[When Vonnegut tells his wife he’s going out to buy an envelope] Oh, she says, well, you’re not a poor man. You know, why don’t you go online and buy a hundred envelopes and put them in the closet? And so I pretend not to hear her. And go out to get an envelope because I’m going to have a hell of a good time in the process of buying one envelope. I meet a lot of people. And, see some great looking babes. And a fire engine goes by. And I give them the thumbs up. And, and ask a woman what kind of dog that is. And, and I don’t know. The moral of the story is, is we’re here on Earth to fart around. And, of course, the computers will do us out of that. And, what the computer people don’t realize, or they don’t care, is we’re dancing animals. You know, we love to move around. And, we’re not supposed to dance at all anymore.

Thanks to Merlin for that.


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AuthorMatt Grommes

An overview on 2013, which on twitter I called my favorite year yet.

I read about 36 books, but I also read hundreds and hundreds of comics. This included the entirety of Preacher and a full re-read of Sandman, both of which are on my favorite comics of all time list. The list of books I read is on Goodreads. Warning: It includes a lot of Star Trek books. I regret nothing!

I helped in an extrememly minor way to put on the first San Diego Maker Faire. I'm happy to have gotten involved with that group and the whole family will be helping more to put on future Maker Faires for sure.

I made a resolution of sorts to do and document 100 creative things throughout the year. I failed miserably on that front because I didn't document anything. I did a lot of creative stuff but not 100 things for sure. This year I'm trying something a little different which I'll talk about more later.

I helped my wife coach my daughter's Lego FIRST Robotics team, which was awesome fun. It was amazing watching these 5th & 6th grade girls go through a lot of the challenges faced by professional programmers/engineers. They all had a ton of fun and learned a lot I hope. They also won a trophy at the big regional competition, taking 2nd place in the Teamwork judging category.

I personally think I kicked ass at work. Shopzilla has been a super great place to work. My first 2 months I was on a regular site team doing website features. Then my coworker and I were made into a team building up a new part of the organization. Then we reorganized and since then I've been a one-man team (one programmer anyway, with business/project people) again doing new stuff. This has been really fun and I'm learning a ton.

As usual, I played a lot of Minecraft off-and-on. That game still surprises and gives me ways of spending hours on it. I also bought and built a lot of Lego sets.

I started running and ended up running the Disneyland Half-Marathon in August. This is still a mind-blowing idea to think about as someone who used to joke "I only run if the cops are chasing me". I've been a slacker since then but I'm going to get back into it. I'm probably going to the Disneyland race again and I'd like to do other 5k or 10k races also.

I did a presentation at SoCal Code Camp called 'Intro To Not Sucking At Presentations'. People seemed to like it.

And now, for 2014, I'll let the poet Jay-Z speak for me: "I move onward, the only direction. Can't be scared to fail in search of perfection".

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AuthorMatt Grommes

This isn't a very good picture but I made a new strap for my wife's new camera. Technically I found the idea on Instructables but none of those were exactly right so I made my own version. The real one is by a company called R-Strap and they cost like $60. This one I made from some nylon strap, a buckle, metal dog leash connector, and a screw that fits in the tripod attachment hole on the camera. $12.

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AuthorMatt Grommes

This is my first drawing using the blended layer of pencil as a background. Looks pretty nice for this kind of drawing but getting the erasing of the grey to match the shadows on the real hand was a pain.

Posted
AuthorMatt Grommes

I've gotten behind on a lot of stuff due to moving to a new house, so I'm going to be a little extra creative in my criteria of what goes on this list. :)

My next creative thing for the year is that I danced at my company's big yearly party. Kim and I have been taking couple's dancing lessons for awhile now but it hasn't really prepared me for the kind of dancefloor activities you find at these kind of parties, not to mention I didn't have anybody to dance with. But after an hour or so of my usual watching and willing myself not to be a wallflower, a great song came on and I broke away from my spot off to the side and joined the fun on the floor. Now, even with dance lessons I have almost no "moves" as such, but I did my best to move my feet and get into it and it ended up being really fun. As part of my ongoing program to get over myself and not be so self-conscious I count it as a success. And since I had to come up with ways of using what I had learned about how to move my feet in a different setting, I'm counting it as creative as well. :)

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AuthorMatt Grommes

The path to mastery:

Strive to understand fully and completely the tool at hand. Explore exactly how it works and what it can do. In addition constantly learn how to build on what you and others have done before. Aim for clarity and comprehension, and mastery shall surely follow.

 

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AuthorMatt Grommes

And with that tweet, I sealed my fate for 2013. :) To expand, I'm going to try to do at least 100 creative things over the year. I'm going to write, build, sew, draw and who knows what else 100 Creative Things and document them, mostly on this blog. Obviously the first thing isn't to have come up with a better title for the "things". :)

I'm a big believer in just getting started and not waiting for perfection so in that spirit I'm starting now. I've always wanted to learn how to draw better and I've had a copy of the book Drawing On the Right Side Of The Brain for a long time. So my first creative thing is the first 3 drawings you're supposed to make as a "Before" for the exercises in the book. They're crap so hopefully this will relieve me of the burden of making my creative things any good before I post them. I did them in Sketchbook Pro on my iPad so I might redo them with regular pencil and see what the difference is, if any.

 

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AuthorMatt Grommes

If you'd asked me what the hardest parts of making DebugMap would be, I would never have thought writing the explanatory text for the homepage would so high up on the list. Crikey, it's hard to explain things.

Being so close to the site and what it is, it's hard to explain to somebody who hasn't had the damn thing on their mind for 6 months. I made way too many assumptions about how the site worked. So my first stabs at copy for the homepage didn't really help, even to people who I had previously explained the site to. It was then I started reading about copywriting and how to write for an audience of potential customers.

The big turning point was when the great and powerful patio11 on HackerNews wrote about CopyHackers, a site by professional copywriter Joanna Wiebe. She has some really great stuff on there and her ebooks are chock full of must-have info if you're in the position I'm in. I haven't finished all of them but since I have to stop after reading each chapter and implement some of her advice it's well worth it. Honestly I was hesitant to spend the money at first but I'm so glad I finally bit the bullet. One of the pieces of advice that I remembered from reading people like Kathy Sierra was to stop saying things like 'We can do X, Y, Z' and replace that with 'You' messages about how the user will be better off using the site. Joanna also says this and it's a very helpful thing to always keep in mind.

Even after finding some wording for the homepage I thought was to the point, short, and powerful, it was a big dud. I got a couple of useful messages from people who basically said they still didn't know what the site did. Cue sad trombone. So I'm back at it. I've actually got a DebugMap going with a bunch of different versions of the text and all the changes I'm making. I'm also looking at other tool websites to see how they're doing things. I'm hoping that I'm not just putting off working on the site by reading and noodling under the guise of improving the copy. I'm trying everything I can to turn that homepage into something somebody new might read and say "Wow, I need this site!"

I wish I had some great ending to this post where I say "These words increased my conversions by 5000%!" But right now the site is so new I'm glad when I get a few hits a day and a signup a week. So I'm working away and trying not to get too distracted by Minecraft. :) One of these days I'll find the magic spell.

Thanks for reading!

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AuthorMatt Grommes

Hello again to both of my regular readers. It's been a long time. It was a pretty long time ago I posted my previous entry where I optimistically (or perhaps stupidly) said I'd be launching my side project "soon". Well, you're in luck! 6 months later: "soon" has arrived.

I'm super proud to be launching my new website for developers, called DebugMap. It's a tool to help programmers remember what they find while debugging. Unfortunately for all of us, debugging is something we do a lot of. I noticed that I was using a lot of text files to keep things I was finding while looking for some problem. Snippets of code, SQL queries and results, answers from StackOverflow, all that stuff. One day I thought of a way to collect and display all that stuff and decided that might actually be something others could use too. So here it is.

It turns out there's a ton of little pieces to making something people might pay money for. I've launched a number of other sites and even had people give me money for some of them. But I wanted to do this "right". I wanted to host it somewhere better than my personal server so I learned about Heroku. I wanted to do a more modern interface so I found a good color scheme and learned more modern HTML and Javascript. I'm an armchair design fan so I've tried to make it well designed. I did a credit card form with Stripe because nuts to Paypal. But all of this stuff takes time. I did my best to launch an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) without too many features but it still took a crazy long time to get going. I've told my friends about it and now I'm telling my vast and influential group of readers about it. Pretty soon I'll tell more people and hopefully all those people will tell somebody else (hint) and in a few years I'll have an overnight success on my hands.

Anyway, DebugMap is my new thing and I like it. If you're a developer I hope you do too. Tell a friend! :)

 

Posted
AuthorMatt Grommes

This is a list of things I've learned while building my side project (which I'll talk about soon (really!))

Grails
Groovy
MongoDb
Git
Heroku
Modern HTML, CSS
Design
Color schemes
Modern Javascript
Wildcard SSL certificates
Speaking at conferences

Fun times. :)

Posted
AuthorMatt Grommes
I've been neglecting my little blog here for quite awhile partly because I've been working on a side project that I didn't know how to write about. I'm not quite ready to pull the covers off it and talk directly about it yet (soon!) but I didn't want to let the private nature of the site prevent me from writing any longer. In the spirit of just getting something written, this is probably going to be more rambling that usual.

So, I'm building a website. It's a tool for programmers, which I think is pretty useful. Is it a "startup"? I don't know. I don't even really know if it's a good idea yet. The way I work probably isn't the way others work so who knows if anybody else will find this thing useful. Programmers are very picky about tools, and rightly so. When talking about my somewhat expensive keyboard I bought for myself to have at work, I said "Don't bring a knife to a gun fight" which is of course a famous quote but also fits how I feel about tools. Programmers need guns. Metaphorically.

But anyway, I don't know if it's a startup. It's an idea. It's an experiment. I would love more than anything for this thing to take off so I can hire some of my friends to come work with me. I would love it if this experiment took off enough just to support me working on it. But right now I'm not really interested in the typical TechCrunch / VC / Valley / Bubble / blahblah startup. I'm building this thing myself since I'm doing it for no money. I'm going to bootstrap it, which is startup-speak for actually making money like a real business. At some point if it makes sense to let somebody give me money, I'll consider it of course. "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," and all that. Money isn't evil, it's a tool.

I think it's a shame we've lost some of the "2 people in a garage" excitement from the early 2000s. Yeah, there's a lot to making a modern website. So what? That's part of being a programmer, learning new stuff. That's part of why I call this thing an experiment, if it was a business I wouldn't be able to play around as much. I'm learning about Heroku instead of using a server which is something I already know how to do. I'm using Grails and Groovy instead of Java which I already know. I'm using Mongodb instead of Mysql which, you guessed it, I already know. Even stuff like wildcard ssl certificates is new to me since they didn't used to have those when I was an admin. Is some of this new stuff going to bite me in the ass since I don't know it? Probably. But I'll do what I've always done which is learn on the job. And in the end I'll have built something cool, learned a ton of new stuff, and had fun. And maybe made some money.

We'll see where this thing goes. More later.
Posted
AuthorMatt Grommes
CategoriesBusiness, Code

“I wish in the past I had tried more things ‘cause now I know that being in trouble is a fake idea.” - Chris Onstad, Achewood creator (via eudaimonist)

Posted
AuthorMatt Grommes
CategoriesPersonal

Sheesh, pretty much everything Merlin does blows me away in some way or another. Even without hearing the talk that goes along with these slides he succeeds in moving me in a very real way that few other writers do. You should listen to his podcast, follow his blog, and keep up with his tweets (which are more of an acquired taste but once you get on his wavelength frequently inspire me and/or make me laugh out loud (for real, not in a LOL sense)).
Posted
AuthorMatt Grommes