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Developer video for startups with Richard Moot from Square Episode 18

Developer video for startups with Richard Moot from Square

Richard Moot is the Head of Developer Advocacy at Square. Square helps millions of sellers run their business-from secure credit card processing to point of sale solutions.

· 14:43


Jack: Hello, you're listening to scaling DevTools the show that investigates, how DevTools go from zero to one. I'm joined today by Richard Moot the Head of Developer Advocacy at Block. Which you may also know as Square. Richard, great to have you with us today.

I posted a tweet asking who is an expert on YouTube in the developer space. And your name came up from a very reliable source Carl Hughes so I really wanted to ask you about the work that you're doing on YouTube, with square.

Richard: I mean, thank you so much for having me here. I was, extremely flattered, uh, that Carl was saying such nice things about what we've been doing, because. We're sitting here, we're making these things, releasing the videos, and there's a certain extent where you start to wonder, like, is anyone actually like noticing this?

Like I know the developers who are watching our videos and using our platform really love 'em, but great to sort of see that, , other folks outside of, our little bubble, are noticing what we're doing.

Jack: So Richard, if a startup's thinking of getting started with YouTube, how would you suggest that they start.

Richard: It's a really good question. And one of the things that comes to mind is. Like sort of assume that you've already been doing blog posts and you figured out how to like, get traction within this space and , you understand like how to engage with people in a written format.

And you're like, we want to go to video. , I'd say , that's, it's not necessarily a precursor, but I mean, having that sort of established you've understood your audience and, and all that. And you're wanting to go to that next level. I think you need to sort of just be conscious of some of the things that you might not think at first.

So you need to be sure that when you're creating any kind of video, the thing that's the most important is the audio. If you're gonna record something yourself, get like a really good mic, make sure that it's not in an echoy room. Even if you're just gonna be like filming like little screencasts, if you're self demoing the product. and foremost, really good clean audio. I can't even tell you the amount of times that I've had my editor go, you know, this sounds like really tinny or like, this sounds like this. All of us would be sitting there just nitpicking that stuff relentlessly, in the in the editing process, cuz we just know that like, uh, that no one will watch the video.

If it sounds a little tinny or like robotic or, anything like that. Um, And that's like thinking like the more practical thing of like. be sure that you have that figured out, then I think you need to like, be sure to plan more than you would initially think when you're creating out video. So it might be thinking through like all your different types of content that you should be creating. But also I think it's a lot easier when you know what you want to record front, because I have talked to a couple developers who . like. They have a different way of doing it, where they record themselves doing stuff and then go back after the fact and then , edit that all down and then do a voiceover. And that could probably work for some people. Definitely does not work for me. Like I want to know all the things I'm doing ahead of time so that I had it like really well planned out. And then later I'm just doing like the fine edits. One other thing I, do wanna mention that, I would recommend as like a tool, not very expensive and it's just far better than most things that can get you 90% of the way there is screen flow. on our team, we do all of our own screencasts. Portions. So like every, time you see , a editor up and somebody's writing code or, interacting with things, we record that all ourselves. Cause we're the only ones that really know how that stuff is gonna work or how it should look. And we just started using screen flow and it allows us to do quick edits of like, Hey, had a typo. You can quickly scribble that out, in the edit, like super quick. Really good mic and screen flow can probably get. Up and running initially with, some pretty decent content.

Jack: Well, that's amazing. Just mentioning on the kind of things that only you could do. could you touch on that a little bit? Because video is something that probably involves a lot of different people, potentially different skills, at least,

Richard: It's a really good question. , and good segue because, , I could definitely say that like our YouTube channel is a little bit unique. We've been very, very lucky in that we had this amazing video team, who managed all of the video stuff for our main square brand channel. We were initially just gonna kind of be like, Hey, we're gonna go like find an agency and work with them , we were gonna be really scrappy with it. And then they kind of came in and just showed us what really good video could look like. And for us, it was like having an editor. I think it was a kind of a precursor that developer, advocates, we're developers, we know how to teach somebody how to use the software. We know how to like, actually write the code for it. , we know all that, like a, good domain. If we were then being asked,I need you to go. And , not only record that stuff, but I need you to also cut it together and get the audio lined up perfectly and all that stuff.

That's just hours and hours of time. That's not really what you pay developer advocates for. Usually you're really like, I want you to go give a talk or write a blog post and all that stuff. I would say getting a video editor is one of the, a very important thing. it is challenging though. Because, in the same way that it's gonna seem like they're speaking a foreign language to you. You're speaking foreign language to them. so many times I've had people when we were recording stuff and my director, editor, videographer person is just like, I have no idea what you said. Like you just said like, oh yeah, we're gonna tokenize the form and , pass this into our back end and make this API call and talk about this me. He's like, I have no idea if you said any of that. Correct. And so like, , we have, , other developer advocates who are like listening in doing script control. They actually have to like,, listen to be like, did you say this correctly? That's this delineation of , this is what I'm responsible for, but my video person, , he's still sitting there thinking did I get that shot correctly? did we record thing?

And I they're already sort of like stitching together in their head. How am I. Get this all together to have it look clean. The other part is, design. If you're doing it yourself, just try to come up with your own standards of like how things should look aesthetically and try to try your best to keep it consistent. If you're gonna be recorded on your desktop, clean up your whole desktop, don't just like leave all these windows open. It's very distracting. Get it. Nice. Leave some margins around the spaces. Good ratio. Keep the same ratio every time that you're recording it. Also this is like the biggest one for me, that was like a, a huge sticking point for us. Make your font so much bigger than you think it should. A lot of people don't realize this because you have to think about all the different places that your, video's going to be.

It might be embedded in a blog post. It might be embedded in your documentation. We were very much thinking upfront, what are the size formats that we're optimizing for? , we had the assumption, developers are gonna be looking at this on a desktop computer.

So let's assume laptop dimensions or bigger. We didn't wanna be optimizing for mobile, but even given that we understood that sometimes people are looking at YouTube videos in like the much, much smaller thing. So we don't even get the full real estate. Whenever I've done my screen recordings, if you ever see them, like in person, what I see. Like everything looks comically big. I just kept telling my designer, I'm this is wrong. Like there's no way this is right. But then when it ends up getting shrunk down and translated into YouTube, it's like, oh, this looks perfect. It's totally legible. Everything looks good. But it's on my screen, I'm just like, why is this so enormous?

Jack: Hilarious. And also very, very informative. I there's two points there that I'm just gonna write down

That's really interesting Richard. And one of the things that I've struggled with is examples and how long they take to put together. Could you talk a lot about examples?

Richard: Yeah. , examples has been like a, big, sticking point for me because I, view that as like our treasure that like, when we already have examples of things, suddenly the rest of the content, flows up. I mean, not to like,, sort of pretend like the rest of the content is suddenly super easy to make, but the thing that you're touching on building out the examples, I think we all should understand that is very much the hardest part because you want the code to look really clean. It needs to be like really like clear As succinct as possible, but also like if you have animations or other things those need to like flow really well and really smoothly. It's, getting that level of precision, , is just so important. If you have little bugs, I promise you, it will drive you crazy every time you come back to that video, not everyone's gonna see it. There's a little bit of fudge room here, but then somebody will call it out on YouTube comment and you're just like, oh man, I knew that I shouldn't have done that. Building out examples is really important. It's like one of the reasons why we recently, decided to hire a developer relations engineer to like focus on building out examples because, anytime I've had to build out an example for a video that I was creating. It suddenly takes like two to three times as long immediately because I'm gonna be writing all the code and refactoring the code. And like, by the time I get all the code done, then I could finally be like, okay, now I can write the script. Because I know exactly what it is that I'm gonna be talking about, but like, it's this precursor to the whole thing. , if you have a product where like there's a lot of visual stuff and you could just demo. Awesome. Otherwise I would highly recommend investing in getting like good examples, even if they're small, just really good clean examples, of something that you can showcase in your video, is really important.

Jack: That's a really good point. and when we're talking. Good examples in a general sense on kind of quality versus quantity. I know this is something that you thought a lot about, and I wonder if you could share a little bit about how you think about this.

Richard: It's definitely a good thing to be thinking about. , and in fact, I, should have mentioned it before, like when you're starting out, you know, you might think, oh, I want to create like a bunch of videos and I wanna be like really scrappy and say you, did listen to me and you got like the good mic and you got screen flow, but then you just start like pumping things out. I do think that there's a lot of value in spending the time initially. As much as you can to figure out what does a quality video look like and how much work does it take to create that in the same way that I would say the same thing about like blog content, like figure out what it takes to like write a really good blog post.

Once you finally figure it out, like, okay, this is what a piece of evergreen content looks like. Just in that process, you're gonna like be able to look back and think, okay, what are the things that actually got me there? and where is it that I can start making compromises and shortcuts and optimizations. And that's why like, with our own videos initially, those first few videos. We're really not easy to, to get put together. It was like working with somebody who was like building out our sets. , everything that we do, yes. We're like in a larger public company.

And so, you know, we had more budget for certain things creating sets and all those stuff. But a lot of that was like driven by our video team sort of insisting. Like we want to have this certain level of quality. and then that just paid dividends for us over the long term, because once you hit that, like really quality video, you then can like, be better about understanding like, I probably didn't really need to do all of this stuff with the lighting, or I didn't need to do all of this stuff.

When doing my screen recordings. And I can maybe if I like planned this a little bit better, I can scrub out parts easier. I even like learned at like one point if I was like, say pasting values in to replace stuff in a screencast, I learned that if you just paste 'em all first and then command Z your way back, start your recording and then command shift Z.

Or like basically to like redo everything that you undid. Everything just came through like a lot more seamlessly. Like These are all things that you just, you figure out. Okay. I spent the time to do it the hard way. And now I know where I can sort of take my shortcuts and now we hit a point where we can produce our videos, way faster, way easier. And we're still barely compromised on the quality.

Jack: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense also one of the things that you mentioned previously is about having fun when you're making it. Which is, I dunno, this is a very, this is a very serious podcast where we talk about growth, but where does fun come into it?

Richard: I love that you bring it up because it's actually probably like one of the most important things to me, I always say this, , it's so much selfishly, because like, I want to enjoy doing my job. And if my job is creating this content, I want that to be fun. , but I really do believe that like, if you're having fun doing that thing, , particularly with content, content is like a lot of times that you want it to be engag. I do understand. Sometimes you have to have, more serious content. It's not gonna make sense that when we're talking about security vulnerabilities to be having a lot of fun and making jokes, but when we're talking about something where it's like, , I think we're allowed to have a little bit of fun. I'd say that. You really need to find a way. Maybe fun is not even always the, best word. Maybe it's like find the way that makes this interesting to you, because if you can really , grab onto the part that is like fun or interesting to you, it's really gonna kind of shine through in the content that you're creating. I think maybe I'm, sort of biased here, but when I see some of the best content that I like, the thing that I want to share with someone else, I'm like, oh, you, should like, go watch this. It's gonna teach you how to do X, Y, and Z. And it's, super. You can always just tell that the person's , like super interested in this particular thing, or like, they're like just having a lot of fun with it. And I think the more you try to think about how to incorporate that, maybe there's like also this psychological effect that when you're thinking about having fun, that maybe you're a little bit more at ease and the creative process can kind of flow a little bit better. I do find that is like also kind of helpful even like within the shoot where like, I I've watched, , myself or one of the, other advocates, like flubbing a line over and over again. And it's like, you know what, like, let's just take a breath. We're gonna go shake it out. And we're just gonna try and like, , chat about something that's completely not related to this to have a little bit of fun to just sort of. Bring that anxiety back down again and make sure our enthusiasm can come back through.

Jack: I think it's a really important point.

Richard. That's what we've got time for has been amazing having you on and learning about video. Thanks so much for coming.

Richard: Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed getting to chat about this. It's not often that I actually do get to like, gush about all the stuff that we've done in the video space. I'm usually just out there trying to make more videos. It's good to reflect and be like, oh, , people are seeing this thing and they wanna know more about how to do it.And so it's even getting me to sort of be more reflective and, think, oh, that is how we got where we are.

Jack: It's amazing. And if people want to learn more about you or about Block or Square, where can they find more information?

Richard: You can, um, easily find anything about the developer platform that we're on is developer.square.com. From there, you'll probably find like our Twitter at square dev our YouTube channel. Please do go check that out. If you wanna learn more about how to use stuff with square it's uh, just youtube.com/square dev. I'll admit I'm not super active on Twitter, but you're welcome to follow me at @wootmoot, or our square dev Twitter handle.

Jack: . Thank you everyone for listening, and we'll see you very soon.

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