One of the weirder things I do is tackle multiple problems with one solution. Sometimes it works, sometimes not, but it tends to make life… interesting.
So here are the problems I’m out to solve:

  • I’m looking for a big fat hook I can hang great content on here, that you’re going to want to read and remark on. I can write about a lot of things, but it’s more fun, useful and interesting when they tie together into something bigger.
  • I need to get back into developing. While I love to write and am pretty good at it, there was a reason I got out of reporting – I want to build things, not just talk about them. Having done zero coding for nearly a year, I need to build up my programmer muscles, and get back up to speed with what’s going on in the Rails community these days (short answer: a lot! 3.1, CoffeeScript, Saas, jQuery…!). And there’s the not small motivation that developing in Rails pays well, but you need to be able to show you can do the job as it’s defined today, not a year ago. (digression: Railcasts has just added premium ‘casts – sign. up. now.)
  • I’m writing this book, WordPress for Startups, and while I like where it’s going, I want to include in it a real startup’s site that I can mercilessly critique. Volunteers for public beatings are not abundant.
  • I’ve been doing way more reading/talking this past year about the humanity-wide social media party in progress than actually participating. It’s time to go back in and enjoy the party, and that means bringing something to share.
  • Getting older is a drag, and the box I in my head where I store all that programming knowledge needs a good clean out and refurbishing. As easy as it is to Google everything (Stack Overflow everything), I want a better way of learning how to proficiently and fluently code. Have looked all over the interwebs and while there are flashcard/memorization dorky web apps for students, there’s nothing I’ve found suits aging online entrepreneur developers who need to learn 2.5+ programming languages fast. Sounds like an unmet need to me!
So, here’s my solution: Build a useful web app for online folk who need a streamlined way to get info from the web into their own personal long term memory. Detail here what I learn about what works and doesn’t work – circa late 2011 – as I tackle all those not the actual coding issues that every self-funded startup founder has to grapple with. Rinse, lather, repeat.
First up – Picking a URL.

8 Comments

  1. Go get ’em, man 🙂
    Question – are you using WordPress for the bulk of the solution? If so, why are you using Rails for the rest of it … why not PHP?

  2. Bob Walsh Reply

    Nope – it will be in Rails. While the solution I have in mind could be built in php, Rails is what I know and love. A mistake I’ve seen way too often is thinking that since your app is in X, your marketing web site should be too.
    Every minute I save by using WordPress to build out the marketing site is another minute I have available for doing the best job I can coding Project Y. With the right approach, mix of plugins, workflows and a developed sense of taste in premium themes, I can build for a fraction of the time and cost of traditional web sites a great marketing site with WordPress.
    Domainwise, is it really valid you should have 1 domain for both the app and the marketing of it? I don’t think so – the marketing site should get all available attention, and if you are building a web app instead of mobile. app.whatever.com can handle the actual sale/subscription process after your visitor has decided to become your customer.

  3. Good point about using the right language/tool for the job. I have recently been playing with Drupal some for work, and plan on building out the commercial side of my online presence using it. It was a hard choice, since I have been doing .Net coding for about 10 years now, but I do believe it is the right one. It is more important to produce good copy than it is to tweak the C# CMS, and I know that if I went with mojoPortal, I would spend as much time doing that as I would adding content to sell my product (or, gasp, even developing the product!).
    I look forward to reading more about your venture as you progress!

  4. Craig Snyder Reply

    Would not mind getting involved in your book project. Either technical reviewer like before or a ginny pig for the website critique.

  5. i am a .NET developer and I first look for an open source .NET solution for anything I need. While WordPress is the most popular blog framework, I used a .NET based one so I can tweak it any way I like. I will not learn PHP to use WordPress. I would rather be a master of one language platform than a jack of many. I also have several ideas for fee based web apps and I am developing one of them now.
    What does a marketing web site mean and what doe sit involve? Can’t this be served by any blog with marketing material in it?
    (Side note: Your comment form is hard to see. I just blogged about a similar issue yesterday. http://examinemysite.com/blog/post/2011/10/13/Dont-make-the-form-elements-borders-too-faint.aspx)

    • Bob Walsh Reply

      Hi Abdu,
      Thanks for your comment! And a good post on UX. (will fix that next…)
      I think that being a master of one language/platform instead of being a jack of many is a) absolutely valid, b) improves your contracting rate :), so by all means get better, deeper, more into one framework! When if comes time to sell your app (or your services) in a very crowded online world, the last thing you want to be doing is coding.
      Let me explain: Your marketing site is the nucleus of the online community and conversation about your product, service or you. Hopefully, it includes customers – who unless you are selling a developer tool/library care not one whit about what your site is coded in, so long as it makes it easy for them to decide if they want to do business with you. A full explanation of what a marketing site needs to be is way longer than this comment (hence why I wrote Micro-ISV Books that Sell and am writing WordPress for Startups), but the gist of it is that’s where you make the case, and engage in the conversation, about who and how and why your market will find value in your product or service.
      The reason I really like WordPress is you can build a great looking site, with lots of up-to-the minute functionality, without writing one line of code.

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