Journal

My wife has been sick, so my focus has been on her health these past few days. Despite missing logs, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been squeezing in learning whenever possible! I dove into four main items:

The Scrimmage Product Lab is an experiment by David to launch a cross between a long-form startup weekend and an akimbo workshop focused on launching a product within a month, with emphasis on group accountability, coaching, prompts, and collaboration. So far, it sounds like most of the attendees are individuals, and we’re bringing a small team, so David has mentioned that he’s very interested in how everything will turn out. The next project in the pipeline after AGWSU is to build a True Dungeon token collection and trading platform.

Neal and Uriah (Neal’s friend, but we have not really interacted directly much yet) have been working on this for a little while already, and feel confident that they should be able to displace an existing competitor, however it sounds like a new competitor has moved into this space within the past few months. Launching quickly to position ourselves in the market will be essential for the product to succeed.

Part of what really interests me about Product Lab is the curated environment for launching a product within a specified window of time. AGWSU has provided lots of excellent data on how long it takes to build elements, and what we need to consider, and for a small library of basic documentation and templates. That data has given us some fundamental insight on what can and cannot be accomplished within a sprint, and how to manage and prioritize features. However, since the project itself hasn’t been timeboxed and the emphasis is on being technically proficient, it has been very difficult to actually cut any features and not just roll tasks over between sprints.

This Product Lab environment will, I hope, provide the perfect space to have to confront these realities and force us to aggressively prioritize and select what to work on. I don’t expect to have a polished product by the end, but it would be amazing if we had a solid landing page, a working collection management system, and the bones in place to monetize the platform, and hopefully some great resources and insight from other Lab members on how to go about monetizing. I believe this event will be very challenging and intensive, but the comfort of having defined parameters to work within should help keep us focused.

With October approaching, I have been prepping for Hacktoberfest and getting excited to dive in. Now with an official commitment to Product Lab, though, I think Hacktoberfest will take a lower priority. Contributing to open source is still something I am very interested in, and I may try to dive into a tiny issue or two while the Discord is active, but launching a product will generate a ton of critical information and experience and be a perfect testing ground for just how quickly we could launch something. On the technical side, I want to take on more responsibility within the codebase, as well, in addition to project management. I’m trying to scrape my way out of the Mariana Trench of web development learning (actually, I know that there’s still further to fall), but working on fundamentals has me feeling like I have more of a foundation to build upon and much clearer perspective than when we started on AGWSU.

For ebooks, I grabbed an old Kindle and loaded on a copy of Your First Year In Code. I’m still early in the book, but perspective and path validation is something I’m desperately craving right now in my journey. Being a little bit older - already established in a career, but also fairly early compared to the typical career switching age - there are some paths that I logistically cannot pursue. I need a good way to demonstrate the soft skills I have developed from my existing career, as I feel like the leadership, planning, project and timeline management, and technical communication skills will strongly benefit any team, and will be the key difference between me and someone earlier in their career. Supposedly the book has many contributors, so I am excited to read more and see what perspectives are given!

Code challenge websites were something I was aware of, but had not yet looked into much. A blog post I read recommended the following:

  • Coderbyte
  • Exercism
  • HackerRank
  • Codewars

So far, Coderbyte and Exercism are definitely my favorites, while Codewars strikes me as not particularly beginner-friendly. These seem like excellent exercises to get practice solving problems and boosting creativity, and I could see becoming part of a daily routine, especially after starting in a development role.

If you’ve read some posts on here, I mention that I have not really had much social media presence before very recently. As such, I have a fairly small network of high-quality social connections, which has been great, but I have been wanting to meet new people and encounter interesting and new ideas. One of the things I really enjoyed about my current job pre-COVID was the travel - I would fly out all over the country to meet with vendors and clients, visit job sites, and study at supplier R&D centers, and encountered many exceptionally interesting and unique people along the way. Often, sadly, those fleeting connections didn’t go anywhere because there wasn’t much to exchange, just a business card or a name. I love meeting people, though, and that has also been a huge motivator for attending different local Meetup groups and finding conversations to join.

A personal CRM system had never crossed my mind prior to reading Meeting People over on Irrational Exuberance, but this idea blew me away. For one thing, I admittedly have a scattered and mis-matched set of address books in various states of inaccuracy, and I never know which entries are the least wrong copies. Separately, finding some way to track when I’ve last reached out to people and making a tiny mental hook of where we left off of what they had going on in their lives would be a great way to reduce the mental burden of reaching out in the first place, while adding a more personal touch to our next chat. Attaching a photo right next to the name is also a great way to form that association and to have more confidence using someone’s name in person (an area where I would like to improve).

Plus, can you imagine just hitting a filter and a few columns to kick out a CSV file to print all your holiday card labels?? 👌👌👌

After some research, I selected Airtable (not sponsored) as the platform for my personal CRM, and was pleasantly surprised that they had a default template for this all ready to go! I made some hefty modifications, but having the framework and some sample data to play with was nice. Something I didn’t initially consider was the sheer power of also capturing locations and companies. By forming links between tables, you can quickly look up who all in your network works at X company, and who all lives in Y city that you’re visiting next month, and the custom fields expose formulas that allow you perform some fun data manipulation.

Populating the data initially will be a terribly time-intensive task, but one that I believe will be well worth it for my sanity regarding which addresses and phone numbers to use, if nothing else. It was surprising how long it had been since I had last reached out to a few people, and I don’t know if I would have realized at all had I not intentionally been looking for communication threads. It admittedly feels just a little creepy compiling the information, however I’m beginning to think that’s predominantly because so much data is exposed in a single place instead of split between 2-3 different locations/formats - it was all information I already had, but things like current company and twitter handle weren’t right next to each other before.

Airtable forces you into a two-week premium trial (I see that pain-based marketing tactic and I am not a fan), so my main concern is losing functionality not described on their account features table and having it crush the lookups and formulas that I am hoping to heavily utilize. Since Excel-like programs and Google Sheets can do many of these same things, I really hope that they will remain as part of the core functionality. Check back during the week of 10/5 to see if I still recommend Airtable!

Tasklist

  • =>May need to add a months value to min-to-time? Years??
  • => Set up and test Resorter
    • => Collect post importance metrics in Liquid for resorting