Mike Bifulco: Building a Developer Brand

Show Notes

We talk about some of the keys to building a personal brand as a software developer.
• Authenticity
• Consistency
• Why you should (or shouldn't) think about developing your brand

This Episode's Links
Twitter and the Perils of Obedience
Coolors: the super fast color palette generator

Creator Linked List
Monica Lent: building profitable indie products
Paul Jarvis: Fathom Analytics and Company of One
Scott Hanselman: blogger, dev, speaker, author, teacher

Thanks again to Mike for joining us, you can find all things Mike Bifulco at https://mikebifulco.com

You can find the show on Twitter and at buildandlearn.dev.

Full Transcripts
Colin: Welcome to Build and Learn.

My name is Colin.

CJ: Hey, and I'm CJ and we're
here with our first guest and

my good friend Mike Bifulco.

We're talking about building a personal
brand as a developer, and before

we get into peppering Mike with all
kinds of questions about how to do

that, I'm just curious Mike, if you
could give us a little rundown about

things you're working on right now
that you're building and or learning.

Mike B: Sure.


So Colin, CJ, thanks so much
for having me to start with.

Yeah, so up until, around abouts
a month ago, CJ and I were

teammates working together at
Stripe, on, on developer advocacy.

I was a victim of the, the
unsweet culling of Stripe's recent

layoffs for better or worse.

And so I've kind of
moved on to other things.

As background, I am, sort of a reformed,
software developer turned, designer

turned, startup founder and then developer
advocate and a bunch of other things.

So, I've kind of been thrown back
into the fray and, although I, I

haven't, really gone public with
the details of what I'm doing next,

I am, founding another company.

So I've started another company with.

some, some friends and some, folks who
I've known for a while from the industry.

And we'll be making noise about that
sort of, sometime early on next year.

and for the time being, we're in,
the, sometimes too promiscuous

stealth mode, which is kind of a
funny thing because it's not a secret.

I just don't have anything

useful to say yet.

CJ: Got it.

Yeah, I think that's totally cool.

Well, and when it launches we'll
go and tell everyone about it.

And one of the cool, I don't know if we
haven't used this, but I think transistor.

The podcast The podcast host
that we use lets you come back

and like insert dynamic stuff.

So maybe if we remember to do so, we
could come back  and insert some like,

Hey, go check out Mike's new thing.

Mike B: Perfect.

Maybe I should have been more
specific about which next year.

I mean, then early 2023 is when I'm
hoping to start talking about this stuff.

And in all honesty, in the meantime,
I've been publishing quite a bit of,

writing and demos and things like
that under my own site, which is

my, my own name, mikebifulco.com.

And that's kind of where I publish
anything that I think might be interesting

for someone of any description to read.

And that usually means it's something
that either I've had to look up a

bunch of times or it's just been
weighing on my mind and I need to

get it on paper and, and put it out

into the world in.

CJ: Awesome.

Yeah, I think there's ton.

I wanted to just kind of enumerate
all the things that you're doing, cuz

that I think sets the stage pretty
well for building a personal brand.

So you've got your personal site that
people can find, and on there you're

also doing tiny improvements, which
is a newsletter and a podcast for.

learning about and designing
and building great products.

And it's also talking about your
philosophy for living a life you

love in an ever-changing world.

And what's cool about this is there's
so many like psychology bits and

pieces in the writing that you do,
and so I've really enjoyed all that.

You've also got your personal blog.

, which you write a ton on.

You've got APIs you won't Hate,
which is a podcast, a blog, a

community . You've got Software
Engineering Daily, which is a podcast.

You've got your personal YouTube
channel, your personal TikTok,

Mastodon, like, there's just so many
things that you're publishing on.

And so yeah, like setting the
stage, Mike is everywhere online

and in all the places, in all the
podcasts and all the, the written.

Video and all, all the things.

And I was checking out.

I know like you've been posting
a ton on TikTok lately in

like this vertical format.

But I also, when I was checking
out your YouTube today, I was

like, oh, these are also shorts.

And they're so good.

They're just like these
concise little nuggets.

So hopefully that sort of gives everyone
the frame around the kinds of stuff that

you're publishing online and through that
lens, I'm curious if we could just kind

of jump into how you think that others
can successfully build a personal brand

like that that is just so strong online.

So yeah, I don't know if you want to
kind of add any or like fill in any gaps.

Did I miss anything or like

Mike B: I think it's fair to say that
most of what I do can be categorized

as audio, video, or writing.

And I kind of spray it out onto
the internet in whatever place

I think someone might find it.

With the overarching thing being that I
try and own as much of the stuff that I've

written under my own domain name, because
I think that my domain, hopefully in

the long term will be the most valuable.

for me because I have the most
control over it, as, as evidenced

sort of by recent things going on with
Twitter, which I expect we'll probably

get into at some point here too.

. I also kind of want to couch this
entire discussion with the fact that

like, I'm very lucky to be able to
spray my, my feelings in writing and,

and creations all over the internet.

And a lot of the time that I have to
do these things is couched in like a

massive amount of my own privilege.

And, and so, you know, throughout
the discussion of this, like I

don't aim to say that anyone should
be doing the same things as I do

because it, everyone can and should.

It's sort of like, I have the
ability and time to do these things,

and I feel like, I'm driven by
a need to give back what I can.

So sharing what I know, sharing my,
expertise and advice and thoughts

and feelings, whatever with people is
really meant to take all the luck that

I've had in my life that I've kind of
stumbled into is, the person that I

am and kind of give it back to people.

So, I do a lot of things in a
lot of places because some, modes

of communication are, are more
suited for some types of, the

things that I make than others.

probably a good example is the, the
writing and podcast that I do, called

Tiny Improvements is my newsletter,
which, is, is something that I write

for people to, share information
and thoughts on building products.

Something I've been doing for a while,
it's something I really care about.

But, it's also a real privilege
to have access to someone's inbox.

So like, I try not to
send garbage to people.

I send out short, concise recommendations
and, sort of philosophical breakdowns

of like, what it's like to build
a product that people trust for.

And when I, when I write a newsletter
that I think is good enough or

meaningful enough for someone to want
to have heard it through podcast,

I'll sit down and literally just read
the newsletter into my microphone

and, and, spit that out as a podcast.

and maybe people like
that, maybe they don't.

But for me it's at least one way
that like, if one more person hears

that, I think it's really useful.

I was at a, a conference recently
where Scott Hanselman gave a keynote.

He's a, super, super talented developer.

He's been working for Microsoft for Eons.

He's like the godfather of
technical blogging in a lot of ways.

And, is a, is a super congenial
and sort of wise guy and.

During his keynote, he gave the
advice that, sharing your wisdom

is one of the best things you
can do to leave a legacy behind.

And like Colin, for example, if you
and I were talking and you asked

me, Hey, how do you do this thing?

And I told it to you, suddenly the
thing I know, both you and I know,

and that's great, but it sort of
ends there if I don't write it down.

And so if I write it down and
then share that with you, then

I know it and you know it.

And anyone who stumbles on this thing
that I wrote down and put on a public

URL somewhere benefits from it too.

So you go from like, One person having
information to two, to any, you know,

multiple of the, the, of that from there.

And I think there's something really
powerful in that and I try to remind

myself just to share whenever I
can and whenever I have time, and

honestly, the mental energy to

do so as well.

Colin: Absolutely.


And I, I like to encourage even
people who are learning, like, I don't

think you have to wait till you, you
know, a thing to share it with CJ.



Mike B: Yeah.

Colin: teaching it to CJ might
help you better understand

it as you're learning it.

And then someone who is gonna be in
your shoes a year later is gonna now

learn it from, from your perspective.

I always think about this back
when I was like learning math in

school, like I did not do so well.


And then I got a different
teacher that when I had to take

the class over again and I was.

Okay, this is clicking because
like the way they were teaching

it was completely different.

And so I could have given up right there
and been like, yeah, I'm just not gonna

get this algorithms thing or whatever.

But it's just perspective.

And I think that that really helps.

And then, yeah, like you said,
you're putting it out in the world.

And some of the people I've
followed with, I guess you.

Could say they have quote
unquote developer brands today.

Like they were just kind of learning
in public for a really long time

and, and no one was paying attention.

So they got really good at sharing
because no one was paying attention.

And you kind of have to do that for a long
time before,  it almost looks effortless.

But I'm sure, we all kind of get a
little bit of jitters right before the

microphone light goes on and all that too.

Mike B: Yeah.

Yeah, absolutely.

One of the things that I've learned
throughout the years is that the best

way to get smarter at something is to
publish something anywhere on the internet

and say it's the right way to do it.

Because smarter people will always
show up and tell you where you're wrong

of all of the technical failings of
your assumptions and this and that.

And that's actually
something that I really like.

You know, if I put something out on
the internet, I'll go and publish it to

three or four subreddits and say like,
Hey, this is, you know, this is what,

how I think you should do this thing.

And it's very cool that people will come
along and say, well actually it's broken

here, or You shouldn't do this, or it's
insecure, or whatever the case may be.

Cuz that makes me better at, at
doing whatever it is I'm doing.

Other side of that though is that you have
to be prepared to be wrong and be wrong

publicly and admit when you're wrong.

And those are really hard things
to do if you, are not prepared

for, for what that feels like.

CJ: Yeah.

I think one of the sort
of common themes when I.

Searched and researched.

Building a personal brand is
that you wanna be authentic.

And that trustworthiness and that
authenticity really comes through

when you say, I got that wrong.

And so I actually, I, I don't wanna like
call you out, Mike, but we, there was

something recently, right, where you
published something and then someone in

the comments on dev two said, oh, there's.

A different way to do that.

And you're like, oh yeah,
complete correction.

Like at the very top, like, oh, this,
there's like this better way to do it.

And I was like, oh, that is
so awesome and authentic.

And also it comes off as like,
yeah, I'm not yeah, it was

semantic H T M L headings, right?

Like or using the subtitle
tag or something, right?

Like there was, there was, yeah.


Mike B: yeah, exactly.

I, I posted a little tutorial about
how to make it so that when you have

a blog post and you publish it, it
the headings for your blog post link,

like provide links to themselves.

So when you click on, like the subtitle
in a post, you get a URL that zips

you right to that part of the page.

And I posted like, here's how
I found out how to do this.

I think the title of the article
was even the correct way to do this.

And, and someone came along and said,
well, actually, like, that's not useful

for people who use screen readers.

You know what, that's a very important
thing and a super, like, fapa thing to do

is to, to ignore accessible, accessible
technologies and the things people use to

read the web who aren't, you know, fully
cited or can't hear, things like that.

So I literally went in and I updated
this post with a, a new subsection

that says, Hey, look, I was wrong
and here's how, what I learned here.

And I think doing that and leaving that on
the record is an important thing because.

honestly, like there's a lot of things
you can glean from a post like that,

but one thing is for people who are
doing things online and writing things

online, it's better to say when you were
wrong than to sort of dig your heels

in and, and be wrong for eternity or
to hide the fact that you were wrong.

Nobody's perfect.

We all make lots of mistakes.

I make tons of mistakes and, you know,
people call me out on it and I'm,

I'm happy to learn from other people.

I think that's the mark of, someone who's
been through the ringer a few times.


CJ: Totally.


I think back in Colin, I think we
did in episode eight, we talked about

our process for content creation.

And I think personal brand, especially
like developer, personal brand, is tied

pretty closely to regularly sharing your
knowledge and expertise with others.

And we talked about how the Tailwind
team did this really well with showing

like a bunch of hot tips about here's
how you do things with CSS to build up

that sort of like authority, but also
the authenticity that they have with

their brand and the trustworthiness
that they were able to build up this

huge audience that would then go and
buy the stuff that they were selling.

And so I'm curious, like if
you have any thoughts about.

Maybe having a way to differentiate
yourself in a really crowded market

with other content creators who are
making the same stuff, or, if you're,

next js dev, how do you think about
maybe making stuff that's unique

to you, or does that even matter?

Mike B: Yeah, that's a
really good question.

So I, I'd start with the authenticity
part of it, and I think that,

one of the, the, the thing that I
identify with fundamentally with

creators online of any description,
whether it's someone who's making.

YouTube videos about video games
or someone who does cooking stuff

or you know, a software developer.

The thing that I h hook into the
most is the person, the, entity.

Creating the things and the
personality behind it is what I

find to be gratifying about someone.

When I find someone, you know, that I
follow one way or the other, I think that

tends to be the thing that I land with.

So, in that sense, I think it's
really important to be who you

are and kind of like include in.

online content, your own personality,
wherever you can, because, that's

the only person you can be.

And if people like you, they're gonna
kind of stick on to you and follow

and on on in your, Yeah, they'll
follow what you create, right?

And so, everything I do, reeks of
my own personality, my, my Twitter

handle, and now my Mastodon handle
is, is irreverent Mike, because

I can't be serious for too long.

Like, I have to be a sarcastic
idiot at some point in the day.

Or, you know, I'll, I'll start
vibrating out of discomfort.

. And on my own site, like I tend to try and
include content that, I find interesting,

but also like always has a little bit
of a, a, a less serious bent to it.

Like a lot of the cover images
from my articles include stupid

jokes and stuff like that.

That just kind of keeps me entertained,
because that's what I'm like in real life.

You know, I get things done, but I
also do it in a lighthearted way.

And, I think that's really the, the best
way for me to make things that I find,

that, that other people find interesting.

I have a couple of heuristics
for like when I create something

that I'm gonna put online.

One, like I said before, is if
it's something I've looked up more

than once, and, and I've found
it as something like every time

I do this, I need to look it up.

It's really helpful for me to write
it down because one, I'll know that

I can go to my site to find it in
the future, but also I tend to just

remember things once I've written
them down for someone else to see.

The, the other types of things that
I create are ones where, it's an

interesting idea or something that I
haven't seen discussed much, and I think

that I've got unique perspective on it.

Doesn't mean I'm the only one
who's written about these things.

I don't mind overlapping with what
other people have written, especially

if there is, something I can add
or something I can, even contrast

with other people's experiences in.

So, I, gosh, I can't even think of a
concrete example, but often you'll see the

same kind of tutorial from lots of people.

And I think it's interesting to see,
like, for example, maybe the, CJ a Villa

Ruby tutorial on how to, Cover images
for your site, with open graph, and the

next JS version that I write is useful.

But there's people who do
Gatsby and Laravel and, Hugo

and all these other things.

And even if like the gist of the,
the content is the same, the applied

science is different for each one.

And I think that's okay to be, as, as
the outcome of what you do, in terms

of like overlap with other people.

Honestly, I don't care like the, the,
size of our audiences on the internet is

so incomprehensibly large that I can cut
out a big enough slice of the pie to,

you know, create my own little, empire.

That will be fine.

And, you know, it's, it's great
if there are other people like me

because that just means we have shared
interests and like, it means I can

get on a podcast with Colin and cj and
we have lots of shared things to talk

about and we have things in common.

And, and there's no reason
to let that hold you back.

To, to be honest, when I started creating
things online, the reason I did it was

because I, I had a lot of knowledge
that I wanted people to know I had.

Not because I'm the best
or the fastest or whatever.

There are people who
are that, that's not me.

That's cool.

But because I wanted to be able to
create conversations with people where

I could connect to you and say like,
Hey, yeah, I write about this stuff too.

Like I'm interested in it.

I have this whole body of
stuff that I've written.


Similar people.

Let's talk, you know, let's, let's
create those conversations and, having

your name, like Colin, I think you and
I, actually all three of us, honestly,

like I I, I met CJ within the last year.

And this is the first time Colin and
I have chatted in person, but both

of your names were, floating around
in the gray matter of my brain in

some way or another because I've just
seen you online one way or the other.

And that creates a lot of momentum,
and a lot of opportunity for people,

when you start to do things like that.

Colin: Yeah, and I think with all
the, like various Slack communities

and Discords and all that stuff,
it's like you almost have to.

Like, think of your name tag at a party.

Like, talk to me about X, Y, and Z, right?

So like, what is that gonna be for you?

And you've kind of planted those flags
about like, everything from APIs that

you, is it, you won't hate, don't hate

Mike B: you won't



Colin: won't hate,

you know, I've got a
lot of APIs I do hate.

So it's uh,  one of those.

I was like, let's, let's
talk about that, right?

So it's like you know, being
very opinionated, right?

It's very easy.

Be very generic and say
like, let's talk about APIs.

But it's like, okay, but if
you say APIs you won't hate.

Like, people are like, oh, I know exactly
what we wanna talk about right here.

Let's dig in.

Or even, you know, like you did
write an article here that I'm

gonna just throw out and we can
talk about Twitter a little bit.

Twitter and the perils of obedience
and I don't know if you have any

direct inspiration, but I, I, I
get a sense of a little bit of.

Like James, clear inspiration
from your writing style.

I don't know if you're a fan of him.

Maybe a little Malcolm Gladwell,
a little bit of Seth Goden.

But I can, I like how you went into
the Stanley Milgram experiment as

like, instead of just giving your take
on Twitter, you kind of based it in

something that  that we can relate to

Mike B: Sure.



Talk about standing on
the shoulders of giants.

I feel like being named in the same
sentence as any of those people is like,

makes me a, a bank error in my own favor.

There, Yeah, so, so this is an article I
wrote recently, Twitter and the perils of

obedience that I published shortly after
Elon Musk took over Twitter, and shortly

after he started making rules that just
made things worse and worse and worse.

And like, there's, there's a
lot of sort of meta experiences

that went into, my decision.

But the, the long short of it
is that I have for the time

being left Twitter completely.

And I've moved on to using
Mastodon as my, like micro bloggy

Twitter parallel that I'm using.

.And the, the reason for that
is largely because I feel like,

Twitter is becoming a place that is
enabling, danger in a lot of ways.

Like it's misinformation
is really dangerous.

If, if there's anything I've seen since
2016 and really since like, I don't

know, let's call it March of 2020 for
some reason, allowing people to believe

things that they don't have evidence for.

is very dangerous.

Like it's hard to put your hands on
that and, and really describe the impact

that these sorts of things have had.

But, I've found Twitter to be a place
where like the people running it are

scary to me and so I'm out of there.

It's possible that Elon's views
may change and its rules may change

in some, some point in the future.

Maybe Twitter will dissolve
as a company and go bankrupt.

Maybe it'll go under different
leadership and I'll show up back again.

But for the time being, it's
not a place for me to be.

And, and the long and short
of the article is that.

It made me think of this, this Milgrim
experiment, which was kind of like a

psychological test that happened in
the, sixties, that is maybe questionably

ethical, but really put to the test,
people's ability to like defy leadership.

So with the found essentially was
that, by hooker, by crook, most

people are more inclined to follow.

The leader than they are to defy
leadership, even when they have some

strong feeling that what they're being
told to do is incorrect or ethically

wrong, or whatever the case may be.

And the, the reason I know about
this experiment is I, I studied

human computer interaction.

I studied human psychology and
all these things in grad school.

And so this was kind of sitting with
me and it's one of these things that

kind of just floats up to the, the
top of my, mind every once in a while.

And, I was feeling more and more that
like the experience of being on Twitter

and being told that, like, okay, well
this is a place that you love, but now

like, we're gonna open up the gates and
let all the monsters in and you're still

gonna love it here because you do, and
this is okay now, really made me feel.

It's probably time for a change and,
and I need to, publicly announce my

departure because maybe that'll get one
other person to leave and maybe that

creates some momentum or maybe it, it
at least tells one other person that

their decision to leave was vindicated.

And so that's kind of
why I put that out there.

The structure of the article is really
long, compared to what I, I tend

to write for the most part because
it's kind of involved explanation

and it, it involves a bit of history
and my own perspective on things.

and it was really hard to get it written.

Like I sat down and I probably spent
30 hours writing this thing over

the course of a couple of weeks just
trying to get it outta my brain.

And I feel like this is not a tutorial,
this isn't a web, you know, like react

thing, a next JS thing that anyone
will benefit from, but it's something

that, ,I'm happy to have on the record
as like, this is my philosophy and

this is what I'm thinking right now.

It's possible that I'm wrong.

It's possible that, that the, the web I
spun with this article is like a little

hard to follow and not super logical
for some people, but for me it was, a

cleansing moment and something I could
put out there and say, okay, cool.

I did this.

I posted one last tweet linking
to this article, and then I just

logged outta Twitter, shut off all
my notifications and just moved.

and it's been really
interesting to do that.

and honestly in a lot of ways,
kind of showed me that like the

internet is a big place and people
will still find my nonsense one

way or the other.

Colin: Yeah, I mean, I brought
that article up cuz I think a lot

of people think that they have to
be on Twitter, and I think that's

part of that experiment, right?

Is that they're like, well,
I have to fall in line here

and follow the Twitter things.

But what's really complicated about
Twitter is it's not new, right?

Some of us have been on there for a
very long time, and in some ways, like

I really liked the original founders
and their philosophies and it's why.

Was using Twitter a little bit of
like founder startup worship for sure.


Like we, you know, even
things like GitHub now or.

Owned by and run by Microsoft.

It's not run by the original
founders, but Twitter's had a lot

of leadership changes and the, the
vibe of it has changed with each of

those kind of changing of the guard.

And I think like what you hit
on there is the internet is big.

People are gonna find you, you can
leave some breadcrumbs for people

to come find you on dev two on,
you know, wherever that might be.

CJ: I think that when people are
thinking about building their

personal brand, they might think
that Twitter has to be a really core

component of that, especially in tech.

But I think that looking at your developer
brand, they'll recognize that there's

so many other channels and ways to
reach people that are not on Twitter.

And so I wanted to kind of like loop
back to, to one of the things you

said earlier about like heuristics
for publishing stuff, because

I, I noticed that on LinkedIn.

, you had reposted the same, like you,
you reposted your post on LinkedIn and

I was like, oh, I wonder if you have
sort, and like not only metrics or

like ways that you determine whether
or not you wanna publish something,

but then also like, oh, I'm, I'm
hoping that this post will get X views.

Or kind of like, maybe that's just kind
of like amplifying and hoping again

that you kind of continue to influence.

But also like giving people.

The idea that they can publish both
technical things that they care

about, their like tech stack, but
also sharing their own philosophy,

their own views, their own vision.

And that can be part of their personal
brand intermingled with like their

other thoughts that are,  unrelated
to whatever stack of the day.

Mike B: Yeah.

Nothing in this world makes me
angry, quite like when I go online

and I see someone saying like, Hey,
you should stick to tech stuff.

Don't talk about politics or don't talk
about sports, or don't talk about your tv.

Well, I'm here to, to see your tech stuff
like nothing in this world will make

me be spinning around doing judo in my
office alone, out of anger than that.

Because people are so complex and
everyone has so much t hat feeds into

their personality and their interests
and what makes them want to build

software or what makes them like
music or whatever the case may be.

And by, by filtering someone down
to one dimension, it's like such

a, a lame thing to do to someone.

It, it makes your experience of the world
so much less interesting than it could be.

And I'm a pretty firm believer that
you can publish whatever you want,

wherever you want, and the people who are
interested in this stuff, you're writing.

On any topic, we'll find it because
they're gonna search for the thing, right?

Someone will find it, someone
will recommend it, and the network

effect will take over from there.

So like for example, my, I,
I publish about tech stuff.

I write about React and
JavaScript and building companies.

I write about cycling, I write
about coffee, I write about APIs.

I write about climate change.

I write about psychology.

And from time to time, I, I publish a post
that's,  helping my wife with her work.

She's a, a content creator.

She has a YouTube channel
that she's running.

All of those things are so varied and so
different, and like the only person who's

interested in all of those things is me.

But there's lots of people who are
interested in some of those things and

they'll find it one way or the other.

And, and.

. If you are a person who's sitting
here listening to this podcast, think

thinking like, Hey, I would really
like to, create a, brand for myself

online, but I haven't yet because
I don't have enough to write about.

Doesn't matter, Ruby.

You have enough to write about.

Maybe just not Ruby to start with, but
you'll bump into things from time to time.

And so I, I think maybe the
challenge instead is like, During

the week, think about the things
that you've talked to people about.

Like, Hey, did you hear about this?

And try and find a running theme in
those things for you that you think

you could sit and write something down.

Doesn't matter how long it is,
doesn't matter how detailed it is,

or if you're bringing something
entirely new to the table.

But share your opinion on things.

Get into the process of writing or
at least, sort of dicing up your own

thoughts and creating discussions
and share those with the world.

And you'll find a thread that
that gets you into creating

things, one way or the other.

Colin: Awesome.


Is there anybody that kind
of comes to mind for you that

you follow because of that?

Like, you know, some brands, creators that
also love espresso and APIs, things like

Mike B: Yeah,  for sure.


Actually a lot of, in my active
days on Twitter, I maintained a

list on my personal profile that
was Tech plus cycling, which is just

tech nerds who are into cycling.

And the only way I found that is one
way or the other, I saw them talking

about both of those two things.

And so I dumped them into a list.

And so like for me, that's a very pleasant
internet to have this like filtered

list of people who are gonna probably be
talking about tech recycling for the most.

. And, and that was a really
nice thing to, to see.

There are a lot of creators who I
follow because I think that they

have an authenticity or a sort of
facet of their personality that I

can get into one way or the other.

For some people it's, it may be just
that they're like very relaxing and

they have a nice voice and it's nice
to listen to while I'm clattering away

and writing or, or coding something up.

For other people, I like to challenge
my own perspectives and hear like, what,

what is it like right now to be someone
who's building software, for Linux or

for Windows or entirely an Android?

Parts of the world that I'm,
I'm not super involved in.

And then even still, there's
definitely creators who I like

to listen to who just talk about
things that are interesting to me.

I'll name a few kind of
off the top of my head.

Monica Lent is one of my
favorite people online.

She, runs a number of, companies
and sites, but, I've recommended

to CJ a couple of their courses,
over, over the past few months here.

One is called Blogging for Devs, which
is if you're a software developer

person and you wanna learn about
blogging, she has a great free.

Course on how you can figure out
how to do that as a developer.

And just as well, I think the, the
advanced version of that course, or

maybe the next step after that course,
she has one called SEO for Devs, which

is how to start to own your presence on
search engines as a software developer.

They're both tremendous courses
and it turns out she's a

really interesting person too.

Like she's a, developer, she's spoken
at events, she does all kinds of

public speaking and stuff like that,
but she runs a company that does.

, analytics and, tooling for people who
use affiliate marketing, which is not

something I do or really probably will
ever find my way into doing, but I think

it's something interesting that she does.

Another sort of similar,
creator is Paul Jarvis.

Paul Jarvis is one of the co-founders
of an analytics company called Fathom.

He's also an author and he wrote a
really great book called Company of

One, which I found to be super helpful.

And Company of one is about building a
company that can be run by one person

and can sustain the life of one person.

So we, you, you know, the three of
us and certainly probably a lot of

the people listening live in this
world, were like, the ideal is to

start a billion dollar company.

, I don't need a billion dollars to
live happily for the rest of my life.


If I could start a company that made me,
you know, I don't know, a hundred thousand

dollars a year, that would be great.

If I could start a company that
made me $50,000 a year and I

didn't have to do anything to
maintain it, that'd be even better.

And so his book kind of touches on a
lot of that stuff and what it's like

to run a, a hyper-focused micro company
that, can, can pay for your life.

And an interesting thing about him
too is that he's come and gone from.

publicly online.

Like he runs Fathom, which is a cool
company, and over the past two or three

years, he has turned on and off his
Twitter profile, because he's found it

to be infuriating one way or the other.

And I, I don't wanna take his words
because I, you know, I think he's, he's

got his own perspective on it, but, Him
and his, co-founder of, fathom have a

podcast where they talk about like their
marketing strategies and stuff like that.

And, what it comes down to for him
is that he's got a mailing list.

He has a, a newsletter list with thousands
of people on it, that when he needs

to promote something, he can use that.

And he finds that to be far more
successful, gratifying, useful,

whatever, than trying to deal with
Twitter and, you know, seeing who's

overthrowing what country at this point
because of, nonsense ruling on there.

Those are sort of two good


Colin: Yeah, you get a few  less
mentions about whatever new N f T drop

has happened or whatever is happening
in your, in your newsletter as well.

Mike B: yeah, yeah.



There's lots of those folks.

And honestly, maybe one of the things
I, I owe it to the world to do is to

sit down and write out these things
and say like, here, if you, if you

like me, you should go read these
other people's stuff first, because

I find them more interesting than me.

And you know, there's, there's lots of
people I could recommend, and that's just

kind of off the top of the dome piece.

Colin: What was it called when
we, we had like web rings and the

blog, like the little links list.

Little link


Like let's bring the link list


CJ: I was thinking, and I was.

Have recently been interacting with the
brand design team at Stripe to like redo

the thumbnails for the YouTube channel.

And I thought it was kind of funny how
we're 30 minutes into the podcast and we

haven't talked about colors and fonts and
like images and layouts and there's a lot

of stuff that like a lot of people might
have preconceived notions about brand.

And I think we kind of got into the true
meat of a brand, which is kind of find

your own values, find your own niche.

Go out and share your knowledge
and expertise with others.

Be authentic, but also just like
be whatever other things you

value  if authenticity doesn't
happen to be one of them.

But yeah.

What is your take?

I know you, you actually have like
a very consistent color scheme and

everything for your site, but like,
does that matter for a personal brand?

Like, should anyone care about that?

And like, is that, is that irreverent,
Mike Pink, like a custom thing that you've

like figured out or what's the Yeah.

What, what's your.

Mike B: So a lot of the things
I build are, are pink is sort

of the accent color or the most
forward color that I use in them.

And that's because no one else uses it.

Like, I don't know, I kind
of like the way pink looks.

in a lot of ways, and I think
it's something that just

stands out on the internet.

You've probably seen grids of
corporate logos that are all

like shades of blue because blue
is a comfortable color to use.

And I also think it's kind of funny to fly
in the face of like people's expectations

that pink is this, IM masculine color and
you know, men don't like it or whatever.

Like, nah, it kind of just
stands out to me as funny.

and it turns out I like it.

In, in terms of the importance of
like color and theme and brand and

all that, my perspective on it.


But, I think the best thing you can do
is be consistent in whatever you do.

So, you may not be someone who's
super, visuals forward, right?

I make a lot of images and things that
I share with my stuff because I'm,

that's a skillset I have, and it's also
something that I find, rewarding to do.

And, and I think it helps.

But, I know there's lots of people
who, super technical blog posts that

never have a single image on them at
all, and their whole site might not

have any images on it, and that's fine.

Be yourself and, and come up with
who you are based on kind of what you

actually are doing and feeling, and,
that's gonna be okay because it's you.

But the, the underlying thing that
I think is super important no matter

what the size and shape and color
of your brand is, is consistency.

Like pay attention to the
small details and do the things

you're doing consistently.

Actually, an example I can think of
that's a super off the wall brand

is I've been, I've taken a couple
of courses with this, startup called

Build Space over the past few years.

Their side is build space dot.

So, so, really interesting.

Like I think it's a a
a Y Combinator startup.

Maybe it might not be.

Their founder is, I believe a, gen
Z, fellow by the name of, FARA.

And, he's one of the most off the
wall wild people I've ever seen

being technically professional.

And one thing that he does consistently
is he sends emails to the, the

mailing list for Build space, and I've
never seen him send an email with a

capital letter in the subject line.

Like that's, that's, nobody will tell
you to do that, but that is his brand.

It's all lowercase stuff.

And it's like very like lingo forward and
sort of like meme forward and all that.

And because it's consistent, it feels like
that brand, they're doing great stuff.

They're helping educate
thousands of people at a time.

And he is sending out, you know, subject
lines with like memes and, and all

lowercase letters and stuff like that.

And it, which just doesn't feel
like something you would ever see

recommended anywhere, but through
and through that is who he is.

That is who their brand is.

And yeah, on, on their homepage it
says they just raised 10 million

from, Anderson Ho Horowitz.

So it's gotta be working right.

And that's all just consistency for me.

That's the underlying


Colin: Well, those probably stand
out in your inbox too, right?

Like it's something a little
bit different than, than what

everyone else is, is posting.

And I know there's like a few
newsletters that have that.

I also run a co-working space and we like
to use like, like we'll try, we just use

the lightning emoji in all of our emails.

And it tends, people are like,
oh, that's the collective.

Like here it comes.

And I think Morning Brew had a pretty,
I don't subscribe to them anymore, but

it was like always something I would
look for because it was always like, I

think it was like the little money bag
or something like that, and it's like,

oh, it's a new New Morning brew here.

So you know, you don't have to like
go hire, like to CJ's point, like a

whole marketing team to like do up,
your head shots and you could just

use emojis or not, or lowercase.

You know, pick a color
that you really like.

I like that your, your pink is
pretty close to the, the viva magenta

the, the new Pantone color of 2023

Mike B: Yeah.

Colin: You can say you were there before.

It got cool though,

Mike B: That's right.

I've, I'm omnipresent when it comes
to, to pink on the internet, I think.


It's funny how the, the mind works and how
we create associations with things, but,

but consistency really helps with that.

Like that.

It is really weird to think that you
could tie your brand to an emoji.

But for sure there are newsletters that I
get that I see the emoji in their subject

liner in that little preview that that
happens in my inbox and I know it's them

without reading any of the words, right?

Your mind can scan and see that little
glyph and you have this association

and you're primed to, expect that sort
of experience that you get from the

thing that you know, you already like.

And so you're like getting a happy
little boost of endorphins before

you even ingest any real information.

And it doesn't take a
lot of work to do that.

The consistency is the important part.

CJ: Yeah, totally.

I, I think Colin like, well, both you
and Mike are really good designers,

and I'm super jealous anytime I see
anything that you make on the front end.

But something I think also that
I've noticed in your design,

Colin, I, I'm assuming that
you like designed a lot of the.

Stuff for the collective co-working
space, but also your own design.

It seems like it has a lot of like
Scandinavian inspiration, like Ikea

style, like super thin lines, like
really minimalist, super clean,

like, which I've always appreciated.

I'm like, damn, it's everything
that you put out is always like

so fresh, so, Yeah, I think, yeah.

The, the, the point, the end at the
end of the day is like consistency.

So we've got authenticity, consistency
I wanted to throw out colors

or coolers.co, c o o l o rs.co.

You can just like generate or,
you know, generate a template or a

pallet or just look at a trending.

, pick a couple colors off there
and be like, all right, this

is my colors for my site.

And use those as highlights and then
just use white for everything else if

you're yeah, not sure about colors.

Mike B: Yeah.

One of the most astonishing things I've
ever learned in my life, let alone my

career, is that colors are just math.

Like you don't have to have some internal
imbued special thing where you're an

art person or a design person to be
able to do good with color, and that

there's lots of like great calculators
and tools online to, to help you come

up with colors that work well together.

And are accessible that like,
you know, if you're colorblind,

they work for, for you as well.

But like the realization that you could be
good at colors without having to, I don't

know, been born an artist was something
that like, hit me like a ton of bricks

and that was, you know, well after I got
outta college, I was, working at the time

and when I sort of like stumbled across
this, it was like, oh, everything changed.

That was when I started to feel like I
could design things that looked nice and

that felt like I wanted them to feel as.

CJ: Totally.


Thing to like tie into, to, to
personal brand and like loop back

is that it seems like through being
yourself and building up this corpus

of content that you're writing
about, you'll back into a clear value

proposition for people to follow you.

But I, I'm curious if there's ways that
you can sort of communicate that upfront.

I know like APIs, you won't.

In the name itself, you know?


We're gonna talk about API
design stuff here and we're

gonna learn about building APIs.

Are there any other sort of techniques
you can think about in terms of

just like making your, the value
prop really clear about what people

are gonna get when they follow you?

Mike B: Yeah.

It's actually really funny
that you bring that up.

I've been, this week, helping test a
course with my friends over@gymnasium.com.

I worked there for a while, a a couple
of, employers ago at this point.

but gymnasium.com is, online courses
for creatives who wanna learn

how to build things for the web.

.And so they're testing a course
on, on a workshop, essentially

on improving your portfolio.

And one of the steps in that is
writing an about me page that

is like useful and meaningful.

And it was a really helpful
bit of knowledge to get from

that, that if you picture.

, you're about me.

Page on the web, as a, a link that gets
shared with you, on Slack, on Twitter,

wherever, like you, one of those
services where someone pays the link,

you get the cover image, and you get
a title and a couple of lines of text.

If you can't fit enough into that
to, convey why you're interesting,

like you're, you've failed in
creating that brand for yourself.

So if.

There's one thing to take away from it.

It's like you should be able to fit the
interesting part in the tweet and the,

fleshing out what that means in the
rest of your sort of brand statement or

your about me page or whatever that is.

And so if I printed off, you know, mike by
folco.com/about and ripped off everything

but the first hundred, you know, first
four inches of that page, let's say you.

. Either think I'm interesting or not
from that, and I don't have to be

interesting to everyone, but you
should get an idea of whether you're

in the right place by just seeing the
first little bit of what I've shared.

And so the way I do that is,
Try and write as much as I can.

Distill the common themes outta
that, and then start like shredding

things away until I can get to
like what are the most interesting

things that have written about me.

APIs you won't hate is really
cool because it does that, it's

kind of funny and sarcastic.

It talks about APIs, it talks
about the problems that a lot

of people ha have with APIs.

Is that like, I don't know, A
lot of 'em really suck to use.

For my own brand.

I think the challenge there is, is
like, how do I tell people that?

Like, I don't know, I'm
just trying to help, man.

Like that's the whole dream here
is I wanna help and, and give back

with, whatever ways I can about
building software, building companies,

designing products and all that.

And so I don't think I've
answered that question for

myself yet, in a succinct way.

But the challenge is really like, what
are the, what, what are the 10 words I

can say to get you interested in what I
have to say, as opposed to navigating away

from this link, this page, whatever it.

Colin: Definitely.


To kind of put a bow on this conversation,
we kind of have talked around it,

but why ultimately, should someone
think about building their dev brand?

Or have you seen any benefits
of doing that, that have

helped you and your career?

You know, now you're thinking
building a new company.

What does that bring to the
table for you and why Should.

Maybe should, or maybe even shouldn't
someone consider building out their.

Mike B: Sure.

At its most basic, it creates
opportunities for you.

And that can come in a
lot of different ways.

By, by having a u r URL I can point
people to, to say like, these are

the things I'm interested in and that
I've done and that I thought about.

It automatically gives me
credibility in the subject

matter that I've written about.

So like I've skipped a lot of, lines
for applying for jobs, for example, by

saying like, oh yeah, I do react stuff.

Like, here's this corpus of
posts I have on React, online.

That could also be, you know,
contributions to open source stuff.

By the way, you could just point someone
to your GitHub profile and say, go look

at all the things I've done, you know,
if, if you need credibility, The, the

most important thing for me, I think,
is that it's going to create a longer

lasting brand for me than Mike Works.

Mike worked at Stripe, right?

Like, it was very useful and, and
helpful for me to say, Hey, I'm

a developer advocate at Stripe.

But I knew before I started that
job that that wasn't going to

be a thing that lasted forever.

And so being able to say like, I
worked at Stripe because I did all this

interesting stuff, like that's why I'm
an interesting person, is really helpful.

I, I do sort of
fundamentally believe that.

Site that you own, whatever it is, is
maybe one of the most valuable things

you can create as a developer because
you create an audience for yourself.

My personal site generates something like
10 to 20,000 views a month at this point.

And that's 10 to 20,000 opportunities
to sell things to people.

If one day I decide I wanna sell things
to people, Just as well, I think even more

valuable than my own site is the people
who've given me access to their inbox.

And that's, you know, the, the newsletter
that I've been writing and focusing a lot

of energy in is because I want people to
remember that I exist now that I'm not

tweeting as often or at all, really, I
want to expand that list so that when I

have something, if I ever have something
that I wanna sell, I can do that.

and I, I can also.

, Show people that I'm trustworthy, right?

I'm not gonna spam you with garbage.

Like I, I'll only send a newsletter
if I have something interesting

to say, and I'll try and be
regular about how I do that.

But like, also feel free to unsubscribe.

I'll be here.

You know, I'm, I don't have any
secrets to keep from you and it's a

privileged relationship to begin with.

And so zooming out and backpedaling
from all of that, like, I think the

important thing to do is to find out
the things that you are energized by.

For me, it tends to be writing
more than making videos.

And I think I, I would characterize
maybe as cj, you seem to be a

very natural, like video producer.

and and that's something that,
is a hard-earned skill for me.

I'm not good at making videos in
the same way as, I am writing so,

Find what's good for you, do it,
and do it as regularly as possible.

In the early days of owning my
own site, I had a rule for myself

that every Friday I would publish
something, and for something like 20

weeks straight, I published articles.

And that what gave me a really, really
good springboard to jump off of.

And I think if you can be consistent
with yourself and honest with yourself

in that consistency, doesn't matter
if it's a podcast or a YouTube channel

or a blog or TikTok or whatever,
being consistent for, I don't know,

half a year puts you in the top.

2% of most of those things.

And, and you'll eventually
build momentum from that.

You just have to, to be dedicated to it
and also be, you know, consistent and

have, have your own thoughts and feelings
and be an interesting person and all those

other things that I, stated as easy facts.

It's work.

It really is work, but it's, it's fun
and I think it's really rewarding.

And so you should start, start
like straight away, like if

you're listening to this and
thinking, what could I write about?

Write down the next three things
that you find interesting this

week, and write about those.

CJ: Totally.

That's a great little bow on top, I think.

I think it's, it's a
good place to wrap it up.

So yeah, as always, you can head over to
build and learn.dev to check out all the

links and resources in the show notes.

This has been basically an episode
plugging tons and tons of Mike's stuff.

But Mike, do you have anything
else that you wanted to, to

drop in before we, we close out?

Mike B: Yeah.

You know, i, I, I will beg you
kindly to include, a link to

my site in your show notes.

Beyond that, I think, like I
don't have all the answers.

You shouldn't be coming to me
for answers if you're a, a person

online looking to do things.

But if you think I can help you,
if you think what I've said is

interesting, feel free to reach out.

I have a million ways to contact
me on my site, and I'm always

interested in talking to people who,
have, have interesting thoughts and

have interesting things to share.

So, feel free, I try to be an open door.

Colin: Fantastic.

Thanks for joining us, Mike.

Mike B: of course.

Thank you so much for having me.