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From 0 to 100k users in 72 hours: the full story behind Breakup Notifier (dlo.me)
280 points by theli0nheart on Mar 21, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 43 comments

Hey, thanks for the shout-out and glad I could help in some small way. Sorry about spelling your name wrong :)

It seriously doesn't matter what you do, the moment you step off the well-worn path the haters will come out in full force.

Back in 2005, I had just gotten out of the Navy and I used to be a regular on a fairly popular forum. After seeing one of those dogtag impact printers in the mall, I did some research and realized they could do photo-quality engravings on then-current iPod Nanos. Since graduation time was coming up, I had an idea to sell personalized Nanos online (this was before Apple did free engraving, and before stick-on skins hit the market).

I ordered an impact printer on eBay for about $900 and did some test runs, which turned out great on Zippo lighters and the sample dogtags, but would always screw up on the iPod Nanos (I did mine and borrowed a few from some nice friends). I realized that the machine had a bent shaft and tried to get it repaired, to no avail. A new machine would cost around $2500, and the window of opportunity for graduation was already closing, so I decided to abandon the project and get back to software consulting.

Naturally, I posted about the whole venture on the forum, and oh man did they go nuts. It was like a shark feeding frenzy. At first, I got kind of mad that they didn't understand that I felt $900 was an acceptable risk to try out this idea, and that they were trying to troll me because they thought that I was beating myself up over it. In fact, the opposite was true, I was super glad that I tried it. I was just going to spend that money on a massage chair, anyway. I did end up getting a massage chair later, which they also trolled me about because it had speakers and an iPod dock (this was before Apple products were cool). :)

Eventually, I realized that they would NEVER understand the idea of trying out ideas until something sticks, and I realized that the forum was not only a time-waster but also an unhealthy environment. I stopped posting there pretty shortly after that (partially because they started e-stalking and IRL harassing someone else and I realized I was about one step away from that happening to me), but I still go back once in a great while to see what's going on, just out of curiosity, and it's pretty funny because they still talk about it. I guess fame and fortune have gotta start somewhere. :)

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Surprisingly, perhaps, this is the first post that actually made me consider entrepreneurship. You indicated succinctly what positive and negative forces to expect -- and how to reality-check an idea (people freaking out over it ;-))

Being an entrepreneur is like periodically being dragged through Hell and loving it. :)

Why do Facebook app developers tolerate so much abuse from Facebook? This app to me seems like a perfectly well behaved Facebook app that is within the social spirit of Facebook, and during its moment in the spotlight a Facebook bot kills the app and the author's personal account, no warning, no explanation. From a business perspective I would discount Facebook as an unstable and unsupported platform simply because any app within can get pulled any time without warning or explanation.

> Why do Facebook app developers tolerate so much abuse from Facebook?

500 million registered users.

I suspect many of them view it as a psuedo-hobby, where at least part of the business costs can be discounted as "personal time". For those more invested in the platform than just a hobby, possibly they see running multiple apps as diversifying that risk.

If you aren't feeling charitable, there's also the timeless explanation of fantastic stories of money made combined with poor judgement.

Thanks for the shoutout, Daniel! Also, Stammy and I were watching Leno live when he mentioned Breakup Notifier in his monologue... it was St. Patty's Day, and I had about nine black-and-tans in me, so I went a little nuts on your behalf :)

You did not tell, was ur app ban revoked? How's it going now? Great post, totally inspirational and yes, take constructive criticism and forget the ones out there to destroy anything good being done. As long as you think it's the right thing to do, it is the right thing to do.

One of the most exciting and genuine posts I've read in a long time.


Good question, and yes, the ban was lifted.

Facebook had no issue with the actual idea--it was just the negative feedback from users on the stream stories that lead to it being banned to begin with. Problem was that Facebook didn't give me a straight answer on what I did wrong until about 5 days after I was banned, which killed any momentum I had going for me.

I'd also love a follow-up post about how Breakup Notifier and Crush Notifier are doing nowadays.

By the way, thanks a lot for the post, it was a great read. And I'll just join all the others and say: don't let the TC commenters get you down. You did something amazing.

Nice job. It could be said that there is and always will be a huge market for Stalking apps. I remember the days of icq/msn where there were apps that shows the who was invisible, who blocked you etc... With the proliferation of API's, social and open web, there will be interesting mashups or even privacy leakages. Something like "find 15km radiuous(4sq) where status is not relationship lookup(facebook) last.fm account whom listens Jazz and employed(linkedin)". Who needs dating services where all information is available?

SQL-style queries of any social network? Where do I sign up?

Sadly it would be fairly trivial to do that if social networks standardized on something like FOAF; which would make it possible to just use SPARQL for queries. Of course figuring out how to deal with the privacy implications would be an impediment, but the basic querying would not be a big deal. Mapping identify across domains would also be a challenge without some sort of common identifier, or explicit mapping declaration(s), but it could be done.

Nobody (well, almost nobody) does it though. FOAFspace is practically a barren wasteland compared to what it could be. All the social networks hide whatever access they do allow, behind proprietary APIs at best. :-(

Facebook has FQL and Yahoo has a YQL console that's wired up to lots of different sources: http://developer.yahoo.com/yql/console/

Yeah, I've diddled around with it and it's great. Would love to see it hooked up into more services though.

Those are great but still not for prime time usage which means not ready for dummies.

This is the aim of Locker: https://github.com/quartzjer/Locker

I read about your blog.You're something that I would want to be like.Get in and create stuff just like that.I read about the comments surrounding your TC post.Don't bother about others mate.It's not about who innovates,it's who listens first and you did a great job with your apps.BTW I don't mean to say u didn't do innovation, just the whole steal/theif concept is bullcrap.I haven't used your product as I'm not on Facebook, so why not give it a thought about making it for people who cannot login through Facebook.

It might be pretty tricky to implement for non-Facebook users, since you wouldn't be able to choose people from your friends list and the people would also have to set their relationship status to Public.

Yes totally agree with that but what if I can tell you the link of the person on Facebook.I know this is going to be difficult to implement but it would be awesome to have it

In addition to the technical details, I'd like to know what sort of impact BN has had, particularly how things are going now. Have you been able to capitalize on BN's popularity? Is it still popular now that it's been reinstated?

Anyways, great writeup; I'm looking forward to your future posts.

It's funny, I totally forgot to bring this up.

Believe it or not, I neglected to put ads on the darn thing when it really blew up, so all in all I'm a couple hundred bucks in the red.

I haven't checked the application status page, but only about 7-8k people have reinstalled the app since the ban was lifted. I'm sure there's been some random Facebook game that launched within the past month and has a couple hundred thousand users. Gettin' noticed ain't easy.

I believe capitalization should follow the path of relationship automation: onBreakup(): sendFlowers(x);

You could partner with a local flower/chocolate shop and have it taken care of. Another idea is to pay for sms delivery of breakup, sort of a premium advantage.

Wouldn't that just make you seem like an uber creeper?

How would you know if the breakup was clean or messy or who initiated it? You could seriously damage your shot at the rebound by sending flowers and chocolate to a girl who's world just fell apart.

I suspect that the monetization of this will more likely be in the form of 1) a future project where the experience is applied, 2) an opportunity resulting from the reputation, or 3) advertising.

It might not be a bad idea though to add some sort of "What to do now" plan and incorporate the flowers/chocolates as options.

I spent a whole 8 hours this weekend playing with the Facebook Graph API for iPhone. Half of that was with no progress. The documentation sucks. The forums are barren. I've read post after post about breaking changes. What am I getting myself into.

I've spent over 5 hours trying to access my friends relationship status and cant get it to work. If anyone can help I would really appreciate it. Here is a Stackoverflow question I made: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/5373077/access-friends-fu...

Great share. Really interesting to see how an idea went from a simple question to someone to a viral web-app in no time at all.

Out of curiosity, how are the stats on Crush notifier holding up?

Thanks for writing this up, it's interesting to see how this came to fruition.

I also can't believe all the shit in the TC comments. People really have nothing better to do with their time than rain on someone else parade, I guess.

Indeed you have to have a thick skin. Whether your making a brand new idea on the net or gained success at executing an idea others have worked on people are going to be hateful.

Im glad TC implemented the Facebook commenting system, but as Ive noticed some trolls are just creating fake accounts to spew their BS. Though it does seem a lot less then before.

I'm glad TC moved away from Discus and moved to the facebook commenting system. I won't ever comment there again. I was wasting far too much time on TC comments.

Nice post man!! Waitng for the tech details..

Great write-up, thanks for sharing Dan. Reading about your experience reminds me of threewords.me a while back, how it just blew up and spread virally through HN and the rest of the startup ecosystem. It's one of the great things about light-weight Facebook apps I guess, they naturally have mass appeal.

The Breakup Notifier also inspired me to whip something up to find out whenever someone removes you as a friend. It's my first Facebook app and I just wanted to get my feet w/ the API: http://friendsnomore.net

Really nice post, I felt like I was re-living the week as you wrote

Seems like people would be interested in knowing how many potential suitors were watching their status and waiting for them to become available. You can envision this as the new status symbol. Instead of how many friends you have, it would be how many people are on your notifier list. In fact, some of those people being followed might jump ship earlier knowing that there are plenty of others waiting in the wings.

This is what HN is all about. Looking forward to more...

Dan, I just read the techcrunch article about the Crush Notifier site. I hope you realize that all of the vitriolic comments were almost certainly the work of the "competitor site" that thought his ideas were ripped off of. He probably either made multiple accounts or enlisted his friends to rip into you. There is literally no other explanation for that kind of crazy response.

Awesome post.I love reading these stories. Very interested in the technical details followup.

What kind of app was this? I'm curious how you handled the massive traffic to the site.

Great post ... wow, what a ride! Thanks for taking the time to share the story.

The best part of this article, for me, was the link to letscrate.com.

Lovely post. Thanks for posting this. Eagerly waiting for the technical details.

Great story. Thanks for taking the time to write up the story.

Interesting. Thanks for the writeup.

So, let me get this straight, you wrote an app so that your sister-in-law could get set up as the rebound girl for the "perfect" guy?

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