Finishing a programming side project

One of the most common things I hear when talking to other programmers is that they struggle to finish their side projects. Many have multiple apps that have gotten about 50% of the way completed, and then were abandoned for the next side project. If this is starting to sound familiar don’t fret — we all do this sometimes, and while I haven’t solved this issue for all of my programming projects, I want to tell you what I have learned to help me start to fix things.


1. Figure out your motivation for building what you are building.
We build side projects for many reasons, so it’s best to always keep in mind what our end goal is with the side project. Are we trying to learn a new language? Automate a task to make our lives easier? Win an argument? Get job experience in a certain technology? Work with a friend on something cool? Depending on what our answer is, our definition of “completing a project” will differ, as will our motivation to actually complete the project.

An example I can recall is a small website I was building to win an argument. It was a neat concept, and novel, but my motivation for building the site stemmed mostly from trying to convince a few people they were wrong.… (Read More)

Stop naming your products common words!

The common trend these days is to name your product a base word:



I get it — it’s bucking the trend of the old domain name cycle, where everything was a made up word or a variation of an existing word (Reddit, Google, Digg, Flickr,, Tumblr, etc). It’s also most likely harder to make a Copyright claim against the name since it is too generic (even when scoped to a specific industry).

But here’s the rub — sometimes this makes it impossible to find you on Google, so I end up having to tack on other words to describe what you do. Go becomes “golang”. Swift becomes “Apple swift”. Django becomes “django python”, Square becomes “Square payments”. Now I realize while this isn’t that difficult — I have to do this for the famous products/services/libraries!

Just imagine being a new startup fresh out the gate, wanting to call yourself something like You specialize in helping people find rentable apartments near them, get in contact with the building manager for them, fill in their lease information, and basically streamline the whole process of getting an apartment.… (Read More)

Amazon affiliate links and their proliferation

Amazon affiliate links and their proliferation

This is more on the lighter side of things —

This past week I was looking for a new Macbook Pro on Craigslist, and was disappointed by the prices. Lately people don’t seem to understand the concept of “used” — a five year old Macbook Pro is not worth over $1,400, no matter how much ram you put into it.

I was surprised to see, however, a great deal for $1,200 — a 2012 Retina Macbook Pro with 16GB ram. Normally something like this would go for ~$1,500-$1800, so I reached out to the person to see if it was still available.

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 11.03.18 AM

Unsurprisingly, the seller contacted me and told me it had already been sold, but that I should check Amazon used section, as sometimes they have great deals. I thanked the seller for their time, and went on my way, disappointed that I missed out, but hopeful because maybe I could score a good deal on the Amazon classifieds.

After looking for a few days, however, I noticed that prices never went into a territory I would call a “good deal”, and I started to get suspicious. Why would the person point me towards a site that never offered “deals”?… (Read More)

Thinking critically in the face of common support

Recently Verizon has been getting a lot of flack for supposedly slowing down Netflix. There has been a lot of press regarding the issue, and in general as a supporter of net neutrality I think it shows what ISPs/content providers will do unless we force them to treat themselves as just a “dumb pipe” rather than give a “fast lane” if you will for corporations.

That being said,  there was recently a video on Reddit entitled “Proof that Verizon throttles Netflix streaming” with a supposed definitive video that Netflix is being throttled by Verizon. As I watched the video, I realized very quickly that there were a lot of explanations (one of which yes, could be throttling) for what was happening, and it was very clear the person in the video either had little knowledge regarding the issue at hand or purposefully ignored the other explanations for what they were seeing. I won’t go into the motive of the video taker, but here’s the jist of the video:

  • When I run the Netflix test video through my Verizon ISP, my bitrate on videos is low (~300kbps)
  • When I connect to a VPN first before accessing Netflix, my bitrate rockets upward (~7000kbps).
(Read More)

Always be trying new things

This is a corny title. It is also an idiom that seems quite obvious — who wants to think of themselves as closed minded, or someone that always does the same thing every time?

When I was a kid, I was convinced Google was going to be huge before it IPO’d, and begged my dad to invest some money in it. When he didn’t, every year afterward when I had a chance as a kid I’d bring it up smugly. “Look who was right,” I’d tell him, and think to myself how open minded and smart I was (as any teen was known to do). If we had invested even a little bit, we’d be rich!

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed I’ve gathered a heavy layer of skepticism regarding new technologies, new startups, and just programming in general. If a new startup or piece of technology comes out that I either A) Know there are very, very hard problems to solve or B) know the market is either really crowded or extremely niche, I’ve tended to dismiss them. This wasn’t made as clear to me as when I was reading over the Hacker News thread “April 5, 2007: “Show HN, Dropbox”.… (Read More)

Why I won’t be using Airbnb again (for now)

A little backstory:

I joined CouchSurfing in 2010. At the time I was looking for fun ways to meet people, and save on costs as I traveled to places for entrepreneur events. I paid the $25 to verify my identity, and ended up using the website to stay with an awesome person in Seattle who showed me around town, took me out to eat, and gave me a place to stay while I was there. It was an unforgettable experience.

So when I started hearing things about Airbnb, I admit I somewhat scoffed at the idea. “So they are going to take a free service such as CouchSurfing, and charge for it? Who is going to pay for that?”

The more I read about Airbnb, however, the more I saw the benefit in it. CouchSurfing has more of a — social atmosphere feel to it if you will. The host and guest are expected to socialize, go out for food, see sights around town, almost treating the surfer as you might a long distance friend who needed to crash for a few nights. With Airbnb, however, you are simply a customer — here are a list of rules you need to follow while staying, here is a set of keys to get into your room, that’s it.… (Read More)