Frontend Masters Interview with Marc Grabanski

As a big fan of quality online web development training, today I interviewed Marc Grabanski about the increasingly popular FrontendMasters.com. In the meantime check out the preview video at the end of the post and if you have any questions of your own for Marc please post a comment.

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Giveaway Subscriptions!

Giveaway now complete. Marc has been generous and offered 3 lucky jQuery 4u blog readers the chance to win a free month subscription to Frontendmasters.com. For your chance to win simply post a comment at the end of this post (include your public contact method). The winners will be chosen at random at the end of the week.


Subscription Winners:

  1. Gregory Milby
  2. Brett Coffin
  3. Mark McLaughlin

The Interview



It a nutshell, what is Frontend Masters?

We want to make you into a guru through video courses.

Frontend Masters is an in-depth training website featuring industry leaders in front-end web development. We want to make you into a guru through video courses. The courses we have available are taught in front of live audiences, so you get the benefit of great questions and discussions captured between the audience and the teachers.



How did Frontend Masters come about?

The workshops I ran all sold out and so people kept asking us for videos of the workshops.

After attending and speaking at over 40+ conferences, KI quickly realized that they were primarily for inspiration…not in-depth teaching. That’s great and I love to be inspired at conferences, but what I really wanted was to learn topics in-depth from the people I respected. So I started running full-day workshops. The workshops I ran all sold out and so people kept asking us for videos of the workshops. Since we needed a way to justify the amount of work involved, we decided to make a membership site so that you can subscribe to it and we can continue producing more and more videos over time.



What makes Frontend Masters different from other online training material?

It’s like sitting in the lap of the best jQuery experts on the planet and hearing all their cool thoughts first hand.

After 10 years of teaching in various formats online and offline…I found that teaching in live classrooms tends to be the most dynamic environment to teach in. Our videos are therefore captured in front of a live classroom. That energy of the live classes is brought into our videos. It’s fun for the teachers to teach at and from that you get lots of great audience questions and further insights from the teachers.

Since the videos are filmed live, they have a more human element to them vs the dryness of a screencasts or awkwardness of green screens. It’s fun to watch the teacher engage with an audience… and in many cases it feels like you are actually there when you’re watching it.

A customer explained it best. He said, “It’s like sitting in the lap of the best jQuery experts on the planet and hearing all their cool thoughts first hand.” That quote made me incredibly happy because it was exactly what we tried to do with Frontend Masters…we bring the experts right to you! :)



Is it just pure jQuery content or is anything related covered?

I am a front-end web developer and do this every day, so I tried to pick topics that I need to know and hope everyone finds the content awesome.

We have covered jQuery and jQuery UI, but we also cover a lot more topics in web development like JavaScript in-depth, Responsive Web Design and CSS3.

The first course we did was “Introduction to JavaScript and jQuery” with Karl Swedberg…he’s the API documentation lead for jQuery. He also did a “jQuery In-Depth” course that is really good that covers much of the jQuery API. Then we had Scott Gonzalez, lead developer of jQuery UI, give a workshop on building jQuery plugins and goes through jQuery in his “jQuery Plugins and jQuery UI”. course. He also covered the jQuery UI Widget factory at the end too which I hadn’t known much about until then.

A framework we covered was AngularJS. Misko Hevery (the creator of Angular) did a good job keeping the workshop not just about Angular but more about the concepts behind Angular and how they can help you. He also did a fantastic job covering code testability and what it means to write testable code. That last part on code testability continues to shape how I write code today. In the future we plan to cover more frameworks like Backbone.js and Ember as well as do an updated workshop on Angular.

Our most recent courses are on “JavaScript the Good Parts” by Douglas Crockford, “Website Performance” by Kyle Simpson and “Responsive Web Design” by Ben Callahan. And we have a few more we are working on now…my personal favorite is Bill Scott’s “UX Agile Engineering” workshop where he tells crazy stories about revamping PayPal checkout and PayPal’s culture. And another one with Estelle Weyl will blow everyones’ minds with what CSS3 can actually do. Garann Means does a great job of walking through a lot of the tools and components we have to deal with building web apps too. I can’t wait for those courses to come out.

I am a front-end web developer and do this every day, so I tried to pick topics that I need to know and hope everyone finds the content awesome.



How often is new content made available?

One per month for a while and then a period of lull when we are recording another set. The more subscribers we get, the faster we will go.

We try to release courses monthly and have been doing pretty well in that, but I can already see that this is probably too aggressive of a schedule going forward…that is, until we get bigger. We are pretty new, bootstrapped (no VC funding) and each course can be over 5 hours of video edited. On top of that we have to actually create the events and get developers to go to them as well…so we are talking 3+ months of work to setup and produce each course. I am guessing our courses will come out in spurts. One per month for a while and then a period of lull when we are recording another set.

Since we are trying to get industry leaders, there is a lot of scheduling issues and whatnot that makes it tough to release them monthly. So scheduling is not 100% clear, but we try our best and so far have been keeping up well. The more subscribers we get, the faster we will go. We are pumping it out content as fast as we can and are excited about the future content we have planned. ;)



Can I watch training videos on my mobile device?

Yep! Our courses work on iPad and mobile devices because it’s a responsive website with streaming HTML5 / Flash embeds. The next thing that we have planned is to create a mobile app where you can cache all the videos to your mobile devices and take them on the go without worrying about connectivity issues.



Questions. What do I do if I have any questions about the content?

Many of the speakers give their contact info so you can contact them directly… or they use Twitter. A lot of questions are covered by the audience being there asking questions, but we realize more come up, so in the future we might have a member forum and live Q&As with the speakers. A lot it depends on what our subscribers want, so if you have an idea, we are all ears and will add it to the roadmap!



Who are the presenters?

Lots of awesome people! And you can read more about the courses here: Frontend Master Courses.

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Can we have a preview of a Lesson?

Sure, here is a preview of jQuery’s Ajax Promise API by Karl Swedberg.


Thanks for the chance to do this interview, Sam! Best of luck with jQuery4U.