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Reimagining Hacking with Swift

With your help things can get better.

Paul Hudson       @twostraws

Yesterday I wrote a long article called Reimagining Apple’s documentation, in which I wrote down a variety of ways I'd love to see Apple's developer documentation evolve and improve in the future. Although it was written with nothing but appreciation in mind, the article was effectively me telling other people how to do their job – other people, let's not forget, who are already working very hard to deliver the best they can for us.

Anyway, in that article I said, “I need to acknowledge that there are a whole bunch of ways I could make my own site better,” before launching off into a long rant about Apple's site. Well, let’s focus on Hacking with Swift, because if I’m going to look at Apple’s documentation output in the cold light of day I should do the same for my own site.

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Where my work is today

Hacking with Swift is visited by over 700,000 unique visitors every month, serving up over 5,000,000 page views – all at the same time as me running a YouTube channel with almost 60,000 subscribers, writing a newsletter with almost 40,000 readers, and delivering talks at conferences. Every single day people get in touch to thank me for an article or video, to ask questions, to suggest new topics, and more, and I’ve lost track of how many people have said they got a job thanks to my work.

I also work hard to make sure I use what platform I have to help people outside our community too, whether that’s through Swift for Good raising money for Black Girls Code, Hacking with Swift Live raising money for Special Effect, my SwiftUI birthday livestream raising money for folks who are sleeping rough, my iOS Accelerator workshop raising money for my kids’ school, or other efforts.

Honestly, that’s great. It’s better than great – it’s an extraordinary privilege to be able to make such an impact on the lives of so many people, and I’m really pleased my work is proving so useful to so many. I’m doing my dream job, and I consider myself extremely fortunate.

However, the entire site is created by me: every page you land on, every article you read, every graphic you see, every test you take, and more were all created by me. Right now that means the site serves up well over 2000 pages of free tutorials and more, making Hacking with Swift the world’s largest site dedicated to Swift – both in terms of material, but also visitor numbers.

Again, it’s just me, and I’m not somehow special: I need to make payments on my mortgage and my car, I need to support my family, and I occasionally even need to have vacations, and so the vast majority of my work is not free – all my Swift books and all of Hacking with Swift+ are available only for folks who pay for them.

Sometimes people say “Paul’s a machine!” because they look at my output and wonder how one person could have created it all, but usually they have no idea that 80% of my work is locked away behind a purchase or a subscription. Honestly I wish that weren’t the case because I’d much rather publish everything for free so that everyone can benefit from that work – I’d love to release all my macOS or watchOS tutorials, for example, or Swift Design Patterns, or Testing Swift, and more, but I hope you can appreciate that just isn’t financially feasible.

So, I single-handedly run this huge site and do as much as I can to help folks learn for free or to benefit good causes, while at the same time trying to stay afloat financially by producing paid tutorials and more.

So… what’s the problem?

The truth is I’m not far from being at breaking point: I literally cannot do much more work than I am, even though the site deserves better. I’ve lost track of the number of times people have emailed me to say they love my site, but wish I could just do X, Y, or Z. Could I just add more screenshots? Could I just make a video on Core Audio? Could I just make the site navigation better? Could I just do a bit more work?

These folks are doing it for really good, positive reasons – they see the site, identify a missing part, and want it to be better. That’s awesome, and I am genuinely grateful that folks take time out of their day to provide feedback! But when you’re already working at almost maximum capacity, doing just a bit more suddenly becomes very hard.

It seems increasingly clear to me that I have a scaling problem: things cannot continue as they are, because I don’t have the time, energy, or ability to take this site where it deserves to be. If you ever saw my to do list you’d probably feel a bit sad because it’s packed with ideas for articles, videos, apps, site features, and more, all of which seem like they might never happen because I just don’t have the time.

Of course, my dream would be for Apple to say, “hey, come and join us – we’ll acquire all of Hacking with Swift, merge whatever parts we want into our online documentation, then ignore the rest / make it public domain so that anyone can reuse or remix it however they want.” If I could run a three-person team dedicated to delivering some of the ideas I mentioned previously, I’d like to think I’d be able to make an even bigger impact than I can right now – to help even more people reach their goals with Swift.

But I’m not going to sit around and wait for a dream. And I’m writing now as much to myself as I am to you: something has to change. I cannot take this site where it needs to be without getting some help.

Baby steps

Starting today, things are going to change.

I am, for the first time, going to hire someone to help with the site. It’s going to be really small at first because this is all uncharted territory for me and I’m really not a risk taker, but it’s going to be something – even just paying someone to take screenshots for the most popular pages on the site would mean that’s one less thing I have to worry about, and gets the site closer to where it needs to be.

Some people reading this might immediately think, “don’t pay people – I’ll do it for free!” And while I’m really flattered by that, it’s not something I’m considering: even taking screenshots is work, and people deserve to be paid fairly for that.

What this is not going to be is me hiring other folks to write articles – everything is written by me right now, and I don’t see that changing. But screenshots, and perhaps more as I find my feet, can be handled externally, so it’s a baby step towards where I need to be.

If you would like to be paid to take screenshots for this site, here’s what you need to know:

  1. We will agree ahead of time how much you want to be paid, you would then go and do the work.
  2. I will send payment as one lump sum via bank transfer. (Please make sure you declare any earnings to your local tax authority!)
  3. Initially the screenshots will be for SwiftUI by Example, but if we’re both happy then we could expand to other books and beyond.
  4. You need to be proficient enough to be able to paste in code from a particular page, take a screenshot of how it looks, then crop it.
  5. Applications are open from today until June 4th.
  6. Once I’ve picked someone – and it will be just one person – I’d like them to start work from the end of June.
  7. You need to be able to install whichever Xcode version Apple announces at WWDC21, which is presumably Xcode 13.
  8. You get to set your own hours, you can work anywhere in the world, and you don’t need any special qualifications – you just need to be able to run SwiftUI examples and take screenshots.
  9. I really want to encourage folks from all walks of life and backgrounds to apply.

If that sounds something you might be interested in, the application process is simple:

  1. Write an email to paul@hackingwithswift.com.
  2. Please use the subject “Screenshots for Hacking with Swift”.
  3. Attach one screenshot from any page in SwiftUI by Example so I get an idea of what you think is a good screenshot. (This screenshot will not be used on the site, it’s only for the application process.)
  4. Tell me how much you would like to be paid per screenshot. (“Free” is not an option – please value your work!)

And that’s it. Like I said I will pick one person from the applications, and hopefully once we’ve covered SwiftUI by Example we could expand to other parts of the site and books. If you are unsuccessful I’ll let you know.

Watch this space!

I started Hacking with Swift way back in 2014, the same year Swift was announced, and I’ve taken it as far as I can by myself. Now, slowly but hopefully surely, things are going to change so the site can continue to grow to where it deserves to be in the future.

So watch this space, and please help keep me accountable – I need to really learn that I can’t do everything myself, and if you see part of the site that is feeling a bit neglected that someone else could help with, let me know!

Anyway, I wrote a huge list of the many and varied ways I’d changed Apple’s documentation if I could, but I need to apply the same level of thought and care to my own work. “If I could change Hacking with Swift…” isn’t just wish list territory, it’s reality – I can change this site to be better, and although it means taking some risks by outsourcing a small piece of the work it’s something that must happen if the site is continue to grow and develop into the future.

Save money with our WWDC sale!

SAVE 50% To celebrate WWDC21, all our books and bundles are half price, so you can take your Swift knowledge further without spending big! Get the Swift Power Pack to build your iOS career faster, get the Swift Platform Pack to builds apps for macOS, watchOS, and beyond, or get the Swift Plus Pack to learn advanced design patterns, testing skills, and more.

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About the author

Paul Hudson is the creator of Hacking with Swift, the most comprehensive series of Swift books in the world. He's also the editor of Swift Developer News, the maintainer of the Swift Knowledge Base, and a speaker at Swift events around the world. If you're curious you can learn more here.

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