Goals for 2011

In 2010, I did quite a bit. And I learned quite a bit. I’ve gone through 5 projects, OneExtraLap (strategically failed), iTunes Instant (went massively successful), TwtRoulette (made with Shervin), Pitch.ly (stopped), and OhBoard (launched 10 days ago). I went from barely knows how to code web apps, to become the creator of several. I felt like I’ve accomplished a lot.

On the last day of 2010, I think I should create a list of things that I am going to do in 2011. (The list is more for me, but putting it public can give me more momentum because of the more people that know about it).

  • Focus. I’ve been saying this for a long time, and I’ve been constantly pushing myself. Everything I do in 2011 is going to be OhBoard-related. I am going to take it low and slow, and bring in $10000 (well, the more, the better) profit by the end of the year. That’s it.
  • Blog. Not here, but at OhBoard Blog, because I really see the importance of experience sharing about my work. I am going to share about things from design to development, from promotion to customer service, from copywriting to press, and just anything in between.
  • Learn. There is just one thing I want to learn. It’s not another programming language, it’s business. I’ve been a developer since 2009, but barely have an opportunity to touch on serious business-related matters. With OhBoard, now it’s the time. And I will share about everything I learn.
  • Help. I’ve been active on Forrst. And I want to continue helping out people there with design and development. Also, I want to help out more people who contact via Email  (hey, that can be a great promotion machine). It’s necessary to give back to the community since you guys guided me so much in 2010.

5 hours to go and I will start accomplishing these goals…

My Latest Creation: OhBoard

Hello, everyone. Long time no see, but today I’ve got a great Christmas surprise for you. I made OhBoard, a simple, zero-distraction whiteboard application that is available on Chrome Web Store for $3.99. For more information about the app, read this really post I wrote: http://ohboard.com/blog/ohboard-manifesto (a.k.a 10 Reasons You Should Use OhBoard). Here’re some excerpts:


I broke it down and list 10 characteristics physical whiteboard has:

  • It has limit. There’s only one possible surface to write on. Old drawing has to be physically disappeared in order for new drawing to be created.
  • Sometimes it doesn’t fit the size you want it to be. If you are sketching a website mockup on a whiteboard, everything becomes proportionated.
  • It requires a special-made writing utensil, called marker, to utilize the whiteboard. The marker is not physically attached to the whiteboard, which means it can be lost (or worse, stolen).
  • Marker smells. Barely anyone likes it.
  • Marker runs out. You have to purchase a new one when it does.
  • There’s also a thing called cap in each marker. If it is not correctly positioned, the marker can become useless quickly.
  • It requires an eraser (sometimes I use tissues), which most of the time can’t clean the surface entirely – little marks are left on the board.
  • When writing/drawing, you need to pay close attention to prevent your hands from erasing previous work unnoticeably.
  • The material includes paper, plastic, and melamine. They aren’t so environmental-friendly.
  • Staples sells it for $15.99. Office Depot sells it for $29.27. Walmart sells it for $8.55.

These are all the problems I, you, and probably everybody, have encountered. They are real problems, but they never get your attention. The reason being is they are way too common. You think they will never be solved, so let’s not worry about them. Wrong, OhBoard will be solving them. And here are some benefits of OhBoard vs. physical whiteboard:

  • It has no limit. And everything is saved automatically.
  • The canvas covers up the whole content section. You can make your website mockup exactly the way you want it to look like.
  • It requires a mouse, or a trackpad. But you will have one if you are using a computer. And you are using a computer if you are on OhBoard.
  • A mouse/trackpad doesn’t smell.
  • A mouse/trackpad doesn’t run out. (Well, a wireless one does, but the price vs. usage ratio is extremely low.)
  • A mouse/trackpad doesn’t need a cap/cover/protection mask/security guard.
  • An eraser is not required. An undo button is already included in OhBoard.
  • Your hand will never smear the computer screen. If you do, your drawing won’t be erased either.
  • The material only includes code and pixels, which will not harm the environment.
  • I sell it for $3.99.

State of Pitch.ly

2 months ago, the idea of Pitch.ly was born out of the marketing failure of OneExtraLap. I was frustrated, disappointed, and partially desperate at the time. And I decided to take this revolutionary idea into reality with my buddy Spencer Schoeben.

For those who aren’t clear about the original idea of Pitch.ly, let me explain briefly. The goal of Pitch.ly is to centralize the way startup founders communicate with bloggers. Right now, the pitching process is painful, it’s hard to find blogger’s contact information, it’s hard to show a video demo, and it’s hard to keep them updated with new releases. We are trying to be the place where startups can upload demos/screenshots easily, bloggers can check them out quickly, and be the platform where both sides can communicate efficiently.

A good’ol 50 days has past since I came up with the idea. Thousands of you are curious on what Pitch.ly really is and how we are going to change the way startups pitch. Hundreds of you are eager to be early adopters and enter your email addresses. And I really want to say a big thank-you for everyone’s interest toward Pitch.ly.

But, there are so much happened between these 50 days, so much that I’ve never seen, experienced, and even imagined before. The night of Teens In Tech miniConference, I spent 3 hours building iTunes Instant, attempting to provide a faster speed and cleaner interface for iTunes search. Out of everyone’s imagination, it took off, and it took off pretty wildly. Few days later, a well-respected angel investor, Shervin Pishevar, came to me and pitched me about the idea of peeking other people’s timeline. I truly love the concept and build an alpha of TwtRoulette in approximately 5 days. It was featured on TechCrunch on the day of launch, and it was growing ever since.

As Spencer Schoeben (FYI: he also built FriendsOnAMap & CrunchBase Instant in these 50 days!) pointed out to me, for teenagers working part-time on the web, a smaller niche project will have a much higher success rate than a more serious, elaborated startup. Working on a time-consuming company/product requires people working full-time, having all the resources dedicated to it, and focusing on it 100%. But neither Spencer and I can be able to accomplish that since we are in the middle of high school. We both fear that there are more risk than success if we develop and support Pitch.ly ourselves.

So after some discussions, here’s what we are going to do:

If there are any adults out there who are interested in the idea and think that they can be able to take it into reality and grow it into a business, definitely contact me or Spencer. We can negotiate for more details and get you going!

Thanks everyone for supporting us so far!

iTunes Instant Manifesto

Note: I will keep it fairly short since I’ve been slightly overwhelming with everything that’s going on.

What is iTunes Instant?

iTunes Instant is a web-based iTunes search engine that delivers instant music results on a clean interface.

Why did you make it? Doesn’t iTunes already have a search feature?

Yes, the native official iTunes application does provide search functionality for songs, albums, apps, etc. But I think there are two major problems that are keeping people away from using it:

1) The lack of speed. If you use iTunes, you know what I am talking about. The speed (especially on searching) is nothing comparable to the search on web (like Google or Bing search). It is just way too slow. When I originally purchased my iPhone, I was irritated by iTunes’ slow speed because there were always few seconds of freeze/lack every time I was searching for a song/app to download/buy.

2). The clutter interface design. I know Apple is usually doing a pretty good job on cleaning their use interface clean and simple. But I think iTunes (I mean the desktop one, the mobile one is actually fairly organized) is an exception. When you are performing a search, there are too content displaying upfront. You will be definitely overwhelmed once search results are being shown.

So how is iTunes Instant going to solve these problems?

Solutions for problem #1:

a). It is web-based, which means searches and results can be transfered back and forth at a rapid speed, whereas every search within the iTunes native app requires few seconds of waiting time.

b). Using search-as-you-type functionality that searches the term as it’s being entered and show off results automatically on the page. It will saves your time from hitting enter and seeing the progress bar and wait.

Solutions for problem #2:

a). Minimized CSS style. I’ve been a fan of super clean UI, so the site basically contains a title, a text input box, an area to display search results and few sharing buttons. That’s all, I don’t even want to put one of my intuitive background texture on it.

b). Some Javascript/jQuery magic. If you’ve been following me, you know I highly focus on details. Examples on the site: the text field is auto-focused, that saves you one click; you can click the title to clear the text field and search results, no need to hit delete, that saves another few seconds. Feel free to dig into the site and you can probably find out some more.

Did Google Instant give you this idea?

Yes and no. I’ve actually had this idea in my mind for a while (reasons listed above). But this *instantization* hype started by Google really makes me believe now is the right time to develop and release it.

What do you think of Google Instant?

As I said to ReadWriteWeb, I definitely see Google is making a big move through Google Instant, not only for their own user/advertising growth, but also they started to lead off a whole industry move toward instant search. And I am sure this trend will continue to grow and grow in the upcoming months.

Woo, I love the app! What can I do for you?

You’ve got a plenty of options: tweet it, vote on it, like it, and like it again.

Also, if you know someone who is a blogger, feel free to tell them they are awesome and ask them if they want to check out iTunes Instant!

Again, thanks everyone for using iTunes Instant!

Kyle Bragger: A few random thoughts on building communities

Some learnings I’ve acquired over the past nine months building Forrst, bullet-point style and in no particular order:

  • Your earliest users are vital to the success of the community. They should be people you absolutely trust and/or know IRL (the first 100 or so users of Forrst were all either friends, current/former co-workers, or close friends of theirs)
  • Your web app itself is only a means to an end; it helps the community form but it doesn’t define it (Forrst is a pretty simple piece of technology in and of itself)
  • Be ready to follow the community; that is, the community might end up in a slightly/vastly different place than you intended. That’s okay; embrace it. (Forrst became a place where anyone, no matter what their skill level, can come to get great feedback and get better at what they do. My original goal for Forrst was merely to build something to replace the way I (didn’t) use Twitter and Tumblr to post development-related stuff)
  • Be active as hell and be human. The community needs to know there’s someone just like them on the other end of the line (I use Forrst every single day and interact as much as I can. I also read and respond to every email I get [though it might take me some time :)]. Forrst never would have grown the way it has if I had just stayed out of sight)
  • Don’t take things so personally; you’ll inevitably have problematic users from time to time. Be adult and human about it. It’s not your fault. It happens.
  • Have rules and enforce them. Don’t be afraid of not being a one-size fits all place where anything goes (one of the reasons I personally feel Forrst has been successful thus far is that there are rules about what fits and what doesn’t. It’s helped keep content highly focused and relevant)
  • Reward users for being awesome (Forrst users get more invites for their friends the more active and engaged they are)
  • It’s okay to be exclusive (Forrst’s invite-only model definitely has gotten its share of flak for being “elitist” [even though we’re far from it], but it’s also helped keep the number of new users per day down to a very manageable number [updated] This is good because it doesn’t overwhelm the existing community with 100s or 1000s of new users in a short amount of time)
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no” to features (everyone’s going to want feature X or thing Y in the community, but it’s important to maintain a razor-sharp focus. If it doesn’t make sense to in the big picture, don’t do it).

Lessons Learned with OneExtraLap

Tomorrow will be my first day of school, and I think it will be a pretty good time to write a quick post and share some of the lessons I learned with OneExtraLap.

1. Didn’t solve a real-world need

Before I started writing code of OneExtraLap, I didn’t even think of the essential questions that every application should answer. How will your app benefit users? What niche are you targeting? So I basically built the entire product without knowing what is it for and who is it for.

2. Expecting too much

I always have a high expectation on everything I do, no matter how important the task is. Everything time I announce something on Twitter, I expect retweets, I expect current users to try it out, I expect visitors to sign up. But it never happens.

3. Didn’t collect email address

This might seems an extremely minor part of a business, but it is very crucial. Because the soonish you put up a landing page to collect email address, the more users your app will have on the first day. I made a big mistake here. I only started this process a week before the launch, which I can only collect less than 50 emails.

4. Want everything to be perfect

I guess I am a perfectionist, I always want the entire site to look perfectly and behave perfectly. So I put in too much time and focus on the design and development of the site, and ignore the business side of things most of the time.

5. Having too much to worry about

I have to be responsible on every parts of OneExtraLap. Interface design, feature development, customer support, bug fixes, system administration are all things I need to deal with. This constantly caused a problem: If I can’t fix a bug, I can’t continue on new feature development. If the site is down, I can’t respond to customer email complaint because I need to get the site up as soon as possible.

6. Didn’t notify bloggers ahead of time

I didn’t notice the importance of this until I actually launched OneExtraLap. I didn’t contact any bloggers when the app is in beta mode (which is the time bloggers will mostly like to try out and write about the app, because of the exclusivity). Until recently when I tried to reach out to them, I never get a response.

Moving on…

I couldn’t be happier with the success of OneExtraLap, my first project. Success not as much measured in users, pageviews and press but success measured in how much I’ve learned through the process. But from the survey I created last week, I heard that OneExtraLap is quite cool and fun, but it is definitely not something a “must-have” or a “can’t-live-without”. And it is not something that solves a real-world need.

So now I decide to move on and I want to use all my the knowledge I learned in OneExtraLap to build something that solves a real-world need. Enter pitch.ly, something that is going to change the way startup pitch their ideas, startes by Spencer Schoeben and me. More details soon…