My 2018 Developer Relations Year in Review
2018 was a pretty good year. Jesse loves 2nd grade, Jen earned a new car (her 10th?), and it marks my first full year at Mozilla. Professionally I feel like I’ve been all over the place. I’ve tried lots of new ways to reach people, some successful and others less so. The teams I serve are happy so I guess I’m doing things okay, but I want to prune in 2019. I want to stop doing things that have not been effective and double down on the things that seem interesting. 2019 should be a very interesting year for WebXR, but before we get to those plans, let’s review 2018.
Hacks Blogs written
7 posts for the Hacks Blog
Most posts were on VR related topics (perf tuning, using Hubs, 360 imagery, A-Frame), but by far my most popular by hits was not related to VR at all. It was CSS Grid for UI Layouts. While I’m disappointed VR hasn’t been more popular, this really does make sense. CSS Grid is a new feature added to a very mature technology. The number of developers out there interested in CSS is a few orders of magnitude larger than the number of VR developers. While VR will grow, it will be at least a decade before if eclipses the number of CSS devs, if ever.
Mixed Reality blogs written
7 posts, mostly weekly updates back when we tried to make the world care about what we did each week. It turns out people care more about features and content than what bugs were fixed. Overall this is not a highly trafficked blog. Big mixed reality news ends up getting posted to the main Mozilla blog anyway. However, I’m quite happy with how the Firefox Reality (FxR) developer guide turned out. It’s probably the most comprehensive WebVR links guide around.
Hacks youtube channel videos made
It’s harder to track the number of videos I’ve made since we don’t have separate authors for the channel, but my estimate is
- Learn Spoke in 5 Minutes 989
- An Intro to A-Frame 524
- Interview with Trevor Smith, WebXR Community Lead 125
- WebXR & the js13kGames Coding Competition 524
- Introducing Firefox Reality: A Simple Pre-Release VR Browser 2085
- Mozilla Mixed Reality Update with Josh Marinacci 386
- What Is Mixed Reality 2739
- Whack An Imp 1401
- The History of VR 2430
- Editing an A-Frame with the Meta 2 AR headset 2788
First lesson is that we have a long tail. Older videos have many more views. Second, people prefer short videos. Everything under 5 minutes long has done better than longer stuff.
I’ve mainly used reddit to promote WebVR work of myself and others. I made about 50 posts in the second half of the year (it seems I didn’t use it for professionally until the first alpha release of FxR) with 511 upvotes. Is that good or bad? Honestly, I don’t know. I really have no way to judge this. My overall goal is to get more people building things with WebVR, so I guess it’s good. Perhaps a more concrete goal is to increase the number of upvotes for 2019 over 2018.
My big surprise for the year was my medium blog. While I’d posted a few pieces in previous years, the big push was starting a series of blogs on ThreeJS beginning in September. Since then I’ve done 21 short posts, each focused on how to do something particular thing with ThreeJS. Three is a great library but I quickly realized there was a gap in the available tutorials between “how to put some cubes on the screen” and “crazy shader madness”. So I made this series of intermediate level tutorials and the response has been positive. 6254 total views, with a read ratio well over 50%. I’d consider that pretty good for 3 months work.
There is a question, though. Should I have put this on Medium? Does using Medium benefit me over my own blog (I chose not to use the Mozilla Hacks blog since these are meant to be shorter, less edited, and off the cuff). The stats indicate that well over 3/4ths of the traffic to the Medium blog does not originate from Medium. Could I have gotten that traffic on another site? For now I'm keeping it there and I'll report how it works over the next year.
Twitch live streaming
In June I started a twitch streaming channel. I tried coding while streaming. I also tried doing little tutorials on WebVR topicsm, as well as previewing new builds of FxR. I ended up doing 12 streams over about 3 months, most of them in August. I tried to get into a weekly routine of one stream at a predictable time. In the end I think I just don’t like streaming live. I have very little live audience, and even when I do I get almost no interaction. This makes it very different than giving a presentation. Ultimately I’m not sure if Twitch is really meant for educational uses like what I do. It really seems more about following game players and doing game reviews.
I know that I’d get better results if I was more consistent, but after a while I began to dread the process. Getting the stream going was fiddly, I felt self conscious about a live performance and the final content wasn’t very compelling. Compared to edited videos on YouTube, Twitch is a bust. On YouTube I can edit, so my performance is better and the content is more focused. Also, while I might spend the same amount of time working on content and doing the recording, the final result is a tidy 5 minute video that far more people want to watch than a full stream recording. So... I’ve decided to shut down my Twitch stream and focus more on YouTube.
Talks and Travel I’ve given
As I've gotten older, and with a 7yr old at home, travel is just harder than it used to be. One of the reasons I chose to join Mozilla was knowing I could do less travel. 2018 has shown that well. I only had one official speaking gig at Connect.Tech, combined with running at booth at Github Universe. Mozilla always has two company wide all-hands events twice a year. Combined with a workweek that gave me about five trips last year. I think I can handle that.
I expect 2019 to be similar. As I've reduced my speaking load I've started to question if speaking in person at a conference makes any sense at all. Do people still really learn from conferences? A few YouTube videos gives me far more reach than attending 10 conferences would. I've also done live presentations to remote groups that (seem to) have gone well. Seeing how new immersive communication systems like Hubs take off makes me think we may be past the era of in-person conferences.
What does 2019 hold?
First and foremost, more ThreeJS blogs. I'd say those have been my biggest hit and developers are clamoring for more. Fortunately modern 3d graphics is a huge expansive and deep topic, so there is no shortage of content ideas for the blog.
Second, more edited video. Mixed Reality is all about immersive visuals. While text still is essential, many concepts benefit from showing how they work. YouTube videos have worked pretty well, so I'm launching a new VR series with the help from some amazing video producers who actually know what they are doing. Look for it launching soon on the Hacks channel.
And finally, build more MR tools. To make compelling immersive content today basically requires you to have a video game dev team at your disposal. You need 3D artists, expert 3D programmers, sound engineers, and designers familar with 3D interaction. That's a tall order if you are a high school teacher who wants to create an immersive tour of a location. It shouldn't be this hard. So I have a few tools in development that should make it easier to build fun and compelling immersive content without being a 3D expert. Look for them over the next few months.
Ready to Roll
2019 is here. Time to get to work.
Posted January 15th, 2019