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Ask HN: What's a side project you built to make money that hasn't?
503 points by JayNeely 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 452 comments
A friend pointed out a bunch of the 'tell us about your successful side project' threads suffer from a survivorship bias. They're still great for inspiration, but I suspect we could learn a lot about challenges and wrong approaches from each others' failures.

So what's a side project you built hoping to generate revenue from it, that hasn't actually earned you much / any money?

Why do you think it hasn't been as successful as you thought it would be / what would you do differently if you did it again? How much time/money did you spend building it, and what kind of iterations / improvements did you make to try and salvage it?

Appreciate any and all answers!




Not sure if it qualifies, as I actually managed to make money for a few months, but: MyGuestmap (now long dead) - started it in 2007, put Google Ads and some donation button. It allowed people to create their own little maps and embed them on blogs, where people could place pins and say something.

Got to 40k maps in a few months (it somehow got viral in a forum, then went from there). I even made $1k in ads one month. Some of the users included indie artists, setting up maps for fans, and diverse groups of people (there was a map for "moms of kids with cancer", for instance, which is pretty cool)

Then Google banned me for serving ads in porn sites. Then Paypal banned me (and took my funds) for taking money from shady accounts. Then my hosting service asked me to leave because they found "adult pics" on my site. A quick audit on the profile pics revealed that there were quite a few maps with porn content (including all the illegal stuff). I took stuff down as fast as I could, but never managed to get Google to pay me again. Tried my luck with a few redesigns, setting up a new adsense account (got shutdown immediately), etc. In the end, I let the domain expire and that was that. At least I didn't spend a lot of time or money on it...

Ouch.

Edit: registrar > hosting service


I know it's a rule; if a user can add content, someone will add porn, but why add porn to maps?

Were people putting a pin in and commenting with a naughty pic? What does that mean?


There were entire groups of people using it for “dating”, uploading nude photos, etc (you could upload a single photo along with your pin). I also found at least one bestiality-oriented group, with “meetups”, so... there was that. :-|


If you had the stomach for it, it would be interesting to just make it a map service for adult content. There are ad networks and billing providers that specialize in this sort of thing, and AWS allows porn (legal, that is).


Yeah, I didn’t, really (specially with all the gray and flatout illegal areas). There are providers now too (although a friend that does it tells me hosting is still impossible) - not sure about back then


> (legal, that is)

Is any major platform more restrictive than the regional law?


When I checked cloud providers' terms to see if we could build a crawling infrastrucutre for my last company, I noticed Rackspace did not allow adult content of any kind, but thst may have changed since 2011.


> Then my registrar asked me to leave because they found "adult pics" on my site.

Your domain registrar? Would any of them do this?


Sorry, I meant hosting. In hindsight, the domain was actually my best asset (it’s a PR 4 domain), so I should’ve kept that :( )


what was the name?


A google search of "myguestmap" finds articles which match the story and suggests the domain was likely http://myguestmap.lorca.eti.br/index.jsp


That was the first test box, in a friend’s personal site :) actual domain was lame: mapservices.org

I got kicked out of dreamhosting, then kept it alive on railsplayground for years (but w/o the ads/donations)

Additional curiosity tidbit: I made that product to learn Ruby on Rails - the v0 was a Java Struts/JSP, so I rewrote it as an exercise and “launched” on mine & my friends personal blogs. The internet felt a lot more viral back then, at least to me (we ended up launching two other side projects that actually got some traction too, but could never focus on or monetize)


I've maxed out a couple credit cards and spent all my severance pay etc. trying to finish building this '3D abstract visual debugger,' which I'm calling Lucidity [video]: http://symbolflux.com/projects/avd

I started working on it in 2014 and it's been on my mind ever since. I applied to YC with it a long time ago (was not accepted, and I can see so much wrong with the application I sent now...) I was laid off in November so I jumped back into the project and have been working on it since.

The main thing I'm planning on changing up now is: it's too general purpose—closer to a platform than a specific product. So next I'll focus on building one particular product on top of it: something kind of like Chrome's object browser (which you get when using console.log)—but showing dynamic structural changes in time (steppable/reversible), and being multi-language.

The other main issue is that, even though I'm trying to get it into user's hands as soon as possible, it has been a giant task for me to get even an alpha of this thing together on my own,—though I am damn close now. And my sister has been helping a bit recently.

Edit: direct link to video: https://youtu.be/KwZmAgAuIkY (looks much better full size!)


You should consider integrating this visualization in a few third party applications with a significant database component.

I'm thinking web frameworks (like WordPress) and CRMs (like SalesForce). Easy to comprehend visualization of business data is a lot more valuable than visualization of internal program data structures. If you can populate structures from 3rd party sources then you could have a valuable product.

I can see how a business would be interested in visualization of contact growth or website structure.


> Easy to comprehend visualization of business data is a lot more valuable than visualization of internal program data structures

I agree that must be true in an absolute sense, but part of the reason I'm making this is that I find visualization of internal program data to be valuable. I have other things I want to use this to help me build. But it's definitely a gamble whether I'll be able to convince many other developers that it's valuable :)

Thanks for the suggestion though. I do think it's interesting, but if I understand correctly, the volumes of data involved would require different sorts of visualization approaches, whereas I've spent lots of time specializing mine for high-level program state. For instance, the visualizations are specialized for common data structure types, and can be stepped backwards and forwards through, like in a stepping debugger. So if nothing else, I'd be very reluctant to pivot without really giving this a shot.

Let me know if I've missed anything about the kind of data you're thinking of—maybe it's more suitable than I think.


Well, I'm not sure it would be as difficult as you think to get the capability.

There are plenty of ORM libraries. I am familiar with python, so sqlalchemy etc for me, but most languages have ORM libraries now.

It could be as simple as some glue to pipe data from the 3rd party into native objects (via ORM) and then use your visualization efforts directly.

Your visualization looks smooth. It may require limiting visualization to certain fields, rather than every attribute as you would want debugging.

In my opinion, though, you've done the hard part.

And volume wise it seems you already have the ability to handle relatively large complex tree structures (I think your examples showed 500+ nodes). If you can hide/show sections dynamically then that should be sufficient for some very large structures.


maybe try to see if your tool makes it easy to understand viruses, malwares, ransomwares, etc.. Usually there is a time-race to understand how they work in order to find protections quickly. Also the code path is usually convoluted to make them hard to understand. A visualisation could be helpful and have a lot of value for clients


Very interesting idea... I'll look into this. I know nothing about the domain, so if you had any additional resource(s) that might be useful, I'd be glad to see 'em :) Thanks for the suggestion!


Cool project, with beautiful presentation!

I'm working on something similar, with similar motivation. I often need application-specific diagnostics and I haven't had a framework for building them. So I decided to make one.

I'm approaching LuaJIT diagnostics in a really similar way to you. I instrument the VM to snapshot key data structures (e.g. JIT code) and log them to a file. Then I make a UI that visualizes them as a graph. My snapshots are raw C data structures straight out of memory with only a subset of references crawled. The UI decodes the objects the same way as GDB i.e. using DWARF debug information.

LuaJIT example: https://github.com/raptorjit/raptorjit/pull/63#issuecomment-...

My main project for the tooling (early days): https://github.com/studio/studio

Anyway. Maybe our paths will cross further down the line. Looks to me like your work is more targeted, more polished, and that you are likely to find an excellent niche e.g. Redis as another commenter suggested. I am more interested in breadth i.e. object graphs are just one of many problems I am interested in and so I'm always looking for 80/20 solutions so that I can move on to the next thing.

End braindump. Once again - great work, and great presentation! Open an issue on the Studio repo if you want to share your work there some time btw :)


Hey Luke, that's very cool—first thing I've come across that seems to value visualizing that same kinds of things I think are important.

You are correct that for the moment I am attempting to be more targeted and find a good niche. My first priority is to generate some passive income so I can relax a little and work on things at a reasonable pace. From there, I have some more grand ideas for this project, though I will probably remain focused on abstractions of program state. I'm curious to see what other useful things you find to visualize—I liked the execution time/trace trees. I could definitely use that.

Thanks for the comment—feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you ever feel inclined: westoncb[at Google's email service].


Get it in front of users now. You're probably wasting your time on a tonne of things that aren't relevant.


Haha yeah... You're probably right, but I feel like it's still not quite actually usable, and just around the corner it will be. Maybe that's just how the trap feels though ;)


not probably, they are right. I fall into this trap all the time, adding these complex amazing features, that, once launched nobody uses, nobody ever asks about. The 1-2 people who find out about them are amazed, the 99% don't give a damn.

Get something working and throw it out there. Then find out what actual paying customers want, then go from there.

Although that isn't cast iron advice as early take up customers tend to be less risk adverse (they are paying for an unknown software) and perhaps more technical than others, so you run the risk of making a very technical program based on their feedback, which then when you get popular alienates users because unless they were with you from the beginning, they have no idea what half the features do, because obviously you didn't document things well enough.

Or so has been my experience, but perhaps I am an odd case, still creating desktop applications and don't give trial versions. You pay the money you can have me contactable all day and get your features added. If you haven't paid any money, then I don't care. I'll take word of mouth sales every day of the week


I'm in love with this, I have nothing constructive to add but you should be really proud of this work. Reminded me of this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pTEmbeENF4

Think you're on to something that this talk points out very well.


Thanks! That's funny, before starting at a programming job a few years ago my soon-to-be-employer (at a tiny YC startup) said to me, "you can be like our own little Bret Victor!" I should re-watch that one though since I only have a vague recollection of it. I enjoyed his "Inventing on Principle" talk quite a bit.


That video reminds me of a comic I sketched out years ago. It's about this rag tag armed group of hackers who specialize in intelligence espionage in the near future. There's a payload specialist, security specialist, data structure specialist, etc. Much of the drama unfolds in VR space where the hackers can be seen frantically querying/manipulating data structures directly by hand whilst evading detection. It's supposed to be educational as well, explaining CS topics through stories. Think the movie hackers plus GitS, but with attention to accurate portrayal of CS knowledge. It's basically my vision of what the future could be like.


As a developer, I would love to have something like this. If you can make the visualization easily traversable using simple text queries, that would make it even more useful. Heck, there is value in simply being able to query your runtime data structures anytime. So monitored data structure is in itself a very cool idea.

I highly recommend coming up with a small enough use case to ship sooner so that you can build something that users want and pay for. Also, if you can document the client/server API, other devs will write monitored data structures for you.


> If you can make the visualization easily traversable using simple text queries ...

That's a cool idea. I've been working on something similar, but that takes kind of a different angle which I like. What I have at the moment is a way of specifying filters for which properties should be displayed or not.

Yes, small enough use case... unfortunately the smallest one I can think of is MASSIVE :P

I will document the API and probably open source the client before long. Clients pretty much just send serialized Operation objects as JSON. Operations are like add/remove to/from whatever location, using a shared addressing systems for all data structures.


Redis provides data structures to be stored inside its key-value database. It also allows you to setup hooks to listen to whenever something changes. You can potentially use it to connect client/server. Wrappers around client objects will sync with Redis whenever anything changes, and your visualization tool will listen to changes in Redis to update. The advantage with this is that some aspects of your system will benefit from years of testing and thought that went into building Redis.


Oh dang, cool! I will definitely look into that. Want me to send you a message or something if I end up doing it? My email is in the contact section on my webpage.


Very interesting concept. Excellent job. As others mentioned, it can be extended in to other attractive domains than code visualization. Developer tools don't tend to be as financially rewarding.

Reminded me of a conversation with my friend over a year ago about using VR for data visualization. His son had sold a VR startup, another of his friend was working on DNA/RNA visualization with VR, and he was exploring dashboard data visualization with VR.


> it can be extended in to other attractive domains than code visualization

I'm glad people are pointing this out to me because I hadn't really given it any thought. My first instinct is that the data being visualized here is somewhat unique in how its structured—but if nothing else, once I get graph/state machine visuals in, I could see that probably being useful elsewhere.

With a lot of the dashboard kind of stuff though (which I admittedly haven't had so much exposure to), it seems like line graphs etc. are more appropriate from what I can tell.


Very slick. I see the value as a developer looking at my in memory data. Not sure on the best monetization route but nice work. A way to import JSON might be a nice feature where it could be used by non-developers to visualize data and navigating as well. Good luck with whatever path you take.


Thanks Attila! That's reassuring to hear—I've mostly gotten responses that it's unclear how it could be useful, though that may be largely due to my unclear communication. (That also relates to my older video, since I haven't shown this one to many people yet.)

As for monetizing, I'd like to sell it as a cheap utility for programmers or CS teachers (those would be two different products). If I can make enough to visit the dentist regularly and maybe just supplement with part-time grocery store work, I'll consider it a success. Of course I think it has the potential for more than that if properly executed on...


While I watched the videos I could not help but be impressed, it looks really great. Just letting you know!


Thanks! Much appreciated.


You could make some fun tutorial videos with this; I'm thinking visualizations of how basic data structures work, tree balancing, linked lists, hash tables internals, perhaps sorting algorithms, git commands...


I like your thing. It makes visualization easy for people making videos about programming. Rationalizing code can be very social. Livestreaming your programming is a thing, right? Jonathan Blow does it all the time: https://www.twitch.tv/naysayer88

Your visualizations empower the livestreaming coder.

Also all of the YouTube channels that put up tens of programming videos every month. I'd love to watch coding tutorials and courses that use that kind of visualization.


Thanks muthdra. That is definitely something I've been thinking more about with this. Initially I was just thinking university professors might want it—but what about open source project maintainers who want to introduce new programmers to their code? It would be easy for them to get visualizations of their core parts of their programs.

I haven't seen too much livestreaming, but I'll check out Jonathan Blow's now!


Nice! It would be interesting to visualize a React hierarchy this way. Is your display client using some sort of "open" protocol that you could hook other things?


That would cool!

> Is your display client using some sort of "open" protocol that you could hook other things?

Pretty much, except it's technically the server which does the rendering etc., and the clients send over information about data structures (as JSON 'operations' which say thing like add/remove to/from some position in a data structure). It probably would not be very hard to write a client which observes React programs and sends that info over.


You should re-record the entire intro video and leave out all the 'um' and 'uh's. It makes the product seem far less professional.


It's fine. What makes it seem unprofessional is the low sound quality.


Amazing job, man. You should be proud.


this looks awesome - beautiful work so far


I bet you could make money on this now, today, by creating a code consulting service, where people would come to you with "that one bug they could never fix". They would send you their code, you would go through the debugging with them, and provide them with a video of your application showing how the data moved around and explaining to them the bug. Like debugging as a service. This wouldn't scale, unless you brought on a team of consultants who were all able to use your buggy debugger, but it would be lucrative.


I made Word Nazi, which is essentially just a dirty version of Taboo (in the same way that Cards Against Humanity is a dirty version of Apples to Apples) in app form.

Lessons learned:

* I should've paid someone to do some decent graphics, turns out "minimalist aesthetic" is not the same as "no effort put in to design"

* Making it a free demo, with the full game available as an in-app-purchase, sounds like a good deal for the user but in actuality sets off peoples' "IAP == crapware" alarm

On the upside, I also made a fake corporate website (http://ineptech.com) to promote it and that was so much fun that I'd probably waste all that time again.


For those checking out the ineptech site, please don't miss the poetry compiler joke! It's the bit I'm the most proud of. It's in an unlinkable modal so actually I'll just paste it here:

    Upon a stack of bits, about so tall,           // Boolean[] isprime = new Boolean[n];
    just think, O traveller, what we could do      // Arrays.fill(isprime, true);
    if every other bit was set to false            // for (int i = 4; i < n; i+=2)
    beginning with (but not including) two?        //   isprime[i] = false;
    
    Now take two lowly numbers, A and B            // for (int a = 3; a < n; a += 2)
    that equal three and two. What would happen    // {
    if they, by twos and ones respectively,        //   for (int b = 2; a*b < n; b++)
    were incremented in a nested fashion,          //   {
    
    And if we falsified, at every turn,            //     isprime[a*b] = false;
    the value offset by A groups of Bs?            //   }
    Then to the aether let those bits return,      // }
    to fly back home to Eratosthenes!              // return isprime;
(You may have figured out that I put a lot more time in to the silly programmer jokes in the fake site than in to the app. Wonder why it never took off...)


Very creative, congrats.

The fact that you made it a poem, reminds me of some extempore poems that I made up as a kid - inspired by reading a book that my uncle bought me as a gift - The Golden Book of Fun and Nonsense [2]. It had a lot of funny poems, limericks, etc. in it.

Here are two I made up at the time:

Poem 1:

Mr. Jolly had a brolly [1]

Its handle was made of silver, and its body was made of gold.

And Mr. Jolly used the brolly when it was very cold.

[1] Brolly is a Brit term for umbrella.

Poem 2:

I climbed up a mountain.

There I saw a fountain.

One, two, three, four, five!

In it I'd like to dive.

Go ahead, laugh. It's meant to be funny and silly.

I'll also mention a few good ones I read in that book:

Into the drinking well

Which the plumber built her.

Aunt Eliza fell.

We must buy a filter.

Old Father William:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Are_Old,_Father_William

[2] The book is suitable for kids of all ages:

https://www.google.com/searchq=the+golden+book+of+fun+and+no...



This is very, very nicely done. You can rightly be proud of that.


> End-user computers typically include many gigs of porn and mp3s. Remember to make your test environment as realistic as possible!

That made me laugh so hard. Man. Great site.


+1 for jokes in code. I have a thesaurus plugin with an ASCII T-Rex in the source.


You'd probably appreciate the ascii pterodactyl in the source of http://theoatmeal.com


That's my inspiration ;)


Hahah ! I am looking to incorporate this in my code now with due credit :P


Code poetry is drastically underappreciated. I truly enjoyed this.


That's an awesome website. Some highlights:

>Here is a small sampling of our Services offerings:

>GUID duplication

>Lamp stacking

>Despondency injection

>We're hiring! If you're a best-in-breed, 10x, full-stack rock star, we want to talk to you about joining our "posse". Here's what we're looking for:

>Senior Java Developer - Develop 15-20 Senior Javas per day

Maybe you should try to monetize fake companies instead. You're good at it.


Thank you! I had a ton of fun with that, so there are a lot of cute details to find. (For example, check out where the social media "share" buttons on the blog posts go)


I'll second you've got a potential second career in comedy writing, my coworkers and I are currently nearly in tears reading this. Thanks for the Friday laughs.


Thank you so much! I guess I should've posted it somewhere sooner...


That website would be a great portfolio example if you wanted to write for a show like Silicon Valley...


I'm with you on that. The author is doing some great parodies. They should look into how people monetize such humor since it's the strong point. Only if author can keep it going, though.


Congratulations on making this awesome fake website. I had a shit ton of fun going through it. You'd be a rockstar copywriter, if you are not one already.


I'm a QA guy, which may come out in some of the jokes, e.g.:

Ineptech CEO Dick Hallerson wishes to apologize for describing the Quality Assurance group as a "necessary evil." Mr. Hallerson did not mean to imply that QA is necessary.


That is an amazing website. I particularly enjoyed your blog, especially the sharing buttons! :)


The Scrum Master job description totally cracked me up - Champion agile methodologies, hunt down and eliminate remaining waterfall advocates


That site is one of the funniest things I've read in a while. Thank you!


I really wanted to check out your website.

However, I think you just exceeded your hoster's bandwidth quota...(error message when I try to access it).


Whoops! Did not expect just being in the comments of a post to /. it that bad. It's hosted with a friend on a not-so-modern platform so the bandwidth limit is not that high.

Back up now, and I broke the path to the silly stock photos, should help keep it up.


Shit I missed it. It says bandwidth exceeded. Can you bring the site back up....

Cursing myself for not checking hackernews more often...


> spline reticulation

Classic. I miss simcopter


I built http://start9.io three years ago - the idea was to somehow manage to show video game publishers that a 'professional' vintage gaming platform was something that could attract users. I wanted it to be the Netflix of the retrogaming.

Unfortunately, I never managed to find cofounders that were as much motivated as I was - each one I worked with was working on it as a hobby more than anything else, and I usually had to tell them what to do, which was exhausting considering I was the only developer to develop such a big beast. Adding marketing on top of that was just too much. We still applied to Y Combinator with the last cofounder I worked with, but he wasn't really ready to move to another continent for the project and quickly started looking for excuses to drop it. He got one when we ended up not being selected :) We're still friends, but I learned that it's hard finding people to build things.

I'm still extremely proud of this project, tho. Both technically and humanly, I learnt so many things! And the project is still running without needing much maintenance, so I guess it's still a success in some way. Plus, it helped me to find jobs, since people are usually a bit impressed when you can explain to them in interview how gameboys work under the hood ... :)


FYI, PICO-8 [1] is a similar commercial project AFAICT. Maybe you're right that there is a market there.

[1] https://www.lexaloffle.com/pico-8.php


I'm sure there is! Sega announced last month that it would be releasing its catalogue online[1], and let's not forget the success of the SNES Mini, released last year. I was just on the market too soon, and especially without any connection to the people that could make the dream come true (hence why we applied to Y Combinator - more than the money, the network would have helped us). Oh well. :(

[1] https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/21/15846752/sega-forever-net...


To clarify, NES Mini was last year, SNES Mini is this year's sequel.


PICO8 was my first thought too


This is beautiful. What exactly is preventing you from monetizing through ads? Also, did you post the site on r/gaming and /v/?


There was three issues that prevented monetization:

- The userbase cannot grow enough without publisher, because the requirement of asking people to upload their rom is too much complex for most people.

- With no publisher by my side, I fear advertisers will not invest in a platform that is on the grey side of the legality (Start9 is legal, since we clearly state everywhere that only people uploading their own roms can use the service, but some might see this differently). Especially for the low amount of user (cf issue #1).

Everything comes down to publishers ...

The bitter part of this is that some people put together shitty implementations of this concept, but without any vision, any regard for the legality of the project, or even the future of the platform. They just make an html page with a flash emulator, add a bunch of porn and/or blackjack ads on the thing, and call it a day. They certainly bring more money than Start9, and they'll never get shut down by Nintendo ... go figure.


This idea is awesome. What language(s) did you use? And it saves your games and can be played from anywhere with an internet connection?


Yup! Languages and frameworks: Angular (1.2.X) for the client-side code, Node with a custom framework for the server-side code, and C/C++ for the emulators (then compiled to asm.js).

The initial emulators were handmade in Javascript, but the asm.js-compiled ones ended up much faster in practice.


Makes sense. What kind of help you are looking for in a cofounder? Technical or business?


I was mainly looking for a business cofounder that could contact the older development studio owners to suggest them a deal so that we could start offering a kind of "All-Access" plan (à-la Google Music, Spotify, etc) to be able to play games without having to physically own them. Advertisement was also a track I was exploring, as you can see with the side menu that shows news from Polygon. I figured that with a big enough userbase, online magazines would be interested in being showcased in a proeminent place, while still adding value to our proposition (users of such a platform would probably be very interested by those articles).


To own a firearm in Canada you have to pass a certain test. I made a simple quiz app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ca2.testprojec...) that would help people prepare for that test. My main goal was to learn how to make apps. It did generate revenue in the beginning but it was enough to buy coffee a few times a week. Then the government updated the firearm regulations and now everyone has to take a mandatory course before they write the test.

This change effectively made my somewhat useful app almost completely useless, at least in my eyes, because now there's little incentive to self study.

I could have tried harder to market it but I'm glad I left it alone.

Lessons learned: - Politics suck. Any business related to firearms is going to be vulnerable to government regulations. - Money matters. Once you start charging for something, you automatically feel the need to deliver a product of higher caliber. You also get immediate validation on whether or not your idea is worth it and how much it could be worth.


For confused non-Canadians: To "write the test” is to take it.

Even knowing that tidbit I forgot on my first read and so thought YOU as the author of the application now needed to take a course.


I took an A+ Hardware at a state college and it didn't even tell us about the certificate test. I'm actually still not certified and am training myself for CompTIA idiosyncrasies using test preps like yours...


Even with the mandatory course, are failure rates too low to make it worth pursuing as a simple study aid? Assuming pass/fail stats are even available.


It's still useful to some people (works offline, quick/easy access to important info, less to cram in your head during the course) but it's a small part of an already small niche. Population of Canada is 10x smaller than the US and not as firearm friendly.


If the questions are anything like the theoretical test when you are getting a driving license, your app can still be useful.


Expand the app so it complies with the mandatory course requirements. Now you are selling the mandatory course as an app.


I built Thrail (https://thrail.io) 6 months ago wanting to solve my own difficulty to find and book quality outdoors activities in a certain area, especially when coming to a new place (tourism or recent relocation).

I think there are multiple reasons why it wasn't successful as I believed it might be, most importantly because I built something without first researching the market enough, and failure to do so got me building something which wasn't very helpful to people.

Another important issue was marketing. I'm developer myself, and even though I tried my best to get the word out there, the results weren't as good as I imagined they would be, on one side because I had no idea what I was doing, and on the other, because I didn't spend enough money on higher quality marketing.

I spent couple of months building it but I don't regret that time -- although this conclusion is probably specific to my personal situation at the time, where I had just closed the shop on my own development agency of 3+ years and wanted to get a break by working on something fun. Additionally, out of all the "weekend projects" I started over the years, this was the first one I actually "finished", and that means something to me, regardless of the outcome.

If I get into something similiar in the near future, I would definitely pay much more attention to the aspect of getting the feedback to build something people actually want to use. And marketing, definitely marketing.


My friend owns a local outdoor recreation equipment/rental/guide shop. He actually said he'd kill for an app like yours based primarily on location. He and his wife like to go on road trips and seeing which areas have more activities available would help them prioritize where to explore. He cited the maps in the MTB Project mobile app as a baseline interface--the shortcoming with that one being that it's too narrowly focused on biking.

He's also big in the local Chamber of Commerce and said that lots of Chambers are willing to spend money to position their town as outdoor-friendly.


Marketing is hard. Is there some kind of service out there where marketers will help you sell your app for a share of revenue?

I'm not trolling here, just in case I've missed a really obvious one


I haven't come across anything similiar to what you're suggesting, although I'd probably be very interested in opportunities like that.

The closest thing I found to something like that was Simbi (https://simbi.com) but I hesitated to make an actual step forward as I never heard or read of anyone going down that route and wasn't sure if that was the "right way" to do it.


Crowd Supply[0] is one service that I know of. Mainly focused on crowd-sourced projects.

[0] https://www.crowdsupply.com/


Affiliate marketing is the thing, I guess.


This project looks very interesting and monetizeable (by reaching out to venues for very targeted advertising).

One thing that doesn't seem quite right though.

Shouldn't location, not activity, be the first bit of information requested from the user?


>This project looks very interesting and monetizeable (by reaching out to venues for very targeted advertising).

Yeah, that was the idea -- provide a high quality database of outdoors activities to the end users and then charge the providers / venues a fee for some extended information etc. But in order to even approach the providers / venues I had to have some kind of traction from the end users, which I failed to achieve.

>One thing that doesn't seem quite right though. >Shouldn't location, not activity, be the first bit of information requested from the user?

At the beginning I wasn't sure how to pull off the location filter nicely (should I use HTML5 geolocation, Gmaps geolocation, simple dropdown etc.) and just went without it but I have received this same piece of feedback more than once so I might go and add that, just for kicks.


I would say, explicitly enter zip code as a first approximation. Easy and not something people generally have an issue with (they can enter work or nearby). The site put me in California, which I am not. I think you could get better traction with more accuracy, and zipcode will do it.

That and an easy way to add your favorite venue near you (since it looks like there is only one venue in the US outside of CA).

Visually and concept wise it looks interesting. I bet there are outdoor adventure meetups in most cities that would be interested.


Thimble for Mac ( https://thimblemac.com )

It's a plugin to bring gesture-shortcuts to graphic design tools (Sketch, Photoshop, etc.). I've worked on it in bursts of my spare time for a few years, and took a break from development the past several months. At some point I started calling it more of a 'passion project' because I just really wanted to see other forms of UI in the world outside of the sandboxes of gaming, and a hope that it'd maybe serve as some portfolio piece in trying to work as a software developer/designer.

At the moment I'm trying to motivate myself to work on it again, partly because even in a touch-bar age I still find myself using it. Yet at the same time need to figure out how to get it past a beta phase and to a point where I'm more comfortable marketing it.

The hardest thing is trying to find time/motivation, it's easy to endure isolation and keep the day job when you're excited with the product and haven't gotten feedback yet. It gets vastly harder once you start wanting more of a social life again and the numbers so far haven't made it seem like a product worth going full-time on.


The way your product is presented on your site is excellent!

Take heed people, this is how you explain a product.


This looks awesome. Have you done any head-to-head speed tests of trying to complete identical sets of tasks with Thimble vs. traditional mouse and keyboard?


I could see that being pretty successful if you finish it. good luck!


Thanks! It's technically available as a beta, right now I send invites by hand to whoever signs up.


this looks really good!


Spent about three calendar months (logged 120 hours IIRC) and few hundred EUR building a simple hardware product- small dongle to stream drone telemetry over WiFi (MAVLink to WiFi bridge).

Could sell just 5 of them, still have about 30 in stock, so commercial failure, but at least got two things out of it:

1) Bragging rights about having sold something to large aerospace organisation. 2) Finished something from start to finish.


> 2) Finished something from start to finish.

Solid!


I wrote a javascript compiler. At the time (2000), it was twice as fast as Microsoft's and 20 times faster than Netscape's. I was correct in anticipating that js speed would become very important, but my implementation was ahead of its time and didn't get any traction.

It has since been rewritten in D and is Open Source:

https://github.com/DigitalMars/DMDScript


Is it still compliant to the EcmaScript spec? Whats the latest spec it is compliant to? And how fast is it now compared to V8, etc...


ECMA 3. Haven't run any benchmarks lately.


How did you expect to make money off it? Acquihire by one of the browser vendors?


License it to one of the browser vendors. I did do a few licenses, but the trouble was I knew how to reach a mass market, but the market for js engines was small and only large companies. I struggled with that.

It's still quite a good scripting engine, if you want to, for example, have scripting in your IDE so users can extend it. JS is a good language for that.


I've build complex app for managing vineyards and wineries. It has tons of features: time tracking, input tracking, harvest and production features, mapping, tons of budget/cost analysis.

It turned out, it is hard to convince farmers to ditch their trusty excel sheets and notepads and start typing all those info into computer program. I managed to find few customers, but they haven't stick for longer than one year.

I spent about one year of fulltime work (spread over two years). I always tried to expand the product: I started with vineyard management software, then add the production part and then started coding all the CRM, POS and warehouse management. I hoped to attract more users with more complex solution, but I was wrong.

After three years I am still using it daily (I do own winery), but I am only active user right now and I did give up trying to sell it. I do some occasional development, from time to time when I need something in my farm, but thats it.


This is a common mistake: building a product based on assumptions, and not on the market's demand. I've learned not to add a feature before I have someone who paid an advance. Secondly: your product might be to overwhelming and doing to much; experience has thought me that complicated products are a though sell. Try to reduce it to it's most basic use-case, and sell that (a simple app that doesn't require any explanation at all). Once you have paying customers you'll be able to upsell by offering your more advanced features. People are reluctant to change, so you need to expose them gradually.


>This is a common mistake: building a product based on assumptions, and not on the market's demand. I've learned not to add a feature before I have someone who paid an advance.

I first came across this sort of advice here:

The Montana Mogul: RightNow CEO Greg Gianforte (Part 1)

http://www.sramanamitra.com/2008/07/31/the-montana-mogul-rig...

Interesting story. RightNow was later sold to Oracle, IIRC, for a good amount.

Greg used a similar technique to what you advise.


The part of the interview series about Brightwork (Greg's first startup) and their telesales process and why McAfee acquired them, is also interesting.


Thanks for the tip!


You are right. I am currently building another product, which is lite version of what I have and which is applicable to broader market: not just wine farmers, but all farms and consttuction companies.


How does it handle payments, payable/receivable etc (if applicable)? I have found that in these cases often times the software handles the operations well, but the business logic is still tied up in legacy POS and things like this which makes the software more of a nice to have than a "I'll just do it the old way". I'd also be curious about the UX (am a designer)


Product integrated with 4 major accounting systems, so it was more like frontend for those legacy stuff. Major thing was warehouse/logistics system which was my own.

In wine business thats quite complex thing: you might want to sell bulk wine, you might blend different stock together or bottle one lot in multiple times. There is strict requirements by govt about declaration of those thing. Each country qlso have different requirements and reporting formats.


I've build a wine tasting event app a couple month ago. Replacing the tasting sheet for tasting events with a simple web app to make it easier for the organizer to collect and analyze feedback and market after the tasting.

Got a few hundred users but no real traction yet :-/


Can you share a link? Would like to check it out.


https://www.viaromy.com/

Still 'beta' but you can signup under /signup/ Please share feedback :)


Did you figure out why customers would leave? I've been thinking about doing something in the "most people use a spreadsheet" space and hearing that people went back to it after a year of using a dedicated product is a little worrying.


I have a similar story - one of our products at $DAYJOB is a kind of CRM/ERP SaaS for a specific niche.

It pays its way, but at a huge cost of time spent on support and maintenance. When non-trivial feature requests come in, we can't feasibly drop everything else for long enough to implement it. We signal this by asking the customer to pay a lot (compared to our SaaS subscription price). Usually this dissuades them.

Every so often, we lose a customer -> support dies down -> we can add some real direction and features to the product -> we gain more customers -> we get swamped under support and maintenance. The cycle continues. I don't know what the solution is.

With spreadsheets, the customer can always fall back to cobbling together a new report or visualization by themselves.


It was hard to get all the company to use it. If you use it just for small subset than it is not that valuable.

Say you are tracking work done in vineyard, but nothing else. Then your calculation of price of produce is off, because you havent add the price of input. There are multiple roles in the company and they are usualy using they own systems for reporting.

Also quite a lot of production tracking have to be done on paper using special notepad with marked pages (another funny story) and people dont want to do this bookkeeping twice.


Is this a web app or a desktop app?


web app and unfinished mobile app (native iOS)


I do some beer homebrewing and (fairly or not) my first thought was of the BeerBug digital hydrometer, which was a temperature/density meter that wirelessly synced to an online service. The problem was that the website was the only way to read the data. And then the website went down for months :-/ . I didn't buy it but the whole debacle made me suspicious of depending on online services for brewing.


I'd suggest you might have more luck with a desktop app. Could wrap your existing web app with Electron or Sciter to avoid needing to rewrite the GUI. Businesses need to know they can rely on the software they use, and that's an easier sell when they can run it on their own hardware. I'd suggest a better business model is a relatively low cost for the software but charge for an optional support subscription.


I spent a couple years building https://infiniquest.org in my spare time. This is a site where you can both create and play interactive fiction games, using an engine I built entirely from scratch. I mainly built it to prove to myself I could complete a large project start to finish. I also had the motivation that my son and I could make games for each other, but by the time I finished, he was big into Minecraft and had no interest in text adventure games. :D I had hoped to make some income with it thru ads and paid features, but I never tried too hard to build up a user base, and now it sits there largely unmaintained for the last several years. Last year I completed a proof-of-concept integrating it with the Amazon Echo - that was kinda neat, but there's a lot of work to be done to finish and polish it... and considering there were no users to begin with, I lacked the motivation to undertake that.


Whoah... That just gave me an idea... An Alexa app to run d&d games!

It sounds awesome though, as do most of the projects in this thread. I'll be bookmarking it.


omg That is an awesome idea. I feel like it would be really fun to write and super entertaining to shout at a robot DM when things go pear-shaped.


I have a project which may never generate revenue, despite the fact I spent 2 months after hours working on it. I did a dumb thing and dove directly into the project without first finding a fit or customer base for it.

More or less, it's a scheduling application that allows a user to set when they're open and allow anyone to book that time for however much the original scheduler valued that slot of their schedule. It's a good base application, but without customers, it's wasted potential and engineering time. Guess I'll add a link: https://kronikl.io

There is an added benefit that I built up a lot of custom Vue components and flask modules which can be added to later projects (braintree painments, address inputs, settings pages, &c.), so I'm not considering it a complete loss.

I've decided to pivot most of my time to a more marketing based approach for the time being and, once customers role in, tailor the solution to their needs.


Due to a bizarre series of accidents one of my hobbies is taking picture of escorts, for their websites. (Getting paid as a photographer is hard, and they're a consistent and reliable group of people who are willing & able to do so.)

If you're not averse to the niche scheduling appointments for such people could be an interesting thing to work on. That could cover both men/women working "at home", and those who are going on tours to various cities (something that is pretty common).

Depending on where you're based this might be an immediate non-starter, but I've talked to a lot of people who hate the established publishing platforms, and scheduling is a recurring source of pain I hear about.


Feedback: bad name, but VERY bad homepage. Nobody wants to ready paragraphs to understand what a product does. SHOW US the product.

The basic pitch you described here sounds good, but compare your homepage with others in a related space: https://youcanbook.me/ or calendly.com/ or https://clarity.fm/


This.

The first thing I did is go to the page to see if what it does. I know what it claims to do, but the actual mechanics matter.

And then I want to know how much it costs.

Without those two, I might as well use a competitor that lets me see what it does and for how much.


It looks good, it's a great idea. I really think you have a bad name for it. It seems hard to spell, and the name seems more related to diary entries than billing time.

I think there's a lot of professional services that could use it, say photographers, psychologists, etc.

That said, I could see a service where experts (think node.js and others) could put a badge on their blog site and answer questions for an hour while getting paid for it. That would be something I might use if I can get an hour of an experts time (even if it cost me $50-$100) to get some information from an expert. So instead of me taking 8 hours to learn information, I can learn that info in 1 hour. It seems like a bargain.


This sounds like clarity.fm


Two months after hours doesn't seem like a waste of time if you actually finished it. I've spent FAR longer on projects that have never seen the light of day :)


Try 2 years ( not every month/ evening)


Pick a niche market: hairdressers, dentists,...

Setup a customised website/landing page directly targeted at these people from your home town and try to get their attention and feedback. Be polite but determined: send an email, call over the phone and meetup.

Selling a generic product nobody knows is hard, so try to become #1 in your vicinity for a certain niche, and make sure all your marketing material is focused on that niche. Once you're the reference in that niche expand vertically or horizontally. Repeat ad infinitum. Combine your outbound marketing with proper inbound marketing, and after a while you'll gain traction and leads will start dripping in slowly but consistent.

Don't offer free trails, but tell them they can get your product at a reduced rate forever. Free customers are hard to convert to paying customers, so charge them something (even if it's peanuts). You can always upsell later.

Gradually increase your prices for your new customers as you expand your market. Keep old customers at their old price; it will take them feel special and reduce churn. At the perfect price point people will complain it's too expensive, but buy anyway.

After you've done this (I'd assume it will take anywhere from 6 months to a year) you will probably already have a long term vision in how to proceed.


my inlaws would never be able to type in or remember "kronikl.io". They would go to "cranikal.com" and their browser would be infected by malware and their computer would die and I would get a call in the middle of the night.


This is all part of my master plan to have y'all trapped in a vicious cycle of using my product


I gotta tell ya, every X months I think it would be a good idea if there was a turnkey scheduling app for customers to subscribe to a person, with recurring payments, etc., as a way for people not to be beholden to maid-service type sites that take a cut. Of course, hosting and maintenance might balance out the cut that a service site would take, but I do wonder if there's value in the self-hosted independence angle.


I wanted to do something similar a while back, but stopped because I was still too new to coding.

I think it's an excellent idea, you just need to narrow down your market and update the design accordingly. Doctors, hairdressers, physios... lots of people are looking for something like this.

Make an embeddable plugin version for WordPress and physically go shop it around to potential customers. Show them and get feedback.


You have a solid start of an idea. You just need to flesh out the rest of the canvas: https://www.creatlr.com/template/UOLHsfqGrLzugzVVttoi1e/busi...


I'd have no idea what your product does from looking at the website.

I'd suggest putting the app right on the homepage, so that people can set it up immediately, like this popular group scheduling app: http://doodle.com/


You have a huge market for this. Doctors, accountants, barbers, hairstylers, every occupation that needs an appointment could use this. This replaces the person whom answers the phone so the business can keep rolling.


Consensus seems to be an awful name :)


you named it after something a developer would use (kool name, missing letters, ending in .io) instead of something a plumber or coach would use (catchy ending in .com)


Hmm, this is going to get depressing. Oh well. Here goes.

I think my main problem is that I create solutions that are great for my problems.

Flaming Notes[0] - iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Web game to learn music notation. Total revenue: 10 USD over 2 years.

MelloNote[1] - Android app to sync audio files with text (lyrics, guitar chords, etc). Think 4-track subtitles that can be used by a band. Earnings: 6 USD in 1 year.

Tasktopus[2] - Desktop kanban app (Windows, Mac and Linux). Earnings: 500 USD in 1 year.

See N Tell[3] - A web-based sentence construction game to help 5-10 year-olds to learn words via images from Google Image Search. Earnings: 0

[0]: http://www.adhyet.com/flamingnotes

[1]: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.adhyet.mel...

[2]: https://gumroad.com/l/ADWm/tasktopus

[3]: https://seentell.me


having my son play with seentell.me - he's 5 going into first grade.

Update: he loved it and wanted to keep playing - "I want to do more! I like the music!"


Hey, awesome. Let me know what he thinks of it.

Update:

Glad he liked it :-) Now I have 2 satisfied customers.

BTW, you can create your own custom lesson plan by clicking the Settings button. That will take you to https://seentell.me/settings.


seentell is fantastic, I will definitely start using it for my son. I like the custom cards too.


Thanks for the feedback.

Do let me know how your son likes it.


I created https://SauceNAO.com, a primarily anime focused reverse image search engine in 2008. While it's purpose has never really been to make money per se, it's been extremely expensive to operate.

It's been pretty successful usage wise, but paying users are another matter entirely. Donations and account upgrades keep the lights on, barely covering the hosting costs of the main collocated front-end server, but lack of funds is a constant struggle. I've spent tens of thousands over the years on hardware and hosting costs, and expenses keep going up as coverage expands. As for why, I guess there's just not enough of a reason to upgrade at the moment. Free is hard to beat, I'm my own best competitor.

The site's current design is basic to say the least, and the account creation page does not leave users feeling especially comfortable about the site. Everything about everything needs polish.

Related to that, I'm almost finished with a redesigned and much nicer looking front-end, but that probably won't magically solve all my problems. ;)


Kill the free site.


If making money ever became critical, of course severely limiting or stopping free access would be an option. I've really enjoyed seeing the site grow over the years though, and killing off free access would almost certainly hamper that growth. Not to mention the effect it would have on the internet at large: Even more source requests everywhere! No one wants that~


Just saw the website, wow so basic!

thumbs up


I built Dependabot (https://dependabot.com), a service that checks your dependencies are up-to-date every morning and creates pull requests for you if they're not. Intention was to make dependency management suck less, whilst also adding a bit of runway to a bigger startup I wanted to do.

* Spent 2 months building it - much longer than I'd thought. The work required to get from a prototype (2 days) to a SaaS product (2 months) was way bigger that I'd thought. So much polish, and so many edge cases to consider when the client goes from "you" to "anyone else". Lesson: building something for other people takes a lot longer than building something for yourself.

* Tried to launch on Hacker News but failed to get any attention. Our blog post on "10 years of Rubysec data analysed" never made it off the "newest" page, despite being pretty solid content (spent two days building a Jupyter Notebook so anyone could replicate our results, etc.). Was a big psychological hit at the time. Lesson: there's lots of randomness in launches - don't rely on them to much.

* Thought GitHub Marketplace would list us and help with distribution, but it's been extremely hard to persuade them to. The jury is still out on this one, but they (understandably) want us to have lots of users before they invest in even assessing the app. Lesson: don't rely on the goodwill of third parties - unless you've got something they want/need, you'll be stumped if they decide they're not interested.

I haven't given up yet, and I still really believe in the product, but it's been a much harder journey than expected! Marketing has been by far the toughest part, and I don't have a solution to it yet.


Regarding the blog post: it's simply a numbers game: the odds that one of a hundred articles picks up momentum is way larger then the odds of one blog post picking up momentum. Sometimes it's better to spend the time you'd invest in one great article on ten articles instead. Or write a hundred great articles, and you're very likely to have success.

Regarding the marketing part: if my own start-up learned me anything, it's that great marketing can launch a mediocre product, but if you have mediocre marketing, your product will need to be extremely good to gain any traction.

TL;DR: business requires hard work, and shortcuts usually don't work. Outliers and survivorship bias apply to the posts that claim otherwise.


That's pretty cool, I have been thinking of building something similar, but for Python. How hard is it to add new languages?

What is the tech stack?

Does it cost much to keep it running?


Thanks!

Adding new languages is as easy as the package manager makes it... which is normally still quite hard! The core logic for Dependabot is open-source here, including all the language-specific logic for Ruby, JS and PHP, and a starter (lots of work still required) for Python: https://github.com/gocardless/bump-core.

For the app itself, we used Ruby (because we'd built the original core gem, which was https://github.com/gocardless/bump, in Ruby at a work hackathon years ago).

Costs under £50 a month to keep running at the moment, creating about 2,000 PRs a month. We could really do with getting it into the GitHub marketplace so we can start charging people and cover those costs!


It already exists for Python: https://pyup.io/


As someone in this space, I think you're approach this wrong. You find early users by hand, reaching out to people you know have this problem and asking them to use the product (you would typically do this before even making it work properly as a SaaS product).

Jessica Livingston says it better than me: http://foundersatwork.posthaven.com/why-startups-need-to-foc...


Thanks Paul, big fan of CircleCI.

Great link, and I totally agree with that lesson. Side project feels like a good way to have learnt it!


You might try marketing this to security teams, I know dependencies are a big concern for them.


Thanks for the advice! Security is definitely a big angle here - not only do dependency updates often include patches for known vulnerabilities, they're also the least likely to be affected by future vulnerabilities.

We wrote a blog post about it here: https://dependabot.com/blog/the-latest-dependency-version-is...


Cat Game Aquarium - an iPad app for cats

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cat-game-aquarium/id56449037...

I've had this iPad app up and running for about 4 and a half years - I don't think I've broken even yet on the amount I paid an artist for the graphics for the app. I did the coding for it myself.

RobotBridge PDF Conversion as a service (API)

https://market.mashape.com/jefflinwood/robotbridge-pdf-conve...

This service is pretty straightforward, and has users, but doesn't really cover the server costs. On my list of things to do is to switch it from PhantomJS to headless Chrome, and then to migrate the server.


I built a large inventory, product management, CRM, channels management etc etc system. The idea is to integrate all the non-talking and buggy systems needed to run a small e-commerce business (most small e-commerce companies are using money-losing systems and "fixing" the issues with Macro-enabled Excel books). It was also open-source because there is zero way I'd ever take the whole market alone.

The idea, I think, is sound. I worked on the system for over a year, and there are many interesting ideas. The big problem is that it took way more resources to launch than I could ever do alone. I would need sales, support, sysadmin, developers, designers, etc. Everyone calls it my billion-dollar idea, but I truly couldn't and can't do it alone.

The lesson learned is, think big, but not so big you can't handle the work-load. If you are working every day and falling behind two days, the side project is far too large.

https://github.com/dt1/itemhut


Find an entry into a market, and don't offer the world, but figure it their most painful integration point and fix that. Find multiple customers for that single integration point before you even start building anything. You need to learn to walk before you can start running: baby steps and validation after every step make sure that you only risk wasting your last step, as opposed to the whole journey.


Anywhere we can read about all the features and functionality?


http://clickrouter.com

I built it because of a need and it's worked fabulously. It's hands down doubled my monthly affiliate revenue (i.e. to be clear, that's in the 4 figures).

I think where it failed however is that it's really hard to explain and I sure haven't cracked it. I get a few signups a day, few use it at all.

It's not for everyone - but it definitely works for me and it would work for anyone in the same boat (someone who needs to affiliatize hundreds/thousands of outgoing links)


This is not a product that I'm interested in, but may I provide some feedback on your website?

It took me a little while to understand what Clickrouter does. The very first line, "Monetize Outbound Clicks", contributed a lot to my confusion. It made me think that maybe you were just a frontend to e.g. Amazon's affiliate program.

It was only when I read Step 4 of "How's it work" that I understood what it did: "Watch ClickRouter route each click to your best (i.e. most profitable) merchant network every time !"

I would've been much happier if the very first line was something like "Maximise your revenue by automatically using the best affiliate links."

Straight away I know _why_ I should be interested in your product, and how it works.


Love the idea of this. I've never done affiliate links or anything before but I'm getting ready to launch a site that has some affiliate links sprinkled in here and there.

Will for sure give this a shot.


I'd add something about before and after behavior. What does a prospective user already have that they're going to affiliatize, bare Amazon (or wherever) links? And then does it take bare Amazon links, affiliate them to Amazon or search for other sites that have the same product?

I suppose people in the affiliate game would already know this stuff, but there's a lot of dumb people like me who might see it as a way to get into affiliate stuff easily.


BTW http://clickrouter.com redirects to https://clickrouter.com. And this has a warning from chrome "This page is trying to load scripts from unauthenticated sources".


I think a lot of it could come down to trust, part of the great thing about multiple affiliate networks is your eggs aren't all in one basket. By using your product all of their income relies upon your service working. That's what'd put me off anyway.


FYI, you're listed as "malicious" and blocked by the lists used by the Barracuda Web Filter.


https://zonewatcher.com After having multiple clients change their DNS settings without warning and then email us when shit hits the fan I knew I needed some type of warning system. This checks every X minutes and saves each version so you can see the revision history for all your DNS zones across many providers.

I make ~$50 a month right now with it, which is enough to cover the hosting. I haven't really marketed it much beyond my twitter circle of friends but hopefully others will find it useful.

It took about 3 weekends worth of work to complete and is based on Laravel Spark.


Signed up to paid plan, thanks. This is something I had looked for previously.

Some suggestions (only because I really want you to succeed!):

- Please consider the use case where I want to protect against a domain having its nameservers changed at the registrar. I don't think you currently handle that case, as e.g. pulling the NS records from Route53 will always show Route53 as the authoritative NS, which may not match what the registrar says. This is actually the main feature I want.

- I couldn't find docs or advice regarding how alerting or notifications work. I don't even know if I will receive alerts.

- Please support "plain" DNS-based checks. As in, ability to add a zone and add a number of records (e.g. MX) that I want checked and it is done via DNS protocol query to the authoritative NS.

- Fix the "flash of not-yet-parsed-by-Angular content" that appears on the signup page, it's pretty jarring on a medium latency connection

- For the credit card form, I had some misgivings about putting my details in until I dove into the HTML of the page to check that you weren't sending the card details to your own server. Maybe add a "powered by Stripe" icon or something.


Thanks for the feedback. I’ll get those changes integrated :)


You don't charge enough.


You're probably right. What would you see as fair pricing for say the large plan which is currently $10/mo?


I would potentially consider per-domain pricing. $5 dollar/month/domain for under 100 domains, $2.5 dollar/month/domain for under 1000 domains, and if people want to use more than 1000 domains they should contact you and work out a deal specific to them.


Price tranches are good because they make expenses easily predictable while still providing some operational flexibility. That's especially good for enterprise customers with finance teams.

They can also make good money if you set the boundaries right. If a lot of your customers have ~30 domains, a boundary at 25 might make you more money than per-domain pricing.

I would also look to see if you can add failover as a feature. With the recent DDOS attacks against DNS providers, a lot of companies are considering failover planning for DNS who previously ignored that. To really hit big bucks with this, you will need to integrate with bigger DNS providers like Dyn, UltraDNS, etc.

I agree that you're not charging enough. Keep the free level but then I would charge at least a dollar per domain.


Back in 2007, I made neverplayalone.com to find activity partners. Within a few days of launch, someone pointed out three things - Meetup was gaining traction, URL sounded risqué, and never to use negative words like never in the URL.

In 2010-11, I worked on lug-it.com to let people carry stuff in their luggage for others. It leveraged FB's social graph to engender trust. I just wasn't ready to market and grow the user base because my cofounder decided that he was going to be the "vision" guy and I was going to do all the work.

I launched a couple of iOS apps one of which got thousands of downloads in a month but since it was very niche (BLE/iBeacon related), I stopped working on it.


>let people carry stuff in their luggage for others

There is no possible way that could go wrong. Especially when TSA or Customs asks: "Are you carrying anything for someone else?"

Then you go on to explain, "Oh yeah, I am, but I know them. They are paying me to do it."


Well, there's obviously that but since we built this on your FB graph, you'd be delivering stuff from either friends or friends of friends at worst. I feel Walmart is doing this and worse by asking neighbors to deliver your stuff.

In fact, I often carry stuff for my compatriot coworkers and friends to/from the home country. This was just a more regularized and systematized version of that.

All said and done, you're right - even my cofounder and I felt a little uncomfortable being mules for others even if the item being sent was totally innocent.

The one and only delivery we made successfully was from Toronto to London via New York for the then CIO of British Telecom. He loved the idea so much that he covered it here http://confusedofcalcutta.com/2009/12/02/hauling-bits-around... on his blog.


LOL


"because my cofounder decided that he was going to be the "vision" guy and I was going to do all the work."

:-) This happens more often than not. All the success and visibility, but none of the work.


Yes, it does happen, but I‘ve never heard of such a startup taking off. If one of the founders doesn‘t pull their weight, I can‘t imagine there will be a lot of success and visibility...


In the exception-that-proves-the-rule department: notonmywatch.com is much better than onlyonotherpeopleswatches.com.


Wouldn't this have many issues when going through customs or security checks?


TwoFactorAuth, a Rails gem for supporting the open U2F hardware two factor authentication standard. https://www.twofactorauth.io

When the standard was released 2.5 years ago I figured that exacting security code against an unevenly documented API was worth paying for, but nobody understood what 2FA was, why SMS is garbage for 2FA, that you could now get devices for a couple bucks that would work on dozens of sites while respecting your privacy, etc.

I spent about a month coding and tried to sell it for a couple months, but I simply didn't have the resources to try to do all the education needed. I put it on the shelf.

But this spring I've gotten a couple inquiries about updating it to Rails 5.0 and 5.1, so I guess the knowledge is getting out there. I did another survey and there are still no drop-in libraries for the languages I'm comfortable in (Ruby, Python, JavaScript, PHP) - either they require a lot of fiddly customization or they're half-finished hobby attempts.

I'm considering updating the gem, automating the license purchasing, taking steps to enforce the dual-license, and seeing how it does.


I have not built this project with the main goal to earn money from it but just to build something that I thought was missing in this world.

I am trying to visualise all of world's knowledge with interactive mind maps focused on learning anything in a linear way.

Here is the search engine that searches all of these interactive maps : https://learn-anything.xyz/

Both the search engine and the maps are open source so I am not so sure how and if I can ever make money from this aside from the Patreon page that we have set up for the project.

If anyone has any ideas on how one can monetise this in a good way, I would love to hear it. We don't want to put any sponsored content in there as that would defeat our vision of having most quality resources available for all subjects.


Both the search engine and the maps are open source so I am not so sure how and if I can ever make money from this aside from the Patreon page that we have set up for the project.

Sell subscriptions to companies? Companies generally like to pay for services, even if the underlying software is open source.


Hi, I noticed the initial load time is quite poor... Maybe I had a bad connection but you might want to do some testing on initial load times for your site.


Sorry about this. We only have one server and it is based in Amsterdam. We will try to expand to other continents soon so the load time is fast everywhere.


Getting a 502 Gateway error right now, so can't check the site. However, general advice: run the site through Google's Page Speed checker and see if a CDN + gzip compression etc can improve things to some extent before relocating primary servers.


this is really freaking cool

how do you generate the maps? maybe you can sell that to companies so they can index their internal documentation into mind maps


I built https://communiroo.com because I couldn't find a quick and simple single website to expose bug/feature tracking + SO type questions + forums + support requests for my other things I was building. It seemed (and still seems) like it fills a need for mine and everyone else's side projects.

I think the biggest issue is marketing. I tried a few Twitter/Facebook ad campaigns that didn't really pan out, and an HN submission that didn't make the front page. But really I haven't done much to market it, and it just sits there chugging along with few users other than myself while I work on other stuff.


This looks pretty great! I would have used it a few years ago, now I host my project on Github and use their built-in tools.


Thanks! Yeah, GitHub is definitely the way to go for OSS or projects with technical users. This is designed more for things like closed source apps or SaaS.


Not answering the question directly but one issue is that as a developer you can often make a product for almost free (and it might even be a really good product) but marketing is almost never free.

Sure you can market with sweat equity. Forums, Show HN, Product Hunt, etc but to get real money you often have to advertise. And advertising is not cheap.

I do actually have a product in this category but I don't want to post it with a throw away account.


I wish there was a better way to connect entrepreneurs of varying skills together. I am in a similar boat as you, but on the other end.

I am a marketer and at times I have ideas (for websites or apps) that I would like to get built, but since I have to pay for that and since not all ideas are going to be winners it can become an expensive proposition.

Although threads like this can be valuable since I can reach out to developers who have created a product that I see addressing a real need in the market and reach out to them to see if there is any scope to work together, but these are few and far between.


> reach out to them to see if there is any scope to work together

Hey, you don't have any contact info in your profile, but if you'd like to get in touch I'd be keen to have a chat, my email is eli@ux-app.com


Just out of curiosity, why wouldn't you want to post it here - why use a throwaway account?


It's really easy to get my real identity given a website that I own and I don't have a non throw away account.

I use a throw away account because it gives me the freedom to discuss things openly without being judged based on my real world reputation or which company I work for.


Then the account you're using is not a throwaway, but you could create an actual throwaway to post it :)


I've been told this before :)

My thought was to throw it away initially but I have so much karma on this account I can't bare to part with it.


So don't! If you create a second account for your business identity, nobody will know. Keep business and personal accounts separate. Neither is throwaway!


For one project, a picture-based IQ test for autism, I posted an overview a few weeks back. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14595379

Building the adaptive test system for use on the Internet was a great learning experience that felt a bit like a capstone project for a masters program. The two main challenges for monetizing it: 1. Finding a market beyond the small autism research field. 2. Contracts. Since the test was oriented to autism, many of the potential customers were hospitals and universities with the former requiring liability clauses that were perpetual (such as addressing problems from a drug trial 20 years down the road), and the latter requiring a free license to all background IP so that their research could build on any results without any possibility of infringement. Even with the help of a lawyer I was not able to reach agreements under these circumstances. I am still unsure if it is better to have a set terms of use or leave the door open for negotiation with potential customers.

I am still pleased having spent the time as the amount of personal and professional growth has been great. http://hrs-mat.com



Wow it's so sad that so much effort was put in just to get betrayed by everyone...


I built itrackmine.com (http://mashable.com/2008/12/26/itrackmine/). And its killer recommendation engine (books, movies, and music) -- we knew what you owned from all stores, not just what you //bought// at Amazon (or single store) so ours were extremely accurate. Along with a "user A is this similar to user B" system...and the whole tracking, sharing, mobile app, barcode-scan, manage-your-stuff-package.

Made $10 over the ~8 years it was up...from one donation. Yey.


I'm very passionate about the collection management aspect but haven't found one that does it right... Tech has changed quite a bit and graph databases (which IMO are key to this) are much more accessible now.

I agree with your assessment of the potential and hope to work on this idea. If you are interested in focusing on the collector, let me know.


Why do you feel it didn't really generate revenue?

What would you do differently if you were going to do it again?


Neither my business partner nor I are any good at marketing. And we didn't like how most sites put so much pressure on their users to buy things, click ads, share with friends, send out marketing emails, etc...so the things we DID put in were kind of halfhearted, and always out of the way.

We tried selling the data (amazing data if you think about it!!). Anonymous of course! And/or selling the recommendations (easy enough since everything was organized by UPC/ISBN). But that's something it seems like you need to know people -- CEO's/CTO's of bigger companies. We just didn't have the connections, nor the personalities to kiss that much ass. But we tried for several years. I think they're all of the mindset that they've got "good enough" data on their own...or two guys in their garage are too small peanuts to trust. It's funny that just this week Amazon had a post here about it's 20th year of recommendation engine, ~yey~ -- and they still can't get it right (sour grapes? yeah...).

If we were to do it again, we'd probably focus on core functions (the site did A LOT). And seriously work on marketing aspects. Not dark patterns (https://darkpatterns.org/) but more organized and focused efforts.

Honestly though, if we did it again, it would not be for the money - it would be for a cool product and for our own fun...maybe integrate with Kodi...

We'd be smarter on hosting. We were at Rackspace first for $30k/mo...then realized we were being hoodwinked and found PEER1 for $1200/mo...then realized we could get away with a $300/mo DO droplet by converting everything to open source and optimizing -- granted over the course of the 8-10 years, tech improved. But, no more MSSQL, no paid search engine (we ended up on Solr -- AMAZING!), no Windows and just all open-source. I ran our recommendation engine on my computers at home and uploaded results from there. As with hosting, I think the open source stack has improved a lot.

Smarter on who we hire for PR - I got all our serious PR (Mashable, LifeHacker, Makeuseof, etc). We spend about $30k on snake-oil PR companies. Our first PR company took $20k and literally did nothing (not even a press release blast or PDF) - but suing would cost us way too much time/money so we ate it and went to another referral - who did the job, but it ended up more or less a pointless exercise.

After all that time, going into personal debt -- with creditors calling at all hours, no income in sight, thousands of hours devoted to it, alienating friends and family borrowing from them to survive, we finally decided to call it quits.


I blogged about my first foray into the world of creating a web app that would generate recurring revenue for me here [0]. It was my first attempt.

I attempted two other web apps which also had dismal results, before my fourth (current) one, which is doing great and getting better.

Since writing that blog post, that particular web app (which is still running BTW) has had a handful of users sign up and is generating around $40-$50 per month. It covers the AWS cost, and lets me buy a beer every month, so I figure I will just let it tick along... :D

Feel free to ping me to reply to this thread if you want any more information, but the (somewhat long) blog post pretty much explains it all.

[0] - https://medium.com/@dsabar/the-zero-dollar-web-app-8886bf4ae...


Your experience corresponds to mine almost exactly, have you written anything about your subsequent attempts, and the one that finally succeeded? No contact info in your profile btw.


Apologies, I will have to fix up my bio on here. I killed the old one to put in the Keybase identifier and never went back to fix it...

My current SaaS app that is actually doing well and making money (and just hit profitability) is www.hrpartner.io

I blog about some aspects of it at http://devan.blaze.com.au amongst other things. One day I will sit down and construct a full post on that particular journey, but I am afraid that survivorship bias might take over and I will forget some of the hard stuff that happened...


I built https://callmom.pro/ this year in anticipation of a Mother's day rush. The idea is that we'll call you and your mom once a week at a set day/time in such a way that your phones both ring and when you pick up, you're talking to each other.

The site is janky AF because I'm still in the neophyte stages of front-end/css. I do still think it's a good a idea, so I'm planning a revamp of the sales site in time for a big push at the holidays.


What's the flower delivery app from an earlier YC batch, Bloom? They should partner with this and insert a small audio tag on the child's line before connecting, "Calling mom every week is great, but don't forget to occasionally send her flowers too, use this phone number at Bloom checkout for promotionaloffer. Don't just tell mom you care, show her!"


It is a great idea. I am not sure it can make money, but it is genius. Have you thought about making the ring time random rather than set?


I did think about selling it as "We'll force you to call your Mom /some time/ in the week. You may not know when!"

Then I thought I'd want to exclude the middle of the night (don't want to give people heart attacks thinking somebody died). Then I thought of excluding the work day (who wants to sign up for a service that will randomly call them in the middle of meeting?). Finally I decided it would be easier to set a specific time.

Maybe you're right though. Maybe the angle of "we'll keep trying until we find a good time for both of you" would sell better.


Even just making it random around a certain time (say +-15 minutes). Another idea might be to have time blocks that a user and their mother can choose and then pick a time out at random from the overlap. Neither will know when they are going to be called, but it will be at a time that suits both.

You could of course go the other way and just do this without the user choosing anytime at all. When they register to send their mother flowers record their number and their mother’s from the delivery details and then just set up the “blind date” without letting them know. Each will think the other called them first.


Mailprincess for iPhone and Android ( https://mailprincess.com )

Lets people send checks in the mail from their bank account. Also lets you send photos you take as documents in the mail or via fax.

Mostly it was built for fun, to play around with Ionic, and to occupy spare cycles in between client projects. But hoped it would make some money.

So far, just has a few random users.

The main problem is that it's a pain in the ass to get bank accounts verified. You have to wait to confirm test deposits into your bank account, and, by that point, most people churn. Considered adding Plaid to get around that and do instant bank verifications, but it was too expensive to make it worth it from a user perspective.

Recently started thinking it might be fun to make a web version that lets users pay with cryptocurrency.


I created a library that helped developers. It made a few hundred $ in revenue but nothing like I hoped.

Its an experience I've seen a lot. You think if you create a great product and advertise a little it will go viral - but in reality getting people to use it in the beginning is the hard part.

Next time I'll try to build the community before the product. Spend more time on marketing and less on coding.

Plus I think selling to developers sucks, esp now so much free and open source stuff around. Non-tech Users are probably better customers.


I built a cash forecasting app (http://www.money-stew.com) that I use religiously to verify that I won't have any trouble paying my bills.

I actually managed to get some traffic and ad revenue ($100< a month) when I first developed it and got it into the Google web app store and was featured for a little bit. I think there where quite a few bugs that I ignored and I stopped work on it for a long while.

I continue to try and improve on it, but it rarely gets the bulk of my free time.

Its been difficult for me to get _any_ feedback on it, so I bounce back and forth between feeling like its a worthwhile venture or its just a pet project that is useful to nobody but me.


I'd maybe look at the UI of your website, it looks too boilerplate or wordpress-y. Maybe remove the pink and just make the content fill the rest of the page for a start. I like the premise but the website has a gut "cheap"feeling.


Second this. PLEASE get rid of the pink and just have content fill. That pink is nauseatingly bright and screams "leave now!"

Not as bad on mobile because it's so thin, but on a desktop with wide screen it is not ok.

I don't usually bikeshed on layout (not a graphic designer), but I am begging you please.


Fair enough, I am not a graphic designer and I am using Angular Material colors in the app - I thought they looked interesting enough that it might get some attention so I used them there - and then carried that over into the landing/help site.

Sounds like I am doing it wrong though :) thanks for the feedback


After Google bought FeedBurner then killed Google Reader, I launched a FeedBurner replacement [0] complete with FeedBurner stats import and all.

I figured Google would kill FB soon enough, the writing was on the wall: killed Adsense integration, broken stats, halted development, disabled new cnames for a while, disbanded the team, etc.

I liked to think even one big client from FB (cough CNN cough) switching over after Google finally killed the plug would be worth it. They never did. It's been years now and FB still languishes neglected, but it seems that it is fated to die by attrition and nothing more.

[0]: http://feedsnap.com/


I'm building https://ewolo.fitness/ - it's a no-frills workout tracker that's built from the ground-up to be mobile friendly.

I decided to do it after seeing a total lack of decent workout trackers that work well on mobile and provide a web interface.

It's made using React, Redux and I don't expect it to make any money :)


Hey, I'm just getting into weightlifting. I think this might be a really cool tool! Going to use it for a bit and see if it's helpful.


Oh wow great to hear. It's really an alpha version. Some more things that are really required for beta are allowing editing workouts and lots more progress charts!!!

However, I think that for data entry it is good to go. There will be some improvements there as well like for e.g. better superset indication and allowing copying workouts.

I'm also very happy to get feedback so don't feel shy.

Cheers!


Might give this a go as well. One other app I tried only allowed you to use pre-defined exercises.


I liked the simple page. If you can articulate on that page what you saw lacking in the space, it will help convince users who are just starting to start using it.


Thanks I will try and improve the tag line then!


I tried to make an IMDb for politics a few years ago. I got to some interesting places - I was consuming the records of the California state government; elections and house/senate records, to see who was in office when and what they did (to a limited extent).

I got a mentor, and we pushed me to try to put out any kind of product for the... 2012? election, so I figured out a neat way to make word clouds of the legislation written by a person; I figured it'd be a decent bad way to find out what topics they're active about. I put it up as an IndieGoGo, and had some fun with friends and family exploring the database, seeing what interesting statistics we could pull out. Made maybe a grand from 3-10 donors.

Ultimately, as far as I could get as a one-man team, I couldn't actually take it anywhere solo. Theoretically, one can, with all the tools that are out and about - but I'd run into the motivation / momentum issue. Carrying an entire thing on just your own shoulders doesn't work out very well.

I spent a year-ish building it off-and-on, starting as a side project during the last couple months of regular employment; but I also skipped the country to hitch-hike for three months, and otherwise didn't dedicate myself to it like a real job while I was unemployed and "trying" to make it work.

However, I basically taught myself web-dev / RoR in order to do it, and now I'm a nearly-senior RoR dev, so that all worked out pretty well in the end!

--

About a year ago, I started making a little mindfulness widget. You'd sign up on the website, give it your phone number, and it'd text you mindfulness questions throughout the day.

Currently, I'm working on what's basically dependency management for cosmetic ingredients (cosmetics are made of stuff that's made of stuff and you need a breakdown at that 2nd level), specifically for a friend who's a chemical process engineer and needs more than spreadsheets can deliver. This one I'm doing properly as a side-project, rather than trying to do it "full-time".

--

The big take away from these for me is: Have a team before you try to make it more than a side-project. Doesn't have to be other programmers - it can be you and a "primary customer" - but you need other people to share the emotional burden of keeping momentum.


When Google Cardboard first came out and the Oculus Rift DK2 was first shipping, I had already been making AR apps and anaglyph stereo apps in the browser. I packed up a bunch of code I already had for Device Orientation API in mobile browsers, write a new side-by-side rendering effect for myself, and made it all into a simple framework to make stereo WebGL/Three.js demos easier to throw together quickly. It basically became the first "WebVR" framework, a few months before Mozilla and Google had announced anything about officially working on the API. I called it Pyschologist.js.

It got a little attention, but the biggest surge was when I created a text editor inside of it that rendered to a texture, rather than using CSS3D transforms of existing, content-editable text editor components like a few other demos had done. I called the text editor Primrose, but people seemed to respond to that branding better than Psychologists, and nobody seemed interested in a myriad of small components, just a single, integrated solution, so I sunk the text editor into the framework, rebranded everything as just Primrose, and spent a ton of time writing a website and basic documentation.

I've been trying to build a business around VR ever since. First, I tried to sell the framework. Made $10 on one license sale. I tried consulting services. Made about $2000 for a company I had joined that pledged to sponsor my development and do marketing and sales for me. I tried building a WebRTC teleconferencing app, but couldn't get enough focus from the company to push it well. After a year of no movement from the sales team, I'm back to being on my own now and back to trying to figure out my own path.

I think the teleconferencing app idea still has merit, and I have a few other idea that have some potential, but I don't really know anything about marketing and selling SaaS. So I guess that is my next project, to learn.

https://www.primrosevr.com


I thought probably Hands Free for Chrome would see some donations given how much it could help someone who was disabled, and given how many donations I've seen more ordinary & simple extensions receive, but I only got $10 the past 3 years, and that was a single donation from a friend who felt bad seeing it at $0.

https://www.handsfreechrome.com/

Barely any users, just around 400 or so.


Awesome job with the extension! I think the idea has great potential.

Judging from my five minute test drive, you could probably increase adoption if you made it 'discoverable'. It's hard to determine what to do once it's installed. Turns out, you have to click the browser action to start listening for user input. After that, you have to refer to the website to find out what commands are available. It would be great if there were on-screen suggestions of commands to voice. Using it was really frustrating and unreliable until I read the instructions on the web store page to disable 'ambient noise reduction' on macs. Showing an 'instructions' page on installation would help a lot. An instructional video would be great too.

Other nitpicks: * I couldn't get dictation to work. * More tab manipulation commands would be nice * I'm not a huge fan of the link hints placement and styling

I'm actually developing my own keybinding extension like Vimium/cVim/VimFx/Surfing Keys

https://github.com/lusakasa/saka-key

with the intent to use the codebase to later create a voice commands extension like yours.

After all the work I've put into my extension, I can see why only $10 in donations for your efforts is disheartening. Good luck!


Late response from me, but thank you very much for the feedback.

I think adding an instructions page + video would be great, I agree.

I'm surprised you couldn't get dictation to work. That distresses me. Much time went into that. The link placement is rather tricky, and I'm not sure what type of styling would be less obtrusive and equally readable.


I'm curious if other assistive software solves this need at the OS level, or if you other similar tools are already known to the community that it would be useful for.

Windows has built-in speech control that lets you scroll and click, doesn't it?


I built http://greetingbin.com as a platform for uploading images of greeting cards along with some metadata to the cloud. Then you could throw the card out and still have a digital copy of it. Needless to say, I have no users. Granted, I didn't do any marketing, but I realized that in actuality I never used the product myself, so why would anyone else use it?


This could actually be a viral hit.

1> After uploading all sides of a greeting card, use some animation/visualization that will allow you to interact with a single card by clicking/swiping.

2> Allow this to be embedded into FB/Twitter

3> Make the service free - the most likely monetisation will be advertising, so it's all about MAU


http://lookwork.com is a "visual RSS reader," subscribe to RSS feeds minus the words. Sort of a mood/inspiration feed for artists and graphic designers.

First launched free around 2012 I think. Then there was a relaunch where we tried to go subscriber-based. At the time, the only online payment options were Paypal (shudder) and Amazon (a mess to configure). The subscription model flopped, so we relaunched free again.

We have a very small set of very rabid fans, but have had difficulty explaining this thing to potential users. Fortunately the Digital Ocean hosting is cheap enough that we can just leave it running on autopilot. (the old AWS hosting was a money pit)


I get a "sorry you can't use this page on mobile" ...

While connecting from up-to-date chrome on win10 desktop!! You are probably weeding out a good chunk of users for no reason.


sigh… yeah I knew someone would chime in with that. Yes, this was built a few years earlier when browser compatibility was in a serious shithole. Sorry you encountered that.


Ok that sounds amazing. I'm finding all kinds of treasure in this thread


I built http://thejobist.com (lame tagline: A job-search search site) as I was learning web development and looking for a web development job. I built it with grand vision to expand user submissions, working voting, featured sites, relevant ads and the list goes on. However, once I found a job, I let it dwindle. It still gets a decent amount of traffic considering how little effort I have put into promoting it in the several few years. I still think that it would be possible to make it more useful and revenue positive but I seem to have a bit of ADHD when it comes to side projects.


I built https://www.indoclinic.com, an online doctor consultation service. The idea is pretty similar to Healthtap/Practo.

We managed to sign up some doctors and got a few users to consult via the platform but ended up closing down the project eventually, mostly due to lack of traction and avenues for differentiation.

Lessons learned: - Do proper user research before starting to code - 'Better customer service' is not really an advantage unless you know how to spread the word and/or are willing to spend years on your product


Timezones are annoying, and alas I often found myself needing to do timezone time translation across multiple locations simultaneously, so I built https://timezon.es (in jQuery - it was a while ago). An early version had ads, but with total earnings of ~$2 after multiple months of operation I never bothered re-adding them after a redesign :)

I guess doing any advertising at all might generate traffic, but it seems unlikely ad revenue would cover ad spend. For now I just appreciate its being there 'cause I find it useful :)


I built https://bugdedupe.com/ last year- the idea was to make it easy to remove duplicate bug reports by using some academic research I worked on involving machine learning.

The system worked well, but I struggled to find users, and it died a sad, lonely, death.


Who did you shop it around to?

This sounds like a really useful idea; I've seen piles of duplicate bug reports arise when a common issue hits many people at once. One suggestion (if you didn't already try this): you could go to major Linux distributions and projects that get a huge number of bug reports, ask nicely if you could try it over their bug reports, see if you can get good results, and offer to provide it to them for free if they'll mention that they're using it. Then show the results to companies with projects that get similar volumes of reports, and ask them to pay for the service.


That's a really good idea. I'll try that.


In 2011 at a hackathon I built rsvp.io (now points to a silly game of mine) to allow wedding couples to easily create a custom wedding invitation rsvp page. A unique code could be added to a paper invite, or the page used on its own. After the hackathon I spent another month or so refining the site. I never took it far enough, but might have made a little money had I tried. Some ideas that I never took forward were partnering with printing agencies for paper invites, and affiliate income for gift registry.

It did get used once however, for my wedding in 2013 :)


I can visualise this being used - you can have a cute-looking QR code (surrounded by a shape/design of your choice to not make it look "standard") to rsvp. You can even have stickers printed (instead of complete cards) that can be stuck on everybody's physical wedding card.


I have had a bunch of little websites that didn't do much of anything. Some problems that have plagued my projects (especially health-related ones):

1) Credibility.

I am getting well when the world says that cannot be done. Most people don't want to believe this at all. So I get called crazy, a charlatan, etc.

2) Inherent monetization challenges in the problem space.

I am convinced that part of what is wrong with modern medicine is that money gets made off of treatment, not off of positive health outcomes. This is a conflict of interest for healthcare providers who have no motive to actually get you well and lots of motive to give you just enough improvement to keep you willing to keep paying for more.

3) I'm a woman.

This has made it hard for me to network, etc. A lot of men who know what I want to learn either will talk to me to hit on me or won't talk to me because they don't want anyone to get the wrong idea. Trying to make connections has been really hard.

4. I know how to get well, I don't know how to do business.

I know how to accomplish a thing, but I don't know how to accomplish all the stuff that goes into turning that into a money-making venture.

5. I'm very eye catching.

I have a long history of attracting a LOT of attention. I have really struggled with figuring out how to get the attention off of ME and onto MY WORK. It is getting better, but this has really been frustrating.

There are no doubt other issues, but those are a few things off the top of my head.


> I am getting well when the world says that cannot be done

No one is saying this. The "Health and Wellness" industry is booming

> I am convinced that part of what is wrong with modern medicine is that money gets made off of treatment, not off of positive health outcomes

Crazy charlatans want treatment, preferably expensive and\or ongoing

> I'm a woman ... I don't know how to do business ... I'm very eye catching

I'd start by scrubbing your profiles. The first thing I read about you was about being homeless, peeing on a tree, and unicorn farts. Maybe it is satire but you should make it easy for the people doing business with you sort fact from fiction.


I am routinely told it cannot be done for my condition, the health of the "health and wellness" industry not withstanding.

And you are, ironically, proving my point that a lot of attention ends up on me, and not in a good way, rather than on my work.

My life is a case of "fact is stranger than fiction." I am confident that trying to lie about it in order to make it more palatable would only compound the problem. I am making progress, in spite of continued comments of this sort.


"And you are, ironically, proving my point that a lot of attention ends up on me, and not in a good way, rather than on my work."

Your two comments here have talked about you and not about your work. You might be able to get attention focused on your work by linking to it and talking about it more specifically? All the other top level comments I read on this post included details about the project and often a link/name.


http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2017/06/announcing-w...

It is an announcement of a couple of Reddits I have started. It is probably the least worst thing I can link to, given how terribly it tends to go to link to my health projects.

I have had several health sites and kept killing them because they weren't accomplishing much and it was a constant shit show for me. I tend to dislike linking to my health sites on HN because there are a lot of people who will just be incredibly ugly about it and other people tend to not call them on it.

An inherent problem is that I am getting myself well, so talking about me is kind of unavoidable. I do have a son who has the same condition who is also getting well. Out of respect for his privacy, I tend to talk somewhat less about him. There are no large scale studies of what I am doing.

I still don't know how to monetize it effectively. I have a tip jar and there are a few affiliate links on at least one of my health sites, but I have not put Google AdSense on it because of the sorts of ads it would likely attract. Most likely, it would attract ads for "miracle cures," just buy my supplement. It wouldn't be responsible to allow that on the site.

I am unwilling to become a "consultant." I have known others in the alternative med space who have gone that route. I am convinced that is the same model that causes an inherent conflict of interest for doctors. Doctors prescribe medication to get short term results with long term costs. Although there is always a handout included with a long list of side effects, they take credit for the short term benefits and blame the long term costs on your underlying medical condition, not on the fact that you have been taking their drugs for years.

I have been getting well doing the opposite: I trade short term costs for long terms gains. It is a hard ask to tell people to put themselves through hell for long term gains. It needs to be voluntary and the locus of control needs to be with them, not with some outsider. Providing a mental model, detailed information on specific things that help with certain issues and an example to follow is the best answer I have.

I still wrestle with how much to just talk about what I do and how much to back it up with links to research. My typical process when I run into a problem is to discuss it with my son, ask him to look up info related to a particular organ or bodily process or whatever and when we feel we have identified a pertinent issue, look up what nutrients are involved. Then research which foods have those nutrients.

It is possible this will never catch on. I have been working on getting well for about 16+ years and I have had blogs on various topics and been an active participant on various forums for a lot of years as well. I get told I am being irresponsible for trying to talk about what has been helpful to me. Meanwhile, people are dying and the doctors don't have answers. I get stuck between a choice of being accused of being irresponsible while I attempt to help or covering my ass, saying "not my problem" and letting people die who don't have a real solution. So far, I keep erring on the side of trying to find a way to effectively and safely communicate what I know in hopes of helping people in an essentially hopeless situation.


Have you tried the Patreon model? Ebook or courseware might work if you have loads of original content, but Patreon could be appropriate if you're figuring things out and sharing personal research and practices.


I do have a Patreon, but people who actually have CF have no money to spare as it is both debilitating and incredibly expensive (see http://micheleincalifornia.blogspot.com/2017/05/the-wrong-me...). Other people often tell me this is not pertinent to their lives. I think it has broader applications, but it has been really hard to try to figure out how to convince people of that.


what are you getting well from?


My official diagnosis is "atypical cystic fibrosis."


I've been working on https://docsift.com for a couple of months but have been having a hard time finding users to offer any feedback.

It's meant to make it easier for journalists and citizen activists to review bills, document dumps, etc (and on the pay side, help law firms read through and review discovery materials). A challenge has been that I'm neither a journalist or a lawyer, just someone who is motivated to help out where I can when I see something that seems screwed up; and wanted to build a tool that would make it easy for people to take 5 minutes and help read / review a bill, etc when they were on the bus or when they had some downtime. The failure mode is obvious in retrospect: I started building it without knowing people directly impacted by the problem I was trying to solve -- it was a good problem to solve in theory; but without a concrete problem to solve it's very hard to land on the right set of solutions.

I still tinker with it (uploading docs that seem interesting, messing with features), but I've mostly moved on to other projects until I find the set of people who are presently feeling the pain.


> * I started building it without knowing people directly impacted by the problem I was trying to solve*

You can still search for journalists on Twitter / websites and reach out to them for feedback.


I built http://bustaprice.com as a shopping price comparison search tool.

It searches several APIs like Amazon and BestBuy and and also scrapes product prices from various shopping websites. The results are presented ordered by price.

The Amazon access has been revoked for lack of original content and a few of the scraping rules are now stale, but it wouldn't be too difficult to update those. It still works though!

Initially I planned on sending affiliate traffic to sites to earn a small side income as well as possibly some display advertising.

After getting rejected from the Amazon program, I lost a bit of steam (although I believe I could flesh out the site some more and still be accepted into the program).

If I were to put some time into it again, I would add many more sites to scrape and integrate with a couple more larger store APIs. Then I would add a "price drop notification" feature to try to get visitors to return to the site.

I spent a couple months building it in evenings and weekends, plus many months thinking about it before that. The only money I spend on it is $7/mo for heroku costs.

I still think it has some untapped potential but I don't have much spare time to think about it right now.


what level of traffic do you have ? comparison websites were hit seriously when google shopping started to occupy the top of the serps.


I have a whole bunch of registered domains I haven't done anything with. For example : http://www.procrastinationjournal.com/


Gonna get around to it any time now.


https://theothermail.com

TheOtherMail generates throwaway email addresses so you can try new products and services with no risk. We deliver all emails from your generated accounts to your personal email address so you don't have to remember stupidly long emails.

We spend a few dollars per month to run it, and we haven't made any money yet. Give it a try!


Have you thought about building the reverse application? A service that screens out all throwaway emails so only users who register with a real email address can use a service.


It is not difficult to incorporate. If you search online, you will find a list of disposable email services, for example on GitHub. As disposable email services advertise themselves as such, it is not difficult to build and maintain list.

Our service included feature to disallow disposable email addresses from registering. We typically sent an email validation, if emails were returned or not responded, we will flag those services to be manually checked and added to do not register list. We eliminated over 95% of registration with disposable email.

Solution doesn't need to be perfect in elimination, just reduce the problem enough so that it can be handled manually.


That's pretty much an impossible to win game of cat and mouse


Impossible for perfection, but a solution that is 99.9% effective would still be a viable solution. I do it manually with people who sign up for our test system.


I spent two years building an automated system for building resident block schedules. I made it to a beta with a very large residency, but for a combination of technical and incentive reasons it was impractical to grow. I actually revisited the concept recently with a revised business model that might have addressed some of the growth challenges. I did a kickstarter, but didn't generate enough interest to pursue it again.

I also spent maybe 1 year prototyping a system meant to analyze the performance of wealth managers. I used financial statements from friends and family to see whether I could produce anything useful. But, the more I got into it, the more I realized it was difficult to produce a compelling automated analysis, even given a complete history of all the manager's transactions. It was too easy to swing the result by subtly changing the assumptions.

I also investigated an all-inclusive management system to help foundations for public high schools manage fund raising, etc. Again, I did a kickstarter-like campaign for it, and found inadequate demand.


Oh, boy, lots of them!!!

I'm good at "releasing". I'm not good at deciding what to build (demand) and I'm not good at the marketing side.

My latest project helps you get more followers and increase user engagement on Instagram. It's a Google Chrome extension called Magis. It's currently bringing in $30 per month with $25 per month in fee's for the payment solution. Yay $5 profit; if you don't count my time.

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/magis/kahkfpeemmmj...

My previous project helped you validate your idea before you create the actual product. Apparently it was a bad idea because all it really seems to do is piss people off. Anyway, meet FauxBuy.

https://fauxbuy.com

Those are just the last two. I build a lot of stuff that's not profitable.


> My previous project helped you validate your idea before you create the actual product. Apparently it was a bad idea

If this existed, you would have known not to build it


Yeah I can see fauxbuy losing customers. I'm not going put a "buy" button on a product page that doesn't actually allow people to buy said product... what would I tell them? "Smile you're on candid webpage"? "Thanks for your interest, we look forward to giving you this product in several months!"?

If the product is ready to ship, then ship/market it and see how it does. If it's not ready to ship, then do what research you can to make sure it's not absolutely stupid and then build it and find out. At the end of the day the market is unpredictable past the broad strokes.

Sorry to shit all over your idea, something that would help validate prior to shipment would be nice. I'm not even morally opposed to the idea of pitching people a fake product and seeing if they click, you'd just need a way to separate the fake product from the real thing you're building and hope they come back for the real deal, and that could be tricky.


Yeah, I understand the anger part. The thing is, I've read this in at least a couple of books. I think Tim Ferris suggested it in The 4-Hour Work Week and I also think it's mentioned in The Lean Startup. Oh well; I like building stuff.


It doesn't require much to change that; just make it clear that people don't buy a product, but buy into a dream instead, and require your customers to inform would-be customers that they buy into a dream.

With such a change, sites like Kickstarter.com have people happily _pay_ to press that fake buy button.


I got fed up with Evernote Web and built my own:

https://nanote.co

It used to have a payment form but I felt like it wasn't polished enough, so now it just says to email me for a (free) account.

I still use it every day for my own notes, so I suppose it was a success in that regard. I've also got a few friends on it too.


I liked the page and the clear explanation.

Does it need to be an Evernote replacement, or can this be a Chrome extension / etc that eventually stores in your Evernote account itself? I did read the text at the bottom of the website, but one thing to do note is that people trust the 'Evernote' brand for their data storage. You can offer this on top of Evernote/Onenote as a separate extension/layer.


Ooh, I'd never thought of that. I suppose it's possible, but then I'd be at the mercy of the Evernote platform. Would their device limit affect me?

That's a really interesting idea though. Maybe I could make it cloud backend agnostic..


I absolutely love the example text you used :)


http://doPlaces.com

Partly because I suck at marketing my stuff (and am very low-income). I expect it to bring revenue but it has also been a thing for me to hone various programming, design and marketing skills, trying out some new concepts, etc.

Have learned and am still learning a lot from it.


http://lickth.is/new

I built the first version of LICK in 2015 because I was frustrated with the (then) state of distributed note taking. And because I wanted Sublime Text-like editing capabilities. I... didn't really have a business plan, but I guess I had hoped to retrofit features into later versions. Being a (not) starving bootstrapping developer filled a fun space in my life, but then life got in the way.

I made the 'new' version to prove a point last year, but it's riddled with bugs and flaws. I still use it religiously to plan my smaller projects, and my shopping. If I had to do it all again, I would have shipped sooner. Duh. Maybe someday, it'll dethrone the mighty Evernote – but until then, it's my glass castle... :)


As a fellow note-taking application maker (https://quicknotes.io), a friendly advice: you need a better landing page.

Show me how it looks before asking for signing up (screenshots).

Better yet, have a demo with publicly visible notes.

Reduce signing up friction by allowing twitter/google/github/facebook logins.

In "what is this" you talk a lot about you and technologies used. People don't care about that. Write about how lickth.is is better/unique than other options.

Read https://www.julian.com/learn/growth/landing-pages for short yet comprehensive tutorial on good landing pages.

Also the name is bad and tagline both icky and not making much sense.

I'm not saying that will change much. As I've learned the hard way, note taking apps without clear unique selling point are a hard sell those days.


I can empathise with this, I've tried to build a better evernote too, and I suspect its quite common. Everyone has their own way to take notes. The catch is, in this context at least, trying to make money from it. That's something even evernote have struggled with


I made hotcold typing - http://hotcoldtyping.com , a touch typing learning tool with instant feedbacks. I released initially as chrome app with free and pro versions. Pro version didn't go anywhere. Since then I changed to 'support developer' version and made the tool free in website also. So far, I had only one buyer for ' support developer' version. But still, I'm proud my work in the app.

I never had any intention to add ads, and always wanted to have a clean, hassle free experience for the learner. Even though, I could make a few bucks from it, I'm not interested in it. It does not have any maintenance costs. Just a static web app hosted on github.

Edit - fixed the web address. was typing from phone :)


your web address is not resolving.


Fixed it. Was typing from phone :)


I created https://videoplaylist.online a few months ago. The idea was to alow users to quickly tag youtube video using a bookmarklet, and then play these youtube videos. It has a `quick select` feature that allows user to quickly create a temporary playlist and put the entire list on autoplay loop.

I wanted to create this app because I listen to music on youtube a lot, and I usually add the videos that I like to a youtube playlist, but I did not find a way to quickly pick videos from multiple playlists/bookmarks (i.e. mixing) and play them. The `quick select` feature does just that.

Nobody seems to think this is a good idea (and they are probably right). So I'm the only user of my own app :)


I created a youtube playlist app, as well, and I'm also the only user of my own app. :) http://play.mindcast.com

Note: It's desktop-only as I use it from my desktop, and since I'm the only one using it, I didn't bother supporting mobile.


I looked into this type of app recently, sites that aggregate YouTube videos, specifically for kids so the content is totally curated. I found out that multichannel networks were a big thing a few years ago, then went away due to lack of ways to monetize.


Marketplace for painters and those looking to hire them http://ehirepainter.com/ Inspite of investing ~$50k in marketing efforts, could not get enough customers to list their projects.


Thanks for sharing. There's probably a whole category of challenges in launching a marketplace. What did you learn?


I made a site for playing turn-based board games ( https://new.amecy.com/ ). Sign-up is free; I was eventually going to charge a small fee for extra functionality, but I haven't gotten enough users to make it worthwhile.

One of my main problems is that the site is not too useful unless you sign up. You can see what's going on on the site at https://new.amecy.com/main/observe , but it's clearly not as much fun as playing the games yourself.


I often create side projects trying to see if a random concept is worth pursuing.

I built a service called "MeetingBetter" with the notion that you would setup your meetings in whatever system you're already using (Google, Exchange) and you'd also invite start@meetingbetter.com

When it got the invitation it would handle some basics around collecting agenda items, followups (if it was a recurring meeting, etc.) I'd thought of it kind of like Calendly. Anyway, not enough of a pain point and no really good traction channels, so I've abandoned it.


http://sites.creou.com/ - A low cost site design & host service based on a custom template engine. Could never get traction with it. It does have one paying customer who is paying slightly more than what it costs me to keep hosting it, so it stays running. For now :-)

http://intouch.creou.com/ - A mini crm type tool for small businesses. Never really finished this, the home page is pretty much a placeholder. Most of the site works if you sign in though (test account username: test@test.com password: test.123) but it's ugly and not mobile friendly. Functionallity wise it does pretty much everything I had planned for it. (Also this is currently just running on a free azure account, so if more than about 3 of you visit it at the same time it will probably give up and die)

https://gumroad.com/products/sqlconfirm - a SQL unit testing plugin for visual studio. Only put this page up a few days ago, so it's made zero money yet, but maybe this is the one that will take off :-) Haven't made any effort to start marketing it yet because there are a few bugs I wanted to sort out first. Could do with picking up a few users who would give feedback though, so if it looks like something you're interested in, ping me.


My idea was simple: When you are at some party/pub, there is always some friend which wants to go home and everybody is trying to convince them, that they should have one more drink. So, I have created http://morebeer.today and http://morewine.today. It's easy reaction time test where it's very easy to pass. They never got popular enough to be worth adding some ads there.


Some stars from yesterday. Around 60 people visited morebeer, 30 finished the game and 1 person have shared it.


I built DocsApp (https://www.docsapp.io/) two years ago and launched around 8 months ago.

So far no revenue because I focus on building features. While DocsApp already launched 8 months ago, I still don`t see any growth in term of active users.

So far only one active user with two sites and few users sign up to test then abandon completely, possibly go to competitor site with much expensive pricing.

Here is what I think did wrong:

1. No marketing effort to reach more users.

2. UX really important.

3. Actively reach out to users to gather feedback.


> So far no revenue because I focus on building features.

You can possibly reverse the funnel. Reach out to mailing lists / IRC channels / Slack channels to get feedback from developers and then develop features accordingly.


Good idea. Definitely will do that!


Wow, this is really cool! If I ever finish a project that doesn't belong on this thread, I will definitely consider using DocsApp


My first attempt was a music site called "Rhythmscore" (no longer own the domain) written mostly in bad PHP. It was awesome, 100% ad-supported, and it was obviously going to make me filthy rich. Small, indy artists would upload their music, and visitors to the site would listen to songs (in random shuffle-order) and give them a numerical rating. The songs with the highest "Rhythmscore" would be displayed on a leaderboard, etc.

One thing I discovered, which surprised me, was that it was very easy to convince artists to get involved and upload their stuff (free exposure I guess). Getting regular users/music fans to care was not. I think I made a grand total of ~$40 in ad-revenue over about a year before I shut it down. Lesson: Ad-revenue doesn't work unless you're getting truly massive amounts of traffic.

Next attempt was a homeschool tracker-type application written in Ruby-on-Rails. The thing shuffled along, zombie-style, for 2 years with about a dozen paid subscribers before I conceded that it wasn't going to be successful and shut it down. Lesson: Stay away from the homeschool market. Egads, those folks are cheap (I should have known: we homeschool our son, and I'm cheap).

I'm currently preparing to launch my latest attempt, a productivity (intended to be a B2B SaaS, though could be useful for personal productivity as well) application written mostly in Clojure on the backend and ES6/mithril on the frontend. It's certainly my best work (from a technical standpoint) so far. I wrote it to use myself for a few things... We'll see if anyone else finds it useful. I certainly learned a ton building it.


I built a corporate 360 degree employee feedback system. It is basically google-page-rank-algorithm applied to feedback system and few other mathematical tricks to auto-normalize. Not sure though so many HR heads liked the idea but i could not make them write a cheque. You can look at the first video on this page:http://www.groupraisal.com/ to know the details.


Please get rid of the video titled "What the ?" on your home page. It is very unprofessional. If I was in HR, or even if I wasn't, I wouldn't touch your company after seeing that video on your home page.


Last year around November(2016) I finally had the time to build my first mobile app. My goals are: to learn React Native and build a mobile app and publish it to Google Play. At my previous work I'm pretty much knowledgeable in integrating CRMs (ie.Salesforce, SugarCRM and Highrise.) into Gmail via chrome extension so building API backend wont be a problem. I noticed at that time that only Highrise CRM has no official Anroid/Ios app offering so I decided to implement it myself. Initially I implemented highrise tasks feature and figure out later what the users need via feedback. I completed the app within a month uploaded it to Google Play[0] and built a simple website[1] for it. Being a Highrise user who opt in for their new products announcement, one moring around December (2016) I got an email from Highrise announcing their official mobile apps for android and iOS. So that was it. I had no chance of competing with the official apps. I got around 5 install on Google Play which already had uninstalled my app.

Expenses:

$10 for the domain

$25 for Google Play Developer Fee

around $20 for few months api backend hosting (Digital Ocean $5/month) then I migrated the code and hosted to free Heroku plan to save cost.

[0] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.taskongo

[1] http://www.taskongo.com/

[2] https://help.highrisehq.com/mobile/


This general space has a lot of long tail CRMs that companies subscribe to - and they don't have a good mobile support (still in 2017). You may want to see if you can make a "general purpose" interface in the space with minimal common functionality and integrate it with others.


I created https://CoWriteStory.com/ last year, it is a platform for people to cooperatively write stories.

I was sending lots of private messages to r/WritingPrompts/ users, and got tons of positive feedback but reddit blocked my account and keep blocking my new accounts.

it is a good product but like lots of developers I failed at marketing and attracting users!


Have you heard of http://nanowrimo.org

Find out where these people hang out including hashtags etc. Huge community of starter writers.


I'm the developer of a few writing apps, and I've tried this approach, you get shut down really quick if you create an account and advertise your app on most forums. I got banned on a lot of them right out of the gate.

Instead try searching for reddit threads on r/writing looking for writing apps, and reply there.

You can also make a twitter account and follow all the thousands of nanowrimo groups and writers groups on there. Most will follow you back and you'll get some traffic

I haven't bothered with Facebook yet (I suck at self-promo) but I'm sure its similar


I've been trying a similar approach. I developed an Electron app called First Novel App which is supposed to help writers silence their inner editors.

It's available free to download at http://www.firstnovelapp.com which redirects to a Gumroad store.


That's a really interesting concept - the snippets idea reminds me of The Road by Cormac McCarthy. No chapters in that book, only paragraphs


Thanks! I'm also working on a web app version of it.


thanks for the tip, will investigate.


Any idea why reddit blocked you?


spamming users with private messages ???!! ;) I actually wasn't spamming, I was sending selected users a request for feedback! maybe people started to report it!


Before I made LiberWriter, which has made money, I created a site called "Squeezed Books" with the idea that it'd be an open-source wiki type book summary thing. Book summaries are handy for popular business books that could have been a 5 page article rather than drawn out into a book.

The lesson: Advertising revenue is not a sustainable thing unless you get massive amounts of traffic and have low costs.


I spent a few thousand building a very detailed database of seed-funding entities that included all the staff and their backgrounds, detailed areas of interest and past investment, and more. I planned to turn it into an actually-useful seed funding search service. But I got distracted with another project needed to pay my bills. Time and persistence are the greatest obstacles to side projects IMO.


Like a seed-only Crunchbase?


if you read indiehackers there are a lot of stories that go like "we found a high traffic keyword, did a lot of seo and make xxxx from ads/subscriptions/sales etc"

the issue with this approach is that the top 1-3 links on google serp gets more traffic than all other links combined. I'm currently at #6-7 with 200 clicks a day and 3% ctr. Not really sure how to climb up beyond that level..


If you want me to have a look and get so thoughts out of seo perspective, let me know.


cool, it's http://colormind.io here's what my search console looks like right now: http://imgur.com/a/kWkUJ


Oh cool, you built that? Been in my bookmarks. It's really nice!


thanks!


you got mail. ;) cheers


I built the Zyn-Fusion user interface for the ZynAddSubFX ( http://zynaddsubfx.sf.net ) musical software synthesizer. I spent roughly 4 months coding, testing, and (light) marketing the new interface, but sales have been quite modest since it's release. This project was originally motivated by user demand for improvements in the ZynAddSubFX interface, centering around usability concerns. Before building the project I talked with the community and sent out surveys, but unfortunately the prep work overestimated the interest and underestimated the time needed to polish the application. That said, the Zyn-Fusion subproject was targeting relatively short term crowd funding, so I didn't expect it to turn into a huge revenue source.

As per doing things differently, I don't think there was another solution to accomplishing the goal given the complexity/demand and in a few months it will be available for the open source community.


I still do occasional work in ColdFusion so I thought it would be nice to have a Package Manager. So I went and built https://cfpm.io. We used it internally for a couple of things, but it never took off. Most likely because who uses ColdFusion still, or maybe it just wasn't easy enough to use.


I made a udemy-course called "Drastically improve your speed on the Linux commandline" [1].

It has generated enough to cover the a bunch of domain names, but not much more, and I have many times questioned whether it was worth burning 3 weeks of more-than-full time work one summer vacation I was otherwise supposed to spend with wife and kids.

In a way I'm happy I tried, but I have also learned that making any substantial money requires tons of work.

I guess the topic is kind of narrow, with a quite small audience consisting of (I assume) mostly productivity/ergonomics-geeks ... out of which not everyone scouts around for courses at Udemy.

I was planning to add a few more courses around it and give some discounts for taking course packages etc, but never really found another uninterrupted bunch of weeks like that summer when this course was created.

Ideas and feedback always welcome.

[1] https://www.udemy.com/command-line-productivity/


I built Uncover (https://uncover.cc/), a service to track your favourite authors' newest releases. It's monetized with Amazon affiliate links.

I wasn't expecting much from it; my goal was to break even on server costs and domain, so ~20$/month. To date it has made $0*

(*technically it did make ~$2 in revenue, but Amazon deactivated that account, I had to sign up for a new one. So my actual received total is $0)

Ultimately it's not a huge deal; I built the project for myself, and it serves me well. I've already discovered 3-4 books I likely would have missed, so I'm super happy to have put in the time!

Lessons learned: When you build a super-niche product mainly for yourself, don't be surprised if it doesn't automatically attract a following. Also, don't set yourself up for disappointment: build stuff because it's fun, not because it's a means to an end.


Amazon emails me directly whenever me favourite authors release a new book.


So, for myself I needed something for audiobooks. Audible is owned by Amazon but AFAIK they don't offer a similar service.

Also, I don't want email notifications. I get too many emails, and ignore anything in the "Promotional" tab. Plus, I'll see the email while I'm at work, which isn't when I'm looking to find my new book.

I wanted a thing I could check when I finish my last book, to tell me right away what has come out since.

EDIT: But yeah, I also recognize that this is an extremely niche set of circumstances! Amazon's email notification service is probably what most folks would want.


I wonder if he could use Indiebound's affiliate program and attract readers who prefer to buy from a local bookstore.


I optimize my spending heavily around cashback credit cards. I wanted a way to make it easier for me and my wife to keep track of which cards we should be using, so I built CashbackOptimizer[0] and iOS[1] and Android[2] apps for it.

I've had lots of side projects fail like this one, and I am starting to realize they are all for similar reasons:

1) Too specific of an idea. After I built this, I found that not many people cared about optimizing cashback, or at least not enough to want to invest time in an app or website for tracking it.

2) Poor UI. I'm not great at UI, and I haven't been able to get great results from places like Upwork - I think they do a lot of great design for brochure-type websites, but I've had a hard time finding people good at designing apps. I've also tried to partner with UI people by giving them ownership in the idea, but it always works out the same - they start out excited about the idea, and while I sink a ton of time and money into an idea, they get bored and don't do much.

3) I'm not great at marketing and SEO, and don't have many connections for finding someone good to work with.

I wish I could find a way to find reliable, motivated people to partner with for small app/website ideas, as being able to build things from the software side alone isn't enough.

0. http://www.cashbackoptimizer.com/ 1. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/cashback-optimizer/id1198107... 2. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.ionicframe...


This is a nice idea

Have you tried posting somewhere like https://www.reddit.com/r/personalfinance/ - you might have some luck in finding users there given the audience


https://www.gigalixir.com is a platform-as-a-service for Elixir apps. It only just launched a few months ago, but so far hasn't generated a profit. I spent 6 months building it and still hope it may take off as Elixir gains in popularity.


I had the idea to do the same thing dedicated to Django. I eventually stopped as I realized that I clearly underestimated the amount of work required to make it work better than Heroku.

The landing page is still visible at https://prodmatic.com


Totally! The building and deploying is the easy part. Then you have to worry about configuration, secrets, versions, rollbacks, migrations, TLS, logging, load balancing, database hosting, backups, billing, maintenance, reliability, security, capacity, and usability, not to mention marketing and customer support.


This looks awesome. I found the pricing confusing tho, it is hard to estimate how much it will cost me.


Oh sorry about that. The free tier is obviously free, but once you need to scale up, you just pay for how much memory you need whether that's 1 big instance or many small instances.

This may help since it has some examples. http://gigalixir.readthedocs.io/en/latest/main.html#pricing-...


Maybe this doesn't count because I wasn't really serious about making money with it. Long time ago, I wrote an unofficial iPhone app that you could use to log into your Vonage account and listen to your voicemails, rather than using their (then) not-mobile-friendly web site. Vonage did not publish an API, so I scraped their online portal's HTML and figured out what GET calls were needed, and just mimicked them from the app.

Of course it was totally vulnerable to 1. Vonage deciding to change their backend or internal API and 2. Vonage deciding to legally destroy it, neither of which happened. At the end of the day I didn't put any marketing into it and decided it was too niche to continue supporting so dropped it from the app store. Took a few months of weekend work to do the first release and then a couple of days a month to maintain it.


I built https://geolua.com. It's a geocaching like system that runs server-side Lua scripts in a VM that control user interfaces on in one or many browsers. I guess it's best explained if you just have a look at the website and try this "adventure": https://geolua.com/adventure/all-widgets-demo-132. Just click on the "Start this adventure" button.

It never had a real monetization strategy, so I never made any money from it. But it was fun developing and I learned a few things I could use for my current product https://info-beamer.com. So it's still a win.


My site http://www.mortalchess.com allows you to solve chess puzzles in a mortal combat style game. You get health with each correct move, and lose health if you spend too long thinking. Over 160 levels! I've made $0 dollars :)


I built an aviation scholarship aggregation and donation platform for general aviation pilots (i.e. those who may not end up pursuing a career in aviation, or those who are self-funding their education). I made a few cents from ads and donations, but nothing noteworthy. The project is long gone now.


I spent a grand or two building Icanpriceit.com, but never launched/promoted it.

If I did it again, I would set aside a lot of time promoting it and focusing on it. Eventually it just took away from my main business and even though I love the idea I stopped thinking about it. Maybe I'll go back one day.


http://www.superanimo.com - HTML5 cartoon and gif editor

I didn't have a plan to monetize it, but I thought it would become a startup and I'd have users and funding by now. I've worked on it about 5 years so far.


I made a clone of etsy focused on a specific industry. Vendors could open their own store, upload products take payments etc. I got 7 vendors signed up and site earned total sales of just under $18 Of which my cut was 64 cents before I shut down. A lot of fun to build though :)


Might as well throw in Product Mentions (http://www.productmentions.com). Scraping reddit to figure out which Amazon links are mentioned, and displaying them on the site. I was going to add affiliate links, but didn't seem really correct. Still have the possibility of companies getting in contact about looking for mentions of their brands to make sure users aren't complaining. Obviously I'm sure there are other companies who do this, but always could be an option that I already have the code for.

And also planning on throwing in HN Amazon link mentions using the API. Even if making no money, always fun to see what people are talking about on sites like Reddit.


What does your architecture for crawling looks like?


I wrote, edited, and published-as-EPUB an entire fiction novel. It made about $22, before taxes. I then decided not to bother publishing it in print, due to obvious lack of demand.

It didn't really cost me anything but my leisure time, though. I'm still working on a second one (but I don't feel quite so motivated to finish it in a timely fashion).

If I cared at all about making money off of it, I'd have to hire someone to market it, and then maybe also hire a second person, so that I never have to interact with a marketing/advertising person directly. Making things is fun. Selling things is horrible torture. I pity those startup founders that have to do both, even if only for a short time.


The majority successful authors don't get their first book published, or their second, or sell any copies of their third.

This is normal, please don't give up!


Give up? The goal is to write, not to sell. I already won.

I just didn't get extra gravy on top by getting paid for it.


Is the novel still available?


Yes, but I don't feel that HN is an appropriate venue for promoting it. More importantly, I don't want to definitively link this forum handle to a real name, as I prefer to post strictly pseudonymously.

If you can figure out who I really am on your own, go right ahead and read the book, but there's no way I can tell you exactly how to find it without spoiling one of my principles for this forum.


I always need a hosted monitoring myself. In the end I decided to build my own[0] and hope to make some money from it. I get some users but so far no one has paid yet and staying on free plan :).

---

0. https://noty.im


http://www.averageweather.io

I have no content, thus no SEO, which has dramatically limited traffic.

Paid search is extremely effective to get people on my site, but AdSense doesn't cover the costs.


This is pretty good project. I can help you out in SEO. I have done various projects where main source of earning is Adsense. If you wish to colloborate and grow it mail me vivek at eyuva.com


I made passagemaster.com, an online app for memorizing anything. It used a review system that focused on not only memorizing things, but not forgetting them. I mostly made it to learn about web development, but half hoped I'd get at least a few users. The only marketing I did was emailing a blog to ask them to add a link, which failed. It's been up for about 6 months now, and I currently have 0 regular users. I only spent about $40 on it, so it wasn't that much of a loss. I ended up using it when job searching, and I now have a full time web development job, so it was definitely worth it.


http://www.sifrgenerator.com was made to generate SIFR fonts, way before webfonts were commonly used.

I spent a lot of time generating Swf files using PHP and learned a lot. The site got a lot of traffic but apparently it didn't target an audience that clicked any ads at all.

It made less than $150 in Adsense in about seven years. I did sell a backlink for $250 and I ended up with around 150,000 font files that were uploaded over all those years... ;) Still need to build a find-and-download-a-font site and attach it to the upload database...


I made an Android Wear game. I did not think my first game would make money, but I thought if I learned how to do it I could make other games that could generate revenue.

In my opinion the install base is too small and the price point for games is too low for it to be a good business for me. I spent $300 on a watch, everything else was free. I learned a lot and it was fun, so I will continue to update the program.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.moseygames...


You're right that the install base is too small but also: virtually every Wear user has a competing game platform in their pocket connected to the watch.


Yeah - that too. I'm sure there will be use cases for wearable games. But there isn't much of an incentive to find that use case if there isn't yet much of a market.


I built an ad arbitrage site around shitty 50 slide slideshows. Drove traffic with Facebook paid and monitized with AdSense. Cleared $2k the first week and then basically got crushed by Google smart pricing.


Simple Yacht Jobs http://www.simpleyachtjobs.com/ (Sort of, because I needed something in my portfolio which paid off.) Here is the code using Angular 1.5, Express, and AWS.https://github.com/adam-s/simplejobs

The problem with it is that it is far, far too complicated. I'll iterate through it again when I use it to learn React and simplify everything.


Might not be the same thing, but I had/have built (a) project(s) that I began with the dreams of someday monetizing, but later realized, maybe I shouldn't, couldn't figure out how to charge for it, or didn't see a need of why anyone would pay to use it, and thus, ended up just keeping it as a "free platform".

I'm not upset about the decisions I've made for keeping my projects free, as if anything, they have taught me a lot, and I tend to use what I learned from them for future projects. In most cases, I end up turning on an Analytics feature and studying it, in order to understand the behavior of my users, and exactly what they are using it for and why, so that I can harness that into ideas for future projects.

Two projects like this were a blog I run called Confessions of the Professions ( http://www.confessionsoftheprofessions.com ). This website was created in order to solicit rants and raves from people about their jobs, careers, and their workplace. While I wouldn't call it a complete failure or complete success, as it has been monetized and makes money through ads, I would've loved to figured out a way to bring in revenue and make it a full time job.

The reason I say success and failure: It goes viral for days and weeks at a time, sometimes receiving over 10,000 visitors a day, while other days, it normally gets its average of about 1,000, though it could be worse. Sometimes, I cannot fully recognize the fact that I began with just Googlebot, my mom, and girlfriend as my visitors, and yet I continue to receive hundreds of emails a year with contributions and people thanking me. I even had a teacher from an elementary class full of students using some of the articles for their school project and thanked me so much for creating the website.

Confessions remains an ongoing project.. I'm always writing articles or receiving them from other people and getting them ready for the website, so I'd say I spent a good 2 years passionate about it and into it, hours and hours a day. I've since limited myself to no more than 1 hour per day on it. Occasionally 2 hours if writing an article.

For the other project, MyPost ( https://mypost.io ) is a web page creation platform that allows anyone to create a page with very little knowledge of HTML or CSS in seconds, or they can completely customize their page with HTML and CSS as they see fit. And there is soo much that people can do with it. I created it for a number of different reasons as well, including as an educational tool for people to learn what it was like to code. Social media has catered to the population so much that while everyone "can use social media and the Internet", far fewer can claim to hit the "View Source" button and actually understand all that makes a website what it is.

As for charging for this, I never could figure it out and hoped to one day just put ads on the website, but ended up scratching this idea, as the ads were just too annoying, even for me. I can tolerate some ad popups, but I created the platform to offer people an experience, not an annoyance. It is this project that taught me a lot about databases and a lot about what people want on the Internet, and that is: an easy way to gain exposure. I have plans for a another project that helps people to do that, similar to ProductHunt and Hacker News.

The time I spent on this was about 3 months initially and then another 2 months just making some changes, fixing things, creating samples, etc.

I would love to quit my day job and just work on side projects and monetize them.. as I'm sure many of us would, but I have yet to get to that point completely. I do have a few projects I built completely with monetization in mind, and while there is a free version of those products, I built them as a subscription-based platform. I also have a few other projects in mind that I have no intentions of charging for.... for some projects, it is more about gaining exposure and recognition for me.


Nothing major, but I put a few sticker designs up on StickerMule's marketplace: https://www.stickermule.com/user/1070831731/stickers

It's been a couple months, and my $20ish investment (you have to place an order for a sticker before you can sell it) has turned up $43 of profit. So technically it was profitable, but I don't think I've even reached minimum wage for the time I spent on it.


Could you talk a bit about what you've done to promote it? Or has it been a hands-off, 'whatever traffic the marketplace provides organically' kinda thing?


I kind of want this to be a periodic HN topic, like "Who's Hiring" - "What's Stalling", maybe?

Get us talking about projects that we're working on that need a boost of any kind.


I started a web app some years ago called UppIMG where you could upload images. Basically it was a competitor to the predecessors of Imgur at the time. Too much porn led me to taking it offline.


A web bookmarking app: http://newsconomy.com/

I built it many years ago. Some people use it. Never made a cent from it.


I built https://cocoa.dog recently. The idea is that you can send somebody random pictures of dogs with a message. Kinda like the Goats thing awhile back.

I mostly built it just to get some experience building something using Stripe and was not really intended to make a huge amount of money. But Im not sure if anybody has really used it. Im guessing the novelty of sending people pictures of things from a random number has worn off.


https://vidgen.io

It's a web app that generates summary videos of online articles/content.

I launched it in February and it hasn't made a dime. I was charging ~$3 per generated video, but since it's had zero traction, the videos can now be downloaded for free.

The main feature it's lacking is a way to customize the generated videos. Once I get this implemented I will try promoting it again.

Spent about 3 months building it and over $2k in hosting + licensing.


There's a germ of a really interesting idea in here, esp with video sort of becoming the de facto standard of content consumption these days ( at least in short form across social media ).

Maybe take a breather from the tech side and go out to some possible users, and I would almost start super niche-y with this type of thing. Don't bother developing some type of customizing generated video tool yet. I bet there's a substantial group of people out there that either have historical content that they would pay to put in video form to distribute across social, or some group that's forced to produce content in standard text format, but would love an easy 'to-video' button solution. And in both cases, I would imagine they would have very specific requirements for you in terms of transforming their content, how the output should look, etc, etc, etc. It would probably be all kinds of specific code that you would be loathe to write for a single client, but you should. And from that maybe it will help guide you w/ whatever next tech thing is worth implementing. Anyhow, 2 cents from internet stranger so take it for what it's worth ;)

I am curious though, what is the bulk of your costs in hosting that's pushing it to 2K in 3 months -- or am I mid-reading that?


Thanks for the suggestion! That makes a lot of sense. You're right, most publishers are very particular about format of their content in these generated videos. Focusing on a single client would help nail down at least one use case, and bring in some much needed cash flow :)

The text-to-speech software was ~$1500, and it's been running on a $100/month dedicated server since February.


Would be nice if you could put a url in without https in front. Otherwise, this is a really cool idea. It makes sense that most people wouldn't find it worth $3 though.

I'm trying it out now :)


Thanks! And good point about dropping the http/https in the URL validation.


I wrote https://qriusity.com/ as a part time project, I have always wanted to build a quiz app but there were hardly any quiz APIs available for public use, so I decided to take on the effort to build one myself, working on extending the db, right now it has around 17k questions, need to work on the API and content. Suggestions welcome on improving the API and legal aspects of collecting questions.


https://catattack.co/ ...Launched on Product hunt and made some money, but I haven't put much effort into in since. It still makes a few bucks a month, but I feel like it could do a lot better. I keep thinking I'll fix up the code and add some features but never get around to it :/ I'd be willing to sell it, that would make me something :)


https://privateforms.com has made some revenue and had about 10 or 15 customers at one point, but I've definitely not recouped my time investment into it.

I haven't iterated or done anything in an attempt to respark interest.

It still works and I have a few customers still (including myself). I really just had a hard time marketing to those that I thought would be my customers (mostly journalists and lawyers).


Probably doesn't count, but I'll post anyways...

I've written the beginnings for two games, but didn't flesh out and complete the game mechanics because I haven't wanted to deal with the legal expenses involved in establishing an LLC and trademarking my assets, so I haven't been motivated to complete and release them.

I don't want to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on legal protections and then only make back $50.


Why do you feel the need to trademark your assets at this point?

I mean, it sounds like your blocker to making them worth something is that they're possibly not worth anything...

...so why not make it, and then if it starts making money, pop the trademarks? People aren't likely to notice (and steal) unless it's successful enough anyway.

...plus, AFAIK, you can't protect game mechanics; it's something like they're considered the same as math: can't copyright, can't patent.


You're right.

I think I'll make the game for now, polish it, etc. I'll make the LLC if I'm ever ready to release. If I make any money at all, then I'll trademark.

Game mechanics might not be able to be protected, but I'm worried that wouldn't stop some other major game company from bringing me to court to try. If a game is similar enough to an existing game, they could have a case.


@RangerScience could I ask you to reach out to me. Would like to discuss something via email.


You have copyright no matter what, deal with trademark and LLC later!


Been working on this for about a year now.

http://propertywebbuilder.com/

Everyone says open sourcing it was a mistake but I really don't enjoy marketing. I tried selling it as a closed source SAAS product but hated that. Right now its gaining traction so I'm hoping in a year or so it will be well know enough that I can charge for a premium version.


There are other unique IP Address numbers which are<a href="http://www.192168-ip.com/192-168-2-1/">192.168.2.1</a> used for other unique systems. One of a unique IP Address number is 10.0.0.1, and it is a Class An IP Address.


"Oh By".[1]

I launched this about a year ago and while it has made more than zero dollars (some folks have indeed paid for personalized, editable Oh By Codes) it doesn't really make any money.

I am very busy with rsync.net and much more so these past 12 months so I haven't had the time I would like to invest into Oh By. I continue to believe it's a good idea.

[1] https://0x.co


I didn't immediately understand what the purpose of this was. It might be a good idea to include a photograph or visual which demonstrates a typical use case, and to craft a short, simple tagline which explains the product.


I started niche scanner reviews blog https://www.scanviews.com but it not working from 10 posts I wrote with my not native English language. It's not working. Idea was to make gsmarena alternative for scanner and digitalization reviews. I'm getting like 1 cent per month from it.


I built https://bestfoodnearme.com with the hope of making it easier to decide where to eat. I am still trying to find product market fit and iterate on improvements.

I think it has not found much traction as I have to prime the pump in terms of content. Finding the right audience also would help.


I wrote a todo list app for windows phone called listage, which had neat fast entry and auto categorising features. Free with in app purchase to unlock advanced features. I built it for myself but secretly hoped it would take the world by storm, which it did not. I sold 5 copies. That's probably 1/4 of all the windows phone users left out there :)


Without looking through the responses (yet) I can guarantee the vast majority of any failed projects here can be contributed to a lack of focus on sales and marketing.

For us techies (and I include myself in this although I do sales and marketing for a living, so I've beat it out of me) it is far too easy and safe to return to what we know...AKA the technology.


I've looked through 3/4 of them so far, and most of the failed projects here are actually because there was no market for the product in the first place. Then there is designing the product wrong (so it doesn't do what the user wants, or doesn't clearly do so), not having enough resources, and not charging enough money. Lack of focus on sales and marketing is an issue in a few cases, and in those few cases it can certainly be a killer, but it's not the most likely reason for project failure.


I've built a surveying and feedback platform for businesses.

Basically after embedding code on your site, you can launch feedback surveys on your page to keep improving product or service. You can also send email surveys to your customers. https://insightstash.com


Negotiate With Us (https://negotiatewith.us)

I was running a career coaching business and this was a stab at automating the training of people for salary negotiations.

Soft launched it a couple months ago so maybe it's too early to say "it won't make money".


http://cookarr.com was supposed to get donations/patreon but I decided to keep is as my private hobby site for some time. Still figuring out if I should monetize things like nutritional information or go into the cooking assistant direction.


Budgeting tips (cash income) back when I was a restaurant server was hard, so I recently built https://www.tipoutapp.com to make this easier.

It works well (I think), but I haven't gotten around to marketing it yet, so no one really knows it exists.


I created a service for behavioral and cognitive changes (http://willyoudidyou.com). Spent many months working on it, had a handful of beta users, but traction has not been there overall - despite pushing in various marketing efforts.


You may want to:

(1) check how many visitors are scrolling 6 pagefuls to understand the 6 pictures. You can use crazyegg, etc heatmap kind of tool to measure. I personally would've preferred to just be told in a single picture, but that's just me.

(2) I'm not sure how helpful is the "Help us Launch" callout at the top. You may just want to put the e-mail form up there. And instead of using "Help us" phrasing, a blunt "Get notified of our launch timeline", etc. probably would convert better.


https://www.findlectures.com, though not expecting to make money either. I've had a lot of interesting side-conversations from it though. E.g. lot of people email me speakers they like, and I got a conference talk out of it.


http://random.fyi What I learned is that people like more one simple website doing one thing well then one website try to do all the things. My other website which work one thing only brings me revenue.


I built gpsheatmap as a starter django project -

http://www.gpsheatmap.com/

I think bad SEO and the website not being polished is the issue

Currently thinking of either selling it, or redeveloping it as a wordpress plugin for sports clubs


I made an app to help track/visualize multi projects dependencies. https://www.manticoreapp.com

It solve more or less the same problem as GitLab multi-project pipeline which was recently released.


I built a personal data self tracking app (quantified-self stuff) and I still use it but no one was nerdy in quite the way I was to want to track things similarly. https://uyday.com/


You might dig Daytum: https://daytum.com/


I built an online poker bot that was making around $500-$1000 per account. Maintenance was a bitch though (poker sites have a lot of bugs and my bot had to work around a lot of them) so I abandoned it and got a job instead.


What game did the bot play?

How was your variance?

Did you use an established framework? (I know at least the one popular one existed a few years back)


http://sudokuisland.com

Never gained enough traction, with competitors across pages of Google search. Was hoping for at least a modest 100's of dollars per month.


Https://Storage.cubitoo.com – my little tool to manage clutter at home and at the office. Somehow I chickened down to actually take the dip and open the commpany,maybe I will run it for free some time.


I wanted to practice a little more more with nodejs. To me it's pointless to learning a programming language without a project. Eventually, I will convert it from PHP (codeigniter) to angular 4 so that I can learn angular 4.

I also was banned from adsense, for machine generated content. Regardless, I really like amazon and my product you can't really use adblock, so I put together a website that monitors amazon daily prices.

I get most of my hits on facebook feed. Regardless I don't make as much money as I would like, but it gives me something to do when my regular job is annoying me. Plus I got some nodejs programming experience and database construction experience as well. So all is not lost.

Http://www.bestoftheinternets.com/Deals I might be looking for a growth hacker...


Whats the current traffic? You might be earning good via amazon affiliate.


I made a simple website that lets you send compliments to your friends (no negativity allowed) http://www.letskudos.com


That is impossible to police even if a committee of humans looks at every message and deliberates for 20 minutes. Negativity can be encoded in communication between two people in ways that cannot be detected if you don't have the private context.


I have done a handful of side projects that have lost money and lots of side projects with time spent on something that has not be productized.

I don't really thing you should do a side project with the anticipation of making money.

My focus on side projects is doing R&D and building skills or tools that will pay off in my paid work. From that perspective I don't really consider anything I have done to be a "loss."

I do open source but only to demonstrate something I plan to sell later or to establish ownership of IP.

Spending money on R&D is a great investment since you can deduct on taxes and get an automatic 30% return. That is much higher and guaranteed return compared to "investing" in stock market.


Would one need to create an LLC or something to claim R&D credits?


Talk to a lawyer or accountant about that.


Perfume Doom on iOS. It made a minimal amount of money but it was still less than the annual fee for the Apple developer program. I spent maybe a month building it.


Last year, on college, I started working on a bot to consistently win money in daily fantasy basketball. I think I went negative before I paused working on it.


Sounds interesting!

Can you explain how your bot worked from a technical perspective? And/or what did you learn from the whole experience


Pulled data from nba stats API using a Python library, created features in Python, then fed the data into pretty basic machine learning models. Only achieved slight gains over just assuming a player's performance was going to be his average over the past year.

But a big part that was pretty effective and not even predictive related was using a modified knapsack algorithm to fit the best predicted value into one day's roster.

I never proved the algorithm, though...


I launched Devzil.la and wp extra care (wpextracare.com) both still active, both good ideas, but Ihave done no marketing for either and thus no revenue.


Fileloupe for Mac (https://www.fileloupe.com)

Videoloupe for Mac (https://www.videoloupe.com)

These are both macOS applications that have yet to reach enough in sales to be sustainable. However, I work on them full-time in hopes of reaching sustainability in the near future.

"Why do you think it hasn't been as successful as you thought it would be..."

Exposure and importance. Getting exposure for a macOS application (or any application for that matter) is tough. The lion's share of excitement these days is around mobile applications and web services. Trying to get publishers excited enough to write about a desktop application is challenging...

Importance is something that's taken me a little bit to understand. There might be some "utility" or "nice to have" applications for macOS that make a decent living, but I think if you really want to turn an application into something that has long-term sustainability, then you need to find a way for your application to become essential to a user's workflow. Excel, Lightroom and Final Cut Pro are all essential applications to their respective user's. Fileloupe and Videoloupe are "nice to have" apps in their current versions. People enjoy them, but they aren't essential.

With the exception of maybe a few outliers, I'm not convinced that you can make a living selling macOS apps for $10 and hope to make up revenue on volume. I think you need to get into a higher price range and if you want to sell a more expensive product to someone, then it has to fall under the "essential" category and not the "nice to have". That's my goal with Fileloupe 2.0 and Videoloupe 2.0, but there's a ton of development to do.

(Oh, and I'd forgot how much more work went into making a macOS application versus an iOS application. To say that my original time estimates were off is a laughable under-statement.)

"How much time/money did you spend building it..."

Development on Fileloupe started in the spring of 2014 and version 1.0 shipped in the summer of 2015. Development on Videoloupe started in the summer of 2016 and 1.0 shipped in the spring of 2017. Living expenses have been cut drastically over the years so that I can continue to do this full time. (Hint: Living in Thailand is a lot cheaper than living in San Francisco or Vancouver...) Sadly, I don't belong to any special "comma club" so there's an end-date to this dream if profitability cannot be reached.

"What kind of iterations / improvements did you make to try and salvage it"

I learned a ton building version 1.0 of each product. Arguably, I learned more than I should of and likely would have been better off starting with a bit more of a plan and clearer vision for each app. Regardless, I now have a much better idea of what each app should be and I'm hard at working on version 2.0 for each.


I can see how the issue of importance would be relevant. Is there some feature you can add, and then advertise, that would solve a burning pain for your target audience?


I believe so, which is why I'm working on a version 2.0 of each application.

In the case of Fileloupe, version 1.0 is "just" a file viewer at the end of the day. It's a really fast file viewer with some neat features, but it's still just a file viewer and thus it has to compete against everything from the macOS Finder to Adobe Bridge and Lightroom.

Fileloupe 2.0 adds the ability to create libraries that are persistent across app launches. Photographers have a dozen applications out there that let them organize their photos but there aren't many applications for organizing other types of media that use a similar system of albums, ratings, color labels and flags.

For example, videographers have few options for cataloguing and organizing their raw footage outside of the Finder and professional media suites. Fileloupe 2.0 will allow them to organize their video files in a similar way to how a photographer might organize their photos. (And it's not just applicable to videos. You could organize graphics, PDFs, documents and just about anything else.)

I've never really had a macOS user tell me they were desperately in need of a fast file viewer, but I have had many tell me that they want a better way to organize their files and media. I'm hoping to solve "that problem" with Fileloupe 2.0 and thus make it a much more essential application for a set of users.


A website to answer the question "what kind of dog food should I buy?"

It was a price comparison website that allowed you to quickly find the best priced dog food (unit price -- like $ per 1 pound weight) and it could be filtered by dog food ratings (you could compare expensive 5-star quality ingredient foods while ignoring any of the cheap 1-star ingredient foods). There is an independent website that reviews dog food based solely on ingredients, created by a veterinarian that I used for assigning SKUs to quality cohorts. I felt that most of the reviews on e-tailer website were heavily opinionated, based on anecdotes -- not data, and many were brand-sensitive ("I only buy so and so brand because all other brands suck").

The site was fully built, had some decent SEO, it integrated with 12 e-tailers, I registered and tagged all of the products for many affiliate marketing systems, I bought several hundred dollars worth of AdWords campaigns and iterated about 6 times. The scraper and display website took a few months. I spent a few days cleaning obviously erroneous data. It took a day's worth of time to sign up for all of the affiliate programs (effort staggered over a few weeks). I built a few scripts to automate the browser to search the affiliate websites for the correct affiliate links (some programs were much more customized than just adding a site-wide tag). I ran it for over a year and there was only one conversion that was paid by the affiliates, but it was too small for them to cut a check.

The idea, after the website was built and running, got some interest from a former CEO (now VC) and from a wealthy friend of the family, but I never followed up with either. I felt like all of the hard work of the product was done and the majority of work remaining would need to be marketing and generating inbound links.

I'm still convinced that there is a need for more price comparison websites that are unit-price indexed. Amazon doesn't have search by unit price and only occasionally has unit price. Things that come in packages of varying size (like dog food, batteries, household detergents and liquids) are hard to compare for value. I found two other sites with this idea, one was shut down and the other was focused entirely on supplimenting Amazon.

One problem I had is that the fine print on most of the affiliate programs prevented me from competing on many of the necessary AdWords search term keywords that I would have needed to advertise to get any real traffic. Basically, I felt my web interface was superior to both the e-tailers for finding the right product, but I couldn't compete for that AdWord traffic because my competition with them would drive up their marketing costs.


Are you dog fooding your own app?


choosejarvis.com -- not really a side project, but doesn't make much money. has revenue of a few hundred dollars per month. Would sell it instantly for $15,000 even though we invested $100k in development.

converthero.com -- would sell this for $10-15k. It's a opt-in popup maker.

> Why do you think it hasn't been as successful as you thought it would be?

Marketing is hard.


You should be able to sell Jarvis to PR, marketing, and communications companies -- at a price point much higher that you're currently selling on your homepage.

Have you conducted any cold emails/sales call campaigns to those clients? I'm pretty sure you could find buyers at $100/month, if not more. I see the immediate value.

How have you been marketing this so far? What audience have you been targeting? What routes have you been using, i.e., PPC, direct outreach, cold calls?

I would be interested to work on this with you: j@greenaway.me


Cameron - please email me on scott.bowler [at] dcsworldwide.net, would like to discuss purchasing Jarvis


I have never had a successful side project.


Perfume Doom on the iOS store.


All of them


I built a SMS marketing web-app. It's basically a contact-management and mass messenger, nothing fancy. Heroku/django/twilio/stripe stack. People can sign up for your list, and you send them deals or events or whatever as regularly as you feel like.

I built it for a niche that is not very tech-savvy, and largely couldn't be targeted by SEO, because my partner was going to handle sales. The partner faded away almost immediately and there hasn't been any real revenue to speak of. It pays for itself.

It was built for my own business as the original customer, and that business still uses it, but nobody else does. At our peak we had maybe 4 paying customers, but our onboarding wasn't great either (we were brand new) and they didn't all see the value in it.

Anyway, I think with more sales and better onboarding we'd have had a good MRR and not much churn.

Heroku has more than doubled their monthly fee since it started. It used to be profitable with one customer, now it is breakeven, +/- a few dollars. I think I'll move it soon to a $5 VM and it should make about $60/month at that point.

I made some mistakes:

1) trusting my partner to make sales. I already knew they weren't a workaholic.

2) No vesting cliffs or anything. We just have 50/50 and that's it, so I was not interested in working on it solo and paying out half the money, nor starting a fight for full control. I wouldn't lose much to rename it and take it elsewhere, but I wouldn't feel right about it. Anyway he quit selling within a month (about 15-30 hours invested iirc) and so we were dead in the water. I'm close with him and so I left it at that to avoid damaging our personal relationship.

3) I used long-codes, which is a nono for mass-texting. We had some dropped texts, or we think we did (it's very hard to diagnose). Shortcodes were very expensive at the time; I don't know what the options look like now. You can probably pay for access to someone else's shortcode. We don't notice any issues with the remaining customer, which has a list of a couple hundred folks.

I haven't touched the code for over 3 years and it still runs. That's pretty impressive, probably my most solid system. Also some kudos to heroku for not breaking it somehow in that time.

I've never shipped any personal project since then, although I'm getting close on one now. I continued to make the mistake of picking bad co-founders, so for this one I'm solo. I don't expect to get rich, as I have no marketing plan and I find most marketing distasteful. So maybe I'll get lucky, or maybe I'll expose myself to some strangers on here or somewhere when it's ready to sell.


There's a need in the non-profit space for something that does this well and is relatively cheap per-message. Big players like MobileCommons and RevolutionMessaging charge 1k+ per month for SMS blast capabilities based on list size. If you have an API or the ability to import/export CSVs you could probably compete at the low end of the market.

Or make it open source?


We haven't made any money at Fogbeam Labs[0] yet. I could talk a lot about the reasons why, and why I'm still crazy optimistic, but it might take a while to write it all up. Maybe I'll do a blog post one day. I think it's all too long for an HN comment.

That said, I can try to distill out a few key points:

(in no particular order )

1. Doing this as a "side project" while the founders still work day jobs. I think doing that is fine, but it limits how fast you can move and how aggressive you can be.

2. And (1) goes hand in hand with this one, which is "not being focused enough". I should have emphasized a "what is the single most important thing we can do now to generate revenue" approach from the beginning. Instead, we worked on this "grand vision" which is pretty cool, but took forever to get close to having a shippable product.

3. Early on I was thinking mostly about on-premises deployments, with the idea of rolling the code into a SaaS version as "next step". In hindsight, that was probably exactly backwards. Going SaaS, and going "down market" in terms of customer size would have made it easier, I believe, to get initial traction. IoW, as Mark Suster put it[1] "hunt deer, not elephants".

4. Not taking my health seriously enough. As some of you may recall, I had a heart attack[2] near the end of 2014. And while I lived and was able to get back in the saddle, that whole ordeal happened at a really bad time from a company perspective and cost us basically the entire following year, as I recovered both physically and mentally. In hindsight, I was pushing myself way too hard, and not doing the things I should have been doing w/r/t diet, exercise, etc.

On the flip side, we have done some things right. Probably the most notable is keeping the burn rate extraordinarily low. We spend a small enough amount of money that I can fund our current activity level out of my pocket nearly indefinitely. Which is a big part of why we're not out of business despite having no revenue. And now things are starting to look up, as we have one really solid prospect in the pipeline and are deep into the transition to a SaaS delivery model for the "old" products, and have a really cool new SaaS offering stirring as well.

The interesting point for us will be if we can sign even 3 or 4 relatively small deals and get some real traction established. Then we can decide if we want to go pursue outside money or not, or if we want to just keep doing the organic growth thing.

[0]: https://www.fogbeam.com

[1]: https://bothsidesofthetable.com/most-startups-should-be-deer...

[2]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8550315


All of them :)


Arcade game developer here.

I loved the game concept of ABA's "Defeat Me": http://wonderfl.net/c/9ykQ . SHMUP where each enemy is a copy of you. Round 3 you fight a clone of Round 1, Round 2, mirrored.

but I disagreed with several major design decisions:

1) Rounds were too difficult (a deadline came in very fast, the bullets were nearly the size of the ship) 2) Player movement & weapons changed rapidly (speed & number of shots per spread was a modulo on the level number 3) Losing meant you retried the same level.. at that point in the game, you basically be stuck. I wanted the game to restart.

I improved on the game with pixel-perfect collision, weapon animations and other design decisions like letting the player screen-wrap around the edge but not the clones, regaining time on the deadline when you killed a clone and more.

I even experimented with a co-op, 2 variants of 1 Versus 1 mode and a Replay site before removing them for the core experience.

I made the game because I wanted to play it. Making money was a secondary goal but I'm proud of the game and find it way more fun than most games I've played. How many games do you know that have an AI procedurally determined by your movements?

Revenue earned: 3 * $10 on "pay what you want" from itch.io. 1 from a friend's friend who overhead on a Skype chat that I made a game, 1 from an indie developer at a games meetup and 1 from a friend when I sent them a link.

+ < $100 from iOS sales (I switched from the iOS app to Desktop (Win/Mac/Linux with Eletron packager) for a better experience and more fun coding.

I think it's cool that $10 was the amount chosen by 3 people who didn't know each other as a valuation for the game. However it's disappointing that all 3 were people who knew me.

I sent out ~100 emails to game reviewers with download links and got 1 brief article but no revenue.

Why: Discovering games is hard. Marketing to people who would like this kind of puzzle-y arcade game is difficult to reach without looking like a spammer or spending $.

Differently: Not try so many weird experiments with gameplay and focus on the core relentlessly + Playtest more.

Iterations: 2 prototypes from TigJam. 2 more iOS versions then another re-write for an App Store launch. 2 Javascript versions (the latter being launched) + 1 seperate version for multiplayer.

Time: Hundreds of hours. Maybe a thousand? A lot of this was done earlier on when I was less experienced with programming + design. I playtested a lot

Lessons for Game Developers: Playtest often, stick to the core relentlessly. Carve away crap that doesn't fit no matter how cool it is or fun to make. I spent too much time iterating on mobile interfaces when gamepad controller support was far superior and passed "the bar test" (give to strangers at a bar and watch them cheer other strangers on as they pass the controller around).

Play [1], An old trailer [2]

[1] http://QuantumPilot.me (redirects to itch.io) [2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oy_GBLM_6Qs


I just played your game, it is extremely fun but I think there is a lot of missed potential and to be honest I would never buy it in its current state. It feels like a tech demo rather than a full game. My unsolicited advice is as follows:

The art is boring. Most bullet hell games either have a mecha or anime art style with a lot of flashy effects. The closest in style to your game is probably geometry wars but your game lacks all of the color, warping, and particle effects that makes geometry wars look cool. You should invest money in the art.

It is very interesting that whenever you die in the game you are essentially killing yourself, or some sort of past version of yourself is killing a future version of you. There should be some sort of narrative element to highlight and expand upon this idea. I think it is way less interesting to sell it as "your enemies learn from you" when you could be selling as "a battle against all your past selves", way more emotional content in the latter, you're fighting all of your mistakes, all of your hubris, all of your near-sightedness, and every shot you take is another nail in your coffin.

To expound on this emotional element your character should be some sort of actual character, not just a green triangle... This doesn't mean you need a big backstory or cutscenes or anything major like that, something as simple as a drawing of a cute girl with a couple lines of dialogue will suffice. the thing you actually control can still be a spaceship but the player should know there is a character inside of it and they should know what they look like, you could make it so off to the side of the screen the characters face could pop up and react to what is going on. Go to tumblr and ask some type of fan artist to draw you a 'time traveling spaceship pilot that battles her past self and is really cute" and pay them for their work. Then when you die you can see that same character pop out of the space ship that killed you and celebrate ;)

You should rethink the gameplay progression and how the levels work. It doesn't seem clear to me why you split up the gameplay into discrete levels rather than having continuous play with 'respawning' enemies. I don't see why I have go through the weapon type progression linearly each time either (shouldn't I be able to collect or switch weapons or something?), reminds me of my main issue with geometry wars which was that I had to play for about 15 minutes before the game really became fun and that I had to redo that boring 15 minutes every time I died. Just start me with the fun gameplay or make the ramp up period very short.


Thank you for your feedback!

I will have to think about the art. I went for minimalist approach where nothing but core mechanical data is shown.

I see that this kind of minimalist approach isn't super popular (you + others have commented, I forgot to put that in my first comment).

In my next game (a 2P versus game, also available at www.Combo.Zone ), I experimented with excessive particle effects but art is a major weakness of my development.

Characterization + avatar: Spot on points, thank you.

There is poem at the end that sort of explains the story, but it's very tacked on. What I'm taking from your feedback is that some sort of context - no matter how thin - is critical to keep players engaged.

Levels: Thanks for bringing this up. Fully continuous gameplay felt a little too confusing + overwhelming - by clearing a wave down to the last enemy you get a moment of relief.

It takes under 5 minutes to get through all of the levels, at which point the game changes and you get a continuous set of 8 clones (still kill from 8 to 1, then the 1st in the list is replaced by your last pattern) with random weapons. It's the most fun part of the game IMO but it's difficult without knowing what all the weapons are (identified by color).

I tried a weapon unlock system where you scored points for killing enemies + could purchase a weapon between stages to upgrade. More accurate shooting gave you more points faster so you could skip the easier parts quicker the more experienced you were.

I'm sorry to hear you found the first parts boring so quickly.

If you want to try the more fun part, open up game.js in the source and change line 626 to " this.quantumpilot = true" ... to make the weapons random every level.

And ah crap, you helped me find a bug. With the new 2 color scheme for each stage, the final stage would still have all the enemies the same color instead of being differentiated. Thanks stranger.

I will send your comments to an artist I know and get their take on it.

I'm leaning towards leaving the game as is though, and moving onto new projects. My next big project is all about characters - a Choose Your Own adventure where you see the same events from different perspectives. You start as a barista in a coffee shop and whoever you give coffee too is who you play as next until they return.


> Thank you for your feedback!

No problem, I love ranting about video games

>Levels: Thanks for bringing this up. Fully continuous gameplay felt a little too confusing + overwhelming - by clearing a wave down to the last enemy you get a moment of relief.

I hadn't considered that, it could be that something like a continuously scrolling background could get the feeling I was looking for. I guess it has something to do with having a sense of location or presence in the game. This might seem a little bizarrely nitpicky but when I get teleported back to home position at the beginning of each level it feels sort of wrong... like, is the space I'm in now even the same space as the last level, has any amount of time passed for my spaceship since then? I'm not sure if anyone else cares about this sort of thing though...

>I'm sorry to hear you found the first parts boring so quickly.

This is a very common issue I have with games like this, geometry wars, asteroids, etc. I want to be playing the crazy parts! It's a difficult problem because the early parts also have to function as a sort of tutorial and a breathing/ramp up period and you also might not want dynamic difficulty because of things like high scores so it isn't a trivial problem. It isn't unique to your game at all and I'm not sure anyone has solved the problem satisfactorily.

>If you want to try the more fun part, open up game.js in the source and change line 626 to " this.quantumpilot = true" ... to make the weapons random every level.

Awesome, thanks!

Cool game, I'm gonna follow your future games, the choose your own adventure barista game sounds interesting


Thanks for the solace re: difficulty. It's a fine line because if you offer players "jump into the crazy parts" they may jump in and decide it's just too much.

You're the first person who's called out the warp back to the bottom!

Your X position is maintained. I warp you back in the Y because with the clones spawning, you could be right in front of them as they shoot with zero reaction time.

An earlier iteration had you maintain movement control while each clone phased in (took about 3 seconds total), with the path they would follow being drawn out temporarily. I liked the positioning + keeping your control aspect but everyone who played ( from games to bar patrons ) kept mashing shoot.. they wanted to keep fighting, so I took it out for the sake of minimalism.

Thanks! You can follow on my itch http://Combo.Zone or look for quantumpotato on Devlogs https://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?board=27.0


Have you tried reaching out to physical arcades? It requires a physical cabinet, but most arcades in the US that I've been to are very receptive to indie arcade titles.


I've looked at it a bit! Got interest from 1 local arcade.

Cabinets are expensive to build + take effort to maintain (replacing parts) so it would have to be calculated.

I've done a little bit of prototyping in "play games on a shared screen with your cellphone" that I think might be more conducive to the barcade scene. Something I might look into further; right now my next focus is on a GPS-based ChooseYourOwnAdventure + some tools for indie developers.




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