Sunday, May 27, 2012

Code Academy Week 7 & Beyond

Another week has flown by at an even faster pace than the previous one.  It is crunch time for many of the students who are looking to build something amazing to present for demo day.  I made the decision to stick to my guns and work on Reading Glue going forward.  Unfortunately I have not heard from anyone who would be interested in making this a product that would get presented on demo day.  I sent another email trying to rally up some last minute support, but until now the only reply I have heard is the sounds of crickets chirping.  I could really use the front end help.  My focus is on the backend, and I really do not have the time to focus on design or learning any of that at this point.  If I do not have any takers in the next couple weeks, then I will likely just use crowd sourcing for the design based on some wireframes I have put together.  I think that will be good enough to get a MVP released and start testing the waters at the end of Code Academy.

Speaking about the end of Code Academy... I have already been plotting out my plans for what I will tackle when this quarter is done.  The Chicago Lean Startup group is kicking off their Lean Startup Challenge soon.  I am working on my application and will submit it this week.  I feel that the lean Startup Challenge would be an unbelievable learning experience for me.  Lean startup principles are not new to me, and to some point I have implemented them in customer development activities I carried out a few months ago.  I figure luck has been on my side the past year when you consider winning 3rd prize in the Global Education Challenge and getting accepted into Code Academy. Regardless if Reading Glue gets accepted into the Lean Startup Challenge or not, I still plan on hitting the grindstone hard this summer.  It is an exciting time to be me right now.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Code Academy Week 6

I just completed my 6th week of Code Academy, and have pretty much covered many of the basics needed to build a fully functional web app.  As I have learned new things in class, I have tried to implement them into the version of Reading Glue that I was building.  About once a week I would decide to rebuild most of the app just to get the practice of doing the same programming steps over and over.  This week I decided to not only rebuild the app, but I also rethought how I wanted it to function.  In the past I just jumped into coding without really thinking about the app architecture in great detail.  This time I spent about 3 hours laying out my models and really thinking about how everything would function together.  What I found is that the actual programming goes by so quickly once you have really thought through and planned out what you want to build.  This is a valuable lesson, that I will be sure to never forget.

Also this week we found out how Demo Day is going to work.  Basically Code Academy is going to let students form teams on their own, and 20 teams will pitch on Demo Day.  After the meeting, students gathered in the north classroom to pitch their idea.  I had not planned it at all, but I decided to pitch Reading Glue.  I figured it would be fun to team up with some other people and see what we could make.  I was even hopeful that I might find someone that may turn into a future co-founder.  Unfortunately my pitch was awful.  No seriously, it was brutal.  I tripped over my words.  I stuttered through my explanation of what Reading Glue is.  You would have thought that I had no clue what I was talking about.  We only had thirty seconds, I was extremely tired, and for some reason I was very nervous.  Enough with the excuses.  Ultimately nobody stopped by to discuss my idea afterwards, or has contacted me since.  There were a couple ideas that seemed interesting, but those teams were pre-formed or had formed very quickly.  I am a bit worried at the end of the day I might get left out of a group for the Demo Day pitches.  I am not at 1871 but two days a week, and really do not know anyone outside my own class.  I will probably send a mass email out explaining what I am looking to build for Reading Glue and what I really need help with.  I will also let people know I am open to helping them out from the development side for their ideas.  Hopefully something works out, because I really want to be part of the experience of building something amazing and presenting on Demo Day.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Code Academy Week 5

I am basically at the half way point right now.  We have completed 5 weeks, and have 5 weeks until it is time to start preparing for demo day.  I still feel confident that I am keeping pace with what we are learning in class.  Nothing has totally tripped me up where I feel lost or that I might be falling behind.  I do however wish I had more time to put into coding outside of class.  I am at that point where I want to advance myself much further than what we are covering in class.  I just don't have the time as I try to keep up with 2 full time jobs (being a father / husband and also Chi Cheng).

This weekend Code Academy had their first of 2 hackathons.  Students met up on Friday and pitched ideas.  Teams then formed and they worked on executing those ideas until it was time to present them on Sunday afternoon.  I did not participate.  I have thrown a lot of responsibility on Julie's shoulders these past 5 weeks.  She has basically been a single Mom during the week, and hasn't seen much of me on the weekends either.  This was her weekend, and i did not want to short change her once again.

Even though I did not participate in the hackathon, it was not a totally lost weekend when it came to  programming.  I put in about 6 hours of time  on Friday night and Saturday building a new app idea.  As I was working on my weekly project updates for Chi Cheng, I realized that making a web app version of the report would make my life a lot easier.  My boss could have instant access to my report at all times.  No more emailing the report (and we all know how much I love sending emails...)!  I was able to get it about 50% completed.  I have some complicated model associations that I need to figure out and also setting up user accounts.

While I am on the subject of work, I have to say that I am getting pretty burnt out.  I do what I can to try and stay caught up on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays.  The emails seem never ending.  Just between Friday at 10PM and this morning at 8AM I had over 125 emails.  It was a weekend, and there were 125 emails sent about the projects I am working on.  Things have not slowed up.  I feel like all I am doing is following up with people and shaking them down for info that they owe me.  The work is endless and I have really lost all the passion I once had for launching the next great electronic product.  I felt like I needed a break from my job when starting Code Academy.  Now that I have fallen in love with coding, the job sucks that much more....

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Code Academy Week 4

Four weeks have past and I have the skill set to build the most basic of web apps.  I went into this experience wanting to learn the skills I would need to launch a MVP of Reading Glue.  Although that is still the overall goal, I have found that I really enjoy programming.  I love the challenges and problem solving skills needed to build a great application.  It is so similar to the skills I use in my full time job, and is one of the reasons I have enjoyed that job so much for the past 10 years.  Launching a MVP of Reading Glue is still my priority, but I have an itch to look into a career change as a developer.

This week we were hammered with the concept of CRUD.  If you can handle those requests, then you can build an app.  The last thing I need to learn is user accounts and how models (databases) can relate to each other.  I feel that once I have these skills down, then there is going to be no stopping me.  To see what I have worked on to date, you can check out http://rglibrary.herokuapp.com/.