Day 9: Besides the compliments

Slept at 4am last night after writing my Day 8 post based on a question Jim posed me. I was so exhausted and wasn't very coherent with my writing, I'm sure.

Also saw that Cedric's commoncog post blew up on HN (click here) and I was so happy for him! He worked hard for it and deserves to go on the front page of HN. He validated for me what it's like to be consistent; consistent enough to become great at writing well and on interesting things – the meta game. Still has a nice ring in my head the way he titled it.

I was planning to head to my part time work's office early around 9. I couldn't stop snoozing and resigned myself to doing the remote standup meeting from home. Started at 1030 sharp and my eyes were still fresh with crust. As the meeting picked up, we started discussing about the juicy stuff on the new product we are building. My mind automatically shifted gears and I became more clear headed. I had been waiting a week for this planning session. All so we could be clearer on where we are headed with the new product. Awesome.

Right after the meeting ended at 1130, I quickly brushed my teeth and rushed to school. I was late for lunch with 2 juniors – Yash and Pei Song – who were helping me with SMUMods. I'm so grateful they were patient with me! I had a really tough night – troubles sleeping and having to rush to a meeting right after waking up.

Over lunch, we quickly brought Pei Song up to speed with our upcoming collaboration with Outside. He was skeptical about it and while fielding his skepticism off, we realized something:

We were trying to be a student portal. But why weren't we integrating more services like Outside? The more synergistic services that we integrate, the more value-add we could potentially bring to students using our portal.

This was it. This was out way out of the rut. We were facing so many problems from so many angles:

  1. Our main marketing channel on Telegram might be cut off – I expected this to happen someday and it happened.


  2. Our recent experiment on monetization isn't really working out.


  3. We don't have enough traffic to do more things that would be more possible with more traffic – if we had more active users, we might have been able to prevent 1 and 2 from happening (just a hypothesis)


  4. We're burning $60/year on servers and almost a dozen $20 starbucks cards. We use the cards to incentivize students in contests to review professors and courses.

These are some of our biggest challenges yet. I'll cover more of these in detail over a series of longer form essays (i want to go in-depth on what went wrong).

We get a lot of “great job with SMUMods” from our peers. But not many know that it’s actually a work in progress. Behind the thin veil of a polished user interface, there’s all these brain sweat and tears on how to make our platform more sustainable — we need a way to monetise and grow. If we don’t grow big enough, we can’t value add students by becoming the place to be for all things student. Especially course reviews.

It's a headache and a continual struggle. I don't know whether our new approach of integrating services to become a portal would work out. We will never know until we try.

He held the phone to his chest, looked at me, and simply said, “Needs more love.” He pushed the portfolio back across his desk, smiled warmly, and shooed me out of his office. I still think about this advice, and what exactly he might have meant when he said my work needed more love. At the time, I took it to mean that I should improve my craft, but I’ve come to realize that he was speaking of something more fundamental and vital. My work was flat, because it was missing the spark that comes from creating something you believe in for someone you care about. This is the source of the highest craft, because an affection for the audience produces the care necessary to make the work well. The Shape of Design Frank Chimero

This quote has a special place in my heart now.

Thanks to everyone who were part of my day today and for being in my life. I appreciate you all. Especially my girlfriend. I'm also thankful to all the tools that were built with love, which I find pleasure in using: my MacBook, Reading Supply, Roam Research, Twitter, Safari...

Our platform just needs more love and I absolutely believe in what we are doing. We will get there on our own terms.

#1 jim (1)

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