?

WES: I feel like I'm always, like, course-correcting. I've never had, like, a flop. And, like, I've had courses I've shelved. Early on, after Sublime Text, I was like, I'm going to do a gulp course, which was, like, a build tool for JavaScript. And then webpack started to get a little bit more popular, and I was like, okay, well, maybe I'll just make a tooling course in general, but I was like, ah, that's kind of way too big. And after, like, working on it for a couple of weeks, I was like, you know what? Like, I'm going to scrap this because I don't think that this is it, you know?

So, just kind of always listening, always feedback, and course correcting is probably my biggest advice there for the hurdles. There's stuff that comes up, like people stealing the courses. And, like, I had early access to one of my courses once, and somebody bought it with a stolen credit card and then put it up online. And, like, that's incredibly deflating because now there's your unfinished course out there before people could even buy it. And people will spam you and run DDoS attacks on you and lots of stuff like that, where people are just...they see that. And that's always really frustrating, but you kind of roll with the punches and kind of keep working on it.

WILL: Wow. That's interesting. So, someone bought the course with a stolen credit card, and they released it early to the public?

WES: Yeah. I don't know if I should say this or not, but there's a very large Russian website that is...literally, they have a paid membership, and the whole point is that you pay for the membership, and you get access to every course ever. Sometimes, they use paid cards, and sometimes it's stolen cards.

WILL: Oh, wow.

WES: They just buy every course by every creator, and they put it up on this thing. And you can get it for free for the first, like, three months, and then it goes under their paid thing. And that stuff was really frustrating to me at first, but I've learned just to...the web development community is incredibly supportive, and I have nothing to complain about, really. People who do want to support you will support you.

WILL: That's neat. That's really neat.

VICTORIA: Yeah. And speaking of the web development community, are there events or conferences you go to or different, like, places where you really connect to the web development community?

WES: Yeah. Conferences are fantastic. I really enjoy that those are back. So, React Miami is coming up. It's going to be a really fun one. But I go to a couple of conferences a year, and I usually speak at them. We also do meetups every now and then with Syntax where we'll rent out a bar and get a bunch of merch and stickers and just kind of chit-chat with everybody. That's honestly, my favorite is just going to a meetup where there's no talks or anything. It's just a bunch of interesting people in a room, and you get to talk with all kinds of cool people.

VICTORIA: That's fun, yeah. I've been organizing a monthly CTO lunch down here in San Diego, and it's like, we just get together and have lunch and, like, talk about different stuff [laughs].

WES: Love it.

VICTORIA: And it's really great. I used to organize those meetups with, like, two speakers, and then there was pizza and drinks and all that stuff to coordinate. And it's a lot easier just to kind of get everyone together and talk, which is what most people want anyways [laughs].

WES: I'm always bummed when you go to a conference and the, like, after party has, like, a band or, like, music is bumping. It's like, I just want a quiet room with some drinks that I can talk to people and have a good conversation, you know.

VICTORIA: Yeah, I go to a lot of events, a lot of conferences, a lot of events. I see a lot of different types of stickers and design and anything like that. So, I thought it might be fun to ask you about that. Like, you know, I don't know if you can share us a link of what your stickers look like. Or how do you make it fun and interesting for you to have that kind of thing to hand out?

WES: Once a year, once a year and a half, I make these sticker packs, and they have, I don't know, 15 or so stickers in it, various web development things. And it's a pretty big production because I get a lot of them done. So, the last time I sold 11,000 packages of them, and I sell them for five bucks shipped anywhere in the world. And it's, like, a huge logistical hurdle to try to make that happen because there's so much to it.

But it's really fun for me because I'm able to do something that is fun. A lot of people aren't able to go to conferences and get the stickers, and they want that. They want to feel part of a community, and everybody loves getting a pack of stickers. So, I've been doing that for probably seven years now. Just right now, I'm just doing a little bit of research into what the next pack is going to look like and some new materials that have hit the sticker world [laughs], so it's pretty fun.

The website is with, like, That might not work anymore. I got note that the people who I registered the dot AF domain name from have lost contact with the Afghanistan domain authorities. So, it's possible I might just lose that domain name, which is a bit of a bummer because that's a really cool domain name, but that's where I sell them once a year. And, usually, they're only for sale for about a week, and then they're done selling, and I do the whole shipping thing around the world.

VICTORIA: Wow. I did not think you were going to say, "Sold 11,000" sticker packs. That's really impressive [laughs].

WES: Yeah, it's crazy. It's almost 200,000 stickers if you think about it.

VICTORIA: That's, like, a major production. I bet when you got into web development, you didn't think you'd also have a side hustle making stickers off of it [laughs].

WES: Yeah, it's crazy. Like, I was, like, sending them out with stamps, and it's just like, I was holding in one single hand, like, $4,000 worth of stamps. It's crazy to think.

VICTORIA: I can imagine going into the post office and being like, "I need $4,000 worth of stamps [laughs]," but that's great.

WES: The first time I just started dumping them into mail, I would cross the border because I'm in Canada, and the USPS is much cheaper. So, we would just cross the border, and then we just dumped them into mailboxes. And it was okay. But they were like, "Hey, like, next time, just, like, bring it to the post office, and, like, we have processes for this much mail." I don't mail them out of the U.S. anymore because there's some weird stuff around crossing the border. You have to do all this crazy stuff. But it's pretty crazy buying that many stamps. They usually look at you funny when you go to the store and say, "Hey, I need this many stamps."


VICTORIA: They're like, "Well, what are you doing?" [laughs] Well, great. I think, let's see, we're coming up at the end of our time here. So, are there any final takeaways for our listeners today?

WES: Check me out. I'm at; podcast is at if you want to give it a listen. We post three times a week. And I just encourage everyone keep learning, keep excited about web development because it's a pretty cool industry.

VICTORIA: Awesome. Thank you so much for taking time to chat with us today. I really enjoyed our conversation.

You can subscribe to the show and find notes along with a complete transcript for this episode at If you have questions or comments, email us at And you can find me on X, formerly known as Twitter, @victori_ousg.

WILL: And you could find me on X @will23larry.

This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore. Thanks for listening. See you next time.


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