Doug Tidwell is the Senior Technical Marketing Manager at Redis Labs where he is currently working to build out the Redis Labs Developer Program. Redis Labs is the home of Redis, the world’s most popular in-memory database, and commercial provider of Redis Enterprise.
Doug is also a programmer and writer who creates videos, articles, sample code, container images, and other useful things. He has given hundreds of presentations at dozens of conferences around the world and is the author of O’Reilly’s XSLT, a copy of which makes a perfect gift for all occasions.
In a conversation with Pranav, host, Mad over videos podcast episode 23, Doug shares his insights on creating humorous marketing videos to open new doors, create an affinity, and leave a lasting impact on your target audience. We’ve also covered video-based evangelism, how to speak to developers effectively, and a lot more.
Here’s Pranav, Co-founder at guch, speaking to Doug.
Pranav Chimulkar: Hello, guys, and welcome to the Mad over videos podcast by guch. Today we have Redis labs, Senior Technical Marketing Manager, Doug Tidwell with us. Doug is a veteran in the industry having spent over three decades. He’s got so much to share. I’ve had a chat with him before, and I just couldn’t think of passing this opportunity to get him on board. For this episode, we’ll be talking a lot about video evangelism, because that’s what he’s done primarily for most of his career, having spent time at various organizations like the red hat, cloudbees, IBM, and he’s right now with Redis Labs. Again, without much ado, I’d like to add Doug to the podcast and get started.
Doug Tidwell: Thanks for having me, I’m glad to be here.
Pranav Chimulkar: Thank you so much for taking time out. And joining us, it’s been a pleasure to have you onboard from the time we got in touch. Now, it’s been such a great experience, learning already from you. And I hope we discover a lot of additional things to learn from you as we speak today.
Doug Tidwell: I hope so.
Pranav Chimulkar: Awesome. So before we get started, I think I haven’t done justice to introducing you on the podcast, I’d like you to give me a brief introduction about yourself a little bit about your background, and what your role at Redis labs is.
Doug Tidwell: Okay. Sure. I have been an evangelist for most of my career. When I started, obviously, that was long before the days of COVID, I was in the room with you, I was on the stage, I was speaking at user groups, whatever audience made sense. And as time went by, travel dollars became scarce. And I moved into a role where I didn’t travel very much at all. So I had these presentation skills that I had honed over a long period of time and said- Okay, I’ve got to find some way to use these skills. And the video was the obvious way to do that. So before the pandemic, anyway, I did travel, I did speak occasionally. But by far, most of my work has been in front of a camera like this. So I have had to learn different techniques. Obviously, my audience here is a camera, there’s a teleprompter, I’m making eye contact with the teleprompter, my dog may be in the room that’s about it, I don’t have an audience to interact with. So it is taken some time to really get comfortable with that. In terms of my role at Redis labs, I have only been there a short time, but I’m very excited about the company, its products, its trajectory in the marketplace. And my job there is to produce content that shows people how to use our products, in what most people would think of as a non-traditional way. Most people think of Redis as a cache for their database. It’s great that we have a massive market share in that part of the industry. But what we’re trying to do is show all the other things that Redis can do with amazing performance and scalability. So my job is to create videos and other types of multimedia content, to help people understand what they can do with our product and how to make the most of it.
Pranav Chimulkar: Right. So I think that leads me to this question that asked every guest of ours who comes on the podcast. That is why is Doug Mad Over Videos? Why do you love videos so much?
Doug Tidwell: I love it because it’s such a chance to really craft things, to do things exactly the way that I want to do them. In a presentation, a lot of things can go wrong. Especially if you’re demoing live code, the network can go down, your code can crash, there are a lot of things that you don’t have much control over. Whereas with a video, I can do everything exactly the way I want it. So you know if I don’t like a particular tank or my voice didn’t sound right or I mispronounce him, whatever, I can go back and fix that, and make everything as close to perfect as I want. And, there’s also a lot of creative things that I can do on video that you really can’t do on a stage. We talked earlier, we’ve done skits, we’ve done all sorts of humorous videos. And those are things that really wouldn’t work in front of a live audience. So that’s why I like it. And again, during the time of the pandemic, if you’re a presenter, this is what you have to do. So I’m blessed, to have the skills at this point in my career, to be able to still reach out and communicate with people through this meeting.
Pranav Chimulkar: Right. A major part of your career has been in evangelizing technology. Right? I like to dive a little bit into that. What does it take to be an evangelist? What are the top three or five things that come to your mind when it comes to skills or the mindset that is needed to be a good evangelist or a great evangelist?
Doug Tidwell: Right. Well, I think there are several things, to be the most important is to be approachable. I have seen speakers who feel like their job is to convince everyone, they’re the smartest person in the room. Okay, if I’m the smartest person in the room, I’m the only person in the room. What I want you to feel, If you’re in the audience, I want you to look at me and what I’m doing and think to yourself- oh, I could do that. Okay, now, it’s probably a lot more complicated than it seems. But a big part of evangelism is convincing people, this product or technology is real. And you can do great things with it right now. So to me that that’s a real key. Another thing that’s important, you think it would be obvious, but so many people visit is to be as clear and simple as you possibly can. I have a master’s degree in computer science, but I have a bachelor’s degree in English. And when I was getting my English degree, I wrote papers all the time. And it forced me to learn how to distill ideas down and convey them very simply and concisely. That’s vital if you’re an evangelist. And the other thing to me is to respect the cynicism that I believe most developers have, we’ve all been in the software business for a while now. Every few minutes, somebody comes up with a new framework, or a new product, or a new technology, that’s the greatest thing ever. And five minutes from now, there’ll be another new thing, that’s the greatest thing ever. So developers, I think, have been told many times, here’s something that’s worth your time. It’s worth your time to learn this language, this framework, this product, and every developer I know, myself included, has been burned by that, okay, I saw that technology, I invested a lot of time in it. And then it turned out, it didn’t go anywhere in the marketplace. So I think it’s important to show people the value of learning what it is that you’re selling, again, whether it’s a technology or a product, I want to convince you that if you invest the time in learning what I’m selling, you’re going to be more productive, you’re going to be more innovative and creative, you’re going to have a real advantage over your peers and your competitors.
Pranav Chimulkar: Absolutely. Now that you talk about it, you just mentioned that you’ve been used to being in rooms where you have real people around you, and in the situation that we are in today, you’re doing all the same things, but sitting in front of a camera with a teleprompter and your dogs as well. I think I know, how different is it. It’s of course different. What goes on in your mind? Like, how do you keep the same level of interest and also ensure that you deliver with the same amount of passion when it comes to being on stage and in front of the camera?
Doug Tidwell: Yeah, one of the things is his passion and the energy of you hit the nail on the head there that is vital. If I’m just sitting here reading on a teleprompter, that’s boring. If I look like I’m not having a good time, the audience is not going to stick around. So again, that comes directly from the work that I did on stage. I am enthusiastic about whatever I’m talking about. This is the greatest product ever, You people out there are the greatest audience ever, I’ve just thrilled to be you know, I mean, you need to project that kind of energy. And you have to do the same thing on camera, it’s different, of course, because you can’t really feed off the audience. If I’m really projecting to the audience, people respond to that, that’s great. Here, again, the camera, it doesn’t respond, it just sits there and records me. So that’s, that’s an important thing, you have to have that energy. Also, we’ll talk about humor as we go, I have to learn that with humor, you almost have to hide it. In some ways, just do something and move on. If you’re in front of an audience, you may do something funny in the audience laughs, Okay, that’s great. pause for a minute, let people stop laughing, and then move on to the next thing. Obviously, I don’t get that, in front of a camera. I will say something or do something that I think is funny. But I can’t wait. Just keep going. And keep rejecting energy as you go.
Pranav Chimulkar: As you said, I will take this example that most people give this tip when it comes to like being a speaker on stage, if you’re not comfortable with, I’m not sure if a lot of people might agree. But then there is another thing that they say, that you imagine that your audience is naked, and then you get comfortable with your life idea. Now, now I can speak to these guys. I mean, a lot of people do follow this. And I’ve spoken to a bunch of people who come from this school of thought, but I don’t know what is something that you follow when it comes to making yourself comfortable in front of the camera.
Doug Tidwell: Um, it’s a weird mix. I am a complete introvert, but I love to be onstage. So I have never had a problem being comfortable. To me, the main thing is I just do not envision anything negative happening whatsoever. Obviously, I know, especially if I’m doing a live demo, something may go wrong. But I just envision this is going to be great. Everything is going to work, I’m going to be clear, I’m going to be pretty persuasive, precise, the audience is gonna love me, this is just going to be the greatest presentation ever. That’s the way that I think that’s the mindset I have when I walk out on stage. And again, I try to have that same confidence. When I sit down in front of the camera and turn on the lights, this is going to be a great video, people are going to watch this, they’re going to tell their friends, it’s going to get a great audience, it’s going to make a difference in the marketplace. To meet you have to think positively. And you know, if thinking of a room of naked people is positive for you. Well, that works. That’s great.
Pranav Chimulkar: I don’t go by that. But then I think this is something that I’ve captured after talking to a lot of speakers. I mean, first time speakers, especially who’ve been given this advice, but feel free to take it or leave it. I do not subscribe by that notion. So that said, you just brought out the point of humor. I like to throw an image on the screen right now of you recording a video for the audiences of my other videos announcing that you’ll be on the podcast. And this is what it looks like. Please tell me about your obsession. So for those who might not know this, this is a Narwhal, it is a mid-sized to a mammal, right. It’s a whale. And, I was shocked when Doug decided to record a video wearing a Narwhal hat and send it my way. Please tell me what’s your obsession with this?
Doug Tidwell: Well, there’s a couple of things. First of all, we talked about not taking yourself too seriously. If you’re wearing a Narwhal hat, it’s pretty obvious you’re not taking yourself too seriously. But where they came from? I was at a DevOps conference. And what we were promoting was a new book called The unicorn project by Gene Kim, it’s an excellent book. If you care about DevOps, you should definitely check it out. But I just thought everybody’s going to be there with a unicorn hat. What why not have a narwhal hat. It has one horn like a unicorn. Except it’s real. So that was just sort of where I started and then I, I became known as the guy with a narwhal hat. So it just sort of stuck. And like I say if you see me wearing a narwhal and it’s pretty obvious. We’re not going to have a dry, boring, very serious discussion. We’re going to have one while we’re talking about technology.
Pranav Chimulkar: As soon as I saw that video my inbox after you recorded that, and I was like, this is going to be a fun conversation. I have someone who is definitely going to be fun to talk to so, and it’s going the same way. And I’m really happy that, this conversation is not bound by a tight agenda or anything, and I love it when it is this way.
Doug Tidwell: Great. Great.
Pranav Chimulkar: So that’s the very talk to developers, that’s been your primary audience for most of your career.
Doug Tidwell: In my career, and if you have to do things differently for other audiences, if I’m talking to the CTO or the CEO, if I’m talking to an analyst, I’m not wearing the Narwhal hat, you know, I’m assuming you’re really busy, I’m lucky to get 15 minutes here time, we’re gonna go right to the pitch, there’s not going to be any nonsense. And again, that’s one of the reasons I love talking to developers is that they have a great sense of humor. And, can really respond to that.
Pranav Chimulkar: True. That’s said. I mean, like, you brought out a very interesting point, that like, like yourself, many others also, typically get into the mindset that when you see a person in a suit, he’s going to be a different person, then your average consumer. He’s going to be deadly serious, and he might not enjoy humor, and then I don’t know, you sort of tweak your mode of communication, you, you start getting more serious. And oftentimes, it’s not true, the person on the other side is equally interesting and loves, maybe a light note. So I think important to also take that call. intelligently, I would say who’s the audience?
Doug Tidwell: Yes, yes. And what I always do in front of a live audience, is I will start with some little thing that’s kind of humorous, and just see how the audience reacts again, if I’m in the C suite, and nobody cracks a smile. Okay, that’s the last joke we’re going to hear today. But like you said, there are a lot of people I’ve had, times where the CTO is having a lousy day. And a little bit of humor is really welcome. So, it’s that’s the thing about being in person, you can judge your audience and respond to them in front of a camera, it’s not the same.
Pranav Chimulkar: Speaking of being funny on video, there’s a video that I’d like to play. That’s called Bad speaker tips. And you can tell me a little bit more after I play the video about it. So here it goes.
Doug Tidwell: Yeah. And, I know. My mom, for example, my mom is surprised that I get paid for doing stuff like this. This is just a character that came out of some skits I did at cloudbees. I’m the evil Doug character that was basically just, it’s a very cartoonish character. What I put that together for speakers at DevOps world, which this year, of course, was a virtual conference. Everybody was making videos for the first time. So we put together, I guess I would say some of it was important tips. Some of it is my pet peeves. They’re things like the ceiling fan. It drives me crazy. When I’m hearing an expert give a really good presentation, but the ceiling fan is overhead flashing on the video, things like that. So it’s with the humor, it’s silly. It’s very important to me not to be sarcastic not to be mean. But along with the bad advice for how to annoy your audience. There’s also good advice. This is what you should do. You know, Oh, sure, you can have good lighting, but it’s a lot more annoying if you stand in front of a bright window, things like that. So it’s humorous. It’s something people enjoyed, but it also conveys all the information we wanted to convey. So, that could have just been using good lighting, use a good microphone. Thanks for stopping by. But it was more fun too, to give the reverse advice, making it obvious what you should be doing.
Pranav Chimulkar: Absolutely, I think that said, it takes me to the point of not going the traditional route. And this, a lot of brands get caught up in this, they take their audience very seriously, more than they should, and end up basing the video that they come up for their product based on those personas, whereas, as you said, if you’re getting the gift of your audience’s time, you need to use it very judiciously. So yeah, most of the times, if you could entertain them for those a minute or two, I think that is going to be a that’s gonna leave an everlasting impression on their minds, and there’s going to be higher chances that they recall the brand when they actually have a need. Because most of the time when you’re selling, like to cold customers, most of the time it’s the case that they do not have a need, like for your product. But then oftentimes when they actually do the only ones that they get back to other people that they remember. And they remember exactly with. With that said, I think why do you think it’s important to take nontraditional examples and, and break the whole idea of showing the exact same persona that they are targeting? Because it’s boring? Because, yeah, I’m a developer, I don’t want to see another developer’s day in the life. I know how it is.
Doug Tidwell: Right. Well, I think there are a couple of things, there are a couple of dangers in going with the traditional persona. The first obviously, is that maybe the traditional persona is just boring. The second thing is that if I tried to write an example, application of handling a mortgage, I’m not a mortgage banker, I don’t know how it works. If you are a mortgage banker, you’re going to look at my example, you’re going to be distracted, because I’m doing things wrong. Instead of paying attention to what I’m trying, to do the message I’m trying to get across, you’re thinking, Oh, you would never process an application that way. That’s just wrong. So to me, when you use a non traditional example, how to put this, you’re getting people to think about their problems from a different perspective. And one of the examples I did when I was at IBM, we built a chat bot. With the Watson conversation service, which was really cool. It had a great natural language processing engine that could make inferences. It was cool technology still is cool technology. But what I did was I wrote a chatbot that was a valet for Pharaoh Ramsay’s the second who died roughly 3500 years ago. And what the king did, he’d love to have a feast or build a monument to himself or start a war. So the chat bots job was to figure out what the king wanted to do today, and get all the details it needed to make plans for the king. Okay, totally silly example. Okay, nobody is doing that in the real world. But what we focused on was, this chat bot needs to be smart enough to only ask the minimum number of questions. So if the king says, I’m really hungry today, okay, we know the king wants to have a feast. He’s not going to have a war, he’s not going to build a monument to himself. And I showed lots of techniques, lots of advanced techniques to reduce the number of questions and make better inferences in your chatbot. That’s what people remember. And, again, when you start down this road, it’s a chatbot for someone who died 3500 years ago, people disconnect from the normal way they think about problems and start looking at it differently. Because what they’re looking at is, we have the same issue. We need to not ask our users annoying questions with our chat bot. So it really worked out well. And, I got some really gratifying emails, where people said, you know, we had this problem. We couldn’t figure out how to reduce the number of questions. We couldn’t figure out how to avoid this situation. Your example showed us exactly how to do it. So it was an example that had absolutely nothing to do with anything any sane rational person would ever do. But it showed you lots of techniques, lots of ways to use technology to solve problems. And that was a really effective way of getting that message across.
Pranav Chimulkar: True. So I think this is probably the best example that I’ve seen when it comes to like, explaining what to do and what not in your onboarding, or lead capture stage of any product for that matter. And thank you so much for bringing this up. Because this sparks some ideas for our own marketing initiatives somewhere, I’ll take note of that. At the same time, there’s another example that comes to my mind when you bring this up, is a video from a brand called air table. Again, the air table is a task management SaaS tool in the cloud, where you can organize all your tasks and, and ensure that you have a smooth collaboration across teams. But again, it’s the approach that I really liked that they took, and I’m going to show that video after we talk about it, is not by showing a team of developers and product managers and market years or whatever, they took the route that I everybody could relate to, again, a very nontraditional example. And I think, without talking about it if I show it directly on the screen, I think you guys will be able to relate more to it. So here goes
Doug Tidwell: Good, great
That was fantastic. I have not seen that before. I love that.
Pranav Chimulkar: I’m sure even if you weren’t weren’t aware of the product, this video is going to put a smile on your face.
Doug Tidwell: Oh, absolutely. Yeah.
Pranav Chimulkar: It’s the best thing you could do. I think now you have this registered. And next time, even if you don’t remember the brand, you’re still gonna remember that there were kids in the video, they were trying to do a fictional movie that didn’t exist. And, that’s something that you would go and search and then you will discover the product. And that’s the best way you would I think your intent to buy would be really high from that brand.
Doug Tidwell: Right. Yeah, that’s a great example of doing something outside the box. I hate that phrase. But you could have just said, we’re a busy office have grown-ups and we can’t keep track of what we’re doing. Now. Okay, fine. I mean, that’s not that interesting with this commercial was hilarious and entertaining.
Pranav Chimulkar: You bet. So next thing that I want to talk about, again, it’s very important that you pick non-traditional examples like these, that will leave a mark on your audience, but at the same time when your product is complicated and most advanced technologies and security systems, etc. Like, especially if you are a founder, who comes from a tech background, or if you’re talking about the product marketer who is closer to the product, than the audience. It’s bound to happen that you get caught up in the bias of having business the product, right? So you feel strongly about the tech stack that you have or the security systems in place. If it’s a sensitive product, and often times, then not you end up talking in a language that your audience might not really connect to. So I want to know, what are things that you need to keep in mind in order to get your messaging, right when it comes to communicating very complicated ideas in a very compelling and clear manner.
Doug Tidwell: Right. Well, to me, the main thing is, I am a big fan of demos. So we’ve got a product. Again, this gets back to my developer background, I’m cynical, you tell me your products. Great, show me that your product is great. That’s what I want to do. So what I found, and I have found this in lots of places that I’ve worked with lots of organizations is that when you try to make something simple to say, All right, we’re going to start here, and we need to get there. And let me show you how quickly and easily you could do that, as you try to put that demo together, you will find a number of places where things are just unnecessarily complex. And part of your job, in my opinion, as an evangelist is to push back on the product team is just to say, Okay, we’ve got a situation here, where you’re asking me to enter two pieces of information. But if you know the first piece of information, you can figure out the second one. So take the second piece of information out of the product altogether, just use it internally, but don’t make the user have to think about that, you’ll find lots of situations like that, where you really need to push back on the product team to basically be an advocate for your audience, to make life simpler for them. In terms of terminology, that can be a tough one. Because the marketing department tends to be a little closer to product development. Product development and marketing will say these are competitive differentiators. And that’s valuable information, yes, show us how we’re better than the competition. But that doesn’t mean those are going to be equally valuable to the audience. So that’s where I have really leaned on the Salesforce over the years, because those are the people standing up in the boardroom, in front of the customer. And when they say we have feature x, and the customer says we couldn’t care less about feature x, okay, that’s really good for me to know, as I’m putting together my demo, I’m not going to show feature x, if I can help it. So having that feedback, and just the interaction with marketing with sales and with product development. To me, that’s just vital. And if you do things well, and to me, this is one of the most gratifying things about making videos, is when development comes to me and says, Wow, we’ve never seen the product work that well. Okay, that’s a sign that you did your job really well, when you made something seem very simple and compelling. Developers tend to see all of the difficult work behind the scenes that a customer is not going to see. So when you can show everybody including product development, this is how simple this could be. That’s, that’s fantastic. And when you do that, you earn the trust of those other organizations, they will have faith in you to get the messaging, right. And to emphasize the things that are really important.
Pranav Chimulkar: True. You being in the intersection of product and marketing, I think you’ve spent enough time writing code yourself and marketing product code. I think this question goes right up your alley, right? I want to know, how does a programmer or a developer look at marketing initiatives? I think, in many organizations, it becomes very hard to convince the product teams or the technology teams to participate in activities like these, like whether it comes to making a video commercial, it could be an offline activation for your product or things like that. It could be that they wouldn’t care a lot about it because they’re more bothered about how the product is going to be and how it’s going to function, and what’s the pipeline like and they oftentimes do not bother to contribute. But then I don’t think these activities are marketing in general, is not the job of only the marketers hired in the company, but then it’s the job of everybody in the company. So I want to know, what’s the perspective like?
Doug Tidwell: There are a couple of things. One is for developers. It’s an unpleasant truth. But no one cares that you added a new feature to the product. Hey, I worked really hard on this feature. If that feature doesn’t do anything useful for me, I don’t care. I’m sorry, I love you. Good work, nice job on the feature. But it doesn’t matter to me, it doesn’t make me reach for my wallet. And it can be difficult to you have to be diplomatic in saying to development, we understand this new feature was difficult to write. But it doesn’t resonate in the field. So we’re not going to talk about it, it doesn’t matter how hard you worked on it, or how difficult it was to get it working. So I think that’s part of it. And that there can be some friction there. If we added 10 new features to the product, we’ve got 10 things we need to talk about in every message. No, you don’t, you may have two or three things to talk about or those 10 features, they may enable for use cases, talk about the 40 use cases, not the features. So that would be you know, a source of tension sometimes. Because, development, this is my code, I worked on it really hard. I’m proud of it. I understand that pride of ownership. But that doesn’t mean it necessarily belongs in a marketing message. The other thing that I’ve tried to do in my career is I want my videos to seem like I’m having a great time. I want the audience to say, Boy, those people Redis labs, they make great products, but they seem to be having a great time doing it, I have a really warm feeling about that organization, that’s sort of what I want to come across. And as you do that, if you’re having fun in your videos, or at least if you look like you’re having fun in your videos, you can start recruiting developers and other folks to be part of your videos. So, we did sketch sketches. Where let’s get the the lead developer in, give them a role to play. Let’s get technical writing in there. Let’s get somebody from sales. Let’s get the whole company involved. And it just becomes a fun thing. Most people kind of like being on camera, kind of like being the center of attention. And to me, that has helped a lot. Again, building that trust across organizations. If you are in a video that I’ve put together, you’re going to watch it, you’re going to call your mom, hey, check out this YouTube video. It’s great. And I think that has helped me a lot. It just getting other people involved. Input can really be a lot of fun. If you’re doing it the right way.
Pranav Chimulkar: Absolutely, I think a lot of companies undermine the value of engaging with their own internal stakeholders that is the employee side, do they have a strong audience inside the company, they’re in there. Because if your employees happen to engage with a video that you put out, and they happen to share and spark conversations around it, and of course, it’s going to spread in the circles, and you’re going to get that organic reach. But the easiest way to do it is by shelling out dollars on advertising. But then I think organic reach is something that you cannot really find. Right? What is possibly the best thing that you could have?
Doug Tidwell: Yeah. I mean, that’s obviously what you want. It’s not automatic. I wish I knew a formula to automatically make something go viral. But to me having more people involved, more people contributing that it’s not going to guarantee success, but it certainly helps you chance.
Pranav Chimulkar:True. But I think also, like you said, the participation is something that makes it more valuable when you have subject matter experts contributing through their time and knowledge in helping shape that video better. The output is, of course, going to be better, like a certain market team cannot be the only people that are held responsible for coming out with assets, especially because you’re eventually marketing tech products, you need to ensure that you put the right message across and and you need to talk about the right things. Again, like I said, both of them have different insights, I think, one side, the product team is closer to the tech that they’ve built. And whereas the marketers are closer to the audience, and again, like we said, and I go by this quote, that the customers don’t end up buying products, but they end up buying outcomes for themselves. So if you’re able to sort of tie them together at the hip, and sort of make a collaborative effort in coming out with the asset, I think it’s going to work better than one party doing it over the other.
Doug Tidwell: Yeah. I could not agree more. That’s very true.
Pranav Chimulkar: Absolutely. So I like to talk about your experience at Red Hat, I think you’ve done a lot of long form content. And that involves a lot more storytelling, then you could get away with a 10 second video, easily. But when you’re doing something that is longer than a minute or two, I think you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention. So it’s very important that you sort of hold them together and and keep them engrossed in what you’re saying. So what are your tips to look at long form content, especially today, we see a lot of long form content in the most common form is a webinar, I think every other company is doing and if you look at it, from the start of COVID-19 think that is something what we could call as webinar fatigue, which is creeped in. Because you see everyday you see a lot of webinars coming your way. And typically because I would say for the lack of other words, the whole idea is that they end up being a sales pitch over value creation, for most marketers and sales professionals who’ve lost the opportunity to have in person meetings and handshakes. This is become the easiest, or the closest way to get to the customers and they happen to like shove sales pitches down their audience’s throats and eventually hurts the brand in the long term. So right what tips that you would like to give or learnings from your experiences at Red Hat of creating long videos?
Doug Tidwell: Well, there are a couple of things. One is I started out with a story. And I can’t believe I’ve talked this long without using the word story story is vital. You mentioned people buying outcomes for themselves. You have to tell that story. Here’s how you reach the outcome you want if you work with my product, but what I found at Red Hat, we put together a fictional amusement park called coder land. And what we did was we would create a ride at coder land so they would be a roller coaster. And we would have several long form videos. One was just the setup which would talk about, here at coder land We’re excited, excited to announce our new ride. And we would talk a little bit about that there was a lot of humor in there, it’s set up the stories that would come later. And what I learned there is, that had to be something that you could skip which got it kind of hurt, because that was the most fun video to do of the mall. But you know, you can’t force someone to watch something that’s maybe a little offbeat, just to get the technical content that they gave for. So what we would do with a right then, like we had a ride, that was all about serverless computing, okay. That’s what you’re here for, you’re not here, because you run an amusement park, you’re here because you want to learn more about serverless computing. So we would have in the other videos, more long form content, seven, eight minutes, something like that. We would go into the technology more, one side, or one video would be this is what serverless is all about. And again, we had to have these things stand alone. If you’re familiar with serverless, you could skip that video, move on to the next step, you’ll be just fine. So it was important to me to learn that to say this long form content needs to stand on its own each piece, even though together, they tell a story. If you don’t have the time, or the interest to watch any particular piece, I still want you to get value out of this. There’s still a serverless sample, we still show you how to set up the infrastructure, we show you how to invoke the serverless function, how to deal with the data that comes back from it. Those are all things that I want to know as a developer. And if you’re giving me that information, I’ll stick around, seven or eight minutes is not a lot of time for me to give up. If it gives me a solid example that I can build on. But it’s important to keep things moving. And never forget that your audience is busy, and will not hesitate to click the tab close. If you’re not entertaining. If you’re in front of an audience, people tend to stick around out of politeness. I’m here, I guess I’ll just stay in the audience. I don’t want to seem rude by leaving. With video, no people will kick you out in 12 seconds, if they’re not interested in what you’re doing.
Pranav Chimulkar: It’s interesting, I like to call that phenomenon as being at the mercy of the swipe of the thumb. Right? It used to be a time when people would still think about it one or two times before they walk out on you out of the room. But it became easier when it was about clicking a couple of buttons and closing the tab and today just a matter of one swipe and you’re gone. Right? It’s important that you sort of value that audience’s attention and ensure that we’re creating value in return for them to like, stick around for the whole time.
Doug Tidwell: Right. And I’ve also found, in my experience, when I open a YouTube video in the lower left corner, it tells me how long the video is. And that’s one place, you have to be really careful with a longer form content. It’s five minutes, okay, a certain number of people stick around. If it’s seven, you probably lost a few people, if it’s 23. Wow, did better be great content, if I’m gonna watch from start to finish? And like you say, if I get two minutes into it, and it’s not, for whatever reason, maybe the phone rings? I don’t know, for whatever reason, I can just click the tab closed and and do something else. I won’t see the rest of you got it.
Pranav Chimulkar: Yeah, yeah. I think we’ve spoken about getting the duration, right. In this answer. The next question comes to being consistent when it comes to creating content. And I want you to pick the example of your experience at IBM working on a weekly series of videos called Developer work mailbag. Right. Please tell me more about that series and what it takes to being consistent and consistently putting out great content. It’s not about just uploading another video every week, but a lot of thought goes into it and what kind of resources that you need, what kind of time that you need to devote for creating a series like that.
Doug Tidwell: Right? Right. Well, there’s several things with those videos. We set up there’s a special opening sequence there are things that we do every week. And we learn to balance that if you have too much of that, the intro is too long, don’t don’t spend a minute getting to the point you need to do that quickly. The other thing is we tried to tie them together. So we had an episode on containers. The next week, we talked more in depth about Docker. But next week, we talked about deploying that Docker container to Kubernetes. The next week, we talked about Kubernetes secrets. Next week, we talked about STO. I mean, there’s a progression there. And, people can follow along, obviously, if I don’t care about Kubernetes, I’m not gonna watch a video of Kubernetes no matter how entertaining it is. But we tried to tie that together. Each, each episode stood on its own, but there was also a sequence to it. So that, if I say Join us next week, we’ll talk more about containers. Okay, if I care about containers, I’m going to join you next week. I’m gonna tune in for that.
Pranav Chimulkar: Sure. I like to play one video and from that series that you could tell me about how you went about making this. So here goes that.
Doug Tidwell: Yeah, that one was fun at that point. That was many episodes into the series, we had sort of established that flow. Yeah, there’s an intro. Yes, there’s a little bit of silliness there. I did not have a corner office with floor to ceiling windows. But we quickly got to the point, here’s a technical question. And then we’re going to use that as a jumping off point to five or six minutes of technical content. But with that, when obviously, we just had fun with it, we just said, let’s do all the setup of the intro, and the outro. But really have all the you know, All I said was two spaces. And we’re done. So yeah, it was fun. And of course, we got a lot of controversy on mail. No, it should be tabs, you don’t know what you’re doing. So we’re less polite than that. But, it was just a fun way to play around with the format that we had put together at that point.
Pranav Chimulkar: Yeah. It seems to be the unpopular opinion when it comes to using spaces again, it’s a very internal video that developers would know possibly. And I think the series called Silicon Valley on HBO also use this.
Doug Tidwell: Yes, that actually broke up a relationship on the show, which is hilarious.
Pranav Chimulkar: That is true. That is true. I think we spoke a lot about your experience and working with brands like Red hat, IBM, or Redis labs. What I’d like to also focus on is current trends that you really admire, or are things that you are on top of, and one of the things that you mentioned, is experimenting with light boats, right? Again, this is something that you’ve tried, in one of your previous companies and I’d like to play that video before we talk about this trend and how you think this is going to help a lot of people who are in the profession of doing demo videos, so here it goes.
So, Doug, you can walk me through.
Doug Tidwell: Again, sure. This is me explaining a technical problem. What I’m showing there is people will define a number of systems and they’re all completely different. They’re all doing the same thing, but they’re inconsistent, which causes various problems across an organization. So that’s what I’m trying to do there. There’s several things things that make whiteboards really difficult. The number one problem for me, is I can’t use a teleprompter. So I have a black wall behind me, I had to paint the wall on the opposite side of the room black as well, because you get too many reflections on the lightboard. It’s distracting. If you add a teleprompter there I’m not good at memorizing lines. If I want to make three points, it’s hard for me to get through all three points without saying, um, or forgetting one or stuttering as I go, so it takes a lot of time for me anyway, in terms of getting the dialogue to flow nicely, so that it works so that it sounds as if I have a script as if I’ve memorized something or reading off the teleprompter. There are a couple of things that I noticed people don’t necessarily do well, one of them is as you, as I do a lightboard, I design what I’m going to write on the board. So in that case, what we had is, when you’re when you’re getting started with the technology, there are two basic problems on one side, you’ve got lots of little servers, each of which is different. On the other side, you’ve got one big server, which is unreliable. And then of course, in the middle was our product would solve both problems. So it made sense in that instance, to draw the diagrams that way. So over here, I’ve got a certain problem I’m diagramming over here, I’ve got a different problem. And look here in the middle is the solution. So yeah, in this case, early on, talking about a problem. This is called the islands of Jenkins problem. Basically, you have a bunch of Jenkins servers in your company. And there’s absolutely no consistency, no governance, etc. As the video goes on, there’s a monolithic Jenkins server approach on the right, that doesn’t work either. And then of course, the company’s product comes into saves a day in the middle. So it’s important to sort of draw out exactly how you’re going to build up the diagram. Another thing that people forget is give yourself space to look at the camera. So I can write stuff in front of my face, and then stand there, it’s hard to see me, because there’s writing between me and the camera. So you have to think about leave a little spot on the board that’s unmarked, that you can look through at the camera. But the main thing is this is an adaptation of what we call chalk talks. So those were typically very intimate discussions with customers weren’t drawing out. Here’s a problem. And here’s how we solve it. And I’m asking you questions as we go. So this is a problem we see a lot of people having, is this something? Is this an issue for your organization? Well, yes, it is done. Okay, then we go on. And you know, I will tailor what I’m drawing to that discussion. And this, I think, is a good way to connect with an audience over video. Because I’m doing the same sort of thing. I’m drawing these pictures out the way I would draw them out if I was in the room with you. In addition to the teleprompter, it can be difficult to write without squeaking. If you mess up a section, you have to be able to erase everything you wrote during that section that go back and refilm it. It’s just from a production perspective, it’s a much more difficult thing to do than a regular video, but I think it can be really effective. The other thing I’ll say, and I did not figure this out myself, when I started watching them. At first I thought everybody was writing backwards. And then I thought, No, everybody’s left handed. That’s what you do is you film everything backwards. And then in your video editing software, you just flip the video 180 degrees, and it looks just fine. So I was not clever enough to figure that out on my own. But that’s the way the lightboard works.
Pranav Chimulkar: I think coming from a technical background and not knowing a lot about video production and having picked up this skill. This is something that is quite admirable. Kudos to you for having mastered these skills and I’d like to get a tour into your home studio that you’ve now built. It looks professional the way you put yourself out there, in terms of having a clean background or the audio quality that matters. I think this goes on to show how important it is to understand that it needs more effort. It’s not just about pressing a button and just rolling, right way to prepare yourself, you need to ensure that whatever you put in front of the camera is good. And you put your best self out there as well. So you fall for ensuring all these things are in place before you record, right. And other than that, I think the thing that I want to know about here, we’ve spoken a lot about you and your amazing things that you’ve done in your experience. But there’s always a time when you notice somebody doing something, and that’s interesting and that’s something that I could learn from. And there are people that you then tend to follow and try to learn from what they’re doing. So I’d like you to take this opportunity to do a few shout outs to people that you follow the people that you admire.
Doug Tidwell: There are a couple of people, especially if you come to mind. One is Simon Phipps, who’s fairly famous evangelist, did a lot of work with Java, both at IBM and at Sun has done a lot of work in the open source community. He is a fantastic speaker. He is compelling, he’s clear, whatever he’s talking about, I’m interested in it. He could be reading his insurance policy, I would show up just to listen to that or watch a video of him doing that. He’s the one who gave the best description I’ve ever heard of a technology evangelist. He said it is someone who compellingly trivializes the complex, which I think is a great way to put it. I’m taking something very difficult, and making it look really simple and compelling. The other person I mentioned is another person who started out as a traditional evangelist live in the room in front of the audience to get in, David Barnes, who again, very gifted speaker, but he was the one that I saw. As his career progressed, he was the one who transitioned to doing a lot of videos. And that’s really where I started thinking, you know, that could be a really good career skill, to know how to make videos to know how to do something that’s compelling and interesting, but still gets a technical message across. So those two guys are absolutely top notch. And I have learned a lot from watching both of them.
Pranav Chimulkar: Fantastic. And thank you for introducing us and those who are watching to these two amazing guys, I hope we can put this message across to both of them about the kind of work that they’re doing and the kind of impact that they create on people like you and me who I mean, I don’t even know them, but I’m now gonna go and follow them. So yeah, it’s great. And you also brought out a very important point there, that today’s video has become such an important skill that could go on your resume because of the foreseeable future that we see right now. This is something that would be very important. If you’re in any role, if you’re a product guy, if you’re a sales guy, if you’re a marketing guy, or you just do social media. I think everybody once upon a time were looking at, like photo editing, or Photoshop as a skill in your resume, but video has become that today. Right?
Doug Tidwell: Exactly. Yeah. The things my daughter can do on Instagram is amazing, just with her phone. I mean, these are things that, 10 years ago, you would have needed thousands and thousands of dollars worth of equipment. Now the phone you have in your pocket does the same thing. So it’s great to see that technology be so accessible to so many people, get that many more creative minds having the tools to do great things.
Pranav Chimulkar: Absolutely. I think that brings us to the end of the episode. We’ve had a very insightful conversation with you. It’s something that I had expectations for, when I saw your profile and the work that you had done. I knew this is going to be an interesting episode and the episode did not disappoint me. So I hope everybody else has been watching or who will be listening to the episode on on podcasting platforms like Spotify, Apple, Google podcasts. I want just wanted to plug this there that we are now available on all podcasting platforms. So you’ll be able to stream this episode soon on that. And I hope everybody who listens to the episode on these also enjoy it equally. Then the people that are watching right now live so, thank you so much for taking time out from your busy schedule and and joining us today on Mad Over Videos.
Doug Tidwell: Thanks so much for having me. This was great.
Pranav Chimulkar: I hope to stay in touch with you and get to work together sometime on projects as well. So with that, for everybody else we’ll sign off now but will soon be back with another episode with an interesting guest. And until then, see you guys