100 Days Gone

Screenshot 2015-08-25 10.22.33

Today marks 100 days since I left Vox Media to work on ottoneu full-time. I only decided to give notice once I set some goals for myself, and 100 days seems as arbitrary a time to check in on progress as any.

In no particular order, my goals were:

  • Be happier
  • Eat healthier
  • Pick up a freelance contract or two
  • Cut expenses
  • Launch a fantasy football game before August

Be Happier

Without casting aspersions or unpacking my various neuroses, it was pretty clear that I was very unhappy with my full-time job. Once I recognized this, I had to move on to another project, because it was clear that the enjoyment I had working at Vox Media was not going to return. Until biting the bullet and leaving Vox, I was not sure if my unhappiness was directly related to my job or if my unhappiness at work was a symptom of something else. I can say pretty confidently that I am happier now for a variety of reasons, so in the end that is all that matters. I loved working at Vox Media and gained some of my best friends while working there, but all things must draw to an end so that the next thing can begin.

Eat Healthier

I eat out less, I cook more, I eat fruit, I don’t have soda or a fistful of M&Ms available whenever I want, and thus I have been eating healthier. Most of this is due to my wonderful girlfriend, who I live with as of last week. She does crazy things like “buys groceries” and “encourages me to eat things other than candy and meat”. Either way, healthier eating was a goal going into this whole thing and progress has been made on that front.

Pick up a freelance contract or two

I’ve had one completed contract, one contract that is on-going, and potential for a couple more contracts in the near future. If you want to get a contract, you are not above getting a beer or taking a phone call with anyone. I took all the phone calls, listened to all the half-assed ideas, went to bars in faraway lands like Foggy Bottom and West End, and I landed enough income to keep things going for a few more months. Without a full-time job, I believed that this effort was required, and it has paid off so far.

Cut Expenses

Eating out less helped a lot on this front, but making a plan with Kacey and keeping track of it has helped a lot too. It is also a lot easier to mindlessly buy things when you have a full-time job than when you don’t. There is still a lot to be done to improve this, but the plan is continuing to come together.

Launch a fantasy football game before August


I’ve accomplished all of these goals to various degrees. I know I could still eat a bit healthier, but who couldn’t? I could always be happier, but again, who couldn’t? My mood has improved a lot, my diet has improved a lot, I feel in control of my own destiny, and hey, I launched a fantasy football game too! Overall, I give myself a B+.

ottoneu, Round 2

I’m going back to working on ottoneu full-time. May 15th will be my last day at Vox Media.

I started working at Vox Media in October 2011. I’ve learned a tremendous amount there and was able to make a significant impact on the teams I worked on and the overall company. It has been a great place to work.

The first time around, I only gave myself 11 months of working on my own business full-time. ottoneu has grown, and I need to see if I can make it better. My immediate plan is to launch a dynasty football game in early-to-mid-July and then revisit daily fantasy sports contests. This might be wildly successful and become my last job, but it also might be a waypoint to the rest of my career. One thing is for sure – I will be able to say I tried.


things are getting close. the day job project is almost code-complete. the pep-talk about football worked, kind of.

the hardest commit of every day is the first one. once you do that, then you have to fix all the mistakes you made it in, and once you do that, then you are in the groove. just make that first commit.

spotify’s desktop client sucks

a big reason why i went with spotify is because of its desktop client. it seemed like a more complete replacement for itunes than anything else out there. i have been looking to replace itunes since the first day i used it because its playback tools are significantly worse than winamp had back 8 years ago. and somehow, spotify has even worse usability than itunes when it comes to playback.

basically, do this in spotify: search for a song you want to hear. double click it. then look at your queue. you’ll see everything from your search results. ok, that kinda sucks – you just wanted to hear one song. so, try removing everything else from the queue. oh wait, you can’t.

that’s right, everything in the search results just stays there forever. i’m not sure if there’s anything more to say about it. it’s fucking maddening. spotify’s entire raison d’etre is to let you play a song you WANT to hear, but then it throws a bunch of other shit at you without giving you any option to get rid of it?

i’m actually getting madder by the second just thinking about how fucking stupid it is. c’mon spotify, you guys are better than this.

p.s. i live in dc now and jen and i broke up and i hate everything and yay 2012.

answering implied questions

ottoneu Pick Six launched on april 28. as of writing this, 4789 entries have been made by 505 users, and 201 entries have been made so far for today. these are pretty good numbers, and especially rewarding because i made my first check-in to the project on april 12.

202 entries

for some background, Pick Six is a daily fantasy baseball game. there are six positions to fill – catcher, corner infield (1st or 3rd base), middle infield (2nd base or shortstop), outfield, starting pitcher, and relief pitcher. you get a budget of $120 which you can’t go over, and every player is assigned a value. fill out your lineup, stay under budget, and your players get (or lose) points based on their production on the day. there are some more nuances, but that’s the basic overview – $120, 6 positions, fill all your positions without going over budget, unlock achievements and beat your friends.

207 entries

Pick Six was a pretty quick, iterative process. the initial launch had an all-time leaderboard and the ability to pick your team. i quickly added more information around the player selection process (opposing pitcher, batter and pitcher handedness, etc). it became clear however that focusing on the all-time leaderboard was preventing new users from playing, so i changed all the leaderboards to focus on smaller time segments first (daily, then weekly, then all-time).

still 207 entries

the other big portion of feedback has been around the social interactions of the game. i started by adding the ability to follow other users, so you can build your own personal leaderboard. while this has been good, it hasn’t been great – users still can’t communicate with each other on the site, and it’s not quite satisfying enough to beat your friends. not just yet, at least.

208 entries

achievements have been another fun thing for people to look at, and feedback led directly to a few of the more clever achievements, such as the rays achievement (spend $80 or less and win the day) and the mariners achievement (spend $110+ and come in last place). while i don’t want the number of achievements to get overwhelming, i think there is still some room to add some interesting achievements to both encourage users to accomplish certain tasks and to reward users for completing otherwise monotonous tasks.

still 208 entries

i would say 80% of what i’ve added since launch has been at the suggestion of users or at least reinforced by users. followers and achievements were kicking around in my head before, but clarity on how to implement these features came directly from feedback. something as subtle as changing around what leaderboards are emphasized wouldn’t have been on my radar had it not been for user feedback. so, i’ll say what everyone else in the startup world says, which is “listen to your users”.

210 entries

but how do you find out what your users want? this is really the interesting question to me. aaron has been encouraging me to do more user surveys and a/b testing, so users can show me what they want via their browser. while i cannot argue with those methods at all, they both seem a bit… dry to me. my approach has been slightly different – i’ve made myself available, via twitter, email, fangraphs chats, and any other method i can imagine. by virtue of making myself available, users reach out to me when they have issues or new ideas on their own. i remember a long time ago reading that for every 1 person who bothers to leave a comment or emails you or whatever, there are probably 10+ more users who would agree with that person but just didn’t email you. the ratio might even be higher now. so, if 2-3 people agree on a way to move forward, odds are that your user base is going to be pretty happy with you when you implement the new feature.

still 210 entries

the other thing to remember is that users don’t always know what they want. this is why responses to open-ended questions in surveys should be taken with a grain of salt, i think. you’ll get some gems, but you’ll also get a lot of people who haven’t really given thought to your product on the same level you are thinking about your product. you can’t blame users for that, it’s pretty understandable behavior. however, sometimes you’re going to (as aaron just told me in an email) go with your gut rather than listen 100% to your users. it’s a fun balance, i guess. except it isn’t that fun sometimes.

212 entries

after 750+ words about everything and nothing, i think its time to go make Pick Six more social. after all, it is what my users (who have thought about it enough) (think they) want, kind of.

97 days live (or 23 days into a second product)

my last post was exactly 30 days after ottoneu Fantasy Baseball was launched. it has been 67 days since that post, and in that time I have:

  • launched a second fantasy baseball game, entitled ottoneu Pick Six
  • resolved a number of issues with ottoneu Fantasy Baseball and got the game in a state where it does not need my attention on a day-to-day basis.
  • realized I was going to run out of money
  • secured part-time (3 days a week) employment
  • had all the requisite ups and downs for being a single-person start-up in the valley

there’s almost too much to write about just from those points alone, so for now i’ll focus on the improvements i wanted to make from my last post, and hopefully will get to the rest of the talking points over the course of this week.

first improvement: take a run and shower to start my day. nope. i haven’t even gotten better at focusing on myself before focusing on ottoneu in the morning. still need to fix this.

second improvement: getting out of the apartment. the part-time work is going to be a big factor in improving this. I plan on getting to the office around 9:30am 5 days a week and work from san mateo the rest of the day about 3 days a week. i know the working out of the apartment thing cannot last, so this will be a welcome change.

third improvement: computer-free time before bed. getting better at both coding less immediately before bed and balancing computer time and computer-free time in general. as predicted, once the game started running itself, this became a lot easier to deal with.

i have a massive rant against silicon valley, an outline on Pick Six and how i got it from concept to launch in 2 weeks (and launch to 250+ daily users in 2 weeks), and some background about my new part-time gig all floating around in my head right now, but i think they will have to wait for later this week. for now, its time to add some more features to Pick Six before it gets too late.

dusty rhodes’s road trip

our hero
this debonair motherfucker is dusty rhodes. last tuesday i worked from san francisco for the beginning of 21st amendment‘s and magnolia‘s strong beer month. i worked all day at a coffee shop, stayed out at 21A with some friends until pretty late, and didn’t leave the house again until friday, 3 days later. when i opened my bag friday morning to put my laptop in it, i saw his shit-eating grin staring back at me. everyone i was with and even some people i wasn’t with all denied having any knowledge of how i came into possession of (what we discovered to be) an $11 limited-edition action figure. it is truly one of my life’s mysteries, but i have chosen to embrace this particular mystery and turn dusty rhodes into a ridiculous, fat, polka-dotted mascot, of sorts.

so monday morning, the same people who talked me into drinking the tuesday prior talked me into taking the day off and going up to russian river brewery in downtown santa rosa to experience pliny the younger, one of the more celebrated california ipas (and beers) in existence. pliny the younger is a limited edition release that is only around for a couple of weeks, so we only had a small window to pounce.

an aside: yes, my last post was about how i quit my job and started my own start up. 3 months later, it might seem like i have given up on life and started drinking heavily, but i can assure that is not the case. ottoneu-related writing will commence shortly, and i will only give up on life and start drinking heavily if the next month and a half are a complete disaster.

so anyway, russian river, pliny the younger, and a wrestler mascot. like any good bay area burgeoning wanna-be hipster with a dslr, i decided to make a photo essay of our road trip from the perspective of our (my?) mascot. with that in mind, i present to you dusty rhodes’s road trip, a flickr set.

10 days in

i’m 10 days in to the great experiment i announced 19 days ago. i’m no longer an AT&Ti employee, but instead founder and ceo of ottoneu, inc. i have a shared office and a laptop – that’s it. as i was telling people i saw over the weekend, i’m up here on this tightrope way above everything without any net and apparently all i’ve ever wanted to do with my life is walk a tightrope.

it’s exciting and terrifying and somewhat convoluted.

so i’m probably going to write about my development/start-up stuff over at about90feet for the near term, which again leaves me a gap in what i should write about over here. right now, i’m spending about 90% of my time coding and 10% of my time screwing around, and that 90% fully belongs at a90f according to its mission statement. keep an eye out over there for now, and i’ll be back shortly.