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Show HN: Pocket - my first app ever (letspocket.com)
99 points by guynamedloren on Jan 17, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 65 comments

The site looks great! Unless you stole the layout ideas from someone else, you should be quite proud of yourself and what you've got started here.

A few pieces of input:

1. Like others, the logo doesn't stand out. In fact, I didn't see it until I read some of the other comments and adjusted my monitor position a bit.

2. Emphasize the txt'ing capabilities a little more. Assuming you're using something like Twilio, why use that validation code in front of the texts? That makes it highly unusable. You should be able to see what number the text is coming from and attach it to the proper account.

3. Put in an sms reply feature. For example, I text #todo or #grocerylist and it returns my notes that haven't yet been completed with that tag. Which leads to... You've already got the ability to post notes, now retrieve them.

4. The simplicity is totally nice, but how about putting these things into different buckets? Mark as complete, next week, etc... ? That way, you can manage the "boards" on which they go in a level beyond the hash-tag boards. Make sense?

You REALLY should be VERY PLEASED with what you've got here. I'm so impressed with the visual appeal of the app.

My guess is you're using authlogic for authentication. Is that right? If so, there are some good articles out there that will walk you through implementing password resets - in fact, I think it might be in the main authlogic page (been a little while since I've done it). It's really easy to implement.

Looks like I was your 84th user! Congrats and keep it up. I love hearing stories like this.

2. You're definitely right about this. Before I ever started developing the app, the number one feature in my mind was always SMS capabilities. I'm not really sure why I haven't made this more prominent. Regarding the validation code - that's just there because I'm still on the free developer plan with Twilio. I guess I want to build up the SMS features a bit more before I step out of developer mode.

3. Already in the pipeline. Will be an awesome feature, I believe.

4. Pondering this, but it's a toughie. Trying to keep things simple, uncluttered, and easy to use while adding more features is one of the most difficult challenges I have faced.

The design and interface are completely original. What you're seeing is about the 4th major rendition over the past 2 months. As I am writing code I keep striving to make Pocket better and better (visually) and I'm pretty happy with where it's at now. We'll see how long it takes me to get bored =]

As for the authentication, I rolled my own (with the help of some tutorials) but I believe its pretty similar to authlogic. I'm sure I can add a password reset feature, but I just haven't had a chance to look into it yet.

Thanks for all of the kind words. The support here on HN is incredibly motivating and encouraging!

We can upgrade you to a full account, just email jsheehan@twilio.com. You'll keep your dev credit.

I love your site design - very cute :)

I'd definitely be interested once you got an Android app up and running - I use Evernote on Android and web heavily at the moment, and tried Springpad for a while (until it screwed up a sync and deleted all my notes, grr!)

Back when I was in Uni I used the analogue version of this: a big whiteboard next to my desk with stuff pinned to it or written in little lists, as well as using a sticky note app on my laptop. Pocket's visuals really remind me of that, in a good way, and from the teaser it looks like it would be really good for at-a-glance reminders and suchlike.

Thanks, I appreciate the feedback and support!

That's exactly what I was shooting for with pocket. I have a giant whiteboard too, and it's incredibly useful. Since I made Pocket, however, I find myself using it less and less. Guess that means I'm doing things right?

Mobile apps are in the pipeline!

Nice work! Do you plan to make money from this? As you said, it is a very crowded market and I would suggest you to be ready for a long PR campaign. Peldi from balsamiq has great advice: http://blogs.balsamiq.com/product/2008/08/05/startup-marketi...

If you choose the freemium route, you could give away to bloggers and alike, free premium accounts for them and for their readers. It is a great promotion tactic.

If the opportunity exists, I would absolutely love to make money from this and other future web apps. Peldi (and Balsamiq) has been a huge inspiration recently and the freemium route is exactly what I had in mind.

While building the app, I told myself that I would be satisfied if I was the only person in the world that used it (it was just a testing ground, after all). With this overwhelmingly positive response, I guess I can have a little more confidence to pursue things further.

Thanks for checking out Pocket!

I've been looking for something like this for a long while. Kind of a Evernote-Lite. The closest thing I've found before is Shifd.com. Just a simple cross platform notepad. Yours comes close and I love the hashtags. The only thing stopping me from using it heavily is no desktop application for Mac/Windows.

I use a Mac at work and Windows at home. I'd love to just have a simple notepad that can go there and receive texts. Yours is pretty close, awesome work so far.

I appreciate the support!

Just looked at Shifd - I'm surprised I didn't come across that one in my search for the perfect tool. It's got a pretty nice interface and features.

The itch you're trying to scratch is an itchy one for me as well. I'd really like an online service that could merge my note taking habits on my computer seamlessly with my note taking habits on my phone.

However, for an app that's purported to work well on a phone, I had a terrible time trying to read the website on mine. I'd suggest looking at the site from a couple mobile browsers. Aside from that, congrats on learning to code. It's definitely empowering.

> I'd really like an online service that could merge my note taking habits on my computer seamlessly with my note taking habits on my phone.

That's what I'm shooting for - iPhone and Android apps are in the works.

> However, for an app that's purported to work well on a phone, I had a terrible time trying to read the website on mine. I'd suggest looking at the site from a couple mobile browsers.

I hadn't even thought about this. Sorry for the confusion, but I didn't intend for the app to be viewed in mobile browsers. Currently, it is optimized for desktop browsers with mobile app syncing planned for the future.

Thanks for the feedback!

How about replacing that image of the sign up form on your first page with... The actual sign up form? It should be simple enough and also reduce friction.

And keep the sign up form above the fold. Currently it's almost all the way off my screen and therefor easy to miss.

Brillaint! I guess I can't think of everything. On my todo list now :)

HN - I’d love to hear your feedback and thoughts on this app. Would you use it? What do you think of the user interface? What could be improved? How does it compare to similar apps? I’m ready for your (hopefully constructive) criticisms! For the record – all of the design, programming, and imagining was done by me =]

== Experience & Motivation

Pocket was developed to scratch a personal itch - a very itchy itch. I am the most forgetful person I know, and that sucks. I am aware that the note app space is extremely crowded, but I have been thoroughly unimpressed with everything I’ve seen. Here’s a rundown of how Pocket came to be:

* 9 months ago: Searched for a multi-platform note taking solution to record daily thoughts and ideas. They all seemed overly complicated for such a simple task of quickly jotting down ideas. Even with a smartphone, I stuck with my pocket notebook to jot down ideas, songs to download, grocery lists, etc. At the time, I had no programming experience whatsoever so I didn’t even consider developing a solution on my own.

* 6 months ago: Still hadn’t found a decent note app. Began to think about how I would go about building one, and discovered Ruby on Rails. At this point, the only coding I had ever done was basic HTML and CSS, which hardly counts for anything. Briefly tried Ruby on Rails, but gave up after numerous attempts to wrap my head around the mysterious and elusive world of programming.

* 3 months ago: The list of apps I would like to eventually develop became quite lengthy and the vision for my note app was as clear as day. If only I knew how to code. Tried Ruby on Rails once again. Struggled through some tutorials and half of an ebook. Still didn’t really understand it, but I stuck with it.

* 2 months ago: Sudden realization that programming would never “click” unless I jumped in and started developing. I began to hack together any code I could muster, and my vision slowly became a reality. With a spark of passion, a fire was lit that I couldn’t extinguish. Although time was limited as it was my last semester in college with a heavy workload on my shoulders, I coded relentlessly every chance I could (which amounted to a mere 1-2 nights a week). Started using a rough version of Pocket to keep track of everything, including updates and ideas for the very app I was developing.

* 1 month ago: Programming was real for me. I felt like I actually knew what I was doing, and I didn’t want to stop. With every tiny milestone in learning and development, I would literally jump out of my chair with excitement. The code itself was nothing extraordinary, but knowing that I could have an idea and bring it to life was quite empowering. The fire burned hotter.

* today: Pocket has reached the point where I can share it with the world. While it may not be the most technologically advanced application (especially compared to the amazing stuff I see here on HN), it does exactly what I want it to do – and that’s a great feeling. I am ready to harness my newly discovered passion to develop the apps on my ever-growing list of ideas. I think there are at least a few winners on that list, so we’ll see what happens!

== Known Issues

* Lack of password reset

* Lack of mobile number confirmation

* IE (9 beta): dragging doesn’t work, CSS padding is occasionally funky

== Tech Specs

* Built with Ruby on Rails + JQuery

* Hosted by Heroku (Amazon EC2?)

Congratulations on shipping! Some notes:

* The logo is very hard to see. If I'm not mistaken, it's suppsoed to be pressed text on a brown background with a glow around it. It doesn't stand out nearly as much as it should.

* "Keep your ideas on a personal dashboard" has a "Learn more" with an arrow. I tried to click the arrow unsuccessfully. It looks like you have to click the post-it-note. Make the arrow clickable too.

* The idea of texting a note to myself is very appealing but when I click the post-it-note it takes me to something that doesn't really talk about it. I expected to be taken to a blurb about how that works. What number do I text? How are they delivered to me? Etc.

* Essentially the same comment as above for the other post-it-note, Access from anywhere. Is there an app I need to download? Does it work on Android? Etc, etc.

* Don't make me click through to sign up. Instead of an image of your sign up form, put your sign up form on the front page.

Hope that helps. Keep plugging, it's looking good!

At the wrong angle on my MBP screen, the logo is completely invisible.

All great ideas (and fixes)- will be implemented as soon as possible. I appreciate the feedback! So much knowledge and advice here on Hacker News, gotta love it :)

I agree with LRM about the logo... little too dark. Didn't even realize it was there.

For your issues:

1) Try using Authlogic (https://github.com/binarylogic/authlogic) to handle users/passwords... It's a great solution and is super easy to implement. Once you have Authlogic, use this (http://www.binarylogic.com/2008/11/16/tutorial-reset-passwor...) to figure out password resets.

2) Dunno about this... Twilio + some logic?

3) Here is a fix for the jQuery UI + IE9 problems -- http://forum.jquery.com/topic/jquery-ui-does-not-work-on-ie9

I would recommend Devise over Authlogic as it doesn't pollute your application with as much generated code...

I used both and I agree with this recommendation. Devise is more modular with less code generation.

Edit: By the way, GREAT first product. Congrats and Good Luck.

I agree with the Devise recommendation, although I feel like Authlogic gives you more control. I get really frustrated with the inability to customize Devise as much as I would like (though not frustrated enough to go back to Authlogic).

I've considered Devise as well, but I've been using Authlogic for a while. I'm of the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" mentality, but I may eventually try Devise as an experiment. Thanks for the recommendation.

Have used both a it's a +1 for Devise from me. Also think you do really need to give some attention to the logo as I almost couldn't see it at all.

That said, congratulations on a good start. Keep on truckin!

First, a congrats on releasing your app! Seriously, I love reading about things like this, and people that do this always impress me.

> I am aware that the note app space is extremely crowded, but I have been thoroughly unimpressed with everything I’ve seen.

Personal itches are the best way to get started. After all, if your dissatisfied with what is out there, chances are, other people are as well. One of the worst things you could ever do is assume that just because a space is crowded means it's full.

It's amazing how much your story almost exactly mirrors mine. I was always fairly technical, but had no idea how to code and really wanted to learn. I read various tutorials dating back to the early days of Rails. Nothing really caught on until I finally had such an urge to create my own app that I locked myself away for a few weekends in a row and just figured it out. Your "1 month ago" sounds like where I am right now. It's incredibly satisfying to build something from scratch that you've always wanted.

Best of luck with the app... I love the design and simplicity once you log in. My only comments are that the logo needs to be more noticeable (as others have indicated). Also, I didn't totally get the "tag notes like this bookmark" in the main nav upon just glancing at it, but once I clicked on one I got it (which might be by design).


Great! Way to go. A very good looking website. Congrats on learning to code.

Passwordless signup or guest mode would be good - I want to try your app however I do not want to commit yet by creating a nother password. Perhaps link it to ip + username and once logged in have the option to enable any other ip using a password?

Get yourself a password manager (such as 1Password) that will generate a unique password for every site and remember all of your login credentials for you. This has solved the problem for me.

another way you can go about it is just store things locally on a client machine.. although you may need to explain that unless they sign up their notes will not be saved globally.

That's a great idea and would segway nicely into porting this as a google chrome app. Any tips for storing notes locally? Haven't looked into it just yet.

As a marketing heads-up, the site name, letspocket.com , may raise negative connotations. See for instance definitions 21-23 here:


What are you referring to? I don't see how the word pocket has any "negative" connotations. It's a little confusing in how it relates to note-taking, but that isn't really negative to me.

"verb (used with object)

* to put into one's pocket: to pocket one's keys.

* to take possession of as one's own, often dishonestly: to pocket public funds.

* to submit to or endure without protest or open resentment: to pocket an insult.

* to conceal or suppress: to pocket one's pride."

I don't think the negative connotations are exclusively British. I've heard the phrase said plenty of times "John pocketed something", when it meant he kind of stole it. It's also used with regards to politicians sometimes.

I think he mean's the phrase "lets pocket" could mean "let's steal/take/grab". That use of the word is a little British...

Heh - this Brit didn't notice the possible alternative use at all. I thought the domain was slightly Japanese-English style - cute and quirky.

eg "Let's pickle!"?

Exactly :)

The concept is that Pocket (the app) is a could-based version of an actual pocket. Just like you would keep everything in your physical pocket, you can keep thoughts and ideas in your digital Pocket. I veered away from a name involving "note" because I didn't want to limit the app to only notes - eventually users will be able to save photos, videos, bookmarks, etc. I've got some grand ideas in mind =]

That's what I thought too. Apparently, the negative connotation is in the British use of the word "pocket" to mean "steal".

Looks great and I liked it, but the late notice on the 140 character limit is annoying.

I had to type out a list of projects for my week of vacation, so start typing away, click Create, then doh! 140 limit? Select all, cut, open Stickies, new sticky, paste, quit.

Would be great if larger stickies could be created. Or if you are going to have a 140 limit, have a character counter there somewhere.

You're totally right about the 140 char limit. I should explain that beforehand somehow. Added to my Pocket #todo list.

Thanks for checking out the app!

random first second thoughts:

as i scrolled down the page, I lost the text to image connection. where does the text belong to, the image above or below.

does not show the mobile interface. or is it just a website that you call "app"?

Agreed, I found myself staring at pictures and text more than once because I wasn't sure which went which. I think the top of the page is also being underused. It's the first thing a new user landing on your page will see, so it should be what grabs them.

The text belongs to the screenshot right below. I look into clearing this up.

No mobile interface right now - the app is solely browser based. iPhone, Android, and desktop apps are in the pipeline and will be integrated as soon as I can figure out how to develop them.

Thanks for the feedback!

I used Evernote on Android to take notes. In the end, I just Gmail myself. It has two advantages: 1) Sends next time I have WiFi connection. 2) The email acts as a reminder to follow up.

I have gmail on my phone and I used to do the same quite often. The problem was that I'm kind of an "inbox-zero" junkie, so I would always archive my ToDo and reminder emails. Not a great way to get stuff done, so that didn't last long! :) I said to myself "if only there was a way that I could text notes to myself..." It's faster, easier, and the notes would stay there forever (or until I got them done)".

Privacy policy? About info? People must trust you to sign up. Link to them in the footer.

Not signed up yet, but it looks professional! :)

(On Ubuntu with Chrome 10.0.634.0 the homepage rendering is OK)

I've been so involved with the technology and design side of things that I totally skimped on that stuff. To be honest, I really didn't expect the app to be received as well as it has been, so I guess I should probably start filling in the gaps.

I just started working on a similar project for the exact same reasons!

I think your site looks good, but I would definitely try to make the Pocket logo stand out a bit more. Pocket is your brand, be bold with it. Second, I would replace the "Sign up now!" button with the two actual forms needed to sign up. Not having to click through could dramatically increase registrations.

I'll leave more comments once I've had time to use the application.

Looks nice, I'm willing to give it a spin. Reminds me of http://corkboard.me which was posted on HN not too long ago, but I've never found a use for ownerless apps like that.

Loved your app. I've created something similar to myself only, not a webapp, a desktop one. Congratulations!

Oh and on your madebyloren.com website, did you intentionally left the title untitled or was that some lapse?

Cheers & thanks for the notes andre

Thank you for the kind words =]

The title on madebyloren.com has not been set yet because I'm still working on development. Madebyloren is my second attempt at a Ruby on Rails app. I figured building a blog engine from scratch would be a good exercise and not very difficult (plus highly customizable to my needs), so I went ahead and did that instead of wordpress or another premade engine. Considering I only worked on it for a few hours one day (designing and coding) I think it turned out okay.

Love the simple interface. One UX issue that comes to mind is, when I delete a tag that's present on only one note, just redirect me to Dashboard instead of saying there are no notes left and providing a link to Dashboard.

Just added a note on my own dashboard to look into that issue =]

Thanks for checking out Pocket!

Good work!

On the side: the HN community never ceases to positively surprise me: for every one or two grumpy comments and for every one or two unfair downvotes,

you find tens or even more of extremely detailed and constructive well-meant suggestions.

This is inspiring to me as a designer who can't code, although I want to learn and have many ideas for projects. Well done for learning to program and actually building and shipping your idea!

Nice design.. like the others i think you should work on your logo. Ar u sure u just started designing/programming, it was really good.

How would you differentiate yourself from notespark.com? This is what some of my friends use.

Make an API and or import/export options?

I wouldn't even know where to begin with an API. I'm brand new to developing, so that could be a ways away.. unless it's pretty straightforward?

Depends how you wrote the application and such I've never written an API but I've consumed enough of them to know that you should try and comply with OAuth as its implemented in libraries.

Good work! Well executed and simple.

Nice work - I like it!

if you want help developing the Android version, reply here and I'll get back to you. I really like the idea (free)

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