When I launched HNNotify a few years back, I had grand plans. Well, every time I launch an MVP, I have big plans. Kanban boards are FILLED with features and designs and, well, lots and lots of bugs. And like every responsible product developer, I test my product incredibly well, and find every single bug bug before releasing it into the wild.
So, for the week or so after soft launching to my friend(s?), I am in bug-fix mode. I am squashing them like Legos under my bare feet (begrudgingly, bordering on torturously), and after a few sessions of head-down bug eradication mode, I am ready to show the world.
So, on January 4, 2018, I posted a Show HN, and it did just OK. But, because I suck at product development, immediately, there were more bugs needing more fixing, more infrastructure, and more money.
But like all product developers excited about their new side project, I justified it to myself. I KNEW it would eventually sustain itself with all the money its free users would somehow generate. There will be a freemium model with premium features, and in no time at all: profit?
Five Years Later
Almost 800 users, countless patches, many late nights trying to figure out what the HELL went wrong and crashed the HN Crawler AGAIN. A naive attempt to rewrite it... because writing is way more fun than fixing. Then a naive attempt at hiring someone to rewrite it... because - well I am lazy and even writing the product is less fun than not writing when I could have another side project to work on.
So, yesterday, April 9, 2023, after that first user (who still relies on it, and I AM SORRY) texted me that 35 replies were missed, after investigating and realizing for over a month emails have been sending at less than half the normal volume, I decided, I hate HNN! Once again, something is fundamentally broken and I have absolutely no clue what it is. To be frank, I honestly don't care anymore. I have burned out on HNN and its bugs.
My dreams of an HN centric social media platform where you can follow your favorite posters, your favorite websites, your favorite anything is dead. I would love for someone to make this! I've been doing it manually through HNN (not a feature anyone else can do as it requires manual manipulation of the database). But if someone made a simple login form, that leads to a page that is just a feed of your replies, and posts from who/what you follow, it would be amazing.
My precious hours are now taken up with a new side project. But this time it will be different! This time, I am going to stick with it because... because... nope, it is the exact same. I have given myself a lot of low- and non-paying work that I now need to squeeze in between 4PM and 6PM every day, and 8-12 hours on the weekend. I gave myself a huge learning curve to conquer – CAD/CAM and CNC and loads of other things.
The New Side Project
Since my audience is mostly developers and marketers, I doubt many will have any interest on my new project, but I have started making solid wood rolling trays and vape holders with my sister-in-law (you can check them out here: the stoned craftsmen). A not-so-shameless plug?
The worse part about it this time is, I am making money at it...
Woe is me, right? But hear me out.
I LOVE starting a free side project. It is rewarding to build something and give it to people who find it as useful as you do. On top of that, there is no real obligation to your users. You build something useful for yourself, and to share. If they like it, cool, they keep using it, if not, they leave. Such a simple dynamic.
But for this new business (I guess “side project” is a misnomer once you make money), if I get an order, I must physically drive to my workshop and make something. With a little planning ahead, I can batch as much as I can, but it still way more hours of work for way less money than being a software developer. Maybe that is why everyone keeps telling me not to quit my day job?
At this point, 8 hours of work averages out to around $100 of profit. Which is WAY more than any side project before, but is even less than a single hour of consulting. Will I stick with it? I guess, we will see.