Reflection on startup life: Week 55

The way in which people use product is endlessly fascinating. For example, with (which collects links from multiple sources) one of the very first features that most people requested was to filter links by source. So we added this in. A week after launch, no one is using it. So does that make it invalid? ie. Should we “not” deliver that function?

I think the question is more complicated than that — sometimes there are things that people want in the first 5 minutes that’s very different from what they need once they experience the product. One premise of is that it collects and indexes links from multiple sources. Allowing a user to filter by source is a first five minutes experience that helps them quickly confirm the promise of the product.

It’s something that Twitter and Facebook spend a lot of time on, yet most people don’t see it. If you register a new Twitter account there’s virtually an entire application around helping you get started and get connected that’s something you only use in the first five minutes. I’ve registered a lot of Twitter accounts this last 12 months and that experience is continually changing and enhancing (to the point that as an “experienced” Twitter account creator it’s annoying, but I am a minority I suspect). Yet if you registered your account more than 6 months ago, you’ll never have experienced any of this substantial amount of screen design and effort on Twitter’s part.

We launched a new version of which went smoothly enough. There were lots of minor bugs in there, but we fixed them quickly enough. We continue to get a lot of interest in and increasing numbers of people registering for access which is exciting. It’s still a little way from opening it up more broadly, but it’s getting there.

Unfortunately it looks like will have to remain on the back burner for the next few weeks.

Last week was very focussed on making sure we got one of our projects for SportsGeek finished — fingers crossed the minor bug I fixed this morning sees that project now complete. I won’t spoil Sean’s fun by saying what the project is, but Alex and I are both pretty excited that the first client Sean has signed up and will be launching with is an NBA team.

This week we launch into a Ruby on Rails project. For those playing along at home, you might have a WTF moment… as of course we are primarily a Python / Django shop.

To cut a long story very short, we had a series of really interesting email conversations around a potential project, the end result of which was “let’s do this”. We were all on a similar wavelength and were excited about working together, but right at the end realised that Python / Django wasn’t going to suit this customer as a Ruby on Rails shop. We needed to find a creative way to make it work — so we’ve committed to a pilot in Ruby on Rails. Over a couple of weeks we’ll develop some of the core components, mostly on our time as we are learning as we go with a new language. At the end of that we’ll submit it for review and if it’s good enough, we’ll negotiate from there. Once we suggested this, they agreed and then proposed some funding to ensure we are compensated at least a little for our time (these guys are awesome — really fair, above board and straight shooters — the kind of clients you want to work with).

Of course there’s lots we need to do that we DO already know — front end, HTML, JavaScript, Twitter API and how to work with it robustly etc. I’ve programmed to some degree with C64 Basic, Fortran, Pascal, FoxPro, Visual Basic for DOS, VB4, C#, C, C++, SQL Server Scripting, Python / Django and now Ruby. It’s safe to say I’ve forgotten more than I remember! Ruby / Rails is just another step on the road.

I thought as part of this “challenge” I’ll make it entertaining and for the next couple of weeks I’m going to geek out here on the transition from Python / Django to Ruby / Rails by posting daily updates. I think I’ll call it “Rails Challenge” so feel free to ignore these if you’re not into languages.


  • Ignite talk on Wednesday — great event and well run by Mark Mansour.
  • SportsGeek project done
  • New launch

Lessons Learned

  • Billing is a pain — especially when your bank stuffs up transactions and you can’t even tell if its you or them!
  • Creative persistence is worthwhile.

Goals this week

  • Learn Ruby on Rails and cut some code!