Finn Woelm

Hacker · Entrepreneur

Stories from the life of Finn, Openly, and other things.

Openly Journal

Dec 8, 2018 // 11:01am @ FF1 (Bus), Broomfield Station Gate L, CO, USA

Apologies for the radio silence. Things are a little crazy over here.

Let me sum things up:

  • Jessy got back from San Francisco on Tuesday morning
  • We booked our flights to Singapore. We’ll be arriving Tue, Jan 15
  • Jessy estimated our conversation rate for user acquisition:
    • 30% of people use Google Drive
    • Of those who use Drive, 70% of people find Openly “interesting” (i.e. like the concept)
    • Of those who find it interesting, 10% have an actual use case for Openly (i.e. Openly would solve a problem that they currently have)
    • In sum, out of ever 100 people we talk to, just about 2 will actually sign up for our beta (0.3 * 0.7 * 0.1 = 0.021)
    • That said, this is all estimation. We realized we need to do a better job tracking conversion rates. And we also need to track key characteristics of those users (such as team size, whether they work remotely, profession, etc…) so that we can form a data-based hypothesis about our early adopter group.
  • We implemented side-by-side diffs. It allows you to see a document’s content change from one revision to another side by side: Old content on the left, new content on the right. It looks very straightforward but it was incredibly complex to implement because we ran into limitations with our diffing utility dwdiff. I hope to write a blog post on that, stay tuned.
    New Feature: Side by side diffs
  • We now have 10 days left in CO. Those days are filled with A LOT of meetings with mentors and friends. We’re also meeting a lot of new people because if they live in Colorado, then this is our last chance to meet with them face-to-face.
  • In addition to all the meetings, we’re also pushing harder than ever to reach our semester goal of getting to one active user before the end of the year. Jessy is hustling to find potential users (and she’s finding them on an almost daily basis) and I’m pushing to get pull requests out the door.

240 hours left. Let’s do this.

Dec 3, 2018 // 3:56pm @ Orbis House, Denver, CO, USA

Today is my 26th birthday. Not too long ago, I could never imagine myself being older than 25. Now, I’m 26. And I cannot imagine myself ever being 30 years old.

Anyway — birthdays are always great opportunities for reflection. A lot of that belongs in my personal diary and not in this journal. But Openly is a major part of my life and so I want to take note of something that stands out to me in this regard:

I miss making people smile through the work that I do. I miss being a source of joy or happiness in people’s life. I miss making a difference with my work.

It is, I believe, a natural characteristic of this hybrid impact-profit startup that it takes a looooong time for us to get to a place where we can witness the fruits of our labor (especially the impact ones).

So here then is my goal for my 27th year on this planet: Figure out how Openly can bring smiles to people’s faces, even if it’s just in little ways — because we provide them with the best customer service they have ever experienced, because animations in our application are cute, or because using Openly allows them to get work done faster and spend more time on the things that do make them smile (but even then, I’d love for Openly to directly cause little smiles to).

Dec 2, 2018 // 8:48pm @ Orbis House, Denver, CO, USA

I spent hours today working on the contract for working with our UI/UX friend Alex. About four hours, I think — and that’s on top of all the time I spent contemplating this for the past few days.

Why did it take so long? Not because of the contract. That’s fairly standard (we decided to build off a template provided by a website called Bonsai).

What took so long was identifying and writing down the precise scope of work: Which UI screens do we need? What form of documentation? Which image formats? Mobile or desktop? Or both? What process should we use? How many rounds of revisions? What information should be on each page? The list goes on!

Prior to now, we were working together without any precise guidelines. We had sent Alex a long list of screens that we need, with all the information and actions that needed to be on each screen. But other than that, not much was discussed. And, I believe, it led to bits of frustration: Alex was doing a lot of work, only for us to then ask him to change it. He could have saved quite a bit of effort if some of those details had been discussed upfront.

So here is a big takeaway: Clear expectations and boundaries are important. They help protect both Alex and us: Alex by limiting the number of revisions and requests that we could make and us by steering Alex’ work in the direction that will result in the end product that we need.

I had (mistakenly) believed that putting everything into writing would be overly formal, make the process feel transactional and artificial, and put restrictions on Alex’ creative genius. But yesterday, after putting everything on paper, he told me that having these clear guidelines in place actually motivated him. This does not appear to be unique to Alex: Looking at the research out there, there’s strong agreement that clear expectations lead to increased employee (or contractor) engagement.

I’m still a little unsure as to why exactly the clear expectations are motivating. If any of you know, please reach out. I’d love to learn!

Nov 30, 2018 // 12:03am @ Orbis House, Denver, CO, USA

Long day. Let’s just put it out there: TODAY WAS MAGICAL.

Reading that you might think that our lunch with Google Drive was a huge success. Well, it wasn’t. Or rather, our lunch was fine but our conversation really went south. We started talking and within 15 minutes, we had maneuvered the conversation into them recommending that we spend time really figuring out whether we’re trying to help social entrepreneurs (in which case, we should do something that actually solves their problems) or pushing a technology.

To be fair, they have a point. It’s just frustrating because it reminds me of most of our conversations last year and I had (mistakenly) believed that we had moved past this. Well, here we go again. This time, though, Jessy and I want to really figure out how to move beyond this. We have some ideas (more on that later).

A highlight from our conversation: They said they’d be happy to open up any API endpoints that we need 😲 AMAZING!

Lastly, I just had a really magical moment a couple minutes ago as I was drafting an email to one of the folks from Google Drive about the API endpoints we would like access to. I was writing about a feature that we would love to see added to Google Drive:

On another note, we’ve been looking for a way to give comment access to a folder + its files. For an Open Source project, comment-only access would be the perfect sharing setting. But folders only support view OR edit access. Our startup, Openly, is 70% open source but our files are view-only because manually setting each file to comment access is a real hassle. Is there a good workaround?

Anyone who’s tried to provide comment access to a folder & its files knows this problem. You can share folders with view or edit access only.

Sharing a folder via Drive UI )

So as I’m writing that email draft, I’m thinking that I should at least try this via the API:

Providing folder comment access via API )

AND IT WORKS! WOW. Our Openly Google Drive folder now in fact has public comment access! Comment away folks! Magic does happen :)

Mood: Enchanted… :)
Happiness: 5/5

Nov 28, 2018 // 11:16pm @ Orbis House, Denver, CO, USA

It’s already pretty late and we have our big meeting tomorrow — with the Google Drive team! So I’ll keep this short and go to bed soon.

We had various mentor meetings and meals today. I’m extremely grateful for all the people that are supporting us on a personal and professional level - we could not do this without them.

Here are the questions we ‘rehearsed’ for our meeting with the Drive team:

  • What do you want to get out of this meeting?
    Establish a long-term relationship & hear their thoughts on open collaboration
  • How can we be helpful?
    Connections, advice, mentorship
  • What kind of connections do you need?
    Product managers, technical writers, engineering teams — anyone who works at the intersection of tech and business or tends to collaborate on documents with a group of people
  • How much money do you need?
    We have enough money to cover our living expenses for the next ~ 6 months. We are not sure if we should raise money to hire a third person (full-stack developer). Pro: faster development. Con: huge investment ($$$ and time), very risky.
  • Why did you start Openly
    To bring open collaboration principles to the social impact space

A question that we need to make sure to ask Google Drive about is whether they are interested in copying our product (since one of the most frequently voiced concerns is that Google will build a similar product to ours and outcompete us)

Mood: Excited (for our lunch with Drive)
Happiness: 7/5

Nov 27, 2018 // 10:21pm @ Orbis House, Denver, CO, USA

Jessy got three people to request early access via our form today. Wooho!

I’m gaining ground on the contributions/pull requests feature. Users can now create pull requests, which copies over all files from the last commit, and then browse through files. Next, I need to refactor some of our application logic and then add force-syncing & file restore for contributions. And then review & accept/merge and discussions.

Last but not least: Antler told us that they finally submitted our EntrePass application. It could take up to eight weeks. Fingers crossed that it will process in time!

Mood: Excited for work tomorrow!
Happiness: 6/5

Nov 26, 2018 // 10:24pm @ Orbis House, Denver, CO, USA

After a slow period (due to all the guests we have been hosting + Thanksgiving), we’re now getting back into the grind. Jessy recruited some more potential users today.

We’re now at 10 users although we don’t have anyone actively using our platform. It’s a problem. We’d really like to find one active user before the year ends and I’m not sure if that’s going to happen if things continue the way the are. So… let’s step up the game!

Mood: Eager to find that 1 active user!
Happiness: 4/5

Nov 25, 2018 // 10:23pm @ Orbis House, Denver, CO, USA

Pull requests are starting to take shape. We have index and create actions implemented as well as the setup of the pull request (we need to copy all files from master branch into a new fork and provide the pull request creator with edit access).

We now need:

  1. files tab for browsing folders & files (without capture changes button)
  2. review tab for seeing the list of changes & accepting (merging) it
  3. discussion tab for discussing the pull request

In other news, the domain name has been renewed (it had expired a couple days ago, but was still far from being open to outside purchase [read more about the domain lifecycle]) . That’s bad news. The good news: The domain owner has replied to our email. He called our offer “not terrible” (whatever that means… :)) and said that he would get back to us soon.

Nov 24, 2018 // 10:30pm @ Orbis House

Today, I started working on pull requests. We’ve got a long way to go.

Happiness: 3/5

Nov 23, 2018 // 10:13pm @ Orbis House

It’s been Thanksgiving week, so not much is new. On Monday, we set up our analytics dashboard to help us track usage of Openly.

Now, we have more or less three weeks left before Jessy and I both take off for our respective homes. We are focused on bringing 10 more users on board and launching the pull request feature (which has been highly requested).

Mood: exhausted x_x (still recovering from my camping trip this week)
Happiness: 4/5

You can find older journal entries here.