With so many different ways to learn to code, how do you pick? And where do technical books fit into your learning curriculum? Katel LeDû is the CEO of A Book Apart, a company that produces short technical books. She shares how to get the most out of a coding book, the benefits of reading technical books, and how she went from a career in photography to running a technical publishing house.
[00:00:00] (Music) SY: Welcome to the CodeNewbie podcast, where we talk to people on their coding journey in hopes of helping you on yours. I'm your host Saron and today we're talking about technical books. (Music) If you've been learning to code, you've probably come across the company A Book Apart.
[00:00:24] KL: My name is Katel LeDû, and I'm the CEO of A Book Apart. That's a publishing company that produces brief books for people who design, write and code.
[00:00:34] SY: They're known for packing a lot of information into a pretty small space.
[00:00:38] KL: And I basically run the show. I do everything from, you know, finding offers to write the books to printing it and selling it online and getting it out the door.
[00:00:47] SY: But how does a technical book get made? And for code newbies who are considering using books as part of their toolkit, how do you know a book is right for you? We'll dive into these questions and more. After this.
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[00:02:48] SY: Ok so I love your name so much. Can you say your name...
[00:02:51] KL: Thank you.
[00:02:51] SY: ...just one more time?
[00:02:53] KL: Sure. It's Katel LeDû.
[00:02:55] SY: Oh my god. That is so fancy. That is so fancy.
[00:02:58] KL: Thank you so much. I did not think about growing up, and I was always very like, you know, nervous about it, but I, I really like it now. (Laughing)
[00:03:07] SY: Yes. So you are CEO of A Book Apart, and I, I loved the way you described it. You said, "I run. I run the show." That's awesome. Tell me a little bit about what that means because I, I know a book apart. I've, I've known about A Book Apart I think since I first learned about coding. And I just love how specific the topics are. And they're very short and succinct and just packed with information. They feel very actionable. And when I think about the CEO of an organization that can produce something that good, (Laughing) that just feels like such a big job. What does it mean to be CEO?
[00:03:40] KL: Oh gosh. Well it is a big job and I love it. And I think that it maybe doesn't feel as big as it is because I really do enjoy it. And, you know, I feel—I know it's not magic—but I, I feel like I magically kind of found the thing that I'm really good at. So when I joined A Book Apart in 2013, it was more or less a side project of the folks who founded it, and that was Jason Santa Maria, Jeffrey Zeldman and Mandy Brown. And at the time, they had had, you know, a few books that they had put out. They were kind of seeing if it was gonna stick and whether people were gonna buy the books and read them. And, and people did and it was great. It was really successful. But by the time that they were looking for me, they realized that like this is a business, and you know, they need someone to take ownership of that and you know really be full-time on that, which makes complete sense. So I came along and it just seemed like such a great opportunity. And it was kind of amazing because when I started, even though they had the idea down for what the, for the product was what the books were, you know, gonna be like. There was a very clear vision for the quality and the design and the approach that we were looking for. I came in and I spent a lot of that first year or two really laying a groundwork for how we were going to operate. So we didn't really have like a, you know, solid editorial process and we just kind of like solidified the team over, over time. And it's yeah. It's been amazing because it's really grown, and I got to grow with it, which is just so exciting.
[00:05:09] SY: So have you been CEO before?
[00:05:12] KL: I have not. That has been new with this job as well. I mean I've been a manager and director and kind of like I've gotten into that I guess level of things. But yeah, I haven't, you know, sort of solely been responsible for the day-to-day operations of something. So I think it's good that it happened over time. (Laughing)
[00:05:32] SY: So tell me about the world you came from 'cause you, your background is not computer science, is not necessarily coding. So what were you doing before A Book Apart?
[00:05:41] KL: Before A Book Apart, I was at National Geographic for about six and a half years, and I worked strictly on the digital team, which was really cool because that was sort of like a whole new world for a traditionally print magazine. So that was really exciting. And yeah, I mean just taking one quick step back...
[00:06:00] SY: Yeah.
[00:06:00] KL: ...my major in college was photography. And...
[00:06:03] SY: Nice. (Laughing)
[00:06:03] KL: ...you know, yeah. So when I graduated, I was kind of like ok, what am I gonna do with this? (Laughing)
[00:06:11] SY: Did you want to be a photographer?
[00:06:13] KL: You know, I think I did for a while while I was in school, but the more I realized doing it and being out in the field was—it's a lot of work. And I wasn't quite sure that I was ready to do that. So I ended up doing a lot of photo editing. You know, I worked with photographers, and I, I really ended up liking that a lot. And so I actually did some contract work for National Geographic around that time. So I had had a little bit of a taste. And then I went to New York thinking I was going to go be a photographer or work in a studio, and then I ended up working in publishing jobs. So I kind of realized like ok, this is fine. I'm still working with creatives...
[00:06:52] SY: Right.
[00:06:53] KL: ...a lot of visual media, and it just felt like that was the right fit. And then working in publishing just was great because then I came back to National Geographic in an all sort of—it led up to me being able to bring a lot, a lot of different experience and expertise to this thing.
[00:07:10] SY: Yeah. So what is so interesting about you having a photography background and being very visual is A Book Apart isn't that visual.
[00:07:19] KL: Yeah.
[00:07:20] SY: Right? Like...
[00:07:20] KL: Yeah.
[00:06:20] SY: ...most of the visuals are code. Like they're code samples, text, maybe some diagrams, but you know, it's not, it's definitely not a book of, a book of photos.
[00:07:29] KL: Right. Absolutely.
[00:07:30] SY: So tell me about that transition going from photographs everywhere, visual everything to publishing something that in a lot of ways kind of feels like the opposite.
[00:07:39] KL: Yeah, I mean there are images in the books there, but you're totally right. It's, you know, it's code blocks, it's screenshots of case studies, some diagrams, which are super helpful. I think in terms of the visual vs. the written aspect of presenting a point, I think just being able to know that you're not gonna always be able to rely on visuals is actually an interesting way to approach that because it's sometimes, you know, you write, you go through the writing process, and you think that you're gonna have this figure image. It's gonna perfectly illustrate this diagram, this flow, this, you know, network-to-server connection, and then all of a sudden you're kind of like "what is this?" (Laughing) And you realize that you actually need to say what it is...
[00:08:22] SY: Yeah.
[00:08:22] KL: ...and say clearly and plainly so people can understand what you're saying. And it's funny because we really do look at figures as playing a supporting role. We sort of try not to rely on those to get a point across.
[00:08:37] SY: It's not the star.
[00:08:38] KL: Exactly. Right.
[00:08:40] SY: Yeah.
[00:08:40] KL: And I think when I was in New York, I actually also worked for a record label, and I worked in production...
[00:08:46] SY: Oh.
[00:08:46] KL: ...there. Yeah. So I'm just thinking back on that, and I think like I've had so many sort of different experiences with different areas and types of publishing, that I think—I don't know. I, I feel like I, I might have just a perspective that comes from a bunch of different places.
[00:09:18] KL: Yeah.
[00:09:19] SY: We have mobile first. These are things that are, you know, pretty technical. You gotta know what you're talking about. How did you manage that—I don't know if it's a knowledge gap, or just not, you know, just not being in the tech world, not coming from that space—how did you deal with that?
[00:09:33] KL: You know, I did learn a lot sort of on my own and from being at National Geographic. I worked on a team where I worked with producers and writers and editors, but I also worked with developers and programmers who were building the things that we were writing and creating. You know, I think that was critical and important for me to understand, you know, what I do now and to work with the people that I work with now. And I, you know, I was really interested in it, and I knew that again, you know, sort of seeing how a print publication was moving into a digital space, I saw how important it was. And you know, I kind of took a little bit of my own like spare time to learn a few things and to learn a little bit of code, to understand some design theory, to, you know, look at user experience. And I had a little bit of experience with all of that, so I think it was really interesting to me.
[00:10:25] SY: Yeah, and I love that, too, because I think there are a lot of people listening who are learning to code maybe not so much because they wanna be developers, but because they are fascinated by the space, by this idea that you can, you know, with some lines of code make something, build something, create something. But it's important to remember that there are lots of roles that allow you to be in that space without necessarily doing the code, and it sounds like you might have one of the best jobs (Laughing) in that category.
[00:10:52] KL: I do. I feel really lucky about that. And I, you know, to make all this happen, I mean not only am I working with really talented and passionate and patient writers, I work with a really amazing team of folks who do everything from editing to producing the books to, you know, handling customer support from folks who are buying the books. So it's managing all that and making sure that that's has some kind of symbiosis.
[00:11:18] SY: Yeah and that's what I'm getting to from the different experiences that you've had is this idea of, you know, we wanna create this product, this thing at the end. It's gonna involve a lot of people, a lot of time to make it really high quality. And it sounds like you have a lot of experience in pulling it together, and you know, producing something, right?
[00:11:34] KL: Yeah, yeah. I really, really love that part, and I didn't really realize that until I was, you know, well into my career. I didn't realize that I, I really liked doing that work that helps to build something.
[00:11:49] SY: Yeah. So let's talk about what it takes to actually make a book. What is step one?
[00:11:56] KL: Well, you know, we either have an author pitch us a book idea or we've sort of on occasion—not super frequently—you know, approached other people to see if they're interested in writing or maybe they're speaking about a topic and we say like, "oh, this might make a good book." I will say that we have found when folks come to us and they are extremely excited and passionate about the thing that they are working on or writing about or speaking about, that works the best. Because someone might come to you and say, "hey, would you like to write this book or write this blog post?" And if you're kind of like "sure. I mean I'm doing this work, but, you know, I'm not super jazzed about it." It doesn't end up being a great end product. And I think that's probably obvious when, you know, you kinda think about it.
[00:12:40] SY: Yeah.
[00:12:41] KL: But yeah, so we, you know, we start working with an author. That author takes a very wide ranging amount of time to write that book. You know, I've worked with folks who have written in a couple months and worked with folks who have written in a year or two. It takes all sorts of different times. Then we go through an editing process, which takes about six months or so depending on, you know, technical difficulty and all that. And then we go into production and layout and all that really good stuff. We choose a cover color, which is always very exciting. And then we go to print. We also, you know, concurrently with some of that production work and the end stages of editorial, we're also doing some marketing stuff.
[00:13:23] SY: Ok, so let's go back to that, that first step. The author comes to you and says, "hey, I'm really excited about this work" because what is interesting about that step is that that means that I, as a person, have to have enough confidence in my abilities to know that I can speak to it. And yeah, it kind of reminds me of a—what's that stat that says that women wait until they have 10 out of 10 qualifications before they apply for a job...
[00:13:49] KL: Yes. (Laughing)
[00:13:49] SY: ...and then wait 'till they have like 6 or whatever, you know, whatever it is.
[00:13:52] KL: Yes.
[00:13:52] SY: And so it makes me think, you know, if it's, if it's on me to recognize my own awesomeness, does that mean that things are a little skewed in terms of who raises their hand and says "hey, I'm ready"?
[00:14:05] KL: Yeah, I think so. And I think that is my—one of my fears right now just looking around at the landscape is that, that I don't think that enough voices who, you know, I think should be heard are necessarily stepping up because they don't necessarily feel like they should be or they can or, you know, for a lot of different reasons. So I would love to look at how, you know, we might change that. I think the thing that I've come to realize and I think has made a big impact on me is someone once said about, you know, writing or speaking about a topic—a friend of mine said, "yes a lot of people have written about this. A lot of people have spoken about this topic, but you haven't." You know? And I think that...
[00:14:49] SY: Yep.
[00:14:49] KL: ...to me, that stuck with me so much because I thought "oh. Yeah. I do have a certain view of this" or "I do have a certain approach that I take to this work or this topic." So I don't know, I think that changed my perspective about not only what I look at what I, you know, might have strengths with, but trying to help other people realize that as well.
[00:15:12] SY: Yeah, absolutely. I, I feel like the common excuse I hear for people who have an idea of something they wanna build but not doing it is they say, "oh, you know, it already exists. Someone's already done it." And I'm thinking, "do you know how many pizza places there are in the world, you know?"
[00:15:22] KL: Yeah.
[00:15:22] SY: Like can you imagine if, if the first pizza place was like, you know, "I'm the only pizza place," and Domino's came along and was like "well I guess, I guess Pizza Hut already exists. I can't do anything, and now, we cannot have Domino's pizzas." You know what I mean? Like that's just...
[00:15:35] KL: Yeah. That's exac...
[00:15:36] SY: That's crazy. If you look at it...
[00:15:37] KL: Yeah, that's exactly right.
[00:15:38] SY: Right?
[00:15:38] KL: And there's so much good pizza in the world so...
[00:15:44] SY: There is so much good—and we have to eat all of it.
[00:15:45] KL: Exactly. So I think there can be (Laughing) a lot of—there can be many or several good books about a single topic. And yeah, I think, you know, one of the things that A Book Apart does is look for that particular approach and for the folks who are writing to come to the table with that and be open about sharing it and developing it.
[00:16:07] SY: So let's talk a little bit more about the authors and who gets to write these books. When someone comes to you and says, "hey, I'm interested in writing this topic," what kinds of things do you look for?
[00:16:18] KL: We certainly have sort of like an internal set of criteria that we review proposals against, and there's sort of overall fit. Have we covered this before? Have we covered it in this way before? Is this timely? Is it something that, you know, has been on the top of everyone's mind and we really want to get a resource out about it? A lot of things like that. And then, you know, I think also just looking at the person and what they're coming to the table with in terms of are they open to the process? Are they, you know, looking to develop as a writer? And are they, you know, are they kinda willing to go along that journey with us?
[00:16:52] SY: Because it's, yeah, it's a very involved process. I was, I was a guest editor for an O Reilly book, and I was like "oh goodness." (Laughing)
[00:17:01] KL: It is. It's intense.
[00:17:01] SY: There's a lot of work, and I didn't even write anything. (Laughing)
[00:17:04] KL: Yeah, it's a lot of work. There are some, some stretches, some moments that are extremely, I think, soul bearing, and you really expose yourself to critique and feedback. And I hope that we are transparent (Music) and forthcoming about the fact that we want the book to be really good and we want the author to feel really good and really proud about it. You know, that's like the end goal.
[00:17:28] SY: Coming up next, we hear how A Book Apart makes their books so short and how a book can best fit into your personal coding curriculum. After this.
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[00:19:20] SY: Ok, so let's talk a little bit about books in general. So I'm a big fan of books. I love books. Books are probably my favorite medium, my favorite way of learning something, but there are a lot of people who don't, who don't agree with that, (Laughing) don't feel that way. And I think one of the problems with a book is that because it's so long, you can't really tell if it's good for you at least and it's gonna be helpful until you've kind of invested a lot of time already. Yeah, there's no way to kind of quickly scan a book to see if it's gonna be, you know, meaty and worth it. What do you think makes a good book?
[00:19:57] KL: I think at least in terms of A Book Apart books, approachable and practical are two things I really keep in my mind when I'm looking at a proposal or when I'm looking at a first draft. You know, I'm really thinking about the reader and what they're gonna come away from the book with, whether it's, you know, okay is this a theoretical book and I'm learning more about the craft? Like that's fine. You know, the ones that really have a lot of success and a lot of traction are the books that really feel like "okay I'm gonna put this book down, and if it's, you know, 125 pages, I can read it in a day. And I can either do my job better or I can go to this meeting and I can feel confident that I know a little bit more about research we're about to do or I know that we can budget this now because there's a way to do it at this scale.
[00:20:45] SY: And how do you evaluate how good a book is specifically for a newbie? Because that's a huge issue I think in our community is trying to see "does it really begin at zero or does it begin at one?" Because a lot of books out there who claim to be for beginners really are, you know, they're not really the 100, the 101's, they're more of like the 200, 201-level classes. So what makes a good book specifically for a newbie?
[00:21:12] KL: I love this question because I will be really honest, I think a lot—most of our books are not, are not necessarily the step one or, you know, the basic basics, but I do think that even, you know, the, the more technical books are written by folks who are, who are really operating with a narrative sense and a narrative point of view, so they're kinda telling you a story about what the thing is. If it's a programming language or if it's, you know, we have a book called Git for Humans, and that (Laughing) that probably sounds like what it is I hope. That's awesome. It's, it's great. It's about, you know, version control and using git and really understanding the tool and how it's really good for collaboration and just basically learning along the way like "oh, now I know the fundamentals of how to get this kind of up and running and like now I can use it for these few things even if I'm not gonna go work in the command line or, you know, the terminal for everything." So in 2016, we actually launched a series of books called "Briefs," which is funny 'cause I know that we are, you know—all of our books are (Laughing) on the short side, but this was a way for us to kind of look at whether we could do a little bit of a—not an experiment, but more of a companion to the longer books. They're digital-only, but the goal with those is to either be sort of a deep dive into a topic or a more, you know, introductory like "this is where to start." So I think we're exploring that a little bit more, and we're honestly trying to figure that out. You know, what's the right level to kind of get your foot in the, the door.
[00:22:44] SY: And it's interesting when you were describing this idea of wanting to just know what the world is because I didn't really think of it that way, but you're right. There's two types of beginner. There is "I'm just starting, and I need to eventually learn this well enough to do a job," but then there's, you know, "I'm just starting, and I'm not trying to be a front end developer or, you know, a designer, but I just wanna know like what is this world? And who's in it? And what are, what's the hang out spot? You know, I just want a lay of the land more so than I am actually trying to apply it." And those two I assume have very different strategies in terms of what to focus on and how to tell the story.
[00:23:22] KL: Yeah, definitely. You know, I think, I'm thinking of our book Sass for Web Designers. I mean, that's an incredibly succinct, straightforward "this is Sass. This is how you use it." It's written by Dan Cederholm, so it's extremely entertaining, and you know, a lovely read. But it's a very like clear-cut package of what you're getting. And then I think something like, you know, like Git for Humans or even responsive web design is a little bit more holistic. So yeah. I think I totally agree.
[00:23:50] SY: So when you think about how a reader can get the most value from a book—and I think that's maybe the other part that makes books a little bit, a little bit intimidating is, you know, do I read it front to back? Do I take notes? Do I highlight? Does it make a difference if I read the print version vs. the digital version? You know, there's just so many different ways to approach a book. What are your thoughts on that? What are some good ways to make sure that we're extracting all the awesome information trapped in book?
[00:24:18] KL: One thing that I think is super important that we've always done is that there's always a digital version of all the books that we publish. And I think that's so important because when you buy an e-book, it's, you know, you get the EPUB, the PDF, the MOBI so you can read it hopefully on, you know, whatever works for you. And I think for me, you know, I search PDFs and EPUBs all the time for things that I'm looking for. So I think there's, you know, there's that. But I think taking a step back and looking at it from like a broader point of view, I think that's actually something that we look at when we're working with an author. We look at it, and we say, "is this a book that the reader has to read in a linear fashion? Or can they kind of pick it up at any point?" I love the books that, you know, you can kind of pick up at any point or look at the table of contents and say "ok, I need to like really understand this particular piece." Or "I need to figure out how I'm going to sell, you know, responsive web design to the rest of my team." And in going responsive, I can look that up because that is covered. I love that, and I think some books that, you know, you need to go in kind of a one, two, three, four, five—you need to go kind of down in a lane. But yeah, I think that is actually one of the reasons our books work really well is 'cause you can kind of use what you need.
[00:25:31] SY: And I love that they are so short. I remember Seth—is it Gottin? Godin? Whatever his last name is.
[00:25:37] KL: I think it's Godin.
[00:25:39] SY: It's Godin? Ok.
[00:25:41] KL: I think.
[00:25:41] SY: It's a little more humble. (Laughing)
[00:25:41] KL: Yeah.
[00:25:41] SY: Seth Godin, he had this book—I think it was called The Dip—that was really, really short. I don't remember how many pages it was, but it was very, very short. And he wrote—I think it was a blog post—about how he was very self-conscious because it was so short. And he said, you know, usually I write these, you know, long—not long books—longer books, and I'm just worried that people won't think that they got their money's worth by reading this really short book. And to his surprise, people loved that it was short, and they said "oh great." They could get to the point and get that information faster without having to spend more time and energy reading through it. And so when you think about the length of the book How has that impact—in your mind, how has that impacted whether people read it? What people think? Do people like that it's shorter? How have people reacted to that?
[00:26:33] KL: Yeah. That's something that we hear over and over again. We actually did the first ever reader survey we've ever done last year, and some of the things that people said about the books were just concise, succinct, approachable, easy-to-read. And we just thought like that's so cool. I mean, of course that was our...
[00:26:52] SY: That's awesome.
[00:26:52] KL: ...you know, our intent, but for folks to kind of say like "these are the ways I would describe these books" was really validating. But it's funny that you talk about length because we obviously try to stay within a page range just to kind of like keep with the goal. And we do have a couple books that are on the heftier side, which is totally great, but it's funny, we've had conversations during those editorial processes where we've said "ok, are we gonna try to trim this down to try to get to, you know, a certain page count? Or are we gonna try to like cut a section? Or like should we—how should we approach this?" But the books that are a little longer, they're longer because everything that's in there needs to be in there. And I think I would say that it's exactly the same for the shorter books because it's just enough. And we know that that is like "ok, this is exactly where this needs to be for someone to get what the author is intending to teach."
[00:27:49] SY: So it sounds like you're saying that ideally, it would be short, right? I think you prefer things to be short and to the point, but you're happy to make it as long as it needs to be.
[00:27:58] KL: Yeah. I mean it's funny I sit here and I'm like "ok we can't go over this page count." (Laughing) But I think I like say that to myself. Like I'm only saying it to myself, and I'm the one who decides, so it's okay.
[00:28:07] SY: Yeah.
[00:28:07] KL: But yeah, you know, I think like I said, we wanna keep with the goal and the idea that they're packaged this way for a reason. So we do wanna keep with that, but yeah.
[00:28:22] SY: So when you are designing the book and putting it together, is that hard? Because for a lot of these topics, I can't believe you can fit so much in such a short, you know, sort of a (Laughing) short number of—a small number of pages because I feel like people, you know, have done different classes like courses like college courses on some of these topics. Is it hard? What's the process for trimming down what I imagine to be, you know, lots of options and lots of things that you could include? How do you focus? How do you pick and get to that short number of pages?
[00:28:53] KL: Well from the beginning when we start working with a writer, we give basically a rough word count for what we expect to have turned in, you know, with the first draft of the manuscript. We find that that helps a lot just because then you have some metric that you're kind of like "okay I'm either going way over or I'm going way under." But even before that, when we're talking about the outline and the approach and we're really talking about what the thesis is? What's the elevator pitch? Why is this book needed? Why is it different? That's where we're kind of deciding like this is what this book is going to stay or you know stay within the scope of. So those two things are really important. And then the editing process is absolutely a critical part of this. I mean, I work with the most wonderfully talented editors, and I gotta give a shout out to my managing editor, Lisa Maria Martin. She's just fantastic. She can see things from, you know, from development and like the scope phase to line edit. So it's just—it's, you know, it's really working with it and really crafting it together with the author. So that, that's a big part of it, too. And we have a great compositor who does all the layouts, so he's very smart.
[00:30:04] SY: Wait, what's a compositor?
[00:30:06] KL: Oh, yeah. So a book compositor composes the books. (Laughing) It's basically layout. So we lay everything out in InDesign. So, you know, as you can imagine, we have a template that we use where we kind of start from, but he's just incredibly helpful because he gives us some advice about laying out figures if we're not quite sure. That's a big part of it, too: making sure all the pages flow and that they're, you know, laid out well and they make sense and break in the right places.
[00:30:35] SY: So books are awesome. As I've told you, I love books a ton. But at the end of the day, it's still one of many tools in my toolkit, right? I use a combination of videos, sometimes podcasts, sometimes blog posts and books to create my learning curriculum I guess? When you think about books and specifically the Book Apart books, where does it fit in when it comes to self-learning and figuring out how to map out your own coding curriculum?
[00:31:05] KL: I mean, I'm a firm believer that making sure that your resource pool is as wide as possible. You know, like I said, I, I learned to code, you know, in a, in an online boot camp. I've used lots of online resources. I read e-books. I read paper books. I think the way that books fit into the learning tools that you have available to you is that they're relatively affordable, which is great.
[00:31:24] SY: That's true.
[00:31:24] KL: They come in different formats, which is really nice, and you can have them on your desktop or your digital desktop, and that's really nice. And I think like for me, books are—they're part of my personal toolkit. And I, I feel like that is what I really love about them because I can, you know, take an online course. I can go do a workshop. I can go to a conference. And those are all completely different experiences and, and ways to absorb knowledge. But the books I sort of feel like those are going to always be with me and there for me to kind of reference, and like I love that. I think they just, they feel really personal and like sort of like they're in my bookbag.
[00:32:05] SY: I love that answer because yeah, you're right. I'm like I was thinking about the books that I have as you were talking, and I feel attached to my books.
[00:32:07] KL: Yeah.
[00:32:07] SY: You know, even the books that...
[00:32:08] KL: Right.
[00:32:08] SY: ...I haven't read in years. I look at them like, "oh, I remember that time." (Laughing) You know, like...
[00:32:18] KL: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:32:19] SY: "I was trying to learn about fonts." You know in a way that I, I don't necessarily with videos and online courses. And I think also part of it for me is that I, I write in my books. I take notes in my books.
[00:32:31] KL: Yeah.
[00:32:31] SY: So there's, there's almost like a co-creation process.
[00:32:36] KL: Ugh, yeah.
[00:32:36] SY: With reading from a book, you know? Like you're making it your own. You're translating the, the information into a way that you understand, and so it feels more active, more personal, more engaging, and yeah, something that I think endures time in a way that maybe other formats don't always.
[00:32:50] KL: Definitely. I think there's something about reaching for that book or that thing, that, that manual, that you know, guidebook that you're kind of like "ok, I know the answer's in here. I'm gonna like go back to that page that I, I know I've been to 100 times." And one of my favorite things—and this is sort of slightly related—but when I'm at a conference or like if I meet someone in a scenario in which they like have one of our books or they talk about it, they'll talk about like how well-worn it is because they've just like taken it off...
[00:33:19] SY: Yeah.
[00:33:19] KL: ...the shelf so many times. And I'm like ugh, I love that. That's so awesome. (Laughing)
[00:33:23] SY: You can't well-wear a YouTube video (Laughing)
[00:33:23] KL: Yes, exactly.
[00:33:23] SY: Yeah.
[00:33:23] KL: Yeah, and I mean, you know, I think you can always like scrub back and forth between a video or...
[00:33:27] SY: Yeah.
[00:33:28] KL: ...like go, you know, back and forth in a, in a boot camp if that's like how it's set up, but yeah, there is definitely something about being able to kind of, you know, go back to something physical and say like "oh, yeah. This is, this is the thing that I needed."
[00:33:45] SY: So now let's move on to some fill-in-the-blanks. Are you ready?
[00:33:48] KL: Yeah.
[00:33:48] SY: Number one: worst advice I've ever received is...
[00:33:51] KL: To just stick something out.
[00:33:55] SY: Tell me about that.
[00:33:56] KL: Earlier on in my career, I, you know, was working for a manager that I loved. And they moved on, and you know, got a new manager. And they weren't a great manager, and I—we weren't getting along, and I was not doing great work because of it. And I'd gotten some advice from someone that was, you know, sort of on their level, and I was kind of seeking that peer advice from someone who was working with them. And they were like, "you know, just stick it out. Just deal with it. It'll change." And I was just like "I don't think it's gonna change. And now I'm miserable." So yeah, I think, you know, realizing that if I wanted to change it that I would probably just have to do that.
[00:34:39] SY: Number two: my first coding project was about...
[00:34:42] KL: Well it was a photography newsletter that I had to put together when I was working in National Geographic, and it was awesome. It was like one of the first times I ever really worked with HTML and tags that were more complex than <p> tags and, you know, emphasis tags. And it was very exciting. I was—I felt completely out of my depth. But I, you know, got the hang of it and did a little bit of, you know, extra research and work, and then I, I really loved it.
[00:35:10] SY: Do you remember what types of photographs were in it?
[00:35:13] KL: Gosh. Well since it was a newsletter, we promoted a lot of different stuff, but one of my favorite things that we did was there was a feature called "photo of the day." And I know they still do it. And it's just like a gorgeous—huge, gorgeous photo that, you know, the editors pick every single day, and I think they've been doing it for like a decade or more. It's amazing.
[00:35:34] SY: Nice. Number three: one thing I wish I knew when I first started to code is...
[00:35:38] KL: To take my time a bit more, and to not sort of rush through everything and think I've learned it and can check it off my list and then I'm, I'm done. I think like realizing that it's an ongoing process and that, you know, you kind of have to build...
[00:35:48] SY: Yeah.
[00:35:48] KL: ...on it. I wish I had known that.
[00:35:55] SY: I completely agree. Yeah. Especially when I'm learning something new like a new tool, I'll think "I just want to get the tool to work. Once it's...
[00:35:57] KL: Yeah.
[00:35:58] SY: ...working, I'm done. It's over." But if I just took a little bit of time to understand "wait, how does this tool work? And what is it made of?" And, you know, all that, it would help the next time, you know...
[00:36:12] KL: Yeah.
[00:36:12] SY: ...I need to do something similar or just do the same thing again.
[00:36:16] KL: Right. Exactly.
[00:36:16] SY: Yeah.
[00:36:16] KL: Like, oh wait I did that. Right. Ok. How do I do that again?
[00:36:17] SY: Right. And why did I do that?
[00:36:17] KL: Yeah.
[00:36:18] SY: Exactly. (Music) Exactly. Well thank you so much for being on the show and telling us all about the world of technical book. publishing. You wanna say goodbye?
[00:36:29] KL: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. This was so fun.
[00:36:32] SY: And that's the end of the episode. Let me know what you think. Tweet me @CodeNewbies or send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to check out our local CodeNewbie meetup groups. We've got community coding sessions and awesome events each month. So if you're looking for real-life human coding interaction, look us up on meetup.com. For more info on the podcast, check out www.codenewbie.org/podcast. And join us for our weekly Twitter chats—we've got our Wednesday chats at 9PM EST and our weekly coding check-in every Sunday at 2 PM EST. Thanks for listening. See you next week.
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