11 Aug 2009

Doing My Own Thing

In which I describe some of the ideas and thoughts behind my entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a bit of a rambler, but was very therapeutic for me in the writing.

Yesterday I read an inspiring and enlightening post from Marco Arment titled “Do your own thing”. In the post he talks about gaining acceptance from the stoners at school simply because he “does [his] own thing” rather than the accepted norm of “partying”. He describes:

A stoned guy’s idle conversation became the goal for my life outlook. No other statement or occurrence has been more fundamental in making me stop worrying about what other people think and do, which in turn makes it true.

In a rich man’s world …

Lately I’ve had a lot of thought units (similar to goal units ;)) focused and concetrating on developing a monetizable business product. “But”, you say, “I thought you were running One Simple Goal, the fastest growing web presence next to AOL and Friendster!” Hold your horses there friend. To debunk you on two points:

  1. OSG is not fast* or growing (much to my chagrin). Though, to be fair, I haven’t really expected lots of popularity from it as I haven’t had a chance to promote it properly… yet.
  2. OSG has no monetization value in its current offering. That’s not to say I haven’t thought about monetizing it with ads or a “Go Pro” area where paying members get more tools and value. Just saying that I’ve only thought about it, but each time it’s like pulling teeth. I know I just don’t want to go through with that and ruin the OSG experience. ‘Nuff said.

That’s not to say that I haven’t thought/dreamt of owning or running a business of my own. It’s actually something that I strive for every day, at all times some random background process in my head is slowly working on ideas and idealogies to move me forward in that quest. Obviously it’d go much quicker if I could work at it full time, but then the income would be scant for a while, which is basically a non-option at this point (i.e. mortgage, kids, food, etc). I mean, I know that other entrepreneur’s do the boot-strap thing, but at my current state, I don’t think it’d be wise or healthy to engage in that kind of masochism.

Back to our regularly scheduled program …

Where were we? Oh yes, monetizing a business product. The whole “doing your own thing” tag is great in concept, but application is a bit more difficult to manage. I’m not saying it’s anywhere approaching impossible or in the realm of moronic-thinking. Not saying that at all. I’m saying it takes dilligent and concerted effort. It takes knowing from the beginning what it is that you are searching for, searching to become. Because entrepreneurialism is really about being or becoming something, not just having to report to yourself at work each day instead of that guy.

So who exactly am I trying to be or become? What does “doing my own thing” look like? I can honestly say that I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve known for more than 3 years that doing my own thing is what I want in life. I want to dictate what I work on, who I work with, and (most imporantly) why I am doing what I do. I’m a programmer, or developer, or whatever else you want to call me from that realm. That’s the majority of my skillset, what I know how to do to make the cash. I’ve been building web applications in PHP and Java for over 6 years now, and I’ve gotten pretty dang good at it. Unfortunately it just hasn’t been FUN for the last little while. Corporate mandates and bloated systems with bad code rot have kind of disenfranchised me from working on other people’s projets (read: my current and previous employers).

Oh Ruuuuuuby, Don’t take your love to town

Then along comes Ruby, the most wicked-awesome programming language you’ve never heard of. Okay, maybe you have, the guy in the back with the glasses. But the rest of you, you know nothing of it. So let me enlighten you. It’s amazing. It really makes programming enjoyable, and dare I say, FUN again. One of my recent tweets really describes it fully though:

I do more fist-pumping-programming in Ruby than Java. Probably a 10 to 1 ratio.

So, recently the thought process has been to follow a ruby path towards entrepreneurialism. That may include doing side-projects in ruby, or even setting up a full-fledged Client-Work company (ala rand9?) solely dedicated to building apps in Ruby, Rails, Sinatra, etc. It may involve getting heavily involved in building an app with a real monetization strategy, like a service people are willing to pay for (Huzzah! for good ideas).

Whatever makes programming fun again, that’s how I’ll do my own thing.

Playful banter, you say? Go check out the awful performance lag for each request. It makes me madder than it makes you, I promise.

03 Aug 2009

Why I Went Minimal

I’ve always told people that my design skills aren’t rooted in illustration or complex elements, but in typography and layout. This probably stems from the fact that I’m pretty much a terrible illustrator (and that I don’t have a Wacom Tablet or a scanner). Go figure. So it is that when designing logos or websites I prefer using carefully chosen typefaces and lots of negative space. It hasn’t always been this way for projects I’ve worked on, but I’m learning more and more that my best work has been when I (seemingly) put the least amount of effort into it.

OneSimpleGoal.com - A Daily Goal to Get Things Done!

This has certainly translated to the way I design and build web applications. My pet project One Simple Goal and this blog both show how much I love to leave the fancy colors and gradients out of it. Now, I’m definitely not saying that fancy colors and gradients are a thing of the past, or should be shunned. Matt Mullenweg’s blog (screenshot below) is a perfect example of beautiful complexity, and proves that complex designs can be very attractive and still usable. I’m merely stating that I feel like I can provide my best service when I design for a minimalistic user experience.

Matt Mullenweg’s blog is complex AND awesome (and not designed by me, I might add)

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a good post from SingleFunction.com on examples of extreme minimalism in web design. The post detailed a longish list of sites who they felt provided a service in a powerful way: through minimalism. Some of these were even over the top for me, but I could definitely relate with the idea or passion behind some of these sites.

I believe the most important thing you can do while building a web app, or designing your site mockup in Photoshop, is to ask one question: “Does everything on the page have a purpose?” Do all of the menus, toolbars, widgets, and design flourishes do well to accentuate the message you are trying to convey, or the action you are trying to invoke? Do they hinder your message in any way? Being too minimalistic can be just as bad as too complex: your users won’t know what to do, they’ll be confused, and will likely become another home page exit statistic in google analytics. Striking that balance is truly an art, one which I’m still striving to achieve with each new interface I build.

Are you a minimalist?

31 Jul 2009

Alive and Well

In a world of tech blogs… why do we need yet another? We don’t. So don’t read this post. No, seriously, you don’t want to.

Ok ok ok, please do. Wait, you’re already here. Great, read on then!

“Are you ready to rock?” » Alive and well by Rise Against from The Unraveling (before they sucked).

Once upon a time, I had a dream. That dream was to roll my own blog in Rails and show the world the awesomeness that was me. And so I bought rand9.com with full intentions of launching my blog in a few days. Well, days turned into a week, a week into several weeks, several weeks into several months, etc.

At some point in the early going I realized I wasn’t super close to deploying the blog, so I ended up building a simple static “Coming Soon” page (that did not have an “Under Construction” animated gif), stating some important things about me, including the tagline which read: “Coming Soon-ish”. Needless to say, that “soon-ish” has been much more “later-ish” than I anticipated, to the tune of 9 months-ish. At least, I think it’s been that long, maybe longer.

I won’t go into details about the platform I’m now using, only that it’s called Marley and it’s super rad. I didn’t roll it myself, but went with someone else’s great idea and did a few mods here and there to suit my needs. I plan on following this post with a comprehensive look at Marley, and when I do I’ll update this post with a link to that post. Whew.

I just want you all to know (you know who you are) that I am once again blogging, and this is my tech blog where I’ll be adding programming/tech related content and keeping ya’ll updated on the great projects I’m working on (yes, I do have a non-tech personal blog). Till then, I bid you adieu.

Oh, one more thing. If you’d like to subscribe to this blog (highly recommended), please click the “RSS” link in your browser address bar, or by choosing RSS or Email updates.


18 Jul 2009

Just to Complete a Goal People...

As you may (or may not) have noticed, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. Life has been life-ing and I’ve had a plethora of things to write about, just not a lot of time, since most of the things I want to write about require tact and skill so as not to offend one or more parties who read (or more likely don’t read) this blog. Ugh, that was a mouthful. So why the post tonight? Well, mostly because I forced myself to.

Some of you may have read the post a few months back where I detailed the new service I’ve been developing and had just deployed: One Simple Goal (OSG). Today I decided that I was going to write a post, and decided to set it as my one goal that I would like to accomplish today. At the time, I was very much “in the mood” to write, and had a few things on my mind. But, the time being at work, I didn’t really get a change to sit down and brain dump. So, instead I set the goal, and have been nagged by it for the remainder of the day.

The best part about OSG is that it gives you a really good excuse to actually get your goals done: there’s only one per day. One. Uno. Un. Eins. That means that you only have to focus on getting one goal accomplished for the day. Simple as that. As I finished pushing a few fixes and features to OSG a few minutes ago, I was ready to close the computer and hit the sack. Then I realized I could fulfill my goal by ranting for just a minute or two on the old blog. And hey, it just might get me in the writing mode again. You have been warned.

Oh, and if you feel like your life is out of control, give OSG a try and let me know what you think. It’s pretty powerful stuff.

19 Jun 2009

Jumping Straight In

Let’s just say, when I clicked the button to pay for the triathlon, I got a mini panic attack well up inside me. If you want to tie yourself in to doing something that will be hard or uncomfortable, put money on it. Such was the case for me in signing up for my first ever Sprint Triathlon in which I’ll be competing tomorrow morning. The funny thing is that I only signed up for it 3 and a half weeks ago, and really haven’t done much training to get ready for it.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Triathlon format, I’ll give you a short rundown. The normal Triathlon disciplines are Swim, Bike, and Run, in that order. From the time you enter the water on the swim till you cross the finish line running, there is really no stopping. Racers are given a transition area where they can place essentials for transitioning from one discipline to the other: T1 is the first transition (swim to bike), and T2 is the second transition (bike to run). There are four major distances that are used for Triathlon races: Sprint, Olympic, Half (or 70.3), and Ironman. As mentioned before, I’ll be doing a Sprint Traithlon: 300 meter swim (usually 750 or 800 for the Sprint distance), 11.6 mile bike, 5k run (3.1 miles).

I really can’t describe how excited I am to test my physical fitness and endurance in this race. I’m definitely not in the race to compete, but would be satisfied with a sub-2 hour completion time. If you are interested in coming out to cheer me (and 349 others) on, come on down! It’s in Riverton, and the swim starts at 7 am ( Directions). Wish me luck!

PS, I should give credit to Joel who has inspired me to do this race (and is doing it with me). He’s gonna smoke me… :)