AMA: Wes Bos → Full Stack Developer, Teacher, Product Maker

over 4 years ago from , Author - Developer - Speaker at Wesbos.com

AMA: Wes Bos → Full Stack Developer, Teacher, Product Maker

Hey Folks! A big thanks to Max for inviting me here today!

I'm Wes Bos - I create things for the web and help others learn to do the same. I help make programming easy to understand and I'm making a living doing that.

I'm a full stack developer — I work with startups and established companies to build their websites and products.

I'm a lead instructor at HackerYou where we teach full and part time students how to build the web - everything from HTML and CSS to Advanced JavaScript to Ruby on Rails. I primarily teach the front end focused ones.

My love for teaching crossed with my entrepreneurial side has birthed a couple of products. I'm the author of the Sublime Text Power User book + video series which will sell its 4,000th copy any day now. I just released React For Beginners two days ago and has already garnered 1,500 learners. These paid products are amazing because they allow me to create lots of free content such as Flexbox.io — What The FlexBox?! and Command Line Power User as well as dozens of YouTube videos and blog posts.

I also post little JavaScript + CSS hot tips on my twitter a few times per week.

So — I'm do a bit of everything — Developing, Teaching, Speaking, Designing and lately figuring out how marketing works.

Let's chat! What questions do you have? I'm a fairly open guy, so go bananas


  • Wesley MagnessWesley Magness, over 4 years ago

    Hey Wes! Just checked out your React Course. I really like how you've differentiated your material from Skillshare / Udemy etc.

    How did you get started with becoming a teacher? Did you ever use Skillshare or other platforms in the past to promote your content? When did you feel comfortable shifting over to your own learning platform?

    1 point
    • Wes Bos, over 4 years ago

      About 4-5 years ago I was doing a lot of WordPress youtube videos. A friend of mine asked if I could teach a class for a new thing they were starting called Ladies Learning Code. I was terrified, but I did it and it turned out that I both loved it, and was pretty good at breaking down hard concepts into easy to understand bits.

      A few years Later, Ladies Learning Code was taking off and they started up HackerYou. I was the first /only instructor for the first year and a bit. It's now grown to be pretty big, we're a team of ~10ish instructors and I'd like to think we're doing a fantastic job teaching people web development.

      I've been approached by Skill Share and all these platforms and it really just boils down to this: They have an audience, but they pay you poorly. I think skillshare said they would pay me about $2 per person that takes a class, while I make $50-70 on my own. Other platforms pay a fixed cost of about $2,000 while some do percentage cut.

      So, I decided to put my efforts into building my own audience and then I don't need to rely on these platforms :)

      1 point
      • Wesley MagnessWesley Magness, over 4 years ago

        I love it. HackerYou is really cool. I know the guys over at OneMonth and Mattan started off on Skillshare which built his audience out while he built his own product with his co-founder Chris.

        How did you grow your audience? Going to meetups? Being a super twitter user?

        0 points
        • Wes Bos, over 4 years ago

          I've been on twitter for 9 years, and was really active in "tweet ups" in the first few years . Almost all of my connections I have today are from twitter.

          Past that, it's really just doing lots of things - people know me from dozes of things - speaking, training, my book, video course, teaching at HackerYou...

          If each thing you do gathers a little audience, it starts to add up and gives you some momentum!

          1 point
  • Rebecca T, over 4 years ago

    Hi Wes, Thank you for doing this AMA! I am currently a visual designer but going to be taking web development for a master's, but I would like to get ahead start on coding/programming. I have a background in HTML/CSS/SASS. I know everyone has a different style of writing but it seems what I write isn't always correct by what others say, so how do I know what is right/wrong? How can I learn the "correct" technique of programming if there's so many different ways? Thank you again!

    1 point
    • Wes BosWes Bos, over 4 years ago

      Be like a duck and let it roll off your back. While there is tons of good intentions on making rules like USE BEMS or NEVER NEST MORE THAN 3 and I often agree with these, I find that they are a little intimidating to people who are new.

      Just build it however you can get it to work and as you get better, you will see why you need these things and you will develop good techniques.

      Addy Osmani said something like he always:

      1. Builds it to work
      2. Builds it right
      3. Builds it fast
      2 points
  • Lucas Lemonnier, over 4 years ago

    Hey Wes!

    First, thanks for all that you do for the community, it's very inspiring.

    I'm curious how you go about planning these different ventures. Specifically, how do you decide the level of time/sweat investment you pour into each project given some are free content, some are paid, and that you're a solopreneur and new dad :) Do you kind of dive in and hope it works out, or is there concrete planning & tangible goals involved?

    Lastly, what's the best piece of advice you have for someone wanting to start building an audience today.


    0 points
    • Wes BosWes Bos, over 4 years ago

      Hey Lucas! Thanks for the Q

      I'm curious how you go about planning these different ventures. Specifically, how do you decide the level of time/sweat investment you pour into each project given some are free content, some are paid, and that you're a solopreneur and new dad :) Do you kind of dive in and hope it works out, or is there concrete planning & tangible goals involved?

      Since I'm a teacher, I get asked a lot of questions. Once I get asked "How do I do X in X" more than 5 times, I realize its probably a question many other have. So that has a lot to do with it. I also just ask myself what sort of content I would have liked to have when I was learning.

      Another thing that I do is work with technologies that people already love - I don't have to sell people on using React, Sublime Text, Flexbox or the Command line - people know they want to be using these things. That makes my job easy - I just have to sell the content I create!

      Lastly, what's the best piece of advice you have for someone wanting to start building an audience today.

      Create content! There is lots of value in curating other poeple's content (Look at Peter Cooper's newsletters), but I find if you create good content — whether its a tweet, or a video course — people love it!

      0 points
  • Amazing RandoAmazing Rando, over 4 years ago

    I'm curious how you've set things up for your React course to handle the transactions—who processes payments, autoresponding emails based on purchase, landing page that gives the correct access, etc.

    In other words, pull back the curtain a bit and share with us the nitty-gritty on how you do your transactional stuff. Bonus points for information on how to test 'em. :-)

    (I've purchased your React course on day one and am looking forward to diving in this weekend.)

    0 points
    • Wes Bos, over 4 years ago

      Yes - I have pretty custom needs so I built everything myself. So - let's see.

      • It's a NodeJS + Express Stack on the backend
      • Mongo DB for my database, MongoHub to host the DB
      • I'm using Mandrill to send the emails. They are all templated in Jade which allows me to use javascript if statements inside the templates.
      • Everything is templated in Jade
      • The player is built in React which I built YouTube and Wistia Components for
      • I shamefully don't have any testing right now as building this kind of thing is crazy involved, so I opted for a faster release - it's on my list to add.
      • I deploy with gulp-rsync
      • I use forever to keep the node instance running
      • Credit Card payments are done through Stripe - they handle all the CC data so it never touches my server. I also added paypal as well to this.

      How is that? LMK if you have other questions!

      1 point
  • Kevin LetchfordKevin Letchford, over 4 years ago

    Hi Wes,

    As some one who received your email about your react course, how is the marketing for this course going compared to your other courses?



    0 points
    • Wes Bos, over 4 years ago

      It's going really well. Since I've done the free courses, people are really helping out by spreading the word for this paid one.

      So, while I have a large email list, the one thing that is really helping me this time around is trust + reputation from my previous stuff. This community is amazing and I'm so glad to see that someone like me can get paid to do what they love because they have already helped the community with their open source work, or free video series.

      0 points
  • Luke PettwayLuke Pettway, over 4 years ago

    Hello Wes!

    What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given? How did those words propel you to become the person you are today?

    0 points
    • Wes BosWes Bos, over 4 years ago

      I don't know if it's one piece, but I've always grown up in communities where its valued to be kind, be thankful and always try have fun.

      1 point
  • Leroi D, over 4 years ago

    First off, thank you for the awesome videos. The What The FlexBox?! series is one of if not the best set of tutorials on it I've found yet. Super helpful. With that said, I'm still pretty new to using FlexBox, so I have a couple questions:

    Do you think Flexbox is capable of fully replacing grid systems like Bootstrap and Foundation? Can someone build all their sites (whether a personal portfolio, or a fully responsive, large-scale publication site) using Flexbox, or is it meant only for a specific niche?

    Another thing I wanted to ask about was teaching. You mentioned in another answer that you started with YouTube videos before being approached to become an actual teacher. Can you talk a little bit about that first teaching experience? Did it all just come together naturally or did you have to teach yourself how to teach, so to speak? Are there any resources/books you recommend on the subject?

    Thanks in advance and keep up the awesome work!


    0 points
  • Sacha GreifSacha Greif, over 4 years ago

    I just bought the React course, really enjoying it so far! Great timing on the AMA, hopes it brings you a couple more well-deserved sales :)

    You mention in another answer that you built a custom app to host it, and we did the same for Discover Meteor.

    But I was wondering if you ever explored some of the existing host-your-own-course apps out there? The reason I ask is that a few people have asked us if we planned on open-sourcing/commercializing the Discover Meteor platform one day, but I'm still not convinced the demand is large enough. So I'd be curious to know the process that led you to building your own app? Or maybe that was your plan from the start?

    0 points