1000 Apps

t is my goal to deploy 1000 apps. There are a few ways that I could do this. 

  1. I could start with my current tally (about 50-60 different apps and automation) and continue to build apps one-at-a-time. 
  2. I could create a tool that empowers people to build and deploy their own apps. And then teach them how to use the tool. 

I think that the second approach is probably better. But there are some things I worry about. 

  • What if people don’t want to use a tool that I make? There are lots of no-code/low-code tools out there; why would mine be any better?
  • What if I can’t even develop the tool that I have in my mind? What if I lose focus or get drawn in a different direction and never finish it? What if I’m just not skilled enough? 
  • What if I fail in some other way? (Just a catch-all for all the possible ways that I could miss success.) 

But then there is the other way to look at it also:

  • What if a group of people are just waiting for a simple tool that they can use to make their own apps? What if these people are crying out for a non-existent product they just want?
  • What if I am the only one in the world who has the design and ideas for this type of app-creator and has the level of skill that can deliver this product? 
  • What if I succeed in ways that I would have never expected? 

There is only one way to find out which set of answers will be true. And the answers will probably largely reflect the way that I ask the questions. 

Watch the journey with me. We’ll see where it goes. 

One Important Truth – Many Will Not Agree

In his book Zero to One, Peter Theil (co-founder of PayPal) asks, “What important truth do very few people agree with you on?” Here is what I know to be true:

It should be possible for ‘beginners’ to deliver equally effective applications to apps that junior and intermediate developers are developing.

Recently I have been doing a lot of study on No-Code and Low-Code solutions. I have also been learning about Citizen Developers. No-Code and Low-Code tools help people who don’t know anything about low-level coding (for that example, printf(“Hello World”); would print something to the screen if you were using a language called C++.) No-Code and Low-Code tools allow people who have a problem to solve that problem by simply providing the tool with some information and then letting the tool produce and manage the application.

I am also aware of what it takes to develop a fully functional, enterprise-level application. And learning more about low-code, I realize that much of the rote and repetitive tasks that people are doing can be done by low-code tools. Do you have to display data from a database, do data entry, or manage how data is transformed? All of this can be facilitated by a junior or intermediate developer. But using a low-code tool, a business analyst or techy admin person could easily achieve the same results.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we would eliminate junior or intermediate software developer’s jobs. Not at all. But let’s find ways to give them work that requires their specialty and education. If we can automate much of what they are doing through low-code solutions, then we should. And if you are a developer who feels that you are adding value by coding a data grid better than no-code solutions, you should consider what additional value you are adding. Let the no-code solution produce the data grid and focus on delivering more of the special sauce that is your superpower.

We’re in a place where if beginners can deliver intermediate-level quality apps, then the rest of us will all have to become better at the apps that we work on and deliver. It’s exciting times and a good place to be.

Twenty Minutes

To be an effective writer and balance everything that I want to do with my day, I will limit my blog post writing to 20 minutes a day.

When I finished writing blog posts daily about eight months ago, I probably spent too much time writing each post. Even though it didn’t feel like much time, I suspect that it was eating into time that I could have better used elsewhere. I enjoy blogging because it helps me organize my thoughts for the day in a way that might help others but also will help myself in the future. 

As I’ve mentioned, I’m going to start blogging a little bit again. I may not write every day, and this time I am going to make sure that when I do write, I only write for 20 minutes. When I sit down at the keyboard, I will set a timer. When the timer goes off, I must have something posted. Time-limiting my writing will do achieve a couple of benefits: 

  1. It will focus my thinking and writing. Since I only have 20 minutes, I have to keep focused on the task and make sure that I make the most of my time. 
  2. It will make me more organized in my writing. With a time limit, I’ll have to think through the structure and thesis of my post as I sit down to work. 
  3. Possibly it will make me a better writer. Hopefully, the pressure of a short deadline will help me think about the best words and phrasing first, rather than in the revision stage. 

As an added benefit, the time limit takes away the pressure of producing the ‘perfect’ piece of writing. The desired post is now one that can be completed in 20 minutes and is coherent. I don’t have to think about whether spending an extra 30 minutes on the post would make it better because I won’t allow myself to spend the additional time. 

I’m interested to see if this experiment keeps me engaged and able to post more often. Time will tell. 

Defining ‘Beginner’

What is a beginner?

Yesterday I talked about my software hypothesis that building a web-app creator for beginners would benefit the people using the app and their co-workers. 

But today, I am thinking about the word beginner. No one really wants to be considered a beginner. It makes it sound as if you are inadequate compared to others on the continuum of skill. A label of beginner can make you feel small. But what other words could you use? 

Amateur? That sounds even more insulting than beginner. 

Future expert? That’s pretty patronizing. And besides, we don’t know that you are going to be a future expert. We only know that you aren’t an expert now. 

We’re going to stick with the word beginner. But instead of trying to make blow fluff and unicorns which will magically obscure what people might feel about the word, I’m going to define precisely what beginner means in this case. To help us define beginners, we will also define mid-level and expert. 

A beginner web app creator

  • Can use a computer for other tasks. (For example, Twitter, email, or for work.)
  • Has not done coding or software development projects before (personally or for work.)
  • Can imagine how a web app would look that would solve their problem, but wouldn’t know where to start to make this a reality.

A mid-level web app creator

  • Has done some software development and can figure out how to create a web app through hard work and a lot of googling.

An expert web app creator

  • Someone who codes every day creating web apps. 

Beginners

If beginners start being creating the web apps that they imagine in their minds, a few things will happen:

  1. People will get the apps that they want (because the gap from imagination to reality is smaller)
  2. The mid-level and expert level of web app creators might have to step up their game if it turns out that the beginners are starting to create apps that rival some of the more straightforward apps that previously needed mid-level or expert level development. 

The hypothesis is yet untested, but understanding who is a ‘beginner’ is a helpful first step to understanding who we should be talking to and who we should be building the app creator for. 

There Are More Beginners Than Experts

There are more beginners than experts. This is why it can be more important to focus on the beginner level than the expert level. As humans, we are drawn towards complex things. We have a built-in sense that something more complex must mean it has higher quality. And so many systems are designed for the expert user. We add features because the expert users want it, but we forget about those who have a hard time using what we built for the first time.

Our thinking is that if we can convince people to practice enough to be experts, they will love all of the expert features available. But the chasm between beginner and expert is significant. And we are expecting people to put in enough deliberate practice that they will move from beginner to expert.

I set forward the hypothesis that if your target audience for your product was beginners:

  • You would have a significant (and unending) market for your product. Think of kindergarten or code-boot camps – there is always something new that people want to learn what the experts know.
  • The impact that you would have is significant. While it is necessary to have experts, sometimes an expert is left doing work that anyone could do simply because they must. Once someone has learned the alphabet as a beginner, it is very hard to become an ‘expert’ alphabet-er. Whether you are an expert or a beginner, writing the alphabet looks exactly the same.

My Hypothesis

The hypothesis for my new software product is this:

I believe that building an web-app creator
for people who know nothing about web-app development
will mean

  1. that people will build apps for themselves that they can use in their work and
  2. that people will build apps that many people in their organizations can use.

4 Start-Up Myths That I Believe

We believe many myths about life. Many times it is what we believe that holds us back from taking the right next step. Today, I thought I’d write about five myths that, if proven to be untrue, should change how I approach the work that I do on my company. 

Myth 1: You can’t have a one-person self-sustaining start-up.

Response: It would seem odd that you would have a one-person start-up. The advice is to find a good team, a cofounder you can trust, and have many people to go on the journey with you. All of this is excellent advice, but there is no reason why you can’t have lots of people around you and still be a one-person, fully operating company. People would probably expect that you can’t have a full rock band made up of only a drummer and singer who plays all the instruments, but TwentyOne Pilots is doing just fine.

Myth 2: I can’t have it all.

Response: Everything you are asking for is all within reason for you to be able to manage. I’m not really asking for the impossible – just a schedule that fits my family, a business that makes a positive impact in the world around me, and enough of a paycheque that I can support my family, have a few extras and give away enough to make an impact outside of my business also. The truth is, I can have everything I am hoping for here. I know this because I have all of these things are working currently from work that I do outside of my company.

Myth 3: It is likely I will fail.

Response: I may fail. But failure is not final for me. I’ve always seen failure as a chance to learn and improve. So even if it is likely that I will fail (90% of start-ups fail), I have embraced the ability to grow from failure enough to think that I would probably take it as a lesson on where I should go next. And that would be a positive thing. 

Myth 4: My skills are not up to the task.

Response: My skills aren’t up to the task, but the secret weapon that I have is the ability to learn effectively. When I learn, I focus on the practical steps that will be the fruit of my study. I can see from history that by applying myself to practice and investigation, I will soon gain the skills I need.

As with any belief, it won’t be some unrefutable logic that will convince me that this list is a bunch of myths. Changing my mindset will take action. Stepping out in faith that these maxims aren’t always true will cause me to understand that I don’t have to live as if each item is valid. Belief follows action. Action follows emotion. And so, by becoming emotionally invested in the opposite of each of these myths, I can prove each to be untrue. 

And Then Silence

And then the silence is deafening. . . .

I might start blogging again, but it might look a little different. I don’t know for sure. It might end up being a little more technical, or about other things – I don’t know. But what I do know is that if it doesn’t suit you, that’s ok – feel free to unsubscribe. Don’t be scared to ignore what I’m writing.

The secret is that my blog has always been a notepad to myself. Whatever thoughts I want to keep track of, or snippets of interest that I want to remember in the future – I would put it into the blog. It’s a great way of organizing your thoughts, and a great notebook to have when you look back into the past.

So, there might be more silence for a bit until I get started again – or my blogging might not be as regular as it once was. But hopefully we’ll be talking again soon. Your thoughts and feedback is always valued.

Thank You

As you know, this is the last blog post of my year-long experiment to blog every day (it turned into two years of blog posts.)

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity I have been given. I am grateful to have a platform to blog on and a reason to blog. I am thankful for those of you who have subscribed and commented. I appreciate those who I know who read regularly and those who I have no idea why you subscribed.

Thank you for being a part of this journey with me. I hope we’ll cross paths again in the next leg of my adventure.

Thank you. And I’ll see you around.