closing out my 35th year...

I’m wrapping up my 35th year of living tonight…and so I guess it’s time to do a little bit of reflection again…here we go in a totally random, as I think of it sort of way:

1. Though I’ve been a super early employee before (see Pro Video Productions, Cory Publishing, and reviews.com) and I’ve started two of my own companies from scratch (see Falicon Programming Inc. and Statsfeed LLC)…this past year when I joined Catchafire.org marks the first time I have ventured into a funded startup where a large percentage of my compensation is equity and I’m not the guy running the show.

Going in I expected some ups and downs and I knew it would be a growing process one way or another…and though I’ve only been on the team a few months, I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress and I’ve personally learned a lot about myself and what things I’ll do differently next time around (and yes, I already know there’s going to be a next time around).

On the tech. front, I came in and built the alpha from scratch in about a month…we’ve already started making sales, and we are just heading into hardcore testing of beta through the month of June…so on almost all my scorecards, things are going just fine.

2. Just over a year ago, I landed a deal to write another book for Apress (this time on Amazon SimpleDB)…and I recruited my friend Tyler to help me out. We started off strong, and got through about eight chapters of what we thought would be about fourteen…then Tyler landed a new gig and I got distracted by other shinny objects…and the project has basically sat idle for over six months now, and is all but officially dead.

When I stop to think about it, it’s really embarrassing because the work involved in finishing it is really nothing more than sitting down and putting the time in…and yet, I just never did it. And the blame is totally on my shoulders.

Having failed at getting this book done all but assures I won’t be attempting to writing another book in the future (and even if I wanted to, I’m pretty sure I’ve just proved to Apress they shouldn’t let me). I did enjoy writing at one time, and I really like the feeling of completing a writing assignment…so maybe I’ll be able to wiggle my way into a supporting author role on someone elses’ project down the road.

Also, because we’ve got over a 100 pages already written on SimpleDB that’s just sitting there, I feel like I should at least put it out there in some format in hopes that it benefits at least a few people…I’m not sure yet if that means a self-published ebook format, a pdf, or just a series of blog posts…but I really want to get it out there sooner rather than later.

3. I’ve taken most of this past year off from the fantasy sports world…especially on the consumer end. I did build and use supermug.com for one of my personal leagues and I rebuilt the entire backend of statsfeed.com but only used it to power supermug.com for the season. I also more recently put out yet another version of Draftwizard.com but again didn’t focus it as an actual money-making project.

In the same realm, I ventured into the casual fantasy area last summer by building Gawk.it…but found myself way too early in the market, and so that project has basically sat idle since the start of the football season last year.

Overall though, the time off from the sports and casual game area has been good to me and given me a chance to step back, get a fresh perspective on the landscape, and recharge my passion a bit…and so I think there’s a VERY strong chance that I’ll be diving back into this realm in the next couple of months (if with nothing else than offering statsfeed back up for subscription).

4. I got heavy into tools for social data. At one time, I couldn’t really stand the social services but I’ve pretty much done a 180 on them now…and if nothing else, I’m in awe of the power they possess and the data they generate. I’m convinced that there’s billions of dollars in there just waiting to be mined…but I haven’t quite hit on my own little gold-mine within just yet. Still, I’m having a lot of fun digging around in it and at least a few of my projects have gained a little attention (see appsigot.com,
conversationlist.com, friendstat.us, HiveMind, hotaround.me, and some of the other wow.ly tools I’ve been working on).

I’ve actually got a handful of additional tools in this realm that are in an alpha state but haven’t really been released to the general public yet (well they are out there but nobody really knows about them)…for example, tagli.st and knowabout.it are two projects that more or less work but I’ve never really told anyone about yet.

Anyway, I’m pretty sure that I’ll continue to play around with these sorts of tools while I look for a solid revenue stream inside all of that data…and if nothing else it continues to introduce me to some of the smartest and most interesting people I’ve ever met (many of which have given me some great ideas for apps to build them).

5. Speaking of one of the smartest people I know, I started running/doing a casual tech. get together with Hilary Mason…we call it the Cheeseburger club and basically what we do is get a very small ‘tech’ group together for lunch (usually at some place in the city that has good cheeseburgers) and talk tech. We keep the group really small each time (usually no more than 6 people at once), so we can have actual conversations and get to know the real tech. people around the city…and we do it about once a month right now (just depends on our schedules really).

It turns out it’s a great networking opportunity, but really we just do it because talking tech. with people and learning about all the interesting things they are working on is the sort of thing that we find fun. (BTW, if you’re in or around the NY area, in tech., and want invited to one of these events please feel free to drop me an email any time and I’ll get you added to the invite queue).

6. I took a freelance gig. to build an iPhone, Android, and Blackberry app for a very well known company (who could pay me well enough to make the extra work worthwhile). iPhone is another area that I really wasn’t all that interested in to start, but now that I’ve dabbled a bit in that world I am warming up to it quite a bit (and I think there’s a lot of opportunity there when coupled with my #3 points on fantasy and casual gaming)…so this is another area that I’m probably going to be heavily involved in for the next six months or so.

7. On a personal level, my oldest son started flag football this past year and I had a chance to help coach a little bit (I’ll be an official coach and much more involved in the practices and games this season coming up)…he also started Cub Scouts and I became his first Den leader (I have since moved up to Cub Master and his mom has taken over the role of Den Leader)…meanwhile my youngest just started soccer and is going to be starting Pre-K this fall…

There’s probably even more I could/should reflect on, but this post is already really long (and I’m quite sure I’m the only one reading this far down)…so I’ll wrap it up by saying that time is flying and I really try to walk a fine line of crushing it with all my start-up/computer work and being an involved dad/husband who gets to actually enjoy my kids childhood – so far it’s exhausting at times.

Overall I feel like I mostly make it work but could always do better…and so that’s my goal going into my 36th year!

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This is the personal blog of Kevin Marshall (a.k.a Falicon) where he often digs into side projects he's working on for digdownlabs.com and other random thoughts he's got on his mind.

Kevin has a day job as CTO of Veritonic and is spending nights & weekends hacking on Share Game Tape. You can also check out some of his open source code on GitHub or connect with him on Twitter @falicon or via email at kevin at falicon.com.

If you have comments, thoughts, or want to respond to something you see here I would encourage you to respond via a post on your own blog (and then let me know about the link via one of the routes mentioned above).