When we launched our online course with Said, in September of 2017, we wanted to create the first comprehensive, realistic and always-up-to-date resource about Ethereum decentralized application development out there.

In retrospect, we couldn’t have launched the course at a better time, since we rode the crypto-crazy wave of late 2017 and we racked up our first 10k students really quickly. And even though we had to rewrite and update half of the material 6 months after the first release, the sheer growth of our student base made it worth it. The thing is that we didn’t really correlate our growth with the crypto-hype then, so we didn’t really anticipate such a drop in new registrations after crypto-winter hit. By the time DevCon 4 came by (the yearly gathering of the Ethereum ecosystem), with its torrent of big updates, we were gaining 10 times less students per month than in January 2018. And we still had to update 60% of the course all over again.

To put it simply, the video course business model on Udemy is only sustainable when you can sell your course to a lot of students, when your course doesn’t need to be updated too often, and/or when the former make the latter worth it.

And that’s when it hit us. One of the things we had decided early on was not to wing any of our videos, to script everything in details to make the whole flow more fluid, to minimize editing time, to make it easier for us to search through the course content but also because we had an ulterior motive. At some point in time, when the material was stable enough, we wanted to turn those scripts into a book.

And facing this dilemma, we realized that a book would have a lot of advantages over a video course:

  • Subtitling was a huge time waster and some people for whom English was not their first language, or people who couldn’t stand my accent could benefit from a pure text version of our content
  • Some feedback from our students was also pretty vocal: a lot of people wanted a transcript, because it was easier for them to follow
  • But more importantly, given the right process, it was actually easier to update a book than updating videos.

And all of a sudden, the last point became critical, we just needed to find the right process. Because publishing a book the traditional way, going through a publisher and everything was a huge hassle, required even more time and work for even less revenue (after the publisher’s cut) than doing videos. That’s why we were waiting for the content to be more stable before going through that.

Until we came across lean publishing, this idea that you don’t have to wait for a manuscript to be perfect before releasing it, that you can start selling early versions of it and keep updating it with the possibility for readers to get those updates for free without having to go through pages of errata. Traditionally, very few big publishers do that sort of things, partly because they’re dinosaurs, and partly because it tends to put authors back in the driver’s seat, making their whole business model harder to justify. But of course, publishers open doors too, to more readers and more credibility. But we figured that we had about 14k+ potential readers with our students anyway, so we could maybe try to go the self-publishing route. Hence LeanPub.com.

LeanPub.com is a platform that lets you sell self-published books online and through their mobile and tablet apps, and even export your ebooks to sell them on Amazon and other ebook platforms. And the whole writing and editing process is facilitated through the use of an easy language and a workflow that looks a lot like the programming workflow we were already used to.

Which lead us to today’s accomplishment: after a few more weeks of exporting and adapting our script into the LeanPub format, we finally published the first version of our book: Becoming a Blockchain Developer with Ethereum and Solidity – Exploring the Immersed Part of the Iceberg.

You can purchase it now for a minimum price of $19,99 (you can even customize the price if you think it deserves more). And even though you can easily download it in PDF, EPUB, MOBI to add it to your favorite ebook reader, but also share it around, the paying version comes with a bunch of added benefits:

  • Whenever we release a new version of the book, either because we corrected something or because we updated the material to cover new tooling, you will be updated by LeanPub themselves
  • We also opened a support forum on leanpub.com, that is only accessible to people who bought the book, where you can ask all your questions directly to us, and where we will answer them just like we always have on Udemy: within 12 hours.
  • Over time, we will also release some stable videos, code samples and other extras on leanpub.com

Last week, Said and I were at DevCon 5 in Osaka, Japan. And on the third day of the conference, Said suggested we wear our ChainSkills t-shirts. And we had only been on site a couple of hours with those when a young man stopped us in the hallway. He had a huge smile on his face and we could feel his emotion when he explained to us that he was now an Integrations Engineer at MakerDAO (one of the most promising dapps out there right now), that a few years ago he had absolutely no notion of what a blockchain was, and that his entire blockchain career had started for him after he followed our course. Kenton Prescott, if you’re reading this, you made our day.

That’s why we created this course in the first place, that’s why we give all those talks around the world (Said is giving another one at Devoxx Morocco next month), that’s why I produce the ProofOfCast podcast every other week, that’s why we keep hustling even when it seems everybody has lost interest: because we are convinced this is going to change the world a lot more than any protest or election, in ways we can’t even anticipate yet. But in order to reach that potential, it needs all of us to participate, and our mission is to bring more of you over to the decentralized side of the fence.

But however passionate we are, we have bills to pay AND an integrity to preserve, which keeps us away from all the lucrative scams out there like bank-orchestrated permissioned blockchains and other ICO schemes. So if you want to help us stay sustainable, keep our integrity intact and raise even more awareness, you know what you can do:

We hope you’ll join us on this new ChainSkills adventure.

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Sébastien Arbogast
Développeur passionné et indépendant, entrepreneur dans l’âme et apprenti visionnaire, je suis toujours à l’affût de ces technologies qui vont bouleverser le monde et nos sociétés. Consultant depuis plus de 12 ans, je me suis récemment lancé à la conquête de la blockchain, je donne des conférences et des formations sur le sujet (notamment en ligne sur Udemy). A côté de ça je suis curieux de plein de choses: la conquête spatiale, la moto, la musique électronique, les hippocampes albinos ambidextres… plein de choses.