Hesitated for a while before posting this, as I don't like to whine in public but this should be therapeutical

Beware, it's a #longread

Years ago, I thought about how cool it'd be to have conversation-based interactive fiction on my phone. I remember showing early prototypes to my ex in 2012. It took me over 2 years to build up the courage to make it my priority and to take time off. FictionBurgers.com was born.

A few weeks in, a friend of mine forwarded me a link to Lifeline. I was devastated. I literally spent 2 days cursing my past self for not making a move sooner.

I soldiered on, worked 7 months straight on it. Now the tech is 90-95% finished, content is maybe 60% finished and I just... gave up. Every other week now, similar projects are popping up. I'm under-staffed and under-financed compared to them. Beyond the entertainment space, "conversation-based" is hot stuff in 2016, and I still can't seem to know what to do with what I have.

I feel like I had this fantastic opportunity and squandered it, which makes me miserable.

Anyway, just so you get some cheese with my whine, here are a few lessons I learned the hard way:

Lesson #1 : Don't go it alone. I thought I could hack it, and for over 7 months, I did. But sooner or later, shit gets to you, it's just human. That's when you need someone; just so that their highs compensate your lows and vice versa. Most of the actual writing was done by a freelancer (and he did AMAZING WORK, especially considering that I couldn't pay him much) but it's not the same as a partner, who's invested same as you.

Lesson #1.5 : Complementary skills. Just like my fiction project failed because I was missing a writer partner, my fallback plan of getting into conversational tech hit the skids for lack of a bizdev partner. It's great to stick among devs when ranting, but you need to mingle with a variety of people. Some of them are actually ok, y'know :)

Lesson #2 : Lean Startup, MVP. Google those terms if you're not familiar with them. My mistake here (after MVPing the shit out of the tech) was to let my content goal run amok : what made my app superior to the competition (or so I reasoned) was that it would allow for conversations with multiple characters! So I started plotting a story... with 9 characters. Not 2 or 3. NINE FREAKING CHARACTERS! Branching conversations with 9 characters is the stuff of nightmare -- and is the main reason I gave up.

Lesson #3 : Know your reasons. I wasted some much time early on, zig-zaging between objectives:
"I'm just indulging myself"
"No, I really want it to be a project that pays off"
"Nah, it's just a learning opportunity"
"Damn, why is it bothering me so much that someone else is doing the same thing ?"
"Doesn't matter, I just mine finished"
"What a waste of time !!"
etc etc
And it's still a problem now that I'm trying to figure out what to do!

So anyway, that's my story, thanks for readin'
Check out chatty.im/player/sugar-wars if you want to test the most advance version.

Also, I've also tagged this #startupfail, if any of you fine people want to share the lessons you've dearly paid to learn!

  • 1
    Yeah, this is awesome, great post.
  • 3
    I feel your pain. The only thing I learned so far is that you'll get other ideas. They'll come. Some will be avant guard, some won't. But don't kick yourself too much over this one.

    Wanna team up?
  • 1
    I really enjoyed reading this because it reflects so much what I been doing in the last two years.
  • 1
    One day in 2014 I had this idea of creating a website to promote local events in my city, it sounded like a really cool and useful idea and I was thinking that it was gonna be a great project. I spent 10 months trying to learn node.js and react.js to build the site and I ended up giving in. Two months later I had to renew my web domain because it expired. After one more year I renew the domain again with no project at all.
  • 1
    After that I decided to create a platform to promote pet adoption. It will help people to give pets in adoption and for others to find a pet to adopt. That process was already implemented using a facebook group but It doesn't seems to be the right place to make that kind of actions, it was a mess. It was another really cool idea and I needed to build as soon as possible.
  • 1
    I spent another five months learning to use redux and webpack with no project at all. I attended every thursday to a meetings for entrepreneurs in my city, I talked about the idea and it seems that nobody wanted to adopt pets. Everyone was more concerned about how I would raise money rather than knowing how would be the adoption process, I answered about money with: "I don't know" and everyone remain in silence.
  • 1
    So, it's 2016 and now I'm building a website to know the name of the movies/tv shows in another countries... and I just let in pause an app to find what movie is using emojis...
  • 2
    i have a lot of ideas, but i just can't find time to focus on one and do it
  • 2
    @Spee : Do you think that his project isn't capable of being salvaged and brought back to life? Why not give it a shot? Part of the game is getting it out there before and getting it done better than the competition, but the other part(Which is equally, if not more important) is to get the word out to every nook and cranny of this vast Earth and showing them what they're missing out on! Maybe even add new features(if possible, if not then just highlight aspects of your product that out-does the rest of the competition) to your product, to help attract users better? I hope this helps and hope you bring back to life your project! Never give up!(Of course that's easier said than done)

    I wish you well on this and any future projects you start! Show the world your work irrespective of the competition being existent or not :)
    Take care!
  • 3
    Thanks for the support! I was quite sure I wasn't the only one struggling with this!

    @byoigres: I hear you. We devs have fantastic (mostly free!) tools nowadays to develop our own projects and put it in front of people. But working products have so many more moving parts... and money still is the best way to solve those moving-part problems.

    @anas: I've found focus to be the most decisive of the two: once you find an idea you really want to stick to, freeing half a dozen hours a week becomes doable. It's not a lot, but if you stick to the MVP approach, it's enough to have something you can put in front of people. As a side note, devRant really is a great example of this: plenty of features were "missing" at launch time but it didn't matter; the community provided feedback and they're iterating -- fast. Much deserved kudos to @trogus and @dfox for that!
  • 2
    @Glitch: Well, that's pretty much the hope I've been clinging onto so far! I did have ideas but turning them into reality would take several months of development, a Narrative Chief Officer of sorts and someone to handle the marketing side. And I've pretty much burnt through the money I'd set aside for this project -- and then some.
    On a side note, I did postpone the marketing side of things for way too long. Aaah, the mistakes you make even though you KNOW. Many thanks for your wishes!

    @BellAppLab: That's what I keep telling myself -- but omg god, is it hard to let go of a passion project! Why don't you shoot me an email at contact@spiffre.com so we can talk about it!
  • 0
    Add in some NLP machine learning and make it an interactive fiction writing AI chatbot!
  • 0
    I want to avoid another Tay-like debacle 😅
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