Tiny DevOps episode #30 Will Button — The Inside Scoop on Teaching DevOps

February 1, 2022
Will Button, co-host of the Adventures in DevOps podcast and DevOps "YouTuber" joins me to discuss his nascent DevOps media empire.

Will talks about his motivation to start doing online training and his YouTube channel, his core audience, and walks us through some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of his content creation, along with a healthy dose of encouragement for anyone else interested in dipping their toe into the YouTube water.

Adventures in DevOps podcast
Packt Publishing
DevOps for Developers on YouTube
Video: DevOps Future
Video: DIY DevOps Projects
My daily list: The Daily Commit
The Million Dollar Homepage

Will Button
YouTube channel: DevOps for Developers
Twitter: @wfbutton


Speaker 1: Ladies and gentlemen, the Tiny DevOps Guy.


Jonathan Hall: Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of Tiny DevOps. I'm your host Jonathan Hall and on this show, we like to talk about dev and ops and all those sorts of related topics for small teams. Today, I'm excited to have Will Button with me. Some of you may know Will because we also, together, co-host at times, the Adventures in DevOps podcast. I'm excited to have Will on because he's been doing, well, podcasting and sort of DevOps education longer than I have so he's the expert today on this topic.

Welcome, Will. Thanks for coming on.

Will Button: Hey, thank you. It's exciting to be here. I'm looking forward to this.

Jonathan: Great. Today, I wanted to talk to you a little bit about your journey in DevOps education, if you want to call it that.

Wil: I think we actually have to go back before I started doing that. I'm horrible with time but I think if we go back like six or seven years ago, I was talking with a group of friends about work, career, life, in general, and stuff like that. They were like, "You've got to get an alternate passive source of revenue so that you're not 100% dependent on your job."

That led me to an introduction with the founders of a company called Egghead.io who does software development courses. I started making some courses for them. My first course was on programming in Node.js and then I did a full course on Python for them and then some DevOps and elastic search topics for those as well. That worked out well and that met the passive income goal. Then I did some other courses for Pluralsight and Packt Publishing.

That actually changed my life enough where the passive income or the royalties coming in from that became my primary source of revenue and my job, I was actually doing just because-- I got up every morning and went to work, that's what I did without thinking about it. Had the realization like, "Wait, I don't really have to go to work. I can do whatever I want." That's whenever I when out and transitioned to doing DevOps consulting full time on my own and got to be really creative there and take some big risks there because I could do so without the financial overhead worrying how am I going to put food on the table.

Those courses did really, really well. I actually liked the recording process but I didn't like just getting the royalty thing of it. I was like, "Well, I'll start a YouTube channel." I started it in January-- What year is this? This is 2021. I started it January of this year. I've been doing two or three videos a week. Really the whole idea behind that is there's a lot of people who are interested in DevOps and I've talked about this many, many times, it's like a confusing subject.

What I'm trying to do with the channel is instead of focusing on the philosophical aspects of DevOps, trying to focus on the roll up your sleeves, grab a wrench, part of it, whenever someone wants to get into DevOps, they want to know, what am I actually going to be doing because I'm probably not going to be sitting in a steam room philosophizing about DevOps with different people. I'm probably going to have to do real work, so what does that real work look like? That's what I've been working on.

Jonathan: That's great. How many subscribers do you have on YouTube at this moment?

Will: I just crossed 1,700 subscribers and I'm getting about 9,000 views per month on the videos that I've done.

Jonathan: Nice.

Will: I think really it's nice. It's been a steady growth the last seven or eight months of 20% month over month growth.

Jonathan: That's good. How are you monetizing that? Are you just monetizing on YouTube or do you have a Patreon or private courses? How do you monetize this?

Will: I'm actually not monetizing at all at the moment. To monetize on YouTube, you have to have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 viewer hours in the last rolling 12 months. I haven't hit the 4,000 hours yet, although, I'm at 3,700 hours right now. If things continue to grow, that will kick in probably in the next few weeks and I'll look at that. Monetizing a DevOps channel is not really Lambo money.

Jonathan: No.

Will: If that's going to catch your listeners off guard, I want to be really clear about that upfront.


Will: The monetization part is I'm going to spend the next year just continuing to focus on delivering content, exploring a space, seeing what content resonates with the people watching the channel and what they're looking for. Then I think with that two years of data, I'll understand the subscriber base well enough to know what type of product they might be interested in. It'll be geared around a product launch.

Jonathan: That leads to my next question which was going to be, who are your target audience or who seems to be watching videos? I'm sure you have an idea but you haven't really focused on that yet. What's your sense right now? What kind of comments do you get and who are they from?

Will: Majority of the comments that I get are from two groups, people with no tech background at all but are interested in DevOps because a lot of boot camps and universities and things like that are now offering dual-career paths. You can go down these software engineering career path or the DevOps career path. They hear this DevOps word and they're trying to understand what it is.

The other large percentage of my audience is people who are working in traditional IT or sysadmin roles that are looking to add DevOps skills to their resume and transition over to DevOps from a sysadmin role.

Jonathan: That's interesting. Is sysadmins trying to learn DevOps more than developers trying to learn DevOps?

Will: Yes.

Jonathan: Or do you get both?

Will: Nope. It seems to be pretty one way. I have a hypothesis on that because a lot of DevOps is code-oriented, even though really you're just filling out a bunch of YAML files, there's a code aspect of it. I think people with a development background tend to pick it up more quickly and are out there just doing it.

I still think there's an education need there because the ones that I've worked with that fit that model, a lot of them don't have foundational Linux skills. They struggle with things like managing and monitoring Linux servers, managing this space and how do you monitor the operating system? Those areas get neglected or overlooked because they simply don't know that that's a thing.

That would be another cool area to focus on but then the question becomes how do you get in front of those people because right now, they don't even know that that's a problem. How do you get their attention to help them focus on that?

Jonathan: You're not monetizing your YouTube channel yet. Are you still doing the courses and so on that are paying your bills, or are you back to a regular job for the moment? How is that working?

Will: I still get royalties from videos that I did several years ago. I'm not creating any new courses but still getting royalties from those. I've also got my consulting business that brings in-- it's actually bringing in a huge chunk of the income right now just because in consulting, you can charge a bit more.

Jonathan: A bit more.

Will: A bit more.

Jonathan: 100%.


Will: One of the airlines-- the concert tickets, there's a convenience surcharge for using a consultant.


Will: I'm going to start putting that on my invoices. [laughs]

Jonathan: Nice. [laughs] Can you give us a few examples? Actually, before we keep talking about this, how do we find your YouTube channel? Somebody may be listening and they want to go learn what you have to teach them. How do they find it?

Will: On YouTube, it's called DevOps for Developers.

Jonathan: Even though it's really for sysadmins?

Will: Yes, pretty much.


Will: Because when I first launched the channel, I thought, "This is a no-brainer. Developers are going to be interested in this topic." As we just talked about, I couldn't have been more wrong, but now the channel name is stuck. I'm like, "Damn it." [laughs] All right.

Jonathan: All right. It's DevOps for anybody other than those other developer except it's called DevOps for Developers. Can you give us some examples, maybe the last two or three, you said you're making two or three of these a week? What are the last two or three videos you uploaded just so we have a really good sense?

Will: There's one that's coming up today that's on the future of DevOps where I talk about the state of DevOps-- not really the state of DevOps because I don't like that term. Talk about the things that we do in DevOps today, and what I think that's going to evolve to over the next couple of years. If you're looking to get into DevOps, learn these foundational skills, but also start looking into these other two or three things that I think are going to become more prevalent in the DevOps workspace over the next couple of years.

Another one that's done really well was 11 DIY DevOps projects. A lot of people are struggling to get DevOps jobs because everyone hiring for DevOps positions wants an experienced DevOps engineer and it's really hard to get a junior DevOps role. I came up with 11 projects that you can tackle on your own and then if you word them correctly on your resume, it comes off looking like some really nice experience to have.

Jonathan: That sounds really valuable I think to a lot of people.

Will: Yes, for sure. The projects are set up in such a way like the very first one is build a Linux server using Gen 2 or Arch Linux, no Ubuntu, but really dig in and build one. If you'd go with Gen 2 and you start with compiling your own kernel, you're going to learn a ton about the Linux operating system just from doing that. One of the other projects is deploy GRUB.

There's a bunch of GitHub repos that are to-do applications because that's really popular in a software development community. If you want to learn a specific language, you build a to-do app. You can just go to GitHub and find this running to-do app. One of the other challenges is grab one of those and deploy it in AWS, which is intentionally worded vague because that leads to about 100 different paths.

Jonathan: Yes, that's really great. I have in the back of my mind-- I'll probably do it second quarter of 2022 a course on deploying an app to Kubernetes. My target audience is developers. Maybe I'll end up with a bunch of sysadmins though.


Will: If you're interested in the channel name, DevOps for Developers, maybe we can work out a deal.


Jonathan: Nice.

Will: We both have the same haircut. If we just put you in the videos, is anyone really going to notice? [laughs]

Jonathan: I don't know. That's a good question. I might have to shave my beard. I've done it before, I could do it again.


We're recording this just before Christmas 2021, but this episode will come out probably the end of January 2022. You want to make any predictions since you started talking about the state of DevOps? Do you want to make predictions for where things are going to go in the next year in 2022 with regard to DevOps? Do you see any big trends that are coming forward?

Will: I think there's a couple and some of them I think will take place in 2022. I think others are still coming, but they might be a couple more years in getting here. I think the big one is like you just mentioned Kubernetes, everyone is using Kubernetes or some type of orchestration system. I think one of the things that we'll see there is the integration of all of these fragmented orchestration systems. Even if you just talk about Kubernetes, a lot of people have a Kubernetes cluster for this, and a Kubernetes cluster for that, or they're integrating with this SaaS provider who has their Kubernetes implementation.

I think we'll start to see a lot of tools and work in integrating those fragment of Kubernetes system. I'm using Kubernetes, you're using Kubernetes. I need to integrate with you. How do I tell my Kubernetes system about your Kubernetes cluster and give it the ability to utilize resources there securely? I think one of the other ones that we'll see in this one I think is a couple of years out I think is work in blockchain because eventually, everyone's doing blockchain, but nobody has actually got their financial livelihood or their core business on blockchain. It's still a proof of concept thing.

I think we'll see some stuff transition out of that. One of the big gaps that's going to have to be filled there I think is how do you run blockchain applications at scale using DevOps practices. I've done a fair amount of work in the blockchain, and it seems like a lot of people there are using manual processes to get things up and running. There's not a really proven standard accepted way to launch an Ethereum ledger node using DevOps practices. I think that'll come out. The other part of that is with blockchain you obviously have Web 3.0 applications.

I think there's going to be a big opportunity there to put the guardrails around Web 3.0 applications so that it's safe and secure to roll those out. One of the big risks there is if you deploy an application and with Web 3.0 it runs in the client browser. If you've got a way to store a private key out there now you've got a private key floating out in, what, hundreds of thousands of browsers. We need guardrails in place to ensure that that doesn't happen because in the event that that does happen, it's all in the blockchain, that's a read-only ledger. That's there forever and it can cause some significant pain.

Jonathan: Fascinating. Blockchain is one area that I have a conceptual grasp for how it works, but I've never worked in that area. When it comes to the rubber hitting the road, I don't really know what is involved in managing blockchain nodes and the security implications and all that stuff. It's definitely an area that there's a lot of room-- there's going to be a lot of old folks like me who don't want to learn that new stuff-


-which means there's a lot of opportunity for the young folks to come along and pick that up and go with it.

Will: Yes, for sure. I've had a couple of clients that did blockchain projects and it was a definite learning experience.

Jonathan: Do you blog or anything like that you want to talk about?

Will: I don't. I have a Twitter account, but I mainly just shit post on it. [laughs]

Jonathan: That's what Twitter is for.

Will: Right. [laughs] No, all of my effort right now is on YouTube channel. For a while, I was considering either launching another YouTube channel, or focusing on the same channel topic, but on Instagram or something like that. It's just such a time-consuming effort to do the YouTube channel. I was like, "I'm just going to stick with this. I'm going to make this successful. Once I get that flywheel spinning, then I can look at doing something else."

Jonathan: That's really been my approach too. I have two channels I work with right now which is my podcast and my daily mailing list. I have a thousand ideas. Maybe I should try TikTok, maybe I should try Instagram, maybe I should try whatever, whatever, whatever. There's only so much one person can think about. I'm still learning as I go along so it's not like it's on autopilot yet. I try to focus a little bit and not get my fingers in too many pies all at once.

Will: Yes. Yes. It's a constant battle because you see the new shiny and you're like, "Ooh, I'm going to go do that."

Jonathan: [laughs] How much time do you spend on an average week preparing your content?

Will: I think I probably spend I would say three to four hours a week to get those two to three videos out. Every couple of weeks I'll sit down for an extended session to research the topics and fill out my backlog of what I'm going to record, and then go through and script that, script each video, and then record the video. Pick out some good places to insert B-roll and, how I want it to flow. The editing process I use an editor so then I just upload it for my editor and he does all of the video editing. He'll add probably the same amount of time three to four hours of his time actually editing the video.

Jonathan: That sounds like a pretty efficient process. I'm nowhere near that optimized yet. When I do a 30-minute video, I probably spend a day on it. I am doing my own editing. That does make a big difference.

Will: We're talking about that, I love editing. Editing is so much fun, you get to be so creative and there's all these little rabbit holes you can go down. I did my editing for probably-- I've got just over 100 videos out on the channel now. I probably edited the first I want to say 40 myself before hiring an external editor. Oh, I think that was valuable time to spend just to learn like the thought process.

Jonathan: I agree. To learn what's possible so you know how to communicate with your editor when you want to make a suggestion or like, "I want to try this thing but I don't know how to do it. Could--" You know what I'm talking about?

Will: Yes, exactly.

Jonathan: You said you script your videos. How strictly do you script that? Is it like an outline or do you have a word-by-word script in mind?

Will: [chuckles] It's usually this internal monologue in my head that's a couple of different voices. I don't know how deep you read into that to say, "Ah, this dude should probably talk to a psychiatrist or something."

Jonathan: [laughs]

Will: It's usually along those lines. It's like a full narrative because as I'm having the conversation in my head, I'm typing it out and then I'll get to the end and read through it, make a couple of edits to rearrange some stuff. Then when it's actually time to record, I've got this full long narrative. This is going to sound dumb but I'm going to throw it out there anyway.

I usually take my glasses off when I'm recording because I have a struggle with getting this reflection off of my glasses that I just don't like to screw with. I've got the script on my iPad but I don't have my glasses on. When I'm actually recording, I can only usually pick out like three or four words because I recognize the shape of those words. The actual recorded video is rarely close to the script that I wrote but I think the scripting process itself is still really important and valid because it allows me to run through and get the idea in my head and understand what I want the end product to look like.

Jonathan: Nice. I tend to go to the opposite stream and I don't script anything. I just sit down with an idea. I record myself talking to a camera and then go back and edit it later.

Will: Whenever I did all the videos for Egghead and Pluralsight, I tried so many different ways to do that because that's one of those things where it was all very code-oriented. You were actually typing code while talking. I tried different things. I tried talking and typing. I would try recording me typing and then narrate over the top of it and just all these different permutations of that. I think it's been a while since I've done one of those courses but I think the place I ended up on was I would type a line of code and then say why I was typing it. Then in the edit process, slide the audio over the top of the screen capture.

Jonathan: That's exactly the process I've settled on when doing that type of thing as well. There's your little primer, audience, everybody listening. There's your primer to video editing for YouTube if you ever want to do that. You should try it, it's fun.

Will: Absolutely. I totally recommend it. There's so many benefits to it even if you're not going to monetize it and travel around the world on DevOps, YouTube money. I think that's really a valid exercise in your communication skills and in your networking skills and presentation skills.

Jonathan: Especially during COVID when it's so hard. If you want to get out and say go to a conference, you want to practice conference speaking or meet up speaking and you can't because they aren't happening, get on YouTube. Then you could say you are YouTuber. The first time somebody called me a YouTuber, I was like, "What? That's such a weird thing," but it's true. I guess I am one.


Will: For me, there was a little bit of a cringe there because I was like, "No, I'm not a 20 something-year-old gamer. No." It's hard in my mind just because I'm older, it's hard to give credibility to a term like that. Another one that is along the same lines is-- is it called EGamer? Like the competitive-- Esports. I struggled with that when it first came out and I was like, "No, that's not a real profession," but those guys, some of them are pulling in some significant money, and really it is a real profession.

They put their time and effort into it and they're focused on marketing, branding and skills development. It's got all the components of every other job on the planet.

Jonathan: Exactly. All right. There you have it from two old foggy YouTubers.


Will: When you do the video portion of this are you going to have the two old guys from Sesame Street up in the balcony?


Jonathan: I should totally do that, yes. Most of my videos of these for the podcast are just two talking heads but whenever there's a chance, I love to put a little B-roll or a little animation on the screen just something to do. You've given me the perfect one here.

Will: That's been another skill I've learned is use of B-roll because everyone has such short attention spans these days. Every 30 seconds, you need to be changing something on the screen or you're going to lose their interest.

Jonathan: I don't know if there's anything else you'd like to talk about.

Will: Yes, actually I mentioned my future predictions. I'm curious to hear what yours are.

Jonathan: Of course, blockchain and Web3 are the big buzzwords. I predict a bursting of that bubble. I don't know if it's going to be this soon. It's still growing pretty rapidly. I don't know if it's going to burst in 2022 or it might be '23 or '24 but I think we're going to have a repeat of the .com bust. I don't know when but it'll happen and that's not to say there's no substance to blockchain. There's a lot more hype than there is substance right now.

Will: Absolutely. Totally agree. There are valid real-world use cases for that but we have to get through all of this other stuff first.

Jonathan: Actually before we got on the recording today, I was looking at-- Do you remember the Million Dollar Homepage? Are you old enough to remember that?

Will: Yes.


Jonathan: The concept was it was a website that had I think it was 10,000 pixels by 10,000 pixels. It was just that's a million pixels. You could buy a pixel for $1 per pixel and you could put whatever you wanted on your pixels and it would link to your website. The website's still up mostly. If you go to milliondollarhomepage.com, you can see it. I think this was the original NFT.

Will: Oh, yes, absolutely. For sure.

Jonathan: It's still there. Probably more than half the links are broken, they go to parks domains and defunct companies. One made me laugh. It was an advertisement for software to rip CDs to MP3s. Who wants that?


The point is I think that's like the OGNFT website back there. I do think there is some substance in blockchain. I don't think cryptocurrency is where it's at. I don't think that is the interesting use case for blockchain. Not to say it won't be done but we've been using money for thousands of years, a new version of money isn't exciting to me. That's what I'm saying. There are things that blockchain I think will do that will be interesting.

NFTs are interesting but I don't think to see them as particularly valuable, at least not in their current implementation. Maybe that will change too. That's my big prediction is that we're going to have a burst of that bubble. As far as DevOps specifically, I don't know that I have a good prediction. I guess my other big prediction is that we're never going back to normal with regard to this pandemic. I think we have a new normal. I do think that over time-- by time I mean years, I do think that we will start to have more freedoms, depending on what country you live in and the restrictions they have this week versus next week. Some places are still pretty heavily locked down, others, not so much. I think that will over time improve but it's not like it's going away and we're going to-- suddenly can go back to normal life again. That's not going to happen.

Will: No, and I think that's probably-- if you are one of those people who have been waiting for that, I think that's probably a realization that's better made sooner rather than later so that you can make the necessary adjustments to your life to mentally accept that.

Jonathan: I agree-

Will: You're just suffering right now.

Jonathan: Exactly. My son was born actually, his birthday is tomorrow. He's almost a year old.

Will: Nice.

Jonathan: Most of our family has not met him yet because I live in the Netherlands now, but my family's in the United States and my wife's family is in central America. My son has not met his grandparents or most of his cousins. My sister's wife is visiting us right now. He's met his aunt and one cousin. We had this thought all along, like as soon as he was born, it's like, "All right, we're going to bring the parents over here to meet him or we're going to go over there."

We always had this idea, "Well, the lockdown is going to end soon and travel restrictions will be lifted." We've had this thought in our head for a year now. That in just a couple more weeks, it'll be fine, then we can do this again. We've come to the realization that's not true. We are going to go visit, the US and Guatemala, early next year. We're making it the longest trip we can plan because we don't know when it will happen again.

We're hoping for a three-month stay, a month and a half each place. Just spend some time with our families because it might be two years or three years before it happens again. That's the way we are adjusting to this new normal.

Will: Yes, for sure. Just, with the extended trip like that, there may be some times you just have to take a little break and that will allow you to do that without feeling like you wasted your whole trip.

Jonathan: Yes. All right. Well, this has been a fun episode. How can people get a hold of you? You told us the name of the YouTube channel already. Is that the best place or are there-- and you have a Twitter account that you don't use a whole lot, I guess. Is YouTube the best?

Will: Yes. I read and respond to all comments on the YouTube channel. If you do want to reach out and have a non-YouTube-related conversation, I am on Twitter frequently. I don't post anything useful or meaningful there, but I post some funny stuff there. My DMs are open there. You can hit me up via DMs or there's also, I also have a Discord group for the YouTube channel that you can jump into @devopsfordevelopers.io/discord. We can chat that way too.

Jonathan: Great. What was your Twitter handle?

Will: Oh, yes. wfbutton.

Jonathan: wfbutton. Awesome. Great. Well, thank you, Will, for coming on. We'll all see you on your YouTube channel and on your Discord.

Will: Right on. Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

Jonathan: Until next time.


[00:33:50] [END OF AUDIO]

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