The Life & Death of Side Projects
I've been itching to close down two side projects I've had running for a while now. Right now, I don't have the time, money, or focus to put any effort on them as they don't have clear monetization strategies and distract me from focusing on getting more results from projects with clear revenue streams.
Before I did that, though, I thought I'd do a spotlight on two of them: MakerFile.co & Spacejobs.us.
I will share some screenshots and numbers from my attempt (albeit novice) to gain traction with both. I won't really try to draw conclusions from anything, just let you understand it yourself.
This was my first bottom to top side-project. I conceived the idea, design/developed it, and then tried to get some users.
Here are some of the results:
Here is a screenshot of my Google analytics. As you can see, the majority was driven by posts on Reddit and Facebook about Makerfile. I've learned that Reddit is pretty sensitive to self-promotion (like posting your own side project with a disclaimer about it), so if you try to use it, be careful with it to not tarnish your brand & your reputation!
MakerFile has 81 users registered, with 75 email verified accounts.
Part of MakerFile is uploading cool projects that you have going on. Most people posted test posts, but some posted real projects, combining for a total of 35 projects. I liked this one from member Greg:
All in all, of 2,846 unique people who visited MakerFile.co, 81 signed up, for a conversion rate of 2.85%.
I know that is some hand-wavey calculations, but good enough for a ballpark approximation that as it stands, MakerFile is not compelling enough to convince people that they need it in their life. With major rework, that might have changed. Who knows!
I learned a lot from this. How to code better. How to try and drive traffic. How a product needs to be designed to keep people coming back (as it stood, this beta version wasn't enough).
There is definitely interesting things happening in the Maker realm of the world. Maker Media is running a private beta with a social making platform. I had a conversation with that group, and they are really doing some cool things!
Another community I liked was http://stories.maker.me/.
Whew -- on to another one!
I really wanted to play with data on the internet. Like, really wanted to.
So, I picked up some web-scraping skills and set out for some use that interests me. I thought, how cool would it be to see which space companies were hiring for what, and curate that information? I'm a casual space-geek, so of course I thought this would be cool.
I coded SpaceJobs.us in a few hours after classes for about a week, and had it up pretty quickly. I learned Python to help with web scraping duties, so that was a bonus!
I "launched" SpaceJobs with a post to Hacker News -- "Show HN" style. I got zero upvotes.
Here's the redeeming factor. Someone picked it up and decided to ProductHunt, currently an "invite only" submission community. It is sitting at around 53 upvotes around the time of this writing. It seems childish to enjoy external validation like that, but it's neat to know some people appreciated your work. Also, it was nice to see the traffic it drove!
You might notice, though, that ProductHunt was second behind fuckinghomepage.com. If you haven't heard of it, don't worry. I hadn't either.
Regardless, this was driven by a nice spot on their daily newsletter. Apparently it has quite the following.
Now that is press!
Along with the obvious search/browse functionality, I really wanted a newsletter. So, I hacked together an automated newsletter with Mailchimp & a private RSS feed which ended up working quite well!
So far, here are the results of the weekly newsletter:
I'm not an expert marketer, but ~50% open rate sounds pretty damn good. The clicks, what truly matters, however, is low.
I think that the newsletter could stand on its own, without having the need for a website. Personally, I wouldn't want to have to keep checking for updates, I'd want them curated and in my inbox at regular intervals.
I hit this link to see how many times the SpaceJobs url was shared on Facebook: http://graph.facebook.com/http://www.spacejobs.us
38 times, that's pretty cool!
How about Twitter? Not sure of a good way to check, but a few tweets were sent out! Here is my favorite:
Here are some more: https://twitter.com/search?f=realtime&q=spacejobs.us&src=typd
All in all, of the 2,670 visitors, 49 subscribed to the newsletter, a 1.8% conversion. Yikes! Considering I featured the newsletter block prominently, this seems low.
This was a "wow, that's cool" hit, but I am not sure if it provides a truly useful service. It was fun though!
I planning to pull the plug on both next Monday (Feb. 2nd). I'm looking forward to regaining some clarity and sizing down.