The Mijingo Blog

Latest news, updates, free tutorials, and more from Mijingo.

How I Create Courses

by Ryan Irelan

Over on my YouTube channel, I started a series on how I create courses. I’ll release one new video every week or so covering topics like my “second brain”, note taking, mind mapping, production, and more.

This YouTube-only series of videos isn’t a technical tutorial by any means. In fact, even if you’re not interested in course creation or online education you’ll probably still get something out of this.

Watch the first video on my “second brain”, and please subscribe to the channel to get the new videos automatically.

Start a Course for Free

by Ryan Irelan

I just released a new feature that allows anyone (no account needed) to start a course for absolutely free. Now you can sample a course before committing to it.

How does this work?

Courses that have “free starts” are identified with a blue button on the course page.

Free Start

Click the button and you’re brought to a page that lists all of the parts of the course. If you’ve already learned with Mijingo then this page looks familiar to you.

Available videos are in orange. Click on one to start streaming the course.

Accessing free videos

At any time you can go back to the course page and purchase the entire course and keep on learning. It’s that simple!

This isn’t rolled out for all courses yet but there are several that have free starts, including the most popular courses here at Mijingo, like the Intermediate Git course or the new Web Performance Testing course.

Enjoy the “free starts”!

Behind-the-Scenes at Mijingo

by Ryan Irelan

In the last Mijingo newsletter, I included a video that showed some behind-the-scenes shots of producing videos here at HQ.

The frame I chose for the thumbnail is definitely a favorite of mine:

Record at Mijingo HQ

Researching and Writing Courses for Mijingo

by Ryan Irelan

Over on my personal site, I wrote in detail how I created 10 59-second videos for the Craft CMS. That inspired me to share a bit more about how I create courses here at Mijingo.

In the short video (5:30) below I walk through a few of the tools I use while researching and writing courses.


My research involves not only closing gaps in knowledge but also understanding how other people are teaching or talking about the topic at hand.

A major goal of mine when creating courses for Mijingo is to cover a topic more clearly than anyone else has before. During research I’ll find outright wrong information, and explantations that make too many assumptions (the end result is they’re not really teaching but just conveying). That’s helpful to me because it means there’s a place to improve how people learn the topic.

Here are the tools I use for research and writing:

I rely very heavily on Pinboard to collect links to articles, blog posts, code examples, Github repositories, and documentation about the topic I’m researching for a course.

Spillo is the app I use on OS X to manage those bookmarks and form collections for each course (I demo this in the video). On my iPhone I use Pinner. It doesn’t support Collections like Spillo but it is a nice interface for reading research on the go.

I write Markdown in BBEdit and preview it with Marked. The handiest feature of Marked is the theme-based formatting and output options (I export my written course material to a paginated PDF to be distributed with my course).

To collect my research sources as a Bibliography at the end of the written course, I use the Copy All URLs extension to collect all of the open tabs in Google Chrome and save the titles and links, formatted as a Markdown list. I simply paste those in and there you have it, a complete listing of the stuff I read and reviewed while creating the course.

Dragon Dictate is a newer experiment of mine to give my hands a rest from typing and to stand and walk a little while I work. I’m not very good at dictating (it’s definitely a skill you have to learn) but I’m getting more comfortable with it.

We create courses so you can improve.

Mijingo’s courses help you learn new technologies and brush up on those you already know. Learn Git version control, WordPress, Grunt, Gulp, and even how to design a mobile app.

Learn something new today

Ryan Irelan on Education Hackers Podcast

by Ryan Irelan

I was a guest on the Education Hackers podcast with Steve Atwal.

Steve and I talked about how I get started creating courses, my ExpressionEngine video course, and how I create courses for Mijingo.

Listen to the entire episode

Screencasting Tips

by Ryan Irelan

I recently received a support email about some tips to get started creating screencasts. I happily obliged because, well, I enjoy talking about this stuff.

Here’s what I shared.

I would use Screenflow if you’re on Mac OS X. Otherwise Camtasia on Windows is a solid choice.

Get a good microphone, if you can. I really like the Røde Podcaster mic . It’s not inexpensive but sounds great and it’s easy to set up.

Some other tips (I should do a blog post!):

  • Make an outline before you start. High level topics and then any details you need to remember to cover.
  • Don’t script it! You’ll sound robotic and have weird pauses.
  • Record in a standard format. Screenflow will record your entire screen. You can make this work for you by setting you computer resolution to 1280x720 or 1920x1080.
  • Do simple editing, skip the fancy effects.
  • Think about pacing when you’re editing. Does it feel like it’s dragging? Can you cut out the 30 seconds it takes to type out all of that code (esp. if you’ve typed it before) and cross dissolve into the full line?
  • Publish to YouTube or Vimeo. They’re the best.

Ryan on Think, Make, Sell Podcast

by Ryan Irelan

Last week I sat down and talked to Thomas Borowski, host of the Think, Make, Sell podcast and creator of the GroovBoard.

We talked about everything involved with my experience leading up to creating Mijingo and its learning courses. It took awhile for me to get through it all but Thomas was a great host and helped me explore everything I’ve done up to this point.

Thomas has a bunch of links on the episode page, but here are two of my essays we talked about:

Subscribe to the podcast and give it a listen. I hope you enjoy it!

Think, Make, Sell. Immersive Learning with Ryan Irelan

The Story Behind Mijingo

by Ryan Irelan

I recently posted an essay over at my personal site that gives some of the backstory on how the idea and approach of Mijingo was born.

How I Learned to Teach is a story that dates back to late 90s and my time living, working, and learning in Germany.

On January 7, 1998 I packed two duffle bags, containing almost everything I owned, and boarded a Delta Airlines flight in Atlanta on a one-way ticket. I spent the following 20 months living, working, and learning in Germany.

Read the whole story.

Interview with Ryan Irelan

by Ryan Irelan

Recently I was on the Show Me Your Mic podcast hosted by Chris Enns of the SSKTN podcast network.

During the one hour interview we talk about how I create stuff here at Mijingo, the amazing studio setup that Happy Cog has put together in our Austin office, some of the tools I use, and, of course, my favorite podcasts.

Give it a listen, if you have a few minutes.

What’s coming up at Mijingo?

by Ryan Irelan

The answer to that question is right here on the Upcoming page I posted last week.

The new Upcoming list is pulled right from the tool I use to organize the status of the courses I’m planning and have in progress. I’ll update it regularly, so please check back.

(If you subscribe to the Mijingo newsletter you already know this. If you don’t subscribe to the newsletter, it only takes a 10 seconds to complete. Go sign up for latest news and offers.)

Ryan on The Non-Breaking Space Show

by Ryan Irelan

Last month I sat down for an hour and talked to Christopher Schmitt and Dave McFarland of The Non-Breaking Space Show podcast about the work I do here at Mijingo, at Happy Cog and elsewhere. I shared some nerdy stuff I like to do and a little bit about how I get started in the web business.

If you fancy learning more about Mijingo and me, I hope you’ll give the podcast a listen.

Listen Now

Streaming Your Videos

by Ryan Irelan

Last month I quietly rolled out a test version of video streaming here at Mijingo.com. The new feature allows you to stream your purchases right here on the site.

If you have a Mijingo.com account and purchased videos, just log in to your account and then choose “Watch Now” next to the video you purchased. You’ll be taken a video page to watch and learn! The videos are still in high definition and you can expand them to full screen or even watch them on your mobile device.

The streaming option is just that: an option. You don’t have to choose it over the downloadable video. Sometimes it might be more convenient to watch on the website and sometimes you might want to watch offline. It’s up to you.

Enjoy!

Mijingo Streaming Option Page

Mijingo on the ATX Web Show

by Ryan Irelan

One late afternoon last week I sat down with Dave Rupert and Travis Swicegood and recorded an episode of the ATX Web Show. The show highlights companies and people in Austin who work on the web.

The three of us talked about what I do at Mijingo, some of the philosophy behind the videos I create and my recent stint on a panel at a local Drupal conference.

We also talked about the text editor experiment that Dave Rupert and I undertook a couple of months ago, in which Dave and I switched code editors for a week.

Go ahead, give it a listen.

Aaron Draplin’s Creative Mornings Talk

by Ryan Irelan

Aaron Draplin’s Creative Mornings talk is about fifty ways to “ruin” your career. The advice he gives includes some gentle reminders of what’s really important and how you should approach your own work. Aaron’s success wasn’t overnight and he did a lot of work that didn’t pay or didn’t pay much before he had some success.

Here at Mijingo, a typical one-hour training video—from the initial brainstorming to the final exported video—could easily take 30-40 hours of work. The result of that work isn’t always a giant tsunami of sales or critical acclaim. Some products sell better than others. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good work or that there aren’t people out there whom the video helps to learn a new topic. Success, however you define it, isn’t a thing…it’s a series of things put together.

Here’s Aaron’s inspiring talk:

Powering Mijingo

by Ryan Irelan

For the last 18 months I’ve been selling video and ebook tutorials here at Mijingo.com. Part of Mijingo is my EE Insider news website (covering news and information about the ExpressionEngine CMS), the ExpressionEngine classroom training course I teach at the request of organizations who have internal teams that need to learn ExpressionEngine, and the ExpressionEngine book I wrote and published with The Pragmatic Programmers.

Running a business like this requires several different tools working together to make it happen so I don’t have to spend time doing tedious manual work and can actually use the time I have to create the learning materials and generate revenue for the business.

I’m the only one running this business. It’s just me. I don’t do Mijingo full time, so I don’t want to waste time doing tasks that can be automated or are better suited to a tool or software built by someone else.

Some tools I have used since I started publishing tutorials in 2008, others I’ve abandoned along the way in favor of new tools, and some I’m only just trying out.

Here is what I use to power Mijingo.

E-commerce: FastSpring

In August 2010, I launched mijingo.com as my storefront for training materials. This marked the release of my new ExpressionEnigne video series and shortly thereafter an ebooklet by Mark Huot. Prior to that launch, all of my videos were sold through the wonderful people at The Pragmatic Programmers. They handled all of the e-commerce, order fullfilment and downloading.

Since I was now selling the videos myself, this was all on me. As part of the launch I had to handle everything from product listings, shopping cart, checkout and payment processing and fulfilling the orders with downloadable files. Sounds simple, right?

My main goal was to sell screencasts. Building a custom e-commerce system would’ve been nice but not a good use of resource at the time. That’s why I chose FastSpring as my e-commerce provider.

FastSpring is a full-service e-commerce system that can power your store and host your downloads. It was just what I needed. Why did I choose them? I saw that Loren Brichter of Atebits (now part of Twitter) used them to sell his popular Tweetie app. I guessed that if he used them then they paid on-time. That’s all I cared about. That was good enough for me.

With FastSpring in place, instead of spending a few weeks putting together my own e-commerce system I spent the time creating a simple site and a couple of products. And then I started selling them.

A year-and-a-half later, I now realize I need to update the e-commerce system and move to something in-house. I want more control over the features and functionality. I want to keep more of the money.

FastSpring won’t grow with me in terms of what it costs to use the service and sending all of my customers to a different site to finish their order. I want to try to unify the experience as I think about building other ways for customers to access the videos beyond just downloads.

I don’t regret my decision to use FastSpring in the beginning. It mattered a lot that I focused on creating products and generated revenue for the business.

Project Management: Basecamp

I’ve been using Basecamp since it first launched. I use it every day at work and for Mijingo. I don’t take advantage of all the tools offered in Basecamp (like to-do lists) but like that I have one central place to communicate about projects and interact with authors.

Previously, I experimented using Google Docs and Google Sites for an intranet. It didn’t work for what I needed. I also tried using 37signals’ Backpack service. It was just too limited and expensive for the setup I needed compared to a basic Basecamp account.

The new Basecamp that was recently launched by 37signals fits better what I need to manage my small projects. The new single page project is exactly right. I immediately moved all my projects over to the new Basecamp. I gladly give them my money every month.

Outreach and Community Service: Campfire

Since September 2008 I’ve hosted a weekly ExpressionEngine Help Chat. The one-hour public chat is free and gathers together people who are new to ExpressionEngine and those that have a lot of experience. It is an open forum to ask questions, get help, learn about new tools and ideas and chat about whatever comes to mind.

I host this chat using the Campfire service by 37signals. I chose Campfire because it’s easy to use, can be used in a web browser and allows guests. I rarely use Campfire for anything else at Mijingo. But running the EE Help Chat is more than worth the annual cost of the service.

Customer Support: Google Mail

When I first launched Mijingo.com in 2010 I needed a way to handle customer support. I really didn’t have any experience with customer support systems. I didn’t know what I needed and I didn’t know what was available.

One of the tools that I did hear about was Tender. Tender is an online-/email-based customer service tool. It allows you to handle support requests as public or private tickets. I really liked Tender but it became too much work for me to manage the support tickets. Most of the time all I needed to do was reply to an email with a short snippet of text or to let someone know that I reset their download URLs for a purchase.. Using Tender in this way became too much of a hassle for me so I canceled.

I was having an iChat conversation with Garrett Dimon (he created the bug tracker Sifter) and we are talking about different customer support tools. Garrett said that if it’s just a single person doing customer support then there’s no reason you can’t use just email. Plain, old, boring email. He was right!

So, I moved my support to a simple email account. I have a form on my support that generates an email. No fancy ticketing system necessary.

Video Production: Final Cut Studio, iShowU, Screenflow

The original launch of Mijingo.com was on a tight budget, so I needed to produce the videos using tools that I could acquire for as little money as possible. When I did my original screencasts through The Pragmatic Programmers, I only had to record the video and audio using iShowU. I sent the raw videos over to the publisher and my friend Mike Clark was in charge of putting them together into the final product.

Doing the videos on my own meant that I was now responsible for all of the production work.

For the first series of videos I did over the Summer of 2010, I recorded the video and audio using iShowU and then edited them together in Screenflow. At first this seemed like a good idea but I quickly hit the limits of Screenflow with the amount of small edits I had to do. I also experienced a difficult time exporting the videos and at one point I thought I wouldn’t be able to launch on time.

With my lesson quickly learned, a couple of weeks after launch I purchased a new Mac Pro and a copy of Final Cut Studio. Eventually adding a second cinema display, I now had a machine and software powerful enough to handle the video editing tasks.

Both purchases were expensive but were directly funded from screencast sales and immediately put to use to create more screencasts. I still use the software and hardware today to create training videos for Mijingo.

Invoicing: Harvest

Since Mijingo is mostly a product company, I don’t do much invoicing. There are two scenarios where I do invoice: after a training class and monthly for advertisers on EEInsider.com.

For the invoicing I’ve been using Harvest. It’s a great service for time tracking and invoicing. At Mijingo I’ve only ever used the invoicing feature. There are dozens of other invoicing apps out there but I like Harvest. It’s simple and fun.

For EEInsider.com advertisers I have recurring invoices set up that I send every month when it’s time to renew an ad run. The advertisers get a nice email with the invoice and can pay via PayPal with one click.

Code Hosting and Deployments: Beanstalk

There’s not much more to say other than I love Beanstalk. I store the code for all of my websites there in Git repositories and use their deploy tool to push changes out to my server. I like Beanstalk because it’s serious about version control, a good experience and realiable deploys. It doesn’t try to be social or cute. It doesn’t try to pretend to be my friend.

Each site has two server environments set up: production and staging. Typically, I’ll have automatic deployments set up for the staging server (triggered by a git push) so I can quickly test out updates. Deployment to production is a manual deploy.

Web Hosting: EngineHosting

EngineHosting handles the hosting for everything I run online: my personal site, EE Insider and Mijingo.

I’m running on their new, snazzy, virtual server clusters and it’s really good. This site recently got fireballed and the site barely slowed and was never unavailable. I didn’t even have to switch over to a static file I created just in case.

The people at EngineHosting are smart and helpful. I can’t recommend them enough.

Finances: Quickbooks Online & CPA

Let’s get this out of the way: I hate QuickBooks. But the more I use it the more I realize how powerful it is. This was especially true during tax time when I had to gather numbers for my accountatnt. Click, click, click. There we go. Before QuickBooks it would take me hours to retrieve the same information.

Speaking of accountants: get yourself a good one. I found my current accountant through a referral from a friend that I trust.

An accountant won’t necessarily be inexpensive. What I pay my accountant to do my tax return (personal and Schedule C for my LLC) costs me the equivalient of about 5 hours of my time. It would take me and my pea brain much longer than that to do the tax return myself and I wouldn’t be making decisions or asking questions that are best for my business.

Paying a CPA to do your taxes is expensive but it’s not just about the tax return. It’s about the relationship. You never know when you’re going to need that person’s advice on something important. I’d rather have that relationship than not.

Legal

Get a good attorney you like. Don’t just pick one out of the first page of Google search results. Get a recommendation from a friend or another business owner. I asked a friend here in Austin for a referral. She asked her family attorney for a recommendation. This person put me in touch with someone she trusted that did small business law. My attorney is great and I’ve even recommended him to the friend who recommended to me the accountant. We’re even now.

Up until this point I’ve only used my attorney for incorporating in the State of Texas. But just like with an accountant it’s all about establishing the relationship. When you find yourself in need of advice, you’ll be glad you have someone you can trust.

So, that’s it. Those are the ins and outs of how I run Mijingo. Of course, the biggest part of running Mijingo is my time. A lot of it.

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