In this and following posts I will talk about some of the stuggles I had (and continue to have) with taking my projects off the ground. I will talk about two: Itemscope and the Bra Dryer. I’ll talk about big ideas and big failures to execute.
First, the Itemscope. Originally I came up with the idea probably around 2009 as a result of frustration with how difficult it was to find trustworthy consumer product information, as well as frustration with media quality of product images posted on the web sites. It was also a period of my fascination with Semantic web (Web 3.0), and therefore initially I thought it was a great idea to create a huge semantically organized database (hence, the initail code name SODAq where “q” stands for nothing, really) of consumer products, where semantic part was mainly in the idea of structuring products as classes which inherit each other, as in an ontology. I envisioned that a web site like this would be able to provide complete technical specs for any product on the market, great quality photos and ability to easily show relationships between products, their parts and so on.
2008 was also a year when I was still doing PHP. So as my first step, I started personally designing the site and coding it in PHP and MySQL, spending 3-4 months doing that and eventually realizing weakness of my code base, and hitting a dead end when I knew moving forward without re-coding a lot would be hard. At that point I scrapped the initial prototype completely.
As everything else in my life, progress in this project depended a lot on my inspiration, and 2009 was not an easy year, not just for me, but for the entire economy. In 2009 my employer went out of business due to recession, and I was left on my own, trying to sell web design and web development services. So for a while, after scrapping first version of the site, I didn’t touch it again.
During my second wave of inspiration I felt more confindent in my programming skills (yes, it was still PHP) and also discussed this project with one of the serial enterpreneurs of the time, who told me that if I believe in the idea, I should try to execute in in a matter of 30 days. It made total sense, and I had enough energy to push it very hard and sleep very little to make the web site. But my biggest mistake of the second try was that I was considering using an existing PHP framework, but thought the ramp up time would be longer than writing my own. I know, I know… BIG mistake — and who of you didn’t try to do this, ever? 🙂
Out of the 30 days I planned to work on this, I spent over two thirds working on this framework. By the time I thought it was more or less ready, I had very little time left for actual coding. So I reused same UI I created the first time, and started working on adding models and business logic. It took me a bit longer than 30 days, but I thought I can stretch it a bit, no harm if I take a little longer. And I did. But in the end, the result was same as when I did it the first time. Eventually I realized weaknesses of my framework and that I hit a point where framework didn’t really work for me. It was just poorly engineered and incapable. I also realized that if I tried to learn any given PHP framework at that time, I could probably do it in under 2 weeks, and have more time spending on actual business entities and business logic of my site.
After about 2 months into the project I scrapped it again and have not come back to it for a few more months same year.
Then I decided to finally do this right and found a PHP programmer in Ukraine who was very good in database design and PHP, and knew Yii Framework. This time around I was a product manager and did not do any coding myself. Dmitry did all the coding and it started looking promising that the site will see the light of a day. But it did not. I ran out of my own money very quickly, especially that at the same time I was paying someone else for doing 3D designs for the Bra Dryer. Development of the project has halted and I never resumed working with Dmitry on it. It was a third consecutive failure to complete the web site.
At that point I had no inspiration to work on this project again, and it was put on a very long hold, during which no actual coding work was done. At the same time the I would still think about the project time to time, and realized that ideas for the site were too many and the vision was too blurry. It was something very hard to be described as an elevator pitch, and so over time it was being distilled and reduced (although, only mentally). Until I knew what Itemscope was going to be: A knowledge market for consumer products and brands.
What exactly do I mean by this? And what exactly was the “reduced” concept? I will write about it in my next post.