GrapeShow is built and ready for beta testing, with only one minor drawback…


Other than a logo, the sign-up page, and some other basic pages, it lacks any decent CSS style whatsoever. This is a bit backwards for me, but brains were scattered and deadlines had to be met, so what are ya gonna do?

It seems as though a second wind has surfaced, because I’ve decided to throw a web design contest! So buckle up because it’s about to get very interesting around here. What better way to kick off a video contest app than to have a kick-ass design contest? I can picture it now…

Awesome designers from across the globe submitting U.I. samples; amused visitors voting for the winner and providing feedback; Zack sitting in his cube feeling like he may actually have something to live for.

It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. From this day forward, the contest shall be known as Grape Skin.

So what’s in it for the winner, you ask? Well in addition to a great publicity opportunity to show off their talent and receive feedback from the public, I’m also prepared to offer 20% of all future profits earned by GrapeShow! Here’s a banner that the talented Lakira made for the contest:

Grape Skin Banner

Do you need cheap server?

The designers will be provided with “chicken-scratch” sketches of some of the U.I. screens to work their magic on and the public will choose the winner. More details about the contest (including rules, start date, and duration) will be released after sufficient interest is received. Designers and other interested parties are encouraged to sign up to participate or vote in the contest.

In addition, if you are a talented developer, entrepreneur, copywriter, marketer, reporter, angel, potential sponsor, or just interested in the project and want to get involved or provide feedback, I would of course love to hear from you as well.

You can all reach me by leaving a comment on this blog or sending an email to: I look forward to hearing from you.

Home Page Design

As you may recall, I hired the talented Scott Wills to design the logo and U.I. for me. He did a great job on the logo and sign-up page and he tolerated my obsessive-compulsive tendencies quite well. Regretfully, I was unable to continue on with the project and we had to go our separate ways.

To give you a better idea of what GrapeShow is all about, I would like to present to you now, where we left off with the Home Page design. Thanks for your help on this Scott, it rocks!

Curtains Please…

1. Alternate Header (Click To Enlarge)
GrapeShow Header

2. Home Page (Click To Enlarge)
GrapeShow Home Page

What The Heck Is GrapeShow?

As promised, it is time to reveal what GrapeShow is all about. To sum it up in two words: Video Contests.

These would be very creative contests mind you with exciting prizes and connected video. It’s sort of like YouTube meets Google Maps meets Worth1000.

Below is the original about page I wrote for it some time ago. I have also written a help page, a sponsor page, and a winner’s guide.


GrapeShow was conceived and built by Zack Jenks and designed by Scott Wills. It is the first of what Zack hopes to be many exciting web apps from his new start-up. We officially launched the show on November 28th, 2006, just minutes before Zack’s 30th birthday. The build process resembled something out of the hit show “American Chopper” as we worked very long hours and struggled to make our launch date. In the end though, just like the TV show, we pulled it off. We are currently based in a cozy little apartment in Portland, Oregon USA.

The application was built around one very simple idea: everyone has a story to tell and every story is in some way connected. We wanted to demonstrate that in a fun and entertaining way. It began as a simple Neverending Story contest and grew from there. Our ambitious goal is to connect the world’s Grapes (videos) to one another using our unique blend of Vines (contests). Here your Grapes compete against a bunch of grapes to be part of the timeless Grapevine.

We want to reward our users as much as possible in the process. The application is community driven and keeping you, the heart and soul, happy is our number one priority. There are many reasons why we think you will love GrapeShow and want to be a part of it; here are just a few:

1. You can win money and other cool prizes.
2. We pride ourselves on having creative contests that allow you to compete and connect.
3. You are the writer, director, and star!
4. It’s like tagging with videos, a reverse mash-up, playing video scrabble, watching a choose your own adventure, joining hands across the world (w/ video). Whatever your take, it’s a lot of fun!
5. You might learn something in the process.
6. And, the Grapevine is calling your name.

So register today. It’s free, fast, easy and allows you to take advantage of this site’s full potential. You can check out our help page for assistance getting started. Also, for more information about the building of GrapeShow, check out our blog, Something Ventured. If there is anything we can do to make your visit more enjoyable, please let us know.

Bon Appetite!

So there you have it. What do you think? In future posts, I’ll show you a screenshot or two of where we left off with the home page as well as the possibility of a design contest? So stay tuned.

To get a better idea of what this app is, take a look at the aforementioned Help Page. There is alot more to it than what’s described in the About script above. Here’s one of the sections that sums up how GrapeShow is different:

So how is this site different from any other video hosting site?

Well, first of all, we’re not a video hosting site per say. We specialize in contests and bringing video together around a common theme or purpose. You can’t just submit video to us, you need to submit it with a purpose in mind and ready to compete with fellow videographers/editors to achieve that purpose. The videos on GrapeShow are not standalone products they are each part of something bigger, the Grapevine they competed for and/or the Bunch of Grapes they competed against. Whereas most video hosting sites are about a place to store your videos online, we are about connecting them. You could say that we’re where your videos come to connect and compete with one another, away from home.

Lessons Learned (The Hard Way)

Howdy folks!

It would appear my amazing disappearing act has gone on just slightly passed too damn long! My apologies for that. Until recently I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with GrapeShow, so it made little sense updating you. Now that I have a clearer picture, I’d like to begin by filling you in on some old news…

November 28, 2006: blah blah blah … GrapeShow … blah blah blah … failure … blah blah blah … explosion … blah blah blah … severe casualties … blah blah blah … entreprenerd robs bank … blah blah blah … prison!

So, as you can see, GrapeShow went a bit sour and it turns out I am a “miserable failure” (I may have added ‘miserable’). The important thing is I don’t dwell on it <twitch>. I mean, big deal, right? So I put a crazy amount of coding and planning into this thing and never saw it through <twitch>, it’s not like it wasn’t worthwhile. It was a good experience for me <drool> and besides, you never really fail as long as you succeed at learning <massive seizure>.

Seriously though, I did learn quite a bit in the process and I plan on applying that knowledge to my next venture (coming soon). So, in the true spirit of this blog, I would like to share some of what I learned with you now. There were many personal lessons learned as well, but I’ll stick to the professional ones:

1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew

It turns out I am NOT Superman. With GrapeShow, I pushed myself way too hard and tried to do too much too fast. It wasn’t enough that I was inventing a semi-new product, starting a business, and keeping a full-time job on the side (see what I did there). I was also blogging it in real-time, learning a new programming framework, incorporating several new-to-me technologies, and so forth. Which is all well and good, but I was trying to do it at an insane pace and with no help (with exception of design work). I thought I could handle it, but burn-out caught up with me and the rest is history. I’ve learned to take things a tad slower now, be more flexible, get others involved, and ask for help when I need it.

2. Manage your stress levels

This is something I did a horrible job at. As mentioned above, I pushed myself to the breaking point and what’s worse I did almost nothing to help alleviate the stress. They just kept building and building until I blew my top. So I strongly encourage you to incorporate relaxation into your routine and make stress management a high priority in your life. These days I take breaks regularly, I make Sunday a non-work day (for the most part), and I have a tool kit to help me relax my mind and stay balanced.

3. Don’t think too much

The need to thoroughly analyze my plan from every possible angle and make sure there were absolutely no holes caused me to over think things. Obsessive brainstorming and research was standard operating procedure to ensure nothing got missed. Naturally this led me to find what I believed to be potential flaws, which only drove me to more advanced obsessing, and the cycle would repeat. Eventually, when I got tired of searching for solutions to these issues, I began to tell myself that maybe I wasn’t cut out for it and I headed down the path of giving up. It never fails, I start out confident and end up chicken. The irony is, if I wasn’t so concerned about keeping myself from failing, I would probably succeed. Afterall, many of the problems I obsess over may never happen. This is something I am still struggling with but I keep telling myself to stop analyzing so much and just take the leap. The future is uncertain, get over it!

4. Be lucky!

This may sound weird, but it’s a slogan I live by now. I never really believed in luck per say until I watched a program on it and they were talking about the traits of a lucky person. While I still don’t believe in any mystical force, I do believe in lucky people and I’m trying to become one. Most of the lucky people I know have many of these traits:

  • They envision their future
  • They are approachable
  • They are open to opportunity at every corner
  • They keep their eyes open
  • They are positive and know there will be a happy ending

A positive mindset is key! Other than that I would just add that you should be sure you are passionate about what you’re doing and committed to seeing it through.

In upcoming posts, I’ll be writing more about what GrapeShow was all about and what, if anything, will become of it. I’ll also update you more on what I’m currently working on and what lie’s ahead. For now, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite new quotes:

A ship is safe in a harbor, but that’s not what ships were built for.

Follow the yellow sticky notes…

…and you’ll find my corpse!

I’ve been running myself ragged trying to get GrapeShow released, as promised, while I’m young. Ironically, it’s aged me quite a few years in the last few months and I’ve got the grey hairs to prove it. The passed couple weeks have been very high stress around here! Every day I watch the timer count down closer to launch date and my anxiety climb up closer to heart attack. There’s so much to do and so many bases to cover that it’s incredibly easy to get overwhelmed. After pushing myself to the absolute breaking point and trying to accomplish everything at once, the inevitable burn out has kicked in. Starting a web business is no small matter and as dedicated and determined as I am, the self doubt and exhaustion is starting to get the better of me. It wouldn’t be so bad in a vacuum, but coupled with a day job and trying to meet deadlines there as well, it can get a tad hectic.

My brain is all across the board these days. One minute a coder, the next a designer, the next a creative and/or technical writer, and the next a business man. I’m starting to see why they recommend at least a party of three when building a web app. Since I don’t have that, the deadline will once again need to be pushed. That’s what deadlines are for though, right? Am I right folks?

By far the biggest lesson I’ve learned lately is never EVER countdown a web app!!! Sure, it might seem like a good way to stay motivated and draw in a crowd (or at least it did to me) but it can back fire big time. First of all, there are way too many variables the first time around to accurately predict how long it will take. Secondly, it has raised my stress levels immensely and not in a good, motivating way. It did motivate me initially, but setting it too aggressively has caused me to go completely sideways. Needless to say I’ve killed the countdown indefinitely. I will continue to put 110% into this and keep you updated on the progress, but will never again (at least not until I know what I’m doing) publicly announce a definitive launch date. I’m not saying deadlines aren’t a good thing because they clearly are. I have a new one in place but plan to keep the specifics private except to say that it should be happening in the next couple months. In reality, this thing is going to take as long as it needs to take to do it right. But know this, it is definately coming soon!

Currently, we’re in GUI design phases and there are still legal and financial barriers afoot. I’ve been shopping around for an attorney and will be meeting with one next week to get the legal gears in motion. We will be talking about setting up the business, e-commerce, trademarks, drafting the terms of agreement and privacy policy documents for GrapeShow, tax issues, etc. This will hopefully take under a month to complete, but again this is all new to me so who knows. I’m still debating on applying for a trademark. It costs $350 just to apply for one (even if you are denied) and I’m not sure it’s worth it for me right now. I’ll also be meeting with an accountant prior to launch in order to get my books in order and ensure that I properly keep track of all that needs to be properly kept track of.

Here’s a few checkmarks that have been completed, or close to it, since we last spoke: account with Dreamhost setup, copy written (about, help, tagline, etc.), and home page designed. I’ve decided to take a break over Thanksgiving and try to forget about the business for a weekend. Hopefully the burn-out will subside and I can hit the ground running, or rolling as the case may be after this weekend.

Hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!

The Almighty Logo

Your appetizer is served…

GrapeShow Logo

Well the sign-up page is anyhow and it’s pretty exciting! Feel free to sign-up to be first notified on launch day.

So, what do you think? I’m very pleased with how this turned out and I want to congratulate Scott on a job well done. And, now you know the name, any idea what it is? I’m a bit curious myself. Some sort of social networking application for drunken wino’s perhaps?

Who knows, but progress is definitely being made I can tell you that, and I’ll be briefing you all shortly with more details. Just wanted to get the logo and sign-up page on here for you guys to check out.

Have a grape day! (Ouch)

November Milestones

For those who are curious, this is my current plan of action. These are only the bare essentials that need to be complete prior to launch. This is clearly a very aggressive timeline, but I think it’s doable. Many of my todo items (and I do mean many) have been pushed until after the “go live” date in order to meet the deadline. Trademark isn’t necessarily a necessity but I left it on there nevertheless.

Appetizer Timeline

Trick er Treat

Drunk Zombie
Man, I’ve been there buddy!

This Halloween though, I dressed up as a computer nerd that sits in front of his computer all day long stressing about a deadline he can’t possibly meet. Actually this is the first Halloween in a long time that I didn’t dress up and go out on the town. Which is a tad depressing, but the good news is I worked my butt off and got very little accomplished. Now, according to this blog, “time is up” and I am supposed to be launching the Appetizer off into the great wide web world today (wait, did I get that right?). Unfortunately though, if it was to launch now, it would crash before it even left the ground (aka. fall over). How’s that for a trick kids? Enter excuse…

My projected deadline has proven a bit too optimistic. I underestimated the complexity of this application and the amount of time it would take to do some of the cool stuff going on with it. Approximately 200 hours of straight coding has been clocked in already and there’s probably another 50 or so to go. So apologies, but the deadline will need to be pushed back another 28 days. It will be well worth the wait though, I promise you. If you’re paying attention, this means the new target launch date coincides with my 30th birthday. Old Geezer day doesn’t officially happen until 5:24 a.m. though, so the new target launch time is going to be 5:23 a.m. Ha! Young Zack will get the credit for this puppy yet.

So, now that I can breathe again, let me tell you a little about where we’re at with this thing and where we’re headed. Scott (my trusty designer) has been working diligently on the logo and has produced a very nice selection of samples for me to choose from. He’s done a great job helping me figure out what the heck I want, which isn’t easy let me tell you. For the passed couple weeks, we’ve been tossing ideas back and forth and working iteratively towards the final product. We should be finished in the next day or two and ready to show it to you guys.

Once the logo is complete, Scott will start on site design, something we’re both excited to get moving on. The bulk of the back-end should be built this weekend, so I can focus on working with Scott to get the front-end user interface put together. It will be time to start stepping out of geek mode and into creative mode, followed by business mode, followed by (hopefully) R&R mode. The remaining non-backend tasks (that can be disclosed with you good people – hey, I have to keep a few tricks up my sleeve) are as follows:

  • Apply for a trademark on the logo
  • Design and build the user interface
  • Write the final draft of the copy (display messages, about page, FAQ, etc)
  • Select a web host and move stuff over
  • Find a good attorney and discuss legal ramifications
  • Draw up legal documents w/ attorney (terms of agreement and privacy policy)
  • Find a good accountant and setup book-keeping system
  • Get a payment system in place
  • Finish writing my marketing/business plan
  • Get some initial advertisers on board
  • Test, Test, Test

Oh yeah, did I mention register and setup my business? Should probably do that too eh? That’s quickly becoming a higher priority now that the end of the beginning is drawing near. I’ve held off on it to avoid slowing down and killing momentum. Once the application is complete though, it will be time to get the business side of things inline. Fortunately the expenses have been fairly minimal to this point, so write-offs aren’t much of an issue just yet. Once this is built, the next stop for me will be the Small Business Development Center, to find out what they have to offer…free of charge.

Yep, it’s going to be a busy November for yours truly. I’ll keep you updated on my progress provided I don’t become too senile along the way ;).

Happy Halloween Everybody!

Oh, and if you’re in the Portland area, you should go check out the Davis Graveyard. I went the other night and was very impressed with how elaborate it was, definitely worth the trip.

Ad Revenue?

Well, looks like another weekend of nothing but coding for me as there is much to build yet and little time. Fortunately, the weather is supposed to be pretty crappy this weekend so that should cut down on outside cravings and permit me to sit in my cave guilt free.

I have a question for all you web developers/business owners/advertisers out there. What advertising model has worked best for you? A good chunk of my income (perhaps all of it) from the appetizer app. will come from advertisers, and although I’ve been trying to push most issues of business and money to the side for now, this has been on my mind quite a bit the last few days so I thought I’d post about it. I am debating whether to:

A. Set up my own pay-per-click system
B. Charge a set fee (regardless of clicks)
C. Use Google/Amazon ads
D. All of the above

I’m leaning towards using a mix of B and C, but curious what your thoughts are?

Web Developers/Business Owners: How do you go about selling ads on your site and how do you accept payments? Do you provide advertisers with a request form and have them contact you that way? Or do you have an automated system that allows them to provide credit card information and be added to the queue on the fly? Do you have them use PayPal or do you accept other methods of payment? How much do you generally charge?

Advertisers: Which methods do you find most attractive in list above? How do you prefer to pay? How long do you generally run your ads for? What do you look for in a site and how much do you generally pay?

These are all questions I have running through my head right now that I will need to find answers to fairly soon. But for now, I will just add them to the rapidly growing list of future Zack’s problems and focus on building this thing. After all, without a finished product I don’t have any of these other issues.

To the cave…

The Designer

Behold, my trusty designer Scott Wills. It’s now official and I am thrilled to have him on board. He brings a great amount of experience, creativity and enthusiasm to the table and we’re both anxious to get a move on. So contracts have been signed, initial installment has been made, and design has commenced. He’s working on the logo as we speak in fact, and hopes to have something to show me later on in the week.

Design Contract and Non-Disclosure Agreement
In addition to the contract, Scott has agreed to sign (and actually took the liberty of drafting) a non-disclosure agreement. It’s not that I don’t trust him, it’s just that I am a paranoid person with an idea that could very easily be copied and I feel better having an agreement in place. Idea secrecy may not always be the best approach, as explained here, but this project is relatively low-risk and I have a good feedback network of close family providing honest criticism. Plus, its how paranoid freaks like me roll. Just ask Harvey Danger

Paranoia paranoia!
Everybody’s coming to get me,
Just say you never met me,
I’m runnin’ underground with the moles,
(Digging holes)

I don’t think I have it quite that bad though. So as I was saying, the designer has been sworn to secrecy and has endured a series of lie detector exams, torture endurance tests, and other CIA tactics that I have made up. He’s been surprisingly cooperative and even seems to respond well to the self-destructing emails I send him (zing, watch out for that one folks)! Seriously though, I know we’re going to make a great team. Yesterday, I briefed him on the appetizer idea and he feels he has enough information to begin branding.

Here is some of the design specs I have given him (excluding idea specific info):

This is a fun and entertaining app so I’d like something creative, new, and exciting [in a logo]. Something that will outlive fads. “Simple, Clean, Crisp, Shiny, Fresh, Fun, Abstract” would be good words to describe the logo in my mind. Simple with an edge, if that even makes sense. I really like the design work done on cork’

And here is our current plan of action:

As you said, I would expect us to get the branding out of the way first and then move on to layout and page design. I also have sketches of the basic components on each page, and I will get those to you when we get to that point. Of course, these will just be there to give you an idea of components, not as a design/layout reference. You will have creative control to move things around as you like and we can go from there.

Scott and I have agreed to the following payment plan: 40% up front, 40% on delivery, and 20% on go live. As I mentioned he received the initial 40% yesterday so the design work is all systems go at this point. There’s no turning back now!