Every Saga Has a Beginning

After thinking about this for a very long time, I‘ve decided to pivot as an “independent publisher”. Yes, this is ground zero. Yes, I’m starting everything from scratch. And this post is all about the “why”s and “how”s of it.

Hello World, Hello Stars, Hello Universe

Hi there 👋,

As you can see, this is the new Zero to Hero.

Which begs the question “What is the ‘old’ ‘Zero to Hero’ then?”.

Just 🐻 with me, I’ll get to it shortly. But, in a nutshell: Around 2018, I created a video course titled “JavaScript from Zero to Hero”. I gradually added more content, videos, lesson notes… Yet, “life” got in the way and I was never able to finalize the course.

So, as of May the fourth 2021, I decided to make a radical change and start everything from scratch with a blank canvas and a different content strategy.

Coincidentially May the Fourth 2021, is the International Star Wars Day, and also my 42nd birthday. There couldn’t have been any better day for this kind of a transformation 🙂.

This very page is that blank canvas that you are looking at right now.

So, What’s Coming Up

I am a big believer in transparency, so I wanted to be upfront and honest with everyone:

After thinking about this for a very long time, I‘ve decided to convert Zero to Hero to a subscription-based service.

Yes, this is ground zero. Yes, I’m starting everything from scratch.

This is a radical decision that deserves an explanation. In this article, I’ll try to outline the whys and hows of this decision as best as I can.

The Content

I will create two kinds of content here:

  • Free: Where anyone can read and learn from.
  • Subscriber-only: This will be the content that will take a considerable amount of time and effort, and it will be something that you won’t likely find elsewhere.

I wanted to put it out while it is fresh on my mind to set everyone’s expectations.

The Pivot

Pivot, change, and ignite.
Pivot, change, and ignite.

So what’s the plan?

I’m recreating the existing content with a totally different approach:

I’ll focus creating more textual content, diagrams and visualizations, source code, embedded code playgrounds, and the like.

I’ll augment the textual content with videos only when it’s needed (like, for example, showing a complicated AWS Console setup, which is easier to see than to read and follow).

There are several reasons for that:

  • Creating video content is tenfold harder than creating a textual content: Publishing a five-minute video lesson takes at least ten-to-fifteen hours of time. Creating textual content is much faster.
  • Editing, updating, iterating textual content is much more convenient: It’s as simple as deleting some text, and adding the new text, updating images and other references. Per contra, for video, you’ll have to reshoot your entire video, which will cost you at least another fifteen hours per video.
  • Textual content is searchable and indexable: With videos, you can achieve something similar with bookmarks, and annotations, but still it won’t be even close to the comfort you have with text.
  • You can copy/paste, save, backup, mix and mash text. With video, it’s a lot harder to do that.

Content is the King

“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” – Dwayne (the Rock) Johnson

It will take a while to think about the content strategy.

I have a plan… several plans in fact. And I’ll gradually get there.

My first action item is to maintain a writing cadence: I don’t know if this will be daily, every other day, weekly, or something different… but I’ll reserve an uninterrupted, focused, content creation time on my calendar.

Once I am comfortable with the cadence, then I’ll think about the content strategy; not before.

A Change in the Process

I began working on “JavaScript: from Zero to Hero” around 2018. The course was a video course about creating and maintaining your JavaScript stack in a real-life production environment, paying special attention to things like scalability, fault-tolerance, high availability, disaster recovery, auditing, security… As far as I could see, no one had come closer to creating a course like that. So there was a lot of value in creating it.

So why the sudden shift, you may—rightfully—ask.

By the time of this writing, it is mid-2021. And I am… more-or-less 70% complete, give or take a few percents.

If I continue with this pace, my guesstimate is, the course will not be released before late 2023. And I believe, this is turning out to be an uphill battle, and I need to change my parameters to expedite the process.

Right now, I find myself lucky if I can publish one video lesson per week. To be upfront and honest with you again, I don’t remember when was the last time I published a new video… it has been at least several months.

I have (as of this writing, again) around fifty lectures to add before I finalize the course. So do the math yourself 🙂.

… Well, I did the math 🙂 If you consider the ever-changing pace of technology, that rate is unsustainable for an online technical video course. It is an uphill battle.

Is Creating a Video Course Really “that” Hard?

But why is that? I mean, isn’t that too much time for a just a “JavaScript” course?

Trust me, I though about that too.

While thinking, I decided to put my thoughts into words.

There is a multitude of reasons, why the course took more than an average “let’s make an online recipe sharing web app with React and GraphQL” course:

  • Firstly, my responsibilities grew as I gained more clout within the company. This resulted in a more demanding job.
  • In addition, as the kids got older, my responsibilities as a parent, guardian, and a spouse grew.
    – Not everyone knows this, but we are a non-neurotypical family of four. And that multiplies the attention, care, and communication needs orders of magnitude compared with an equivalent “typical” (if that’s a thing) household.
  • Plus, the course was not “just” a JavaScript course: In the lessons, I talked about topics varying from virtual subnet setups to lambda functions to message queues… It was deep and broad. And I didn’t want to sacrifice quality.

Ah as a cherry on top of all of this “’Rona” happened. We jumped into a seemingly endless year of lockdown, homeschooling, remote work, isolation. I call that “sheltering at work”, and it’s much more than that indeed. The lockdown amplified the emotional roller-coasters that we, as a family, were having.

Resistance is Futile

I am an engineer. Always was, always will be.

Doing constraint optimizations is what I’m good at—one way of approaching the “lack of time” challenge was to set a deadline, set milestones, and pressure myself to reach those milestones as best as you can.

Pushing myself further would have taken me to the limits of burning myself out. I simply did not have the luxury to burn out, so I decided to find a different solution.

A Quick Flashback

Let me add a few screenshots to show you how the course looked like.

The landing page.
The landing page.
The learning management system.
The learning management system.

The application was truly slick, micro-services-based, learning management system. I’m planning to rework on it too, and share my progress here with y’all—although I’m sunsetting the current system, I’m proud of it. And I’m proud of everyone who has been with me through this journey.

Like I said, the goal of the course was to be something other than yet another “Let’s build a restaurant rating and comparison app using React and GraphQL” course. I wanted it to be something that teaches you how a real-life production application was built, evolved, and maintained.

I wanted to create a platform where the interested individuals will learn the following the hard way:

  • Develop robust, lean, and error-free apps.
  • Create reusable, modular, and modern codebases that stand the test of time.
  • Build, scale, diagnose, and monitor a full-stack production application.

It was an ambitious goal, I know. Still, I was step by step getting there.

Then Life Got in the Way

As I outlined before, while I’m working on Zero to Hero, a lot happened in the meantime. A lot have changed both in my personal and professional life. The project almost moved to a halt. And I’ve realized a few things:

  • The scope of the course was way too big to be reasonably completed in time.
  • Creating a video-heavy content, while having a full-time job and two kids at school age required a lot of sacrifice from my personal time and my sanity.

I also realized all of this burden was creating a very heavy toll on my personal well-being and my relationship with my family.

Family is where I draw the line. Family comes first; always; no exceptions.

Erase and Rewind

Eventually—and took many months of debilitation—I’ve decided to put a “hard reset” on everything:

  • I’ve moved my Twitter to private.
  • I’ve jumped off all other social media.
  • The only medium that I’ve been sharing stuff for the last couple of months is LinkedIn.

And during that time frame, I’ve been thinking about what to do… how to restart, how to reignite.

And this web app that you see is the end result of months and months of thinking, introspection, and self-reflection.

Changing Perspective

After thinking about this a lot and weighing all my options: I’ve decided to pivot my idea into a knowledge-sharing system that I can populate faster, easier, without friction—almost naturally.

Sometimes you need a shift in your perspective. sometimes you need a splash of water in your face. And sometimes you need both.
Sometimes you need a shift in your perspective. sometimes you need a splash of water in your face. And sometimes you need both.

What will the new Zero to Hero be like?

Well, honestly, time will tell. I have a lot of ideas.

Videos are Holding You Back

That said, creating visual content for the last few years, I realized that not only creating video content is holding me back, but also videos are holding you back.

Think about it: The average video course is spoken at 150 words per minute, while you can read at-the-very-least 250 words per minute.

I know this is a blanket statement, and people with certain conditions have hard time reading things. And to certain people consuming video content at 2x speed is a much better to learn things than following text. But, in general, reading something takes much less time than watching an equivalent content.

In addition, you can read a lot faster if you have mastered scanning and skimming techniques. If you have read that thousand page brick-sized book before your final exam, you know what I mean 😄—try that with watching video lessons.

With textual content, it’s much easier to find your own pace, adjust your speed, skip blocks of text, scan and skim the text to drill down further later—that’s the beauty of text.

Moreover, you can search textual content easily. Even when you have properly-set-up bookmarks and annotations, and transcripts, searching inside a video is much harder.

And this one is for me: Creating textual content is way faster than creating audiovisual content. I can create more valuable content faster this way.

That said, I also do believe there needs to be a hybrid approach: The textual content needs to be augmented with clarifying videos to show how things work when they work the way they work.

Furthermore, inside a text-oriented web app, you can embed live coding playgrounds, other interactive tools.

You can create an app for the users of the system to take their own notes and annotate the content to their liking. Like you see a lot can be done, and text is the starting point. It’s the origin.

I’m also jotting down some of those ideas in my backlog, which will end up as useful widgets that add value to this new platform that you are reading and using right now.

Nothing is Lost: Everything Transforms

Tangentially: Everything in life is based on three main forces:

  • Rotation
  • Oscillation
  • And Transformation

Zero to Hero is no exception to that.

This post marks the beginning of a transformation phase.

The older content is not going anywhere. I have triple backups of everything. They will find their place here in some way, shape or form.

Onwards to a New Ride

This has been a wonderful ride so far. I cannot thank enough to everyone who have been with me. You mean a lot to me and words cannot express how grateful I am to have y’all by my side.

This is a new beginning.

Stay tuned: More will come.

May the source be with you 🦄,

Volkan.

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