Interview with BuildaModule.com founder, Chris Shattuck
In this mini interview we’ll be chatting to BuildaModule.com founder and all round nice guy, Chris Shattuck.
Chris is a Drupal developer and UI expert with 8 years experience. With the continued success of BuildaModule.com Chris recently “retired” from the day job to focus on BuildaModule.com full time, so let’s find out more about it.
1. How did you discover Drupal & what made you build a business around it?
Good questions. I discovered Drupal after building my own CMS to help my clients and was looking at models for open-sourcing it. The more I dug into the architecture, the more I realized that Drupal was my CMS in like 10 years. As soon as I made it through the Pro Drupal Development book, I started working on moving the few features of my CMS that weren’t in Drupal yet into contributed modules, which was a great way to immerse myself in the community and the software. Then I went cold turkey into developing all of my new client projects in Drupal. It was tough at first, but it was so awesome to know that my clients could get help from other Drupalists whenever they needed. Plus, Drupal was stable and secure with a ton of great features I had no time to build.
BuildaModule.com came later on, when a friend encouraged me to start recording some video tutorials about Drupal. I also wanted to shift to a product-based business, so this provided a good opportunity to play with an educational product model. The first version of the site was quite a bit different, but there was enough interest in the products and the site that I decided to jump full time into it and see if I could make it sustainable. I let all of my contracts expire and spent three months building a new version of the site as well as the 12-hour Drupal 7 Development Core Concepts collection. When I released the new site, I crossed my fingers and hoped that everything would work out. And it did! Within just a couple of months, the project was sustainable.
The reason the site and the tutorials are built around Drupal has to do with my experience, but also with the fact that adoption of Drupal is growing at a pretty good clip, meaning that something like BuildaModule.com has a good chance if it’s done right.
2. So what is BuildaModule.com & what does it offer?
The site currently has a few major components. The first is a library of over 620 video tutorials. These can be downloaded or bought on DVDs, but the majority of my customers choose a membership option so they have access to the entire library as well as some other cool features. Those features, and the video player interface, is the second big thing that BuildaModule.com offers. The interface integrates a number of cutting-edge tools (not hedge trimmers) like a clickable transcript view that allows users to navigate a video by the spoken text, and the ability to track progress and generate custom playlists.
The third component is a live training model based off of the videos called Mentored Training. Instead of a lecture-based training, where students have a hard time focusing and trainers have a tough time preparing, in a Mentored Training, students work through videos (which are really just pre-recorded lectures) at their own pace, while the trainers help the students whenever they have questions. The model allows students to always be learning something new and interesting, and enables the trainers to really help students one-on-one without days of preparation beforehand. BuildaModule.com offers its entire video library for free for anyone who wants to organize a Mentored Training, so groups worldwide have started using it to build up Drupal resources. It’s really exciting for me to see this happen.
3. Is BuildaModule.com just for beginners then?
Beginners are completely welcome, but virtually anyone with any level of Drupal experience will find something new to learn on BuildaModule.com.
Beginners can start with the Site Building collection, Build Your First Drupal 7 Web Site, while those who are familiar with Drupal can dig into development, theming, or learning how to manage workflow and use version control. You have pretty extensive experience with Drupal, Tom, but I bet you’d find some gems in there yourself. :-)
4. Are there any free videos?
There are nearly 140 videos available for free, so folks can get a sense of the style and coverage before they join up.
5. How do you choose topics to cover in your videos?
Right now I’m trying to tackle the biggest questions people have when it comes to working with Drupal. The collection I’m currently working on, called PHP Programming Basics is the result of hearing from viewers that there’s a real need for PHP video tutorials to help close the gap between site building and development. Once this collection is done, I’ll evaluate where I can have the greatest impact and go from there.
6. Which videos and topics have you found to be the most popular?
Because of the vast number of people turning to Drupal these days, the site building collection, Build Your First Drupal 7 Web Site, has become the most popular. After that, because of the need to adjust a little functionality here and there, the development collection, Drupal 7 Development Core Concepts comes in a close second.
7. Running the site and creating the content must be quite a challenge, any tips on stay organized and focused?
Oh yeah! But it definitely helps to be focusing on this full time, a luxury most of us don’t have when we start out. I think it helps a lot to remember that as humans, we can’t really do all that many things at once. I usually have one thing that’s the most important for me to do any any given time, and I focus on that, ignoring the fact that I could be doing a million other things. With that focus, it’s just a matter of time until you make some serious progress.
I’ve found a lot of value over the years in the Getting Things Done ethos. When I start to feel overwhelmed, I remind myself of some of the core ideas in that book, and that usually helps me break through that feeling.
8. How do you stay up to date with changes in Drupal, new modules etc?
I consume very little reading material to stay focused, so I rely on hearing about news from associates and uncovering important pieces of information when I do research for my videos. I like Bob Kepford’s The Weekly Drop, which summarizes some of the big news in the community every week, but other than that I try to keep my RSS reader and Twitter off as much as possible.
9. What’s a typical day like running BuildaModule.com?
It usually starts with eggs. Then I hop on my treadmill desk and answer e-mails. I’ll figure out what the most important tasks are for the day, and start executing them. Right now, my most important thing is producing new videos, but there’s little bits here and there (like this interview) that need attention. Sometime in the afternoon, I take off the BuildaModule.com hat and put on the dad one.
10. I know there are over 9000 to choose from but what are you top 5 Drupal modules?
Right. Okay, top on my list is Display Suite. I still think that’s a super awesome contribution that’s going to make it into Core before too long. This last week at DrupalCon I saw a demo of Wysiwyg Fields, which solves a hard problem very elegantly, so that’s up there as well. Even though it’s not a module, the Drush project is quite beautiful and I think deserves a mention. Features is pretty amazing, and hopefully will be totally unnecessary in Drupal 8, largely because it set such a great precedent for configuration management. And finally, the LESS module makes my top 5, which allows even the simple among us (that’s me!) dive into the world of CSS preprocessing.
11. What are your plans for BuildaModule.com in 2012?
I think by the end of the year, BuildaModule.com will have some really interesting new features, but I’m not sure I should talk about them yet. ;-)
12. And finally, away from work how do you relax?
Exercise is really important for me, so I’ll go for a jog or lift some weights when I can. Since I’m a father of two little ones, relaxing usually takes the form of sleeping, but every once in a while I’ll get together with folks to play some board games like Acquire, and that’s also a great way to relax, especially when I’m winning.
Hot topics right now on BAM:
Right now I’m starting to release the PHP Programming Basics series, and that seems to be exciting a lot of people. Also, more and more communities are adopting the Mentored Training model to start building up new Drupal resources, and the word is spreading fast.
Check out the current range available at BuildaModule.com:
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