Miscellaneous Ramblings

winning at Letterpress Nov2012

As is oft the case with sudden bursts of inspiration, I realized recently that Letterpress would be quite simple to cheat at with a couple of regex and a big enough word list. Also turned out to be quite simple to get the available board via a little pixel munging and some OCR.

And with that, I present to you the Letterpress cheater I've built and hosted over at blah engine.

I hope you enjoy it, and win... unless you're playing me.

leaving Snoball Oct2012

The Short Version

Friday, October 5th, 2012 was my last day as ceo and employee of Snoball. It's been a wildly fun ride and it wasn't an easy decision. The team is incredibly gifted, the platform is world changing, and the time is right for the idea.

I'll be retaining my seat on the board of directors and am more excited than ever about the future of the company. It's well built, adding users daily, and ready to radically alter the way fundraising occurs.

The Less Short Version

About two years ago, we started working earnestly on Snoball with the typical startup feel -- long hours coding into the night, lots of what-if conversations. We built a really solid demo and went into fund raising mode.

After closing the funds, we had a celebratory dinner and went back to work the next day. A couple of months later, we moved the entire company (and very understanding wives) to Austin. Things were speeding up and we needed to be in a bigger city.

I was naive going into it. I didn't imagine how big of a factor the legal, accounting, hr, investor relations, fund raising, etc would all end up being. I thought I'd be coding on something big, but I let myself end up a beaurocrat.

I loved technology and the team and speaking with donors and nonprofits. I did not love raising investment, but that became more and more of a focus. It's wearying. I began to dread working on the thing I'd lived and breathed for so long.

The tipping point for me was hearing from an advisor, "Your job isn't to focus on the product. You're the ceo and you need to be always raising money." Whether I agree with it or not, for the size company we'd become and our level of revenue, he was right.

It didn't help that I was always sick. It was the stress, no sleep, no exercise, etc. At home, I was distracted and mentally gone. I'd be around my family and not even realize they were speaking to me.

Burned out.

It took nearly two years of 80+ hour weeks on Snoball, but it caught up. It didn't help that I'd been working on my phd for the 2.5 years prior along with balancing a career and family.

I don't want to do something unless I can do it well. It was time for a change.

and now

I stewed for a couple of months. I tried to back away from the day to day, but at this stage of a startup, that's impossible and unfair to everyone else on the team.

I stepped down. For the good of the company, for the good of my family, for my health.

I want to be present when my children are on my lap or my arm is around my wife.

I just want to do things well.

what's next?

As a way of solidifying some of the lessons learned, in the near future I'll be writing about:

  • leading a team vs building a product vs building a business
  • starting a Startup in Small Town, USA
  • securing investment
  • startup theater

For now, I just want to kiss my wife, hug my kids, hack on something fun, and do things well.

woe is my little blog Jan2012

You may or may not have noticed, but my blog is suddenly much farther behind the times than it used to be.

I had some server issues on my personal site and one of the side effects is that my db files got corrupted. I didn't lose anything except about 3 blog posts and honestly if I wanted to do some digging, I could find a recent enough backup with them. It's not a high priority...

So - just to catch anyone up to speed. The whole family has moved back to Austin as of October 2011. I co-founded a little startup Snoball that's growing pretty nicely and we just needed to be near the heavier tech industries here to help the company grow a bit more.

My PhD is temporarily on hold (startup... 3 kids...) but I WILL FINISH IT SOMEDAY.

Other than that, find me on twitter as @nod and let's talk.

On The Edge Of The Dark Edge of Darkness Apr2008

short review

I recently read On The Edge Of The Dark Edge of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson and I loved it. I'm anxiously awaiting the sequel to find out what happens to Janner, Tink and the others. Pick it up and read it, you won't regret it.

longer review

Ahhh, songwriters - the poets of this modern era. My favorite, unequivocally, is Andrew Peterson. There's something about the timeliness of each of his songs that always seems to hit me just at the correct stage of life. I think he's literally living about two years ahead of me. "The Chasing Song" and "Nothing to say" came about in 2000, just about the time my wife and I were getting ready to go overseas. The lyrics spoke volumes to me and ministered directly to me. Then, in 2003, his "Family Man" brought tears to my eyes as we were trying to plan a family and make some hard decisions about life. 2005 brought his "Far Country" and a multitude of songs yearning for another place and time amid the business of modern life. As you can see, I'm a fan of his work and can say his songs have really affected the way I live.

I know this is an odd way to begin a book review, but I say all this to help you realize my fear upon hearing he was going to write a novel aimed at children. What if it was awful? What if I was completely bored with the whole thing? One man shouldn't be able to write life changing songs AND entertaining books. That's too much talent for one person. I was wrong. The guy's a talented genius.

cover of Dark Edge of Darkness

On The Edge Of The Dark Edge of Darkness is a fun, entertaining, read with constant ups and downs that kept me interested. It's one of those books you start reading and all of a sudden, you're done and disappointed that the last page crept up on you.

From the beginning the characters were engaging and believable. Through a series of short tales with multiple points of excitement, the entire world is introduced in a way that kept me, the reader, always curious and wanting to read "just one more page" before putting it down.

My only complaint was that the book did seem to end quite abruptly, but for this genre of children's adventure, that's quite acceptable as it's obvious this is a series and there will be more to the tale.

I believe the story actually comes from a series of bedtime stories that the author told his kids, and as such it's a lot of fun and would be a great bedtime story book to read a chapter or two each night to children. The bad guys are bad, but not too bad. The good guys are obviously good, and the overtones are wholesome. I loved it.

Overall Recommendation?

Go get it and read it to your kids. They, and you, will love it.

These thoughts are my own, unless they're yours. And if they're yours, we may have metaphysical problems beyond simple concept ownership and should probably talk soon.