Rebooting My Professional Side Projects

It’s been a little over two years since I put Clickable Bliss, the company name for my personal projects, then self-employment, on hiatus after taking a job at DmgCtrl (which then turned into a job at Big Nerd Ranch). Back then when I wrote about the change, I mentioned that team work was something I was really missing after my group startup Shindig ended. The good news is, in the last 2 years time I’ve gotten to work with some very talented people and have learned a ton from them. The sad news is, the yearning to work on something longterm, something of my own, something I can have a meaningful impact on does not go away. Today I’d like to share my intent to reboot my professional side projects.

I say “professional” side projects because I do want these to be serious projects that result in profitable products. I want to create software that people enjoy using, solve meaningful problems and people are willing to pay for. I’m not looking to quit my job but I don’t want that to be an excuse for lack of progression or service level, I want to make sure my customers are taken care of.

So what’s next? Well right now I’m working on breaking down some project ideas and otherwise trying to get up to speed with some tech stacks I’m considering using. I’m also trying to figure out the legal and branding side of things. Some questions on my mind:

  • Do I continue to do work under the name Clickable Bliss (which is a D.B.A.) or do I come up with a new company name that helps distinguish this new era and long term team intent (I do hope to bring on help for these new projects sooner than later).
  • If I do a new company name, do I run it as an LLC?
  • Do I promote these products under the company brand or just build brands around the project(s) themselves. (The two leading ideas I’d like to work on have fairly divergent audiences although longterm I’d say my interest is in providing tools for people who embrace technology to create things.)
  • I want to start to build up a newsletter as soon as I have some more concrete things to share. How do I migrate those people from the old Clickable Bliss mailing list? Should I?

So that’s what’s going on. Will share more when I have it. If you have any feedback or comments, please shoot me an email!

CocoaLove 2015 Notes

This weekend was the second annual CocoaLove event here in Philadelphia.

A conference about people, not tech. CocoaLove highlights the iOS/Mac community’s passions, challenges, and triumphs.

From all accounts, people had a great time. My very heartfelt “thank you” to the speakers, attendees and organizers for making it such a blast.

Some of my own takeaways and notes:

  • Just Do It! and more specifically, don’t let your high taste of quality hold you hostage from creating and shipping. Get it out in the world and improve it over time.
  • Don’t let the negativity of the web infect you. Be positive; be constructive.
  • Make time to help people out. Mentor them, teach them, guide them. It’s probably the most import work you’ll ever do.
  • Embrace today; do what you love; don’t settle.
  • Don’t let other people define your life’s scope. Poke life.
  • The world is in desperate need of good managers. Managers need not be robots; the best managers can have a huge impact on their team and the product.
  • Don’t let imposter syndrome or other people hold you back.
  • Humanizing the customer support experience is extremely important. These people are calling out for help, treat them right.
  • The developer ecosystem is forever changing. Even today the wheels are in motion and a few years from now it’ll be different. Be prepared for change.
  • Embrace side projects. Start tons of things. Experiment. Do things outside your comfort zone.

While we wait for this years talks to be edited and published, consider stopping by the 2014 video collection. In particular I recommend Joe Cieplinski – The Back of the Fence.

Code Patterns Talk, Video Now Available

We’ve been trying to a better job of capturing our main talks at Philly CocoaHeads. You can find and subscribe to our small but growing collection of videos on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/phillycocoa.

I did a talk last month reviewing a some iOS code patterns. The runtime is about 27 minutes. Feedback very welcome.

Some Code Patterns, Mike Zornek from Philly CocoaHeads on Vimeo.

This talk covers a handful of code patterns that were successful on my recent projects. Some of these patterns include Block Safety, "Tell, Don't Ask", Using DataSources for your network-based *Service objects.

Apologies the audience participation isn't well captured.

Philly CocoaHeads Website Relaunch Project

I haven’t had an active side project in the last few months. When asked I would tell people looking for a new job was my side project. Now that I have that new job search (and my Girl Develop It class behind me it’s time to kick something off; we’re going to rebuild the Philly CocoaHeads website!

When I took over the local chapter of CocoaHeads here in Philly (back in 2010 or so) the previous organizer had a Ruby/Markdown publish system setup. It was kind of neat but involved a lot of setup on the client box to get up and running. I had a few people posting to the site so rather than set up that system on each individual’s box I opted for WordPress. The WordPress site has done ok for us but we’ve been growing a ton and doing a lot more over the last year (workshops, video capture of meeting presentations). I’d love to start to centralize things like keeping track of our members and our money, overall there is a ton that could be automated and it’s time to make it happen.

I don’t want to do this alone and I also would love to start documenting the project as it unfolds. To get started we have a brainstorm session scheduled during Side Project Saturday. If you want to participate please consider stopping by. If you can’t stop by, but want to participate, let me know and maybe we can setup a Google Hangout call-in option. To capture notes I’m going to use Trello. The board is live and open to the public. (You will need to login with a Trello account to edit.) Feel free to start to document your ideas today.

CocoaConf Boston 2014 Recap

After getting a solid recommendation from Curtis, who attended the Washington DC variant, this weekend I headed north to CocoaConf Boston. It was my first CocoaConf and so I went into the weekend with a lot of blurred expectations.

Spoilers: I say first with intention. TLDR; I had a really great time. The talks and speaker quality were really high and with luck I’ll be able to attend again during a future “tour”.

One of my expectations was size. I thought the attendee count was going to be a bit larger. It felt like ~130 but I’m not sure what the official number was. Not that a small count is bad for me but I’m used to educational events hosting more. I suspect part of this is that CocoaConf is hosting lots more venues now (three arguably “east coast cities” during this fall tour alone). This may make some events smaller but overall a win for the community so as to have more access for those who can’t travel far.

One thing that continues to make me proud is the people of our community. The attendees, the speakers and the event staff of CocoaConf are all incredibly friendly, approachable and inspiring. Meeting new people and catching up with old friends is a big reason why I like attending conferences and CocoaConf does a great job at supplying the “campfire” atmosphere to make that happen.

Daniel Jalkut's "Quit Your Job" keynote

As for my favorite talks I’ll mention a few:

Daniel Jalkut’s “Quit Your Job” keynote and Rob Rhyne’s “Make Them Care” session were both very inspirational. I leave Boston really hungry to jump into some side projects of mine and get back into the product game outside of my client stuff at work.

For technical wisdom I have to give it up for the full day “Swift Kickstart” workshop Daniel Steinberg ran as well as the Swift and Objective-C: Best Friends Forever session by Jonathan Blocksom. CocoaConf Boston is now cemented as the place and time where I really started to appreciate what Apple is trying to accomplish with Swift. This isn’t to say we aren’t in for a bumpy ride but at least now I have a good frame of mind as to the “why” behind it all.

Finally, it was great to meet the people that run CocoaConf. Rather than some large corporation, CocoaConf is actually a family affair. Dave Kline and his family run most of the operation and they seemed very dedicated to making sure everyone had a good time. For all their hard work I say thank you and hope to see you all again soon.

Designing & Planning Your iOS App Workshop Recap

Workshops are a new effort from the Philly CocoaHeads group. Basic idea is: one workshop every other month, the workshop is a one day 5-6 hour event, that covers a single topic. Our first one was on Intermediate Objective-C and our second one, which was held last Saturday, covered Designing & Planning Your iOS App.

Kotaro Teaching

Overall the workshop went well. Kotaro Fujita was our main presenter and did a great job of alternating lecture and hands on exercise. At the end, attendees presented what they had worked on and how their app ideas were evolving. The crowd was great with lots of great feedback too. Some of my notes:

  • When brainstorming features consider using index cards or mind mapping software. I like MindNode Pro and Trello.

  • Spend LOTS of time wire framing, sketching, etc. Be mindful to separate your design time from your production coding time. It’s easy to fall into trap where you are coding things that will not work and this is very expensive. Way better to validate your designs with prototyping first.

  • Document what problem each screen is suppose to solve. Also document the emotions you expect the user to have. For example, on first launch what is your user asking themselves, how can you help educate them? Are you using verbiage they understand? How fast can you deliver your first WOW moment?

  • Get users involved as soon as possible. Preferably before you start to code. Should have some level of idea validation before starting.

  • Once you release a build, make customer support your highest priority. Answer every email/tweet within the hour. Let them call you. Doing this is a huge part of getting people to trust you and then later recommending you and your product.

Related Resources

In the spirit of the talk I wanted to share some other related resources.

So there are two great online courses going on right now regarding starting a startup people might be interested in:

Some of it is a little heavy on the VC-funding but otherwise lots of great things to think about.

Another video I find really helpful to watch and re-watch whenever thinking about which projects I want to work on: How great leaders inspire action by Simon Sinek. His explanation of “Why/How/What” is very inspiring for me.

For some design fundamentals consider reading Design for non Designers by Robin Williams and Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug

Finally I’ll mention the the Lean Startup Book which I reviewed back in 2013. It still is a favorite book of mine with some awesome ideas on working fast and based on validations and learning.

Quick CocoaLove Recap

CocoaLove was a huge success. All of the talks were well received and the attendee side conversations vibrant and interesting. I think I saw 2 laptops open all weekend which to me is a huge sign people were engaged with our content. If you missed out, check out the CocoaLove site for some highlights of our tweet/photo live stream.

While they’ll never capture the event in its full glory, we did record the presentations and will be editing them over the next few weeks to make the available on the web. To find out when the videos are up I’d signup to the mailing list or follow the @CocoaLoveConf twitter account.

I want to thank my fellow organizers, the speakers and the attendees for helping provide a weekend I’ll remember forever.

In particular I’ll give special props to Curtis whom sacrificed countless hours attending to hundreds of details that resulting in a level conference quality that is hard to achieve. Great job!

CocoaLove Tickets

It’s September, which means next month is October, which means CocoaLove is coming up fast!

We’ve got a great weekend planned and if you haven’t already secured your ticket I’d do so now since we are starting our last marketing push to sell out.

Additionally, if you or a company you know are interested in sponsoring to help show your support for CocoaLove let me know. CocoaLove is passion project from some great folks out of our local CocoaHeads chapter who have donated countless hours in helping to organize this incredible non-profit event. Sponsor support will help us reach our stretch goals and make an already great experience that much better.

See you all soon!

July Recap

I’d hate to go a month without posting so here’s some random updates!

Philly CocoaHeads is going as strong as ever. Our WWDC June meeting filled the Apple Store Briefing Room to capacity (~50 people!) with lots of excited geeks. Our Side Project Saturday events continue to see some steady growth (15 people at the July event) and generate lotsĀ of interesting conversation and shared ideas. (Funny enough we were talking app bubbles right along side Edge Cases this week even though I didn’t know their topic at the time.) Finally our workshops are finally kicking back into gear with an Intermediate Objective-C course coming in August and a more beginner friendly Introduction to iOS Development course via the Girl Develop It group in September. Philly CocoaHeads is becoming so formal in fact I think we’re going to take the plunge and make it a legit non-profit group to help clean up the financial side of things.

In addition to CocoaHeads, there is also CocoaLove — our upcoming Fall conference. I’ll be doing the main talk Friday night and I’m doing my best to keep the topic upbeat despite my pessimistic tendencies. Big props to Curtis Herbert for really spearheading this event. It looks to be a really interesting and fun weekend. Buy your ticket while you can!

Through my job at Tonic Design things are busy. I have two projects right now, One is for a startup while another an internal app for a large corporation. Sadly these are not public right now so details will have to wait. That said, I’ve been spending a ton of time with iOS animations and I have two things to say. One, the Facebook Pop system is pretty cool and worthy of your time to play with. Two, I’m working on an abstraction system that should help apps with large amounts of animation stay organized. More to come soon on that.

At home, side projects have been back burnered, mostly for CocoaHeads stuff. I am spending time reading up on Swift and playing a little with Go but I’m also trying to keep plenty of time for playing games and relaxing. Can’t be focused on code all the time.

So thats it for July. Hope the summer is treating you all well. Hope to share more soon.

7 Minute Workout Featured on Apple.com

One of the apps I worked on, 7 Minute Workout, has been featured by Apple again. This time it’s part of the Strength TV ad which features a bunch of great fitness apps on iOS.

In related new the DmgCtrl and Tonic merger is kind of official these days. You can read more about it in Technical.ly Philly. You can also check out the revamped Tonic website which has a bunch of new case studies of some of our recent projects.

Congrats to all involved.