Energized and a little overwhelmed

posted by Jeff | Monday, November 5, 2012, 4:45 PM | comments: 0

With the wave of new software development tools and gadgets from Microsoft in the last few weeks, I'm really pretty energized and full of ideas. With the darkness and coldness that comes from winter, I think I try to hang on to stuff like this to satisfy my hobbyist/side-business-wannabe self. That, and this approach has endlessly helped my career, even if it has meant some jobs that I totally haven't cared about.

I really need to "finish" my dashboarding product, not because I think it will make me rich, but because I want to use it! It's the typical problem that I encounter... the last 25% or so of work is often the hardest and least interesting. Maybe this is the reason why I desire to get away from jobs that are primarily heads-down coding. I enjoy the coding part, but only to an extent. The other parts of design, architecture and process are a lot of fun to me, and those jobs have by extension been the most fun. That's why I switched to a program manager role when I was still at Microsoft (though I made the tactical error of joining a team not interested in shipping fast and frequently, unfortunately).

With the shiny Sufrace tablet we recently bought, of course I'm anxious to put something on that. By extension, it means building something for Windows 8 since it will run in both places. I'm going to port the goofy little CoasterBuzz app for Windows Phone to see how that goes. I don't care if anyone uses it, I just want to do it! These kinds of discovery endeavors are fun. To add to the challenge, I'm trying to see how much code I can reuse between that app and the phone.

Going back to the tried and true stuff I've worked on forever, there are a lot of ideas that pop into my head that kind mesh well with some of the new tools. Since I've accepted my fate of building POP Forums forever, I still desire to innovate it into something more. A lot of those efforts over the years have been to make it do less, instead of more, to bring the conversations it facilitates to the forefront, and I think I've been successful in that. By stripping it down, I've enabled ideas for new things. For example, I added the little thing that, when you're replying, will tell you that new posts have arrived so you don't miss the discussion as you're typing. I've noticed that discussion on CoasterBuzz is a lot more orderly with things like that.

The big thing on my mind for this winter, more than anything, is a significant PointBuzz do-over. I'm not even sure when we put the current version into production, but it was way too long ago. I hate the old forum version. I think we chose wisely when we decided years ago to focus on community and photos, with the occasional feature here and there, but the photo stuff did not scale in terms of organization. It's hard to find and discover stuff. We're really going to have to noodle a bit to figure out how to approach this, and keep in mind how we transition what we have into that with minimal pain. It hurts to think about right now, but I do look forward to the challenge. I think we were on to something with the way MouseZoom was organized, with hierarchal albums, but the discovery and UI has to be better.

I've actually thought a little bit about bringing Baby Stopwatch back into my life. I always said that I built the Windows Phone app just to say that I could (and it does make a couple hundred bucks in ad revenue every year), but in the back of my mind I had a second version in mind. I know how nutty parents can be, and I think they want historical data on the way their kids eat and poop. Sounds ridiculous, but there is definitely a market there.

My biggest mistake, in the last few years, has been focusing too much on how to make a buck with my ideas. It's amazing how much that focus degrades the fun of what you're doing. I have to go back a dozen years to see that if you're passionate about something and share it with others who share your passion, you may find it's a business. The focus on experimentation does not necessarily lead to making a living with one of these endeavors, but the cost involved is practically zero. It's low risk, but satisfying and sometimes profitable.


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