I really don't have a well defined purpose for this blog. Part of it will be me just documenting some stories from how I got started, to lessons learned from starting and failing companies. After I catch up on history, I'll probably blog when I learn something I find worth documenting. That's about it.
Likester started as Me and Ben wanting to branch out a little bit from just doing email. Likester was a company that approached me as a developer needing help with their technology. They had a product that local businesses would use to encourage people visiting their store or restaurant to leave them a yelp or google review. It was basically a QR code that linked right to a site on likester that would link from there out to yelp and google. So a single place where they could manage which sites they linked to, and encourage users to go rate them.
Horoscope Zone started as a potential way to manage an email list that was getting daily emails, that would be a high delivery, low complaint list. We were managing lists for people, but most of it wasn't targeted, and had high complaint rates.
Horoscope Zone had a pretty solid methodology, and a good technology stack to build on.
It did not have enough momentum to really make a business out of it. The idea was that it would get subscribers alot faster than it did, and we'd be able to monetize them a lot better than we did.
Ironclad started as a joint venture between me and Ben. We were both working in affiliate email marketing, and had used software given to us by another company, and worked with their network of offers, and had our arms around what the industry was doing. At some point, we said to ourselves, we can do this on our own. We were paying a huge percentage of what we made back to the network just to use their software, and I was certain we could build our own for cheaper.
The US military put together their own forge site, and was working on having it be based on Kenai, as well as some pieces being supplied by a Drupal site. We went into some discussion and alpha versions of what the product would look like. They never took the pieces we built and put into production, but it was pretty interesting to work with the military on a project. Apparently me being Canadian didn't trip up the background check :)
The Linux Foundation had similar requirements to other developer networks. They wanted to be able to connect their developers in such a way that they could communicate efficiently, while also retaining communications to be searched and archived as a knowledgebase. They had an existing mailing list that they wanted to integrate with a new forum feature on the site. Drupal handles this effectively, and we were able to sync up comments and replies on both pieces of technology so they talked to each other.
Informatica is one of a few companies who was developing an internal developer network. These are typically built with workflow components, helping the teams to manage and progress on projects. They also have components of knowledge storage. They are meant to help companies retain information from employees so it doesn't get lost when employees transition out or into different roles.
This project was an incredible learning experience. There were many pieces that were built custom just for Sun/Oracle. I learned how to negotiate corporate america more through this project than ever before.
This project started as a port off of O'Reilly's custom CMS that they had built for Sun, and migration scripts that took all the data and merged it into Drupal nodes. We were building the site, including content types, taxonomies, fields, theme, etc. This included microsites for specific groups within Sun, and custom themes for each of these microsites.
When I had started consulting, and was trying to just stay busier with more jobs, I stumbled across a ifreelance.com post that was looking for a Drupal theme developer. I had built a few themes already, and felt I knew enough to tackle it. If I remember, the site's post was saying they were hoping it could be done for under 10k. If I remember right, my hourly rate at the time was around $40, so I was certain I could do it for less than that.
Docket Monitor has a long and sad history. It was a pretty slick piece of technology. It took cases on the federal courts as well as lots of state courts, and kept checking the docket on a schedule to see if there were any updates to your cases. If it found an update, it would send you an email or an sms with a message saying what had been updated.
Turns out the biggest problem with this is that the main lawyers on a case already receive notifications. So this would only be cases that you weren't directly listed on. Think for paralegals or junior lawyers on a case.
I learned from my previous CSS fiasco, and when I was approached by a client who had a site that was for artists, with a really wacky, custom theme, I told them the same thing: here's an estimate, but we'll do it hourly. They did the same thing as the previous client, where they kept changing requirements, and being nitpicky about pixels here and there, which spiraled their costs out of control, but as I explained what happened to this client, they just tried to push back and get pieces ripped out.
When I was lowballing bids to get projects, I bid out a project at around 700 dollars if I remember right. These guys had a site that they wanted to enable doctors that were studying for the MCAT to get flash cards. It was a great idea, and I had a way to handle the flash card piece of it already thought through. I got going on the basic layout and theme, and these guys got so picky in every single detail of the CSS, it was a huge mess. We had agreed on a soft estimate for the cost of the site, but I was still charging them hourly.
As I was starting picking up small jobs to keep busy, there was a point where I had bid out 10-20 projects and didn't get any of them. I just didn't have any experience. So I started lowballing projects just to get some stuff on my resume. One of these was a pair of sites for one person. They owned a Hostel and a Used Car lot, and were wanting to do sites for both companies. The hostel they wanted something that would manage days that they had availability for, and they wanted something to manage inventory for their cars. They were semi straight forward sites.
Right out of school, I applied for some auditing jobs, some consulting jobs, and a couple analyst positions. Nothing really struck my fancy. The interviewers kept pitching their company, and it just sounded so boring. I had been doing some consulting through school, so I just kept rolling with that. I went and applied for some work with a couple sites like ifreelance.com and guru.com. I got a few gigs, and was working about 20 hrs per week, making about what I would have at one of the companies I had interviewed with.
While I was still in school, I connected with a professor who connected me with a buddy of his who was working at a large insurance company and doing some of their internal learning course development. He had developed some software that enabled people to author courses in Microsoft Word, and export them with the click of a button so they would be saved as Scorm packages. Scorm is a spec that lets you take your content with you from LMS to LMS. It was an awesome setup, and my job was to make sure that a system like Moodle would work with his packages that would get exported.
Right after I got married, my family went to Cancun for a family reunion. I was right in the middle of my Junior year of my undergrad program, and it included a huge group project called Intex. We were developing a system from scratch that would handle tickets for events. Included information about the Venue, and availability, and all sorts of features. We were coding it in Java. During this week in Cancun, I was still supposed to work on my part, and I had my laptop, and would just sit on the beach and code.
This project is going to sound pretty stupid. Heads up. I was in a marketing class, and was doing some testing on different email addresses. At the time, we were given free versions of Microsoft Exchange, so I had that set up on a box that I ran at my house. This was before Outlook Web Access was a thing. And I wasn't using POP3 or IMAP because I had tons of addresses set up. In hindsight, I should have had them set up as aliases, but oh well.
At BYU, I studied Information Systems Management. I ended up doing the 5 year integrated MISM, where you do your bachelors and masters degrees together, and end up only doing 3 years of undergrad work instead of 4. Kind of crammed it all in as a compressed curriculum. It was perfect for me.
This is totally unrelated to technology. Someone brought this up so I thought I'd write a paragraph about it. When I was in high school, my buddy Alma had an older Volvo, and we drank more Mountain Dew than water, and we rigged his car up with a cooler in the trunk, and plastic tubes that ran through his trunk into each of the seats in the car, with valves on the end so you could just suck on the tube and get Mountain Dew at will. Turns out it was almost always warm so we didn't use it very long.
When I was at the end of middle school and going into high school, my Dad bought a super expensive flatbed scanner. If I remember right, it had the best resolution at the time. Something like 150 dpi was pretty awesome. We had tons of family photo albums, and my job was to scan them all. The scanning software let you scan the whole bed, as a preview, and then you select the area you want to scan at full resolution, and then you hit scan. It took around 30 seconds to do the full resolution scan.