Monday, October 29, 2007

Taking shape...

Something I've noticed: as the project takes shape, it starts to pull you along, so it gets progressively easier to ignore distractions. It's like the project is beckoning you to fill in the gaps. My news.YC time is way down, Reddit time is down, I've stopped obsessively checking message boards for TV shows (well, mostly - I've got the Kid Nation IMDB page up in the other tab, we'll see if I go for that or the Ubuntu VM that's also in the background after this).

Also, I wouldn't think of myself as stressed (really, I live with my parents, have plenty of cash saved up, hack all day - which I'd do anyway, and get close to 10 hours of sleep a night), but my body says otherwise. I usually judge by the number of canker sores, and with 3 plus a cough that I'm nursing, it seems my immune system is pretty shitty right now. I remember a similar phenomenon at my previous employer...the week or two when the project was done enough to appear on screen yet not finished enough to show anybody were by far the most stressful.

I wish Blogger had a "current music" field like LiveJournal. These entries would be all Mike Oldfield, all the time (well, for the past several weeks at least. Pink Floyd before then).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Archetype #2

Productivity is kinda weird. After actually being social this weekend (Homecoming + meeting up with old coworkers), I got a ton done on Monday (shooter archetype, and redid the customization aspect to factor out some duplication). Then somewhat less on Tuesday, and virtually nothing today.

Was going to write a more pensive blog entry, but I think I'll sketch out some architecture ideas instead. It feels like the software is starting to take shape, yet I don't really know what that shape is yet. We gotta put this in front of real users soon and make sure we're on the right track.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

YC Rejection

YCombinator rejection #2 for Diffle and rejection #4 for me. They didn't even look at our demo, or, for that matter, any of the other hacks we'd linked.

I can't say I'm not pissed off, though really I'm pissed off as a tool for getting things done. Actually, in retrospect, I'm only halfway intelligent when seriously pissed off at the world. Like way back in middle school, or how I finished my CS major in one semester.

If I disappear from this blog for a while, it hopefully means I'm getting stuff done coding-wise. Otherwise I'm a complete and utter loser, and I wouldn't want that...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Demo done

So, as you can see (or maybe not see - it'll probably be offline by the time this blog is opened up), we got our demo done in time for the application. Finished the screencast at 6:00 PM yesterday (the app was due at 10:00 PM), then just resubmitted, ate dinner, and went to bed.

Was gonna get a lot of the minor stuff fixed today, but I found that I was feeling pretty burned out after the sprint to get the demo ready. Ended up getting stymied trying to figure out what primary key I should use for games. Hopefully my coding mojo will return.

I also have straighten out some dental insurance bit with my previous employer (ugh, previous employers), sign up for health insurance, and write Mike's two recommendation letters for B-school. The latter is kinda weird, because I'm acting against my own interests - I obviously don't want Mike to go to B-school, because I want Diffle to succeed. But I'll do it anyways, and do a good job on it, because Mike's a good guy.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

YC Demo

Testing our demo:

Modify this game.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

22 hours till demo time

The YC app is due in 23 hours. We've submitted a version already, but we don't have a demo on it. We've got 23 - no, a little more than 22 - hours to finish one.

We're in a much better place code-wise than a week ago. All archetypes load into the system, you can view them on the web, you can edit them on the web, and we've got cool widgets for repositioning and changing images. Working on saving and publishing now; hopefully will have that done by the time I get to bed.

The part I'm worried about is installation. We have a shitload of dependencies, and some of them (I'm looking at you, libxml2 and libxslt) don't seem to want to install. I hadn't realized how much I take apt-get for granted until I moved from my Ubuntu VM to the RedHat server.

Mike has already drawn and quartered our demo pieces. They look amazing...maybe we can actually pull this off.

So with any luck, things will work perfectly tomorrow. We'll get the missing software parts done tonight, installation fixed tomorrow, Camtasia downloaded and a demo recorded tomorrow afternoon, and I'll be all set to show Mike and resubmit our application by dinnertime. If everything goes according to plan. Hah.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Slow Going

It's been slow going for the past few days. One of those stretches where I get to work, think "Oh, I should check news.YC", look at it but see nothing new interesting, head over to Reddit, nothing there, check FaceBook and LiveJournal and Planworld and Yahoo!Finance, come back to project, get a couple more lines in, go read a book, maybe a few function definitions, out for a run, come back, write a few more lines of code, update Diffle blog, and so on.

I don't really have any working code that I didn't have on Saturday. Plenty of non-working code, though. I'm trying to pull together all the Pylons, MogileFS, MTASC, JSON, JavaScript prototypes that I wrote into a single architecture that'll serve as the base for the production system. This is hard because:
  • It's a lot to keep in mind at once - storage within DB/distributed filesystem, file formats, duplication of information, how it'll be retrieved and displayed, modification, versioning, compilation, etc.
  • My natural perfectionist tendencies get in the way and I freak out about this being the real thing and not some throwaway prototype I can do a half-assed job at.
In Founders at Work, one of the questions that she asked every founder was "Did you ever want to quit?" I don't really want to quit - there's really nothing else for me, because I don't think I could be happy at a regular desk job where I take orders and code up somebody else's product. But this is one of those times when I worry that no matter how hard I try, I'll still fall short.

I also worry that I haven't really "jumped" yet. A friend of mine put it very eloquently (he was talking about parenthood, having married into a ready-made family, but it applies just as much to startups):

"But that's okay. Because once the step has been made -- and J____ never made it -- it's better to be there. Making the leap ahead, taking the plunge, there's a dozen different words for it. J____ stood on the brink for a while, but decided he didn't want to jump. I jumped."

There's a sort of emotional commitment to startups over and beyond working 12 hour days and quitting the day job. I'm not sure I have it yet. For that matter, I suspect that many of the places I've worked didn't have it, given how long it took them to develop software. It's a matter of becoming one with the problem domain and cranking out code as fast as you can type, because the whole program is there in your head.