Ryan Irelan

is building Mijingo.

Launch. A Startup Documentary

Today I ran my first 10k race (and my first race). The entire race I listened to part of the Launch. A Startup Documentary podcast. It’s the story of building and launching Drip, a bootstrapped lead generation/conversion email marketing tool by Rob Walling and team.

All through my 3x weekly training runs for the last 10 weeks, I listened to podcasts or audiobooks while I ran. I found they soothed me and helped distract me early on when the running was particularly hard.

Sling TV Review

David J. Loehr over on Jason Snell’s Six Colors:

One thing I really like about Sling: Say you put on Food Network and they’re in the middle of wall-to-wall Fieri3. You can scroll backward through the schedule and watch several days’ worth of shows on demand, or time shift the entire schedule, pretend you’re on Pacific time, whatever.

The inclusion of ESPN in these “cord cutter” packages is very tempting. It’s still what I miss the most after not having cable television for the last three years.

One huge benefit of no cable television is that we don’t feel compelled to have the television on at all. It’s the secondary or tertiary device now, with laptops being first, and iPhones and iPads in a close second.

(I’m watching House of Cards on my iPhone 6 Plus as I type this.)

University of Phoenix Declining

The for-profit university has lost half of its students. For-profit education companies are responsible for half the student loan defaults. Half.

It’s still hard to get a good job—and stay employed—without a college education (the stats don’t lie) but saddling yourself with tens of thousands of debt isn’t the answer.

There are better ways to learn, especially higher paying, higher growth jobs in web design and web development.

Pooling Resources

Middle class neighborhoods are going away:

The fact that the rich have walled themselves off is also troublesome, however. By self-segregating, wealthy families pool their resources in just a handful of communities. At the same time, they’re less likely to know middle-class neighbors and may be less likely to care about what’s happening in less fortunate corners of their city or town. As Bischoff and Reardon note, the more the rich keep to their own, the less reason they have to worry about public schools or parks for someone else’s kids.

A joy unknown to me in all my prior years

Dr. Paul Kalanithi to his infant daughter:

When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.

Paul was a Stanford neurosurgeon that died on March 9, 2015 of non-small-cell EGFR-positive lung cancer. He was 37, his daughter is 8 months old.

He also wrote about being a doctor and patient here and here.

A New Mijingo

Over the last several months I’ve been working with AJ Lohman to modernize the Mijingo website’s design and code.

Last weekend I deployed the new site to the production server. Here’s a video I made to cover what Mijingo is all about and highlight some features of the new site:

First and foremost, AJ and I worked on modernizing the look of Mijingo. I didn’t want it to be too trendy (although the full bleed image is something I ended up asking for) and lose the ability to effectively server my customers.

I had two specific (perhaps obvious) goals in mind:

  • make a better impression on new visitors when they came to check out the course library at Mijingo and
  • improve the experience for customers after they make a purchase.

The previous site did the best it could but it was old. The design was outdated—hastily retrofitted to be responsive—and the code well beyond its prime.

We settled on a simple look. The focus was on the new course covers that AJ created using the Whitney typeface from Hoefler & Co and some custom shapes and color palate he worked up.

Course Library on Mijingo

You can see that on the Course Library with its “cover mode” listing of the products. The courses are color coded based on track: Design is red, Development is green, and CMS/Publishing is a purple.

The images are also large and beautiful. Why? Because we used SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics to display all of the cover art. No large bitmap images to load and the covers look gorgeous on all displays: big, small, retina or standard.

The second improvement—the logged-in experience for customers—was addressed by redoing how customers access their purchased courses.

The previous version of Mijingo.com provided the customer with a simple table that listed all of their courses, the videos in those courses, and links to stream the video on the site or download it to their computer.

Most customers chose the download option because the streaming option wasn’t ideal. For the new Mijingo site I really wanted to improve how customers can watch purchased courses right on the site.

I turned the table listing of purchased courses into a simple, elegant grid of covers. There’s no copy or information about the course other than what is contained in the cover art. Why repeat what’s already there. Plus, the customer has already purchased the course so they’re probably familiar with what they have.

Mijingo's My Course Library

Clicking on a cover brings you to a one of the following pages, depending on the course:

  • A table listing the course videos, with links to stream or download
  • The course video, ready to play (if there was only one video in the course)
  • A table listing the courses and their videos (for a bundle of courses)

This design is a first pass and definitely not final. I want to keep how customers access their courses as simple as possible so I started with an table approach that gets right to the point.

One change from before is that I broke out the downloadable course materials into a sidebar so they’d sit alongside the videos, even while watching the course. The course materials should be accessible at all times while watching the course not just when you are choosing which video to stream or download.

Watching the SVG Course

These aren’t final implementations but small steps (or giant compared to the old site) in improving the experience of watching a course.

I still have some more work to do—we have dozens of fixes and tweaks we’re tracking for the next deployment—including creating guide pages (pulling blog posts, tutorials, and videos into one page) for each major technology, and improving the performance of the site.

I’m proud of the update and it’s a solid foundation on which I can build. I hope you’ll check it out and learn something new with Mijingo.

Learn Git with Mijingo

Last week I released a brand new course over at Mijingo that covers intermediate Git usage. The course is 3 modules and several videos and is aimed at helping you go from a normal Git user (git-add, git-commit, etc) to someone with some power moves like git-bisect, git-revert, and customizing the output of the git log.

The course is 114 minutes long and includes a free, written course workbook, slides, and a long list of additional resources for you to use.

Check out the new Git videos.

The Professional by Steven Pressfield

What I love about Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art is that he preemptively calls out the people who over-glorify his own book:

The professional is acutely aware of the intangibles that go into inspiration. Out of respect for them, she lets them work. She grants them their sphere while she concentrates on hers.

The sign of the amateur is overglorification of and preccopuation with the mystery.

The professional shuts up. She doesn’t talk about it. She does her work.

The War of Art, p. 78

He calls out everyone who is on some quest to solve the mystery of getting things done, producing work or shipping. He calls out the entire cottage industry of you-can-do-its. And, yet, the book is one the canonical texts used to support it.

Everyone will be the same

North Carolina basketball assistant coach Hubert Davis:

One of the things that we tell the guys is that you have to do more than what is required. At some point in your career whether it is high school, college, or the NBA, you’re going to be at a level where every guy can do the same things that you can do. So what is going to differentiate yourself between you and the other guy that is just as talented is your willingness everyday to work on your fundamentals and your craft, before and after practice.

Coca-Cola Life

Oddly enough, I first saw this at the vending machine at our neighborhood bowling alley. I don’t drink many soft drinks but this is what I’d choose from the Coke lineup. Pretty good.

The Best Travel Tool

The best, most practical, and helpful travel gadget or tool I’ve purchased is the Eagle Creek Pack-it Garment Folder.

You can have the cheapest suitcase, a duffle bag, or no suitcase at all (I’ve tossed it in my shoulder bag overnight trips), and this garment folder will keep your shirts crisp and unwrinkled. Nicely ironed shirts matter.

Iron (or dry clean) your shirts beforehand, fold them using the included folding card, and then pack. Once you arrive at your destination, unpack your shirts and hang them up. Putting your shirt of the day in the bathroom while you shower is just enough to steam out the creases.

I’ve purchased a lot of silly travel gear and bags over the years. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is as important to me when traveling as this garment folder.

Open Offices

I love and loathe open offices. They’re visually appealing but emotionally taxing.

They’re wonderful to look at, look great in photos, fairly simple to decorate nooks and seating areas (an interior designer’s dream), and less expensive to build.

But they are a burden.

There is no privacy at all. You and your actions are on display from 9 to 5.

Illness travels fast in the open air, and there are constant interruptions—even unintentional like someone just walking by that cause a momentary loss of focus as you catch a glimpse of movement in your peripheral vision.

If, like me, you’re of the easily distracted variety, you work very hard to get focused. You’ve probably created all sort of tricks and hacks to get and stay focused. For us, an open office and its distractions can create a frustrating work day.

I am an introvert who can be extroverted in certain situations. Like many others, I’m well-adapted to living this contradiction. However, my energy depletes quickly when I always have to be “on” and around people. This includes being in an open office every hour of every work day.

I can sometimes manage with headphones (noise canceling seem to work the best). But when I can’t, I have to find a small, quiet place to recharge. And there’s no better place than a car. It’s a small space, wonderfully sound proofed (cars make great recording environments), and feels safe.

In the past, I’ve often eaten lunch and then gone to my car, got in, closed the door, and then just sat in the small cocoon of privacy. There was a sense of relief as I closed the door. I’d then put on some music or a podcast and recharge my mental energy to get through the rest of the day.

Open offices also assume we sit at a desk while doing our best work. I certainly don’t. My best work is done while standing, pacing, walking, mumbling to myself while I talk through a problem, and other office culture taboos.

None of this is a problem if I’m in a private space where I can work in a way that works for me. That’s why I’ve been so much more productive and happier in the years that I’ve either worked at home or in an office with a door.

But I get it: we can’t build offices and work environments that are perfect for everyone. And they certainly can’t cater to me.

Some people love and thrive in open offices (a rare species?), others, like me, have to implement coping mechanisms to stay productive and happy.

If we do continue the open office trend, we should try to create closed, private spaces that someone can duck into for an hour of working alone, or just to sit and recharge.

I bet even the extroverts will like it.

Recent Entries