Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cars, Parts, Tools, and Time

I once had a friend tell me that the easiest way to learn to fix a car was to have a car, and be poor, at the same time. I presently fit that description to a tee.

Yes, I could take one, or both, of my cars to a shop. Have them looked at, fixed, and pay a mechanic a frankly exorbitant sum to take the problem out of my hands. But if I were to do that I would, one be unable to do anything else with the money that would be spent, and two have learned nothing.

If web design has shown me anything it's that there are professions that thrive on ignorance. Book keepers, mechanics, repair people of every ilk, and techies all thrive because everyone else wishes to live in complete, blissful, ignorance. While those in the know cash in on that desire to remain blissfully unaware.

Anyone can repair a car, build a computer, write a website, balance a checkbook. There is no mystery, no mystical force that enables one to do these things, it simply requires the tools, the time, and the desire to learn.

I have the desire, some of the tools, and ample opportunities to practice.

It always starts small, an oil change, a filter, gaskets, hoses, then it moves up, brakes, drums, plugs, then to the alternator, the starter, the radiator, after that your only limited by your tools, and your time.

Certain tools make life much easier, but are often out of reach of anyone but a shop. Tools like an arm lift, or a high capacity air compressor. Some other tools are simply cost-prohibitive, or space prohibitive. Tools that fall into this category are most tire tools, and alignment racks.

However, most of the above tools aren't necessarily required. Obviously most DIY mechanics won't rebuild their engine, or transmission. But anything else from the body panels to the electronics can be fixed, upgraded, modified, and diagnosed with hand tools and practice.

Let's see how far I go.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

24 Going on 65

It's the little things that cause problems. It's standing in your bathroom dripping wet from a shower when The Missus realizes that her little sister broke her $100 dollar Sonicare toothbrush and decided not to tell anyone when it hits you, the simple gut wrenching truth that this is simply it. Your going to spend the rest of your adult life scraping for money in hopes to get far enough ahead to take a day off and there will always be something breaking, something coming due, something needing paid and there will simply never be enough money.

It's the truth that makes you feel sick and feel like crying and just saying forget it. It's the knowledge that if it isn't something today, it will be something tomorrow and the only way out is to die. Death, and taxes.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Lemonade Stand

I've been playing Mafia Wars lately, a click based browser game on Facebook. I like it, it has potential, and in terms of ways to waste five minutes at work it's ideal.

But it's far from perfect. Mafia Wars allows you to have a "Mafia" made up of all your Facebook friends who also play Mafia Wars. While this seems good in theory it has created an environment where groups have formed for the express purpose of getting 501 "friends" who all play Mafia Wars. This seriously unbalances the game and reduces the "fun" factor. This also leads to "farming" where a well equipped player will attack a smaller player over and over, winning each time, and decimating the other player.

So, I'm going to make my own game.

I'm thinking the old lemonade stand type game, with a twist.

I want to use the old click based interface, and the incremental gain of money and "energy" in line with Mafia Wars. However, your "block" in the game will be a 10x10 section of suburbia. Ten players per block. You can expand your lemonade empire into other sections of the neighborhood, build new stands, and sabotage other stands. However, unlike Mafia wars if you have a "bad apple" on your block you can vote, or buy, him/her off the block. This will provide a way to get abusive players gone, and hopefully mean I'll make a little side money.

Once players reach a certain size they can "graduate" to tougher blocks. This will keep the game interesting and mean that bigger players can't farm lower level starting players. I'm also looking to implement this so that groups of friends can be on the same block together.

I'm going to develop the idea bit farther and see what comes of it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

8 Days

It's been just over a week since I "went live" and just shy of two weeks since I paid for hosting and got this insanity rolling. Back date that a bit for when I actually started working on code and you have a business that is roughly three weeks old.

Three weeks, it seems like longer.

I've come a long way in three weeks, though I've still not made a dime. My skills at web design and composition have improved by leaps and bounds, I now look back at sites I built a few months ago and balk at the crude, almost childish, design. I'm sure in a few more months time I'll go through the same process again.

Most of the issues come from a lack of understanding, a lack of time, and a lack of experience. I need the time to write the code, test the code, and develop the process's that will enable me to run a business smoothly. I see shortcomings in my code, in the way I have written things, code that is not even a month old. These shortcomings came from a lack of experience and a desire, at the time, to get anything working. Now, I find myself needing to go back and re-do, and re-test to make sure that now, when I do it right, that everything still works.

My initial flights of fancy made it seem like a walk in the park, a few contracts, paid up front, and voila, thousands come rolling in. Reality has set in, it has been a struggle, and I'm sure will continue to be a struggle. Advertising, and generating traffic to the site is painfully slow. While I am further hampered by a lack of disposable income.

I keep maintaining the belief that if I can just make that first sale, no matter how small, that would give me a little bit of money to spend, to hopefully make a little bit more money. I know that I need to sit down for hours and code, but I find it hard to devote the time. I know what I need to do, but convincing the other people in my life that it is what needs done takes some work...

Oh well, it's only been 8 days.

Monday, June 8, 2009

All Money's Not Created Equal

I've always thought money is money, and more money is better then less. However I'm finding that I'd rather have less money, more often.

This all stems from my business slowly getting moving. I have roughly a thousand dollars of contract income that I'm working to secure. Contract income is great, it's a lump sum, paid at once, and I do the work and life is good. However, the issue is that unless I secure another contract that income is all I get. If I make a thousand dollars, once, that's it. I need to go out and look for more contracts, more income, and that takes time, and effort, and a lot of repetitive work.

In short, it's less profitable in the long run because I have to put more effort into each contract.

On the other end of the spectrum is recurrent income. This is what I want more of, and for the life of me can't seem to get. This income comes from people licensing my software, buying hosting, etc. This is better for me because it's a lower cost per sale. I convince a person to license my software for $25 a month, or $50, or a $100 a month. They pay monthly, or the year up front, but the important factor is that it's recurring. Even if they pay the year in advance I know barring something going wrong I have that same payment to look forward to a year from now.

The issue of course is it requires a customer to buy in, to commit to purchasing a service and the associated cost. I've yet to find someone willing to do that. I've got two business's in the works but nobody has signed anything official.

I'm moving forward, and it's a good feeling, hopefully this is the start of something quite profitable.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Call Me Crazy

But I'm going to run a 6k race, in eight days.

As I write this I can run 2k.

The plan is simple. I need to be able to run three 2k stints (1.25 miles) with short, 1-2 minute breaks in between. I'm going to hit the track tonight, aiming for a 2k stint, then walking a 400m "rest" then trying for another 2k.

Why am I doing this? Simple. My father asked me to. Now, he and I haven't always gotten along great but when he asks I do my best to come through. He wants me to run a biathlon with him and I'm going to do my best. I haven't handled a rifle in years... but that is neither here, nor there.

Wish me luck, this is going to hurt.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dear Joe,

I wanted to write a post complaining about laypeople and their effects on me. Specifically laypeople who simply do not realize what goes into maintaining a website, updating, improving, and the day-to-day grind of keeping a site current.

But there's simply no point.

Most people who aren't in a profession can not understand what is required. Why do you think most people who say they could do a better job then their server have never served? I deal with people on a day-to-day basis who have never written a line of code. They have never spent hours trying to get a few hundred lines to do what they want them to do, as opposed to what they seem hell bent on doing.

I'm trying to allow the laymen to peer into my world, to comprehend on some level, exactly what I do. I simply can't do it fast enough.

Monday, June 1, 2009

It Was Just One of Those Days

I've been feeling low for a few days. Not terribly depressed, just.. off. It all came to a head today, a ten hour day, culminating in not getting the work done that I needed to get done. Add to this the fact that I missed Judo and your beginning to see why I was feeling a bit off. So, in an attempt to cheer myself up I decided to go to the gym. My lifts were decent, as good as could be expected given the fact I haven't lifted in weeks but it seemed like I was surrounded by the cut frat boys who make every lift look easy. Just bothers me.

Oh well. Tomorrow is another day.