After coding like a madman, re-coding like a madman to correct learning-curve mistakes in AS3 and in python, getting software installed on the server, reading tech manuals, coding experiments, late night coffee-fueled code hacking turned to early morning greet the dawn coffee-fueled code hacking... after all of this I finally have a decent prototype in Flex up and running!
Last week I demo'ed it for some friends, who actually gave it a thumbs-up. They didn't say "It sucks", which they would tell me if they thought it sucked. So it doesn't suck!
About halfway through the coding of the proto, I switched my approach from building something for me to use to building something everyone else in the world to use - something easy and elegant and way &%$#*&% cool. This approach was confirmed by an email from a mentor-type friend (Mr Mentor) who suggested I narrow the focus of the product down even further, and do NOT build for myself - I'm a geek, the vast majority of the rest of the world are not, so what works for me will annoy the hell out of them - imagine my users, become a user-advocate, and go from there. Think of and build for them, not for me.
And I'm halfway through The Humane Interface by Jef Raskin, a must-read for anyone developing machines (soft or otherwise) for humans. *
So yeah, OK, I get it.. understood and gladly. I love the idea of being a user-advocate, since it isn't very far from being a teacher. And when I was traveling around the country for Softlanding, I was teaching -- placing myself in the shoes of the student and drawing upon whatever common experience I could to communicate the understanding of certain ideas, followed by the understanding and usefulness of techniques in and of the software. Creating usable user-centric software isn't so far off from that.
That being said, yesterday Paul and Charlie and I finally got to talking about the prototype, and criticizing the hell out of what we have so far. We meet this Weds to discuss what the UI should look like, considering all of the use-cases and not just the handful I started with when I was building the infrastructure of the thing. (MVC of course, so changing flow and cosmetics won't be too painful). The UI of the "back office" piece needs improvement/overhaul, but I expected that. It seems that none of us are overly precious with our work, so we're critical as hell of every little piece and more than willing to change it so it works.
(There is a fine line between engaging in perfectionism and engaging in ant-f*****g, but so far we're on the safe side of that line).
So, much more work to go before an invite-alpha launch, but soon.. soon Igor, soon the monster will rise....
I read this yesterday: Why Not To Do A Startup, Part 1 and it didn't discourage me. Depressed the crap out of me, sure, but I'm not swayed from my intentions here. While I even now have the occasional frightful dream about running out of money and having to return to the hot furnaces of iSeries dev work, in my pajamas, a day late for the final exam, I read it and came to the same answer I came to when told pretty much the same thing by Mr. Mentor - "I can't NOT do it". (Of course, Mr Mentor also told me to make music my hobby and get into the interwebs business, but I think he meant work for a startup, not create one. Not sure.. I leapt pretty quickly into creating one and may have missed the last memo).
I feel the same drive, the same intensity now that I felt when I started the music biz. What I do NOT feel is the same sense of blindness; the music biz failed, in the end, and the lessons I learned there are being applied here. That in and of itself is a pretty good bit of light (and enlightenment). And - Failure measured in monetary terms - it was a success in some other ways.
(In short: while I had incredible distribution of music on TV, I was monetized vertically - two or three huge corporate vendors owed me (lots of) money. What happens if your big enterprise customers don't pay, for whatever reason? Your company dies, that's what. I finally got paid, years later, after much learning and pain.).
Drive. It's a big one. As is the utterly deep-seated, non-rational yet unshakable belief that I'll be successful, no matter what.** And "L'Audace, l'Audace, toujours l'Audace!"
Now, what's it like to do this at age 42? Uh.. more on that later.
*Books I suggest very highly:
The Humane Interface
The Substance of Style and The Future and its Enemies
The Road to Serfdom and Individualism & Economic Order and anything else by Hayek
The True Believer and anything else by Hoffer
A Treatise on Human Nature
and anything by Mark Helprin. especially this, this and this.
** Some people call this delusion, naivety, etc. I call it a very good way/method to skewer fear right where it sits and be done with it. How do I know I can do it? I know - the rest I'll learn and figure out, and ask for help.