A Developer's Year in Review
A Developer's Year in Review
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Every year around this time, I take a couple days to reflect on the year that has just come to pass. I usually talk about the work that I’ve done, the people that I have met, and the goals that I’ve accomplished this year (outside of work of course).
This year isn’t any different. I still feel like I haven’t done as much as I could. Not sure if this is a good or bad feeling. Either way, let’s get to this year’s list.
This is also my first actual post on Svbtle so let’s see how this goes.
The main goal this year was to really go through the process of crafting things, and selling them. I’ve never been comfortable only looking at a piece of a giant process, I always like to know how things are working together and what realities can be exposed in each aspect of a business.
Being a developer, I’m extremely well versed in the product cycle and the development cycle. So this year, most of my efforts have been in learning how to market, and figure out how and why people make purchases. As I said before, you can only truly understand things and their difficulties if you attempt to do it yourself. You will see this theme throughout this blog post.
This has been the bulk of my effort. Outside of writing the iOS application, I’ve been making screencasts (no where near as easy as I had initially thought), engaging with customers, and adding new functionality to the website.
The concept isn’t new, but being a part of the python community, I saw a gap which needed to be filled. So I started building Neckbeard Republic, a website where I release weekly topical screencasts about Python and Django.
Sometime passed, I launched.
It was great, retweets, and well wishes from all.
At this point I am thinking swag, All I see is dollar signs.
Reality soon set in. At the end of the first day I had 8 subscribers. Underwhelming to say the least, but very pleased at the same time. An opportunity to flex my marketing and sales muscles, which I had been hoping to develop.
It was time to get on my grind, this is a business that was scalable, so I needed to get creative about how to attract and keep users.
I decided to release a few free screencasts which were very well received and did drive quite a bit of customers. On weeks I released free videos, I would see a 250% increase in weekly signups up from 25 users per week. Also making use of the weekly newsletter I run didn’t hurt sign ups either.
Another problem presented itself. Users were signing up, but weren’t subscribing (not becoming paid users).
I decided to take the crazy step of talking to my user list. I sent an email to all the users who signed up but didn’t actually pursue a subscription, roughly 250 people at this point, asking them why decided against becoming a paid user.
The feedback was priceless. What shocked me even more was the number of users who decided to subscribe afterwards. Of the 250 users I had contacted 26 decided to become paid subscribers. Not bad for an afternoon of work crafting a fact finding email.
However, there is still churn. After sending out this email, I realized that communication with my customers is crucial to attracting and keeping their business.
So I got serious about measuring everything, active users, which videos they were watching and engaging them on topics of interest.
A tool that proved to be priceless was Intercom it allowed me to monitor my community, on metrics that were of concern to my business. Number of active users, number of sign ups, and inactive users.
It also gave my users a way to communicate with me easily, and on a one on one basis, this was crucial to sustain my customer base. My churn rate has decreased 70% since the introduction of this feature.
I am pretty pleased with the progress thus far, but I am no where near the target number where I would consider this a massive success. Nonetheless, it is a profitable and educational endeavour.
Our first Neckbeard Republic shirt.
I have been playing around with Objective-C for a little over a year now, but never really found an excuse to really put it to use. But last year I really made a point to release an app on the App Store, and to earn a single dollar. A personal assignment which always forces me to set aside time to pursue it.
This goal required me to accomplish three things:
- Build an application.
- Market an application.
- Sell an application
Well, how did it go? I didn’t earn a dollar on the App Store, nor did I do much marketing outside of tweeting it, and sending e-mails to my current Neckbeard Republic subscribers.
Being two weeks since it’s release, it boasts 100 active users, both on iPad and iPhone.
I worked on this project with Fabien Dorion, he is mostly responsible for the design of the application.
A few notes about iOS development.
It’s really fun, and much smaller of a stack to learn vs. something like web development.
Allows you to focus in on what your user are specifically doing, and what they want to accomplish. My application was simply enough, notify my users of new screencasts and allow them to view screencasts on their mobile device.
So 2/3 isn’t that bad. This was great fun and I’m looking forward to bringing more ideas to mobile soon™.
Feeling: Pretty satisfied.
Another one of my projects, that we’ve (Mike and I) continue to grow from last year is Pycoder’s Weekly. A free weekly newsletter, about the most interesting stuff going on in python that week.
This year we introduced a job board where interested parties could buy advertising space to promote a position in their company to the current 12,000 subscribers of the newsletter.
We’ve had job postings for various start ups around the world including companies like Path, DataDog, and Uber to name a few.
This business is quite different from the previous businesses since it isn’t a consumer product. We are selling to businesses with much larger budgets.
We knew that providing social proof to show that we could reach the audience they were interested in (python developers) was crucial in securing their business. We were a budding newsletter already, so we already had the social proof. What we needed was to be discovered.
Often, recruiters Google for places that already promote python jobs, and from that pool select a few places to post job listings. Our page was not ranked, among the first three pages, for various Google searches around topic of python on jobs.
So we contacted a few of the blogs that did show up, in the search, and ask them to link to our job board saying if they were looking to fill a position or looking for a new gig to check us out (A few were happy to do so since they were readers of the newsletter, how awesome is that!?). That combined with a few tweaks and we’re on the first page for many of python job related searches.
We have a new design in the works for the New Year, and a couple of awesome things to unveil for the Python Community in 2014.
Speaking and Conferences
I really enjoy speaking and crafting a talk. It forces you to verbalize your thoughts on a topic and refine it so it is communicable and useful to others.
This talk is highly aligned with the effort I have been putting forth over this past year, towards marketing and understand why people enjoy/use/share some things and not others.
If you get a chance, I really hope you watch this talk. As for speaking, I am starting to feel very comfortable presenting as well as getting a feel for who I am on stage. Things I would love to improve though is my story telling, some speakers are incredible at this.
I need a cause, often I am left unfulfilled with how my time is being spent. Running the same mental tracks.
Same questions; still unanswered.
I am going to work on a real problem and dedicate my entire year to it, open ended I guess, but imagine what it could bring.
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