Axe the intro paragraph analogy if you don’t refer back to it

Often, when you’re writing about tech stuff, you’ll make a reference to some mainstream culture thing. Well, or, like, science fiction, you know, I, Robot and stuff. You might also make an analogy to cars, road systems, whatever. 

Here’s one making an analogy between traffic laws and enterprise governance:

Dotting the landscapeof the world’s highways and freewaysare signs declaring the speed limit. While these limits vary based on geography, population density, and from country to country, they are a shared concept in that speed controls correlate with safety.

In tech writing, using analogies to real life stuff is great. Software and governance concepts are so conceptual that it’s a good start. However, in writing, if you don’t come back to that analogy, you should cut it. For example, if the text after this opening paragraph comes back to “you know, like speed laws that are adapted to the regional context they’re in,” leave the text in. But, if you never return to that analogy, just cut it and start with the tech stuff.

Inspiration for developing a style and aesthetics

“We hired you for what you know, not what you don’t know.”


This was the best career advice I got early on, that I can remember at least. It worked. I did excellent work at RedMonk and thrived.


In addition to a lot of consulting, the job was a lot of self-driven writing, doing all the work myself end-to-end, which I loved. I’d finally become a professional writer, if not exactly in the Great American Novel style I imaged of in my teens.


When you write two, three times a week, you end up thinking a lot about writing style, tone, and the workflow of writing.


I’ve fallen out of practice over the years of writing a lot. My job now is different. But I think about writing a lot, and here’s two people that shape how I think about style: Susan Sontag and Joan Didion.

Susan Sontag

If I can’t bring judgment against the world, I must bring it against myself. I’m learning to bring judgment against the world.

Susan Sontag wanted to be a critic. She had strong, tediously reasoned out and deep context. She inspires me because she gave herself the freedom to chase her energy and passion, never questioning what she wanted to do and her taste in culture. 

You can see her in diaries that, planned or not, she worked over decades on her project of explaining what was happening in the arts, books, and culture. 

Her certainty, “conviction,” inspires me too. She had opinions!

Having read her diaries and books and biographies, you can see that she worked on coming up with those opinions, they weren’t fickle. 

Sontag was from an era when people would say, simply, that something was good or bad, aesthetically. But she did the work to figure out what she thought and she was great at showing her work.

As I’m thinking this I realize that it’s slightly frowned on to have opinions now about culture. To many people with shit-opinions have an outlet now, so we see a lot of shit. In the pre-Internet works, though, the shit could only get so high. I say this not to be an old man talking about the good ol’ days, but to make the point that despite all that shit-talk out there, you need to trust yourself to have opinions, a culture aesthetic, and state them, when needed.

Joan Didion

And then there’s Joan Didion. 

Her style is so clear and so crafted and it inspires me all the time. 

She will use a phrase like this all of the sudden “I am telling you this because…” 

Her craft is part of her craft, she is part of the story. 

Although she’s from the same generation as Sontag, what I like about Didion’s style is its indifference. She covered murders, movie stars, her Californian heritage, and, most of all, herself. Even when she’s telling you the report on her mental breakdown, the take on most everything is always sort of “well, that happened…”

Didion’s style is very…warm? You could say it was cool, but it’s realness and her inserted opinion (often through writing style and structure, not direct comments) make it warm to me. And part of it is her role in the story – she’s very gonzo without all the machismo of Hunter Thompson. 

What inspires me as a writer is to see the fingerprints of how she works, often deliberately left in the text, as with the packing list. When I look at this list, I identify with the utility of it, planning out how the writer will engage with the subject, try to pass in different circles, and then do the actual work of writing it down.

I like the see the artists fingerprints on their work. Like the way the fur in The Fantastic Mr. Fox moves around imperfectly, all of how Wes Anderson makes films. Knowing that there’s a lot of work, opinion, and persistence that goes into something that seems effortless is a good reminder. 

All of these people had to find, experiment, develop, and work on their selves, their style. You can see that play out in their journals, their work, their biographies. 

Knowing how all these people thought and worked reminds me of the more important thing: if you have a style, and opinion of how things should be done, how they look, the work can be fun because the work becomes you. This isn’t that American phrase of “live to work,” nor is it the other side, “work to live.” Instead it’s about eliminating the idea of “work” entirely and just having it be life that you happen to be writing down.

Of course these two struggled financially and in their personal lives – they were writers! And, you know, people. But they worked long and hard to find, develop, and defend their style, their tone, their life. They did great work all throughout.

Living Through Writing

I want to spend less time chasing what people want me to do, complying to their priorities and needs, compromising what I’m good at, what I enjoy, and my mental-space to satisfy others. I too often doubt my convictions, my style, because I’m not certain what other people want. Or worse, because I don’t get any feedback once I click publish, good or bad. When I think about Sontag and Didion, they both lived by their own style and fit their work to what they knew was needed. And, at some point, you can see that they were writing to please themselves, or at least, to figure things out.

So, that makes me evolve that initial piece of advice I got. Now I think of it like this: “We hired you for who you are, not who you aren’t.” I’m hoping that’s a good tool to make sure I’m in a state where I can do work that makes happy.

How to Give a DevOpsDays Vendor Pitch

When you sponsor DevOpsDays, you get a 1 to 2 minute pitch. I used to give a lot of these, they’re fun if you make them fun! Here’s the advice I gave a co-worker who’s doing one soon:

To say that you “should not do a pitch” is not helpful. Of course you should give a vendor pitch, you paid for this! You just need to pitch it like a person, not “stay on script.”

You have two minutes, do something like this:

  1. First, thank the organizers for putting together this event. It’s all volunteer done so it’s a huge investment of time for those people.
  2. If there’s someone (including you!) talking at the event, mention their talk – the speaker’s name, topic, and time of the talk.
  3. If you know the topics people have been talking about, narrow down to your pitch starting from there. “Well, there’s been a lot of talk about getting kubernetes up and running, focusing on building a ‘platform’ for developers, and, as always some observablity.”
  4. Then, “let me tell you what we’re doing at VMware. We have a full-on application development stack now, and tools for managing and running kubernetes, as well as an open source kubernetes distro ready for you to use. We’ve got a stack with everything – well, most everything – you need to help out your developers and operators when it comes to improving how they do software. You know, getting software out the door weekly, if not daily to do all that ‘digital transformation’ stuff.”
  5. “We have developer tools and frameworks like Spring and API management; the developer support and services you layer on-top of kubernetes to make it all self-service and developer toil free; and the operations tools you use with kubernetes to keep it up and running and secure. And, if you want, we’ve can hook you you up with a kubernetes distro, or you can use whatever distro and public cloud services you want. Our stack will work with all the great ones!”
  6. “If you’re curious, you should start with the Tanzu Community Edition (go to tanzucommunityedition.io), it’s free and built on open source components. We’ve got all sorts of stuff you can pay for if you’re into that. Just come by the booth and check it out.”
  7. If there’s free stuff (schwag) at the table/booth, mention that in a flippant way: “we’ve got some free stuff at the booth, like some pens and stickers, and some weird charger – come get them, we don’t bite and won’t make you talk with us. We have to ship this stuff back, so we’d prefer to get rid of it.”
  8. Thanks!

Try to be as normal as possible and be as off-brand as you feel comfortable being. Don’t, of course, say bad things about VMware (or anyone else) – more roll your eyes at hype-y phrases and ideas. Act however you’d act when you’re relaxed with friends. The people at DevOpsDays are an extremely friendly crowd, they want you to succeed and even be your friend if you seem normal.

Finally, if you can hit the time limit a few seconds under, it will be impressive and cool, and that good feeling will be your reward.

Engaging with People at the Table/Booth

At the table/booth, people will be hesitant to come up, so if you see someone looking at the booth, say something like “want a free sticker/book/pen/etc.?” Tell them they can take two, or three even. If they stick around, they want to talk. 

Ask them “so what do you work on?” Some people are confused by this question, so you can clarify by saying “I mean, like, at work.” This usually gets them to start talking. You just ask them questions like “what do you think of that? Is it fun?” Always give them an out to leave – that is, let them keep asking questions instead of you. Then remind them to take more stuff and say “well, enjoy the rest of the show!”

Originally from my newsletter.

What is DevSecOps?

In this longer blog post, I go over how I’ve finally come to think about what DevSecOps is.A summary of what the post covers:

1. A secure software supply chain – This is a fancy way of saying “we know all the components that went into building and deploying this software and trust those components.” It also includes the actual CI/CD pipeline that you trust and that’s resistant to third parties including malicious code, as we’ve seen happen in recent years.

2. Improved culture and collaboration – Increasing collaboration and understanding between developers and security staff. As with many governance practices, with security, the governed (developers) and the governors (security staff) usually have an antagonistic relationship. Developers see security as unstoppable masters of “no,” and security people see developers as clueless coders. Well, that relationship isn’t helpful! As with DevOps, transforming “culture” to be more helpful is part of DevSecOps.

3. Automation and guardrails – Automating security policy enforcement, and providing defaults and templates to make it as easy as possible for developers to write secure code and applications configuration from the start. Historically, verifying that developers are writing secure code has been a manual, error-prone process. Much of this can be automated now with good platforms.

Read the rest!

Napkins, Ice, Toilets, and Passports

Allow me to indulge in some trans-Atlantic compare/contrast’ing. I was back in Texas and Chicago for a few weeks recently, so of course noticed some difference between Europe and America. It’s the tiny differences that stack up. Talking about them can be an annoying tic of expat people. But, whatever. It’s been over two years since I’ve been back, and here’s things that stand out:

All the small talk – now that I understand most of the talking I overhear (unlike in the Netherlands), I’m hearing all the small talk people have. “How’s the weather?” “ooohhh, yeah? you’re from the UP too!”, rolling over their 401(k) to an IRA, and that kind of thing. That said, even though I barely know it, hearing Spanish is so nice. It used to surround me, growing up, and it’s so rare to hear it in Europe. (I mean, except in one of the countries, obviously).

Free napkins – I joke a lot about how spare Europe is when it comes to food. No free drink refills, no free ketchup or mayo, no free anything. But in the States, all those small things are free (or refillable). Napkins are the most notable. When you order food in Europe, they assume (or act like) all you’ll need is what Americans would call a cocktail napkin, or even the equivalent of two sheets of toilet paper. Those thin, toilet paper like napkins are often paired very poorly: with those cones of fries topped with a cup full of mayonnaise. In the states, you get more napkins than you can deal with: thick, large, almost sensuous napkins. Having lived with napkin poverty for four years now, like my depression era grandparents, I hoard these extra napkins in my bag.

The border – going through passport control in the States is a shocking experience. The agents there are very official, brusk, and, well, not very nice and welcoming. “What are you bringing back?” they stonely ask me when I say I’m coming from Amsterdam. My answer is always the same: “uh…stroopwafels…?” which is always true. That straight-faced gruffness is sort of, unfortunately, the culture of government officials with guns in the States, and it’s really not something you realize until you experience similar people abroad. When you enter the Netherlands (and the UK), for example, the people look the same, sometimes even more militaristic, but they’re so much more friendly. The passport control people in Schiphol wear big bullet proof vests, uniforms, and have guns. The men often have military haircuts and often steel arms (based on the commentary I read – rather have read to me by my wife – in Facebook expat groups, they could make very profitable cheesecake calendars)… but they’re _so friendly_. They’ll joke with me about not knowing enough Dutch, and even say “welcome home!”  

Bikes – well, I mean, there’s no bike lanes out here in the suburbs, obviously. In Chicago, there were bike riders, but they mix with the cars. When I make a right turn in the rental car, I find myself dramatically looking for a bike coming up on my right, an instinct you built up in the Netherlands. I laugh a little bit each time because, you know, there’s no bike lane, no bikes to look for there. Crosswalks are similar: in the US, crosswalks without a stop-light are mostly meaningless. In Europe, if someone is standing/waiting at a crosswalk, traffic stops: they’re actual things there. Austin has some pretty beefy bike lanes on some streets – I’m curious to see how much they’re used. Seems cool.

Trucks – I one of the highest status levels with Avis, so our rental got upgraded from a mini-van to a full on Chevy Suburban. This is a huge – MASSIVE – “car.” Up here in DFW, it doesn’t stand out too much though. The Suburban would be impossible to use in the Netherlands – it just wouldn’t fit in the cities, you wouldn’t be able to park it anywhere. To be fair, I wouldn’t have been able to park it in the garage in Chicago either. I had a Ford Explorer there and driving around in the parking garage was a little scary not he tight turns. In contrast, the most numerous cars in Europe are what we used to call “hatch-backs” and station wagons.

Ice – we have endless ice in America. Europe likes to put one or two cubes of ice in your drink (that you get no refills on), but ice in the US is everywhere. We bought a bag of ice at Sonic twice, maybe we’ll do it again. I’m reminded of long passages in early Hunter Thompson where he lays out his method for rum drinking: fill a tall glass with ice and pour rum over it. I mean, simple recipe, but when you’re used to little to no ice, it seems like a treat. (I won’t be drinking a tall glass of rum, don’t worry.)

Empty Space – especially when it comes to Texas, there’s so much empty space. This could be huge yards and parking lots, parks, or just land left alone. I don’t know if this is true, but around Europe I often thing “well, this place has been full of people for thousands of years, so they’ve sort of taken over everything.” Which is to say “nature” in Europe is mostly man-made and engineering. Most all of the trees in the Netherlands line up perfectly and are the same height. This is especially true in regions of Europe that were leveled in the second war. The States has so much empty space that it has “true” nature.

Friendliness – it’s a myth that Europeans are not friendly, especially when it comes to Germans. People in Europe, day-to-day, are totally normal and friendly. What I mean by this is, like, if you’re in a big city and people are on the go, they might be stone-faced, but this is the case anywhere. You find bored teens checking you out at the grocery store, have light conversation with people walking the dog, and so on. I can see that, especially in Amsterdam, the locals can be mildly intolerant of tourists. Perhaps this accounts for some attitudes Americans have about Euro friendliness. This notion of European briskness and friendliness is a turn it on its head issue: Americans are comically overly friendly. We have a much different baseline for everyday interactions. One of my favorite jokes, which I read first in The Culture Map is this: in Russia, there is a saying “when you see someone walking down the street who’s smiling, they’re either one of two things: an insane person…or an American.” Now, Europeans might be – OK, are – more forward in telling you their opinions or calling out putting lipstick on a pig. This might be another source of the American perception that Europeans are less friendly comes with: they speak their mind and call you out more frequently. I don’t know – and once you understand that it’s just, like, conversation, it’s kind of nice.

Tap to pay – while there’s a more tap-to-pay terminals in the US then when we lived here, there’s not that many compared to Europe. You can tap-to-pay everywhere, even at the hot dog stand in Europe. If you had Apple Pay setup on your phone (or whatever), you wouldn’t really need your wallet at all. I’ve had to swipe and insert my credit card many times. I forgot you sometimes have to put in your zip code at the gas pump. Weird! That said, I don’t think I’ve had to sign anything yet.

Pay-at-the-pump – one of the more bizarre things in Europe is that you have to go into the store to pay for gas. There’s really no pay at the pump. You could go into conspiracy theories about this: people buy more if you force them to go in, it employees more people. I don’t know – I think it might just be a culture thing. Pay at the pump is great, it’s awesome – it’s the only way to live!

Toilets – one of the most baffling, frustrating things about Europe is the lack of public, as us Americans would say, “bathrooms.” About the only place you can pee in public is at a restaurant, or Ikea. Stores don’t have toilets, even the biggest grocery stores. And if there is a toilet, you usually have to pay 50 cents or a euro for it. This might be fine except that Europe is increasingly a cashless city, so who carries coins? (Shopping carts aren other problem here – apparently there’s a huge shopping cart burglary problem in Europe because they chain them together and require a 50 cent deposit to get one.) Peeing in Europe is a problem. I mean, do they expect people to just pee in the bushes? And what about those people who are not equipped with the necessity equipment for easily peeing in the bushes? In the States, most any public establishment has free to use toilets – sorry, bathrooms. And people don’t care if you use them! Sure, in downtown areas there might be signs about “for customers only” and occasionally keypad locks on the bathroom doors but…those are weird exceptions and mostly ignored. I don’t know, man: Europe, figure your shit out so we can…shit.

It’s hot – Chicago, of course, is not hot. But, yes, even this time of year, Texas is warm. In Austin, of course, it’s also muggy, the air is thick. I’m interested in seeing how my 8 year daughter responds to this – I think she was young enough when we left that she won’t be used to the heat.

Dress – in Austin, people dress very, er, casual. I too am just wearing an old t-shirt and shorts. It’s hard to compare to Europe because the weather is (see above) different. When it’s cooler, you can dress in pants and a jacket, which sort of makes you look more dressed up without even trying than a that t-shirt and shorts. There’s an old clothing store ad in Austin that went something like “Austin, where women dress to go out and men dress like they’re mowing the lawn.” So far, it looks like that maxim has crossed gender lines now. I make no judgement here. Wear what you dig.

Beef – listen, beef is Europe is not good. Here, you can buy a cheap, regular cut of meat and it’s always great. I think in Europe, the beef is healthier, the cuts are different…and it ends up being more like turkey than beef.

Uses for Competitive Intelligence

Jordi asked about the usefulness of competitive intelligence (at software/cloud vendors) in the Software Defined Slack. Here’s what I added to the thread:

I think competitive intelligence is least useful for product management. Innovation, talking to customers, and finding out sells and doesn’t sell from your salesforce is more interesting. Competitive intelligence is good for sales people, marketers, and prepping for conversations with “influencers” (press, analyst, and loud people on THE SOCIALIZ). 

  1. Sales people need “battle cards” to handle common objections; marketing people need to know how competitors position themselves to (also) talk about how their stuff is better 
  2. Marketers (yeah, yeah – “not every marketing person [like, most of them]”) don’t get enough information about customers, the products (they’re usually not technical enough to find out on their own, nor have enough time to “study”), and the overall market, so competitive intel help there
  3. When you’re talking with influencers, they’re always going to ask you about competitors. When I was an analyst, I always found this annoying and sort of useless. You usually only get three answers: (1) “I have a lot friends who work there”/“I talk with them frequently” (I don’t know what means, but people say it), (2) “You know, I don’t pay a lot of attention to competitors, we’re too busy paying attention to customers” (well, see my write-up here), or, (3) “Yeah, we’re pretty good” (people are trained [or should be!] to never say something bad about competitors, mostly. So, they’re way of saying “our competitors suck and we are awesome,” is to just talk about the second). You’ll never hear a detailed SWOT-style assessment about competitors from a vendor – it gets them nothing.

(There’s also competitive intelligence as simply “market intelligence,” is, of course, good for investors and corporate strategy people. But, that’s not really in the spirit of the above.)

The issue that I find is that competitive intelligence is that it’s overwhelming, especially for a large portfolio. For example, despite having excellent competitive intelligence reports – weekly! – for VMware Tanzu stuff, there’s just so much of it that it would take me all week to read it :) I wish I could read them all, like my old analyst days, but my job – and life! – is different now.

Originally from my newsletter.

My analysis of the State of Kubernetes 2022 survey

I like that I’ve been slotted into the “get that guy to do a write-up of a survey” position at work. It’s fun to look at these surveys, especially when I can add in things that aren’t in the published results, like multi-year data. Anyhow, here’s my write-up of our forth kubernetes survey. Things are going well for it.

I also made three little videos about this survey: one, two, and three.

The tiny video toolkit

People ask me how I do the tiny videos. I hope to do a screencast at some point, but in the meantime, here are some notes:

Video recording – I record them on my iPhone 11 Pro, I have Rode Wireless Go mics with a lav mic (these hook directly into the iPhone so the audio track is embedded in the video), a DJI Osmo Mobile gimble (totally not needed), and a cheap tripod. I record in 4k (see below for converting it for web). When I do “in the studio” I use the iPhone as well with Camo Studio and some Eve strip LED lighting. I have a black backdrop behind me. I use the FilMiC Pro Mobile on iOS to record – probably overkill, but if I ever get the remote thing working, it’ll be cool (I’d be able to control my main phone with another phone!). Their DoubleTake app is cool too – I used that for a couple Garbage Chairs of Amsterdam videos to bounce between me and the chair.

Audio – I don’t really do anything with audio now – it gets recorded into the track. It’d be nice to noise cancel, compress, level, and stuff, but, whatever. Once that gets built into LumaFusion, I’ll probably just flip those switches. Descript will level the audio, which is nice. I don’t know, man: the audio is good enough – I could stand to have more gain, but, again: whatever.

Editing – I edit in LumaFusion on iOS. I do most all editing on my iPhone, no shit. I’m often watching my daughter, feeding her, or otherwise somewhere besides a desk, so I’ve gotten really good at editing on my phone. Weird, but I like it. I’ve done it on my iPad and kind of like that less. Video editing software is very personal and muscle memory: I make no claims that what works for me would work for you: just pick something and train your hands to do the things. I could go over my editing style as well which, I like to think, is especially tuned for these short, quick videos.

Subtitles – I started using Descript to get subtitles. It’s good stuff. I’ve done some editing in Descript – it will delete out filler words (“uh,” “like,” etc.) and silence pretty well. I don’t like the video editing in Descript. Sometimes, if I need a Twitter length video (max 2 minutes 20 seconds), I’ll use Descript to edit it down a bit. Then I have separate subtitles for the “everything but Twitter version” and the Twitter one. Sounds like extra work, but it’s actually fine.

Thumbnails – I use Adobe Spark Post. It’s awesome and perfect for this job. I have an Adobe CC subscription, so I occasionally use stock.adobe.com to find zaney things. I also have a storyblocks.com stock footage subscription that I occasionally use for silly interstitials (like clowns in my bozo bit video).

Posting – I do that all manually, per site. I did a rough analysis of where/how to post videos. My finding was that no one clicks on YouTube links: you need to publish the videos “natively” in each service: LinkedIn (best performing for my videos), Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok. The last three don’t really work well for my videos, so I’ve started ignoring them. To make this clear: you can’t just put a YouTube link in Twitter and LinkedIn for promotion: people won’t click on the link! So, I upload manually to YouTube, studio.twitter.com (a nice find I didn’t know about!), and LinkedIn. The thing with this is just knowing the various formats and subtitle expectations for each. Twitter vidoes need to be max 2 minutes 20 seconds, LinkedIn can be up to 10 minutes, YouTube doesn’t care. Twitter MP4s need to be 500 megs or less, so I encode those to 720p – the others will take 4k, so I upload full 4k to them.

CTAs – you can put links into YouTube videos (“cards” and end frame things) – from what I can tell, no one clicks on those in my videos so I stopped doing them. You can also plop links into the YouTube description: I do this, I don’t know if they work. If you use studio.twitter.com, you can put one link that appears as an overlay to “watch more” (like, link to a full YouTube video) or “visit site” (like, go to a landing page to download my two free books). With LinkedIn, you just put the links in the post.

Promotion – dude, fuck if I know. Hashtags? I’m pretty sure the only way to get better promotion for my videos is to get people much more famous then me to point to them.

Interviewing – if I’m interviewing someone, I do it in Zoom and record the video. I figured out some settings where you can record the gallery view and the switching between active speaker view. The video quality is terrible, but I don’t ever want people to have to mess around.

Streaming – I use OBS with a few core scenes (one big head talking, sharing a screen with a head). The best tip I got on OBS was to tune down the resolution to 720p. While my Netherlands internet can take most anything, I don’t have the compute horse-power to do more. Besides, who’s going to stream 4k? When I stream, OBS records the video and then I take that video and edit it and post to YouTube. I haven’t done much streaming this year…I don’t like it.

Studio stuff – for a mic, I have an Apogee MiC 94k. It’s great! I think there’s a newer model now, probably fine. I currently use an Eve LED strip on the wall in front of me for lighting. I keep it on white at 25% brightness. I hook up my iPhone 11 Pro with Camo Studio so I can use. With the black backdrop I have, I found that messing around with the gamma kind of fades out the background enough (I have no idea what “gamma” is). I, of course, have those boom arm things for the iPhone/camera and mic. Mine are shit, but they work.

LIKE AND SUBSCRIBZ!

Relearning the value of complaining

In my real life, I don’t complain. Even when I get cut.

But complaining is bi-directionally valuable

What I get wrong is that people complaining want immediate action, a fix. This makes complaint stressful, both for me to do and hear. I don’t want people doing things for me, to carry that debt on my books. And when someone complains at me, I get stressed out that I know have to work, and do the right thing. Either way, complaining just opens up another opportunity for struggle and failure.

Instead, complaining is mostly a form of blowing off steam, and even friendship.

I’ve read that angry and defeated apes will hit lower status apes to blow off steam.

In some way, complaining is that, without the hitting. You feel better, and people can also bond with you.

And with me, when I don’t complain, it metaphorically builds up until I get anger and, worse, resentful.

I don’t understand the mechanisms of it at all, and therefore find it hard to do and benefit from, but: sharing your bad feelings and experiences with someone – complaining -, being “heard” is critical for mental well-being.

Getting more eyeballs for your boring-ass enterprise tech videos – analysis and LIFE HACKS from four months of long and tiny b2b videos by channel and numbers

Looking at four months of numbers, here’s my theories of how to get more attention for my enterprise tech videos:

  1. Make short ones, each with one point – 1 minute to 10 minutes.
  2. Post the videos natively to Twitter, YouTube, or whatever channel – don’t rely on people clicking on YouTube.
  3. YouTube is, in general, the worst performer for eyeballs.
  4. LinkedIn is the best all around performer (but, I haven’t found detailed analytics, like seconds watched versus just auto-play).
  5. I haven’t done enough analysis of CTAs (“click here to go to my landing page and move further along the sales funnel to giving us CASH!”) but they’re near impossible – Twitter looks good, but I don’t have enough visibility into the end-to-end funnel.
  6. Thus, following 5: focus on ideas you want in people’s heads (brand, thought lording, reputation, etc.) over clicks/transactions.

Analysis

I do a lot of videos for my work – selling kubernetes and appdev stacks for enterprises, along with the services/consulting that go with it (hey! VMWARE TANZUUUUUU!). Over the past two months I shifted from longer form vidoes (30-50 minutes) to tiny ones.

Sort of counter-intuitively, tiny videos take just as much work as long ones – lots and lots of editing, making subtitles, making zaney thumbnails, and all the usual uploading posting around. Sometimes tony videos take more work than just uploading longer, 45 uncut minutes.

The results are dramatic though: the shorter videos I do get a lot more views and “engagement” than the longer ones. This fits common SEO, social/influencer hustler folklore: no one likes long form content. After over 15 years of podcasting and presenting and blogging, I know that folklore isn’t, you know, universally true.

The Charts

The following tables are incomplete, it focuses on the tiny videos. See the taller table that follows for the numbers for the longer videos. (Click for the larger version of each chart.)

Table 01 shows the Dec 2020 and Jan 2021 tiny videos I did. I’ve been very time constraint of late (we have to – er, get to – home school a seven and ten year old, and also need to watch a 10 month old), so I’ve shifted to doing these small videos in the time I can find, often when I’m taking my baby daughter on a walk and she finally falls asleep:


Tanzu Talk tiny videos (and some long), Dec 2020 to Jan 2020

Table 01: Tanzu Talk tiny videos (and some long), Dec 2020 to Jan 2020.

Table 02 shows the tiny videos I did back in the Spring (2020). I was similarly time-constrained – technically (and, mostly – hey, my therapist has helped me recognize that I’m a workaholic, but, like, the content I produce for work is my passion – my work isn’t just yelling at supply chain people and arts and crafting PowerPoint slides and pivot-tables…OK…I’ll take a breath…) I was on paternity leave, so I had to snatch the times I could. I uploaded these videos to my personal YouTube site (the Dec/Jan ones are on the VMware Tanzu channel), so their YouTube views are shit:

cote.pizza tony videos, Spring 2020

Table 02: cote.pizza tiny videos, Spring 2020.

I call these “cote.pizza” videos because that’s the URL for a CTA I had.

Then, for comparison, Table 03 the views for all the Tanzu Talk videos – most of them are long form and were only hustled with YouTube links in Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.:


All Tanzu Talk videos, tiny and long, 2020

Table 03: All Tanzu Talk videos, tiny and long, 2020

Findings

There are some key findings:

  1. The short videos get a lot more traffic.
  2. Posting the videos natively to Twitter and LinkedIn gets a tremendous amount more traffic than posting links to the YouTube videos. You can see this in Table 01: the videos in December were promoted with links to YouTube, but the ones in January were posted natively to Twitter and LinkedIn. (Some videos were previews of longer ones, like the DevSecOps for Fed one).
  3. I haven’t done a video-by-video analysis, but very few people (if any) will click on a link to YouTube that I post in Twitter or LinkedIn. I don’t know if they click on CTAs either. (There’s some views from Instagram, Facebook, and even TikTok too, but I’m leaving those off from this write-up – they’re not high or consistent enough to consider – you’re better posting Nutella videos to those channels.)
  4. I have no proof of this, but I think adding in subtitles helps. Instagram will auto-generate sub-titles for you, and you can rely on YouTube’s auto-generates srt’s to upload to LinkedIn and Twitter, but I’d use something like Descript to make a “perfect” srt file.
  5. My Minecraft Yeller Thumbnails are the radest shit you will ever see in b2b marketing. COME AT ME. (I discovered Adobe Spark Post which is fucking awesome for this shit.)

Concerns/open questions

The major component I’m missing is following what happens when people click a CTA link. I encoded most all links I use for attribution to me, but I, of course, didn’t tell any of our web-funnel acquisition people this, so I don’t know how get those numbers. This would be extremely valuable info.

On the other hand, the price range of software and services (six to seven figure deals) I help sell is so high that having just one click, or just someone having seen and been influenced by my video evne though clicked nothing trackable.

Also, I’m concerned about echo chambers. Many of the “engagements” (likes and stuff) I get are from co-workers, which I value tremendously! There are, though, a sort of knowable set of “customers” who also engage. I need more insight into how far out of the echo chamber I’m reaching.

Let me state this clearly: I have no idea if all of this is helping the business. BUT IT SURE IS FUN TO DO!

All of that aside, let me tell you a (depressing?) secret: the only thing people care about are raw views. There may be some quibbling about completion rates, CTA following, etc.: but at the end, people will just remember the raw numbers. (Still, I’d like to have more visibility into the money I’m helping bring in and retain, but, hey, as I like to say, “I get paid either way.”)

Next shit to try

  1. “Everyday someone’s born who never watched The Flintstones – Looking at the numbers, not that many people have seen my longer form videos. Very few have watched to the end. If I slice-up and reserve some of those at tiny videos, it won’t be feed them left-overs reposting, it’ll actually be new for many people. I think this is something that us insatiable, completist readers don’t get and why we find re-posting/ICYMI’ing so vile.
  2. People love stuff about auditors/governance and security…but, really, you can’t predict what people like.
  3. Post in LinkedIn – you’ve got ten minutes, that’s a lot more than Twitter’s 2m30s.
  4. In Twitter, you can share access/use for the videos with other people. I need to share this with the people who run @VMwareTanzu and other accounts and see what success they get with posting those videos natively. Based on purely gut feel after looking at some of the videos, this will drive a lot more eyeballs.

Oh and… HEYYYY, GUYYZZZ! Three, two one! LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE BELOW!!

Appendix

Some additional notes as I think of them:

  1. Many of the longer form videos were streamed in Twitch at first. For my stuff, there’s around, I don’t know, 30 maybe 50 or 60 views after streaming in Twitch. During, it’s like zero to five, but usually, like one or two. I don’t really consider Twitch to be, uh, the “right fit” for my content. I think my co-workers who actually code (that’s like watching someone game, right?) have much more success.