On a personal note, I just wanted to update everyone on what I’ve been up to:
In retrospect, taking time off to write Broccoli was clearly worth it. I went one month over my original budget of three months, but people’s enthusiastic reactions at EmberConf have convinced me that I solved a worthwhile problem, and that writing Broccoli will pay off in productivity increases across the community. Personally, having Broccoli will help me with the upcoming work on my business, and writing it has helped me become a better developer.
Starting a week from now, I will scale my open-source work back to part time, to about 1–2 hours per day. There is still work to be done on Broccoli as well as related projects like ember-cli, but it doesn’t require full-time commitment from me anymore.
Building better community is another thing I’m planning to dedicate some time to. I will blog about this soon.
My vague expectation is that in a year or so, I will find another worthwhile problem to solve, and take some time off in a similar fashion. In the meantime, it is time for me to work on my business.
Solitr started off as a weekend project, but then I noticed it started getting actual traffic. I knew that the highest-ranked site for “solitaire” gets over 100k daily visits, so I figured that with ad-monetization alone, there’s probably a business there.
Since then, traffic to Solitr has risen to 4000 daily visits (mostly through ranking for niche keywords), even though I haven’t been able to work much on it so far. Some testing with AdSense indicates that I can start paying the rent with it. That’s not much, but it feels quite liberating. It also makes me confident that once the search ranking improves, I can have a viable business.
My plan is to hit 100k daily visitors by the end of 2015. Getting there will require some SEO work, both on the main keyword (“solitaire”) and long tail for niche keywords and i18n.
I also want to learn A/B testing, in parallel to the SEO work. A/B testing requires many data points to yield statistically significant results. Running a free-to-play game presents a unique opportunity to get my hands dirty, as I get a ludicrous number of data points very early in my business – the kind of data that with a SaaS business you would only get at significant scale.
My role model for this is Patrick McKenzie – my Solitr is approximately equivalent to his Bingo Card Creator – and his extensive blogging has been of immeasurable value to me. I hope to pay it forward by being open about Solitr and blogging about my adventures with A/B testing in a similar vein.
I view the A/B testing work mostly as paid-for education. Perhaps I can monetize it a bit by selling boutique consulting like Patrick. But more importantly, I’ll have a valuable tool for scaling businesses in my professional skill set. If I start a business in the future (say a B2B SaaS) and it gets traction, I’m hoping that data-driven tools like A/B testing will allow me to scale it and realize returns much faster than I’d be able to otherwise.
That’s all for now. See you all soon, on Twitter and GitHub!