Eric L. Barnes

The latest Bootstrapped.fm podcast had myself and the rest of the UserScape developers on as guests.

In this episode, we sit down with the developers of Userscape; Eric Barnes, Chris Fidao, and Taylor Otwell, to talk about weird dreams, Eric’s, Chris’ and Taylor’s backgrounds and how they got started at Userscape, supporting open source, Forge, newsletters, servers, building Scribbleton for Linux, content-based products, deploying desktop apps, and TV shows

Dear Morning

I glance out my window, scared to open my blinds. I know that once I do I will see how beautiful you are, how I will get lost in the chirping and glimmering dew.

I’ll have to wait to enjoy you later when my writing is done. I only have a few paragraphs. It shouldn’t take long.

I sit down at my desk. Start up my computer with the best equipment you can buy. I open a new document, the wonderful clean slate.

All I see is a blinking cursor, nothing is coming to mind. I should brainstorm, maybe that will inspire.

The light bulb is far from me. I’m left sitting thinking about everything else. I start a mindmap, that quickly becomes a maze.

Oh morning maybe I should come visit you, and step away from this artificial light. It’s only a few paragraphs though, it shouldn’t take long.

I hear the kids awaken. My mind drifts to them. Now it’s breakfast and I can’t focus.

Daddy will you play with me? Not now sweetheart. I only have a few paragraphs, it shouldn’t take long.

I sit and I ponder. Maybe Twitter has inspiration? Maybe Google? I get tangled in a web.

The kids come running, Daddy it’s lunch!

I’m sorry morning, but I have wasted you.

Losing Weight and Feeling Great

The other night my wife and I were watching a photo slideshow and a picture of me on the beach from 2011 popped up. I was honestly amazed and couldn’t believe that’s really how big I was. I decided I would do a before and after picture and post it on instagram. I’m usually hesitant on what I share on social media because I always feel like people will take it the wrong way. I did this not for people to congratulate me but instead to hopefully inspire someone else. Just as I had been inspired.

I did have a few people ask me how I did it and decided to write this post to share my steps. Of course this could just say, eat better and exercise, but that helps no one. We all know that’s all it takes but changing those habits are hard, so hard! Hopefully this gives a little inspiration for you if you are wanting to slim down.

It all started at the beginning of 2012: I weighed 182lbs, I wasn’t sleeping well, I was snoring, and all around I just felt bad. But none of those made me really want to change my life. It wasn’t until I came across a post by Jack McDade which simplified it so much for me:

This is so much easier than following a diet plan. I literally can eat absolutely anything I want, as long as I don’t eat more than 2,200 calories a day.

I thought to myself yes I can do that. I downloaded the Lose It app just as he recommended and inserted my weight and desired goal. In the beginning I calculating everything. Literally! The first week was so disappointing I was eating and drinking so much junk that I was going over my calorie count before noon.

The second week I got serious, I cut out soft drinks completely and switched to coffee. I never drank coffee before but I needed, ok wanted, that caffeine. I still remember that week and how much cream and sugar I used. :) But it wasn’t long until I just went to straight black coffee to save on those extra calories.

After a few more weeks I started seeing my weight go down and I wasn’t missing out on a lot of the food I really enjoy. This was the start of it all. I kept tracking calories and finally settled on a routine that fit me. Then I added exercise. It was summer by this point and I live very close to some excellent mountain bike trails. I kicked the dust off the bike and began riding at least 3 times a week. I love mountain biking and had forgotten how fun it is.

When the time changed, in the fall, I couldn’t go riding like I was so I had to find another excersise routine. I’ve done the gym before and meh I just can’t get inspired for that. I’m lazy and I know for a fact I wouldn’t commit. Instead I bought the Insanity workout DVD and did it all winter. I enjoyed not leaving the house and would do it immediatly after work every day. It just became a routine.

By the end of 2012 I was down to 144. By BMI standards this was right at the upper limit for my height and I was happy about that. As you know the more you lose the harder it gets. I’ve just kept the same plan since then and I’ve currently stabled out between 132 and 136. I’m no longer doing Insanity because it got boring. Now I still Mtn. bike, do some cardio kick boxing, and road riding with friends on the weekends.

Typically my daily weekday routine is Oatmeal or protein bar for breakfast, Special K cereal for lunch, and eggs for dinner. On the weekends I eat whatever. So no, I’m really eating healthy but it’s better than before. Then I do hard cardio at least three times a week.

In the end what worked for me was very small steps that eventually turned into a life style change. I’m sure this is the same for everyone but it’s so important to change forever. Not just for a month or two.

Open Source Marketing Tips

It’s 1 am, I’m unable to sleep and have all these crazy ideas running through my head. As I start to doze, I have a spark of genius. I think to myself this would be an awesome open source package. I guarantee others would love this. It’s so useful why hasn’t anyone else thought of it.

Over the next two weeks I spend hours and hours thinking, building, refactoring, and creating this package. I think it’s going to be the best ever. Seriously it has to be, it’s so useful.

I’m finally ready to release it. I spend at least an hour crafting the best tweet I can. Secretly wishing it will go viral, hoping others will love it, and just from one single tweet Hacker News will have it featured all day. It’s time! I hit “tweet”, sit back, and watch in great anticipation.

After the first five minutes nothing happens. Sure, some friends retweet it but it’s not gaining momentum. So now I think I’ll just wait till tomorrow when more people have seen it. But still nothing.

Where did I go wrong? Was this a dumb idea? Why doesn’t anyone like it? Is the code horrible and no one told me?

As software developers we tend to look at things from our own perspective. Assuming everyone else will see it the same way. I’ve spent all this time developing but I didn’t take those extra few minutes to really polish the marketing text. This is the big mistake. I know you are thinking it’s open source, do I really need marketing? Without a doubt yes you do!

Your readme is the first page people see when they find your package. It’s important to clearly define what the package does. List out benefits not features. Features are important but only after you’ve sold me. I need a quick overview of why your package is going to make my life easier.

The fact is you have very little time to sell someone and people do not read. They glance. If nothing stands out, they move along faster than a cheetah chasing a gazelle.

I’ve seen it time and time again where I find something that sounds cool only to have this be their main section of the readme:

  • Includes awesome package
  • Uses x design pattern
  • BDD, DDD, TDD
  • And on and on.

What does that tell me? Nothing. I really don’t care about this. Instead show me the benefits. Show or tell me why my coding life is horrible without your package.

Here are a few packages I found that I believe excel with this:

Intervention Image

Look at the demo code which is the first thing you see:

// open an image file
$img = Image::make('public/foo.jpg');

// now you are able to resize the instance
$img->resize(320, 240);

// and insert a watermark for example
$img->insert('public/watermark.png');

// finally we save the image as a new image
$img->save('public/bar.jpg');

I think to myself. WOW. That’s all it takes to upload and resize an image? I’m using this!

Carbon

Both Carbon and Intervention use the same style by letting the code speak for itself. Here is a portion of their main page:

printf("Right now is %s", Carbon::now()->toDateTimeString());
printf("Right now in Vancouver is %s", Carbon::now('America/Vancouver'));  
$tomorrow = Carbon::now()->addDay();

Dispatcher

Dispatcher is a package for scheduling tasks inside Laravel:

dispatcher

Notice how these packages explain and demonstrate why I would want to use them. It’s really that simple!

Take the extra 30 minutes and ensure your readme is clear, precise, and tells me why I should care. Be specific. Sell the benefits. Take a screen shot. Wow me.

Ian Landsman shared his slides from his talk at Microconf. Even though the video isn’t published yet the slides are great and I enjoy seeing the history of UserScape and how companies grow.

I fully agree that customer support drives sales. Reminds me of that old quote:

A happy customer tells one friend, an unhappy customer tells everybody.

Now with the internet this is so true. Especially the unhappy side.