A Deliberate Journey

October marks two years since I first started learning to code. And what a journey! I still can’t believe I can wake up every morning and make whatever I set my mind to. And that’s what I have been doing ever since I got my powers (Ruby on Rails and now iOS ;)).

I’ve been making a few websites here and there (Tweetbox, Tinysale), and I have made a few apps (ShopLater, Alphavit, another one currently in the approval process). However, one thing I learned from the process is that software development is continuous. If you stop working on a project, it will become irrelevant pretty fast:

  • The Tweetbox‘s database storage on Heroku ran out and I’m not willing to pay more to keep it going – mostly because it would be a monthly expense and I wouldn’t be keeping it up. There are also styling issues on Tweetbox, and I just don’t feel excited to fix them.
  • Tinysale (no longer up) has met a similar fate. I’m not willing to keep building it into a business because of the big legal risk involved, and it cost about $50 / month on Heroku to keep it up for selling my book and to pay for SSL for secure payments. That was really offsetting the profit from my book sales, so I decided to move to self publishing on Amazon instead.
  • ShopLater – This was my first iOS app, and I loved making it, but it is very reliant on crawling websites, which means there needs to be lots of upkeeping to keep it going (every time the HTML / CSS changes on the page, I’ll need to update the app or API I build). Already, half of the stores on there don’t work! I should just pull it from the app store at this point. I also never built the final feature – sending push notifications when an item you save goes on sale, since, again, that would require more time, and money and I’m just not committed to it.
  • Alphavit – I think this one is a very self contained app, so luckily it needs no real maintenance. It does need some work on the marketing side, but I just don’t have time to do it, so pretty much nobody knows about it. However, keeping it up would really help. I could add more pictures, more interaction, and even numbers, but I’m not willing to build it up bigger.
  • Stay in Shape – This app is currently pending approval in the app store. It’s a simple game for kids to match shapes that I worked on with someone as part of my $200 offer. I actually spent weeks on it, and the simple app is self contained and fun. But there are lots of things I can do to improve it – add levels, add different speeds, use the new iOS7 SpriteKit to make the shapes move around in a more fun and unpredictable way. So while it will be fun to play with for a bit, it won’t be reaching it’s full potential.

These are just the products I actually launched. You can check out my github respositories for all the projects I started but never finished. Of course a lot of them were just practice projects as I was learning iOS, backbone.js, and rails that I never meant to launch.

During this process, just by living in San Francisco and reading lots of Hacker News and recently listening to Mixergy, I’ve been learning a lot about everything from user experience to lean startup to social media marketing. I’m ready to build a product in a more DELIBERATE manner. I want to build something long-term that I start and grow to be something great.

Throughout my journey so far, I learned that more than anything I LOVE learning. I know this is probably dorky, but while I was at Dev Bootcamp and at Mobile Makers, I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been. Just the energy you get from waking up and going to sleep learning more than you could have ever imagined is incomparable. So I know the thing I build next will be something to keep that amazing feeling going outside of bootcamps (wish I could keep going to a bootcamp every six months!).

But since this is something that I’m building DELIBERATELY and plan on spending all my free time on, I want to make sure to do it right. So while it’s easier to just start coding – which is what I did with all my other projects – this weekend I spent my time interviewing people who are learning to code so I could learn about the challenges they face and the products missing from the current marketplace.

I’m really glad I did those interviews (thank you everyone who took the time to talk to me!) – I learned so much and was left so inspired. There are people all over the world who are waking up every day and hustling and I can’t wait for them to be part of the product I build!

If you’d like to learn more about how to make the most out of a bootcamp experience, read more in my book:  How To… Learn To Code. Get Your Dream Job. Change Your Life.

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