Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Teaching Myself Python - Part 1

I've always wanted to be a better coder. However, it's in direct opposition with my passion, which is to be an entrepreneur. The problem is, I only learned how to code in order to build something interesting enough to convince a better coder to work along side me, for nothing but a mutual dream (and some stock, not yet worth anything to speak of). But, one can only sit beside great coders for so long, without being drawn back in.

Previously, I've experimented with a few languages, but my core development has been in PHP, with my theoretical background coming from high school AP classes, which at the time, were taught in C++ (if that doesn't date me : P ).  But, for the purposes of this blog series, I'm 'learning' Python.

The good news is, I've started already.  The purpose of blogging about it is to share my experience and plans, as well as get encouragement and guidance.  Hopefully, you all will keep me honest and on course.

Now, why Python?  I wish there was a deep, meaningful reason. But, there's not. I'm learning Python because it's concise and powerful...and all the coolest kids I know do it. However, I did read a Quora post, What are some signs that someone is an inexperienced Python programmer? that helped spark a memory.  This question, and responses, showed me how powerful Python is, in terms of saying a lot with very little code; it reminded me of the power of recursion.  As mentioned, I come from a for(int x = 0, x=string.length(), x++){ if(conditional)...} kinda, if I keep at it, I'll have to write a lot less code.  Less code makes the base easier to maintain and easier to read (all good things).  Plus, it has it's own command line shell.

So, the plan.  I'm doing LPTHW (on lesson 39 atm), Python Challenge (Challenge 4) & I'm replicating the programs found on SimplePrograms, varying them slightly (On program 8).  I'm also using Python to write the middleware on a side project, (though i'm working on this with a friend).

If you all have any thoughts on my plan, words of wisdom or additional resources, feel free to leave me a comment.

With me luck.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

So, I Built The MVP, Now What?

In my previous post, Where Ideas Come From, I talked about an idea that came to me.  Without re-hatching the post, I was left with this idea that every social complaint is should be an actionable customer-service ticket, and making it public could put some social pressure on brands to pay attention.

So, I built it.  You can check out and let me know what you think in the comments below.  The MVP is truly simple.  We have a small number companies to choose from and a list of top, most complained about companies.  I posted it on HN, sent out a few tweets and posted on my social networks.  So far, traffic is pretty abysmal.  Don't people care which companies ignore their social media complaints?  Don't companies care about knowing how many people are pissed off at them on Twitter?  I think they do.  So, now what?  Why isn't the traffic coming hands over fist?

Obviously, we have made ourselves relevant.  It's that age old question, "How are you going to get users?"  The way I see it, we only have a few options that really make sense.  One, we can increase the number of companies we are collecting information on, or two, we can directly create some way to motivate the customer or the company to engage with the site.  But, only one of those options has any chance of getting us users.

One thing that previous projects have taught me is NOT to work on creating a pretty website or extensive backend stuff / re-writes...when you don't have something people want to use, don't polish the turd; find a way to make them care.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, go with the option that has a chance at making your product more relevant to your users.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Where Ideas Come From

I remember interviewing for a position and I was asked, in reference to a startup project I was working on full-time, "That's a GREAT idea.  How do I know it's not going to hit in 1 month and you're going to leave?"  To which I answered, "You don't.  But, it's not about finding the right idea.  Once you start looking at the world through an entrepreneurial lens, you see them everywhere."

Everyone has problems.  But, entrepreneurs can quickly identify which ones are general enough to make a business out of and which ones are too niche.  They also see minimum viable products that provide value and don't take a ton of time / effort / money to build.

That brings me something that happened a few weeks ago.  I don't recall what I was doing, but I got a text message stating something like, "You just won $1000 gift card to walmart, click-thru to this url (which had walmart in the name) to redeem your prize."  I whois looked-up the domain and found that it was owned by some sort of hosting / advertising company and this was clearly some sort of lead-gen scam or worse.  I put together a 140 character response and took to my twitter account.  I sent tweets of a possible scam to various @walmart accounts and heard nothing.  I was so shocked, not because I didn't hear back (though that made me upset), but because I never considered how a company that big would ever manage my message, regardless of how important it was.  

I thought about the idea for a while and this past weekend, I started building  I don't know whether or not this will turn into anything, but that's where my inspiration came from.  So my advice to anyone looking for an idea is to become an observer.  Keep your eyes open, talk to your friends, co-workers, whoever.  Eventually, if you are paying attention and channeling your inner-entrepreneur, and idea will come out of nowhere, like a phishing / link-bait scam.