ultimatums do not work for me

I’d been working on one side project – a website – for several years. I made progress on it, but it never really succeeded. What was I looking for? Modest traffic… almost any traffic at all would do!

I had given a link to the website to a few friends, and I could see that they had accessed it (their feedback was good – they all told me that they liked it). Other than that, though, the site was like a virtual cul-de-sac.

So I gave myself an ultimatum: I will add one last webpage to the site, publish the whole thing as an ebook, make it available on Amazon, and then I’ll quit working on it for good.

What actually happened, after I made my ultimatum? I found myself distracted by numerous other side projects, chores, and fun things to do. It has been 3 years since I gave myself that ultimatum! And I never finished that last challenge.

This behavior seems to be repeating itself. I recently gave myself another, similar ultimatum, about another side project, and it has killed my desire to work on the project at all.

If my intent was to force myself to stop working on an unprofitable or fruitless project, then I’ve succeeded. However, that was not my intent! When I think about, I never really wanted to stop working on my project at all. It was a labor of love, and I enjoyed the work that I did on it. I just wanted it to “succeed” – get more viewers – and I was frustrated about that not happening. The truth is, however, I had never tried anything to get more traffic at all, other than sharing my webpage with a few friends. I had sabotaged myself.

Upon introspecting, I feel that I was afraid of reaching a dead end. If I tried harder to drive traffic to my website, and even that didn’t work, I’d be stuck for real – I would literally have no clue how to proceed. As it was, I could always feel like there was something I hadn’t yet tried… something else I could do to get more traffic… later. Whenever I had the time to get back to it.

I don’t have lots of time these days, but I think putting in a few hours each week to add more content to my old website, and work on driving traffic, is not too much to ask. In the end, even if it never gets much traffic, I will still have enjoyed the process of content creation.

I can’t see the point in giving myself ultimatums, anymore. They are counterproductive!

sometimes procrastination helps

I surfed to my blog today, only to find the following, disturbing error message:

Internal Server Error

The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.

Please contact the server administrator, … and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.

More information about this error may be available in the server error log.

Additionally, a 500 Internal Server Error error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.

I checked my host’s status page to see if the server was down. Nope.

I have several websites running with this host. I checked several of them. Most were down, but not all.

I checked the php logs, in particular error.log (I won’t say where it’s located; you can find that out from your specific hosting service). In the log I saw this:

[Fri Sep 22 09:39:26 2017] [error] [client ...] Premature end of script headers: wp-login.php
[Fri Sep 22 09:39:27 2017] [error] [client ...] Premature end of script headers: index.php

I knew my host had recently updated WordPress, and I wondered if this was causing the problem. I started an internet search, but it turns out the “Premature end of script headers” error is quite common and difficult to diagnose.

I kept checking back at my blog, while doing all this, and suddenly, the page loaded.

It seems to me something was going on at my hosting service. I just happened to access my sites at an inopportune time. If I had gone away and waited a few minutes, the problem would have been solved by itself with no bother on my part. Sometimes it just pays to wait! And with a blog that gets almost no traffic, I can afford to.

should bootstrappers reveal their revenue?

The user patio11 is legendary on hacker news. In 2006, he developed a piece of software called “Bingo Card Creator” which let users “print custom bingo cards on [their] own PC or Mac”. In 2008, he went open kimono to the world with his sales stats. He was selling up to $60K/year of software, at times. Then, in 2015, he sold the website (in case you are wondering, it did not bring him a fortune).

Revealing your company’s revenue probably didn’t start with patio11, and it certainly didn’t end with him. Amongst microISVs, it has become faddish to do so (e.g. see Indie Hackers and Baremetrics). From a spectator’s viewpoint, it’s both entertaining and informative. Seeing these stats, any developer who is tired of working for others will surely think: “If there are so many successful micropreneurs, why can’t I be one, too?”

Such openness is inviting and attractive, and it might even generate favorable PR. But it also seems like a huge vulnerability. The biggest danger is telling a bunch of ambitious software devs (or product / biz-dev people) about your income-generating website or software product. You may very well wake up one day to find that 30 clones of your site (or product) exist, each making a small amount of money, and your own revenue source suddenly decimated. To be sure, I think this is more of a danger for smaller sites. If you are making hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue each month, you probably have a monolithic organization with a sales and marketing / PR team to protect your business. But then you aren’t really a microISV anymore, are you?

So why do some software micropreneurs and bootstrappers share their revenue? Ya got me. I’m betting the number of software shops that share their revenue numbers is small compared to the number that are quietly humming along successfully and hiding their revenue. I hope that’s the case! It would be nice to know that there’s still a lot of room for the rest of us to enter this frothy market.

There’s a related discussion of this topic at hacker news: Ask HN: successful, transparent bootstrappers?. Caveat: it’s 7 years old! There was a suggestion that being transparent helps to build business contacts… so you might consider that as a useful side-effect to this kind of openness, if that’s something that might help your business.