Dave and Chris talk about bacon, blogging, and the business of making money on the web. Are stories the new hotness? Should everything be an email newsletter? What can Dave sell for $10?
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Dave Rupert: Hey there, Shop-o-maniacs. What's happenin'? This is a rap. I'm Dave, the Q, and with me is A, Chris Coyier. Hey, hey, hey.
What did I do, Chris? I shouldn't have done this. I want out. I want a redo. Hi, Chris. [Laughter]
Chris Coyier: Hi. How ya doin', man? Just some freestyle rapping, you know. You never know what I'm in for right here.
Dave: Freestyle rapping. I've got some bacon here. I'm going to do some ASMR --[chewing] for the crowd. That was for the crowd.
Chris: [Whispering] That sounds like some delicious bacon. It sounds like it might have maple syrup on it and, uh, it's going to make my fingers sticky if I touch it.
Dave: Yeah. [Laughter] Um…
Dave: Have you used Dan Benjamin's Bacon Method? I think this is as Dan Benjamin/Ryan Ireland invention.
Chris: I have and, left to my own devices, I wouldn't do it any other way. It's really good.
Dave: Really? Yeah.
Chris: Yep. I think that you just put some bacon in the fricken' often. You don't even preheat the oven and you cook it. I don't remember the exact numbers offhand, but it's pretty easy to Google.
Dave: 400-degrees for 20 minutes.
Chris: Boom. Yeah, you take it out and your baking is done. There's just some beauty to the simplicity of it, you know.
Dave: Yeah, it takes a long time and, if you have an oven like mine, you have to do 420 for 25 minutes or whatever, but you figure it out for your oven. It's pretty righteous, and it makes pretty good bacon every time. That's the thing I like about it.
Chris: Yeah, it's good. I've gone all over the place. I've been a microwave guy. In fact, I had a little As Seen on TV kind of bacon thing where you kind of put the bacon vertical.
Dave: Oh, the tree?
Chris: Oh, the tree was good too. You dangle it over the top of the--
Dave: Oh, it's so gross, though.
Chris: Yeah. [Laughter]
Dave: It leaves a pool of just bacon fat.
Chris: Yeah. It did a good job, though. I had one where you have them horizontally kind of upright. That was a little funky.
Dave: Oh, yeah.
Chris: I do like it when you're -- because the alternative, of course, is like a frying pan.
Chris: But the frying pan, it requires a lot of management as it's happening to re-straighten the pieces out and stuff.
Dave: Oh, yeah.
Chris: Then the bottom part of it burns. The other half is still juicy, fatty. A frying pan is really not a great way to go.
Dave: Nonscientific. I go camping. [Laughter] This is a lifestyle podcast now that tangentially relates to Web design.
I go camping with friends, right? We have a little camping crew that we go out with. It's great, but we always are like, you get into the gear for camping, right? You're just like, "Oh, if I just had this one thing, camping would be awesome." You know? We have popup trailers and stuff now. We've geared up significantly.
The one thing I'm now obsessed with is, at Home Depot, you can get these propane griddles. It's a two-foot by three-foot griddle that's propane powered, just like a barbeque grill, but it's just a frame, like a big piece of metal, propane griddle. It's only like $200, which, in camping gear terms, that's nothing, like that's free.
Dave: I'm just like, "Dude! Do I want -- how bad do I want this?" is basically the question because this would be so cool to just chuck this little metal frame. I guess it's probably like 30 pounds of cast iron, but chuck that in my truck and then, ah, you're having bacon on a griddle.
Chris: Yeah. Yep.
Dave: Oh, flapjacks.
Chris: Don't say no, Dave.
Dave: I know.
Chris: I like the idea of exotic camping and cooking gear. What can you pull off? Can you pull off an oven?
One time, my friend showed up camping who had like a quarter-inch pole, a big steel pole, and the idea is that you hammer that next to your campfire. The heating source is all campfire-based but attached to that pole were all kinds of fascinating stuff that you just slip onto the pole. It had a little hitch to it and you just slide it onto the pole and it stuck on the pole.
Chris: That gives you 360, so you can move it.
Chris: You can pivot it on the pole. Then all the things that were attached to the arm could also pivot.
Chris: You had a thing to cook burgers and you could really move things around them and get them just where you needed for the campfire. It was like a grill part, a griddle part. There was a big thing for stew. What do you call that, a Dutch oven kind of deal?
Dave: Yeah, a vat.
Chris: A vat, yeah.
Dave: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris: But the whole idea was that everything was based on this pole. It was like pole cooking. I loved it.
Dave: This is -- oh, man. This -- it's like my, "What's my quit tech plan?" It's maybe, like, start a camping blog, like gear review. [Laughter] This is good for kids or whatever. That's my quit tech plan for you.
I was wondering. This is tangential. I'm pulling it back to websites now. I'll pull it back to websites.
Chris: Sure. Sure.
Dave: You know I was thinking the other day. Is the era of starting a blog over? Does that make sense?
Dave: Like the era of, I'm just going to start a blog and make money blogging about this thing I like. I wonder if that's over-ish. I don't know. Now you've got to be a startup and you've got to have millions of people mining their data and stuff like that. Is the era of just starting a blog kind of over?
Chris: I mean, is it a passion thing? I still see people be like, "I'm going to travel the world for one year and I'm going to do a Tumblr for it," and it turns out pretty cool.
Chris: That's not a business plan. That's just for fun.
Chris: Or, "I'm going to chronical my garden." That kind of stuff doesn't seem particularly dead, although, to spin up your own site and have all that technical debt, uh, I feel like people are shying away from that a little bit. You're probably more likely to do a WordPress.com, Squarespace thing, or maybe still a Tumblr thing. We'll see what Automattic does with Tumblr. That could be a good thing.
If you're like, "I'm going to start a new blog to blog about my passion because I want it to be at least in part a business model." I don't know. Was blogging ever that? I want that. [Laughter]
Dave: Yeah. [Laughter]
Chris: I'm a fan of that.
Dave: No, I mean, I want it to exist and I felt like there was a time, like, "Oh, he runs a blog." I think I was talking to my friend Rod last night about this. He and some friends run this movie blog called Cinapse.
Dave: My friend Rod and Ed Travis.
Chris: Do they think of it as a business deal?
Dave: I don't know, but then they're all connected to the Austin movie scene and Alamo, Drafthouse is kind of involved in that, you know.
Dave: They go to premiers and stuff and talk to directors and all this, so maybe they're getting what they want out of it. Maybe it doesn't pay the bills when they retire and get to drive Ferraris, but maybe they are getting what they want out of it. I don't know.
Dave: That's what I wonder.
Chris: I don't know. Are we trying to compare it to some heyday of it where there was tons of it or what? Is that the vibe you get is that there used to be a lot of it?
Dave: Yeah, like Boing Boing.
Dave: Could you start Boing Boing today?
Chris: Oh, now that's interesting. Yeah, because there is still, whatever, the Gawker Universe stuff and the VOX Universe stuff, but those are big operations. You go to visit VOX, it's a big office with tons of people there.
Dave: With hundreds of people.
Dave: In BDG.
Chris: That is not a blog, but Boing Boing probably never was that.
Dave: (Indiscernible) …videos.
Chris: Boing Boing didn't have floor 37 of some skyscraper. I doubt that's how it operated, although, I don't know.
It seems like there is a little bit of a rise of the little guy doing the paid newsletter thing. I literally subscribe to Dan Frommer's thing, "The New Consumer." Have you seen that one?
Chris: I think he does a fabulous job of it. It's a very clear business model. It's like $100 a year, not cheap, and all you get is a fricken' email. That's it.
Dave: [Nervous laugh]
Chris: Would it have succeeded better as a blog that's monetized? I don't know. The only way to monetize that is to throw ads on it like I do, which I like--
Dave: But he could still choose to monetize that. He can still put an article up and run ads on it. I think he links mostly to his -- it looks like he does kind of post some stuff on….
Chris: Yeah, maybe there is. Maybe it's like one free to three paid or something. I don't know. You'd have to look.
Dave: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris: He's very open about the publishing schedule and what he does and stuff.
Chris: I did it on a whim, which is a silly way--
Dave: You're happy with it?
Chris: Yeah, I just think it's--
Dave: $200, dude!
Chris: Is it's $200?
Chris: No way.
Dave: Now it's $200. I mean you must have got--
Chris: I don't think I would have paid $200. Well, maybe I did, but I don't think so. Maybe he changed it. Anyway, I like the vibe of it that the way that we buy things as people is dramatically changing rather quickly.
Chris: That's kind of the vibe. I think he's just a terrific writer and focuses on interesting things. I literally just read it and like it.
That has nothing to do with Web technology, but I also subscribe to the WordPress one, Post Status, as a paid WordPress produced newsletter that I think is just like -- I don't know. I want good WordPress news because I still care about WordPress land and I'm fascinated by that ecosystem, so I literally pay for it.
Dave: You can't -- well, I guess you could. You can't do a Twitter search term for WordPress and, hopefully, find the signal versus noise. You know? And run a business like CodePen. You can't do that. In some ways, those newsletters super help. They can cut out a lot of time and effort to find something.
Chris: Yeah. Whatever. There's the Six Colors membership. It's weird to see how much of it is email-based because I think the idea of a paid RSS feed kind of died. That was a little weird, like you get some special key and then you subscribe in your RSS reader. We could talk about RSS until we're blue in face.
Chris: It's never had its heyday.
Chris: Maybe it arguably did with Google Ready, but meh. You know, but it still finds a way to hang on. You'll hear people like me singing its praises, but I do think it's worse off even than podcasts, and everybody in their brother is trying to solve the discoverability problem. There's money being thrown at it and stuff. You don't see any economic activity around, "Can I sponsor your RSS feed?"
Dave: Yeah. No, I mean I don't know. Here's how to solve the podcast problem, discoverability, is pay your listeners to tell their friends, which is a new plan we're announcing here at ShopTalk. We'll pay you. No, I can't.
I think friend recommendations goes so far for podcasts. You almost need a podcast sommelier. I know there have been digital attempts, like, "Tell us a podcast you like." Oh, here are some recommendations.
Dave: You really need -- I don't know. Almost like when you go to a restaurant and there are 10,000 wines. You need a sommelier to be like, "Okay, what flavors do you like? Can you name a wine you have liked?"
Chris: I love that.
Dave: Then, "Okay, I'll find some like that. Here's a pop and here's what makes this one good."
Chris: They drink that glass of wine and then they have that knowledge forever, if they're a great sommelier. Then they can recommend it for years to come, whereas podcasts are so transient. I was almost skeptical of the podcast whose job it is to listen to a bunch of podcasts and then share with you clips and commentary about the best in podcasting this week. The numbers don't work out there. If you listen to podcasts 24 hours a day, you could only listen to a very small percentage.
Dave: Twenty four.
Chris: Then you'd have no time for your life or to do anything else. I almost don't trust those podcasts to be giving me that wide of a swath. You'd need a huge team of people doing it or something. It needs a crowdsourcing component to it to make that work.
Chris: Podcast influencers.
Dave: Yeah. You can't just do -- I don't know. I can't pay Mechanical Turk to listen to the podcast and tell me if it's good. I guess I could, but that doesn't help me.
Anyway, speaking of newsletters, Dan Sinker, do you know Dan Sinker?
Chris: Yeah, by name.
Dave: This is really relevant. I like his work, but he runs impeachment.fyi newsletter. [Laughter] It's very political but it's just kind of catching up to date on all the stuff that's happening in politics and whatnot. Who knows. Whenever this comes out, this could all be over, crash, and burned or whatever.
I like these kind of focused, like, paying an actual journalist to actually curate a list of things; "Hey, here's something you should read. Here's a summary." I really like that model of news.
Chris: Would he do it anyway, or is there some cash number that he's shooting for that would make this a success or fail?
Dave: Yeah, I don't know. I Venmoed like $20 or whatever.
Dave: Just because I want to support it, but what's neat is there's a subscribe button and then it says, "Support this work on PayPal, Venmo, AirCash," like Square Cash. What I like about that is -- I think the Vue community does this too. It's like, here is this thing. It is entirely free, but here's how you support it. Having those two things together are very….
Chris: I'm interested to dig into your love of this, in a way. On some level, it makes sense. It's nice. It's just a clear call to action. It's like, you like this thing; give the person some money. But there's GitHub sponsors. There's Patreon. There are versions of Kickstarter type of things.
Dave: Which I'm on none of those.
Dave: I have a Twitch, but yeah. No, I'm on none of those.
Chris: It seems like you could count the people that actually make significant, like, "I can support myself on this," or, "This is a significant part of my income," on one hand. You know? Maybe that's not fair, but it's like, sure, Henry Zu from Babble does okay on it or Evan You does okay on it, but Dan Sinker is not going to do okay on it, probably. Maybe he will because this thing is even bigger in scope than just some tech project, so maybe this catches the world's eye and he does great on it. But there's no paywall, so guaranteed it's going to be like 1% or less of people choose to do it at all.
Dave: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Chris: You get 1% of people seeing it even if there was a paywall, so the fact that there's not probably means it's way less. So few people are going to do this. It'd be interesting to ask Dan Sinker at the end of this, "What'd you make? Did you make $100? Did you make $1,000? Did you make $10,000? What was your bar of what put into this? Could this be a little job for you just having one P tag that says, 'Support this work by PayPal, Venmo, or cash app?'"
To me, that just seems like--I don't know--give me a tip. Just rub my shoulders a little bit, but I'm going to do it anyway.
Dave: Yeah. It's beer money or coffee money to just put something here. That's what I wonder, too. Maybe there are two tiers here. The service he is providing is not journalism, per se.
Dave: He's not on the beat with a pad and paper and a hat that says press on it.
Dave: But he is curating and so maybe we're paying for curation. Maybe that is entirely worth it.
I do a Patreon for this video games guy that I watch all his videos. It's Game Maker's Toolkit with Mark Brown, if you are interested. I do the Patreon and part of the reason I still do the Patreon is he sends out this beautiful, almost like a week notes, but it's monthly. It's just like, here's every article and every video I watched this month. Here's just a list and a little snippet about it. It's gold. It's solid gold to me.
Dave: And so, I'm going to pay $5 a month for it. I think there's value in creation.
Chris: There is, and some people just give it away and some people don't. That's what's tricky is, unless you're incredible at it, somebody might just come along and step on your toes by doing the same thing for free. I don't know. I don't even know what I'm saying. I have so many millions of billions of thoughts about this.
The point is, you can't just snap your fingers and invent your own passion-based job. It's super hard.
Chris: I guess it always has been hard.
Dave: Well, and that was always the -- that's the, do what you love, right? It's written in cursive. It's above your toilet. [Laughter]
I'm very into that. There's a big spirit. I don't know if you remember Brooklyn Beta back in the early twenty-teens. It was a conference kind of about that, just not mindless tech and stuff like that. Let's find how we can use our technical skills to do better good, I guess.
Dave: I really like that. I like that spirit. Then, very quickly, it becomes, "Do what you love." It's like, well, okay, I want to do a blog for dogs. [Laughter] It's like, eh, is that what we talked about? Maybe you do love to blog for dogs and that's what you want to do.
I don't know. Is a blog for dogs okay? It's probably fine, but it's maybe not world-changing, but a lot of people love their dogs.
Chris: I mean it's the classic starving artist thing. There are people that are like, "I would love to do art," but at least there's a cultural norm that's telling me that if I choose to go down this path, the economics of it don't work out particularly well. That's a known.
It's known for musicians too. You want to play your guitar all day, you totally can and you can get savvy. You could blow up, which you won't do, but a needle in a haystack does. Or you could get clever with your finances and stuff, but it's pretty well known that you're not going to be a rich person.
Dave: Maybe we need a starving blogger trope, like the image rebrand of a blogger needs to be this just struggling creative.
Chris: [Laughter] Struggling blogger.
Dave: The struggling blogger.
Chris: Now you're onto something. That's something.
Dave: Now I'm pulling at heartstrings and that's how I'm going to get the Patreons. Oh, I'm just a struggling content producer.
Chris: [Snarky laugh]
Dave: Please. Please, buy my product.
Chris Enns: This episode was brought to you by GiveWell. Imagine that you want to help children. You found two trustworthy organizations but they run different programs. One can save a child's life for every $300,000 donated while the other can save a child's life for every $3,000 donated. If you could tell the difference, you'd donate to the one that was 100 times better at saving children's lives.
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Chris: This goes into a question pretty nicely. We have this one from Nick Van Morrison, this second question I have here. It's about a design trope almost. What's your take on the tappable stories format for displaying content on the Web.
Chris: Let's define that for a minute. I feel like--what was it--Snapchat had it. You go to somebody's Snapchat and it's just these vertical videos or photos, but they're transient, right? You just look at it for a second. Then you click on the right side of the screen and it just goes to the next one. You're just like, next-next-next-next-next-next-next. Ah! Content me with my friend's stuff.
Then, all of a sudden, Instagram was like, "Oh, yeah. We have that too," because, from a UI perspective, it's just a different way to show some stuff and a different way to scroll through it. It's not a particularly hard thing to replicate, but it was so popular. Snapchat is almost making a comeback. The stories are huge on Instagram. Now YouTube has it. I opened the YouTube app on my phone and that's what my daughter wants to flip through is all these kids' channels produced stories.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Everybody has stories now. Facebook has got stories now. Google Amp has stories. Everything has stories now. It took over. Thanks, Snapchat. Apparently, you've invented the most incredible way that everybody wants to replicate.
Is it a massive trend? It must be slightly more than a trend. It must show high engagement numbers, you'd think. Yeah?
Dave: Yeah. If I'm -- sorry, Nick. My opinion is not very high. I literally quit using Instagram the day they launched stories because I just can't handle it. I can't handle, "Hey, Insta. What's up? I got a toenail today." I just can't do it. Get me out of this hell hole.
Chris: I'm going to join the old man club here because I don't like stories either. They just don't do it for me.
Dave: However, I think it's almost like when you reduce a soup or something like that. It's a reduction of what is content now? It's tweets. We used to make movies and then we made ten-minute YouTubes. Now we make 30-second stories like, here's just whatever; me riding my bike facing the sun.
Chris: Yeah, how small can it get?
Dave: Yeah. I think it's just a reduction.
Chris: Sometimes when you take an idea and you boil it down so far that it's this little digestible nugget that there's some kind of value to that that is to be learned from occasionally. If I can explain to you how filters work in CSS by just showing you the original image, showing you three lines of CSS so that I can apply a filter to it and then show you the result of that image, that's so tiny of a little nugget of knowledge that I think people get it.
Or I could read a 40-page chapter in CSS, the deep stuff or some fictional CSS book that just deep, deep dives into filters. I probably won't read that chapter, but I will see an Instagram that just says that. Sometimes it's useful. If the whole world becomes little bite-sized chunks, is that good?
Dave: It doesn't seem great, but Chris Enns, the podcast editor here, he showed us this guy who teaches Web dev on TikTok. Do you remember that? He was telling us about it.
There's somebody on TikTok. I was looking for their name so I could boost them, but I don't think they need boosting. I think they have a lot of people on TikTok watching their development videos. They're like, "Okay. Hey, TikTok. We're going to talk about array for loops," or whatever.
It's cool. It's not what I would be, like, "Oh, I want to do a little tiny story format for teaching Web development," but people love it, so I'm just old. I miss out on all that free engagement.
Dave: I don't know. It's interesting. I'm just not there, just purely on the stories part of it. Maybe that's my own fault for the people I know and the people I follow.
Chris: No. I mean you've just got to be careful sometimes about stuff like that when the medium changes over time. The medium has changed forever and it's almost the responsibility of the old to wave their hand at the new and then the new people will get used to what they have and it will change on them and they'll wave their first at the people in front of them. It's just the circle of life of how this stuff goes.
Learn from the mistakes of the past! [Rant] You're old! You don't know the new environment. [Rant]
Dave: I don't like these new, short holograms that people send each other.
Dave: These holograms -- holograms!
Dave: Back in my day, you just watched a video.
Chris: Yeah. We just read the moon newspaper.
Dave: (Indiscernible) [Laughter] Yeah. I don't know, but is it something front-end has to care about? I imagine doing stories, like in a front-end responsive context, is kind of difficult. Y'all kind of just did it and not exactly but, on CodePen, you have the new feature or preview on your item grid.
Chris: I hadn't thought of it in that way, but that's not terribly different. Yeah.
Dave: But is that a story format? You're kind of just like, "Boom. Here's the thing you wanted to kind of see. Here's a preview."
Chris: Yeah, and you can go next-next-next-next-next because it's paginated. I think that's the most value in it is the fact that you don't have to close it and then open another one. You can just click.
Chris: If you're totally confused about what we're talking about -- Dribbble did this before us, I'm sure. It's actually how Instagram Web works too. If you're on a desktop computer and you go to Instagram.com/CodePen or /ChrisCoyier or whatever, you see a grid of photos. You open one up and it opens up in a modal. It doesn't close what's behind it because everything is a SPA these days. Why would you do that? It opens up in a modal and you can paginate through the modal too. It's kind of like a story. It's weird to talk about in an Instagram context because Instagram actually has actual stories too that aren't this, but I get the connection that you're making.
I'm just looking at one thing at a time and I can literally use the arrow keys and go boom-boom-boom-boom-boom through the things. Dribbble has that now. You look at a shot in a bigger context to forward-forward-forward-forward. But, at any time, you can just hit the Escape key or click outside of it and it closes. Yeah, that's what we just launched on CodePen.
Dave: I love it on CodePen. I love it on Dribbble. Actually, Dribbble is not maybe my preferred, but it does save a back button. I can just click out the modal and that actually is kind of nice.
Do you want this on e-commerce? Okay, Chris. You're on Amazon. You want to buy some sneakers. Do you want this UI or do you want the classic product grid to go to product page? What do you think?
Chris: I don't know. I wouldn't want stories for products. I wouldn't want to land on Amazon and have it just be like this grid of little movies you have to watch.
Dave: Little commercials. Yeah, like Netflix, basically.
Dave: You hover over a product and it starts playing a commercial for it. That would be awful.
Chris: The thing is, these big companies that are doing this, they don't do it on a whim. They don't do it just to be -- they might dabble in it just because some other company is doing it, but these big companies do everything by the numbers. It must be showing them that the engagement gets higher, it's working, people are buying stuff, or something. There's no accident in these when it comes to this scale.
Dave: In the context of Instagram or whatever, it's probably cheap to produce. I guess people put effort into it, but you point your camera at something that's happening and then you put some text over it. Then, because of Instagram being Instagram, they're like, "Hey, your friend just put another video up. Love it. Watch it. Watch it. Watch it."
That was my thing maybe more so than the content I was watching was the demand to tune into this ad hoc TV station.
Dave: That was getting me.
Chris: In a way, you're homing in on the content that happens in these stories. But if we zoom out from that a little bit and talk about what it is, it's like an interaction method. It's just an alternative. One way to think about it is an alternative to scrolling.
Chris: I just want to tap on the right side of the screen, swipe, or something to get to the next one rather than scroll my fingers upwards like a webpage. Maybe what's being talked about here is that scrolling is just the way we used to do things because that's how the Web was built. It's just an old school legacy thing. Things are of unknown heights, so we just stretch them taller and then we use scrolling as the mechanism to get to that content.
In a way, stories are like, no, forget scrolling. This is the size you get. You press the right side of the screen to get more and it's just a different input mechanism.
Dave: Yeah, it's a PowerPoint, not a vertical scroll.
Chris: Yeah. Is that good?
Dave: Watch my PowerPoint.
Dave: Hey, everybody. Watch my PowerPoint.
Chris: It's like PDF-izing the Web or something.
Dave: I'm trying to think, too. We just talked about newsletters, like if Dan Sinker's impeachment.fyi was this, like tappable stories, I don't know that I'd like it. But maybe if it was text blocks, it'd be like, "Here's text block one for the day. Here's text block two," or something like that. Maybe I'd find that more enjoyable. It's just little digestible pieces of content.
Dave: Yeah, I don't know. That's a good question. Nick, I think you should write a blog post on your thoughts and let us know and we can follow up on that. I'd be curious if it seems like a big revolution.
Chris Enns: This episode is sponsored by Netlify. Building off of what Chris and Dave were just talking about, Netlify is the perfect place to begin a new JAMstack site like your new blog for your dog, let's say.
With Netlify, you can grab one of their templates and deploy to Netlify with just one click. The site's code will automatically populate as a new folder in your Git repository so you can explore, edit, and update what works for you, all for free. There are lots of super-powerful things that Netlify can do for you for your Web app and things like that. This is exactly what drew me to Netlify and the ability to quickly fire up a website, test out an idea, and/or use some of the new tech to build websites with, without having to worry about hosting and getting that all configured.
You can visit templates.netlify.com and use the deploy to Netlify button on their JAMstack templates to create a Git repository linked to a Netlify site that you can experiment with right now. They've got templates for things like Nuxt, Gatsby, 11ty, 11ty with Netlify CMS, 11ty with serverless functions, Amber.js, more Gatsby, lots of Gatsby, Gatsby e-commerce stuff, ghost-based Gatsby blog, Hexo and Hugo, Hyde -- all the H's are covered -- Jekyll, of course, Middleman, Gridsome, and lots more that I've never even heard of but it would be fun to play around with. That's what Netlify allows you to do. By deploying your template site to Netlify with just one click, you can start working on your blog, your idea, test out something, even, without having to worry about server infrastructure, costs, and where you're going to host it. Then, later on, you can take advantage of Netlify's integrated DNS to register a domain and have that all hooked up right away and ready to go when your site is live.
Check them out at Netlify.com and, like I said, templates.netlify.com is where you can go if you're interested in trying out one of their templates to start off a JAMstack site of your own. Our thanks to Netlify for sponsoring this episode.
Dave: Not to get too far into Amp, but Amp is probably just copying what somebody else is doing just because they think it provides money value and they probably somehow figured out how to make money, extract money, so there you go.
Chris: It's kind of like stories for SERPs.
Dave: Yeah, search engine people love stories. Here's the value they provide. Are you ready?
Dave: They create beautiful, engaging content.
Dave: They create flexibility in editorial freedom in branding. Sharable and linkable on the open Web. They track and measure -- wink. [Laughter] Fast loading times. Immersive storytelling. Robust advertising support. Oh, yeah, there you go.
Dave: I don't know. I think we are visual people, too. There's some gamification there. You see a picture of a person or a video game you like. I'm looking at the picture of Antarctica. I always care about Antarctica. I'm just going to click it, and so I go to it. Then I get seven little micro movies with text overlaid. It's not terrible.
I don't know. I don't want the whole Internet to become a PowerPoint, I guess is what I want to say. I'd rather it just be curated content. I want good content. I don't necessarily want -- the form factor, I care less about. I want good content more than the form factor.
"I installed the PWA on my phone and want to share a link of the site to somebody. Does anybody know how to get the URL of it? I'm googling, but I can't find anything."
I'm like, aww, that sucks. They have a PWA they installed on their phone probably ages ago and they just want to share it because it's a fricken' website and websites have URLs. They should be able to share those URLs and they can't figure it out. There's no way to get the URL. What?
Dave: Windows PWAs are actually solving this problem a little better. There's a triple burger menu or a shish kabob kind of dropdown thing if you install Firm Edge. It'll do prompts. That's my appprompts.daverupert.com. [Clears throat] But it'll tell you the URL there and you can copy the URL or open it in the browser as well. Desktop Web is way different than mobile Web, which is way different than what Google decides it's going to do or even Samsung does it a little bit different.
Chris: Maybe they don't want -- in a way, it's a feature, right? They're like, don't think of this as a website. It's a full-blown app now.
Dave: Nope. No.
Dave: What's a URL? We killed URLs.
Chris: It looks like the answers were, "Use the Web share API within it," is the vibe.
Dave: I tried to do that on Prompts, which is my little drawing app I made.
Dave: Man, Web share can only do text. Back to this, we're visual people in a visual medium, you can't share an image, compose a tweet with an image. You can't do that. That seems like a bummer. It seems like a very gaping hole. I think they have plans to fix it in V2 or whatever, but Safari doesn't even have V1. Maybe it has V1, but I don't know. Web share means you should be able to share the thing you're looking at, not just a URL or some text and stuff.
Chris: Yeah, maybe that is a V2 thing. I don't know. I know what you mean, though. There's already metatags that say this is the image that I want shared with stuff. Why isn't that baked in?
Dave: Yeah. I guess, at a minimum level, I expect what Facebook share is like.
Dave: Where you paste a URL in there and it's like, "Cool. You want this image from that page that you just posted?"
Dave: It's like, okay, sure.
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Buffer or Twitter. Okay, well, just an interesting thing.
This first question, I think, is interesting for us to spend the rest of the show on, probably, and not get to any of the other great questions we have. Here, that's the way it is.
Don Livingston, he's in this world of headless CMS, single-page apps, and thinking about SEO. He says, "I'm kicking around the idea of setting up a blog using a headless CMS," we've talked about those. Think Contentful, Sanity, or whatever, "on the back-end to store all my posts in content and then using React or Vue to render the front-end as a single-page app."
Chris: This is hot. This is hot right now, a lot of people building in this way. You're separating your front-end from your back-end on purpose.
Dave: JAMstack it.
Chris: Right. You pretty much are at this point because that means your front-end can be totally static files, your CSS, your bundle, and all that stuff. It'd be weird to not host it on a site like Netlify if that's the case.
"I've been reading up on best practices and the topic of SEO keeps coming up. It's one thing to choose this route but then what are the SEO implications of that?" Assuming you're not doing a Gatsby thing where you're pre-rendering it, VuePress, or whatever. "Because of the nature of single-page apps, search engines seem to be a little finicky about crawling and indexing them. The options seem to be SSR," okay, "or pre-rendering." Those things can be different. You can run an app like this and have node on the back-end generating those pages, which is more like SSR, or pre-rendering, which is more like Gatsby, 11ty, or whatever where it's actually making HTML files. There is no back-end at all.
"The hang-up I have is, every time you add content, you need to re-render your whole site." Dave, as you well know, you write a new blog post. Jekyll has to run. It does a whole thing. You deploy the whole ball of wax. What's the deal? Do I re-render the whole site? What's the deal with SEO here, in general? Is this a big consideration going down this road?
Like we said, it kind of isn't if you're pre-rendering or doing SSR. Then you kind of don't have to think about it, in a way, because it'll be treated just like any other website is.
I hope when I'm 80 years old, a book will come out called -- because Google is long dead by now and they're like, we're going to tell you how we actually ranked things, or something. It'll be like the greatest tell-all of all time.
Dave: Yeah. Yeah.
Dave: We just guessed. [Laughter]
Dave: If your whole strategy is, "I'm going to chuck down a giganto framework and all that crap and then spit out a page," Googlebot might not do it. But then again, I assume Googlebot is connected to the ethernet. It's not on 3G. It's not a mobile phone. Obviously, Googlebot is a juiced-up supercomputer that tries to get through indexing the Web as fast as it can. You know what I mean? It's got RAM.
Dave: It's got at least two sticks of RAM.
Dave: You know what I mean?
Chris: Well, that would be messy. How many milliseconds does it take to absolutely totally digest and rank every single bit of everything on DaveRupert.com? I would think in the tens of milliseconds or less. That would be my guess.
Dave: I think if Google spent more than that on my site, they would be costing themselves money. You know what I mean? It would be more money in CPU time to index my site than money they would get for referring my site. You know what I mean?
Chris: Yeah. Sure.
Dave: Yeah. If it takes over five seconds, it's going to bail, so that's something to consider. Again, the math. You tell me five seconds. I understand what five seconds are, but the infrastructure behind that I don't understand. I would be curious what that infrastructure is.
I just have more questions. [Laughter] You tell me one little thing about the Googlebot and I have ten more questions. If it is a concern -- this is, too. You need to decide, are you an SEO-based company? Is CodePen an SEO company? Are you making a gigantic SEO play? Not really, right? You probably have some concerns, but CSS-Tricks is an SEO company, right?
Dave: You very much depend on SEO.
Chris: Right. Yes. To the level that there's no way I'm just going to jump to a fully client-side rendered site. That would be enough of a consideration alone that I wouldn't do it. At the same time, I generally don't think of SEO that much. I'm not sitting around thinking about SEO every day for what we do.
Chris: We just publish some stuff and it's cool, but Google is good enough to us with results that I wouldn't want to screw it up. That, I think, would almost certainly screw it up. That's that.
Chris: I think you have a good point, though. Are people worried about SEO? A little too much for their personal blog or whatever. If SEO is not a big part of your business model, who cares? Just do whatever you want.
Dave: To some degree, too, Google has a search index thing. Do you know what I'm talking about? It's like a hoods, a heads up display. It basically tells you--
Dave: It tries to inform you what it knows about your site. It used to be under Google Webmaster tools or whatever. Let me see if I can pull it up here live searching here. Search Console is what it's called now. Sign in. Password.
Chris: I didn't realize it laid over your own site, though. I've used that that just gives you warnings when you're screwing stuff up.
Dave: Yeah, well, and it gives you performance, but I think you could say, if you're flatlined, that would be a problem. It gives you coverage. It tells me I have 17 500-errors right now. Oh, that's not my website. Ha-ha. Sorry, client. [Laughter] Let's go to -- where's DaveRupert.com?
Chris: Yeah. What do you got? What are your errors, man?
Dave: I don't even see it, man. Let's see. Have I messed this up that much?
Chris: Maybe it's a little neglected over the year.
Dave: Oh, yeah. Well, I had a problem where my entire search just disappeared entirely, like all of it became unindexed and I was getting warnings from this thing I signed up for dozens of years ago.
Chris: Not great. Not great.
Dave: No, not good at all. I don't even -- dude, I maybe deleted it because it was not providing me value. Anyway, Google search console, it's a thing where you can at least see what has been indexed on your site. You could probably even track this yourself. You could probably be like, okay, I posted a blog post on my Gatsby, or whatever, client-side SPA. Did it show up here? Is it indexed here? Is anyone getting to it from here?
That's also hard, too. Unless you have significant volume, you're not going to show up in the first page of search results unless you're a big enough website. Again, back to the, can you just start a blog now in 2K19? I don't know.
Chris: [Laughter] I would think that you can, for the record, to end that conversation.
Chris: I very much want people to blog and can point to not just myself of being a blogger was extra great for my career, but countless other people that are self-aware of it, too, that say, "What's really helped me has been my writing."
Dave: I want to draw a distinction between personal blogs. I feel like every developer, every designer should have a space on the Web that you call yours, like, "That's what we do. Let's own this." It's a pain to maintain, but welcome to the Internet. [Laughter]
But I'm more in the business side of things. Could you start…?
Chris: Yeah. Yeah. yeah, okay. That's a good point.
Dave: …or something like that.
Chris: Of course, everybody should have a personal blog. You're making a distinguish about the stuff we talked earlier that it's a business or at least pseudo business type of blog.
Dave: My camping lifestyle blog, can I do that? I don't know. I don't know. Hit me up. Comment or write a blog post.
Chris: Maybe it's been the question the whole time. Even then it was a question. There was no moment--
Dave: I think that's true.
Dave: It was a golden ticket, you know, but there was big hype. Then it was, "I'm going to start a podcast," for a while. Then it was--
Chris: There was a heyday for display advertising. There was a moment in which putting display ads on your site was a fricken' gold mine and the bubble burst on it.
Chris: Before that, that was a big deal. There's an XOXO talk from Duce about that, I think, that's really worth watching because she got to ride that wave and had to reinvent herself after that.
Dave: Yeah. Duce, for those who don't know -- I swear Chris Enns maybe knows Duce. Basically, mommy blogger before anything, right?
Chris: Yeah, but real talking one.
Dave: Just real talk, like, "My baby threw up on me this morning."
Dave: "Welcome to motherhood." [Laughter] I knew a lot of young mothers who just read this blog insatiably because it was the one. It was the one. Now, she's older. Her kids are older.
Chris: Well, had to pivot into sponsored content and all kinds of different things.
Chris: Which I'm here for your pivots, you know. We've had to; I've had to pivot a number of times. Maybe I'll sell a product kind of thing. Maybe display ads are good. Display ads are not back but, weirdly, a lot better than they used to be. Sponsored content is now starting to become past its heyday, weirdly enough.
Dave: Weird. Yeah.
Chris: There's all kinds--
Dave: What about backlinks? If you put a link on your website, I will -- [Laughter]
Dave: Those emails you get.
Chris: Yeah, every day.
Dave: I still think about this "what can I sell for $10" thing. Oh, my God. I bring it up at parties and no one is entertained, but I still think about it quite a bit. [Laughter] What can I sell for $10?
Chris: Well, I don't know. If you're asking me, I like that and like less the impeachment.fyi thing. It's not like I don't think you should have donate links on there, but the value proposition is so much more squishy wishy. It's just like--I don't know--just give me some money because you like my thing. It's less clear than, give me some money and you get a very clear X.
Chris: When you sell something for $10, that value proposition is just there. I think I think that because I've been chasing that business model for a long time and have lots of envy of the other side. Coming from an app like Wufoo, which had -- I'd worked there, but I wasn't -- I had no stake in it -- was the clearest value proposition ever. Do you need these forms? Yeah. Well, we have this baby-free plan. Then if you need more than that. It was clear as day when you needed to upgrade and why and what you get for upgrading. That business model is just great.
Then moved to CodePen where our business model is just way more nebulous. There is no clear moment in which you've surpassed the free tier and just need it. I think just my jealousy, essentially, of more clear business models gets me.
Then, at the same time, I'm like, I can see how other people think the grass is greener on the other side. What we have on CodePen is an incredible amount of traffic and we can leverage that in different ways because most usage of CodePen is free that that's our advantage. Wufoo didn't have any traffic. They just had a clear product. I don't know. I'm just a fan of the product thing. Pay us X. Get X. It's good.
Dave: Pay us X. Get X. No, pay X for Y. Yeah. No, that's true. Yeah, and Dan's thing, too, is very much like, "No, just pay me and I'll make stuff that I was probably going to make anyway." It's not like X for Y. It's just like, "Hey, just pay me." [Laughter] Yeah, I'd be interested how it worked out.
Well, cool. We should wrap up here.
Dave: Otherwise, we're going to get into another topic that just will take another….
Chris: We actually need to do a rapid-fire one of these times where we give ourselves a very clear time limit of how long to answer a question.
Dave: Oh, we'll do another time limit. Yeah.
Chris: Apparently, we are talkers. Yeah.
Dave: Like to talk, yes, but we'll do that. Maybe in the next one, we'll do that. We are kind of -- I think when this goes out, we're going to kind of wrap up the end of the year. We're heading towards the end of the year. We will take a little holiday break, but we still have a few shows left this year, so tune in.
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Chris: [Loud inhale] ShopTalkShow.com.
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