Back in December 2015 I wrote about the future of Kodery, my little code snippet storage app I started in 2009, when I didn’t have lots of grey hair.
I sort of forgot about it, but in the last month or so, I’ve found myself using it more and adding more snippets. That promoted me to go and look at the results of the poll, and after reseting my password because I forgot it and didn’t put it in 1Password, I saw the numbers.
Charge a sensible amount
Close it down
That’s 54 people who replied, and of those who replied 75.92% want it to keep alive, whether I charge for it, or sell/give it to someone else. Even though those numbers are tiny, it’s given me a little hope. Somebody wants it.
The past few months of work have been very monotamous and haven given me much room to experiment with new things. I’m not complaining, it’s paying the bills nicely and I’m certainly not going to shun these projects – I’m comfortable doing them and enjoy large parts of it. But it has made me want to revisit some side-projects and kick some life back into them.
Given that I’m using Kodery more recently, it makes sense to put some effort into that, so I’ve come up with a little plan.
Clean up the UI a bit
Fix some bugs
Add the ability to take payments and add restrictions to free accounts1. Those restrictions won’t affect current users viewing snippets already there, but you won’t be able to add more.
Add a few other ideas I have, like the long-awaited code editor plugins2
I have no timeline for this, but it looks like I might be able to fit in a few days for this early September. Wish me luck!
Such as up to 20 snippets for free, not entirely sure yet ↩
Probably for Atom & Sublime from me, others can make their own 😊 ↩
If you use Custom Post Types with custom taxonomies in WP, you’ve no doubt wanted to add Next & Previous buttons on the single-cake.php template that keep the same taxonomy term as the page they sit on.
As a loose example, let’s use cake. cake is our CPT, and we have a custom taxonomy of flavor. We have a few terms there of chocolate, lemon, and strawberry.
We’re looking at a chocolate cake, and we want a button at the bottom of the single-cake.php template that says Next Chocolate Cake1. So we need a way to link to the next cake that’s also a chocolate cake.
It’s almost exactly six months since I wrote anything here. That’s largely due to me not having anything interesting to say, or interesting enough to share anyway. But a lot has happened in six months, so an update post on lots of little things may be interesting, or at least interesting for me to look back on.
The #60lbsswap thing seems to have fizzled out, I was shit at keeping up with it anyway. I’d never put weight on, just fluctuate a few pounds each week. Nothing ever stayed.
With that said, I have been making more of an effort to eat with more regularity – I had breakfast today! I’ve also been using some old weights to (very) slowly building some muscle. I accepted the fact I’ll never have a beach body1, I’ll always be skinny and most clothes won’t fit me in a flattering way. But I can do something to help, if only a little.
I’ve also been keeping up with applying Minoxidil to my jaw, in an effort to help fill a patch where very little hair has grown. It only bothers me because it is right on the jaw line, and looks like I slipped with the razor if I don’t keep it trimmed. I’d love a full beard for our wedding in 2018, and it looks like beard growing takes fucking ages!
Another thing I’ve been notoriously shit with is sleep. Granted, I write this at 1am on a Wednesday, but months ago that would mean not waking up till linch time. These days I can wake up around 9am/10am and feel okay. It’s not the best scenario, but it’s a lot better than it was, and it steady progress in the right direction.
Cross Stroke is going well. I have enough work booked up until October to keep me warm and occupied. From May 2015 to May 2016, I earnt more than I would’ve if I stayed at Ghost on the same salary, and this year (May 2016/17), I have a wages strategy that is relatively easy to maintain and means money can start building up in the business for rainy days.
You can see here that money in the bank was very peaky last year, it’s now slowly starting to rise.
In terms of growing the business, I’m going to maintain what I have at the moment until we’ve got a house, then I can be a little more aggressive with streamlining workflows, finding more clients like the awesome clients I have, and looking into the first hire.
Away from the financial side of things, I’ve slowly been getting better with keeping to deadlines, scheduling work properly, and keeping it all organised. Every project has a Git repo, a TaskPaper file, and time marked off in the calendar. I know it’s simple, but it’s a huge step from how I used to do things.
In the next few months, I’m going to have some branding done for Cross Stroke. No matter how many times I try to do it myself, I’m never happy with it. I’m really looking forward to having an official .eps file and brand guidelines!
Thanks to that mounting of cash I have in the business2, we’re one step closer to being able to buy a house. We’re a long way off yet, but with me being self-employed and the higher earner, I know whoever lends us a mortgage is gonna want to know lots about the business. Having enough cash stashed away to pay my wages for a few months is surely gonna help, if only with my stress levels.
The nest step is do all the necessary paperwork the lenders will need about my business, then re-ignite talks with a recommended mortgage advisor, see what we can borrow, then go hunting.
I’m confident we could either have moved in by the end of the year, or have done whatever needs to be done to buy a new house, because new houses come with certain financial benefit for first time buyers in the UK.3
Remember this post from December asking what to do with it? I still have no idea. It costs nothing to keep it running, so I’ll let it sit until I have a better idea, or the inclination to do something.
Other side projects
I’d still like to re-write my WP starter theme. I know there are many, I want my own for the same reason there’s a fuck-ton of CSS libraries – the existing options don’t fit my very well.
When I find a spare week (July looks good for that), I’m going to prototype a joint venture i’m working on with a client. It’s very interesting, beautiful, and right up my street. More on that later.
If you follow me on Twitter, and don’t skim past any car-related tweets4, you might remember Ford miss-ordered my black Focus ST, so, after some bitching and moaning, they let me order another, giving me a chance to change some specs.
I changed to the silver paint, larger 19” wheels (which also means better standard-fit tyres), and privacy glass. The car does look great in black, but black paint doesn’t sty black very long. I’d spend half a day perfecting the paint, then a day later, it looks like I haven’t bothered.
I event cleaned this silver car in a month (apart from removing bird shit), and it still looks alright. I didn’t choose silver an excuse to not wash it, but I’m a busy guy. I still give it the same attention, but I don’t feel embarrassed driving it ‘dirty’, like I did wth the black paint.
I’m at a cross-roads with Kodery – I have a few options, but I don’t know what to do with it.
The last commit as almost a year ago – 18th January 2015. That’s mostly due to me having to prioritise paid work over it.
When I started building Kodery in 2009, I had a full-time job, no work-like balance sensibilities and no friends to keep be occupied – I could pour any spare time I had into it. That has drastically changed. I have a beautiful fiancée I want to spend time with, I know when to stop working, I enjoy playing pool, and driving with my friends.
I would like to keep the service running, because I have several ideas for it such as an API, embeds, better search, much-improved UI, and better permissions so it can fit much larger teams.
Ultimately, it comes down to time and money. I can only commit more time to it if it can pay its way. It’s never earnt me a penny.
This leaves me with a few options.
Option #1 – Re-work and charge
This is my favourite option.
This would involve some drastic changes throughout the code base to build in those aforementioned features.
A full REST API
Embeds (but not shitty)
More extensive user permissions
It also means spending quite a lot of time building in the ability to charge. I’ve learnt that payments are really not simple – there’s so many edge-cases to consider, and this itself is going to take a lot of time. There’s also EU VATbullshit to take into account.
Aside from that, I wouldn’t want to charge for something I’m not massively happy with, so I’d want to re-build several parts of the app, such as the underlying code that stores snippets and feeds them back to you. It’s not bad, but I’ve learnt so much in the past couple years that I know of any ways to really improve this.
Option #2 – Close it
To close it, I’d have to first build an export function, so you can export everything you’ve chucked into it over the years. Some people have hundreds of snippets, and I don’t want them do disappear as I delete the database.
After that, make final backups of the DB and code, then nuke the server.
Option #3 – Sell it
I’ve never really considered selling before, but it’s an option. I have a rough idea what I’d like to sell it for, but I’m keeping that close to my chest.
The code isn’t bad – it’s not full of glaring security holes, but I’m sure whoever bought it would have monetization in mind, and would want to build that in. I’d hope they’d want to do the same as me if I were to set it up as a paid service myself.
Help me choose
I don’t want to make any decisions without hearing form you first. Fill out the poll below to chime in. You can also email me at [email protected] if you have any thoughts. I’d like to hear anything you have to say.
ARIA allows developers to re-invent and extend native HTML features in meaningful ways. But like all bolt-on technologies its features are brittle compared to its built-in counterparts.
I never bothered with ARIA roles. Like I’ve thought for years, using HTML the way it’s meant to be used is better.
It’s true that it can sometimes be a pain to make form elements look and behave how you’d like them to, but in recent years, CSS has made it a lot easier to remove standard styling from form elements, and re-style them how you want. They retain their default functionality, which is almost always better than whatever someone in a decision-making position can dream up, but look how you want.
When I started working at Ghost, John told me about RescueTime. It’s an app (with a website counterpart) that you install on your computer. It tracks what application and websites you use, and analyses how productive they are.
it lets you categorise. So set Sublime or your editor of choice as ‘Very productive’, as well as the URLs of sites you work on (local domains work too) and your score should go up. Then set YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook – and anything else that you tend to peruse on a daily basis – to be very unproductive1.
Brief introduction out of the way…
This is where I admit that I’m really fucking lazy. They say it’s the mark of a good developer, but I think I’ve taken it way too far.
That’s is my year so far. The headline figures are:
500 hours of entertainment
471 hours of development
335 hours of sitting in Chrome dev tools (mostly)
200 hours of email, Slack, etc
110 hours of ‘learning’ (apparently)
53% of my time was productive
Now, I’ve used this app for over a year now, but only rhe free version, which lets you do the categorisation stuff, but as we’ve seen, the figured don’t really help me focus.
This is where going premium comes in. It’s $9 per month2, and for that, you get to block distracting websites, and more detailed reports. You do get more, but those 2 things are what I care about.
You could argue that a little self control should be enough to stop me wasting too much time on social stuff, but I tried and and I’m obviously too weak. Paying the tiny sum to be reminded I’m being stupid when I visit one of my distracting sites is valuable to me.
I’ve set a few daily goals, and that is to have at least 6 hours of productive time, and no more than 30 minutes of distracting time. I’d also like a daily ‘productivity pulse’ of at least 80.
Now I’m financially invested in this, I think I stand a better change than before. I know it’s the same price as a really good beer you can drink in 20 minutes, but it’s still money.
Today was Day 1 with Premium. It may be a fluke, but something’s happening.
You probably want RescueTime
So go sign up. RescueTime is awesome, and well worth paying for. But you still get value for free.
On September 5th, about 10 hours after arriving back in the country from a holiday, I picked up my new car. I don’t think I’ve written much about it since, or before. There’s more to this new car than meets the eye.
I’m the guy who visits Auto Trader several times a day, looking for my next car – looking to see what I can basically swap mine for. Can I get a decent low milage R34 Skyline, or E46 M3 that hasn’t been ruined? I’d do the maths, look for insurance prices, tax costs, common and probable issues, estimated fuel costs, service costs, but always end up at the same conclusion: What if it goes horribly wrong?
By ‘horribly wrong’, I mean mechanical issues that cost thousands to fix, not finding out it’s stolen or something like that.
The only logical solution to that problem (in my mind) is to get a new car. But I’d never be able to afford a new car, right? Not a decent one anyway.
I did some research to see what I could get if I sold my 335i privately, and that seemed to be about £7000. Thing is, I didn’t want the hassle of selling it privately. Having to write listings for the big classified sites, having people come over for test drives & wasting my time, and so on. Not to mention the few impending mechanical issues possibly causing issues with people who came to look (both turbos were on their way out I believe).
The only way to get rid of it that satisfied my lazy streak was to part exchange it – I know they don’t look at the cars closely at all, so I was good-to-go with my turbo-breakage woes. A good friend of mine, his dad is a car dealer for one of the major manufactures1, and he said dealers tend to offer 10-15% below market value for part-exchange. That meant, if I exchanged that day, I would get around £6000 for it. The longer I left it, the lower that value would be – approximately £250 per month with my usual mileage.
I also had to work out the exact costs of running the 335i, including insurance tax, fuel, servicing, tyres, and more.
With that knowledge, I looked at BMW, Audi, VW, Skoda, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, Vauxhall, Renault, Peugeot, Seat, Ford, and more, to see what I could get with my deposit, and what the typical running costs would be for me.
But wait, why get rid of the BMW?
Fair question. I should’ve said earlier. So the BMW was costing me a lot of money. I’d spent a few thousand fixing various issues, it was thirsty, tyres were around £180 per corner, road tax was £480 per year, and it was getting a bit old. The slightest rattle annoys the hell out of me, and I get anxious if anything feels out of place. With age, you get more of both.
Mechanical issues aside, I wanted the safety of having a good warranty – if something went wrong with the BMW, it could cost me a few quid, of a few thousand. I didn’t want that thought looming over my shoulder.
As Hayley & I save to buy our first house, what we need is financial stability, and predictable outgoings. Running a car that was coming up on 100,000 miles and 10 years of age doesn’t fill me with confidence, not when a big bill can put us a month of more behind schedule.
What I wanted
I should explain what I wanted from a car, before I delve into reasons for not picking your favourite.
Practical, probably 4 doors
Not be popular with people my age, who live on benefits and have 4 kids already.
Easy to get regular maintenance carried out
More economical than the 335i
Not have a reputation (at least where I live) for being driven by idiots
More (useful) toys than the 335i had
The different car brands
A lot of people couldn’t give a shit what their car is, less even what brand. I do care. A lot.
I’m not Jeremy Clarkson – I don’t have expert knowledge in all the car brands, but I maybe share some of his opinions on them.
I’ve been in a couple French cars in my life, and I’ve never really felt like they were made terribly well. You can throw all the stats you want at me, but to me they felt like they were held together with sticky tape. Looking at the interior of some modern French cars, they’re not exactly inspiring – They feel childish.
I like a lot of Japanese cars – especially the kind that people drift with – but the modern cars in my price range are flimsy chocolate box trays aimed at people with hearing aids, or those who drive with the fog lights lit on a clear, dry summers evening. (That actually goes for most French cars too)
BMW, Audi, Mercedes
I’m not a massive fan of Mercedes (thought I won’t say no to an AMG GT), but sadly, after looking at the finance options, no decent car from these brands were in budget. I could’ve got a BMW 116d/i, or Audi A3 1.9 diesel, but they must be like driving a bowl of soup – they are made as company cars, or fashion items. I wanted someone with a bit more go.
In the South East of England, Vauxhall’s (aka Opal’s) are either company cars, or for kids who’ve just past their test and think a 1.2 Corsa with similar styling to a VXR is a VXR. I’ve also never really liked Vauxhall. Dunno why, I know the Astra VXR is a good car, and does look nice.
VW, Skoda, Seat
Skoda’s design doesn’t really talk to me. 90% of private taxis here are white diesel Octavia’s – they blend into the scenery like a tree.
VW and Seat both have a car I’d like _ the Gold R and Leon Cupra, but the finance terms weren’t on my level, even for base engines. It’s a shame, because a Golf R would be nice.
My first car was a Ford Focus, so I have a soft-spot for them. It’s pretty much the only car from them that I’d happily own though. I looked at the range of engines and trim on offer, and settled on the infamous 125bhp 1.0 litre Focus Zetec S, thinking it would be the sensible choice, and still be relatively fun.
Then I came to my senses and remembered the ST trim. I had a look at the numbers, and though it was significantly more expensive per month than the Zetec, it would be a closer match to what I was loosing.
Side note, but both my mum and hair dresser told me this same thing: If I got the sensible choice (the 1.0), I’d be bored in a month and regret my choice for the next 3 years. I think they were right.
I looked into the ST more and more, watching hours upon hours of reviews on YouTube – both from journalists and owners. The more I watched, the more I looked, the more I read, the more I liked it.
I set my sights on a Focus ST.
Meeting the dealer
I filled out the ‘free valuation’ form on my local Ford main-dealers website, expecting it to give me a value there & then. It did email me a price range (depending on condition), and that was that.
Early the next day, I got a phone call. I didn’t recognise the number, but answered anyway. Turned out to be a salesman at the dealer. He didn’t really talk about what or why I was selling, but asked what I was after. I told him what I wanted, he did a quick search of current UK stock with my exact options, but none were available. He suggested I pop in for a chat, so that’s what I did.
A couple days later, I was sat in the showroom with the salesman. I lucked out, because the guy can’t have been any older than me. I liked this. We bonded over a love of fast RWD cars, and he understood that I wouldn’t want the silly safety feature options, because we can both drive.
So, we sat for an hour looking at various options, colours, etc. We did find a lovely ST-3 in silver, with all the options I wanted. He phoned the showroom who held it, but funnily, the branch manager had bought it for himself a few hours earlier!
The search continued, swapping out one option for another, adding something I didn’t need, loosing some things I wanted, but ultimately we ended up at a dead end.
The only real choice was to order a fresh car from factory, so that’s exactly what we did. It meant waiting a couple months for it to be delivered, but it meant I could have exactly what I wanted.
Door edge protectors – I love these, they protect the edges of the doors from touching any other surface like walls or other cars (Not for my benefit, but passengers)
Keyless – leave the key in your pocket and forget about it
as I said above I’ve had it for 3 months now, so I feel like I’m in a good place to talk about it now.
There are many things I like about this car. I’m sure most of them are due to being a modern car but I still like them enough to mention.
The mirrors fold in and out when you lock and unlock the car
The front windscreen is heated, much like the rear on ever other car
Automatic lights, wipers, and auto-dimming centre mirror
Like all new Ford’s, it tells you when to change up or down a gear, to get optimum efficiency (if that’s what I’m going for at that particular moment)
The standard tyres (Goodyear Eagle F1’s) are grippy, and relatively cheap!
I can stream music via Bluetooth or the 2 USB’s – useful for trips with friends who all want to be DJ.
All the windows are one-touch up and down. It’s common for the drivers window to go all the way up or down when you press the button further, but all 4 do it on this
The heated seats warm up real quick – I’m sure I’ve burnt my arse a few times
The seats are all-electric, and can adjust in many ways – my knees are a good few inches above my waist
Ford build the car wrong. After a few visits to work out why I still don’t have the navigation I paid for, it turns out the car wasn’t build with sat nav at all. All of my order forms say ‘ST-3 Nav’, but the form I was given when the car had been ordered to be built, didn’t say ‘Nav’. I don’t know if this is my salesman’s fault, or Ford’s, but I’m working to get it sorted.
The window switches are set a bit far back for my liking. I’m tall, so I sit far back anyway, and I still have to squeeze my elbow between the seat and B pillar to open or close any of the windows. And this isnt the cars fault, but I keep accidental opening the rear window when I mean to open the front.
The colour temperature of the fog lights is different to the main beam xenon’s. It’s a silly thing, but it annoys me. Nothing a few new LED’s won’t fix though.
I didn’t go for the upgraded Sony stereo. My initial research told me that isn’t much better than the standard stereo. I think that was a mistake on my part – the standard stereo is fucking shocking. Hayley’s Ford Fiesta Studio (bottom of the range) sounds better. The 10-speaker stereo in the BMW was all sorts of amazing, and I miss is greatly. Sigh. I do plan on replacing all the speakers (with new hidden amps and high pass filters) and adding a small sub in the boot.
I’m pretty happy with it. It’s not as fast as the BMW, and it’s not as well thought-out, but it’s good enough. I think I’ll be happy with it until September 2018 when my agreement ends and I can go shopping again.
I still look back at it when I park up. That’s petty much all that matters at the end of the day.
A month ago, I did a talk at WDC that I called ‘Professional Progression’. In the 15 minutes I was on stage1, I very openly talked about all the times I’ve screwed up over my career; letting clients down and making bad decisions. One person said to me:
It would be amazing if anyone hires you again.
It’s taken me a few weeks to realize it, but almost all the points I touched on stem from burnout. Without realising it. I’ve suffered from different weights of burnout, several times.
I’ve taken on too much work and had to bail on multiple projects all at once. I’ve suffered real insomnia and lost 7lbs in a week. I’ve finished projects much later than I anticipated. I even handed my notice in on a project (hoping I could manage the 2-week notice period) and had shaking hands opening the laptop to check emails from that client.
I know there’s people who’ve had it much worse than me, but it’s not good for anyone to suffer from.
Since I came to that realization that it was burnout, I’ve made a strong concious effort to make sure it doesn’t happen to me again.
As I write this, I have about 3 months of work booked in , and it’s all spread out quote nicely. There’s a few days between all projects.
In the past, I’d often tell the client I can start right away, but I know now that saying “I can start in 2 weeks” is usually not a deal-breaker. If the client really want me to work on it, they don’t mind waiting a little bit. If anything, it gives them time to tie up a few loose ends and make sure that what they send me is polished.
I’ve also started adding time to quotes for emails, phone calls, and meeting. No matter how awesome the client is, this stuff always happens, and is always required. I’d never account for this before, which led to slipped deadlines and me loosing money.
The notion of a 9-5 day is something I’ve thrown out the window – in-fact I threw it out a long time ago. When I started my company in May, I wanted to set new rates, and par of that was working out what a day is for me. That’s 6 hours.
I do 6 hours a day of actual work, and the rest of the time is taken up by whatever needs to happen. I don’t work those 6 hours in one lump either. I might do a couple hours in the morning, and then spend most of the normal working day messing around on something I want to do, like wash the car or play around in Sketch. I’ll then do a few more hours in the evening when I’m most productive.
I do answer phone calls, and reply emails shortly after I receive them, but I’m not sat at my desk for hours. People say that freelancing means being tied to the desk from the moment you wake up to when you go to sleep.
I think everyone would like to work less, so I lowered my hours and upped my rates to compensate. For me, there’s absolutely no point working hard to have nice and see nice things if you can’t spend any time enjoying them? Balance.
That phrase is often thrown around, but I’ve learnt the value of it. It’s hugely beneficial to have something to work on that nobody is paying me for (…yet). It’s something I can sink your teeth into and motivate me to learn new things. I actually have a few passion projects on the go; the new Cross Stroke site which has gone through 4 design variations already, and an app I’d like to use for work, which I hope to turn into a paid-for service anyone like me can use.
The start of Cross Stroke was rough, but we live and learn, don’t we. I’ve learned, and now I’m gonna live.
I’ve moved my blog away from the awesome Ghost platform because I wanted to tinker more, and do things with this site that either aren’t possible with Ghost yet, or might never be.
When the API is public (and not read-only) & Apps are possible, I’d like to move this blog back there.
Next on the list is the Cross Stroke site. I’ve had this designed for months, and it’s mostly built but I’m suffering the usual self-branding woes and don’t like it anymore. Fortunately, I can’t remember the last time I for work directly from the website1, so I’ll probbaly just finish it and go live with it. It’s a good oportunity to get feedback from everyone and iterate. Maybe it’ll turn into something I like?
All of my work comes from old and current clients recommending me to friends, and people I’ve met in person. ↩