I’ve been working on
101in365 accompl.sh for about 18 months now and it’s been an endless crash course in time management, building a community, product development, design, coding, you name it. My feelings about it have run the gamut from “yay! cool! people are using something I built!” to “holy crap! people are USING this thing! I really can’t screw it up now!” to “hey this is just a side project and it’s MINE so why can’t I just do whatever the heck I want?” to “But the PEOPLE! They have demands!”
It’s been a constant struggle for me – determining that line between “this is mine” and “actually it’s not MINE anymore.” I had a very specific vision for the site when I first pieced it together over a holiday weekend, but at the time I was really just building it for myself. For my very specific use case. And as a Product Manager I know better than anyone that that’s just NOT the way to build things to be used by the People of the Internets.
When we crossed the 10,000 completed goal mark, I posted a bit of a reflection on what I’d learned and, to be honest, I haven’t really looked at it since. It’s strange to realize now that coming back to reflect on these last few weeks, my thoughts now (and more importantly my actions!) are actually EXACTLY in line with where my intuition was leading me 8 months ago.
Over the last few weeks I made a few HUGE decisions, decisions I’ve been struggling with for well over a year but that my stubbornness and general feeling of complete ownership prevented me from giving in to.
What’s in a name?
The first step in accepting my problem was realizing that I wasn’t enjoying working on 101in365 and more importantly, I was completely unwilling to talk about it in person with anyone because I KNEW I would not only have to repeat the name a few times for them to remember the numbers but also because I’d have to explain why one would have to come up with 101 goals and how that’s actually not that big of a deal. Any excitement I had at the prospect of building this out was dampened by the stress and defensiveness that came along with explaining it to anyone.
I knew I wanted to change the name for a good long while, but could never come up with a good alternative. Then, one day, out of the blue, accompl.sh hit me. I checked for the normal spelling and the .com, of course, but as a noun my odds were pretty slim. Thanks to domai.nr I stumbled across the very web 2.0 spelling and domain. It wasn’t IDEAL but it was a step and after discovering it I couldn’t get the name out of my head. A few days later I sprung for the most expensive domain I’d ever purchased at a whopping $99! I felt an immediate sense of relief and spent that entire evening changing out the logos, the copy, and the links around the site. A quick blog post and accompl.sh was unleashed to the world. I felt a thousand times better already. And it was all done JUST in time for a blog post about me and accompl.sh to go up on the Evernote Blog. Things were looking up.
But you still needed 101 goals
Once the name situation was sorted out I sat back and gave myself a bit of a reality check. With the initial band-aid torn off I was a bit more open to reconsidering some of my decisions from early in the development of the site and ended up spending the next few nights fixing those. Thus, the Suggestion Box. It was my first admission that 101 goals was, indeed, a LOT of goals to come up with.
For me, coming up with my own list of 101 in 365 was an exercise I’d gotten myself used to over the course of a few years. It wasn’t until I started watching people use the site and listening to their reactions upon hitting their first brick wall of running out ideas that it really started to click. Not everyone is like me. And if the true mission of the site is to help people come up with goals and stick to them, then WHY is having 101 goals at all important?
I’d contemplated it pretty seriously for a few days but kept rationalizing for my own use case. Then, for some reason or other, not unlike the name epiphany, I decided on the elevator out of the Etsy office that I needed to ditch the 101 goal requirement. I still couldn’t tell you how or why that decision became so clear at that particular moment, but for whatever reason, within SECONDS I had made the decision and sent a text to Tilly:
OMG I think I just decided to pivot accomplsh. Yes. I said pivot.
That was it. With no other thought given to the rationale or going through my usual pro/con list, I hashed it all out in my head it all out on my walk to the subway. I attempted to read a bit more of the book I had on my Kindle, but I couldn’t concentrate. Out the Moleskine came and I started scribbling furiously.
What the hell did I just do!?
It was all too easy. The whole thing just came together way too quickly. I freaked out. Why was it so easy? Was it so easy because it was the wrong decision? Or so easy because it was the right decision? What was I forgetting? I HAD to be forgetting something! What if the people who’d stood behind me on my stubbornness around 101 goals were angry that I gave in and reduced the limit? What if it just ruined everything that I’d spent 18 months building? Needless to say I was overcome with analysis paralysis. This was one of those times where I really wish I had a co-founder or someone to just sanity check me. Some of these decisions just shouldn’t happen in a vacuum.
Screw it. Just push the button!
Over-analyzing everything is one of those character traits that can be a blessing and a curse. I stepped away from the laptop for a bit (to get a commit cookie 1, of course). It was at that point I got a DM from a member who said a mysql error was popping up on a particular page. Crap. That meant I had to either revert my changes for that particular file in order to push the fix, or I’d have to fix it and push it all together. Gotta love forcing functions. So that was that. I HAD to push everything or the production site would have this nasty mysql error hanging around. And I’m not cool with mysql errors ruining my designs.
The new restriction-free accompl.sh was alive.
So what did I learn?
- Just because it’s how you first built something doesn’t mean that’s the way it needs to stay.
- Changing a major piece of a project doesn’t necessarily mean you’re admitting defeat.
- Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in one area to grow in others
- Sometimes taking out the one nail that you’ve been hanging everything from opens the doors to solve a lot of the problems you haven’t been able to find solutions for (more to come on this)
- The only cure for stubbornness seems to be impulsiveness.
While I’m a bit sad at having just finished hacking up my “baby,” and, honestly, I’m still SLIGHTLY worried that I may have made the decision a bit too impulsively, I’m excited for the future of this new system. I already have a few new bits up my sleeve that didn’t make it into the MVP for fixing the goal restrictions, but that I think will add a whole new range of possibilities for where I can take the project.
At the very least I’m interested to see what I’ll have to say about this decision 8 months from now when the effects will be fully realized and I get around to writing about them again!
- A tradition I started when I started at Etsy. I get to have a cookie when I commit code. It keeps me coding and keeps my cookie consumption to a minimum. ↩