Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Some more thoughts on the past few months

As I have recapped here, one of my primary objectives after leaving Babajob was to make myself comfortable in using a tech stack other than Windows, as well as learn Android development. The best way to do this was to build something small but useful, something which I felt was needed by people and they would use if it was built for them.

Of the many ideas I had, I started with Tweet Smart because I sensed there was an unmet need for such a utility. On twitter, I had come across several instances of people starting tweet storms and numbering the tweets as 1/n,2/n.... and then finishing the tweet storm by revealing in the last tweet the value of n. You can search twitter for "1/n" and you will find that there are people every day who tweet like that. I myself had wondered how did some people, or specifically @JP_LokSatta, compose a series of tweets which were numbered perfectly. I tried to do so myself and felt it was not an easy thing to do, which explained why many more people were numbering tweets as 1/n, 2/n... Thus, my hypothesis that there was an unmet need and if I built something that met this need then people would use it.

With this hypothesis, I started work. In a Lean Startup, the primary objective would be to test this hypothesis as cheaply and quickly as possible.  But my primary objective over here was to learn a tech stack and perhaps build a public portfolio of small hacks/products which would help others evaluate my code and the way I thought about products. At the same time, it was important to finish one project completely and rather than have multiple ideas as work in progress. For example, another idea which I thought I would ship was to build an app which alerts me when a Groupon becomes hot, i.e. it is bought by a lot of people in a short span of time, or a simple Math game which I have in mind. But having a 1000 users install and use TweetSmart would be more valuable to me than to have built two apps/services which no one was using. Thus, while I have been tempted from time to time, to pick up other ideas, I have resisted such temptations and stuck with TweetSmart for the time being. If my hypothesis for TweetSmart is true, then how many people can I get to install the chrome extension? 100, 500, 1000 or more? How many TweetStorms are people going to compose using my service in a duration of 30 days? Answers to such questions intrigue me more at this point of time rather than building newer apps/services. Thus the primary objective of learning new tech stack/android development had to be achieved within the constraints of the secondary objective : iterate on a single product/idea and build something that people use.

With this perspective in mind, I spent more time learning technologies rather than just validating whether my hypothesis was correct. For example I spent time building a Chrome extension, a website as well as an Android app for the same use case. A reason why I did this was to break out and do something new when I got stuck. Working alone can be monotonous and a challenge if you get stuck. Learning new skills such as Android development kept me engaged and made me feel I was making the days count, even though I was stuck on the  development of the website due to some stupid mistake. But I did not start work on any new ideas.

The website was something which I finished first and released. By release, I mean tweet about it and send an email informing some friends to check out what I had made. But it was far from ready to be publicized because of some obvious bugs and deficiencies. I was solving my own pain point, and I felt that my solution, though a step in the right direction, was incomplete.

The correct thing to do at this point would have been to continue work on the site and finish some of the features I felt were necessary for this Minimum Product to be Viable. However, I decided to get the Android app as well as Chrome extension to the same feature parity. The argument I had for such a decision at that point was that users were likely to forget the name of the site and not come back, making something like a Chrome extension attractive as once it is installed, it is easily accessible. In hindsight I am not sure how well does this argument stand. It is in instances like these that I feel better decisions would have been made if working with a team.

Anyway, I worked on the extension and shipped what I felt was a suitable MVP. I felt that I could now publicize the Chrome extension and indeed did so to a few strangers as well as people I follow on twitter. Two people to whom I tweeted about the extension, favorited the tweet. However, they did not install it. Since Chrome extensions cannot be installed on a mobile browser, I wondered if that was the reason. Thinking that to be a highly probable reason, I decided to focus on the mobile site rather than the Android app. While building the Android app would add to my portfolio, I felt I could delay that slightly and focus on getting people to actually use what I had built.

In the past few weeks, whenever I have had the time to work, I have focused on bringing the mobile site to the same MVP feature set as the extension. With the Chrome extension and now the mobile site as well in a much better shape, I am confident of going ahead with publicizing the extension and site and check how do people respond.

I also took some time to reflect on what I would do differently if I were to do a similar project in the future. I would share those thoughts in another post soon. However, I am quite certain that working absolutely alone is not very productive. Thus I am going to be actively looking for opportunities now, something about which I was rather passive in the past few months.

No comments:

Post a Comment