In the final throws of the launch product being ready it’s been all (my) hands on deck, so here’s today’s schedule.6.00am – Coffee and fire up the laptop.8.00 am – Get myself looking presentable (I think there should be a book called, “Dressing Gown Entrepreneurs”)9.00a m – Car into tyre centre, made some calls to launch customers.10.00 am – Back to the house, code a little more.11.25 am – Head over to Portrush.12.00 pm – Encamp in Ground in Portrush, coffee is excellent and the cinnamon swirly thing is going down a treat. More work done…1.20 pm – Head back to Coleraine, sit in the car park and do some more work in the car.1.40 pm – Sainsbury’s car park, more of the same.3.00 pm – Back at the house where my daughter and I play Super Mario Bros on the Wii5.00 pm – Downtime…….6.00 pm – Family time making dinner.7.00 pm – My world stops for TV Burp, makes me honk with laughter which I am not ashamed about. I need this programme… :)8.00 pm – An evening of on and off development work, managed to get an awful lot done.If you have a full time job and am working on a startup then the evening and weekend route is the way you’ll probably go. It’s not easy, even more so if you do have a family. The main thing to remember is that it is achievable. Good luck.
How you chop your day up is really up to you. If you are putting your startup together while holding down a job or doing freelance work then your time is a) limited and b) incredibly precious.My good friend Simon Keen has been trying to get me into the ways of working in the early morning. The reasons are simple for me. Firstly, I work better in the mornings I’m a morning person and secondly, I do need some family time. So first things first.Early bedtime……As Simon is working on something and I’m working on something it makes sense to encourage each other to get up at 5am. We will then hold a quick call on Skype at 5:30, gives us time to wipe the sleep from our eyes and get a coffee down our throats.Two and a half hours clear work, plus I’ve got 40 mins on the bus if I need to do anything urgent.When I get home from work my brain is foggy…. I need rest and there’s some wallpaper to go up.Let’s see how this week progresses.
Wednesday night was Open Coffee in Coleraine. Though I’m now asked many times why I need it now there’s a steady stream of work, I still get a buzz from seeing the good things that businesses are doing.Better still was I got some good feedback on my own product and my thoughts were aligning quite nicely with what was going through my head as well. Feedback though leads to new ideas and sometimes you just have to stop yourself doing anymore development before you go to launch.The main thing is to put your product in front of potential customers and not developers, they are breeds apart sometimes. I’m not say that all developer feedback is useless, far from it, but you need to get to the people who are going to use your thing/thang/doofer/doobrie on a daily basis.The one feature I was toying with is a firm requirement so it got put into the main system this morning. And the product went from being excellent to being a game changer. Me, for one, I am a happy man.So to recap:
- Get to open coffee or any other networking event. Networking face to face is where your potential customers are.
- You can explain things is more than sentences of 140 characters. 🙂
- Seek out who you want to demo to, be picky with your potentials. Are they a short term, mid term or long term proposition?
- If the product is work in progress say so but also have a firm roadmap in your head of when you are ready to launch. Also mention the future roadmap, it shows commitment to your potential customer and the product you own.
- Open Coffee is usually a relaxed place, so you can relax too.
Tonight was the night for a code4pizza meeting in Belfast. Now I’m fairly settled with the idea that I’m in the minority when it comes to location. So Matt and I tried Skype video from my house to Core Belfast.The ProsWell I was certainly there and I could say hello to folk. I got the majority of the conversations which is the main point of the night. I didn’t have to stay there all night, I could break off into a group of one if I wanted to but it wouldn’t have been much fun.
The ConsLaptop microphones are the main issue as they are designed for one to one conversations and not a public forum. I kept a chat window open just in case I needed to type something. Luckily the good folk in Belfast gave me space to speak when I needed to.The only other real drag was that I couldn’t have pizza. I’ll have to go back to the drawing board on that one.
Following the positive feedback from my talk at BarcampDerry I’ll be doing more talking in February.
- Bizcamp Newry – Saturday 6th February at Southern Regional College, Newry.
- Bizcamp Belfast – Saturday 20th February at the Black Box, Belfast
I’ll be talking on (I think) a few stories about starting up and mobile startup in Northern Ireland, where to go and who to talk to. All good fun as far as I’m concerned.
On my way back from Derry today I gave the Code4Pizza app a whirl to see how it would perform in the realworld. Better than I had imagined to be honest….My original concern turned out to be no concern. When you speed past a stop and get the location I was afraid that the GPS would take time to update. What actually happens is that the GPS lat/lon data will constantly update as the device is moved. All you then have to do it tap the “Store Location” button and it’s saved.As well as Code4PizzaCollator there’s a web based app by Alex McRoberts which does the same sort of thing. It’s in development at the moment but it will work on iPhone, Andriod and other mobile devices with a connection. You can find it here http://www.koachi.com/mapit/The reason I didn’t go with a fully connected app was simple. Connections in the NW of the province are up and down. You don’t get much 3G coverage apart from Derry and Coleraine at present. So I wanted to be able to collate data and send in one go to a server when I wanted to.One unanswered (possibly because it’s unasked) is: at a bus station do I register every stop? I think it’s a good idea for the following reason. Ultimately I’d like to see an app where a tourist could stand at any bus stop and with GPS pull the info on the different buses that leave and at what times. With near field connectivity (NFC) we should be paying the bus fares with our phones as well, this is already happening in some European countries already.First we need to complete data and that’s where the crowdsourcing comes in. With these two apps there’s no reason to say we can’t collect the bus stop data for the whole province.
An excellent day of coding today as I spent the day hooking up the database storage to the iPhone. This was all new to me but there’s some good documentation out there. I used some sample code from Bill Dudney and Chris Adamson’s book “iPhone SDK Development” so I could get used to using SQLite (cos I’m a MySQL kinda guy).The most useful thing I learned today….. the way that the SDK will copy the SQLite database to a WHOLE new place. Turns out the insert code was working fine I just didn’t know where it was going.
NSArray *searchPaths =
(NSDocumentDirectory, NSUserDomainMask, YES);
NSString *documentFolderPath = [searchPaths objectAtIndex: 0];
dbFilePath = [documentFolderPath stringByAppendingPathComponent:
NSLog(documentFolderPath); is your friend.So it’s all coming along nicely, the first commit went up to github this afternoon so other people can have a play with it (assuming that you’re all bored with the snow now). The next job is to bundle up the saved locations and send them to a server (somewhere to be decided). There’s plenty of resources on getting an iPhone app to pull JSON data in from a URL but not a lot about transmitting it. This is going to be fun 🙂
- Create an open source project that other members of the Code4Pizza community could work on if they wanted.
- With the app use it to provide Open Data NI, Translink and Code4Pizza more data on where the bus stops for other parts of the province are (Belfast is well documented but it seems from conversations with folk that some parts of the province aren’t great). Instead of whining about how Translink don’t do anything why not help out instead?
- It means that I can learn some new stuff. I’m not up on my git and github repository skills so it’s good excuse to polish those up too.
- I get to know the iPhone SDK a lot better by doing something useful than just another bunch of little demos.
All good reasons as far as I’m concerned.So how does it work?My commute to Pooly Towers is on the bus every morning. Now I’ve been on the same route many times over the last couple of months so I know where the stops are. All I need is a method to track them and store them. That’s where the app comes in.All I want to store is the latitude and longitude when I pass the stop and what route I was on. The idea is that developers all over the province can download the source code from github and install it themselves and collate more data if they are on the bus. If we can crowd source the other data outside of Belfast then I think that will benefit everyone in the province at the end of the day.So, where is it?The source code will be hosted on github. I haven’t put the initial core release of code up but I’ll announce on Twitter when I do.So, what stage is the code at?So far the application can pickup the location via GPS. The button actions work it’s just the SQLite3 database that needs sorting out and the mechanism to upload the data. There’s a field for the route of the bus number as well but I have left the alphabetic characters in the keyboard as I know there are some route numbers like “FY8” in the Derry area.There’s only three buttons: one to get the location, one to store the location and one to upload the stored locations to an online place (like a website/db etc).The icon is done…. it’s a pizza.
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I think it’s fair to say, in reflection, that 2009 was basically spent trying to find my centre of gravity. Towards November I was starting to sound like a bit of a personal pity party so something had to change. Thanks to my network, finding out the technology landscape and talking to good people I could put myself in the right place at the right time.There were a few things that happened that did help it along.Open Coffee and other network meetings do workYou can’t beat face to face networking. There was a time when I didn’t have to do this, the work was streaming in during the boom times. Skills are plentiful and it’s a case of being able to sell yourself. From Open Coffee I’ve managed to show my face once at XCake as well. On the online side I keep up with Digital Circle and the usual stream of info on Twitter.SpeakingI don’t think it does anyone any harm to publicly speak once in a while. I loved doing Barcamp Derry last October. Prospective customers, investors, employers and collaborators can instantly see what you are like and what drives you. From the Barcamp experience I would really like to do some more speaking in 2010.You’re friendsConsidering that I moved to Northern Ireland in 2004 it’s taken a good five years to find my networking feet. There’s a couple of factors in that, partially to do with the existence of technology like Twitter. I always had a LinkedIn account but I did my searches by sector, not location.Through the likes of Open Coffee I’ve met some great people. Even better that most have them have become good friends and are on speed dial if I really need them. The help, advice and provision that these people are willing to give is also available to you, all you have to do is to make yourself available and willing to show your face.WriteI have an “articles” section on this site. These aren’t articles that I just wrote for the fun of it, they are important networking tools to prove your knowledge. The likes of Java Developer’s Journal, IBM developerWorks and the Belfast Telegraph have given me the opening to write articles on a wide range of technology subjects over the last nine years.So, to summarise, with this mix of activities I’m just starting to shape and form what 2010 is going to look like, I’m really excited for 2010. There’s some big things to happen.
One bow in the social media expert’s armoury is this notion that you have a potential audience of 350 million users. I like numbers like this but I do ignore them. First of all does your product, strartup or offering really have the ability to touch a truely global audience in one go?They are few and far between in my opinion.If you take a startup that’s concentrating on the UK market then you’re user segment is more like 19 million (nearly 6% of the total amount). Then when you start slicing down the age segments you are in the less than 1% numbers.Hopefully in 2010 we’ll start seeing social media experts starting to get real about the numbers of people that you can realistically reach.For me in 2010 I’m not looking at the “what next”, I’m sure a gathering of technology folk are too. This will be the year of getting real about what social media is, what is capable of and what you and I can really do with it.