Update : I’m 108% busy

In the theme of openness and transparency and just generally updating my blog :

  • I’m currently working 9-5 at the Adelaide Festival and the very busy Festival period is starting.
  • I’m developing a web platform for an education startup called Teacher Time.
  • I’m the founder of the South Australian Zeitgeist Movement chapter and would like more time to help organise ZDay and work on a presentation for it (but send an amazing amount of thanks to Kari and David for doing most of the work so far!)
  • I’m an active member of Occupy Adelaide and pretty much run the website.
  • I have recently started helping the Climate Emergency Action Network of South Australia (CLEANSA) run a campaign to convert some coal fired power stations to Concentrating Solar Thermal, which would be the first installed in Australia. An amazing opportunity. I’ll also need to help fix their website.
  • I occasionally do photography and a little film work for a local non-profit news media outfit called Our World Today which is helping re-define journalism.
  • As such I’m pretty much running at 108% capacity, at least until the 18th of March.
  • I’m also in about $9,500 Credit Card debt as I tried getting Films on the Fly off the ground last year and went to Sydney for about 10 weeks. Unfortunately I’m a social programmer, I need to bounce ideas off people and by the time I built the networks which could help me I ended up running out of money (hence the debt).
  • I worked at 2moro mobile when I got back to Adelaide. Was doing web development and Linux system admin, but they unexpectedly got liquidated and I lost $4k in wages I was owed.
  • My general aim for the future is to get out of debt, and when there is enough traction with Teacher Time (and hopefully some investment), go work full time with Michael Imsteph, Jesse Black, Silvio and the others on a full time basis to help scale the service up and out and add new features and pivot and everything else required.

Week 3 of Sydney

Well, it’s week 3 of me being in Sydney and I’ve been going through the dip. The part between when everything is new and novel to when you actually get something worth showing.

Seth Godin's Book - The Dip

Talking about something worth showing. Here’s a manually placed version of the RaVis explorer tree view which we are using for the Films on the Fly Nodemap viewer. In this case it’s my version of what I’d like to see. What I call a ‘Story Timeline’ view. Unfortunately the software doesn’t work that way. Yet.

FotF Orthoganol Tree View (RaVis)
FotF - Orthogonal Tree View

The first week in Sydney was about finding my feet, the second was getting over my cold/hayfeaver and moving into David’s place whilst transitioning to my natural state. That of being a night owl.

Night Owl
Night Owl

 

During the past week at least 3 of the nights I’ve not gone to bed until 7am. The earliest night being about 3am.

I’m also developing callouses on my hand from carrying my briefcase around everywhere. If it’s not that then I’m walking around with plastic shopping bags.

Sydney is weird. Well, it’s at least different in a number of ways from Adelaide. Their bins being the most obvious difference, but their transport system is more subtly different. It’s certainly not as well integrated as the one in S.A. No Google Maps integration, very few bus timetables you can take with you and basically no train timetables (but they usually come within 10mins).

Instead of having multi-trip ticket where you can use the bus or train up to ten times and when you use the ticket you can re-use it on any other public transport within 2 hours, in Sydney you need different tickets for the train (which are split into a number of zones) and also different tickets for the bus service, which also has different zones. This leaves me with 3 multi-use tickets. A train and two bus tickets. 

The annoying bit is that the train tickets are multi-day passes, not multi-trip passes. Whilst the bus tickets are multi-trip tickets and you can use them up to 10 times, I had a 1 week train ticket. This caused me lots of confusion as when the ticket expired and it wouldn’t let me through the turnstile. The turnstile machine simply said there was an error and to see the attendant. I went to see the attendant, but as I was holding a briefcase and a bag and they man the wide berth laneway, when I waved my ticket at them they just nodded and pushed me through, with 2 mothers pushing prams and a guy with a musical instrument behind me.

The next time my ticket failed I had to almost forcefully explain that my ticket doesn’t work. Only after repeated prodding from me did the attendant lady actually try it a couple of times, look at the ticket, then point out it was expired. Suddenly a light went on in my head. I didn’t have a ticket capable of ‘10 train trips‘, instead it was capable of 7 days worth of travel. Doh!

SA vs NSW tickets
SA vs NSW tickets

Did I mention I’ve already been having days where I feel burnt out? I woke up the other day after it had been raining for nearly 3 days straight and I had been having sneezing fits (usually sneezing up to 5 times in a row). I felt burnt out. I’ve been trying to work on the data structures for the Tree view page. How does the Javascript or HTML/CSS use it?  As a JSON array). How does the Server send it to the browser? JSON or XML.. I haven’t implemented XML yet. Also, using  the jQuery data type in the page construction, or via an AJAX call (I’ve implemented both)  I’ve not yet worked out the best way for the back end MySQL database to store the data.
Anyway because of all this it’s not really worth showing to anyone yet. Which means I can’t get excited by people looking at it and going ‘ah ha’ with understanding.

Also, whenever I try and work, I end up getting very distracted. After working on something for a while I’ll need a break, as does anyone. But I’ll jump onto Facebook, open up a bunch of links, start watching an hour long video and 5 hours later I’ll feel bad because I’m not working. Either that or it’s now time to go.Angry Birds

It’s not like I’m playing Angry Birds. Although, at one point I did watch a video about the making of Angry Birds. I also tried out the Angry Birds Chrome Web App. It’s kinda cool that they could make a game like Angry Birds that runs in the browser. It shows that Javascript and HTML5 have come a long way. Thank you Google Chrome and Firefox for making the Internet awesome.

I’ve also been watching a lot of the Google IO 2011 content. So far about 10 hours out of the ~45hrs worth that I’ve downloaded.

 

So. One of my greatest strengths is my greatest weakness. My hunger for knowledge, my passion for learning means that it is very hard for me to not want to watch something informative. Hence why I like documentaries but hate the news. I particularly love TED talks. I’ve watched over 500 of them and agree; they are Ideas Worth Spreading.

There I was again, getting distracted. Setting up something on the other laptop, waiting for my food to cook and missing my girlfriend.
I was feeling, not depressed, but burnt out and exhausted. But, I ate dinner, called my girlfriend and now I’m starting to feel better. To feel happier. Despite it being night, cloudy and dark, I feel like the world is brighter. Like the screen brightness has just been turned up.

So I finish off my call out for a Graphic/Web designer and some other emails, but as I didn’t go to sleep last night until after the sun came up, and I didn’t get to the office until 6pm, it’s now past half past Midnight. I race to the train station for no use. The trains stopped a while ago. Thankfully there’s a late night bus service. I spend 15mins walking to Town Hall, realise I have to wait on the other side of the road, next to the smallest, crappiest bus stop sign I’ve seen. The bus finally comes at 1:30am. I try to do some programming but the bus driver doesn’t know anything about gliding. They are either accelerating, braking, or going around corners. I start to feel sick and have to pack the laptop away. Thankfully I made it to Turramurra and found a taxi driver to drive me to David’s place as I didn’t want to spend 45mins walking home with my dark brown leather suitcase and blue hat (with white chequered stripe).

 

Portrait of Michael Kubler
Portrait of Michael Kubler - Showing off 'The Hat'

2 days pass since I did the graphic designer callout and I still haven’t received a response. I’m contemplating making up a poster and plastering it around UTS (University of Technology, Sydney). Alternatively when David Zwolski’s got some spare time I’ll utilise his skills.
It’s not that I can’t do design work, it’s that I know it’s not my strength, it’s hard to switch between programming and design, but importantly, it’s because I want to bring someone else into the project. Get their perspective. Look at their face as they realise all the possibilities and opportunities. Because of the information intense nature of the work I need someone I can physically meet with and spend time with so we can brainstorm various iterations.

MDKs Office Desk in Sydney
Michael's Office Desk in Sydney

I am putting $1,000 of my own money towards the project. $500 for a designer, who’ll hopefully help me create some example layouts for some of the Multipath, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure and also the RPG style interactive video interfaces that I have in mind. If there’s time I’d also like some illustrations to help explain the concepts during demo day. Assuming the platform will actually be ready for pitching to potential investors/the public.

The other $500 goes towards Google Adwords advertising and some of the other stuff (like MailChimp mailing lists) for testing the landing pages.

The idea is to try and determine what people are most likely to be interested in and which features to aim for first to gain traction. To achieve a great product-market-fit.

The Startup Triangle
The Startup Triangle

The problem with doing the above is that I’m already stretching my financial resources pretty thin. I’ve got maybe $5.5K to last me the entire 3 months I’m in Sydney. This includes food, rent/utilities, transport and those annoying things like paying mobile phone bill, minimum credit card repayment costs, server costs and all that jazz.

That $5.5K is made up of my measly personal savings (I’ve been pumping pretty much everything I can into the company for the last 2 years); my last payment from ANAT, which was basically double my normal pay as it included my accrued annual leave (so ~$2k); plus up to $3K I can take out in a new credit card I recently received (just before I stopped working at ANAT).

I’m trying to use lean startup techniques. But even then, I’m trying to do something that even web startup incubators like  Pollenizer wouldn’t expect to do for less than $150K.

When I get back to Adelaide I’m going to have pretty much no money, but hopefully enough of a platform that we can show it off to people so they understand what it is and get them excited about all the possibilities of what it could be.

FOCUS

The reason why focus is important (and I need more of it) is because otherwise I’ll fail. It’s pretty much my whole reason for coming to Sydney (I’ve got a nice office back in Adelaide, but when there, I make films, not program). Certain types of failures are good, you learn from them. But failing because I was watching YouTube video’s is not the type of failure we are talking about.

Who’s talking about it? Mick Liubinskas of POLLENIZER he’s pretty much the reason I came to Sydney, so if you’ve read this far please watch his short presentation.

Mick Liubinskas – POLLENIZER

First week in Sydney

Well, I’ve been in Sydney for about a week so far. The first week out of ~12.

It seems to have gone so fast, but also agonisingly slow.

It’s over a week since I saw my girlfriend. Since I got to hold her in my arms and kiss her.

It’s over a week since my last day at ANAT. Since I started the running jump which will likely end in Films on the Fly taking off, or myself falling flat on my face, without money, without a job and without dignity.

So far this week I’ve done some PHP coding on the Multipath platform. Not much, but just enough to get frustrated at my lack of Flex programming skills and also enough to remember that I’M CRAZY! What was I thinking? I don’t work alone very well, and I know this.
I need to be around people. I need to be working with people, bouncing ideas off them. Seeing them work and feeding off it, multiplying it and returning it back ten fold. But I can’t really afford to pay anyone.

Thankfully the reason I haven’t done as much coding as I’d like is because I’ve been networking and settling down. Meeting with people at the Push Start Mentors Live! event. Meeting with Peter at Fishburners (which is right next door… Like the exact next building). I met up with Katrin and Bart of Zero Mail, plus Marc and some other entrepreneurs at the Silicon Beach Drinks night.

I hung out with David Zwolski, Ziggy, Albert and other members of the Sydney Zeitgeist Movement chapter. I spent a lot of time on Skype and Team Speak talking to David, plus reading a lot of his emails and vice versa. But it was good to finally meet him. He’s a lot younger and taller than I expected. With his full length trench coat and long wavy hair he looked a bit like Neo from The Matrix.

He’s offered to let me crash at his place whilst I’m in Sydney. For the whole 3 months. The catch : It’s a 10min bus ride and 40min train trip from the Sydney CBD. I’m catching up with him tomorrow so will see what happens, although I’m still at the backpackers hostel for another week…. unless the Major General gets a little too ansy.

Dorm

In the hostel that I’m currently staying at is 3 other guys. The two young asians on the other bunk-bed are almost always on their laptops. One’s halfway through watching the entire 10 seasons of Friends. The guy in the bed below me is apparently a Major General in the Thailand Air Force. I’ll nick name him ‘KI’ for the moment.
He’s friendly…. too friendly. He somewhat creeps me out. It started with giving everyone a quick hug goodnight. The next night his daughter gave him too much food and as I was arriving late and just wanted something small I had a little of it to eat before he threw the rest out. It was nice general caring and sharing. He seemed to be a nice oldish guy that was culturally or personally a bit more touchy feely than what I’m used to.
The next night  he not only hugged me goodnight he kissed me on the cheek.
The night after he wanted me to kiss him goodnight (and brought his cheek right up to mine). I resisted, but not overly.
Thankfully I got in so late the next night that he was already asleep when I arrived.

Tonight, as I got into the room he was already lying in bed. I was taking off my jacket (having walked 3km from the office) and he said he wanted to see my body….

All that said, I don’t know if I’ll stay at the backpackers. Ask for a new dorm (and risk staying with people who are more likely to take my stuff), or if I’ll take up David’s offer early. In the mean time, there’s programming to be done!

BTW : Happy Rapture day!