Leaving the Cube

my cubicle
My home away from home (aka. the cube). Tip: New car smell offsets mold quite nicely.

You know that old saying “use it or lose it”? Well if “it” refers to any resemblance of a social life or social skills, then sure enough, I think I’ve lost it. Sitting in front of a computer for the last 4 years of my life (damn near straight) has put a slight damper on my social activities. I talk/yell much more regularly with a machine than a person these days. And now that I am also working at home, my social life is pretty much non-existent. I think it’s time to face facts here. Somehow I have managed to regress into a workaholic webmonkey of some sort and can no longer communicate with the human species. What are you supposed to say to them? Seriously, I’d like to know.

I guess I’m just not as user-friendly as I used to be. It’s not that I necessarily enjoy being out of touch with the human race, it’s just that I don’t get a whole lot of practice at it. This is the profession I chose and now I must deal with the adverse effects. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy programming, but it would be nice if I could stop inadvertently slipping into binary code mid-sentence. And the worst part is, I’m pretty sure nobody notices when I do (which I don’t…wait, huh?). I guess this comes with the territory when you’re an introverted computer programmer who gets easily annoyed.

I think one of the keys to my success will be networking and building relationships with fellow IT professionals, entrepreneurs, potential customers/clients, etc. So, I need to start spending some quality time away from work and out in the world. It’s time to quit being an entreprenerd and treat social interaction as more of a priority in my life. I need to enhance my networking skills … and I’m not talking TCP/IP here (get it? nudge nudge, wink wink, somebody please slap me). I think it’s time to upgrade to the new Zack 2.0, Entrepreneur Edition. It comes fully integrated with social software and I hear it’s even human compatible! Ok, that last joke only helps illustrate my point…I need help people!

So all those organizations and clubs I never thought I had time for, are now climbing my priority list: Chamber of Commerce, Trade Associations, OSU Alumni Association, Club Whatever. My goal is to attend one meeting/event for each of these in the next few months and see how much networking I can do. It’s time to venture out from my cube and explore the strange environment that lurks outside. I will need to adapt quickly though if I want to survive. But first I shall study their habits…

Zack’s Journal

Day 1: The air in Outer-Cube is oddly fresher than what I am used to. Who can breathe this crap? Fortunately, I brought along my trusty mold-mask to protect me. The inhabitants are very odd looking indeed. Their keyboards and mice appear to have been torn from their limbs leaving these weird dangling digits of sorts. It’s horrible! They also seem to have an evolved spine that allows them to stand up-right and walk away from their computers, for whatever reason. The lack of fluorescent lighting is making me nauseous and there is a strange lack of a strange buzzing noise. What’s that about? I can almost think clearly out here for Pete’s sakes. SWEET BINARY CODE, I think one of them is trying to communicate. What should I do??? I must return to my cube at once…

You see what I did there? I took a joke entirely too far and completely over-exaggerated my situation. This is why 1110010101101010101101111000101010!

(audience smiles and nods)

A Few Good Einstein-isms

If you dedicate yourself to learning about your subject for 15 minutes a day, in a year’s time you’ll be an expert. In five years, you’ll be a national expert. The only hard part is choosing your subject.

Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy.

You cannot outthink someone who isn’t thinking.

picture of young einstein

Digg This

I just happened to be checking my blog stats this morning and discovered that I had a decent amount of traffic coming in from digg.com. So I did some investigating and found out that…I’ve been dugg! That’s awesome, you can check it out here: Web Start-up In Real-Time

Thanks unclepedro, whoever you are. Sidenote: I’ll be sure to drop that $50 off at your place later on as per our agreement. Seriously though, thanks for digging me! I’m glad you like the blog.

If you haven’t heard of digg, it’s a popular web-app that provides you with the most happening sites right now, as chosen (aka. dugg) by the users. Once a site receives so many diggs, it gets promoted to the front page where the real action happens. It’s a cool site, you should check it out. And while you’re there, why not register (it’s free) and digg me up. Of course, you could also “bury” me if you prefer, but know this…I WILL FIND YOU!!!

So what do ya say? Lets see if we can get this puppy on digg’s front page and laugh as my poor little web server EXPLODES!!! Who’s with me?

Hello? Where did everybody go? Hello???

Designer Wanted

me and prototype
me and my prototype

Hear ye hear ye, the appetizer has been prototyped! Well on paper at least. I spent all day yesterday and today designing it, naming it, and copywriting it. My wonderful girlfriend Misty user tested it for me this morning and after some minor tweaks, we both agreed that it’s looking pretty darn good. I had her point to something when she wanted to click and then I gave her the next page, in case you’re wondering. She did an awesome job and uncovered some things I hadn’t thought of. So now all that’s left is to actually build the thing! I also need to find a good designer to build me a logo and some miscellaneous images. I just posted the following on ProgrammerMeetDesigner

I am building a web application and looking for an experienced designer to build approximately 5 vector images. I am hoping to have this completed by the end of the month and it would consist of the following (its grape related btw)…

1 Logo
1 Grape Icon (different from logo)
2 Vine Images (1 HR, 1 Arrow)
1 Larger image of a grape bundle

I want these to represent something new and exciting so am looking for a high level of creativity. The images would need to be fun, simple, clean, crisp, colorful, and in the spirit of web 2.0 ;). I know it’s a term that is way overused these days, but hey.

If this sounds like a good project for you, please respond with an estimate, portfolio, and a little about you and how you typically work with your customers to arrive at a final product. You can reach me here or at zackdad@gmail.com.

Hopefully I’ll have a designer on the payroll by Friday and can get those images within the next few weeks. Everything is coming together nicely so far and it’s on track to be delivered by the end of the month, so stay tuned.

Who needs a business plan?

To hell with a business plan! My momentum is up and I’m not gonna stop myself and run the risk of a starter going out on me. I’m like the old car Robert Klein jokes about: have a listen. Besides, since I am going to attempt to self fund this bad boy, at least initially, I don’t really need a formal business plan written up just yet. I want to build something, get it out there, learn, and then write a business plan. It seems like business advisors always want you to slow it down and fill out paper work and plan everything out to the smallest detail…screw that, I’ve got it all in my head, it’s time to take action! I’ve been taking it slow for far too long now.

Long story short, I decided to slow it down a bit and write a business plan :). I’m a sellout, what can I say? Not for the investors though, for myself. When I started thinking about how I am going to market my applications with little money and who they are for and what I want to achieve with them and all that good stuff, I realized that I really don’t have as clear of picture as I thought. And the stuff that is clear in my head now, won’t be for long, as the tornado of to-do’s comes through and scatter my brain. It became clear to me that I needed to sit down and think things through up front, while everything is relatively calm out. This would help me get a clear picture and provide me with a reference sheet down the road to help make decisions and stay on track. It’s definitely a good thing…definitely (Martha Stewart as Rain Man).

So I sat down and started writing what my vision of the future is, how much I want to be making in 1, 3, 5 years (I want to be making 100K/yr in 2 years, if you must know), who my target market is going to be, and … well actually that’s as far as I got. I came up with a few different target markets and am still working on analyzing them to see which one represents the best opportunity for me. Once I’ve settled on one, my next step will be to write out how I plan to penetrate it and reach my goals. Here’s a good article about writing strategic business plans by Andrew Neitlich: Write a Business Plan that works.

I’ve spent the last couple days focusing on business structures (LLC = good), visions, goals, markets, finance, trade associations, etc. This is all very necessary and good, but now I am looking forward to spending the next couple days getting back to building my product. It will be a nice break from the business side of things and allow me to get back to my web-dev roots. I’ve decided to spend 50% of my time biz’n (can I just make up words like that?) and 50% geek’n (huh, I guess I can) in order to break up the monotony, keep a nice balance, and continue making progress in both arenas. Warning: these percentages may vary as needed.

One last tidbit, if you happen to be in the Portland area, the 13th Annual Oregon Small Business Fair is going down on September 16th. I’ve never been before, but it looks like a good opportunity to do some learning and networking. I was happy to find out about it beforehand for once, as typically I find out about these sort of things the day after the fact. But not this time boy! You hear that “luck of zack”? I outwitted you at last! It’s probably a misprint and it was last month, but whatever.

Update: I still plan on releasing my appetizer app in a month, so stick around. While I’ve learned that writing a business plan upfront is a good idea, I stand by my original philosophy that it’s important to just start doing something, anything! Too much obsessive thinking and not enough doing is what has held me back these last few years. So my business plan will be relatively short and sweet and, as I’ve mentioned, written in conjuction with the app ;).