Announcing Branch – Stats and what’s next

24 hours ago I announced a new project I have been working on: Branch – a continuous integration service for WordPress developers. I was pretty transparent throughout the day on Twitter and thought it would be fun to do a little summary on how it all went.

Before

Branch is a product I’ve been working on for the past few months. It feels like the natural progression from my other product WP Pusher. However, compared to WP Pusher, Branch is a very large project and a big technical challenge. What I launched yesterday was far from a product that someone could actually sign up and use. So what exactly did I launch?

After a lot of tinkering I am finally at a point where my working prototype can clone a Git repository with a WordPress theme, fetch the PHP and JavaScript dependencies, compile the assets and deploy them to a WordPress site. This is far from production ready, but it is working well enough that I felt comfortable recording a screen cast showing it to the world. I had decided in advance that a screen cast of a working prototype would mean a hard stop of the development of the product. I simply cannot spend more time developing this product before it’s been validated better. That’s what the announcement yesterday was about – gauging the interest.

In addition to the screen cast I had written a manifesto titled “WordPress developers are developers too”. It goes into something I feel pretty strongly about, but won’t re-state here. Read the manifesto if you are curious. I have previously written a lot of blog post targeted at WordPress developers and I felt pretty comfortable that my manifesto would be provocative enough to get people’s attention, but not too much to derail everyone’s attention from Branch. I would say it worked pretty well. The main inspiration for writing a manifesto came from Derrick Reimer and Ben Orenstein.

On the landing page I did a few things before launch: Added Fathom analytics (privacy, yay!), added an email opt-in and linked to a pre-populated Tweet after sign up. The pre-populated tweet did alright, nothing crazy, but I still think it’s a good idea to encourage people to spread the word:

The day before the launch I made sure to queue up an email to my email subscribers on my WP Pusher email list. It’s about 2500 WordPress developers. I accidentally messed up the time zones, so the email actually went out an hour before I had planned – 11am UK time, instead of 12pm. I also tweeted out asking for people to help me spread the word the next day as I had a big announcement to make. This is a trick I’ve stolen from Adam Wathan and I think it works really well if you can make sure that you already have a few people cheering for you.

Finally, I reached out to a few Twitter friends and acquaintances to ask for feedback. This helped me tweak and fine tune the landing page a bit. A big thank you to everyone who had a look!

Launch

I had planned to Tweet out at 11am UK time, which was an hour before the email was supposed to go out. This would give me an hour to fix any immediate errors that people would potentially be pointing out. Just when I was about to hit “Tweet” I realized that the email was already going out. Well, I guess we are live then! A few minutes before the actual tweet went out I also let people on Twitter know that I was about to make my announcement. After the tweet was out I quoted it and encouraged people to help me spread the word. Quickly a few people started retweeting it to their own followers.

I’m really happy with how the launch went. I’m not used to my tweets getting a lot of attention, so yesterday’s tweet was definitely my most popular tweet ever. So far it’s had almost 17.000 impressions, which is way more than I had hoped for. Here’s how the website stats looked after yesterday:

Later during the day I also shared the link with the Advanced WordPress Facebook group. It was pretty well received in there as well, but most of the traffic definitely came from Twitter. About 10% of the visitors subscribed and about 70% checked the “I want beta access” box.

At about 5pm UK time I made another small push on Twitter targeted the US west coast. This Tweet got a bit of attention as well with almost 5000 impressions and definitely helped keep the ball rolling:

In addition to this tweet I also made sure to be really active on Twitter in general throughout the day.

I think these stats are pretty good and I definitely got more attention than I had hoped for. But more importantly I reached a lot of people and many of them sent me very encouraging messages and emails. Tweets like this definitely made my day:

Even on Facebook people said nice things!

Some of my existing WP Pusher customers chimed in on email as well:

All in all I feel like Branch was really well received yesterday and it feels like it’s definitely something that WordPress developers care about.

What now?

I’m super happy that people seem to be interested in Branch, however it is a big project and I need to have a pretty solid gut feeling before fully pursuing this project. That was the whole point of this launch. The number one question I need to answer now is: Do I think people will use this and will they be willing to pay (enough) for it. My experience with WP Pusher is that, yes, people need this and are willing to pay for it. But will they pay enough to make it a profitable business? I consider WP Pusher a side project because I haven’t actually worked on it full time at any point. I’ve had the intention a few times, but something else has always come in the way. It has sort of had its own life to be honest. At the moment WP Pusher is able to pay (most of) my bills, but it’s not profitable enough to invest a lot of money into a new venture like Branch. That leaves me with a lot of consideration to do!

It’s obvious to me that the next step is to talk to as many interested people as possible. I signed up for Zoom today and will try to set up all the meetings I can to better understand the people that already showed interest. If I decide to fully dedicate myself to Branch there a few things I’ll have to consider:

  • Should I consider raising a bit of seed money to fund the development or maybe join an accelerator/incubator? Or should I just try to bootstrap with the income I have from WP Pusher (might be tight because Branch is quite ambitious)?
  • Should I find a co-founder or otherwise find someone to help me build Branch? In addition to a lot of coding, there is a lot of marketing and product development to do if I want Branch to be successful. Also, speaking from experience, bootstrapping as a solo founder can be pretty lonely.

If you have any questions, inputs or thoughts about any of this, please tweet me or send me an email.

My Favorite Quote

My favorite quote is from a text written by the Sanskrit writer Kālidāsa. I read it in a book about 3 years ago and it has stuck with me since then. It’s rare that I get “excited” about quotes, but this one really got me. I think about it often.

For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow is only a vision;
And today well-lived makes
Yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope

Things I’m reminded when reading this:

  1. Life is right now in this moment
  2. Worrying too much about the future isn’t very helpful

🕉

After Co-living

There are a bunch of people, probably around 30 to 40 to be more accurate, that I feel like I’ve known for years. They come from all around the world. They do completely different things for work. They look completely different. They are meat eaters, vegetarians, vegans, coaches, architects, programmers, investors, entrepreneurs, christians, muslims, atheists, surfers, travelers, students – you get the idea. They are different kinds of people.

The one thing they all have in common is that I’ve known them for less than a year.

These are some of the people I’ve met during the 3-4 months I’ve spent co-living at Sun & Co in the past year.

Sun & Co has been my second home in 2016 and my go-to-place, whenever I had a few weeks with nothing else on the schedule (that required my physical presence that is). I’m pretty sure I have the record for most time spent in the house.

I’ve seen a huge amount of people come and go. A lot of whom said their lives were transformed after trying co-living and meeting such a diversified and interesting group of people.

I had my first co-living experience in 2014, when I lived with a large group of “digital nomads” in a large apartment building in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Still we were living in our own studios. In 2015, I stayed for a few weeks at the famous Surf Office in Las Palmas, but still in shared flats with private rooms. Sun & Co was my first time living and working in a house full of people I didn’t know in advance.

One of the hosts at Sun & Co, and a good friend of mine, Jon, wrote a blog post about how co-living is a very accelerated version of co-working. It’s a great post, which does a great job explaining what I’m trying to say here: Living and working together with people is an extremely accelerated way of making new friends and connections. For me, one of the biggest part of co-living has been the friendships I’ve made that continued after co-living.

There are a ton of “how co-living changed my life” blog posts out there, so instead of doing yet another one, I thought I would share a few pictures of some of the “after co-living” memories I have from 2016.

The Sun & Co 1 year anniversary party – hosted by friend-of-the-house Alejandro on his amazing rooftop. A lot of people came back to connect with “old” friends!

A trip to the nearby market in Jesus Pobre with my girlfriend – made possible by Jon from Sun & Co, who let us take his motorbike! Trusting someone to drive your motorbike is much easier when you’ve lived together with them.

In Edinburgh, having lunch with Mohammed who I met at Sun & Co. Mo and his wife made us an amazing traditional Palestinian feast!

… And an amazing cup of Arabic coffee!

I spent 4 months “house sitting” this apartment in Copenhagen for a girl I met at Sun & Co (because she didn’t want to leave Javea). Again, trusting someone to stay at your place is a lot easier when you’ve lived together for a month.

Last meal in Sun & Co before roadtripping Andalucia. All my friends from Sun & Co and Javea came to the house to say goodbye and eat Burritos.

How I Stopped Wasting My Time On Facebook

It’s been almost a month since I unfollowed everyone on Facebook. This is how my feed looks now:

My empty Facebook feed!

 

Now, my only ventures to Facebook are for messages and group conversations. All the noise is gone. If I have the desire to stalk someone, I have to make a conscious decision to type in their name in the search box. More often than not, I don’t bother. To me, staring at that “No posts to show” message, every time I visit Facebook, has been such a relieve.

How I did it

It’s a step-by-step process and, honestly, it’s been super easy.

  1. Every time you log onto Facebook, you go through your feed post by post and unfollow whoever posted it. As many as you can handle. Don’t distinquish between people (and pages, groups etc.). Unfollow everyone who posted something. Remember, you can always follow them again if you change your mind.
  2. Repeat!
  3. When you see the “No posts to show” message the first time, you are getting closer. It won’t stay there, since some of your friends post very infrequently.
  4. Once in a while, a new post will pop up. Some people never post anything, but will be tagged in updates and pictures once in a while. Actually, you will soon discover that most of the Facebook clutter comes from a very small group of people. This is good news, since it makes the whole process stepwise. You will have less and less people to unfollow and less and less Facebook noise to look at.
  5. After a while, post an update to Facebook explaining what you did. This way, people will know why most of the time you won’t like or comment their stuff. If you do, though, you will have made a conscious decision to visit their profile and actually have cared about them.

That’s it. You will probably never unfollow every one, since some people literally never post anything and disabled tagging of their names. But since you won’t see anything from those people, there is no reason to unfollow them.

Why it works

  • You do it step-by-step
  • You can still visit Facebook as much as you want
  • You can still post updates if you feel like it
  • You can still (choose to consciously) stalk people
  • You can still use messages and groups (the biggest excuse for most people)
  • You can still see if it’s someone’s birthday

Start now. Go to Facebook and unfollow a bunch of people. It feels great and it’s not your responsibility to read everything that people post on their walls.

Hi, I’m Peter

Hi! My name is Peter and this is the first entry on this freshly created blog. It’s not the first time a blog has been created by me. You see. I like to begin new projects and I do it all the time. Sometimes I start blogs on the Internet, sometimes I build online products for myself, or for my clients, or I start businesses that rent out bartenders, or one of a 1000 other things. Actually, most of the times when you meet me, I will tell you that I just started this new cool project. It’s how I work.

Just setting up this WordPress blog, I turned into a project… I even put it on Github.

I’m that thing between a developer and an entrepreneur, which means that whenever I get an idea for a new project, no one is holding me back. A few hours later, I’ll have a website up and running and ask you to retweet it to your followers! I like the term ‘devtrepreneur‘, and I think it describes me pretty well.

Think of those first 3 paragraphs as a disclaimer. This blog will be about all my projects. I think. Hopefully I won’t abandon it too soon, like (a few) of my previous projects. Anywho.

$ whoami

I’m mostly a programmer. I also like to think of myself as a traveler. I’m danish, but in the last 2 years, I think I’ve been more outside of Denmark than inside it. I’ve lived in Morocco and Thailand and traveled to many other countries. I also like the term ‘digital nomad’ and like the idea of combining the two terms:

Devtrepreneur + Digital Nomad = Win?

It’s difficult for me to predict what will happen with this blog, but I expect to be posting about at least the following topics:

  • Programming (PHP and server stuff)
  • Business (Freelancing, entrepreneurship and bootstrapping)
  • Traveling

At least, those are topics that I care about a lot these days.

Since this blog is still pretty fresh, ff you want to know more about me, you could check out some of the following stuff:

I’ll also have an about me section on this website soon.

This post is quite random, but at least the blog now has one post! Thanks for reading it.