Jakes Mumbles...

Hey Everybody!

First of all, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to come and check me out. I've been doing things online since about 1998 and my passion is webdev (PHP/MySQL).

My thinking is minimalist and I want to share with you my own experiences with my own projects and also my thoughts on how to get your product or service out there to market. Also, how to finish the damn project you've been sitting on for so long.

If you take anything away from this, please do yourself a favor and take whatever idea you have right now that you've been putting off -- whether it because of details not all being there or not -- and get to doing it. Write up a few screens in html and start mapping out your interface...

You'll thank me later..

Cheers
Jake

The perfect setting, the perfect timing

It simply doesn’t exist.  And if there is circumstances that prove otherwise, it’s probably a one-time thing and something you shouldn’t strive to achieve each time.  

Simply put… it’s a waste of time.  

What’s more interesting and offers far more feedback to whatever you are trying to accomplish is getting it out there and letting others provide the feedback.  Instead of trying to lessen the blows by what you feel “could be” an issue, let the feedback roll in first to figure out where the issues really are.  And then get to work.

I actually felt intrigued to write about this after falling off my workout and then waiting for that “perfect climate” to get back on the bandwagon.  After literally weeks and months of putting it off or half-assing it, I finally said you know what, I’m just going to start.  And now it’s almost a week and I’ve been steady.  Watching what I eat, doing my workout every day, etc.  You simply can’t wait for the perfect timing, you just have to take a leap of faith and see where it goes.

Just settle…

These are the words I was raised by.  These are the words that have made me stay miserable and not try to experience everything holding me back.

How am I doing?  I’m doing wonderful.  I’m actually finally in full control of my life.  It’s funny, really.  They say everything in life is a voluntary interaction (sans The State, of course).  But when you really look at how you can be trapped in your own mind with a certain ideology, it can feel quite the opposite of voluntary.

Instead of ignoring impulses and making excuses as to why I can’t do something, I’m going to start acting.  I’m going to start being careless (not too careless, of course) to see where life leads me.

I’m going to start living.  Since I’ve spent 27 years doing the opposite.

Hello again?

Wondering who still follows me and what you’re up to?  How are your plans for 2013 progressing?

I have some big plans for 2013.  So far the year has progressed fairly nicely.

Let’s chat.

My beef with other frameworks

I’ve been given the opportunity of working on a new project in the Symfony2 framework.  Being a vetran to MVC in general I picked up things fairly quickly with some minor caveats that were addressed by other developers.  However, what became pain stainkilnly obvious to me was the proverbial question of “whether the juice is worth the squeeze.”  Unfortunately, more often than not, I found myself constantly fighting with the conventions of Symfony for simple tasks.  We are talking simple queries that should be handled relatively the same as they would be if written by hand.  Curse you, doctrine.  Curse you!

Why use a framework in the first place?  To me, it’s to save time.  And more importantly, to organize things in a way where the conventions are almost universal so others won’t have a hard time getting aquainted with larger scale projects.  And yes, hands down, if you are building a large project and you have zero conventions in place, you are asking for trouble.  Enough said there.

In closing: the deal breaker for me with symfony and other frameworks like it is the lack of apparent “time saving” that it claims to give you.  Sure, if you can manage to learn all the conventions and spend the time doing so it may save you in the long run.  But that’s just not how clients work.  And that’s not how real apps are developed, either.

Rethinking passion

When first starting out with this blog, I remember talking a lot about passion; doing what you love.  

Unfortunately for me, I quickly learned that passion is sometimes not the key to making a successful business so much as loving the process and what you are doing.

I felt like a fraud in thinking that way.  Why would I love the process but not be passionate about what I’m doing?  It turns out that I’m not alone, though.  37 Signals actually has this very thing covered here.

Now I understand why I persevere and push through the obstacles.  Now I understand why I don’t have to love what I’m building but love the process in which I’m doing it.  The freedom to express myself through design and code.  The ability to share my foresight and problem solving with others.

That is why I do it.  So from here on out I’m more focused on the process instead of the passion.  I’ll derive passion from the freedom my projects afford me.

That is all.

Love what you do

I’ve been watching some youtube drama in the Call of Duty community recently and one of the big commentators was talking about how much he hates what he does.  So I thought about it: could I possibly hate what I do?  Could I put myself into the position to where I look at my own projects, etc as a job and nothing more?

You’ve got to love what you do.  And I mean that.  Through the highs and the lows you’ve gotta stick it out.  There is nothing more rewarding than what you do for yourself.  What you accomplish for yourself.  What you stick out, regardless of whether it’s popular or not.

And if you ever feel that you start to hate it, get away from it and do something else.

Using ze Bootstrap

In my ever lasting pursuit for all things “make my life easier” I’ve stumbled upon one of the single greatest design / ui frameworks to date: Twitter Bootstrap - http://twitter.github.com/bootstrap/

Rapid prototyping is a very important part of my job.  I’ve always been a big proponent of “committing” to something.  The point is that until you do everything can change.  By prototyping with bootstrap you are already creating some of the “end product”.  There is no cutting this out and turning it into html.   There is no figuring out how the style sheet should be laid out right away, etc.  It’s all there, you just have to choose how you want to use it.

Combined with this extension: http://www.yiiframework.com/extension/bootstrap makes for an even better dev experience for me.  

Being a web developer now versus 8 years ago is night and day.  So much more enjoyable!

I hope you find this framework useful.

Changes

Switching gears lately.  And I’m happy again!

Sometimes we get so into what we do that we don’t realize we can do other things as well.

I started helping my friend promote his clinic on FB, and I’m in charge of handling the media buys, social media love, etc.  I’ve never done this before but it’s been fun and challenging.   Building apps for facebook is interesting.  The audience is much larger, but there is a certain level of “production value” that needs to go into it.

I decided to go about my minimalistic ways and make something that is “ghetto” but works to test some conversion ratios.  I set up only the weekend to work on it and I got it done.  I didn’t think about it too much, I just had a general idea and executed.

Was it easy? Nah.  Was it fun? Absolutely.  I also discovered that promoting my product via facebook has garnered me a lot of “testers” so I’m happy about that.

I definitely know I’m in the right market.  And I definitely feel confident that I’m going to be able to double my friends leads with handling the social interaction for him.  I believe in social media, regardless of whether it converts as well as other mediums now or not.  The level of caring vibes well with me and I like that it can scale, if you want it to.

Anyways, take care everybody.

Only one way to find out.

Get it out there and test it!

Especially if your product is centered around others.

If you’re building software and there is a shortage of testers, find where your audience is and engage them.  It’s the only way you’ll know.  You’ve gotta listen to data.  Data speaks volumes about what you’re doing.  Until there is usage and feedback there is no data.  You can only assume and build so much for your customers before you have to let them just get in there and start using it.

Self-discovery

As minimalists, we are constantly taunted with customers who identify with uselessness instead of usefulness.  Just a show of hands.  How many of you have had customer requests about certain features that you currently don’t support, and then find out they never used those features?  Hm?  Exactly. 

People sort-of know what they want and yet they don’t know what to look for.  Great example here: project management software.  Just a show of hands.  How many of you use simple to-do lists and small milestones to organize?  You’re not alone.  And that’s what’s great about what we build - usefulness.  If products require huge specs to design, and the problem isn’t sorted out within fewer approaches, it doesn’t belong in minimalistic design.  It’s too complicated to be a minimalist product.

Something that you should know about me.  When I started this blog last year, I was on fire with minimalistic principles.  I loved this notion that you don’t develop just because.  That your product stands out based on usefulness and what it already accomplishes.  That, regardless of what others think, you stay true to that principle.  And above all else, you don’t build what you can’t support!

Well, over the past few months I became a fraud of that sort of thinking.  I did the opposite, and guess what? It shows in my product design.  I negated the requests of customers over “building cool stuff” and I didn’t think about my core product and audience.  I started checking out my competition and what they were doing, and I started to pit it against my own offerings.  I started to build features I didn’t even believe in.  I was a fraud at this point.

But it’s never too late to come back from that.  And it’s never too late to put the pencil down, stop sketching out the new features, and focus on what you already have and making that shine.

I want to be open and honest and this is my way of doing that.  Feel free to leave a comment.  Have you lost focus of the minimalist picture?  What did you do?