Flutterby™! : A personal note

Next unread comment / Catchup all unread comments User Account Info | Logout | XML/Pilot/etc versions | Long version (with comments) | Weblog archives | Site Map | | Browse Topics

A personal note

2004-10-04 18:39:45.12532+00 by Dan Lyke 29 comments

If you've been following the soap opera, you'll know that the Amazon job in Seattle didn't work out. And in the week and a half that I was getting positive vibes, I strung out a few other contacts, and I'm back to square one on the job search.

Continued in the comments...

[ related topics: Dan's Life ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-04 18:40:23.180327+00 by: Dan Lyke

There are no accidents. I fucked up on managing my relationships with the people who had those other leads, and as I do the post-mortem I'm realizing that my sabotaging those leads happened because I wasn't honest with myself about what I want to do. And if those of you whom I screwed up with need more of a mea culpa, email me.

I also got some good arguments from Ziffle about why I should be approaching my life differently. Now despite the impression some of you may have, I don't have a huge amount socked away in the bank, I've made some bad decisions economically over the past few years, especially over the past three. No regrets, but a lot of learning, and a lot smaller buffer than you'd think.

However, I've been working on this image manager application, and I'm starting to hear that I've got some good ideas. On Sunday's hike I heard that some of the features I'm implementing might be useful in some corporate applications, so there'll be a discussion and meeting coming from that. Further, Charlene has looked at it and commented that it's the first side project I've been working on that has an appeal beyond us geeks. I've looked around at other photo album software, and frankly everything I've seen sucks. They all use the same bad organizational schemes, put the emphasis on things that seem useful if you've just got a digital camera, but not on what's necessary after you've taken a few thousand images, or are digitizing your family memories from those greening slides taken three or four decades past.

So Charlene has been hinting that I should make a development plan and spend a few months turning this into a usable app. Cut our household expenses to the minimum, set up some budgets, and just spend my time developing software.

Frankly this scares the crap out of me. I've screwed up many times with such attempts in the past, I've no idea how to turn this into a business once I build a product, and it doesn't seem like this stuff is rocket science, given that there are other well-funded players in the game all it would take is one of them getting their act together to make my product superfluous.

However, what I really want to be doing is leading a small team in innovating. Not implementing someone else's half-baked ideas (especially about UI design, I spend a lot of time mentoring computer novices and know a lot about how they really use computers), or putting a new face on an old. I've seen very few opportunities to do such, and my mismanagement of the past three years of my career has left me without the credibility to snag those few interesting gigs I do see fly by, so the only way I see to be doing what I really want to do is to build my own product. I'm a damned good software developer in the right environment, and, yes, maybe I can keep ahead of better funded operations because of that.

Won't someone please talk me out of this?

And if not, I don't expect that I'll have a plug-and-play Windows .EXE for a while yet, but in two weeks or so I may ask a few of you whom I know have a lot of pictures to try to install enough of my environment to test out some of my ideas.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-04 19:21:00.094696+00 by: meuon

No. I won't talk you out of it. And I have about 12000 plus pics that need better sorting and such. And you are right, the tools I have used suck for it. I'd LOVE to test it for you.. and you need to think of it as a door opener as well. - Get it bundled with some digital camera's...

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-04 20:37:51.480458+00 by: ziffle [edit history]

Well I have some photos which I will not show anyone - and boy do they need organizing...

But seriously, I watched the SpaceshipOne show on Discovery over the weekend and decided Dan should call them up and beg them to interview him. It would satisfy their need for expertise and Dans need to work on the bleeding edge with wild and successful guys, -- and get his name into the Smithsonian someday, which is what Dan really wants.

So call them already. They won the X prize today - they may have to call you back!

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 01:05:26.912766+00 by: dexev

Dan, what do you have to lose? Is it just that you'll have to work some lousy job for a while to dig yourself out of a hole if you screw up? Now, I've only lurked here for a couple of years, but it seems like all of your jobs end up being pretty bad (you said it, I'm just rephrasing). You're young and you don't have kids -- you can afford to fall a long way before it really starts to hurt.

And if you win, you pretty much get everything you've ever hoped for, right? You've already got some leads about some corporate applications for your project. People whose eyes usually glaze over when you start talking tech are excited.

Count this as another vote for 'just do it, already!'


#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 03:08:04.241501+00 by: markd

If nothing else, you'll have an intensive X months under your belt with $gui_tookit_of_choice, which will put you a leg up on the duffers out there who punch 9-5 and don't really learn much. You might also be able to find some business as a consultant in $gui_toolkit_of_choice because of it, or decide that the whole experience was so bad you know to avoid it in the future :-)

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 04:01:15.46361+00 by: topspin

I'll toss my hat in the beta test ring too. I've got plenty of dig and film pics, of course, but I'm REALLY holding out for snippet manager[Wiki] though it's likely a much more esoteric product.

Further, if the core organizational abilities of the product sorta "scale" (if that's the right geeky word) to allow the product to aid in organizing and/or interface with organized docs (particularly simple form docs like MLS real estate listings), I could see the product being VERY viable commercially.

Even for hobbies like genealogy, linking maps and pics of gravestones via form docs.... or for geocachers.

I agree with dexev/mike that this is a logical time for you to develop this sorta idea (and others.) Now, stop worrying and write some friggin' killer code!

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 14:00:34.898721+00 by: aiworks [edit history]

Sounds to me like you're barking up the wrong tree...

Frankly, I'm loath to comment since I doubt it will move the conversation. I'm going to make this terse; I don't intend for it to be harsh.

  1. There's not a great distribution channel for end-user fat client software.
  2. Because of #1, all the exciting end user software is being deployed via the web.
  3. It sounds to me like the business plan would look like Buttonware (remember PCFILE?): 1 guy builds something so great that it's a success almost overnight. Those days are over and, frankly, this idea isn't sufficiently earth shaking.
  4. The previous 3 points are predicated on you wanting to make money directly on this. If you want to give it away, that's another thing altogether. If your goal is to lead a small team in innovating, there are easier ways.
  5. Whether you give it away or not, who's really going to care that much? You mention that you "know a lot about how... [computer novices] really use computers." This sounds disingenuous and I could go on about this. Just consider that the groups of people in your field of vision (because of different kinds of geography) aren't a good sample. You could build it and no one (or not many) would care.
  6. If you've screwed up in the past doing things like this, what's going to make this time different? It doesn't sound like you have a tremendous amount of passion for the problem you want to solve.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 15:20:53.762534+00 by: Dan Lyke

Thanks, Mark, that's exactly the sort of reality check I was looking for (And thanks, the rest of you, for cheerleading, but I'm also trying to hone my sense of what the market is). So, in order:

  1. Agreed. I see three business models for this:
    1. Bundling with hardware, possibly an abbreviated version with hopes of selling an upgrade later.
    2. Setting up in conjunction with a web site operator like ofoto or flickr to use their services for photo sharing
    3. Some tiered distribution model which involves selling the most capable versions to corporate customers. That's the avenue I hadn't considered until the discussion on Sunday, when one potential user said "we need that, on a lot of seats". In the particular market we were talking about, my choice of widget set and cross-platformness would be a great asset.
  2. All of the existing serious photo management software I've looked at is being sold/distributed via the web, but isn't a web based app. So I still think there's a market there. And I'm not sure how to resolve all of the licensing issues, but having this cross-platform could be very beneficial if/when the Linux[Wiki] desktop takes off, and all of the end-user vendors for that are selling online subscriptions for software purchase and updates.
  3. True. Still working on that.
  4. The only way I see from my place now to, say, a CTO position, is to write something cool and sell it.
  5. I know a lot of geographically distributed people who've expressed an interested in such an app. I also know a number of people distributed across the financial spectrum who are interested. But, yeah, I've no idea about what the market really is. My comment about knowing novice users was really in response to having worked for some people who made some less than optimal decisions about "what users really want".
  6. My screw-ups in the past have been on running businesses in general. Not in the software development side of things (unless you count developing a web browser for a BBS...). Each time, I learn. And I am passionate about this problem because it's something I want solved, it's an issue I see lots of other people trying to deal with, and the software parts of it are interesting. It also seems to be the next step towards the snippet manager[Wiki], but don't tell me that because I'll get grandiose ideas rather than chewing off small bites.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 15:33:09.217738+00 by: aiworks

Whoa... CTO?

Why do you want to be a CTO? I've met many CTO's and that would seem to be the side of the business that you wouldn't care for.

Regardless, it sounds like this isn't a slam dunk. It appears to me that you're reaching for the wrong tool.

What's your dream job -or- what do you want to be when you grow up?

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 15:52:45.781311+00 by: Dan Lyke

The CTO positions I've seen have been the closest thing to a "chief scientist" position that most smaller companies have. That's the guy who gets to have pet projects and lead the wacky development efforts, and it's the position thrown to the person who came up with the initial technology, but who doesn't have skills that scale with the operations side of thing, but is smart and has good ideas.

From your reaction, I'd guess what you see as CTO is what I've seen as VP of Technology. Which is not what I'm interested in.

My dream job is picking projects like this and implementing them, preferably with a small team. I've had a bunch of ideas over the past few years that other people have eventually managed to turn into businesses. I didn't think any of the ideas were particularly great at the time, I just saw a basic need, but someone else actually developed and commercialized the things. Rather than working on other people's ideas, most of which seemed to have had some fairly fundamental flaws that I pointed out early, I want to do it right.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 16:11:49.194759+00 by: aiworks [edit history]

Tell me in what way the following things are important:

  • Physical geography
  • Recognition
  • Pay (good money vs *real* money)
  • Work schedule
  • Is graphics processing your destiny (seems to be a theme)
  • Anything else you think is important to point out
  • I don't know where I'm going with this other than thinking of a better way to get to where you want to be.

    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 17:36:34.218022+00 by: Diane Reese

    Since you mention flickr... Ludicorp has just gotten another infusion of investment capital and appears to be diving even deeper into the photo storage and sharing market. (They've also gotten some buzz-y press lately.) I've used Ofoto and shutterfly and Yahoo! Photos and find them universally klunky but utilitarian... as long as I'm willing to upload all those photos somewhere, which I would prefer not to have to do. While the social sharing aspect of flickr is a critical differentiator for them (especially since the principals are all social software people), it didn't knock my socks off and I lost interest as an alpha tester.

    I know about flickr because it's what the development team from my dearly-beloved Game NeverEnding "paused" to work on, to make some money to be able to fund GNE development... supposedly. (Those of us who knew and pine for GNE again are still skeptical about whether we'll ever see anything else out of that crew.) If you're planning to make an entree to them, now might be the time, before their design is frozen and they use up their new money. (PS: They're in Vancouver, I hear it's a nice place.)

    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 18:16:02.560085+00 by: mkelley

    Um, Dan, send a beta/alpha my way. I'm working with about 9 TBs of images for the carpet industry and could really put that stuff through it's paces. We've killed Extensis' Portfolio server a few times.

    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 20:13:33.996277+00 by: Dan Lyke

    Diane: Thanks, I wasn't to the stage yet where I wanted to worry about interop, but I'll see if I can drop someone a line. If you've got suggestions for a specific contact, send me email s'il vous plait.

    Mike Kelley, at 9TB and traditional business data, you might need to talk to Mark (aiworks) instead. My first pass is really targeting text descriptions, geographic location and temporal correlation. However, if that seems like it might be in your direction drop me an email and we can exchange some notes on the specifics. It'll be another two or three weeks before I'm ready to start distributing even the most rudimentary software.

    Mark, good questions, and I've been needing to write this up for a discussion with Charlene anyway:

    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 20:19:02.500696+00 by: Dan Lyke

    Oh, guess I should point out with location: That's in the U.S., I can think of a number of places outside the U.S. that I'd probably be comfortable too, including Vancouver.

    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 20:40:48.595365+00 by: ebradway [edit history]

    "but I want to work for people who are smarter than I am."

    Good luck! Personally, I haven't encountered very many people who come close to your intelligence. All of the people I have met are in diverse fields and seem to get more of a kick out of being a big fish in a small pond (or at least, the gold fish in the tank of guppies).

    Personally, I'm trying to get wedged somewhere where I'm working with people who's intelligence I respect. I tend to be dumb-founded by the inability of the PhDs I work with to solve simple computer issues (lots of unplugged monitors), but I also highly respect the knowledge they have. As long as we can share and work together, cool things can happen. And if I'm working on a project I feel passionate about, I never find work hours to be an issue. But I have found that I can't stand working on commercial software anymore because no matter how much passion I had for the projects I've worked on, none of them are used anymore. A couple years ago, I wrote some code to make the big red sign on the side of the baseball stadium work. I get to drive by the sign every day. It took me a weekend to write the code and debug it. As far as I know, it's the only code I've ever written that gets used on a regular basis anymore. That's 12+ years of my life poured into projects with a negligible impact on the world. I want a little more than that.

    And one more thing, do you think you could make a CAD app for designing bookshelves first???

    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 21:49:18.106934+00 by: aiworks

    Random thoughts/rhetorical questions:

  • I'm not getting that entrepreneurial vibe from you. If you're going to start down that path, you'll need to partner with someone who does want to conquer the world. Who told you about needing corporate seats? Are they a possibility? Is that firm a possibility? If nothing else, could you give seats to that firm and have them as a qual?
  • Regarding frustration with previous two jobs, this sounds like you have bad luck picking assignments, you're not adept at communicating bad news, or you defined success of the project differently than whoever owned the project. Do you know the root cause?
  • By working with smarter people, do you mean people who know more than you do (better architects, better developers, etc...) or people who can do things you don't know how to? That really gets back to the partnering/mentoring ideal.
  • #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-05 22:34:18.963881+00 by: Dan Lyke

    Re: entrepreneurial vibe: Yep, I'd love to team up with someone else. Haven't found that situation. I guess my real hope with starting down the "develop something cool" path would be to get acquired fairly quickly. What I envision in the photo management space could be a key competitive difference for people providing web hosting (including email, photos, and just regular web hosting), for instance.

    Re: frustration: In one case, I believe it was that we defined success differently, and there was a strong political component which had at least as much bearing as the technical one. In the other case, part of it was that I didn't understand the business we were going into, so when people told me it wasn't an issue I assumed they knew more. I know better now.

    Re: smarter people: either, but mostly people who can do things that I can't.

    And, back to "work schedule", I'd also really really like to work in an Un*x environment, both because I believe it provides a superior development environment, and because I believe that a company willing to do that is thinking long-term. I can do .NET, I've done it, but now that I see some of the tremendous tools for cross-platform development available out there I no longer think it's even the sole way to develop Windows[Wiki] apps.

    #Comment Re: a few points made: 2004-10-06 12:58:40.062805+00 by: DaveP


    I assume you've looked at photo.net and their system. In spite of having been around for quite a while, they've added reviews and such to make more revenue. That makes me think that just managing photos isn't going to make enough revenue to cover bandwidth costs.

    There's also this recent Wired article that talks some about the problem of organizing photos.

    I think I'd also dig through Donncha's photography archives and see if there's more of interest there. He picked up a digital camera a couple years back, and has been following things pretty closely ever since.

    I've also pointed a couple other folks I know at this thread. Maybe they'll have something to add. Me, I think it's interesting, but worry that I already have a ton of irons in the fire, and not enough revenue to help. Doesn't mean I'm not thinking about it, though.

    #Comment Re: two minor points made: 2004-10-06 14:12:04.486941+00 by: hananc

    1. I remember that Scoble pointed out to screenshots of a photos organizing application on Longhorn/WinFX. Can't find it now. I remember it looked cool. Maybe you could ask him for a pointer.
    2. Ev has just left Google. He is tired now but maybe when the first demo will be available...

    Good luck,


    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-06 14:31:23.006+00 by: Dan Lyke

    Dave, I'm distinctly not wanting to make this a web based system. It can interact with web based systems, but the sorts of operations necessary to organize thousands of images need local widget sets and local data stores.


    1. Watched that video, and part of what has spurred me on this path was thinking "shit, they're getting patents on ideas I'm playing with".
    2. Noticed that yesterday...

    #Comment more thoughts that might help made: 2004-10-06 20:32:18.85032+00 by: hananc

    Today I am moving my stuff from one room to another one. I haven't built the shelves yet so all the stuff is on the floor of the new room and I am thinking on how to organize my stuff.

    I have mentally sorted the stuff into groups: 1. Stuff that I need to use frequently. Put now - take - use or process - return. 2. Stuff that I want to keep and use sometimes in an unknown middle future. Put now - use sometimes later. 3. Stuff that I want to archive. Collect items - once in a while, sort or organize or throw - store.

    Maybe it's a good idea to suggest the users of your system to ask themselves how do they think they would use the images in the near,middle or far future and give them tools to sort and retrieve the photos accordingly.

    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-06 21:24:44.931499+00 by: ebradway

    hananc: Did you see my question the other day?

    When you build bookshelves, do you just sketch it out by hand?

    #Comment Re: bookshelves made: 2004-10-07 07:11:04.707011+00 by: hananc

    I sketch them by hand.


    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-07 22:45:27.247932+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

    I too have been down this road. I created a photo application, with a slightly different focus, which I intended to sell to professional photographers. On good days, I still think about continuing to pursue it.

    I don't have any great insight to offer from my experience (except regarding myself), but I have plenty of opinions. I'd be happy to talk about them any time you'd like.

    I think Mark has given good advice. I know it's something you've already been working on, but personally I think finding a partner is your best bet. I believe I've found mine - somebody who really does understand the technical side, but is interested in pursuing a managorial path (whereas I am not).

    Also, while it doesn't speak precisely to your situation, today I came across this initial account of one man's foray into becoming a micro-ISV (a single-person software vendor). It's an interesting read, from someone who has already founded one successful company, and I think it could provide some useful nuggets to add to what you're already chewing on.

    I'd love to be counted among your testers, but I don't have anywhere near the quantity of images many other flutterbarians do. Perhaps I could be your token "average Joe weekend photographer". (Since this is intended to be a money-making venture, I'll also understand if you feel I might have a conflict of interest, since I've never completely given up on my own app.)

    #Comment Re: an idea made: 2004-10-09 21:56:38.060927+00 by: hananc

    Today I arranged my printed photos in boxes etc. and began a reminiscing process. Maybe a "reminiscing" feature can be added to the program that shows one random image from a date group and let the user see the whole group if she wants to reminisce.

    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-14 18:43:23.763435+00 by: TC

    hmmm, I organize my photos by simply nest directories by date year/month/date have tried a a few different programs out and would add my voice to the consensus that they "all" suck in their current state. I just got back in the country yesterday and am dealing with timezone lag and piles of things flung at "the fan" while away but enjoy reading flutterby as a tried and true work avoidance tactic. Lots of red flags pop up in my mind about this and I'll post them later or grab you for some lunch and beer. You know you can rely on me to be an equine posterior

    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-15 15:56:57.293151+00 by: jeff

    Dano--are you wanting to build a "killer imaging app" for professionals, or for the masses? I think that's a fundamental question that you need to ask yourself, since it has both requirements and design implications--as well as economic realities to understand depending on your intention. "Intention" is also a very powerful word to understand here.

    #Comment Re: made: 2004-10-18 21:55:25.044387+00 by: jeff

    To me, it's all about metadata and having an efficient way of finding the specific image(s) that one needs for a particular application. As such, I think you will need to provide support for industry standards (i.e. EXIF, IPTC, XMP) as well as making the metadata extensible (XMP, etc.) to allow for customized searching (category, keyword, etc.).


    I have a personal interest in adding a geographic drill-down storyboarding capability. That is, I'd like to create a "story with text" using different images (from a vacation, for example), and be able to provide both a timeline and a set of geographic spatial links to interweave a story with HTML. In other words, a quick and easy way to describe interesting trips, hikes, etc.

    It will be interesting to see where "Google on the desktop" and other search engines end up permuting. Image manipulation shareware programs are a dime a dozen, so I don't see any "killer apps" in that arena, unless they really address the workflow management aspect--which I think is one area you are targeting.