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Building a startup in public: from first line of code to frontpage of Reddit (levels.io)
182 points by dwynings on July 30, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 22 comments



I love the "don't give a F let me broadcast all of it" mentality here. This is amazing. Starting a project much less a business has a lot of ups and downs. Putting a camera on top of you for all of it probably works wonders on morale.


I went through a 2 year period where I put every one of my experiments and side projects on github and tried to update at least one every other day or so.

Knowing that other people could see when I stopped motivated me a lot. The whole thing made me a better programmer too.


That's really interesting. Can you expound on this a little more? I've never done it but am thinking about it so that's why I ask.

Were you self conscious? How'd it make you a better programmer? Did you talk out what you were doing?


Yes I was self conscious, that's what encouraged me to keep fixing things so people would see me working rather than slacking off (it's similar to the IM client busy/away indicator at work.)

It made me a better programmer simply because I was doing it more, so I kept encountering problems and having to solve them. I learned why more experienced programmers do things and don't do things, I got better at using GDB and started using valgrind etc.


I've tried to document the journey of building a product and it added a tremendous load of stress to the already stressful process.

Props to the "don't give a F let me broadcast all of it" mentality.


I would be so paranoid of leaking information if I had to do twitch live coding. For example how do you handle copying and pasting api secrets? Or just pure privacy stuff like not showing other domains you own in namecheap (which he doesn't seem to care about in: https://youtu.be/Tq1uoC-lxy8?t=528)


I'm the writer of the post and yes I did expose my Google API keys actually! I didn't notice until they told me on Twitch chat. Had to revoke them quickly :0

The worst that could happen is that people see I watch porn. But everyone does, I wouldn't be that embarassed. Slightly blushing though.

I don't have much sensitive data on my laptop. I mean passwords are blocked off. So what can people see?

OBS (the streaming app) does let you limit the window to stream. I did use Incognito for most of the streams. I did also make a separate Twitch login on my OSX but it was such a pain to re-login to stream that I never used it.

There's definitely a risk here but yeah it's a trade off.


Funny, I'd say my Google API keys are a way, way, way bigger secret than the fact that I sometimes watch porn. Most people do, so it's not a big surprise that I might. I wouldn't much care if people saw me naked. It's just my flesh. Everyone has a body. It's easy to find pictures of naked bodies, and pictures of mine probably wouldn't be very interesting. But my API keys, they are unique and important.

That said, for random private-ish accounts I use Chrome user profiles. Safari does not have them.

Are you American?


According to the blog post, he is from Amsterdam.


Yes, I'm Dutch. But yes, I can't say I'm much embarrassed about much anymore. Being transparent on the internet helps with that :)


I don't have direct experience with this but I do know that OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) lets you control exactly what is shown on the stream. One of the options is showing a completely different "scene" replacing your screen with a static image/text.


I would have the same concern. I've done some contacting with zoom meetings for peer coding sessions, planning, brainstorming, etc. involved. I'm always perceptive to little things like other clients someone is involved with based on open browser tabs, database names, project folder names, contacts and the like. Fortunately I have a good relationship and high degree of trust with the other parties, but the more money gets involved the more those small leaks of information become important. Dashboards and user views of most applications are not deigned with the idea of hiding certain information from someone who might be sharing your screen.


Presumably you'd use a 2nd monitor that isn't broadcasting for anything sensitive.


Gotta love your attitude: live coding, guerilla marketing, how you dealt with 4chan spammers, shipping quickly... Excellent write-up.

Ads seems the most natural business model if you get it big enough. hotels, flights, car rental, all have pretty ok revenue potential through affiliate deals.

However, before you get to that scale, try out selling it as a widget (or something like that, or a spin off product based on the crowd sourced data) to tourist offices of cities themselves. It wouldn't be huge business but I think with right pricing, some customization and support work for integration etc, you could make it 10-50k per deal and scale the workload pretty easily.


I remember when this guy was the moderator of the very large, r/digitalnomads, where his digital nomad products were copiously promoted. Most people didn't know this (I didn't), until I guess an inevitable backlash one day. I can only tip my hat, he is a hustler (not a bad thing), and it's rare to see such marketing acumen in a programmer.


They made me a moderator on /r/digitalnomads after I launched Nomad List because the old mod quit and there was nobody left I think. Then I kept posting my own products (like I did before). But there was an obvious conflict of interest there, so I gave up mod status after it came up in the thread around 2015 I think. It wasn't some secret masterplan, but might seem like it indeed.


The first thing that jumped out at me when I was reading this was: "wow, this guy is devoting as much if not more energy to marketing the product as he is to building it"

Definitely a lesson a lot of the HN crowd (myself included) could take.


I had to lookup the name because I just remember his "Go Fucking Do It", which is one of the more ridiculous, low-effort, ingenious ways of making money from foolish first worlders enticed by a pretty landing page. "Set a goal, stake your money to it, and if you fail, you give your money to me; me, not a charity, and all of it to me, so you will have higher 'incentive' to succeed". The way it was spun as a "smart, incentivized way to accomplish your goals" was absurd, but I suppose enviable by other standards.


He doesn't accept VC funding, so I think he needs to be good selling his products. His companies need to make a profit to stay alive. And I think his best product is his lifestyle. Everything he does seems to be directly related to his lifestyle. I think that is pretty cool.


Yeah, he's also the 12(?) startups in a year guy. Hustle is definitely his strong suit.


Pretty cool. Saw this when it was trending on reddit. It probably fits a similar niche as Urban Dictionary (which makes ~$50k a day IIRC). It's going to be interesting to see if and how Hoodmaps ends up being monetized.


Any write ups about Urban Dicitionary's $$$?




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