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. Yeah. 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. Yeah. 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. Right. It's 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. Right. 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. Okay. 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. You.

CJ: Totally. Yeah. 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. We. 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 hate. Yeah.

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. Yeah. God. 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. Right? 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. Yeah. 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. Yeah. 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. Right? 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 examples.

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. Precisely. 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 lists. Like let's bring the link list back.

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. Complicated. 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 message.

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. Yeah. 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. And. 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? Okay. 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. Yeah. 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.