13 June 2007 @ 6pm


A(nother) quick update

It’s been a busy couple of months. In addition to my regular job (typesetter / project mgr. / business dev for an indie publishing house), I also took a masters-level course on Higher Education Administration (great class; poor {but necessary} timing) at W&M, and have been doing my best to be “present” for my pregnant wife (Twins! February! Stay tuned!). All that’s on top of PearBudget’s development. I thought I’d give a quick update on where we stand with the program, since it’s almost 2007, and I had originally hoped to have this launched this past summer. Ha ha ha. ha. Heh heh. hoo.

After the PearBudget weekend work binge a few months back, I had the front end ready to go. I spoke with a couple of developers, and things were promising. And then I spoke with a good friend of mine who owns a great web application dev shop. I was asking him for some advice, and he made an incredible (and now-obvious) point that I hadn’t yet heard: It’s rare for the “launch budget” of an application to be the total cost of the application’s development. Say you invest $5,000 into getting an application “launchable” (that’s about two to three weeks’ worth of developer time). Within a month (or even a few hours) of launching, you’ll realize that there’s some crucial component missing, that you just hadn’t accounted for.

For example, you might have considered incorporating graphs into the application, but decided to hold off on developing them, since you didn’t think they were essential. You launch, and then realize that graphs are more important than you anticipated. So you go back to the developers and ask them to incorporate graphs. Add another $500 to the budget. Or user feedback indicates you need to add some other component that you hadn’t even thought about. Add another $750. Justin noted that it’s not rare to have an application’s total budget be several times as much as the launch budget. Yow. Were I backed by venture capital, that wouldn’t be a problem. But I’m not. I was budgeting some money that rolled over from a construction loan (Oh yeah. I also built a house {acting as the general contractor} in the last year. Really, it’s been crazy times.), but I don’t have $15,000 (or more) to commit to PearBudget right now.

On top of the money, there’s the added liability of being wholly dependent on the developers to add components. PearBudget isn’t the only application I want to launch in my lifetime (see: Triage). I don’t want to be dependent on outside assistance to get my ideas out there.

So. Where does that leave us?

Over the week of Thanksgiving, I holed up in Starbucks and the Gryphon, learning how to program. Since then, I’ve spent almost every available minute working on programming, and on applying the baby steps I make to PearBudget’s development. It’s coming along, but I still have a ways to go. I’m really sorry about that, that it isn’t ready to go now. I recognize, too, that twins on the horizon will only make it harder to get the program out there (twins, in addition to our almost-three-year-old — who’s an absolute treasure, but who’s needy in that “almost-three-year-old way”). Trust me: Nobody wants PearBudget to launch as much as I do. In the meantime, you might consider signing up for an alternative personal finance application, such as DimeWise or Wesabe. Both programs seem like they could be useful to you (depending on what you’re looking for), and their developers seem like amazingly nice people. I’d love to grab a beer with the teams at either one. Down the road, I’ll have to write a post about why I just recommended the “competition” (which, for the record, I don’t consider them to be).

When PearBudget’s ready for the private beta, I’ll be inviting those of you who have been commenting on the blog before I begin inviting the general “invite me to the beta” list (which is surprisingly large). If you want to join that general “invite me” list, go to the bottom of the the main PearBudget page and sign up. On the recommendation of several of you, I’ll be inviting you in for testing as soon as there’s something that’s working (even if it’s not yet launch-ready), so I can get good feedback from you. I (still) can’t make any promises about when that’ll be. Sorry about that.

Also, I’ll be releasing an updated (for 2007) version of the old (spreadsheet) PearBudget in the next week. I’ll post an update on the blog once that’s available.

For the record, the dev shop I would have hired (and would recommend to anyone looking to hire a web application shop) was Terralien. Terralien’s principal (Nathaniel) is an incredibly friendly guy, and he knows his stuff: he’s been a speaker at every single RubyConf (there have been 6 so far). At the last conference, he was the speaker immediately before David Heinemeier Hansson. Nathaniel’s professionalism was amazing, and I am truly sorry that I won’t be working with him and his team. I connected with Terralien (and many other great candidates) via the 37signals gig board. I also connected with some outstanding developers through Cameron Moll’s Authentic Boredom freelance board. Thanks to both 37s and Cameron for those services. I heartily endorse both boards.

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