Since Nick and the USV team open sourced the conversations app, I’ve been pitching in a little here and there. The initial work was focused on cleaning up the initial code base and fixing various bugs (many of which I actually introduced in my ‘clean up’ work).
We believe we are ‘mostly’ through that phase now, and so now we can finally focus some time and energy on ‘new’ features…and the first set of these things was just pushed out to the app.
Here is a quick list of some of the new/cool things:
1. User profiles.
Now almost everywhere you see a username on the site, it should link to that user’s conversation profile (and you can get to your own via the ‘settings’ link in the top navigation when you are logged in).
When viewing a profile, in addition to seeing the list of shares that the user has put into the system, you should have access to three other interesting things:
A. tags - These are all the tags the user has used in tagging their shares (click any to see those specific shares).
B. bumps - These are the items the user has up-voted.
C. at mentions - These are the shares that the user has been @mentioned in (currently very few people actually have @mentions - so this is often empty right now)
When logged in, you should now see a ‘settings' link at the top of page. Clicking that will take you to a new settings area where you can manage the email address associated with your account as well as your Disqus account connection.
From this area you can also reach your own profile details (the Shares, Bumps, and Mentions tabs mentioned above).
3. At mentions
As mentioned in the above details, now if you @mention a user in your share details, it should automatically be hotlinked to the user’s profile and should show under the ‘Mentions’ section of their profile.
In addition to the tagging things mentioned above (ie. use them as bookmarks; use them as quick links to interesting topics from a user) we have also added a tag cloud for the site as a whole.
You’ve likely already noticed this as it’s just above the ‘featured’ posts area in the app. Hopefully you find it as interesting and useful as we do.
5. Hover over votes
Now when you hover over the ‘vote’ count, you should see a pop-up window that shows you the icons of those that have upvoted the share.
6. Improved Disqus integration
Probably most important to all the already actively engaged users, we’ve reworked a lot of how we take advantage of Disqus throughout the system. We now use the Disqus API and your user settings (when you auth the app with Disqus) to communicate with Disqus.
What this means is that Disqus, and specifically alerting, *should* be working as users have come to know, love, and expect from Disqus.
We do have a few other ideas and features in the works, but I think that’s the core of what’s been released for now.
So if you’ve got ideas, questions, or find bugs please do let us know.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll like the new things you find and I hope it will encourage you to help us grow the community!
Rob Go has a great post today about competition.
I really like the way he lays out the problem because it’s exactly how I try to think about and analyze competitors for any project I’m involved in.
Lately I’ve been spending a lot of (my limited) brain power defining our goals and go-to-market strategy for Coach Wizard. As part of that, I’ve spent a significant amount of time trying to identify, and analyze, the pre-existing important players in our space.
While none do the specific things, or have the specific goals, that we do right now - many are either direct competitors (because we serve much the same end goal in the market) or are at least positioned to become a serious direct competitor if/when we prove out our model.
Does this worry me?
Of course, but not so much that I lose sleep over it (yet). And not so much that I really spend that much time reacting or shifting our strategy based on it (but, yes, there have been a few little tweaks to things as I’ve discovered more ‘truth’ around what others are doing or trying to do).
However, at the end of the day I strongly believe we still have a number of unique advantages (which is why we are in the game in the first place).
And honestly at our current stage our biggest threat isn’t competition, it’s simply not getting to market, or once we do, finding out that we are not solving a real (big) problem in our market (ie. having the wrong vision/strategy).
To protect against this - regardless of our stage, we’ll always monitor and measure the market (and the competition) to make sure our vision and our execution remain in-line with the real needs and problems we identify…but the main focus, and driving force, will always be our vision and our execution.
We won’t be driven by the competition, but we won’t blind to it either.
I wasn’t super early, but I did have one of the first generation iPhones a few years back. And about the time that it was ‘getting old’ I had a freelance project to develop a mobile app for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. My wife had an iPhone as well (and a BlackBerry from her job), so I switched to an Android at the time.
I forget the model that I picked at that time, but I’m sure it was close to ‘top of the line’ at the time (when buying gadgets I generally end up up-selling myself to the latest and greatest).
Anyway - I used it throughout the project and for at least a few months after, but it really was just too clunky and bloated compared to the iPhone of the time. So I eventually switched back to the iPhone.
The latest model of the iPhone available that switch was the 4 (with 3g) and so that is what I got…and for the most part it served me well.
That is until the iOS 7 release came out.
About a month or so ago, I installed the new OS and my iPhone was almost immediately rendered useless. Sometimes it just wouldn’t turn on (or off), sometimes the screen would just completely lock up (and I would have to wait for it to turn itself off from being idle before I could do anything else with it), and sometimes it would just close an app it didn’t feel like running anymore.
To be honest, I don’t actually use my phone for that much (email, music, audible, ocassional twitter/facebook checks, and few rare texts or phone calls) - but when I do use it, I just want it to respond quickly (very quickly).
So for about a month I suffered through thinking/hoping that Apple would release an update that fixed up the memory issues…but yesterday (for no specific reason) I finally hit my breaking point.
Partially because of how frustrating it has been to use the phone this past month, and partially because it’s been awhile since I’ve given Android a real look (and many of my friends have been loving it)…I decided this time I would switch back to Android.
So - I have now switched to the Galaxy S4.
It’s a little too early to judge yet, but I can say that at least it starts and closes as I ask, doesn’t freeze up, and doesn’t (yet) crash when I try for simple things like ‘play song’ or ‘check email’.
Honestly I’m still a little surprised that Apple (so close to having just really lost Jobs) would put out something that would break their stuff so horribly…and that they appear not to be in any hurry to fix it. It’s the little things like this which have me really concerned for the long term health of Apple (even though they are still killing it on the books).
I wonder how many others they are driving away with experiences like this…and I wonder if they’ll be able to win any of us back (so far I’m impressed enough to say Android has at least caught up if not passed them in many ways).
I mentioned in a past post that I would have more Draftwizard mistakes to talk about through the course of this series. Today, is one of those days.
Actually, today’s mistake isn’t just another Draftwizard mistake, it’s what I consider the single biggest, and most painful, mistake I’ve made across any of my projects over the years!
So what is it? Pretty simple really, I hired staff too early.
Draftwizard had been breaking even, I was a believer in the industry as a whole, and I was anxious to grow into a ‘real’ company.
Plus Statsfeed was doing really well and was providing me with some capital to invest back into my other interests.
I thought I knew what I wanted to have done within the Draftwizard system (mis-judged product-market fit), and as luck would have it, I also had a really smart friend who was ready to make a job change (mis-judged smart for good fit).
It seemed like it would work out great.
In reality, there were a lot of things I just didn’t know, and other things I just didn’t pay attention to…all of which caused this to really be a HUGE mistake.
1. Turns out Draftwizard didn’t really have product-market fit. This meant that we still needed to be doing a lot of testing, experimenting, and evolving. There wasn’t a defined formula that I could just teach someone and let them go to work. There were clues and breadcrumbs that were revealing themselves, but we still needed to identify and follow the real ones.
2. Because of #1 - I really needed a partner (or multiple partners), not an employee. The person I hired was smart, and hard working, but wanted/needed direction. They were more geared towards execution than strategy (in this case). They had expressed this concern up front, but I was over-confident in my own vision and plan…I thought I would be able to put them on the right path fairly easy. They were right, I was wrong. In the *really* early days, you need everyone to be pitching in on the strategy (as they execute).
3. I hired a friend simply because they were smart and available. They executed on everything I asked them to and they did it well. But they didn’t know the industry at all, they weren’t passionate about the product or the vision, and they weren’t ‘wired for the startup world’. This makes for a great employee down the road, but is a company killer in the first 10-20+ hires. In fact, I now believe about the first 5 people involved in the company should really be (strategic) ‘partners’…the next 5-10 should be considered 1st hires (i.e. ‘startup’ people hungry to pay their dues on the way to their own eventual startup — and still very strategic)…and then *maybe* you can start moving into hiring really smart, hard working, ‘employees’.
4. We were 100% remote. Again, not a huge issue for an employee down the road, but not something that really fosters the ‘startup’ juices or is conducive to rapidly finding product-market fit. We couldn’t easily feed off of each other’s wins, questions, or ideas…and we didn’t suffer through problems together either.
5. I had no idea how expensive an employee really was (both in time and paperwork). I had to pay for a payroll service and taxes for multiple states. Worse - after a year of trying to make it work, I finally had to face reality and let them go (I tried to make it easy by tapering down the hours/work)…after I was completely out of money and they were officially off payroll…I still had to pay the companies share of unemployment for a few months (out of pocket because the company was completely broke). This also made my company and personal taxes a bit of a mess.
6. It was painful for the employee too - the job didn’t pay a lot, there was no real direction given on a day-to-day basis, and even though they executed really well on all that they were asked to do, I *still* had to let them go after a year.
So overall - it was pretty painful for both of us (and played a major role in the ultimate downfall of the Draftwizard system).
Still, I gained incredible experience and a priceless education throughout my side of the pain…and if nothing else I know for certain that it’s a mistake I won’t come close to making again!
On my commute into the PubGears office today, I finished listening to I’m feeling lucky: The Confessions of Google employee 59 (via audible). I’ve also recently listened to The Search and In the Plex
All three of these books are fascinating in their own ways, but taken as a whole shine a really interesting light into the story behind Google, how it operates, and a little bit about how it really came to be the powerhouse that it is today.
If you’re into search, or just interested in the story behind a lot of the modern internet, I would highly recommend you read all three of these books (and fairly close together).