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Shutting down Usage Report!

Oops, I did it again. Abandoning an idea after I invested quite some time on it even before it was released. This morning I had a good talk with my wife on where I should go with this project. It’s always hard to call it quit after spending quite some time on something but I changed once too many direction in the last two month that I don’t have a product to put on the market yet and to reach a point where I could sell something would take me a few more months (working on Mondays only) to get there…So I think I will call it a day on this project. Now that doesn’t make me feel great as I start having a track record of starting things and not finishing them…at least for project I want to commercialize. I seem to have an easier time to create stuff that I give away for free for some reasons. Having three kids and only limited time I was hoping to turn my hobby of trying to create products into some revenue generating activity so I can easier justify the time I spend on it.

Now there are several lessons I’m learning the hard way here. First I shouldn’t get stuck in having so much fun trying new stuff or solving technical issues without knowing if there is even a market for it. I’m for sure not a great business person but I should really focus on finding something people would be interested before spending too much time in one direction. Based on the fact that I work only Monday’s on this, something that can be created in three weeks full time takes month and month when working part time. I was pretty sure the UsageReport tool was a short term project but of course it ended up being more complex and more time consuming than expected. I was trying to see if there is any side product I could create from this last effort but to create something useful from my code base would still be more work than I can/I’m willing to spare at this time.

In the same vein, I’m not too troubled of spending all this time on these projects as I see it more like practice which makes me a better programmer in the long run and often helps out tremendously on my consulting gigs, and it’s fun to do. And the fact that I’m not troubled by this is an issue in it self as I could spend a fraction of the time learning the same things while working on these projects if the goal was just to learn.

The main issue is still that I never went life with any of these projects. MySpyder.net was awesome, but we never opened it up to the public or even a private beta. SiteExtractor.com was a cool concept but it was too rough to release, before I changed focus and worked WatchThatSite.com. All along the way I used ec2, s3, and Co so I’ve create a tool to visualize the pricing breakdown…and thought I could make a product from it. So over the last few years, just when I had to release something I jumped to the next thing.

Now I want to write about this publicly as it helps me think about why I ended up in the same place again, and I want to find out a way to do it differently next time….Yea, I know some people never learn ;-). So let’s see where I will go from here.

I had several consulting opportunities over the last few month I didn’t follow as I currently only have 20% of my week still available and I really thought I could nail the Usage Report project over a 6 month period and didn’t want to take on any extra work. Well I still worked on the Vault (http://vault.ncaa.com) with Cameron, and that was really fun! I’m right at 5 month with no end in view.

My wife recommends taking on new gigs as she doesn’t believe that a product can be created working part time…At least by me, and I think I’m proving her point pretty well. But I’m not ready to give up yet on creating a product. So what can I do avoid repeating history? I think I loose quickly faith in the ideas I have, or rather I’m getting quickly excited about new ideas without even proving that something works or releasing the project. So instead of tackling 15 days project (that are really 60 days) projects, I should start with some mini projects where I can create something within 3 to 5 days, then release it. At least this will force me to focus really hard on one idea and implement it, get real user feedback and go from there. If I could pull this of, I could maybe create several smaller apps and see which one takes off. Hey let me dream of that at least :-).

Gatelys had the same approach with their eCommerce store. They had a main store where selling many different type of products and based on best sellers where opening custom store for that type of item. In the same way, instead of guessing what type of application could work, I could experiment with smaller apps and see which gains more tractions.

So what are the new ideas…Well, first I need to see if I really cannot create a version of the Usage Report within 3 to 5 days based on the code base I now have. That would be a great first app to add to http://appsden.com. Another idea would be a pro version of the WebSnapshot tool http://myspyder.net/tools/websnapshot/ I wrote several years ago and which was downloaded over 5000 times and received good reviews. I have a few good ideas on that front. Another tool I would love to write is something that provides the functionality of iAwsManager but by showing a visual representation of a data center, more like a 2.5D game…Well that sounds bigger than a few days of work. I would love to create a twitter visualization tools that shows discussion threads and retweet flows. And there are many more ideas poping every days…If only I can pick one and stick with it, I wouldn’t have to write such blog entries.

If you read so far, thank you for sticking with me during this long thought process. For me at least it was useful ;-)


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