Friday, August 31, 2007

Now It's for Real...

MoneyWell shipped on August 31, 2007 at 2:40 PM Central time!

It's been posted to all the usual download sites (Apple, MacUpdate, VersionTracker) and press releases were sent to the top Mac news sites (MacNN, MacWorld, MacLife, MacMinute). The No Thirst Software website has had some updates to reflect the new product (with more site updates pending) and sales are already coming in. Life is good!

But, now everything has changed. MoneyWell is no longer a hidden development project or a limited beta test, it's a living, breathing product with customers that need support and will be asking for updates. That changes the tone. If there's a bug in the beta version, you tell the beta testers, "Sorry, delete your data files and start over with the new build." That option is off the table now.

Is that scary? Not really. I remember my dad, who was a merchant marine sailing the North Atlantic in WWII, telling me, "You can't be afraid of the sea because you'll never be able to do your job, but you can't pretend its not powerful enough to kill you either. You just need to learn to respect it."

I respect my role.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Check the Fan... See If Anything Hit It Yet

Yesterday was crazy and today is double-super crazy. I posted two release candidates of MoneyWell yesterday and plan to release the final version today (if I don't blow a gasket first). What seemed so organized just a couple of days ago is now a huge messy pile.

As always with software development, there's one last bug to fix or a critical missed piece of functionality. The trick is to know what to touch and what to leave alone for now. I think I made it through the important fixes yesterday, but I didn't get to much else on my list, which is now long enough to make me want to run out of my office screaming until I knock myself out by hitting a signpost in the street. This is not a cartoon though and I really don't have time for a hospital run.

Let's see what's in the pile:

  • The web site needs the final page designs completed and posted (pretty critical)

  • My PayPal payment system needs to be updated (oh crap—must have a way to pay)

  • I still don't have my final discount processing system in place for Debt Quencher customers (double crap)

  • The online tutorials aren't done yet (that ain't happenin' today)

  • The press release still needs final editing (that's gotta happen today)

  • I need to retest the licensed and unlicensed modes (mega high priority)

I'm pretty sure I'm missing something, I just hope it's not a biggie.

Release day is a blend of anxiety and excitement that is hard to describe. If I survive it, I'll post more entries about how it went. If not, look for me unconscious in the street.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

How to Brighten Someone's Day

How do you feel when someone gives you a sincere compliment?

Doesn't the world around you immediately change? It does for me. I have been putting in some long hours lately trying to launch MoneyWell and it has been exhausting. Some nights I feel a heaviness (on top of the literal heaviness because of too much fast food) and I lose sight of the purpose behind all the effort.

Then a compliment comes my way, "Your program looks great!" and everything changes. Then another drops in from a beta tester saying, "Very polished and quite like an Apple app" and another saying, "I've been looking for something like this on the Mac ever since I bought it." Or a comment on this blog offers more positive feedback (no, I'm not fishing for compliments... really, I'm not that needy... well, maybe I am that needy, but I'm still not fishing) and the weight is gone (still talking metaphorically here, I do have to eat more salads). The world seems brighter and my purpose has been restored.

Now it's very possible that I'm just more fragile than most and I dent and ding too easily, but I think that the majority of people need to hear more positive feedback on a daily basis. Is there anyone you can compliment today? Your spouse, kids, or a coworker? Instead of just criticizing their mistakes, compliment their accomplishments or behavior. I'm quite sure you'll benefit from it too!

As for me, I'm riding pretty high right now on the recent compliments that have been graciously given to me. I know much of the feedback I'll get after releasing MoneyWell will be on the negative side because there are plenty of things to be added and enhanced and I have to keep reminding myself that it's just a 1.0 release. I'm also sure there will be bugs that slip through the testing and I'll have to handle those, but my release deadline is now two days away and I can't worry about what is lacking or the responses from customers. I know now that I'll get enough positives to offset the negatives and those will energize me to push forward with updates to satisfy the masses. Thanks to everyone who has helped me get through this process!


Monday, August 27, 2007

I Am Embarrassed!

For many software developers, the hardest part about writing software is shipping it. Software is never, ever, ever, ever done. That's why I fell in love with creating software—I could make it better just by thinking of a better design and then coding it. There was no cost of materials, just the task of finding enough active brain cells to produce the proper code. But if you can't find a stopping point for your 1.0 release (or even 2.0 or 3.0), you'll never ship, which is all good if you're independently wealthy and don't need the income.

I'm by no means independently wealthy. The reason I wrote both Debt Quencher and MoneyWell in the first place was to give myself better tools to battle poor spending habits. But that's off topic a bit. Maybe I'll embarrass myself more by talking about my bad financial behavior in future entries.

MoneyWell is a product with lots of potential. I have so many ideas and designs for it that I really struggled where to draw the line and call it 1.0. A big help was reading If you aren’t embarrassed by v1.0 you didn’t release it early enough. I didn't even need to go past the title to get it. I've been writing software for a quarter of a century and I know how horrible the disease "feature creep" can be. It's a gnarly, nasty, blood-sucking disease that can bring down the biggest software companies.

So when I read the phrase "If you aren't embarrassed by v1.0" I knew I had my litmus test. The features I had in my in-house testing version of MoneyWell already worked better for me than my copy of Quicken 2007. I certainly didn't have close to all the features of Quicken, but that wasn't what I was shooting for. What I wanted was a more effective way to track my spending and that was already in the code. So I pushed it into beta and moved features from my 1.0 list to my future list. It was like a flashback of when I was a kid trying to make myself eat the sliced canned beets on my plate that had now grow cold and had stained my tasty (but overcooked) pork chops, yet I managed to do it.

Am I embarrassed by version 1.0 of MoneyWell? You betcha! But only because I know what I have planned for future releases.

Does it kick spending plan management butt over every other personal finance package out there? You betcha!


Saturday, August 25, 2007

When It All Clicks

When you're developing software, you can find yourself in some nasty situations. Sometimes the technology doesn't work the way you expected or a concept you had for a design makes people scrunch up their faces during testing like a rotting tomato. The worst is when you have a bug that just won't go away. During the development of MoneyWell, I had the pleasure of all these issues and more.

For me, the trick is to keep encouraging myself to push past these issue. One of my favorite blogs is Pam Slim's Escape from Cubicle Nation because she focuses on the psychological problems related to starting your own business. Pam's talked about Seth Godin's new book, The Dip in this entry and it made so much sense: Every project I've ever done of significant magnitude has experienced a dip. Many times I've thought about quitting because, "This is just too friggin' hard!" But if I push through this dip, things seem to click.

In the past few months, I've had some scary moments. The question, "Will I ever get this into beta?" has popped up many times. Of course when I got MoneyWell into beta (this is the final stage of software testing before release), I wondered if it would ever ship. There was so much to do: finish features, cut features, fix bugs (nasty nuclear-holocaust-surviving-roach type bugs), write a help file, finish the web site, and more. It sent me to dark places at times.

Now I'm about a week away from release and everything is falling into place. I was able to push certain features out to a 1.x release, other functionality started working the way I envisioned, and (with the help of Apple's Developer Technical Support) a couple of glowing roaches got smashed. There's still some documentation and marketing to do, but everything is clicking so that work seems no more ominous than a few dedicated days of effort.

What pushed me through my own dip was my faith, family, and friends. It's critical not to do this stuff alone. This has been as much a spiritual journey as it was a business event and a development project. No matter what happens after I release MoneyWell, I'm confident that taking a chance with No Thirst Software and this latest project has all been worth it. I'm a better person—stronger, more confident, and more aware of my blessings.

Are you avoiding doing something that is on your heart because it may fail and there may be pain involved? Don't let fear ruin your life. All the pain and failure is worth it when you get to the other side and it all clicks.


Friday, August 17, 2007

An end and a beginning

It's time for me to get back to blogging. I stopped because I was just way too busy to continue this and my software development at the same time. Considering this pays no bills and my startup company, No Thirst Software, was far from paying all the bills, I chose to dive into development and forego the writing.

I've missed it though (even if I was writing for a tiny audience of one or two). So I'm back, not because I have so much time now or because the bills are paid, but because I'm nearing the end of one journey and starting another. Since December 2006, I've been trying to finish MoneyWell. It's personal finance software that competes with the likes of Quicken—yes, I'm just that crazy.

Actually, I always said that I would never write accounting software because everybody and his sister was writing it. Also, the 800 lb. gorillas like Intuit and Microsoft occupied this space. But last year, when I was scrounging for a purpose and direction in my work life, I was drawn to solving a pain in my personal life: debt. I hated being in debt and even though I was working my way out of it, the software I had to use was crap.

The one tool that I used to manage my credit card debt was a poorly designed Java tool and the company had disappeared—no website, no contact information, nothing. In response to this very personal need, I wrote Debt Quencher. I wanted it to be drop-dead easy, attractive to look at, and very Mac-like in operation. Even though it was a relatively tiny program, I wanted it to be great. It was written during the same time period that this blog was started and was finished about the time that this blog helped me get out of my corporate position (yes, the boss read my blog, which was brilliantly plastered with my name and my job complaints).

This mildly successful product lead me to dive deeper into why I was in debt. I have used Quicken for years to manage my finances and balanced my bank statements religiously. I even tried to create budgets with it and stick to them, but it was so painful that I just couldn't do it. This pain inspired me to write MoneyWell. I didn't want it to just track my finances and reconcile with my statements, I wanted it to keep me out of debt and enable me to control my spending. I'll write more about this inspiration in future posts.

So now I'm finishing the beta test for MoneyWell and about to begin the process of marketing and selling this product. I have faith that great things will come of my efforts (and my family suffering through another one of my startups) because I have a higher purpose than only to make money (but I'm all for quick elimination of my debt after its release). Hopefully, tracking what happens during this new beginning will be entertaining and educational for my readers.